Courage,  Honesty,  Stress,  Thanksgiving

Baby Steps, Bob: How to Replace the Overwhelming Thing with the Next Thing

If you’ve seen one of my favorite movies, What About Bob, you know taking baby steps (literally) is what got Bob Wiley out of his own head. 

Repeating the words “baby steps” also got him on a bus, through a sliding door, and on a boat… all things that previously terrified him.

Similarly, if you’ve read Bob Goff’s books or listened to his podcast, you know he loves the word ambition.

Always challenging people, he does a great job of encouraging his audience to figure out what they want and go for it. 

  • Want more time with your family? Cut back your work week.
  • Want to help the homeless? Find a soup kitchen.
  • Can’t find a soup kitchen? Start one.
  • Want to fly a plane? Take a lesson.

Sounds effortless coming from a man who already possesses ambition… and a bank account to back up all of his ideas. But he’s obviously on to something.

What percentage of humans do you think go through their daily motions with brilliant ideas stuck in their frontal lobes? Can you even fathom all the brilliant products and experiences we could be a part of if every person had enough time and money to make them happen?

“The ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” -Steve Jobs

Big Picture, Small Steps

As I’ve gotten older I’ve noticed three things about myself when confronting new ideas:  

  1. Most of them sound overwhelming at the beginning.
  2. Once I get going they usually seem more doable.
  3. Even those that proved difficult end up being not as big of a deal in real life as they were in my mind.

Instead of panicking and cancelling the whole idea, I remind myself to focus on a doable solution.

For example…

Overwhelming Idea: Inviting all the neighbors over for dinner.

What you can do: Invite one neighbor over for dessert.

Overwhelming Idea: Choosing a church, making friends, getting involved.

What you can do: Show up on Sunday.

Overwhelming Idea: Moving to another country.

What you can do: Get a passport, pack a box.

Overwhelming Idea: Becoming fluent in another language.

What you can do: Learn how to order tacos.

Overwhelming Idea: Writing a book.

What you can do: Write a chapter.

Overwhelming Idea: Writing a chapter.

What you can do: Write a paragraph.

Overwhelming Idea: Painting your whole house.

What you can do: Paint one room.

Overwhelming Idea: Redesigning your whole backyard.

What you can do: Choose one fantastic plant.

Overwhelming Idea: Decluttering the whole house.

What you can do: Declutter one drawer.

Overwhelming Idea: Starting a business.

What you can do: Write a business plan.

Overwhelming Idea: Making a huge batch of fancy guac with nine ingredients.

What you can do: Eat an avocado.

Overwhelming Idea: Having 17 people over for Thanksgiving dinner and the weekend.

What you can do: Have everyone else bring the food since you cleaned the casa, ironed the table cloths, washed dog spit off the windows, decorated everything, made extra space in the fridge and freezer, de-gunked your oven, bought fun games, wrote name cards, inflated all the air mattresses, found 13 extra blankets and pillows, set the tables, recorded the parade, decluttered the kitchen counters, wrangled the kids, and already bought nine cans of whipped cream.

Sound familiar?

The Next Scary Thing

A few months ago I reached out to a real estate agent to tell her what my business partner and I do. Besides decluttering and organizing, I told her we can also stage houses before they go on the market.

A couple weeks later she contacted me to see if I could do a staging consultation at a client’s house. I had never done a walk-through consult before but confidently answered “Sure!” 

When I walked in, my initial thoughts involved insecure moments of nervous energy.

I’ve never done a formal consult with a stranger; I thought I’d just move furniture around, remove ugly pictures from walls, and ask the owners to take the dog food out of the kitchen. How am I supposed to suggest awkward changes? What if I wear heels and everyone else is in tennis shoes? When I sweat through my first shirt, should I change upstairs or in my car? What if they don’t like my suggestions? Who do I think I am?

When I came to my senses, I talked myself down: 

  • Get a clipboard & make a thorough list
  • Smile & observe with a keen eye
  • Scribble a million notes
  • Ask the realtor questions later 
  • Type up the report
  • Breathe

Ahh, yes… the old oxygen trick. 

Sometimes Often times the antidote I need for feeling overwhelmed is to simply do the next thing to get from point Ahh to Bay. (That’s Spanish for “A to B.” You’re welcome.)

For some reason I continue to get wrapped up in the what-ifs though. What if it’s a terrible idea? What if I change my mind and quit? What if I drop way too many pesos into this basket and the whole thing fails?

But Carrie… what if it’s a terrific idea? What if you don’t change your mind and continue? What if you drop a few pesos and the whole thing succeeds? 

Photo by Hayley Murray on Unsplash

Baby Steps, Bob

Now that we’re all baby-stepping in the right direction, where can you apply this at the moment? I’m applying it to my organizing business. What about you?

  • Starting a new job?
  • Getting married?
  • Taking on a huge project?
  • Having your first (or fifth) baby?
  • Writing a book?
  • Moving out of state?
  • Retiring?

Tell me in the comments. Let’s inspire one another to go for it!

Fear says, “What if it doesn’t work out?” 

Faith says, “Ahhh, Bob… but what if it does?”

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  • David Talbott

    I remember your first baby steps. It was nearly exhausting (for us), and then it was over, and we moved on to more important goals. Baby steps have gotten you a long way, Carrie! We’re proud of your grit and progress.

    • Carrie Talbott

      From Carrie the writer: Thank you, Mr. Talbott. Your memory from the 70s and nice compliments have been logged and appreciated.
      From Carrie the daughter: Awww… thanks, Dad! Your kind words made my day. Thank you for reading and chiming in. Love you!

  • Gil Mellis

    Thanks Carrie. First of all, you helped everyone with learning a new language. Well, at least they now know how to say Aah to Bay. My overwhelming project is my cross-stitching. I recently completed a winter wolf scene that contained over 41,000 cross-stitches (way more than I had ever done before). It was so overwhelming that I quit about 10% of the way through for almost a year before Sue persuaded me to finish. Then, I decided I wanted to do a birth announcement for Dave & Keri’s little Hope Alethia. I took their birth announcement and had someone convert it to a pattern. The first two options were unsatisfactory to me in the amount of detail. The option that had the detail I like was way to big (32×22 on 14 count cloth). So, I decided that if I changed the cloth to 28 count (28 small holes per inch vs 14 holes per inch), the finished project would only be 16×11. BUT—BUT, that meant doing 137,000 stitches staring at a fabric with 28 holes per inch!! This is over 3 times the size of the one that I quit for over a year because it was overwhelming. So how do you do 137,000 stitches (or 548,000 times the needle passes through the fabric)?? One stitch at a time. I gave myself permission to NOT be on a time-table and do take “baby stitches”. Thanks for your encouragement. Love the movie! How could I not when Bob’s goldfish is Gil!

    • Carrie Talbott

      Oh my gosh… I forgot about your connection to Gil the fish! Hahahahaha! Even though I have a childhood bathed in cross-stitch memories, your numbers and math and sizes lost me. I’m impressed you’ve stuck with this huge project and hope to see a picture when you’re done. What a special gift that will be for Hope! Stick with it and just keep saying “baby steps” and “baby stitches” as you go. 🙂 Well done!

    • Carrie Talbott

      It was great, thanks! She hired me back a second time and will hopefully use us in the near future too. 🙂

  • Erin

    Baby steps well Carrie so want to thank you for this vivid picture and how relatable it is in my current situation. Moving across the country, starting business, making new friendships, church, and after one year still making baby steps. Moving into a new state tool adjustments but now this year developing relationships with the school, room parent. Wanting Remy to try a sport. Volunteer coach. Meet toddler moms go to a local park. Running a marathon not a 100 yard dash here. Just trying to building community so talked with a neighbor and we had a block party to get to know our neighbors pot luck style. Baby steps is what got us here in the first place to even make the move and O needed this reminder.

    • Carrie Talbott

      You’re in the thick of it, Erin! Thanks for your kind words. Good job making the effort and being the friendly one to go first! Baby steps, girl.

  • Janelle

    Recently I have been determined to slow down and take consistent small steps in the right direction, instead of looking for shortcuts or jumping in head first.

    This article was an entertaining and humorous encouragement in staying that course.

    Thank you for the read and for making it fun!

    Dear Jesus, Bless Carrie’s staging business. Give her wisdom and discernment and make it fun! Amen.

    • Carrie Talbott

      Great points, Janelle. Taking shortcuts and jumping in head first can be tempting but risky. Good job slowing down. Thanks for your kind words and prayer; I appreciate them!

  • Beth

    First of all, I love “What About Bob?” Second, I have a goal – more of a vision – that I’ve worked toward my whole adult life. It’s a biggie, so I’ve tried baby-stepping in several directions. My goal is to change the way we educate children in America to something more like Finland’s model. More compassion, more choice, and more connection to real life. Less punishment and competition, fewer mandated topics, and fewer abstract textbooks and worksheets. I can’t make this happen unless I leave teaching to become a politician! However, the Global Leadership Summit has been telling me for over two decades that I HAVE INFLUENCE. It turns out I do. And I’m not the only one fighting for it. We are all linking up on LinkedIn and spreading the message. I’m also writing on Medium. In my day job, I teach students the way I believe they deserve to be taught. I will keep looking for ways to share my vision.

    • Carrie Talbott

      Very cool, Beth! I love the models other countries have adopted and never understood why America couldn’t do the same. They say we’re one of the most powerful and educated countries in the world, but our test scores for kids aren’t even in the top ten? Loco. I have plenty of friends and family members who didn’t learn by listening and regurgitating. When are we going to stop testing everyone by making the fish climb trees? So glad to hear you have influence and are striving to do something about this problem. I’ll vote for you!


      Beth, you have a great vision of what our schools could and should be. The bigger the vision, the harder the implementation. May I suggest you take this to your local school board and encourage them to implement this in their district; maybe at a charter school in the district that doesn’t even exist yet. If you can get even one school to operate like this and the results are wildly successful, you will find it much easier to spread this throughout the district, then the state, and then nationally. You would make a great mentor teacher for the first school.