Just Start: 5 Exercises That Lead To Big Wins | Rich Armstrong | Skillshare

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Just Start: 5 Exercises That Lead To Big Wins

teacher avatar Rich Armstrong, Multi-hyphenate Artist

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.



    • 3.

      Define Your Journey


    • 4.

      Get It Out Your Head


    • 5.

      Make It Smaller


    • 6.

      Schedule It


    • 7.

      Make It Easier


    • 8.

      Final Thoughts


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About This Class

I know you have a project you want to complete, a skill you want to learn, or a habit you want to nail down. Maybe you have a few on this list. But for some reason it's still on your list. You've made no progress. It's been waiting there for a while. Maybe you started it, but can't get back into it.

This class is all about starting that thing, and continuing to start it each day. Much like the famed tortoise who beat a hare in a running race.

By consistently taking small steps you can do your best work. And that's what this class will teach you how to do. We'll go through 5 practical exercises to help you clarify where you want to get to, what steps you need to take right now, and how to make it easy to start—time after time, and day after day.

I hope this class helps you transition into someone who starts the things you really want to do. Important things, life-altering things, creative projects, and helpful habits.

– Rich from TapTapKaboom

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Class Resources

If you'd like a place to start, there are exercise templates in the class attachments. You can print them, or work on them digitally.

Meet Your Teacher

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Rich Armstrong

Multi-hyphenate Artist

Top Teacher

Hey! I'm a multi-hyphenate artist who's authored books, spoken at conferences, and taught thousands of students online. I simply love creating--no mater if it's painting murals, illustrating NFTs on Adobe Live, coding websites, or designing merch. My art is bold and colourful and draws inspiration from childhood fantasies. I have ADHD but am not defined by it, dance terribly, and can touch my nose with my tongue.


I've studied multimedia design and graphic design. I've taught myself how to code. I've freelanced, worked for agencies and startups, and run my own product design studio. I'm a published author and a full-time artist. I used to go by the name TapTapKaboom--that's now a separate thing teaching people how to make w... See full profile

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1. Introduction: I think we all know the story of tortoise and hare. It's race day, hare is laughing at tortoise and making jokes of how slow he is. Hare as fast, tortoise not so much. The starting gun fires, hare dashes off and is far ahead of tortoise. But then for some reason, hare decides to take a nap during the race. Tortoise plodding along, catches up to hare. At this point hare wakes up, wide eyed and dashes off again, but then he looks around and laughs. Tortoise is nowhere to be seen, so he takes another nap. Tortoise continues to plod along. I remember the story from my childhood. Every time I heard it, I wanted hare to wake up and run. "Come on hare, I didn't want tortoise to win." As creative people, we're often like hare and sometimes even worse, we get caught napping at the starting line and never wake up. We don't even begin the race. My name is Rich Armstrong from Tap Tap Kaboom. In this class, I hope you start the things that you really want to do. Important things, life altering things, creative projects, and hopeful habits. I realized that what helps more than anything else is just starting. If I create, write, or code for just five minutes, then I'm more likely to continue for 30 minutes, and more likely to start tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. It's simple, but it's powerful and yes, it is difficult. But that's what this class covers. How to start, time after time, day after day. The story of hare and tortoise ends when tortoise crosses the finish line in first place. It's an upset. As a kid, I couldn't believe it. For some reason, we identify with hair. We want to race, we want to win, we want to go fast and be everyone else. But the real hero is tortoise, he takes part, he carries on despite the verbal abuse, he plods on undeterred by his own slow speed. What tortoise teaches us is that small steps and consistency, although boring, is the formula for doing our best work. In this class, we'll go through a few practical exercises that will help you clarify your journey, illuminate your path, and help you take action. If you want to become someone who starts again and again, and someone who finishes what they start then come take the class. All you need is a pen and some paper. 2. Welcome: Welcome to this class. It's good to have you here. I'm excited to take you through this process and I hope that will help you a lot. Over the next few lessons we're going to tackle getting started on the things you really want to do. We're going to go from the abstract and vague, overwhelming ideas swirling around in our heads to putting small, achievable actions into our calendars. You'll be writing on paper a lot. By the end of the class, you'll have a list of things you really want to do along with the motives for doing them as squiggly journey map with an area to focus on a specific task that you can start working on and a few of your own ideas for making it easy to get started. I'll prompt you to use pen, sticky notes, different sized paper, and sometimes a highlighter. If you don't have any of these things on hand, do not worry, just use what you have. This is your process, so decorate and deviate as you please. Sandy Berger and executes at New York's Museum of Modern Art, said "The secrets of getting ahead is getting started". Now, I couldn't agree more, so that's what we're going to do. Let's jump right in and have some fun. 3. Define Your Journey: On a piece of paper, I want you to write the following. I really really want to. Then you fill in the blank. What is the thing you want to create or make or learn? What's just outside of your reach. What's something you've been wanting to do but for some reason have not done. If you've got a bunch of things you really, really want to do, then write them all down. But write them big. This is your really really want to list. For me at the moment, the things I really really want to do are: One, Publish a children's book. Two, Produce a creativity app and three, Read 52 books this year. For each thing you really really want to do. Write down three reasons why you want to do it. For each reason, ask why and write down the answers. You can create a Spider Diagram or you can use columns for this exercise. What you're doing is scanning your goals with x-ray vision. You're searching for motives that will fuel your desire to pursue this thing. Why do these things matter to you? Finding a reason that grips, will make it easier to start and start again and again. Look for reasons that flood you with emotion. The ones that make your eyes light up and your heart beat faster. Or once that fully with rage and frustration, find the reason that makes you want to start. Sometimes though, you find nothing. Or worse, you find toxic emotions, half-baked reasons and inauthentic motives. You may find things that don't resonate with who you are or who you want to become. Put question marks next to these items and come back to them later on. Or simply just scratch them out. It's part of the process. So don't feel bad. Once you find the underlying motive for a thing you really want to do, make it stand out on your page. Every person will have different reasons even if it's the same thing you want to do. For me, the thing that often grips me is helping someone succeed. If I can link something I want to do with helping someone, then "Bang", it's like fire on my veins. Now choose one thing on your list to work with for the rest of the class. It's tricky picking only one thing. I know, and this is a big problem many of us face. Saying yes to just one thing is difficult. So we often say yes to everything or we don't say yes to anything at all. Both of these approaches lead to the same poor end result. So choose one thing to work on from here all the way to the end of the class. Once you've gone through the class with one thing, then you can go through the process again with another. When you've chosen your one thing, grab a new piece of paper and write as big as you can. I really, really want to. Because. Then fill in your goal and motive in the blanks. Put this piece of paper in a place where you'll see it often. You've just taken your first step. You've defined your journey. Well done. Give yourself a high-five.Yeah. 4. Get It Out Your Head: You have your journey and your motive. Now, how do you cross the starting line, and not just the first one, but the one that appears every single day. For the rest of the class, we're going to get into tortoise mode. We're going to learn how to make a start over and over again. One of the biggest reasons we don't start, is because we overthink things. Our imaginations run wild with ideas and variations, plans, what ifs, questions and possibilities. Were not made to keep this amount of information in our head. We need to get it out. Let's do that using a brain dumb. It's where you empty your brain of everything you know about your journey and put it on paper. We do this so we can use our brain in full capacity again and not for storing information, ideas, and questions. With your brain free of the storage task, you can focus on specific things and flex your creativity. A brain dump can take any form, but I like to create a spider diagram on a big piece of paper, so I can jot down thoughts and ideas as they clarify in my mind. I start with a few explorative words that prompt questions and answers around my topic. I do this by hand, because it's slower and because it gives me more time to follow my thoughts. The explorative words that I like to start with are how, why, when, where, what, who, can, do, are/ am/ is and other. Now I want you to do the same thing. Grab the biggest piece of paper you have, and start creating your spider diagram. As I go through the process, I circle questions I need answers to, and underline things I can act upon. People to chat to, books to read, websites to look at, and during the process, I go for walks, I make coffee, and I listen to music. I leave the page out and slowly add to it as the ideas, questions, and details form. This is your brain dump, so make it your own and add to it whenever you want. Sometimes, it will take 30 minutes and look straightforward. Other times, it will take a long time and look super messy and complicated. But, let it all out. It's like draining it down. It takes a while. 5. Make It Smaller: Now it's time for a classic tortoise move. We're going to identify the next few steps and focus on them. We're going to take the mountain that is our brain dump and make more holes out of it. Grab a piece of paper and draw a stick figure that represents where you are right now, and then somewhere on the page, draw another stick figure. This one represents where you want to get to. Then draw a crazy squiggly line from where you are to where you want to get to. This represents your journey. Take note of a few things here. Firstly, I did not say start and finish because no matter what, you are always where you are and the finish line will always change place each day. Secondly, as you progress in your journey, your path will change, and at seldom as simple line from here to there. Now, highlight the first red two parts of your squiggly line. This highlighted area is where you want to focus and it's where you're always going to focus just on the next few steps alone. Why are we focusing on the small parts? Because when something is small, it's more likely that our brains will see it as something we can achieve. When this happens, our brain releases dopamine, which is actually one of our minor superpowers. What part of the brain dump does this highlighted parts of your journey represents? Pause the video here and write your answer on a sticky note. My next few steps are? Then you fill in the blank. This small part, no matter what it is, will need to be walked small step by small step. What is a small step for you? What period of time does your brain say yes, I can do that too, start with something like, I'll work on chapter 1 for 16 minutes. If your brain resists, try something lower. I'll work on chapter 1 for 30 minutes. If your brain is like no, that's way too long, then say, okay, I'll work on chapter 1 for 20 minutes. Nope, still too long, keep going until your brain considers that an easily achievable task. How about working on chapter 1 for 10 minutes? Yes, that's easy I can do that, 10 minutes. That's a small step you can commit to starting and finishing daily. You can also include words like, rough, experiments and play to make it seem even easier and less pressured. Like this, I'll work on a rough design for the homepage for 30 minutes. These sounds less permanent and more achievable. Redo your sticky note now, with your time period added to it. Here are some examples of small steps. Spend 10 minutes making a list of possible publishers. Spend 10 minutes working on Chapter 1, spend 40 minutes experimenting with the design of the login screen. Spend 20 minutes writing in my journal, spend 30 minutes figuring out what's next. If you don't know what's next, doing some research is a great next step. You see that I measure a step by time spent rather than by a whole task like design homepage or by reaching an arbitrary amounts, like write 200 words. I do this for a few reasons. The first reason, is so I don't base my sense of accomplishments on my output. All I need to do is concern myself with patching up and working for that small amount of time and doing it again and again, the result will follow. The second reason is that time is a fantastic constraints. You can do a lot in a small amount of time, especially when you visualize it. I like to use this thing called the time timer for this very reason. Thirdly, time is a constant and therefore, it's easy to schedule, which we'll get into in the next lesson. After a while, you can increase the amount of time you spend on your small step, but rather spend too little time across many days and too much today, and none after that. If you miss a day, don't worry. Every single day is an opportunity to start. You feel you need to double up today or you feel guilty about missing a day, remember to start small from where you are right now, not from where you were two days ago. Focus on the step right in front of you. Sometimes it'll feel like you're going the long way around or that you're not progressing at all, this is okay. It's two way of the tortoise. It's not aimless plotting, it's playing the long game. I like to think of anything I want to achieve as being made up of many small stocks. Keep on taking one small step at a time. 6. Schedule It: Your brain is giving you the green light. You've got the next few steps to focus on. Now you're going to put them in your calendar. Why do we need to do this? Well, the first reason is that we avoid waiting for spare time. Spare time in the world we live in is a fantasy, rather, we need to make the time. Secondly, scheduling prevents us from waiting for the perfect moment, which never appears. William Butler Yeats said, "Do not wait to strike, so the iron is hot, but make it hot by striking." Scheduling allows us to take action. Thirdly, when we visualize how we spend our time, we can set realistic expectations and we're more likely to say no to other things that interfere with what we've scheduled. Point 4, our minds prepare for it, your unconscious brain is powerful like this, and it's awesome. Point 5, scheduling something gets it out of our heads which allows our brain to stop reminding us about it and it lets us focus and use our creativity and lastly, by scheduling it, we're more likely to commit to it. Ideally, choose a time slot where you have a lot of energy and when you can tack onto something already in your routine. Before breakfast, after arriving at the office, after your yoga session, it's easier to chain things together and create a habit. If you've got a packed schedule, try rearrange some items in your calendar or plan a few weeks in advance or finish some things you're already doing by applying the lessons in this class. If it's impossible to cancel things, rearrange or find some time at all, that's okay. Be realistic. Don't pressure yourself to do the impossible. What I recommend doing here is creating a reminder to revisit the project in a few months time and then in the meantime, start saying no, to things that you don't really want to do. Now, if you're at all like me, once you start working on your thing, you'll find it incredibly difficult to stop. I call this binge working. It's how Hare operates and it leads to burnout and unfinished projects. It's unsustainable in the long run. We want to work like Tortoise. We want to preserve our mental and emotional energy to be able to consistently do the work. What prevents me from binge working, is the idea of pausing on a downward slope. Try pause working on your project in a place that makes it easy to resume tomorrow. There are a few things that help me with these. The first, is that when you reach the end of a step, schedule a new step, you can revisit the exercises in the previous lesson if you need to. The second, is that if you're midway through something when your time period ends, instead of quickly wrapping up or slogging on for hours, leave it as it is and write down notes and reminders for the next time. Thirdly, every week or month schedule a perspective meeting with yourself. Use this time to reflect, plan and prepare. Ask yourself, what's working, where you're going and what you need to change. Adding our steps to our calendar makes it easier to start time and time again and every step gets us closer to where we want to be. 7. Make It Easier: All we've covered in the class so far, we hope you have made it much easier to consistently start working on your project. There are plenty more ways to make it even easier to start over and over again. There are also plenty of things that prevents us from starting. Most of the time, it's not a lack of skill, talent or willpower that prevents you from starting, it's your environment. The good news is that you can change your environment. The less barriers you need to bash down, the less hoops you need to jump through, the easier starting will be. I find this often one make or break thing that either prevents or enables me to start. It's like removing a stone in front of the wheel. If you can figure out what this thing is, then, boom. So instead of giving you an exhaustive and prescriptive list of things to consider, what I want you to do is grab a piece of paper and write down three things you think will make it easier for you to consistently make a start. Then try these three things. Then your next perspective meeting with yourself, see how these tactics have worked. Find ways to better them, or think of some more to try. For me, things like removing apps from my phone, getting blackout curtains to help me sleep better, and making it easy to reach my iPad and markers while sitting in my chair have made a big difference. What three things can you think of trying? If you're really struggling to think of any, I've got some questions to help you out in the class resources. So check it out. 8. Final Thoughts: This is the end of the class. I hope you've had fun and learned a lot. We've gone through making your really, really wonder list, brain dumping, defining your journey, deciding on small steps to take, and scheduling for small steps into your diary. You should end up with some important bits of paper. Put them in places that you can see them, and you can use what you've learned in this class, your current projects, for future projects, and for anything in between. As you continue to use this process, adapt it, and make it your own. Find out what works best for you, and then do it. Remember, the hero of the story isn't hare, it's tortoise. He wins because he puts one foot in front of the other, time after time, and day after day. I'd love to know what your journey is, and what your immediate small steps are. I'm sure we'll find what you have to share, for it's interesting, and beneficial. You're welcome to share stories, photos, discoveries, tips, tricks, and the project you're currently working on. If you wouldn't mind, please leave a review of this class, the feedback means a lot to me, and it helps others decide whether to take the class or not. Let me know what you liked, and what you found helpful, and of course, what you didn't like, and what could be improved upon. A year from now, you will wish you had started today. That's a quote by author Karen Lamb. Start racking up the steps, and enjoy the journey. For more classes, resources, and things to develop your creative superpowers, check out taptapkaboom.com. Bye for now.