In a recent interview with veteran YouTubers Rhett and Link, Rhett says the phrase “You always gain something just by beginning something”.
However, it’s the following part that is really interesting. He goes on to say that it never ends up succeeding how you imagine it would, but it morphs into something else.
This gave me pause to think. I believe what he’s saying is way more profound than it first appears. As I reflect on my successes, they are often born out of me starting something.
When you consider starting something new, or challenging yourself, you start to evaluate all the different aspects of it. Will I be any good, will I have time for it, what will other people think, is it the right — dare I say, perfect — idea, will I enjoy it. The list goes on and on.
You can paralyse yourself waiting for all those answer to be ‘yes’, but that will never happen. You will never have the perfect moment to start something.
I believe it’s better to have a why — a general direction of something you feel is important and bigger than yourself. Then it makes it easier to try new things in that direction, learn a ton of new skills and insights and maximise your opportunity for luck and finding what you really enjoy doing.
You will never predict how it will turn out, but it will be better than never starting, that’s for sure. There is no failure in trying things, but a whole load of learning with a sprinkle of accidental success.
Things I started that had unexpected successes
Let me illustrate with examples from my own journey. I didn’t have any expectations of what would happen. I just started something.
My YouTube Journey
In 2016 I was creatively frustrated due to work commitments. I picked up my camera one day and committed to making 10 daily vlogs. I didn’t make 10 videos, I made 130.
While this chapter of my YouTube journey was a ‘failure’ — only achieving 350 subscribers, it gave me the following:
- Confidence on camera
- An understanding of the YouTube platform and creator mindset
- Video production and editing experience
This I carry forward with my career.
Accidental Zettelkasten Teacher
I started to explore the Zettelkasten note-taking method after reading How to Take Smart Notes, and in a reply to a tweet I made a graphic explaining my thinking. I didn’t think much of it.
Then I started something. I made a video explaining what this graphic means. Little did I know, this video would go on to get 100K+ views and earn over £400 in advertising revenue.
This changed my YouTube trajectory where I’m now at 8,000 subscribers and well known in the Zettelkasten and note-taking space.
3,000 people on my app waitlist
In 2021 I forced myself to release an early version of the note-taking app I’m building. I just wanted to release something. Then on a Hacker News thread I shared what I was working on. I didn’t think much of it. Then one person asked if I was collecting email signups. So I set that up and my signups now look like:
A happy accident because I shared what I was working on.
I got a job at IBM in part due to having experience trying to make a feature film that completely failed. It showed resilience in trying new things.
The work I do today is a result of me starting countless failed side projects, where I learned the ins-and-outs of the technology. All these projects have been instrumental in me gaining the skills to progress my career.
Success is a result of luck plus opportunity. You increase your opportunity to be lucky by starting things and seeing where the wind takes you. It won’t be where you think you’ll be, but you’ll be more experienced, more confident and more lucky.
So go start something today.
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