Business isn’t for everyone. That’s probably why the vast majority fail within just a couple years. It’s easy to blame government regulations and paperwork, a lagging economy, or even just plain bad luck. But the real reason is usually the person you see each morning in the mirror.
My clientele has included a variety of business owners; manufacturing, shops, professional practices. I also sit on a panel called The Boardroom that helps struggling entrepreneurs identify their next step toward business success. A question that has intrigued me is, What’s the difference between panelists who are successful entrepreneurs and the candidates who seek our advice?
In the dip, Seth Godin presents the novel idea that we should be more open to quitting. Stress is evident when one’s chosen occupation, profession or business has failed to produce happiness, fulfillment or wealth. Perpetuating that stress by simply redoubling one’s efforts in a losing, or at least unsatisfactory, enterprise is madness.
Well…maybe. There’s a difference between redoubling one’s efforts and determining to fully commit oneself. Godin’s basic advice is to quit the path that is causing stress, and look for a different path.
Everyone on The Boardroom panel, including me, is a quitter; and we provide advice to people who firmly believe that success will arise from staying the course. We don’t necessarily advise them to quit, but I suspect in many cases that would be the best advice.
Quitting doesn’t have to be interpreted as failure. Thomas Edison may be the most prolific quitter of all time. To earn 1,093 U.S. patents, and 2,332 patents worldwide, he averaged a patent every two weeks. How did he do it? He quit, early and often. It’s staggering to consider the breadth of inventions emerging from within his Menlo Park laboratory. But for every successful patent there were multiple failures. Well…not necessarily failures. As Edison himself put it, “I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.”
Sometimes that meant stepping forward in a new direction. Wax paper was an early recording medium for the emerging phonograph, but it didn’t work as well as hoped. Instead of discarding the project entirely, Edison invented a way to manufacture wax paper more efficiently and inexpensively, such that it eventually became a household staple.
Each panelist on The Boardroom has been involved in multiple enterprises, some more successful than others; everyone having experienced at least one major failure. The key is knowing what and when to quit, and how to move in a new direction.
I have ascended the heights several times only to find myself on the wrong mountain. That hasn’t diminished my enthusiasm or resolve to undertake yet another path. And I help my clients recognize those qualities within themselves.
Ambivalence is not an excuse
Stress arises from ambivalence about one’s career, business or relationships.
• “I stay in this job because a) I can’t find another position that would pay as well, b) it’s the only thing I know how to do, c) I am indispensable.”
• “I keep the business going because a) I’ve got so much (money or time or both) invested in it, b) I have a responsibility to my employees, c) it has always been my dream.”
• “I stay in my current relationship because a) we’ve been together so long, b) we are soul mates and I hope to regain what we had in the past, c) I have a responsibility to my children.”
Note not just the lack of passion, but the passivity. How can you be of any good to others if you have lost your internal drive for personal excellence?
Neither is denial
I have engaged the following exchange with my business clients on numerous occasions.
“Is your business profitable? Tell me about profit and loss.”
“I’m operating at a small loss.”
“Do you pay yourself?”
“Very little. But that’s the only way I can keep the business open.”
“But you pay your employees?”
“So, you are operating a business for the benefit of your employees?”
Vague excuses (see above).
“Bottom line. If neither you nor the business is making money, it is not a business, it is a hobby.”
Quitting is an opportunity to redirect
The steps from here may appear in another article, but suffice to say that the distinction between business and hobby comes as a complete surprise, as does the notion that they have less passion for and commitment to the business than they assumed. And that opens the door to exploring other options.
I use this opportunity to apply hypnosis, exploring the subconscious for what the client really wants to be doing. It may mean quitting. It may mean simply redirecting their efforts. The key is to engage change that resonates with their soul.
I have a business background. So, for my clients who want to progress from hobbyist to true business person, I offer mentoring that typically extends over a period of months. As a hypnotherapist I am in a position to recognize and point out the client’s limiting beliefs and help them internalize new habits of mind.