Words mean nothing until you act on them. Whether they are project plans at a workplace, those dreaded group projects in college and even relationships. There’s a lot of talk about ideas that can potentially change the world and better our daily lives or starting something new and refreshing, yet it is all easier said than done.

I had a pretty unique experience at university, I completed my 4-year degree in 3 cities – 1 each in Singapore and Dubai, and 2 years in Sydney. During that time, my friends and I brainstormed so many ideas because we identified endless opportunities for business, but never made the effort to research or gave it enough thought to act. We can have the best mentors, highest grades, pockets full of cash, but until we make genuine efforts, dreams will be far from realization and we can go on blaming life for the same. Earlier this year, I found out that there is a lizard in my brain which likes that comfort zone, keeping me from stretching my limits.  

How I Delayed Starting A Blog for 2 Years

I’ve been thinking about starting a blog of my own since 2017; sharing my journey about studying in three remarkable global cities and the experiences I’ve had along the way. Instead, I pushed it under the rug. After completing my graduation, I reignited the thought of starting the blog upon moving to a new city (Melbourne) but somehow shelved the idea once again. Last year in December, I had a new thought of a unique travel blog with my cousin who just so happens to be passionate backpacker like me.

Photo by Nick Morrison

I could not even say I failed at blogging because I never started. I just failed to start. To feed my desire for embarking on the blogging journey, I finally bought a domain earlier this year. I thought it was a step forward when actually it is not really a “real effort” to bring my desires to life.

To shed more light on this drama, I actually wrote most of this post in March, but failed to post it, and below is the answer why.

The Lizard Brain

Seth Godin describes the Lizard Brain1 in his book Linchpin: Are you indispensable? (a legit concept I can blame my inaction on).

Seth talks a lot about the term “lizard brain” (also known as “reptilian brain”) to refer to the most primitive part of our brain, instinctively warning us of danger in sight. It’s actually a metaphor for the amygdala, the part of the limbic system which is responsible for processing our emotions.

This weird part of the brain allows us to react to a threat instinctively, without the rest of the brain processing information, thus gaining a split second that has allowed our survival for millions of years. We don’t face the threats as our ancestors did and our “survival instinct”, that has hardly evolved, rather than being of help, hurts us more often.

“We say we want one thing, then we do another. We say we want to be successful, but we sabotage the job interview. We say we want a product to come to market, but we sandbag the shipping schedule. We say we want to be thin, but we eat too much. We say we want to be smart, but we skip class or don’t read that book the boss lent us.”

Seth Godin

In the past 1 year at my role as an Associate with SPARK Deakin, I acted on a few initiatives that made me realize the importance of getting things done by taming our lizard brain. For example, when my manager, Daizy Maan came up with the idea of Mentor Mania (a week full of rapid-fire 30 min mentoring sessions for emerging founders) last year and wanted me to execute it in 3 weeks, I was reluctant and conservative and mustered up a web of excuses: “It’s a very short time frame; Mentors can’t commit at such a short notice; Students won’t register”. Fast forward to November, I was proved wrong as we hustled and launched Mentor Mania, had over 80 registrations, 8 mentors joining in and conducted over 40 mentoring sessions in just 4 days.

Just Get Started  

How do you detect if the lizard brain is in operation? I usually check for these behaviors:

  • postponing a task/project for no reason at all
  • being too much of a self-critic
  • getting obsessed over details, results are never good enough (OCD alert)
  • always having an excuse handy

Earlier this year, to engage students with the booming startup ecosystem in Melbourne, I came up with the idea of a Venture Crawl. It’s a fun twist to a traditional pub crawl, where we would take 30 students to crawl through the top innovation and entrepreneurship hubs in Melbourne. When I pitched the idea, I was apprehensive if it would be approved or even worthy enough to be considered. To my surprise, it was and even set the ball rolling in my court, awaiting me to dribble the plan through. I had to plan the entire event from conceptualization to implementation, getting speakers onboard, create and manage the application process and the crazy part was that I had no idea how events planning & execution worked.

There was a voice in the back of my head telling me to back off, be careful, go slow, compromise.  Steven Pressfield describes this force as the resistance2. I was excited yet scared to work on this project and I managed to convince Daizy and postpone it by 2 weeks.

After a little help with SPARK Deakin’s contacts, I approached the key startup ecosystem leaders in Melbourne to be partners for our first-ever Startup Venture Crawl. Everyone loved the idea and most of them jumped on board in a heartbeat. I expected to visit 3 places and hear from 6 speakers, but we managed to lock in 5 locations with 12 speakers in under a week.

I’ve learned the hard way to start making quick and fast decisions, you’ll either do great or learn a great lesson. But it’s better than waiting to catch up and then running everything through the already busy boss. You were hired to not bother them with such decisions, rather make it for them.

Our very first Venture Crawl was a success. In retrospect, the then hard decisions & challenges now seemed trivial and obvious and I smile back at those times (emotionally) because it was all worth it.

I originally planned to post this blog in March (resistance didn’t let me), and since then, we’ve organized multiple events including Venture Crawl 2.0 in July, with the support of my lovely colleagues.

Taming The Lizard  

Got a crazy idea? Give it a go. You’ll never know unless you try. It’s all trial and error. If it works well, great and if it doesn’t, well at least you know what doesn’t work and can move onto trying the next thing. Just remember to avoid over-thinking. Act first, reflect later.

It’s all about learning and growing in the process. And don’t forget to have a little bit of fun while taming that lizard.

With this post, I’m finally starting my blogging journey. It took 2 years to start, but alas, it has started. To many more!

Photo by Clark Tibbs

1 https://seths.blog/2010/01/quieting-the-lizard-brain/

2 https://stevenpressfield.com/

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