Start as you mean to go on

I was surprised by the response to my post about how hard it can be to shed past reputations. Many people emailed me directly to share their personal experiences of having to leave a company to reinvent themselves. It happens more often than I’d imagined.

Since then, I’ve been thinking of how people go about recasting themselves…for a new job, as they join a new community or school, or to meet a personal goal. Is it different for children and adults? And what is the role of a parent in helping their children adapt to change?

Then I heard the phrase, “Start as you mean to go on.” It means:

  • Make the effort to get things right at the beginning and develop good habits to follow going forward.
  • Approach something new by acting as though you were already a success.

I love it. This phrase embodies both the practical and the psychological aspects of recasting yourself, of starting over.

Did I follow this advice when starting my new consulting business? Yes and no. I’m a goal oriented person and a disciplined list maker, so I’ve done well with my goals for how much networking to do each week and how often to post on my blog. These have become habits I can easily continue. The more difficult aspect of “starting as I mean to go on” has to do with my confidence. I’ve never been a consultant before, and I need to regularly tell myself that I have deep expertise and skills that are in demand. It’s just so hard to get past my inner critic who prevents me from acting as though I’m already a success.

So, I’m reaching out to you, my readers. How have you started as you meant to go on? Do you have ways to ignore your inner critic? Have you helped a child or an employee make a fresh start? What worked? I’d like to hear from you!


© 2013 by Karen Catlin. All rights reserved.

2 thoughts on “Start as you mean to go on

  1. This is thoughtful advice, and I also find it hard to follow sometimes. It requires a thicker skin and more persistence than I thought it would. I also think it serves best when dealing with other people…and so is perhaps a bit missing a key ingredient.

    I “mean to go on” by solving a deep customer problem with a product that can support a successful business. So for me, “starting as I mean to go on” means acting like you are already a success, yet never forgetting it’s not true. It means using the “royal we” in blog postings and at the same time spending hours alone feeling for stumbling blocks and signs of impending failure. It means a steady push (hopefully) onward and upward, yet one that also accepts constant change – always towards a goal that focuses the product and the business, but still change.

    When starting new businesses inside companies, I always felt that the impetus behind “starting as you mean to go on” was a major weakness, perhaps the #1 reason companies have such a hard time innovating. It was crucial to get things rolling, but the expectations of other people can make it much harder to change direction when reality interferes with your plans, especially considering your previous post. And the bolder you are at the start, the harder it is to maintain credibility after the second zig or third zag.

    So I think there is an important caveat. “Start as you mean to go on…but keep it real.”

    1. I love the points you make, Eric. Being too bold and brash can rub people the wrong way and work against you, in both the short and long term. Keeping it real is critical. Thank you for sharing this advice!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s