The clue is in the question.
Avoid the all too common paralysis that comes from fear, perfectionism, over-thinking things, not having all the answers, and/or other people making you feel you can't.
This empowering and pragmatic blog by the founder of @alltopstartups, Thomas Oppong, a regular inc. columnist, is a great read for anyone for whom this title strikes a chord.
It's a topic that I seem to have found myself discussing in very different scenarios and quite frequently, with mentees, startup founders, business peers and conference audiences alike.
It happened to a good friend of mine, who, having taken the brave decision to leave a comfortable job at a great agency behind, has been trying to launch a new business for a number of months now. He is a recognised and well-respected expert in his field and has an amazing wealth of ideas and talents. But he'd got stuck in a rut, writing lengthy plans and documents all about what he could or should do with this business - almost torturing himself with detail and theory and complexity. Meanwhile, he was getting no closer to launch.
And it was anxiety about getting it perfect and really making it work that was actually driving him to keep writing rather than doing. It didn't help that because he'd been hugely successful as an employee, everyone expected him to know how to make his own business out of that experience and success. So he was struggling on his own; and worse, he was starting to doubt that he could do it by himself.
He's someone I've long used as a sounding board myself and he's given me plenty of really great advice over the years. So it was time to turn the tables.
We spent a few hours together actually mapping out what a web-site could look like for this business. I chose something visual. Something that we could have some fun drawing out and that would help him to analyse his proposition in a very practical and creative way.
We explored who was he targeting and what are their priorities, interests, likely behavioural traits? We gave different types of customers names and personalities to make them feel more real and typical.
He decided what he would want the site to say on its landing page, what journeys would site-users go on beyond this first page and what did he want them to do or feel when they got to the final spot? Then we considered how he'd convert them into buying from him once they'd got to these end destinations on his site.
We talked about how they'd find the site in the first place and what he'd need to do to get them there; what he could do to make the business scalable and what he might sell as a packaged solution without the need for his physical presence; how he'd optimise his own time to ensure it was best used in the best revenue generating opportunities that would be most in demand by his target audience.
It was fun and took away anything scary or the need to procrastinate. There was hardly any writing involved. As a creative person, he was in his element. In fact, he was brilliant at it.
It was also very useful. Out of those simple discussions, came the crystal clear tenets of his immediate business proposition, a list of priorities, some temporarily discarded ideas and a couple of new ones...
In short, a better sense of what needed to be done and the motivation to do it. He'd started taking action. He'd overcome the hump.
Whoever we are, whatever we do, most of us feel fear about making the right decisions, having all the right options, being chosen, taking risks.
I remember reading a great blog on leadership and decision-making written by a former Navy Seal last year. He described his experience of dealing with intensely pressured and terrifying war-zone situations, where loss of life and civilian casualties were pretty much inevitable, unless he made the right decision. However well-trained he was, however mentally strong, that's a huge burden on just one, fallible person and he would live with the consequences of that moment in time for the rest of his life.
When asked how he managed to stay calm and to continue to lead in such horrific circumstances, he said the key was to make a decision and to start acting on it.
For in actions, we find the momentum to keep going and to make the right things happen, even where we don't have guarantees about the ultimate outcome and we don't have all the answers.
Luckily, few of us have to make decisions in such extreme and stressful situations. But panic and fear about all sorts of things can still stop us in our tracks.
It's why Oppong's rally cry, one that I often use too, is so powerful. You are good enough, he advises, 'bet on yourself'.
Commit. Dare yourself. Pursue your ideas with passion.
Stop thinking, get doing. It doesn't have to be perfect.
You are more than good enough today.
So whatever you want to do - or dream of doing - start making it happen. Today.
Back yourself. Then everyone else can and will.
If you simply choose to act and take your actions far enough, you’ll make progress. Guaranteed. And you will be better than everyone else who isn’t trying. A simple and effective step, but one that requires action, not merely knowledge, will take you from idea to solution. I’ve read more articles and books on personal growth and sharing your meaningful work than I can remember, and all of that knowledge is worth very little compared to the simple habit of taking action every day. Application of knowledge is hard work. Reading a book or listening to a podcast is easy. Doing nothing with that knowledge is even easier. Doing nothing is the default for many people.