A number of years ago I was introduced to Gallop’s StrengthsFinder where I received my top five strengths. One of these is the Activator strength. In summary, this strength means I love to make new things. I am energized by starting things. As a creative this has both served me well and been my greatest trouble.
Over the years I’ve been guilty of spreading myself too thin. I start something only to lose interest. Or worst, I start something only to realize that it’s not sustainable. Or even worst still, I start something only to struggle with the reality that it’s not something worth keeping around. As a natural starter, I’ve learned a couple of things. For you who share my love of starting new things, let me share some ideas that might help.
First, starting things is good. I’ve been in the business of starting new things for so long, that I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t. I’ve also learned more about myself in the process. Now I start things more intentionally and on purpose. I don’t think this would have been possible without years of practicing the art of starting things. With hundreds of failed projects under my belt, I’m ready to dream of starting a business I can be proud of, a church I’m excited about, and ministries that are sustainable. Without the experience of over-starting things, I wouldn’t have the wisdom I need to start things well now.
Second, you should start things on purpose. Eventually you need to reach a place where you can plan, strategize, and execute your ideas with a sense of purpose. This means starting something that is inline with your vision, ability, and passion.
There are a couple things to keep in mind when you want to start things on purpose.
1. Synergy. Start things that connect. Over the next two years, I am working to start two new things. I want to launch a new church and launch a self-publishing company. While they might seem rather disconnected, they are actually pretty closely linked. As a pastor, I write sermon series. I spend hours every week crafting well-thought out sermons that connect together through common themes. It’s not uncommon to turn these sermons series into short books. With the self-publishing company, I can sell the books and turn the profit around to help support the new church. In other words, while they are two separate things, they are closely connected. Knowing that they are connected helps leverage my already-used energy for new purposes. This means that I’m getting the absolute most output from the same amount of input.
2. Enjoyment. You need to love what you do if you want to do it during your time off. It needs to be life-giving. The reason why it’s good to practice starting things is because you might not know what you will enjoy until you give it a try. There are some projects that are great ideas but require the kind of work that is draining. Some times the vision is more exciting than the daily grind, but you would never know this until you actually get started. Find something that you enjoy dreaming about and working on.
3. Feedback. If you’re not comfortable with receiving criticism… then, well, I’d give you advice, but you probably wouldn’t take it, would you? If we are uncomfortable with feedback, then we will be unable to grow past our own ideas. Feedback can be terrifying, especially when people are critiquing the things we love. I’m personally terrified of feedback, which is why I try to owe the process as much as I can. For example, I use online forms, ask specific questions, and clearly articulate what I’m looking for when I ask for feedback, so that the process can be both beneficial and survivable. Then, I’m careful to digest, process, and implement the feedback I receive. (A great book on the topic is Thanks for the Feedback.)
Creating new things can be difficult, risky, and sometimes not worth it. But the things you learn along the way can set you up to learn how to better launch that one thing that will last.