Make a start. Whatever your goal or dream, do something to get the ball rolling.
It’s one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned. If you don’t start, you can’t ever finish.
Pretty obvious, I know, but starting is the hardest part for most people. We mistakenly think we need to have all the answers before we begin. “I need to be an expert first and then I’ll get going.” That’s sort of what most people think.
Actually, expertise comes along the way. Most people start things with very little knowledge of what they’re actually doing. If you ask people who have experienced or achieved the sorts of things you wish to experience or achieve, many will tell you they pretty much fumbled their way in the dark, despite how it might have looked from the outside.
I fondly remember writing my first book. I’d thought about writing one for years. It felt like something I was supposed to do. I had no idea how to write a book, though. I failed my English at school. I was 22nd out of 22 in my Higher English class. Highers are the Scottish version of the A-levels taken at schools in England.
I had no idea whatsoever about how to write a book. Absolutely no idea! I had a vague idea of some of the things I wanted to have in the book, but that was it.
I decided I had to at least try and just see what happens. My first attempt didn’t amount to much, but at least I did something. I borrowed a laptop from work. This was in 1998. I got as far as a couple of paragraphs and returned the laptop. I was only allowed it for a couple of days. But at least I’d done something.
I tried again a few months later, this time sitting in a coffee shop one Sunday morning with a notebook and pen. I wrote a bit more that time, and over a few more weekends.
I started again in 2000, a few months after I’d left my job (I had been an R&D scientist and then project manager in the pharmaceutical industry). This time I managed about 10,000 words or so, experimenting with a different style. I thought putting what I wanted to say in a novel might work, but it didn’t for me at that time and so I discarded what I’d written.
I tried again a few months later and actually completed a very small book of about 3,000 words or so that I never actually published, but I bound it in a green laminate cover and gave it away free to some friends and family.
I started again two and a half years later (I stepped sideways and cofounded and directed a charity with some friends in between) and this time I kept going until I finished my first book. It took me over two years, mostly because I was learning how to write in the process of writing.
It was an iterative process for me. I actually edited the book about twenty or so times, each time reading through what I’d written, realising it was nowhere near the standard of books in bookshops, make amendments in pen in the margin, and type them all in. I’d then print the book out and go through the process again. Yes, I did this about twenty times. Really!
I gave the book a subjective score each time. It’s how I motivated myself to keep going over and over the same stuff. I recalled my university days where a 90% score was considered very good. So my goal was to subjectively feel that the book was a “90% or over.”
I gave myself around 30% after my first iteration. I wanted to be honest with myself. But it felt better and better with each iteration. It wasn’t long before it felt over 60% then 70%. It got better and better with each iteration. When I decided to self publish, it felt well over 90%. I was so proud of how far I’d come. Self publishing it felt like I was having a baby. It’s still one of my proudest achievements.
I possibly iterated one or two times more than I needed to because all I was doing towards the end was adding new research I’d discovered. I figured if I kept doing that, then the book would be completely different in a year. So I decided to call time and try to get it published and keep all the new stuff I was finding, and the new ideas, for a second book.
I self published because the book was rejected by every publisher I sent it to. Hay House republished it 18 months later and have since published 10 of my 11 books.
The whole process wasn’t easy, although it is highly memorable for me. The journey is something I’ll always be proud of and that I always enjoy reminiscing over.
I did a lot of the work in the middle of the night. I had taken a job as a college lecturer and university tutor in chemistry. The long hours and other commitments meant that, for a while, the only time I could write was from midnight onwards. So I worked until about 3.30am about four times a week for about 6 months. After that, I did most of the editing in coffee shops.
During all this time, I learned not only how to write, or at least how I write because everyone has their own stye and process, but I learned most of what I wrote about at that time too.
I didn’t have the knowledge beforehand. I learned it along the way. I knew I wanted to write about particular subjects, but the actual content came in the process of writing it, not before I started. It’s what research is.
I make this point because so many of us think we need to have the answers first, before we start. But in life, things don’t always work that way. Much of the time, the answers come after we start.
I’ve learned that if you take an action, the world will meet you half way. It will provide what you need and show you who can help you.
There’s a quote that goes something like, “Take a leap of faith and you will grow your wings.” It’s been attributed to a few different people in one form or another.
But the general idea is, don’t wait until you grow your metaphorical wings. Leap and you’ll find that they were always there.
Whatever you wish to do in life, you’ll find and develop your voice not necessarily before you do it, but in the process of doing it. You’ll find your way in the process of making your way.
You’ll shine once you step into the sunlight, not by polishing yourself in the dark.
Whatever your hope or dream, your goal or mission, start now. Do something, anything. It doesn’t need to be big, it just has to be something.
You don’t even have to do it right. Just do something. You’ll learn what’s right, or what’s right for you, along the way.
You can’t ever finish something unless you start.
Step into the sunlight and let the world see you shine.