Along the way, you might have sought out some advice. It could be advice from someone you know, free advice from blogs or the library, or a paid “how to” product.
If your Hard Thing has enough pieces that need to get put together, and you don’t quite know how all of those pieces work, the thing is probably giving you a giant headache.
Advice is swirling around you like a sandstorm. Each guru is competing for your attention and action. Everyone has a surefire system for you.
Your head gets more and more jammed up with conflicting information, even as the gurus are trying to get you unjammed by giving you a single path to take. They use their authority and a mountain of case studies to grab your attention and try to get you focused.
“Obey me or fail. It’s your choice.”
If you don’t learn how to navigate all this well-meaning advice, you risk getting too exhausted to go on before you’ve reached your goal.
Here are some tips I’ve found useful for finding a path through the wilderness:
Find one or two voices you trust
There are many paths up the mountain, but if you try to put a foot on every one, you’re not going to get very far.
(If anyone knows the source of that paraphrased quote, will you let me know in the comments?)
For almost every complex endeavor, there’s a limited number of things you need to do, but lots of different ways you might do them.
Whatever path you’re on, you’re going to get to a rocky, annoyingly difficult spot and think to yourself, “This can’t really be the path. This isn’t a path at all. Is that giant boulder really supposed to be right there in the middle of it?”
Sorry. There’s a giant boulder in the middle of all the paths. You can get a good map and a really spiffy compass, but you’re the one who has to scramble over the boulder. With very few exceptions, a new and better map will just take you a few miles out of your way to circle back to the same damned rock.
Find a map-maker you trust and follow her map to the end goal. It’s generally a good idea to make sure that someone else has used this map to get to where you’d like to go.
Starting over with a new map is hardly ever quicker, even though it’s always tempting.
Create cycles of action and learning
Learning and taking action are two very different modes. If you’re going to do your Hard Thing, you want to honor them both.
Action without learning is usually fruitless. It’s too likely to leave you wandering around without direction or purpose.
Learning without action is definitely fruitless, assuming you actually want to do your Hard Thing. Sometimes the dream and the mental challenge can make you feel good, which might be enough. If that’s why you’re doing it, go ahead and be honest with yourself about it.
Assuming you want to take the action route, you need to consciously plan out that moment of transition. If you’ve picked up some advice, whether it’s a paid information product or a blog or a free email course, take a separate step to translate the advice into activities. Go through each lesson and figure out what next action you should be taking, then figure out when you plan to take that action. Create a worksheet for yourself and fill it out.
I can’t tell you how much I learned from Teaching Sells in the process of creating worksheets and next actions for other students to take. When you sit down and take the time to map out how you’re going to translate learning to action, you’ll find yourself much less overwhelmed.
If there are lots of individual components you need to master, you may need to string together different pieces of advice. You don’t necessarily need to get a Big Overarching Map from anyone else, but if the system you’re using doesn’t have one, be sure to create one for yourself.
Understand what the pieces are (even if you’re completely clueless about how to do them) and scribble out some rough ideas about how you might put them together.
Plan out your cycles of learning and doing. They’ll both seem to be taking too long to produce any results. That’s ok. If you’re consistently alternating between learning and doing, and if you’re following a decent map, you’ll get there.
When you’re in the middle of it, it always feels like you’ll never get to the end of the path. That’s how you know it’s a path worth being on.
Be your own guru
I was talking with Havi the other night about her frustration with gurus. She’s spent a lot of time getting clients unstuck who aren’t moving forward with their businesses because they can’t complete some seemingly necessary step like creating a USP or developing their personal brand.
Her advice is often to just keep moving past the stuck spot.
Sometimes there are spots on the map that you won’t be able to use. They’re not suited to your project, or your personality, or the resources you bring. Sometimes you need to blaze a few pieces of your own trail.
Sometimes you’ve actually completed the step already, but it doesn’t look like you thought it would, so you wait around trying to figure out what comes next.
If you spend more than two weeks feeling stuck about a particular step on your map, try moving forward without it. If you skip it and things start working again, that step might not be one you need. Or it may be a piece you can fill in later, when you know more.
Learning matters, but when it keeps you from doing, that’s a red flag. While you don’t want to bounce from map to map, it’s also not helpful to use a map that’s inscribed in stone. (Too damned heavy, for one thing.)
At the end of the day, any map is really a model for you to write your own map on top of it.
So what Hard Thing are you working on? How’s it going? Are you stuck or are you rocking and rolling? Let us know about it in the comments.
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Flickr Creative Commons image by PhillipWest