My Rebuttal to Steve Pavlina: Getting Started Without Skill

Last week, Steve Pavlina wrote an article entitled, “Skill”.  In it, Steve claimed, that most people under-invest in the skill-building phase.  In a rush to profit, they don’t spend enough time working on their ability to create value.

I agree with Steve that skill-building is important.  I’d also agree that many bloggers (or other new ventures) fail because they don’t provide enough value to other people.  It isn’t marketing strategy or search engine optimization, it’s writing skill and useful content.

But as someone who started his blog when he was 17, I have to disagree with what I felt was Steve’s underlying conclusion.  I started this blog with a minimal skill set.  I never started with the idea that this blog would be hugely successful in six months (or even six years), but I did start with the goal of earning some passive income.

When Should You Get Started?

Steve argued that the time to go pro was when other people were practically recommending it.  He writes that before he started StevePavlina.com, many people were telling him how great his articles were.

My only quarrel from this advice is it holds people back needlessly.  I think, before we get started, all of us have a lingering fear of, “Am I ready for this?”  Steve’s article suggests that people should spend more time incubating in the skill-building stage instead of taking the bolder step of going full-force into an endeavor.

I agree with Steve that you should invest in developing skill.  But, one of the best ways to build skills is to have repeated failures.  I’m two years into this blogging and internet entrepreneurship adventure.  I’ve poured a lot of sweat and strain into building this blog, a great deal more than the financial rewards it has brought me.

However, the lessons I’ve learned from getting fully-engaged have been worth it.  If I had sat on the sidelines, hiding all of my writing and reading business books instead of starting a business, I would have learned only a fraction of what I know today.

A friend and reader of this website corresponded with me that he was posting comments on forums before taking the step to start his own blog.  My question is, why?  You’ll learn more about blogging from actually blogging than posting comments in forums that will be read by a few dozen people.

Steve Pavlina’s First Business

I don’t think the 20 year-old Steve would have followed the advice of his senior.  Steve started his personal-development efforts by graduating from University in three semesters and starting a game development business.

Twenty year-old Steve didn’t sit around, perfecting his game-design skills in his basement while working another job to pay the bills.  He dove right in and failed numerous times before getting his first commercial success, Dweep.  In his first endeavor, skill-building was never separated from “going pro”.

Stumbling in the Dark

I think a better alternative than incubating in a skill-building period is to just go out and fail.  Place yourself in the real world and set the real goals that inspire you.  If you lack experience, then go get some, instead of waiting for it to build privately over years.

When you do fail from a lack of skill (and everyone does), you’ll know that you’ve learned more by failing than you could have done practicing by yourself.  Indeed, going full-force and failing is often the best skill-building experience you can get.

I think the lesson to be gathered from Steve’s article, is that you shouldn’t expect success without the years of skill.  Have the humility to brush off early failures.  When I didn’t have readers for a few months of posting articles, I wasn’t frustrated or disappointed.  It was exactly what I had expected as a starting point.

Don’t hold yourself back because you lack skill.  If you want to become an actor, act.  Don’t sit in your basement memorizing Shakespeare.  If you want to start a software business, build software and release it.  Who cares if it is crap?  You’ll learn far more about what it takes by getting bruised in the real world than by reading every PHP, Perl or C++ book in the library.

I don’t think anyone can argue that skill is unimportant.  But I think you can argue about what it takes to build that skill.  Practice and mastering the basics will always need to be there.  But if you’re always training in a place that’s safe, where you can’t fail or be criticized, you’re going to build skill a lot more slowly than the person who is willing to go forward anyways.

Perhaps I have a lot of opinions about this subject because of my situation.  The most common compliment I receive is the quality of writing, for my age.  It’s also one of the most common criticisms I get for the same reason.  I’m not arrogant enough to believe I have all the right answers (or even a fraction of the right answers).  But I’d like to think I’m smart enough not to sit around and wait while bolder people build skills faster than I do, because they had the gumption to get started without a lot of skill.


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