Take the Next Small Step and Build From There

If you've been over-planning and over-thinking an idea for too long, it's time to take the next step and go from there.

Ever notice how quickly a small idea that we can work on today turns into a Big Thing that keeps us from doing something with the idea?

An idea to explore turns into a book to publish.

An interesting project turns into a business.

An interest in learning a subject turns into taking a graduate program in it.

The desire to volunteer turns into starting a nonprofit organization.

And, of course, jumping from the small thing we can do today to thinking about the Big Project keeps us from actually getting out in the world to see which of the things will light us up versus just sound cool in our heads. The fascination with and allure of the bright shiny object du jour are what usually distracts us more than doing something with that bright shiny object. In less than ten hours of working on that idea, we’ll know whether we want to keep doing it, but instead of doing that assessment, we spend fifty hours researching and planning how to do it.

“How much pain they have cost us, the evils which have never happened,” Thomas Jefferson said. I’d like to extend it from evils to all manner of scenarios that we can dream up that will never come to pass precisely because we so quickly find out that many of the bright shiny objects we chase are just rocks covered with glitter. As soon as you start moving that rock, the glitter blows away to something else and you can see it for what it is.

For every 100 bright shiny objects, there will be one idea that actually has substance and grip. The goal is to find and work on those, which means there will be a lot of those glitter rocks that you’ll have to overturn. But just because you overturn one of those rocks doesn’t mean you’ve got to keep turning them.

The art here is trusting that you’ll be able to figure out what to do once you find those few things you should be working on and then having the discipline to not-finish the projects that looked good from far away but are far away from good when you get into them. The trust allows you to experiment without over-researching and plotting, and the discipline allows you to move on when it’s time.

You’ve got to start before you can finish, but you don’t have to finish everything you start or know how to finish before you start.

Take some idea you’ve been incubating, researching, and planning for too long. What’s the smallest thing you can do to actually make some progress on it? Do that and figure it out from there.

Originally published at

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