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Starting Small is the Opposite of Staying Small

Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash

Here’s a quick tip for getting started on a project when you feel afraid:

Reduce the size of your fear by reducing the size of your first step.

The thing about courage is that it increases with competence.  It’s like the scene from Man on Fire where Creasy tells Lupita “There’s no such thing as tough. There’s trained or untrained.” By starting small, you gradually build the confidence to go big.

Some would say “be fearless.” I say “fear less by doing a little bit less of what you fear.”

Use what you know you can do as a bridge to get to what you fear you can’t do.

You can’t force yourself to be bold any more than you can force yourself to bench press an amount of weight that’s greater than your level of conditioning.  You have to start with what initially seems to be a shameful size and you leverage your existing strength as a way to gain greater strength. You don’t get stuck by lifting small weights. You get strong by lifting small weights. The people who get stuck are the ones who don’t lift any weights at all because they’re ashamed to be the person lifting the little weights.

Just like muscular strength, boldness is built bit by bit.

Instead of forcing yourself to be fearless, use your already existing boldness to gradually nudge yourself beyond your comfort zone.

You won’t get stuck by starting small. You’ll get stuck by refusing to start at all.


Make Waves

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If you’re passionate about something, and you can’t motivate yourself to take that first step, then your first step is probably too big.

If you love running, for instance, and you’re struggling to get back into a steady routine, don’t make it an all or nothing enterprise by pressuring yourself to run five miles right out of the gate.

Reduce the action steps you need to take to the tiniest amount you can think of. Make it ridiculously easy for yourself to start. Find an amount you know you can do. Then cut that in half. Then shave off a little more. Then try that.

Small first steps will incrementally and inevitably give rise to big waves of momentum. Then you can ride those waves to new heights of creative inspiration and expression.

Don’t invest in your goals. That’s way too overwhelming. Invest in the process of building momentum. Then you can let the momentum carry you through the uninspired days.

Your Feelings Are Not the Enemy

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Feelings are not demons to be exorcised. They’re muses to be channeled.

When it comes to so-called “negative” feelings, I prefer the aikido method: Redirect the energy instead of resisting it.

That is, find a way to channel the energy of your mood along creative and constructive lines rather than treating it as an unquestionable indication of impending doom.

Each feeling is like a distinct kind of friend. Some friends are great at making us smile and laugh. Others are better at making us think deeply. Negative feelings are like those friends who aren’t the most fun or funny, but who challenge us to seriously confront the things that hold us back. When you resent your feelings, you resist the unique form of power and wisdom that your feelings can provide.

Instead of forcing yourself to be positive about your negative emotions, free yourself to be philosophical about them. In a spirit of open-minded inquiry & non-judgmental compassion, ask yourself “What are my feelings teaching me?”

You have to let your feelings BE before you let your feelings GO. You can’t release what you resent. You can’t process what you push away.

An uncomfortable emotion is not a sin. It’s a sign. It’s your soul’s way of signaling its need to be heard, nurtured, and affirmed.



Play with Pride (Even if You’re Losing)

A Life lesson beautifully illustrated by sports: The odds don’t get the final say.

Before a winner is determined, the game must be played.

Projections take a backseat to what happens on the field.

Even when you know you’re outmatched, take the field, do your best, and play with pride.

Keep Your Eye on the Time, Not the Thief

Photo by Srikanta H. U on Unsplash

As an entrepreneur or creative, you should be less worried about people stealing your ideas and more worried about following through on the execution of those ideas.

Derek Sivers has a great way of putting this. He refers to creative ideas as “multipliers of execution.”

Here’s a chart from his blog that illustrates the concept:


After poking fun of people who make a big deal about signing NDA’s for really simple ideas, Sivers observes:

To me, ideas are worth nothing unless executed. They are just a multiplier. Execution is worth millions. The most brilliant idea, with no execution, is worth $20. The most brilliant idea takes great execution to be worth $20,000,000. That’s why I don’t want to hear people’s ideas. I’m not interested until I see their execution.

This applies to more than business, of course. If you want to write a book, record an album, solve a problem, build your portfolio,  or drive any creative project from concept to completion, you need more than good ideas. You need great or brilliant execution to make those ideas go in the right direction. A brilliant idea with weak execution gets you less than a so-so idea with so-so execution.

Here’s the paradoxical thing: many people fail to execute precisely because they think they have a brilliant idea.

“My idea is so good,” they think, “that someone will take it from me if I ever put it out there.”

To that concern, I say four things:

1) The phenomenon of two or more individuals making the same discovery independently of each other is a thing. Brilliant ideas are no exception (see the discovery of DNA). The longer you sit around waiting for the right time, the more opportunity other people will have to come up with and act on a different version of your idea. You’ve probably already experienced this before. Have you ever observed something in the marketplace that was making a lot of money or getting a lot of fanfare and you thought to yourself “Hey, I had that idea a few years ago”? If you or someone you know has had that experience, then you know the futility of thinking you can protect an idea by not acting on it.

2) The best way to protect your creatives ideas is to use them in a very public way. By using your ideas, you build a brand for coming up with those kinds of ideas. Famous stand-up comedians are often caught stealing jokes from lesser known comedians. Can you guess why they’re caught? It’s because those lesser known comedians are out there doing gigs, recording them, publishing the footage on YouTube, sharing their bits on instagram, etc. By working out loud and documenting their work, they make it more difficult to steal their work with impunity. The less these lesser know comedians do this, the more likely it is that a famous comedian can get away with stealing their idea.

When I first started writing, I shared quotes and excerpts from my blog posts on social media. My friends would constantly ask me “Is this your quote?” or “Did you write this? or “Are these your words?” Any writer in the world could have claimed authorship of my writings and no one would have believed me if I said “Hey, that’s my article.” But over time, I’ve built a reputation for writing blog posts about personal development. No one ever asks “Are those your words?” anymore. Instead people say “that sounds like a TK thing to say.” Moreover, if someone stole an article of mine, I could easily show the original date I published it.

I’m not saying the system is perfect and that it’s impossible to get your ideas stolen, but I am saying that you have a much better chance of convincing people that you came up with an idea if you establish a reputation for actually doing things with ideas.

3) Your idea will only become worth acting on after you act on it. Anyone who thinks it’s possible to come up with a perfect idea before acting on it misunderstands the nature of the creative process. Your number one asset for improving and refining your ideas is the feedback you get from reality after you make an attempt to do something with it. There are discoveries and insights that you’ll never achieve until you face your fears, confront your resistance, and take a leap of faith. Even if you think you have the perfect idea, the flow of energy you create by using that idea will make you want to alter things in a way you couldn’t have predicted. When you hide your ideas, you’re not protecting them. You’re stifling them.

4) You’re fooling yourself. If your idea is really worth stealing then it’s also worth executing. Why would someone steal your idea unless it’s worth acting on? And why would you not act on the idea if you genuinely believe it’s worth stealing? If you find yourself being precious with your ideas, then you’re not afraid of robbers. You’re afraid of resistance.

A creative idea is not some kind of deity that can swoop down from heaven and usher you to the promise land. When it comes to making ideas happen, you have to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” Far more dreams are stolen by the time we squander than by the thieves who plunder.

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