Finishing the Thought…

I’ve been thinking about movement again.

What stops many people is just the enormity of the task ahead of them. They know the old saying “every journey begins with a single step”… but they can’t take that first step because they’re frozen in awe of the entire adventure ahead.

Yet the wisdom of taking each step as it comes, and ignoring the larger picture, is critical if you’re gonna accomplish anything.

The key, of course, is to map out your journey as best you can first. You don’t want to just wander off without any idea of where you’re going. You’ll walk around in circles.

Forget, even, about your main goals for right now. Sure, you wanna be a big success, with fame and fortune and all that.

But if you’re one of the many (actually most) people who can’t seem to initiate any sort of action… start out with some small stuff.

Let’s take two examples:

Example #1: Read a book. Sure, you’ve got a stack of about twenty books you “should” be reading… but you can’t read ’em all at once.

So pick up one. And read a few pages.

In fact… read for an hour. That’s all — one measly hour.

Tomorrow, do it again.

And the next day.

Even a slow reader can polish off a dozen pages or so in an hour. At the end of three days, you’ve read close to forty pages. End of the week, if it’s a two-hundred page book, you’re more than half done.

Shorter book, you’re done already. So, on to the next one.

Too slow for you? The feeling of being frozen comes from inaction. Last week, you looked at your pile of books and despaired. It was so daunting a task, you couldn’t even think about it. So you went and did somethng else.

Yet, if you’d only picked one of them up — giving no further thought to the others — and read for an hour a day… you’d well into it by now. Maybe even into the second book in the stack.

Next week, the frozen guy will still have that same mountain of books mocking him from across the room. He won’t have read a word.

Next month, he’ll still be in the same place. Getting nowhere.

You, however, will be on to another project. With a belly full of new knowledge, and the motivational fuel that comes from just getting something done.

And all it took was one hour a day.

Heck, even if you’re so booked up you swear you can’t spare that hour… just wake up an hour earlier. Or go to bed an hour later. Just for a while — see how it works out.

Or, break that hour up. I don’t recommend this, but if that’s what it takes, do it. Read while you’re shaving. While you’re eating. While you’re waiting at a stop light.

Just figure it out.

Example #2: My Rant newsletters are eight pages long. Dense with two columns of copy. No graphics, no “air”. Nothing but writing.

It takes me between three and five writing sessions to get one issue written. I never expect to finish during the first one or two sessions, so there’s no pressure on me. I’m just plowing through the thoughts in my head and the notes on my desk.

The notes are mega-important. To just sit down and say “Okey dokey, let’s write eight pages on something here” would tend to freeze me up. So I map out what subjects I’m going to cover.

Simple notes are all it takes. I like 3×5 notepads — one thought to a note. Sometimes, an entire newsletter can spring forth from a single note. Other times, I have a little stack of notes to work from.

Once I have a general idea of where I’m going, I can concentrate on just writing up one part of the newsletter each session. I actually go in a linear mode — I start with the first paragraph, and write through to the final thought. But I dould just as easily write the newsletter in sections, back to front. It’s a choice.

Then, I go back and edit. Smooth out the rough edges, fix bad sentences, double-check to be sure it all makes sense.

From experience, I know that many people would rather slit their wrists than write eight pages on anything.

But look at this way: Spend an hour mapping out your thoughts. At first, you won’t know how many notes or thoughts are required for eight pages.

Doesn’t matter. You’ll get better at gauging your note-to-copy ration later on.

Right now, you just want to get into the groove of writing. So you’re starting by jotting down some notes.

Once you have some ideas mapped out, dedicate an hour each day to writing.

Just an hour.

Experienced writers can knock out two to four finished pages in an hour. Rookies are much, much slower.

Still, if you only get one page done, you’ve still got that page.

In a week, you’ll be done. Having invested just a single hour a day.

Consider this: The average direct mail letter is around eight pages long. A full page ad in a magazine is around two pages of manuscript. With air, and graphics, and photos… eight pages can easily translate to the twelve page (and longer) ads you see so often online.

However long it takes you to get those pages written… once they are written, you’re in business.

Heck… so what if it takes you two weeks to get those pages finished? If you just sit around and tremble at the task of writing, you’ll never get anywhere.

Break it down. Put a single hour of effort into it. And let it add up, like money in the bank.

Small increments of movement equal, eventually, huge distances covered.

Just get over the nagging voice in your head that says “You should have done this last month!” Screw that voice. It’s not trying to help, it’s trying to keep you from changing.

If you’ve been wasting two hours a night in front of the tube or the X-box, you’re in luck, dude. Take HALF that time, and get moving.

Good luck.

John Carlton

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  • Ken F says:

    I think that most people see goals in all-or-nothing terms: either they achieve their FINAL goal (and in this age of instant gratification, goal achievement had better come quickly…) or they feel bad about it/themselves, which, as John said, only makes things worse.

    Perhaps it’d be useful, when breaking goals down into sub-goals (as John says) to:

    attempt to ENJOY the PROCESS ITSELF (in the sense of taking satisfaction from each bit of progress made), rather thinking ONLY about achieving one’s ultimate goal (whatever that is).

    One way to do this is to reward yourself every time you see yourself making progress (or, even easier: every time you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing on the way to getting to where you want to go).

    Just my 2 centimes.


  • Eric says:

    John – Just finished a book regarding this topic
    that might be of interest. It’s titled “One Small Step Can Change Your Life”, by Robert Maurer. This statement from the book kind of sums things up–“low key change helps the human
    mind circumnavigate the fear that blocks success
    and creativity”.

  • gary halbert says:

    Cheap trick for writing a sales letter: Go to They have paper money and coins from over 200 countries that you can buy dirt cheap. You can look at a pic of them before you buy. Decide what you are going to buy. Let,s say it,s paper money from Bulgaria. Then “google” Bulgaria and read the hits until you have a couple handfuls of interesting facts about that neck of the world. Then buy a couple thousand Bulgarian notes and attach them to the first page of a sales letter. Then write something like: “As you can see I,ve attached a rather unusual banknote to the top of this letter. It,s real money. From Bulgaria. People use it there to buy stuff just like we use the dollar. But, here,s some interesting stuff I bet you didn,t know about Bulgaria. {insert interesting stuff] Why am I telling you this? Well, it just so happens that all seven of those strange facts I just wrote about have something in common with {whatever you are selling} and here,s how and why.” Then, you segue into your pitch. Aw shit. I forgot I was writing to Carlton,s readers. You folks will never “get” this. Forgive me for taking your time. Gary

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