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Before Beginning, Prepare Carefully: Notes from AA 1220

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“Pub date” is shorthand for publication date—the day when a new book is out. Here are a few thoughts I starting writing on a short break from a five-week process of full-time preparations. I’m now flying to New York City … preparing for launch! On Tuesday we’ll debut the book.

***

The taxi comes to my house at 6:15am. I’m on a journey… and this time I’m not jetting out to central Africa or a tiny island in the Pacific. I’m headed instead to Kennedy airport in New York, and after I’ve been there for a couple days, I’ll be going to a different city every day.

It’s taken a while for this departure day to arrive, and I don’t mean the ten years of travel (although that should count for something) or the three years of research that went into writing the book (that too). I mean the five weeks before pub date, before all the fanfare starts and we enter another new phase.

This is how it goes.

I have a whiteboard in my office where I write the daily countdown to pub date. It started at 42 days out, and every day I cross another off the list.

When I traveled to Abu Dhabi for a few days of soft adventure last month, I wanted to take the board with me. I ended up leaving it at home, but I still did the work.

The lesson of The $100 Startup launch, now two years old, remains constant: the things you do now will affect the options available to you later.

I try to keep this lesson in mind as I work toward the goal.

So I develop a new ritual. Every morning, I get up at 6am. No snooze alarm allowed… and I am the king of snooze alarms! But not now. There’s no time to snooze before a book comes out.

Before I do anything else, I work on things to prepare for the launch. I talk to my friends and do several interviews a day. Some of these interviews are big and influential—Marie Forleo wanted to talk to me again!—and others are small. But I’ve always operated on a theory of “do whatever you possibly can.” And besides, you never know what will happen with something down the road. Maybe the small thing will become the big thing.

Most days I run three miles in the park. Not super challenging, of course, but the ritual of it at 6:30am every morning provides a great start to the day.

I take a shower, make coffee, and keep working, doing calls with my publisher and writing various guest pieces for publication next week.

Eventually I go to lunch and take a short break. I read the New Yorker with my Thai noodles or rice bowl, but my notebook of tasks is never far away. In the mid-afternoon, it’s back to work on another interview or sending the pre-order addresses off or some other task that relates to the goal.

I have spreadsheets taped up all around my office. There are post-it notes on the walls and the floor. Always a next step! Always something more to be done.

***

Here’s a secret. Everyone thinks that you have to do everything in a certain order. They think that if you get the order wrong, even if you work hard, you’re screwed.

But this isn’t true!

Or at least, it doesn’t have to be. If you’re not sure what to do next, just do something. If you aren’t sure what the best next step is, just take any step you can see.

If you don’t, you’ll remain stuck waiting for a magical answer that doesn’t exist. And that’s how you lose, not because you did something in an improper order.

They also think that success is bestowed upon you somehow—by the blog fairy, Oprah, a cabal of literary gatekeepers, or some other mysterious group. Who knows? Maybe sometimes it is. Nice work if you can get it.

If you can’t, you have another option: work your ass off. Hard work is a scientifically proven path to success.

If you put your heart and soul into something, you can achieve great things. If the items on your to-do-list number less than 100, you’re missing something.

It’s a lot like a quest, actually—to debut a big project, there’s lots of behind-the-scenes work that no one notices. There are many steps along the way. The final outcome isn’t as important as the effort required to get there.

And now it’s time for it to begin. Almost.

Question: How do you feel about beginning something new?

***

Friend and readers! I hope to see you on the road or at least from afar. I’m super excited about this project, and I hope you’ll join me for the journey in some fashion.

If you’re reading this before Tuesday, you can still pre-order from Amazon or your local bookseller. After that, well, you can order.

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Image: DrBurtoni

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15 Comments

  • Cheval John says:

    This is a great post. Everyone need this reminder to always take that step towards fulfilling your dreams and your book project.

  • Chris, I love this post! Great to see your daily habits and how you’re preparing for your launch. Thank you for the reminder to simply take action and stop worrying about whether we’re doing things in the “right order” or not! Looking forward to seeing you in Atlanta on Sep 16. I’ve been spreading the word to my friends about the Atlanta event. Safe travels!!

  • Tom Norman says:

    Wow Chris! Fantastic post.

    I’ve struggled time and time again with trying to decide what to do next, and like you say so simply and yet so profoundly above… “Just do something!”

    Great advice. And it was very interesting to have an insight into your daily routine leading up to the release. I look forward to reading it 🙂

  • Valentino says:

    Great post, great remainder, and certainly great book.

    Hope to read it soon 🙂

  • Leila says:

    My life is so much better since I adopted the “just take a step, any step” credo. My to-do list easily includes 100 items, which often overwhelms me — and I can’t decide what to do next, so I bog down. But these days, when that happens I just go do *something*, anything. Fold socks. Clean the chicken house. Check the air in my tires. Doing *something* is progress, and keeps me from feeling dejected because “I can’t get anything done”. I have.

  • SE says:

    This is one of the most inspiring posts I’ve read- from anywhere, not just this blog. I have a tendency to let my indecision about what to do next stop me from doing anything. Heading out to get that whiteboard….

  • Great post! I can relate to the storm of post-it notes you describe. I just collected mine off the floor and peeled the rest off the wall and put them in a nice neat pile on my desk (they are color-coded so now it’s like a post-it note flipbook). This makes me feel less stressed.

    Great advice – just do something. Sounds simple, then again this is coming from a person who can spend an hour staring at her Netflix cue before deciding what to watch.

  • Simon K says:

    Over the past 10 years of self employment I ALWAYS benefit from keeping the following quote top of mind:

    “Action is the foundational key to success” – Pablo Picasso

    It doesn’t tell the whole truth – action is not the only criteria for success, but it is perhaps the most important part. Especially if you occasionally mess up or feel overwhelmed. Don’t get paralyzed. Keep on keepin on.

    Certainly the foundational key to failure is inaction.

  • Lucy Chen says:

    I totally agree! There’s a quote from someone (I don’t remember whom) that says,

    “The best thing you can do is the right thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”

  • Serena says:

    Timely reminder! You’ve just inspired me to ‘get back on the horse’ and try again. As for how I feel about beginning something new? Fearful and excited. Funny thing is, physiologically, they’re no different. It’s just how we frame things isn’t it? 🙂 Thanks again!

  • Setting the stage can have a greater impact than the action onstage itself.

  • I watch the paralysis all the time in entrepreneurs who don’t know where to start. Starting isn’t the problem for me as much a keeping all the balls in the air. Getting everything done (and not half-assed) has been the problem. So now I am beginning again, shrinking in a way so that I can focus on few things done uncommonly well. The hiccup is in my imagination runs wild with ideas. See you in Boston.

  • Thanks for this Chris! One of the things I love about reading you blog is how you show us that it’s never easy and there’s always hard work behind the scenes.

    This was just what I needed to read this morning. My to-do list is about to reach a hundred, and as I was looking at it yesterday, I did get a bit overwhelmed. Just one thing and then another thing and another thing, that’s all I need to do.

    Good luck on your book tour!

  • When I begin something new, I feel excited-nervous. I love nerding out on the checklists and colored post-it notes with lines for the checklists. Designing a great plan and executing it is pure joy. The nervous part comes when I realize there are variables that could impact the final outcome that are in my blind spot.
    I’m excited that you are coming out with a new book because I just finished $100 Start Up last week.

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