Starting is the hardest thing we ever do. Whether it's a new job, program, project, or even a new day, our ability to make things happen begins somewhere—the moment when we start it. Take writing, for example. We rely on text much more than we realize to get what we want. Yet many of us experience creative block as soon as we begin composing.

In Bird by Bird Anne Lamott says, “good writing is about telling the truth.” Which pretty much summarizes the challenge—we want to ask, persuade, move, inspire, inject urgency but we often find it hard to come out from behind our first lines of defense. We want to get things perfect on the first try, then worry we revealed too much about ourselves as soon as we hit send.

Says Lamott, sometimes we are desperate:

to communicate, to edify or entertain, to preserve moments of grace or joy or transcendence, to make real or imagined events come alive. But you cannot will this to happen. It is a matter of persistence and faith and hard work. So you might as well just go ahead and get started.

The process for starting is pretty much the same for anything we do. Just like with writing, the right stuff comes out of us when we start, then keep going. Because unless we get going we won't know the shape of our vision. But when we do find it, we take off. Just like Rabbit Angstrom did in the last lines of John Updike's first novel Rabbit, Run,

his heels hitting heavily on the pavement at first but with an effortless gathering out of a kind of sweet panic growing lighter and quicker and quieter, he runs. Ah: runs. Runs.

If we want to accomplish anything at work or in life, we face the moment we need to start it. Planning is starting, and as soon as we're done that, we need to launch, because we can hardly accomplish anything unless we begin somewhere. Just like getting better at writing helps us become better readers, getting better at starting helps us become more productive business people.

In The Art of the Start, Guy Kawasaki says doing is the essence of entrepreneurship. The most important reason for the purposes of getting started is this—as with writing, we learn a lot more about ourselves when we do than when we're just spectators. He says:

There are many ways to describe the ebb and flow, yin and yang, bubble-blowing and bubble-bursting phases of business cycles. Here's another one: microscopes and telescopes.

In the microscope phase, there's a cry for level-headed thinking, a return to fundamentals, and going “back to basics.” Experts magnify every detail, line item, and expenditure, and them demand full-blown forecasts, protracted market research, and all-encompassing competitive analysis.

In the telescope phase, entrepreneurs bring the future closer. They dream up the “next big thing,” change the world, and make late-adopters eat their dust. Lots of money is wasted, but some crazy ideas do stick, and the world moves forward.

When telescopes work, everyone is an astronomer, and the world is full of stars. When they don't, everyone whips out their microscopes, and the world is full of flaws. The reality is that you need both microscopes and telescopes to achieve success.

Which is one reason why we need to balance learning with doing. We find millions of ways to avoid the hard questions and doing the work. Here's a reason why we still must and do—we can hardly impress the world with our ingenuity, brilliance, abilities, generosity, knowledge, and contribution from the back the room. Eventually, we need to jump in the fray to be heard.

If that is not good enough reason—no matter where we work or what we do, we all want to make something happen, not just study it. Starting starts with us.


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