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Stop Starting, Start Finishing — Why You Need To Do Something All Of The Way

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I’ve talked before how most “life” Advice, even the advice given by those who have accomplished incredible things, is fairly ordinary. For the most part it’s a reworking of advice we’ve been given our whole life: read a lot, exercise, be an independent thinker, work hard.

This repetitiveness points to a fact that we all acknowledge at some level, but seemingly refuse to accept: there are no free rides. There’s no wormhole that will take you from where you are to where you want to be. You’re in charge of your own transformation. You have to do the legwork.

I mentioned Patrick Collison’s advice in particular as his post had gotten widely circulated on Twitter leading to lots of discussion and people chiming in with their own advice.

I was reading through some of the responses when a thread from Julien Smith caught my eye. The reason being that it scared the sh*t out of me.

You can follow Julien’s thread here. It’s fairly short, about 30 tweets worth.

Tweets worth: noun. A measure of length for a written work. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, one of the longest books ever written, clocks in at around 1,000 tweets worth.

Julien echoes some typical advice:

Read an enormous amount of books. More than you think you need to, not the ones that everyone else is reading, and ideally covering a wide range of topics.

He gives some advice that I live by:

…reduce your cost of living as much as possible. It’s effectively your burn rate, and the higher your burn rate, the fewer resources you have to take risks with. ie- Avoid letting your rent make decisions for you.

And then, over the course of a few tweets, he gets to the advice that was a punch to the gut for me:

Perhaps the most important part of being young: this is a period of your life in which you should choose to DO SOMETHING ALL OF THE WAY.
If you flit around from idea to idea without fully realizing any of them, you will enter your 30s feeling as if you have accomplished nothing. Worse, you will feel hesitant to take on anything new. Again, high risk aversion.
It’s important to prove to yourself what you’re capable of doing when you commit to it. This is critical to building confidence in your own abilities for the future. Otherwise you’re like “I’m shit,” when actually the problem is that you don’t commit.
Even if you spend a year writing a book that no one reads, the point is that you wrote it. Now you know that you can write a book — and, consequently, any number of books. (Quality notwithstanding.) You can point to it. You made something that doesn’t exist, exist.
Completion is crucial. Completing something is what lets you say, “I did that.” It’s proof to yourself that you can follow through, which builds immeasurable self-confidence in the future.

DO SOMETHING ALL OF THE WAY… ALL OF THE WAY…. ALL OF THE WAY…. the words kept echoing in my head.

New beginnings are easy. New ideas, new projects, new relationships are full of hope. They’re fresh, exciting. They’re perfect in the same way that pretty girl you once had a great time with at a party and then never saw again is perfect. They’re easy to idealize because they’re not real.

Related to this are David Foster Wallace’s thoughts on the dangers of perfectionism:

You know, the whole thing about perfectionism. The perfectionism is very dangerous, because of course if your fidelity to perfectionism is too high, you never do anything. Because doing anything results in– It’s actually kind of tragic because it means you sacrifice how gorgeous and perfect it is in your head for what it really is.

And Derek Sivers’ quote about ideas just being a multiplier of execution:

To me, ideas are worth nothing unless executed. They are just a multiplier. Execution is worth millions.

Any idea, any project whose only residence has been your head is not real. And the unrealized has the power to haunt. The unrealized leaves you wondering: what would have happened, what could have been… Beware that your grand dreams don’t turn into an albatross hanging around your neck.

Bring your ideas into the physical world. They’re worthless and lonely while they remain stuck in your head. To do something poorly is infinitely better than to never have done at all. Done is better than perfect.


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Stop Starting, Start Finishing — Why You Need To Do Something All Of The Way was originally published in The Ascent on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Stop Starting, Start Finishing — Why You Need To Do Something All Of The Way


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