Art of the Start — those excruciating first steps that make or break your hustle
Super-psyched to learn that my last post struck a chord. A couple of interesting conversations ensued.
And, I’m here. Again. Nervous. But, here.
Another blank page. And, a vague idea of what I’m going to fill it with.
“Starting” is getting out of the comfort zone. The research and the plan, as I mentioned before, can fool you into thinking you are making progress. Yes, they improve your chances of success. However, you need to draw the line somewhere. Rolling up your sleeves and executing is when you’ll learn.
Moments before starting this post I was caught up in thoughts such as “What’s the point?”, “Why even bother?” and “Can I monetize?”
I reminded myself — this is just a journey of 30 days. Continuing it is at my discretion. As long as I add value to one reader, and have fun in the process, it’s fair game.
Have you heard of Chris Brogan? This behemoth of a blogger’s early work consisted of personal posts and a few thoughts on marketing. Gradually, it turned into a marketing machine and positioned him as a leading blogger and marker. Gary Vaynerchuk’s entry into social media was to sell wine. Consistent hustle ensured a place for them as one of social media’s biggest influencers.
I’m not looking at what they’ve become. I’m looking at their early struggles. Their love for the process. And the reminder that 1 is always greater than 0. One reader. One “clap”. One view. Always better than nothing!
Besides the obvious success of our favorite entrepreneurs and creative professionals, what differentiates them from us is this. They had one idea, and despite fear and resistance, acted on it. While we (or I), stand on the sidelines, collecting underpants.
Here’s what I’m doing to step inside the trenches. To signal my refusal to stand on the sidelines.
Think of it as a rallying cry of sorts, that will make you stop procrastinating on your idea and join me.
On with it.
Day 1: Brainstorm ideas
I wrote down all I could I think of doing as a side project. I ended up with a list of 14 items. Some ideas were boring, but practical. Others, downright hilarious. Nothing was considered too far out. Remember, these were ideas that I’d like to do. Whether I have the potential to act on them or not was immaterial at this point.
Once all the ideas were on paper, I allowed the dust to settle. “Day 1” was complete. My first small win.
Day 2: Pick an idea
I revisited the list the next day and scrutinized each of them by asking:
Which idea excites me the most?
Can I sustain it?
What might stop me from committing to it?
Who will support me on this?
What are the obvious barriers to starting? And how can they be overcome.
What are 2–3 immediate steps that I can take to help build momentum?
I weeded out the weaklings and picked one — blogging.
At this point, I was not entirely sure what I was going to say. It was all a haze. However, I’ll write and gradually zero in on something. Let’s not get too hung up on the finer details (yet).
Day 3: Setup my platform
Remember when I said that I bought 3 different URLs? I am too lazy and anti-tech to watch a YouTube video and setup my own blog. This meant that customising my exisiting website naveenwriter.com wasn’t going to work. I will always have the excuse “My website is not ready” to not start.
I turned to Medium. And, here we are.
I spent about 45 minutes setting things up (it should take you less than 15 minutes if you rein in your OCD).
I checked off Day 3.
Day 4: Start
This is where I would usually call it quits, and chase after something shinier. Not this time. I sat down and wrote.
“Start” centers on doing the one task that is at the core of the idea. E.g. If your idea is to start a freelance business, the core task is not designing a flashy website, printing business cards or designing a logo. Your focus should be on finding a customer!
I’ve had friends who had brilliant business plans and detailed financial analyses, but no customers! Sadly, what may have been a good business venture never saw the light of day.
With the first draft done, I conquered Day 4.
Day 5: Editing
I spent the fifth day editing. I gave free reign to my OCD. My need for perfection was on overdrive.
I trimmed the fat and made my work presentable.
Day 6: Publish
Hitting Publish was the hardest because it meant putting myself “out there”. It meant exposing myself. It meant criticism and naysayers. It meant shipping an imperfect product. It meant overcoming negative thoughts/questions such as:
“Maybe this is a bad idea.”
“Do I even know what I am talking about?”
“Who am I to try and help someone else, when I myself am on the bottom-most rung of my growth ladder?”
“What if somebody laughs?”
I said, “Fuck it”. I hit publish.
Yep, I smashed it.
Optional — Hitting refresh throughout the day to see YOUR feedback and checking social media a million times for likes and comments.
Day 7: Repeat Day 4 (and so on)
The key is to keep at it. This post is proof that I’ve prevailed so far.
Consistency is where most fail. It is where I’ve failed in the past. Not this time.
The best part of this exercise is that you don’t need to spend a lot of time. Cut back on an episode of a sitcom or wake up 20 minutes earlier than usual. Dedicating 20–30 minutes a day is possible for everyone. Do it for 30 days. You can even take the weekends off!
If you’re saying you don’t have the time, I’m sorry to say, you’re destined to be on the sidelines. You’ll be a spectator all your life!
I’ve called myself on my bullshit. You should too! It’s scary and embarrassing, but liberating.
So, pick an idea. Commit to 30 days. Ask someone to hold you accountable. Just start!
It’s a simple formula → <Your Idea>. Create value. Have fun.
What idea will YOU commit to for the next 30 days?
How will you remember the close of 2017?