I'm Ryan Waggoner. I build things. I blog about how to work harder and smarter to build the life you want. You should subscribe.

The most common failure mode is failing to show up


Posted in Achievement, Goals, Habits, Posts by

Lately, I’ve been worried about one of my projects and whether it is going to be able to provide enough revenue to be viable. I’ve been worrying that I haven’t yet found the right combination of things to do in order to make it all work. Here’s the thing though: I haven’t tried the combinations I have thought of. This project is failing, but it’s not failing because I’m doing the wrong things. It’s failing because I’m not doing anything.

“Eighty percent of success is showing up.” -Woody Allen

This is something I know, but I forget it constantly. Let me give you a few more examples:

  1. I put off hiring a virtual assistant for forever because I worried that I wouldn’t be able to manage one very well, or that I’d have to put more time into thinking about it than it would save me.
  2. I put off getting back into fitness in a serious way because I worried that I didn’t have the right workout plan.
  3. I put off getting serious about my consulting career because I didn’t think that I’d be able to get the types of gigs that I wanted.
  4. I put off restarting my blogging after taking some time off because I wasn’t sure how it fit into my overall personal brand.
  5. I put off building and selling iOS apps of my own because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make a decent return on my investment.

These are just a few examples from the past few years. I’ve bit the bullet and done all of the above, and most have worked out far better than I expected:

  1. I recently started using a VA service called FancyHands (affiliate link) and so far it’s been great. I’ve had to put a little thought into what I can pass to them, the best way to do it, etc, but so far it’s been a positive experience.
  2. My fitness always goes in cycles where I do well for a few months then not as well for a couple months, etc. I’m working on that, but my periods where I do well almost always start with me going to the gym for a few days and just screwing around, doing whatever exercises I feel like doing, etc. It’s not efficient or effective in terms of the workout, but it starts the momentum and then I gradually get my routine figured out and I’m off to the races.
  3. I should write several posts on my consulting career, but a couple years ago I started getting serious about it in terms of beefing up my skills, charging more, and focusing on my lead pipeline. The results have been amazing, and I’m grateful to have a host of awesome clients. It’s been a lot of work, but I’m enjoying it like I never have.
  4. Just like with the gym, I tend to go in cycles with my blogging. But my posts are always rough and painful when I start again after a long absence. I have trouble coming up with ideas and the writing just feels like a chore. But after a few weeks, I see blog post ideas everywhere, in many day-to-day conversations and experiences. It’s hard to explain, but the whole thing just starts to flow.
  5. On the iOS apps, it turns out I was right to hesitate. I put out a simple app earlier this year, just a toy really, but after that experience, listening to other people selling apps, and looking at how much I make as an iOS contract developer, I’m pretty sure that I won’t be releasing any more iOS apps of my own. Live and learn.

So not all have worked out (yet), but most have. But none of them worked out right away. They all took me showing up and working at it for awhile.

Get momentum, then refine

Momentum is powerful. Call it habit, whatever, but bottom line: it’s easier to keep moving than to start moving.

The easiest thing you can do today is nothing. The second easiest thing you can is planning to do something later. They’re both about as useful. If anything, planning is more dangerous because it makes you feel like you’re making forward progress, but you’re really not.

Do something. Even if it’s the wrong thing, just do something. It might not be as wrong as you think, and if it is, you can adjust and do better next time.

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9 Responses to “The most common failure mode is failing to show up”

  1. Pete says:

    Totally agree. The hardest part of all is to start. Our brains are trained to analyze risks to find the safest route and that’s usually to do nothing.

  2. Great post. Ultimately it's not about what we feel, think, plan, but all about what we actually do.

  3. A-Lo says:

    Glad you are back at the blog, right. Really miss these insights.

    I tend to get frozen by my large to do lists but doing nothing, helps nothing. Thanks!

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