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Just get started, and just keep going

I took a break from writing these Note blog posts because I really needed to finish the content for my book. I meant to write a Note to explain, but I didn’t even manage to do that. You can tell I got serious about it because I even cancelled Netflix, and Disney+, and a few other things which are helpful and wonderful when I need a break, but super distracting when I had a big goal to accomplish.

And I did it. I finished the core content of my book. I now have 14 chapters, and almost 150,000 words, and the editing process is now beginning.

There were so many things which pulled together to enable me to do this - changes we’ve made in PF so the team are doing all the client work, almost twenty years of working with accountants in marketing, a habit of writing, a book coach, a structured book plan, and not least of which a full hour of writing every day (at least).

I’ve been reminded of how the biggest achievements of our lives come from two things:

Getting started
and
Keeping going.

These are nicely represented by my two tin mugs, which I take with me when I’m hiking in the Scottish highlands.

I got the #justgetstarted one at a Quickbooks conference in the States, and first started using it simply because bringing a tin mug with a flask of hot water (or hot coffee) on a cold day’s hike was a beautiful thing. But then i realised how much I loved the message: just get started. When i’m out hiking in some of the most beautiful places in the world, and I’m standing on top of a mountain or watching a rushing waterfall or walking along a high cliff, I realise I would have never arrived there without simply getting started. Putting on the hiking boots, grabbing the backpack, driving to the walk start, or simply opening my front door and walking out.

Getting started can be the hard part, sometimes.

It’s hard to leave your comfy warm home when it’s cold (or wet or grey or miserable) outside. It’s hard to dress in hiking clothes when you’d rather be comfy in jammies and a hoodie. It’s hard to make the plans for a long drive and a long day’s walk when you have so many other things to do.
But I noticed that whenever I did these things - made the plans, put on the boots, stepped out the front door - I was always grateful for where they took me.

Often they take me to the place I planned, like the waterfall or a particular view. And yet sometimes they took me to places I’d never imagined. I remember one Sunday morning I went out for a very early-morning walk in Glencoe. I wanted a nice, simple, restful walk (cos sunday), and I found one near the cottage I was staying in. The problem was, the nice, simple, restful walk was….sort of boring. There was beauty (because there’s always beauty to be found, everywhere), but there wasn’t much climbing and it wasn’t even difficult and there were no real viewpoints and i was done in about 30 minutes. I even stretched it a bit and covered every angle of the walk and still i’d only walked for about 45 minutes, when I was hoping to walk for a few hours. So I found another sign which said “Pap of Glencoe”, and I didn’t know what that was but it sounded promising, so I started walking. And then hiking. And then hiking more and more and more.

By the time I realised hiking the Pap of Glencoe was quite a serious undertaking, I was several hours in and only about halfway up. I kept setting goals - “just to the next viewpoint and then I’ll stop for a snack and coffee”, or “just through this rocky section and see what’s on the other side” - until I discovered I could hike to the very top of this beautiful viewpoint and see for miles and miles and miles all around. And it was a sunny day. And I was already halfway up.

That’s when I realised getting started wasn’t enough.

I had to keep going, too.

So I did. I kept going. I was slow, but because I’d left so early, there was hardly anyone ahead of me and that helped a lot. (I get discouraged if I’m being passed every few minutes by someone who seems to be more fit or more whatever than I’m feeling at that moment.) There were really, really tough points when I wondered why I was even doing this and when it would ever be done. There were moments when I came out triumphantly to the top, and realised it wasn’t the top, and there was more to come still. And the very last portion was the hardest of all, with literal bouldering and scrambling on my hands and knees. But I just kept going. And I made it to the top.

And ohhhhh, the top was glorious. I had been right to keep going on a day like that day: it’s rare to have a day so sunny, so beautiful, so bright and fresh with views to all the lochs and lands of Scotland (or at least it felt like that). And I realised I needed a new mug: the #justkeepgoing on.

So (when I got back home) I designed the mug, and now I bring either both of them or I pick one, and take triumphant photos in beautiful places with my reminder mug.

These two principles apply to anything hard, anything with great results, anything you want to achieve but aren’t sure how to.

Just get started
and
Just keep going.

(There’s another one I’m mulling over right now which is the next stage, #justgethelp, but more on that another time.)

These apply to marketing. To doing more video. To writing. To getting healthier or achieving fitness goals or hiring or buying the house you always wanted or finishing the book or whatever it is you’re moving towards.

You may have a very specific goal. One time my #justgetstarted helped me seek out the path to the Lost Valley of Glencoe, and my #justkeepgoing got me there and back, and all was as I hoped it would be. Other times, like the hike on the Pap of Glencoe, or setting up PF ten years ago, I didn’t actually know what i was getting into and sort of thought I’d try for a little while and see what happened. And then ten years later I’ve got a creative agency with a well built brand and team with amazing work we deliver regularly for clients, and some days I wonder how it even happened. Next year I’ll publish my book and sit holding it in my hands and feel the same.

It is amazing how much you can achieve by making some progress towards your goal every day, even if you don’t always know what that goal is. All these Notes, the PF blogs, my Instagram writings, my journals….all these writings on all the topics - creativity and rest and leadership and marketing and accountants and values - are beginning to come together. I’ve got the core content of one book finished, and three more books in progress. My progress has felt random at times, but the themes are beginning to emerge. All because I just got started, and I just kept going.

I also just gave up, sometimes. I turned around on the hike when the path turned out not to be a path, or the sun was fading and I knew I needed to get back before dark, or I couldn’t find the whisky cave after hours of searching. I’ve come up with hundreds of product or service ideas for PF which we started and then stopped. But every single one of them is worthwhile, because they’re full of learnings. I’ve learned how to pay attention to light, to tides, to instructions. I’ve learned how the light changes and how to use tide tables and how sometimes following your gut is better than any number of instructions (and vice versa). I’ve learned, and I’m still learning. Maybe that’s another one, too: #justkeeplearning.

I’m mulling over a name for these Karen’s Notes emails, because I’d like them to have a theme. And when I look back over all the Notes I’ve written, they all seem to have this same theme: keep going. Don’t give up. Patience. Look at the big picture. It’s not about quick wins. The right way is the long way.

You keep going.

And I will too.

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