Wednesday, 17 February 2010

#9: Scrap that...

Throughout Jan/Feb I've been posting the "12 entrepreneurial lessons I learnt from 2009" series.

Installments so far: Introduction,
Lesson : #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8

So here's the thing;
my original idea for this ninth lesson .. isn't working out.

I'm getting frustrated, losing enthusiasm for the message and tangling my trains of thought. Deadlines for other tasks are looming as I tweak and re-write, yet I don't feel like I'm getting any closer to a breakthrough.

I figure I have two (arguably three) choices; I could persevere with the original idea and hope that a bit more time and effort will yield something I am happy with, (I could just post what I have in a form I'm dissatisfied with) or I could acknowledge that it is simply not going to work out this time and move on to something else.

We're often reluctant to move on from our original ideas.
Not completing something you set out to do can sometimes feel like failure, so we we resolutely stick at it until the bitter end; stubbornly meeting the goals we said we would no matter that the match is now being played on the adjacent pitch.

Stopping mid way through a novel you don't like, turning the car around as soon as you know you're lost, abandoning the initial idea for this blog post, moving on from a business idea which has proved non-viable.. Whatever the scenario, where there is time and effort to be lost in pushing through but little or nothing to gain, the way to fail isn't by productively moving on but by either: wasting your time seeing the unnecessary activity to completion or wasting the time you saved having wisely decided to move on.

There is frankly no benefit to expending resources, be that time, effort or money, on activities that will bring you no reward. Knowing when to cut your losses and roll with a new idea is vital. I decided not to continue working on my draft post because I'd tied my arguments into knots and it would have taken me hours to work though it. This has taken 15 mins and left me free to attack my ever growing flagged email list.

I recognise that it isn't always as simple as putting down a book or re-writing a blog post but, hard as it may be, sometimes the only good decision is to "scrap that" and move on.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

#8: A speaker of words and a doer of deeds.

Throughout Jan/Feb I've been posting the "12 entrepreneurial lessons I learnt from 2009" series.

Installments so far: Introduction,
Lesson : #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7

It is very easy to possess intent.

I, for example, intended to post this installment on Friday 5th. I intended to learn Hindi last year, and I intend to get 8 hours sleep tonight. For all that it matters I may also intend to run a marathon next year despite being, at best, a 10k kinda girl. That's the great thing about our day to day goals and decisions, as long as they sit clogging up our mental 'to do' lists, they needn't obey the pesky rules of time and space.

Our aims can be unreasonable, unachievable, you may wholeheartedly intend to do the impossible. It's for exactly that reason that good intentions can, all too easily, become a dangerous form of self deception holding us back. Intention protects us from dealing with the action and most of us 'intend' too freely.

Intent doesn't climb mountains or build businesses. Actions do.

An entrepreneur is a do-er above all else. Even the word "entrepreneur" derives from the French 'entreprendre' which means 'to undertake'. Everybody has ideas, lots of people talk abut them, entrepreneurs act on them.

I'm not saying it's simple, despite my intentions the facts are: I'm uploading this on Thurs 11th of Feb, meri Hindi kucch khaas nahi hai and I haven't come close to 8 hours sleep in a single block in... well.. a while. My actions mismatch my intent. It's something I am actively working on, but it is still, literally, 'easier said than done'.

The hardest thing to do is to bridge that gap between intent and action. Harder still if you're setting yourself unreasonable goals.

Setting realistic goals and acting on them is a far more satisfying and worthy endeavor than perpetually speaking about achieving the near-impossible. Just look at some of the most admired people on the planet; people who achieved magnificent, heroic acts of justice, triumph and overcoming adversity but did so day by day, action upon action. I doubt they set out intending to become heroes, rather that each small action was simply heroic.

I defer to Homer on this one (no, not the yellow one) and the 3rd Pillar of the Heroic Code as told to Achilles by his Father In the Iliad:
“be both a speaker of words and a doer of deeds."

Don't just tell me you're an entrepreneurial superhero. Show me.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

#7: Be an emotional starfish.

Throughout Jan/Feb I've been posting the "12 entrepreneurial lessons I learnt from 2009" series.

Installments so far: Introduction,
Lesson : #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6

Almost needfully, most people starting a business vastly underestimate how much it will cost, how long it will take and (assuming you make it that far) how audaciously difficult and achingly lonely the path to success is going to be.

It's an exercise in trial and error, which means you've got to try & you’re going to fail and it's going to happen a lot.

On a fairly regular basis people are going to tell you that you're wrong. You are wasting your time. All the sleepless nights, skint months, anxiety attacks and nerve wracking pitches are for nothing. At times it'll seem, and probably be true, that you work harder, for longer, and for less material reward than your peers. Moreover, when they switch off on a Friday evening, or for two weeks in August, you'll still have half a mind on work and one hand on the smartphone. You'll begin to wonder if your passion for the project has clouded your judgement and maybe the rational thing to do is wind it down. You may even, god forbid, consider making that antipodean step into .. ‘traditional’ employment.

And I admit, I do have moments, whole minutes even, where I wish I had taken a more conventional option; gotten a stable job with regular hours and a wage that arrived, in my bank account, each month. Found a nice house with a manageable mortgage, taken yearly holidays to destinations you can buy guide books for..

Enter the casual supporter. Worse, perhaps, than the doubters - the casual supporter will appear every so often to get your hopes up, tell you your enterprise has promise, a product that will fly off the shelves, and though they cannot personally help (though they'd love to of course) you've got to 'just hang in there.' Which, as we all know, is easier said than done.

Meanwhile, you've got to retain critical faculties, keep working on and, no, you're not allowed to let it drag you down.

Blessedly, one of the things which distinguish entrepreneurs from the rest of the working world is their wonderful ability to tie a neat tourniquet around each wounding disappointment and ride right back into battle as if unscathed. It never ceases to amaze me, the strength we can find and the odd places we find it, how often we'll lose it, stress-test it to breaking point and (seemingly irreparable) find it intact again when we need it most.

True entrepreneurs are emotional starfish, seemingly endlessly regenerative.