This article also appears at dropzone.marketing.
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February already. The newness of 2016 is wearing off and we’re back in stride with the day-to-day grind. Gyms are starting to slow down from their new year’s rush as resolutions are slowly fading. I want this article to be your wake-up call—the message you need to hear.
If you’re toying with an idea, a career move, the aspiration to open and develop your own business, to go back to school, to write a book, to learn a new vocation, then I want you to lean in and read this closely: Allow yourself to dream. This article isn’t designed to be motivational, it’s designed to be straight talk coming from someone who is pursuing their own dream of building a company and bootstrapping it every step of the way. The journey I’m on has never been more stressful, more uncertain, more fulﬁlling or more rewarding. I love what I’m doing and I want to share a few lessons I’ve learned in the three years since I walked away from an amazing, well-paid job into the uncertainty of entrepreneurship.
If skydiving didn’t have any risk, I don’t think any of us would ﬁnd it nearly as satisfying. Without risk, it would be like every other ‘safe’ endeavor; riding a roller coaster is fun, but it doesn’t leave you with a sense of achievement. So it is with starting a business: You leave what feels comfortable behind and start down a path that has no guaranteed destination. To live in that space day to day is a wild journey because you feel the smallest victories in the biggest way and experience the lowest points in the worst way. The chase of the high, the exhaustion that comes with maintaining standards and the ever-present threat of being short on money. Accept that the endeavor you’re dreaming about is risky, but without the risk it wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying when you succeed.
The ultimate downside of risk is failure. It’s fear of failure that drives me to think about my business continuously. My brain is always working a million miles per hour thinking about deadlines, my clients, growth and revenue streams. Here’s the thing about failure, and I’ve had many on this journey: It’s the best teacher. We are wired to want to succeed in all things and as a result we view failure negatively. We don’t want to feel the pain of having fallen short, but the reality is it’s necessary if we’re to become better. Don’t let the fear of failure stop you from taking the ﬁrst step toward the pursuit of your dream. Expect different levels of failure; it’s part of the journey.
The iterations of my business have changed dramatically since I ﬁrst launched my company three years ago. If I had been rigid about what my business should look like, then I wouldn’t have a business today. As you begin your journey, there will be twists and turns where decisions will have to be made that may send you in a direction you hadn’t anticipated. Follow your gut. Listen to your instincts. Don’t be afraid to move in a different direction.
I’ve met many passionate people afraid of the insecurity that starting something new brings. Worse yet, I’ve met many people without any passion who start something new and wonder why it doesn’t work out. I’m not saying you have to be extroverted, I’m saying you have to be passionate because you will need an extra gear to drive you when things don’t go well or when you need to work long hours to make things happen. To start something from nothing takes enormous energy. If you’re passionate about what you’re doing, putting forth that energy won’t scare you.
There is a ton of mediocrity out there. Don’t be mediocre. Don’t settle—even if it costs you money. There are a lot of DZs in the world, but some outshine all others. They may not make the most money, but that’s not the metric for your success. Your dream is to be the best, not have the most. Have integrity, do the right thing even if it costs you a contract, because word will spread that you’re different—which will only feed your success in the long run. I’ve experienced this ﬁrst hand as I’ve made the decision to turn down contracts that might conﬂict, even minimally, with the interests of current or past clients. Saying “no” was a major challenge because I needed that contract to make payroll or pay bills, but saying “no” ultimately brought me work I hadn’t foreseen.
My pet peeve is the expression “Livin’ the dream,” said with sarcasm. Don’t get caught in that space. If you’re so burnt out doing something that no longer drives you or feeds your spirit, let that be the indicator it’s time to start something new. Let this article spur you on to begin whatever the ﬁrst step is in order to begin your new journey.
I challenge you to take the next bold step where you can proudly say, “I’m living the life of my dreams.”
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