Thanks to the mixing of a few thoughts this weekend, it occurred to me that my greatest strength might not be my writing. Or even editing, for that matter. Those skills are useful, and I have them, to be sure, but there’s another characteristic that has kept my career moving: the willingness to take action and get things started.
I’ve told this story before, but it’s relevant to the post. When I was 25, I wrote an alternate history story in which I had the life I wanted. The problem was, that alternate history hinged on what I felt in my bones was a flawed premise. Specifically, it assumed that my better life was only possible due to factors beyond my control.
That sort of thinking bothered me. It was passive, with a strong hint of whining to it. I realized that if I didn’t believe my future was beyond my control, I was going to have to start acting like it.
So I decided to start taking some actions in my life:
- Learn the skills I needed to learn.
- Read the books I needed to read.
- Talk to the people I needed to talk to.
- If I didn’t have the skills or knowledge I needed to complete a specific project, just get started. Make it up as I go along, if necessary.
- Just get started. Take some action.
The point, many times, is just to get started. Believe that you can take some action toward whatever your goal is, and take the first step. And the next step. And the next. Keep going. That persistent willingness to DO can carry you farther than raw talent alone.
In practice, this means I’m motivated to write first drafts of documents to get things rolling. I’ve also been willing to take on less glamorous work tasks, just to get something done. I’ve also tried tasks I’ve never done before just for the challenge. This action-oriented approach has taught me a lot, even—or especially—if I screw up because I’m learning.
As a concluding bit of advice, think about what you want to do, consider what resources you need or have on hand, and put them to work. You’ll get a lot farther than waiting for something good to just happen.