I watched a TED Talk by Diana Nyad recently (see the end of this post) about trying, trying and trying again. Diana is a long distance swimmer and in the talk she spoke about her goal of swimming unaided from Cuba to Florida. Her message was to ‘Find A Way’ and I found it inspiring that she kept on trying and learning until she reached her goal, even though it took years.
It’s no secret that starting a business is hard. It’s just you, swimming alone, without the limitations of an established workplace but also without the support structure. You are simultaneously the head of planning, design, marketing, finance and customer support. You’re learning endlessly, from how to be better at the thing you actually want to do for a living, to how to get an effing website plugin to work correctly.
When things go well it feels great (and maybe scary because you’re really doing it!) but when you fail you just want to hide in bed and give up.
How do you get back on track when you feel knocked back and there’s no manager to tell you what to do and no team to work on it with you? I’ve been in this position several times as I’ve worked through setting up my business. Each time there’s been a loud inner voice that’d wanted to pack it all in and give up the dream, but a quieter inner voice has insisted that I find a way forwards.
Every time I’ve failed or got stuck then found a way through the bit of me that wants to give up has got quieter and the bit of me that wants to keep going has got louder. Here’s what I’ve learned that I hope will help you when you feel like giving up.
How To Find A Way When Things Have Gone Wrong
When something hasn’t worked out how you’d planned it takes on massive proportions, blotting out your view of what has gone well and what you have got going in your favour. That’s fertile ground for the seeds of doubt to grow in.
The first thing to do is take a step back and get some space. This obstacle looks big, you feel alone with it and unsure of yourself. Put some space between yourself and the problem by doing something else, going for a walk, meeting a friend; anything that distracts you from it for long enough to refresh your mind.
Look at the evidence that you’ve solved problems before. Just by living you’ll have come up against seemingly insurmountable problems before but you’ve found a way through. You’re a learner and a problem solver, capable of adapting and flexing. Remember that.
2. Identify the problem
Once you’ve put some space between you and the problem you’ll be in a better place to identify what it is. This is a ‘lessons learned’ exercise, where you’re identifying what went wrong and why so you can learn from it.
- What exactly are you stuck on or what exactly went wrong?
- What have you learned or gained?
- What might you do differently?
You’ve picked yourself up and brushed yourself off. Time to find a way forward.
What exactly are you trying to achieve? Refocus on what it is you’re trying to do and why, and check if that’s changed in the light of your recent experience. Sometimes things fail because you were aiming for the wrong thing.
If you tend towards perfectionism this can get in the way of making a realistic plan so ask yourself what would be good enough to get the job done?
Now you’ve refocussed on what you need to achieve work backwards from there to identify what pieces you need to get in place and break them down into even smaller pieces. Include any gaps in your own knowledge that you need to fill.
Here’s an example:
Specific Goal: Write a sales email for my new product to go to all my subscribers by the end of the week
What do I need to know to do this? The benefits of my product, the details (cost etc) and how to write a sales email.
How can I learn what I need to know? Look up copywriting for beginners or how to write a sales email then apply it to this.
You may be working on your business or project alone but it still helps to talk problems over. Talk – or grumble! – about it to a friend, mentor or coach who you trust to listen to you without judgement. My husband is my patient listener and I tell him that I don’t need him to solve this for me, I just need to vent. This takes the pressure off him as he knows I’m asking for a listener not a problem solver. I know it isn’t always easy to be open about a problem with your business as you want to reassure others that you’ve got it all together, but we’re all human, we all get stuck.
You have a goal that matters to you and that means you have obstacles before you, but like Diana Nyad in the video below, you will find a way. The trying will shape you, add to what you know and it will always be part of you long after the pride of achievement has been forgotten.