Pushing Past the Wall with Laurin Thienes
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You can read every business book until you’re blue in the face, but what happens when that isn’t enough, when you are stuck in a rut while just starting out, or, worse, stuck at a plateau after establishing your business? Here are five ways you can push past what seem like your limits.
As a small business owner, you have to know when to be risk-averse. Taking risks is what got you to this point. But if you feel like you are in a rut or reached a plateau in your business, you may have stopped taking risks. You’ve started to take the easy way out. You focus on what you know, and you do things with the mantra “That’s how I’ve always done it.”
News flash: If you are not taking calculated risks, you are no longer growing. You are complacent, and someone is going to steal your lunch money. So what causes complacency and this apprehension to risk? The simple answer is: fear of failing.
There should be memes of me as the poster child of failure. Failure is normal, natural, inevitable. You are going to fail. Period. Once you have accepted your future failure, you can focus on moving forward. Dedicate your time and energy to making sure you do not fail at the same thing twice. This requires you to be both introspective and forward thinking.
No business is perfect. There are always things that can be improved, like process, automation, service, product. Each change is seeped in the prospect of failing. That means change equals risk. You can overcome this fear by thinking through what is required to make the change. Determine on a scale of 1 to 10 how bad things really would be if you did fail. Your irrational idea that the world is coming to an end is probably realistically a 2 or 3 on the chart if your idea fails.
When you feel stuck, where do you turn? For many, it’s social media, but that often turns into venting about how tough things are rather than providing you with real, true inspiration. If you have an issue that challenges your creativity, make a list of creative brands and individuals you can look to for inspiration. If you have challenges with your business skills, look to those outside your field who have solid business skills. I find the most useful information in small chunks. Trying to read a book often puts me to sleep. I prefer to read ideas and comments from business leaders about how they do things, where they find inspiration, how they focus on important aspects of life or just what makes them tick. Can you take away just one small piece of advice and use that as the stepping stone to help you move forward?
There comes a time in business when you are not in a position where you don’t feel you need to be risk-averse or fear failure. Instead, you’re in a position of complacency, and, dare I say, boredom. This is an ugly place to be. And it might just be time to look inward. Maybe it is time to reinvent your business. Are you doing the same things everyone else is doing? Are you priced the same way?
If you feel like your business is no longer unique, it is time to change. It might be a minor change or a shift toward something different altogether. Change is okay. What is the worst that can happen when you reinvent a part of your business? Chances are the worst that can happen likely won’t, and even if it does go sideways, it likely won’t be remotely as bad as you thought it could be. And this brings me to my last point: quitting.
Many people over the course of the entrepreneurial rollercoaster get burned out. It is hard work to be successful. Friendships lost. Relationships destroyed. Stress-related sickness. The list goes on. If you are at the end of your rope and you feel helpless in your business, you have to quit. I don’t mean quit your business (although given certain circumstances, you may want to).
I mean quit the things in your life that you can quit. If a relationship is holding you back, cut ties. If a day job is holding you back from pursuing your passion, cut ties. Maybe what you need to quit is smaller, less obvious. Quit the things in your life that are holding you back from realizing your dreams and success, distractions be damned.
Every business owner goes through phases of self-doubt. Getting stuck can be a stroke of luck. I have used each point above to further my business.
I’ll leave you with a short story. I was presented with a remarkable opportunity, something that fell out of thin air, but it was risky. The risk factor was through the roof. This opportunity easily could have bankrupted me had it all gone sideways. But I calculated it closely and carefully. I made sure to pro/con it.
I knew that if I failed, the likelihood of total catastrophe was less than 10 percent. So I jumped. But I had to face failures. But are failures really that negative? I had to focus on those failures as educational opportunities. Reinventing who I was required me to quit certain aspects of my life. This was not easy. In fact, to this day, it has resulted in some of the hardest life lessons I’ve ever learned.
Luckily, utter catastrophe did not result. The risk paid dividends. At the end of the day, you can’t look back in self-pity. You can only look back in an effort to grow, learn and become better for it.