First, Fix What You Started

Todd Brison

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This is the hardest thing in the world

She trimmed off thorns. She filled jars with flowers. Still, she was unhappy.

“It will work,” I told Kate.

When I said these words, I didn’t quite believe them. The house was a mess. Our dining room table was covered with floral carnage. We were hours away from the event that demanded such extravagant decorations, but the situation was grim.

I wasn’t sure we had enough flowers. I wasn’t sure we had the right jars. I wasn’t sure we’d pull this off. I was damn sure of Kate, though. 8 years of marriage will do that to you.

“Keep going,” I said.

She did.

Within minutes, the hurricane of twigs and buds turned into a calm storm. Then a drizzle. After that, a rainbow. Perfection. This made sense to me.

It’s always messiest right before clarity breaks through.

The easiest thing in the world to do is never start

When you don’t attempt to buy a house, you don’t have to save a down payment, you can’t get rejected for a loan, and you never have to watch your dream home get snatched away by another bidder.

When you don’t start a book, you never have to pull your thoughts to words, your stories to sentences, or your convictions to chapters. You avoid the agony of realizing — after having written for the last two weeks — that what you’ve done no longer fits in the book.

When you don’t start a business, you never have to build a product, find a customer, build a website, or pay for leads. You never need to refine your messaging, revise your marketing, or rebuild your model.

The second easiest thing in the world is starting

When you start, you can tell people you’ve done it. You can look at the first room, the first paragraph, or the first customer and say “I did that.” It’s a deserved pride. Not everyone breaks out of the blocks.

Starting is just one step, though. It’s a big one. But it’s also just one. Truth be told, almost everyone starts something.

The third easiest thing in the world is being successful

People whine about fame and success. Please. Are you kidding? Go somewhere else to pop your champagne problems. Author Mark Forsyth said it best: “Nothing succeeds like success.”

Who do you think has a harder time earning revenue — Subway, or Todd’s Sandwich Shop? Which business do you think will sell more gadgets in less time — Apple, or Scott’s Computers? Who do you think will have an easier go at becoming a New York Times Bestseller — Malcolm Gladwell, or Jenny Newblogger?

The hardest thing in the world is to fix what you start

Specifically, it’s fixing the first version. The first version of anything is so darn bad, it’s embarrassing. Always. Every time. Whether you have written one book or fifty, whether you have built one business or twelve, whether you have built one stream of revenue, the first cut cuts the deepest.

Take it from Martin Scorsese, who once pointed out that “if you don’t get physically ill seeing your first cut, something is wrong.”

Martin Scorsese has been in the film industry for 60 years. He has been nominated for an Academy Award 91 times. Do you think you are better than Martin? I am not.

“You always think you won’t get physically ill, but you do,” he says.

After seeing the first cut of his film (and presumably vomiting in the editing room), Scorsese stands up, wipes his mouth, and finishes the job.

Fixing what you first started is difficult because in addition to the new technical challenges required, you also have to overcome your disappointment. It feels as if you’ve let yourself down. “Your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you,” says Ira Glass in his legendary essay called The Gap.

Ira then says this:

“A lot of people never get past that phase. They quit.”

So they do.

Not you though.

If you’ve read this far, it’s likely because you’re avoiding the hard work of fixing your own mess. It’s time to punt procrastination and wade into the work.

It’s time to fix what you started.

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I write books. When you're ready to write yours, call me.

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