Don’t know where to start?
You’re not alone compadre.
Some of the greatest performers in history have faced a similar dilemma.
But, they’ve persisted in the face of uncertainty to forge their path.
The good news?
You can do the same. But first, let me illustrate the point.
It was a polluted evening in Beijing, the air thick with lung-clogging smog.
Not the weather to be outside for sure.
But I was meeting my friend about an idea for a new project. I’d lived in Beijing for 2 years and though I’d loved it, wanted a fresh adventure.
So the plan was to set off of a multi-country motorcycle trip and I wanted to document the trip in all its glory.
My idea? Set up a website or blog to upload the trip reports. The only problem; I had no idea where to start.
More on that in a minute though.
What are you struggling with?
Likely it’s a big ambition or goal.
After all, that’s when paralysis usually sets in.
Perhaps you want to change careers, lose weight or meet that special partner in crime.
With a strong desire, our expectations are elevated and we want to waste no time in succeeding.
We need it now, leaving no room for false starts.
After all, society has conditioned us to expect instant rewards.
Information moves fast, and our expectations have kept pace.
People pore over stories of the overnight success and get-rich-quick tropes like famished souls salivating over a juicy burger.
And yet, with all the help we need readily available, why is it that we still don’t know where to start? I mean, it should be easy right?
The research phase
Think about the feelings you commonly encounter.
You’re desperate to get results, to see some tangible reward.
But with uncertainty setting in, you embark on an information Easter egg hunt.
It’s both a blessing and curse to live in data utopia.
With the entirety of human knowledge at our fingertips, we delve deep into the pockets of the Internet, searching for information from those we wish to emulate…
To collect the exact blueprint or step by step guide. Viola. There you go, with a little cherry on top.
But research soon becomes a proxy for real action.
When you don’t know where to start with your goal, you always need to consume a little more content.
I mean, at the time it feels sensible. You’ll save all that effort, you tell yourself. Why reinvent the wheel? And man, it’s addictive!
Reading about others who’ve achieved your aims makes you feel like you can almost touch the end result.
But the problem is, you can’t. Deep down you know it.
The reality is, you’re still stuck and not knowing where to start has been exacerbated by procrastination.
You know you’re exactly where you’ve always been, making no progress. Zilch.
The weight stays on, you remain in a job you loathe and you’re still about as charismatic as a cucumber.
Why? I mean, all the resources are there. The articles, videos, training course, mentors, work experience.
Everything you need is within your grasp, but you can’t seem to take the necessary steps.
Well, if you’re like most people, it boils down to fear, and more specifically, the fear of failure.
You see, back in our caveman days, failure could have meant the difference between life and death.
But times have changed and now, rather than genuine survival, we fear for our appearances and social ostracism.
But it needn’t be that way, as you’ll see in a minute.
Beijing Part Two
Anyway, this was what I’d felt on that night in Beijing.
Remember my project? I’d been delving down the rabbit hole of information gathering to “educate” myself about starting a website.
But really it was just procrastination porn.
I felt I wasn’t techie and had no idea how to set up a site, let alone get people to read it.
I was afraid I’d put a lot of effort into something that would ultimately flop.
So I hoped meeting a mate would put things into perspective.
He was experienced with websites and marketing and could give me the lowdown.
When I met up with him, I bombarded him with questions.
Hell, I couldn’t even decide on the name of the site, let alone what was needed to make it work.
Upon hearing my torrent of questions and concerns he silenced me with a profound piece of advice,
“Just get started. You can figure out any problems as you go.”
* Find out what happened at the end of the article 🙂
Where to start
Here’s the thing.
We’re all desperate for the perfect first attempt.
We’ve been led to believe that perfection is possible on our first try. That the judges will all score us a 10.
Remember the overnight success? Yeah, it doesn’t exist in this little realm.
I mean, how often does the budding writer pen a bestseller on their first attempt?
Anyone starting anything new is beset by uncertainty and if they do finally build up the gumption to start, they’re generally crap. This is normal.
After all, Michael Jordan didn’t emerge from the womb dunking.
Here’s the thing; achieving anything worthwhile takes time and although we seek to minimise mistakes and achieve our goal immediately, simply making progress is paramount.
It’s only when we dive straight into our goals without knowing all the answers that we begin to gather the feedback needed to improve and start making progress.
When we constantly question where to start, we essentially spin our wheels and stay static. No bueno.
We have to be willing to take messy, uncoordinated action and put up with poor performance for what may seem like an ungodly amount of time.
But it’s through this constant action, failure and iteration that we finally start to chip away at those big ambitions.
So, to the question of where to start?
From where you stand.
* P.S. If you’re still with me and wondering what happened in this little story…
Well, I did end up doing a motorbike trip around Europe, and I did take my friend’s advice, diving in to set up a website.
To cut a long story short, that site didn’t pan out.
But…and here’s the big but.
It was through that failure that I developed the initial layer of confidence to build something online and share my thoughts with the world.
Years and a few websites later, you’re reading my most recent creation, which has benefitted from all of the preceding steps, stuttering progress and gradual improvement.