Back in my journalism days, I had the opportunity to interview countless creative people about their work and achievements.
[NOTE: This is an archived post from an earlier blog, first published on October 10th, 2012]
Whether I was speaking to a writer, musician, filmmaker or anyone else, I would bring the interview to a close with exactly the same question:
“What advice would you give to aspiring writers/musicians/artists looking to follow in your footsteps?”
Without fail, their initial answer was always the same, and almost always underwhelmed me. It was this:
Just do it.
Such words underwhelmed me simply because I was young and hungry, desperately seeking success from the bottom rung of the proverbial ladder.
I wanted them to say “Look, kid – if you want to pursue your goals, this is how it’s done.”
I was asking this question perhaps more for myself than I was for the sake of giving my readers a great quote. I wanted more from these people, especially the ones I looked up to and admired as my influences and heroes. I wanted them to tell me how.
- How do I just do it?
- How do I get started?
- How do I get from where I am now to where I want to be?
Then, a funny thing happened:
I got a little bit older, a little bit (and only a little bit!) wiser and a little bit further on from where I was towards where I ultimately want to be, and I realised that actually, just do it was the best advice anybody could have possibly given.
I realised that you don’t have to wait until all the conditions are right to puruse your goals. If you do, you might never get started.
We’re all different
Fact is we all have different goals, different ambitions, different dreams.
What I might hold in high esteem as my Ultimate Goal might seem to you to be trivial and pointless. What you may consider to the be the pinnacle of success might be to me only the foot of the mountain.
The writers I interviewed could have given me all the practical advice in the world about how to write a novel, how to find an agent, how to market their work.
The musicians could have given me a running commentary on the things they learned whilst in pursuit of a record deal.
It would have been helpful, sure, but not as important or as worthwhile as the simple urging to just do it, just get started and go for it.
Many of us put off pursuing our goals and changing our situation because we convince ourselves that there’s something we need to do or acquire before we can get on with doing it.
If only we had enough time we could write that novel we’ve been dreaming of for years.
- If only we had enough knowledge we could pursue a new career.
- If only we had enough money we could pursue that idea for a business.
- If only we were smart enough we could take up that new hobby
- If only we were fit enough we could sign up for that marathon.
- If only we were good enough we could do anything we wanted.
If only we could stop this kind of thinking, if only we could stop making excuses, we could get on and do it.
So what if the only spare time we have is a 30-minute lunch break? Spend those thirty minutes getting to work on your novel.
So what if the only exercise we ever do is walking to the nearest bar? Sign up for the marathon anyway and start a light training programme.
So what if we’re not good enough?
Do it anyway.
It’s possible to spend so much time trying to create the perfect conditions for pursuing our goals that we never actually get round to doing anything, all the while forgetting that perfect isn’t just almost impossible, it’s entirely unnecessary.
Nor is it necessary to get somebody else to tell you how to achieve those goals.
The only thing necessary is to just do it. Write that first line, play that first note, take that first step from where you are now to where you want to be.