I once wandered upon a book titled, "Caution: Soul Mate Ahead". The book went on to suggest that most people believe that a "soul-mate" is the fairytale lover that enters your life and ultimately brings with them the fairytale life.
In fact, the author continues to explain that although it's true that some soul-mates are delightful and bring great joy to your life, many times a soul-mate brings challenge and sometimes chaos and catastrophe. The hypothesis goes like this...
A soul-mate isn't so much about delivering a fairytale life, they're about teaching you an important life lesson or helping you to transform and transcend into a new, upgraded version of yourself.
Once the lesson is delivered and learned, that soul-mate leaves your life. "Leaving", from the spiritual sense, might come in the form of moving away, divorce, or even death.
It's an interesting hypothesis. Is it accurate? Honestly, I'm not sure, but I think it is a whole lot closer to reality than the prince or princess model of a "soul-mate". You know the one that we were taught as kids...find "the one" and then live an amazingly awesome life full of bunny rabbits, rainbows, and puppydogs.
Enter Your Business Soul-Mate...
This new definition of soul-mate fits nicely into our discussion on business and entrepreneurship. The title could be applied to entrepreneurs by rewriting it, "Caution: Self-Employment Ahead" or "Caution: Business Ahead".
As an entrepreneur we have a tendency to be optimists and I've heard on multiple occasions from business owners that if they knew how much time, effort, blood, sweat and tears it was going to take to get the business profitable, they never would have started.
It's true. When we start, we believe in the fairytale business, primarily because we read about successful entrepreneurs and almost never see the horrendous struggle and uncertainty that it took to get to the point of massive success.
I once saw a TV show where a guy found out that he had a son and was watching this young child for the first time when the kid suddenly comes down with a fever. Having no experience with raising kids, the new found father makes up a story in his head that the kid is dying and so he goes on a quest to get the child to the hospital.
Having no car, he starts running frantically down the street towards the hospital carrying his child, who has nothing but a slight fever.
Needless to say, the kid had a cold and the fever was nothing to worry about. When the mother comes to the hospital, the new dad talks about how afraid he was for his son and how he felt that he had already failed as a father. The mother then said in true sitcom fashion...
"Look, parenthood is nothing but a series of events where you think you've killed your kid."
If you're a parent, you know what I'm talking about. Having three kids myself, there have been numerous occasions when I thought my child was a goner whether it be a choking spell one of my kids had as an infant that was nothing more than reflux or another child somersaulting their way down a flight of stairs. A few childly tears and a fatherly heart attack later, the kid is just fine and playing like nothing happened.
That's how most businesses are...a series of events where you think you've bankrupted yourself.
After I earned my blackbelt in the martial art ninjutsu (yes, I am literally a ninja). We were training some defense against a knife attack and my instructor, a tough, ex-special forces guy, told the class...
"When you are defending against a knife attack, the goal is NOT to avoid getting cut...you're going to get cut, accepting that now will save you later. The real goal is to not die from a knife wound as you disarm the attacker."
Business is a lot like that...in the early stages of business your goal is to survive and limit the damage until you are able to fail your way to success. When you're starting out, we all suck at business, but it's ok to suck as long as you don't get mortally wounded in the battle we call business.
Successful Business Owners Are Big Failures
When you speak with high achievers in the business world, you start to notice something peculiar. They fail a lot AND they quit a lot, but they fail and quit differently than the general population...
Business successes fail a lot but they fail forward into learning. In their failure they transform into something different, something stronger, something better prepared for future opportunities.
If they sign a bad lease and ultimately waste thousands of dollars either paying too much per square foot or not demanding more in property build-out or free rent, they learn how to valuate a property and negotiate a better lease the next time. This then serves them when they move into a larger property later in their careers.
If they get hit with a huge tax bill, they learn how to get better tax breaks and set aside funds for the future and this serves them in better and bigger ways as they grow in success.
If they get into a bad business partnership that falls apart and leads to bankruptcy, they don't go out and find the same partner in a different body...they learn, grow, and DO things differently the next time.
Going back to our discussion on soul-mates. Sometimes a person will get into a bad and abusive relationship. Eventually they get out of that relationship and they find someone else just as bad, who abuses them as badly or worse.
This is an example of a lesson delivered but not learned or embodied. It leads to what author and psychologist Wayne Dyer called, "The turd that wouldn't flush. It just circles the bowl but won't go down."
That's what happens when you refuse to accept the lesson.
So, let's circle back to the title of the article and get to what you came here to learn...
On the surface, most entrepreneurs look like HUGE failures until they're not.
When I married my wife I told her not to marry me unless she was willing and ready to push our kids in a shopping cart on the streets of Baltimore. That was my attempt to prepare her for the uncertainty of marrying an ambitious entrepreneur.
Sure enough, shortly after we married I "discovered" that the person who managed my business had been hiding business debt from me and we were days away from defaulting on a $125,000 American Express bill...
Shortly thereafter, an ex-girlfriend from almost a decade earlier decided to sue me for custody of a condo that I purchased as an investment property and rented to her for cost. She claimed that she lived in the condo since I had purchased it and therefore it was hers and she was entitled to the equity. Of course I told her she was crazy and after a year and a half of legal fees the courts agreed with me and dismissed the case.
Life is uncertain already, add entrepreneurship to the uncertainty already baked into regular, everyday life and you get a life on par with a figurative bomb-squad career.
Prove Them Wrong!
So...your spouse doesn't believe in you. Your friends are telling you to get a job. Your father or mother wants you to get a nice, secure W2 with benefits...
It hurts. It hurts bad. In fact, one of the greatest forms of suffering I see among entrepreneurs is the feeling that people don't believe in them.
You're an entrepreneur though, and once you taste that life it's really difficult, if not impossible to become a W2 again. A butterfly can't turn back into a caterpillar just because you're flying outside the cover of the weeds and in a new kind of danger.
If we're being honest, as dangerous as it is to paint your wings beautiful colors that scream "hey look at me, here's I am, come and eat me" and fly outside the cover of the weeds, would you really want to go back to being a caterpillar in the dirt?
Nah, that's not for me. It's not for you. I've got nothing against being a caterpillar, after all, the caterpillar is probably pretty happy because it has never tasted the sky. I'm just no longer a caterpillar and I couldn't go back to the dirt even if I wanted to...
...and if I did, the world would suffer. The world needs what I have to give AND the world needs what YOU have to give.
So, here we are. Butterflies in a world of caterpillars who are screaming for us to come back to the dirt, beneath the weeds where it's safe. What do we do when no one else believes in us?
We use it.
When I was 12 years old, I told my mom that I wanted to start taking martial arts. She said to me, "Ray, you said you wanted to learn piano, you quit. Then it was guitar, you quit that too. You're going to quit this too."
I knew that this was different because I was HIGHLY motivated because I had discovered girls, and I thought if I know how to fight like the karate movies of the 80's then girls would discover me too.
So, I convinced her to give me one more chance, I told her if I don't see this through I'll NEVER ask you for anything again, and four years later I got my blackbelt. Side note...it turns out martial arts do NOT impress girls.
The point is, when the motivation is big enough you stop failing and you start transforming. It's what Daymond John calls "The Power Of Broke" and what the ancient Spaniard, Cortes, called "Burning The Boats" before he took his small, inferior, now highly-motivated force of 600 and slaughtered the poor Aztecs.
When I ask a coaching client to invest in coaching, I am happy when they have to stretch to afford it because I know they're all in, I know they're dedicated and ready to jump into coaching and start accomplishing their goals.
Some time ago, my wife and I were considering purchasing a house and so she got in touch with the VP of a local bank and he asked what I did for work to which she replied, "He's a pharmacist."
He continued, "Oh! I have a friend who is pharmacist, he does very well. Where does your husband work?" She replied, "He's self-employed."
"Oh, that's interesting, how much does he make?" She replied, "$50,000 a year." He was shocked, and said, "Why does he under-employ himself? He could be making so much more money."
As my wife told me the story, I could hear in her voice that she was embarrassed by the incident and embarrassed by me and my failures.
She proceeded to go into a monologue about how I could get a job as a pharmacist in a retail pharmacy and provide more to our family in a W2 and I could do the "business thing" on the side.
She felt that being a business owner was not living up to my potential. What I heard was, "Put this caterpillar suit on for most of the day, then when you get home you can take it off a fly for a bit."
She wasn't wrong though. I didn't blame her for wanting more security. I wasn't contributing as much as she was financially, I was stressed by the difficulties of running a business with little payout. I simply couldn't contribute more. I was complacent. We were not uncomfortable. We lived in a great house. The kids went to the best school. We were paying the bills. She had a good job...
If you remember anything from this article remember this...
The enemy of success is ambiguity. Ambiguity leads to lack of motivation to focus on important things. This leads to stagnation.
When you feel comfortable, you just won't have the motive to do the uncomfortable things that grow you and your business. Uncomfortable comes in many forms, it can be scary, painful or it can simply be boring.
A lot of business owners that I have the pleasure of coaching are in a pridicament simply because they don't have the motivation to do the boring stuff that actually moves the business forward.
As a life and business coach, the most important thing I do is force people out of their comfort zone. In fact, the best definition of a coach is "A coach gets you to do what you don't want to do so that you can be the person that you want to be."
A lot of our work together is in getting crystal clear about what you want and then uncovering what steps you have been procrastinating on because they are simply too uncomfortable to start without support.
Look, the best solution to doubting minds is to prove their worries and concerns wrong. You do that by taking action on what you don't want to do so that you can become the success that you want to become.
It's a hard pill to swallow, that's why we burn the boats. If we don't burn the boats, and cut off all other options, we will never be all in. We'll retreat back to the comfort of our ordinary life at the first sign of discomfort.
Sadly, when others don't believe in us, we start to doubt ourselves even more which can lead to a phenomenon called "Imposter Syndrome". This imposter syndrome then makes progress more difficult!
Here's a brief video I made to help you bust through the plateau when you're suffering from self-doubt: