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Start Small

Ross Menke  |  January 6, 2019

THE NEW YEAR brings the opportunity for fresh beginnings. You may be motivated to set a big goal, create a business plan or start a new diet. While I encourage you to always push yourself forward, I’d offer one piece of advice: Start small.

Do you look at your goals and feel overwhelmed? I have this feeling when looking at the total amount I need saved for my eventual financial independence. To help, I reverse engineer the process and focus on the amount I need to save this month. As the Sketch Guy, Carl Richards, so eloquently puts it, “What is the next smallest action? Do that thing.”

Your natural inclination may be to reach for the stars and set a big goal. Yet many of the greatest success stories had humble beginnings. Here are three favorites:

  • Richard Sears was working as a railroad freight agent in 1886 when he was given an unwanted shipment of pocket watches by a local jeweler. He sold the watches, and then used the proceeds to buy and resell more watches. This side hustle of buying, repairing and selling watches led Sears to quit his job and start R.W. Sears Watch Co. in Minneapolis. A few years later, the first Sears catalog was sent out—and the rest is history.
  • Brian Scudamore needed a way to pay for college. After seeing a truck advertising a junk removal service, he used $700 of his savings to buy a pickup truck. His small business quickly took off and he used the profits to reinvest in the business. Scudamore continued to buy more trucks and hire employees, which led him to drop out of college. The junk removal service was the beginning of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? The company now services over 150 locations and three countries.
  • Greg Glassman opened a gym in 1995 to train individuals in his unique way of combining weightlifting and aerobic exercises. As his schedule became full, he shifted from training individuals one-on-one to introducing group classes. In 2000, he founded CrossFit and began opening affiliate gyms. Although the growth was slow at first, there are now more than 13,000 affiliates across the world.

Regardless of your goals or ambitions for the year ahead, I encourage you to start small. These three steps will help you:

  1. Only take on one goal at a time. Don’t spread yourself too thin by trying to accomplish too much at once. As you start to check small steps off your list, the momentum will build.
  2. Make detailed plans for each goal. Spell out the when, where and how of the task. That’ll increase your odds of doing what needs to be done.
  3. Stay focused with frequent reminders. Do you want to buy a home this year? Contact a realtor and ask to be set up for MLS (multiple listing service) alerts. That way, you’ll receive an email whenever a home becomes available that meets your specific guidelines. A small step like this will keep your attention focused on your goal.

Ross Menke is a certified financial planner and the founder of Lyndale Financial, a fee-only financial planning firm in Nashville, Tennessee. He strives to provide clear and concise advice, so his clients can achieve their life goals. Ross’s previous blogs include Never RetireStarting YoungThat Extra Step and Keeping It Going. Follow Ross on Twitter @RossVMenke.

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