May 14, 2020
I talk to entrepreneurs every day, and I keep hearing the same things. They're making plans. They’re revising, adjusting and striving. It isn’t easy; it can feel impossible. Many are making emotionally wrenching decisions, and struggling financially. But they are refusing to give up. They know that this isn’t the end. They have new ideas and new energy, even during the most draining days of their lives.
This has led me to ask a question: How is it possible? How are entrepreneurs so resilient?
Then I came to an answer. It crystallized while I was working with a writer named David Sax. The pandemic destroyed a lot of his business, and struck just as he was about to release a book he’d spent two years on. In an essay for us , he wrote this:
“I had never felt so powerless in my life. For entrepreneurs — all of us who work for ourselves in some capacity — this can feel like the moment we’re least prepared for. Most entrepreneurs are underfunded, unsupported and far too emotionally tied to our businesses to face this alone.
But then I realized something. This is also the moment we’re most prepared for — because we have always been self-directed and forced to survive by being resourceful. We can work from home with children dangling off our arms, in sweatpants, and find opportunity where others see none.”
That’s exactly it. Entrepreneurs always knew that bad things would happen, but that didn’t stop them from pursuing their dreams.
This sounds simple, but it’s not. It’s a profound distinction. Many people are afraid of failure, so they never take risks. Many others think they’re invincible, so they make reckless decisions. But entrepreneurs are different. Entrepreneurs understand that their road is rocky. They accepted — a long, long time ago! — that nothing good comes easy. It’s almost like an emotional immunization. If you know bad things will come, then bad things cannot overwhelm you.
Think of it:
You know that failure is possible but you’re not a pessimist.
You know that danger is lurking but you’re not risk-averse.
You know that the world is uncontrollable but you’ll control what you can.
You know you have to lead but that you also have to serve.
You know you’re a visionary but that you also have limitations.
You confidently say, “I can do that,” even when you have absolutely no idea how to do that. Doesn’t matter! You know you can figure it out.
Entrepreneurship has always required a little craziness, and a lot of contradictions. And now, during a global crisis, as our lives and businesses are upended, these contradictions are the things that will save us.
So what next?
Here’s my suggestion: As you face today’s massive problems, put them into context for yourself. You are a problem solver. Your job, more than anything else, is to solve problems. It always has been. Sure, today’s problems may be bigger and more complex than yesterday’s problems, but they’re still just problems. They’re not magical spells; they’re not otherworldly beings. They are the thing you prepared your entire career for — a series of challenges that require a series of solutions. Your tool kit is decisive action, creative thinking, open communication and a relentless focus on providing value to others.
You’ve done it before. You’ve done it many times before. And now, as you face this massive challenge, you can say, "I can do that."
Even when you have absolutely no idea how to do that.
Doesn’t matter! You know you can figure it out.
This column was part of Mid-Week Motivation, a weekly letter I send out to Entrepreneur's newsletter subscribers. Sign up to receive it! You can also contact me directly on Instagram or LinkedIn.
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