If you’re waiting for a sign, this is it

There are so many things I haven’t done because of fear, doubt, and procrastination.

I thought I wasn’t ready yet. I thought that if I learn just one more thing, practice just one more repetition, read just one more book, I would know exactly what I needed to do.

I thought every new skill would be like a school subject, where I can learn the entire material and get an A+. I used to be the kid who always got straight A+ and would become very upset if I did not. I thought that the only thing between me and doing the things I wanted correctly at the first try was the right amount of study.

But every book I read pointed me to several more that explored the topic further. Every thing I learned revealed to me how ignorant I am in other areas needed to kick my project off. I kept studying diligently, hoarding how-to’s, dos-and-don’ts, and best practices, analysing what-ifs, and dreaming of a day when I’ll finally have it all figured out.

In the end, I had to admit that life is not a school. There’s no amount of theoretical preparation that will guarantee success in this messy, open-ended game. I can be the best student, do my homework perfectly, and still get an unsatisfactory result in the real world.

It was very painful to acknowledge that, as I’d built a whole identity out of mastering closed, arbitrary games, where the rules and scope were clear and well-defined. I would root my sense of self-worth in my ability to master them. Now that I had no guarantee that I would champion this new game, I felt like every failure would prove that I am worthless.

Luckily, real life is nothing like school. No one has it all figured out. There’s no answer sheet you can use to calculate your score, and no authority figure to give you permission, or tell you if you’re doing a great job.

To go where no one has before means to learn the thing on the job, fail, then course correct, then fail again.

If that sounds too scary, there’s plenty of places where you can find clear guidelines and structures to stay within. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, this is the default way. You could get a government or corporate job, and have an entire career path laid out in front of you, with known rules to follow, and a clear picture of what success looks like.

But if the thing you dream of does not have a clear structure or certification process, you will never feel quite ready for it. And there will be no one to authoritatively give you green light to start.

If you’re waiting for a sign, this is it.

The time is now.

2 responses to “If you’re waiting for a sign, this is it”

  1. […] There’s so many things I haven’t done because of fear. There’s even more that I did after months or even years of procrastinating. Quitting an old job or starting a new one, asking someone out or breaking up, starting a new project or saying no to someone asking for a favor. At one point I spent entire 6 months with no other job than to write my bachelor’s thesis–and didn’t even properly start it at that time. […]

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