Looking at the practices of world-class athletes, entrepreneurs and writers reveal one small but important key to their success. They show up. They move past fear. Training, performance, products, output: delivered.
What you might think are genuine concerns for not taking action are either limiting beliefs or excuses. Both are no good. Make progress or make excuses. Here are the five that might be holding you back, that successful people don’t use.
I don’t have time
Each of us has a suitcase of twenty-four hours to fill however we choose. Some fill it with gossip, drama, social media, and television, some fill it with practice, purpose, and intention. Even the most packed diaries hold inefficiencies and obligations that aren’t essential.
The first hour of every day can make waves over time if spent well without fail. Writing 500 words that stack up to volumes of books. Stretching leads to flexibility. Exercise that leads to a healthy mind and body. Idea generation, product development, outreach. Doing that thing you really want to do, the first thing that makes your priority known. Everything else can wait.
When you make a decision and put energy it’s way, the path will clear as if by magic. Things work out. People back off. A clear path is deterred by no distractions. But time doesn’t suddenly appear; it has to be stolen. It’s stolen from the nonessential. It’s stolen from comfort and luxury. Steal moments every day to put energy into what you know you’re here to do.
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No one will buy
What if no one buys? What if I launch and it falls flat? What if I’ve misjudged my product or my prices and I don’t make one sale? The fear of demand not matching your supply can give even the most headstrong entrepreneur doubt. But it shouldn’t be an excuse for inaction. Even the earliest and tiniest signs of demand can be channeled into sales.
Pre-commitment is your friend. Instead of collecting purchases, collect pledges. Collect signals or intentions. Make a list of people who said they were interested and follow them up. No one wants to go back on their word.
The biggest hurdle is the first customer, then more follow. Focus on finding and serving one person to the best of your ability and you might be surprised at how your message spreads.
I’m not good enough
When imposter syndrome creeps in it creates blocks. It makes it impossible to find flow or produce work you’re proud of. It renders you less likely to raise your hand, say yes to that incredible opportunity or hit publish. What if everyone stares? What if they laugh? What if I make an idiot of myself?
Consider that you get good by doing, not by delaying the start. Not by worrying. Not by being paralyzed by fear. Every actress had nerves saying their first lines on film. Every comedian got butterflies when they first took the mic. Every winner was once a beginner. They got started and they got better and the rest was easy.
Comparing your step one to someone else’s step one hundred is bound to cost your confidence, but the steps might lead to greatness.
Perhaps your idea will never catch on, your product won’t be loved and your art won’t be understood. Perhaps the reviews will be terrible and you’ll be embarrassed of what you’ve made. So what? Your first version does not define you. WD40 went through 39 iterations of their product to find the one that worked. Van Gogh experimented with multiple artistic techniques before finding one that made him known, and even that wasn’t until after his death. Plenty of entrepreneurs found hundreds of ways to not make it work before they found the thing that clicked. They didn’t dwell on each failure, they picked themselves up and went again.
“I’ll keep on making those new mistakes” sang Shakira in Try Everything, from the Zootropolis soundtrack. Making new mistakes every day. Failing fast and failing often. Would you rather be the person with 1000 failures and one huge success or the one that can only comment on others having never even tried?
The timing isn’t right
Paraphrased from an old proverb, the best time to plant a tree was yesterday, the second-best time is right now. An obsession with timing is behind many of the ships that didn’t set sail. The masterpieces that never made it. The manuscripts that sit on dusty hard drives.
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The time will probably never be right. There will never be a calm, quiet period where you have space to think. Other things will fill the space and you’ll wish you started sooner. Serena Williams won the Australian Open whilst pregnant with her first baby. Sara Blakely was selling fax machines full-time when she created Spanx, so she worked nights writing patents and finding manufacturers. Apple, Yankee Candle, and Twitter started as side projects. The timing is perfect when you decide to make it perfect.
Don’t let excuses stop you from getting started or going far. You have all the time in the world to do everything you want to do. You are more than capable; you will keep getting better and there is an audience waiting for you to show up. The time is right now. Failing along the way is fine, using excuses for inaction is not.