Excuses, obstacles, and the myth of the overnight success

What do you do when you want to do something awesome but your confidence is in the dumps?

You make excuses.

James Altucher says that excuses “are just as much our babies as our ideas are.

I believe that. From personal experience, from talking to friends and family, from observing people for the past 24 years.

My husband is a very matter-of-fact kind of guy. If you were to ask him what you should do when you make excuses, he would tell you to “suck it up and get over it.” To him, that’s common sense.

To me (and most women and creative grasshoppers) that sounds just about impossible. Because every time I try to “suck it up and get over it” something else seems to get in the way. There’s always some obstacle that is keeping me stuck in the same old excuse.

I recently wanted to start a podcast. I wanted to start interviewing people. I dreamed of being Kate Northrup with her spunk and openness in her Glimpse TV videos or the female version of Jonathan Fields’ Good Life Project, connecting soul to soul with amazing people.

But the trouble when you have such big visions for yourself is the moment when you look at the gap between where you are now and where you  want to be, it all seems just so… insurmountable.

So you worry, and you make excuses, and you keep telling yourself it’ll happen… when the time is right (which might not be until hell freezes over, ahem).

But…

What if, instead of “sucking it up”, you turn it into a project?

What if you take a good hard look at where you are and aim to be just a wee bit better?

What if you put yourself out there anyway, just to practice doing it?

That’s exactly what I decided to do with this idea.

Last week, I posted my first interview with another entrepreneur, Rebecca Beaton. She is a dear friend of mine, with a big heart and a great mind for entrepreneurship. I was delighted to have her share her insights and ideas here.

Of course, once the interview was over and it was time to edit, I cringed.

The lighting and image on my end were awful, and I could have put on some make-up and looked a bit more presentable. My initial idea was that the video needed to be focused on her – she was the highlight, after all. But that’s not entirely true, is it? It’s not a monologue, it’s an interview, and, as I’ve seen in other brilliant interview series (*cough cough* Jonathan Fields), the interviewer matters A LOT.

Let’s face it: my end of the video looked like I was rocking 1999. Having icky technology distracts the viewer and lowers the impression of quality. So I’ve remedied the problem with the Logitech C920. We’ll see how it performs on the next interview! (fingers crossed)

Aside from the bad hair day, the thing that struck me next was how many “yeah” and “awesome” responses were on my side. It was, honestly, a little embarrassing. I’m a life coach, it’s my job to connect to people, and the best I could do was “That’s awesome!”?!?!? Really?

The truth is, everyone starts at ground zero. Yes, I’ve interviewed people before, but never on video for my website. Going into it I thought “no biggie” but as soon as the video started my mind pulled a prank on me and left me to fend for myself. It was like that bad dream where you end up in your undies in the middle of a crowd and everyone is laughing.

The lesson: prepare, prepare, prepare. I had a couple of questions prepared, but I didn’t think any further than that. Before you snort, let me remind you that it’s a typical trait of creative grasshoppers. We simply don’t like preparing, because it requires us to focus on a single thing for too long without actually doing much (and that’s a really tough task).

Ergo, my solution:

Turn it into a project, and tweak as you go.

Remember my first vlog? I was uber-professional (so not me), a little quirky (trying just a little too hard, although so me!), and grainy as all hell.

Remember my second one? It’s still one of my most popular posts ever. And it looks awesome.

Granted, I still made mistakes, I still sounded like crap in some of my next videos. I didn’t always take the exquisite care to blow-dry my hair and do my make-up and catch the lighting just right. And yet, some of my least prepared videos became my most popular (this is my favorite example).

The experience trade-off

In my first vlog, I was unprepared and lacked experience. So it turned out like crap. But it was a good start, because it allowed me to learn by doing (the only real way to learn, IMHO). By the second video, I was super prepared, so it turned out much better.

Later videos that were less prepared turned out better because they were authentic and allowed me to speak from my heart. By that point, the camera was no longer this awkward thing I had to stare at; I was used to it, so I felt more comfortable imagining that I was talking to a real person. Instead of using up my mental energy to remember what I was going to say (I’m not keen on using a prompter), I allowed my thoughts to take over. What came out was much better than anything I could have prepared.

So this is the same thing I’m going to do with the interviews. I’m going to keep doing them, keep tweaking, keep learning and growing. Over time, it will be less about being prepared and more about letting go and working through my heart. Thank you for being right here by my side as I stumble my way there.

You have no idea how much that matters to me.

Welcome the challenges

I like to see life as a big chain of bifurcations in the road. At every split, you have the choice: do you see it as an obstacle, or as an opportunity?

Do you sit there for days on end wondering which way to go, or do you just take the road that feels best and figure it out along the way, giving yourself enough leeway to learn?

My friend Kacie Erickson recently posted an inspirational story about her friend Bill. Like many of us, Bill is a former corporate cog-in-the-machine whose job was swept away from under him. But instead of crying over it (though he may have done that too), he turned the situation around, utilized his knowledge of Starbucks customers (he was one himself) and figure out a way he could serve them and command a premium for it.

Do you think Bill just happened to stumble upon this business idea and it was an instant hit? I highly, highly, highly doubt it.

The reality is, no one is an instant hit. They all stumble, hesitate, jump around, and have to figure out the path to success. It’s not straight-up “get a brilliant idea and make millions and live happily ever after.”

Sorry to burst your bubble.

Just for some more food for thought, here is an infographic showing the (winding) career paths of 5 self-made millionaires.

Instead of worrying about the perfect idea, niche, or platform, and whether or not you’re doing it right, I want to encourage you to just go out there and do it. Because learning happens much faster when you’re knee deep in what you’re trying to figure out than when you’re just rolling it around in your head theoretically.

As I keep moving along with my learning projects, I want to hear from you: what project are you committing to stumble, fail through, and learn from?

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