Have you ever wanted to achieve a goal so badly – you refuse to turn back, despite imminent danger, loss of life or limb, or risk of serious injury? I see small business owners do this to themselves time and time again…
“A good climber possesses the courage to turn back – even when the summit is in reach. He never forgets that the ascent, climbing up, is only half the trip. You have to get down, too, and most casualties in the mountains happen during the descent. The greatness of a climber is not measured by his or her ability to reach the summit on the first attempt. What matters most is your attitude, your will not to give up, to try again.” Goran Kropp
Because I often hike solo, sometimes I need to turn around right before I get to the summit. Either the hike took me longer than expected, or I am running low on supplies, or the ascent is too steep, and it’s not worth risking life and limb to get to the top. For whatever reason I have to turn around, I have to leave my ego behind. The disappointment of saving the summit for another day hurts far less than getting injured, stranded or killed because the view from the top was too enticing to back away from.
Each time I make a run for the summit, and consequently need to double back, I learn something new. I learn different paths to take. I learn who to bring along as hiking partners. I learn I need to monitor weather conditions as well as trail conditions. I learn what gear to bring, and what gear not to bring. I learn how to stake out what direction to take with my compass. And the same goes for when you are building a business. We have statistics saying that only 10% of start-up make it past their first two years, and 50% make it past their first five – but I wonder if we have statistics on those who try, and try again – to finally succeed? Those, my friends – are the true Trail Blazers.
Very often, it is when the summit is within reach, is when people reach out to me for business coaching. If you are one of the 10% who make it past the first two years of starting a business, you may find yourself in a precarious situation – do or die. Do you keep going, risking it all, with the hopes of being one of the 50% who makes it past their first five years of business? Or, do you cut your losses, back off the goal, and come back to hike another day?
I understand the emotional attachment we have to reach our goals, and backing off may feel like you failed. You only fail if you do not try again. Remember – your mountain is waiting. Take all the knowledge you learned from your first attempt, and come back again better equipped, more knowledgeable, more experienced, and better prepared.
So, how do you know if you should push for the summit, or turn back to hike another day? There are four tell-tale signs that it might be time to get off the cliff:
1) Your backpack is too heavy – Getting angry at your spouse? Yelling at your kids? Barking at the dog? Kicking the cat? If the emotional baggage you are bringing home from your work is weighing you down on a regular basis, this is a sign that things need to change. If you are having trouble sleeping, eating, or focusing – those are red flags to back off your goals and re-access. Burnout is real, and will sink you if you don’t attend to it. If you are regularly finding yourself weighed down by a heavy load of stress, anxiety or fear, your pack is too heavy, and it may be time to pack it in. At the very least, stress, burnout, anxiety and/or depresssion are red-flags that you and your business need immediate first aid. Seek out the help of a professional – stat.
2) You are out of resources – if you do not have enough resources to get to the summit – how do you anticipate getting back alive? Many startups will deplete their resources hoping that once they reach the top, they will be able to replenish. Chances are, there won’t be enough in reserves to survive. Through hikers on the AT pre-plan mail drops along the way to pick up supplies. Cashflow is the oxygen for your business. Once this resource depletes itself, it’s very hard to recover. Each time you find yourself starved for air, the recovery back gets harder and harder. If you have no idea where your next paycheck is coming from, it might be time to bug out. Contact your CPA, financial advisor, business coach, or a good mentor who can advise you on how to lean up in your business, cut expenses and increase revenues before you find yourself gasping for air, and out of time.
3) You find yourself alone on the trail – have all your compadres left you in the dust? Have you alienated yourself by marching on without looking back? Remember – the view from the top is much more enjoyable when you have someone to share it with. If you look around and don’t feel supported by your spouse, family and friends – you may need to reconnect with your hiking partners before journeying on. Schedule some time off to focus on your friends and family. Don’t overburden them with problems and challenges you are having in your business, instead join a peer group, affinity group or a mastermind so you can share your successes, and get advice on how to address your challenges. One of the hardest parts of being an entreprenuer is being the key decision-maker. Lighten your load by joining a group of people you can talk to and bounce ideas around with so you don’t lose your mind, and your relationships.
4) You have “around the next bend” syndrome – continuing on, depleted, hoping the answer will be around the next bend. Entrepreneurs tend to be optimistic, and in the face of bad results, there’s a tendency to think, “Just a bit longer.” Don’t be the person who hikes themselves so deep into the woods they can’t get out. You need to stop anticipating the next bend – instead, get the help of an experienced guide who can tell you exactly what to expect around each corner, so you can plan accordingly. Hiring a business coach to help guide you from task to task, goal to goal, milestone to milestone is invaluable.
Are you within reach of your summit, but feel the need to double back? A good guide can help you make the right decision, and can help you re-evaluate if needed and get you on your way. Contact me – I’d love to hear from you.
Remember – failure is only when you don’t try …. Your Mountain is waiting, and will continue to wait for you to be prepared, ready and able to make the journey – safely – there, and back.
Until then – Hit the Heights….
Priscilla Hansen Mahoney
Business Leadership Guide