You probably have an idea that you haven’t made and shared yet.
I don’t know exactly what it is, but if you think about it, you probably have a bunch of reasons why it’s not time to share it with the world yet. Maybe it’s an idea for a course you want to make, or a workshop, or a painting, or a show, or a book, or even an entire business.
The process of turning an idea into a real thing can be an arduous one. Especially if the idea is dear to me. In fact, the more exciting the idea, the more important it feels, the more confronting the prospect of actually manifesting it usually feels.
And while our procrastination is utterly understandable. It is also, I believe, unnecessary. And I want to tell you why, and how you can take a different route to the creation of your inspiration.
The day I drunk my own medicine
I’m about to lead the final session of a group coaching program I’ve been running for the last 7 months. It’s been a special experience for all of us.
The group looks little like the vision I had in my head when I conceived it. It’s not even the promised program that I enrolled people into.
It started with an interview I did. Towards the end of the interview I was asked what final piece of advice I had for people watching. I said “launch before you’re ready.”
I’d been practicing the principle for some time with my writing – publishing things despite my insecurity wanting to endlessly tinker with them. I’d published more regularly than my perfectionistic ego felt was safe.
I’d launched my website the previous year before I felt ready as well. I’d procrastinated for months, and so in the end, after some help from a friend, I launched, with simply a front page. It had the name on it, an evocative picture I’d found, some prose and vague promises and a sign up box that offered free updates (I didn’t mention the fact that I didn’t really know what I’d be updating you on).
So when I answered the question, and said “launch before you’re ready”, I contracted for a moment. I realized I’d just busted myself. Because I was thinking about launching a group program for the first time, and I was procrastinating, and I wasn’t taking my own medicine. I confessed this to her. And I said I’d follow my own advice.
“If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” – Reid Hoffman
And so the very next week I followed through. I put a small note on the bottom of a blog article I published. It said…
“If you want to really dive into this, I’m going to be running a new small group coaching program called Creating The Work You Were Made For.
I’ll be inviting 6 people to work with me closely for 3 months, and learn how to connect to, create, share and sell their essential work. Interested?
Write “I’m interested” in the comments below and I’ll email you more details.”
And a bunch of people did. And I enrolled the program from that group of folks.
You don’t need to pretend you have all the answers
I tell you this story, not to demonstrate any competence that I may possess. But to try and illustrate a point. That if you have something you’ve been thinking about creating and sharing, there is a way to succeed, without having to know all the answers, or plan the whole thing exhaustively, or know where it will end.
If you instead use your authentic ignorance as a part of the launch itself, something very powerful is allowed to unfold. Because you do not hoard all the creativity for yourself, you allow your followers or clients to participate in the creative process with you.
I didn’t know exactly what my program would look like, I didn’t know exactly what the curriculum would be or how I was going to structure it. I had a theme and a rough skeleton, but little more.
But the seed of the idea was clear. It was a group program for 6 people, over 3 months. And it would be about helping people create and share their own true work. So that’s all I said.
Now let me be clear, there is a difference between telling people about your thing before it’s finished, and there’s dumping a big pile of confusion on people and expecting them to sort the quality from the chaff. The first one takes courage, the second one laziness.
But our tendency so often, is that we wait too long. The ripe fruit is not shared, we think it needs to mature further, until it begins to go black. So that’s what I decided to do. I shared the fruits of my idea.
If no-one had commented on my invitation, I would have binned the whole thing right then. It would have stung my ego for sure. But at least I would have got real feedback immediately. It would have stung a hell of a lot more had I spent 2 months designing the program and writing extensive marketing materials for it, and then no one had commented.
But as people began to tell me they were interested, I went to the next level of detail. I sat down to brainstorm ideas, and then the same day I wrote a letter direct to all the people that were expressing their interest. I tried to tell the truth.
If you’re reading this page, you must have told me you’re interested in the program I’m running. I’ve launched this program in a somewhat unconventional way. I announced it before I knew exactly what it would be.
So, from reading this page, you should get a really good sense of what this program is about, but you won’t get all the details. Because I’m actually still designing it, based on who registers!
In fact, to be even more accurate, if you decide to come and be a part of this, you’ll be designing it along with me, as we go along. It will be alive, organic, unplanned (apart from the meticulous planning I will of course do behind the scenes because I’m a perfectionistic idealist who wants to serve the shit out of you.)
I told them everything I did know about the program. And I told them where I was vague. And I told them things would definitely change.
And they did.
The design process continued throughout the entire enrollment
The first time I sat down with one of the potential participants things changed. We had a really powerful conversation, I understood more deeply where she was at and what she needed. As we talked about it I realized the time frame felt too short.
“I have a feeling 6 months would fit better for this thing, how would that be for you?”
“Actually, that really relaxes me. Yes it feels much better.”
I checked it out with other possible participants, they agreed. So I changed it to 6 months, not 3.
Because I’d been explicit in that first letter about the experimental nature of the program, it gave me the freedom to change my mind as I talked with people. Those enrollment conversations were as much about discovering what they needed as they were about me inviting them to participate. I learned so much.
If I had simply made it all up on my own and then presented it fully determined, I would have missed so much.
And that is what I love about this principle. That by being explicit that you’re experimentally discovering the nature of your creation, as you create it, it loosens the habit we all have, of pretending we know more than we do, and telling people how it is.
Launching before you’re ready conquers your resistance
I’d been procrastinating on the group program idea for a long time. I’d first brainstormed ideas for it 9 months before. Though to be honest, I’d had the desire to run my own small group program for years, and never pulled the trigger.
“It’s not quite time, I need a bigger following first, or at least a bit more experience.”
“I don’t know what I’d teach, let’s just let the more mature ideas emerge organically.”
“The prospect is really hard. I’ll just not put my attention on it so I don’t have to deal with the fact I know I’m stalling because I’m afraid.”
We justify it to ourselves. “I’m not ready.” Or to be more accurate, I don’t feel ready. We’re trained to prepare and know all the answers. In school exams, or business presentations, or interviews, we’re demonstrate our competence by giving intelligent, comprehensive responses. “I don’t know” is seen as a sign of incompetence.
By deliberately launching before I was ready, I cut through my resistance in one fell swoop. Once it was out, I couldn’t take it back. Or I could, but I’d look like an ass, which I’m always determined to avoid.
And all it took was 3 sentences on the end of a blog post.
Us human beings don’t like looking stupid in front of our peers. So once you let other people know what you’re committed to, it’s a hell of a lot harder to back out.
And we back out all the time. We have an idea, an exciting idea, we’re inspired, and then we think about how far away it feels, so we back out. And we justify it to ourselves. We say we’re not ready, or not worthy.
But most of the time, that’s just resistance. It’s your safety zone trying to maintain its integrity. It’s current reality trying to preserve itself. It’s your ego wanting to keep things just the way they are.
Resistance is cunning as fuck. And insidious. It will take any form it needs to stop you in your tracks.
You don’t have to wait. You could do it today if you wanted.
Do you have something?
Maybe it’s been simmering in the background. Maybe you constantly think about it, and dream of the day when you’ll be ready to actually make it real. Maybe it’s a new idea that feels precious and fragile.
What’s in your way? A story probably. One that says you need to be more prepared. One that says it would be irresponsible or inappropriate to launch that thing today. One that says you’re not qualified, or that no-one will give a shit if you put out an invitation.
You may be a lot more ready than you feel. You may know a lot more than you believe.
Your idea might be vague, or detailed. It might be just a name and an inspiration. It might be nameless and mapped out in structure. It doesn’t really matter. As long as you have something that people can say yes or no to, that something probably is enough.
“I’ve been thinking about offering sessions for people that want to do naked pole dancing. I’m so passionate about it, I do it all the time myself. Are you interested? Email me at email@example.com”
Because once you release it to the world. It’s not just yours anymore. And it takes on a life of its own. And it takes you on a ride that you could never have mapped out in advance.