Sometimes you just need to focus on the math.
I was recently introduced to a woman who has dreamed of starting a non-profit organization for several years.
Her son has a rare medical diagnosis. And while he is fine now, she went through a scary few years. She wants to start a non-profit to support families going through the same diagnosis.
I don’t work in non-profit, but I do work with a lot of startups. So, we were connected to see if I could help her create a business plan and get the idea off the ground.
When we first met for coffee, she told me about the ups and downs that her family went through. Sometimes life is crazier than fiction.
Then we started to talk about her vision for the non-profit. She has thought about this idea for a long time. Like I said, years. She actually had a pretty good idea of what she wanted to do. Who she wanted to help. What she would provide for them.
So I asked how I could help her.
She started to talk faster. “I need to raise money to make this happen. And what if no one will give me money for this? What if I can’t do it? I hate having to sell myself. I don’t want to ask.”
So I asked her if she had any ideas for early sources of funding. She mentioned that she knew about 5 well-to-do families that could help. They all had kids with a similar diagnosis. She knew them through either online communities or her son’s doctors.
Had she ever mentioned her non-profit idea to them?
She said she had. And they all thought it was a great idea.
I suggested that she write them each an email, outlining her ideas. Saying that she’d need some funding to get started. But she’d love to either take them to coffee if they were local, or arrange a phone call with them to chat about it further. If they were interested.
She once again told me about her fears that no one will give her the money. That she’s “selling” something.
I asked again if the families ever saw value in her idea when she raised it before. She said yes, they were all enthusiastic.
So, it’s possible they would say no to funding. Or, they could say yes. But she’d never know until she asked.
She reluctantly agreed.
I asked her how long it would take her to write an email to get the ball rolling.
She said about two hours. She’d need to organize her thoughts, but she could send similar emails to each family once she put it together.
This woman had been holding off on her dreams for years. She had such a strong vision in her head of how her non-profit could add value to the world. But she hadn’t started it for all those years, because of the two hours of work it would take to send out those emails. Two hours to get the ball rolling.
The fears and uncertainty in her head felt enormous, but the math told another story.
Sure, she’d have lots of steps along the way. It’s possible that none of those people would fund her, and she’d have to look elsewhere. She’d have a lot of work to do between now and realizing her dream.
But every step along the way could be broken down into small increments. Two hours to write an email. One hour for coffee. And on from there.
Our dreams feel so big in our heads that sometimes the steps to get there do, too. The unknown feels vast and enveloping, like the night sky. But the first step, or the next step, never is. It’s a few hours of work. It’s just math.
What feels huge in your thoughts today? What feels so overwhelming that you don’t even want to start? And what’s the math on how long it will actually take? To take one, single, first step forward? Do that calculation right now. I bet it will surprise you.
The next time you find yourself setting aside your dreams. Telling yourself they are too big, or you don’t know where to begin. Focusing on all your fears, on all the uncertainty. Of everything that could go wrong. Pick one thing. One first step. Ask yourself how long it will take. Then do the math. And spend an hour or two getting started. And then an hour or two doing the next thing.
It’s only a few hours. That’s not big, it’s tiny. But a few hours can make all the difference.
What are you going to do in the next hour or two?