Start

If we don’t start, it’s certain we can’t arrive.
- Zig Ziglar

One of the biggest themes of The Simple Dollar is goals. I find goal-setting – figuring out a specific goal, writing it down, coming up with a specific plan to get there, and following that plan – to be incredibly empowering. Diving head-first into such planning has quite literally changed my life, as it made The Simple Dollar and my subsequent writing opportunities possible. It made paying off all of our credit card debts, car loans, and student loans possible, leaving us with just a mortgage. Goal-setting gave me a framework for writing two books in the past three years, and it’s giving me a framework for learning how to play the piano and countless other personal objectives.

If you roll back the clock five years, I was buried in debt. I had vague dreams of being a writer. The Simple Dollar hadn’t even popped into my mind yet.

What took me from there to here? I attribute it to goals, of course, but there’s something much more specific than that at the core here.

The start.

The Simple Dollar was born because I sat down one evening and decided to stop dreaming about it and start doing it. I threw together a rough site design on Blogspot and wrote my first article within a couple of hours.

I started paying off debts because I sat down one evening and decided I needed to get my financial life under control. I studied all of my debts, came up with a plan for tackling them, and started cleaning out my closets within the first few hours.

When I look around my life, there are so many other things I would love to accomplish. I have several big household projects that are just sitting on the back burner. I’ve got ideas for two future books and at least two blogs I’d love to start. I’d like to run a 5K next fall.

Big goals, big dreams. None of them will happen until I sit down and make the decision to get started with them. I can dream all I want, but until I get started, nothing will happen.

Which brings us back to you.

Almost all of us have a dream or two floating out there. A big home project we’d like to pull off. A career change. A lifestyle change. A diet change. A change in our social circle. A new skill we’d like to learn.

It is so easy to dream about these things. But it’s not the dreaming that changes a life – it’s the doing and the accomplishing.

Today is the day to get started on one of those big goals.

Here’s my challenge to you. Tonight, go home and spend two hours on the big thing you’re dreaming most about in your life. Sit down, figure out a plan for how to get from where you’re at to where you want to be. Write out that whole plan. Then take the first big step towards getting there, whatever that might be.

You’ll feel so good about things that you’ll barely be able to wait until your next opportunity to take a whack at it. Soon, you’ll find yourself moving towards a goal that you thought was out of reach – and growing as a person at the same time.

That’s a big win, no matter how you slice it.

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34 thoughts on “Start

  1. Vicky says:

    :) As I am struggling to get things done and get other things started, this post comes as some much needed extra motivation.

    Thank you!

  2. GC says:

    I dream about financial freedom and I now know what I need to do to get it. . . thanks to an excel spreadsheet and decent web-based budgeting tool

    you’re right. I just need to start.

  3. Terri says:

    At age 49/50 I decided I needed to go back to work for financial as well as sanity reasons:)- In order to do anything other than fling fries, I determined that I needed to go back to school. So now I am in school to obtain an Information Technology degree and certifications. I still am troubled by how to get from here to there and still have money to eat and pay the mortgage. But at least I am doing something about it and overcame my fears of being too old to go back to school.

  4. AMG says:

    I started reading your blog a few days ago and it has really inspired me to get off my bottom and start ticking items off of my todo list. We are currently in the process of cleaning out the house, which has been amazingly therapeutic. Junk is out, money is staying in. I love it!

  5. Angie says:

    This is probably one of your best posts, Trent. Mostly because it’s true. Dreams get people nowhere. Actions do. There’s a whole list of things I need to do. Various household projects. Phone calls. Signing kids up for soccer. It was so long, I did nothing. So, last week, I declared Thursday my errand day. In that one day, I made 3 phone calls, dropped off the soccer registrations, stopped at Goodwill and picked up my contacts from the eye doctor, helped my kids clean their rooms. It spurred me to work on (then find a problem with what I was doing and need to rethink what I’m doing) a landscape project that’s left unfinished. I feel so much better getting necessary stuff off my plate so I can focus on what’s left. Heck, I think dedicating one day a week as ‘errand/finish day’ will be my saving grace…

  6. MissGina says:

    Just 2 hours, ok I can do that!
    Thanks!

  7. Angie says:

    This is probably one of your best posts, Trent. Mostly because it’s true. Dreams get people nowhere. Actions do. There’s a whole list of things I need to do. Various household projects. Phone calls. Signing kids up for soccer. It was so long, I did nothing. So, last week, I declared Thursday my errand day. In that one day, I made 3 phone calls, dropped off the soccer registrations, stopped at Goodwill and picked up my contacts from the eye doctor, helped my kids clean their rooms. It spurred me to work on (then find a problem with what I was doing and need to rethink what I’m doing) a landscape project that’s left unfinished. I feel so much better getting necessary stuff off my plate so I can focus on what’s left. Heck, I think dedicating one day a week as ‘errand/finish day’ will be my saving grace…

  8. Jamboree says:

    Love the post, and I have a totally sincere question: What do you do when your dreams are not the dreams of your spouse? Mine is a lifestyle change that he’s “just not into”. I think your advice still applies – write it down and figure out how to get from here to there, but maybe not with the people in my life today. Thanks for all the excellent tips!

  9. Frankie says:

    Ok, Trent! I will.
    I will get started on my big project! Maybe I’ll start a blog about it…. hmmm…

  10. Rebecca says:

    You are so right. For years, we always seemed to have credit card debt. No more. As of August 4, I made the last payment to Discover, and it feels so good not to owe on those cards any longer!

    I sat down, made a list, and just started paying smallest to largest (ala Dave Ramsey) and it took several years, but it’s done! And it feels great!

    Now it’s on to other consumer debt and home repairs. This success has been so inspiring!

  11. Julia says:

    Thanks Trent!

    I just went through this last night. On a whim, I opened up a blogspot account and wrote my first post.
    The problem: I started at about 10pm, and it was about 1am before I went to bed.
    I really want to write another tonight and/or begin another project. But I am really tired.

    Which reminds me, how did you get your very first readers?

  12. Frugal Ella says:

    @julia – check out copyblogger.com and problogger.com There are tons of ideas on how to build your blog into a success.

    Two hours! I love the idea…just wondering where to find the time :) I have tons of dreams and goals – financial security for my family is the top priority and I have plans on how to get there. For some reason it is so hard to take the leap and actually start working it. Life seems to get in the way.

  13. Tony Robbins talks about this, that change happens in an instant–the instant you decide you need to go in a different direction. There’s a bit more to it of course, but a thought process develops and slowly evolves up to the point where it converts into action.

    I also think Trent’s point, “It is so easy to dream about these things. But it’s not the dreaming that changes a life – it’s the doing and the accomplishing.” is underrated.

    The decision to start is the necessary beginning, but it’s those action steps that follow that convert it into reality. Developing forward motion, even a little at a time, is critical otherwise a goal is nothing more than a dream.

  14. MM says:

    This is so true, Trent. Two years ago I was dreaming of having an IT certification. I was spending some time reviewing but it was was pointless because I was afraid to place myself to take the actual exam (certification takes 5 exams).

    One month ago, I took a schedule for the first exam and crammed the review. I absorbed things more effectively during review because I set myself a hard deadline. This week, I will take my 3rd exam.

    I am true believer of starting things. Now, even I feel fear and there is a big possibility to fail, I just start things. We might be surprised that things aren’t that fearful when you face it head on.

  15. The power of goals is life transforming as you so clearly stated. Over decades, I have set financial, academic, and various other goals. In my experience, after writing down a goal, it is only a matter of time before it is completed. I don’t worry about the end product, just enjoy the process, and the end result evolves over time (with effort, of course).

  16. Shan says:

    THANK YOU TRENT! I needed this post, today. I’ve been working all summer on getting my new business licensed and ready to open so that I can be at home with my sons in the day, and have run into various forms of red tape. I know that I can get them all sorted out tomorrow if I stop putting things off and create a concrete list tonight of who I need to call… and what I need to say. Thanks again.

  17. Systemizer says:

    “Go home and spend two hours on the big thing you’re dreaming most about in your life.”

    I have a goal to stop visiting a blog whose author discloses too much about himself, making me feel like a voyeur.

    Start fail.

  18. Ralph Ruiz says:

    For twenty nine years I’ve read the books, attended the seminars, listen to some pretty interesting speakers. I’m 53 as I write and I’m Behind on accomplishing anything of lasting consequence. Tonight I read this post. It’s a new day. Thank you Trent. Thank you so much. Just what I needed to read. I just got demoted at work and for some reason i feel…relieved. Two hours coming right up…

  19. Erica says:

    Hey, Trent, readers who find this post motivating might get something out of Barbara Sher’s book Wishcraft: http://wishcraft.com/ It’s one of my favorite inspirational books (the kind that I pick up every few years for a jolt of energy), and it runs along the theme you touch on here: that there really is a concrete series of small steps between you and your wildest dreams, you just have to sit down and plot them out, and then *do* them. Because when you have a map of where the small steps are taking you — and it’s the place your heart of hearts desires to go — how can you *not* be motivated to take them?

    She has a blog too, though it’s a bit out of date: http://www.barbarasherwishcraft.com/wc-blog.html

  20. Kate says:

    #6 MM has a very valid point about fear. It keeps people from doing so many things. That first step toward any change seems so big but it really takes a lot of little steps. I have found that breaking big projects down into manageable chunks works so well.

  21. I highly agree with the concept of “starting” but not so much with goal setting. When I first started out getting out of debt, I was so far in the hole, if I had set a goal early on, I may have gotten discouraged and given up.

    For example, what should I have done–when I figured out I was $25K in debt, make my goal that I want to only be $20K in debt in six months?

    What a depresing goal.

    I’m not saying it will work for everybody, but in the beginning, I put my head down, ignored the balances on all my CC statements, and bulled my way through that debt.

    Once the balances got to a level actually in this stratosphere did I formulate specific goals.

    Just one man’s opinion…

  22. coolkit says:

    Very powerful post! Nothing can farther from the truth that mountains are conquered by taking the first step. Dreaming about climbing the mountain is great, because it fixes a visual image of where you want to be, where you want to go and what you want to be. But dreaming alone will keep it just out of the reach. Starting towards it with baby step here and baby step there is all that is takes to get to the result.

    For many (friends and family), I find, that reaching 75% towards the goal and then stopping for whatever reason is attributed to failure. I think it is 75% success, because along that journey you learn a lot more about yourself, refine that goal. I see a lot of that when folks are trying to lose weight or get out of debt. Making just small changes in eating habits and saving just a tad amount more can lead to steady loss of weight and gain in cash balance.

    Several months back, sitting down one sunday morning with a cup of coffee, I did just that, I spent probably more than 2 hours but it was depressing and hurtful, but starting to write it down and plan a future, I feel more empowered to forge ahead because I have a path, not just a plan.

  23. MikeTheRed says:

    This is probably one of the best and most direct pieces of advice you’ve ever written here Trent. It gets at a basic point that thought, ideas, dreams and wishes are essentially nothing without execution.

    And it’s not about huge goals either, to David’s point above. If your dream seems insurmountable when looked at as a whole, then break it up into discrete chunks that can be accomplished over a shorter time span. It doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing, it just has to be something.

  24. moe says:

    Hey Trent,

    This is digressing, but why didn’t you do a book signing when you were Indy?

    Moe

  25. I created a Business Snowball.

    First I had an eBay business, then I used the money from that to start my blog, next I’ll take the money from my blog and start another business I have yet to create.

  26. Trudy says:

    Very timely post for me for a variety of reasons! I won’t be sitting down tonight for 2 hours – already scheduled events – but I will in this weekend. Thanks!

  27. Trent, was there a specific event or influence that was the catalyst for changing you from a dreamer to a doer?

  28. WendyH says:

    Good advice, last year I actually decided NOT to do something by sitting down and writing everything out like you suggested. I explored starting a business, but found out a lot of things about myself and the proposed business idea when I wrote a business plan and had to figure out HOW to do what I wanted to do to make it work. That hasn’t disuaded me from starting my own business, just gave me a better direction so I know what it will take to be successful. I think that having a well thought-out plan can also help with the fear of the unknown, whether it’s a career change, business venture, or just a financial plan.

  29. Julia says:

    David,
    I agree that sometimes you need to just jump in.
    That’s how I started working out – got out my CC and purchased some training sessions. I actually resisted pressure from my trainer to set goals – for about 2 months. My only goal at that point was to get into the habit of working out.
    That’s how I started by blog (still only 1 post, but I’m working on another one). That’s how I paid off my CC and made big progress with my car/student loans – just jumped into it, no goals.

    Some goals are so big, you just have to pick the first step and start doing it.

  30. Gal @ Equally Happy says:

    Also, don’t spend those two hours trying to figure out which big thing you want to do. Just pick one. Even if you’re not sure it’s THE most important one. If it’s something you want to do and you think will have a big impact, just get started. It’s better than sitting around doing nothing.

  31. Daniel says:

    Trent-
    I wish I had read this post first off before I mixed a fresh batch of laundry detergent and sat down to read the news and attend to my e-mails two-hours ago. I also need to hash-out a budget and sleep schedule for the fall semester which starts for me tomorrow.
    I also agree that following the steps in your post today to be vastly superior to letting things slide until the “fire” starts to get out of control and needs to be put out. My problem is that I tend to make-do with the situation as the sparks start flying because I am used to being stressed and weighed-down by the things that I let pile up. I’m like the biology experiment frog that boils to death in the pan of water that has the temperature slowly turned up. In reference to that experiment, how do people who are, and have been, weighed down by life and the many stresses that accompany life on this planet adjust the jump-out-of-the-water point for making these “the start” style decisions?

  32. Diane Eberle says:

    I wanted to comment on the breastfeeding. For a part-time job, my perspective would be that unless it is more than six hours straight pumping may not be needed. I’ve breastfed three kids on full time and part time schedules. I’ve also done presentations for the local la leche league yearly meeting on the working mom. Other options to buying a new pump (deluxe or not) include purchasing a used pump- you can buy attachments new which would need to be sterile and the marmet techique otherwise known as hand expression. Another option is checking with insurance companies which may either have rentals or reimburse for the pump. It is to the insurance companies benefit since breastfeeding reduces or eliminates ear infections, insurance claims and sick doctors visits and reduces or lessens the severity of allergies or allergic reactions. On another note, I’ve really enjoyed this article and found it to be very true. Coincidentially, the night before reading it, I decided to start on my big dreams- and worked 15 minutes at a time alternating between getting rid of clutter and revamping my resume. My big dream for right now is to get a telecommuting or more flexible job so I can spend more time with my kids. I was able to get a lot done in about two-three hours and feel motivated to do more and trying to find ways to eliminate bills and reduce monthly expenses.

  33. Liz says:

    Yes, just start. I had a big fix for my computer, not hard, that I could not make myself do. It was a series of steps flowing into one another. Finally I did a few steps, then later on in the day a few more. What was that slogan for Nike a a few years ago? Just do it.

  34. Suzy says:

    I find that once I just START any idea that I’m thinking about, it tends to take on a life of its own. In other words, I find that there is a point at which you can’t plan everything out to the very exact detail. That’s where most people get stuck. They get to a detail that they can’t figure out and they throw up their hands and say “forget it.” If you have a desire to do something then it is meant to be. Once I start then I can modify as I see what is needed. Yes, you are right it all begins with that first step.

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