The hardest part is not getting started
Undoubtedly you need some motivation from a goal to get started with any venture or project; but there’s the old adage that underpins a lot of our thinking when it comes to self-help and motivation techniques that I think is wrong.
It’s the idea that ‘the hardest part is getting started.’
While I can appreciate that it may help some people to take the first steps into their unknown, this was not the case for me. Among other things, the perfectionist in me has prevented my doing a lot of things, despite having a life-long mindset that making something ‘perfect’ was a positive attribute to have. Like anything though, it’s great... In moderation.
Left uncontrolled, perfectionism prevents us from growing, learning, and moving on.
Producing art (I prefer this term over the modern ‘content’) has been something on my mind ever since I was a young child longing to learn music production and to DJ. Although in more recent years I’ve been wanting (and threatening) to write and to publish my works.
Naturally, I began to research different platforms and software that I could use to achieve that with, and there’s a lot of options. Then, of course, it has to look good too... Right?! Colour palettes, fonts, layouts... They all had to be just right. Especially if you are exploring the ‘branding’ rabbit-hole with this mind set.
“Shit, I don’t even have a name for my ‘blog’ yet! Wait, should it be a blog, or a newsletter?”
This whole endeavour inhibited me for about twelve months or so as I learnt some basic design tools, thinking I just need a basic logo (a name still!) and a simple website design. While in the meantime I was perfecting my content plans before the content even existed, thinking well into the future with ideas, and struggling miserably to find what it is that I could actually write about. All while worrying about whether people would actually read anything I had to say. Annnnnd, of course, planning meant more apps! Note taking, to-do lists, project planning, writing[^1] apps... You name it, I probably trialled it.
I think you get the picture. Consumed in the world of choices, where only the perfect will do, I ‘became the product’ in a sense, going down many research rabbit holes all the while feigning to myself that I was making progress. Really I was just running on the spot like some kind of Looney Tunes character, collecting a bunch of information in the process.
Ultimately, to get up to this point where I’m sitting at my desk actually producing something, anything, fully intending to publish it, without even a platform on which to post yet, it took me about five years[^2].
That’s because about two days ago this insight came to me out of the meditative dream state you often find yourself in post book reading[^3], and I realised that the hardest part is not getting started at all, instead it’s actually the easiest part of any endeavour:
the difficulty and scale of the challenges that life and our goals ask of us to accept must increase over time if we are to make progress.
To learn, grow, or improve our lives, implies that we change for the better, whatever you define ‘better’ to be. In order for that to happen, you have to accept challenges on the path to betterment. Mistakes on that path are both necessary and inevitable, but it does not mean that we can not correct or improve upon them. Iteration is therefore a crucial tool in the perfectionists arsenal.
Perhaps then it will never be as easy as it is now. Perhaps the easiest part is getting started, and the hardest part is yet to come.
So don’t get me wrong, I don’t think my wandering in the forest of apps and self-discovery was a waste of time: it got me here; it got me started. There are many things that I learnt along the way that continue to improve my life, and I’ve come to learn that the many rabbit holes I go down can lead to interesting knowledge; but if I were to exercise some control (i.e., focus and direction) I can find genuinely interesting discoveries.
This is exactly where I want to be. That’s where the magic happens: making those ‘a-ha!’ discoveries that I can turn them into art, whatever form that happens to take. Since art is perhaps at the foundation of all things that have helped improve us as beings I find it important and a responsibility to do what something inside of me has wanted to do all these years: contribute and share.
This seemingly simple insight helped me to make a start and write this letter; it’s continuing to help me harness perfectionism rather than let it spiral out of control; and it’s helping me to embrace the idea of letting things happen with a little less anxiety each time.
Given perfectionism has the power to freeze you in time as it has for me for so many years, I hope that you found this helpful too. If you did, please consider subscribing as I send letters like this one directly to your email, where you can reply to me personally.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
In my next letter you can expect to learn about some interesting methodologies and techniques that aided me in coming to the above discovery, because going backwards really is the way forwards (hint: there’s no computers involved)!
Cheers, speak soon, and take care,
Finalised: Saturday, 3rd of September @ 21:14
[^1]: When I look back on it I’ve got to laugh—all of this just to write!
[^2]: I wear my ‘sloth’ themed night-wear with pride too!
[^3]: Which happened to be Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning—go figure! My bib-note that inspired this letter reads “(91) To accept our suffering, burden[ing] it with dignity leads to the ability to forgive. To forgive is to let go and move forwards.”
[^4]: “Auth. Truth,” a borrowed idea from Scott Scheper that I really like. Effectively, a self-reflective score out of one-hundred indicating the ‘authenticity’ of my words.