If you have a dream, you can spend a lifetime studying, planning, and getting ready for it. What you should be doing is getting started. – Drew Houston
I was thinking about the kind of advice people give you when you’re thinking about starting a project.
Let’s say it’s a marketing campaign or a new book or a startup idea – what are they likely to say?
There are two main places people start – at the end or at the beginning.
For example, backward thinking starts with where you want to be and works back from there to work out exactly what you need to do.
With a startup this might mean knowing exactly what your customer looks like – working out their avatar, their persona – whatever description helps you to get a really clear idea of how they think and feel and act.
If you know that your target market is a particular age, gender and demographic you can then work back to figure out which channels are the best ones to reach them.
On the other hand you could start at the macro level – look at the environment you will be operating in and the main characteristics.
Look at the political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental factors – the PESTLE – and see how you need to position yourself to fit in.
There’s nothing wrong with these methods – they’re all useful ones to have in your toolkit.
But is it the right advice when it comes to starting something?
Let’s stick with the startup example for a minute – imagine that you have to start your business tomorrow morning.
There’s no time to prepare, no time to research or question – it’s late.
You’re going to go to bed and in ten hours or so your new day begins.
Where will you start?
The answer is pretty obvious – you’ll start from where you are.
Right in the middle of now.
If I were to sit you down and ask you to tell me about all the stuff you do right now and all the tools you have right now – that’s the core of your startup, that’s the raw material you have to get started with.
For some people this means that what they have to start with is their brains – the knowledge they carry around inside their heads.
For others it’s the skills they have in their hands, the muscle memory they’ve built up over years of doing something.
Brains and hands – those are the assets you’ll have tomorrow morning.
Now everyone will be in a different stage – some will be young and still learning their trade.
Others will be old and will have forgotten what they know and not learned anything new in a while.
It really doesn’t matter – it’s not going to change that reality of what’s happening right now.
And that’s actually quite exciting, when you look at it in the right way.
There’s a reason why writers are told to start their books in the middle of the action – that’s where things are happening.
The middle is where the action is taking place and where the possibilities are – you are in the best possible place you could be right now.
You might as well believe that – there’s no real alternative to that reality.
When you open that window into your space – when you look at yourself in the middle of the action and what you’re saying and doing – you’re know where you’re going to start.
Right there and right now.
We’ll come back to how you do that in another post – first it’s worth looking at why you should do this, why you shouldn’t go back and do your research on everything from the start or work backwards from the end.
And it’s because when you’re in the middle, possibilities stretch out both backwards and forwards in time for you.
When you start at one beginning, it might seem like you can do anything, but you’re also constrained with the possibilities that start from just that point.
In the same way when you start from the end and constrain what you do to activities that help you get to that end – you’ve limited what else could happen.
In the middle, you have the opportunity to craft a beginning and an end that suits your purpose.
For example, let’s say that your skillset right now is data science – advanced analytics in nanotechnology.
What led up to that expertise?
It’s probably a mix of things – you found maths easy, a friend liked the same subjects, your parents pushed you in that direction.
Let’s say you’re talking to a prospect and they really want someone to help them with analysing social data – Twitter feeds.
If you started by limiting yourself to data science work in nanotechnology, you might simply pass on the Twitter feed analysis opportunity.
And you might just have missed your opportunity to found a cutting edge data-driven marketing consultancy.
You might not know anything about marketing – but you probably use Twitter, you can probably get up to speed on the APIs in a few hours.
But why should they work with you?
Well, that comes back to your origin story – your beginnings.
And if you’ve left yourself room you can craft an origin story that helps customers understand why they should trust you with their business.
Now, as you develop your business you’ll start to see different opportunities to progress.
Maybe you see yourself becoming a consultant, telling others what to do, standing on stage.
Or you get on and produce tools and content, books, podcasts, videos.
You make what your audience wants and what you want to make – and if you’re lucky those two things will be the same.
But all that comes later.
The journey begins with realising an inescapable truth.
You are going to start from where you are right now.