I woke up in a cold sweat, kicking myself for making what seemed like the biggest mistake of my life. A month before I had been patting myself on the back because I had finally done it: I Quit My Job to Find My Life’s Work. But now? Now reality was setting in and it was scary. No. Not scary. Absolutely terrifying.
The business I had dreamed of was moving along with glacial slowness. I was beginning to lose my cool, teetering on the verge of full-out panic mode. How was I going to pay my mortgage? Would I have to find another job? What would happen to my family? Would my dream survive?
Though figuring out what to do took longer than I wanted, the lessons I learned during the next two years shaped my life and changed the way I view the world. So how did I keep the dream alive?
Listen and hear. Instead of simply listening to my clients, I allowed myself to truly hear their stories. I let myself be moved by their words, and I began to care for those I encountered. I took note of what people wanted from life and evolved my teachings to serve those ends. What are customers and employees saying, and what are they saying without speaking a word? What do they like about your offerings? What can you change to better serve your customers or clients?
Remember joy. Struggling isn’t fun, but you can and must find joy in the pursuit of your dreams. When my negativity got the best of me, clients could see it—and their observation of my misery hurt business. I had to take a step back and remember why I was doing this, refocus my efforts on service and fall in love again. Remembering that helped me stay positive and enjoy the work.
Take a break. The best ideas don’t come from staring at a computer screen. Go for a walk, run or something else you enjoy. Take time away from work to find your work. You can’t order great ideas on-demand.
Reinvent. Netflix disrupted the movie rental market by offering DVD-by-mail, a model that couldn’t last after internet streaming exploded the market. So what did Netflix do? They reinvented and went to online streaming. And when they couldn’t convince studios to license great online content…they created their own. No longer a House of Cards, Netflix successfully reinvented themselves. There may be times when you need to reinvent—just don’t lose your purpose in the process.
Fall…and Rise Again. How far are you willing to fall in order to rise back up? Are you feeling like you hit rock bottom? Good. That means you no longer have anything to lose. Now GET UP, let go and try the things you’ve been too scared to do before. Successful entrepreneurs are the ones who fell many times but somehow found the strength to get back up and keep their dream alive. Need a little inspiration? Read J.K. Rowling’s story.
Partner Up. I don’t think I would have survived the first 5 years without a great partner. Business partnerships are often challenging but if you find the right person, they can provide an infusion of energy, resources and inspiration. Seek out a partner with complementary skill sets to your own. Ben alone is not enough; we need Jerry on board to find the sweet spot. 10 Super Successful Cofounders
Negative to Positive. “You’ll never make this work. You’re doomed to fail.” I’ll never forget these words from an industry professional who came to visit my business. It was disappointing indeed but it made me that much more determined to succeed. Transform negative energy into the positivity that drives you forward.
Mastery. While working for a project services firm back in my corporate days, we often described candidates as “a mile wide and an inch deep”—meaning they knew a little bit about everything but nothing in-depth. We didn’t hire generalists, we hired specialists. Whatever you do, be a master at it.
Ask for Help. You are not alone in your pursuit. You have friends, family and clients who want to see you succeed. I want to see you succeed! Don’t be shy about asking for help when you need it, and be prepared to support others on their journeys when the roles are reversed.
There will be times when we question our decisions, when we want to throw in the towel. It is at these times that we often find our greatest breakthroughs. This is your life’s work—don’t give up!