Enough dreaming already: now just freakin’ do it

Shiny objects: captivating, but can end up burning you (and not just if you admire them too soon after taking them off the stove)

It’s nearly summer. Offices will be emptying out as employees go off to enjoy their two weeks’ annual vacation (if they’re lucky). Graduates will be emerging and half-heartedly looking for jobs that don’t exist anymore.

And you? You’ll be working hard on starting something brilliant that will open up a whole world of freedom and opportunities.

Or at least, you will if you embrace Just Freakin’ Do It June.

Yup, like Teen Dating Violence, Haitian Heritage and Celery (honestly, I’m not making these up), “just freakin’ doing it” needs its own month.

Because if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you probably buy into the life-changing potential of building a business you can run from anywhere. But have you done it yet?

Know your enemy: Shiny Object Syndrome

If not, I don’t think it’s because of a lack of motivation, or time. I think it’s because you suffer from Shiny Object Syndrome – a tendency to leap from one “great idea” to the next, never sticking at it for long enough to get anywhere.

The symptoms of Shiny Object Syndrome present to some extent in 80% of beginner entrepreneurs, and are exacerbated by excessive exposure to blogs and podcasts. They include:

  • Near-daily epiphanies about a life-changing business you could start
  • Manic episodes of research and industry, followed by a disconsolate lull
  • A text file full of ideas, many of which have been touted as “the answer” by other people but aren’t at all suited to you
  • No discernible progress at all

So if in the past month you’ve considered starting an ecommerce store, writing a Kindle book, putting together an affiliate marketing site, starting a consulting business and becoming a life coach…you’ve got Shiny Object Syndrome. And you need help.

Introducing…Just Freakin’ Do It June

Shiny Object Syndrome is so prevalent because exploring new ideas is fun – but committing to one, having no idea whether it’ll be successful, is terrifying.

So we need a group intervention to get over the fear. For the month of June, I encourage you to just put everything else aside, forget about all possibilities but one, and start something.

That gives you a couple of weeks to prepare. When 1st June rolls around, here’s what I suggest you do:

Consider your options one last time

Revisit all the business ideas you’ve had over the last year, and evaluate them honestly against your goals, skills and personality.

If your goal is to quit your job in three months, for example, that pretty much eliminates anything based on royalties or affiliate marketing which will take much longer to see results from. If you want to travel, avoid local SEO consulting. If you want to be totally self-reliant, forget anything with large start-up costs that will involve outside funding.

Think about what motivates you too. Is it important that you’re deeply passionate about the product or service you’re selling? If so, forget creating a niche Adsense site around blue ski boots.

If you’re motivated by the process rather than the product it doesn’t matter, but think about the “on stage test”: when you’re mega-successful, will you feel embarrassed to stand on stage talking about what you’ve done?

FOCUS

Once you’ve honestly looked at your ideas and yourself, pick the one that looks best and throw the others away. No cheating by starting three at once and seeing what takes off – just one.

Testing whether your idea is any good is beyond the scope of the article, but do validate it with real customers before you start. Just Google “customer development” to get a sense of why validation is so necessary, and some ideas for how to do it.

Write a plan

An inability to see ideas through often comes from a failure to plan: you knock out all the fun, easy tasks, get to a sticking point and don’t know what to do next, then end up doing something else to resolve the pain of being stuck.

The solution is to remove the need to make decisions by making an exact plan of action at the start. List everything that you need to do, in order, then work through the list. At every point you’ll know exactly what you need to be doing next – and even if the next thing looks hard and painful, you’ll see that it’s something you have to get through to keep moving forwards.

When making your plan, remember to 80/20 it: focus on what’s going to give you the maximum results with the least effort. Designing a fancy Twitter background, for example, isn’t going to make or break your business (unless your business involves making fancy Twitter backgrounds for people).

No more reading!

Or rather, don’t read or listen to anything that might tempt you with further ideas or convince you that there’s a better approach. You’ve taken enough inputs – now it’s time to convert them into outputs.

The exception is anything tactical that relates specifically to the idea you’re working on. That’s fine.

Buddy up

I’m a big fan of starting projects with someone else, because being accountable to someone else will make it way harder to flake out or get off track.

If that’s not for you, get accountability by buddying up with someone else who’s at the same stage you are – even if your businesses are totally different, the process is the same and you can support each other through the tough parts.

(Or if you can’t find anyone else, be accountable to us!)

Find happiness in the hardness

Nothing worth doing is easy. If you’re finding it difficult, reframe it as a positive thing: you’re improving yourself, and putting distance between you and people who aren’t willing to put the work in.

And at the end of the month?

How far can you get in a month? Further than you think. But you’ll still be firmly in “jeez this is tough” territory (and will be for the first year at least), which leaves you vulnerable to giving up and doing something else.

Hopefully though you’ll have made some progress and had a couple of small wins (however tiny) which will motivate you to keep going. And if you’ve written down your plan and got some accountability by buddying up, that’ll make it a whole lot easier.

What if you’ve backed the wrong horse and for some reason your business will never get to where you need it to be? It doesn’t really matter – just by doing something, a whole load of new opportunities will open up to you. You’ll develop new skills, become aware of new markets and problems that need solving, and be included in the crowd of people who’re doing, not dreaming.

So what do you think?

Are you up for the JFDIJune challenge? Are you experiencing the symptoms of Shiny Object Syndrome? What’s the biggest thing holding you back from starting your own business or project?

Let us know in the comments!

  • Richard

    Hi Rob,
    my girlfriend follows your blog and suggested I read this post. It’s great timing for me, I was about to do the the same thing, but starting now and ending mid june. I’m creating a tool to help people get their ideas off the ground, planning to get the minimum features working this month.

    Thanks for the tip of customer development, had not heard of it before and it’s super relevant to what I’m trying to do. One tip for you, Trello is a great tool for todo lists/planning if you have not used it before, it comes from agile software development but is very simple and useful. I use it all the time for work and other projects.

    Great post, good luck for whatever you’re planning for the month, I’ll let you know how I got on.

    cheers!
    Richard

    • Thanks for the comment Richard! I think “customer development” started with Steve Blank, and it’s a central part of “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries. That’s a must-read book if you’ve not checked it out yet.

      Mish and I are both total Trello addicts! I’ve started using it for absolutely everything – daily checklists, to-dos, work in progress, posts to write…you name it.

      Make sure you come back and let us know how you get on! The tool you’re working on sounds really cool.

      • Just an update from me, about half way through my JFD month. Perhaps I’m the only one doing this challenge, but that’s fine!

        The customer development tip has had a big impact actually, I suspect that’s where Tim Ferris etc got a lot of ideas. Anyway I see there’s a free course on Udacity, by Steve Blank, I’ve just started it. I got the start up manual book and another one lean analytics, both good. Also have the business model generation on hold from the library.

        To be honest though they advocate the same technique that I had planned to use anyway, still very refreshing someone else also agrees a business plan is a waste of time for start ups. Also gives some terminology to be able to throw around. I am doing the stuff they suggest in parallel, I don’t want to hold what I’m doing already.

        So on that note, I think I’m a good 80% through my mvp, so in reality probably about 50-60%. And I have about 15 random sign ups to try it out on when I’m finished. So all in all good progress, not without many delays and side tracks of course. Helps to be in one place for more than a week also!

        Speaking of side tracks, we started a new blog, but don’t look it at! Not really ready enough yet, perhaps next month’s task after I’ve sold the start up for 24 million.

        Cheers!
        Richard

        • Thanks for the update Richard! We’re doing JFDI June (we’re in Berlin for the whole month, so no travel to distract us), so you’re a couple of weeks ahead of us.

          Yeah it sounds like you were intuitively doing all the Lean Startup/Steve Blank stuff anyway, but it is useful to have vocabulary to describe what you’re doing – and confidence that you’re on the right track, of course.

          It sounds like you’re going great guns, so keep it up – you’re setting the bar for all of us! Make sure you come back soon with another update 🙂

          • MVP complete! Yehaaaaa!

            It’s a bit crap, but it’s done. Good news is everything can be improved incrementally.

            In the end not sure I followed the customer development very closely at all, now that I know more about it. I will do as I move forward and for the next idea, as I think it could help a lot.

            I’ll email you a link, if you have a few moments it would be great to get some feedback.

    • GG

      Trello is awesome. I’m noting down all my tasks on a Trello board after performing them. This way, I’m using my 1st project to establish a process to create my future sites. Don’t know if this helps you guys though since I’m just a newbie.

      • That’s a brilliant idea GG – I use Trello to record things I NEED to do, but not things I’ve DONE. That’s such an easy way of recording a process, either for you to repeat or to pass to someone else.

        Thanks for the tip!

  • GG

    Challenge accepted! Perfect timing too. I’m working on my first niche website as we speak.

  • Thanks for the tip – Trello is indeed awesome, and I can’t believe I’ve been working online for 10 years and never heard of it before reading your post!