Just Do One Thing

Launching any creative project is a challenge. Writing a book, starting a design, producing a film – whatever you do, it’s going to be difficult. You know it, I know it, and in my case, I put it off, and put it off, to the point that I start worrying about missing deadlines. But then something magical happens: the pressure becomes so great that I force myself to sit down and start.

I write one page. Just one, and then, the flood begins. It’s as if just writing one page – no matter how good or bad that page is – is the key. It primes the pump and the process begins.

You may have experienced the same feeling with an upcoming exam. You put off studying until the night before and realize with horror that it’s a do or die moment. But at the agonizing second you open the book, you realize the thing you were putting off wasn’t nearly as bad as you thought.

You just had to take that first step.

That realization helped fuel my book, “One Big Thing: Discovering What You Were Born to Do.” During a long career in the entertainment and media business I’ve talked to hundreds of writers, producers, directors, designers, executives, and other creative professionals and discovered that in most cases, one thing is all it takes to launch your dream project. My friend Ralph Winter produces movies like X-Men, Wolverine, Plant of the Apes, Star Trek, and Adrift. His projects have budgets of $100 million dollars and more, but they all begin the same way – with one step.

Our fear is often so great that we freeze up, forgetting that one simple step forward will breakthrough any obstacle and open the doorway to success.

Rarely a day goes by when I don’t meet someone who wants to do something significant with his or her life. Write a book or screenplay, produce a videogame, a movie, launch a new app, go to college, lose weight, get back in shape – whatever. The problem is, they can’t seem to get started. So I ask:

Are you writing the book now?

They usually reply: “Well no. I just don’t seem to have the time, or I just can’t get started.”

My response? DO ONE THING. It doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be one thing. Write that first page, create the first design, sign up, learn to code, join the gym, make a phone call – whatever the first step, just take it. There’s something inspiring and motivational about the power of the start.

One of the greatest obstacles to taking that first step is distraction. Distractions in the workplace have become so serious that USA Today reported that it costs a typical large company more than $10 million a year in lost productivity. The report goes on to indicate that more than half of US workers waste an hour or more a day from interruptions, and 60 percent come from electronic devices and e-mail. In fact, 45 percent of workers report that they can’t go more than fifteen minutes without some sort of interruption.

School is no different. Friends, social media, and other distractions are well and good on their own, but end up robbing us of an enormous amount of time. Even outside of school and work it never stops. Research indicates that only 68 percent of people turn off their mobile phones during movies (which may explain the jerk three rows in front of you who keeps checking his e-mail.)

You can go back to 2010 with the NPR story, “Digital Overload: Your Brain on Gadgets,” where it was reported that the average person at that time consumed three times the information an average person consumed in 1960. They also cited a New York Times report that the average computer user checked websites forty times a day, and switched programs thirty-six times an hour.

How much more today?

These days, we check our cell phones 150 times per day, and texting has become so dangerous that some states are starting to outlaw “texting while walking.” (I’m not kidding. Everyday people walk into buildings, get hit by cars, fall into ditches, and more just because they’re so mesmerized by their mobile device.)

As a result, that onslaught of messages, interruptions, and distractions are making it more and more difficult for any of us to focus on a single step – that one big thing.

But chances are, if you’re reading this, you have a dream. The question is, what are you doing to make it actually happen?

This isn’t about productivity, it’s about your life. What’s the one single step that will start you on the journey to making your dream happen? Whatever it is, it’s time to take it.

Make it small, make it ugly, make it rough – just take it.

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