One of the hardest things in the world for me is getting started. Once I’m in the middle of something, you can throw down nearly any roadblock and I’ll happily kill myself trying to clamber over it, but I will put off taking the first step for years. First steps give me anxiety attacks. First steps make me want to throw up. If I don’t take the first step, then the future project remains perfect in my mind, and I don’t have to risk real-life failure. (Important note: I obviously define real-life failure as mockery and rejection exactly like what I’m subjecting myself to inside my own head. Good luck throwing anything worse at me, world.)
People often say in abstract that their partner makes them a better person. But one of the specific ways David makes me a better person is that he does whatever it takes to get me started. While all the hard work is mine, both my book and this blog would not exist without David forcing me to take the first step. Almost exactly six years ago, David suggested I start a blog called, “A Practical Wedding.” I thought about it a little bit, and then decided I had a zillion ideas and I wanted to get started. But the idea of setting up a blog on Blogspot was more than I could manage. This, from the girl who now runs a back end so complicated it looks like a spaceship. But I swear to God, the idea of going to Blogspot (God what a terrible platform that was) and hitting the sign up button seemed insurmountable. So I asked David to help me, and thirty minutes later he handed me the computer, with a basic little blog template, and told me to go. I wrote and published three posts that afternoon, once I’d been helped over that first hurdle.
These days, I spend a lot of time teaching about entrepreneurship at conferences, and writing about it online. One of my goals is to help people identify what tiny step they’re turning into a huge roadblock, and then help them figure out how to hurdle it. As women, we’re raised to be cautious—to not get too big for our britches. To be the opposite of fearless. Which means that as adults, we (knowingly or not) set up roadblocks for ourselves (on top of the institutional roadblocks that are already set up for us). There’s safety in the place between having a good idea and executing it. And I find it agonizing to see so many women’s great ideas stalled because of roadblocks, while men so often run with (and succeed with) pale imitations of the same product. One of my current life goals is to help more women get up, and get going. To figure out what they need, and then be brave enough start hustling to get it. To ask for help to get over the first hurdle, if that’s what it takes (and that’s what it takes for me).
We partnered up with Squarespace on this post, because one of my personal hugest hurdles for any project has always been creating a website. Example One Zillion: I own megkeene.com, and is there anything on it? Noooooo, of course there isn’t. Because I’m not going to pay big money for what is essentially a resume site to get designed, branded, and professionally hosted. But as a professional in online publishing, I’m pretty sure it also shouldn’t be some sort of terrible looking Blogger hack. In fact, I got halfway through a Tumblr hack, realized the whole thing was a disaster, and quit. (I just looked at that project, and all the posts are dated January 1, 2013, so that New Years resolution clearly failed). Yes, yes, I’ve been creating online content for six years, but unless I’m paying someone to build me a website, I am literally boggled by the idea of trying to set it up myself. So I came up with a far simpler solution. Do nothing.
But it’s not just me. Lately I’ve been talking to smart successful women business owners about this. Super savvy friends. The intelligent women of Instagram. And I am blown away by the number of iterations of excuses we come up with for why we can’t get moving. By the really small things (hello, websites) that get in our way. By the large things (raising money) that we’re not willing to even try, so we don’t risk failing. Because honesty breeds more honesty, I took a flash poll of the APW staff, to see what their biggest self-created roadblocks were. I think you’re going to feel better about yourself after you read this list.
For me it’s pretending time is a barrier. I’ve said all of these things to myself in the past week alone:
“I can’t write in the morning because I’m too sleepy and running around to get out the door.”
“I can’t write on my lunch hour because I have to have a true break from work and never take one anyway.”
“I can’t write in the evenings because I’m sooooo tired from the commute and ‘need’ to watch Call The Midwife.”
“I can’t write on the commute because A) I only write in my journal, so it’s free association and not ‘pretty’ writing, and B) if I write too much my hand might cramp.” REALLY.
What they all mean at the heart of it is the same thing I battle every time I sit down, for now and for ever: I’m scared to, because what if it isn’t any good? We should rename this thread APW: 30 Seconds of Group Therapy.
A website was always my number one roadblock. In fact, the only reason our initial business got off the ground was because Monica knew a little bit of coding and could set up a skeletal site for us.
But really, my roadblock is always perfection. I have to have the PERFECT site before I launch and the perfect portfolio and the perfect logo, and it ends up paralyzing me. I realized recently: I’m never going to be as good as my own expectations, but luckily there are people who want to work with me who have slightly lower expectations than I do.
“That’s something adults do,” or “That’s something professionals do,” i.e., I can’t do that. Seeing myself as a professional, grown-ass adult was hard and I often struggled to do or try things that were totally normal and appropriate for me to do because I didn’t feel like I was allowed to yet.
For me it’s that I feel like all the prep work and creation work should be completely done before I start showing things around. Like, I can’t promote my website until it has all beautiful photos and fifty great blog posts and, and, and. So I’m slowly coming around to the idea that finished is an unattainable goal, and it’s the little pieces that should be tended and then promoted individually.
Right? It’s quite probable that you think of the APW staff as a bunch of super-do-ers. It’s quite possible that you think of me as someone who could manage launching a simple website (for God’s sake). And we are, in fact, all really capable individuals. But we’re also good at holding ourselves back, and we sometimes need a huge kick in the ass to thrive. The staff is good at giving each other that kick, but today, we thought we’d all do it together. Let’s put this down in black and white.
A. What are the biggest roadblocks in your life right now (imaginary or not)?
B. What have you done in the past to overcome some of the hurdles you’ve found most overwhelming? While this hurdle could be “survive cancer,” or something else obviously huge, it can also be something tiny sounding like “buy a URL,” or “make the first phone call.” I think most of us have dealt with both huge and tiny roadblocks. And honestly? Sometimes the tiny ones are what lay me out, because with huge you just gotta keep moving to survive.
Let’s put it down in black and white, and encourage each other. If we do this right, by the end of this thread a few businesses may be born, a few new jobs found, a few personal breakthroughs had.
If, like me, your roadblock is (now and forever) a website, check out Squarespace. It’s what I’m going to use to solve the megkeene.com problem. Squarespace takes out all of the guesswork of creating a website (you can even make wedding websites with them). They have 24/7 support (if you, like me, get to a roadblock and quit if you can’t fix things in five seconds). Their designs are clean, minimal, and super customizable. And you can incorporate e-commerce without having to install a single plugin. All Squarespace accounts come with a 14-day free trial, and there are no hidden fees if you sign up for one of their plans.
This is one thing you can do today. sign up for a free trial. play with it all weekend. I will too, and I’ll report back later this month.
Photo of me back in 2011 by Emily Takes Photos