As I've outlined, my life has been a bit of a rollercoaster lately. One day, I'm up in the air - we push a new release and people respond positively, there's an article written about us, we have a great meeting with another startup or angel or vendor, etc - and the next day I have a hard time keeping it together - we are told someone is going to pass on investing we were sure were interested, something major breaks on the site, etc. From one day to the next, there is no way I can predict whether it is an up day or a down day. But every day, I get out of bed and strive to make it the best day possible. "Stay strong" is something I've heard from many friends. Yep. I have no other choice. I have nothing else to fall back on. I am, as my good friend Erica O'Grady put it, "All in". Sure, I could quit and "go get a job", but that's not an option for me. I think of quitting akin to laying down and dying. I know where we are going...or rather, I know we are going somewhere amazing...and this is just part of the journey. And it's not supposed to be easy. If it were, it probably wouldn't be as rewarding to get there in the end.
But something baffles me along the way. It's how people react to the bad days. Lots of people ask me how I'm feeling/doing/holding up. Most days I say, "Staying strong" or "Moving along" or "Things are looking up", but occasionally, they catch me on one of those down days. The frustrating moments. The day when rent is 2 weeks past due, we can't pay our employees, the rejection is piling up and the money coming in is not happening fast enough. On those days when someone asks me how I'm feeling, I just can't bring myself to say, "Staying strong." So I get honest. I say, "Feeling frustrated" or "Something's gotta give" or "Losing a bit of steam." The reaction to this is not incredibly heartening: "Everything will be fine." Yep. I know that. But it won't be fine by the essence of me hoping it will. It'll be fine because I worked harder. Persevered. Thought more strategically. Found that one thing we needed to do in order to get over the hump. Etc.
I don't believe in the law of attraction. I don't. I don't believe that you can say, "Today everything is going to work out fine" and then it happens. But I do believe that you can roll out of bed in the morning and say, "Things are sucking right now...what can I DO about it?" Quite often we know the answer to that question before we even ask it. It may be something we've been putting off or that seems ridiculously trivial (like changing the name of the company), but it's something. It's actionable and, if you haven't tried it, it's worth your while to tackle it in order to see if it moves the needle forward. And sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't, but it's not about believing, it's about doing.
I suspect that even though they don't really talk about it, every entrepreneur out there has gone through days like this. The ones that are successful aren't the ones that are smarter or have better ideas, they are the ones who persevered through these days until they found the right mix that would take them past the pain into the progress. In fact, an article in INC Magazine pointed out to me by Jen Wojcik, talks about entrepreneurial creativity. People with entrepreneurial minds have the ability to adapt and shift and tweak in agile ways. If something isn't working, why not just tweak it just a little? Where are the other opportunities. I'm not a fan of the word pivot because adjustments are really part of the everyday life of starting up anything. We test our assumptions. If the assumption is off, we look for clues as to how we can improve our aim. As one entrepreneur says in the article, "I always live by the motto of 'Ready, fire, aim.' I think if you spend too much time doing 'Ready, aim, aim, aim,' you're never going to see all the good things that would happen if you actually started doing it."
My favorite responses to my assertion that 'today is a hard one' include feedback. "Hey, I see you are doing this thing...but have you thought of doing this other thing, too?" Those are the people I instantly pounce on. I'm eager for input. I know that I may be caught up in the inertia of things. My best contacts and leads have come from those who help me see past my own tunnel vision. What's been amazing is the number of smart people in my own personal network who constantly give me the tools, ideas and contacts I need to keep on keeping on. I honestly don't know how anyone does it without that amazing input. I assume they don't.
Yes. Everything IS going to be alright. But it isn't a matter of the power of positive thinking. That being said, wallowing doesn't help one get out of bed and get the day started, either. But I believe more in strategic thinking than positive thinking. Affirmations only go so far. Action is where it's at.
[photo lifted from Tara Whittle's inspirational quotes stream on Facebook]