Hello World, Do You Sabotage Your Potential To Excel at Something New?
Unstick your beginner’s dilemma with the help of these six simple tips.
Doing something for the first time can be as equally exciting as terrifying. There is a lot of uncertainty involved. Uncertainty and fear can hold you back, or it can drive you. Why is this endemic to us humans?
I think it’s because we feel like we can master the something novel with ease at a point in time when we don’t know much about it. Not being able to instantly feel good about something — missing that dopamine hit — may feel foreign.
We all heard this before:
“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”
So, is it even worth to beginning something new?
If you want to keep tapping into the new potential, keep reading and find out how the following six tips will help you to NOT get stuck in a beginner’s dilemma:
- Treat your ideas like your most precious asset
- Prevail over “Everything already exists.”
- Keep your research time reasonable
- Involve others to get farther
- Test and get feedback often
- Dig deeper post-launch to exploit potential
What do I mean by beginner’s dilemma?
There is at least a couple of different interpretations of the beginner’s dilemma. Some focus upon how one gets overwhelmed by a list of tasks that lead to not knowing where or how to simply start.
My take on it is a touch different. I’m talking about the struggle between the time and energy it takes to get to the quality you’d like to deliver. Puh, what does that mean? The visual below will help explain:
In the beginning (at time 0) you need to put a lot of effort into doing something new and the quality of the outcome is usually pretty low because you’re lacking skills (and experience). However, the more you learn about a subject and the more you repeat a skill, the less energy you need to put into it, while the outcome gets better and better.
I had a couple of firsts in the last year. Publishing my first children’s book, The Alice Wonders, running my first crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter and now publishing on Medium for the first time. Whew, it feels good to look back upon how much has happened in the recent months.
From thinking of doing to actually doing
In my opinion, the first step is the most difficult.
Everybody has their own process but here is how I go about it:
“Why is that a myth?” you’re thinking? Well, that’s not quite all. It’s an overly simplified list of somewhat chronological steps. However, there is a couple of traps you can fall into or weak points throughout this process. As always, the devil lies in the detail. Let’s dive into six things that will help you to elegantly dance around the traps. I’ll share a more accurate visualization of the process at the end of the article.
1. Treat your ideas like your most precious asset
Everybody has ideas, but they’re worth nothing if you leave them hanging. One of the mistakes that you should avoid is not collecting your ideas or, even worse, underestimating them. This is your first missed opportunity, because the more ideas you collect, the more ideas you’ll have based on them. Let me tell you a quick story.
A couple of years ago, I had a business idea. I wanted to create a platform that would help people find and hire craftsmen to help with fixing stuff in their apartments. I worked on a business plan and went all in. When I told a friend of mine about it after a couple of weeks, she turned pale and said that she told me about this exact idea in the year before. I couldn’t remember this and it became very awkward between us in the following days. Long story short, she threatened to sue me if I continued with my work on “her” idea. I ended up dropping out and doing something else, but guess what? She never realized that splendid idea of hers.
Tip: Take notes of your ideas as a first step. I recently started a Zettelkasten inspired by Eva Keiffenheim’s article “The Complete Guide for Building a Zettelkasten with RoamResearch” on Better Humans and this was a life changer. I will share how I set up a simplified version of this note-taking system soon. Follow me to get notified about new articles.
2. Prevail over “Everything already exists.”
Do NOT stop working on your idea simply because there is already something similar out there. There are the two big myths in this regard:
I. Every business or project idea that you have already exists.
II. If an idea is good, it’s been done better by somebody else.
Just nod with a smile if somebody at a networking event tells you that there is something just like your idea already out there. Take a note (hint hint), look it up and observe what you like about it and what not. This is just one bit of input on the way of doing your own thing, because you have a personal touch that will make it vary and stand out.
Tip: Consider such feedback a proof of concept and reduced risk for you, because somebody else already did the work for you. Lisa Congdon, one of my favourite artists, wrote “you can’t actually find your own voice without being influenced by other artists” in her book Find Your Artistic Voice (affiliate link to Amazon; if you buy it, I get a small commission).
3. Keep your research time reasonable
This may sound obvious, but happens to me often. I tend to feel like there is more out there that I need to read, watch and learn before I arrive at the point of DOING. This is BS. I tend to overanalyze and overthink. There it is. Did I just out my deepest weakness? This specific characteristic is nevertheless a feature (let’s call it that; sounds better) many of us struggle with.
For example, you are reading my first Medium article and I already know that after a couple more articles, I will find weak points in it. However, I am going to publish it because it only reflects my writing and knowledge on the day I wrote it (or the days, because this is a longer process for me and I sleep over a piece that I intend to publish ).
Tip: Set yourself time limits for research. For example, I use my daylight lamp’s timer to stop me from going overboard. It has 15, 30, 45, 90, and 120 minutes by default. I use this feature to keep track of the time I’m investing in research or other tasks that can easily take all day. Having the light go off is a visual distraction that I don’t blank out in the way in which I ignore audio alarms. Find your sweet spot between too little and too much time invested.
4. Involve others to get farther
You are one person with one personality (hopefully), strengths, weaknesses and perspectives. Working with others not only widens your horizon and skillset, it also extends your network. Select people that love the project or even create it together right from the start. It can be illustrators, developers, social media experts, or anyone of value. Just be clear about what you expect and how committed you guys should be.
This sounds easier than it is, but what helps me are specific and time-related goals. Talk about how much time a person can invest and what’s in it for them. Develop tasks together and clearly assign people in charge, again together. Why go through all this if you can take full control alone? Well, the more people that are involved in the project, the more people you reach with it. Every contributing person functions as a network multiplier and helps in sending the message out to the world.
Recall the book Good night stories for rebel girls (affiliate link to Amazon)? It features 100 women that achieved great things and it was illustrated by 100 different female illustrators. I am 100% certain that every single one of them told their peers about the book and shared every update on their social media.
Boom, this I call next-level word of mouth. Also, you can be faster and more efficient, since everybody brings in their expertise and experience.
Tip: Turn your search for a winning team into a campaign to promote your project idea. For my next project, I will reach out to people via Social Media à la “Do you want to be a part of **INSERT MISSION HERE** or know somebody who’d love this?” This is one of my biggest learnings of the last year. I’ll keep you posted as to how it goes via Medium articles. Follow me to not miss any.
5. Test and get feedback often
“Do good things and talk about it” is one of my favourite sayings. Oftentimes the latter part is forgotten or done too late. I should have done more of the talking early onwards in my book publishing process for sure. For some reason, my mind was playing a trick on me. I was scared of involving others and asking for feedback because of the possible critique I would receive. This did not go hand in hand with my I-am-in-control-of-everything approach.
When I launched my Kickstarter campaign, my book was nearly done. I did everything my way and loved it. Now I know that one reason why I did not manage to excite enough people was because they didn’t feel involved enough.
Tips: Here are the don’ts to rememberDon’t work on your project in the isolation of your silent chamber and only then tell the target group once it’s finished. This will only ensure that you stay invisible. Use the time to share your work-in-progress with your community. This will build a circle of people that is interested and, secondly, build trust in your project. People love (& buy) products and services that they trust.Don’t just push messages out there about what you’re doing. Ask for feedback, advice, and let your community choose their favorite bits along the way. This allows you to create an eager following as you go along. People want to be a part of something special and bigger than themselves. It is in our nature and expands upon the experience of simply selling ‘yet another’ product.Don’t just test after the launch. Test regularly throughout the whole process. It’s the easiest way to meet your target group’s needs and prepare them for what’s coming. Start focus groups on Facebook and ask publicly who wants to be a part of it. Let me know in the comments if you want to be part of the one for my children’s book. Share your ideas with them first. Ask for feedback via surveys. Tell your close ones about what you’re doing. There are many ways to test your idea.
6. Dig deeper post-launch to exploit potential
Once your baby is out in the world, the worst thing you can do is to abandon it and move on to the next project. Imagine you’d do that to a newborn. Yes, it was a lot of work to get to this point and the “launch” was stressful and exhausting, but that’s when chapter 2 begins.
I’ve seen a couple of people that wrote a book and let their publisher do the rest. I’ve also seen companies that spend years on complex product development and realization. They then barely market their products because marketing expenses are a cost that doesn’t raise their shareholder’s value (or at least cannot be directly reflected in it). Alas, this does not lead to the best and most sustainable upbringing.
After I self-published my first children’s book, The Alice Wonders, I thought of what else I could do to take it further. Besides sharing insights into my everyday life of building a self-employed career on social media (e.g. @thealicewonders on Instagram) and work in progress impressions). I created a roadmap of products to come. Spreading the vision of the book regularly keeps fans and potential buyers engaged and is fun for them too; again, making them a part of something bigger than themselves.
Tip: Think outside of the norm when you talk about your product. Any good or implied balance between quiet and too salesy will get you there.
Here’s a more accurate illustration of my process when starting something new:
These six things are my light tower for the next steps and I regularly remind myself of them in order to prevent repeating my hiccups.
Is there something you would add? Or who is THE person you admire for starting something new all the way to the finish line. I’d love to read your thoughts and discover what works for you in your creative journeys.
Let me know what else you’d like to read about.
Yours, Alyssa-Ninja Weis