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Getting a Project off the Ground

I had a friend visit me from Seville for the week and we had a great time exploring Santiago de Compostela together. She’s in a similar situation as myself and is looking to get her own project off the ground.

This post is about just that, getting a project off the ground; drawing up the plans and breaking it down into actionable steps in order to achieve the goal.

For the physician it might be starting their own private practice or it might be changing careers. Maybe they want to start a business on the side or learn a new skill.

1. What’s the Project?

It’s easy to get caught up with the details. I don’t think it’s necessary to figure out the exact project. For my friend, she is interested in starting a sustainability project in her birth country.

Sustainability is a broad term for the project but I think that’s good. Getting too granular might make you give up sooner or prevent you from pursuing better options.

The final outcome is less important than the step you’ll take towards achieving your project; most things we plan end up as something totally different.

2. Your Personality

My personal qualities are a mix of hardheaded, introverted, focused, loner, lazy, selfish, and idealistic. I recognize these and so I’m somewhat able to deal with them.

For the leader type, it’s best to find people to delegate tasks to. For the micromanager it’s better to handle the details yourself – at least until the project grows some legs.

If you are easily distracted or if you’re the type to give up easily or are easily discouraged emotionally, it’s good to learn coping mechanism to deal with that when the time comes.

I would go a far as to get rid of all distractions (Netflix, Social Media, news, negative individuals) from your life. It’s easy to use the gym as an excuse why you can’t hop on a call with your first client. It’s easy to have your family member or partner suck you into a disastrous argument.

3. Your Resources

My buddy J. is a wealthy mofo. He can invest $1m in a project and if it failed, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. He can spend money on management, business advice, and labor.

Know how much money you can spend for the project until it takes off. Even if you have no clue, taking a guess is worthwhile. Some projects are money pits until they take off, but they can at least eventually break even.

If you have a full-time or part-time job then you’ll have to be ruthless about your time. I don’t have a job and have no dependents, yet it’s hard to find enough time in my day to get everything done.

4. Networking

I think networking has a negative connotation, but it doesn’t have to. If you can find someone who has similar goals as you, that’s a person with whom you can share the cost of resources.

Having someone to bounce ideas off of is wonderful. Someone who will keep you on task; another entrepreneur who is pursuing something similar.

It’s easy for me to network because I’m used to getting rejected. I’ve struck out with 90% of the women I’ve gone up to. I’m comfortable not getting any replies to my emails when I reach out to potential network connections. The ones who do connect are often supportive.

Unlike a date, you can re-ping that potential network in the future. Maybe they are busy now but they may not be in the future. Maybe your project isn’t ripe enough for them to get involved at the moment.

5. Breaking Down the Steps

“I don’t know where to start” isn’t a good answer when it comes to a project. There are 1,000’s of steps and it doesn’t really matter which you attack first.

If you can’t secure a business location then you can work on the budget. If you can’t work on the budget, you can work on your networking emails. If you can’t or don’t feel like sending off emails, you can read books, consume podcasts, subscribe to blogs, and take online courses.

But at some point you have to measure your progress to make sure that you’re not just doing busy work. This is form of self-sabotage and I’ve done plenty of it before. I get myself busy with something unimportant in order to avoid working on something critical which I’m subconsciously putting off.

6. Using Technology

Technology isn’t just the newest hardware in a mobile phone or Wifi communication. It’s also organization software, budgeting software. It might be a social media platform or an off-grid solar source. It’s knowing which website to use to get funding; which forum to post on to get assistance.

If I get stuck somewhere then I might go on Reddit to pick the brains of others. If I need to communicate with a group of 12 who are all involved in my project, I might use Slack to create multiple channels.

If I’m trying to build a cheap communication infrastructure in a remote village I might use an open source OS such as Ubuntu on a 10 year old laptop. Or I would use a $30 mini PC hooked up to a computer monitor. I would use a Signal Booster to get cell reception in a dead zone.

In a country with cheap labor I might choose to build my own solar system with a battery bank for <$5,000 instead of buying a turnkey system for $25,000.

7. Addressing Setbacks

If the project you are following turns out to be shit, it’s okay to pivot and adjust the project. Yes, you’ll have to mourn the loss of that initial project and take time to deal with the emotional setback. But you won’t be starting from zero.

That’s why I like having a loose project goal. I want to be able to make change to my goal if something better comes along.

I’ve had a few days in a row where I’ve been so demoralized that I just binged on pizza and watched Netflix. But I know that I will come out of that. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself a little hand-hug and continue where you left off once you’re done with the pizza binge.

8. Measuring Progress

One way I measure my progress is to see if I’ve created something meaningful. Something measurable.

Another way is the income from a project. But it may not be good to focus too much on the income early on. Maybe the project is burning less money – that’s progress.

When should we give up? I’m hard-headed so I’m not willing to give up as long as I believe it’s possible. But I certainly won’t let a project bankrupt me. If you’re making no progress whatsoever, it might be time to make changes.

Having another person who can keep you accountable can be helpful. I have a couple of friends whom I run things by. I tell them what I’ve done and what I’ve achieved and they are often honest-ish enough to give me good feedback.

9. Anticipating Burnout

When you’re doing it all on your own, it can feel lonely. You can burn out because you got your head buried in your laptop most of the day. Or you’re commuting back and forth to a project site which appears to be making no progress.

Pull back a little when you’re getting close to burnout. Ask for help or feed the project a little more money. Maybe switch gears and work on a different aspect of the project.

Definitely celebrate the shit out of your successes. Every time I finish one of my posts I admire it on a webpage. When I complete a consulting call I send a summary email to my client and admire the accomplishment.

10. Get Started

If you’re indecisive or timid it’s sometimes best to pull the trigger on a particular decision. If you’re trying to get into real estate flipping then maybe you just need to buy your first property, even if it fails.

If you’re designing a sustainability project and can’t find a suitable site, build one in your friend’s backyard. Build a mini project in the back alley – whatever.

11. Know Your Faults

I have ton of faults. I know that I can come across a bit crass or harsh in some conversations. I can be dismissive. I tend to focus too much on detail and lose my focus on the bigger picture.

I also have some negative mark on my professional record. This comes up from time to time and I’ve learned how to address it so that it doesn’t make me look too bad.

Many people are looking for an excuse to say no to you. Whatever is in my power I want to change so that I leave them with few good excuses. My goal is to get my project off the ground – I can keep my personality in check for the sake of success.

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