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The Rise and Fall of Your Dreams

Over the past month, I’ve met with three business owners who care so damn much about what they’re doing. They have a quest more than they have a business, really.   

When you ask them what they want to do or what they’re really trying to do with their business, stories quickly emerge about setting an example for their kids, creating a livelihood for their families, or fixing a deeply-rooted societal problem. Maybe all they’ve wanted is to make THEIR THING in THEIR OWN WAY and nobody ever let them, so they started their own business.

Simply put, they have a crusade. They’ve signed up to put their whole being into this cause.   

I’m fortunate in that a lot of people talk to me about their businesses on very personal levels (one of our clients even has “we take it personally” as a core value of their business). I’ve heard people talk about this for years—and I’ve watched the challenges they’ve faced.

If you’re trying to make a quick dollar, then taking this deeply passionate approach to business is a bad idea. Changing the world is a tall order, and you better be up for a marathon rather than a sprint.   

But if anything other than changing the world is no good for you, then I have a few bits of observation from what I’ve seen:

If you’re really innovative, it’s going to take TIME!

Changing the world doesn’t happen quickly. You might take a step forward in a day, but the next week you may face setbacks. Get comfy with setbacks.

The folks we’ve seen make crazy changes focus on progress rather than the final destination. You want to make regular progress and continue to build momentum.

Cultural shifts in the world, an industry, or even a neighborhood take time and effort. If you’re trying to create change, it’s important to know that there are people quite resistant to this. You’re going to have hundreds (or thousands) of conversations and—little by little—you’ll chip away at that big goal.

Compromise Lurks In the Shadows of Growth

When you start out, you have the ability to control everything. You can make sure every word is written the way you’d like. Every customer gets the VIP treatment, every social media post is on purpose, and every penny goes right where you’d like it.

But as you grow, you’ll face pressure to cut corners, do things more quickly, and become more efficient. Efficiency isn’t bad, speed isn’t bad, and expanding isn’t the enemy. BUT scaling your business will require you to find more people, and those people might not care as passionately as you do.

Keeping an eye on quality, character, and tone are critical. As you grow, you’re spending more and more time hammering home the heartbeat that seemed to come so effortlessly when things were more simple.

You’ll Be Tempted to Shrink Your Dreams

From the outset, some entrepreneurs have grand dreams and—slowly but surely—those dreams bump up against reality. Sometimes reality can cause someone to shrink the dream. Rather than focusing on changing lives, the focus to get more customers can take over. Back when you thought about just doing everything the way you wanted it done, you never would’ve thought about this. You would never have settled.   

But reality has a way of beating you into submission. Thought you were going to just nonchalantly change the world? That you’d just make a Facebook post and people would read it and change everything? That they’d start acting differently just because of your cool product?

Do not shrink your dream. You’ve got to hold it close and nurture it—even when it feels impossible.

What Would You Do If You Quit?

You’re going to feel like quitting. I promise. At some point, fantasies about working at a corporate environment or selling your business will float into your head.   

(Did you know that a LOAD of people who sell their businesses end up regretting it later?)    

Sometimes I advise my clients to meet with someone to talk about selling their business. Sometimes I have them meet with a bankruptcy attorney. A clear view of “the end” of your business can be sobering. But once you understand what that looks like, you’ll find yourself either fantasizing about it or you’ll want to puke just contemplating it.   

Don’t be afraid of exploring the ending of your business. It can provide a jolt of motivation right when you need it.

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If you feel a connection to this post—if you’re really out to change the world—keep these things in mind. And remember that you’re not alone. This world of self-made entrepreneurs can often be overlooked, but we sit down with them every day. We’re abundant. We’re thriving.

June 15, 2018
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