The illusion of catching up

One of the most important parts of hesitancy is that it compounds. When you notice other people making progress, and you feel caught in inertia, it’s important not to let your own expectations get away from you; you’re not going to catch up by aiming to catch up.

Let’s say you and your friend had intended to write books; a year later, they wrote one, and you didn’t. You’re seeing their press momentum, and their promotions on social media, and you feel worse about yourself. 

You might start to think, “Wow, since I waited so long, I need to write a book that’s going to be twice as good as theirs, with better ideas, more publicity, and better designs.” 

That’s exactly how creative blocks build up; the expectation is escalating beyond the realm of possibility

It can feel exciting in the moment to dream up the results of writing something more popular than your friend; the hangover will inevitably catch up, “How the hell am I going to catch up?” It leads you to evaluate everything from that lens, setting up imaginary barriers that you’ll inevitably need to remove.

Rather than to do all of that, it’s better to consider a few possibilities:

  • Life is not linear: races and paths are all mental models that you may have grown up with, so much so that you need to intentionally let go of that worldview
  • Starting small is much more feasible than starting big, so do that: think smaller, then smaller again. Write a short book, like The Dip (one estimate is 13,500 words, another is 24,000), or even a monograph like Turning the Flywheel, or a pamphlet
  • Focus on the work: what can you actually do to write a book? What topics are you well-suited for, that you know better than most people and have something valuable to offer? Is there some way you could achieve this within a month or two?

Don’t worry about catching up; there’s never been more people making stuff, and there also hasn’t ever been more space in this world for good work, and the people who make and deliver it.

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