Not sure how to get moving on a project? Stop cryin’ and start taking baby steps

Happy January! Welcome to Clean Start week.

The following post was translated from Elena Martín’s original on Idealist’s Spanish language site, Idealistas.

Do you want to help make a difference, but find yourself surrendering even before you begin because you don’t know where to start? Do you keep shaping an idea in your head but not taking any action?

You’re not alone. There are many reasons we can end up feeling lost when we want to change the world. Maybe…

  • You feel overwhelmed by all the elements you think it will take to make your dream a reality.
  • You believe you don’t have the time or energy to commit to a long-term project.
  • You’re not willing to pick just one of your good ideas to focus on.

The list could stretch to infinity. But whatever the reason, if you’re just standing by, paralyzed by procrastination and toying with excuses, fears, and doubts, you won’t ever start.

Luckily, there’s one simple key that can get any project going. It’s called: Just start somewhere.

It doesn’t really matter where. Your first step will dictate where your next one should be, and the dominoes will fall from there. You just have to get started.

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Don’t know where you’re going? That’s okay. Just take the first step.
(photo courtesy Shutterstock)

Step by step

Here are some ways to take that first good step. Try them, and your project will begin to take shape.

  • Verbalize your idea. Share it with your friends and peers; speak it out loud. Talking about your project will generate a stronger commitment to yourself to take action. You even stand a good chance of finding allies among your listeners who will want to help so you don’t have to act alone.
  • Focus your magnitude. If you’re thinking of an idea so big that you can’t imagine how to address it, scale it back and start with something smaller. For example, if you want to fight hunger, don’t start with a goal to end hunger all over the world. Instead, begin by learning how to help those suffering from hunger in your own community and scale your efforts up from there.
  • Find a similar project. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Do some research and see if you can find a person or organization doing the same type of work you want to do. If you can identify a few, you can ask for their advice or see if they’re interested in joining your project—or you might find that you want to join theirs! This practice will save you time and enrich your perspective.
  • Divide and conquer. Define the main things you need to accomplish in order to reach your goal and write them out in chronological order as best you can. Then set time limits to meet each of the steps (you’ll have to estimate; just try to be realistic). Your goals and the timeline are likely to change as you progress, so modify the list as you go. But if you stay committed to it, you’ll keep your focus and avoid getting distracted.
  • Just take action, here and now. Think: what’s one step I can commit to right now? What’s one step I can take today? Don’t think about it too much; it doesn’t have to be anything big. In fact, at the beginning, it should be just enough to give you the feeling that you’ve taken action and gotten the ball rolling. This will motivate you to do more!

In short, if you don’t know where to start, just start by completing a first step as soon as possible. As Anne Frank wrote, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

What project would you love to work on this year? What first step are you taking to start it?

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Start right now! Tips for aspiring social entrepreneurs

Being graduation season, we asked some of the most innovative thinkers in Colorado to share some advice with young and aspiring social entrepreneurs. Check out what they had to say, why Colorado a great place to let your imagination flourish, and how you can get started right now.

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Photo via Hampton Roads Partnership on Flickr’s Creative Commons.

I’m an aspiring social entrepreneur. What should I be considering?

Tamra Ryan, Social Enterprise Alliance Colorado Chapter Chair and CEO, Women’s Bean Project: Look to what others have done, and when seeking advice, be specific about what you need. The community of those who have already done this work is invaluable; at Women’s Bean Project we have 24 years of mistakes to reflect upon and learn from – and help others avoid.

Nathaniel Koloc, CEO, ReWork: Make sure you love and are invested in the idea you’re working on. Building a company is really hard work and you’ll need the motivation to get through the rough points and the uncertainty. Also, it’s going to take a lot of your time, so you might as well spend that time on something that feels very worthwhile.

Banks Benitez, VP of Partnerships, Unreasonable Institute: Be proactively coachable – open to receive advice when offered; some of the best entrepreneurs we work with have this quality. They go out and ask for advice, recognize what they don’t know, are aware of their blind spots, and seek understanding about what’s coming. They seek out mentors who can help and have walked the same path. Proactively coachable entrepreneurs recognize the limitations of their knowledge and have the humility to ask for help.

Micah Williams, Marketing + Special Projects, TEDxMileHigh: Be useful to others. Be a connector. Go out on a limb for someone. Aspiring entrepreneurs do most for themselves when they strive to do the most for others. Selfish, power-hungry, and narcissistic are characteristics of 20th-century iron-fisted leadership. We’ve arrived to a new century, where seeking avenues to do good for others is what sets people, and organizations, apart.

What makes Colorado so fertile in innovation? It seems like many businesses and ideas are first taking root here.

Tamra: We’ve always been pioneers in Colorado, with lots of energy and creativity, and it carries over into social enterprise.

Nathaniel: I think the quality of life in Colorado (very high), the outlook (progressive), and the style (laid back and accessible) has combined to make it a place where the “activation energy required” for innovation is low. It’s easy to get people to try pilots and prototypes, it’s easy to connect with decision-makers and get advice, etc. So things that elsewhere would get killed by inertia (and judgment), are able to take off and learn to fly in Colorado.

Micah: The massive growth and excitement in Colorado is a realization of years of backend work on improving its infrastructure, managing its growth, keeping money local, and protecting what makes Colorado intrinsically awesome: the 300+ days of sunshine, the towering snow-capped mountains, the endless outdoor activities less than an hour from major cities, and innovative research institutions that churn out jobs and educated young minds.

What can I do to get started right now?

Tamra: Look into the Social Enterprise Alliance; they have many resources for social enterprises. The Colorado Chapter has local events throughout the year. Follow us on Facebook!

Nathaniel: If you are starting a company and haven’t taken the time to understand what lean methodology is all about, you should stop everything you are doing and do that. Also look at design thinking and agile.

Banks: Attend entrepreneurial events and get embedded in the entrepreneurial community.

Micah: Seek meaningful relationships. That’s the number one resource we have as entrepreneurs. Don’t rely on a ‘great network;’ rely on great friends. Surround yourself with curious people who dream big. Finally, always remember the words of Ben Franklin: “Well done…is better than well said.” Yes!


Want to learn more? Micah also recommends reading Unreasonable Institute’s blog and PandoDaily, as well as attending the TEDxMileHigh event on June 15.

In Colorado? Banks thinks you should check out New Tech; Ignite Boulder; Silicon Flatirons Center; and the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship at CU Boulder. 

Learn more about Colorado month at Idealist!

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