• The Action Digest
  • Posts
  • Lessons Learned From An Impossible Project and Collapsing The Talent Stack

Lessons Learned From An Impossible Project and Collapsing The Talent Stack

If you’re reading this, you’re either…

(1) … back for your second dose of action after reading last week’s inaugural edition.

(2) … a new reader that’s just joining the action. 

If you’re in camp 1, welcome back! 👋

If you’re in camp 2, welcome to The Action Digest—your weekly dose of hacks and insights for taking action and making ideas happen! We recommend checking out last week’s issue to get the 101 on how this newsletter will strengthen your creative fitness (or feel free to dive straight in if you’re feeling adventurous!). 

Coming up in this week’s dose of action:

  • 🗺️ The timeless product management principle used by President Theodore Roosevelt to reshape the global economy, and what it teaches us about seemingly impossible projects.

  • ⚡️ A powerful hack for achieving success at blazing speeds, as demonstrated by a small software team who leveraged it to generate millions of dollars within months.

1. Be willing to be misunderstood and poorly characterized for extended periods of time.

To achieve quantum leap achievements (as opposed to incremental progress), leaders must embark on bold and ambitious projects. But these transformative projects often take much longer than expected — based in the number of unknowns involved — and suffer from a high failure rate. This leads to mounting delays, doubts, and detractors. To further complicate matters, it’s popular to be cynical of a risky project in a big company, and risky to be confident. But instead of wasting time revising and debating our deadlines, we must keep our heads down, maintain focus, and work diligently until the critics are silenced by our success.

When President Theodore Roosevelt took it upon himself to complete the Panama Canal in 1903, many proclaimed it was insanity. For decades, Americans and European investors had dreamt of an ocean gateway to link the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

The “Isthmus of Panama” was the optimal location for such a passageway, and yet it still posed insurmountable difficulties: the French had just wasted nine years, hundreds of millions of dollars, and the lives of 20,000 workers trying to build the Canal.

So when Roosevelt committed to finishing the job, critics in Congress were convinced he was throwing good money after bad. And, at the outset, they seemed correct. The first year was a disaster. Roosevelt’s chief engineer had no plan, bureaucracy was impeding funds, and three-quarters of the American workers bailed and returned home—including the chief engineer!

But Roosevelt was convinced the Canal was necessary to ensure America’s long-term security and prosperity. So in 1906 he became the first U.S. President to leave the country while in office in order to pay a personal visit to the construction site. He knew his show of resolve would stir debate, “But while the debate goes on,” he explained, “the canal does too, and they are welcome to debate me as long as they wish, provided that we can go on with the canal now."

Roosevelt understood that every great project needs a bulwark to defend it against the missed timelines, critics, and multiple failures. His staunch commitment and willingness to shoulder the short-term flak provided the necessary cover to keep the project alive: “The Panama Canal wouldn’t have been started if I hadn’t taken hold of it. I took a trip to the Isthmus, started the canal, and then left Congress not to debate the canal, but to debate me.”

And it worked: in 1914, the Panama Canal opened for voyage, heralding America’s technological prowess and economic power. Although Roosevelt did not personally benefit from the accomplishment—he left office 5 years prior to its completion—that was never his intended goal.

To make significant leaps of progress, great leaders must standup to short-term mindedness and the desire to play it safe. Whether it’s spearheading a new initiative at a large company, challenging the status quo with a creative pursuit, or taking a leap of faith in our personal lives: the willingness to be misunderstood and poorly characterized is the price of admission.

2. Collapse the talent stack.

🔐 This insight, which reveals the hack that took a small team from 0 to $750,000 of monthly revenue, is for premium subscribers. Yep, for the price of one fancy coffee per month our research team will agonize over the lessons learned from world class creative leaders and teams who make ideas happen, and send their tightly summarized conclusions directly to your inbox on a weekly basis. What a proposition, huh?! ☕️ Join us and help make this weekly action catalyst for creative minds a sustainable project.  

💥 Upgrade to unlock full access to this and every Action Digest each week.


Jeff Bezos is known as a meeting maestro. 

If you add up all of the value generated in meetings run by Jeff—you’re looking at many billions of dollars. Yet so many of our meetings feel like a waste of time! What explains the difference? 

It turns out there are 3 things that great leaders like Jeff do to consistently achieve high-value meetings: 

  1. Prepare — Jeff has everyone quietly read a memo and make notes before starting the discussion. 

  2. Explore — Jeff allows the conversation to flow freely because he’s learned that the best ideas come from pulling on unexpected threads. 

  3. Execute —  finally, the messy yet productive jumble of ideas generated in the meeting needs to be condensed into a series of action steps so they can be brought to life.

...That’s why we’re excited to announce the return of Action Method products!

The Action Method was designed almost 15 years ago to help the most productive and creative teams in the world put the above principles into practice—enabling them to think and work with a bias towards action.

The Action Method is a 3-part system with each page containing a zone for your preparation notes (prepare), a zone for you to jot down thoughts and ideas (explore), and a zone for you to convert ideas into action steps (execute).

It's like having a personal trainer for your productivity, ensuring you're always exercising your brainstorming and execution muscles with excellent form.

Over the years, iconic leaders across design, entertainment, and business became loyal users. Now, after a short hiatus, the original founders have assumed responsibility and updated the products.

Check out the new and improved Action Method family.

It’s not about ideas, it’s about making ideas happen.


If you want to stay sharp and immerse yourself in the discipline of taking action and making ideas happen on a weekly basis (and unlock the third section of today’s digest - a powerful hack for achieving success at blazing speeds), join us for the price of one fancy coffee. ☕️

Upcoming insights and hacks for subscribers:

  • Why is defending relentless action long enough to realize results half the battle? We must learn to be impatient with actions and patient with results.

  • How do you know whether you’ve chosen the right path? We’ll discover the best way to find our true calling according to a 7 year old and world-leading psychologists.

  • Do we need to ditch our to-do lists in order to tap into our deepest levels of focus and creativity? An award-winning mathematician teaches us how to 10x the quality of our work.

  • So much more… Making ideas happen is a form of fitness, and we are your trainer. ;-)

We’ll leave you with this…

“It behooves every man to remember that the work of the critic, important though it is, is of altogether secondary importance, and that, in the end, progress is accomplished by the man who does the things, and not by the man who talks about how they ought or ought not to be done.”

Theodore Roosevelt

Thanks for subscribing, and sharing anything you’ve learned with your teams and networks (let us know what you think and share ideas: @ActionDigest).