My internal dialog started in 2008 when I decided to write another book to help me market my services.
Here’s what my mind used to say:
“Yeah, that’s a great idea for my second book! Let me think about it for awhile.” Then a day or two later, “No, that idea stinks, gotta find a better idea.”
This somewhat agonizing thought process repeated itself for more than five years. No kidding.
There’s a term for this type of brain activity. It’s called “paralysis by analysis.”
It was a perfect strategy for killing my marketing creativity.
I suspect it’s also epidemic, as I’ve worked with many clients who had this affliction; they over-thought virtually every marketing idea and rarely moved into action.
In last week’s article, I talked about the power of going ALL IN.
My main point was that if you shift the context of what you’re working on to WHY you’re working on it — what motivates you — your marketing activities will become easier and more fun to implement.
But does that mean we’ll never get stalled or suck on a particular project? Not necessarily. Heck, it took me all that time to get past my resistance to writing that damn book!
If my current self was to go back and offer some coaching to my past, paralyzed self, what might I say?
Feel free to substitute a marketing project you are resisting as I coach myself back to taking action
Dramatist personae: OR – Old Robert, NR– New Robert
OR – I just can’t get this book going. I come up with a new idea for the book almost every month, but after a day or two I don’t like the idea anymore and I chuck it. What can I do? I want to write this damn thing.
NR – Sounds more like a burden than something you’re excited about.
OR – We’ll, yeah; it’s going to take a lot of work, even if I do come up with a good idea.
NR – But it took a lot of work to write your first book, The InfoGuru Marketing Manual. Yet, wasn’t it still fun and exciting to write? What’s changed?
OR – Good question! I was excited to write it because I’d been writing articles for my ezine for a few years and the ideas were really flowing and I had the vision for a complete how-to marketing manual for independent professionals. I also saw a big need and thought it might really be successful. And ultimately, it was.
NR – Great, so you had a clear purpose or what I like to call a BIG WHY at that time. That shifted the whole context and that lit a fire under you right?
OR – Exactly!
NR – So let’s see if we can come up with a BIG WHY for this next book. And it’s never, “Because I should write another book.” Not motivating at all. The exact idea of what the book will be about isn’t important yet. That underlying BIG WHY is much more important.
OR – Ok, I see the difference. Well, in the manual I wanted to cover absolutely everything I knew about marketing. In this next book, I want to help people make the process easier and more fun. I know that would really make a difference and help a lot more people. Wow, I feel differently about it already. That is my BIG WHY!
NR – OK, great, I can feel it as well. So all you need to do is get started, right?
OR – Well, not exactly. I may now have my BIG WHY, but I’m still clueless about my BIG WHAT. I don’t have a central idea or theme; I don’t know what will make this different than my first book and how I can explain how to make marketing easier and more fun. So, still stuck.
And now, dear readers, read the next part closely because it’s the key to accomplishing big things.
NR – Here’s your problem. You’re putting the cart before the horse. You don’t need to know the BIG WHAT before you start. You know you want to write a book and you have a BIG WHY. Now sit down and start writing. I assume you know how to write?
OR – Yes, but how can I start to write when I don’t know what exactly the book will be about or how it will unfold?
NR – Let’s try a little experiment. Set a Goal and a BIG WHY to walk across the room to pick up your reading glasses on the table over there. OK, clear? Now just go and do it.
OR gets up, crosses the room, picks up his reading glasses, and then walks back to his chair.
NR – OK, easy right? Did you have to figure out what your style of walking was, how you would raise your arm to reach for your glasses, how you’d open your fingers and then close them again to grasp them, how you’d turn around and walk back to your seat, let alone that daunting task of sitting down back in your seat?
OR – We’ll, no I didn’t need to do any of that. I just got up, walked over to the table, got my glasses and walked back. I didn’t need to figure out anything at all. Are you saying writing a book is as simple as that? That’s hard to buy.
NR – We’ll, that’s exactly what I’m saying, but it’s hard for you to buy because you’re still stuck in paralysis by analysis. What writing a book looks like is sitting down at the computer, writing a sentence and another sentence, and then another. And as you write, more ideas will come to you. And you’ll go back and edit and fine-tune and polish until you have something worth reading.
Now it’s great if you’re crystal clear about your topic and book direction ahead of time. But it’s not absolutely essential. You can start with no more than a BIG WHY. But if you keep it all inside your head and never start writing, the chances are good that book will never get written. And the same is true of ANY marketing project.
OR – OK, I get it. I can just start and see what comes. That’s what I do every week with my ezine/blog article. And with a book, I can pace myself, write some, edit some, until the direction of the book starts to emerge. I can do that.
And… I did. I took a break from work over Christmas and New Years in 2011, wrote for four hours every morning and completed the first draft in 19 days.
Cured of paralysis by analysis. Here’s the process I suggest you follow if you’re suffering from the same affliction.
- Get as clear as possible on your BIG WHY.
- Get outta your head and into the present moment.
- Get started. Take an action, however small in the direction of your goal.
- Keep taking action, and improving with study, trial, and error.
- Work hard, strive for excellence, but also have self-compassion (more on that in another article).
Don’t make the work more difficult than this. Sure, there are a million things to learn before you become a marketing genius, but just getting started is the foundation of everything.
Hey, do you have questions or comments about the ideas in this article? Do you have a paralysis by analysis story?
Please share on the blog comments below.
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