The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.— Chinese Proverb
Starting anything is just awful.
There’s the time before you start “it” – that’s great! The hopeful anticipation, the motivated daydreams – the general self-satisfaction that comes from a great idea, and now all that’s left to do is…doing it.
Of course, you know yourself. You know that you are capable of doing “it”. Its not too complicated, its not too hard – sure, it might take time, but you have plenty of that, plus you’re smart, so it’ll probably be even quicker for you than the average clown. And, if you need it, the internet is in your back pocket showing you exactly what you need to do for success. “It” couldn’t be easier.
And then, the day arrives that you promised yourself you would start “it”. You wake up, get yourself together, and plow away. Except…well, maybe its a little more complicated. You take a few minutes (hours) to calibrate, watch a few more “How To” videos, maybe grab some lunch – and now you’re ready.
But now when you look at “it” – you’re getting kind of frustrated. You know that this isn’t hard. All of your planning indicated that this part should have been done hours ago – you’re still in the design phase. What crucial element are you missing? This was supposed to be simple enough. Others have done this, and you just know you’re smarter than them.
Maybe “it” is actually pretty dumb. Honestly, “it” isn’t really much better than any other number of things you could be doing. So, as we are all want to do – we find a new “it”.
I have an example from my personal life that illustrates the above scenario pretty well. Picture this: a 23 year old American man who has worked with any kind of tool a grand total of zero times in his life up to this point. I was working at a dead-end job having just graduated college, and decided that, “Hey, maybe I can do something with wood. I like wood things – they look classy and elegant. Maybe I can make a wood thing and sell it for a lot of money – might need a little practice, but people do stuff with wood all the time.”
The above led me and a few of my friends (who were similarly disenchanted with their working lives) to go out and buy some tools, buy some wood, and plop down in a backyard and get to sawing. We decided our ambitions should be pretty small to start – let’s make a sawhorse.
We spent hours on this thing. We only had hand tools (which none of us had ever used before with any real expertise) and some random article online with detailed instructions to guide our cuts.
Folks; we made the most lopsided, ugliest, tacked on and glued up contraption I had ever seen. It was an eyesore, and it wobbled. The sawhorse, upon which we would make our balanced and accurate cuts for future projects wobbled. I was so disenchanted with that project that I didn’t pick up woodworking again until about five years later.
I think there’s an important lesson in there, with a more important lesson tucked inside of it – but the lesson is really for me, the author, less than for you, the reader.
First, do not let something seem so simple that you don’t prepare for failure.
Yes, that seems rather negative, but its really not – its very easy to phrase these kinds of ideas poorly in our minds. We like to hype ourselves up for the work ahead by minimizing it – this leads to poor outcomes at every angle, and is just a crutch to get to the starting line. Instead of saying “This should be fine”, make the effort to identify your own blind spots and pace your beginning. Keep it humble.
The second (and more important) lesson I drew from my own experience was this: the hardest part of starting anything is actually doing it.
I just spent 30 minutes writing about how hard it can be to actually start things, so I know that seems a little counterproductive. Let me explain: I failed miserably making that sawhorse. But the reality of the whole experience was that the sawhorse was the beginning of a new endeavor, not the sum total. Completing the sawhorse was where I began – not picking up the saw blade and making the first cut. See, if I had made a few cuts, felt dissatisfied, and returned the tools – then I would have failed to start. But instead, I made an awful, ugly, beginning.
My hope as I write future posts on this blog is to provide folks with a slice of experience where I have it pertaining to matters of the homesteading life, or failing that, some wisdom I found in my failings, so that you can learn from and better prepare in your own attempts.
I’m just trying to get out there and get my failing out of the way so I can start.