Sometimes being an entrepreneur is actually really easy. Things just sort of roll in. You just get clients and you do jobs and you send invoices and they pay you and you have a beer and you post a testimonial and everything is really great.
Sound familiar? Yeah. I didn’t think so.
I don’t know many entrepreneurs who would identify with the above statement. But there’s an interesting thing that I see when I’m talking to entrepreneurs or when I’m reading their posts on whatever medium; people act like everything is going great. And I don’t know why.
A couple of days ago I received an email from an entrepreneur that I respect immensely. She’s the CEO of a platform designed to mentor and support women entrepreneurs. These are entrepreneurs that are more likely, statistically, to be successful because they have a woman on their co-founding team but are less likely to be VC funded…for the very same reason. Don’t get me started.
In any case, the email I received from her was startling and eye-opening and powerful. In it, she told the story of the struggles she was currently facing with her start-up. She needed users. Those who’d used the platform had found great success but there simply hadn’t been enough people sign up. She’d done everything right and she’d worked her ass off and now she was basically saying, “it’s do or die.”
But it wasn’t the first 5 minutes of the video contained in that email that struck me. It was the last few seconds. It was here that she said, “whatever happens, I know I’m going to be fine and I’m never going to stop.”
Over the past 5 years, there’ve been a million times where I’ve thought, “what am I doing? Is this working? Can I do this?” We’re taught to seek the comfort of government jobs (that are getting cut left, right and center) and union jobs (that are having their rights to negotiate stripped away) because we need that “security.” And sometimes, the wheels have fallen off. But this isn’t a post about how to fail. This is a post about what to do next.
You might know that in addition to running OneRedCat, I’m a full-time stay at home dad. My son is in school now but I spend most of my day hanging out with my 2-year-old daughter. It’s enlightening. And early on I learned a secret. I call it the reset button.
By the time my kids are finished with our living room play area, it looks like a war zone. It looks like My Little Pony went on a bender and threw up Lego and Play-Doh. It’s a crime scene. But each night I do something that changes everything. I reset the whole thing. I clean slate it. I start over. Everything goes it its right place. The floor becomes bare. And then the next day the kids get up and destroy it all over again. So, if they keep destroying it, why do I keep fixing it?
Simple. They ruin it better when it’s clean. Huh? I’ll explain.
When the kids get up and there is a half-played game of Sorry on the floor and a half-destroyed replica of Moana’s home island of Montonui beside it the kids think, “well, our work here is done. Better go destroy something else.” Being an entrepreneur is not much different.
Usually, there’s something in that mess that we need to play with. Something we need to tweak or pivot or hack. But we can’t see it. Because it’s a mess. So instead we turn our attention elsewhere. If our marketing plan didn’t work, we need to focus on our marketing plan, not re-examine our MVP. At least not at first. Starting with a clean slate, looking at patient zero gives us insight on what we need to do next.
The last few months have been hectic for me. I’ve helped run two very successful conferences. I’ve grown my client list exponentially. I’ve written more content, for more sources, than I have in the past year. My problem (and also advantage) is that I pour so much of myself into my work that when I’m done, I feel like I’m going to pass out. And I’ve learned something very important over the past couple of years.
Passing out is not the worst thing in the world.
I intentionally pass out whenever one of two things happen.
The first is when I’ve completed a project that was particularly draining. Yesterday I taught two master classes at an entrepreneurship conference the day after leading a group of realtors through a social media boot camp and last night I didn’t do ANYTHING. NOTHING. SQUAT.
We try to hold on to what we’re coming out of and that can be really hard on the next thing. Don’t hold on to your past mistakes. They’re done. And don’t rest on your laurels. They’re useless. Take your time and focus on every single project you’re working on.
The second is when I have failed. And if you’re trying hard enough, there’s a good chance you’re going to fail. Failure is NOT the end of the world. I’m not one of those people who believe that you learn much through failure. I think if you launch a company and it fails, you learn that that particular company was a failure. It doesn’t mean that YOU are a failure.
So when I’ve failed at something (it happens) I hit that reset button that I talked about earlier. I clean up. I look at a blank piece of paper. This is what I mean when I talk about intentionally passing out. It’s hitting the reset button. It’s walking away.
The point of all this is that running your own business, starting your own thing, going your own way is hard and sometimes you’re going to feel like an absolute screw up. Sometimes you’re going to feel like you’ve made every wrong turn that you could ever imagine. And in those moments, you need to remember two things.
You are in a big boat with a lot of really great people.
Whatever happens, you’re going to be fine and you’re never ever going to stop.
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