Scaling Mountains: Overcoming Anxiety and the Fear of Failure
[This post was inspired by Boon Cotter, good friend and crazy talented dev, who’s entered into a creative contract with himself to go indie and earn a living making great games. His 30 games in 30 days challenge is his way of dealing with the mountain. Follow his journey and play the latest at booncotter.com]
Starting a business is scary.
Believe me, I know.
Everything that needs doing before you can do the kind of work you want to do can be overwhelming. It’s easier to wait, to stay at the base of the mountain and keep up the holding pattern of daily life.
But after a lifetime of one-size-fits-all formulas (go to school, get a job, trade hours for cash, spend cash, repeat) you start to feel that easier does not equate to better and satisfaction deteriorates with repetition.
Which brings you back to staring up that damn mountain – dreaming about what’s on the other side.
Map Out the Checkpoints
Look at a cliff face as one sheer wall of rock from start to bottom and you won’t be able to see your way up.
Aim for the breaks in the wall, the points where time and circumstances give you the opportunity to stop and catch your breath, and that cliff face becomes scalable.
Each break becomes a checkpoint you need to pass through before you can climb to the next. You can see some of what you’re going to need to prepare for later in the climb but you won’t have all the information for the next stage until you get through this one.
For now all you need to do is focus on getting to that first checkpoint.
Apply it: Identify checkpoints on the way to your goal. If you’re new to indie start by researching the people who have made this journey before. Plan your checkpoints by learning from their experiences.
Carve Out Some Steps
Each stage of ascent can be broken down into small easily managed steps.
Work your way backwards from each checkpoint. Each step has prerequisites, objectives you need to complete first.
Lets take the first of the 9 Steps to Self Publishing as an example:
Find Your Focus
5. Communicate the reason you’re going indie: what you need to do, why you’re doing it and who you’re doing it for.
4. Identify a need in your community that you can develop a solution for
3. Find a community of like minded people who share your passions
2. Choose an indie profession specializing in the knowledge and skills you most enjoy developing
1. Create a personal inventory of all the skills, knowledge and passions that make you unique
Apply it: Break down the steps you need to go through to get to your next checkpoint. Think about prerequisites – what you need to do BEFORE each step.
Measure Your Progress
While you’re focused on each small step it’s easy to forget to look up and check your progress.
If you ended up having to take a few steps back to work your way around an obstacle you might have lost track of how far you’ve come – or wonder if you’re getting anywhere at all!
You need to be able to reflect back on your progress to date and monitor the effectiveness of your choices in getting you to the next checkpoint.
Whether you choose robust kanban tools or post it notes on a corkboard you need something so easy to operate that you won’t hesitate to use it every day. You’ll also need to be able to quickly change direction and adjust your path as you get new information from completed steps.
Do a little bit more every day
Every day aim to move one task across the board from To-Do to Doing to Done. If you can’t take a card all the way across the board in one day then break that task down into its own micro steps.
Show up and do something every day. It could be something small. It could be something hugely significant.
Just make sure it’s something that moves you closer to that next Checkpoint.
In the near future you’re going to look back from on high and realise you’ve climbed further than you ever thought you could on your own – and from up here all the obstacles that stopped you before look small and insignificant. In fact the next mountain doesn’t look steep at all really.