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Start Anywhere

[Newsletter Series (#8)]

We are so well conditioned to need a plan, a direction and purpose; a clear beginning, middle, end before we bring our work into the world. We need to be polished and ready, equipped with a linear process. Dot these “I”s, cross those “T”s. Anticipate all possible outcomes before we even begin. You know...just in case.

I say: Start Anywhere. Just -- start.

There are a thousand reasons we struggle with this:

  • Our inner bully shouts and warns we’ll surely die if we do things “wrong”

  • We’re convinced there’s such thing as perfectionism (hint: there’s not)

  • We’ve been taught that “good” work comes from a strong outline with steps and phases and measurable outcomes

  • Fear has a crafty way of discrediting our thoughts/ideas, squashing our momentum

  • We live in a culture that values cognition over intuition

Any of these sound familiar? They most certainly do to me!

Let’s consider, for a moment, this improv principle to start anywhere - regardless of where that is in our overall process. Sure, we can plot and plan at the front end - Step 2 after Step 1. Then 3, 4, 5 and so on. But what if we’re stuck on how to begin - caught in a head-spin of what ifs? We most certainly won’t see progress if we can’t even get past Step 1!

On stage, improvisers have no choice but to just dive in. The story unfolds in real time with whatever offers players gift one another. And sure, things may not always be perfect. But at least something is happening.

Imagine if you paid for a show and what you got were a group of actors paralyzed on stage, looking to one another expectantly for the right line or story choice? What if a player comes out pantomiming sweeping the floor and no one else joins her because they’re too busy plotting a step by step action plan backstage?

Nothing would happen. (And it would start feeling awkward pretty quickly!)

Starting anywhere requires a leap of faith and a certain amount of mental fortitude. But it is totally doable and pays huge dividends when it comes to our progress.

Rob Bell, one of my favorite authors/speakers, in his book “How to Be Here” riffs on this idea a bit. He says, “ is the time for (step) one. You start with one and you work on that. Just that. And when one is done, you move on to two.” The idea is that we can drive ourselves nuts trying to figure out the whole big picture, when no amount of worry and expectation can predict what’s in store. All we have is “the one”.

And that one, by the way, doesn’t necessarily mean the beginning of our process. It’s just the first thing we do, so we can move on to the next thing. And the next after that. It’s a phone call, an appointment on the calendar, the first paragraph, printing that flyer, buying the website domain.

Whatever it’s a start.

I have an event coming up in June that will require strategy and design, an invite list and marketing materials. Yikes! But my Start Anywhere exercise this morning was to sign into my Eventbrite account and create a new event. All I have so far is a title, a venue and a date. So yeah, I still have work to do - a lot of it. But I found my one, and I’m off and running.

What’s your one? How will you start anywhere?

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