Start before you are ready. This is the most important personal development advice I gave to my friends. This was also my advice to myself and it helped me cure my procrastination.
You don’t have to wait until you are ready before you can live a good life. Nobody knows what awaits you. No one can tell you how many days, weeks, months, or years you still have. Start now.
Many years ago, I joined a meeting of the Makati Toastmasters Club in SMC. I go to the club to learn from Brooks Loomis, one of its mentors. But one particular day, I learned something from an icebreaker speaker. His message inspired me.
Start now, don’t wait until you are ready.
He started by giving us a short lecture about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. He emphasized how most people do not get to the self-actualization stage. Because most of us are too busy swimming in ensuring we have basic needs.
Very few reach the top of the pyramid.
Then, he shared his two dreams: to start a business and help the poor. This passion began when he was in high school.
But ten years after he graduated from college, he hasn’t yet started a business. He has not done anything to help the poor either.
Because he was not ready.
Then, one day he got tired of giving himself excuses.
His excuse was that he has no capital. But some entrepreneurs started from nothing. And he has money in the bank.
He asked himself,” How can I start a business with 5000 pesos capital?”
He started a training business by offering Excel Classes.
He was employed and could not leave work. His brother volunteered to manage. And he had friends who were willing to conduct a one-day training program. They provided him modules.
He shared his ideas for Excel Class in Yahoo Groups. He asked them how much they were willing to pay for a day of training. He learned that some people had spent more than 2000 pesos in other classes. So he offered the Excel class for 800 pesos. Twenty-two students enrolled.
He was in business!
But he has no computers.
He went to a computer shop that has 25 computers. He rented each computer for 10 pesos an hour for ten hours.
His trainer agreed to 1500 pesos professional fee.
He said the business grew to six figures. He kept his job, but his company is earning him more each month. And he has not spent any centavo from his 5000 pesos capital.
How about his dream of helping the poor?
He realized that he does not have to start an NGO to do that. So he volunteered in organizations that are doing every day what he wanted to do.
He was never “ready” because he did not explore the many options available to him.
He was procrastinating.
He was just like most of us.
When I got home that day, I drew something like this:
Because to delay is to decay. Start now. You are ready if you’ll use what you already have.
You know that this is very true, right?
There are many things that I wanted to start but never got the courage. And as I am growing older, I feel the hesitation is getting stronger. It is as if I am telling myself that I can do today, tomorrow, or next week what I failed to do in 30 years.
In 2007, I wanted to start a podcast. It was only in 2016 that I got the nerve to start one. I posted a few episodes on a website which is no longer existing. The episodes had a few dozen listeners. But I felt I was not ready.
And since then, it has always been my itch to start a podcast. I listened to podcasts almost every day for hours. And I am constantly reminded that I failed to start. I failed because I was convinced I was not yet ready.
I started my teaching career before I graduated from college. That was in 1996. Many of my readers have not yet been born. During that time, I tried to write a book about Effective Teaching. But then, I felt I was not ready.
And for more than 30 years, I tried many times to start writing a book.
Last year, a friend commissioned me to write a book for researchers. She gave me sixty days to finish writing so she can distribute the book at an upcoming summit. I accepted the challenge.
I tried to start. I did my research for ten days. Then on the eleventh day, I stopped.
I tried to come up with my first draft. But I felt I was not ready. I struggled for twenty days. I tried to start but I couldn’t. My inner jerk was too strong that I was afraid to sit down and write.
How can I author a book for researchers in 30 days when I could not write a book for 30 years?
Yes, I felt like an impostor.
I have always tried to be true to myself. It was a daily struggle. I want something done but feed myself all the reasons not to do it yet.
I wrote articles. I posted blogs. I wrote many things, but I avoid writing the book.
Thirty-eight days after I accepted the challenge to write a book, all I came up with was an outline of a book. So I sent it for approval. But it took many more days to start writing.
I was procrastinating. I know I was not helping myself. It felt like self-sabotage.
But I am sure that I have to finish it no matter what. I am sure that all the ideas are already in my head. I had done enough research. All I need is to muster the courage to sit down and start writing.
Anyhow, I finished writing the book two days after the deadline.
Yes, I finished writing a book of more than 140 pages in 14 days.
I followed the advice of someone I knew so well. He has done many things before, things that others never imagined he could do. He has reached many places he never imagined he could go.
I was reading a short post: Start Something Today, and this got me into writing. I swallowed my pill.
You see, my friend, my problem is not my dream. My dreams aren’t too big for me. My dreams aren’t too big for others too.
I stopped again and again because I was only trying to start. Trying to start is a play-safe move. I was testing the waters, finding out if I were ready. And my inner jerk said I was never ready. If I were to wait until I am ready, I wouldn’t get things done.
I hope you learn from my experience.
But here’s something that I want you to take away: Start before you are ready — and don’t stop until you win.
Writing that book that I finished in 14 days meant that I had to sit down and write for six hours. I decided that the research part was over. All I need is to go all in and help people.
The best step to writing a book is not trying to write but writing. Daily. In the number of hours you want. Keep writing until you finish.
I am still afraid. But I won’t procrastinate.
Before you are ready.