It's Like I Am Giving Up Before I Even Started

by Robb Sutton

Last night, my wife and I were sitting around watching reruns of “How I Met Your Mother” when a line on the show hit me like a ton of bricks.

One of the main characters, Ted Mosby was starting up his on architecture firm. In the process of the first couple of days, he had done everything in his power to distract himself from the task that ultimately brought business in…calling potential clients. At the end of the show, he tells a story about an architect to builds a library and it was the perfect building…the only problem is that the building sunk several inches a year and was eventually condemned. The architect forgot to account for the weight of the books.

That is when the quote that hit me over the face really drove home.

The longer I put off starting my own firm the longer it can remain a dream and not something  I screwed up at. It’s like I’m giving before I even started.

He was so worried about “forgetting the books” that keeping on meaningless tasks was his way of putting off failure even if it could be the best first step he had ever taken.

Wasting Time On Things That Don’t Matter

Ok…now back to reality. This line…while in a TV show…is very real. All of you start with the hope of one day owning your own business that gives you the freedom to work when you want to from where you want to. It is an incredible dream and entirely possible. However, owning your own business also comes with stresses and tasks that are not “the internet lifestyle”.

For a lot of you (me included), it isn’t so much about the working freedom as it is about not relying on the opinion of someone else to determine your worth and how much money you bring home every week. When you are your own boss, you determine your own future. This is both exhilarating and scarey as hell at the same time for most entrepreneurs even if they don’t say it.

Even worse, there is a misconception that everything has to be perfect.

The reality (even if it doesn’t look like it from the outside with other entrepreneurs) is that you are going to mess up. You are going to make mistakes and that will affect other people. You can not get away from that fact and it happens in your daily work life already. The only difference…it reflects someone else’s brand name and you just work your 9-5 to fix it as best you can. Once you go home, you try to wash it off and move on. When you own your own business, it is completely on you and your name.

That is a scarey thought at times, but you have to remember…it is how you pick your pants up after they fall down that counts…not the fact they fell down. Sometimes in life we are given more credit on how we handle ourselves through harder times than if everything were perfect. By righting wrongs, we build solid foundations and a business you can be proud of at the end of the day. You are going to “forget the books” from time to time…and that is ok.

When I started oneninety8, Bike198 and Blogging Labs…I had these same fears and did these same “meaningless tasks”. Eventually, you have to kick yourself in the ass to really get things done and kick-start your dream.

So as you go throughout your day finding tasks to complete that really don’t matter…

…and you find yourself saying things like…

  • I’ll do it when my design is perfect.
  • I’ll start when I have x,xxx subscribers.
  • I can’t do that because I’m not big enough like those other blogs and businesses.

…just remember, you might be shooting yourself in the foot just so you can keep the dream a great dream instead of your reality. Success is brought forth through actionable steps that foster growth. The more you waste time on things that don’t matter, the longer you will be telling people about your dream instead of living it.

Do not quit before you even start.




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Mallen1315 March 29, 2011 - 12:31 pm

Thank you for this! It is just the slap in the face, and kick in the pants I needed today. I have been putting things off both in my personal life and my professional life. Sometimes it’s the fear of failure but sometimes it’s just the fear of the unknown. Either way fear is the wall me must all bust through. Fear and indecision can prevent you from having the life we deserve.

Thank you for this inspiration.

Robb Sutton March 30, 2011 - 1:50 am

I do what I can. 😉

Joe March 29, 2011 - 3:09 pm

Great post, I’m just glad to see someone admit they watch TV..most of the pros say no TV for them. I felt guilty watching, I still think there are a few tidbits of inspiration out there and some good writing some times…Sort of like blogs.

Appreciate your take on this.

Robb Sutton March 29, 2011 - 4:12 pm

Everyone watches a least a little TV or does something to kick back and relax…if they say they don’t…they are lying.

Black Seo Guy March 29, 2011 - 3:20 pm

Fear can stop anyone from moving on..but if you have faith you can make it to the top..i see you there.

“Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

Agimino March 29, 2011 - 7:14 pm

Great post robb! It gives me some encouragment as i am in the process of going into photography full time. You have to take risks in life to grow. Well said!

Robb Sutton March 30, 2011 - 1:50 am

Thanks! Risks often have the biggest rewards. Keep at it!

James Schipper March 29, 2011 - 9:01 pm

Thanks for this Robb. I have found myself doing this relatively unconsciously at times.

Robb Sutton March 30, 2011 - 1:50 am

Sure thing James. Sometimes it takes saying it out loud to watch in consciously.

Keith Bloemendaal March 29, 2011 - 9:48 pm

I was actually writing an article urging people to quit before they start LOL, for most of the same reasons you list…. thought it was too negative so it is still sitting in draft….

Robb Sutton March 30, 2011 - 1:49 am

Negativity with a positive spin! It works.

Spencer April 5, 2011 - 8:27 pm

Hey Robb,

I am in the process of beginning again with my new blog. My commitment is 10 blog posts before anything else. Is that an excuse to quit after the ten are met? Maybe. And maybe not. Maybe I have learned from small goals connected together in an effort to accomplish one big goal. That is my system and it works for me. Some other system may work for others.

Thank you for the reminder to press on even when things are dark and you want to quit. I do agree with never quitting, even though I have violated my own thought pattern at times. I suppose we are only treading toward perfection. So, never give up on the journey toward being better than you were yesterday, and even better tomorrow. And remember… we are all powerful beyond belief. We simply need to believe it and move on our dreams.

Anonymous April 5, 2011 - 10:45 pm

That’s one of my favorite episodes of HIMYM. Never ceases to amaze me how many actual good lessons show up in that show.

Fear of failure is a big deal, without a doubt. But so is fear of success. Sometimes, for some of us at least, the idea of being successful right off the top is even worse than failing the first time out of the gate.

Because if you’re successful that first time… well, then people expect it to continue and to be repeated… all the time… and if you can’t do that (and, really, who can?), you feel like you’re letting people down.

Logical? Nope. Sensible? Not in the least. But when is fear ever either of those things? 😉

Philip Shade April 5, 2011 - 11:27 pm

The original Syracuse University library was sinking because of the weight of the books. By the time they built the new library they had to tear down and rebuild the front steps of the old one, because it had sunk so far.


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