#062 DFQ





START: The first of the SOT tools for thinking

Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most.
Fyodor Dostoevsky

What is starting?

It can be very difficult to start things. Once you get started there is momentum and feedback but getting started can be difficult. Most races are lost not at the finishing line but at the starting blocks. Why? Because most people never even enter the race! They just never get started. Wasn’t it Lao-Tzu who pointed out that all epic journeys begin with a single step.

The Start of the Sale = Customer Attention

What is the start of the sale? The start of the sale is Customer Attention. Before a customer can say YES or NO their attention must be on your offer. Fred Herman, author of KISS: Keep It Simple Salesman used to say, First, you’ve got to get the customer’s attention!

Yet, most of the time the vast majority of customers’ attention is not focused on your offer at all. Whenever, at any particular moment, the customer’s attention is not on your offer then there can be no hope of a sale.

The Check Move

To manage customer attention I designed a new unit of measurement. In my book NewSell, which became a best-seller in Australia, I designed a new unit of measurement which I called: Check.

Check, or, the Check move

A Check move (taken from the game of chess) is simply a customer contact of any kind. This has all been revised and in my new book WOMBAT Selling: How To Sell By Word of Mouth and you can request an ebook copy here with my compliments.

For years it’s been a common belief in selling that most sales were lost at the close. In other words, salespeople were missing sales because they were not ‘closing’ them. Our research showed that this is a grand illusion. The whole issue of ‘closing the sale’ is a nonsense and I have offered a reward of $100,000 to the first person who can prove the salesperson closes the sale.

  • FACT: The decision to buy is an electro-chemical event in the brain of the customer and the salesperson does NOT control that event.
  • FACT: 99% of sales are not missed at the close at all but at the start.
  • FACT: It’s the failure to start the sale – to contact a customer by phone,
  • by snail mail, by email, by fax or in person – that is the source of most lost business.
  • FACT: 99% of check moves have never yet been made.

Noting their check moves (customer contacts) helps salespeople keep a measurement of how much energy they are putting out into the marketplace. Focusing on their check moves helps them: 1. to raise their energy level and avoid wasting time, and 2. to stop their obsession with ‘the close’ and all the archaic manipulation tactics that customers hate and which have given the selling profession such a bad image and poor ethical reputation.

Focusing on the start–check–rather than the ‘close’, reduces the rejection and disappointment salespeople feel which so effects their energy levels. Check allows them to initiate many more customer contacts.

This, of course, always leads to better sales results because the only move that can turn a prospective customer into a client is CHECK which is enough to make it the most important move in business. As Woody Allen said, “80% of success is showing up.”


How to start? Most plans are full of details on how to get to the finishing line but contain little or nothing about how to get to the starting blocks. Yet nothing happens until someone STARTS something. For many years in business we have had MBO or Management By Objectives. Perhaps we also need MBS or Management By Starting.

Many management gurus write books about “Goal-Setting”. Maybe they should also write books about “Start-Getting” since, most of the time, most people never get started.

To Start is the fundamental creative act. To change a switch from the OFF position to the ON position is to start something and means something has now been created. It has been said that the most important skill in writing a book is sitting down at the keyboard – getting started.

To Start is a Strategic Act

Strategy is about control. If you are in control you are in a strategic position, if you are out of control, you aren’t. Starting is a strategic act because we can control starting but we cannot control finishing.

Once we start, many other factors come into play: other peoples reactions, the weather, consequences and the unexpected. These may prevent us from finishing. But if we are good at starting then we can always start again, and again, and again. It may be that finishing is simply the repetitive act of starting, and starting again, and starting again, until we declare that we have “finished”.

Some people are good at starting. Others are good at the follow-up. Some are good at both. What are you better at? Do you see starting as a skill? How can you improve your starting ability? Is it worth it? What would be a better skill to develop than starting? How do you start to start? To start or not to start? To flip the switch or not to flip the switch? To start is to be! I start therefore I am. He who hesitates to start is lost. Start before you leap. etc.

Where to start?

Anywhere is a good place to start. Sir Yehudi Menuhin, who was a tutor at my college, started playing the violin at home when he was four. Home is a good place to start. He made his professional debut, when he was seven, in San Francisco. San Francisco is a good place to start.

In 1962 he started a boarding school for musically talented children, at Stoke d’Abernon, near London. Boarding school is a good place to start. Sir Yehudi’s son Jeremy made his debut as a pianist, in Gstaad, in 1965. Dare I say it – Gstaad is a good place to start!

Is there a best place to start? Why? Is there a worst place to start? Why?

Why start things?

When you start you begin to overcome inertia. Inertia is the enemy of starting with its lack of feedback. Once you escape from the spell of inertia you begin to get feedback. Feedback is the food of decision-making and the food of design. You can assess feedback and react to your assessment. Do I like it? Do I not like it? Do I want more? Do I want less?

We are much better at reacting than at proacting. By creating feedback it gives us something to react to and so we can make a decision and proceed. A simple way to create feedback is to start something … anything.

When to Start?

There is really only one time to start and that time is the moment called … Now! We need to create as many Now! moments for starting as possible. Just suppose a Now! moment is one second. In other words, let’s define the time it takes to start something as one second. Here are some examples:

  • How long does it take to pick up the telephone? One second.
  • How long does it take to press ‘send’ on an email? One second.
  • How long does it take to start to get up and go for a walk. One second.
  • How long does it take to start a Yahoo search on the net. One second.
  • How long does it take to say “No”? One second.
  • How long does it take to start your laptop? One second.
  • How long does it take to start to contact a customer. One second.

There are an unlimited number of things you can start to do in the quite comfortable space of one second. How many Now! moments are there in a day? I’ll save you the trouble of the maths. It’s 86,400.

Unfortunately we waste most of our Now! moments because we squander most of our time immobilised by inertia because of our Western fear of making “mistakes”.


Mistake-phobia is the morbid fear of making a mistake. It’s an aversion to ever being wrong. It comes from our medieval habit of looking at the world through the concept of “right” and “wrong” (not shared by other cultures like the Chinese, for example).

Compared to the Chinese our mistake-phobia causes us to lose countless opportunities on a daily basis in Western countries like Australia, Britain, France and America and may be one of the biggest single blocks to our increased productivity and potential economic success.

Have a go!

One way to cure mistake-phobia is to accelerate our willingness to have a go, to get started and get busy. When you have a go, one of two things happens:

  • 1. you make a mistake, or
  • 2. you make an un-mistake.

To the brainuser, both these types of feedback are useful.

If you are not afraid of mistakes, if you are not a mistake-phobiac, then you simply assess the feedback and start again. If it was a mistake you try something different. If it was an un-mistake then you can keep going. These are like loops that can be called:

  • 1. IF (mistake) THEN (start again) ELSE (proceed), or
  • 2. IF (un-mistake) THEN (proceed).

Both these outcomes are useful results of starting, they just have different values. Inertia may have no value at all.

This is how we have taught computers to be intelligent. They keep doing something. Anything. They keep busy going through the loops and learning. This is how we learned as children until we were taught to dread making a mistake. If computers were as afraid of making mistakes as we are then they would take as long as us to learn. But they don’t.

Computers are not afraid of mistakes and are rapidly catching up. Today’s cars have more computing power than the whole world had 40 years ago. They are becoming less ‘computer-assisted cars’ and more like ‘driveable computers’. Where will computers be in the next 40 years? In the next 400 years?

Lazy Critic

Lazy critics suffer from mistake-phobia. The PTV-infected brain will turn the most amazing cognitive somersaults to avoid being ‘wrong’. When a brainuser tries to creates something, s/he never really knows what will happen. There is always risk and uncertainty. Risk is enough to keep the mistake-phobiac hiding in inertia.

But, remember, nothing happens until someone STARTS something.

Soren Kierkegaard said, “To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.”

Do you prefer the starter or the critic? How do you feel about mistakes? Are you comfortable with them? Or do you fear mistakes? Can you take a risk?

Starting by Asking

To ask is one way to start. Mrs. Robert Lee Kidd started something simply by walking into the office of the San Francisco Examiner on May 2, 1962 and placing her advertisement which asked for the following:

I don’t want my husband to die in the gas chamber for a crime he did not commit. I will therefore offer my services for 10 years as a cook, maid or housekeeper to any leading attorney who will defend him and bring about his vindication.

Her husband had been tried and convicted of the murder of an elderly antiques dealer, Albert Clarke. Mr. Kidd’s bloody fingerprints were found on the murder weapon, an ornate sword. But Mrs. Kidd had insisted her husband was home with her on the night of the crime.

One of San Francisco’s most eminent attorney’s, Vincent Hallinan responded and proved in court that the sword was not the murder weapon after all. Subsequently both husband and wife went free. Hallinan graciously refused to take up Mrs. Kidd’s offer of 10 years service.

Ask and receive! Asking is one way of starting.

Every day, thousands of people start something by putting their ad in the paper or online asking for something eg a job, a house, a vote, a sale, a friend etc. By asking, there are literally an unlimited number of ways of getting started.

When did you last put an ad in the paper or online? What happened? What other ways can you ask? What did you ask for yesterday? What will you ask for today? What will you ask for tomorrow?

Getting Started

The hardest part about getting started is … getting started! This is a circular trap that is difficult to get out of and is the cause of a lot of inertia. The way I get started is to write down a list of 10 things I can do to get started, then I just choose the ones I like.

When it comes to the power of STARTING no-one said it better than the German thinker, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, said: Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.

DFQ #062:

How to get started:
– write down TEN things you wish you could get started on.
– write down TEN things you can do to get started on number1 on your list.
– what can you ask for to start something?
– write an ad you can place to support this request.
– if you wish, you can place the ad and discuss the results.

239 thoughts on “#062 DFQ

  1. I could get started on my interest in learning to weld
    I could get started on my house cleaning
    I could get started on my RC car racing again
    I could get started on travelling
    I could get started on further career improvements
    I could get started on my job improvements
    I could get started on my fitness
    I could start planning better, or putting more effort into it
    I could start learning better general trade skills
    I could start on getting my other car back on the road

    I could google learn to weld
    I could call my local TAFE
    I could speak to other people who know how to weld
    I could speak to my father
    I could buy some welding gear
    I could borrow some gear
    I could watch some tutorials
    I could learn more about metals
    I could learn more detail about how different welders work

    I can ask for assistance to start something.
    I can place an ad looking for a welding teacher.

  2. I could get started on this list
    I could start riding my bike again
    I wish I could start riding on a new bike
    I could start looking to further my education
    I could start to travel more
    I could start looking to replace my car
    I could start back on my fitness plan
    I could start back on my house painting
    I could start to read some books
    I could start on some urgent house maintenance

    I could take the phone of the hook
    I could take some time to think about it
    I could find a quiet moment to do it
    I could look inside my mind for inspiration
    I could re-read the DFQ article
    I could look online
    I could start typing on a blank sheet
    I could read the paper
    I could look at where I want to be in the future
    I could write down some goals
    I can ask my wife to also answer this DFQ
    Perhaps prioritise to do list then work on a plan for an advert

  3. Ten things to start:

    1) Take playing guitar more seriously
    2) Improve contact time with my friendship group
    3) Work with my boss on career progression
    4) Exercise
    5) Eating better
    6) Get my car fixed
    7) Many work projects piling up
    8) Limiting my screen time before bed
    9) Start reading more books
    10) Start taking life seriously

    10 things to address number 1:

    1) Dedicate time to practice
    2) Attend a course at Tafe
    3) Look into private lessons
    4) Write down a practice schedule
    5) Play guitar with others
    6) Record my playing to listen back to
    7) Play with practice tracks
    8) Learn music theory
    9) Learn some songs I don’t like
    10) Book a gig

  4. How to get started:
    Write down TEN things you wish you could get started on.
    1. raise $5M capital for the business,,
    2.organising all our photos the computer,
    3. travel,
    4. get my business off the ground,
    5. read the 5 books I have beside the bed,
    6. buy a holiday house in Maui,
    7. buy my Ferrari Californian,
    8. help charities,
    9. cure MS, which my mum has, and
    10. teach kids to think for themselves.

    Write down TEN things you can do to get started on number1 on your list.
    1. Finish the business plan,
    2. Approach Government for grants
    3. Join Aquaculture Association,
    4. Approach venture capital organisations,
    5. Join China Aquaculture Business Group,
    6. Make contact aquaculture specialists in Cairns,
    7. Make contact with Department of Primary Industries in Brisbane,
    8. Research life fish exporting to China,
    9. Research nitrification and denitrification processes,
    10. Research Australian companies currently exporting to China.

    What can you ask for to start something?
    A mentor to provide guidance

    Write an ad you can place to support this request.
    Experienced in Aquaculture?
    Have you exported live fish?
    New Australian startup is seeking the help
    of an experience aquaculturist to provide a mentoring role to
    a company wishing to export fish live to Hong Kong.
    — if you wish, you can place the ad and discuss the results.

  5. 1 = write a book on leadership
    2= teach people how to be more positive
    3 = develop my business ideas
    4 = learn another language
    5 = travel
    6 = I wish to become more effective
    7 = learn more about physics
    8 = doing more excercise
    9 = watching more movies
    10 = visitingfamily
    1 = take an holiday
    2 = ask for help
    3= read some books
    4= talk to people about it
    5= learn about leadership
    6= interview people
    7= give myself deadlines
    8= create an outline
    9= have a set time to write everyday
    10= start writing

  6. Wish I could get started on:
    1. write an article for religious magazine.
    Choose several topics. Be grateful. Type the first sentence on computer on any of the topics. Continue letting the ideas flow. Just start.
    2. Learn how to prepare/change my book, Yosemite A to Z, so that it is accepted for publishing by Yosemite Conservancy or another publisher.
    Re-read and edit. Locate illustrations. Talk to Conservancy Representative.
    3. Learn the hula dance with bamboo sticks….PPR
    Find the directions. Take bamboos out of case. Get the music. Dance. PPR
    4. Learn more uses for my android Smart Phone.
    take another class at Verizon and ask more questions.

  7. Buy-back the grid, green bond, communty super, no financial problems, yoga mentoring program, indigenous equality, solar business, storage business, complete renewables accross australia and the world, largest green fund in the world

    Just do it. It has begun. Persistence and determination.

    Ad: Wanted, energy to continue, courage, ability to get myself our of the way.

    what if we just turn everything into task that we have to start, break it down.
    today I called Treasury. a start.

  8. 1.Teach my children to be effective thinkers
    2. Learn to swim.
    3. Publish my book.
    4. Improve my English.’
    5. Time Management
    6. Start doing sports.(Improve my health)
    7. Get rid of the bank loan
    8. Design a course in effective thinking
    9. Increase my earnings.
    10.Improve my family life

    1.Start in summer, during holidays.
    2. Organize my time properly.
    3. Play the relevants games , e.g. Thinking Hats with them
    4. Spend more time with them, going on excursions
    5. Read more online or books connected with the issues.
    6. Make them understand the importance of studying foreign languages.
    7. Watch learning videos with them and explain these.
    8. Identify their talents.
    9. Be a good example for them
    10.Get them involved in talking with other people.

    I would ask my husband for support.

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