Entrepreneurship is a thrilling roller coaster ride. There are highs, but there are also lows. What isn’t talked about enough is the struggle that so many entrepreneurs face pursuing success. How do you navigate through the tough times? Where do you turn?
What do you do when you hit rock bottom?
I sat down with entrepreneur David Schloss to learn just that. David Schloss' expertise is Facebook advertising. But in 2014, at age 25, he nearly became completely irrelevant. It had been a tough year. Things weren’t clicking. On Halloween that year, David had zero dollars in his bank account. He was only 72 hours away from either coming up with his rent payment or getting kicked out. His car was two weeks away from getting impounded. It felt like walls were closing in. His business was crumbling. In this period of confusion, anxiety, self-doubt, and worry, David was a single decision away from committing “career suicide,” and going back to a 9-to-5 day job.
Thankfully, for David, he turned things around. He didn’t go back to being an employee. Instead, he navigated through the tough time and today is the proud owner of a successful and thriving company. What changed? How did this one entrepreneur break through? How did he get up from his rock bottom? Here are four keys entrepreneurs can use to make it through the tough time, get on track, and rise up in business and life.
1. Let yourself be vulnerable.
Sometimes we hit walls. We struggle. Sometimes we lose. Too often as entrepreneurs, we hide those struggles. The problem is, if you don’t let yourself be real and vulnerable when you’re struggling, you will actually hold yourself back from progressing through the tough time.
In David’s period of uncertainty, being vulnerable proved to be a powerful key in his turnaround. David had hundreds of business friends on Facebook. Realizing he needed help, David reached out to every last one of them for advice and guidance. Two things happened. First, he discovered that he wasn’t alone -- many other entrepreneurs had gone through similar things. That helped him develop confidence that he could get through it too. Second, they gave him actionable advice to get on the right track.
Had David stayed “closed up,” he wouldn’t have had the support he needed from others to help him move forward. When you’re in a tough spot, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sharing the struggle is the bravest thing you can do. Being vulnerable isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength.
2. Develop a vision.
Ask yourself, “What do I want to create?”
It’s difficult to know if you’re progressing when you don’t know where you’re going. Stephen Covey in Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, writes about beginning with the end in mind. Know where you want to end up at the beginning of the trip. Reverse engineer what you want to do and where you want to go. That will become your North Star guiding your direction.
David developed a vision for the future he wanted to create. He used the advice from his colleagues to help him get super clear on his vision and direction. It’s that vision got him get out of bed in the morning and motivated his work.
Vision is critical. If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?
3. Create an action plan.
Vision is where you’re going, action is what gets you there. You’ve heard “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” While that’s true, there’s an important distinction to be made -- your plan must be based on “action” instead of based on “results.”
In my first book, Fish Out of Water, I explain how successful "sharks" focus on what’s inside their control, vs. outside their control. While the result is not always directly within your control, action is.
David got clear on where he wanted to go, then made a daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly plan of action of how he was going to get there. To him, success wasn’t based on the amount of money he made; it was based on the actions he took to make that money. He believed that if he took the right actions, results would come as a byproduct of those actions -- and they did.
Decide what you want, then focus on the thing you can control to get there. Focus on action.
It’s no surprise that things don’t always go the way we planned. Persistence is a decision to keep moving towards the vision no matter the hiccups along the way. It’s not just doing "what it takes." It’s doing “whatever it takes.” It’s falling down, and getting up again anyway. Life is like a chess game. You create a plan and a strategy, but how you win will not be the exact way you planned. Why? There are many unknown variables. It’s continuing to take the action, and not turning back.
Things didn’t abruptly become sunshine and roses while David was in the day-to-day grind, but he persisted no matter what. That’s why he is where he is today. Planning is what gets you moving, persistence is what keeps you going.
Entrepreneurship is an exciting adventure and a fulfilling journey, not just a satisfying destination. It’s not just about where we are going, but who we become throughout the process. David began to realize he wasn’t even the same person anymore. He was changing. It was like he was a butterfly now and, while he didn’t know it at the time, the low point was his metamorphosis.
As I talked about in a recent podcast interview, often times it's the struggle that turns us into a great entrepreneur. So just remember, when you’re in a tough spot as an entrepreneur, it only means you’re being reborn into the new you. The exciting question is, what will your metamorphosis look like?