Every entrepreneur feels lost and alone at times. When you are trying new ways of approaching a problem, or hoping your market will respond positively to a new product or crossing over from employee to entrepreneur, things can get really lonely.
You don’t have to look far for evidence that you can’t overcome adversity. Some of your family members will gladly tell you that you are crazy to start or grow a business in this economic climate. Author and entrepreneur Jonathan Fields conducted a number of “renegade profiles” after the release of his book Career Renegade: How to Make a Great Living Doing What You Love. These interviews highlighted people who had left successful conventional career paths for more creative entrepreneurial ventures.
When I asked him why he would spend so much time conducting interviews to accompany his book, he said, “I want to compile a body of evidence that shows people that it is possible to reinvent their careers without blowing up their lives.”
The concept of “body of evidence” has stuck with me ever since. When we actively seek and find people who have done what we feel impossible—starting a business with no money from a dorm room; working full-time, raising toddlers and starting a business; experiencing a total market crash and finding new pockets in the market; keeping a marriage intact while working crazy hours—the likelihood of reaching our goals can increase exponentially. Here is your task:
- Name your biggest challenge at the moment.
- Ask yourself “Who has dealt with the same or similar challenge successfully?”
- Start with your immediate circle of family and friends.
- If no one pops to mind in your immediate circle, expand your search to your social networks, favorite books, blogs, and publications.
- Identify three to four people who both fit your criteria and inspire you with their story.
- Connect to these people and discuss their experience. If you cannot get to them, read all you can about them.
- Take notes. Ask good questions. Don’t hold back your fears and doubts. Listen intently.
- After the conversations, frame the highlights in writing or whatever means of communication inspires you.
- The next time you face your challenge, take out your body of evidence, study it, internalize it, and get strength from it.
- Then through your success become part of someone else’s body of evidence.
For example, Glenda Watson-Hyatt is in my “writing a book is tough but feasible” body of evidence since she wrote hers with only her left thumb. Bill Strickland is in my “you don’t need a fancy degree to make massive social change” with his inspiring story of going from the Pittsburgh ghetto to director of one of the most inspiring job training centers in the world. Sonia Simone is in my “you don’t have to sell your soul and dignity to sell products effectively online” body of evidence.
(I am still looking for members of my “you can be a very present spouse and mother of toddlers and still be a very successful businessperson” body of evidence; suggested members, please apply!)
We have no control over external circumstances. But how we choose to feel about and react to these circumstances is entirely our choice. The people in your body of evidence will shift your perspective, give you courage and quiet your naysayers. And they may just become your strongest advocates.
Pamela Slim is a business coach and author of Escape from Cubicle Nation: From Corporate Prisoner to Thriving Entrepreneur (Portfolio, May, 2009). Her blog is here.