Founder Diary

December 14, 2021

Showing up is more important than succeeding

Showing up is more important than succeeding

When starting a new project, forming relevant habits is more important than achieving visible progress.

A hamster is reading a book while sitting at the Enter key of a keyboard. Adjacent keys are seen in the background.
A hamster is reading a book while sitting at the Enter key of a keyboard. Adjacent keys are seen in the background.
A hamster is reading a book while sitting at the Enter key of a keyboard. Adjacent keys are seen in the background.
Nikita Kazhin's headshot

Nikita Kazhin

Co-founder at Brick

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Habits or progress? Chicken or egg?

Take me. I've been working on this blog for a few months now. As you would expect, a beginner writer like myself tries to learn how to accomplish the cool stuff like churning out a perfectly sound post every single day, typing it in minutes with all ten fingers at once, of course. Similarly, when you learn to handwrite as a kid, it's nice to pick up all the right things like a pretty angle, perfect spacing or being able to write without looking.

All of that sounds awesome, but does it really matter at the start? Progress and mastery is what we're all after, sure, but what you really care about when you first pick up a pen is that your As shouldn't look like Zs (mine still do), or, in my case, a blog shouldn't sound like a robot vomiting. And how to achieve that? You prioritize establishing the right habits by stubborn deliberate practice. In both cases you just keep writing, no matter how bad it looks and without any expectation of great success.

Embrace the mess

It's no secret nearly all major projects start hectic, and that's ok. The problem is, because of that initial turmoil and uncertainty, most work gets abandoned at the initial stages. Positive inertia (aka the power of habit-driven consistency) often kicks in at advanced stages, but you've got to get there first. Before the right habits are established, there's just you and your work.

As we discussed earlier, passion only gets you so far. At first, forging ahead just to find your feet works best. As author Seth Godin puts it, "Merely do the work ... The time you are spending narrating yourself doing the work, the time you’re spending catastrophizing the work, is not helping anything.” This concept may be hard to adjust to at the beginning, but, maybe surprisingly, prioritizing showing up above all else (and disregarding common success metrics) is the shortest way to your goal.

At first, your objective is to just be there for your project until actions you need to perform regularly to succeed become the norm. It's like starting a new video game — you don't look to fight the final boss right away. But once you get the hang of the controls (i.e. establish the right habits), you can safely transition from cautious exploration to ferocious ass-kicking.

I know it can feel very meh at the beginning, even if the game is great, or the project – inspiring. The good news is once your habit ball is rolling, there's little to stop it. Obsess over progress only then.

Let's recap:

When starting a new project, it's infinitely more important to simply keep practicing consistently instead of beating yourself up for seemingly not moving forward much. Prioritize forming relevant habits first, optimize for progress second. When things aren't lining up the way we want them to, habits carry us through the rough patches.

Get your foot in the door before slamming it open. The rest almost takes care of itself.

Next time, we'll talk about how we can avoid the "trap of the right moment," i.e. waiting to start your work until some specific symbolic point in the future, instead of acting now.

Thanks for reading!

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