I used to want to own a castle. I still do. But as I got older, I began to want other things more attainable than a castle.
I wanted to make a living entirely from my writing, for example. (Done.) I wanted to own a motorcycle named Butch Cassidy. (Being made by a mechanic friend of mine as we speak.) I wanted to learn how to whistle. (This is apparently about as feasible as getting Leonardo DiCaprio to show up on my doorstep and pledge his undying devotion to me. Why do you elude me, whistle?)
All of these were and are big goals for me. How did I get them to happen? How do I get other, bigger things to happen in the future? And, since you people really don’t give a damn about my goals and prefer your own, how do you get your big goals to happen?
We’re not talking about little goals, like come-up-with-a-business-name goals. We’re talking the really big stuff. The scary-big stuff. The wet-yourself-big-stuff.
Repeat after me, good people: “The way to scary-big is through stupid-small.” It sounds silly, but it’s true. Being silly also helps you from being afraid of it. Stupid-small is the way to go.
Start with your big goal. Let’s take my goal of earning a living entirely by writing. When I first began, my stupid small goal was to be hired, just once, for a writing job. Didn’t matter how small, didn’t matter how low-paying. If it was a cool enough job, I’d do it for free.
Thankfully, my mother was in marketing, so I got my very first writing gigs through her. First goal attained.
Next goal. Again, a stupid-small step up from the last one. I wanted to get someone other than my mother to hire me. Since my mother knew many people, a lot of whom needed copywriters, I asked if I could talk to some of her contacts.
I got my next few jobs from there. Goal attained.
Next goal. The stupid-small step from getting contacts-of-contacts to hire me was getting complete strangers to hire me. Since stupid-small did not involve me acquiring the knowledge to market myself, I went after people who were actively looking for copywriters, so I didn’t have to sell them on the concept of hiring a writer, just on hiring me.
I got that goal too. From there I got my first freelance gigs. From there I got my first long-term clients and became part of James’ team. Which is where I am now, steadily earning a living by my pen.
I remind you where I started: I was working for my mother. I did not try to get out there and convince people to throw enough money at me so that I could make a living from the get-go.
I started stupid, stupid-small. But I made it.
The nice thing about stupid-small is that the next step up looks that hard or out of reach. You can also speed up the process anytime you want. If I had worked hard at moving up the steps, I could’ve gone from working for my mother to making a workable annual salary in about a year.
I didn’t, mostly because I had college to deal with and a long-term in-house position in the middle. But I could have.
So can you.
Start stupid-small. Pick something today that helps you toward your goal. If it helps, start with the goal itself and work backward, stupid-small step by stupid-small step, until you get to a step that’s feasible right now.
Then you’ll have all the steps plotted out in advance, which is very helpful when you’re trying to figure out if a step is worthwhile or not.
Right now, I’m working on getting that castle again. My first stupid-small step? Fixing what I owe to have a better credit rating so I can easily get a loan. Every week, I’m socking away a stupid-small amount of money toward my debt.
And you know what? I’m getting there. If I can have a castle (and I can and I will), you can get your business off the ground. You can do anything. Any of us can do anything.
“So hey,” James says. “Does that mean you can learn to whistle?”
“No,” I say. “And shut up.”
What’s your goal? And what’s your stupid-small first step?