Progress! A single word which embodies both the impressive growth experienced by entire nations over centuries as well as the hope we have for ourselves and tomorrow.
When it comes to our businesses, we are gluttons for progress. We love it in large doses. The more we can have, the better. On the other side of the coin, we seem to despise it in small doses. If we’re not overwhelmed by it, we become frustrated that it isn’t enough.
But, as we’ve learned from those with more experience, big progress and successes are rarely driven by single events or opportunities. They are the accumulation of the small steps and iterations that have been taken over a long period of time.
In thinking about this for myself, I can pinpoint two main hindrances that prevent me from embracing small steps and iterations:
- Risk & uncertainty of the investment
- My own impatience and the desire for instant gratification
1. Risk of the investment
Taking the small steps on their own isn’t much of an investment. However, it is “the accumulation of small steps… over a long period of time” that can become a huge investment of my time. While working to help build a small business, time is the most valuable resource I have.
But, I should never let this be a hindrance. Yes, time is a valuable resource. But, if I’m not fully investing my time, I’m squandering that precious resource.
My biggest fear here is the possibility that I’ll be investing my time in the wrong steps and pushing in the wrong directions.
I can usually overcome this particular fear by remembering two things:
- The persistent taunting of missed opportunities
Seeing the successes of others as well as my own, what if I had only started blogging on a regular basis a year ago? Imagine where I would be today? Imagine where the business would be? Reflecting on those types of things with regret can be very healthy. In those times, if there isn’t a “well I was working on…” which filled that time, the regret serves to remind me that I do need to be investing that time.
- What if I start heading in the wrong direction?
As a developer, this can be an extremely common concern. There are so many different languages, approaches, environments that I could pursue. I can’t tell you how many things I’ve learned that I’ll most likely never use in a real application. Like Thomas Edison finding the perfect filament for the light bulb, I’ve at least been able to mark something off the list as a solution for future projects. Even the small steps taken in the wrong direction can teach us lessons which make the terrain a little easier to traverse when we do find ourselves on the right path.
2. I want everything now!
We’ve all heard the accusations that we live in an era being ruined by instant gratification. We have instant access to almost anything we could want. Just thought of a movie you haven’t seen in a few years? No problem! You can stream or download it from a dozen different sources at your fingertips.
In the same vein, this generation is the last one that will ever experience the real pain of having “oooh! who was that actor from that movie” linger on the tip of their tongue for hours #FirstWorldProblem. That pain can be instantly resolved with a Google search on our phones that returns the information in under a second.
When it comes to business, sometimes I know the steps I need to take. I have a clear vision and know how to accomplish that vision. What I don’t have is the time to execute on the vision. The frustration then grows that I want the product of my vision RIGHT NOW!
It’s almost impossible to get things done to perfection the very first time. We have to embrace an iterative process. So, even though I may not be able to implement exactly what I would like right now, is there anything that I can accomplish that will help get me closer to that goal?
As a comparison, imagine that the problem is to get from point “A” to point “Z”. The vision you have is to build a car because it is the best tool to for the job.
However, if you only have enough time and resources to build a bike, why not build the bike?
It isn’t the perfect tool but when compared to having to walk the distance, it is a mighty fine solution.
So, what is holding you back from taking those small steps for yourself and your business?