A lot of advice you’ll come across for aspiring entrepreneurs today is to “just start.”
It looks great on a t-shirt, but if it leaves you wanting more – you’re not alone.
There’s a few reasons why “just start” sometimes falls a little flat for me.
First, it doesn’t really honor the complexity of what you might be feeling – especially if you’re feeling a little anxious about stretching outside your comfort zone or overwhelmed by what seems like a scary complex endeavor.
Second, if you’re sitting there craving some clarity, “just start” doesn’t give you a ton to work with – it might even have the opposite of its intended motivational effect and make you feel even more stuck.
On a personal note, I’m feeling this right now.
When my son, Ezra, was born this past summer, we were really thrown for a loop. His first few months were not what we expected and so I took a longer than planned break from writing and coaching. Now, I’m in a moment where I’m about to “just start” all over again.
I’d also acknowledge that the last few years have been really chanelleging – for all of us, in our own ways.
I think it’s also been a bit of a wake up call to take life into our own hands, to stop going through the motions, and to take an active role in shaping your life – because if we don’t, it will be shaped for us, sometimes in ways we don’t like.
THE PROBLEM WITH “JUST START”
Generally, “just start” means that you should stop talking about doing it and get after it.
Chris Gardner, the business leader and motivational speaker who once struggled with homelessness, said: “Don’t wait for the perfect time to start making changes to your life; the time is now.”
He’s right. Life is short. It sometimes feels like opportunities are rare and obstacles are plenty. There will never be a perfect time, so the best time is now.
And, if the change is urgent enough for you, then you’ll rise to the occasion and make it happen.
But, urgency isn’t the problem. You know you want this. You know you want to achieve the vision you have for yourself.
So, what gets in the way of us starting?
It’s many things, of course. Though one problem I’ve noticed over and over again in the people I’ve met and worked with is one of clarity and confidence – Is this idea good enough?
Who am I to start a business?
Who is my customer and how do I find them?
Can I really charge money for this?
What if I fail?
What exactly is step 1?
When you’re at the beginning of something new, sometimes all you can see is the endpoint – the place you want to get to. It’s much harder to see the path to get there.
And, we make it more difficult because we’re often looking for something linear – a straight path with clear steps.
The truth is it’s just not that straightforward.
It’s a much wilder and freer process. It’s a test and learn kind of thing. It’s a zig zag.
So, of course you can’t see the path – you’re looking for something that isn’t there yet.
It’s your job to make the path.
JUST START (IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION)
Making a path is hard work – you might tire out quickly. Therefore, to get started, I’d suggest you pause to aim your effort.
You need to not just start, but start in the right direction.
That’s different from knowing the outcome. There is no way to guarantee success or to know exactly how it will all shake out (you don’t want to over-plan either). Instead, this is an opportunity to narrow your scope, prioritize, and name what’s in bounds and what’s out of bounds.
While every business adventure is unique, I believe there are a few tactics that really help with this process. Generally, it involves getting your ideas out of your head and on paper.
First, start with the thinking that drives your actions – your mindset. Starting and growing a business is going to throw all kinds of new obstacles at you. You need to get into the right headspace for that.
Second, define the problem you want to solve. It’s important to test and iterate and learn as you go, but it’s a lot easier to make changes if you start from a specific hypothesis first.
Third, interview your customer or target audience. Talk to people. Trust me, listening to how things unfold in real life – from someone else’s perspective – will yield significantly more insights than just thinking about it at your desk.
Fourth, know why it all matters to you. You might be spending a lot of time on this venture, so it needs to align with your values, stay true to who you are, and help you grow.
Fifth, pull it all together into a story. Who is this for? What are you doing for them? Why do they care? Why do you?
DOWNLOAD THE WORKBOOK
I’ve created a workbook to help you with these tactics, including a handy fill-in-the-blank template at the end to help you bring it all together.
Just use the form below to get started.
So, are you ready to start in the right direction?
ONE MORE THING
Starting and growing a business is not a straight line.
It can feel messy – it zigs and zags, it starts and stops. It can feel frustrating even for the most seasoned business owners. And, that’s ok.
It’s also an exciting challenge. It’s going to stretch you. You’re going to learn a lot – not just about business, but about yourself.
And, that’s why it’s worth it.