I’m nearing the Energy Shop’s *five* year anniversary and as I approach this landmark, I’m feeling proud and accomplished. However, while I enjoy the days that are full of success and recognition, there have also been challenging obstacles over the years that have threatened to break me. Luckily, I’ve learned how to gain better perspective, protected my dreams, and set realistic goals to attain them.
Consider this story from Think and Grow Rich, in which Napolean Hill writes of R.U. Darby, who invested in gold mining in the gold-rush days. He and his uncle had discovered an ore of gold and bought the equipment they needed to mine the land. As soon as they began drilling below the ore, they found that the vein of gold disappeared completely! They kept drilling to no avail, until they finally gave up hope and quit. Mr. Darby sold the machinery to a junk man for a fraction of its cost. The junk man then called a mining engineer to evaluate the land, and the engineer calculated that the vein of gold would be found three feet from where Mr. Darby and his uncle had stopped drilling. When Mr. Darby quit, he was three feet away from striking millions of dollars worth of gold.
“Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step BEYOND their greatest failure.”–Napoleon Hill
When I’m in a funk, I pick myself up with that story, and I try to adhere to the following fundamentals:
1. Keep in touch with your market
This means keeping involved in your customers’ lives. Watch the TV shows they are watching, subscribe to the magazines they read, keep current with the trends they are following, and embrace new social media they’re using, such as Pinterest. As with any relationship, if your customers are important to you, you’ll want to know what’s important to them. If you’re not growing with your market, then your market will outgrow you.
2. Don’t take anything personally
I recently wrote about how Etsy suspended my shop, and while you read an honest account of what happened, I edited that article very carefully. I initially took the whole ordeal quite personally, and the original drafts of that post were full of emotion.
The article got a lot of attention, and it became very personal for me again when I heard news about a featured seller who wasn’t making her own products, but who remains open and active on Etsy as I write this. I fumed for a solid day about the hypocrisy, and then I consciously decided to detach from the drama. Drama doesn’t make the bracelets or write the articles.
I choose to create from a positive place. This is true for every aspect of business, whether it be issues with your web host, a disgruntled customer, or a stalled sales day: don’t take it personally. Leave your ego out of it, change what you can, accept what’s left, and move on.
3. Focus on the next step
What do you need to do in order to grow? You probably know what the answer is, but you don’t know how to achieve something you’ve never done before. Comfort zone, anyone?
You don’t need to have the next step accomplished tomorrow, but you do need to know the next small action you have to take to get you closer toward your goal. By breaking down big goals into small actions, you can make the stretching of your comfort zone a bit more … comfortable.
For now, write down your goal and start to brainstorm on the page about the things you’ll need to do to achieve it. You’ll find that when you put pen to paper around a question, solutions start falling onto the page. Turn these solutions into a numbered to-do list, simply by prioritizing them. Which small actions need to be taken first? Be persistent in your follow-through, and before you know it, you’re on the next step!
4. Do something today that you’ll thank yourself for tomorrow
You know, that thing you’ve been putting off? That mess you haven’t cleaned up? That stack of unfinished business you’ve been avoiding? Tackle it. Go, right now. Do something today that will allow you to wake up tomorrow morning with a sigh of relief that it’s finished. Put in the hard work that you’re dreading. Stop procrastinating. You’ll thank yourself in the morning.
5. Ask: Is what I’m doing working?
Oftentimes when we’re involved in an ineffective way of doing things, we get stuck in a “that’s-just-the-way-things-are” mentality. That’s just the way things are can slow us down for y-e-a-r-s, and it’s a crying shame how often we try to out-think our commonsense.
Is there anywhere in your life where you’re stubbornly trying to fit a square peg into a circular hole? In the handmade business, our perspective is almost always too close. If you’re happy with the results you’re getting, do more of what’s working. If you’re not happy with the results, you have to do things differently.
I am loving on the “Naive Question” posed by Paul DePodesta (the guy behind the move, Moneyball) in a speech he delivered: “If we weren’t already doing it this way, is this the way we would start?”
If you weren’t already doing your [shipping, producing, schedule, branding, customer service, fan page, mailing list, etc.] this way, is this the way you would start? If the answer is “no,” change the way you’re doing things to achieve the results you want.
6. Be realistic
Fact: New business take 3 years to get off the ground. Furthermore, each brick in its building is placed by you. “In a startup, absolutely nothing happens unless you make it happen.”–Marc Andreessen
Fact: Making it big takes 10 years. “Timing, perseverance, and ten years of trying will eventually make you like like an overnight success.”–Biz Stone, Co-founder of Twitter.
What you get out of your small business is relative to what you put into it. Be realistic about the time and energy it takes to become a success.
7. But, always protect your dream
“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”–Mark Twain.
8. Finally, give yourself permission
Give yourself permission to be an expert in your field. Claim your expertise. Move forward with the big goals you think you’re still too small for. Allow your greatness to unfold. Give yourself permission to take the big leaps and dominate your market. Don’t wait for an outside party to swoop in and give you your big break; create your big break and astound us all.
Another excellent post Lisa. A good reminder not to take things too personally, which can be hard to do when you are dealing with a handmade business (items you took the time to create yourself.) Especially when soemthing goes wrong, or a customer changes his or her mind about an item. In these cases, it’s better to think like a business, not an artist, in order to handle the situation and move on.
So true, Megan! You’re involved in your business on so many levels, criticism can feel very personal. Thanks for adding to the discussion.
You’re absolutely right. We, as small business owners and entrepreneurs, need to realize that we have more power and strength than we realize. A perfect opportunity is one that we have taken upon ourselves to create and unfold.
Yes! I couldn’t have said it better myself. Success demands perseverance. All the best to you!