When I originally wrote this post, I was months away from leaving everything behind to work as a nature lady at my children’s camp and then work at a local farm and nursery for the rest of 2014. During that time, I explored becoming a teacher, going back to work full time in a school district as a behavior analyst, and working at the farm full time. What sort of job change would help me find success?
In the end, I chose to give ABAC another go. I would have never believed it then, but success was not so far away. It just took me stepping away from it all for a bit to reevaluate what I wanted and what I was willing to do to make it happen.
Perhaps I am missing something, but in many published blog posts that tell me what successful business owners do every day that make them successful, I have trouble finding suggestions I can actually implement—the actionable items that say “do this.”
Wait, sorry… there are plenty of suggestions of what to do: I should accept failure, pick myself up, learn from mistakes, accept that fear is part of the process, try something new, and get plenty of sleep. Somehow, all of these things are supposed to lead to success.
Is this the way it is supposed to play out? Let’s imagine what this sort of advice would look like.
Initiate Dream Sequence…
Day 237. No new clients. I accept that I have failed. My current marketing efforts have not generated any new leads. I sit down on the floor and accept that fear is part of the process. I accept my fear, I let my fear wash over me, the fear eats into my stomach, my shoulders, my ears. During the anxiety attack I proceed to have on the floor, I realize I can’t pay the bills with failed attempts. I start to cry, my heart palpitates, I break into a cold sweat and begin to tremble. I glance at the piece of paper clutched in my white-knuckled fist: the list of things successful people do. Oh, that’s right… I’m supposed to confront my fears.
Curled up in a ball on the floor, I stare fear in the face, which, by the way, has taken the form of a dust bunny under my desk that I don’t have time to clean because I spend too much time accepting failure.
“Damn you fear, I will confront you!” I proclaim.
The evil fear bunny stares back at me daring me to back down. I won’t. I stare fear in the face for what seems like forever. Our staring contest continues until I remember the list of things I need to do daily to be a successful business owner. I give the evil dust bunny the stink eye, lie on my back, and reference my list.
Reflecting And Learning From Mistakes
For the next hour, I think of all the things I have tried to build this business. What did I do wrong? I eventually conclude there are simply too many potential mistakes. I might as well give up because who knows what will work and what won’t. I turn my head… the evil dust bunny is laughing.
Picking Myself Up and Trying Something New
My list tells me to pick myself up and try something new. I get up off the floor, glance at my watch, and notice it’s lunchtime. I check my phone, noting an alert from Gmail. Someone just published an article titled “Six things every small business owner must do.“ Perfect! I’ll read it during lunch and then try something new after I eat.
Hmm… the new article says I should get plenty of sleep. That makes sense. Come to think of it, I am utterly exhausted after following my list this morning. I think I will take a nap.
Dream Sequence Fade Out
Actionable Items From The Unsure Entrepreneur With a Long Way to Go
The behavior analyst in me tells me that it is time to let go of reflecting, accepting, and embracing. It is time to do. I am certainly not the first to say it, nor the last, but if I am not doing there is no way my business can succeed. It can’t be all due to “grit,” though. There is something to say about being joyfully productive (e.g., balancing achieving business goals while still living a richly reinforcing life).
1. Set clear and achievable goals and objectives for yourself daily.
Success is completing what I set out to do. Although we often focus on large long-term goals, we often need to give our attention to smaller tasks that help us succeed that day. Long-term success results from many “small” achievements. While we all have many things on our to-do list, lately we’ve been suggesting folks rethink this practice and create an “I did it” list instead.
2. Rewrite goals if they are not achievable in the time you set out to do them.
If you set out to do something that is not realistically achievable and you don’t do it, you have failed. Here’s something you could do instead: break down those tasks so you can complete parts of them over a longer period of time. Every day you succeed. Nice!
If you’re having trouble achieving your business goals, don’t forget that self-care goals are equally important. A happy and healthy you are capable of much more than a burned-out version of yourself.
3. Set aside specific social media time.
“Unproductive?” Sure. Are you doing it anyway? Yep. Give yourself unencumbered free access to social media two times a day for five minutes. Check-in, like, comment, post, and then move on. Do it for five minutes at a time. No less, no more.
4. Shut off social media apps on your phone.
These apps are designed to pull your attention away from other things and direct it towards your social media apps. This is just way too distracting. While working towards completing a task, we don’t want something like social media pulling your attention away.
5. Talk to successful small business owners in social situations.
Don’t be afraid to drop the “Boy, growing a business is tough. How do you deal with (insert frustrating issue here)” in conversation. You would be surprised how much you can learn from someone else while waiting for your kid at a birthday party.
6. Go home, write down the suggestions made by others, and implement them.
You won’t be able to put all those suggestions to good use on Monday morning, but if you break the suggestions down into achievable parts and add them to your daily list, you will end up implementing them.
Success is defined by what you do, not how you’ve “failed.”
And so, with that, I leave you to it. I will go and cross off “write a post” on my list (Update 2021: For posterity sake I kept “cross off” but I don’t do that anymore! In fact, I just added “Updated 7 things you can do post” to my I did it list!). Success! Then I am going to throw the evil dust bunny in the garbage. Because that is something I can do.
I come from a family of entrepreneurs and small business owners. My grandfather was a shoemaker and had his own shop, and my dad has owned his own businesses for over 40 years. My grandfather-in-law, father, and mother-in-law owned an appliance store in NYC. My husband owned his own recruitment firm by the age of 28. All of them experienced tough days, hard years, and individual failure, but all of them are/were successful because they woke up every day and did.