Justin Cooke

November 1, 2011

I often struggle with being a little too self-critical, especially when it comes to business.  I’m not talking about the fake answer we all give to a “Name your faults” question in an interview where you give the pre-planned jargon about working too hard and being TOO much of a perfectionist.  No, I’m talking about a more consistent fear of putting out content, products, and services that I don’t feel are really good enough.  A dehabilitating fear that can keep me from being great and leave me wallowing in the pits of the mediocre.

I’ve been thinking about this quite a lot the last week or so and, in reading the many emails we’ve received in the last few months, realize that I’m not alone.  I think this problem (or some variation of it) is what keeps people from getting started on projects, constantly questioning the viability or the details without just jumping in, focusing on minute details that keep them from actually starting, etc.  If you’re on the fence about starting something new (or scary) or are worried so badly about the potential outcome that you are struggling to get started, I wanted to give you a few tips and strategies that have helped me and may help you take those first few steps to realizing that you probably don’t suck as bad as you think you do!

1. Obvious To You, Amazing To Others

I first came across this concept in a post Derek Sivers wrote, that states how easy it is to look at someone else’s work and think it’s genius, but that person you think is a genius might think their work is just averageor even worse.  Here’s a time lapse painting from Picasso, considered one of the best painters ever.  Notice how many changes he made from start to finish to create this masterpiece.

Recently, we’ve just launched the AdSense Flippers Podcast (available on iTunes as well!) and it’s been a pretty nervewracking start for me.  I actually prefer speaking live in front of an audience to being recorded, as strange as that sounds, so there were some difficulties to get through.  Not to mention the fact that we’re insanely impressed with the LifestyleBusinessPodcast and their overall quality.  David, a friend of ours, was nice enough to point out that we shouldn’t be comparing our first episode to their 78th and he urged and invited us to go back to listen to their first few episodes.  Wow…what a difference!  I was amazed at their improvement and quickly realized we actually might not suck as bad as I thought!  Still…I was shocked to get this email from Matthias:

“Kick-ass podcast by the way, looking forward to more of them man.  Sounds like you guy’s have some broadcast experience, polished product & sweet content.”

Obvious (Average) to us and amazing to others?  You bet!  (Thanks, Matthias…I thought you were messing with us at first and then realized you made my day, lol)

2. Just Ship It

Guys like Seth Godin talk a lot about just shipping and not waiting or putting it off.  Their message? Get. It. Out.  If you look at some famous authors like Stephen King you’ll see that that he hits his deadlines and makes sure to ship, ensuring another massive advance on his next project.  Or consider Jackson Pollock who says there are no mistakes and he’s not afraid of changes…he’s just “trying to let the painting live”.

Waiting is going to cost you time and that time costs you money.  Putting your product or service out there, even if it’s not what you would consider quite ready, is the best way to really test the market and see if what you’re offering is something you should pursue.  Let’s say you put it out there and it’s horrible…nobody likes what you’re offering.  Wouldn’t you be glad you didn’t spend additional months or years chasing after a dream that, ultimately, people don’t want?  Let’s say you put it out and it’s NOT up to snuff and you get tons of emails and feature requests.  That’s great! It means people cared enough about what you’re doing or what you’ve built to invest their time and energy to improve it with you.  That’s feedback you can’t buy and will lead you to an end product that’s way better than you could have built or dreamt up yourself.  An idea never attempted is infinitely worse than failure in the long run.

3. Quantity Vs. Quality? No…Quantity PRODUCES Quality

For a great example of this, consider this interesting pottery class from the book Art And Fear.  The instructor tells one half of the class their grade will be measured by the weight of pottery they produced only and the other half of the class that their only responsibility is to create the BEST pot they can possibly make and they will be graded on the quality of that one pot.  At the end of the class all of the pots are laid out and people are invited in to review and grade which pots were the best.  Overall, the pots that were considered and graded to be the best came from those that were graded in the class on weight and NOT on the quality of their one pot.

Dan and Ian had Sebastian Marshall on one of their recent epsidoes of the LBPodcast and they discussed a scientific study that was done.  It turns out that when comparing scientific papers and journals, Einstein didn’t have the most groundbreaking discoveries when compared to his peers.  What he did have, however, was an absolutely insane amount of content and research done…so that when looked at in aggregate, Einstein blew the rest away and had more opportunities to be “awesome”.  Do that.  Give yourself more opportunities to be amazing.

4. Obsessiveness Is Good (When Followed By Action)

I’m the type of person that will go through periods of time completely obsessing over one particular thing or another.  I’ve gone through periods where I researched the shit out of random things…from leaked CIA documents related to all kinds of worldwide events (Cuban assassination attempts, Project MKULTRA, etc.) to, more recently, how to record, edit, and produce a podcast that doesn’t suck.  It’s somewhat difficult for me to control what my next mini-obsession will be focused on, so it’s best for me to surround myself and my life with subjects where the output or potential for that obsession will positively impact my life or business.  From a business perspective, it can be somewhat annoying I’m sure.  I’m lucky enough to have a business partner that will let me blather on about whatever it is I’m looking at or researching next and discerning enough to know whether to try to dissuade or encourage. (Or to keep his mouth shut long enough to figure it out which is best!)

The difficult trick becomes turning that research and obsession into output.  Pulling actionable bits and pieces from a stream of information and then pulling the trigger and starting the work.  Something that really helps me get started is to break down what I need/want to do into very small bite-sized pieces.  It’s much easier to start something when you don’t have to look at the big picture.  If you have the big picture in mind…forget about it and start with that one, small step that will get the ball running and get you to your goal.

5. Be Risky…It’s Only Your First Version

There are some of you who have lost your jobs and are desperate to find a way to make money online.  Others have awfully large goals that may require them to go through quite a bit of pain to achieve them. (Quitting your job, moving away from family and friends, etc.)  In some ways those people might have it easier and actually have an enviable positionbeing forced into action can be quite the positive motivator.  For the rest of us that have jobs and a relatively stable financial situation, why not take a stab at it?

When we started the AdSenseFlippers project, we had just lost a major outsourcing client, but the rest of our clients were still pretty stable and providing a liveable income and our work with TryBPO could be considered our “jobs”.  We knew there would be some costs involved in getting everything up and running, but we decided to take a leap of faith and see it through.  Even if our planned approach didn’t work out as expected, we knew that whatever we learned through the experience would be something we could build on and the next approach or iteration might be the one that would be a breakthrough for our business.  Having some financial stability is EXACTLY why you should take a little time and spend a little money to reach for something you really want.

I still struggle with being a bit hard on myself, but keeping the 5 strategies above in mind helps me tremendously.  Now, I hand it over to you.  What are your fears in taking the next step?  What do you struggle with when it comes to getting started?  Let us know in the comments below.


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  1. guest says:

    Whats keeping me from started are the funds to get started. Yes I could start with a few sites and spent a lot of time on building links to this site cause I can’t afford the tools to do it automatically. I could buy AMR and socialdemon but I’m afraid that won’t do the job and throw away another 150 euro. Plus say I start 3 sites and they make $10-20/month, thats going terrible slow for a lot of time invested.

    Then I could take the other route and sign up for BMR, submit your article and Onlywire, which is all together close to $200/month, which is affordable, BUT BUT BUT, the costs won’t stay at $200/month cause to take full advantage of it I would need people to outsource the articles to which is costly, I would need at least 20 sites to cover the montly cost (expecting the worse $10/month a site), then the hosting costs and 20*domaincosts which again adds up to a few hundred dollars and then I haven’t even covered the costs of creating content for my sites and for BMR / SubtmityourArticle.

    Micro niche sites is a good plan if you have 5k to spent to take it on big with 50 sites, but if you have a few 100 spare it’s hard to make a good start without spending 100’s of hours with such little roi.

    So there you have your answer, I think this is what most people realise and which holds them from taking action.

    • Or you could take those couple of sites that are earning and flip them for 10-15x monthly revenue at public auction like we do and use that for your start up funds. It works, there are lots of people out there willing to buy ready made niche sites that earn. We’ve built an entire business on it!

  2. Sud.Lamiran says:

    Damn man!
    This is definitely an high-class white paper on self-development!
    Thank for sharing these 5 gems.
    No doubt you guys have great team inside TryPBO

    Sud.L:
    Btw:
    My fav is #1… if you wanted to know..
    :-)

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Wow…thanks, Sud…

      I really like #1 as well, but #2 really helps me get stuff done. I like #5 and wish I was bold enough to take this as far as I’d like to at times, heh.

  3. Discustipated says:

    At least we know that we are all just human!

  4. Bob says:

    Emm, did you guys take the first photo ? Really nice. I could just imagine you doing a film shoot for your blog in Davao !!!!! I am looking FWD to pics in your next story. LOL

  5. Khurram says:

    Great Article Justin!

  6. […] index. Rob Walling and Mike Taber are examples of solopreneurs who score highly on the chops index. Joe and Justin have impressive scores as […]

  7. Wow, a lot of this sounds just like me. I had to laugh about point #4, that is totally me!

    Thanks for the great insights, this will definitely help me to move forward on a few projects that I have in the works.

  8. Top notch yet again Justin … very relevant blog post for me. I am very guilty of forgetting that sometimes something that is boring or obvious to me, might not be to someone else.

  9. Ryan says:

    Awesome post, Justin! I love that bit from Art and Fear with quantity producing quality, I only first heard about it recently, and it dovetails with the ‘ship it’ mentality. Just gotta make things happen… :)

  10. steve wyman says:

    Hi Justin

    Good of you to share your fears, doubt and Obsessions!

    I also suffer from self doubt. Unfortunately it tens to strike mid project. Im great at starting and riving forward but when part way through t can be tough to keep going especially when outgoing are seriously ahead of any sign of income on a project.

    Hard for an Entrepreneur to quit thought we do believe our own visions.Keep on Keeping on is key along with having a sounding board as to when a dream has turned into an Obsessions.

    regards

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey Steve,

      Yes…I was having some doubts back in Jan/Feb about niche sites..right around when Joe’s interest and enthusiasm for the process started to grow, lol.

      Something I always struggle with and have countless sleepless nights over is when to cut ties with a project and when to continue to see it through. When does, “Stick with it…you’ll make it through!” turn into shitty advice? There’s no real answer as every project and person is unique…but does anyone have some great reference material with a thought process or methodical way to approach answering this question? Would really be interested in reading up on that problem…

      It really is a major challenge…and one that entrepreneurs and even large companies deal with on a regular basis. Fascinating too…I often look back on decisions and paths I took and wonder about them and how they could have gone differently.

  11. Jen says:

    So nice to know I’m not the only one who can spend hours looking up random stuff lol. I am so glad I found your blog. I have spent years wanting to get started in creating info websites but I have been stuck on the content creation. I am too critical of my own work and will edit an article multiple times and it still won’t be good enough. There is no way I can create 10x articles in a day. After reading through your blog I have decided to just GET GOING and outsource all the writing and just edit it as it comes in. I took the plunge and ordered my first few articles :) Just wanted to say thank you!

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Wow, Jen, that’s so great to hear! Action beats inaction almost all of the time…glad to hear you’re getting started and definitely keep us updated as to how it’s going!

  12. John Pickering says:

    I really struggle to start a new project and this post has really helped me out.

    It’s strange how we have these fears.. I absolutely loathe public speaking (to the point of a phobic panicking reaction) but don’t mind recording my voice.

    I agree that when we’re forced into action, such as losing a job and needing to find another form of income – action and actually shipping it become a necessity and therefore easier.
    This is why most people fall into the comfortable zone… you know, well I could try and work harder and put my head above the parapet, but hey I can afford my mortgage, car repayments and a nice holiday in the summer, why should I and if I do, I might get shot down and lose what I’ve already gained from my mediocrity actions.

    Taking action and inaction are the things that separate most of us especially as we start getting older gain more possessions, comfort and more set in our ways.

    Thanks for your honest and inspirational post.

    • JustinWCooke says:

      John,

      Glad to hear this post helps you. Funny that we’re the exact opposite when it comes to speaking in front of people and being recorded, eh? I remember having trouble with recordings even years ago and the multiple tries it would take me to get my voicemail right, heh.

      Joe and I have different strengths when it comes to motivation, for sure. I do a bit better when I feel like I’m on the edge…whether that edge is success or failure. It’s when things are just kind of cruising along that I get pretty bored and feel significantly less motivated. Joe tends to do better when we’re just cruising along or we’re doing well.

      I understand the collection of “stuff” and the fear that those things could go away. I was chatting with an old friend about an hour ago regarding this post, specifically as it discusses risk. Her concern was that many different people rely on her to pay their bills, pay their mortgage, etc and I completely understand her point. Nevermind your own fear of risk, but having so many other people rely on you can make taking chances that much more difficult. My argument to her was that if they don’t continue to innovate and stay ahead of the curve, those people that are relying on her will just take a slower path to the same place. My current start-up mentality says it’s better for them to find out quickly that things aren’t working and then be forced to adapt now, rather than continue to work on a sinking ship. (NOT saying your ship is sinking, anonymous friend…but you get my point, heh)

  13. Justin !! Do you ever sleep? :) Awesome post I enjoyed it, and I have to say I love the way you take so much time (I guess) to format the text nicely. With cute little pictures and relevant links, bold, quotes … really, really good … that is, after putting a lot of effort into writing the post itself. Kudos bro! Quality.

    • JustinWCooke says:

      No sleep for the wicked, man! When are you coming down to Davao? Joe was talking about how you owe us some strawberries! hehe

      • No idea yet about Davao. I will come – eventually – just a matter of time. And no, I didn’t forget about the strawberry promise – just didn’t get around to check it out. I came back with a LOT of ideas from our PG meet up and I don’t have a whole outsourcing company (wink, wink) behind me – I have to dig in by myself for the time being. All in good time.

  14. Paul says:

    This is probably the best “Just Do It” article I’ve read…ever.

  15. You hit the nail on the head… I think this is a post I need to read once a day. :-) Thanks!

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Wow, Sarah…great to hear. Thanks so much! What holds you back from starting a new project…or completing one?

      • I just got my first potential writing gig and need to submit a few sample paragraphs, and it’s terrifying me. I was an English major, and people would always ask me if I wanted to write and I would usually yell “NO!” about as emphatically as possible… I think I’m starting to realize that I’ve always hated writing (despite being told I’m good at it) because I’m never good enough to satisfy myself, and writing is when my lizard brain is loudest. So I’m battling with this whole weird newly-discovered desire to write all the time vs. a debilitating fear when I think about showing any of it to anyone.

        The good news is, now that I read Godin for the first time and get the whole thing about shipping, I think I can make myself do it and just accept that even though it might never be good enough in my head, it still might be good. It’s bringing up all kids of self-confidence issues I never knew I had, like the inability to believe that people are interested in what I have to share. But I think the point is that if you’re doing The Work, you just have to share it anyway and not worry about whether anyone is paying attention.

        So, a daily reminder of this would probably be helpful in staving off lizard-brain, and I think your blog really gets to that point clearly and concisely. :-) Hope that answers the question!

        • JustinWCooke says:

          Thanks for sharing, Sarah!

          I just read a few posts on your site, actually, and thought they were quite good. I love Seth’s “Just Ship It” philosophy. It fits in with Derek Siver’s Version 0.1 post well, I think: http://sivers.org/infinity

          Here’s a new guy I came across that ships like crazy, Sebastian Marshall: http://www.sebastianmarshall.com/ I have a call with him tonight, Philippines time. I don’t always like every blog post he puts out, but he posts like EVERY DAY. With that much content he’s got some real winners and I’ll bet he’s improved TREMENDOUSLY since he’s started.

  16. Mr9sky says:

    Fantastic. Just what I need. Now, back to reading more stuff… about what I need

  17. Johan Woods says:

    Yeah, I got a lot out of this post, especially #1 and #3. Glad you guys made it to iTunes (subscribed!)

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Awesome, Johan…glad it was useful for you! And thanks so much for subscribing! We’ll try not to suck…promise… :-)

  18. Dan says:

    This article is epic. If you got this far and haven’t watched that picasso time lapse video, go back and clicky! thanks for the shout guys, your first episode was awesome and you guys are natural verbal communicators, I’m really looking forward to getting your show loaded up on my iphone.

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