In his new book, The Ultimate Bite-Sized Entrepreneur Trilogy (2017), Inc. columnist Damon Brown highlights actionable strategies to help you start your own business venture. In this edited exerpt, he talks about the role of resilience in an entrepreneur's journey to success.
Here's what is going to happen when you push yourself: The margins are going to become razor thin. Your emotions will have to expand to new boundaries, your resources will end up being utilized in ways never conceived before, and your management of yourself will have to upgrade to unforeseen heights. "To have more, you simply have to be more," Jim Rohn once put it.
In the process to become more than you currently are, to create a path more extraordinary than average, you'll spend time at the edge of the proverbial cliff looking, if not teetering, towards the drop. It will happen.
And when it does happen, you absolutely have to ask yourself "Is it reversible?" Not "Can it be fixed right now?" or "What can I do to feel less pressure?". The question has to be, "Is what's happening going to be permanent?" Money can be earned again, confidence can be rebuilt, and companies rebirthed from difficult histories.
The panic button is overrated. Your ability to overcome rough patches often isn't based on the toughness of the circumstances, as any unique path will be tough - that's why not everyone goes on it! No, your ability to overcome rough patches is usually based on how centered you can remain in the face of chaos. Forget bravery: it's about clarity. It is a scientific fact that the emotional part of your brain will short-circuit your intellectual and creative parts of your brain, the commonly known "Fight or flight" mode where fear and survival drives your decisions. Fight or flight is not strategic, nor is it considering the long-term effects. It renders you incapable of making creative, thoughtful decisions that could not only help you survive, but prosper.
It starts with acknowledging that the work you put in today doesn't go into an empty vacuum. It adds to your momentum and, like a slingshot, all that energy will propel you forward when the moment is right. You just don't know when that moment will be.
Find your treasure
One of my darkest career moments was in 2009. I was fresh home from a self-funded book tour and, based on the five years of work I put into my book Porn & Pong: How Grand Theft Auto, Tomb Raider and Other Sexy Games Changed Our Culture, I assumed the offers would roll in from publications eager for me to write for them. I was wrong, and instead I came home to crickets. More significantly, the print industry suddenly fell off a cliff. Stable, century-old publications, magazines that provided my bread-and-butter, were laying off their entire staffs. Long-time editors were contacting me asking if I knew of any work. My relatively reasonable San Francisco rent suddenly felt like a ridiculous fortune. I had no money coming in and, with my most reliable editors gone, no prospect of more on the way.
Joseph Campbell called this "the dark night of the soul", when the hero is lost, confused, and seemingly optionless. It is there, too, in this dark night of the soul, that the hero finds a treasure that cannot be gained by any other means. The rest of the hero's journey is spent mastering the newfound treasure and using it to come out of the darkness, bringing the treasure back to the rest of the world like Prometheus returning fire from the gods.
In my case, I heard a strong rumor that Steve Jobs was going to announce a giant iPhone, sort of like a laptop without a keyboard. I talked to a book editor about a simple guide to the device, and the editor loved it. The problem? Internet writers would be covering the gadget as soon as it arrived, and a traditional publisher, at best, would have my book out four to five months after the launch. The book would fail.
I then realized there were new options in self-publishing and, after some quick research, learned that digital books were growing much faster than physical books. What if I published my own digital-only book? I rounded up my dad, David Brown, who is an artist, and my colleague Jeanette Hurt, who is a freelance editor, and asked them to help. Sure enough, Jobs announced the iPad in January 2010. It launched April 3rd, and my friends and I stood in line all night to buy one. I spent the following three days exploring every nook and cranny of the device, writing down everything I thought would be useful. Damon Brown's Simple Guide to the iPad arrived on digital bookstores exactly a week after the device launch, well before any traditional publishers or even other self-publishers could get their books out. The book went to number one, my rent was comfortably paid into the near future, and I discovered a way to make a living independent of both the capricious print media and traditional publishing industries.
I found my treasure. I wouldn't have been looking for it without the pain. And my previous situation, however dire, became completely reversible.
Develop that muscle
Spirituality teacher Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith asks this question:
If this experience were to last forever, what quality would have to emerge for me to have peace of mind?
He adds, "I may need some strength or something... name whatever quality. And what happens is your attention starts focusing on that quality rather than resisting the dark night, then the process is sped up. You move through it faster."
Consider that the same thing can happen to you and to me, yet your experience may feel much, much more difficult. It is because I may have a certain learned skill or attitude allowing me to float through the same situation you may consider a crisis. What if the point is for you to learn that skill, too? And, if the situation is reversible, then whatever happens to you may not even do any long-lasting harm.
I have had a few dark years in my career, and without 2009, I wouldn't have developed my voice outside of the traditional publishing industry, which led to several independent books, most recently the very one you're reading right now. I couldn't have known the profound impact my difficult time would have on my career, nor that the financial hardship I experienced would be made up for many times over based on what I was learning. And I didn't have to know.
All I needed to do was ask my favorite question to myself every single day: "Is it reversible?" I'd realize that it was. And, as I realized it, I would feel OK again.
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