If you believe Jonathan Swift, “There is nothing constant in this world but inconsistency.” Whether true for all of us, that’s been true for me: one of the greatest struggles in my life has been consistency in doing the things I want to do the most. Because starting things is easy: finishing them is generally harder.
It’s not always the first step that’s the problem
The first step can be a doozie, it’s true. But it’s not the first step that’s the hardest for me, it’s the next step. And the one after that. Because once you start doing a thing, and get to the next level, things get harder.
The better you write the harder it is because every story has to be better than the last one. – Ernest Hemingway
What Hemingway had to say about writing is true about anything that we do: the better we get at it, the harder it is to do. It’s a matter of work capacity, and it’s one of the reasons why any of us struggle with getting better at something.
Taking the next step…and the next
The problem, then, is how to get past those things that keep us from wanting to get better. To do the things that we need to do in order to reach our goals, whatever those goals are.
For me those goals include things like finishing a book. Or a series of books. Or growing this blog into a business. Or getting into shape. Any shape.
For you those goals might be things like running a triathlon, or looking for a better job at work, or finding more time to do a hobby you’ve been putting off because you’re too busy.
There are all kinds of reasons we don’t do those things. Why we stop doing the things we know we need to do and put them off. They’ve written books on that.
But for me, for now, I’m going to focus on just one problem, and that’s being too worried about getting it right. Because trying to be perfect means that I’m not doing what I want to do, and that’s being consistent with getting a product to my customer.
It isn’t always going to be “just right”
It’s the Goldilocks Phenomenon, where we get trapped in the cycle of trying to find the thing that’s “just right,” or the perfect version of whatever it is we want to do. Not that Goldilocks spent a lot of time going through the bears’ house, and there’s little there in the way of analysis paralysis, but by passing up the other options, Goldilocks made perfection rather than production her goal.
And that’s one of the things that’s been holding me back from consistency in my life. I’ve talked myself into the idea that if I can’t create magic every time I put words to the page, then I’m not putting out the best version of myself to you as a customer. Because you are my customer: you’re buying this post with your time.
For you, then, I should be doing the best that I can do. Every time. And I will – that’s my promise to you if you opt to be a regular reader of this blog. And at some point I’ll have something I’ll do that I’ll want more than time for, and I’ll do my best with that, too.
But you’ll never see enough product to know if my work’s good enough to pay for if I always worry about making it perfect. If I spend all my time worrying about making this the best possible post to end all posts, I end up choosing perfection over production. And science tells us that doesn’t make me better at what I want to do.
With apologies to Mr. Gibson
That’s why I’m calling 2017 my “Year of Shipping Dangerously.” Committing to doing five posts a week. To putting together ebooks and training programs on a deadline.
How am I doing that with limited time because I’m not independently wealthy and doing this is very much a part time job?
I’m going full O’Reilly.
There was a time when Bill O’Reilly anchored a tabloid TV show called Inside Edition. And at one point in a broadcast things went poorly. And Mr. O’Reilly lost his mind. (WARNING: NSFW language here. Earmuffs for the kids, headphones if you’re at work.)
No, I’m not planning on getting that angry. But the takeaway here is that at some point you just have to “do it live.” Stop tinkering with whatever it is I want to ship, and get it out the door.
That means blog posts like this one? I do in a couple of hours.
Because then I’m working within a constraint. Rather than taking all the time I think I need to get something done, I’m getting it done on a deadline.
Because if Cyril Northcote Parkinson is to be believed, “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
And I’m focusing on production, not perfection.
More is better…eventually
The takeaway here is not just that I want to write more this year. I want to be a better writer by the end of this year. One way to do that is to write more. And write under deadline. Because our brains do some amazing things when we make them focus.
The goal then is not just more, but better. And to get to better, I need to do more. Figure out what it is that works with the words, and make it better the next time.
What that means for you as a reader is that you’re probably going to get product that’s not so great sometimes. As I’m reading through this I want to delete the whole thing and start over. But I’m not going to do that.
Because this is the Year of Shipping Dangerously.
This is the year I get better at this one thing.
This year is about production, not perfection.