Five tactics that will help you quit stalling and get started on your next project

Updated to Habits, Productivity on December 30, 2022.

I was in a car the other day with a radiologist and a neurosurgeon talking about hypertension. 

This conversation is actually not as unusual as it might sound. I volunteer for a local society that does trail clearing in a popular hiking and mountain bike park and many of the volunteers happen to be recently retired doctors. 

Back in the car, one of the doctors happened to mention that recently his medical partner, who is in his early 60’s, had a mild stroke. As we wound our way further up the dirt road to our work site my education continued. 

I learned that strokes are the second biggest cause of mortality worldwide and the third most common cause of disability. The scary statistics get worse. As you age your chance of a stroke doubles every 10 years after 55

There’s a checklist of health conditions that make you more susceptible to a stroke, like obesity, high cholesterol, and diabetes. But the biggest culprit – six times out of ten – is hypertension or high blood pressure. In my books, that’s worth paying attention to.

What’s interesting is that stress, in itself, is not the direct cause of high blood pressure. It’s what we do when under stress that leads to nasty results. We eat too much, drink too much, and move too little. Basically, we deal with stress by making unhealthy choices.

For me, stress starts with worry.

Ngoc Son Temple, Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi, Vietnam

I’ve had a lot of worries

There is a world of problems you can worry about – take your pick. You can worry that Ukraine will be pummeled into a tiny province of rubble, or that we’ve passed the tipping point with global warming, or the tiny spot on your chin is cancer. 

Or not.

“I’ve had a lot of worries,” quipped Mark Twain “most of which never happened.” Our mind loves a good worry. Like a dog chewing a bone, we want to turn our worry around, looking from all angles, poking and prodding until it swells up into something bigger than it really is.

I used to worry incessantly before every keynote speech. I’d worry I’d miss my flight or wasn’t prepared enough, or I would be greeted by the “audience from hell.” Trust me, when you have 60 minutes to educate, entertain, inspire, motivate, and get laughs from an audience you’ve never met before, any sane person would invent a long list of worries.

It was at one of those events when a fellow speaker opened an exit door for my worries. He suggested that audiences don’t want you to fail – in fact, they want you to succeed. “They want to see you having fun—enjoying yourself. That way,” he explained, “they can enjoy the ride with you.”

When I accepted the long list of what I could never control – my flights, the audience, the speaker before me going overtime – I was free to focus on what I could control.

Enjoying the moment. 

What your life will have been

In her book, Comfortable with Uncertainty, Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön tells the story of delighting in the preciousness of every single moment.

A woman is running from lions. She runs and she runs, and the lions are getting closer. She comes to the edge of a cliff. She sees a vine there, so she climbs down and holds onto it. Then she looks down and sees that there are lions below her as well. At the same time, she notices a little mouse gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries emerging from a nearby clump of grass. She looks up, she looks down, and she looks a the mouse. Then she picks a strawberry, pops it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly.

Learning what to focus on, and what to ignore, seems to be the ultimate secret to living a healthy, stress-free life. “Whatever compelled your attention from moment to moment,” writes Oliver Burkeman in Four Thousand Weeks (a must-read for anyone over 50), “is simply what your life will have been.”

So, what are you focussing on?

What to focus on

You can learn a lot when you’re the dumbest one in a car full of doctors. I learned that strokes are a silent pandemic. And that hypertension is the leading cause of that pandemic. And I learned the leading cause of hypertension is stress. 

I was also reminded that stress is a choice.

We all have lions and tigers in our life. Maybe even a mouse or two gnawing away at something we value. Meanwhile, we have the moment.

Choosing what to focus on (and what not to) might just be the healthiest choice you can make.

Got this far? You might also like these posts:

Photo of eggs by Nik on Unsplash
Photo of Ngoc Son Temple by author
Photo of tigers by author

It’s been a tough month. Not tough like, bad – tough because I have so many goals and at times feel like I don’t have traction.

Like I’m spinning my wheels…getting nowhere.

What about you?

Do you sometimes feel it’s impossible to move ideas forward or get team members fired up?

Just over two years ago, I had an idea to launch an online speaking school. I’d put on conferences, boot camps, blogged, written ebooks all about the crazy world of public speaking, but never a large-scale online school.

And then you can guess what happened…

I started making lists. Lots of them.

Lists about topics I wanted to include. People I would reach out to. Technology I needed to figure out. Making lists is a great way to feel good about doing nothing.Making lists wasn’t the problem.

I hadn’t built an online course like this before and every day I had new questions, new worries, new parts to learn about.

I was stalling—the project wasn’t moving forward.

Maybe you’ve had the same experience with:

  • hiring your first assistant
  • purchasing new software
  • reorganizing your team
  • buying a new car
  • moving offices
  • planning a trip
  • losing weight
  • writing your first book
  • renovating your house
  • finding a new life partner

The punch line is I did launch BOSS – the first year with super-star speaker coach Jane Atkinson, now on my own. Fast forward two years and we’re ramping up for our third season and looking forward to working with an even bigger group of international speakers who want to grow their speaking business.

In this post, I want to share what I did. In fact, what I do every time I get stuck. It’s 5 steps, but you can treat them like a buffet – add them to your plate as you wish.


Here’s a tricky one. Yes, you need to be informed to make good decisions. You can also hide out in the library learning and never move forward. That’s why I create a fact-finding deadline.

With BOSS, I gave myself one week. I had one week to ask around, make lists, look at the competition and after that, I need to build the course and enroll people.

If you are stuck, it could be you just don’t know enough. Give yourself a deadline and commit to making at least 3 phone calls each day to learn from others. People love to feel smart – you just need to reach out and ask for their advice.


People are generous. They also love to give advice. One of the fastest ways to get traction is to simply ask for help. In the last month, I’ve been reaching out once a week to experts for advice.

I’m working on expanding our BlogWorks service into new markets and need to learn more about building online sales funnels. I could either try to figure it all out on my own – buying courses, reading ebooks, watching videos, or make a few phone calls.

People love sharing advice – take them up on it – it’s a win/win.


Quick – what’s the next number in the sequence 2, 5, 8? Is it 9, 11 or 13?

One way to solve this is mathematically, but it’s much faster to use the process of elimination (the answer is 11). The same approach can be used to get traction.

When I was completing my book, Give Me A Break I couldn’t decide between getting a publisher or self-publishing. So I reached out to book publishing experts, authors and publishers, got advice and decided to eliminate working with a publisher.

I still didn’t know all I needed to know about self-publishing, but by removing one big option I’d moved forward.

If you’re stuck, start removing options. The fewer options the easier it’ll be to see the path you need to start moving down.


If you’re anything like me (poor you), you worry a lot. I worry about debt, hurting someone, or looking like a fool (that horse has already left the barn).

The reality is most of our worries never happen. In fact, according to a study at Cornell University as much as 85% of our worries never happen.

As Mark Twain quipped “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”

When you take any step forward you begin to build momentum. Small at first, that single phone call to ask for advice or email to request an interview is all it takes.

I’ve discovered that people are far more generous with their time and ideas than you might think – you just need to ask.


Put life in perspective.

Whatever I decide, it’s highly unlikely I’ll hurt someone, get arrested, lose tons of money, or go out of business.

Sure, I care about results and don’t want to lose money. But, I’m always better getting started and learning, than doing nothing and worrying.

I wrote more about positive thinking and what really works in this post.

Action promotes more action. Now quit stalling and get started.


“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders, losses, and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can.

Tomorrow is a new day; let today go so you can begin tomorrow well and serenely, with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense. Each new day is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on yesterdays.“ – Emerson writing to his daughter