The secret of getting ahead

The Secret of Getting Ahead

Rev. Dr. Kitty Boitnott, NBCT, RScP

Heart-Centered Career Transition and Job Search Coach | Possibility Thinker

Mark Twain once said, "The secret of getting ahead is getting started." He was a smart guy. Known for his dry wit, Twain was also a student of human nature. He realized that it is procrastination that keeps most people from realizing their full potential.

Twain wasn't unsympathetic with the tendency to delay starting something new, however. In a humorous twist on the Benjamin Franklin adage, "Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today," Twain offered, "Never put off till tomorrow, what you can do the day after tomorrow."

I consider myself pretty much an action taker. I have set goals for myself in the past that I have stuck with and achieved. One that comes to mind is my National Board Certification status. I dreamed of becoming a National Board Certified Teacher for almost 15 years before I made it happen, not because of procrastination but because my standards weren't made available to me. When I decided to go for my Ph.D., I finished in record time. I graduated ahead of schedule in spite of the fact that I had gone through a divorce while completing my dissertation. I am nothing if not doggedly persistent. Once I set a goal for myself, I do whatever I have to do to achieve it.

That does not mean, however, that procrastination and I aren't acquainted. I have been procrastinating, for example, the starting of a new book. I feel stumped by the whole process. My other "books" have been compilations of articles that I have written or posts on my blog or contributions to other online venues. I have never really tackled the writing of a book from scratch. And the thought of starting such an endeavor frankly terrifies me. So, I procrastinate. And each day that goes by that I don't get started, I feel guilty. The guiltier I feel, the more I procrastinate. Can I hear an "Amen?" I know I am not the only one who does this.

Some of us procrastinate starting new diets or exercise regimens. Some of us procrastinate doing anything about a toxic relationship that no longer serves us. And others of us procrastinate by hanging on to jobs that we no longer enjoy out of fear of the unknown.

This happens a lot, and I hear it all the time in my line of work. Almost daily, I will chat with someone who made an appointment with me because they are unhappy with their work. They have lost their passion for it. They no longer enjoy it, and in some cases, the stress of it is making them ill. Stress-related ailments range from high blood pressure to Diabetes Type II. Aches and pains related to autoimmune disorders are aggravated by stress. Yet, when asked if they are ready to make the change in their lives that might set them on a new course professionally, I often hear all kinds of excuses for why they can't do anything about it now. Here are a few of the excuses I hear:

  • It's not the right time.
  • I don't have the money.
  • Maybe in the spring.
  • Maybe in the summer.
  • I have other bills that are more pressing.
  • I need to get through until summer vacation.
  • I don't have time right now to deal with this.

And the list goes on.

The problem? There is never going to be a "right time."

Stop Making Excuses

You will never have the money if you don't commit to it as part of your budget. Delaying until spring or summer only means that you delay the possible change that you say you want even longer. Putting other things ahead of your need to change your job or career is just a way of procrastinating because you are afraid.

You are afraid of making a major change in your life. You are afraid that it won't work out as you want. You are afraid that no one will want to hire you because you don't have the right skills. 

Fear becomes your driver and keeps you stuck right where you are because "the devil you know is better than the devil you don't know."

I get it. Fear is what keeps me from starting my book. What if I don't  have anything original to say? What if I spend months or years writing my heart out and then no one wants to read it? Or worse, they read it but hate it? What then?

But I have resolved that THIS is the year that I will not let fear keep me stuck in procrastination mode. This is the year I start writing my book. Other people have done it. So can I!

So, what is holding you back from doing something you really want to do? What excuses are you using to help you put off until some time in the future something that you really want to do but are afraid to tackle?

Procrastination can hurt you over the long run. Kirstin O'Donovan, a life & productivity coach and owner of TopResultsCoaching offers "8 Ways Procrastination Can Destroy Your Life."

Take stock of your current situation and determine what it is that you may have been putting off. Isn't it time to take a hard look at what may be holding you back? If it is just fear of the unknown, remember what Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." 

And the only thing scarier than change is regret over things you didn't do and wish you had.

the only thing scarier than change

Don't let fear keep you playing small. Get started on whatever it is that you have been delaying. Start with small steps. 

The quote I offered earlier as the thesis of this article is only part of what Mark Twain said about the secret of getting started. The full quote is this:  "The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, then starting on the first one."

I am going to start writing my next book this year. What will you start that you have been putting off?

Until next time.


Hey, before you go, I have an exciting announcement.

I have been offering Group Coaching Programs this last year, and so far, I have had over two dozen teachers and mid-career professionals participate. In February, I am going to start a Saturday Group for those who are too busy for a week-night program. We will start the new cycle on Saturday, February 17th, and we will wind up our work on June 2nd. We will meet every other Saturday afternoon at 2:00 pm Eastern.

(If you work on weekends and can't be on the call live, you can watch the replay, but you get the most benefit, I think from being on the call live.)

I am offering the "Work You Love Academy" for 20% off the regular price, and there is a convenient payment plan for those who need it.

To learn more, watch the "Work You Love Masterclass" that I am offering live on February 8th and 10th.

The Thursday night presentation will be at 7:00 pm Eastern and the Saturday presentation will be at 11:00 am Eastern. 

To join the Masterclass for FREE and learn more about the Academy, click here

I hope you will join me. Please feel free to share the link with a friend or colleague who may be thinking about making a career change as well.

Here is the link again:

Lastly, it's been a while since I last asked, but I would love if you would please like me on Facebook at and follow me on Twitter at You can also follow me or connect with me on LinkedIn at I would appreciate that very much.



Kitty Boitnott
Boitnott Coaching, LLC

Glen Allen VA 23060
United States of America