I’ve done a lot of public speaking at Universities and at entrepreneurship events and a reoccurring theme that seems to crop up whenever someone pulls me aside afterwards is a lack of direction coupled with a lack confidence in their skills and experience. I usually tell people that one comes with the other and the best thing that you can do is just to create a side-project that you’re interested in – something based on a passion (even if it is just fleeting at the start) and to just get on with it. You don’t even have to show it to anyone but you owe it to yourself to start, to do something.
Having something to talk about
When you’re passionate about something, it comes across in everything you do. And when you’re doing something that you’re interested in, invariably you’ll stumble across others who share that interest. Everyone loves someone who has something interesting to talk about (as long as its not all about yourself of course) and will go out of their way to try and make connections in their mind as you’re talking to someone they know who has a similar interest (just so they have something to talk to you back about). This is the fundamental basis for networking and it all boils down to having something to talk about (that you actually care about).
The things that scare you the most are the things you want to do the most
I like to use my wife as a barometer. She’ll ask me what I’m up to and I’ll usually say
I’m thinking about doing X around a particular topic. The topic is either Y or Z but I’m not sure which to start with.
She’ll ask me to describe both Y and Z and the sheer amount of passion I put into describing either one or the other will be the deciding factor. But what if you don’t have a sounding board?
There are more than likely a lot of people doing what you want to do. I’ve got my heroes. They are the lads and lasses who I admire for doing what I want to do – write with authority, and often. I follow their newsletters, read their blogs, buy their books. They inspire me and every once in a while one of them comes up with something pretty damn great which seriously spurs me on. This week that happened, most definitely.
I came across a book written in 8 days by two web professionals called Execute – a book all about getting things done. Written by Drew Wilson and Josh Long, the book Execute is pretty much a motivational piece of writing targeted at (but not exclusively) to web professionals.
Execute is broken down into four chapters – Purpose, Inspiration, Philosophy, Process and Execution. Now, I had been planning on starting up a new novel (I wrote half of one a few years ago and never finished it) for a long time. I was waiting for the right circumstances (waking up a genius), the right equipment (a new laptop), the right writing program (anything other than Word), the right this and the right that. You’d think I was waiting for a printed book with my name on it to just fall into my lap.
One of the first things Execute tells you is there is no ‘right time’ and I completely agree with that… and so apparently does Arnold Schwarzenegger even though he’s talking about getting the motivation to exercise in hotels while on the road (the dude still is in killer shape).
There is no waiting to train until you have perfect circumstances. I improvise with whatever is available.
Commit to it
Guilt is a pretty great driving force (in the beginning) and when I bought Execute I admit I was thinking, ‘I’m pretty driven already – why’d I buy this?’ I felt guilty not that I bought the book, but because I needed to buy it, just to have someone in my field telling me that ‘there is no right time, get off your butt, you’ll be happier’.
Sometimes everyone needs that and that’s why I’m recommending it. Its also why I’m telling you now to get off your butt.
Of course I still haven’t finished it because every time I pick it up it tells me to put it down and get on with my own stuff. I’m assuming that was the point both Josh and Drew intended.
Another great tool that I use daily is Nathan Barry’s ‘Commit’ app which simply asks me everyday whether or not I’ve done what I set out to do. Super simple and to the point, everyday I get a notification on my phone that asks if I exercised and wrote 500 words a day. I relish in telling it that I did.
If you’ve spent any amount of time in the startup world you’ll no doubt know that everyone and their mother is telling you to work ‘lean’ and to fail fast and hard. But those things work on the presumption that you’re actually doing something and tell you nothing if you’re not.
I was talking to a good friend about this and he said he had finally got off his ass and started writing a book, and as I was to find out, in a very clever way.
He introduced me to a website called LeanPub which allows you to rate the amount of interest there will be in your work. This is only applicable to authors but the example should hold true for almost any effort. Whereas LeanPub allows you to create a sales page for your work and encourages potential customers to register their interest, the same principle can be applied to anything you’re interested in doing – from carpentry to sewing and painting to learning how to play the saxophone so you can annoy people with your epic skills.
I’d love to know what you’ve committed to and are currently working on, but even more so I’d love to know what you’re waiting for the ‘right time’ to start on.
Let me know in the comments.
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