My biggest failures in life were not the mistakes I've made, but rather the mistakes I've never made.
In my 20's I often dreamed of starting a company. At the time, I felt I wasn't ready. I had more to learn. I thought that once I had a solid background in operations, sales, marketing, finance and a few other areas, then I would be ready.
If you placed these required skills end to end, it would take even the most diligent student an entire lifetime to master. I never learned these skills, but nearly two decades later, I started a company anyway.
What took so long? Perhaps I was hiding - afraid I would fail. Maybe I was waiting to be picked instead of picking myself. Who knows?
But I learned that stacking up imaginary building blocks between me and my goals didn't work. Ironically, I had created an insurmountable wall I could never climb over, but instead had to demolish.
You'll have ambitions too. Perhaps you'll want to act in a play, learn how to draw, play right wing in soccer, or program a video game. The moment you become excited, your mind bombarded with possibilities - act. Do that exact thing you're imagining. Don't read about it, study it, or talk about it - just start doing it.
"Inspiration is perishable" - Jason Fried
Time and time again, I have stumbled into the trap of preparing instead of doing, but you should know that getting ready is a lie.
Preparing is a magical place where you can tell yourself you are pursuing your dreams, but never have to confront reality. You can bask in the glow of your perfect vision without doing any hard work or facing your own limitations. Preparation may keep your dreams alive, but they are only on life-support.
Guard against the temptation to substitute related activities for real action. You'll know you're off track when you push off the scary or difficult work for another day.
"Yesterday you said tomorrow." - Nike
To help you know when you're hiding, I'll share some examples of what it sounds like. See if these sound familiar:
Once I learn this next song, then I'll be ready to perform on stage. Or, as soon as I can run an 8 minute mile, then I'll sign up for the race. Or, I'll start saving money once I get a raise at work.
Can you see how these statements push you further away from your destination? A mirage appearing just out of reach with each stumbling step you take.
Let me save you the suspense. No matter your objective, you'll never be ready. The time will never be perfect. In fact, without subjecting yourself to reality and doing the work, ready is impossible. You can only discover the skills you need through a collision with the world. Let go of the concept of preparation and embrace action.
There is no perfect opportunity.
Diving into your work directly trades off the shiny pristine idea of the future for actual feedback today.
Here is what you give up: the allure of a plan, the attractiveness of a grand scheme, and the perfect story of a magical future yet to be. But what you gain, is a life.