The reality of being an entrepreneur is that business will forever come in cycles. Some days your phone won’t stop ringing with opportunity, burying you in tasks and client needs. The next day you sit alone in silence, wondering if the phone is even working anymore. Feast or famine. All the time.
Especially when you’re just getting started or work on your own, the stresses of living a life of professional vulnerability and instability can be the breaking point for many courageous souls.
Trust me. I have been there….more times than I like to admit.
I’ve crashed and burned projects that I poured my heart and soul into. I’ve had times in my business when I couldn’t even GIVE MY WORK AWAY. I’ve had to juggle the last $10 between bank accounts to avoid over-drafting, and then had to have the always excruciating conversation with my husband about how things weren’t working (yet/still/again).
It’s crushing. Every single time.
In the beginning, we do our best to figure it out. We show up optimistically and tackle the steps that we think are ‘right.’ We strive to build a solid business that reflects what we value and the life we choose to create for ourselves. We do it all, believing that eventually, things will pay off.
But the harsh reality that very few people tell entrepreneurs is that making things work is really, really, REALLY hard. Running a business requires fearlessness, resiliency, intelligence, capability, and an unrelenting hunger to overcome the barriers to growth.
It requires you to take a journey that turns you into something better.
However, that journey can and will break you. It will challenge everything you thought about what you’re worth. It will make you question your own ability, intelligence, and value. The journey can absolutely bring you to your knees, shattering all preconceived notions of what you are actually capable of. But ironically, that’s the whole point. You’re meant to break.
All successful leaders are broken. It is out of the brokenness that the EXTRA-ordinary is born.
Real entrepreneurial success doesn’t come from playing it safe; it comes from doing what most other people are unwilling to do. You don’t ever make it to the highest peak without having to overcome the challenges of the climb. People follow those who demonstrate a higher level of courage, morale, aptitude, creativity, etc. But you have to EARN your way to a higher level.
The feast or famine is one of the first barriers to growth. The more you can rise above the stagnation, stop making it all about you, and instead focus on the opportunity to improve, the faster you will escape the vicious cycle. Instead, use the downtime to ask yourself the boldest/hardest questions possible:
- How am I standing in my own way?
- What am I NOT doing that would get me more connected with my market?
- What scares me the most? Why does it scare me? How do I finally face my fears and do it anyways?
- What can I do right now to get started?
As someone who is obsessed with the process of building aggressive strategies (I diagram in my sleep. No joke.), the dangerous misconception is that you can’t PLAN your way to success. A great strategy doesn’t do anything if it isn’t boldly executed. You have to CONNECT your way to success, and that requires always putting yourself out into the world in new and (sometimes) scary ways.
Especially during times of “famine,” it becomes too easy to isolate yourself even further. You lose your mojo, you question the efficacy of your message, you’re suddenly unsure of what to do next due to the encroaching feeling of defeat. Operating from the “scarcity mindset” will narrow your focus and shrink your energy. When you don’t have a lot of money it’s amazing how that then tends to trigger you to stop signing up for things, stop attending events, and stop staying active in your circles. Being broke makes you STOP everything, and then you wonder why your business won’t GO anywhere!
However, the painful irony is that staying present and relevant is ultimately what pulls you out of the slump. You can’t create opportunity or open new doors by staying small, and quiet, and safe. You have to move more, build momentum, and open yourself up to new possibilities.
New clients are born out of new relationships, but relationships can’t be nurtured in isolation. You have to step out and open yourself up to people.
So, when you’re finding yourself in the slow times, try to avoid sinking too deep into the abyss of isolation. Get out. Go to new events and force yourself to engage, even if your voice trembles and your business cards need to be updated. Re-engage with long lost connections and ask for help. Break outside of your comfort zone, learn something new, get out of your own head, and scale this darn barrier already!
Remember, the journey is hard for everyone. That’s the whole purpose.