Friend 1: “Just look at these photos. I too wish to take these type of photos. If only I could save up the money to buy a DSLR, lens and filters.”
Friend 2: “Would you look at this snow-capped mountain in the Himalayas? How I wish I could trek on it. Our tropical town is no good. We’d never get the buy the equipment to go on those exotic treks.”
Friend 3: “Dude, you just wait and see. The day I am able to gather a team of experts around me, I will start my business earning millions. But it’s so hard to hire experts, man.”
We all come across these people who repeat the above kind of sentences every day and insist that their reasons for not starting out on something are very genuine. Lack of resources, lack of facilities, lack of experts and what not! But the one thing that they do not lack at all is EXCUSES. Instead of getting resourceful with what they have and just getting started, they are willing to wait for that utopian day when they have the best of resources, which they assume will automatically enable them to churn out masterpiece after masterpiece.
Let us discover why it is not a good idea to wait for the best resources to fall your way and how not to fall into the trap of ‘excusitis’. Let’s get started on our dreams today!
Why excuses about not having resources are not really genuine
Let us dissect the three examples that I mentioned above. Friend 1 assumes that he will automatically take world class photos if only he had a DSLR with lens and filters. While it is true that a DLSR takes better photos than, for instance, a phone camera, Friend 1 may not be the best candidate to put a DSLR to its best use. A photographer starts with cheap, ordinary cameras and learns the tricks of photo composition, framing and other non-device aspects before he/she is ready to use the complications of a DSLR. Friend 1 had better whip out his cell phone and start shooting now and master the device-independent basics of photography.
Friend 2 has an even more staggering array of choices to just start trekking. For one, websites like Amazon sell trekking equipment and deliver practically to any town which has a postal code. He doesn’t have to depend on his town to start thinking of snow-compatible equipment. Secondly, he can enroll with organisations like YHAI and go trekking with the experts. They will certainly give him pointers on what to buy and possibly where. Once they give him a list, he can buy the items in a town closer to the snow caps. In fact, they even provide half of the required equipment as part of the package. Thirdly, tropical areas have their own charm in the form of evergreen mountains teeming with wildlife. With my own experience, I can vouch for simple running shoes, cotton tees and shorts to be worn on such treks. In fact, Friend 2 had better get the feel of trekking and ascending by using the shorter mountains of tropics before he heads for the lofty Himalayas.
Friend 3 needs to realise that most businesses start with a single person getting out there to solve problems for those who need solutions. The key is to look for small companies and teams with problems that fit within the skill sets of Friend 3. By working with those companies, Friend 3 can build a process, a portfolio and good savings, which helps him attract people who would be willing to work for him, assured that he will pay them. Eventually, Friend 3 can step up his game and work with bigger companies.
The importance of doing the ordinary or even the sub-par
Successful people are often commended for their best work and often looked at in wonder at how it is possible for them to turn out one wonderful piece of work after another. One cannot emphasize enough about icebergs and their tips. Like all of us, today’s NatGeo wildlife photographer started with a film camera or a digital camera hardly churning out a 2-megapixel photo with mediocre lens which did not work after dark. Today’s best marathon runners might have started by running round and round around their grass lawns with slippers on their feet early in the morning. And today’s sports pros all started by playing street sports like most of us. Just like us, it was common for them to make do with what they had, i.e. playing cricket with a tennis ball, tennis with a ping-pong ball and football with a basketball & vice-versa.
Everyone of us should be ready to start at the most ordinary and rudimentary level and improvise with whatever we have. We do not need the best of equipment or resources to start. We just need the passion in our soul. And we need to get the feel for our chosen path and learn its basics. If we do not start, we’d never know where we stand and how much we need to step up. Starting with the most rudimentary of resources lets us know at a very small scale if we are really interested in what we are doing and are ready for a long term commitment. At that phase, we are invested at the least level and bailing out will not be very expensive.
The stars will never align
The stock market is a crazy sport. There are some over-ambitious individuals who claim to be super-stars and know when particular stocks will rise or fall. The term is called ‘timing the market’. Sometimes they get lucky, but otherwise there are times like 2000 and 2008, when no one was right! Everyone looked with a gaping mouth as stocks prices tumbled down the hill, like the proverbial Jack from the poetry, Jack and Jill.
However the best of investors will gladly admit that they do not know when prices will rise or fall. They will tell you to stick to certain types of discipline. E.g. invest regularly every month regardless of prices rising or falling and build a portfolio, selling off stock as soon as they hit 20-25% higher than when you bought them and curbing further greed. The point is that they will have defined ways to make handsome and reasonable gains rather than trying to wait for the day when the stock prices reach maximum and then take a plunge.
This is true for almost every goal in life. We cannot just wait for the day when all the stars, planets, shooting stars, comets and what-not align at a certain angle in the sky. We cannot start a business only when the market is ‘mature’ enough to use your product / service. Instead, you may be the one unleashing the market’s need for your product. We cannot postpone taking guitar classes for two more months just because your brother has examinations and your practice would disturb him. Instead find a different place to practice, like your terrace. You cannot launch your website only when the design is polished to a world class finish. Instead, launch it today with a functional design so that you can start collecting visitors, leads and sales.
The earlier you start, the earlier the feedback
The most important thing for going from a nobody to a world-class performer is the amount of feedback and tweaking. The more feedback you get, the more you can tweak, improve and systemise. The more people you can show your attempts, the richer your feedback loop is. Top performers commit to starting when they are far from perfect and continuously study their feedback. Then they go back to the drawing board, making changes and come back. Again and again. Until they are better than everyone else.
iPhone was the most dominant smartphone, or rather, THE smartphone during the period between 2007-2010. They did have one chink in the armour though. Most of iPhone’s interoperability was centred around Apple products. E.g. synching with iTunes only. Google wanted to launch their own competing OS, but wanted to make sure that the ‘premium’ and ‘exclusive’ factor of Apple was eliminated. They wanted to create an OS that would work on phones from so many vendors that a massive ecosystem of devices (not just mobile phones) would be created. Their first released phones through vendors like Motorola and HTC were almost a joke compared to the polished and professional iOS. However, in 2016, we all know how many Android devices exist and how Android matched upto iOS in terms of functionality. Where Android lacks in look and feel, it more than matches up with beefy functionality, such as support for dual SIM phones, additional micro-SD cards and virtual reality capabilities like project Tango. Perhaps you should have a look at Google’s I/O 2016 Keynote video to see how far Android has reached.
This was possible because Google did not hesitate to release early prototype and clunky phones and were ready to take monetary losses to the system in exchange for valuable feedback. With constant feedback and effort, they were able to put Android on the fast track to progress.
Lessons from nature’s most innocent creations
Perhaps we do not need to go to the world of high performance sports or technology to see how the ‘starting when not ready’ principle works. Let us look at one of nature’s dearest creations — babies.
If babies were to think that they’d only start talking when each sound is mastered to perfection or that they’d only walk when they could stand like a super-model, then we’d have a world of mostly silent adults crawling on all fours! Babies start when they are reasonably confident about each move, i.e. sitting up, crawling, standing while holding onto something and walking a few steps. Likewise they start with simple sounds, unable to pronounce sounds like ‘r’ or ‘z’ and then single words, sentences of upto four words, until they are fluent in their mother tongue. It is in fact a wonder to think that many of them go on to become fluent in multiple languages or run 100 metre sprints or 42-km marathons.
We have seen just how important it is to simple start something even when you do not have all the resources for it, even when the timing is not right, even when others may ridicule or doubt you for what you are doing. However your focus and perseverance and continuous improvement will take you past the finish line.
Have you chucked your inhibitions, fears or doubts in order to start something when you were hardly ready for it? Has the obsession to wait until you have everything in your hands to start something kept you from taking the plunge into something you always wanted to do? Let me know in the comments below.