There is more information available to us now than at any point in history. Millions of blogs exist (Technorati counted approx. 164 million in June 2011), social media accounts, books and people giving advice. There are smart, generous people who are giving away their advice for pennies on the dollar, and in theory, you can learn all you need to know about almost anything in a relatively short amount of time.
This is a wonderful time to be alive and curious
This is also a dangerous temptation.
The single biggest challenge of all this information is that we will continue to collect it, hoard it, and do very little with it.
This is a struggle for me. I think, “I need to read this book and then I can start.” Which is total crap. I have all the knowledge I need to start small, fast, and learn, then adapt.
I’m not against reading and learning, 100% for it! But I’m also realizing too much reading is a trap, simply another form of stalling.
Here’s a recent example, does it ring true for you?
I was in my coffee shop last week, and the owner was inside. I have an idea to partner with him in an event, but couldn’t bring myself to talk to him about it. Excuses are as follows…
“He’s too busy right now” he was cleaning windows
“Maybe I should email him first” so I can do the exact thing I’m considering now?
“I haven’t even decided on the event, I’ll decide on that first!” the coffee is a pretty big part of the idea, so I couldn’t move forward without securing the coffee!
So I walked out, realized I was stalling and making excuses, and then still got in the car and left.
You can learn what’s necessary to start (fill in the blank) in a relatively short amount of time. Start a blog, a project, even a business.
I’m not trying to butter you up with well-wishes or make something sound easier than it is. Doing any of those things takes passion, smarts, and endurance. But too often we kill our own momentum before it even takes hold, thinking we’re not smart enough, experienced enough, or rich enough. What we fail to do is put aside the stacks of books and hundreds of blog posts, and go ask some tough questions.
“Hi, I’m Matt and I’d like to sell your coffee at running events. I have a willingness to wake up early and sell coffee to weirdos like myself who want to run 40 miles up a mountain. What do you think?”
But I haven’t asked that question. This simple question can tell me a lot about whether this is an idea capable of gaining traction, worth a partnership, worth pursuing. It will probably lead to several other questions which will enlighten my initial idea.
Asking questions is terrifying, because the answers will poke holes in all our ideas sitting on the desk. The answers will peel back the layers of what we thought was necessary, and reveal what really matters to the most important people in your world.
People you are trying to convince that trading their resources or attention for what you have to offer is a good thing. And if you care, this transaction is good for both parties.
Steve Blank calls this “getting out of the building”, taking your initial idea out in to the world and asking questions which can lead to validation. Blank, a career entreprenuer turned Stanford professor, is a great motivator at getting his students to get out and test their ideas in the marketplace. His guidance and shoving students out of the building has helped Stanford become the top university for successfully funded startups (source).
So enough reading today, of my blog, the book on your desk, the newsletters filling up your inbox. How can you take a step towards starting something today? Can we have the courage to stand up and say “this is what I’d like to do.”? What you do doesn’t have to mean quitting your job, but this call to action does mean you can do something in your own company, to make a ruckus and try something new.
Start small, learn quickly, and keep making a difference.
I hope you find this useful, but most of all, I hope you do something with it.
– Seth Godin, at the beginning of every episode of Startup School