It’s the first week of 2016 and if you haven’t felt that familiar urge begin late last year, you might be feeling it soon. That ‘this year’s gonna be different’ feeling, accompanied by a sense of resolve, followed quickly by a mild panic when you hit a wall when trying to figure out ‘how’ it’s going to be different. What business or venture could you possibly launch?
That feeling is close to that which we face in the creative industry; a lack of inspiration and feeling like you’ve hit so many dead ends that you MUST be trapped! Fret not friend. If you’re new to the entrepreneurial game, or are considering it, the bad news is that you’re going to feel this way often. The good news is, you’ll soon realise that it’s just part of a process. Here’s how it goes for me.
Stop thrashing around
Mentally that is. I understand that it’s difficult, and that your mind could be awash with impatience, frustration, and maybe even despair. Those are usually signs that you might be hitting your limit at this point in time. It’s like someone who hasn’t exercised in awhile, and tries to sprint a mile and realises his body can’t keep up with what he thought he could do. Like those muscles, your capacity to push for new ideas and action will grow gradually.
At this point, if you have yet to figure out your ‘long game’, spend time thinking about what is it you want to achieve in 5 or 10 years, not next month. By reminding yourself that you’re thinking about a whole new long term direction, you might realise just how strange we get worked up by not achieving something right this instant!
Start looking outside your normal circles
The feeling of being stuck and uninspired sometimes just means you don’t have enough input to work with. It’s like wanting to build an amazing Lego castle, but only having a few pieces. The more and varied the pieces you have, the better able you are to build that fortress of your future. When you’re in a calm state, you can begin to fill up your box of Legos.
Prioritise new input
You could be spending time at the usual spots you visit. These could be friends you talk to, websites/publications that you read, or even your TV shows. It’s time to prioritise what’s new. Browse TED.com for interesting talks, IMDB for new shows, amazon.com’s book lists amongst others.
Learn about other businesses
You can begin to narrow your input a little more by zooming into business in general. Walk around the shopping mall slowly while taking note of all the businesses in there. Skim popular sites like entrepreneur.com and inc.com and marvel at the different new startups. Pop by kickstarter.com and see what ideas are people trying to get off the ground. Google up business podcasts like smartpassiveincome.com, mixergy.com and/or eofire.com and listen to the stories of those that have walked the path.
Then turn inward and reflect
You’ve devoured a whole lot of external input and are just feeding your curiosity at this point. Nothing serious, just looking. It’s time to knuckle down and sit down quietly with your own notebook, digital or manual.
What are your interests and skills?
You would have noticed that some of the stories you read about might have really peaked your interest. Note which, and why. What have other people remarked that you are good at? What do others come to you for help with? Here, it’s important to put aside any possible ‘negative’ self beliefs that pop up (any form of emotional reaction that make you shy away from the thought). Put aside all censorship and just write.
What type of entrepreneur do you want to be?
This question was something I didn’t get to ask myself earlier, and upon reading about it, helped me come to terms with the frustrations with feeling like I wasn’t ‘following the right path’. The article I read pointed to 3 types in general; the mountain climber that has a burning need to revolutionise the world with his idea, the lifestyle entrepreneur that enjoys the life that’s built (not just raw impact and returns) and finally the craftsman who wants nothing but to do what he loves.
It’s probable that there are more, but it made me appreciate that I didn’t need to conform to one view of what an entrepreneur should be and that I can chart my own path. Similar to your ‘long game end goals’, think about the life you want to lead as an entrepreneur.
Trust in the ebb and flow of a process
Generate ideas by going in circles
Now that you’ve gotten lots of input and reflected, it’s time to just go crazy with ideas on what you could do. As you do this, feel free to run off on a tangent to explore those ideas until you feel like you’ve found something you’ve connected with.
It’s important during this process to trust that it’s a circular process, with you developing a hunch, followed by a hunt for information and input, then returning to getting more hunches. Let yourself go and you’ll be amazed at the engine of ideas you’re creating.
Once you’re comfortable with the ideas on your plate, it’s time to zero in on an option (or 2!) to look at the practicalities of it. With all businesses, for it to survive, there needs to be a market for it. If it’s an existing business, it’s likely there is ‘some’ market, but the more precise details you’re able to get, you can better manage your expectations on the results you can get. Test those ideas and see if any stick.
Finally, Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income had a great question you should ask yourself. What would your grandma think? If you went ahead to do this, would you be proud to tell your grandma? It might seem trivial, but it’s a great way to filter ideas that might seem profitable, but would possibly make you hate yourself in the future.
With anything important, it likely takes effort and time. Keep the horizon in view while you put in the patience and work. As long as you take action, step by step, one day you’ll look up and you’re on top of the mountain.