Starting Is Easy

START / STOP

For years now I have taken the advice “just get started!” to heart. I have begun working on three ideas, two affiliate marketing sites (this is not one of them), three blogs, begun teaching myself two programming languages, and started countless e-worksheets to determine my goals. Of these projects, I have completed exactly none of them.

What Failed

Just to recap: over the past year I took the philosophy that it was best to start than to do nothing. So, start I did. Here are the end results of my starting:

  • Began work on an ebook to help people win scholarships. After five pages and no interviews (due to one lame attempt), decided the project wasn’t worth doing.
  • Sent out several emails to help local businesses create a marketing presence online. After few responses and no clients (and 1.5 weeks of work), decided to move on to something else.
  • Began an affiliate site for a basketball program. Three articles, two sales and $30 later, the site gathers dust and makes no money. I grew tired of writing articles and generating backlinks by submitting articles to directories.
  • Created an affiliate site to promote poker books. Bought the domain, set up hosting, wrote one article, then got bored. No money, one article, and no future for that site.
  • Started a blog where I talked about the college process and what went into my college decision. Two posts and one month later, I deleted it.
  • Created another blog where I wrote short blurbs on marketing strategies I would use for different companies and businesses. It wasn’t bad, but after one month and six posts, I deleted that also.
  • Began learning C from Reddit.
  • Began learning Ruby on Rails. Struggled through the first 200 pages of a tutorial book, and pretty much stopped. I still sometimes go back and learn a bit more, but that is rare.

Wow. After all of that, I accomplished almost nothing. I learned a few things, but got nothing done that I wanted to accomplish. This happened because each time I would begin something new, I would be caught up in the rush of starting and dive into a project enthusiastically. After a few weeks, or when the work became less of a creative process, I would rationalize the failure and begin something else. This happened for an ENTIRE YEAR.

What Worked

There came a point where I realized none of this was working and I had to change something. So, with the help of Leo Babauta’s Zen To Done ebook, I tried something different. First, I focused on learning one thing at a time. I taught myself HTML, then moved onto CSS, and am now learning Javascript. I also focused on one single idea I have had for a while, and have spent the past six months researching and developing the idea and the market for the idea. Several months ago, I decided that blogging was important and began writing every night for three months. Last night, after building up material and thinking about the blog’s direction, I wrote my first post. In short, I believe that you should not get started on something you don’t believe in. Cal Newport echoed something similar with his recent post on taking an idea-centric approach rather than one focused on progress and starting at all costs.

My problem was that I jumped into areas that I was not committed to. My first few blogs had no direction, a weak concept, and a lack of commitment. I hope this blog fares far better than my previous two. I have been working on starting my business for six months now, and am seeing good progress. The time to begin selling is fast approaching, which will be both exciting and challenging. As for teaching myself coding, I had no real desire to learn a programming language, but rather wanted to spend a few hours learning and then be able to write a beautiful and fully functional website. Where I went wrong with affiliate marketing was thinking that it was something I wanted to do in the first place. After hating every second I was involved in creating my sites, I decided to shut them down and focus my energy on creating a business that will help people and provide value.

Before starting, take a few hours and think through the process. Then, when that time is up, decide to start! Or, don’t. The choice is yours, and I wish you luck.

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