I had an interesting encounter recently, with a lady I will call Frieda.
Frieda is a young, single mother, who started her own business towards the end of last year. Frieda is immensely talented doing her thing, but was beginning to suffer with low morale, as she has not yet reached the levels of success she desires, whilst simultaneously being thwarted by a myriad of life's challenges.
As a single mother, with a child home during a half term school holiday, Frieda was frustrated at being unable to focus on her work sufficiently, which would ideally be creating an income. In fairness, there were a number of additional factors in play, but the essence of the problem was Frieda felt she was somehow failing, and considering giving it all up to find a job. This is an all-too-common scenario with the self-employed, and particularly so with the newly self-employed.
There is a common misconception amongst many, that the decision to become self-employed automatically opens the gates of success; quick success at that. Like your name appears on some mystical list, and abundance immediately and effortlessly begins to flow in your direction. This is a pet gripe of mine, and I often remark to my mentees (semi-flippantly), how the first ten years in business are the hardest, because budding entrepreneurs need to realise the likelihood of this reality. Of course there are some start-ups who achieve significant lift-off within ten years, but they are in the minority. My mum was a huge fan of Jane McDonald, who often referred to her fifteen year overnight success. An accurate assessment of starting out on your own is defined by this well known proverb:
An entrepreneur will work 80 hours a week, so they don't have to work 40 hours a week
So many people assume being self-employed is a licence to print money, that you're able to take all the time off you like (on a whim), and have no one to answer to; no boss to bust your balls. Wrong. Once you go out on your own, your clients, investors and - where appropriate - your children and family, become your "boss", as they are who you're now answerable to. And I'll tell you something else for free; the pressure and sense of responsibility to put food on the table and shoes on your children's feet, is far more powerful and overwhelming than any (tyrannical) boss may have imposed on you. Your focus and hunger to find and win the next sale/client/contract will be - has to be - intense, which is why being an entrepreneur isn't for everyone. Some people rise to the challenges, whilst others shrink away from them, and that's fine. None of us have the same drives, ambitions or priorities. We must all be true to ourselves.
For those of you rising to the challenge of running your own business, you must have passion for doing your thing, because when the days are long, the debts are high; when your energy is low and your definition of success is still a way off, it will be your passion that sustains you and keeps you moving forward. Often, being an entrepreneur is a lonely space to inhabit, as to be successful, you need to sacrifice the things others will not sacrifice, to eventually have what others will not have. If it was easy, everyone would be able to do it, but only those with the "Entrepreneur's Chromosome" do. You must be prepared to work those 80 hours with passion, to avoid working the soulless 40 hour week for someone else. During those long days when you feel like you're getting nowhere, because it's half term (again!), the kids are playing up and you're thwarted at every thwartation, just remember why you started, dig deep and persevere.
To help keep your focus during the frequent and numerous "f**k this for a game of soldiers" moments of your entrepreneurship, create a vision board, and place it somewhere highly visible; like right in front of your desk - even the downstairs loo, if that's where you go to retreat and think. Add photos, images and specific (technical) specifications of the things you want from your life, i.e.: the reason(s) you are putting yourself through the 80 hour weeks. These could be pictures of the house, car and holidays you want, and/or they could be a representation of the family and children you wish to have, or the weight you want to lose, or the fitness you want to strengthen. Do you wish to achieve high office, or gain a qualification? If so, create a mock-up of your eventual degree/diploma, or have a photograph taken of you outside the building you wish to preside over one day. Don't forget, PhotoShop is a wonderful tool if security is an issue for the building you wish to gain access to one day. Don't let anything stop you, there is always a way. Likewise, if you're seeking material wealth, write yourself - or an imaginary car dealership/house builder - a cheque for a huge sum of money, and pin that to your board.
I have often written about the principles of structural tension - the process in which your subconscious mind works tirelessly to reduce the gap between your ambitions and your current reality. By creating a vision board, and keeping it in plain sight, you will be fuelling your structural tension (a good thing) on a daily basis, helping to bring your dreams to fruition, whilst continually stoking your passions. There is little else on earth more powerful than stoked passion and defined intent; it's the only thing that ever truly gets anything done.
Another point worth making here, and I return to Frieda's frustration, is this. When you are thwarted by the likes of school holidays, writer's block, illness, inclement weather, travel disruptions - whatever - don't fight it: accept it and use it to your advantage. What you resist persists. If, for example, you have writer's block, what earthly benefit will there be in continuing to sit at your desk, pressurising yourself to come up with the next line of text? All you're doing here is inviting the Negative Self-Talk Gremlins to come out and play, and we all know my policy on Negative Self-Talk! By sitting there, refusing to accept you are temporarily blocked, you are resisting the challenge, and therefore prolonging it's influence over you. You can only spiral down from there. Get out and commune with nature, laugh with a friend, go and see a movie - give yourself a break!
Sometimes it is better to accept you have less creative/productive days than others. Sometimes your mind, body and spirit need to replenish and rest which, after all, is just as important and valuable as working hard. If you really are working 80 hours a week, it makes sense that you're going to need to relax, rest, decompress and replenish your energy. To override your basic need to rest and recharge, is simply a shortcut to burnout, which ultimately equals a false economy. Sometimes the Universe will intervene and serve you with a big dollop of thwartation, precisely to make you rest; but YOU have to be aware of, acknowledge and honour the signs. It's up to you. It's always up to you.
YOU HAVE THE ENTREPRENEUR'S CHROMOSOME IF...
You are prepared to sacrifice what others will not sacrifice, to have what others will not ultimately have. You will choose to work 80 hours with passion, to avoid working a soulless 40 for someone else.
You have the passion to sustain you throughout the thwartations of life, as you WILL be tested to see how much you want it - as much to show and convince you, as anyone else. Handy Karan Hint: when life throws you a curve ball, stand up, shoulders back, smile and tell life that it throws like a bitch!
You never underestimate the power and potential held within the restorative properties of rest, relaxation, decompression and the replenishment of your energy. For example: if I gave you a high performance car, and told you to drive from Portsmouth to Inverness as fast as you could, with all the whiz bang gadgets you could ever hope to have, BUT you were not able to stop for petrol at any time - how far would you get?
If you had a (legal!) money printing press, you would ensure it was serviced and maintained to the highest order, wouldn't you? You would want nothing to come between the machine printing the money you wanted. Well, that machine is you, so you must ensure you work, rest, play, eat and sleep not just well, but very well, otherwise you will grind to a halt with an enforced stoppage of some kind.
That's all for today folks, I'm off to rest my exhausted metaphors. Good luck and have a "value-full" day, whatever you're doing.
PS: I know "thwartation" and "value-full" are not real worlds, but I choose to use them anyway. I laugh in the face of lexicography!