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Starting With What You Have

A couple weeks ago I went to Powell’s and heard J.D. Roth talk about taking personal responsibility over your financial life. “No one will ever care about your money as much as you do,” he said.

Very true. And you can say the same about your career, your dreams, your goals, and pretty much anything else that is personal and important. When we stop waiting for someone else to come along and make something happen for us, everything moves a lot quicker.

The reasons we fail to begin are frequently cited as: time, money, or something else external. The reasons we actually fail to begin are often: fear, inertia, or something else internal.

It’s socially acceptable to blame our indecisiveness on a lack of resources. Everyone understands when you say you’re waiting for a change in situation before beginning. But in fact, it’s relatively easy to deal with the lack of resources. What’s harder is taking the first, critical steps toward overcoming the internal obstacles.

The act of beginning something is powerful. Putting words to page, setting an unbreakable date on the calendar, making a firm commitment.

Therefore the important question is: How can you start something today?

For a long time I wanted to be a writer. Then I finally realized the obvious: if you want to be a writer, start writing! Writing is free, and no one needs to bestow a title of WRITER upon you to begin writing. The same is true with art, business, travel, and plenty of other things.

If you want to start a business, all you need is one idea. The idea doesn’t need to be big; sometimes small ideas make great small businesses. Think about one thing you know how to do that other people would also like to know how to do. Set up shop as a “very small consultant” offering help with that one thing. Make it easy to get paid. Put a PayPal button on your site and say “I do this thing. Hire me if I can help you.”

Have you ever visited another country, even just one? Chances are, someone out there wants to know how it works: what they need to do before they go, what they should do when they get there, and so on. I certainly don’t have that market covered—go ahead, do that. Become the “untourist” expert on wherever you’ve been. Alternatively, if you have a hometown, you can do the same thing in reverse. Become the world’s leading expert on Minot, North Dakota and find a way to do something with it.

If you want to display your art, start on your street. Almost every one of the coffee shops where I live, including the big chains like Starbucks, hangs art by local artists on their walls. If I were a visual artist, I’d take a day and invest $30 on buying coffee at at least 10 different shops. At every one I’d ask how the artist got her art on display. You’ll probably hear about some manager you need to talk to, so I’d get a card and politely follow-up. I’d set a goal of being in at least one shop every month for the next twelve months. If you live somewhere that doesn’t have coffee shops, go to every restaurant. Or go somewhere. The point is that it’s either free or cheap ($3 coffee) to do this. You can start today.

If you want to see the world, find a way to go on some kind of trip. Here in Portland I see that Alaska Airlines is offering 25,000 miles for any round-trip flight that includes PDX on the itinerary. So if you live here, you take a quick $89 trip to Seattle or elsewhere nearby, and then you have a free ticket to Washington, D.C., Chicago, Orlando, Vancouver, or wherever. Done.

I know that most of you don’t live in Portland, but hopefully you get the idea. These are examples, so as always, if they don’t fit your situation, think about where you are and what you’re trying to accomplish. Don’t look at what you think you lack; look at what you have and find a way to make it work.

And just like with J.D.’s book about money, no one will ever care about your goals as much as you do. Don’t wait for someone to get you started. Start yourself.

What are you trying to do? How can you get closer to it … today?


Photo by Davis