Get the First One Done

by Andy Wood on December 3, 2012

in Executing Your Plan, Five LV Laws, Life Currency, Principle of Increase, Turning Points, Words

Davidson High School, Mobile, Alabama.  Circa 1974.  My freshman year.  I’m standing in the cafeteria line, waiting to decide whether I was going with the hamburger or whatever today’s chef’s choice was.  It was there I spotted her, headed toward the faculty dining room.  This was worth losing my spot in line for.

She was our school guidance counselor, and also an experienced English teacher.  She was wise about things I was ignorant of.

She also happened to be my great aunt.

“Aunt Helen!” said I.  “I wanted to ask your advice about something.”

“What’s that,” she replied.

“Well, see, I’m writing a book – a novel – and I wanted to get some advice from you about how to get it published.”

(I should pause here to interpret what “novel” meant.  I probably had about five chapters, about five notebook pages hand-written each, about a tough-guy high school kid who winds up dying for the girl he loves, who happened to have the same name as the girl I was fixated on in the ninth grade.  Anyway…)

Her advice was sage – way wiser than my 14 years.   She didn’t write off my dreams and tell me that 14-year-olds don’t get published as novelists.  She didn’t boggle my mind about query letters, agents or publishing houses either.  She offered me words of encouraging truth.

“Well,” said she, “I guess the first thing you need to do is finish the book.”

Fast Forward Forty Years

Recently I was listening to a webinar where these experts were talking about how aspiring writers are learning to have multiple streams of income by selling ebooks online.  In the middle of the conversation someone asks one of the experts, “What’s the most important thing to do to ensure success?” or something like that.

His answer, too, was sage, and even more to the point:

“I’d say, get the first one done.”


And ouch!

It was like Aunt Helen was coming back from her recently-entered grave and reminding me of the most important lesson of all – Finish!

You can adjust later.  You can work on the master plan later.  You can fine-tune, learn from mistakes, multiply, branch out, maybe even rule the world one day.  But not until you finish the first unit.

The Difference Between Dreamers, Daydreamers, and Pipe-Dreamers

I confess to being all three.  A well-known evangelist once said, “I love to dream.  If a man stops dreaming, we are dead before we die.”  But I have to honest.  Sometimes my dreams are pipe dreams, because there is no relationship between the dream and a pathway to getting there.  Example:  I would love to have a flying car someday.  But until there is a pathway to get there – mine or somebody else’s – that’s just a pipe dream.

Daydreamers also dream, often of wonderful things.  But they don’t take action to usher those dreams into reality.  Daydreamers are easy on the commitment-making, but terrible on delivering the commitment.  And yes, that often describes me.

Dreamers are different.  They find a pathway to the dream, they see the steps necessary and they begin moving forward.  But what makes them successful is that early on, they get a taste of what successfully finishing the job is like.

They get the first one done.

So you dream of opening a chain of restaurants?  Okay.  Get the first one done.

So you dream of being a church planter?  Okay.  In God’s timing, get the first one done (may be your last – you may stay there the rest of your career.)

So you dream of being a coach, a mentor, a consultant?  Okay.  Help the first client.  Do it for free, if you have to.  Just get one done.

So you dream of owning and living in a really nice house one day and you’re renting.  Get the first one done.  Live in your rental as if you own it.  Take care of it as if it’s yours.  Then when you get the chance, buy the first one.  Not the ultimate one.  The first one!

So you dream of getting out of debt.  Awesome.  Get the first debt done.  Get used to the rarified air of “Balance:   $0.00” for one account.

So you dream of being a teacher.  Outstanding.  Get the first class done.  My grandmother simultaneously “made tenth grade” in one town and taught first grade in another, 19 miles away, before she ever owned a car.  I have no clue how she pulled that off.  But she got the first one done.

This is not the stuff of magical thinking.  It’s the stuff of diligence.  Yes, dreaming is inspiring, even intoxicating.  But it’s nothing like the satisfaction that comes from putting an exclamation point on your work.

Dear Aunt Helen,

I never have figured out whether people in heaven can know or even care about life on earth.  But if you’re watching, I wanted you to know I gave up on my teenage melodrama a long time ago.  But I didn’t quit writing.  And I wanted to let you know…

I got the first one done.

Martha Orlando December 3, 2012 at 3:39 pm

Sage advice, indeed, from your Aunt Helen! You absolutely have to make that first move toward achieving a goal and keep on striving until it is done. Learned that through writing my novel, for sure!
Blessings, Andy!
Martha Orlando´s last blog post .."Anticipation . . ."

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