July 20, 2022

Missing out on a dream that belonged to me and nobody else


Some people can’t accomplish anything unless they have a deadline.

External accountability creates the pressure that sharpens their thinking and motivates them to take action. It’s the whip crack of that looming date that’s necessary to spur their creative endeavors.

Without it, they fall into the not perfect yet cycle and fail to bring work to completion.

This is not my personality. Reverse procrastination is more of my thing.

Frontloading, putting a greater proportion of my activity at the beginning of the process, insures me against snowballing of any of the downstream issues of a project.

But I’ve had numerous clients and coworkers where deadlines very much brought them alive. That gust of pressure invigorated them to do great work.

And there’s nothing incorrect about that style. Everyone has their own relationship with tension. Everyone uses inner emotional unrest in their own unique way.

Here’s my version of that.

Rather than motivating myself through the fear of missing a deadline and letting other people down with my work, my motivation comes from the potential regretting of not taking action sooner with my work.

Let me explain.

My developer and I took six months to build and launch our software as a service platform. There was no hard timetable or official product roadmap, as we both had full time jobs and weren’t in a rush to ship the project.

But deep down, there was a part of me that was terrified somebody else would execute my idea before I did. That was my greatest fear, and it would have devastated me if it came true. Because this software project was something that had been in the works for well over ten years at that point. It felt more significant than anything I’d worked on to date.

And so, to come that far, only to realize another person did it first because I’d waited too long, that regret would have haunted me a lifetime. That was my motivation. That was the tension that fueled me.

It wasn’t the fear of missing a deadline, but the fear of missing out on a dream that felt like it belonged to me and nobody else. As someone who defines himself by being special and different from everyone else, you can imagine how scary that was.

Obama writes about this very thing his memoir. Reflecting on his decision to leave the senate and run for president, here’s what he said:

You think you may not be ready, that you’ll do it at a more convenient time. But you don’t choose the time. The time chooses you. Either you seize what may turn out to be the only chance you have, or you decide you’re willing to live with the knowledge that the chance has passed you by.

What type of tension motivates you to finish your work? What inner emotional unrest helps you finish projects you’re proud of?

Truth is, spiritual forces like motivation and inspiration, these are perishable goods. You have to capitalize on your ideas while you can. While the fire is still burning white hot within in you.

Especially the ideas that feel like they belong to you and nobody else.

Otherwise you might turn on the news one day and realize that somebody beat you to the punch.

Which of your unfinished ideas will you be kicking yourself about in five years?