Sam Holstein

You Will Never Be Ready to Start

You Will Never Be Ready to Start

When I was thirteen, I was a competitive golfer. On a good day, I shot in the 90’s. (For those of you who don’t play golf, that’s an all-right score.) Most of my childhood was spent on golf courses, bent over a golf ball, practicing my swing for what felt like the millionth time.

The rules of golf dictate that before you step up to take your shot, you stand behind your golf ball and take some practice swings. When you are ready to shoot, then you step up and take your shot.

What I learned in my million golf swings is you never get the practice swings right. Ever. If your first practice swing is too fast, you will overcorrect, and your second will be too slow. If your clubhead is a little too open at impact, you will overcorrect, and then it will be a little too closed.

If you’re not careful, you can get in your own head. You can bring the failures of each practice swing forward into the next, creating a downward spiral where each practice swing is worse than the last.

All the while, your golf ball lays in front of you, s if to ask “when are you going to take your shot?”

Once people get in their own heads like this, they do one of two things:

  1. Spend all day doing practice swings, boring everyone else in their foursome to death
  2. Jump up to the golf ball because they feel pressured, bring all their anxiety to the real shot, and shoot terribly

The way out of this bind is counterintuitive.The way out is to recognize that if you won’t feel ready until you have a perfect practice swing, you will never feel readyThere isalways something wrong with your swing. It is always a little too fast, a little too slow, a little too crooked, a little too badly aimed, a little too something. But it doesn’t matterIt’s time to take your shot.

Once you recognize this, you can let go of your expectations about your swing. It will be what it will be.All you can do is do your best.

That’s when you’re ready to take your shot.

In real life, the golf ball always lies in front of you. Every day is another opportunity to take a shot.

It’s okay to spend some time taking practice swings. Everyone needs practice. What’s not okay is to only practice swings.Yet, that’s what many people do.Many people don’t take shots because they spend all their time on practice swings, trapped in the fear of failure.

In real life, this takes many forms:

  1. Spending all of your time learning about software engineering and coding theory instead of actually building your own website or app
  2. Spending all of your time reading books about entrepreneurship instead of making a landing page and actually starting your side hustle
  3. Spending all of your time fantasizing about your dream job instead of actually a listing for your dream job and applying

It’s all right to feel afraid of failure. Sometimes when I stepped up to a golf ball, I was afraid I would embarrass myself by shooting so badly people around me would wonder how I got on varsity in the first place. Sometimes I didWhat made me ready to shoot was not feeling certain I wouldn’t shoot poorly, but accepting I very well might and taking my shot anyway.

Unfortunately, in real life, it’s overwhelmingly likely that most of what we attempt will fail. No matter how long you spend learning about Rails, your first Rails app will be terrible. No matter how many books you read about entrepreneurship, you will still make so many mistakes on your first venture it will make your head spin. Need I go on? If you are waiting to get started until you feel certain you will succeed, you will be waiting forever.

Consider the story of Nathan Barry, who was at 23 already earning $400,000 a year running his own blog, selling his own books, and running a startup. There was no way he felt certain of success when he started all these projects. He was probably still a teenager. But he did it anyway. He took his shot. And another, and another, and another. Now he runs a company called ConvertKit that makes email marketing software for creators, of which I am a faithful customer. My life is better because he didn’t wait until he felt certain to take his shot.

There’s not much more I can say on this topic because that’s all there is to it. The people who are ready to start are the people who decide to be ready to start.There is no magical intuition, no sense of knowing that will descend upon you and let you know you are ready to start. You are ready to start when you decide you are ready to start. That’s all there is to it. And the only person who can make that decision is you.