This is an excerpt from The Simple Leader: Personal and Professional Leadership at the Nexus of Lean and Zen
The secret to getting ahead is getting started.
– Mark Twain
Getting started on a new project is tough. If you’re trying to transform an entire organization, it can be even tougher because it requires you to make some changes. Changing yourself is often the toughest part—especially if it involves losing weight or modifying a habit. So what do you do?
The secret is to just start, and to do it now. You’ve already clarified why and how you need to change. You just need to do it.
This is easier said than done, as most of us are experts at coming up with reasons to procrastinate. We give ourselves excuses to avoid dealing with unacceptable behaviors or situations until the “right” time (e.g., the start of a new year) arrives. If our behavior is truly unacceptable, how can it be okay to wait to change it?
Another way we like to procrastinate is to form teams and make sure every detail is in place before we start anything new. This is folly. Your team is ready, with you as their leader. It is impossible to plan for everything that could possibly go wrong before you start a project. What are you really waiting for? How does delaying look to your team? Is it authentic? Is it respectful?
Last year, as soon as I learned how Paul Akers lost over fifty pounds, I was motivated to lose weight myself. If he could, I could—especially since I only needed to lose half that. Instead of waiting until the new year to change my eating habits I began at that very moment. Five minutes after reading his email describing what he had done, I went to Starbucks to get my usual vanilla latte. Instead, taking a cue from Paul, I bought a regular coffee and skipped the latte. That was the beginning of my health improvement journey. Ten weeks later, I was fifteen pounds lighter. (Coincidentally, the end of ten weeks happened to coincide with the new year, when I would have typically started pursuing a new goal.)
Don’t wait. Start. Now.