Sometimes, you have to get something started. At work, at home, where ever. You are starting something, because there is nothing. If there was something, you would just use it, do it, enjoy it, etc. Sometimes you can start by picking up where others have left off. Other times, you can start by putting together pieces that are unassembled. Once in a while, you have to start completely from scratch.
Starting from scratch is overwhelming. It can be overwhelming because you don’t know where to start. It can be overwhelming because you don’t know how to finish. It can be overwhelming because of all the things you don’t know yet. Starting is overwhelming because of the Unknown Unknowns.
Here are the things that make starting overwhelming:
1) what do you do first?
2) what obstacles are going to appear (out of nowhere) and stop or delay you?
3) How are you going to pay for it?
4) Whose permission do you need?
5) Is anyone going to notice?
While all of these questions are interesting, I want to start with some simple questions to ask yourself about starting:
1) What is in it for you? (why are you doing this? starting stuff is hard and risky and frustrating. What do you get out of it?)
2) Can you get that (what is in it for you) any other way? really? seriously?
3) How will you know you are successful? What are you going to measure to say it is “working”, it is “happening”.
4) How will you decide that you are going to quit? (when things don’t work, how do you know when to cut your losses?)
Why these questions first? Because they form the envelope around the mission. They help you focus on what is important. They keep you “honest”. Lets go a little deeper.
What’s in it for you… If you can’t answer that, stop now. If you answer and even you think your answer is BS, stop now. In all honesty this is the variable that you want to optimize. This is the REASON FOR EVERYTHING. This is what you are risking your sanity for. This is what keeps you going when stuff is hitting fans all around you. If this isn’t compelling, if it isn’t WORTH IT, you will never finish. This is your number one goal.
Can you get that any other way… This is a reminder to do your research. If you find an easier, already working, less expensive, less risky, already built out way to get what you want? Why start from scratch? If you still feel like you want to start, you haven’t answered the first question honestly. There is some other reason that you are not admitting to yourself. Ask yourself the 5 why’s and get to the bottom of it.
How will you know you are successful… You have to set a goal. One that you can measure. Of course, as you learn you can set new goals, but you have to start with something. It has to be measurable. Your goal has to be externally remarkable – like as in getting others to notice. Especially sponsors of future goals, etc.
How will you decide that you are going to quit… no dream once turned into an endeavor lives forever unsuccessful. Sometimes you have to quit and start over. You may have a specific timeline, amount of money to invest, amount of times to attempt – whatever – but knowing when you cut your losses is key. Sometimes you know because variables change. Other times the environment changes. Still others the need or desire evaporates. It may not matter whether you are successful or not – it may simply be based on the value you get from it. Bottom line, I have to quit this to start that.
I think it is noteworthy that you don’t have to know HOW to finish in order to start. In order to start, you need motivation, a little vision, a proof that what you are doing is valuable or unique, and the ability to set a measurable goal, and the will to stop when it is clear your attempt is infeasible. Starting something is not an absolute, it doesn’t have a defined end point. It is not a PROJECT – it is building something of value, and it may mean adding value or using that value to do more. When you are done, others may take over and keep moving forward adding more value or using that value. Whatever you start may continue to be valuable to others long after you no longer receive any value from your involvement in it.
So what are you waiting for? Its time to start something…