Going From 0 to 1: How to Take the First Step and Go After Your Dreams

From a small campfire to a magnificent inferno, every fire starts the same way – with a single, humble ember. That first spark changes everything. It divides the story of that fire into two absolutely-not-equal parts: the part where you have a fire and the part where you don’t. The difference between the two is the difference of going from 0 to 1.

When you light that first spark, you have an imperfect fire. It is tiny, it is not very hot, and it wouldn’t do a very good job of warming anything up, let alone cooking anything. That fire is vulnerable; if you walk away, there are about a dozen ways it can fizzle out within seconds. Online reviews of your fire would likely be only 1-star.

But you’d still have a fire.

Until the moment you take that first step, nothing else you do will get you closer to the goal of building a beautiful, powerful fire. No amount of fuel or airflow can build up a fire that hasn’t been started. You must take the first step.

Going from 0 to 1 is the single most important step in achieving your goals and fulfilling your dreams. A fire that consumes the world must still begin with an ember. No one ever became great at anything before taking the first step.

Until you cross the starting line, nothing you do to multiply your results will matter because 0 multiplied by anything is still 0. This is the one step that enables every other step. So grab your tinder and your matches and let’s get going.

You’ll never finish what you don’t start

Life-changing work is usually hard. A project that can lead to massive success can also result in failure. Getting different results than the people around you means doing things differently than the people around you, and that means you will feel doubt. 

Embarking on a new journey brews a delightful soup of fear, anxiety, and self-doubt. These feelings are simply the keepers of the gate between you and your dreams. If you give them permission to stop you, they will.

What do you want to do? What’s the next big thing in your life? Do you have a goal to run your first 10k or pay off all your debt? What about taking on a new role in your work, or a side hustle you’ve been thinking about for years?

Whatever it is, I promise you that you will not get there if you don’t move past fear and take the first step.

person waiting to take the first step on street with "start here" paint

Stop shopping for running clothes, looking at refinancing options, planning your next move, and make that move. Go for a run. Throw $100 in Sallie Mae’s stupid, ugly face and say “keep the change!” Start doing the job you want to have. Launch your side hustle. The rest comes after, not before.

Let yesterday be your last day of saying “I’m going to do it,” and let today be your first day of saying “I’m doing it.”

It’s okay to feel uncomfortable, but you can’t let that stop you from jumping in. The first step is usually messy. You will make mistakes. You will stumble, you will learn, you will grow, and you will win. But not before you start. So start.

When you take the first step, the path becomes clear

Think of how you build up a fire you have started vs. one you haven’t. When you’ve started the fire, you can add more wood to it; you can push more air into it or rearrange for better airflow; you can set wet logs near the fire to dry out and get ready.

These steps all become clear (and possible) because you have a fire, not an idea.

If you haven’t started your fire, you can gather all the lumber of the collective American northwest as firewood, douse it in gasoline, and shield it from wind and rain, and you will have exactly as much of a fire as you had to start with: none. None of it matters without the first spark.

Everything changes after going from 0 to 1. Priorities become clear, actions become necessary, and the possibility of success becomes real. The answer to the question, “what’s next?” changes.

The longer you hang out behind the starting line, the smaller your priorities and actions become. Preparation is often critical to success, but it can easily become a distraction that makes it easier to avoid the thing you are afraid of: taking the first step.

All of that changes when you flip the switch from “I’m going to do this,” to “I’m doing this.” When you cross the starting line, you’re no longer preparing for a race, you’re running one.

If you have the basics in place, the time to start is NOW. Right now, today. 

If you don’t have the basics in place, write down the absolute minimum requirements you need before taking the first step. Put a checkbox next to each one. Go do those things immediately. And then start the fire.

going from 0 to 1 flowchart - are you ready to take the first step
Woah, hey look, a flowchart! And they said this blog wouldn’t be any fun…

Going from 0 to 1 to Live Without regret

What do people regret most when they look back on their lives? Do they regret what they went out there and experienced, the things they tried, places they visited, lessons they learned, or the shots they took?

Absolutely not.

With the serene clarity of hindsight, we all come to realize that the greatest regrets are the things we didn’t try, the time we wasted waiting to be ready, and the excuses we made to avoid going from 0 to 1.

Pick up the one thing you’ve wanted to do someday, and tell yourself, “Not Someday. Today.” You will not regret starting. Fear tells you that you will regret it, because it is fear’s job to stop you from doing things. But fear is not in charge today. You are.

After you start, the only regret you will have is that you didn’t start sooner. So don’t delay. Start your fire now and live without regret.

No matter what your thing is, you don’t have to win it today. You don’t have to finish it, or even necessarily do a very good job. You just have to START. Going from 0 to 1 is the most important step of every journey. Take that step with no further delay.

going from 0 to 1 title pin - the simple secret to taking the first step

What’s your next big thing? How are you lighting the match and going from 0 to 1 TODAY?

8 Comments

  1. Peg said:

    You go, Sam. Very insightful. Love the “humble ember” reference.

    February 29, 2020
    Reply
  2. Ann said:

    LOVE this. It’s sometimes so challenging to ‘take it on’, whatever ‘it’ is. The fear of rejection, failure, etc. can be so daunting that we allow them to stop us. The simple act of going from 0 to 1 is an amazingly forceful step towards breaking down that barriers we have created for ourselves. And I just learned that today 🙂

    March 3, 2020
    Reply
  3. Jayla said:

    Love the part on “going from 0 to 1 is how you live without regrets.” It’s such a good reminder to keep trying out the hard things, they’ll become more natural with time. Thanks for sharing your advice!

    April 21, 2020
    Reply
    • Sam said:

      Thanks, I’m glad you liked it! Sometimes we all need a little push to take the first step!

      April 23, 2020
      Reply
  4. Graham Crosby said:

    Great stuff. The first step towards anything is always the hardest, but definitely the most rewarding. Thanks for such an interesting read.

    October 8, 2020
    Reply
    • Sam said:

      Thanks, Graham! I think the first step always seems so hard, because we also associate it with the difficulty of every step that comes after it. Once we realize how small the first step can be, I find it a liberating motivator to get in there and get things going!

      October 12, 2020
      Reply
    • Sam said:

      Thank you Jodie, I’m glad you found it helpful!

      October 12, 2020
      Reply

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