How to Finish What We Start
Updated: May 12
In this episode of the Impostor Syndrome Files, we talk about our tendency, as humans, to start things we don’t finish. Many of us enthusiastically start something new, only to walk away when we get uncomfortable. This often leaves us with feelings of guilt, self-doubt and regret. But why do we do this? And what can we do about it? My guest this week, Tim Vandehey, author of the book, “Swipe: The Science Behind Why We Don’t Finish What We Start,” talks about our reflexive responses to discomfort and the ways in which they disrupt our efforts. He also shares what we can all do, proactively and in the moment, to set ourselves up for greater success in finishing what we start.
About My Guest
Tim is a journalist, columnist, and New York Times bestselling ghostwriter of more than 65 nonfiction books in such genres such as business, finance, advice, outdoor adventure, religion, memoir, parenting, and health. His work has been featured in Fast Company, Inc., Forbes and Entrepreneur, and his ghostwritten books have been published by major houses including HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, Wiley & Sons, St. Martin’s Press, and The MIT Press. Tim’s work has also garnered numerous awards, including multiple Axiom Business Book medals and Independent Publisher Book awards. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from California State University, Fullerton, and is also an accomplished jazz vocalist, writing coach, and sailor.
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Kim Meninger Welcome, Tim. It’s so great to meet you. So great to have you here. I’d love to start by inviting you to introduce yourself.
Tim Vandehey Well, it’s wonderful to be here. Thank you. My name is Tim Vandehei. I am, among other things, my primary work is I’m a ghostwriter by profession, I have been writing books for other people since 2004, really as a full-time thing. And I’ve been a freelance writer since 1995. And my current project, the one we’re here to talk about, mostly is a new book coming out on the 21st of this month, called Swipe. And the subtitle is The Science Behind Why We Don’t Finish What We Start.
Kim Meninger Yeah. And so can you tell me a little bit more about what, what it means to be a ghostwriter for people who aren’t familiar with that concept?
Tim Vandehey Well, I mean, if you’re, you know, most of the time, it means toiling in obscurity, I, you know, the, the, the avatar for all of us in the profession right now is the guy and I always forget his name. But he ghostwrote the Prince Harry memoir of Spare, that just came out a couple of months ago. And that guy is pretty much the ghostwriting God right now. He’s only he’s done like four books, they’ve all been gigantic bestsellers. He did under Andre Agassi’s book, and so on. A ghostwriter is someone who I mean, ghostwriting is not just limited to books ghost writer is someone who writes anything, where it’s credited to someone else. speeches are frequently ghostwritten. That’s kind of an accepted thing, though, because it’s kind of understood that most politicians and CEOs don’t write their own speeches. As far as what I do, it goes reading books, which basically means I work with agents and publishers and editors, and also directly with the authors themselves. And those are anybody from, you know, CEOs, to business founders, to professional athletes, to reality show stars and producers to YouTubers, I mean, basically, anybody who has a platform, and has a story they want to tell. And frequently, it’s because they want to build their brand I do I work with a lot of people who are kind of getting ready to move on to that next stage, like, you know, the 50, something CEO who spent, you know, three years building a company is like, I’m done, I’m ready to sell my stake and become a speaker or a consultant. And I need a book to talk about what I’ve learned in all these years of running my company. And so that’s a pretty common scenario. Because for some reason, you know, a book books carry a lot of prestige in our society, which I’ve always found ironic because here we are this completely digital culture. And yet this thing made of dead trees, still carries a lot of weight with people. But that’s what I do. I’m so I typically I’ve written about 65 books, all nonfiction. And I typically write about six books a year, I’m always busy. I’m always, I’m insanely busy right now between the launch of Swipe and all my other projects. So it’s, it’s a full-time career. And it’s, it’s an awesome career, I love it.
Kim Meninger Well, have a question for you. This is a little off-topic but on topic for what we’re talking about a little off topic for the podcast in some ways. But when I think about visibility, right, I think about a lot of people in the workplace are behind the scenes. And there’s somebody else who’s getting the glory for all of the work, right? So you’ve got your salespeople who tend to get all of the glory for the deals that are closed, and that doesn’t necessarily acknowledge all of the other efforts when…
Tim Vandehey Support staff and so on? Yeah, yeah.
Kim Meninger So how does it feel to be a ghostwriter? And have somebody else’s book be really popular, but you’re not your name is not associated with it?
Tim Vandehey Well, for one thing, sometimes my name is associated with it. Okay. So that’s a negotiated thing. You know, there are some instances where the author just says, No, I don’t want your name of the book. And you run into that fairly, you know, probably fifth, probably half the time. There are some instances where I take my name off the book on purpose. I’m finishing a book right now for a very prominent black female celebrity. And we spoke when we were working on the book, this was a year and a half, two years ago, maybe working on the book. And I said, I don’t think you know, it was right at the height when, you know, black lives matter, things were going on. And like black women’s voices were becoming so incredibly relevant and powerful. And I just said, I don’t think my name should be on your books, I would like to demand. But I just said, I said, if I’m if I said, given the climate right now and who you are, having a white guy, helping precede this helping you write your book or writing your book for you, is going to be the story. And people are going to be upset about it in some cases. And I said, that shouldn’t be the story. Your book should be the story. So I just said, take my name off the book. This is doing the right thing for the client. It’s a profession that you can’t love and if he, if getting the credit is what matters to you. So I call it a journey, I’d say I would say it’s a very journalistic profession because you have to be eat good at and enjoy telling other people’s stories like a journalist. So I’ve run into a lot of writers I talked to and you know, this is a common as a common questions like, could I do this? I say, yeah, you have to get over the whole byline thing though because you’d probably not, you know, most of the time, you’re not going to get a byline. But I tell them look, so you could, you know, with writers I talked to who are part-time fiction writers where they hold down another job and what they want more than anything else is to write full time and say, well then ghostwrite half part of the zine and use the money from ghostwriter because it pays very well to subsidize your writing your spy fiction or your romance novels, or whatever. But a lot of people just can’t seem to get past that. I want to be out front thing doesn’t matter to me never has, it’s nice to have my name on a book that’s successful. Not so nice to have my name on a book that bombs, which has happened. I’ve had a few books that were just absolutely tanked, which was really beyond my control. But yeah, it’s it doesn’t bother me, the only thing that matters in the world of what I do is really having my peers in the profession, in the publishing world know, that I wrote such and such book. And they usually if I tell them they know, then you know, they have their ear to the ground. So editors, publishers, agents, you know, they if as long as they are aware that my fingerprints are on this book, that’s really all that matters, the general public, it doesn’t really matter that much.
Kim Meninger So fascinating. I could just spend the whole time just asking you questions about your, your field, but the whole time talking about it. But I really want to talk about this new book swipe. So tell me more about where did this come from? What are you what’s the problem that you’re trying to solve?
Tim Vandehey Well, so my co-author, Dr. Tracy Mela, who was an organizational psychologist, and I conceived this initially as a business book because that goes to two business books for him prior about employee engagement. That’s his field. His specialty is employee engagement, he runs a very successful company in Utah, that works with companies to help them get their employees to engage. And we were going to write a third book in sort of a, our business version of Lord of the Rings, I suppose, about the other side, which is how do you get employees to choose to engage, and we came up with this idea of swiping based on engagement with digital and this is backed up by research that engagement with digital devices and how easy it is for us to, if we’re uncomfortable or embarrassed or frustrated or bored of the situation, just change our reality digitally with the swipe of the finger or the tip, the tapping of an app, and an app icon right after we can change our reality like that without even thinking about it. And that started to bleed over into our physical reality, we’re unconsciously we’ve been programmed to think not normally to think program to respond to discomfort by saying, I’m just going to hit the, hit the eject button and go to something else. And we initially applied that to employee engagement or employees choosing not to engage to disengage kind of, kind of what’s now called Quiet quitting. You know what people don’t leave, they don’t leave, but they basically quit without telling anybody. And so we had that all setup. And that was the beginning of COVID, in 2020. And then during that long, COVID, summer, I was sitting in my backyard working and, and started, start to think about this concept. And I just thought, wait a minute, this is, this is a book about not finishing what you start, this is a book about quitting things that matter to you, for one reason or another. So this is a book about everybody, not just business. And so Tracy and I talked and we agreed like this is a general. Now I don’t want to, I don’t want to just reduce it to a pop psychology book. That’s kind of what it is. You know, it’s, it’s a book about anybody who’s ever had something they really wanted to achieve. Usually, they’ve tried multiple times, and they can’t seem to get to the finish line for one reason or another. It’s incredibly frustrating. It fills people with regret and self-doubt. Given the theme of your show, definitely contributes to imposter syndrome. And that whole mechanism of hitting the panic button, because something becomes too difficult or you’re disillusioned or you’re frustrated, or you’re embarrassed because you told friends, you were going to be doing this thing and all of a sudden you’re screwing it up or you feel like you’re screwing it up is what we call the swipe. Swiping is the act of saying I’m done. I’m out. Well, I compare it to, in my world, is you start to write that first novel, and you’re all full of energy. We actually call it page one energy, you’re actually all, you’re all fired up. You’ve got all these ideas and you get to page 50. You’re so the energy is sorted as well as just sort of Peters out. And you sit there in front of your computer not knowing what to do. And most of the time you just say I had what it was about it was a dumb idea to begin with. You start that self-talk at self-doubting self-talk. He hasn’t done it to begin with why I’m not a writer. Why did I think I could do this? And you just either stick the file somewhere or you delete it and you walk away and only later Do you regret it So that’s the general dynamic that we’re talking about with the book. And it applies to jobs and also applies to relationships applies to parenthood, the relationship between spouses and partners that applies to relationships between parents and kids. Anytime you are confronted by discomfort, and you’re programmed, we are programmed biologically as well as by technology, to want to run away from that discomfort and towards something that we think is going to be easier. And temporarily, it gives us relief, because I’m not facing that hard conversation with my son about drugs again, or I’m not dealing with this in the embarrassment of not being able to complete the 10k that I you know, complete the training for the 10k I wanted to run. That’s the short-term relief. But long term, it’s usually regret, I really wish I’d stuck with that. And that’s why people go back to the same things over and over again because they feel regret, they try again, nothing has really changed. So they fail again, they swipe again. And that’s where the long-term frustration, harm to self-esteem and things like that comes in.
Kim Meninger So this is just so interesting because I certainly have fallen into this trap myself, and I know many other people have, as well. Yeah. And it’s interesting to hear you tie that to different root causes, right, like the biological drive to remove ourselves from a difficult situation. Just that discomfort, easing the discomfort. Are there other things that make us more likely to walk away from something than I guess I’m wondering, can we anticipate that this might happen in advance of taking on a…
Tim Vandehey Great question that’s, that’s and that’s exactly what you know if someone looking to avoid this, that’s exactly what is necessary because the swiping is preceded by emotions and emotions, as I was telling my 15-year-old 15-year-old daughter this morning on the way to school dealing with her emotions about a certain teacher, that you know, I said emotions are going to come up, I said, you think you can’t control them, they’re going to be their emotions are not, are not something we have any control over. I said, your response to those emotions, however, is something you absolutely have control over. So swiping is first an emotional response. And it’s usually a response to things like self-doubt, to frustration, to when I call it this, I call it the cop the broad name is a disillusionment event, was what I use for it. So you know, you’re going, you’re going on the downhill portion of your experience, whatever it is, you’re trying to write, again, try to write a book or get to one of I use a lot of times getting into shape, doing fitness program of some kind, and you hit that point where it stopped, where it stops being easy and fun. Initially, it’s initially it’s usually easy and fun, even if it’s hard work, it’s new work, it’s novel. Even if you’re busting your butt in a workout program. It’s something new, a month in, you’re busting, you’re busting that same, but on that same workout program that but doesn’t look a whole lot smaller because it takes longer than a month. And you’re doing the same routines over and over again. And going okay, what am I going to do? What am I going to be jacked? What am I going to see these great results? And you know, that is where you start to feel frustration you start the, the berating self-talk comes into play, why am I doing this? This is stupid. I’m never been in, especially if you if you’ve tried it several times before. The problem with swiping is that, you know, there’s the idea of mastery. You know, we become, we become, we master what we repeatedly attempt and succeed at. The problem is, if you keep swiping, the only thing you become good at is doing that, is quitting and walking away. The more you do it, the more it proves to, to the subconscious part of your brain that this is all you’re able to do. You know, I’m never you know, I always tell my kids like, you know, your brain, here’s your here’s the here’s your self-talk, it doesn’t know whether it’s real or not. So it treats it has evidence, evidence that you are this. So the more, the more you swipe the more frequently so you try five times to write that first book and you fail the first you fail five times, you’re pretty convinced by the time you try and you try attempt number six, that you just can’t do this, you’re compelled to try again because of regret. But deep down, you’re like, maybe I just can’t do this. But then part of that is because you don’t understand the triggers and you don’t understand what to do when they come up. So the two, the two biggest issues that people need to be aware of when it comes to this because it is it’s an unconscious process. The emotions are very much there, you can feel the emotions coming up. The trick is to sit to detect them and say, Okay, I’m feeling this. Now, I felt that the last three times I tried this, what do I do? But the key to that is really two things. Understanding your motivation and your expectations. So no motivation. Why are you, why are you doing this? What’s your reason for attempting this goal? Whatever it is, could be learning piano or anything. It’s basically anything that requires long-term discipline and persistence is really what we’re talking about. So what’s your motivation? Are you doing it? Because this is some this is a fire in your belly? This is something you really want? Or is it because of FOMO? Is it because of pressure from friends or family? Is it because? Because you feel envious that other I, oh, my god, oh my God, I’ve got three friends who are published authors, oh, my God, I need to be a published author Do you know? So what’s your reason? If the reason isn’t personal, if it’s not here, then when you run into those, those, those bumps those road, those roadblocks, you’re probably going to fall short. Because you just, you don’t care enough. You might feel like you do. But you really don’t care if the motivation isn’t, isn’t intrinsic. If it’s extrinsic, it’s not going to last. The other big one, I think this is bigger is expectations. Are your expectations congruent with reality? And what you’re trying to do? Right? Really in two areas? Number one, what are your expectations for what the experience is going to be like? And what are your expectations for the results? And I go back to the fitness example with this one. So you know, you’re, you’re in it, you know, so Associates, and you want to get in great shape. Maybe you have every high school reunion coming up in nine months or something and you want to embarrass everybody else by how great you look. And you know, so you embark on this fitness? Maybe you’re doing p90x Or who knows what are working with a personal trainer doesn’t matter? What are your expectations for what that’s going to be like? Do you think it’s going to be Hey, I watched lots of fitness videos, and they look bigger and having a great time. That’s probably not what you’re, you’re gonna be on the floor a lot in a puddle of sweat, gasping for air, let’s be honest, you aren’t, and you’re going to be sore. And so that’s normal. That’s expected. But if you expect that it’s going to be a cakewalk, because you haven’t done your research, you’re going to be disillusioned right away. Same thing with expectations of results, are you expecting that you’re going to be jacked, you’re going to, you’re expected to look like the rock in a month? No, that’s not going to happen. So if you look in the mirror, after a month ago, I’ve been busting my tail, and I look a little bit better. But we’re all my worst my six-pack, they promised me a six-pack, then you’re going to have the same voice is saying this is stupid, I’m wasting my time, this will never work, blah, blah, blah, all those voices that we hear that we, that we hit, we hit ourselves with an odds are very good that you’re going to swipe, you’re going to quit walk away. So, so before even starting on a goal, what I advise people to do is look at those two factors. What’s your motivation? Is your motivation valid? Is it yours? Is it belong to you? Or is it coming from some outside source? That is because when that happens, it’s usually response to pressure or envy or fear of missing out or something like that? And second, what are your expectations? Talk to someone who’s done what you’re trying to do. What Oh, Bob, what should I expect from this workout program? What should I expect from trying to write a novel is going to kind of do it in three months? Well, probably not. In about nine months, yeah. But you’re going to work, you know, you’re going to be writing 1000 words a day, for all this for all those months, and it’s going to be you’re going to get to a point where it’s a tedious, trust me, it’s gonna be a tedious slog that you’re gonna be like, why am I doing this, and you have to find ways to keep going. So those are really the two, the kind of the two key advanced things that you can do before you start.
Kim Meninger That is so powerful because and just thinking about what you talked about for motivations, I think so many of us are disconnected from our true intrinsic motivations. Because we’re so busy, we’re not necessarily taking time for self-reflection. And we are succumbing to pressures around us because we’ve got so many different external forces in our environment telling us what we should be doing. And like you said, the FOMO and the comparisons and we think, oh, you know, for example, I am a business owner have been for over 10 years, and there’s been a voice in my head, I should have, I shouldn’t be reading a book, everyone else is reading a book, right? Even though I don’t have that drive for myself. And so, you know, it’s just easy to get swept up in somebody else’s motivation. And then you couple that with the expectations, and most people aren’t proactively revealing the messiness behind the scenes, we’re just seeing the finished product. And we’re thinking, Well, that was easy. That looks so easy, or those, like you talked about the fitness, right, they sort of get lose weight quickly schemes that make it look like oh, if I just do this, and in four weeks, I’m going to transform my whole, so we don’t have a clear sense of who we are and what we want. And we don’t have a clear sense of what it takes to get to any type of goal. So I feel like from the outset, we’re already setting ourselves up for failure.
Tim Vandehey Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, I mean, to tie in to the theme of your, your show, imposter syndrome. You know, that is a huge, a huge part, not only that’s a huge part of the causal factors behind the swipe, and also the outcome of swiping, especially repeatedly, you know, is it Going into something that you really want to do or that you think you want to do, or something you want to, you want to try a goal you want to achieve, you already feel like you have no business trying it, you already feel like a funny, you’re going, going in with that kind of self-doubt. And you’re probably doing Doom before you start. Which is why, you know, it’s so important to, I mean, one of the themes that’s popped up in, in our conversations after finishing the book, and doing podcasts and doing interviews and things like that, for both me and Tracy, is how badly we need to practice self-kindness and self-compassion when it comes to our goal pursuits. You know, we tend to think this is true of everybody, Sr, men, women, you know, Gen Z, baby boomers, whatever, we tend to think that that the drive to be successful means pushing ourselves in a, in a, I don’t want to say cruel way, but in an unforgiving way. And then we have to build up this momentum, I actually wrote a piece on that still on LinkedIn now not that long ago called the momentum myth, which is this idea that, you know, when you’re pursuing a goal, everything, it always has to be this constant up into the right progression, you’re always have to be making progress. And you and you, when once you slow down, or stop or take a break, you may as well start over from scratch. And that’s ridiculous. I mean, in most cases, I mean, yeah, if you’re talking about fitness, for instance, okay, if you stop for a while, you’re gonna lose some of the gains that you made, that’s biology. But even then you’ve probably made some gains. And you’ve learned how to do the exercises with the right form and things like that. There is no such thing as bad progress. We are very hard on ourselves. And we’re very unforgiving. And I don’t think what, what you were talking about, about, you know, the, the, the self-doubt and everything that comes into play, and in career, particularly, some of that I think comes from lack of, of us not respecting what we want. You know, just treating, treating our goals and desires as well, that’s not that important. Well, why not? Of course, it is. You know, there’s also I think that that’s, so that’s where I think impostor syndrome comes into play. Before the swipe happens, I think it’s a contributor. After it happens, I think that’s back to that repeated, repeated failure thing up. If you, you know, if you continue to give in to those that that panic button impulse and it is an impulse is not considered, it’s not thoughtful, it’s just, ah, boom, slam the panic button and bailout, because you’re looking for something that’s, that is going to give you temporary comfort, and it’s very temporary. You start to feel like you can never achieve anything, you start to feel like a phony, you start to feel like I am never gonna get past this level. I’m never going to reach this goal. And we all have that. That’s why National Novel Writing Month exists. Are you familiar with that? No. The first, the very first thing in, in Swipe is an interview with the founder, the co-founder of National Novel Writing Month, Chris Batty, and this is what started, I forget how many years ago it was more than 20 years ago. And these people said, Well, we know all these writers who can never finish anything. And we’re going to have a challenge every November, from November 1, November 30, you have to write a 50,000-word manuscript quality is not an issue, just finish something. Well, now about a quarter of a million people every year do that. They do National Novel Writing Month, it becomes this crazy, a lot of time becomes this crazy collaborative camp, like setting where people get together for the last week, because you know, most of the most of its going they’re writing maybe 10,000 words, the first three weeks, and they’re going to try right 40 The last week is like stick the coffee right in my vein, not just be a puppet in there. And so you’ll see people having like, like National Novel Writing Month parties at their house for like the last week of November, where people put out sleeping bags, and they just write like 20 hours a day. It’s hilarious. It’s like, it’s like cramming and cramming for finals in college. That’s the allure of finishing something. Because you have all these writers who like I could never finish a book. Well, here down are a bunch of other crazy idiots who aren’t at all finish a 50. And nobody cares if it’s a piece of garbage. Most of them are I’ve read some of them. They’re dreadful. Now they’ve got a few. They’re a bit a few good books, and actually a few bestsellers. But that’s the tiniest little percentage. But that doesn’t matter. It’s the, it’s, it’s this idea that I want to finish a book, I want to say it’s the that’s always what that’s what it’s about. I want to be able to say I finished a novel. That’s everything. Who cares if it’s good? I want to finish this. I want to prove to myself that I can do this that I can finish this. And that’s a huge thing. So that, that’s the antidote for impostor syndrome in that cases is I’m not an impostor. I’m a novelist. No, my novel sucks. That doesn’t matter. I finished one that and I’ve been I’ve been around to the end of those things at the end of that month, and people have finished you could they couldn’t care less what it reads like they got it done. have, you know, and that’s huge. So it’s an incredibly important, it’s an incredibly important psychological drive and a psychological need to be able to, especially if you’ve tried over and over again, to be able to say, I got there, I got to the finish line finally.
Kim Meninger So in the absence of the National Novel Writing Month, like what are some of the things we can use as motivation to just reach the finish line?
Tim Vandehey Well, I think it’s I don’t think it’s necessarily about motivation. I think the motivation has to come first. Like I said, you know, look, what is your motivation for doing this? I think it’s really and that’s, that’s actually a really tough process. Because you really have to look, you know, really, honestly, and Matt, your motivation for trying whatever it is, you’re trying and ask yourself, Is this real? Is it am I legitimately mode? Do I really want this? And if you don’t, you, you really, it’s, you really have to find the courage to walk away? Because if you’re not motivated, I mean, your odds of success are pretty, pretty low. Why? Why Plus, why would you do it? If you, if you look at your motivation, and say, I’m really doing this because my parents wanted me to? I’m really going to med school because my parents wanted me not because I want to be a doctor. Why would you continue? You’re gonna hate it. Right? I mean, that’s, that’s the that’s why with everything if you if it’s not in your gut, and in your heart, why would you continue it? So it’s not really about motivation, it’s about once you’ve gotten once you understand that, yes, I’m doing this because my motivation is intrinsic, I really want this, whatever it is, then, really, the keys are a couple of things, that one’s retrospective ones, one’s future, future-oriented, the retrospective part is assuming that you’ve tried whatever this is before the past, so it doesn’t really matter. Any anything where you’ve tried and hit the panic button in the past? Take a look at what were the emotions you were feeling. And what was your self-talk like? Before, just before you said, I’m done? I’m not going to do this. I’ve changed my mind. What was it? What were you experiencing? Where you’re experiencing self-doubt, fear, humiliation, embarrassment, frustration, disillusionment, you know, there’s all of those come into play. Not unnecessarily from any one person, anyone in any one time, it might be. I’ve known people who just quit something because they told everybody, they were going to do it, and then started realizing, you know, I’m gonna run the Kansas City marathon, and then halfway through their training, I’m not going to be able to run the Kansas City marathon. I’ve told 100 People, I’m going to do it. Oh, my, what am I going to do? And then suddenly, there’s a comedian Katherine’s or something. And, you know, but, but what? So, you know, what, what were your emotions? And also, what’s your, what was your? What was your self-talk before you quit? You know, where are you? You know, where are you finding yourself starting to minimize what you what you’ve done, or talk about, oh, this is stupid, or I, you know, I’ll never be able to do this. I’m not a real writer, I’m not a real athlete. I’m not a real musician, whatever. So if you can identify those red flags, vary based on your past based on past attempts, and then have a plan for when those appear again, because odds are they will, whatever it is, you’re trying, at some point, you will reach that, that juncture where you start to feel those feelings of boredom or disillusionment or whatever. If your motivation isn’t good, I can’t help you. If you’re at those point, if your motivation isn’t valid, you’re gonna, you’re gonna quit 990 9% of the time. But if your motivation is valid, then what are you going to do when you, when you see those red flags, one of the most common things I recommend I really believe in this is have a coach or mentor that you can talk to, I mean, it’s almost like having a sponsor. You know, if you’re dealing with addiction or something, it’s like when you feel weak, when you feel like you, there’s something you can’t push through or you know, you just feel like I’m going to give up, you have someone you can talk to, who maybe just says you’ve got this, or maybe he talks you through a process or maybe you know talks about your expectations in Europe and your motivation, someone who can help you. You don’t have to do that. You don’t have to do this stuff alone, which I think is one of the big mistakes people make they that’s one of the reasons I think National Novel Writing Month is so successful, because people collaborate. There’s a huge online community. And then like I said, people have writing parties, the whole month. It’s collaborative. You’re not you realize you’re not alone in this incredibly stupid venture. As other idiots around, you’re trying to write terrible fans, terrible Harry Potter knockoff fiction as well. I’m not by myself. It makes a difference. And, you know, so that’s still there. That’s one thing but whatever, whatever stuff works for you. And sometimes, sometimes it’s just a matter of taking a break. Sometimes it’s matter of doing research and seeing okay, if you’re struggling with the expectations, my expectations were x. Reality is why we’ll go research what else you should expect from this process. There are a lot of, there are a lot of steps you can take, but have a plan for how you’re going to deal with this. Maybe you’re going to, maybe you’re going to take time off and do something to restore body and mind and you’re going to do you know do a week of yoga before you get back to your novel or something, whatever works for you, it’s very, you know, it’s very individual. But that is the best way. And based on our research and based on our, the all the folks we’ve spoken to, to avoid doing this, you know, if if you’ve got, if you’ve got motivation and expectations locked in, you know, your red flags, and you’ve got a plan for when those red flags pop up, you know, your odds are a lot better. You know, your odds are even and even if you swipe five times before the same thing, your odds are better this time. Partially just because you’re not going into it blindly. I’ve actually thought about this, you understand what your ,what you’ve done in the past, you understand the mistakes you’ve made in the past, and why just awareness alone is a huge help here.
Kim Meninger Yeah, that is so well aligned with how I think about the overall concept of how we show up in our workplaces to because we are so subconsciously motivated. So much of what we do is based on emotion, impulse, things that we’re not noticing in the moment. And so I love the way you talk about preparing for those inevitable feelings are those inevitable triggers that are going to derail us so that we can see what’s happening in the moment and be prepared for how to intervene. And, you know, I think you addressed this too, when you talked about taking a break or, you know, just sort of recharging in some way. But I wonder if you have specific thoughts on going back to this idea of we are unforgiving with ourselves or unforgiving of ourselves when we’re trying to get something done? How do we process a break as an investment in the path forward, as opposed to thinking of it as a failure? Or I’m not working hard enough? I’m just I’m slacking off kind of thing?
Tim Vandehey Right? Well, that’s a complicated question. When it comes, when it comes to this question, the question of pursuing goals, I think, part of that is in the mechanics, which is, if you’re choosing I mean, you know, the, the act of swiping the act of quitting and hitting the panic button is impulsive, it’s reflexive, it’s not something that we consider, I think I’m going to because there’s so much regret involved, inevitably, I’m, we’re not thinking about, Well, I think I’m gonna quit this and two weeks later, be overcome, overwhelmed with regret. You know, nobody says that. So, but you know, walking away and taking a break is an affirmative act. If you think about it, it’s all the framing, it’s really all, it’s really all in how you frame it. I am, if that’s why I say the plan, having a plan is so important. And so you know, and when will you talk about self-kindness and self-compassion, that plays into it too, in the sense that it’s important for us to understand going into any the pursuit of any goal, especially a long-term goal, that requires persistence and, and discipline that we’re going to have, we’re going to hit, we’re gonna hit bumps in the road. I think too many people expect that they’re not and that and that, being getting bored or getting afraid, or screwing up, or miss reading the directions or whatever, whatever, whatever way that we have a setback, is inherently a failure. And that’s inherently part of the process of learning and growing, not a failure, you know, you don’t grow without discomfort. I mean, I you know, the back to fitness analogy, the only way you build muscle is through working the muscle to failure where he is exhausted, you can’t do another rep, you’re going to have discomfort if you have growth, that the two are inextricably linked. So part of that is I’m going to trip up, I’m going to expecting this going in and I’m expecting it to be part of the experience. Again, I have two teenagers and one of them particularly is very different. He has a hard time accepting that. It’s okay not to know, it’s okay to be ignorant, as long as you’re going into saying, Teach me, right? These are all teaching and learning experiences. This is life teaching us how to do things. And if we can, if you can accept and expect, okay, I’m gonna have moments here, I have no idea what to write next. Not a clue. That’s part of the process, then I think it becomes easier to act to be kinder to ourselves, as far as the break part that needs to be part of your plan. So if so, it’s very different to say I’m gonna you know because it because if you if you’re, if you’re not if it’s, if it’s inadvertent, if it’s accidental, it starts to look like procrastination. And there are a few things we beat ourselves up more for and yet set can’t seem to control that procrastination. Got us. I do it. I’m an expert at it. I tell myself it’s because I love deadline pressure, but that’s really not true. But you know, but if it’s part of the plan, then you can and frame it in your mind as okay, this is something I’m choosing to do, here’s what I’m going to knock off, here’s more imposed important, here’s what I’m going to restart. And here’s what I’m going to do in the interim, I’m going to take a week off from this project, I’m going to start here, that break is going to end here, and I’m going to XYZ in the middle. That is an affirmative act of healing of self-love of growth in unto itself, being able to do that. So it’s, you know, that’s, that’s my answer to that is, it’s not about taking, it’s not about the break, per se, it’s about how do you plan for it, how you frame it? And how do you talk to yourself about it? And it’s okay, it’s okay to say, this is really hard. I need to take some time off and regroup. And maybe like, you know, I mean, I work on a lot of home projects, you know, building things around the house, sometimes I have no idea what I’m doing. So sometimes it’s like, I think before I possibly break up a wall or something like that, I’m gonna go do a little bit of research and figure out now that’s not swiping that’s me saying, I don’t want my wife to murder me. Because I did something stupid that broke the house. And that’s just saying, Okay, I don’t that’s, that’s being willing to say, I don’t know. I don’t want to make any more mistakes. And I’ve already made. So I’m gonna go, I’m going to stop, I’m gonna go learn, and then I’m going to come back. And that’s an affirmative. And that points out, that points out a very important distinction, I think that I that I need to make here. We get, we get this question a lot. And since, since your audience, most of your audience are women, I think it’s especially relevant, which is, is it ever appropriate to swipe? And we say, yes, when you are in a toxic situation, you want to get out of that toxic situation as quickly as you can know whether that’s a toxic relationship or a toxic work situation, hitting the panic button and going and go running for the exits is absolutely appropriate. But we don’t really call that a swipe. The difference we call that we call walking away from something that’s not good for you tapping out, we talk about tapping out in the book. And it’s very important to draw this distinction between those two things. Swiping is a reflex. It usually involves something that if you finished, it would be beneficial for you. It involves something that is a positive goal. I want to learn to play the saxophone, I want to save for retirement, I want to engage with my spouse, whatever it happens to be. And you are reaching a moment of discomfort and reflexively choosing to bail on that goal, whatever it is. And inevitably, later on. That’s followed by regret. I have talked to so many writers over the years who said I wish I could have stuck with my novel past that moment where I quit because if I had I’d have three novels done right now. So it’s that regret is the almost always the endpoint of swiping, tapping out is a conscious decision. It’s an affirmative decision. That is to your benefit. To leave something to leave the situation is not right for you. The example I like to use is from the gymnast Simone Biles, if you remember, back in 2000, she walked away from the women’s team gold competition at the Olympics, because she developed what they call the twisties, which is she lost her sense of worship of her position in space in three-dimensional space was for a gymnast is can be incredibly dangerous. You don’t know where you are, as you’re flipping around and might land on your, on your head or something. And so she made a conscious decision to say I value my physical, mental health more than I value a gold medal. So I’m going to walk away from this, that was tapping out that was a conscious decision saying this is right for me. So I’m going to choose to disengage from this. And the aftermath of tapping out is almost never regret, it’s usually feeling really good about your decision because you did something that was right for you, even though other people might be really angry that you did. So it’s important to draw that distinction, I think between those two impulses because we get that question a lot. And they’re very, very different.
Kim Meninger I’m really glad you made that distinction because that was going to be my next question. And so that was, that was perfect timing. And I’m just as you’re talking about this, and as you were talking about to the difference between you know, taking a break as part of the plan and procrastination, the word that just keeps jumping into my head has intentionality, right? Like the, the, the consciousness and the choice that you’re making around these decisions. So I think that’s a really great way to frame it for those of us who may be overly perfectionistic or unforgiving of ourselves.
Tim Vandehey I tell I tell my kids, my daughter’s this all the time and say I said you know, I said it be easy, you know, go easy on yourself. You know, I mean? I mean, as you know I write you know, as I said I write six, seven books a year plus book proposals and all kinds of other things. You And there are days when I just, I just don’t have it. There are days when I’m just like, I just don’t care today, I don’t want to do this. And there are those days when you know, to be fair, there are those days when you have to push through anyway, you just have to, you have to suck it up and get it done. Whatever it happens to, it happens to be. But I would like to see all of us, myself included, be a little kinder to ourselves on some of those days, or facing some of those tasks where we know we will do it. And we know that we can do it. But it’s just not our heart’s just not, just not in it at the moment. I think it would be really healthy for us to give ourselves a little bit more of a break when it comes to some of those instances, not all the time. But sometimes just a little bit of grace. When we say I’m going to, I’m going to cut myself some slack here. Because we are such a driven culture and you use the P word perfectionist, the bane of my existence, the bane of so many people’s existence. I like to talk with my daughters, I like to say that’s the expression stop shooting all over yourself. Right? I shouldn’t do this, I should do that. No. Now, there’s nobody standing over your shoulder, I call those self-imposed obligations. Nobody’s obliging you to do that. But you. So you have to ask yourself why? Right? So I think self-kindness, Grace, all of those things come into play here. And when you’re, when you’re, that’s where that’s why motivation is so key. But also self-care is key. And I can be super motivated to work on something. But if I’m exhausted, it’s not going to happen. So you know, self-care, Grace, motivation, all, when all those things line up, my God, we’re machines, we just kick butt and take names. But when the, when those things when those don’t line up, they’re not gonna line up all the time. You know, it’s important, it’s important to know what you can, what you can and will do. You know, somebody said, sometimes it’s important to have that what Kobe Bryant called, called your 4 am. When you get out of bed at 4 am, and you’re, you know, you’re, you’re working before everybody else. If that’s, if that’s in your gut, then do it. Some, you know, sometimes the discipline itself is the art form. Sometimes the discipline itself can be the goal. You know, I’m, I want to get myself out of bed at 5 am every morning and work out. And whatever the results are. It’s I want to prove to myself that I have the discipline to do that. Nothing wrong with that. That’s a great goal. So I just, yeah, I think we need to be, we need to be kinder to ourselves, but also understand why we’re doing things and not do them because of some self-imposed obligation or obligations imposed by anybody else. If you want it, do it if you don’t move on.
Kim Meninger That’s such a perfect place for us to wrap up. Although Tim, I really do feel like I spend all day talking to you. This is has been such a great conversation.
Tim Vandehey This is fun.
Kim Meninger But, I would love for you to share where people can find more of you and the book, where can people connect with you or get more information about your work.
Tim Vandehey Well, the book as I said, comes out March 21, they can find out more about the book at swipe the book.com It’s on Amazon it’s at all, all well-known bookstores, internet nash… nationally and internationally. Apparently, it’s being carried in Spain which I didn’t know till yesterday after a friend of mine in Portugal and I got your book at the Spanish Amazon like cool. And people can find out more about me if they want to attend vandehei.com which is my site for my ghostwriting career and I am as far as the, the, the social medias. The only ones I’m on really are Facebook and LinkedIn. But people can certainly find the both of those. I, I don’t waste my time with Twitter anymore.
Kim Meninger No, I don’t either.
Tim Vandehey What’s, what’s Elon bought them? Like? He, I don’t think so. I believe here, I think well, like it was already so, so nice and friendly there. You know, it’s gonna get uglier. But yeah, but I engage with people all the time on Facebook and Twitter. I think I made some woman’s morning or some women’s day yesterday because some woman on Medium reviewed the book. And I found I found the review and I commented on it. She was like, Oh, my God, I can’t read my radio like, yeah, it’s really good. Thank you. So I really do try to engage with people when they, when they reach out. So yeah, reaching out on social media. I’ll definitely respond to so…
Kim Meninger That’s great. I’ll put those links in the show notes too.
Tim Vandehey Great.
Kim Meninger Well, thank you so much, Tim, this has been such a great conversation, such an important one. I really appreciate the actionability of what you shared as well, because I think that many people are going to benefit from this discussion. So thanks again.
Tim Vandehey My pleasure I hope so. I, that’s why we, why we wrote the book.