On launching something hard.
Yet another great article by a literal rocket scientist, Ozan Varol. In this article, Ozan talks about the difficulty involved in getting a new project off the ground. Any time that you are trying to do something new, something that is outside your domain of established expertise, something that is forcing you to stretch and grow — it is going to feel slow.
Why things feel heavy at first (and what to do about it) - Ozan Varol
Ever watch a rocket take off? At first, it looks like the rocket is barely moving. It ignites in a thunderous roar and…
For people that are accustomed to being high-performers, having to go slow is hard. To add to the challenge, since it is something new you are trying out, you are almost certainly going to suck at it. Which is an immense blow to your ego.
Starting something hard and new forces you to admit to the world — and even worse, to yourself — that you are not very good at this thing. Ouch.
But the only way forward is to start, to suck at it, to try, to get frustrated, to learn, and to keep consistently trying. Over and over. You need to set aside your pride and be ready to embarrass yourself.
I recently read something from James Clear that relates to this idea. James noted that “Whether or not something is deemed a ‘failure’ is dependent on when performance is measured”. His point is that when it feels like you may be failing, you are actually “in the middle of succeeding”. You just aren’t considering it on the right scale of time.
I encourage you to take the longer-term view, to stretch yourself by trying something new, and to embrace the fact that you suck at it. Keep doing it anyway for some time. And understand that you are actually in the middle of succeeding.
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How to prepare yourself to tackle something new.
Once you have decided that you are ready to take on a new challenge, to create something great, to push yourself beyond your current abilities, where do you even start?
Below is a simple framework that you can use.
- Mindset. What is the story that you can tell yourself about this project, to position you for the most success? This is likely one of the most critical elements. You need to convince yourself that you are doing this for a meaningful reason. You also need to tell yourself that you likely will have limited success for some time while you develop your skills. Figure out how you need to adjust your mindset to allow for success.
- Learn. What are the key skills that you need to learn for the project to be successful? Ask yourself where and how you might go about developing those skills. While doing this, ensure that you are not using your learning as a tool to permit procrastination. The best way to learn is by doing and failing, so take care not to put so much of your time into learning that you are putting off working on the project.
- Ask for help. This ties to the point above about the need to learn and develop your skills. Who can you ask to help you? Don’t tackle everything yourself; have the humility to admit that you don’t know what you are doing, and to reach out to others that you.
- Get creative. By definition, undertaking a tough project is hard. Spend some time generating novel ideas, tapping into your creative energies. I love using mind-mapping tools for this, but a pen and paper will do the trick too. The key is to not censor yourself. Let your imagination run wild and note any ideas that you have about how you might go about tackling this project, without worrying about how practical these ideas might actually be.
- Get uncomfortable. Start working on the project. And get used to feeling that it is hard, that you don’t know what the heck you are doing. Do it anyway. Make yourself mildly uncomfortable every single day. Just a little progress on the project consistently is the best way forward.
I can almost guarantee that you will struggle to start. You will tell yourself that you will “do it tomorrow”, because you don’t have the energy or time today. While there may be some truth to your constraints, the truth is that the reason you aren’t starting right now is because you are scared.
The anxiety you feel is nothing more than creative potential, begging to be brought forth into the world. Recognize the anxiety for what it is and use it as fuel to power your actions.
Starting is the hardest part. Once you get started, you will find that you are so glad that you did the work to advance on your project. Especially because it was hard.
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