“Live your questions now, and perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distant day into your answers.” – Rainer Maria Rilke, Born Dec. 4, 1875.
People who want to achieve a thing, who are not used to being achievers, often make a common mistake.
They over-learn. And over-prepare. And over-plan.
They think up a near endless multitude of questions before ever getting started. They delay starting until these questions are answered. And before those are all answered, yet more questions are dreamed up.
Your brain is betraying you. It doesn't mean to. It wants to make sure you make a decision based on the best information available.
The problem is – especially nowadays – an infinite amount of information is available. You never get to the end so you can make your assessment and decide your course.
And the longer you delay in acting, the more information there is to assist in that delay.
So let's stop. Write down what you want to do. Write down the minimum steps to get there. Write down the process to accomplish each step.
Start executing that plan.
Stop to do research and answer questions ONLY as they arise and ONLY if it stops you from moving to the next step in the plan.
Don't shop for tools you don't need. Don't distract yourself with possibilities when you don't have anything actually produced to hang those possibilities on in the first place.
Live your questions by taking action, and learn only the minimum answers you actually need to proceed. Learn them through doing the work and trying solutions until you hit one that works.
Stop collecting a bag of tricks containing every possible solution to every possible problem. You only need ONE answer per problem, and only for problems you ACTUALLY HAVE.
Find the problem, find the first solution and try that. If it works, you're done. You don't need a second option until the first fails. You don't need solutions to problems you MIGHT have. Solve the problems that happen for real. Ignore problems you don't currently have. They don't need you to solve them.
What this does is shorten the curve. It increases efficiency. It speeds up the path to results. Once you have results achieved in this way, it re-engineers the way your brain will allow you to work.
Suddenly rabbit holes you would have eagerly dove into and mistaken for “progress”? They don't seem appealing. They seem wasteful.
Because you have a new mode that has no room for distractions when it comes to your work.
Achieve. Accomplish. Complete. THEN expand, polish, perfect, and begin again. And again.
That's the answer to the question you didn't know you needed to ask.
<!—- lagniappe Here is a brief plan for tackling projects without over-planning or needlessly over-prepping. 1. Establish the end goal. What is the final outcome so the whole project is done. 2. Wrong. Strip it down more to a workable alpha version that proves the concept with minimum required functionality. Start a list of “next level” tasks and put all that extra mess there. 3. Break down your minimal goal into steps that result in milestones. I like to make each major moving part a single sub-goal. 4. Start on the first sub-goal. Work until you hit an obstacle that you can’t solve in under an hour by yourself. When you do, spend an hour trying to solve it. 5. If you can’t solve that problem in an hour, make a note to ask someone for help and move on to a different sub-task or a whole different sub-goal. Repeat the above. 6. The goal is to complete all the sub-tasks you can until you only have a checklist of things you must ask for help with. The reason we turn to asking for help when we are stuck is to maximize efficiency. If you didn’t solve it in an hour, don’t waste another second. Get someone who knows what to do to tell you what you need (or do it for you if they’re nice). 7. Do this until alpha minimal version is done and release it. Ask for feedback and request from earliest adopters. Then, using that feedback to prioritize, implement your list of “next level” additions. Alternative - just move on to the next project. Revisit this one after a significant time has passed to gain some distance and gather more feedback. Might not even need improvement if it works well enough. That’s it. Keep it simple. Solve only what problems really occur. Ask for help if they take away more than an hour already. —->
6 thoughts on “The Shortcut to Success is To Under-prepare?”
I needed this reminder today, lol.
HI Colin, this is the best email and blog from you so far. It’s where I’m at in life. I heard a similar concept in the 4 Day Week along the lines of only prepare for your event when it’s imminent.
An example. I want to build my tribe. I know FB ads could be one way. So could FB groups. Been looking for tons of info on how to do it right. As with everything else, jump in and do. Get feedback. Either it falls flat, it works, something in between. Either way, you learn, you adjust.
Dig your emails. Your vibe, this lifestyle, this attitude, all of it makes total sense. Be yourself, be helpful, do what you enjoy. And only focus on what matters now. Only do that. The one thing. Break it down. Finish.
And do the next sub-goal.
Awesome. Thank you for the early Christmas present! – Rich
Thanks, Richard! Glad to be able to share what I have learned about this sort of “artistic” work lifestyle, and glad to hear that it’s being received as intended. Happy holidays!
Rev Dr. Collins,
Been preparing, infact over prepping to jump into the writing world, here am I, nothing solid to lean on after series of preparations over the years.
Thanks for this shortcut, its actually for me Sir.
As usual, your majesty, your sermon is most excellent. I was on a phone call with an investment client I work with today and read the whole shebang to him. Loved it! I do have a little bit of wisdom to add to this if it helps someone. (Of course, I didn't actually think this up myself, but I got this from someone who got it from someone else…who got it from someone else…etc.) A big deal that really helped me out was accountability. I'm 64 and because of this Covid thing, I gained a ton of weight. None of my pants were fitting and it was getting rather depressing. So, I got an application from the VA that tracks weight, calories, and exercise. I downloaded and started on September 11, 2020, and as of a week ago, I'm down by 30 lbs. to just under 210. Now I have the opposite problem; my pants are all too big. But what did it for me was accountability. Every time I put something into my mouth, I logged it in. (As it turns out, Vortman's Cookies were my biggest enemies. They are these light, wispy waffle cookies with cream filling. Between those and the glass of milk I had with them daily, I was adding almost 600 extra calories to my waistline. So, out the door they went.) By staying accountable it was easy to see where my health problem was coming from. Also, if I wanted to eat a little more than my allotted 1900 calories a day, a good 4-mile walk took care of that. So, I'm using accountability to accomplish goals that I want to get finished and things I want to learn. Anyway, love being on your mailing list, man. You're the best!
Thanks so much for sharing, Mark! Incremental measurement and accountability are both valuable tools for putting goals within our reach.