Tell me how familiar this situation is.
“Yeeeeee I can’t wait to start my own business, quit my 9 to 5, and tell the man to suck it! I’m gonna be driving my R8, taking vacations 5x a year, and living wherever I want.”
… And then despite the fact that you actively were working hard and trying to figure out “what your business would be” , over a year later you are no closer.
I’ve been there. In fact, I daresay I’m on the tail end of my “being there.” And it’s shitty. You think you’re doing work, but you’re not. You think you’re getting closer to having your own business, but you aren’t. Six months pass and you think “What the fuck have I been doing…. I know I’ve been doing work but… it can’t be!”
I was inspired by a Friend Frank Hajdu’s post over at Post masculine: The First-Time Entrepreneur. His experience closely mirrors my own.
Guy gets idea to be self employed. Guy starts researching self employment. Guy reads success books. Guy reads a lot more. Guy listens to podcasts all day. Guy listens to podcasts on 2x speed thinking he can acquire as much vital knowledge in 1/2 the time. Guy realizes over a year has passed and he has nothing physical to show for the past year. Guy has a mental breakdown.
Guy realizes it’s time to start over, not because what he was doing didn’t work, but because what he was doing wasn’t actually work.
Symptoms of “sucking at launching things”
You know you’ve acquired too much intellectual information without actually doing anything when:
- People ask what your business is, because you seem so knowledgable (but you don’t have a business)
- You start reading the same information over and over
- You become an armchair expert – you start critiquing businesses, saying “Pfft that was so obvious, why didn’t they see that?”
If, at any point, you start seeing these symptoms coming up, but you still don’t have your own business going, diminishing returns have set in and hopefully you’re seeing the signs that you’re avoiding the real work that needs to be done.
The right pill to swallow
There are three main realizations I had while in the thick of this shitty, inactive phase.
Despite putting in 3+ hours a day during this phase, there were a couple main revelations I had that I think revolutionized how I view life. Failure to launch is not just an issue for entrepreneurs — it’s a massive inertia change that plagues anyone starting anything new, ranging from dieters to businessmen.
#1 The Lifeline rule – Produce Every Time You Want to Consume
A lot of talk has been made in recent years about “low information diets,” and for a good reason. There is information available for free on any subject that has ever existed in history. Using two fingers can teach you more about the world than even kings of past could dream of.
But it’s also a curse. Show up to work at 8:30 and realize that it’s 10:30 and you haven’t actually done anything? Yep.
Want to start a business, and set aside “3 hours a day” to work on it. A year later, have nothing accomplished even though you spent those 3 hours “doing something” ? Totally possible.
Plan on starting a diet regime, so you start by gathering information on the most effective workout routines, do’s and don’ts of eating, and other diet information – but a month later you haven’t actually set foot in a gym? Happens every day to thousands of new dieters.
You lie to yourself. You deceive yourself. You think work is getting done. But as september passes, and October, you realize Christmas is here and you have nothing physical to show. No proof that you have done ANY WORK. Your business is no closer to making you money. Your waistline is not getting thinner. Do not do this!
I suspect this problem was less of an issue for our ancestors. Now, one could easily sit in front of a computer and learn the secrets of all the world without moving. And never actually do anything.
So the first thing that’s key is to consume as little information as possible. Close that damn website, turn off that podcast, and stop reading that 53rd business book.
But here’s the huge revelation: Every time you feel like consuming, use that as your trigger to produce.
Shifting from a consumer mindset to a producer mindset totally revolutionized the way I see the world. This advice was originally given in M.J. Demarco’s Book The Millionaire Fastlane.
Whenever I feel like reading a blog or googling something, I instead open up mine and write for a little while.
Whenever I feel like reading someone’s free report, I get to work writing another free report of my own.
Whenever I want to read another business tips article, I sit my ass down and instead start producing results.
The easiest way to have little to no information consumption ( and shift yourself from reading to taking action) is every time you want to read or consume in any way, focus on producing something.
After you do this for a few weeks you’ll have successfully implanted a new trigger on your brain — the desire for consumption (reading another business book) will be replaced with sitting down and producing something real and tangible.
Do not underestimate how powerful this is. This means that you’re produce “walk” 90% of the time instead of just listening to more “talk.”
The second thing that happens to many of us is even when we know what we need to do (and we want to do it), we’re exhausted by the idea and we procrastinate.
Even if deep down you know you want to start a business or need to start a diet, you know it’s the best/only right thing for you, and you love the idea of starting one, you’ll still probably encounter resistance to do anything on a daily basis.
To paraphrase Steven Pressfield, in his book The War of Art, anytime we see a long, hard road ahead of us (even if it’s on a path doing something we love) we encounter massive resistance. It’s easier to forgo long-term happiness and settle for happiness today. But easier is not what we’re after.
This same exact resistance happens on a broadscale to people in a couple categories: Dieters, people about to make a massive life change (end a relationship, move across the world, or quit their job and start a business), and any else who knows they must do something for their own happiness/life enjoyment, but know it will be a long hard road.
Guess what. Even if you know you were born to be an entrepreneur, you’re still gonna find yourself wasting time and struggling to start.
Even if your intuition knows you are on the right path that your heart wants, you will still need to struggle and fight! This was a tough thing for me to realize for a long time. I figured if I was on the right path, working would be natural and relatively easy.
Nope. Not at all.
This single realization blew my mind. Even doing what you want, overall in the large sense of the phrase, entails doing a lot of little things that you don’t want and feel resistance to.
The restaurant owner may love owning a store, but may hate (read: feel resistance towards) actually doing the business aspects of owning a store. Getting the word out, doing the books, hiring and firing, learning about management, etc.
You will have to fight. Even (and especially) when you do what you like.
Fight resistance. Don’t fight your gut.
And that’s one last big distinction that I’ve learned.
Not liking something and feeling resistance towards it are two totally different things.
Not liking something means you’ll always feel resistance. Liking something and feeling resistance means you know you must do something, but you need to push through the short term pain to get to the next step.
Resistance is something that is tough but you know it brings you closer to where you want to be. Hiking that damn mountain for the view up to. You want to. But it’s not easy. Not liking something means you’re not going in the right direction and there’s resistance. You didn’t trust your gut. You aren’t getting closer to anything.
#3 Finding business ideas more useful than a poo-flavored lollipop
The last, extremely common problem that I face(d) like a lot of other first timers is having no clue what kind of business to start.
This one is tough and I hear about it time and time again.
I made a big case against starting with your passion awhile back mostly because from a financial perspective it’s not a safe way to start a business, and from a time perspective it takes so long to figure out what you really like that it will be just another thing to paralyze your start.
So here’s how to find an idea of what kind of business to start:
I have mentioned other ways to find business ideas in some of my other business posts, like this one here.
#1 Previous life problems that you have solved for yourself
A couple examples:
My family friend was hospitalized with allergies to various foods, dyes, and allergens that she had no idea about. After spending thousands of dollars on hospital bills (And another thousand hours educating herself), she became pretty well acquainted with food allergies and the nature of a hyopallergenic diet.
Result? She opened her own allergy-sensitive food line that she plans to sell to a major food company.
Another example: I have a long list of random health issues that have showed up. Despite the fact that I eat no sweets, and have a six pack from an insanely pure diet, I still manage to have all kinds of sport-related knee/back pain, digestive problems, asthma since childhood, and sleep issues.
One of those problems I had my entire life was knee pain. As I got into working out more, my body was obviously not aligned properly and not used to that level of physical activity, and I started getting knee pain almost every day. Being the science nerd I am, I sat down and made up a document that included all my research into my knee pain.
Less than 6 months after those tests, I was pain free, and have been knee pain free ever since . I don’t even have one day with knee pain.
You’ll discover that problems that you have are, in fact, quite universal. Knee pain stems from inactive glutes from prolonged sitting, tight muscles around the pelvis, and inflexible ankle and hip joints. A very common problem these days.
A perfect example for a business for me would be some kind of knee pain product or school, or one of those home delivery infomercials, a nicely packaged DVD package where you can home train yourself, or personal training just for people with knee issues.
So – health problems are one example.
Another is lifestyle problems – e.g. working out, picking up girls, dating advice. These are all super high paying industries.
Solving your own problem can be a powerful way to segway into a business that solves the problems of millions of others too.
#2 If you still don’t know, hang out in an industry you like and solve someone else’s problem
Solving problems is pretty much the most sure-fire way to make a winning business that pays you.
Having said that, I’m still a huge believer in doing something you enjoy. In the past year I started 2-3 things that I knew would pay me (they were profitable and in-demand niches) but after about two months of busting ass I realized I didn’t give a shit. You don’t want to do that. I can’t imagine how unhappy I would have been at the one year mark.
So if you don’t have any problems you’ve personally solved, hang out in industries that you like.
If you’re into health and wellness… hang out with (or become) a personal trainer, yoga instructor, massage therapist, etc.
If you’re into business and entrepreneurial stuff, join a meetup or start an entrepreneur group on meetup.com. Join Toastmasters, BNI, or just hang out with young people into getting shit done. You will quickly see problems in society that need solving.
If you’re into tech stuff, be a person that checks out new devices and rates them, go to conferences where people discuss and try out up and coming devices. Read negative reviews on amazon.
If you’re into fashion, hang out with people into that kind of stuff! Go to fashion meetups, talk to people that own small local fashion places. Create your own stuff and wear it as free marketing.
This is some advice that was not given to me, and I wish it was. For over a year I struggled to figure out “what to start next.” I ran through a bunch of great ideas and businesses that I didn’t give a shit about, because they were industries I didn’t give a shit about (like internet marketing).
No one told me that if I didn’t know what my passion was, I should just spend a lot of time in industries I do like. Problems are everywhere. You’ll see one.
And if you’re already in a community you care about (health & wellness for me) you’ll probably be into solving the problem.
Another personal example is that I was always a skinny kid.
Over the course of years of personal testing, deliberate over-eating, and tons of weight lifting, I’ve gotten close to finding out a somewhat consistent formula for helping skinny kids gain weight.
I’ve seen it all. I’ve failed a hundred times. It has taken me years and years of doing things to try to get this right. Right now, i’m 30+ pounds heavier than my “natural” body weight.
This is an example of a personal struggle and a hobby that solved my own problem — and probably will solve the problem of millions of other guys that want to gain weight.
If you look on big blogs like Tim Ferriss & Mark Sisson, “how to gain weight/muscle” is one of the top 5 most viewed posts. It’s a hugely popular niche. And I have a lot of experience solving this problem.
Lots of our own business starts can be taken from personal struggles put in perspective. And they’re often infinitely more fun (even when it’s not fun) than solving a problem totally unrelated that you don’t care about.
How I sucked at starting my own thing, and how not to suck
I call this “rookie starter syndrome.” Because it doesn’t matter if you’re a first time entrepreneur or a first time dieter. It’s just more of a “first-time” thing because you don’t realize it and it sneaks up on you.
I spent over a year “trying to find my passion” and start a business I loved; I spent over a year getting millimeters from starting something that could have changed my life, but flaking out last minute; I spent over a year going bipolar on ideas thinking one was “finally good enough” and then two days later “eh, not into it.”
This painful phase of bipolar excitement about starting things made me realize those two really important truths you read above:
#1 Producing every time you want to consume will totally change your life. This is one of the most important truths about life I have learned for people in this information-rich era (Again, major gratitude to MJ Demarco).
#2 Even when you do things you love, sometimes you will still feel massive resistance to doing much of the work!
Sometimes you like the overarching goal or theme (starting a business that provides me with freedom from 9 to 5, unlimited income potential, vacation when I want) but you don’t like the many small daily battles (getting the word out, getting a site up, “networking,” meeting new clients, producing tons of content or testing) that you have to go through.
Society has stacked the odds against us when we want to start something.
Whether you’re a dieter or an entrepreneur without a business, because of the nature of our modern world, starting is harder than ever. There is too much easily accessed information. There are too many success stories. There is too much to consume.
Really, as one of the biggest revelations in my life, I want to say to you the first time entrepreneur, starting your own gig may mean suiting up for war every day.
But the pain of the daily fight is much less than the pain of time passing and you realizing that you were too paralyzed to begin.
Image by Kristof Ramon, A Guy Taking Pictures