Never Being Ready

What does it mean to feel ready?

Photo by Ricardo Viana on Unsplash

A big feeling when you first get started is the idea of not being ready, but there’s very rarely a day that comes when you truly feel ready.

We hear this a lot from our Startup Clubs, founders who have put in a lot of work but just don’t quite feel ready.

Readiness comes from confidence in your ability to be prepared for different scenarios and challenges that come your way.

It’s also about your reputation — you don’t want to overcommit and let folks down. That’s a big risk in launching before you’re ready.

But being ready is a difficult thing to judge.

There’s an element of improvisation — there’s more on that in Always Start With, “Yes, And…” and Just Wing It. Improv is easier when you have thought through scenarios and done some practice.

You might start to create false goals or milestones to give yourself the impression that you really will know that you’re ready when you hit a certain stage. Once my website is finished, I’ll be ready. But these false goals give convenient excuses to not let the world tell us what it thinks of our idea.

It’s also very easy to keep bringing in new excuses. I’ll start once I finish my degree, I’ll start once I find a house, I’ll start once I meet my soulmate and get married, I’ll start once my kids move out… or on a smaller level simple things like the elusive when I get my inbox back under control. But we never quite realise how much more chaotic our future lives could get until we’re in the middle of that new lived moment.

We create these “when I finally achieve x then I can do y” conditional factors as if they will ever come around, but they also then create more stress and pressure on the need for those activities to be ticked off without ever really enjoying that moment and phase.

We can always find a way to put off action, and we often do.

There are also elements of impostor syndrome in this, and also fake it until you make it.

I’m reminded of the example of learning languages. We don’t want to look stupid by messing up our grammar or vocabulary. We might not practice because we’re not “fluent” but fluency is and impossible goal for most of us, even in our mother tongue. I can’t converse with someone fluently in any language on a bunch of topics such as the clichéd rocket science or brain surgery.

Most people are happy for you to converse with them in your broken language substituting words when you don’t know them, but our embarrassment or fear of not being ready stops us even trying, which stops us ever learning.

Of course, there are consequences for if you’re really not ready. It’s not a good idea to be a brain surgeon and get going before you’re ready.

I’m reminded of the Kickstarter campaign for Zano — a too good to be true drone that turned out to be too good to be true. If you were being generous, you would see that as a case of a team not being ready to cope with that level of demand and expectation.

But again this comes down to what we think ready is, and for many founders the stakes are much lower in the early phases of getting going.

The other factor here is that you probably don’t know what ready means. Once you get out there and start getting feedback from your customers you might realise you need to change things completely.

If you waited until you were ready before taking those steps, you might have just done a whole load of wasted work trying to be ready for the wrong thing.

It feels like a nice safe excuse to say we’re not quite ready, but challenge yourself on that if you hear yourself using that excuse.

I’ll write more about the what if it doesn’t work? question soon, which is another form of procrastination linked to the idea of needing to be ready.

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Gareth I. Jones

Founder of TownSq, focused on building communities of entrepreneurs, supporting startups and B Corps - businesses that are better for the planet.