February 19, 2021
The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.
No, the second best time was 19 years and 364 days ago - but I get what you mean.
You read all these stories of the early investors in bitcoin, racking in their millions today, the tech billionaires who got the jump on the competition. Its easy to make yourself believe that you have missed the opportunity for greatness, but in todays climate, that could not be further from the truth.
Whatever you want to do in life, the best time to start is now. Waiting for the perfect opportunity or for confirmation that your idea is good will lead to a paralysing state of inaction. You don’t need validation for your idea to get started. Just get to work, see how you feel about it, and keep going if it feels right.
Take this newsletter for example, my instinct is to feel that I should give readers scientific, solid, evidence-based content. Why would anyone care about me and my opinion? The honest answer is - they probably won't, but that's not stopping me. I'm not writing to garner an audience or for profit, I'm writing because I wanted a way to document my journey, so I just started writing.
This is one of my favourite concepts that I've read about recently after reading "Good to Great" by Jim Collins.
Picture a huge, heavy flywheel—a massive metal disk mounted horizontally on an axle, about 30 feet in diameter, 2 feet thick, and weighing about 5,000 pounds. Now imagine that your task is to get the flywheel rotating on the axle as fast and long as possible. Pushing with great effort, you get the flywheel to inch forward, moving almost imperceptibly at first. You keep pushing and, after two or three hours of persistent effort, you get the flywheel to complete one entire turn. You keep pushing, and the flywheel begins to move a bit faster, and with continued great effort, you move it around a second rotation. You keep pushing in a consistent direction. Three turns ... four ... five ... six ... the flywheel builds up speed ... seven ... eight ... you keep pushing ... nine ... ten ... it builds momentum ... eleven ... twelve ... moving faster with each turn ... twenty ... thirty ... fifty ... a hundred.
Then, at some point—breakthrough! The momentum of the thing kicks in in your favor, hurling the flywheel forward, turn after turn ... whoosh! ... its own heavy weight working for you. You’re pushing no harder than during the first rotation, but the flywheel goes faster and faster. Each turn of the flywheel builds upon work done earlier, compounding your investment of effort. A thousand times faster, then ten thousand, then a hundred thousand. The huge heavy disk flies forward, with almost unstoppable momentum.
It's human nature to look at a successful person or business, and think of a thousand ways in which they could grow their audience / revenue, many of which are easy to implement for them. However - when it comes to going from nothing to something, the idea of growth seems far more aloof.
If you’ve studied chemistry, you’ll know about activation energy - the ‘hump’ of energy required to get a reaction started. It’s the same in real life - if we want to get anything done, we need to first put in a burst of activation energy to begin with, and then things become a lot easier.
To overcome activation energy, you can force yourself to start. Everything takes care of itself after that. I've started telling myself that I'll "only work for 10 minutes", but by the time thats up, I'm too engrossed in what I'm doing to be able to stop.
Building habits and routine is fundamental to productivity and success - in essence; don't think, just do.
All this isn't to say that planning isn't paramount. Don't make a mistake that hundreds have made before you, but there comes a point where no amount of planning will be enough, you'll paralyse yourself.
I recently learned about AI and deep learning, and with so many options for frameworks, I was overwhelmed and frustrated that no one could give me the answer to which was the "best". Eventually, I just said fuck it and picked PyTorch and ran with it, so when it came time to try out another, I had the fundamentals and it was easy to learn!
No amount of planning is a substitute for action, get an idea of what you want to do, write down how you will get there, and figure the rest out on the way!
At the start, stop worrying about the outcome, and just enjoy the journey. After all, "the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" - So stop fucking around, and just start.