Entrepreneurship is full of peaks and valleys, Most of the time, the valleys are larger, longer and take longer to go through than it does to get to a peak.
But, it's worth it. For all the grueling work, challenges, setbacks, emotional toil, and everything that comes along with going through a valley, when you make it through and get to your next peak, it makes it all the more worth it. I see it like a game. A game of fortitude and perseverance that tests us at every level. And each time we power through, we hit a new peak...enjoy it for a short time, and then get ready to fight through the next valley. After all, this cycle of peaks and valleys is one of the biggest things we sign up for in our lives when we make the decision to become entrepreneurs.
But, how do you power through? How do continue to keep going through each valley that is seemingly bigger than the next? I'll admit that there is no step by step formula and each of us will have to find the things that work best for us. But, I have found a few things I think are key for any entrepreneur to be able to power through their valleys.
First, you must have a long-term perspective or learn to take a long-term perspective. Because we never know how long a valley can and will last and we need to have the right perspective, long-term thinking is critical. The best entrepreneurs focus on the long game because they know, at minimum, they can outlast their competition with that view. Every valley you go through in your entrepreneurial journey will be different than the last and will require you to figure out how to overcome it. If you don't take a long-term view, you will become frustrated to quickly and have a bigger chance of giving up. Just know that each day you focus on getting one step closer to overcoming the challenges of the current valley, you are getting one step closer to your next peak. Trust in yourself and have a long-term view.
Second, get and keep yourself in great mental and physical shape. You will need it to power through. Each valley's challenges will test you. They will test your emotions, your mental fortitude and your physical ability to keep going with the burden on your shoulders. By keeping yourself in great mental and physical shape you will be ready for things that come your way and you will have the energy and ability to keep going when you have to. Have a great routine for your mental and physical fitness is also a great outlet for stress and to give you a break from each valley's daily challenges.
Third, resolve to endure. One of my favorite scenes from The Dark Knight (Batman) is when Bruce Wayne decides to turn himself in to meet the Joker's demands and Alfred tells him to "endure and take it" (clip below)
This is great example of a valley that Bruce Wayne was going through as Batman and the best advice from someone who knew him his whole life was to "endure and take it." He ultimately does and you know how it goes from there. He goes through a lot of pain, but he defeats the Joker coming out on top.
It's the same in our valleys. We must resolve to endure. To take it. We must continue to take it until we no longer have to because we've conquered it. This may be the biggest secret. It's more than never giving up. It's more than never giving in. It's that place that no one else dares to venture because it is too hard. It is too much. It's when we steady ourselves and commit to going through these times when we reach our biggest breakthroughs, our biggest peaks.
Put all three together with whatever else you know you need to do when you hit an entrepreneurial valley and you'll power through.
Last week, in Part 1 of this article series, I detailed out the story of a conversation I had with an Olympic hopeful about performance and how we isolated one major thing that was holding him back. Click Here to Read Part 1.
To continue the story. Once he asked the magic question, "How do I overcome this?" I gave him some simple, yet powerful things he can do (and has already said they are making a difference). First, I asked him to tell me what he really believed about his ability to succeed. I asked him deep down if he really thought he could be an Olympian. He told me that up until recently, he wasn't sure, but he had done some serious soul searching and truly believed he could do it. This is step one to overcoming issues with the subconscious. What you believe becomes your reality, so if you don't believe you are destined for success, you simply won't succeed. And it needs to be a deep unshakable belief. So, first, get clear on what you believe.
Because, he had already done the deep work, the next part was easy. I asked if him if he was able to determine what he believed, if he realized that that means he can control what he believes and thinks. I told him he has all the power. He stopped for a second and said, "You are right, but how do I make it a habit." "Easy," I said, just practice Stop, Ask, Choose. He looked at me a little confused. I asked him, "When you start to feel anxiety, you know it right? It doesn't just happen and you don't know it is going on. You are conscious to it." He said, "Of course I know." To which I said, "Great! When you feel it happening, Stop yourself in the moment, Ask yourself if this is the feeling or belief you want to have in that moment, and then Choose to keep it or change it to the feeling you want to have." That is how you begin to re-train the subconscious to replace the negative response with the response you want it to have.
He thought about it for a minute and then said, "I get it and it totally makes sense. It is so simple. But, how do I make sure it sticks and creates a new response from the subconscious all the time." My answer was that he would need to continue practicing Stop, Ask, and Choose and eventually over time, it would change the response. But, in the meantime, he will still feel some anxiety, even though he can now recognize it and change it. I told him the other thing he could do is create a trigger that associates the feeling of calm that he has before his best races. It could a phrase, a simple thought, or even a physical gesture (except the one you are thinking about right now!). Every time he is in that place of calm, he needs to recite the phrase, thought, or gesture to associate it with the positive feelings and success he has in that state. So, for example, if when he is his calm state, he decides that he wants to fold his hands, that will be his trigger. And he will fold his hands every time he is in that state to associate folding his hands with it.
Then, when or if the anxiety feeling shows up, all he has to do is fold his hands in that specific way to trigger the feeling of calm. Triggers are a secret of many top performing athletes, but they can be used just the same for you in all areas of your life and business.
At that point, things really clicked for him. He realized the following:
At the end of the day, all that was needed was for him to get out of his own way and put his mind in check. Together, we figured that out in about 15-20 mins. And you can do the same for yourself. Follow the same process: Determine what you believe, Choose the thoughts you want to have, and Associate the positive to something you can use to trigger it in your life. Once you learn this process, you can continuously coach yourself to higher levels of success and achievement.
Sometimes the best conversations come in the most unlikely places.
I was recently at my fitness center, which is a world class center with an Olympic pool, etc. A lot of the top athletes from the area train there - Pro-Athletes, Top College Athletes, other Ironman competitors that I train with, and even a few Olympic hopefuls.
After finishing a training session the other day, I was happy to find myself with time to spend 10-15 minutes in the sauna (a great benefit to your body after a training session). One of the Olympic hopefuls for swimming, who I've spoken with from time to time, happened to be in there and we got to chatting.
I asked him how things were looking as he is getting into race season and readying for the Olympic trials in early summer. He explained how physically he was in a good place and was starting to focus more on studying the times when he races his best to get more of an edge. I asked him to tell me more and he detailed how the best races he has are when he feels calmest before the race - almost at peace. I listened and asked, "Isn't that how you feel for most races at this point?" Ironically, he said "No." He went on to talk about how he has always had an issue where gets anxiety before races and at times it has derailed him from performing at his best.
Now, I swim a lot in training for Ironman racing and I've seen this guy workout in the pool - he's the prototype, Michael Phelps like swimmer with perfect technique, everything. Physically, he's as good as anyone trying out for or going to the Olympics. Right away, I could tell that this challenge of anxiety weighs on him and something he knows he needs to overcome to be his best...so I dug in a little and asked him to tell me more.
After several rounds of questions, we finally got to the cause. When he was in his early teens and an up and coming swimming phenom in the area, he wrote down some pretty lofty goals of what he wanted to do and the times that he wanted to reach as a swimmer - even at a young age. When he showed them to others that he respected and were close to him, instead of building him up and giving him encouragement, they shot him down. They told him that those goals were too big and that he should be more realistic. And, of course, after getting that feedback, when he didn't reach the goals he had put down that year, he developed a set of beliefs around what was possible for him that got cemented into his subconscious.
So, ever since, when he gets to the moment of the major race, the one in which he knows he can have a breakout performance, he feels the anxiety. I told him that I expect it is his subconscious drawing on that conditioning from years ago from that specific incident that still haunts him. His subconscious is giving him anxiety because if he really goes for it and fails like he did when he was in his early teens it will be another, "I told you so" moment for him. Another failure for those he respected to see and cement that he can't reach his lofty goals. Essentially, his subconscious is sabotaging his ability to break out - even though he is basically an Olympic-level swimmer!
When I said this, he paused and then asked me the magic question, "Then, how do I overcome this?"
I'll cover that in Part 2, but the BIG lesson you should learn to this point is that your subconscious, your mind, most often is the biggest obstacle to your success. And many times, it sabotages us without us even realizing it. This Olympic hopeful had this specific incident rattling around in his mind haunting him for over a decade and has still yet to release himself from it's impact on him. That is how powerful the mind is.
In Part 2, I'll cover how, in about 15 minutes, we worked through this and he now has the tools to help him overcome this debilitating influence in his life.
I love history. Aside from the fact that it is enjoyable to learn about the incredible things that have happened in the short span of human history; there are incredible lessons and amazing wisdom that you can apply to your life and business. History holds a lot of the answers that you seek in life.
With that said, I've pulled some of my favorite quotes the WWII battlefield that apply to entrepreneurship and want to share them with you.
1.) "…we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…" - Winston Churchill
2.) "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." - FDR
3.) "If everyone is thinking alike, someone isn’t thinking." - Gen George Patton
4.) “Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened. He will fight savagely.” - Gen Dwight D. Eisenhower
5.) "Which would your men rather be, tired, or dead? - German Gen Erwin Rommel
6.) "First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me. - Pastor Martin Niemoller
7.) “Nuts!” - Army Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe
He led the 101st Airborne Division during the Battle of the Bulge. The Americans were outnumbered, surrounded, and running short on supplies when a German delegation requested their surrender. McAuliffe was awoken with the news and sleepily responded “Nuts!” before heading to meet his staff who had to draft the formal response to the German commander. The staff decided that the general’s initial response was better than anything they could write. While under siege and near constant attack, the paratroopers typed the following centered on a sheet of paper:
December 22, 1944 To the German Commander, N U T S ! The American Commander
8.) "It is fatal to enter a war without the will to win it." - Gen Douglas MacArthur
9.) "Live for something rather than die for nothing." - Gen George Patton
10.) “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.” - Winston Churchill
Each of these quotes holds a great lesson and wisdom for entrepreneurs and business leaders in general. Think on them and decide what they mean to you!
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