A few years ago I was listening to a podcast from Rick Warren, author of The Purpose-Driven Life. This episode was a beginning-of-the-year address, and may have even been his sermon for that Sunday.
He said, and I’m paraphrasing here, “Your goals are going to take longer than you think, so you might as well get started.”
No truer words could be spoken.
1) This will Take Longer than You Think
I chose to list this one first because the #1 skill I see in short supply in newer entrepreneurs is the skill of handling disappointment.
I’m a huge believer in something called expectancy theory. I’ve seen this at play a number of times in my experience, namely with regard to unmet expectations.
People often feel that they should experience some type of success at certain points in their journey. Namely, success should happen…
- More quickly
- On a larger scale
- With less expense…
However, when this expectation isn’t met (geek term: expectancy disconfirmation), people tend to get frustrated.
What typically happens is the person will take another shot — a very reasonable approach to be sure, but this usually leads to yet another brick wall. Hopes are dashed yet again, and this leads the would-be expert in a quandary.
What to do?
- Try yet another approach?
- Take a break for a few months?
- Just toss the whole mess in the can?
For most of us in the expert business, we are trying to become speakers, we’re trying to become thought leaders, or trying to sell information products.
This isn’t really a franchise approach to business. You don’t get to walk down a path that has been proven to work time and time again.
The problem with what most of us experts are trying to attempt or accomplish is that there are 100 ways to get to where you want to go.
When I was researching how new businesses form, I was shocked to learn that most of what I thought I was doing wrong was actually right all along!
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It is natural to want to emulate other successful big-name experts.
You may even try to take the same steps that they say they’ve taken in growing their business. It’s not a bad approach, however it often does not work. Your natural gifts and abilities do not match those of the expert you are emulating.
The only way to really learn this is to go out there and try, take the risk, get in the middle, and discover your limitations.
I wish I could tell you that there’s a better way to do this, a way that would save you some time.
Truth is finding your way often takes a lot of experimentation, and takes a lot of wrong turns, and takes an awful lot of feeling like you don’t know what you’re doing.
You have to get really uncomfortable with not having success for some period.
When I think of people that I’ve studied over the past 4 or 5 years I can name several who have gone down a path, did a great job of exploring it, made some money, and then figured out that they wanted to make a change.
Their existing path was good, but it wasn’t the best. That particular path
- Took too much time away from home.
- Asked them to operate in areas where they were not gifted.
- Required team members that were too expensive.
There are number of reasons why a particular path may not work for you, but you never know that until you travel down the path. And, yes, this takes time.
For those of you who know my story, you know that it’s been a multi-year journey of fits and starts and success and failure. Yet, the business is taking the right trajectory. It’s going in the right direction. I am making more money year after year.
It has been a hard fought battle with most of those battles being internal.
2) Your Faith can Play a Strong a Role
While faith plays such an integral part in the lives of many people, I don’t see experts in the start-up space paying a lot of attention to it, writing about it, or even talking about it much.
When I have asked entrepreneurs about their experiences with where God is leading them in their business or their ministry, it’s fascinating to listen to their stories.
As entrepreneurs, we live lives inherent with risk, often overestimate our capabilities, and find ourselves in the occasional financial bind. It is only natural to think that we would turn to our respective faiths for help.
Sometimes I think God puts these desires – for us to want to share or message, to start a business, to monetize what we know – in order to get us to step out, to have faith that what He has asked us to do is, in fact, possible.
When I find myself in the middle of a wrong turn or having traveled down a path that is apparently leading nowhere, it’s very natural for me to begin asking why God let me down this particular path.
I can think back to this past week where I really felt like my back was up against the wall, and I needed to produce some results. I was really leaning into God in prayer asking for some really specific answers, that He would bless the efforts of my work, and that it would not all turn to sawdust.
I was asking for guidance, for some type of confirmation.
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Rather than getting a direct answer to my prayers I often hear, “Hey, I’ve given you skills and talents. Go figure it out. I am with you.”
Specifically, I don’t hear, “Everything is going to work out” or “You are going to make a ton of money at this”.
So, the good news is…
- I’m not alone in my business pursuits.
- I get to do what I feel is best.
Pretty good deal, eh?
Blaise Pascal called this “The dignity of causality”. We get to be part in God’s creation. We get to work, create, shape, prune, and bring things to life.
God is effectively saying, “It’s your nickel.”
3) You will Lose Your Path Before Finding it Again
If you have the luxury of being tutored by someone who is in the expert business, to go with them to their events, to sell materials from their book table, to be with them as they cold call for speaking engagements, then by all means sit at this person’s feet and absorb everything you can.
Mentoring at someone’s side will lead you to a lot greater clarity about how to make this business work for you.
For the rest of us however, the ones who don’t have that luxury, it’s simply going to take an awful lot of exploration to find out what’s going to work for you.
You may feel very called to write a book, and let’s say that you do write that book. You put a lot of effort into launching it, and you end up selling some copies!
However, at some point you will discover the string of your successes is only going to be so long.
You are going to reach the boundaries of your competence, and this isn’t a bad thing.
Not that this is any deficiency of yours. It’s just simply a matter of experience.
You’ve never been down this road before. You may have never even written a book before, but yet you’ve managed to
- Write a book
- Get it published
- Do a book launch
- Sell some copies
You’ve managed to ring the cash register! You have to understand how many people would’ve never even made it this far.
Yet, I’ve also known many people to miss their bookselling goals considerably.
The numbers here are not important. We all have our own numbers that were aiming towards, but let’s just say that you ended up missing your goal — by a lot.
It is very natural to get discouraged by this, and at that point you may end up running off into a different direction.
Which is totally fine!
As your book is on the shelf for a while, you might get excited about having some type of a membership site. Maybe you’ve grown your email list over the past six or eight months, and you’ve decided that what you know when your book can be supplemented by great membership site.
So you go down the path of making a membership site. Only to find out here, that you don’t really know as much as you thought you needed to know about membership sites, and the whole technical aspect overwhelms you.
You put together a membership site as good as you know how, and then do a trial balloon launch too people on your list.
You get a few takers, and receive only luke-warm feedback.
You have put in a tremendous amount of time only to realize that you won’t really see any return on your investment any time soon.
- You have written a book
- You have sold some copies
- You’re able to bring the cash register,
- You tried launching a membership site and that fizzled.
So at the end of six or eight months of work you have put an awful lot of time into this, and are really starting to wonder if this whole expert business is all that it’s cracked up to be.
This is totally normal!
I can’t tell you how many times I run into situations where I talk to people who have put in a ton of work into a product, and sales did not take off the way that they thought it would. This does not mean that you’re doing anything wrong.
In fact, you’re doing a ton of things correctly!
- You are leaning into your problem.
- You are having faith in your skills and abilities.
- You are taking risk in your life to believe in yourself.
All of these are qualities that makes a person good at being in the business of promoting your expertise.
[reminder]What is the biggest blindside that hit you as you are growing your expert business?[/reminder]