I was talking with two business clients yesterday, and they were both struggling with the fact that their businesses are stuck on a plateau. Despite all their efforts, they just can’t seem to get their businesses to grow. After reviewing all their marketing efforts (both what they were doing to attract new clients and what they were doing to serve their existing clients), we talked generally about the process of running a business like a personal mission.
The topic of constant improvement came up (as it almost always does). I mentioned the simple-sounding idea that opportunities seem to come to those who are ready to take advantage of them. It sounds kind of dumb stated that way, but here’s where the conversation went – if you don’t at least TRY to get something done, you are unlikely to be in a position to take advantage of opportunities, much less recognize them. Here’s an example:
Pamela Wants to Write a Book
Suppose Pamela has always wanted to write a book, and one day she decides to get started. She begins by writing at least a page every day, and after a month, spends a part of every work session editing the work she’s done so far. A couple of months later, while checking her Facebook, she gets the idea to look up self-publishing, and finds CreateSpace. She opens an account, takes a look at their templates, and on a whim inserts all the pages she’s written into a template she likes. Just like that, she realizes she has essentially completed the first draft of the book she’s always wanted to write.
Compare this to:
Pete Has Always Wanted to Write a Book
Pete has always wanted to write a book. He decides to get started, but only writes when he remembers to do so. After a month, he has 17 pages of text, much of it disorganized notes about the book he wants to write. A couple of months later, while checking his Facebook, he gets the idea to look up self-publishing, and finds CreateSpace. He considers opening an account, but since he hasn’t gotten any real work done on his book, he decides to do it later. He gets busy with other work, and at the end of year hasn’t made any real progress on the first draft of the book he’s always wanted to write.
So Many Reasons, So Few Big Successes
You might think these examples are simplistic, but the fact is I meet dozens of people like Pete every week. There are those who dream about doing something without taking any concrete steps. There are those who have started something but who don’t do it regularly or with any discipline. There are those who have been doing something a long time without really committing to it. There are those who profess not to know what to do next, or how to do it, so they end up stuck in a rut. And lately, there are lots of those who blame the economy for their lack of growth, when the real problem is lack of effort, either because it’s more convenient to blame the economy than to get to work, or because it they fear failure.
If You Don’t DO, You Ain’t Gonna GET
My Amway acquaintances always say, “If you don’t A – S – K, you aren’t going to G – E – T.” But my point here is that if you don’t DO, you ain’t gonna get. You gotta do something in order to be in a position to get results. And even though I am one of the world’s biggest advocates of DOING SOMETHING BIG when you do something, I am willing to accept smaller action any day as long as you do SOMETHING rather than nothing. And even wrong action can give rise to opportunities or be the genesis of right action. Here’s an example of how just doing something can get you into a lot of opportunities:
So You Wanna Play Professional Golf
A friend of mine, let’s call him Birdie just for fun, decided that he wanted to play golf on the Senior Tour. Never mind that he was little more than an average golfer, he resolved to start practicing at least three times a week, and to do whatever he could do get good enough to actually play professional golf, starting at the age of 51. He started going to driving range. While there, he met people who played in local tournaments, and asked them for pointers, both on his swing and on how he could go about getting into tournaments. The owners of the driving range sponsored a local tournament, and so he got an entry form from them as well as a list of other regional tournaments, and soon he was entered to play in several tournaments.
One day, while Birdie was getting his teeth cleaned, he told his dentist about his plans. His dentist was an avid golfer, and invited Birdie to go to his swing coach, and also recommended a great local guy who made custom golf clubs. The swing coach fixed a couple of serious flaws in Birdie’s swing, and when he got a new set of clubs from the custom club maker, Birdie was well on his way. He won one of the three tournaments he entered, and got admitted to a regional feeder tournament that potentially qualified him to play in a Senior Tour Event.
When You’re In It, It’s Around You!
Look, when you’re in it, it’s around you. When you strive to better yourself, your brain thinks of ways to do it. Sometimes your brain will give you lousy ideas, sometimes good ones. But even the lousy ideas can give rise to better ones. And being in the environment of your passion helps you notice opportunities to get better. If you aren’t getting better today, that might just mean you’re on a plateau, and that you have to keep trying. If you’re absolutely sick of being on the plateau, there are a lot of things you can do to try to get off it. Here’s a short list:
Go back to basics. Ask for help. Organize. Read a book. Look for the opportunities that are all around you. Listen, and listen carefully, to those around you. Do a survey. Hire somebody. Remember your initial purpose. Teach others. Start a business doing the thing you’re struggling with. Put on some inspirational music. Spend time in the redwood forest. Drink a lot of caffeine. And most important …. Have fun!
Occasionally over the next few months, Ian and I will be riffing on a theme from our recently published book 101 Ideas to Kick Your Ass Into Gear. You can find many elements from this article in its pages, sweetie!