In the Heart of Hard
My journal and I have been spending a lot of quality time together. It is the only place I let loose on how I’m really feeling, and it has not been positive lately.
I am known for being positive, energizing, motivating, and upbeat. It is in my nature, so I will surely finish this post with a positive spin. Before I figure out that positive angle, here is all the raw, darkened, knot-in-my-throat questions I have been dealing with this month.
I would love to know how other early-stage startup founders navigate their lows.
Why is it taking me so long to succeed? It has been almost two years since I left my corporate job. I am still not paying myself what I was earning. I mean, I am succeeding. Just not at the level I want. My consulting business has done great, and it has allowed me to bootstrap my startup. I can appreciate the milestones I have met, but I struggle with why it is taking me so long to meet my definition of success.
How do you deal with feeling really frustrated at yourself? Sacrificing something now for a long-term goal is smart. I know. But I sure am bummed to be staying at home while my peers go to Finland for a startup conference called Slush. Why did I break my collarbone and accrue a pile of medical bills? Why did I stick with a lousy accountant and get saddled with unexpected payroll tax penalties? Why am I almost thirty and feeling this pathetic financially? I take total responsibility but dang!
What do you do when the one growth metric that matters for your business flatlines? I know the health of my business is in the health of my email list, and it has flatlined. I am working hard to improve my google search engine rankings. I published a book and had a great launch. I’m on podcasts, posting YouTube videos, blogging — the whole shebang. Nonetheless my one metric that matters hasn’t been growing. I am implementing a new strategy that is already turning things around, but there for a few weeks I didn’t know what to do to get the needle moving again.
Am I just supposed to work harder? From the first day of this adventure I wanted to prove that you can build a scalable business that doesn’t wholly consume you. That you can live a high quality life getting outside, taking care of your health, and engaging in meaningful relationships. I believe in that, but I’m still building this business seven days a week and late into the night. I’m putting in a lot of time, effort, and heart. Is it not enough? Should I be working even harder?
Do I just have seasonal blues? Here in Alaska things are getting dark fast. How much of how I feel has to do with it getting darker out? I haven’t really minded the bad weather because it makes working long days easier. I just can’t help but wonder if my high and lows have anything to do with the change in season. (Although the northern light sightings certainly do lift my spirits!)
I have been told entrepreneurship is hard. I have agreed. It either hasn’t felt this hard before or I forget past periods of challenge I have already come through.
In my core, I know I will succeed. I am in trouble if I ever stop believing that. I accept the risk I took to stop consulting and transition to a new business model. I know the risks and effort today will pay off tomorrow (the hypothetical distance tomorrow that is…).
I know I have made great progress. I know I am succeeding. I know my community believes in me. I know all these things.
It is just hard to appreciate them when you feel so far behind on your goals.
Of course I will keep digging. There is no other option. I can’t be employed by a regular company anymore anyway! I am too accustomed to creating my own agenda and schedule!
My question is this — peers building businesses out there, what do you do to get back into a positive state? What keeps you going? What books inspire you? What habits help?
I bit the dust but a whole lot of people picked me up and said get back out there kid.
Here are snippets of very special counsel, resources, and ideas provided that I hope others also find inspiration.
- “I can tell you that you are 100% not alone and the feeling is totally normal at many different phases. One piece of general advice I wish I had listened to earlier was to understand that there are “seasons” in entrepreneurship. Do not try to fight the season you are in.” Jennifer Christensen, Co-Founder and CMO at Beacon Media + Marketing
- “I don’t think entrepreneurs who are driven to create what isn’t, are very good at being satisfied with what is. And certainly the passion and persistence needed are at odds with any patience. So, I try to stay focused on the long game of be-do-have rather than the juice of do-have-be.” — Ky Holland, Partner at Alyeska Venture Management, Technology Commercial Officer at University of Alaska Fairbanks, and Entrepreneur Ecosystem Builder
- “The best advice I can give is to have patience and enjoy the journey. Continue to work hard but don’t be disappointed when you don’t reach your goal in a year. Or two years. Or 5 years. Sometimes it takes time. “The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit. ― Nelson Henderson” — Jeff Logan, Engineer, Kilt-Wearer, Mentor and Fellow Birthdate Buddy
- “One season MUST give way to the next. Winter must give way to spring, spring must give way to summer, summer must give way to fall, and fall must give way to winter…The trick is to not get discouraged in the winter season when all you see is bare limbs looking dead. Take heart honey, your spring is on its way.” Loleen Denney, My childhood hairdresser!
- Listen to this podcast when you need a pick-me-up: Mark My Words, You Will Remember My Name @Fearlessmotivationofficial
- “Girl, I left my 6 figure policy job in 2016 — to do something on my own. Took me 3 years to realize it wasn’t what I truly wanted to do. Started over this summer…feeling a combination of guilt, shame, embarrassment, defeat and angst…but something in me tells me this is what I need to and was put here to do. It excites me every morning. Stick with what your soul tells you you were put here for. Worthwhile things take time.” — Fellow Unicorn Mafia Member
- An AWESOME summary of opportunities missed by Bessemer Venture Partners. They married humor and storytelling to bring total comfort to the topic of failure!
Meredith Noble is an entrepreneur, community leader, and outdoor adventurer in Alaska. She is part of a new wave of pioneers at Geeks in the Woods building technology companies from remote yet connected properties. Meredith’s company teaches community changemakers how to write winning grants (www.learngrantwriting.org). When not working, Meredith is outside finding inspiration in her surroundings, biking, skiing, and adventuring.