Start Things You Can’t Finish

“In soloing – as in other activities – it is far easier to start something than it is to finish it.”

Amelia Earhart

What would you do if you were not worried about the outcome – if you didn’t care whether you failed, succeeded, or what other people thought?  When I was young, I had no concept of what I was capable of – and I assumed I was capable of anything.

With that irrational, unfounded belief system – I dreamed solely based on what I desired. I never considered anything to be out of reach for me.

Unfortunately, such belief in my abilities turned out to be a recipe for failure in the short term …. and a life lesson that has stuck with me in the long term.

I’ll give you an example.

The Suffering That Is Practice

I remember the first time my father relented and finally took me to take guitar lessons.

I was in a little studio/office, and initially excited at the prospect of mastering guitar.  The guitar strings stung my uncalloused fingers, my uncoordinated and weak hands flubbing every note.  

My instructor showed me how to play some scales and had me start practicing.

My next memory:  quitting the guitar because I couldn’t stand practicing scales.

At a young age, I learned that practicing so you could be great was much less fun than performing once you are great.  That’s … a lesson for another time.

I Failed – But At Least I Started

I would go on to start and quit guitar perhaps a dozen times in my life, until college when I finally picked it up, learned a few songs and really got hooked on it (even practicing scales).  

What finally happened? I had the good luck of meeting a friend who enjoyed the same music I did.  I hadn’t learned how much fun playing guitar could be with other people – I had been trying to learn it on my own.

Once I accidentally discovered that, it was easy.

Cautiously Picking Your Battles Limits Options

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about  some of the goals I have in my own life, and how I cautiously pick my battles now. I see it over and over in people

We look at our goals and discard some dreams as “too ambitious” before we’ve even begun.

Rather than chasing what we desire – we pick something that’s realistic, something that’s manageable.  There is some rationale that this helps keep you focused and grounded – but at what cost?

Many of the things I’ve accomplished in my life weren’t realistic the first time I undertook them.

My life is filled with failure upon failure – false starts, projects left unfinished to be picked up another day, random loose threads that get tied up years later.

Where Loose Ends End Up

Many times, I would continue to try different things… and then, something totally unexpected would happen.

A mentor would appear, or the external context of what I was doing would change.  

Sometimes the door would open to completely unexpected, tangent opportunities that I enjoyed even more than the goal I originally set out to accomplish.

In retrospect, sometimes it seems like it was just dumb luck.  

As one of the announcers said about Clint Dempsey’s lucky break (a shot that the England goal keeper should have stopped easily) that tied the US and England 1-1 in the World Cup 2010 – “You can’t win the lotto if you don’t buy a ticket!”

On the other hand, is it really luck if you simply continue to try until things finally go your way?

I have a suspicion that when I was younger, if I had thought through many of the things I started, I would have “known” I couldn’t finish them – that they were goals that were unrealistic, and totally out of reach.

Yes, You May Fail

“If someone says:  That’s impossible, You should understand it as: According to my very limited experience and narrow understanding of reality, that’s very unlikely. ” 

Paul Buchheit

Yes it’s true – if you knowingly start things you can’t finish you may fail. 

I failed many times.

And the people who told you it couldn’t be done may smugly think they are right.

 But you must not let that failure discourage you: success takes failure, a little faith and optimism .

While things don’t always end up going my way, most endings are only temporary.

You don’t know when the half finished story will finish itself – and as you live your life, the loose ends you thought you left behind will continue to fall into place, in ways you can not even imagine.

So, if there is something you truly are passionate about, something that you really want to try – just because it may seem difficult and out of reach, that shouldn’t stop you from starting.

Just because it’s not possible right now, doesn’t mean it’ll never be.

And even if it is, failure and quitting is an option.  

Stopping is only temporary – it’s ok to start things you can’t finish.