In Order to See the Road Ahead, You Must First Clear Your Windshield
As an entrepreneur, you likely have many goals for your business this year. It may be raising capital, building awareness or passing a major financial milestone. If you have done this before, you have some idea of the planning, goal-setting, networking, delegating, marketing and countless other tasks that make up the hard work of building a successful business.
Whether you are new to this game or a serial entrepreneur, you have a dream of what you want to achieve. Yet a large percentage of entrepreneurial dreams -- estimates range from 40 percent to 90 percent -- never see the light of day or wither on the vine.
This is similar to the failure rate for that annual ritual of self-improvement called “New Year’s resolutions.” While 45 percent of Americans usually make New Year’s resolutions, only about 8 percent succeed in keeping them, statistics suggest.
There are practically as many reasons business ventures and resolutions fail as there are wrecks littering the highway of entrepreneurial dreams. Instead of focusing on those, though, let’s take a look at what it takes to succeed in creating any kind of positive change. The key, whether your goal is to build a new business or boost your health, finances or joy in life, is to pivot, creating a new strategy to overcome the obstacles that stand in your path.
I learned what it meant to pivot when I walked away from the law firm I had spent 17 years building to embark on a new career as a transformational trainer and eventually CEO of a global human-potential training firm. It was not a decision I made overnight, but it was prompted by a growing awareness that something vital was missing in my life.
Despite the piles of money I was making, I felt regret snapping at my heels -- the sense that I was not fulfilling my true purpose despite the long hours I was putting in. My energy ebbed, my health began to falter, and one day I found myself in the hospital with tubes sticking out of me -- the doctor warning me that I had to make big changes.
I had a vision, a long-held dream, of inspiring others to achieve their dreams. For a year and a half I chased that dream on my own time and dime, flying from event to event, warming up audiences and tapping into the energy I felt in helping others pivot.
Whether you are dreaming of switching careers in midlife, starting a new business or making any kind of major change, the first step is get clear in your vision of what you want. To help people do this, we’ve created an exercise called The Windshield: An Introduction to Clarity.
Here’s what it’s about: Over time our experiences change the way we see things. Our relationships, impressions from childhood, emotionally charged moments, daily habits and content we consume narrow our vision. Eventually, we lose the ability to envision a path that’s different from the one we are on.
How do you clear your windshield? Here are six steps that can help you achieve clarity for your pivot.
First, "unbelieve" myths that are keeping you stuck. This could be a general myth such as “pivoting is too risky” or a specific one such as “I’m no good at selling my idea to investors.” It could be the myth that you have to take enormous risks and quit your day job. Pivoting isn’t about sudden, radical change. It’s about envisioning and creating a realistic path to sustainable change.
2. Let go.
Let go of the need to know exactly how your pivot will unfold. Preoccupation with a plan can keep you as stuck as focusing on the past. Realize that pivoting is a process, not a plan, and each step in the process creates the next step. Just because you can’t see all the steps doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
3. Face your fear.
Fear is the single biggest barrier to change, because it is a roadblock to deciding what we want and how to get it. Your fears might include “what if I fail?” or “what if I lose my money?” Such fears represent an emotional threat to change. Fear stories can be like runaway trains that always arrive at a missing bridge.
“If I try to start a business,” we tell ourselves, “I’ll have to spend my savings. Then I’ll go bankrupt, be unable to pay my bills, lose my home,” etc. Fear is almost always based on unlikely extremes. So rewrite your fear story. Ask what is your most reasonable worst-case scenario. Face your fear, and decide to pivot anyway.
4. Envision your future.
Even a clear windshield won’t help you if you don’t know where you are going. So how do you develop a clear vision? First, let go of the “how” for now. The surest way to derail a pivot in its early stages is to start wondering how. Shift your focus away from the obstacles and toward what you want to achieve.
5. 'Enter the pivot phone booth.'
Your success building a new venture will hinge on your passion, so be sure you align your new business with your true identity. By true identity I mean what inspires you and calls you to action. I call this “finding your inner superhero.”
Most of us have been taught to believe you do certain things in life in order to have certain things in order to be someone others would respect as a result. Instead, focus first on who you want to become, and then begin acting based on that identity.
6. 'Big-D' decide.
A “Big-D decision” is when you come to the moment of clarity about the change you must make to achieve your dream. The stakes are always high and emotionally charged, and they always involve action. You will know you have made a Big-D decision when the idea of starting begins to take over.
Almost all pre-pivot lives (and business ideas) share the common thread of inaction. The aspiring writer doesn’t sit at the keyboard and type. The budding artist doesn’t pick up a brush and paint. The would-be entrepreneur doesn’t make the phone call to find out the cost of building software, renting a storefront or manufacturing a product.
When you take the first step, you open up a world of possibilities. Not all of them are ideal. But something magical happens. The pain of not taking action becomes greater than the pain of acting. Suddenly to go one more day or one more second without taking a step toward your dreams becomes intolerable.
So, as you ponder your dream venture and what it will take to make it a reality this year, make a commitment to take an action that is so powerful that you must act. With clarity, the path ahead becomes so obvious, so inspiring and so empowering that taking action will transform from something you could never do into something you must.