Have you ever woken up, thought about what you wanted to do, sat down to do it, and then talked yourself out of it?
Sure you have. Who hasn’t? Why, though? Was it because you thought it was the wrong thing to do? Probably not.
I’m willing to bet that, in many cases, it was because you thought you weren’t good enough yet.
You know, you can’t write the book until you have more experience. You can’t create the new product until you have more customers to sell it to. You can’t bake the brownies until you watch five more YouTube videos on how to do it. Well, the first video won’t load… I guess you can just eat some ice cream instead.
We’ve all been there before. We’ve all found reasons to not get started on something, little or big. We’ve all felt like it’s never the right time to do anything. Something else always has to happen or exist first.
That, my friends, is a deadly trap, and I want to help ensure that you don’t fall into it.
We all know the fastest way to go from point A to B: a straight line. And we all know that a line is a continuous, unbroken extension from a point in a certain direction.
Why, then, do many people expect a superhuman leap from novice to expert–from bad work to great work? Why is the prospect of sucking at something so daunting to some?
Why do some people, having never written a page of fiction in their lives, immediately set out to write the best book in the history of literature? Why do some people pick up a brush for the first time and demand the next Mona Lisa from their hands?
Sure, high-flown goals are motivating and necessary, but what happened to the straight line that goes from novice to expert–from point A to B?
You see, if you set out to build the biggest company in the history of your industry, you immediately start comparing your efforts and results to the biggest company in your industry. And you get frustrated that you just aren’t measuring up.
In short, you get frustrated because you haven’t magically teleported from point A to B, which doesn’t really make any sense. After stewing on your shortcomings for a while, you’re likely to get used to life at point A, and figure that when you somehow become an expert some day, you’ll build that company.
Days, months, and years can go by with little accomplished beyond psyching yourself out.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Gilbert Chesterton said that. He wrote around eighty books, several hundred poems and short stories, over four thousand essays, and TIME called him “a man of colossal genius.”
And guess what? He sucked at writing at one point in his life. He dropped out of his college literature class. He went through a nasty spell of depression and self-doubt after dabbling in Ouji boards and the occult (hey, I couldn’t make this up if I wanted to).
But he put the Ouji board away and decided to get a job at a newspaper. He kept writing. And he got better. And better.
You see, he knew something. He knew that there are no shortcuts. Sure, some people go from point A to B quicker than others, but everyone has to start at A. And between it and B, expert, there’s a whole lot of sucking, and you have to walk that road alone.
That doesn’t sound too motivating, but here’s the truth:
With every step that you take from point A to B, you suck a little less. You become more expert. You’re like a tiger earning its stripes. Earning is the key word there.
So who cares if your first marketing piece isn’t great. So what if your first blog looks like a pile of crap. I don’t care if your first painting is worse than your child’s. At least you can tell garbage from gold. Find just one thing that you did right and acknowledge and learn from what you did wrong, and try again.
Nobody is counting your mistakes. You don’t get a report card in life. All that matters is getting from point A to B, regardless of what it takes to get there.
Want to know the biggest secret of great achievers? They were willing to do crappy work so they could learn to do good work and, eventually, great work.
In many cases, they did a lot of crappy work, and in all cases, they didn’t care enough to quit. Crappy work was just an item on the checklist for the day. “Did I do some more crappy work today? Good. I’m closer to doing good work.”
Eventually, the road between points A and B was in their rearview mirrors. Work that was merely “good” to them was now considered great by others, and work they thought was “great” was celebrated as masterful. And then point B became their new point A. But that’s another subject.
I want to leave you with a final piece of practical, staple-this-to-your-forehead advice.
It’s the manifesto of the “Cult of Done.” Okay, it’s not a real cult. It’s just a trendy Internet thing. But its message is relevant, so here we go:
The Cult of Done Manifesto
There are three states of being. Not knowing, action and completion.
Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done.
There is no editing stage.
Pretending you know what you’re doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you’re doing even if you don’t and do it.
Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.
The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.
Once you’re done you can throw it away.
Laugh at perfection. It’s boring and keeps you from being done.
People without dirty hands are wrong. Doing something makes you right.
Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.
Destruction is a variant of done.
If you have an idea and publish it on the internet, that counts as a ghost of done.
Done is the engine of more.