Can I help you start?

“That’s more impressive than anything I’ve ever done.”
The man who said it was faceless, passing my house at twilight as I worked on my boat in the driveway.

I wanted to wave away the mystique of accomplishment and told him he could do it too.

“All you have to do is start.”

That’s what I said to him.

“All you have to do is start.”

I meant it as an invitation.

 

My well-to-do burby neighborhood has watched in supportive fascination as one of their own removed his Gray Flannel Suit and took a public risk by creating something.

It’s getting close to finished now, and actually looks like a boat to even the most casual observer. That, combined with the increased summer foot-traffic, has brought a host of well-wishers past to wave encouragement.

 

I love it.

 

Everyone has in them excitement, ability, and genius.
In most of us they lie dormant; stifled by expectations and fear or numbed away by television or the web.

 

Working on my boat is how I proselytize. Maybe filling my driveway with wood shavings can inspire someone to learn a language, take the quilting lessons they’ve always wanted, or write the novel that’s aching to get out.

Every time I wave back to someone, or answer their questions about the project, I hope I’ve incited them to act.

“All you have to do is start.”

It should have been innocuous, a take-it-or-leave-it suggestion of future possibility.
But he didn’t take it that way.

In an abstract “I’m not really interested, but I’m willing to dispute the point” way he talked about the knowledge or skill necessary to start such a thing.

On its face, what I’m doing appears to require great skill. In reality, a couple of library books, $200 in hand tools, and courage (or naivete) are enough to start. But how could he know that? I didn’t know it until the boat was half finished.

I should have conceded and re-issued the invitation another day; a day when we could talk without shouting across a yard, read intentions on each others faces, and when I could find out what excited him.

 

I should have, but I didn’t.

 

“All you have to do is start”.

I only said it once, but it landed so badly that it echoes in my mind.

After he disappeared into the dark I thought to track him down, apologize, and explain that I intended to invite rather than belittle. It was too late though. I didn’t know which way he went, and with the sky fading into night I had no idea what he even looked like.

So, I let him go.

After sitting with it for a few days I’ve realized my mistake:

 

People have to know you, or think they do, before you can inspire them. Prior to relationship it is presumptuous to suggest they change their priorities and, by extension, their lives.

 

In the absence of relationship the question isn’t innocuous, it’s pejorative.

Perhaps a better question is the one I ask you…

“Can I help you start?”


Even if (especially if?)

Progress is never a straight line.
If you chart where you’ve been and where you are you’ll get a jagged, Himalayan line that reflects in some small way the struggles you’ve seen.

I realized this because I’m in one of the valleys of such a graph.

I recently was at a peak of progress:
A 16 mile hiking adventure in the mountains.
Ready to shape the sheerstrake for my boat.
Shrinking waistline from my dietary changes and workouts.
Consistent writing on my blog.
Completed business plan for a new venture.

And then it all changed.

I started reading a lot (again) and have spent less time writing.
My business partner has been very busy and our progress has stalled.
My shoulder injury is making most exercise difficult and sapping my enthusiasm.
The next step of the boat is the most important line & I’ve been stuck for weeks figuring how to do it beautifully and well.
I don’t have any new adventures on the calendar.

My momentum on the crazyAwesomeHellYeahProjects ground to a dispiriting halt.

What do you do when faced with the challenge of starting again?

You start.

I don’t mean to be glib, but it really is that simple.
You can only ever be doing what you are doing. If you are thinking about starting, or planning to start, or scheming on how to beat the resistance to starting then you aren’t starting.

Just start.

What’s the smallest step you can possibly take to get the ball rolling again?

Take it. Start.

Write that blog post. Even if (especially if?) you’re not sure if it’s good enough.
Develop the minimum economically viable offering for your business. Even if (especially if?) the idea embarrasses you.
Make an appointment with a doctor to find out why you’re in pain. Even if (especially if?) you’re afraid you may need surgery.
Prepare the materials for the boat. Even if (especially if?) you’re afraid you’ll ruin it.
Brainstorm with your children for the next adventure. Even if (especially if?) you’re afraid the ideas won’t be “practical” or “affordable”.

 

What’s the smallest step you can take to advance a goal?

 

Tell me in the comments. Even if (especially if?) you’re afraid to say it out loud.