The Power of Imperfect Starts: How Good Do You Really Need to Be to Get Started?

start buttonWhen you have a goal — whether it’s starting a business or eating healthier or traveling the world — it’s easy to look at someone who is already doing it and then try to reverse engineer their strategy.

In some cases, this is really useful. Learning from the experiences of successful people is a great way to accelerate your own learning curve.

But it’s equally important to remember that the systems, habits, and strategies that successful people are using today are probably not the same ones they were using when they began their journey.

What is optimal for them right now isn’t necessarily needed for you to get started. There is a difference between the two.

Let me explain.

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The First Version of Google, Facebook, and YouTube and More (and What They Can Teach Us About Starting Small)

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“The best things we know and love started as tiny things.” — Joel Gascoigne

Buffer’s CEO, Joel, wrote a post not too long ago about the importance of starting small with new projects. He makes some great points about how easy it is to see the finished product of someone else’s hard work and forget about how long it took them to get to that point:

“It’s difficult to understand how the evolutionary process of products and brands contributes and is vital to what they are today.”

Joel goes on to say that success is more likely when we execute on small projects. Start small and let them grow, essentially.

“Don’t even try to build startups. That’s premature optimization. Just build things that seem interesting.” — Paul Graham

To give us a little insight into just how simple some of the today’s juggernaut web companies were when they started out, I thought it would be fun to do some time traveling in the Wayback Machine. Design can’t tell us everything about what’s happening behind the scenes at a company, but it’s one way to visualize the progress of a product or service over time. Plus, each of these companies’ founders have some useful advice on why they started small and how it helped them grow into the successes they are today.

So let’s take a look at how these major companies evolved from their humble beginnings:

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10 Years of Silence: How Long It Took Mozart, Picasso and Kobe Bryant to Be Successful

mozartHow long does it take to become elite at your craft? And what do the people who master their goals do differently than the rest of us?

That’s what John Hayes, a cognitive psychology professor at Carnegie Mellon University, wanted to know.

For decades, Hayes has been investigating the role of effort, practice, and knowledge in top performers. He has studied the most talented creators in history — people like Mozart and Picasso — to determine how long it took them to become world class at their craft. Furthermore, he has investigated the choices and experiences that have led to their success.

Let’s talk about what Hayes has discovered about world class performers. And more importantly, let’s discuss how you can use these insights to achieve your goals and become your best.

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10 Things To Stop Doing Today to Be Happier, Backed by Science

happyI’m fascinated by the link between the way we live our daily lives and the health and happiness we enjoy.

There are choices that you make every day, some of which seem completely unrelated to your health and happiness, that dramatically impact the way you feel mentally and physically.

With that said, here are 10 common mistakes that can prevent you from being happy and healthy, and the science to back them up.

When the Buffer team explored the science of happiness before on this blog, the interest was overwhelming. So I hope this can provide equally valuable insights:

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The case for having no goals in your life: Why it might lead to more success and happiness

Screen Shot 2013-11-08 at 7.50.43 AMWe all have things that we want to achieve in our lives — getting into the better shape, building a successful business, raising a wonderful family, writing a best-selling book, winning a championship, and so on.

And for most of us, the path to those things starts by setting a specific and actionable goal. At least, this is how I approached my life until recently. I would set goals for classes I took, for weights that I wanted to lift in the gym, and for clients I wanted in my business.

What I’m starting to realize, however, is that when it comes to actually getting things done and making progress in the areas that are important to you, there is a much better way to do things.

It all comes down to the difference between goals and systems.

Let me explain.

The Difference Between Goals and Systems

What’s the difference between goals and systems?

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Why Google authorship is so important for the content you create and how to set it up

Seeing your name in the phone book used to be the ultimate, I remember it clearly.

As a boy, I dreamed of the day when I would have the independence, stability, maturity, and home phone to be listed on page “L” alongside my fellow human adults. I’d crack open the new Yellow Pages, thumb through the Lees, and lo and behold, there I’d be. A celebrity.

My Yellow Pages dream has vanished. Now it’s all about Google.

I want my face on a Google search results page.

Byline here

The ticket to my desired Internet listing is Google authorship, a highly effective way of connecting and promoting content on search results pages. It’s free to use, easy to set up, and worth the effort—especially for us who dream the Google dream.

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If You Commit to Nothing, You’ll Be Distracted by Everything: Lessons from the “Marathon Monks”

Screen Shot 2013-10-23 at 8.06.40 AMIn the northeastern hills outside Kyoto, Japan there is a mountain known as Mount Hiei. That mountain is littered with unmarked graves.

Those graves mark the final resting place of the Tendai Buddhist monks who have failed to complete a quest known as the Kaihogyo.

What is this quest that kills so many of the monks? And what can you and I learn from it?

Keep reading and I’ll tell you.

The Marathon Monks

The Tendai monks believe that enlightenment can be achieved during your current life, but only through extreme self–denial.

For the Tendai, the ultimate act of self–denial — and the route to enlightenment — is a physical challenge known as the Kaihogyo. Because of this challenge, the Tendai are often called the “Marathon Monks.”

But the Kaihogyo is much more than a marathon.

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The Myth of Passion and Motivation: How to Stay Focused When You Get Bored Working Toward Your Goals

tiger huntingWe all have goals and dreams, but it can be difficult to stick with them.

Each week, I hear from people who say things like, “I start with good intentions, but I can’t seem to maintain my consistency for a long period of time.”

Or, they will say, “I struggle with mental endurance. I get started but I can’t seem to follow through and stay focused for very long.”

Don’t worry. I’m just as guilty of this as anyone else.

For example, I’ll start one project, work on it for a little bit, then lose focus and try something else. And then I’ll lose focus on my new goal and try something else. And on and on. When everything is said and done, I’ve stopped and started so many times that I never really made much progress.

Maybe you have felt this way too.

This problem reminds me of a lesson I learned while working out one day…

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What These 13 Successful Entrepreneurs Wish They Knew 5 Years Ago

Five years ago I was re-doing my last year of high school, managing a retail store full-time and performing in a play five nights a week. Suffice to say I burned out pretty quickly and in hindsight I can see why.

Hindsight is a grand thing, but we don’t all go through the same experiences, so the hindsight of others can be beneficial to us as well. These 13 successful entrepreneurs and startupers have some great stories to tell, and I thought asking what they wish they knew five years ago would be a great way to find out what advice they have that could benefit us now.

Soraya“It’s a marathon, not a sprint” – Soraya Darabi

I wish I knew five years ago what people have been telling me for decades: life, and most everything, is a marathon, not a race.

Soraya Darabi is a Co-Founder of Foodspotting and ZADY

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8 Effective Email Marketing Strategies, Backed by Science

email marketing strategies, emailThe cutthroat inbox of your standard consumer roils with marketing messages, competitive subject lines, and scores of attention-seeking emails. With over 144 billion emails sent each and every day, email marketing remains one of the elite channels for business communication. So how does the signal separate itself from the noise?

To be sure, finding the key to a stand-out message is critical to your bottom line—whether that bottom line is cold, hard cash or community engagement or anything in between. What follows are eight inbox-tested email marketing strategies that successful senders have used to get their emails clicked.

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