Growing, Growing, Gone
Why entrepreneurs always move onto the next thing… And why you should not stay to slog it out- even when your mother is like “But you’re finally making money!”
Does this sound like you? You’re bored easily. You always have new ideas. You’re not sure which ones to pick. You start things and never see them to completion. You’re making everyone who works with you crazy. Okay, creative people… what the hell is going on with us? We are creators! (And your partner knew that when they married you, so that’s on them!) You do a million things, you’re generally happy, energetic, and filled with ideas. Sort of a cross between Einstein, Oprah, The Absent Minded Professor, Bill or Melinda Gates and also maybe Piglet. In many cases you really build things and you’re damn proud of it, but now and then, (or maybe more now these days), you’re frazzled, you’re split focused, and you’re an ineffective mess. Projects lay unfinished, people on your staff don’t know what you want, your company's finances are shaky, and you’re deeply deeply tired. Basically, your life is one big expanse of a giant fluffy dog thinking “squirrel”! So, here is how to pick your projects, how to know your superpower skills, how to get help from your staff for the long haul, after the fun stage has passed, and how to generally use your genius to generate new ideas for good rather than the evil of constantly petering out.
Okay, so let’s start with this issue of picking what to work on. So, as you've probably heard me say, it’s not what you do but how you do it. There are a million ideas and projects and careers and things that can help the world, and there isn’t necessarily one thing that’s right for you. Often we don't know what the perfect project for the moment is until we’re in the middle of it. So, that’s called “Ready, Fire, Aim.” That’s the principle I’ve talked about in my book, Improvisation For The Spirit, and it’s also in my courses a lot because it’s really important to improvising a life. It’s the idea that you start a project (that’s the ready part), and you put it out there (that’s the fire part), and it goes off the rails or gently veers off in an unexpected direction, and then you just aim again, and again, and again. This is not a failing, this is just the creative process. And that is entrepreneurship, so expect that!
What I mean by “it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it”, is that you can pick anything and you can do it in a stressful or ineffective way. You could have the perfect idea but if you either have bad habits or you're disorganized or you’re too attached to the outcome being one way when it really wants to go another... well, then you’re going to have a frustrating time and you may quit. So the real answer is, it doesn’t matter what you pick to do, but it’s how you do it. Do it with passion. Do it for the right reasons- because it’s meaningful and it makes you get up at 5am excited with an idea, or because it helps you feel connected! Don’t do it because your parents want you to or your spouse or family or friends. Don’t do it if the money is the only reason. Don’t do it if you haven't looked at what the reality of creating it will look like down the road and what that will make you feel. You need to align your mission, and what you want to feel with the reality of your creation.
So, about being bored and scattered and wanting to move to another exciting idea. How do you know if you’re just frustrated and quitting? And when do you know it’s because you just really have a new idea and that’s a better fit for your energy? Let’s talk about burnout, because that shit is real. It’s even more common for creative entrepreneurs like us, because we have so many ideas and we are in love with idea generation. We love the process! It’s exciting, it gives us a dopamine hit, it’s addicting and it's creative! It’s great. That’s one reason why we come up with new ideas all of the time, because we love it! If we can channel that enthusiasm into growth, that’s obviously going to help our project, but if it makes us quit and start something else than that’s going to potentially become a problem. So you will have a ton of unfinished projects and no doubt that’s going to be frustrating and it’s possibly going to drain your savings! Not to mention it’s going to frustrate people you work with who are trying to keep up with you. Instead, if you know you are a serial entrepreneur, which is someone who constantly starts new things and doesn’t finish anything, then plan for that shit! Get partners and employees who are not that way… people who love figuring something out and slogging it out for a long time, steadily growing what you’ve started. Sometimes when I suggest that to creative entrepreneurs they say “there are people who like that?!” it’s unfathomable to us because we don’t like repetition and steady growth. But thank God not everyone is a creator or a business starter because we would have a lot of half done crap around us like houses without roofs or a fridge full of half decaying fermented pickle making products… (absolutely not referring to anyone in my family). So when you hire people, don’t only hire people who are only capable of starting things. They need to be capable of building things longer term. And this could be the solution for everything! You start project after project and then you pass them off to someone who is excited to build it. Plan for this! Then you both win. And the world wins because your project or service comes into fruition and it helps the world. Here are a few ways to do this:
Definitely ask interview questions for potential employees and partners. “Are you a starter or are you someone who likes to build things slowly over time?” That’s what you have to ask them.
When you’re working with people, let them know you are a starter and that you will have ideas and value the long term vision that they have to let the ideas come into existence and continue to grow. Let them know you will lose juice about it yourself, move onto something else, and that doesn’t mean you’re over it, or that they shouldn’t continue.
Make sure you continue to give yourself time to dream and scheme. A lot! You have to keep allowing time for this to keep things fresh and continue to grow. Don’t cheat yourself out of this creative dream time. Schedule it if you have to!
Stay connected to the people growing your projects. Don’t pass it off and never come back and not check in. They most likely need your guidance and big picture skills. And you will get satisfaction about hearing about how it’s growing.
Be careful that you do actually pick one thing at a time so you don’t end up in indecision mode where you don't even pick the project in the first place that will take off.
Here is another typical aspect to the creative entrepreneur personality. It’s the “squirrel” principle. So, let’s say you have five ideas and you don’t know which one to pick. That brings us back to, “it doesn’t matter what you do, it’s how you do it” principle. Sometimes, just picking something is the answer. The only problem, is that your mind will come up all these tricks to distract you, and not let you pick one. It’s a trick of the ego to try to keep you safe, and never really let you get anywhere. So, of course that’s not actually keeping you safe… but that’s what the ego does! This is a commitment practice. You want to quit, so you pick something else to focus on. Don’t do that, though. You’ve committed to it. You know it doesn’t matter, cosmically, what you pick, but it does matter that you pick something, because that habit of comment will help everything you do. So just pick and then recommit and recommit even when you want to bail.
If you simply need a decision between two things… literally flip a coin. Try it. You say “heads, I do this project, tails I do the other project”. Flip it, and see what your very quick millisecond initial reaction was when you saw heads or tails. Were you happy? Relieved? Annoyed? That can help you find your gut instinct because you don’t have time to think. You just feel that first thing.
Okay, let’s recap.
You have a lot of ideas. Pick one. Don’t ulcerate over which one. Work on it with clarity and vision and focus until it’s at that point where you can hand it off. Remember it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it.
Know you will tire of your project and want to move on.
Hire the right people with the skills you need to compensate for your “don’t make me work on this long-term” personality!l Make sure they have strategy skills, determination, and that they get actually get juiced from growing something. It gives them great satisfaction because that’s the kind of personality they have.
If having new ideas is really your superpower, than own it! And make time to dream and scheme. Consider that your work.
But… This is the reason to not stick it out, even if your mother wants you to because “you’re finally making money!”... If you are doing something and you have really, truly run out of juice, you should not stick it out. Don’t stay because you will drown in your own inertia and boredom and possibly depression. Look, it’s just not who you are! And yes, some people will definitely see this as quitting or not being able to settle down and do the hard work, and that’s okay, that’s their opinion and it’s entirely because they don’t get you. Find some people that do! Start a Squirrel Support Group! If you stick it out and slog and grind away day after day at something that gives you no juice, not only will you be unhappy but you will make the poor lovely people you hired unhappy as well, and drive the project into the ground and just kill it. Does that sound dramatic? But so are we! And that’s what I’m trying to say.
Quitting is not a failing unless you don’t harness it. Where would we be if we didn’t have creative people who generated new ideas all the time? We would still be in caves with no dental floss and we would all get gum disease and die early!