The bane of my existence can be summed up in ONE word: How?
I must hear folks ask 'how' a dozen times a day. One of those folks is me. Everytime I encounter a stumbling block or a closed door, to a project, an idea, or a client proposal, someone says, "Don't do that, do this...or this...or this." And I say (or think), "How do I do this or that?"
The answer to any How question is - just do it. This is the concept, I believe, behind, "Do What You Can, Where You Are, With What You Have"... or, be a bricoleur. It's a placque I have on a bookcase shelf in my living room. It tells me I need to stop whining and get working.
Back in the day, when I was an aspiring freelance write, I would get rejection slips with notes on them, telling how I could improve and thereby have a chance at being considered for publication, next time. Invariably, the notes would say, "More showing, less telling." Or, "Nicely done but you should work on your reporting skills. Less reporting, more showing."
Show don't tell... my creative writer instructors drilled that into my head weekly and yet, I would wander home and scratch my head in confusion. "How?" I would ask myself. Wasn't all that writing PRIME showing, not telling?
Today, I work with other writers and they come to ME with the "How" question. I try to help - showing is in the scene creation, the way your characters interact, the way you put the reader into the story; telling is...what I'm doing here, now.
That's easier said than understood. When I was trying to learn it, I finally had to just... do it. I sat at the computer and began writing and spent hours going over my prose, invisioning the "show don't tell" principle. I read, and read, and then read some more. And over time, a light went on in my head. "Ah!" I thought. "Show don't tell! Now I get it!"
Sitting at a boardroom table, years ago, with 10 other CEOs, our mentor was going around the room asking us about our progress from our last mentoring session.
"What did you accomplish this week?"
"This and that," we answered individually.
"Did you close that deal?" the mentor asked me. His fierce eyes drilled into my neck. I felt all the other CEOs' eyes penetrating the same spot. Ishifted in my seat and started fanning myself. Is this a hot flash or am I scared? I wondered, even though I knew the answer.
I took a second to glance around the table - each CEO in turn was watching me but I could tell they were preparing to answer a similar question when their turn came. I glanced behind those directly across from me, noticing the deep green of the trees outside. A strong wind blew them one way, then the other. I imagined stepping out of the room to enjoy that breeze, feel that coolness on my face.
Instead of acting on that, I mumbled, "I didn't," looking down at my notepad, twiddling my pen in shaky fingers. My hair fell over my face, where I let it hang over my eyes.
"I don't know," I looked up, gradually becoming stronger. I finally met his gaze without looking away. "I just don't know."
"If you did know," he asked, "what would your answer be?
He asked that all the time. If anyone ever said, "I don't know," his answer response was invariably, "If you did know..."
As frustrating as that was, back then, it taught me my most valuable life lesson. That, I do know. For 99% of the questions I'm asked, I do know the answer. The answer isn't... "how" or "I don't know"... it's to do what is necessary for a positive outcome.
If you come to me and ask me "how", today, I'll tell you to "Do it. Start now."
One foot in front of the other. One phone call. One email. Whatever it is, do it now and get it done. Don't use "How?" as an excuse. Don't say, "I don't know." Just do it.
Ready? Go on, do it. Now.