My suggestion is, whenever possible, ask yourself: What’s the smallest possible footprint I can get away with? What is the smallest possible project that is worth my time? What is the smallest group of people who I could make a difference for, or to? Because smallest is achievable. Smallest feels risky. Because if you pick smallest and you fail, now you’ve really screwed up.
We want to pick big. Infinity is our friend. Infinity is safe. Infinity gives us a place to hide. So, I want to encourage people instead to look for the small.
– Seth Godin
If you’ve seen my past few posts you might know that lately I’ve been rereading Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss and sharing some of the key learnings or “gems” I’ve taken away from it.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I just love the book. There is just so much wisdom packed into one book.
Today’s “gem” comes from Seth Godin.
He talks about the best approach to take when you are just starting out in any endeavor.
Start as small as possible.
Mistaken thinking – The Hollywood illusion
Many of us, myself included, make the mistake of thinking you must “go-big-or-go-home.” Or go “all-in-or-nothing.”
I guess this stems from watching too many movies where the stakes always seem to be impossibly high and the protagonist still somehow always takes it on and invariably achieves it by the end of the movie. All this while he still manages to keep his hair flawless as well as get the girl. This is the great Hollywood illusion.
Because reality as you know doesn’t work that way.
I used to think the same way.
If a potential (small) opportunity came about I would often brush it off as “nah it’s too small, not worth my time.”
If I had posted an article on my blog and only 10 people read it I would be disappointed because “that’s nothing” compared to blog posts by top bloggers that get hundreds of thousands of views.
I realize now this is a form of shooting yourself in the foot (failure by default) at best and lying to yourself at worse.
What do I mean by lying to yourself?
As Seth Godin explains, people want to pick big because big is safe. Big gives us a place to hide. It gives us a fallback excuse to always use in the event we fail.
We are basically giving ourselves an excuse to fail, before we’ve even started.
Can you see the problem with that?
Start big and you might end up with nothing. Start small and you might end up with something big after all…
The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. – Lao Tzu
…every journey has a first step. Every saga has a beginning. – Star Wars
Anything great you’ve ever seen.
A great movie.
A great piece of art.
A great musical piece.
A great building or tower.
A great athlete at the peak of his or her game.
If you rewind all the way back to the start, they all have one thing in common.
They all started from scratch.
From a first step.
One step that made all the difference and started them on this incredible journey towards building something great.
Therefore don’t underestimate the power of starting small.
Because before you know it, that small little thing might just have grown into something big.
Action points/notes to self
- Consciously get into the habit of catching myself when I fall into the trap of “go-big-or-go-home” thinking.
- Be willing to start at the smallest point possible. One blog post. One reader. One idea. Start at one and watch it grow.
- Just like a small seed in the ground, which takes time and nurturing to sprout and grow into that mighty oak tree you see. Likewise with building a business, a brand or an audience.
Have you ever fell into the trap of either “go-big-or-go-home” or “go-all-in-or-nothing” mentality?
What do you think of Seth Godin’s advice? Do you agree or disagree and why do think that way?
Would love to hear your input so please leave a message in the comments.
Until next time.
Tony Lee Jacobs
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