Starting is the hardest part

Alex Sugg
Alex Sugg

Feeling stuck? Here are three simple steps to starting your next project.


The truth about any creative project is that starting is the hardest part.

Why is that?

We are afraid to fail.

We are afraid of what the outside world might say. We are scared to ruin the project. What if you aren't as good as you think you are? What if the whole thing is a bust and no one likes it?

These thoughts come from an honest place in us. I know that I became more insecure about my work the older I got. I felt less and less like I had something meaningful to offer even though deep down, I knew that it wasn't true.

Life has changed for me too. As I'm positive it has for you. You get busier. You have obligations. I have a good full-time job that generally drains me of anything left to give my projects. I have a personal life that I am devoted to maintaining. I am honestly very busy.

Did you cringe a little there? I certainly did. Busyness is the sneakiest excuse because it's applauded and it shields you from the work that would be fulfilling to you. Busyness is often is often a flexible object we treat as solid iron. We can change our busyness to support our goal. We can become busy with the right things.

We stay busy on easy things so we can feel protected from the scariness of our dreams.

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Do you have something you're excited about on the inside, that's been neglected? Your little fire that is slowly burning out? My deepest fear in my life since I was a kid was that I would settle. Settle for less than what I am worth and what I have to give the world.

For me, that project is Make Something Cool. It's something I have been sitting with for years but was too afraid to just do it out of fear of it failing. What is that project for you?

My guess is, if you're reading this, you feel a deep longing to make something that resonates with others. A song that makes someone cry. A cup of coffee that is so good, it actually can change the direction of someone's day. An article of clothing that helps someone shine in full security of who they are when they put it on. What is the thing you want to make and give to yourself and those around you?

It all comes down to starting. So how do we defeat the little barriers in the way of a meaningful project in our life?

From my experience, I have a couple of ideas.

How to solve this

I think to get started, we have to identify what has been holding us back all along anyway. I think for most of us, it is the fear of failing. Or even worse, failing publicly.

So - I think some bad advice is 'just get comfortable with failure' or something along those lines. I've heard enough self-help bro's on Instagram say stuff like that, and to be honest, it doesn't resonate with you if you feel like your work has a real purpose in the world. The stakes are high, and it can be scary.

So if the root of the issue is failing publicly, my first practical tip is to

Practice in private

What does this mean? It means just pick up the pencil and draw. It means to bake the cake. It means you shake hands with yourself to not post about it online. The idea is to just make. When you build confidence in the craft, sharing your work becomes more comfortable over time.

Start small (like, really small)

We all have big dreams. When we think of what could be possible with our work, we overwhelm ourselves with all the work that needs to be done to get there. So instead of worrying about your project being a massive hit overnight, you need to learn the art of showing up often.

One of my favorite writers James Clear talks about this in his book Atomic Habits. He had this example of a man who wanted to lose weight - he would drive to the gym every day but gave himself a rule. He couldn't stay any longer than 5 minutes.

It's a little strange, but hear me out. This man was mastering the art of showing up. When going to the gym every day became second nature, he started staying a little bit longer and a little longer after that. Eventually, this process leads to the man losing over 100 pounds.

So how can you show up on your project today? How can you start small and enjoy the simple process of creating without the headache or fear of failing? If you're a writer, maybe it's committing to writing one paragraph every day. If you're a musician, perhaps it's committing to playing guitar for 10 minutes every day. No more and no less. Just show up.

If you can do this consistently, your work will shine, and you'll become more confident in sharing it.

And lastly...

3. Celebrate starting

This goes against what a lot of people might say. There is a lot of talk of "get more discipline" and "fake it till you make it."

Those things are perfectly fine - but I'd argue that positive reinforcements are just as powerful if not more so than willpower. How can you celebrate starting? Maybe you set aside time on Saturday to finally sketch a few ideas? When and only when you finish - buy yourself a cookie. You finally put together a website or start writing your film script, go see a movie after.

Now the truth is, you won't celebrate every time you show up - but maybe it would make starting a bit easier if there is a simple reward waiting on the other side.

Starting small is the key

If it hasn't been made clear yet - the whole goal of this episode is to help make starting easy. How can we make this easy, and what are the simple entry points to beginning our journey toward making the thing we want to make?

The last thing I want to say on all of this - I, Alex Sugg, formally let you off the hook of becoming an overnight success in whatever you want to make. You need to know that success looks different to different people and takes time to get there. We live in an instant world, but doing work we are proud of isn't instantaneous. All we have control of is our own path, our own journey, and our own starting place. And if it's any comfort at all - you're not alone. Today I'm just trying to show up too. Working to quiet the voices of insecurity and fear, so I can make what I need to make today. We are in this together.

I hope this helps you begin the journey to creating what you've wanted to make.

Now, Let's make something cool.

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