It all started for me on a mountain in Russia, in a blizzard. I was twenty-three years old, one year away from graduating college. I had no clue what was next. I was thinking law school. But on that mountain I had an idea. I wanted to start taking people on outdoor adventures around the world with a spiritual focus.
I had no idea how to start.
Over the next few years I learned that starting something is a marathon, not a sprint.
I also learned that there is no formula for success. God works differently in each person. I think He does that to make sure we stay focused on Him throughout the process—not our skills, or smoothness, or our platform. There is no secret formula.
But I have seen a few consistent things every visionary needs to get started. If you’ve got a dream in your heart to start doing something—start a non-profit organization, start a business, write a book—I think you’ll find these seven essentials helpful to get started.
1. Create a One-Liner.
Develop a clear one-line explanation of what you will do and why it needs to be done. Seems simple enough, right? Nailing it down to one line takes lots of practice. You’ll have to explain it over and over. Talk it through. Don’t use fancy language or complicated terms. Look for the “Aha!” moment in your listeners. If they aren’t getting it, you need to be clearer. Think of it this way: If the person that could help fund your idea was on an elevator with you for a ride from the first to the 15th floor, could you sell the person on your idea during your ride? Make it clear. Make it concise.
2. Find Advisors.
Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisors they succeed. Proverbs 15:22
The best advisors are like a radar: They won’t tell you what to do—that’s God’s job—but they’ll give you an idea of what to expect up ahead and share things they have learned.
You need advisors. There’s an old African proverb that says, “Never buy clothes from a naked man.” If you are seeking advice, ask someone who is walking their talk, someone who did it right the first time. When you find people who clearly know what they are talking about, pump them for knowledge. Ask questions like: Who do you know that I need to know? What books should I read? What lessons did you learn the hard way? Ask as many questions as you can, then pray for discernment and follow the advice that seems to fit what God is telling you.
3. Draw a Map.
Write your idea in pen, but write the route for getting there in pencil. It will change, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a plan. Write out steps you can take, no matter how small. Then do them. Give yourself a reasonable deadline. When you get to a step you can’t do without some divine intervention, then it’s time to start praying. I created a simple tool called a Vision Map that helps me get organized and divide out responsibilities between God and I. I do what I can, then pray like crazy for God to do the things only He can.
4. Pray, Pray, Pray.
If the dream you have is too big for you to do alone, there’s a good chance God put it there. That means He wants to be involved in making it happen. That way He gets the glory when the impossible happens. When it comes to prayer, be specific. It’s easy to fall into “God bless, blah, blah, blah prayers.”
But Matthew 20:29-34 seems to indicate God wants us to be specific about our needs. Make sure you are including regular pow-wows with God into your routine. Get His input through prayer, then obey what He says.
5. Build a Tribe.
Starting something new can be a lonely road. You may start alone, but eventually you’ll need to bring a group of people on board to help. Share your vision with everyone. Some folks won’t get it. Others will. Get those people on your team. God will bring people into your path to help, but you need to cast the vision to them. Always keep an ongoing list ready so when people ask, “How can I help?” You can give them an answer immediately. Keep reminding your team of the vision. Vision doesn’t stick. It has to be shared over and over. That’s your job.
6. Be Flexible.
Plans change. A lot. The final version of what you set out to start will probably look quite different than what you originally dreamed. There is nothing wrong with that. Go with what God is blessing. Don’t get tunnel vision. Stay flexible and you’ll see God do some amazing things.
7. Start Small.
Above all else, start small. Start with what you have in front of you. A Go-Big-or-Go-Home mindset is your enemy. Most things don’t need a giant budget and ten-year plan to get started. They just need to start.
Dream big, but start small. Don’t get overwhelmed. Use the resources in front of you and build from there. A journey of a thousand miles starts with one step.