Why is starting so difficult? Why would we rather roll about in bed than start the first sentence in our epic novels, make the first calls towards building our fledgling businesses, or perform the first reps of a new exercise routine?
The good news is that it’s not actually our fault. In fact, if we face some degree of resistance, we are probably on the right track! Anything worth to do is usually not easy to decide about. It usually involves some sort of cost, whether upfront or hidden. It could be as subtle, and also as expensive, as a valuable alternative opportunity. For instance, instead of preparing for a usual career route like everyone else, you’ve decided to risk your future on a creative novel that has no guarantees of selling. How does that feel? Scary isn’t it! And more so the faceless critiques that may be chortling on the side at your potential failure.
But should that stop you from starting? It could actually be a good reason to reconsider your decision. We may not always be ready to kill our other opportunities and enter into the realm of scary commitments. So before you make your move (or not) it’s quite important that you discover your motives first.
And the most important question to answer is: Are you going to be an amateur or a professional?
An amateur does that scary thing because he likes it. He may even love it, but his life surely doesn’t depend upon it. His livelihood, family, or future isn’t directly dependent on the success of “scary-thing”.
The professional, on the other hand, has her paycheck on the line. Whether she likes it or not is irrelevant – she loves it; this includes slogging through the nasty bits which she hates and all.
If you plan to be a professional in that scary-thing, you’d need to have more planning. But if you are an amateur, the next paragraph is for you.
Just begin! As an amateur, chances are you’ll need more opportunities to discover yourself in the first place. Don’t overthink it; do your basic planning, and then start. Follow the simple rule of doing at least 4 times more than thinking, leaving your planning to just a quarter of the time you’re getting your socks wet and knees deep in mud – trust me, you’ll learn more that way. Perhaps, the most one thing to be cautious about is to ensure that your amateur pursuits do not encroach into the non-negotiable areas of your life. You don’t want to ruin your livelihood in the midst of experimentation!
The same advice probably goes for those who are intending to transform scary-thing pursuits into a professional career. Especially because there are larger costs for the experimentation, it is absolutely crucial that the following three questions have been addressed before you start.
1) Are you ready?
Crazily enough, many failed attempts occur because the daring soul wasn’t quite ready yet to embark on the costly quest. How do you know that you are ready? Readiness is not necessarily the absence of anxiety (an absolute lack or fear, on the contrary, may point towards delusion). As prepared as you are to make your move, the anxiety still exists! But a ready person has decided that whatever challenges may come will be worth to overcome. The ready professional has counted the costs and is prepare to pay it because he or she has answered the following question…
2) Do you love it?
Are you in it for the money, are you in it for the fame… or are you in it because you love it deep in your gut? If your reasons are anything other than “you have no choice” or “you absolutely adore it” (the best when these two reasons are one and the same) then perhaps they may be too superficial to carry you through when the going gets tough. Hours of exhausting work, months of trudging through the frustrations of unpaid labour, years of not being satisfied with what you’ve devoted your life to – these could be the costs of pursuing what you love. But true love is not blind: it knows that pain and sacrifice are the flipsides of the unparalleled pleasures of mastery. Yet, love is only a prerequisite, it alone is not the answer. The last, determining question can help you make the final choice.
3) Can you contribute anything of value?
If you are going professional, you’re sacrificing other opportunities for the main preoccupation that has enraptured your heart. You may be aware of the costs, you may have pure motives, but if you do not have the value, you may be doomed to fail.
Are people willing to pay you for what you do? Are you at the cutting edge of your field? Have you acquired a high level of proficiency in your pursuit? Until these questions return gold, it may be wise to reconsider your big move, and postpone it till you’ve consolidated enough value to justify a scary, costly commitment. Go back to the drawing board, return to the dojo, get the reps done, the words written, the years of experience. Then come back and try again.
But if your value-check turns out on the up and up, then your postponement may just be the jitters. You’ll need to start somewhere! Take small risks, make small bets and see where it leads you. Don’t be too bold, but don’t be paralyzed either. You don’t want to kill your chances early, nor paddle around in your passivity either! Your little, risky moves forward may be the thing that carves out a compelling path ahead. That is the time when all your risks pay off, and the horizon begins to look a bit clearer.
So starting doesn’t always have to be so hard… or dangerous!