We’ve all been there. Some of us are currently there. It’s about those down days and sometimes months filled with pessimism, discourage and need for change. It was only last month when a group of young entrepreneurs called to discuss the vision and plan. I could feel the vibe in their room. Very excited, motivated, and happy to say the least. Very early this morning, the phone rang. It was one of the founders. I said, where is everyone else? He paused for a moment and said, I’m not sure what’s happening. I quoted Shakespeare, “I always feel happy, you know why? Because I don’t expect anything from anyone. Expectations always hurt.” I said, you expected a lot from just an idea. An idea won’t prove or manage itself, you underestimated the time and effort it takes just to take an idea to another slightly higher level.
There is a competitive advantage I live by that I believe many overlook or don’t take the time to think about. It is the fact that hundreds of thousands of other founders think about quitting and many quit every single day. Therefore, an extra day in business is another opportunity to pass others. This, in my opinion, one of the things Steve Jobs’s saying implies. “I’m convinced that half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”
The graph above is not drawn to scale but realistic. It depicts the relation between startup stages and entrepreneurs’ enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is usually at its highest during the idea stage. It is followed by a steep (loss of interest) decline after realizing the time and effort it takes to move from one stage to the other. This is the differentiating point between dreamers and real visionaries. Mere persistence sets entrepreneurs apart from the crowd. Here are 5 ways to keep your enthusiasm up for an extra day every day.
Your Alternative Option(s)
If your plan B is slightly less attractive than A, you will have hard time focusing on A because in the back of your head you’ll know that you can always enjoy B. Therefore, before even thinking about starting a company, evaluate how bad you want the experience and its rewards.
To avoid deception and to keep your enthusiasm up, take advantage of your best times to think about any down moments you may have had or will have in the future. It will be much easier to overcome loss of interest or enthusiasm when it happens.
Close your eyes for a moment, imagine you have The Click remote and you’re able to see the future. You don’t need the remote. Select one of the successful leaders you follow, read about them and you will find that you share the beginning but not yet the end. Think about the outcome and you’ll be motivated to boost the effort.
Who are you making proud?
Family is one of my biggest motivators and so it is for most of us. It is a combination of them seeing you at the top and you helping them fulfill their goals and needs. During your down times, keep the outcome of your success in making your loved ones in mind. It will help you push a little harder.
Celebrate the small milestones
Some of us have big goals that we often forget about the small accomplishments. In the example above, I told the founder he is forgetting the work he and the team have put into first, uniting efforts of members with complementary skills which is one of the challenges most entrepreneurs face, second, identifying a problem in the market and proposing a solution, third, meeting with 50 potential users which gave them a lot of insights and helped them adjust their initial hypotheses. This is a great accomplishment that deserves a pat on the back. Big goals are achieved in milestones. Don’t underestimate the power of recognizing and celebrating the smaller milestones.
Work with the best
More practically, during down times, it is the power of the group that keeps the pace up. This is one of the advantages of working with committed co-founders and/or employees. Delegate, be transparent and honest. A great team survives harsh personal and professional conditions through belief, perseverance and care. Steve Blank talks about Larry Ellison. He said, “Larry would sometimes take time out to think. He would just disappear for a few days and return re-charged with a pile of ideas.”
Expect the ups and downs. Good times are the best to think about your potential down conditions. It is when you are at your best moments that you should motivate yourself the most. That’s when you should say, we’ve done great so far and we are very proud of what we have accomplished. We know we will have low energy periods. They are inevitable. But we also know that it is for these successful periods that we keep going. Down times won’t affect us.
Keep your enthusiasm up by going back to the reasons behind the experience. You’re doing it because you really wanted it and didn’t see yourself doing something else.
Picture the future by having some alone time. Make your imagination clearer by reading about those who have taken similar steps.
Keep in mind that family is very proud of you. It will be even happier if you exceed their expectations.
Small milestones build up. Don’t overlook smaller accomplishments even if your ambitions are much higher.
More practically, during personal down times, don’t hesitate to delegate and count on your team members. During company down times, show trust and empowerment. Great things happen when forces are combined.
What’s your secret in keeping your enthusiasm up during down times?