The scariest part of running a business

When you hear a strange noise in the back yard, your heart rate rises. When you walk into a dark room, your palms sweat. When you walk through a spooky cemetery at night, your knees shake with fear.

Why is it that we are afraid in those situations?

It’s the same reason that someone is afraid to start a business. It’s a fear of the unknown.

  • We’re not sure what that strange noise is… it could be anything!
  • We’re not sure what is in the dark room… it could be anything!
  • We’re not sure what undead thing could climb out of the grave and tear us apart… it could be anything!
  • We’re not sure what costly obstacles will drive us to bankruptcy in our new venture… it could be anything!

Like skulking through a misty graveyard, running a business is all about living with the unknown. And the more you can embrace the unknown and thrive in it, the better your business will be.

When I started freelancing in 1999, I had no idea what I was doing and how to do it. I struggled for a couple of years and ultimately failed. But just 2.5 years after my failure, I did it again… I was still not sure what I was doing or how to do it but I had completely different results. There were a few differences but one of those differences is how I embraced the unknown. The first time I ran my business, I feared the unknown and I can think of some very specific times when the unknown pushed me to taking the wrong actions or (worse yet) no action at all. But when I started my business the second time, I had a completely different appreciation for the unknown (thanks to a sales job I held for the 2.5 years between my two businesses). The second time around, I knew that the unknown existed and I had developed some tools to help me handle it.

So how can you handle the SCARY unknown in your new or existing business? Here’s my advice:

  • Acknowledge that the unknown exists and try to appreciate that it adds some spice to your life. Try to take a positive approach rather than the negative walking-through-the-graveyard perspective. It makes a big difference!
  • Handling the unknown is kind of a muscle. It needs to be stretched to become stronger. The more of the unknown that you can handle, the easier it is to do. Take on tasks, assignments, and challenges that you don’t know how to do. (Start small; start with things that won’t ruin someone else’s life or things that a client isn’t relying on). Build from there.
  • Create checklists for your business. Although this doesn’t directly address the unknown, it helps to cement the familiar processes in your mind. That way, you have a safe place to return to when you travel through the dark and scarey graveyard of the unknown.
  • Create contingency plans for all foreseeable (and non-foreseeable) events. This vastly reduces the amount of unknown that exists in your business.
  • Commit this to memory: There is very little in business that cannot be undone. Sure, we hear horror stories of businesses that do something stupid and are mocked or flamed on social media… but even those go away and people come back from it. The web allows you to reinvent yourself over and over, very quickly.

The scariest part of running a business is the unknown… but it doesn’t have to keep you from running a business. Instead, you can survive and even thrive the unknown and excel when others become too scared to continue.

Massive action checklist

If you want to get stuff done, you need to take action… and what’s better than taking massive action?

Massive action is the kind of action that moves mountains to achieve your goals. It might be hard to get rolling but once you do, you get a lot of stuff done and build momentum and it becomes even easier to get even more done. While everyone else is puttering around with their wishes and hopes and tiny actions, you are rocking it out by bashing your way through toward success.

If you want to take massive action, here is a checklist of what you need to do it successfully:

1. VISION

Make sure you have an big-picture vision of what you ultimately want. You won’t get there with one single massive action but having that vision will keep you motivated. Do you have something in mind? Good. Now double it. Make it big. Make it awesome. Make it audacious. Make it crazy. Let it inspire you. Let it shock you. Let it challenge you.

2. GOAL

Now you need a goal… a goal that will feed into your vision. Think of your vision as being achieved when you accomplished 2 – 5 goals. So identify a goal. It needs to be measurable so you can say that you’ve done it. And, if you’re really committed to taking massive action then then it needs to be a crazy goal that you don’t think you can actually accomplish.

3. LIST OF INITIAL TASKS

Your goal is going to be made up of tasks. Stuff you need to do. By doing all of the tasks, you’ll end up achieving your goal. So list out some of the first tasks you’re going to do. Why do I suggest only listing out the first of your tasks and not all of them? Well, if you want to list out all of them that’s okay but it can sometimes feel daunting when you look at a big list of tasks; plus the point of taking massive action is to get started, so if you spend your time focused on listing tasks, you’ll get caught up in the “administrivia” instead of the action. Write down just enough tasks to get some momentum.

4. CREATE A MASSIVE ACTION ENVIRONMENT

Massive action takes time and focus. So eliminate distractions, shut down unnecessary websites (no Facebook during massive action time!), turn off your phone, and ask your family members to help you. Better yet, state your commitment to massive action in different places (Twitter, Facebook) before starting. Let the world know your crazy goals. Also make sure you have all the tools you need to take massive action because you don’t want to get part way into your effort and be forced to stop because you’re missing something.

5. GET PUMPED UP

By now, you are hopefully excited to start hammering your way through massive action. But take a moment to get even more pumped up. Review your vision and goal to remind yourself of the crazy heights you’re hoping to climb. Listen to music that gets you going. Watch an inspiring YouTube video. Whatever it takes. I like using a countdown timer on my cell phone to raise the level of enthusiasm in the same way that a rocket counts down to launch.

6. START

When the clock hits 00:00, get started. Work your ass off in a frenzy of enthusiastic productivity. Bash your way through your tasks. Massive action is about big activity, not finesse. Don’t worry about going back to edit your work or make corrections (unless it’s a requirement of the next steps). Push forward. Celebrate the victories of completing each of your many tasks… but KEEP PUSHING.

7. PUSH THROUGH

Push through to the end. Work until you are done. Preferably, work until you’ve accomplished your goal (or, if that’s not practical, work for a minimum amount of time — such as an hour or two. You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve if you have set everything up for you to take massive action.

Twitter meet-up with real estate pro Mark McLean over South American tapas

Yesterday I had the opportunity to meet someone in person who has become a colleague and friend on Twitter. Mark McLean is a business development manager at a real estate company in Toronto Ontario, and he’s also active in the Toronto Real Estate Board. (Read his always-engaging blog, Realty Laboratory).

He’s visiting Winnipeg where the Canadian Real Estate Board is holding its Annual General Meeting and he let me know in advance that he was coming so we arranged to meet.

We met near Winnipeg’s iconic intersection — Portage and Main — and we walked a couple blocks north to one of my favorite Winnipeg restaurants, Hermanos (where, frankly, I gorged myself on their always-delicious South-American-inspired tapas). I tried a new-to-me beer, as well: Quilmes, which is a popular Argentinian beer that I found light and sweet.

It was great meeting Mark in person! I learn a lot from him on Twitter (you should follow him if you are a real estate pro!) and I learned even more from him in person, particularly about the real estate market, the politics of real estate boards, and his experiences in working with real estate professionals.

We talked about real estate, business in general, and floated a potential joint venture project. And I came away with a handful of blog post ideas to write, a couple of bloggers I should follow, plus a couple ideas that might help him with some of the challenges he faces.

This is the reason I’m on Twitter! I don’t “sell” on Twitter. I don’t look for new business from Twitter. I don’t try to get followed by thousands of people.

Instead, I listen to interesting people and I build relationships with them, and that results in something much more than a single transaction. Thanks for the meet-up, Mark!

And if any of my other readers or Twitter followers ever find themselves in Winnipeg, please feel free to get in touch. It’s great to put a face to the tweets!

What I’m working on this week (Oct. 29 – Nov. 2)

Busy days ahead but it’s hard to do work when there are so many distractions!

I have a number of deadlines coming up in the next couple of days — should be able to hit them without any problem but they’ve all piled up here. I love it! It feels busy and it’s going to take some seriously hard work to get them all done on time.

But then there are the distractions: It’s my wife’s birthday today so there’s some celebrating to be done! I’m also tracking Hurricane Sandy — it won’t affect me personally but it will affect some friends and family and I’m fascinated by the size and historic nature of this storm. And, I’m hoping to take a few days off to rest my brain (especially after this big push of work) so that adds a layer of urgency to my work right now.

Here are some of the things I’m working on this week…

  • I’m continuing to do a TON of work for a real estate investor — we finished a printed book of his earlier this month and we’re starting on another one. (It’s the third we’ve written together). I’ve also got 8 ebooks to write for him. The timeline’s flexible but the sooner or better is what I say!
  • I love to prewrite any content that isn’t date-specific so for one of my clients, I’m nearly done writing all of her content for November. Just finishing the last few things this week. (Then next month: Work on December!)
  • And recently there was the New Orleans Investment Conference and I get a bunch of information about that event to write for an online junior resource website. Right now I’ve got about 7 or 8 reports to write but I expect more to pile in shortly.

As usual, there’s a bunch of other stuff too but I don’t want to bore you with what I do, which is basically to sit around all day and type furiously. I love what I do!!!

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