Just fuckin' start

I fell head first onto the concrete. It was ugly, painful, and (lucky for my face) metaphorical. This educational fall determined how I’d live the next four years of my life – working a 9 to 5, slowly sinking into an existential abyss of my own making. Every time the alarm rang and I didn’t feel like getting up, was a painful reminder I had failed at making it on my own. It was a tough pill to swallow. Barrels of coffee and the occasional energy drink I consumed helped me stay awake through the toughest of times, but there was nothing that could help with the growing frustration. There I was – trapped once again. I had to get away. 

Understand this – there is nothing wrong with working a 9 to 5 if it makes you feel fulfilled. Me – I was born to roam free and not be tied down behind my desk for 8 hours a day. Since the moment I drew my first breath, a fire started in my belly and I hope it will never die down until I close my eyes forever. I cannot deny who I am. I don’t have a fixed mindset, so I cannot pretend I do.

This was the reason I tried to make it as a freelancer in my early twenties. But I had absolutely no idea how to manage my time, how to negotiate with clients, or how to price my work properly. As you can imagine, considering the beginning of this blog post, I didn’t make it very far.

After I failed, I tried to sit still, do my work, get my salary, and be satisfied. But I couldn’t. No amount of mental gymnastics helped (and trust me – if mental gymnastics were an Olympic sport, I’d be getting two gold medals in the same category).

So this is round two. I’m much better equipped to handle it now. I’m moving forward slowly but surely. Today, I want to share some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way. Whether you want to start a business, a side hustle, or a freelance practice, there are some things you need to consider.

Just fuckin’ start.

Alright, considerations are over. It’s time to start doing the work. Whatever it is you want to achieve, you need to put in the hours. Many, many hours of performing poorly so you can finally start doing good work. The more you put off starting the process, the more you put off reaping the benefits.

You want to be a blogger? Start your blog and write. You want to be a photographer? Get your damn phone out of your pocket and start shooting. That’s how I started. I had mastered the basics before I got a “real” camera.

You want to start a product business? You need to be good at making products first. And then get good at selling products. You want to start a side-hustle? Just fuckin’ start!

There is no point in waiting. Whatever you’re planning to achieve, you need to start mastering the basics of it first. And that won’t happen by putting it off till next year every year. Trust me – I’ve spent enough time putting things off and it doesn’t feel good to realize you could’ve been far ahead if only you’d started a few years earlier. It’s never too late to start, but if you start now, you’d be at a huge advantage compared to starting two years from now.

Stay safe until you can afford not to be.

This is going to be somewhat controversial coming from me, but I still need to share it. Don’t quit your day job until you’re ready to commit to your new venture (whatever it is) and make money out of it. Why is this controversial coming from me? Because that’s not what I did. I jumped off the cliff and started building a plane on my way down. And while this choice was stupid both times I did it, I’d do it again. That’s just how I am – I take risks. I fight my best when I’m back against the wall with nowhere to go.

Also, I’m not married, I don’t have kids, and I’m debt-free. All three factors allow me to take seemingly stupid risks and still make it. Once you pair that with a good environment (I have a network of friends who are also freelancing), a family that doesn’t question my life choices every step of the way, and a devilish level of adaptability, what you get is my formula.

That doesn’t mean it’s a good advice to most people. In fact, it’s probably not. Getting from a cushy job to freelancing or business is like running away from a farm into the woods. Sure, you’re free from the bondage of the farmer, but now you have to fend for yourself. And try not get eaten by a pack of wolves in the meantime. It’s not easy. Though, if you ask me, it’s tons of fun.

So, instead of doing like me, maybe it would be safer to spend an hour or two a day building up that thing you want. Whether it’s your blog, or photography page, or a side hustle, or a business. Sure, the progress will be a lot slower, but it will be steady (as long as you’re consistent) and you’ll be safe in the meantime. Especially if you have a family, there are considerations you need to make. But if you feel like you want to get more out of life than you’re currently getting, you should still try to build that thing that charges you up and inspires you.

Your network is your net worth.

I know it’s a cliche, but that doesn’t make it any less true. I underestimated the power of networking for years. It seemed too close to nepotism for my taste. But the truth is, networking is one of the most important aspects of any venture.

Networking allows you to leverage other people’s resources – whether it’s contacts, experience, opportunities, or even money. The difference between networking and nepotism is that when it comes to networking, the relationships are based on mutual benefit and competence. So, your friend doesn’t choose to work with you because you’re friends, but because you’re a competent professional and he knows it. It’s about trust. People choose to work with people they know.

I consider myself to be one of the luckiest humans alive. I’m surrounded with quality people in my life. It honestly feels like cheating because having such great friends is a huge blessing. We’re constantly pushing each other and helping each other grow. Life gets a lot easier when you surround yourself with the right people.

Other than opportunity, your network can streamline your process. I learned how to write effective business proposals in an afternoon. My friends synthesized years of knowledge experience into a few short hours. This is the power of a network.

Most of my projects currently come from my network (including referrals). Pricing, client qualification, negotiations – I’m able to quickly excel at all this, because I have people guiding me through the process.

Don’t get me wrong – I do a lot on my own. I read, I research, I watch videos and listen to podcasts. Heck, it’s 3:30 AM and I’m on my computer, typing these words. So it’s not like I’m waiting for someone to spoon-feed me. But having people who are ahead of you in the journey is tremendously helpful.

So make sure you surround yourself with the right people.

Avoid debt like it’s your creepy uncle’s basement.

Debt can work in your favour. You can use it as financial leverage to bring your business to the next level. But you should only attempt it if you know what you’re doing.

Before going into debt, make sure you have a working system first. Taking a loan so you can expand your business can be great if you’re already generating revenue and you’ve proven your business model. But it can be disastrous if it’s your first business and you don’t know what you’re doing.

The problem is, people don’t see debt as something they’ll eventually have to return (with interest). They see it as free money. And if you believe that, there’s a bridge I want to sell you.

While debt can be pretty useful, it also comes with a certain degree of risk. The more you borrow, the higher the risk. So you need to know how to leverage money well, how to manage risk, and how cash flow works. All concepts most people have a terrible experience with.

Debt is like fire. It can warm you up or burn your house down. Don’t try to use it if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Set goals for yourself.

Ask any random person on the street about their goals and you will either hear “money, cars, and a big house” or “I don’t know”. I’m not sure which is worse. On the one hand, the first group at least has a general idea about what they want. That idea might not be very concrete and they might not be doing anything about it, but at least they have a clue. On the other hand, if you don’t have goals, at least you’re not fooling yourself. So I’m really not sure which is worse.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with setting material goals for yourself. If that’s what floats your boat (or do you prefer a yacht?), more power to you. But what are you doing daily to get you closer to those goals? What’s that? Nothing? Yeah, then you don’t have goals – you have dreams. If the only way you can make your dreams a reality is winning the lottery, then you’re in a really bad spot.

Even though most people fall into one of these categories, there is a cure. And the cure is simple – set goals for yourself. “Wait, what?”, I hear your puzzled exclamation. “I already said I want a car, a house, and lots of money. How are those not goals?” Great question, imaginary person. Glad you asked.

In order for something to become a goal, it has to be tangible. You need to have a way to measure it. So, “having lots of money” is not a goal, because different people have different ideas about what that means. Same with a house or a car. Make it concrete. Make it tangible. And set off some timeframes and milestones.

You don’t have to make your goals realistic. But you do have to make realistic plans on how you will achieve those goals. If you want to drive an $80,000 car, you will need to find a sustainable way to make that kind of moolah. Which means getting a promotion, changing jobs, starting a side gig, or starting a business. You have to make a plan and follow it.

If you don’t have any goals, then it’s time to start setting some. Think about what you would like to improve about your life. I would start with myself (improve mentally and physically), but that’s just me. You can do whatever you want. Simply figure out what aspects of your life need an improvement and start working on them. Again, make your goals concrete and do something that gets you closer to them daily. You will start to see some changes in a month and if you keep going, your life will be unrecognizable in a few years. But here’s the thing about goals – you have to be patient. If your goals are quick and easy to achieve, they’re not goals.

Get out of your fuckin’ comfort zone.

Your comfort zone is where your growth goes to die. It’s also the reason why most people never start anything. Starting things is uncomfortable.

I get it. Before I started hitting the gym, I thought it was stupid to spend two hours in a closed space with a bunch of sweaty dudes moving iron around. What person in their right mind would subject their delicate body to something so horrible? Why not spend a few hours on the couch with some soft drinks and junk food instead? That sounds like fun. And it was, I can’t deny it. 

What’s not fun is being 24, having no energy, sleeping like crap, and having Treebeard’s grace of movement. But you’re probably thinking, “I don’t care about that, I have my mind – my most powerful tool. My most cherished possession.” Think again. Brain fog, trouble concentrating, memory troubles – all thanks to the “comfort diet”. Realizing what it was doing to my mind is what got me into the gym in the first place.

There’s a bigger metaphor here. Because the same reason I was eating like crap and not working out is causing you to delay starting your business. You feel no urgency to act and staying within your comfort zone is just easier (it’s in the name). But like I was slowly killing my body and mind, so too are you killing your hopes and dreams. Day by day, staying within your comfort zone is causing you to become a little bit more insecure, a little bit more bitter, a little bit less hopeful.

Getting out of your comfort zone requires lots of conscious effort because of the way our stupid brain was built. 100,000 years ago, survival wasn’t easy. They didn’t have running water, electricity, food delivery and all the things we take for granted. Food was scarce and so people had to conserve energy. That’s how our brains evolved to look for the path of least resistance.

While this was great for our survival (heck, still is if you want to merely survive), it’s killing our progress. It causes us to stay comfortable and not start the things we want to start, because growth requires discomfort. Starting a new venture requires lots of mental resources and our brain doesn’t know we have those resources. It’s still operating under the same assumptions from 100,000 years ago. It’s like trying to explain to your hoarder grandma that she doesn’t need to save every piece of garbage she finds. You can’t.

That’s why you need to force yourself to just fuckin’ start. But believe me – once you do, there’s no going back. Once you open your eyes to the life you can build for yourself, and to the person you can become, you’ll realize you’re disrespecting yourself by not doing it. Once you feel the power within yourself, the only thing you’ll regret is you didn’t start sooner.

So pick your goals and just fuckin’ start.

Till next time.

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