To move forward, first take a few steps back

01 Oct, 2017 - 00:10 0 Views

The Sunday Mail

Greatness is like a spring, you take a step back in order to spring ahead. All field athletes seem to always do it. They have to.

Think of these great Zimbabwean athletes — Winneth Dube, Larissa Bakasa, Julia Sakara, or their male counterparts, Gabriel Mvumvure, Ngonidzashe Makasha, Brian Dzingai, and Lewis Banda.

They have to run forward, their eyes always on the mark, yet they do not quickly take their marks.

They start by taking a few steps backs, loosening their muscles, stretching a little and then on call take their positions.

Before you can move forward, start by taking a few steps back.

Time invested in reflection and planning is not time wasted. Sometimes you have to take one step back in order to achieve two ahead.


I am an advocate for action and getting things done. Greatness is a doing word not just an idle metaphor.

It is important to take action, move forward and be like a firefly. It only gives light when it is on the wing and flying.

Greatness demands that you create time to reflect and review.

Taking time for strategy review is not wasting an investment, it grows it. Sharpening the saw is not wasting sawing time.

Taking time to get fuel is not delaying the journey.

A popular way of reviewing that I sometimes use in my Strategy Review Workshops is the “Stop, Start and Sustain” Approach.

Instead of burdening yourself with many academic models, just start by asking, “What do I need to stop?” It is not everything that you do that works. Maturity is knowing what works and what is not working. There are some things that you have to stop doing in order to move forward.

Some good initiatives outlive their usefulness and it is time to stop. We are all creatures of habits. They help us simplify things. Habits of organisations are called “Culture”.

Until you change what you do daily you may never change your trajectory. Seriously think about the things that you have to stop doing. Not all change is necessary, but without change there cannot be any progress. You are now dead if you can no longer change, grow and improve.


Reflect on the things that you must “Start Doing.” What new initiatives must you take? What needs to be done now? There is only one known way of starting and that is starting. Procrastination is the thief of time and killer of dreams.

Idle complaining is not an antibiotic. Things never change simply through complaining. Complaining is not a strategy. Gathering to complain is not strategy development.

Hope is a good attribute, but it is not a strategy.

Wishing is a human tendency but it is not a strategy. Unless you take action, do something, you are likely to remain in limbo.

Complaining is like being on a rocking chair, you feel you are doing something and yet you are still in the same place. Take the decision and the bitter pill and start. You never gain momentum when you are stationary.

You cannot just keep hesitating and threatening to take action. Greatness favours doers that are bold.

You cannot procrastinate your way to greatness.

Fulfil your threats of positive and assertive action. You cannot wait for new year’s eve in order to make a quality decision to start.

Start where you are and start now. Do not wait for perfect conditions, because they may never come.

It is business unusual and work with what you have to become what you are not today. The best way to start is by starting.

You cannot build a reputation and credibility through empty intentions that are not backed by massive action.


Reflect on the things that you must keep doing and “Sustain.” It is not everything that you need to “Stop Doing”.

Celebrate the things that are working and sustain them.

Some people get bored too easily and there are always looking for the next exciting thing to do.

Greatness happens when you stick with what is working until your breakthrough.

You build momentum through sustained deliberate action.

Greatness always takes time. Keep doing what you know is working until you get the momentum and lift.

This is the flywheel concept of greatness.

Like a flywheel, you take turn, after turn, after turn until you have enough momentum to take off.

Keep doing the good you know until you take off and become great. Do not despair because the pace is slow, keep doing the good things that you know you must be doing. Discipline is the cornerstone of all greatness.


Take a step back, go to the mirror and confront yourself. If you avoid the mirror, you have to take your critics seriously. Go to the mirror and look at yourself, that is the best favour you can do to others.

Be willing to confront the brutal facts of your life, but never lose the faith that you will one day prevail.

If you have to get feedback from others get it.

Feedback is the breakfast, lunch and dinner of champions.

You will never move forward by recruiting more praise singers. Confront yourself and your realities. The best and easiest person to change is yourself.

Take a step back and reflect.

Mother Theresa had a small body frame but a large soul and was a towering giant. Greatness has more denominations than dollars and cents.

When she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, a reporter asked her shortly afterwards what she thought was the key to world peace. She looked at the reporter intently and said, “Go home and love your family.”

She once stated that it was easy to love people that are far away and yet it was not always easy to love those close to us.

How you treat your family is a mirror of who you really are. Mother Theresa’s advice was always to bring love into your home, and extend the circle of your family for this is where our love for each other must start.

These are cutting words because the basic building block of community is the home. Impressing everyone is relatively easy, impressing your family is the height of maturity. Who you are when you do not have a script to follow is your genuine self.

You are truly great when those closest to you can acknowledge your greatness. Until little children and those nearest to you applaud your greatness, you are just a waste.


In my early Science class I learnt about catalysts like Vanadium, Chromium (IV) Oxide and Iridium. These are substances that speed up a chemical reaction but are not changed in the process.  People can also be catalysts. Without a catalyst, there is no process, only lethargy and inertia.

To move to the next level you need to be a catalyst.

There is no greatness without a catalytic individual.

Someone once said wherever you see a great organisation you know that someone once took a difficult decision. Bite the bullet and take action. For you to move towards, greatness choose to be a catalyst.

The key to being a catalyst are conviction, clarity, choice, caring and courage.

You have to have conviction and belief in your dream.

You move forward when you go beyond being simply interested. Greatness will always challenge your resolve. There is no easy route to anywhere worth going. Stop listening to stories of painless success and free cheese.

One week babies are a phantom. Believe in the beauty of your dreams and be willing to stick to the knitting. Your convictions are revealed by your ability to move from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.

Stop complaining and start doing. You cannot spend your life standing at the complaining counter exchanging horror stories.

It is the man in the ring who matters, not the complainer in the grand stands.

Let your convictions move you to action. Dream, and then dig a foundation for those dreams.

Taking a step back allows you to get clarity and perspective. Being a catalyst requires that you have clarity.

Clarity of vision results in determined and committed action. It is not about following the crowd.

We all know that he who follows the crowd will likely never be followed by the crowd. Clarity comes through reflection and strategic thought.

Take a step back, look at your mirrors and get some clarity. Face whatever chaos you see with clarity of mind and you will never be confused.

Make quality choices. Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least. Choose to get out of your comfort zone and step onto the line.

Commit, and many things start to happen to move you forward. William Hutchison Murray (18 March 1913 – 19 March 1996) was a Scottish mountaineer and writer, and a catalytic mountain climbers. In writing about the The Scottish Himalayan Expedition (1951) he says:

“. . .  but when I said that nothing had been done I erred in one important matter. We had definitely committed ourselves and were halfway out of our ruts. We had put down our passage money — booked a sailing to Bombay. This may sound too simple, but is great in consequence.

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.

A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.

I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”

Whatever you can do begin it.

Commitment catalyses many things. You cannot learn swimming by just studying water forms and avoiding water.

When you commit, take a step, greatness starts moving towards you.

Turbulent times are times to reflect and take positive action. Do not let opportunities pass you by while you are mindlessly busy in the complaining choir.

Care enough to take action. Courage is not just a word but a verb. Take action to your greatness.

Committed to your greatness.


Milton Kamwendo is a leading international transformational and motivational speaker, author and coach. He is a cutting strategy, innovation, team-building and leadership facilitator. His life purpose is to inspire greatness. He can be reached at: [email protected] and Twitter: @MiltonKamwendo or WhatsApp at: 0772422634


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