Just Start!

Just StartI recall a long road trip with a friend back in university. I was at the wheel while he read a self-help or business book. At one point he looked up from the book, gazed at the horizon and said, “I really need to be nicer to people if I am going to influence them and get ahead.” I thought this was a good reflection as he was sharp with his words and critical of his friends and colleagues. Hours later we arrived at our destination to discover the hotel had messed up our reservations. He was frustrated, immediately raised his force and started giving the hotel staff a miserable time. I laughed and reflected back at his thoughts in the car. Later I raised the subject with him and he was embarrassed and laughed at himself. It’s not easy to read these books and immediately think you’ll be successful. It takes personal reflection and an ability to be candidly honest with yourself. And sometimes you just need to stop reflecting, dreaming, and thinking… and just start.

I recently read an article outlining ten morning habits of highly successful people. I’ve also seen hundreds of self-help and business books published with the key marketing phrases, Seven Habits of… Five Steps to… Do These Three Things… 5 Ingredients to a…

While these books and articles provide insight, great anecdotes, guidance, and pause for reflection, they are not recipes for success. People get overwhelmed with the steps, the habits, the ingredients, and are not sure where to start.

If I did everything the ten habits of successful people articles describes every morning I wouldn’t leave the house until noon. Most mornings I wake up, empty the dishwasher, get the kids ready for school, sometimes go for a run, get dressed for work and leave by 8am. I consider myself successful. I run a large sales organization for a world leading technology provider in Europe, am a thriving athlete, dedicate my weekends to family, and volunteer as a mentor for students. However, I feel like I am just getting started!

There is only one ingredient I use and that is “just start”. Get focused and just start. Let the lessons and curiosity be the guide along the journey.

All the successes I’ve observed come from just starting.

Take Lee Sterrey for example. She is a successful business executive for IBM where she leads a series of programs to enable or train sellers on how to best position IBM products and progress a sale from identification to a signed contract. Lee graduated from high school and went straight to work. While working, she put herself through university part time and eventually completed a MBA. Today she is a thriving business leader, mother of two, runs a hobby farm, and more recently has published several children’s books that can be seen at http://www.adventuresonhoneybeefarm.com/. What’s impressive about Lee is that she “just does”. When she has an idea she simply applies herself to the idea and gets on with it. In fact, it was a conversation with Lee in late 2015 that encouraged me to start writing. I had been contemplating writing about my business and life experiences as a way to define what is important to me, explore and concretize my values, help others, and learn from others along the way. Hence, businesshealthresults.com was born.

Govindh Jayaraman and I met in University. He founded the University of Ottawa’s Entrepreneurs Club and I was there along side him as we built up the club. He was born an entrepreneur and I’ve watched him build business after business. Govindh just does. He gets an idea and starts. What’s amazing is that his businesses have been so diverse from sports clubs, to software companies, to biodiesel production, to bagel shops. He constantly puts himself into states of discomfort, learning and applying his past experiences to create or grow a business. I truly think Govindh only thrives when he puts himself into a situation where he is challenged and is learning. His most recent project, The Paper Napkin Wisdom started as a podcast in early 2014 to collect lessons from entrepreneurs and business leaders. Within two years he built a thriving business as a speaker and consultant on entrepreneurship. Most recently he consolidated many of the lessons into a new book called “The Paper Napkin Wisdom; Your Five Step Plan For Life And Business Success.” Govindh just starts. He gets an idea and applies himself. Like a potter, he knows he wants to build a pot; he starts spinning the wheel, applying the clay, applying his talent, correcting flaws and responding to the molding clay. He isn’t quite sure what the pot will look like when it’s complete or even if it will complete, but he toils at the craft and creates works of art.

When my wife and I first moved to Paris, France in 2003 she had recently graduated from university with an occupational therapy certification. She wasn’t sure what she could do in France. She always liked wine and was inspired by the growing niche market Canadian wine producers were creating with Ice Wine. She had an idea to import Canadian Ice Wine and sell it to stores and restaurants. Within a year she had become a wine expert by taking courses, reading many wine books, and travelling to several wineries. She met with an immigration lawyer who helped her get the right working papers to start her business. Once she had her working papers she associated herself with a wine distributor and a wine store in the heart of Paris. As an independent she pounded the streets of Paris and within six months built up a customer list of over eighty different restaurants. I was amazed by her ability to apply herself and just start. In fact, this is a trait that always attracted me to her. When something needs to get done she just does it. When it came to her wine business she didn’t read business books. She read and learned everything she could about wine and the industry and simply started pounding the pavement walking from restaurant to restaurant building an impressive list of customers. Who would have thought a Canadian could penetrate the Paris restaurant market selling obscure wines?

Several years later I ran into the lawyer that helped my wife acquire her working papers. He clearly remembered her and told me he is now lecturing French students on law and business. He uses her story every year to encourage students to acquire an entrepreneurial spirit.

The point is you just need to start and let the idea sprout roots and then care for it, and grow it. It takes time, but you’ll never get anywhere if you don’t just start.

5 thoughts on “Just Start!

  1. Yes, I remember those U of Ottawa days very well! We were busy with the AIESEC Ottawa traineeship program, you guys with the Entrepreneur Club… Those are fun days to remember! I like the ideas you describe above, about Govindh’s and your wife’s “just start” mentality. Keep those nice ideas coming Gene!


  2. “Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative or creation, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would otherwise never have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in ones’s favor all manner of incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man would have believed would have come his way.

    I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:
    Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
    Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!”

    W.H. Murray, in The Scottish Himalayan Expedition (1950).


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