I was chatting to a successful business owner recently. He came to see a workshop of a musical I am writing and was speaking animatedly to me about how much he enjoyed it. I explained how hard it had been to get it to this stage and how easy it would have been to have had the idea and never done anything with it. He said that it sounded exactly like creating a new business. You have a seed of an idea and then you go about turning it into a reality. It exists in your head at first, you don’t mention it to anyone, but the more you pay attention to it the more it comes into light and starts to become more detailed and vivid. The idea then gets so big that it has nowhere else to go but out of your head into an action or a real-life thing. This thing then has a knock-on effect and before you know it you are staring at a room full of actors with a script, musicians and director staging a presentation on a West End stage (or off West End in our case!). When the idea first popped into my head my partner looked at me quizzically and said “But why would you write a musical? Sounds like a really hard thing to do.”
I had a chat with someone else – a pop star who had achieved fame and success in his career. I asked him if he had a strong sense that what he and his band were doing “on the way up” would lead to success. He said that in hindsight if he knew how long and how hard the road to success would be, he never would have started. I found this interesting.
Life has a habit of shielding you from the degrees of difficulty that lie ahead on the way to achieving your goals. It’s a bit like playing a game; I’m like “hey I’ve finished level 5 things must get easier now”. What happens however is you are armed to the teeth with weapons, extra lives, first aid kits, magic potions but what you don’t know is that things are going to get even harder and you are going to use each and every resource you gained on your way to level 5 to get to level 6 and it’s going to be by the skin of your teeth.
What I love though is hindsight. If you just keep looking forward you only see where you are and it’s easy to feel like you are not getting anywhere. If you take a moment and bung a flag in the ground when you’ve achieved something (however small) you can then look back and see all the markers. It feels really nice and gives you a boost of energy to keep moving forward and taking those next steps. I have learned over time to look around and take notice at where I am rather than just keeping my head down, pushing hard to get to the end (wherever that may be). The details in the journey (and I know that this is nothing new), make the whole process richer.
I have had lots of ideas in my life that turned into things and all of them started with a small first step. It’s the first step actually that feels the hardest as in my experience that’s when you get the fear. My fear sounds like this:
What if I don’t succeed?
What if I make a total prat of myself?
What if what I make is rubbish?
What if I sound really stupid?
What if I am wasting my time?
What if I fail?
What if I don’t have enough money?
What if nobody cares or listens?
What if I am just not good enough?
The list goes on and on. Being stubborn certainly has its place here. I am so stubborn that in spite of all of these doubts I crack on regardless as the stubborn part of me wants to get it done and has a toddler tantrum desire to finish stuff.
Take for example the massive plot of overgrown scrubland at the end of our garden. It was so bad that you couldn’t walk on the area, there was a rubbish heap, old bits of carpet, broken toys, glass, barbed wire, tarpaulin covered in moss and a huge and unruly bush that was having a whale of a time spreading out and enjoying the space. It had been on my mind for a while to clear the area and I had no clue how much work it would take. This having no clue was actually really useful in that I just started to do it. I used the wrong tools at first using some comedy shears to clip back a bush the size of the Amazon and it took ages but as I went along I kinda found my groove. Again, my partner said to me “Do you have any clue how much work this is going to be and do you have a plan?”. No, I did not. My plan was to make a start and keep clearing it until it was clear. The rest worked its way out as I went along. And I am not gonna lie there were days when I ached all over and felt like it was two steps forward and three steps back. If I looked too far ahead all I could see was the scrubland that was yet to be cleared. If I looked at the little plot I had cleared, I felt a sense of achievement and kept going.
For some ideas, you need a plan sure. For others just cracking on and taking that first step is all you need. It could start with something seemingly small – sending that email, creating a Facebook page, making a logo, updating your CV or something bigger like handing in your notice, moving out, ditching your friends.
If you have a big goal (like making a musical!) I would say that breaking it into small chunks with realistic timescales really helps. If the plan is unfolding rather than being premeditated then it is going to feel like you have lost your way at times. Also, the information or contacts and resources that you need never look like you think they will. That’s why taking stock, stopping and looking around at where you are is so important – just so you don’t miss anything.
Having an idea and acting on it is a powerful thing but it can feel lonely at times. If you are the one with the vision you might have to go it alone working hard late into the night with no audience or anyone really caring about what you are doing. It’s hard when you know that if you don’t push on then nothing will happen and the whole thing could fall apart – and who would care if it did? You would. I try and spring clean my mind and thoughts and keep a few things in check. My inner dialogue can rage at times and can beat me into submission. I am also reactive, over sensitive and can be a total nightmare to work with. I can overanalyse and make everything personal. I hold onto things and don’t find it easy to let them go and to trust others to cherish and nurture my ideas like I do. But I am telling you, you cannot accomplish big things by yourself. You need others around you for support as when times get tough you are going to be on the phone to these people sobbing your heart out (I speak from experience).