Are You Prepared For Crossing The Desert?
Starting your own business can be one of the most exciting and life changing things you will ever do. You see, a business can give you the freedom that others, in jobs will never experience. A business can be a vehicle for you to share your unique talents, skills, and life experiences. A business can also enable you to live a life on your terms and a way to make a significant difference or contribution in the world.
However, there is a phase that most businesses go through, which is like wandering across a desert. You will be challenged financially, emotionally, and possibly even physically.
You will question your abilities and contemplate giving up, and for some founders, they do not make it to the other side, as those statistics of first year or second year business failures regularly remind us.
Because The Rules Of Business Have Changed
Now if you feel you are wandering across this “desert” right now, then there are many factors that could be contributing to this situation. For example, lack of growth, intense competition, government regulation, resources, new capabilities to master etc, with the list growing each day.
Compounding this challenge also for new business owners, is that we are living in a different age. It’s not the Industrial Revolution anymore, nor is it the Technological Revolution and so the old factors that resulted in business success previously, are no longer a sure thing today.
Because we are now living in The Age Of The Entrepreneur where globilisation, rapid advancements through artificial intelligence and robotics, plus new disruptive business models of the sharing economy (i.e. AirBNB, UBER etc), is what is defining the environment that The New Economy Business needs to successfully navigate through.
All these critical success factors of today, come into play and if we are not careful and ignore them, can prevent us from what we are trying to achieve. That is why when I speak to people wanting to start a business, or scale it up to the next level, I ask them about their “big dream”.
What is it that inspires them, gives them hope, a sense of certainty, a sense of purpose? What gives you a sense of purpose?
It Starts With Your Big Dream
Because, while you may have awesome reasons for setting up, scaling or sustaining your business, you still need to take a few steps back and consider this bigger picture first, otherwise it will all be just too hard and you will not be able to traverse this “desert”.
For me, it all starts with defining your own life’s purpose or mission, because this is ultimately where your “big dream” or “why” starts. Once you have clarity on this, then you can start to expand in more detail such as developing specific goals around family, friends, community, health, wellbeing, finance, and life style.
Then, when you do this, what you will discover, is that your “business” becomes the vehicle for achieving these goals – more like a means to an end, rather than the sole objective. And yes, you will find yourself talking about your business as if it is a family member to anyone that listens, and you will put in hour upon hour to get it up and running! But all the time, you will know that it is just a vehicle, and if this vehicle is not getting you to where you want to go, you need to take the necessary action to address this, like changing vehicles. In other words, there is alignment.
However, as simple as this may seem, this is the hard part, as this is where many startups and business owners, do get stuck and ultimately fail. They become so much part of the day to day running of their business, and while there is some satisfaction from this, they are no longer associated with their ultimate life mission or purpose. You see, in many ways we are dealing less about process and systems which are always visible and easily to be distracted by, and more about the needs of human psychology and mindset.
How Malcolm Made A Difference
Back in 1985, I was in my final year at agricultural college, yes that may surprise some, but there I was in regional New South Wales, Australia, living in a town called Wagga Wagga – or just “Wagga” as the locals would typically say!
Next to our campus, was the local agricultural research station where I got to know the well-respected agronomist Dr Malcolm Glennie Holmes. In fact, as a student, I was in awe of him. You see he was responsible for breeding new varieties of cereal crops like wheat and barley and I just thought he was a rock star!
However, it was what he said to me one day that I have never forgotten… “Ross, many people think my job is very exciting, but in reality, I just try to breed new varieties of wheat each year and most of my trials fail – it’s heart breaking and boring work”.
He then went on… “But here’s the thing, once in a while, maybe every couple of years, we find one new wheat variety that survives all our testing and goes on to be used by farmers and that is the satisfying part of my job as I feel I am feeding the world!”
It’s Now Time For You To Light Your Fire
Malcolm of course at that time, clearly understood his “why” – his compelling reason or purpose. He also had a big picture view that sustained him through the desert, and while that was now over thirty years ago, he also inspired a young man just starting out on his career as well!
However, I only re-discovered my “why” several years ago. You see, I was travelling down the Mekong River in Cambodia and as my boat drifted and I looked across to the river bank and the houses built on bamboo stilts, the local Cambodian people and thought about the extreme hardships these people endure, three words came to me… Learn, Lead, Legacy.
Today these are the values that underpin everything I do.
Let’s Now Start Building Momentum
So, if you are in your business right now and feel you are struggling to cross that desert, and are no longer clear on why you do what you do, then you do need to give yourself the gift to re-discover this and by doing so, re-light that fire inside of you as well!
That is why I believe developing a greater sense of self awareness is critical, not just for your own personal development, but also being a founder of a business.
Remember your “why” is your lever and as Archimedes once said…
“Give Me A Lever Long Enough And I Will Change The World”