Solo Professionals, Start Your Engines

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got rules in my life that I adhere to for no apparent reason. I don’t know where they came from and if they are – or ever were – based on scientific fact.


  • You shouldn’t put Teflon in the dishwasher because the heat makes the Teflon flake off, eventually killing your entire family.
  • When it’s cold out, you must always let your car warm up for at least 60 seconds before driving away.
  • If you stay up late watching The Daily Show and wake up your wife Linda when you come to bed, she’ll be angry. (I’m pretty sure this one is true.)

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And so when my brother-in-law, Holly, told me about a new book he was reading – one which dispels many long-held exercise myths – I went out the next day and picked up a copy.

I don’t mind unnecessarily washing a Teflon frying pan or two by hand, but if I’m wasting time – or worse, doing something damaging – while exercising, I figured it was worth knowing about.

The book, The First 20 Minutes, Surprising Science Reveals How We Can Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer, is written by Gretchen Reynolds, a health and fitness journalist and columnist for the NY Times.

It was enjoyable and, as anticipated, myth-busting regarding many of the rules I had been blindly following, such as:

  • Stretching: “In the past decade, a growing number of studies have shown that static stretching not only does not prepare muscles for activity; it almost certainly does the reverse.”
  • Water: “[There is] no credible evidence for the widespread belief that we need to drink eight glasses of water a day.”
  • Running Shoes: “Over the course of three large studies, the researchers found almost no correlation at all between wearing the proper running shoes and avoiding injury.”

Yikes. Nothing in there (unfortunately, in my case) suggesting that a cluttered basement will eventually lead to rock-hard abs, but much to think about, nonetheless.

But it was this insight, the one which inspired the book’s title, that really stayed with me:

“Almost all of the mortality reductions are due to the first twenty minutes of exercise … there’s a huge drop in mortality rates among people who haven’t been doing any activity and then begin doing some, even if the amount of exercise is quite small.”

In other words, and as the book explains, if you already exercise, doing more (even significantly more) doesn’t yield nearly the same health improvement as does moving from doing nothing at all to doing just a little bit.

The biggest gains, it seems, are in getting started.

Well guess what, my rock-hard-abbed friend … marketing works the same way. It’s not so much the fine-tuning that yields the biggest benefits, it’s the act of doing something – even if it’s not perfect.

Which means that:

  • If you believe in the value of staying in touch with your existing contacts (and if you don’t, you’re reading the wrong newsletter), then stay in touch with them. Even if the way you do it is unsystematic, sloppy and incomplete.

    Sure, it’s better to have a system in place that works perfectly – I’ve become a big fan of Contactually (affiliate link) in this regard – but don’t let not having it perfect prevent you from keeping your network alive.

  • If you believe in the value of creating and sharing content, then write something and put it out there … even if it’s not the best thing you’ve ever done.

    Waiting six months (or forever) to launch your newsletter, blog or free giveaway because it’s not yet perfect, on the other hand, is a losing strategy. Here as well, the biggest gains come when you move from publishing nothing to publishing something – not from improving on what you’re already doing.

Here’s the bottom line. Am I saying you shouldn’t be fine-tuning your approach and tactics? No. No more than the book is saying you should reduce the amount you exercise.

What I am saying, though, is that if you’re doing nothing in the areas of your business that you know to be important, you’ve got a fantastic opportunity in front of you. Get off the metaphorical couch, and break a little sweat.

The biggest gains are in getting started.


6 thoughts on “Solo Professionals, Start Your Engines

  1. Tara

    Thanks for this! I’m writing my (imperfect) email newsletter today for the first time in about 8 months.
    By the way, did you accidentally abruptly end your email newsletter, or was that on purpose to just demonstrate that it doesn’t have to be perfect? 🙂
    I always enjoy your newsletters- they’re one of the ones I save and make sure to read every single one.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      You’re welcome Tara! And no, I didn’t abruptly end the newsletter, so maybe an email glitch? (Full text above.)

      But I am abruptly ending this sen…

  2. Dave Meir


    This is so true. When I first started publishing a printed/snail mailed newsletter is was pretty hit or miss in the beginning. I’d read lots of articles about how your(my) clients would get used to receiving the newsletter and wonder what happened when it stopped coming. I was skeptical.

    As I got into the swing of things – and had been mailing steadily on a monthly basis for probably six months – I missed a month. I ran into two different clients out and about – and both asked when the next newsletter was coming out. And another time a different client, met while at the grocery store, commented on the pictures I’d included in the newsletter of our new granddaughter.

    I think it’s important to remember that the purpose of our newsletters is to stay in touch with our clients and prospective clients – in a non-salesy friendly way. If you provide helpful, useful, fun to read information, your clients will look forward to receiving your newsletter. If you write it right – your clients will appreciate it – even if it does come sporadically.

    If they look forward to your newsletter and miss it when it doesn’t show up as expected – you’ve achieved the goal of publishing a newsletter.

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