Being prepared is overrated: start before you feel ready

Getting ready is fun. Doing research, learning new things, feeling excited about the journey ahead. But whether you’re planning on writing a book, launching a product, or building an exercise routine, getting ready can become a distraction: there is a very fine line between preparation and procrastination.

Yes, getting ready is comfortable. But most successful people report feeling uncomfortable when they first got started. Many still feel uncomfortable—or, in the words of Larry Page, “uncomfortably excited”—many years after they achieved what many would consider as huge successes.

“It takes a long time to feel ready. Everyone thinks it’s an overnight thing, but when you start out, it’s really hard.”

Michelle Zatlyn, Co-Founder of Cloudflare.

Getting ready is holding you back

Being successful is not about your ability to plan, but your ability to act. There will always be more planning to do, more scenarios to consider. Of course, it would be amazing to feel utterly ready. But the reality is that waiting until you feel ready may mean the opportunity to act has already passed.

Start before you feel ready - compound effect

You may make more mistakes at first if you decide to start acting before you feel ready, but the long-term compound effect of learning from these mistakes will get you closer to your goals than any amount of preparation. The illusion of a perfect time to start is holding you back. Anyone who has managed to put their work into the world most likely started before they were ready.

It’s not easy to face the fear of the unknown, especially when it’s something you deeply care about. But instead of putting all your hopes and dreams into that single one event, you should see your first step as what it is—the first of many steps to come.

Why you should start now

Have you ever spent more time getting ready for something than actually doing the actual thing? Maybe it’s still the case right now? Here’s why you should start now.

Start before you feel ready - you don't know what you don't know
  • You don’t know what you don’t know. The best and quickest way to learn is through experience. Only then you’ll discover what you don’t know and will be able to plan accordingly.
  • Avoid the illusion of productivity. Research shows that we tend to use any justification to keep busy. Reading tutorials or watching fitness videos feels good, but it’s just a way to trick your brain into thinking you’re being productive by keeping busy.
  • Momentum takes time to build up. The choices you make and the actions you take have a ripple effect. Over time, your efforts will compound. Any time spent not acting is time wasted.

Instead of preparing and researching, start before you feel ready. Pick a first step and just do it. Repeat that step until you feel comfortable enough, then kick it up a notch. When you look back, you won’t believe how much progress you’ve made.


Anne-Laure Le Cunff

I’m an ex-Googler, entrepreneur, and part-time neuroscience student at King’s College. If you found this article useful, subscribe to my weekly newsletter about productivity, creativity, learning, and designing engaging products.

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