This guest post is by Nick Thacker of Life Hacks for Living Well.
Are you “brushing off” the work you need to complete? Or are you able to “brush it off” when it’s finished, ready to launch into the world?
I’ve had experience brushing off the things that needed to be done—and I’m sure you have, too—but I’ve also had the satisfying feeling of being able to put down my tools and say, finally, “I’m done.”
I’m referring to that point you eventually reach, after many long hours and sleepless nights, where there’s no more you can you can possibly do to improve your project, no more tweaking or adding or altering—it is done, as perfect as it can be.
But this “feeling,” this goal I invariably set for myself prior to embarking on any project, is sometimes fleeting, lofty, and quite unreachable.
Sometimes it’s a matter of scope—the project is too large to possibly accomplish by one person. Other times it’s the lack of direction: we don’t know where to go with our blog—or our business. But still other times it’s just a matter of not understanding clearly our expectations, and the time it takes to complete them.
The right expectations
I was thinking recently about my experience as a Boy Scout during my grade school years. I enjoyed pretty much all of the events, camping trips, and fundraisers we did, but there was one annual event we participated in that was held in much higher esteem than the rest. My father and I, once a school year, would begin that journey every young man so impatiently awaits for the rest of the season—the coveted Pinewood Derby competition.
A “Pinewood Derby” is a small (about 8 inches by 3 inches), four-wheeled vehicle powered by gravity and graphite-rubbed plastic wheel bearings. The cars, two at a time, would be raced down a track made of wood. It sounds simple, but for young American boys everywhere, it was the raison d’etre for joining and paying your dues to the Boy Scouts of America.
Every year, my dad and I would start dreaming about what style and shape to cut, design, and paint my car. We would shoot for the most aerodynamic, stylistic, and awe-inspiring design that would still be allowed in the races (there were, of course, weight and size restrictions!). One year was a “hot dog” design that almost took home the gold, while another year was a failed attempt at a Camaro convertible with a spoiler.
We would start the project most years by planning, blueprinting, and marking the rectangular block of wood with cut marks in pencil (did I mention my dad’s an engineer?). Only after planning, sanding, cutting, and sanding some more could we even begin to think about putting on the cool pewter attachments—engine blocks, headers, and so on. Finally, after letting glue dry, sanding once more, and then waiting a few more days, we would apply the paint to the finished product.
With me as Creative Director and Dad as Chief Technical Officer and Director of Engineering, the product, no matter how poorly it actually performed in the races, would be something prized and rewarding for both of us—it was something we would, literally, “brush off” when we’d finish, take it inside to show Mom, and then put on the trophy shelf after it had served on the racetrack.
One year was different, though. Dad was either out of town during the initial months leading up to the Derby, or I’d just decided I was old enough to get started myself. I had my wood block, access to power tools, and plenty of sandpaper.
Rather than waste time with the planning, creative process, and initial sanding, I decided to jump in get started making my dream car. I’d also decided to start about a week before the competition.
Needless to say, the car was shoddily built. It was sticky to hold, as the paint hadn’t really dried well, the pieces constantly fell off (we had to bring a hot glue gun to the event), and it gave everyone splinters (I said this was part of the car’s built-in defense mechanisms). I had mostly “brushed off” the steps that he’d taught me were necessary. Dad wasn’t overly excited about it, but he knew a lesson was in store for his oldest son.
Sure enough, I realized (though much later in life) what the lesson was: while each stroke of the sandpaper and each slow pull of the paintbrush wouldn’t make a marked difference on the outcome, it was the step-by-step process we went through to ensure every piece of the puzzle was in place that created the final wooden racer.
In short: the whole was much bigger than the sum of its parts.
Embrace the process
That year, I’d skipped out on a lot of the process, and because of that, I couldn’t “brush off” my work and show it off to my friends and fellow scouters.
For my fellow bloggers, here’s the takeaway:
- Don’t cheat the system: If you’re trying to start a blog, and you know that blogs need great content, don’t spend money on a ton of ghost-written PLR articles that sound exactly the same.
- Don’t cut corners: If there’s a “standard process” that others in your niche have gone through—maybe they spent most of their early years doing nothing but churning out guest posts and commenting on blogs—don’t think there’s a “secret way” to reach the same level with much less work.
- Don’t “brush it off”: Don’t brush off the little things. Every comment, every guest post, and every tweet that you send is an ambassador for who you are—what you are—online. I don’t know you from Adam, so if I visit your blog and see posts written at a second-grade reading level with nothing but AdSense everywhere, what do you think that tells me about you? Come on, get it together!
Okay, okay, there’s always the exception that proves the rule.
If, by chance, you do blog for money only—and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that—then you’ll have systems and procedures in place for that as well, and they need to be honored. The same rules apply:
- If you find that most money-making blogs are earning their income because of their massive amounts of content, why would you think you could do better only writing three or five posts per week? Spend some money on some well-written posts to fill out your site, and spend your time building your business.
- If you run a business of any kind online, don’t cut the corners or “brush it off,” or you’ll most likely give people splinters. There’s a reason Internet marketers spend so much time cultivating and building their email lists. Why would you think you’re special and can just buy a billion email addresses for $50 bucks?
Don’t skimp on the details—they’re what are going to set you apart from every other teenaged marketing “guru” out there, and they’re also going to give you more experience in much less time. As so many business experts and professionals have said, “fail often.” Don’t be afraid to fail—just know that it will be a failure that will help you “brush off” a project (in a good way!) in the future.
“Brush off” your project or business now, and you won’t be able to “brush it off” in the future. Don’t “brush off” your project today, and you’ll be able to “brush it off” and show it off tomorrow.
Nick Thacker is interested in learning and writing about ways to live better–his website is Life Hacks for Living Well, and is a repository of tips, tricks, and resources to getting what you want out of life, in a better way. You can subscribe to his feed directly by clicking here.