“Action breeds confidence. Inaction breeds doubt and fear.”
Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People
“Gnarly tattoo,” I said. “Yea, mate. It’s me granddad,” he said. The tattoo was a black and white picture of an elderly man in full Navy uniform. The backdrop included a nautical map, a compass and a small quote written in cursive. We were on the rooftop of a small hostel in Lima, Peru. Adam was a 32 year-old Brit who had recently quit his job at a digital marketing firm in London in order to travel. It was my first week in what would turn out to be an amazing six-week trip through Peru. “What’s this?” I asked, pointing to the barely visible quote. “Ah mate, that’s my grandfather’s favorite quote,” he said. “What’s it say?” I asked. “To begin, begin,” he said.
So here I am. Beginning. This is my first step. Everyone needs to start somewhere and I reckon here is as good a place as any. This blog is one of an uncountable number of ideas I have had throughout my life. From food trucks to HelmetFood to t-shirt companies to online tutoring services. Ideas have not been the problem. Execution has been a bit of an issue.
Of all my grand ideas, how many have I followed through on? Zero. Nada. None.
My failure to launch has stemmed from a vain concern in the opinions of others and my adept ability to convince myself I would fail. In my mind there will never be an ideal time for me to share my thoughts with the world. Regardless of when I launch this blog my mind will be consumed with fear and apprehension.
When beginning something new, the first step always seems to be the most difficult. I am no exception to this. I have sat and come up with a dozen reasons why I should wait to launch this blog. The articles need to be just right. I’ll start when I am back in Medellin, I’ll have more time then. People will laugh at what I have to say. I have literally sat and visualized everyone from my friends back home to my family members to college friends to my former high school basketball coach reading what I have to say and laughing.
For whatever reason, as humans, we are fantastic at coming up with reasons why we will fail or why our ideas aren’t good enough. It is no coincidence that the wildly successful usually have either an unshakeable inner confidence or a complete lack of fear of the consequences that stem from “failure.” Some simply re-define their definitions of failure. Wayne Gretzky, the greatest hockey player of all time, THE Great One, once said “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
For Gretzky, his measure of success was not necessarily whether he made or missed the shot. It was whether he had the courage to take the shot to begin with. If we all were to evaluate our lives using this measure; successes are when you try, regardless of the outcome, and failures are when you don’t try; how would you measure up? I personally would be VERY much in the red.
For certain individuals, failure is simply a word. Seven letters, two syllables. They focus their concentration on how they can succeed, not the reasons why they might fail. The rest of us? We wait for a time when the conditions are just right. We plan and we talk and we dream. But we don’t leap. That first step. Man that first step can sure be a bitch.
This blog is as much about my first step as it is about sharing my thoughts with the world. In my almost thirty years on this planet, I have done very little to extend myself to others. I have traveled, sure. I have opened myself to learn about, and from, other cultures. Yet I have been reluctant to reciprocate the openness I have experienced. I have been quick to judge, to evaluate, quick to find the flaws within a plan or an idea.
I realize now that it is the insecure who find their solace in scrutiny. It helps them to justify their own inaction. Criticism is the child of cowardice. Creativity the offspring of courage.
For anyone out there who is starting a business or holding an art exhibition or running for political office, I have three words. I feel you. It is not an easy thing to put yourself on display for critique.
There is a chance this blog is an absolute failure. That’s OK. Not ideal, but OK. The important thing is that I started. That I gave it a crack. Regardless of the outcome, I will learn from this. I will grow. At the very least, I will learn how to execute on an idea.
The inspiration for this blog came shortly after I moved to Medellin, Colombia. In five months of living in Colombia I had absolutely fallen in love with the country, particularly the people. Colombians are incredible. Their warmth and general openness towards others is contagious. It is a rarity to walk down the street and not receive a smile and a “Buenas dias,” from someone that you pass on the street. At any given time you are simply a “Hola, como estas?” away from connecting with a random stranger.
I have salsa danced in the middle of the street with Colombian people I had only met a few minutes prior. I have had an elderly Colombian woman walk six blocks with me just to make sure I got where I needed to go. I have partied with, and stayed in the home of, a Colombian family whom my friends and I met while sitting and waiting for a bus. Needless to say we missed the bus.
Ask anyone who has traveled to Colombia what stands out when they think about their time in the country and they will undoubtedly tell you it was the people.
Por que no, when translated into English, literally means “Why not?” It is an expression that is used quite often in Colombia. It can be used to laugh off a person’s ridiculous behavior. It is a child’s question to their parents about why they cannot pop a wheelie while going downhill. It is THE answer to the question of whether you would like to dance.
“Quieres una mas cerveza?” Por que no? Want to go to Barranquilla for Carnaval? Por que no? Should I ask her to dance? Por que no? Want to move to Argentina this fall? Por que no?
Every time I have used the expression por que no in a conversation I have instantly been greeted with a wry smile and a chuckle. “Eh, por que no.” As I was telling my Colombian website developer about my idea for this blog, he asked what the name was going to be. When I told him, he simply smiled, chuckled softly and said “Nice.”
These three words create a world in which possibilities are limitless. Por que no is an expression that embodies openness. Openness to change. Openness to all that is new or different. Openness to trying period. Openness to meeting someone halfway. To stepping outside of the familiar, or what you had planned, and taking life as it comes your way.
To going for what you want from this brief stint on Earth we call life and not giving a good-god-damn what anyone else has to say.
With the theory behind this blog firmly in place, I pose the first of what will be many questions: Why Not Begin?
We all have plans. We all have dreams. Hope really does die last. Whatever it is that you have been talking about or planning or thinking about doing; why not start? What are you waiting for? Ignore your brain’s very creative disguises for fear (read: excuses) and NIKE. Re-define your definition of failure. Take yourself a little less seriously.
Nope, you’re not too overweight to start exercising. Yep, the trip you’ve been planning is within your budget. Chyeeaahp, there are completely free websites and applications that you can use to start learning a language. Yes, you absolutely can find ten minutes within your day to start meditating. No, your local volunteer organizations have not met their annual quota for volunteers.
I’ll be your sponsor. Here I am, beginning; right in front of your eyes. I am scared and uncertain and pretty sure that most people won’t give one fuck from their pocketful of fucks about what I have to say. So what? I do not have ideas of grandeur. If the goal is simply to begin, how can you fail?
Dale Carnegie, world-renowned lecturer on self-improvement and writer of the acclaimed book How to Win Friends and Influence People, once stated that “Action breeds confidence. Inaction breeds doubt and fear.” For Carnegie, the simple act of doing something, regardless of the situation, was far better than doing nothing. It is why self-help gurus encourage people to make their beds every morning (see: Ferriss, Timothy). Just get things off and crackin’. You will be amazed at how much you will figure out along the way.
So again, I challenge you. Begin. Start your business plan. Begin searching the market for a new house. Go for a run. Sign up for a cooking class. Save for the trip to the exotic location of your dreams. Be the person that you want to be. Today. Right now. It’s not too late. It’s not too early. The only certainty about time is that with each passing second, we only have less than we had before.
As I step off of my soapbox, I would like to share a quote my grandfather loved to share with my cousins and I. It is only ten words long. None of the words are longer than two letters.
If it is to be, it is up to me.
So as you sit and read and contemplate your own beginnings, I really only have one question for you. Por que no?
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