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Start Before You’re Ready
“Are you ready?” Klaus asked finally.
“No,” Sunny answered.
“Me neither,” Violet said, “but if we wait until we’re ready we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives.”
— Lemony Snicket, The Ersatz Elevator
Personal progress. Professional progress. Collective, societal progress — all of it is born from a single person’s decision to act. To stand up. To speak out. To make a move. Usually, long before there’s any guarantee of success. Another point most of us fail to see: Action comes before the courage to act. Action spawns courage, not the other way around.
Action also generates motivation. Instead of waiting for inspiration to strike, action implores you to keep going.
Think about working out. You don’t always feel like doing it. In fact, you might very strongly not want to do it. Listen to the voice in your head and you’ll hear something like, “I don’t feel like it. I’m tired. I don’t want to. I’ll start tomorrow.” However, something peculiar happens the moment you lace up your sneakers and get moving anyway. Another, more powerful force takes over. Within a few minutes, you feel more energized and alive. Inspired, even. Work out a few days in a row and bam — a domino effect kicks in. Without much effort, you begin to crave healthier foods. Drink more water. Maybe even yearn for your next workout. This same phenomenon can be seen with virtually any creative endeavor. Bodies in motion tend to stay in motion. Doing it generates the desire to keep doing it.
That’s why starting before you’re ready is a vital part of my philosophy that everything is figureoutable. When you start before you’re ready, you obliterate inertia and get momentum on your side. This applies to anything we want to figure out. Momentum is the secret elixir, and the only way to get that momentum is this: You must disobey the voice in your head that says, “I’m not ready yet.”
Stop thinking and start doing. Make a move. Any move. Send the email. Register for the class. Pick up the phone. Schedule the meeting. Have the conversation. Your next steps will become painfully obvious. The following points will help you master the art of starting before you’re ready.
Beware of procrastination disguised as ‘research and planning’
Starting before you’re ready doesn’t mean you should be ignorant or haphazard. Depending on the nature of your dream and how much you already know, some initial research and planning may be necessary. For instance, to reach your ultimate dream of speaking conversational Spanish within the next 12 months, you might look into language immersion courses, research private instruction, and download a language app. That’s fine.
But be warned: Extensive research and planning is often a way to keep procrastinating. Remember, you don’t need to know everything about your dream, nor do you need to map out every step in advance. Stop hiding behind books and websites. Instead, develop a bias for action. Make appointments. Have real-life conversations. You’ll learn more and make faster progress.
Don’t dick around. Your life is at stake. Do whatever it takes to start — now.
Get skin in the game
Early in my career, I was terrified of speaking in public. I knew it was an important skill, so I joined a local Toastmasters group. The membership fee was around $50. I was barely scraping by, so on top of genuinely wanting to improve my public speaking, I really didn’t want to waste that cash. As I got more involved in the group, I became friendly with the other members. Developing those social connections gave me another layer of “skin in the game.” Not showing up to meetings meant I’d feel guilt, shame, and embarrassment — so I used that to further motivate myself to keep going.
There are unlimited digital tools to help you put skin in the game. Search online for “accountability apps + [the current year].” You’ll discover a treasure trove of options with a wide array of features. No matter what method you use, putting skin in the game helps you power past procrastination. Don’t dick around. Your life is at stake. Do whatever it takes to start — now.
Value growth and learning over comfort and certainty
Like many bootstrapping entrepreneurs, for the first few years of my business, I did everything myself. I wore all the hats — marketing and delivering my service, scheduling, invoicing, website updates, content creation, email correspondence, customer service — you name it.
Eventually, I reached a breaking point. It was impossible to keep up with all the demands on my time. I knew I needed to hire help, but was terrified to make that move. I had very little revenue, so hiring someone seemed out of reach. I’d also never been a boss before. I had no clue how to find, hire, train, delegate, or manage another person.
But instinctively, I knew if I stayed in my comfort zone much longer, I’d kill the very thing I was working so hard to build — my own business. My next move was clear. It was time to start living in what I now call the growth zone.
I made tons of mistakes. At first, I hired the wrong people. I was horrible at delegating. There was enormous self-doubt, insecurity, and tears. But once I planted my feet firmly in that growth zone, I refused to give up. There was no turning back. Eventually, I started to get it right.
In the comfort zone, which is where most of us spend way too much time, life feels safe. But everything you dream of becoming, achieving, or figuring out exists in the growth zone (aka the discomfort zone). When you’re in the growth zone, here’s what’s guaranteed: You will feel vulnerable and insecure, but in order to grow, you must let go (at least temporarily) of your need for comfort and security. You must train yourself to value growth and learning above all else.
Almost everything you need to make your dream a reality requires new skills, experiences, and understanding. You must do things you’ve never done before. Starting before you’re ready isn’t easy, but if you want to change, it’s required.