In May of last year, at a small conference in Fargo, North Dakota called Misfit Con, On stage, one of the most difficult things in my life I’ve ever done happened. I was asked to speak about my entrepreneurial success!
I began a marketing company called IWearYourShirt back in 2008 which was, to say the least, a bit unique, and for over five years by that time, I had been running the business. I had grown the company to one generating in annual revenue more than one million dollars from an idea I had gotten while standing in my closet. But unfortunately, I had lost my passion to run the business at this particular time. The once rabid community I had generated, with the growth of social media was becoming diluted, and clients were no longer flocking to my door to pay for my services.
There was in front of me a small group of creative and passionate professionals as I sat up on the stage, when a switch went off in my brain. I made the decision that for the first time in longer than I could remember, in front of a group of people, I was going to allow myself to be vulnerable. I was going to be completely honest, not regulate my story and pretend everything was always great.
The specific details of what I said escape me, but all of the emotions that for years and years I had built up came tumbling down. When the talk was completed, people not only applauded, but literally rushed up to embrace me and offer me words of encouragement.
The bottom line that I saw is that people truly due respond to the truth and total honesty. We get to see continuous stories of start up businesses, IPOs and successful acquisitions that reach millions of users. The fact of the matter is however that business is lonely, volatile and hard stuff sometimes. When things don’t go just the way you expected that they would, you very often remain with the shameful and frustrating feeling of being completely lost.
It took months for me to begin to feel focused again after Misfit Con, but the first step toward finding my way was admitting the truth. During that time, I also learned some key lessons that truly were instrumental to getting myself going again. Take a look at these 4 steps to regaining your focus
1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Lesson number one was to not be hesitant asking for help. “You don’t get what you don’t ask for” has become in business my personal motto, and when asking peers for help, this still applies. Pamela Slim was one of the people who at Misfit Con offered me encouragement. At the event, Pam was a fellow speaker, and when she my confession on stage, she told me to reach out for coaching help to her. Unfortunately, because it still felt like I was admitting defeat, it took me eight months to reach out to Pam. It turned out to be one of my best decisions made ever, even though it took longer than it should have to make it. Pam helped me find the connective thread in my work, explore my passions again and moving forward, focus my goals.
2. Identify what is truly important.
Another speaker who was at the conference, Joshua Fields Milburn (of TheMinimalists.com)offered me some advice that led me to another valuable change. Joshua’s story truly felt so similar to mine. He had wound up owning so many things he didn’t need, racked up a lot of debt, and it was by those things deemed “successful” by society that his goals were being completely driven by. Certainly, Joshua had a much more drastic approach to changing his life(selling everything to lead a life of minimalism), He did leave me with a question I pose to myself daily Does this thing bring me value? The question applies to the work we do, the people we surround ourselves with and the things that we buy. This led me to a conscious decision to think about what brings me value, and to realign my goals in life and not worry about what society deems is a mark of success.
3. Get negativity out of your life.
During that time, as I realigned my focus, I got a good look at just how much I was surrounding myself with negativity. My college friends didn’t understand the life of an entrepreneur, and they had totally different priorities in life than me. Many simply coped with my ideas, even though they didn’t support them. I started to understand over time that more harm than good was coming to me from these relationships.
4. This applies to online negativity as well.
I also took notice of the social networks that we subscribe to, and noticed the negativity flowing there. My Facebook newsfeed was a breeding ground for religiouspolitical opinions, rants, complaints and “woe-is-me” updates. Twitter was riddled with snarky remarks and customer service complaints. It truly brought me down. I began to intentionally from my newsfeed hide people that were constantly negative, others with never any positive input, and basically put limits on my time spent on the internet. A huge chunk was lifted off me by my eliminating offline and online negativity from my life, which had the result of allowing me to think much clearer in my work.
It is never that easy of a path for the entrepreneur to travel. There are contrasting times of loneliness and struggle, and satisfaction and happiness. Being able to admit to myself that business didn’t work out exactly according to my plans, helped me to be able to take on major changes that have truly helped balance my life, and given me new excitement for the work I do.
This story is from the point of view of Jason Surfrapp the founder of IWearYourShirt.com, but I felt the need to share it!
What else helps you keep your focus? Tell us in the comments below?