When Is It Too Late to Start?

I love serendipity. I was drafting this post and read Dean Wesley Smith’s post about Starting Late.

I’m practicing my fiction writing. Nothing to publish yet, still working. And then I thought about all the other things I started in 2015:

  • Online workshops
  • More non-fiction writing, including 2 books
  • Pair-writing with several new-to-me authors
  • Walking 5,000 steps each day

In 2016, I’m offering new online workshops. I have plans for several non-fiction books, and maybe I will finish some short fiction or even a novel. We will see how much client work I have.

There are things I am not going to start. I am not going to start playing volleyball, skiing, or anything else that requires balance. Just not. I challenge my balance enough with walking.

On the other hand, I will continue to try new approaches in my business, teaching, consulting, and writing. Why not? What have I got to lose?

Often, when I think it’s too late to start, I realize I’m afraid of failing, or of being mediocre, or any number of other risks. I’m afraid to be vulnerable.

I try to modify that fear of failure by calling it practice.

We practice all the time. Some things we know how to do already. We practice them by doing them more often, with intention, measuring our results and/or retrospecting on the results. We practice working as part of a team, finding (and then preventing) more of our defects/problems. We practice our relationships.

If you think it’s too late to start something new, you allow fear into your life. I don’t know about you, but fear paralyzes me. I do want to be reasonable with my new experiments. I don’t want to do something that will physically hurt me, because the costs are too high.

But learning something, regardless of my age? I love that. I often ask, What’s the Worst Thing That Could Happen? When it comes to intellectual pursuits, I might look like a fool. Oh well. Been there, done that, have the t-shirt.

When it comes to relationships, I might be more fearful. I don’t want to screw up any of the relationships that work. On the other hand, if I’m not honest with the other person, what kind of relationship can I have? I’ve tried that, and my relationship degrades over time, to the point where I don’t have a relationship any longer.

Jerry Weinberg taught me that fear is an acronym: Future Experienced As Reality. I learned that I could create another future, by not letting fear rule me.

I can create a new future, by experimenting, by making a small change and seeing what the results are.

It might be too late for me to start new physical pursuits other than walking, because of my deficits. On the other hand, it’s not too late for me to start on my best life. Not too late at all.

Dear adaptable and resilient friends, the question this week is: When is it too late to start? I hope you agree with me that tomorrow is too late. Start today.

9 thoughts on “When Is It Too Late to Start?

  1. Jim Grey

    I was an awful photographer until I decided a few years ago to learn by experimenting and emulating photos I liked. I’ve shot over 10,000 purposeful (i.e., not just a snapshot) photos since then and keep sharing them on my blog, and people keep coming back to see them, so I must have learned something! I’m 48, by the way. One of the things about deciding to learn this in middle age is that I know myself well enough now to know that I learn best by exploring — just getting out there and trying it, seeing how it turns out, and adjusting the next time anything I didn’t like. I didn’t know this about myself in my 30s or 20s or teens.

    1. johanna Post author

      Jim, that’s the experimentation thing again. I like it!

      I knew I always liked to learn. I’m not sure I experimented with purpose until my 40’s when I started my business.

      One thing I discovered is that I need fast feedback. I have many pictures of Mark and the kids with only half of Mark’s forehead. (I did not frame the image properly.) Now that I have digital cameras, I can see immediately if I got the right image. I love that fast feedback on my experiments.

  2. Tomas

    I believe there is nothing such as “too late to start” when it comes to learning something new or doing something great. But myself I always try to do two things:

    1. start preferably the stuff that brings me some value – pick something I really wanted to learn or do something I will subsequently feel good and happy about (I guess that’s why you don’t want to start playing voleyball)

    2. start only a few things at a time (I do not like doing only one thing as I like variance, so I start a couple of different things), not all of them – by this I limit my focus and it enables me to achieve something in a reasonable time period which gives me the energy to either continue or start something new

    1. johanna Post author

      Tomas, I often start several things at once and make a little progress (in small chunks) on each of them when one is the most valuable. I have about 6 books in progress. I don’t mind, because I am learning as I go.

      Sometimes, I’m not sure what will bring me the most value, which is why I don’t mind starting a few things and making some progress on each of them.

      1. Tomas

        Yes, that makes sense. As I said, I don’t like to focus on only one thing at a time (that might get boring and I like to switch between things). What I wanted to say was that I don’t start everything i’d like to do at once and try to balance it somehow, so I still get the variance, but don’t have more activities than I can handle.

        Having 6 books in progress sounds kind of crazy to me – I have one and it keeps me satisfied :), but then you are an expert author and I am only novice.

        1. johanna Post author

          I have many book ideas. I write the books in small chunks. Sometimes, I have to learn more to finish the book. Sometimes, I just write the book down, and it’s “done.” That’s when the rearchitecting and copyediting start.

          We all write the way we want to. There are no rules about writing, except to keep writing.

          1. Tomas

            Oh yes. Writing is the easy part, at least for me. The painful part is the rearchitecting, copyediting and reshaping the first manuscript. Usually that takes me much longer time, because in the process I rewrite most of what I’ve written before.

          2. johanna Post author

            Ah yes, the rearchitecting part. I almost always reorganize my books three times. I don’t rewrite that much. I might write more and move things around, but I don’t rewrite often.

            I have found that when I rewrite too much, I take the passion out. People like the passion. (So do I.)

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