Great Things Never Get Done by Under Promising





On the other hand, Amazing Things Can Be Accomplished by Over Promising


This is not to say that we should make promises and not keep them. Keeping a promise is important and speaks to who we are as individuals. We’ve become lazy in our use of words and the English language in general. We throw words and clichés around without considering what we’re saying.

“Under promise, and over deliver” is one of those truisms that at face value sounds like a good way to treat customers. It looks great on a business card.

What are we really saying if our goal is to “under promise”?

Last week I wrote about the issue of businesses over promising. As I was researching, I found an online article, by Josh Linkner “Why Under-promising and Over-delivering Is bad Advice”. In this article Mr. Linkner speaks to the lowering of the performance bar when we under promise.

He says, …this false wisdom encourages mediocrity. It grants permission to make small, flaccid commitments and then gleefully celebrate delivering them. The very nature of the argument suggests holding back on achievements that can actually be attained. Simply put…

Under-promising is a promise to play small.”

Most businesses don’t want to play small. There are so many great things that we want to accomplish and so little time to do it. This is why we over promise.

It’s been said, if you want to get something done you should ask a busy person to do it. On the surface this appears counterintuitive. It would seem the person with spare time would be more likely to do something than the busy person. In reality it isn’t in the time available, rather it’s in the person’s level of drive. Busy people are doers.

The more we want to do the more we get done.

I’ve come to realize that the tighter my schedule is packed, the more I get done. It’s frustrating to have things left on my list at the end of the day, however when I step back and look at the bigger picture, I can see the benefits of “over promising”.

What we need to do is to rethink the terminology. To come up with different words that better serve our purpose. To be our most productive selves we need to push ourselves beyond our existing boundaries without lying to others or ourselves.

We need to keep our promises.

This is where things get difficult. How can we grow and do more, if we don’t push against the walls and move them out?


“I don’t think we have any choice. I think we have an obligation to change the rules, to raise the bar, to play a different game, and to play it better than anyone has any right to believe is possible.”

Seth Godin


Be careful to be true and honest, keep your promises to yourself and others as you continue to raise the bar of expectation.

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