I was watching basketball videos on Youtube the other day and was struck by this documentary of Lebron James’ high school team. In their junior year, they choked and lost to an inferior team in the Ohio state championship. A few things struck me about the way they failed.
First, they did not expect to be challenged emotionally– they didn’t have a process in place for when things got bad. At a critical moment, the point guard suffered a complete melt-down and launched the ball in frustration and received a technical foul– essentially icing the game.
Second, the way the coach attempted to address emotional challenges at halftime (in a subsequent challenging game) gave me the impression that he was equally unprepared. He resorted to one of those “this is your one chance” movie type speeches. I couldn’t help thinking– isn’t this guy just fanning the fire? If these kids are frustrated and confused, does it really help to raise the stakes? (btw, Andre Agassi covers psychological challenges in sports beautifully in his excellent biography, Open).
The same type of emotional failures are what are holding many of us back from the type of business success we’d like to see. The difference in sports? There’s a scoreboard. It’s easy to know what “failure” is and re-calibrate. In our own lives and businesses, we tend to move the goal when the going gets tough (I am no stranger to this sort of rigging the game for emotional security).
At the early stages of my career I tended to think it was ideas and opportunities that were holding me back, not mindset. It was the world, not me. My opinion gradually has changed. It’s not opportunities that are rare. It’s the ability to see, define, and execute on them.
I jotted a similar idea at the end of the 2012 summer, one in which I spent many weeks helping (or trying to help) other entrepreneurs.
“Getting to six figures is largely about overcoming psychological challenges, getting to seven is largely about strategic challenges.”
This could partly explain why those with at least 6 figure businesses make such remarkably better clients– you aren’t dealing with whims so much as you are dealing with systems (of course, you are always dealing with a little bit of both!).
Here’s a few sketches of emotional roadblocks that aspiring entrepreneurs face, and perhaps, what to do about them (I’ve been guilty of all these, perhaps these characters are actually small devils in my personality).
Who knows why people get so attached to a general idea of something that doesn’t exist, to the detriment of a very clear and simple ambition. Why do people get obsessed about creating [insert great idea] at the expense of creating a life of financial abundance? I can think of many reasons of course, but I feel that often those without much entrepreneurial experience over-attach themselves to their unborn ideas and don’t properly see what they cost to hold on to.
How many friends do you know who’s great idea is more like a great boulder in the mountain pass? And perhaps it’s a cultural thing too— we lionize this sort of individual creative vision, so perhaps even “having a great idea” is some sort of consolation.
Potential solution? Prioritize great engagements over great ideas. If you can, put it to bed for a few years and circle back.
I still remember the morning when I wrote the “1,000 Day Rule.” That article fell right out of me. Honestly, it takes me forever to write, but that thing just cascaded right off my fingers. I can remember so many times, and hell, most of 2009, where I just wasn’t sure if I was going to make it. I had no idea if my business was going to implode on my head. That’s my life! A washed up cat furniture salesman!
That article captures some of those emotions I felt. Like waking up and feeling something more or less like “ah fuck, this again.”
What’s required to make an income from running a company online isn’t rocket science. I mean, here I am! Often it’s those with a stubborn bull-like persona that are able to just keep plowin’ despite the often daily and niggling emotional turmoil being an entrepreneur can be.
Potential solution: If you are human, you’ll probably regularly want to give up. Not doing so is the only thing standing between you and the type of business success you are seeking. (Hey Lebron even gave up a few times!) Wanting to give up is normal– having a process for dealing with it isn’t. For me this is having systems of “reset” and accountability. Consider committing to a business or accountability partner, start building a tight professional network, make commitments and make yourself accountable. Re-frame, and re-energize. Remember that the daily emotional turmoil you’ll face in your first 1,000 days is nothing compared to the more subtle, settled, and consistent turmoil of having never faced and overcome the challenge at all.
We’ve probably all been in one of those torturous conversations where the person who solicited advice about what they supposedly want to do is turning it all down, more or less saying “yeah, but I don’t want to do it that way” and so on. There’s a theme I see with people who are able to go out there and make it happen– they think (crazily!) that it’s actually going to be fun. With a gleam in their eye they are willing to commit to a crazy goal. “I’m gonna go make a million bucks.” Or “I’m going to build a new app by end of business every Friday and try to get users for it.” The clearer the better. If your idea or business doesn’t harness your joy, your fun, your sense of misbhavior, perhaps it’s worth asking yourself the more fundamental question. What is it that you are doing this for?
Potential solution: why is it so hard to say something specific, fun, and profitable? Not sure on this one…
I’ve got a huge inventory of emotional problems :) (Non-falsifiable Fanny, Me Me Mike, Weary Wayne… it could even be an ebook: Good idea Glen and His Ugly Cousins!)
Curious if you are seeing common patterns holding you or others back? Is getting to six figures largely an emotional challenge? Also love any heads up on good basketball videos! That’s “procrastinating Pete.”
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