I was recently having a conversation with a colleague who quit his job to become an entrepreneur a few years ago. We were sharing the similarities of our journeys and remembered the euphoria we felt those first few months after leaving our desk jobs.
In a moment of pure vulnerability, we both admitted that we didn't use our time as productively as we could have during that period. I myself spent a lot of time hanging out on my Dad's deck, basking in the glow of my newly liberated life. I would do some work, sure, but only the "low hanging fruit" activities. Those items that required little effort, and that I was happy to deal with. I didn't have much of a long-term strategy or a concrete business plan. I didn't need to. I had a nice cushion of accessible savings to rely upon and didn't feel it necessary to come up with a plan to sustainably bring in clients and revenue.
As my pot of cash began to dwindle, however, the landscape began to change. Generating business was no longer a "nice to have" but a necessity. As the amount in savings got lower and lower, a steady panic set in. My activities were no longer passive, but more direct. I was no longer satisfied, but hungry for clients. I also mentally beat myself up for not using my time more productively.
I look back to that time and realize that it was all part of the process. For that reason, I can't say I would do anything differently.
That being said, the minute I clued in to the fact that I had a proper business and needed to take on an entrepreneur's mindset, my stance around 3 particular areas changed. I share them below.
Converting Pressure into Creativity
There's nothing like time pressure to compel action. An important lesson I've learned is that converting pressure into panic leads to less productivity, not more. This leads to even more frustration and panic, and a vicious cycle begins. I'll admit that I fell into this spiral many times and often wanted to give up.
I experienced a significant shift when I realized that panic is simply excess energy; energy that can be used to my benefit if I'm mindful about things. It sounds cliché, but deep breathing is my first go to strategy when I find myself in a panic spiral. This immediately regulates my heart rate and allows me to think clearly.
My next step is to do nothing.
It sounds counterintuitive, but doing nothing allows me to meditate on my immediate challenge until creative solutions come up. I've tested this strategy many times and the creative solutions always come. From that place, I can take committed, productive action.
The life of an entrepreneur often feels like a lonely road. That being said, I've come to rely on friends and colleagues who are entrepreneurs themselves. These are individuals who are able to listen without judgement and provide support when I'm feeling time crunched. They get me, and are quick to provide loving but firm support so that I can get myself back on track.
The most important lesson I've learned is the importance of cultivating discipline. With no employer or paycheck serving as the "carrot" to keep me moving forward, I've had to learn how to show up every day and do the work. I've learned how to show up rain or shine. How to show up on days when I feel blocked and unproductive. There's something about simply showing up that keeps things moving forward.
Steven Pressfield says it best in his book, Turning Pro: "Our work is a practice. One bad day is nothing to us. Ten bad days are nothing. In the scheme of our lifelong practice, twenty-four hours when we can't gain yardage is only a speed bump. We'll forget it by breakfast tomorrow and be back again, ready to hurl our bodies into the fray."
Gotta get back to work.