Startups are hard. There is so much to do and not enough time, money, or bandwidth to do it – or so it seems. Let’s face it, people feel the same way in the business world in general. From mom-and-pop shops to large corporations, cutting your teeth to get to the next level requires sacrifice, hard work and investment. It can be tough.
One of the toughest parts of it all is when we feel like we’re not making any progress or like we’re wasting our time – i.e. treading water. You know the feeling. You feel underpaid, maybe undervalued, and you think that the grass is greener on the other side. In other words, there are a thousand other jobs you could be doing and getting paid more for… and you’re right. There are a million ways to make money.
But that’s not why you do it. You do it because of a greater purpose. You do it for the love of building something. Something great.
Experts say you should have multiple streams of income, and I agree. In the same way, we should have multiple reasons for why we are pursuing something and multiple ways to support ourselves through that journey. Why? Because inevitably at some point times will get hard, and irrational thoughts will try to steer us off our path. This is usually when taking our own advice becomes the most difficult.
First, let's discuss the value in having multiple reasons for “why.” We all know that you need to believe in the big picture of where your business is headed. But what does that big picture let you accomplish? Challenge yourself to dig deeper and fully explore your purpose. Will it pour into your personal growth? Give you the money you need to afford a better lifestyle, to give back to family, and/or invest back into your company? Or will it help you positively impact your community and the world around you?
Give the answers to these questions some serious thought. Write them down and review them once a week. This will help you overcome that little voice in the back of your head trying to distract you when things get hard.
The next step is building support for yourself along the way. Think of three to five people that currently help you or could potentially help you in different areas of your life. These will be the people you call on when your future seems blurry and you begin to doubt yourself and your purpose..
Simple enough, right? Here’s a breakdown:
Step 1 – Have a plan.
As mentioned, you need to believe in the big vision of your business. But focusing on that too long and too often can do more harm than good. Here’ an alternative solution:
Write down your big vision, as well as, your 5 and 10-year plans and put them away. Bring these out about once a quarter to reignite your passion, and make sure you’re on the right path.
Next, write out your goals for the year ahead. Keep this one out and repeat it to yourself and your team weekly.
Lastly, and most importantly, break down your yearly goals into three-month increments. Keep this list out as well and talk about this with your team early and often. Remind yourself to stay present and to focus on what your company needs to accomplish in the next three months.
Similar to driving your car at night, you don’t need to know the curves in the road 50 miles ahead. Take things 250-feet at a time, letting your headlights guide you to where you need to go next.
Step 2 – Talk about your plan.
It’s time to turn to that list of people you believe can support you and start talking. More specifically you should share your big vision, your yearly goals, and most importantly, your three-month goals with them. Talking about the tasks you want to focus on and your overall purpose will not only help you stay on track, it will make you accountable. Sounds elementary, but this will change your life.
Step 3 – Share your successes and challenges.
There are many ways to be held accountable. I will let you decide which is right for you. Personally, I like to have conversations over the phone or at lunch. I check in with some people weekly, others monthly, and some quarterly. The goal with each conversation is to repeatedly verbalize your goals to those whom you respect and look up to – this is powerful. Tell them about your progress since you last spoke and about what challenged you most. Then ask for help and really listen.
For example, let’s say that you feel like you could be a better leader for your team. Share that concern and talk about why you feel that way. Chances are you aren’t the first person to experience these feelings. Being open, honest and upfront gives you the opportunity to work through these types of issues and mental blocks with other people who may have had similar experiences. Don’t be afraid to ask people for support and consistently lean on them as you build and grow a business.
When it’s all said and done, the grass is only greener where you water it.
So remind yourself why you are truly doing what you’re doing, take it 250-feet at a time, and let people who are far smarter and more experienced help you along the way.