The First Five Minutes

Several people have asked me how I started The Simple Dollar and how I found the initiative to keep writing even in the early days when there was little success to be found.

Let’s take a walk down memory lane to September 30, 2006.

I was sitting at my computer playing a game of some kind – probably World of Warcraft, since I was dabbling in that a bit at the time. My son was taking a nap and my mind wad drifting towards thoughts of my future. What was I going to be doing five years from then?

At the time, my family had just begun our financial turnaround. I had been reading a lot of personal finance books and we had paid off the debt on most of our credit cards. The three of us (my wife, my son, and I) lived in a tiny apartment together, and I had a very steady job in a research lab. Things were, for the most part, quite good.

There was something missing, though. I felt a big, empty hole when I looked to the future. Since I was in high school, I had dreamed of becoming a writer, and all I could see in my future was that dream slipping away. I knew that, if I wanted my dreams of writing to come true, I had to make a change – a commitment to it.

And in that moment, everything changed.

I logged off World of Warcraft and decided that today was going to be the first day of the rest of my life. I didn’t know what the future held for it, but I knew that if I didn’t give writing a try, it would remain just a dream, nothing more, nothing less.

I had made many, many attempts at writing before, but never with any sustained seriousness. I also knew that I wouldn’t become a better writer if I didn’t commit to writing something and sharing it every day (I already wrote virtually every day in my journal, but I didn’t share these writings – and still don’t).

So I took that first step. I went to Blogger, signed up, and began to write. It took just a few minutes.

At first, it was aimless, of course. I didn’t really know what to write about, so I tried some writing exercises. One writing exercise suggested that I turn a journal entry into a piece of shared writing – and the result really shook me. It was this article, which became the start of The Simple Dollar.

In order to make myself write every day, I set my web browser so that my default page was a page to enter a new blog post. I couldn’t start my web browser without being totally confronted with that tall order – and the mixture of feelings that went with it.

Soon, though, the habit of writing for public consumption started to become more natural. I started at the end of the month and, somehow, it all took off.

In truth, though, everything that has happened with The Simple Dollar found its genesis in those first few minutes. In that time, I did four key things.

I realized that if I was ever going to reach my dream, I needed to start now. Every year that passes is a year of lost opportunities. No matter what, you’ll never get those opportunities back. You’ll grow older, have less energy and initiative than before, and those dreams will grow grayer and grayer. There is no someday that’s better than today.

I did something tangible right off the bat. My tangible act was starting a blog that would quickly become The Simple Dollar. I signed up for it right then and there, on the spot, so that I wouldn’t have time to get lost in the details of planning and hemming and hawing and hedging my bets. That immediate, tangible action took my dream from complete unreality to something at least a bit tangible.

I shared what I had done with others. As soon as I started the blog and posted something, I sent the URL to several friends to share what I was doing. Not only that, I asked them to check it regularly and to please comment on what I was doing, even if the comment was negative. Having several sets of eyes on me provided quite a bit of motivation right off the bat. This works with any goal – just make a public yardstick of your progress and tell lots of people about it.

I put the next steps in the process so front and center that I couldn’t avoid them. Even after those little pieces were in place, it would have been easy to let the train die on the tracks. I had to rub my face in my plans for success, so I set a huge, flashing reminder for myself – that blog update page became my browser’s default page. I saw it multiple times every day. I couldn’t avoid that consistent reminder to write, write, write.

Those four keys can be the keys to any success. They can be applied to anything from weight loss to a musical career. The best part? You can be sitting there at your desk, twiddling your thumbs, and start to take those actions to get the ball rolling.

What’s your dream?

Why haven’t you started yet?

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