“Start before you’re ready.” ~Steven Pressfield
I think this is the essence of where I’ve been this month. Needing to start with getting my resume out into the world, but struggling with feeling “ready.” I’ve been thinking a lot about what I wrote about living with a purpose versus trying to find a purpose (you can check it out here), and I think this is the same idea in different clothes. For a lot of us, feeling ready to start something is a never-ending journey to find exterior validation for your interior state of being.
I don’t want to be glib here, so I will avoid saying anything like, “Now is the best time to start!” Because wisdom tells me that may not be the case. Now may be the worst time to start. That might not get your blood pumping as a rousing call to action, but just like the pursuit of a purpose, I’ve spent years chasing an emotional state of euphoria to let me know it’s the right time to take that leap. My pursuit of this euphoria has led to mixed results at best.
If you’re a subscriber to the Christian faith, we’re often taught this euphoric feeling, this overwhelming sense that “something amazing is about to happen!!!!” is the exact indicator we should be looking for before starting anything. Even when you first make a commitment of faith we follow the model of the Apostle Paul, who went from persecuting Christians to being struck blind and hearing a voice directly from the heavens questioning his motives to becoming a radical and influential leader of the early Christian church, writing many letters preserved in the New Testament.
What a great story! That must be how it works, right? This is the prototypical story well-meaning people are looking for when they ask you if you’ve been “saved.” (Sorry for all the Jesus talk on my web development blog, it’s almost over, but not yet haha).
The problem is we have these other guys who followed Jesus, usually referred to as the apostles, who have a completely different story. When did they “get saved”? We kind of don’t know. When did they “start”?, to bring it back to the original idea. More on this in a second.
I’ve had to walk out of my comfort zone to share my portfolio even though I want nothing more than to hack away on making everything perfect and spend another month reading the Ruby on Rails guides until I “feel” ready to take that leap. But how did I know it was time to take that leap? If NOW might not be the best time to start, then WHEN???
If you’ll allow me to reveal even more sci-fi nerdiness than you’re used to reading on this blog, let me quote one of my favorite authors/books:
A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct. This every sister of the Bene Gesserit knows. To begin your study of the life of Muad’Dib, then take care that you first place him in his time: born in the 57th year of the Padishah Emperor, Shaddam IV. And take the most special care that you locate Muad’Dib in his place: the planet Arrakis. Do not be deceived by the fact that he was born on Caladan and lived his first fifteen years there. Arrakis, the planet known as Dune, is forever his place. – from Manual of Muad’Dib by the Princess Irulan
This is from Frank Herbert’s book, Dune, which I have read once a year since I was a teenager. If a quote comes to mind for me it is usually from Dallas Willard, Tim Keller, C. S. Lewis, or Frank Herbert. If you’re playing along at home, you may have noticed that one of these is not like the others, and in fact one of these (the who I just quoted) would think the other three were deluded at best. When you’re choosing who to read, when you’re choosing to really form an idea about what you think life should be (and I really hope you’ve taken an active role in this process), don’t forget to add a little dissention in the ranks. The minority’s role should always be to keep the majority honest, so don’t leave those voices out of the mix!
“But what does this have to do with STARTING???” I know, I know, I took the roundabout path today for sure, but there is a method to my madness. When do you start? I quoted Dune because I think the answer is there:
You start when you actually know where you are.
Get a lay of the land. Take stock of your resources. Which way is North? Is North where you actually want to head? Are you where you thought you were in the first place? Once you know where you are, go ahead and start.
Knowing where you are is not a static state of affairs, necessarily. You will have to do some exploring and take an active role in this process. Just don’t confuse research with actually starting.
For me, my bank account let me know it was high time to start sending out some resumes. Am I excited about this next phase of life? Unbelievably. But it was a little (seriously very little) concrete representation of reality that let me know it was time to move.
I knew exactly where I was, I was properly oriented, so I set off. In the right direction? Time will tell, but the important thing is that I’m in touch with reality, if that makes sense. I’m not leaping out in a knee-jerk reaction or chasing after finally feeling like I matter, like this time is finally the right time.
So, what does this have to do with apostles??? Why is this post so long??? Seriously, nobody is asking that second question more than me.
But what if we could transition from trying to pick times to start to just always living in a state of starting? What if instead of trying to recreate Paul’s grandiose experience (or even recreate our own similar experiences), we chose to be more like the apostles? (OK, maybe one of them we can drop off that list.) “Being ready” could just be a non-issue for us because we were the type of people who always looked for new challenges to start. We don’t need to feel a certain way to tread into unknown territory, we just have a lifestyle where it would be silly not to try new things, because we knew that failing and succeeding (and even being just kind of “meh”) at those new things will be the way we grow.
Start before you’re ready. Start when you know where you are. Do this enough times and you’ll just be a person who starts new things and actually knows where (and maybe even who) they are. That sounds like exactly the type of person I want to be.