Book Review: Do! “The Pursuit of Xceptional Execution”

m_kevin kellySpeaker and best-selling author Kevin Kelly draws from over two decades of research to highlight what makes Xceptional businesses and their leaders succeed beyond all odds: exceptional execution of an ordinary idea. He discusses the concept of DO! in a tiny book, illustrated with entrepreneurial, innovative cases from around the globe. An overview.

Idea killer

Kelly used to be an idea killer himself. He was a feasibility consultant, assessing whether a new idea for a small or medium business would be worthwhile – or not. His experience: when you gather knowledge and do the analysis, the answer is mostly “no”. After years of naysaying, Kelly learned an important lesson. Success is not about the idea. It’s about the entrepreneur. It’s not the “what” that makes a difference, it’s the “how” and above all, the “who” does it…

Give real attention and focus on building relationships Click To Tweet

Knowledge will always give you enough reasons not to act. Not enough time, money, support, skills – you name it. But, what matters is not what you lack, it’s what you do. Execution helps to work through fear and builds confidence.

Death of the Ego

Kelly describes how he overcame his own fears by doing an exercise called “the death of the ego”. While traveling in Melbourne, where nobody knows him (except the people he did the exercise with), he went begging for money. The game was: who gets most? Kelly dreads it. He faces his greatest fears: to be humiliated and the fear of failing. What if the others collect more money than he? It’s a humbling experience.

Fail fast and often and you'll learn fast Click To Tweet

He argues to see fear as your teacher. Fail fast and often and you’ll learn fast. In most cases, you have another shot after you fail. Only in really life-threatening cases is fear not so much a teacher, but a savior. So, the Find your passion and overcome those fears - so they don't hold you back. Click To Tweet challenge for anyone who wants to achieve something is to find your passion and overcome those fears – so they don’t hold you back.

Everyone’s a student

Next, we’re advised to commit to continuous learning. Kelly shares a beautiful custom of the Quechuans of the Andes in South America. When they meet for the first time, they often set a challenge, for instance a race. The winner is duty bound to teach the loser until he has acquired the same competency.
m_blackboardIn return, the loser teaches the winner a new skill. They both learn, and society as a whole benefits as well. They acknowledge that everyone is a teacher and everyone is a student.


Self-awareness is our next asset. We may not always be aware – but our coworkers and customers see who we truly are. Harvard research shows that people can make accurate assessments about others within seconds.

One of the ways to raise self-awareness is to sit down and reflect on the major influences in your life and how you’ve integrated them. Why are you afraid? You may have been raised and praised for aiming at the permanent and the pensionable, instead of doing adventurous things. What major events happened in your life and how have you let them shape you?

See Fear for what it is - your teacher Click To Tweet

Consider meditation or mindfulness as well. It makes you more aware, calm, happy and productive. Use the power of switching off! Make sure you get Return on Intuition (ROI) as well. Take it seriously, because it’s a refined source of insight.


Authentic attention

Last but not least: shower your coworkers and customers with authentic attention – which will stand out in our attention deficit society. We’re exposed to 100,500 words daily and approximately 34 gigabytes of information. The average attention span in 2012 was 8 seconds – we’re continuously distracted…
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If you give real attention, you focus on building relationships, even friendships. Kelly argues to go for friendships because customers can leave and friends don’t (is that always true…?). Anyway, the biggest deals rely on trust and a friendly relationship. Gallup research shows that employees who have friends at work are seven times more likely to be engaged at work. Lots of tips on recruiting and building a culture are presented, and next Kelly persuades us to dream what we want and to use magnetic attraction to get it. The book ends with our commitment to DO IT (referring to an entrepreneurial endeavor), know ourselves, live a Zen life, seize the moment and more tips that can help us do “xceptional execution of an ordinary idea”. Followed by lessons learned of nine organizations that succeeded by xceptional execution.
It’s a short, sweet and simple book that may inspire you.

Watch Kevin explain his own book here:

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  • How do you deal with the idea killer in your head?
  • How do you help yourself to “do”?
  • Which of the tips appeals to you most?
  • How will you apply this in the next week?

Marcella Bremer is an author and culture & change consultant. She co-founded this blog and

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