Mistake #1: I never got started...

“Good writers borrow from other writers. Great writers steal from them outright.” — Sam Seaborn, The West Wing

In 2022, a Facebook friend of mine, Blake, posted his “40 Things That I Learned Before I Was 40”, which I quickly sorted into my “Second Brain” archive (more on that in the future) to return to at some point in the future.

Flash-forward almost a year and a half later, staring 40 years in the face in less than a month, I uncovered the post, dusted it off, and gave it a read.

Blake’s list was great (of course, it’s Blake), but it’s his list, not mine.

Going down the rabbit hole that is my ADHD, I was then reminded of another list… ten rules for Twitter (now X) that my friend Ike wrote, which he allowed me to expound upon in a long-since defunct blog of mine (I think they are saved… somewhere).

This inspired me. Why not use Blake’s concept, but give it my own Daniel twist, if you will.

How about a little backstory on me first…

Growing up, I was your average “gifted” kid… with all the gifted classes and gifted expectations. The inflexible, repetitive curriculum always focused heavily on results rather than creativity in problem-solving. This, in turn, helped create a generation of “burnt-out, high-anxiety, gifted, neurodivergent perfectionists with a praise kink” (credit to Catieosaurus for the terminology - https://www.youtube.com/@Catieosaurus)

Yes. Es me. Pretty much anyone who has met me would say that’s a pretty easy way to sum me up.

Throughout my life, I have been very fortunate. There have been many opportunities that I’m tremendously grateful for throughout my life - being a mascot at UAB, volunteering with Sidewalk Film Festival, working within the entrepreneurial community here in Birmingham, and so many more…

But, having the time to reflect in the past few months on my backstory, I think my biggest mistake (regret, etc) I never got started when real opportunities presented themselves.

Specifically, I remember sitting down with a lawyer friend of mine in 2009 or so for coffee. This was back when Twitter had first hit the scene and was all the rage. We were truly in the midst of a revolutionary time in social media. He and I were somewhat popular in Birmingham already, but I’m sure we had much further-reaching eyes on us at the time.

My friend saw what I had been doing using Twitter and Facebook - using it to organize events and gatherings and he strongly encouraged me to pursue social media consulting - getting people to pay me for my advice.

Now, being all of 25, being a consultant wasn’t even a path I could wrap my head around, much less asking people for money for something that they could figure out on their own?!?!! What was I, crazy? I had no idea what to do or how to even get there.

I didn’t recognize myself for what I was - which (at the time) was that I was an expert in my field and my expertise needed to be rewarded for the good work I would do. back then, my lack of confidence was more of a feature than a bug.

At that moment, I chose to not pursue the conversation further. And as it does, life got in the way and I chose to focus more on a “9-5 W2” than building something of my own. My social media following stagnated. While still staying involved and having a deep understanding, I’ve lost the edge I once had in that domain…

Fast forward 15 years, 7 jobs, 2 wives, and an uncountable number of lessons. Later looking back, I realized that I was objectively terrified of getting started. I never got started back then because I wasn’t ready. And while that may have been a mistake, it’s one I’m ok with making back then.

In the last 15 years, I’ve immersed myself in the things that have terrified me in the past. I’ve worked as a consultant with no netting, worked with C-Suite members, and sold companies on our services. I’ve learned about cash flow, contracts, and what it takes to make a business work.

I’ve also seen several businesses fail (or die) because of the pride of the founder(s), the lack of processes within the business, or the massive interruptions that were allowed to happen within the business.

And all the while, taking notes.

At some point, though, you have to realize that notes are not enough. Preparation is nothing without execution. While I may have been able to do the job back in 2009, learning to execute and follow through were skills that I was still acquiring.

Reflecting on that meeting 15 years later, I believe I missed the key lesson that took 15 years to show itself. It wasn’t IF I had the talent or skills to do what was asked of me. It was that someone else had confidence in my ability and they wanted to show that to me, so that I might have the confidence to execute.

You see, for the past 15 years, I’ve let my own confidence in myself get in the way of the things that I’ve wanted to build. Confidence in my decision-making, in my execution, and in my ability to lead others has ALWAYS been a place where I questioned myself to a fault.

That questioning always led me to freeze when it came to my things - my social media presence, my priorities, and my happiness.

Slowly but surely, for about the last three years or so, I’ve been step-by-step rebuilding myself; I moved into an apartment of my own. Started dating for myself. Found an amazing woman. Worked with amazing friends. Stood up and fought friends to protect others. Took a chance on a new career. Got married. Purchased a home.

I started asking myself the hard questions I’ve been avoiding for years; What do I want my future to look like? What gets me out of bed each morning? What makes me happy?

Little did I realize that I was pushing myself forward, moving myself from surviving to thriving. And throughout this process, though I can’t tell you when, I have found this inner calm where once an unrelenting uncertainty lived.

Now that I am on the other side and can look back at my path and realize that the notes that I’ve been taking along the way these last 15 years have been borrowed from the examples of respected friends, businesses, and entrepreneurs.

Preparation is nothing without execution.

So, these 40 mistakes are my way of getting started. I hope they will allow me to build a following to share what I’ve done wrong, so that others may learn, borrow, or steal so they get to move forward faster than I have, to create learning moments in people’s lives, including my own.

The Lesson Learned: Confidence. There’s never a perfect time to get started. Only you know when you’re truly ready. But don’t stand in your way and let perfection stop you from progressing forward.