What Really Happens When You Start Over

Nobody likes starting over. At least, I don’t know anyone who does. But sometimes life forces you to reboot, whether you want to or not.

What Really Happens When You Start Over
Photo Credit: cindy47452 via Compfight cc

Sure, there are those rare, crazy ones who love the thrill of a new venture. But if you’ve spent any time building anything, you know that uneasy feeling in your stomach when you have to begin again. It’s hard.

This is why so many people stay in jobs they hate or keep going back to the same old, unhealthy addictions that leave them broken. It’s easier that way.

But there’s something beautiful about starting over, something liberating about beginning again. And I’d like to encourage you consider a fresh start in something this week.

Back to zero?

I just had a conversation with someone who is having to start something over. She’s worried that it means going back to zero. Not true.

When you start something new, you’re not really beginning completely fresh. Your past experiences, failures, and successes have all taught you something. More than you realize. And knowing what you know now means you aren’t starting over. You’re just beginning again.

That’s what I learned with this blog, which was the result of quitting another blog I had been writing on for four and a half years. I wasn’t quitting and going back to the drawing board. Instead, I was building on a foundation.

I had spent years writing online with few people paying attention. When I started over, I feared I might be wasting my time. But I was wrong.

All those years, I was practicing. Preparing. Waiting for my big moment. Maybe you are, too.

Do something new, now

When was the last time you did something for the first time? Do you remember what it felt like? It was probably a little fun, possibly even thrilling. I bet it required some hard work, too.

Maybe it’s time to do that again. To take a risk. To break a rule. To start.

If you don’t know where to begin, you should read Seth Godin’s book Poke the Box, which is one of the best books I’ve read on the subject of starting things.

And if you’re wanting to do this with a blog, read this post: Starting from Scratch.

Maybe you’re in a season in which you feel like what you’re doing is all for naught, that you’re doing all this work and nobody’s paying attention. But maybe that’s not the whole story.

Maybe you’re being prepared for a season that hasn’t come yet. If that’s the case, may I encourage you to do one thing?

Show up

Even when the fruit isn’t there… show up.

Even when the critics tell you to quit… show up.

Even when you’re tired and tempted to throw in the towel… show up.

If this is a time of preparation for you (and not a time to start), do the work. Show up. Because what you are doing is sowing — that’s planting seeds, for you non-farmer folk — and though you may not reap them for some time, the work you’re doing is not pointless.

Stay the course, be brave, and your season will come.

What’s the hardest part for you about starting over? Share in the comments.

110 thoughts on “What Really Happens When You Start Over

  1. Amen Jeff to new beginnings without feeling like it’s the first day of school 😉 My motto of late when starting anything is to take the first small step, because a small step in the right direction could lead to the biggest step of your life. This also helps me with the whole overwhelm problem of starting anew.

    p.s. would love to know what you worked on those earlier 4 years.

  2. Jeff, I think that you hit the nail on the head when you said, “Your past experiences, failures, and successes have all taught
    you something — more than you realize.” I don’t think that we realize that starting over does not mean going back to the beginning. It means starting fresh with what we have learned from the past. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Sometimes starting over is just as good as a tactical retreat. While in the beginning a start over can seem like failure, it is actually a strategic move designed to regroup, refurbish, restore, and move forward. A tactical retreat is not defeat, failure, or loss. Rather, it is designed to move you to greatness, a win.

  4. Thank you, Jeff. Last night I was struggling again with the failure and collapse of my business…with significant debt a result. I am encouraged and inspired by your post. Thanks again.

    1. I can’t imagine the pain, shame, and struggle that goes along with that, Mark. Thanks for being vulnerable… and for not quitting. You will live to fight another day.

  5. Great post Jeff! I think your “portfolio life” podcasts capture the spirit of reinvention. We are created to be life-long learners and part of that learning process ultimately pushes us outside our comfort zone – possibly new areas, jobs, skills, adventures. Great insight as always!

    1. Totally, Tor. You’re a great example of this. I’ve learned a lot just from watching you manage the different areas of positive tension in your life (as a dad, author, employee, blogger, husband, etc.). Thanks for inspiring me!

  6. Thanks Jeff for your timely reminder that starting over isn’t the same as starting from scratch – nothing in nature goes to waste, as our previous experience becomes the compost and fertiliser for our new ventures.

    1. You’re welcome, Louise. This was a revelation to me when I learned it a few years ago. I know believe that God wastes nothing, that everything we do in life is preparation for something else.

  7. This is so encouraging Jeff! I have some new beginnings in the works and it’s exciting and freeing.
    Thanks for all of your guidance and wisdom you share with us.

  8. I always had fear in starting again. This post will definitely help me. Thanks Jeff!

  9. The hardest part of starting over for me probably has to do with permission. Giving myself permission to start again is often difficult because of the clutter and debris left from one time period or project. Before I can give myself permission to start or to start over I often feel that I have to everything in order both from what I have been working on and for what I am about to launch. I get lost in the minutia of trying to get it all sorted out and in place. Fear and shame also play big roles in the obstacles to get past to start over or start fresh. Giving permission to let go of what isn’t finished is pivotal.

    1. That’s a good word, Lancia. I hadn’t thought of that, but you’re right. Before you start over, you have to believe you can, that you’ll survive the tumultuous ride it takes to tackle the task again.

      1. Part of it is believing that you can and part of it is believing that it is alright to. There’s that heavy voice inside that says “Finish what you start.” “Clean up your mess.” and “Starting over means you failed at what you did before.” So much of starting over is giving yourself permission and release to build on what is good from earlier efforts, and just let go of what wasn’t. Those voice have to be either silenced or disregarded. Therein lies the call for courage. It takes courage to create at all and courage to start over. But before courage has be grace to believe we are allowed to. 🙂

        Thank you so much for this good word for today. “Stay the course, be brave, and your season will come.” There is so much goodness in that, so much grace and permission, courage and hope, I want to print out and frame it! 🙂 Blessings to you and yours!

  10. For me it’s the waiting. You know, like when you’ve decided to start over but you have to do all of this preparation before you can actually make it happen. It’s frustrating – when I decide to move on, I want to just do it already!

    1. Yup. I totally get that. And yet, in the waiting we learn something that we otherwise wouldn’t. I hate it, but then again, I’m grateful for those times.

  11. I started over when I quit my lucrative sales career to spend more time writing and to start my own consulting business. I have had to learn so much about building my business, but one of the most important lessons I have learned is that it’s ok to fail, so you just need to start, as Jeff writes above. If you make a mistake (and you will), learn from it and move on.

  12. This article is something that I definitely needed to read this week. After a year of talking about going back to school full time, selling my car to do it, and going to a part time from a full time job– I am finally doing it! It’s been hard. I have cried and I have had moments where I don’t know what I am doing and I am scared and so much more. BUT, you are right. I’m not starting over like before. This time, I’m kind of excited. It’s a lot of work though and the process is time consuming and can be overwheliming but I’m taking it one step at a time and progress has been made. This will be a two year adventure, but I pray it all works out. So this is to all the people out there who feel stuck, hopeless, or fearful— YOU CAN DO IT! Only YOU are stopping yourself. Ask for help when you need to, and just do it. 🙂 Thank you for the post!

  13. Great post Jeff. I have owned pizza parlors for ten years. It has been hard starting over while still running those. Knowing when to push and when to rest. Thanks for always putting out great content.

    1. I’ll bet, Zechariah! Congratulations on trying. Most people don’t even do that. You’re well ahead of the game in that respect.

      But I hear you. It can be hard. Definitely a tension to be managed more than a balance to be maintained.

  14. For me at this point in time, the hardest thing about starting over is letting go of who I have always thought I am and figuring out who I really am.

  15. Hi Jeff,
    In one sense I am starting over, as I have started a blog and podcast while working a full-time job. In another sense, I am sort of starting over, as I am already changing my branding to make it more consistent. The work associated with the latter is daunting, as I recently got it all set up and now I have to do it again. However, what you say above is encouraging. I learned a lot the first time around. Thus, it won’t be as difficult this time. Thank you for the encouragement.

  16. Great advice, Jeff. I too started over. I think it just takes some foundational work to find both your niche and your voice, and that may mea starting over, or just building on what you already have. But showing up is everything.

  17. I love this because I’ve “started over” so many times but it was only recently that I learned how true your words are: we never completely start over. We’re just building a very solid foundation. 🙂

  18. I have a note above my desk that says “Just keep showing up!”

    I’ve learned that no matter how many times or ways I start over, it’s the showing up part that makes the difference.

  19. After 25 years, I am going back to school for another degree in order to get a better job. You are correct: I am terrified and excited at the same time!

  20. Great post. I just lost a blog I’d written for years — not to mention an illustrated novel (also on a blog platform) that got me my current job, spawned a web show, and represented probably the pinnacle of my artistic work to date. I was devastated — until I realized it was time to let go of those things and do something new based on what I’d learned from them. Losing them was the best thing that ever happened to me. Thanks for putting this principle in such eloquent words.

    1. There is redemption in every loss… if we know where and how to look. Thanks for sharing, Lisa, but I’m still sorry to hear about your loss. However, I’m even more encouraged to hear about your attitude.

  21. Jeff, thanks for this post! Just what I needed. The hardest part for me is believing that there can be something new and having the courage to let go of the old to make room for it. Truly, thanks for writing these words. My son’s high school teacher quit his job to pursue his dream of becoming a teacher when he was 43 years old, all because someone asked him the question: “What do you love to do and why aren’t you doing it?” This type of post can do just that. Be a catalyst for someone’s dream. I know it comes at a crucial time for me! Thanks again!

  22. Jeff – Starting over is huge for me. April 30 was the one year mark for me being forced to start over after 16 years with one company. I wrote a blog post about it too. The worst day and the best day. Without that day, I wouldn’t have the blog, I wouldn’t have contact with you, I wouldn’t have STARTED. I’m so excited about the future. Thanks for all you have done to help me start over.

  23. Jeff – you’ve done it again and hit the nerve that’s been troubling me. You see, all my adult career I’ve worked in one area which is now the area I blog daily & coach others in. But as 40+ mother to 4 young girls they are my real true passion – only this week I have been asking advice/opinions on starting over and writing about my memory making with them instead which is really what captures, moves my soul and fires my imagination. I think this blog post of yours may be the key that’s turned the lock of a new chapter, thank you 🙂

  24. Bravo! Excellent post Jeff. Starting over is hard but also deliberating. Whenever I feel hesitant and wonder if it’s better to stay in the safe zone I read this out loud. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than the things you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~Mark Twain

  25. We learn from every season, thank goodness for that! Staring over is scary, but sometimes a fresh start is the only way we can see where we’re really supposed to be going. Nice post, Jeff.

  26. I’m about to start over — moving away from my home of the last 14 years to a brand new city/state to start a new job with Adventures in Missions. And once I get there I need to sit down and evaluate where I’m at with my blog and I guess ask this question — do I start over?

  27. As a grower, I grow plants. The analogies are endless. There are annuals, and perennials, and then there’re trees that grow for hundreds of years. But I haven’t seen a platform yet that’s designed for a lifetime. We work with a very temporal medium, constantly changing, yet our words that will outlast us. Nobody ever really starts all over again. But we do start afresh every single day, and we work with the dust of heaven.

  28. This post was so timely Jeff! I worked extremely hard on a launch and had full faith that it was going to be epic! I trusted in God every single step and knew that it was going to be life changing. I’ve been publicizing this since April 15 and NOT ONE SINGLE SALE has been made. I was so devastated. Not to mention a bit angry. But God has a higher purpose for it…..My abundant harvest will come!

    1. Stephanie, I understand. And sometimes wonder why God doesn’t confirm what He has called us to do more, but then if He did, we would lose trust in Him and His directions.

  29. Timely post Jeff. It’s time to resurrect my three ‘p’s’ that I’ve not thought about for a LONG time. Patient, Persistence and Practice. Past experiences have proven that there are huge rewards in showing up and shipping.

  30. It seems we are on the same track sir! Right now, just breathing seems hard some days. I have a 1,000 posts I could write at the same time. I fear that no one cares. I fear no one…cares. I care and I want others to care as much as I do. And maybe that’s it. It feels like I am the only one who does care and the only one who would ever care. The only one. Alone, and yet I can’t stop thinking about what I need to post. I have over 100 posts in the cue I need to finish, I have so many book dreams, I have dreams, I care about my dreams. I fear no one cares about my dreams like I do. Thank you for your encouragement.

    1. Sometimes, Janelle, no one does care. At least, not until you show us why we should. Which means you will have to go first. Not easy, but worth it in the long run.

      1. I guess that’s where I get stuck, in the showing. Ok, I’m taking you up on your challenge. Wrote a post this morning, talking about finding courage in the doing. It was very Jeff Goins like. I love how your posts make me fall in love with the art of writing all over again. And then yes, in the doing I find courage to overcome the not-caring. Thank you for writing like you mean it. Check it out if you want: https://janellekeith.blogspot.com/2014/05/where-do-you-find-courage.html ( I realize that sending a blog link was a bold move, it’s a step towards doing my dream afraid.) 🙂

  31. “The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you’re not going to stay where you are.” — John Pierpont Morgan

    The hardest part for me is knowing when it’s time to start over and when it’s time to “bow up” and make it happen.

    I’ve found both to be exhilarating for the moment, but the truth is that the plain ole “just doing it” always comes back in the end.

  32. Great one, Jeff. Timely for me. I’m exhausted. I’ve never had more opportunity – including my first published by a publisher book coming out this past January – and I’m just tired. It was so much work to get HERE and I’m trying to find the strength and energy to go to the NEXT stage. But getting here took all I had and now there’s not much left in the tank for going higher and getting better.

    “Even when you’re tired and tempted to throw in the towel… show up.”

    I guess I’ll just show up again tomorrow. Thanks man..


    1. Rest is also part of the equation, Adam. You do need to fill your mental, emotional, and physical tank. Include rest and celebration in your plan. You’re much more likely to continue showing up. You can’t sprint through a marathon.

      1. Thanks, Kathleen. That’s what they keep telling me. I’m quite bad at resting and celebrating, apparently LOL

        1. I too have a challenge with resting and celebrating. Let’s both commit to doing it more often. LOL is right.

  33. Timely word Jeff. I just had to start over an article that I have been working on for some time now. I am feeling more focused now. Suddenly it is making sense. Thanks for the encouragement. I am going to keep showing up until it is done!

  34. Great post, Jeff. Really resonates. I just began a brand new WordPress blog, despite having two other websites, in order to streamline my blogs. Twice I have refined my tagline after a lot of reflection and study of my target audience. Being slower with technology doesn’t help, but man, all my past efforts have helped me now. It builds. You really do have to keep showing up! Thanks for the encouragement!

  35. Something I learned from Dan Miller that has made a huge difference for me is this:

    Every year when you set goals, determine the 15-20% of things you are going to stop doing. This makes room for you to “show up and shine” (my words) in the new steps you want to take. Very powerful and causes you to regularly start over.

  36. Kent,

    That’s a great tip, to decide what you’re going to stop doing. I’ve done this before without realizing that I need to be more intentional about it. Thanks!

  37. “When you start something new, you’re not really beginning completely fresh. Your past experiences, failures, and successes have all taught you something — more than you realize.”

    “Stay the course, be brave, and your season will come.”

    Wow. Your words made me realize a lot of things today. Thank you. 🙂

  38. This post was so encouraging. I just recently started over with an article I have been working on for way too long. It is going to finally get done. So glad I didn’t throw in the towel. A little tempted to throw the computer a few times ( just kidding).

  39. Just beginning is the hardest part for me. Also, starting something new usually means stopping something old. That felt like failure to me for a long time. If I let my guard down, it still does. But, there is no way to move forward by clinging to old paradigms.

  40. I like this post I feel not alone in my new life now. However there are really times when I feel like going back to my old life because a lot of my friends think I’m still very young to live an old lifestyle. Anyway, thanks to this post I feel the energy again to get back on my feet. Friends are just secondary beings who know myself.

  41. Thanks very much for a great content. I find it completely related to me. I think the hardest part is to chew the fact. Once you absorb the fact, you would be able to set out a new plan.

  42. I think think the hardest part of starting over is that it somehow feels like what I did was a failure. I know that perfection is not something that I will ever achieve in this life yet I still believe that I am supposed to be perfect. Starting over says to me that I must have done something wrong but I am learning that it does not have to be a reflection of how right or perfect that I am not. (I know double negative) It’s like something I wrote on my blog or a comment on a thread. I have to look at starting over like a necessary total renovation job. You have to strip off all of the old stuff to see the foundation and make repairs to strengthen it for years to come. it’s not cute or fun in the beginning but the finished product is something that you fall in love with all over again not to mention that you can change rooms around and reallocate space to other rooms. Ok. Now I am inspired. Thanks Jeff. (sorry for rambling. it’s late)

  43. Thank you for this fresh outlook. I have started over in life a couple of times, by choice and not by choice. We carry baggage (experience and ideas) into every reboot. When I recently hit the ctrl+alt+del button on my life to retire to fulltime ministry of writing it was not a frightening thought.

  44. Your post showed up in my inbox yesterday but I just now read it today…

    Thank you! You have no idea how your words describe where I am right now. I am definitely in a season of preparation….and it’s hard! I’m “in between” 🙂

  45. Pivoting is hard as well. I had been so general for so long on my blog and then last year I had to pivot. I lost 1,200 email subscribers but created a business that supports our family. It worked out but it stung to see so many people leaving.

  46. The biggest challenge about starting over for me is this idea that I have to recover back into the person I used to be. It’s been a while since I’ve been myself and for a while I’ve been trying to find that person again. Recently, there was this realization of the fact that you can’t just go back to the past and need to move forward into a better person. So…I guess starting over has never really something I’m keen on because I’m not really sure how to…if all of that makes sense.

  47. Jeff, I loved this post! True words of wisdom and encouragement. I have an exercise I use called the “Stop, Start, Continue”. Stop doing things that don’t work or drain resources needlessly. Start doing something new that lifts you up and creates constructive results. Continue doing things that work and matter. Your post has helped me see that my starting over is not just me being indecisive but it’s me in testing mode – to find what works. Thank you again!

  48. The hardest part of starting over, for me, is knowing the reason I need to start over is that I began without adequate knowledge the first time and left out important stuff. Therefore, I keep fearing: What else do I not know? What else will I regret not waiting a bit longer to learn?
    For instance, I recently began a g+ account. And did the email part wrong. So I now have that to start over. Sighs.
    And you just cannot go to college and get a course in these things. Too bad.

  49. Posted this as a motivator for our weekly writers’ group:

    The legendary cellist, Pablo Casals, was asked why he continued to practice at age 90.
    “Because I think I’m making progress,” he replied….

    I think some things just have to be done over and over, like farming, yes, but also like dusting, birthdays, cooking, mowing, buying larger clothing for the kids, etc. It’s a trade: We remove the old and apply the new, all the time. Whether it’s seasons, upkeep, progress, growth…it all requires change.

    1. As it has been said “Practice makes perfect.” I don’t know that we ever reach total perfectio, but I do believe practice is necessary and has tons of rewards,

  50. I think the hardest part of starting over is not always knowing where exactly to begin. Sometimes you just do not have all the details, but you know you have to begin again. Thisn reminds me of the times me and my family had to have our things packed up to move when my husband was in the military. There always seemed to be some excitement mixed with a little fear of the unknown, but we were able to figure it out. I did not always feel like I knew where to begin going to a different place, especially Guam, but somehow things seemed to fall into place and we learned new things and now we have experiences we would have not otherwise had.

    1. That IS hard, Kim. I am beginning to believe that just about anywhere is better than nowhere, when it comes to starting. But I often stall, waiting for the perfect opportunity. I totally relate to this comment. Thanks for sharing!

  51. The endless possibilities or options has been overwhelming for me Jeff. Yet the main things that have helped me focus in on my passions and the gifts God wants to employ are prayer and writing-reflecting!

  52. The hardest part of starting over isn’t day one. Day one is filled with anticipation and excitement. As writers, we sit down, eager to get going. We write and write and write. Day one isn’t the problem.

    It’s day two.

    We’ve put the first bag of cement down for the foundation, but we’ve got to remind ourselves we need many more bags in order for something to be able to stand upon it. Day two is the hardest, which makes it the most important.

  53. I started over at 29 yrs old. I started out with a few pairs of clothes, no car, a cat and 500$. It was sooo scary and hard. 2 1/2 yrs later I am still working on it! This is a great blog, thanks for sharing!!

  54. Positive thinking will make a positive outcome! Starting over again is fun and tiring. But we all end up in 2 direction, a.) End in a much better way or b.) End in the same way we already been through. Anyway, we all have a choice and it’s really up to you, we just have to enjoy what we’re doing and learn on it. Good day Jeff!

  55. Hardest part. Hmmm, can I do it again? Can I risk something successful to achieve greater success. Success in terms of helping others, of course. Very timely post. Thanks!

  56. I am one of those crazy ones, I love starting over. I get bored quickly with routine and have to have some new projects on the go at all times. This does mean that sticking to what I start can be difficult so your words of encouragement to keep going were very helpful.

  57. Thanking you for affirming that starting over does not mean starting from zero.
    I recently started a new job, one that pays less but to a cause I am committed to.
    I also moved from a managerial position back to an ‘officer’. So this has taken a toll on my ego, for sure, but it’s really something I want to do.

    Thanks for reminding me that I am continually being weaned. 🙂
    Here’s to great new starts! 🙂

Comments are closed.