in Personal Development

Start Before You’re Ready

If there’s one thing successful people and businesses seem to have in common, it’s that they start before they’re ready. This means taking immediate action and just going for it.

Richard Branson is a prime example of this. He recounts the story of how he started Virgin Airlines:

In ‘79, when Joan, my fiancee and I were on a holiday in the British Virgin Islands, we were trying to catch a flight to Puerto Rico; but the local Puerto Rican scheduled flight was cancelled. The airport terminal was full of stranded passengers. I made a few calls to charter companies and agreed to charter a plane for $2000 to Puerto Rico.

Cheekily leaving out Joan’s and my name, I divided the price by the remaining number of passengers, borrowed a blackboard and wrote: VIRGIN AIRWAYS: $39 for a single flight to Puerto Rico. I walked around the airport terminal and soon filled every seat on the charter plane.

As we landed at Puerto Rico, a passenger turned to me and said: “Virgin Airways isn’t too bad — smarten up the services a little and you could be in business.”

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That was it. Everyone on the cancelled flight faced the same dilemma, but only one person saw it as an opportunity and took action. By all standard definitions, Branson wasn’t ready at all. He had no knowledge about the aviation industry and wasn’t prepared or qualified in the slightest to start that business. Yet he did it anyway, by just going for it.

What’s interesting is that Branson has since gone on to say that if he had known about the low-profit margins airline companies face, he never would have started Virgin Airlines. “If you want to be a millionaire,” he says, “start with a billion dollars and launch a new airline.” He’s made it work, but if Branson hadn’t taken immediate action and instead deliberated and extensively researched the industry, been more ready, he never would have created one of the premier airlines today.

Many of us hesitate to do that which we desire the most by claiming we’re not ready. To start the business. To ask the girl out. To create music. To write. Some of us spend our entire lives waiting for the opportune moment.

Sadly, it seems the longer we wait to do something, the more likely we are to never do it. We’re our own worst enemies. So we must constantly struggle to quiet our lizard brains.

In the world of pick-up, there’s something called the 3-second rule. The idea is that if you see someone you’d like to meet, you must introduce yourself within three seconds. No hesitation, no scripts. It’s simple, but very effective because you just go for it. You have no time to overthink, get anxious about what to say, or psych yourself out.

We could all benefit by implementing a version of the 3-second rule into our own endeavors. To take action before we’re fully ready, and to just go for it.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of doing more research or adding another page to the business plan. These things are useful, but they don’t produce results. Likewise, brainstorming and planning is good, but doing so for too long often leads to a never-ending spiral of analysis paralysis.

This is understandable, of course; we all want to be fully ready before we take the leap. Unfortunately, it’s akin to striving for perfection. In the words of David Foster Wallace, “If your fidelity to perfectionism is too high, you never do anything.” The stars never align perfectly and conditions are never optimal. You’ll never have everything figured out. And that’s OK. It’s much easier to start small and figure things out along the way than it is to hit perfection the first time around.

Talk to anyone at the top of their game and you’ll hear something like this: “When I got started, I was a mess. I had no idea what I was doing, I just kept putting stuff out there. After a while, everything came together.”

We ought to trust that everything will come together. It’s impossible to connect the dots looking forward, but very possible looking backwards.

So start now and take the leap. You’ll grow your wings along the way.

“The fool did not know it was impossible. So he went ahead and did it.”