I’m a big believer in Constant and Never Ending Improvement.
I believe in the small, seemingly imperceptible, consistent and incremental preparation not some big bang change.
While I’m a believer in preparation, I don’t believe we can ever feel prepared enough to take on some of our highest aspirations, face some of our worst fears, surmount our unplanned setbacks.
Some of us have had some goals in our goal list for years simply because we are waiting for a perfect timing, the right opportunity, the right moment, the right person or whatever the alibi might be to start.
We have subscribed to the myth of readiness. We are stuck in a perpetual cycle of wishes, good intentions, forlorn dreams.
By the way, when will you feel ready? When will your feelings (fear of failure, a sense of inadequacy) stop being the determinant of what you do and don’t do?
Fortune favours the brave
I always remember the Story of Sir Richard Branson. Sir Richard Branson named his Business with the “virgin” tag because he felt like he was a virgin when he started out in business. He and his colleagues learnt to figure things out along the way. He often started new business despite his seeming inexperience or lack of expertise.
The famous Virgin Airlines started because of a unplanned situation when his flight to the British Virgin Islands to visit his then-girlfriend now wife was cancelled. Instead of resigning to fate, he responded by finding a way.
In his own words, “I was trying to get to the British Virgin Islands to holiday with my then girlfriend, now wife, Joan, when my flight was cancelled. Desperate to meet Joan, I chartered a plane, borrowed a blackboard and wrote Virgin Airlines on the top of the blackboard, $39 one way to BVI. I rounded up all the passengers who had been bumped, and filled up my first plane. Annoyed by the experience, I later called Boeing to find out if they had any second-hand 747s for sale and the rest, as they say, is history!”
Beyond this Branson struggled with dyslexia, a reading disorder, characterized by trouble with reading despite normal intelligence. We will always have a reason not to start if you allow one.
Resistance and the 3U that plague those who don’t feel ready
Anytime you dare to get out of your comfort zone, be more, do more or have more, you will be dogged in your step by resistance aided by these 3Us – Uncertainty, Unpreparedness and feeling unqualified.
Just try to move uphill and you will understand the force of resistance. For a plane to fly into the sky, it must develop a thrust far above the force of drag (air resistance) that wants to keep it down.
So is our lives, to move up or find our land of milk and honey, we must develop courage to act in spite of the drag of fear, past experience, fear of failure, inertia, rejection that wants to keep us down.
Now let us discuss some of the myths of readiness and the truth to burst them
Myth 1: I must have it all together before I start
You must determine what is optimal vs what is needed when you need to start a new endeavour. In order to start, somethings are nice to-haves, not must-haves and you must be able to discern between both.
There is real power in an imperfect start. You don’t have to be perfect to start but you must start to be near perfect.
When you lack the courage to start, Let one of the greatest examples of courage in spite adversity inspire you. Theodore Roosevelt, 26th US president, suffered debilitating asthma in his younger years but transformed his body and mind through effort and became a man of great courage and adventure.
He wrote, “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, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; 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 fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
How has the fear of defeat kept you from daring greatly. When do you hope to have it all together? What is the measure of having it all together? Are they realistic?
Myth 2: I need to be motivated or inspired to start
Author Stephen King wrote, “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
You don’t need inspiration all the time. Often times, it is in the thinking and doing that the feeling of inspiration comes. I have validated this in my experience many times. I didn’t feel like writing at the time I wrote this article and many of such articles i have written.
This article is based on a speech I gave at the Toastmasters Club. Even though it won me a best speaker award at the meeting, I haven’t been inspired to develop it into a proper blog post. I just knew I should do it and once i started, I couldn’t stop until it was finished.
Sometimes you won’t be buoyed by inspiration. All you will have are feelings of drudgery and ambiguity and you must learn to tolerate them and act in spite of them.
Myth 3: My goals are too big and the results should come fast
Confucius wrote, “The man who moves a mountain begin by carrying away small stones.”
The media is a major culprit in propagating a philosophy of overnight success. The gory details of the success story is usually filtered out because that doesn’t sell the tabloids or get viewers rating. Even when present, it is romanticized and told as a fairy tale.
Eddie Cantor said, “It takes 20 years to make an overnight success.” While the number should not to be taken literally, his words are valid in the sense that anything worthwhile and sustainable take time to build.
So many overnight successes have come and disappeared as soon as they arrived. If you want “Built to Last” success then you can’t bypass the law of time.
A good marriage, character, business, nation is built over time in the crucible of experience, learning from failure, mistakes, the example of others and making efforts to do better next time.
In case that goal still feels overwhelming, determine a critical action required for its attainment and make it so small that you cannot but do it. The goal here is to gather momentum not record achievement.
With enough momentum and the law of compounded little actions, achievement will come at the right moment.
And don’t forget, the only thing that matters is today’s action. Don’t try to worry too much about tomorrow. Just do something today.
Myth 4: If I fail at it, then it’s not for me
Failure and struggle are a significant part of learning. It doesn’t mean you are not smart or good enough or deserving of your dreams.
As individuals, we must deal with the fixed mindset that considers effort as a sign of disapproval. Thinking such as “If this is for me, then I should have mastered it in record time.” “If this relationship is meant to be, then it should be effortless to make it work.” won’t help us maximize life’s experiences.
Thomas Edison said, “Genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.” showing the role of pains-taking effort in any successful endeavour. Winston Churchill said,” Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm” showing what your response to failure should be.
The failures and rejections experienced by successful people are not chronicled. We only celebrate their results and not the process. I have come to believe that the obstacle is the way.
I remember a line from the Movie, Kingfu Panda 3 when Po was struggling to be a teacher and felt like giving up. Master Shifu sought to change his perspective in a few wise words, “If you only do what you can do, you will never be more than you are now.”
And I never forget, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words, “That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the nature of the task has changed, but our ability to do has increased.”
So have you exercised a decent level of persistence before you give up and say this work, career or relationship is not for me.