I. Am. Done.
I’ve had it with this stupid business. It’s annoying, frustrating, exasperating and I don’t want anything to do with it anymore. Who’s idea was it anyway to set this bloody thing up? It was a ridiculous idea and if I haven’t made it by now, it’s never going to work. I am going to speak to my old boss first thing tomorrow and get back my old job. I’m fed up with hustling for customers. I want safety. I want a salary in my bank account each month. I don’t want to have to think about it 24/7. I want to stop feeling so damn vulnerable all the time. I want to know how things will pan out.
I want a rest. I am so tired.
Any of this sound familiar?
The Valley of Despair
We all go through this. I go through this. CEOs go through this. Experienced entrepreneurs go through this.
It is part and parcel of being a business owner and it absolutely sucks. The emotional rollercoaster on a daily basis is enough to challenge even the most robust amongst us. If you think about it logically, a business is simply a series of tasks and activities that need to be done in a logical order, with lots of review, refine and re-test bits inbetween. Setting up a business isn’t rocket science, but having faith that it will be worth it, and maintaining the composure to see it through sits within a league above.
The Feeling of Getting Nowhere
I went on a windsurfing holiday a few years ago (pre-kids) and I think of this often when I’m in The Valley Of Despair. It was our second windsurfing holiday, so we were moderately competent. We were near Dahab, Egypt and it was unbelievably, suffocatingly hot. The coastline was perfect for beginner-types as the shore curved round to create a bay. The very experienced windsurfers amongst us were far beyond the bay, in the open sea doing tricks and loops. The instructor asked my group to sail across the bay to the sandy bank on the other side, where the lesson would be based. We all set off. But I found the wind would blow me away from the bay, so I’d overshoot the spit of sandy land and would ultimately head out to sea if I kept going. So I would have to turn back to shore, by which point I’d been blown quite far downwind from the resort, and would have to get off my windsurf, walk it back to the starting point and try again.
This went on and on and on. I spent hours on my own – 3 before lunch and 2 after lunch, trying to get this annoying, stupid effing piece of windsurfing kit over to that spit of land. Out I went, back I came and up the shore I’d walk. Hour after hour. Wow, I didn’t realise I was this sh*t. I swore at my board, swore at the wind, swore at the sea. Swore at the man who flashed me from the beach (another story). I felt humiliated, beaten, angry and useless. I’d meet up with the others at the end of the day, and feel pretty jealous and bitter. Longing so much to get to that spit of land, so I could join in the fun, get help from the instructor, be part of the gang. I felt utterly dejected.
When It All Comes Together
Day 6 rolled around. The last day of the holiday. Preparing myself for another lonesome day, I drag my board across the sand to the water’s edge in preparation for another day of battle. Well, to say something clicked into place is somewhat of an understatement. I don’t know how all the elements of my learning came together but I WAS FLYING! I jumped on that board, and absolutely skimmed it like a pro (‘planing’ for those in the know) across the water to the bay, harness hooked in, leaning right back and loving the sounds of my board cutting through the water. It was amazing. As the others chugged their boards across like little tug boats, I was zipping around a la James Bond. Quite how I got from my repeated walks of dejection up the shore, to being a total Boss On A Windsurf, I don’t know. But it clicked and boy it was worth it.
I remind myself of this so often because it represents so much:
- Show up every day and give it a go – “it’s all about time on the water” we would say when we were there. It may not look pretty and you may not feel like you’re getting anywhere, but if you don’t spend time doing the deed, you’re never going to get any better. And you’ve got to trust that showing up is what it takes to get you better at your trade.
- You can’t always see your progress – again the trust thing. It’s not always clear, and sometimes it doesn’t feel like you’re getting anywhere, but you need to trust that you are. If I hadn’t of failed to make that spit 20 or 30 times, I wouldn’t have got there in the end.
- Don’t compare your journey to others. I simply could not keep up with my friends. I wasn’t able to get to where they were going. But it didn’t matter, because when everything came together, it really clicked and I was whizzing past them on the water. So don’t worry about following the crowd – go your own way and it may get you there quicker, further and with more style!
- We don’t always know when we’re going to see results, and we can’t predict what those results will be. Sometimes, when things seem at their most tough, and we’re ready to throw in the towel, we’re in a phase immediately before our biggest breakthrough. So keep going. It is coming together. It can’t not be, if you’re showing up every day.
Find a Strategy To Get You Through
The Valley of Despair is not fun. It’s teeth-clenchingly tough. It hurts physically and metaphorically. We can’t sleep. There’s no light at the end of the tunnel. We are a walking dark cloud. But a very experienced coach once told me this, “The Valley of Despair is a good thing – because it kills 80% of your competitors.” Wise man, Phil Bolton. And just remember, by the time you’ve been through this four or five times, that’s 80% applied four or five times. You’ll be the last man standing.
So keep going, even if you’re hating every minute. Because sometimes that’s the truth you’re faced with. Be a professional, show up every day and power through. How?
- Create targets to hit every day and every week – how many contacts will you have coffee with each week? How many emails do you need to send? How many times are you aiming to hear a ‘no’? Because if you’re getting 20 of those a week, you’re playing a good numbers game and are closer to a ‘yes’.
- Go and have coffee – the best tonic for pretty much anything. Coffee with someone gives perspective, a fresh light, pennies drop and you expand your network, and you’ll get that introduction that will unlock the next level.
- Get support – whether it be a coach, mentor, advisor, outsource some services, or have your family high five you every time you walk in the room, do whatever it takes.
- Remind yourself of your achievements and successes – it’s so easy to focus on the ‘don’t-haves’ and not the achievements. Keep a weekly log of what you’ve done that week.
So make the decision to walk head on into the Valley of Despair, and go armed with your tactics for when the going gets tough. And just keep going!