Justin Cooke

February 21, 2012

Getting started with something new…something we’ve never attempted before can be terrifying. We ask ourselves questions like, “What if I’m wasting my time?” “What if it doesn’t work out for ME?” “What if I don’t know enough or aren’t good enough?” These questions nag at us and we start to think that if we JUST had enough information or some assurance it would work out, we’d have no problem getting started. If only I knew it would work for me…THEN I’d _____. We can end up waiting for assurances that won’t ever come and miss out on great opportunities when they present themselves if we don’t take action.

There are experts that offer to sell us the information that will get us there, but how do we know if they’re being honest about their success? Their process? Others (like us) give it away for FREE, but you still have to wonder whether it’s actually as easy as they make it out to be…will it really work out for you? Maybe if I was absolutely sure it would work out for me I’d take action…know the feeling?

The “Analysis Paralysis” Problem

Some of us end up doing a ton of research about the when’s, how’s, why’s, etc. before we’re willing to get started. We look to others that are further ahead and ask for advice. We ask those around us for assurances that it will work out for us if we get started. Ultimately, if you take in enough information and enough time goes by, you start to doubt your ability to make it work as there’s so much conflicting information available. (Using the example of niche site creation: Should you spin content or not spin content to article directories? Should you include more or less content on the sites? Should you work on niche sites or authority sites? What if the AdSense account were to get disabled? etc.)

The “Get Started” Window

I’m not saying you shouldn’t research a subject before you get started, but the research should be limited to figuring out whether the project or idea is viable and then to the steps you need to take to get startedthat’s it! For most of us, myself included, going past that point is when doubt starts to creep in and we begin second-guessing ourselves.

Another sign you’ve waited too long to get started is when you feel an overwhelming urge to tell people about what you’re GOING to do. There’s a great article from Derek Sivers that lays out the reasons why talking about something before you do it is a sure-fire way to ensure that it never gets done. (TED video on the subject here) The basic principle is that by talking about it you get a sense of satisfaction, similar to the feeling you might have if you’ve already completed it. It’s a little painful to think that this applies to us too, but the truth is that it’s likely we’re the rule here and not the exception

Signs You’ve Missed The Boat

cognitive dissonanceOnce the doubt has crept in or we start feeling the cognitive dissonance that comes from telling people we’re going to do something and not getting started, there are a couple of options for us:

  1. Justify Not Getting Started – We begin the process of convincing ourselves or others that there are serious flaws, it wouldn’t have worked for us, the “experts” are not being truthful, etc. It’s painful to think we missed an opportunity, so we take potential problems and extrapolate them, making mountains out of molehills.
  2. New Shiny Object Syndrome – We completely forget about our original plan and distract ourselves with the something brighter, newer, and “better”. We then proceed to tell our friends or family ALL about the new thing we’re chasing and completely dismiss any questions regarding our previous plans.

#2 isn’t as tempting for me because the questions from friends/family end up getting to me and I can’t easily move past them, but I have friends that struggle with this one. #1 is my personal fall-back of choice, unfortunately. I love to argue/debate, so I can readily come up with counterpoints to my original plan that make it seem MUCH less appealing, thereby justfying my lack of action!

On Learning Vs. Action

I like Sebastian Marshall’s post discussing Learning Vs. Action. Not getting started seems like the safer bet…you can’t fail if you never start, right? The problem (and he argues this well, I think) is that the best learning comes THROUGH taking action, not researching the mistakes and successes of others. So…let’s do that! We need to get started, reminding ourselves it’s only a learning experience.

You’ll Figure It Out Along The Way

Many successful businesses and entrepreneurs end up doing something considerably different from what they set out to do. (Consider Groupon starting as a social philanthropy project or Facebook as a way to rate hot chicks at your college.  Check this out to see pictures of the rooms and garages that started it off for many of the top internet companies today.) It’s only by actually getting started that you’re able to figure out where you can best create value and get paid for it. Trust your instincts, get started today, and don’t be afraid to head down the rabbit hole…you might be surprised where it leads you!

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Discussion
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  1. pauls_pad2002 says:

    interesting reading this . ive built 6 sites so far and have only recently had ad sense added to them. before i knew what i was doing i jumped in and attached analytic s, and ad sense before i figured out a plan of how i was going to structure things. now i find my self all over the place with my tracking. i get a little distracted by research. i get emails regarding some new stuff and i start reading and before i know it im on some new sites reading like mad trying to justify why im not carrying on with that important stuff,. ive made only $1 on ad sense im trying to get back links but its stuttering as im fairly new and dont know too much and im also down under here in new zealand and IM isnt that known here i so wish i was in USA. it seems every man and his dog follow online marketing or something in the make money online niche. i think whats lacking in the world of making money online is the real down to the nitty gritty nuts and bolts of how everything is done on a more step by step program for dummies or people that dont even know how to open up a document. its easy to say people have done back linking and article marketing and submissions to certain directories but what you dont get told is the price , its easy to say get aweber and grow your list but when your starting out that is all a bit daunting, knowing what to offer where to create it how to get it who to do it. the list goes on. basically guys needing to finsh my story its really good to have more of a step by step sequential process going on to make it easier to learn. hopefully by the end of the year and after i buy long tail pro i can start creating better websites with more targeted keywords cheers

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey Paul…that’s great you’ve gotten started! It sounds like the next learning process for you is how to get control of your tracking, research, etc. Get that under control and you’ll start screwing something ELSE up and you’ll move on to a new learning experience…that’s what happens with me at least, heh.

      We hesitate to say something like “Follow our process exactly and you’ll find success” as it might not be true. In fact, it’s probably unlikely. We DO try to provide our experiences as openly and honestly as we can so that you can take pieces of what we’re doing and apply it to your business. I think that’s the best we can do.

      We will have a much more detailed write-up on our process that will be released soon. And, yes…it will be FREE! :-)

  2. Kent Chow says:

    Justin, this is a great post. It’s a nice reminder myself that I get to take actions, do it, and try out. Sometimes failure is my best teacher. I spent too much time reading and thinking. We don’t need to know perfect steps before taking actions.

    Take building Adsense niche sites as an example, I started with little knowledge and steps, through the Trial and Error Process, I made $800 in the last 8 mos. It’s not whole a lot of income comparing to what you guys do and your outsourcing scale.

    At least it showed me that this business model works. I don’t need another New Shiny Object. Recently, I am slowing down and working to FOCUS and get this process right, reproducible, and outsourcing. I’m sure that I am growing into $1K a month as my 2012 goal.

    March is coming along and I am getting started again!

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Awesome, Kent…glad you liked the post! Writing it was a good reminder for me too, lol.

      You only made $800…but how much would you have made if you wouldn’t have started, right? Most would say that $800 in 8 months hardly seems worth it…but IF 2 years from now you’re sitting back making 10K/month you’ll remember your beginnings fondly! I was listing to a LBP episode today where they talked about your long term vision and how it’s measured in years, NOT months…I think that’s damn true.

  3. What you pointed out in the post is absolutely correct. I just would like to add that most entrepreneurs had that fear when they were just starting out. The fear that they’re doing something wrong. And mostly likely that’s exactly what’s happening to us when we think about it.

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Totally agree, Kenneth. That’s why it’s so important to get started…so that you’re that much closer to finding out if you’re actually wrong or not! What I end up doing is almost ALWAYS different from where I started…almost 100% of the time, in fact. It’s through getting started that I get the chance to figure out I need to make adjustments, heh.

  4. Benny says:

    Nicly said. very motivational!

  5. Google analytics questions here: I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve added 25 websites to my google analytics account and it now say I’ve reached my limit. How have you guys gotten past that limit?

  6. “The problem is that the best learning comes THROUGH taking action, not researching the mistakes and successes of others.”

    This resume PERFECTLY what everyone should do… taking action! That’s actually an awesome post and I hope a lot of your readers are gonna take it seriously and take action upon it!

    If it can help anyone.. I’d say that probably 75% of people reading this post know enough to start making some good passive income… so ACT and use your knowledge guys!

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Thanks…really glad to hear you liked the post, Jon!

      It’s funny writing a post…that people are reading…that’s telling them to STOP READING! hehe Ok, I guess I’m assuming (hoping) that they’re reading for just a bit of information, a dash of entertainment, and a nice chunk of motivation!

      • It really is funny, but at the same time kinda sad that SO MANY people don’t do anything when they have twice the knowledge needed to make hundreds a month… guess there is more dough for us, but still hehe.

        If anyone stuck in this situation of NON-PRODUCTIVENESS (aka leaving money on the table), the best advice I could give is to get accountable. Network and get a skype group up with other people like you or join a community.

        You guys never talked about why being 2 probably helped you stay motivated and keep moving forward, but I’m sure it did help you a lot (and probably still!).

  7. dano says:

    I completely agree with the article and what you just said in one of the comments, checking Adsense, checking Google Webmaster Tools, checking email, checking IM forums, checking the newspaper, checking another song on Youtube, grabbing something to eat, to drink, checking IM blogs, reading another wso or make money topic and then before you know it it’s bed time again and effectively nothing done for the day. Ofcourse you will always learn a few small things during such day but when you do this long enough there is nothing added to what you already know to make money right now!

    I don’t really understand why that is, when I work for an employee I always work hard so the time passes by fast. Then I come up with excuses like I have no money to outsource content, register domains, build paid links and at the same time I outsource a WordPress plugin to a programmer that automates twittering new published posts and automatically scrapes an article related to the post, insert the links, and submit it to highPRsociety. Yeah great, another $100 burned on something that is in fact not needed right now. Such scripts are nice when you have tons of websites but for now it’s just a luxury that I will hardly use cause when there are no posts to publish there’s nothing to automate. Still I’m real happy with the plugin though as it kills the repetitive nature of building links.

    Oh well, some day it will all change :)

  8. Dave Starr says:

    Really some words here that needed to be said,and even more than that, acted upon.

    An interesting parallel to the taking action with an entrepreneurial effort is the interest of a large number of folks in one of my primary niches .. people trying to decide if they want to continue where they live now, or if they should move to the Philippines to live.

    I got readers who have been “researching” for well over 10 years now, and they still haven’t done one concrete thing to make it happen. The reason most of them give for inaction?

    “Well, gee, I almost had my mind made up last year, but then so-and-so said that this happened, or that happened, so now I have to wait until I am sure things won’t change again.”

    News flash! Things ARE going to change, They are going to change whether you sit by and watch, and they are going to change if you take action to live your dream one way or another.

    The primary question to ask yourself is, do you want to star in your own action movie, or watch yet another movie from the comfort of your couch?

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey, Dave…I COMPLETELY see your point and think this totally applies in your niche, for sure. Lots and lots of research, but no action… I would imagine in your situation, you wouldn’t want to spend too much time talking to those who continue to do just that…talk about it. It must be a bit irritating for YOU, right?

      I didn’t feel great about writing this article…I think I could have done much better. But…I got it done, right! For the people that come across our blog and this article in particular that are in this situation, I hope it speaks to them. They can close out the page/site and get to work! :-)

  9. Steve A says:

    Great article Justin,

    I’m constantly tempted by the shiny object and have had to force myself to concentrate on just the one thing for a while (i.e. adsense sites). I’m thinking of imposing a rule on myself that I won’t do anything else until i hit say, $100 a day. Then, I’ll try a shiny object :)

    Cheers

    • JustinWCooke says:

      I like rules like that, Steve. I work well sometimes when I make things into a “game”. Setting goals and then allowing yourself the prize of looking around at other stuff works for me as well.

  10. I think that there are basically two sorts of internet entrepreneurs – frequent Adsense checkers and lazy Adsense checkers. While the first group keeps checking their Adsense account (or Analytics) several times a day members of the second group just check the Adsense account once a month to see how much they have earnt for the past month. Frequent checkers tend to put off work to be done and are rarely successful in their business. Frequent Adsense checking is a kind of “excuse” or “analysis” you need to perform before you start the real work. I think the only 2 things one needs to succeed online are patience and confidence. It is necessary to stick to the plan even if we cannot see the results immediately as the success is much closer to failure than we might think.

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Ack…

      I love your point about “checking” your various stats online and I don’t think that’s limited to your AdSense account…or Analytics even. You can get caught up checking email, checking reports from VA’s, checking Facebook, etc. Less checking and more doing is the key, eh?

      I’m a bit embarassed to admit but your comment REALLY speaks to me. I can easily turn into one of those “checkers”…that’s my default. I have to fight through that to get stuff done.

      • Hello Justin – no need to be embarassed. It is actually great to see that someone with such “default” has a successful online business. After all it is good to see the income go up :).

        I must frankly admit that I also have this default mainly as far as e-mails are concerned. I check them too much. But when it comes to work I sometimes prefer washing up, cleaning the office or just having a chat with my fellow colleagues. No one is perfect. Best wishes and keep doing your great work. You really are a great source of inspiration for me!

  11. Carlos says:

    I can definitely identify myself!

    For a while I thought that I needed to do a lot of research to maximize my chances of success. But after a while I realized that:
    1) Research is usually more fun than implementing your system
    2) If I didn’t try I COULDN’T FAIL! I couldn’t succeed either obviously. But I think that was my main obstacle: what if after all the research it didn’t work?

    How did I overcome my block? Similar to Johan. I wrote down the system I wanted to follow and then planned the worked to be done in the next month.
    I force myself to do planned work first thing in the morning, and more research or shiny objects are only allowed in the evening.

    • JustinWCooke says:

      If Shiny Objects are a distraction, I definitely like the idea of “rewarding” yourself by allowing yourself to chase after them AFTER some of your goals have been accomplished. For me, that’s a great way to get down to business on the first project before chasing the next, hehe.

  12. Marcus says:

    Thanks for writing this. So true, there is so much information out there, it’s easy to fall into the trap of, “I just need to read ONE more thing, and then I’ll get started.” I think this is a big problem for beginners, because they want to look like a pro at the start.

    Two great signs you need to just get started:

    1) When you read a new article, it’s mostly stuff you already know. It means you’re well-read in your niche and you’ve got enough know-how to build something.

    2) You read an advanced article and don’t get it, because the article is based on experience (that you don’t have yet because you haven’t started). For example, when I read stuff on split-testing, I don’t fully understand, because I’ve never run split tests on my sites.

    Good point about tweaking and even changing direction along the way. It’s nice to have a plan, but nothing is set in stone. I like to refer to an article from Mashable titled, “11 Startups that Found Success by Changing Direction”
    http://mashable.com/2011/07/08/startups-change-direction/

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey Marcus,

      I just got through the Mashable article you included…great add there, man! It’s funny how companies like Woot or PayPal started off with MUCH smaller ambitions, hehe.

  13. Johan Woods says:

    Great take on a very common problem. I’ve had this problem for years!

    Lately, though, I’ve been overcoming it.

    How? I get in over my head. I take on a lot of work. This way, I can’t do anything but take action. A cornered animal can only fight, not take flight.

    I also strongly agree that you’ll learn best by taking action and engaging. I learned a lot from reading your stuff on niche sites, but learned the most from making them and engaging in it.

    I’ve also found that I I get clarity from engagement, not from thinking about it. Whenever I face a choice or an unsure of something, my new default action is to try it. That’s how I find out if I like it or not and can do it or not.

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Taking on a ton of work helps me sometimes as well.

      Still…sometimes I get overwhelmed…and that causes me to be LESS risky by sticking to what I know. For me, there’s a benefit to clearing my plate. It takes away some of my personal excuses that I use to avoid something new! hehe

    • dano says:

      Taking on a lot of work sure helps, I started selling seo services at the warriorforum so I am forced to take action when I get an order. That works out pretty well for me, don’t get as much work as expected but at least it enables me to fund my current sites.

  14. Ronaldec7 says:

    I am so guilty of this habit and perhaps fear. To be busy with no fruits from your labour. To chase after distractions. Guilty as charged.

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