A diamond is just a lump of coal that did well under pressure. Start before you’re ready.
Whether you spent weeks last year meticulously crafting New Year’s resolutions, conjured your resolution in a tipsy state on New Year’s Eve, or avoided the rigamarole altogether, it’s time to confront one truth: New Year’s Day was over a month ago. Already. Time and Tide wait for none.
So, how have you fared so far this year on the “expectations vis-à-vis reality” test? It’s a rhetorical question. Statistically, the odds are not in your favor. Only 4% of people make progress on their goals and aspirations for the New Year. And I’m willing to go out on a limb here to say that one common theme among the other 96% is that they probably don’t feel “ready” to get started. And that perception is due to no fault of their own.
In a world that often glorifies meticulous planning and perfect execution, the idea of diving into the unknown before feeling fully prepared can be revolutionary. This makes Sir Richard Branson’s story (paraphrased below from Atomic Habits author James Clear's blog) all the more audacious.
Quick Thought. Rapid Action.
In his late twenties, Richard Branson, a relatively unknown businessman, faced a critical situation when his final flight to the Virgin Islands was abruptly canceled due to maintenance issues. Determined to reach his destination on time, Branson took an unconventional approach.
He chartered a private plane to the Virgin Islands despite lacking the funds. To cover the expenses, he ingeniously wrote the words "Virgin Airlines. $29." on a small blackboard and sold tickets to the other stranded passengers from the canceled flight. The collected money not only financed Branson's chartered plane but also ensured that the entire group, now part of his makeshift airline, reached the Virgin Islands that very night.
Our struggle to start
I’ll admit it. The vast majority of us aren’t like Richard Branson. We are much more risk-averse and probably not as resourceful.
We could all be path-breaking entrepreneurs, have stellar careers, or nurture excellent relationships if only we had unconstrained resources, expertise, and skills. And so, we wait to get started until our resources, expertise, and abilities feel, if not unconstrained, at least “ready.”
In the process, we know this too: we’re kidding absolutely no one, least of all ourselves. All we do is protect our fragile egos from the possibility of failure because getting “started” makes our aspirations official and visible to the world. It’s definitely more comfortable to be still preparing instead—hidden away from the world, using the master of all excuses: “I’m not ready to start yet.”
But this perpetual getting-ready phase can and does cause us to miss out on life’s biggest opportunities.
The Trap of Over-Preparation
Author Steven Pressfield defines the word “Resistance” (with a capital R) as the thing that stands between “the life we live and the unlived life within us.” According to him, in the world of creativity and initiative, resistance lurks in the shadows, knowing that the longer we spend "getting ready," the more opportunities we have to sabotage ourselves.
So, the advice from wiser folks is this: “Don't wait till you've got your ducks in a row. Start before you’re ready.”
How to Start Before You’re Ready
Starting before you're ready doesn't mean trying to pilot a plane before you take flying lessons. It's about intelligently taking calculated, thoughtful risks. Here are some more actionable ways to get started.
We don’t tell ourselves, “I’m never going to write my symphony.” Instead, we say, “I am going to write my symphony; I’m just going to start tomorrow.” Steven Pressfield.
Procrastination is often disguised as research and planning. Yes, research and preparation are essential, but watch out for overthinking and perpetual waiting.
Finding the balance is key: acknowledge that some decisions require careful consideration while others benefit from bold action.
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. William Hutchison Murray from The Scottish Himalayan Expedition.
To overcome the inertia of feeling unready, find ways to invest—time, money, or effort. Be accountable. Set a date. Ship.
Embrace the learning
Prioritize growth and learning over the comfort of certainty. Embrace the discomfort of the unknown, recognizing that the joy is often in the journey and the learning.
Shift from Perfectionism to Resilience
If you're going to sacrifice everything and risk failing, it better be for an idea you're proud of. Waiting for an idea to be 100% ready is unrealistic. Instead of perfectionism, find ways to develop resilience and adaptability.
The Power of Starting Now
Whether you're embarking on a creative endeavor, a career change, or a personal goal, the key is to recognize that waiting until you feel fully prepared might mean waiting forever. The journey unfolds as you take those brave steps, and what you have now is often enough to start. Start before you’re ready and watch the magic unfold.
"Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot, but make it hot by striking." - William Butler Yeats