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Analysis Paralysis: A Lesson in Getting Started

January 5, 2010

How often are great projects or ideas left to die as a sketch on a napkin because of over-analysis of the possible outcomes?

In October of 2007, inspired by Tim Ferriss’ Literacy Liberation campaign , I started raising money for a preschool in Vietnam.  I used Tim’s model of Firstgiving as the donation page and Room to Read as the charity. At the time, Facebook “groups” were huge and some of the largest were ones for charitable causes (e.g. Monks in Burma). However, with massive numbers of supporters (upwards of 1,000,000 at the time), very few tangible results were being produced.

That was my goal: To create a Facebook group whose entire purpose was to produce something tangible – a preschool in Vietnam.

I learned many things during this project – about myself, about fund raising, about creating community.  One lesson has resonated with me the most: Get started. You can over-analyze these kinds of projects to the point where they do not happen at all. “What will people think of me?” “What if I do not reach my goal?” This type of thinking is affectionately referred to as “Analysis Paralysis”. The easiest way to approach a problem that appears too large is to ask yourself, “What is the next step that I need to be taking?” and not burning yourself out by thinking too far into the future. I had the pleasant experience of meeting extremely kind people whose generosity, either through donations or through support, I had not anticipated when planning starting this project.  You will, too.

Here is a short video I made reflecting on the project and the subsequent visit to the school:

For those wanting to see the rest of the pictures of the visit, they are here on Flickr.

This experience has exceeded my expectations in nearly every aspect. An exciting way to wrap up was to have this project featured on Tim Ferriss’ blog as a case study for the “future of giving back and karmic capitalism” and acknowledged by Room to Read and John Wood.

What projects have you been putting off that you could get started in 2010?

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