As you start to walk out on the path, the path appears. // Rumi
As with most things penned by Rumi, this short quote packs a lot of punch.
Most of us don’t start walking until we can see a clear path ahead. We wait to paint that canvas, write that book, find that dream job, or attend graduate school until the choice presents itself with perfect clarity (and preferably comes attached with job satisfaction and a six-figure salary).
Here’s the problem: The path, as Rumi writes, rarely appears until you start walking. As we’re busy making excuses about why we can’t walk just yet—I’m not qualified, I don’t feel ready, I don’t have the right contacts, I don’t have enough time—the path remains concealed. We wait, wait, and wait, until someone else crosses the finish line first.
The solution? Start walking before you think you’re ready. Action precedes motivation. If you wait for motivation to strike before you act, you’ll never get off the ground.
“Ready” is an illusion. You’ll never be perfectly ready for anything. There’ll always be detours and unanticipated speed bumps ahead. The solution to the uncertainty we feel before trying something new isn’t another self-help book or online course. Instead, it’s to embrace the uncertainty about the path that lies ahead.
Yes, you haven’t walked down this particular path before, but find solace in knowing that you’ve conquered many others.
Just a week ago, I started writing my second book. Do I feel ready? Absolutely not. I’m slightly horrified. There are tens of books to read, thousands of pages of research to cull through, and roughly a hundred people to interview. As I started manufacturing excuses about why I can’t write just yet, I forced myself to start putting some words down. What I have so far is embarrassing, but it started illuminating the path forward.
When I look at early blog posts of mine, I cringe. I didn’t have a good sense of what I’d write about, what the messaging of my website would be, and numerous other questions that eluded answers. But I don’t regret hitting publish. My only regret is not starting earlier because, if I had, I’d be far ahead of where I am now.
But don’t take it from me. Numerous entrepreneurs extol the virtues of beginning before they’re ready. For example, former Yahoo CEO and President Marissa Mayer attributes her success in part to starting even when she’s uncertain: “I always did something I was a little not ready to do. I think that’s how you grow. When there’s that moment of ‘Wow, I’m not really sure I can do this,’ and you push through those moments, that’s when you have a breakthrough.” Even rocket scientists begin before they’re ready. When NASA flew the first pieces of the International Space Station to orbit, the design of the Station wasn’t even completed.
So stop reading this article, and take one small step toward your goal. Then take another. Now another. You can’t see it just yet, but the path will gradually reveal itself. Before you know it, the distance behind you will be longer than the distance ahead of you.
The path won’t change who you are. It’ll help you discover it. And life will never be the same again.