“Going from ‘Why me?’ to ‘Why not me?’ is an important switch you need to make to be an entrepreneur.”
John Lee Dumas’ podcast Entrepreneur on Fire’s guest Edwin Havens suggests that being an entrepreneur requires a change in thinking.
While it sounds simple, that recognition really is the pivot point that changes everything because it leads to action. You can’t be an entrepreneur if you’re not taking action almost every day.
“Why not you? Why not now?” I believe most people would take action if they were more comfortable with imperfect action. Yet, most beginnings are clumsy, painful, and awkward.
No one ever really makes a deliberate decision NOT to act; usually the opportunity just “slips by” one second, maybe five seconds too late. Maybe, while you were working up your nerve, the elevator door opened and everything changed. Maybe once, your boldness was either punished or ignored. As you’re contemplating that memory, opportunity walks on by.
The good news is that opportunities come around all the time. With the right mindset, opportunity is a never-ending flow. Taking a ride on the opportunity highway is like pulling into a busy street. You watch for enough space — again — then you make your move.
There will always be opportunity to act on your entrepreneurial idea, pitch a business, test a small group, take your first client, practice out your chops, or sell your product. Always. The problem comes when we wait for an invitation to do it, or we don’t hustle to achieve it.
Timing is everything. Doors are always opening, yes, but they don’t stay open too long. If your heart is set on something, you’re going to have to move fast and push your way in. Nudge politely, have fun, and respect others (you know all that) but DO expect an initial jolt when you enter the flow.
Expect an inelegant entrance as you announce your presence and give yourself permission to do something uncomfortable. Then put the pedal down so you don’t get run over. Once you’re moving, things start to become more fun. There’s truth to the axiom about apologizing later, so forget about the awkward beginning.
It’s hardly fair to tell this story, because my daughter was so young, only about 8 or 9 years old, when it occurred, . I tell it because it’s as much my story, too.
Permission to Ride
Katie wanted to ride the big water slide at Sea World. She was tall enough, and brave enough; just young. Unfortunately, I was stranded on the ground, so I couldn’t go with her. Her two much younger brothers possessed neither the height nor the desire to slide, so I weighed the options, then decided to let her out of my sight to go on the water slide alone. It meant standing alone in a long line with strangers, most of whom were older than she. Katie gamely agreed.
With dumb trust in the Universe to take care of the situation, I watched my daughter get in the long line. After a few minutes she disappeared, folded into the crowd inside a multi-level bungalow of sorts, winding its way in queue to the top.
While admiring my child’s bravery and adventuresome spirit, I knew that while waiting at the bottom of the slide, I’d be wondering how she was doing, if she was glad she made the decision to go alone, and if she was having fun.
[Go ahead and judge my parenting skills if you like, but functioning as a single mom in public places, the facts are plain. If any of my kids were going to have any fun at all growing up, we had to let go of each other and venture into the world. I know many mothers who would never let their kids out of their sight at an amusement park; but I’m not a fearful mother by nature. My oldest was always self sufficient and comfortable in her skin. She didn’t care for my hovering and, thank goodness, I’m not a hoverer. Thank you, Lenore Skenazy, for the blessing of your blog Free Range Kids.]
So we waited for 45 minutes at the bottom of the slide, watching for her to emerge from the slide into the small pool below. Suddenly, Katie appeared behind us. She was approaching from the stairs where I left her almost an hour ago.
She told me the park employee had turned her away at the top of the steps because she was in the wrong line. Seems there were two lines. One with tubes, and one without. Katie was in the tube line, next to the equally-long queue of sliders without tubes.
Instead of letting her slide in the no-tube line, the idiot monitoring the crowd at the top simply told her “Wrong line. Can’t slide.”
Really?? Where was that benevolent adult or teenager — the one I would be if I saw a kid wanting to slide but who happened to have chosen the wrong line? Why couldn’t someone up there see that she should be allowed to simply transfer to the other line and slide on down. Like everyone else, she waited for 45 freaking minutes!
With no one to advocate for her, she descended the same steps, going against the foot traffic all the way down, and came to find us.
Mamas get angry when kids aren’t given a fair shot. It’s worse when you’re not there to stand up for them. Instead of anger or injustice, some kids just feel sad and hurt. Katie was embarrassed, but didn’t seem to be as upset as I was. She had had her adventure, so I knew I had to let my frustration go.
“It sucks being little.” That’s what I told her. I also told her the guy was a jerk, which did no good. I gave her a hug.
Childhood hurt can last a long time and increase your fear of stepping out again. As her mother, it opened my eyes, too, and provoked the protective Mama Bear in me. Although Katie never stopped being the independent, adventurous, strong and flexible girl I admired; today I see that her skills include outmaneuvering the system by being smarter, quicker and adept at timing her moves; instead of confronting it head on.
Ten years later, I don’t credit this one incident to her mental and social agility, but I do notice how people develop skills that can be traced back to the way they handled things as children.
Polite and Plight, similar sounding words. Hmmm.
There are many ways to overcome an unfair situation, and to flip the switch from “Why is this happening to me?” to “I’m going to make this happen for me.” You have your special gifts for doing that, hardwired into your personality.
The ones I truly feel for are the people who neither confront, nor outsmart, nor sneak around the conventions of society. They are the beautiful, polite souls that accept unfair, unspoken rules — the ones that allow everyone (and no one) permission to stand out.
I can’t help getting pissed off when I see or hear of the breathtaking talent of people who are settling for a position in life that is beneath them.
- An experienced and intelligent writer providing ghost blog posts for practically free, or a penny a word on elance. (Rubbish, by the way… don’t ever do that more than once.)
- A songwriter who has not shared his songs with actual musicians because no one’s ever exactly “invited’ him to write for them.
- A writer who fills journals with her ideas and stories, yet never starts a blog or publishes an ebook because she’s not sure she’s good enough or “doesn’t have the time.”
- The entrepreneur/artist who has a dozen good ideas every week, but works at the big box home improvement store and tinkers in his garage every night instead of bringing his projects to light.
What’s shocking about these examples is the placid acceptance with which some folks view their “fate.”
Listen, we’ve all had that feeling of being devastated by a past failure. Just like my daughter’s experience of waiting for what seemed like forever (at least to me, down below) on narrow, dark steps only to be turned away as soon as she came out into the light. In spite of my incredulity of the situation, Katie tried something brave that day and lived to tell.
Everyone gets the opportunity to feel let-down when they’re young. In fact, i’s better to get acquainted with it when you’re young than to be blindsided when you’re older. Maybe you were cut from your team, blew your audition for the school play, or later in life, passed over for a promotion you deserved. It’s a charmed childhood (and motherhood) that doesn’t include the sting of rejection, but we all live through it and become stronger in the long term. I’ll always remember the tears of a colleague, the mother of a thirteen-year-old who was the only kid in her class not invited to a party. “You’ll understand when you’e a mom.”
And so I do. But even though those moments cut to the bone, you MUST try again.
Permission is a joke
I honestly don’t believe that other people intend to be mean. Everyone is dealing with their own stuff all the time. People are generally good; most are just trying to get along in this big old world the same as you.
Still, if you’re not careful, it’s easy to put too much credence into someone’s behavior or reaction to you. As I tell my kids — crassly, so they remember — “Don’t ever let anyone pee on your dream.”
Women probably do this to themselves more than men. We buy into the belief that we “read people better.” Then we read too much into “clues” about their opinions of us. We often misinterpret subtle facial expressions or careless words, giving them so much more meaning than we should.
I don’t want to change the system or even fix the perpetrators of injustice. There will always be more thoughtless people than heroes. The trick — the joy — is to live and thrive among them with the stronger core, the more stable character. The secret is to remind that little child inside you, of your power.
Your missions is to live your glorious life. You must never sit around and wait for someone to hand you your own power on a plate. It is already inside you.
Everything else is detail, circumstances, and trivia.
The Strength of an Elephant
When a baby elephant is still small and weak, elephant trainers tie it to a tree so that it cannot pull its leg free from the rope, nor tug against the strength of the tree. They know that the animal will tug until it’s tired, then give up in exhaustion.
Over the years, the elephant gets bigger and stronger; certainly strong enough to pull down any tree to simply walk away from it. But it never does that. The now-grown elephant stands obediently tied to the tree because it’s never tested the tree after the first few attempts as a baby elephant.
It accepts its bondage as the truth.
People are likely to do the same thing unless we continually test our limits. Maybe you can see very well that others are achieving things you want to do. I admit, many times I look around and see others’ successes and think, “Hey, I could do that. I should do that. Do I even want to do something like that? How would I make that happen?”
Then (and here’s the icky part) sometimes before I even know it, my imagination comes up with excuses why it’s different for them. She has support I don’t have. He’s has more freedom to travel. She’s younger; has lived here longer; doesn’t struggle with this or that issue, pain, heartache, etc. All bullshit.
The devil loves it when you forget your power and stand there encumbered by bogus baggage that you invented. Before you know it, you’re tossing in a sea of excuses, while those others are on solid ground, clearing the way to make things happen.
The worst excuse you can possibly invent is the one that says, basically, it’s not your turn yet — or some variation of it:
- This isn’t my time.
- The world isn’t ready for this.
- I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes.
- This other thing needs to be done first.
- I need more experience.
- I’ve only been at this for ten years. Five more years and then I can do that.
- As soon as I get new carpets, fix my teeth, lose thirty pounds… then I’ll go for it.
- After the youngest is finished with school…
I know this internal discussion intimately, by the way. I also know that, as Mother Teresa said,“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.” It pays to remind yourself every day why you’re doing those small moves, and to keep a watchful eye on every door that swings open. It could be the next one you should go through.
Whatever you do, don’t just sit it out for awhile. Stay engaged and be ready.
Whether you are ready to pounce, or are using your extreme mojo to take small steps (often the more difficult path); be ready to act. Your opportunity to step out of line is always at hand. The extraordinary possible.
When you decide to make your move, remember this:
Never let others’ self consciousness, ignorance, fear, or negativity dictate your value. It’s their problem, not yours. In more cases than not, their sour attitude doesn’t even reflect their beliefs! I think a lot of people simply don’t feel good. Their frowns are due to a rock in their shoe, or indigestion, or something they heard on the news… something that has nothing to do with you! Once you start looking at others this way, you’ll be amazed how the world changes. You actually start feeling sympathetic toward negative people. At the very least, you can veer away from them without getting scathed.
Know that you are worthy. If you put in the work, the hours, the energy, or planning… heck even if you just have a dream that you are daring enough to share with someone; It’s enough to start the wheels in motion. Your truth is as true as others’ truth.
Don’t settle for someone else’s NO. Accept that some people will never see things from your point of view; how could they? That’s exactly why you must persist in the truth of your point of view.
Learn and follow the rules in order to get your ticket to play. Especially at the beginning. Sometimes the biggest barrier to entry is simply filling out an application. For goodness sake, buck up and do this work! Set up your profile, build your website, register for the course, etc. This is the easy stuff. Anyone can do it. That’s exactly why it filters out the players from the rest. If you can’t do the little stuff to get your toe in the door, you probably won’t be able to handle the bigger problems that come from bigger rewards. You must be willing to take the first steps.
No complaining. If you must complain, write it down and throw it away. I have journals from my past completely full of hopes, dreams… and complaints. Now I know now why the good parts didn’t win out. Hopes and dreams cannot exist side by side complaints. As soon as I stopped exploring the ways other people hurt me, and the way I could never measure up, things started to change for me. A few years ago, I made a decision to change and set upon a deliberate refusal to contaminate my plans, thoughts, actions, written goals, and stories with crap.
I am not a ray of sunshine every minute of the day, for sure, but now I take a moment (sometimes even a day or two) to acknowledge the dark clouds. Then I force them away with a prayer, or an act of kindness, or a written plan. If you’re prone to complaints, take action against it. Replace it with something different. You are stronger than your complaints. You will overcome it.
Don’t blame another person who doesn’t get you. It’s not their fault they don’t get you. By the way, the people closest to you are often the ones who “don’t get you” the most. Forgive them.
Not right away, maybe. Many beginners have a flurry of beginner’s luck, a comfortable, warm current in which they can do no wrong. I hope you are lucky in this way. This will keep you moving forward until you get smacked down the first time. The memory of that first bliss of success is usually enough to whet your appetite to stick with it. But be ready. Success, especially that which comes from beginner’s luck, never lasts.
Know that once you start, you will be met with opposition. Crazy stuff will happen to throw you off course. There will be a hurricane, or a sickness, or a car crash. This stuff isn’t “speaking to you.” Don’t ascribe meaning to it. It will seem like the Universe is against you, but it’s not. If you lean toward that way of thinking, the more accurate truth is that you are probably on the right course when all that crap starts “happening to you.”
More likely, you will encounter resistance from yourself and from others. (I’m only addressing the subject of resistance from others here because self-sabotage is a whole ‘nuther thing!) When you meet resistance you’ll have, you’ll have three choices.
Push back, move on to the next person, or give up completely.
1. Pushing back: Have you ever known the pleasure of changing someone’s mind? Me neither.
Minds don’t change like a chameleons’s colors. Everyone brings their history, prejudices and personalities to the table in any meeting of minds. You can rarely change minds completely (only a control freak wants to!) but you can, however negotiate a mutual agreement that allows everyone to get some of what they came for.
The best outcomes serve both parties better than each’s original plan. So, at least sometimes, be open to a plan B…
Unless, in your mind, there is no plan B.
2. If negotiation is impossible, then move on.
Some dreams, missions, and ideas are just too important to dice up. If your goal, as you define it, matters a lot, negotiation may not be an option.
In that case, moving on is your only choice. Move on to the next person, the next bank, the next angel investor, the next publisher, the next house, the next phone number, or even the next friend.
3. Lastly, of course, you can turn around and go back where you came from. Giving up is better than not trying at all, and some days there may be very good reasons for doing so. No judgment here. Only hugs. But I hope you try again.
A related note: Your past is gone. If it was amazing, I’m happy for you, but it’s still gone. Poof. You may personally and professionally identify yourself by your experiences; attribute great value to them and allow them to determine your future. Many people cling to the past with certainty, but it’s no more real than the future. You may argue that you have bruises to show for your troubles, but in fact, the punch or the fall, whatever cased the bruise, was yesterday. You have so much more than a bruise now; you have the knowledge of what came before it and what came after. You may choose to wear your bruise out into the open today, to cast your past cares aside, to dissociate with them and walk away.
It’s your choice.
Finally, whatever you do, don’t wait for permission from someone else. I know, I said that already. If most of your life is spent waiting for permission from people who hold power over your actions, then think about changing your situation. Decide whether their permission has any effect on your well being; for example, your ability to make and keep friends, obtain food and shelter, raise your family, your desire to pray, etc. If so, rethink their power over you.
“You have no power over me.”
One of the best movie lines ever is from Labyrinth — that movie with David Bowie as the Goblin King. The young princess battles the evil king’s spell and deals with all of his trickery. For hours she navigates his twisted Labyrinth with grace and persistence, until she finally meets him face to face.
After one last offer from the King, she finally realizes her righteousness and stands up to him, saying,
“My will is as strong as yours, and my kingdom is as great. You have no power over me.”
I love the way she performs this line. She says it with wonder and conviction. At the exact same moment she owns them herself, the words fall from her lips, ending the fantasy. She gets her baby brother back and returns to real life. (Never mind that David Bowie just promised to be her slave.)
Try saying the words aloud. It’s actually fun.
Your Real and Fantastic Life
The wonder of childhood stays with some of us for a long time. We remember the stories, people and places from our early years because they had so much power of us when we were kids. Sometimes too much power.
Oddly, when I retell the Sea World story to Katie, she insists she doesn’t remember it with as much gravitas as me. She got over it pretty quickly, in fact.
I was the one hurt. Somewhere, certainly, I was turned back from something I wanted to do. my fearless parenting was not rewarded with a triumphant child. Seeing my child stumble through it brought my claws out. I admit that even now, after I know Katie’s OK, and probably even stronger for that tiny set-back, the incident pulls a fierce reaction from my gut.
I work with entrepreneurs and business owners and other self-made people. They’re my favorite kind, these folks; all misfits in the best sense of the word. Being super sensitive to others who have this same misfit quality, I encourage you to fortify yourself against any established powers-that-be that get in the way of a friend, acquaintance, or child with a big vision.
While it’s perfectly lovely to be patient and polite, there comes a time when you have to step on it and pull out into traffic. Remember, the cross traffic does not stop. No one driving by will ever invite you to ride; they may even advise you to turn back… And that, my friend, is totally unacceptable.
Out of Steps:Flickr CC, Kara Javi
Circus Elephant: Flickr CC, Angela N.