Heads Down vs. Heads Up

Josh Linkner
November 25, 2018

Josh Linkner

Five-time tech entrepreneur, hyper-growth CEO, NY Times bestselling author and venture capitalist.

We've all heard people in the business world proclaim that they are "heads down" on a project. Or that they are unable to explore new opportunities since they are "heads down in execution mode."

Consider, for a moment, the advantages of being "heads up" instead. Let's compare the two states of being:

Heads Down
Focused on delivery
Tuning out distractions
Avoiding influence from your surroundings
Execution
Getting things done
Right now
What is
Deadlines

Heads Up
Focused on possibilities
Embracing new things
Welcoming outside influence
Curiosity and awareness
Questioning everything
The future
What could be
Imagination

There is a time and place for both approaches. When you are working to ship a new product out the door, it’s heads-down all the way. The problem is that so much of the business world languishes in that heads-down state of mind, making it increasingly difficult to shift to heads-up position. Yet it is the heads up time where we discover new ideas, gain fresh insights, and unleash our most powerful breakthroughs.

What if you scheduled just one hour each week to be heads up? Give it a trial run for 30 days if you’re skeptical. While it may feel frivolous at first, you’ll likely look back at your hourly refuge as the most productive part of your week.

The urgency of heads-down demands usually supersedes the longer-term importance of being heads-up, so many people rarely visit this vantage point. As you work to expand your creative capacity, make sure to proactively schedule some heads-up time for yourself and your team, and hold each other accountable not only for grammatical errors on a memo but, more importantly, for being heads-up and unleashing your imagination and creativity.

Heads up is where history is made. Make yours.

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