The Scream Machine & Entrepreneurship
As a child, I loved Six Flags. Being from Alabama, my dad would load up my sister and me to make the trek to Atlanta, GA, the closet Six Flags to us. During those dog days of summer, Atlanta definitely earned its nickname Hotlanta. But, we didn't care. We loved the rides (and the food! It only cost my dad $50 for 3 hot dogs and 3 small drinks. Money well spent. Right?)
Of all of the rides, the Great American Scream Machine held a special place in my amusement-park heart. It's a wooden roller coaster with a patriotic, terrifying theme. I loved it!
Recently I have spent a lot of time in Atlanta, sadly not riding the Scream Machine, though. But my time in that city has made me reminisce of the glory days--riding roller coasters at Six Flags with my dad and sis up front and me with some random stranger behind them. Fun (and a little awkward)!
The more I thought about roller coasters, the more I started to liken them to this wild, crazy ride of entrepreneurship that I am currently on.
Scary. Exciting. Adventurous. Thrilling. Full of ups and downs.
Entrepreneurship is a roller coaster ride. No ifs, ands, or buts about it for this ole girl.
One moment you are eeking up that tall hill, slowly making gains, seeing progress, and anticipating the crest. You have your hands raised high, a big smile on your face, and screaming your head off in anticipation for the excitement to come.
You meet with a friend and bounce off ideas for products. You share your work with someone who really needed it. You gain 6 new followers on Instagram in one day. (Hey, cut me some slack. I am new to any social media so 6 new people following me is a big deal. The small things must be celebrated!)
The next moment you are racing down the hill at a speed that is very uncomfortable, your breath is sucked from your lungs all the while your head is bouncing like a ping pong ball against the "protective" harness. You are suddenly wondering why you are on this ride at all.
You email several people to ask for opportunities to work with them, and you hear nothing back. (Even a "no" would be better than hearing nothing.) You reflect honestly with yourself and admit that your 6 new followers only total a resounding 34 followers. And you realize that any product you create now, no matter how remarkable, probably won't sell because, once again...you only have 34 followers.
So, this entrepreneurial thing...adventure...disaster...ride...whatever you call it is a roller coaster. One moment you are doing this thing. The next moment, you suck. For me, that cycle of emotions happens about every 24 hours (and that is on a stable day!). I am being totally honest here because I am betting I am not the only one to experience these feelings and similar situations.
Ways to Combat the Downs of Entrepreneurship
1. Write down a success...no matter how small. If it made you feel good about your business, it is a success! Writing something down is not a new suggestion by any stretch of the imagination. But, it is one we often nod our heads at and keep moving. Or, we think to ourselves, "I should do that." Then, we forget.
Keep post-its in your computer bag or wherever you work. That way it is convenient to quickly jot down a success and place it somewhere VISIBLE.
Visibility is a key as well to this suggestion. When I was teaching elementary school, I encouraged children to learn their multiplication facts by writing the problem AND the answer on index cards. And when we sang or chanted the facts, we said the whole problem and the answer. (Example: 7 x 4 = 28) I also suggested placing difficult facts around the house and classroom so the brain read the fact AND the answer together. That way, when 7 x 4 crept into the brain on a test or a larger problem, the brain automatically supplied 28. It had been conditioned to do so.
For an entrepreneur, when negative thoughts creep into (or storm!) the brain, positive thoughts like your successes become an automatic response when you place written notes of affirmations around you.
2. Listen to music that keeps you moving forward. This is not an earth-shattering tip, but it is a game changer on tough days. The right song gets you up dancing, singing at the top of your lungs, or connected again to your Heavenly Father (or all three). Music truly is good for the soul.
One of my favorite lines right now is from Pink's song Just Like Fire. Second verse starts, "People like to laugh at you because they are all the same." Let's be reaaaal honest here. One of the biggest reasons we begin to feel down in the entrepreneurial adventure is we don't like to look dumb in front of family, friends, and acquaintances. (Preachin' to myself right here!)
Yet, if we are ever going to get noticed and make money, we have to tell people we are in biz. Which means we are bound to be laughed at and talked about along the way. This line in the song reminds me--Let people laugh. They don't know my heart...what I am trying to do. Those laughing often are the ones playing it safe. You and I, on the other hand, are going for it.
A line in the chorus of her song says, "No one can be just like me anyway." Oh...how true, my friend. Find some good music, turn it up loud, and keep moving forward. No one can do your business anyway. ;)
3. Read The Tortoise and the Hare. Dave Ramsey tells a great story of meeting with a man years ago who he really admired. Dave wanted to pick his brain about what books Dave should be reading to grow his own company. His mentor quickly remarked The Tortoise and the Hare.
Of course I laughed as I am sure other listeners did when he shared this story. Fast forward a few years, I am now reading this fable to my 5-year old and 3-year old. Every time I am struck by the truth of this tale. It applies to starting a business, to losing weight, to meeting an athletic goal, to building relationships, to raising children, to growing closer to our Heavenly Father, to almost anything.
Slow and STEADY wins the race. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Keep learning, growing, walking, talking, and doing. Eventually you look behind and are amazed at how far you have come and over all sorts of terrain...some easy to navigate and some not.
Seriously, if you don't have a copy of the book, purchase it, keep it close by, and read it often. It is the shortest self-help book out there.
4. Talk to yourself. You know what I mean. Not the ranting in public places that gets the cops called and you hauled to a hospital. But, the positive things you say to yourself when situations get tough.
My mantra right now--You have to start somewhere.
Rach, you don't gain 10K Instagram followers just because you finally (after years of avoiding it) joined one of the most saturated social media platforms in the world. You have to start somewhere, Rach, and 30 is a good start. Baby Girl, you don't get 4,000 people on your email list just because you wrote what you thought was a rousing post. You have to start somewhere, Baby Girl, and one is a good (albeit) slow start. Rachie-Pooh, you don't get to speak at every event you want just because you got the gumption to email the coordinator. You have to start somewhere, Rachie-Pooh, and having the courage to actually send the email is a good start.
Choose your own mantra and say it. When rough times hit your biz and ego, say it over and over again. Say it when you are talking with a for-real person and in your shower speeches. (We all make great speeches in the shower, only some of us admit to them, though.)
A positive mantra changes your mindset and keeps you focused on moving forward.
Ways to Combat the Ups of Entrepreneurship
1. Cling to the Cross. Remember that God has blessed you. Give Him the glory in your business and keep working in His service. Stay humble so there is room for more blessings. Christy Wright says that if your dream can be achieved by you alone and doesn't require God, then you aren't dreaming big enough. Keep Him at the center and in front of your hopes and dreams.
2. Reach back for others. Remember the roller coaster that you are riding. Right now your head is not being bashed by the "protective" harness and your seat mate is not vomiting on you. But, that can quickly change with a twist of the rails. Remember the tough times and show empathy for those whose ride is rougher than yours right now.
Have you already figured out a system for shipping products fast? Share it with a friend just starting out. Did you notice the lady with tears in her eyes at the mompreneur luncheon? Go introduce yourself and give her a pat on the back. Let her know that she has a comrade in the room. Are you looking to outsource part of your production? Look for someone new and who needs a chance to prove herself. Interview her, ask the tough questions, negotiate a fair price for both of you, and then hire her if it is a valid deal.
3. Keep a list of priorities and principles. Choose things in your business life that are not negotiable. Then, see that those things are done, not matter how well your biz life is going right now.
For example, one of my priorities is never to be in debt in my business. So, if three years from now, Inspire to Engage is a million-dollar company (wink, wink), I won't borrow money to expand it to a billion-dollar business. That way, when the downs come, which they inevitably will, I won't owe money to any person or entity. I'll build slowly. (Tortoise and Hare...slow and steady win the race.)
What are things you are unwilling to give up or that without them your business would mean nothing to you? Focus on these things in the good and the bad times.
Entrepreneurship is fun, scary, invigorating, different, thrilling, and so many other things. Basically, it is a roller coaster. You experience such a wide range of emotions.
Be sure to hang on tightly and expect the ups and the downs. Both are coming.
To put it in perspective, Dave Ramsey, in his book EntreLeadership, wrote, "We have made so many errors and miscalculations there aren't enough pages to recount them all." If the owner himself can say this about a company as successful as Ramsey Solutions, then we are bound to have ups and downs in our businesses as well.
Our duty as the CEO, CFO, COO, JAF (Janitor of All Facilities), RPO (Runner to the Post Office), and other titles too numerous to jokingly name is--be ready for both the ups and the downs. It is a matter of gravity.
Have I missed a strategy you use to face the tough times and enjoy the good times in business (or in life)? If so, please let me know...in the comments below or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org). I would love to hear as I am sure others would too.
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