Start Before You’re Ready

Life of a Project. jpg

The main lesson from boot camp this week was something I have been hearing a great deal for the past two or three years. Marie Forleo impressed it upon us at her last Rich Happy Hot Live event in 2012. Almost all the folks whose newsletter I subscribe to – from online business coaches to “conscious” entrepreneurs – have all written about this at one point or another.

“Start before you’re ready.”

I used to think that starting before I was ready was the precise reason I had difficulty seeing certain projects to fruition. I would have this grand vision in my mind of what I wanted the final product to be. No matter how much I tempered my ambition, what I envisioned always surpassed my resources. Still I’d be so enamored with the idea that I would start anyway. I’d take some pretty bold steps running on little more than passion.

And passion is a master at manipulation. Passion makes you believe, “Whatever I don’t know, I’ll learn. Whatever I don’t have, I’ll get. Whoever I don’t know, I’ll meet.”

How many times I’ve dove in because of passion having forgotten how damn fickle he is. I’ll invest scant time, energy even money into something based on his promises. In fairness to him, he’s pretty reliable in the beginning. I’ll face those first, unforeseen obstacles, and Passion and me, we’ll power through them like the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman.

Steve and Jamie

Hurdling past those first few challenges, I’ll gain momentum. Often the vision gets bigger even as the resources are dwindling. No matter. I feel unstoppable.

Then the first major challenge rears its head. It’s not always something insurmountable. It’s just big. And unexpected.

Sometimes the obstacle is not even related to the project. It’s just life happening. I remember being in the middle of producing my web series and online network HomeGirl.TV when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2012. I could say that was the reason I put the project on hiatus, and no one would blame me. The truth, however, is that my diagnosis became a handy excuse for putting HomeGirl.TV on pause because I was already blindsided and disappointed in a certain aspect of the project. (Another thing we learned at boot camp this week is the need to make assumptions and test them. I had made an assumption about HomeGirl.TV that did not pan out, and it was demoralizing. The lesson is one that I’ve taken into another one of my side projects the Feminist Love Project.)

And so often when that first huge challenge shows up – the one that reminds me just how I have even less time, energy and money to address it – where the hell’s Passion at? Over there flirting with the next idea. When he’s really callous, he’s stirring up old feelings with an ex i.e. that side project started and abandoned before the current one.

So what’s going to be different with the Picture Me Rollin’ ecourse? My guess is it’s going to be Orbital’s distinct mixture of accountability, community and actionability (I’m a writer. I make up words. You’ll live.) With any project, there’s a seemingly endless to-do list. The Orbital faculty has charged us to just identify one priority each week and get that task done. If we do more, excellent. If that one task is all that we complete, hey, our project is still moving forward. We share with each other what that priority task is and are holding each other accountable for getting it done. No one wants to keep coming back every week with a status update that starts with, “Well, I was gonna but, you know, because life….”

But it’s not like with past endeavors I didn’t have some form of community, accountability and actionability. I have several ideas as to why boot camp is a different experience, but I’m going to let some time past before I expound on that. I have this suspicion that over the next few weeks, a lot of assumptions I had about how to get things done are about to be blown out of the water.

For now the assumption I’m testing is that there are people who will want to take this ecourse. My task for the week was to reach out to people on my mailing list who said they wanted to be beta participants when I was ready to rock. Starting waaay before I’m ready, I not only sent out an email to this list, I also posted the call for testers on Twitter and Facebook. The call includes a survey/”application” (which you can find here if you’re interested.) I’m seeking a maximum of fifty people, but my goal is to recruit at minimum fifteen by the end of next week.

Progress: I’m halfway towards my goal, and the majority have come through tagging specific people on my Facebook post. Does this surprise me? No, I had many reasons to suspect that relying on my mailing list wasn’t the way to go. More on that once the deadline has passed.

And talk about accountability. I never would’ve thought never mind dared to attempt to recruit participants until I was much farther along in developing the content for the course. That would have put me at great risk of taking far too long to get it done if at all. Instead I now have this level of buy-in – one of my fellow boot campers described the first page of my survey as “intimidating” so completing it says something about a person’s willingness to commit to the process – that requires me to produce.

Doing this has also reacquainted me with one of the pleasurable byproducts that often emerges when one takes actionable steps towards completing a project. Sometimes you show up, knock out that bite-sized task and realize you’ve got the bandwidth to do a little somethin’, somethin’ more. Before you know it, you’re creating far more than you thought you could.

Working on the survey got me thinking about how I’m going to deliver the novel to my participants since I need to republish it. Next thing I know, I’m messing around with Canva and have the mockup of a new book cover for not only PICTURE ME ROLLIN’ but my two other Black Artemis novels. I only discovered Canva a week ago, and I saw myself being very methodical about learning how to use it – tutorial by tutorial – before attempting to make anything.

Yeah, I’m pretty stoked I didn’t do that.

BAM Book Cover Collage