How Do I Start Something When I Don’t Know How?

I often discover that I want to start things that I have no idea how to do. Does that ever happen to you?

When I wanted to learn needlepoint back in high school, it was easy. I learned that from a book. I made several needlepoints. I practiced until I got good. I mastered it. I got bored. I moved on to other things :-)

Now, the things I want to do are a little different. They tend to be more intellectually challenging for me to master. They tend to be things such as becoming my own publisher for my books. I’m slowly but surely getting a handle on that. I have a developmental editor, a copy editor, a layout person, and an indexer. I’m not sure if I have made the best choices on covers. I’m still working on that. I have a cover designer, and I’m working on a “look” for my covers.

I have these audio files from my Manage Your Job Search celebration. I have no idea how to host them “in the cloud.” (At least I know that I want to!) Where do I put the audio files? How do I link to them? At least I have the questions. (The original recordings are horrible. I needed to re-record them.)

But, sometimes you don’t even have the questions. How do you start then?

We all have problems like these that we want to solve. The question is this: how do we start?

stepsTake a step. Experiment. Get a little feedback. Incorporate that feedback. Take another step.

You might have to do some research to take that first step. However, if you stay in research mode, you never take that first step. You’re stuck. You need to step. Even if that step is small.

You can manage the risks for that small step. You can say, “This is a beta,” or something like that. When you manage the risks, you manage your vulnerability and emotional resilience.

If you don’t take that first step, you will never know what you are capable of. And that would be a shame, wouldn’t it?

You can start things where you don’t know if you can do them. You can. This is part of living with and adapting to change. It’s part of being an adaptable problem solver.

Take that first step. Until you do, you have no idea what you are capable of.

Dear adaptable problem solvers, this week’s question of the week is: How do I start something when I don’t know how? I hope I have provided you some ideas.

6 thoughts on “How Do I Start Something When I Don’t Know How?”

  1. Good post.

    I agree that you need to “just start”. However even the first small step can hard. Here I have found that commiting something to someone will drive me. I will actually prioritise it and I guess my brain background processing does as well. This means that it becomes “easier” to do that first step. You will be “forced” to define what it is you commit to leading to a clearer picture of the first step.

    1. HI Sune, yes, sometimes accountability helps. That other person asks, “How are you doing on that task/todo/commitment?” It helps you move. Or, you say, “I’ll do it by Wednesday.”

      Good catch!

  2. Hi Johanna! I tend to start by learning a little something about the space first. I didn’t have a bicycle growing up, so when I was given one as an adult, I went to the library (I know you’re a bibliophile and can relate!). While reading didn’t help me learn to ride, I did develop an appreciation for gears and also resolved my husband’s ongoing chest pain after riding when his doctors couldn’t – make sure the seat is level!
    I’ve noticed there is a structure or pattern to topic areas: there are usually professional organizations, experts, experts with differing opinions, perhaps a body of knowledge or generally accepted practices, emerging topics, books, magazines, blogs, “Beginner’s Guide to X” and Lessons Learned, competency models, examples, models, colleagues who have “been there.” I once heard that the person asking the question controls the conversation, so I like to ask those friends and colleagues “Where do you think I should start?” and see where that goes! Curiosity and Courage!


    1. HI Terry, I like that. Learning is a good start. I did that with the needlepoint. For me, it really depends on the domain.

      Maybe once I’ve learned enough, it’s time to start.

      I like the question you ask, “Where do you think I should start?” That’s a great question.

  3. I agree with your article because I recently started my “Project Management for Africa” Initiative and taking it one step at a time. Though I did some research but I never had concrete plans for it. I just knew that more ideas will flow into my head once I began. And to my surprise, people are already volunteering to support the initiative.

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