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The first step

During last summer’s heatwave I was struggling to get an open mic music night going in our local pub. I can remember standing in front of the microphone playing a song to the landlord, my partner, parents and the one other person who’d given-up his time to come and play, feeling pretty miserable about the situation and wondering what the point was.

Now, six months later, we have a thriving night, well-supported and hugely fun evening. I’ve made new friends through it and enjoyed a huge boost to my confidence.

At the beginning of August last year I stood nervously on the start line at my local parkrun. I didn’t really know how it worked, or anybody there. I’d never knowlingly run 5k before and I had to walk part of it at least twice that morning to get round the course.

Now, five months later, I’m running the distance in a time I never thought possible, booked a marathon place in October and in a couple of weeks am in charge of the whole Saturday morning race as a run director.

Several years ago I had a strange idea to send out an email every day. It felt daunting, possibly stupid and definitely unlikely to succeed. I got a few rude emails back about the idea, but a positive-enough response overall to stick at it.

But now I’ve effectively written at least two books (arguably many more given the paucity of useful content in many business tomes), made a whole host of friendships and picked up enough work to occasionally thrive and generally sustain myself.

In each of these situations I’ve questioned the benefit/point early on, but always been grateful I carried on. Turning up is often the hardest part of anything. Starting. Putting yourself out there.

Over the course of this week I’m going to explore some of the issues around this, and what you can do to make it easier to take those chances.

If you’ve got any thoughts or experiences, add them below – or email tom@tbogh.com if you’d prefer to keep it confidential.

Best wishes,

Tom

4 Comments

  • Russ says:

    For me the key to doing something new is to commit to it. Committing means doing something practical, such as paying the entry fee, advertising the intended event, telling friends and family or indeed anything that makes the start date more real. Once this potentially “hardest” step has been taken we are more likely to actually see our personal challenge through.

    Nothing is as rewarding as overcoming a challenge, but in order to experience this feeling we need to set and commit to our personal challenge first.

    Personally in mid 2018 I was in a dark and unmotivated place. In Aug 2018 I decided to do 12 marathons in 12 months, with the first event being 25 Jan 2019. When I had the “crazy idea” I booked the first event which meant I couldn’t slip the start date. For me this worked as it focussed my mind during those cold winter nights when I didn’t feel like going for a run. I simply visualised myself on the start line and imagined how I would feel if I hadn’t prepared as well as I could have done. Yes I am nervous, I wonder why I am putting myself through it, I suspect I will be in pain and wish I never started this project, but if I achieve it I will get that feeling of success and if I am not successful I will have got fit, sorted my head out and at least I tried.

    • Tom Doggett says:

      Yes, it’s surprising how much power even a small commitment can have, although I think it needs to be a genuine commitment (but this will vary for different people) rather than ‘just’ announcing it. This article from Derek Sivers talks about how simply announcing plans can make you less likely to achieve them. Something like the entry fee makes a big difference – it’s official, you’re committed and as you say you are more likely to see it through.

      That’s a fantastic target you have for this year. Good luck with it – and keep me updated with how you get on.

  • Richard says:

    Tom, really enjoying this series.

    It took me a long while to work out this – that voice in my head, it’s not me, it’s often wrong and knows very little. In order to thrive as a human, with enough work I’ve had to shut it up/out. I’ve had to take the next step – you know the scary one, face the voice shouting at me.

    Lack of exercise – blood pressure off the scale – a run every morning has normalised that – voice said it’ll never work.
    Second book out there – was told it’ll never bring the change, was wrong and should never be released.
    Buying a house in Spain as Brexit was announced – voice was in overdrive – don’t ff’in do it – refurb now complete and a family home created.

    We’ve all got it, the doubt, the neg, family, our own voices – fact is none of know what works until we’ve tried it – and that voice – knows little.

    Thank you.

    • Tom Doggett says:

      Thanks Richard, really interesting. And congratulations on making such positive decisions about your life. The other one I didn’t mention in the email was the music teacher who told me at the age of 14 to not bother as I’d never be able to play anything. Took me almost exactly twenty years to get over that one.

      The irony is, which I’ll touch on this week I’m sure, that you would never talk to someone else the way you talk to yourself (my old music teacher is a possible exception to that rule). You are always far harsher about your own capabilities than your friends and family. Being kinder to yourself is an important start.

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