Starting a Project is Thrilling Starting

There’s something about that moment – the moment we finally write our ideas on paper – that’s both invigorating and scary.

We move from day-dreaming to actualizing and everything seems at once entirely possible and wholly reachable.

The goals we set not only excite us by their grandeur, but by the thought of actually reaching them.

The moment you write your ideas on paper and form coherent objectives (clear, precise goals), a shift occurs.  This shift brings about two important realizations:

  1. You’ve been ready to start this entire time
  2. Your future circumstances are entirely in your hands

And knowing these two things makes everything in this life possible.

The question is: what will you create?

 

 

Doing the WorkFinished

I've been busy recently...

Very busy.

January came and went with the initiation of several big projects - stuff I didn't think I would finish by February...

But, somehow, I'm on track to ship (subscribe to my blog to get insider sneak peaks and first releases of awesome content, products and projects before everyone else).

Here are a few things I did that helped me focus my effort so I could create some great stuff I really think will help you on your own journey:

#1. Establish a Deadline

No matter what happens, the projects I'm working on WILL ship.

Maybe that means I don't leave the computer the weekend before they ship, but so be it.

As long as you set a ship date - and understand that shipping isn't an option - your project will ship.

#2. Identify Perfect...and then Identify Good Enough

Perfect is what you strive for.  But good enough is what you NEED.

It's important to identify what makes your project perfect, but perfect rarely happens.  If you don't know what good enough looks like, you will spend time spinning wheels trying to reach the unattainable.

On the other hand, if you identify good enough beforehand, and the project is good enough, you can still ship on time.  And shipping is what matters.

#3. Thrash

Thrashing is all about tearing apart your idea to find the holes, the missing pieces, and the weaknesses of your project.

Thrashing is brutal.

When we sit down to really understand what and why we're doing something, or how to put our project together, it means we inspect every part of who WE are.  If there's not clear solution to a part of your project, it's easy to feel terrible.

Don't.

Thrashing is essential.  If you don't thrash, you'll never find your voice, manifest your vision, or ship your final product.

Thrashing occurs throughout the project, but when you spend serious time and effort thrashing in the beginning, you'll produce a better product and run into less trouble along the way.

(here is a great article by Jonathan Fields on Thrashing)

#4. Chunk

Chunking is taking the thrashed version of your idea and creating individual ship dates for each component/piece/part.

I like to chunk down pieces of the project into 1-3 hour intervals.  This means every piece of the puzzle I can accomplish within a 3 hour time-frame.

This allows me to realistically set a ship date that know I can reach it.

-> "What if I don't know how long something will take?"

I rarely know how long something will take.  But I've learned something through my experiences: a 30 minute blog post WILL take 3 hours.

That eBook you think you can write in a 7 days WILL take 1 - 2 months.

The manuscript you're working on, the one you think will take a few months...give yourself a year.

My rule of thumb: When in doubt, multiply by 6.

#5. Ship

That's right: actually shipping is essential to shipping your project successfully.

But how many people actually ship?

Everything here is focused on shipping, because shipping matters (see item #2).  Even if iteration 1.0 doesn't turn out the way you want it to, it's out there, and you can refine and re-release later.

The goal, of course, is to thrash and chunk in such a way that you create a stellar product and ship something incredible the first round.

But if you have to ship something less than what you planned, ship anyway (you'll learn more than you would otherwise, I promise).


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When I was a sophomore in college, I tried to do something I wasn’t sure I could do.

I decided to compete in the Brigade Open Boxing Tournament.

The Brigade Open is an annual event at West Point.  It’s a chance for anyone to enter the ring and compete for a title belt.  It’s open to all students, but the winners are almost always those on the boxing team.

So entering with very little experience and going up against legitimate national champions probably wasn’t the smartest idea.

I did it anyway.

It had nothing to do with winning - I didn't think I could - but everything to do with at least trying.

I made my commitment several months out from the first scheduled fight of the tournament and got to training.

This Might Work

Every night, after hours of class, drill, intramural sports and homework, I went up to the boxing room, by myself, to hit the heavy bag (like a Nike commercial, but less dramatic).

Every morning, I woke up at 5am to jump rope in sweats.  It was exhausting, but the only way I stood a chance was to cut weight.

When the first fight came, I was trembling.  I didn't feel ready. Even though I cut weight to be more competitive, my oponent was bigger than me.  It seemed, at that moment, I had committed to nothing more than getting my face knocked in.

The bell rang and the fight started.

In the middle of the second round, the referee blew the whistle.  A stoppage.  The referee was concerned one of the boxers would end up seriously injured.

I won my first fight.

I was pumped.

The Reality of Winning

And then I realized what winning actually entailed.

If I had lost, I could go back to my regular routine.  I could have given myself a pat on the back and still walked away proud for trying.  I didn't think I could win anyway.

But now, by winning my first match, I had to fight another. And by trying to do something I wasn't sure I could do - and then doing better than I expected - I raised the bar for myself.

Now  "who cares if I win or lose," turned into "I might actually be able to do this."

I trained harder.

The next fight came. Once again, I went up against someone who seemed my superior.  I felt weak from cutting weight and training - maybe I overtrained. Once again, my chances didn't look good. 

I entered the ring, the bell rang, the fight started, and the whistle blew two minutes later.  Stoppage.

I won my second fight.

Somehow, against all odds, I would be competing for the championship belt at the finals.

For the first time, I knew there was a chance I could win.

The Finals

The next fight was filmed by ESPNU with Teddy Atlas and Joe Tessitore commentating (a big deal in the boxing world).

The ring stood in the middle of a giant auditorium, professional spotlights hung from the ceilings,  and spectators crowded the bleachers; the bar had been raised.

My fight was moments away.

Unlike my last two opponents, this guy was the real deal; he boxed on the West Point boxing team and was a serious contender for regional and national champion.

The only advice a friend could give me: knock him out in the first round.

He knew what I didn’t want to admit to myself: I wouldn’t last three rounds with this guy.

In the Arena

What the Last Round Feels Like

The fight started. 

First round came and went – I landed some heavy hits. No knockout.

The only strategy I had was out the window.

The fallback plan: survive.

The second round tested my resolve and the sturdiness of my face.  On more than one occasion the blows should have knocked me out.  Somehow, I made it to the end of the round.  Bloody, but not broken.

The third round delivered even more devastation.  The referee came close to calling it but I wouldn’t stop pressing.  I could have hung to the outside of the ring, but I knew that would give a reason to end the fight.  Even though I took a beating, I kept pressing.  The bell sounded and the fight ended.

I made it to the end of the third round.  I finished the fight.

I lost.

The next day, one of my teachers who watched the fight live sent me this quote in an email:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt

After the quote he wrote two words:

Keep Fighting.

Anytime I’m nervous, or scared, or uncertain, or worried that something I do might not work, or what I write won’t resonate, or after months and years of passionate commitment my project won’t make it and I’ll be left with nothing…

Anytime I start thinking this way, I remember to keep fighting.

Why?

Because it’s better to be in the arena and fail, than a spectator who knows neither victory nor defeat.

I kept fighting. 

My tenacity earned me a spot on the boxing team.

I won my first tournament later that year.

One thing Teddy Roosevelt forgot to add: victory tastes better when you’ve known defeat.

And so I urge you, those of you starting something new, doing something important, or chasing your vision quest:

Keep fighting.

It's not always easy. But it's worth it in the end.

disrupting the status quo

The Creative Process

Some days, I know exactly what to write, what to build, and what to develop.

Every so often, I'm hit with a rush of ideas as I'm driving home, reading a book, or going for a long run.  The ideas are clear and I know exactly what I need to say, build, or write.

When I get home to my office, it's on.

These days are good.

Blank Days

Other days, the ideas don't come so easily.

On these days, I'm blank.

I know I have to write, but when I sit down, nothing comes to me.  I stare at a blank screen and every attempt to fill it with an idea comes up short.  It's infuriating.

These are the tough days.

And they happen the majority of the time.  

The Worst Part

Having no clear idea what I intend to write on a daily basis isn't the worst part.

The worst part is knowing beforehand that I have nothing to write.

That's when the fear hits:

"I shouldn't be doing this - I'm not good enough."

"What am I doing?"

"People will see I'm a phony...my stuff's not worth reading...this is a waste of time..."

These thoughts come to me on those blank days (every time without fail).

The Importance of Process

When the fear hits on those blank days, it's important - I would hazard to say mandatory - to slow down.

Identifying and understanding this fear as just that - fear - helps to quiet the negative self-talk propaganda.

This leads to an important realization: this fear inducing pressure is fabricated; it's a direct result of the importance we attribute to the results of our work.

And the results are important - but they're not more important than the process itself.

The process: that is why we do what we do (the artist, the creative entrepreneur, the unconventional leader).

We do it because the process is art, it's a gift, and, by giving and creating daily, we inexorably create our life's work.

Disrupting the Status Quo

It's easy to let the pressure of writing keep us from writing.

It's understandable to let the fear of shame keep us from creating.

It's almost forgivable to let the fear of failure keep us from starting, finishing and shipping...

But then we become exactly we set out to change: the status quo.

No, creating, building a business and leading aren't for everyone.

But if they are for you, then go to work every day (the disruption of the status quo depends on it).

 

In the Trenches: Episode 3Goins Writer

This is the 3rd episode of “In the Trenches: The Resistance Broadcast Interview Series” and today I had the honor of interviewing Jeff Goins.

[Listen to the Interview by clicking this link]

 

Jeff is a successful bloggerpublished author, and a self declared writer.

Jeff Started his blog in 2010.  In less than 2 years time he grew his readership to an impressive 100,000 people a month.

Jeff has been featured in RELAVANT magazine, Problogger, Copyblogger, Zenhabits.net, and many other publications.

You can find his most recent book Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams into your Comfortable Life online and in bookstores around the world.

This interview is a MUST listen.  Jeff gives so much great information and has such an amazing perspective on writing, publishing, business and life in general.

If you're a writer (or anything you do involves writing of any sort) you NEED to listen - I promise you won't be disappointed.


In the Trenches: an Interview with Jeff Goins - How to Build a Crazy Successful Blog in Less Than One Year, Get Published, and Become the Artist You Were Meant to Become


In this interview, we cover:

You can read more about Jeff Goins at GoinsWriter.com.

I highly suggest you subscribe to his newsletter - it's really great content.

If you liked this interview, share it with everyone you know and reach out to Jeff and thank him!

***

Previous episodes:

In the Trenches: Episode 1 With Al Pittampalli

In the Trenches: Episode 2 With Clay Hebert

 


p.s. leave a comment below and let us know what you're struggling with or where you're having success (writing, business, blog or life related - anything goes).

p.p.s. subscribe to The Resistance Broadcast and never miss a broadcast.  Plus, receive exclusive content just for members (100% free).  Never fight alone.  Join The Resistance.

 

Goals

A Pause

The beginning of every year starts with reflection.

We reflect on the past year, on what we’ve done (or not done), on what we’re proud of (or not so proud of), and how we intend to make this year better.

When we reflect, it’s common to see a multitude of failures: failure to start, failure to finish, failure to ship.  Sometimes it hurts to think about.  Of course, with the right resolve, we quickly commit to something bigger and better for this year.

The Path Forward

As with the start of every year, plenty of books, blogs, newscasts, and TV shows will talk about this commitment to something bigger and better for the new year.

They’ll explain you need to set goals, but not just any goals: you need to set specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-oriented goals (or some variation of this).

They’re right; setting these types of goals will increase the likelihood that your next venture is successful.

They’ll tell you that this time you REALLY need to commit; no half-hearted, wishful thinking.  You need to commit and make sure you stand by your commitment.  They’ll suggest you announce your intentions to someone else or that you make a contract to yourself that you personally sign.

And they’re right – getting something or someone to hold you accountable will increase your chances of success.

They’ll suggest getting a journal to record your daily progress, stocking your bookcase with productive content and filling your MP3 player with motivational podcasts.

And, for the most part, it’s all right and should help you realize your goals.

But you already know that.

So there is no reason to reiterate the information that is already out there – not on any of that stuff at least.

The Hard Part

But I will ask for 1 minute of your time.

In 1 minute write out every answer you can think of to the following question:

This year, I am committed to NOT…[fill in your answers here]

The REALLY hard part about commitment isn’t the grit needed to keep going when things start breaking, or the focus needed to finish and ship; no, the really hard part is all the things you must purposefully ignore if you really want to be successful.

If you want to be successful, you must commit, and when you commit, you close doors.

Closing doors is the hard part.

So I’m asking you to do the hard part – close doors this year.

Identify all the things you WON’T pursue this year; list out all the projects you WON’T start; write down all the things you WON’T agree to; determine all the ideas you WON’T develop this year.

The Scary Part

“But what if…”

Stop.

That’s the Enemy talking.

The Enemy wants you to keep your options open because if they stay open, you’ll never focus on one thing long enough to ACTUALLY instigate (start, finish, AND ship).

The Enemy wants you to keep all your doors open because when things start breaking (and they will), the Enemy will have an easier time goading you into changing direction, quitting on your project, and moving into one of your many open doors (available options).

The worst part: you won’t even recognize this is the Enemy because you’ve been taught to never put all your eggs in one basket.

Somehow, instead of that phrase reminding you to diversify your investments, it has mutated into an excuse for idealness, non-commitment, and retreat when things start breaking (“live to fight another day” right?).

This is scary.

Your Part

Don’t be a victim of The Enemy this year.

Don’t waste away another 365 days building someone else’s dream, slaving away just to slave away, or living a life of quiet desperation.

This year you can instigate your great project, begin building your empire, and continue (or start) creating your life’s work.

The power is so completely in your control it is painful to mention because more than a few will ignore it.

They will ignore that delicate inkling in their heart that tells them to start, finish and ship their great idea; the one that pulls at them every so often and asks to be considered; the one that that quietly begs to be given a chance.

They will ignore it and the spark will fade.

And another year will go by with nothing but reflections of what you did (but mostly didn’t do), what you’re proud of (but mostly what you’re not so proud of), and intentions of making this next year better.

Fill in the Blank

Don’t wait another hour to close some of those open doors: close them now.

Don’t wait another day to start on something worthwhile: start today.

Don’t wait for someone else to tell you what to do and how to do it: draw your own map.

This year I am committed to NOT [fill in the blank in the comments below]

We deal with uncertainty, randomness, and luck every day.

Every project we undertake is, by its nature, an uncertain endeavor (because it hasn't been done before – if it had, it would be certain, and there’d be nothing to start).

Uncertainty means we can fail.

But it also means we can succeed – that there is the potential for success infused in every endeavor, right from the start.

If you’re looking to instigate anything, you’re dealing with uncertainty, and therefore with the possibility of failure or success.

If this is the case, what favors one course of action over another?  Why do some projects fail and others succeed?

Well, first, they may just be lucky.

There is a very real possibility that good luck or favorable, random chance resulted in the success of an initiative that should have failed, and that bad luck or unfavorable, random chance destroyed a project that deserved success.

And if this is the case, it might follow that everything is random, so better to either never start anything, or start random things often (more dice rolls, better chance of random success).

But this isn't the full story, and this is precisely the type of attitude that leads to failed attempts at instigating.

When we deal with the uncertainty of a new project, yes, we do deal with luck and random chance.

But we can also, through the structure and direction of our work, open ourselves up to favorable, random chance, and avoid unfavorable, random chance.

In a matter of speaking, we can make ourselves lucky.

More importantly, we can instigate projects in a scientific manner that allows for sustainable, long term gains.

We do this through an asymmetry of gains – where the success of a project has large or infinite upside, and the failure of a project has minimal downside.

“By definition chance cannot lead to long term gains (it would no longer be chance); trial and error cannot be unconditionally effective: errors cause planes to crash, buildings to collapse, and knowledge to regress. The beneficial properties need to reside in the type of exposure, that is, the payoff function and not in the "luck" part: there needs to be a significant asymmetry between the gains (as they need to be large) and the errors (small or harmless), and it is from such asymmetry that luck and trial and error can produce results.” [Nassim Taleb]

Before we start our project, we want to set the stage for success by creating asymmetrically beneficial goals.

These are the types of goals we can start, finish, and ship, with little negative downside (i.e. publishing a kindle book; if it doesn’t take off, it only costs us our time), but with very large or infinite upside (i.e. once that kindle book is out there, it could take off and result in thousands of sales).

This allows us to test the waters without drowning if our first attempt isn't a complete success.

As long as we can test safely (and when I say test, I mean shipping a product or project and receiving feedback from the client or consumer), we can continue to test and tweak as necessary.

In essence, we live to fight another day, which allows us to eventually realize our goals.

Too often, people start with grandiose, unstructured plans that require a home run on the first try.  And then, if it doesn’t work (and it often doesn't), they go back to the grind that life gives them.

Don’t sabotage your success by relying on random chance to get you through.

Instead, start small, set audacious (but asymmetrically beneficial) goals, work every day to bring them to life (even when it’s scary), and, whatever you do, keep fighting.

Eventually, you’ll break through.

Eventually, you'll get the payoff.

Eventually, you’ll create your life’s work.

But only if you instigate the right way (and instigate continually).

 


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Two months ago I started this website and made a commitment to myself to publish three times a week: Monday, Wednesday and Friday.   The goal for every blog post is simple: to inspire and motivate you (the reader) to create your life’s work.

One month ago I made a commitment to myself to start, finish and ship my first major writing project.  That project turned into my first eBook, The Art of Instigating, and its purpose is to expand on the core message of this website and my philosophy on creating worthwhile stuff.

To be honest with you, I had no idea what I was getting into with either of these two goals.

Publishing a quality blog post three days a week is way more grueling than I ever imagined.  It takes hours to go from a mercurial idea for a potential blog post to the final published content.

It's arguably an insane, unsustainable endeavor.

And, for the eBook, I completely underestimated the difficulty and time necessary to craft something compelling, enjoyable, and, most importantly, useful.

I thought it was going to be easy.  It wasn't.

In both cases, I should have failed.

Except that, in both cases (the blog posts and the eBook), it somehow worked out.

The point is this:

Maybe there is something to the insane audacity of big goals.

Maybe, by being just a bit mad, overestimating our own abilities, and underestimating the difficulty of a potential project, we tap into certain powers that otherwise lie dormant.

You see, any reasonable person would not commit to this kind of goal.

The reasonable person would see, quite plainly, the amount of effort and time needed to do something like this (and its lack of any kind of monetary return on investment) and pass.

The reasonable person would move on to something with some sort of security, guarantee, or certainty; something where they show up at a certain time to do what they're told until the bell rings and they can go home.

The reasonable person understands that only a madman would dive into uncertainty joyfully; only a madman would hazard the possibility of failure, setback, and defeat gratefully; only a madman would set audacious, unreasonable goals and expect to achieve them.

And that is why the madman is responsible for the achievement of all unreasonably audacious goals: because he does set them.

So be unreasonable, be a bit mad, and set your audacious goals.

Who knows, you might just bring them to life.

"The warrior knows that he is free to choose his desires, and he makes these decisions with courage, detachment and - sometimes - with just a touch of madness." - [Warrior of the Light]

 


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