New Founder? Starting a new company? Been going a couple of years but not as successful as you would like to be yet?
You may be falling into one of the Top 10 Entrepreneurs Traps!
Over the years I have worked with many aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners, and I continue to do so because it gives me great pleasure – and it’s my new mission in life (after working with wealth creators in The Money Gym)!
Being a self taught, many times failed, entrepreneur myself, I’m also hyper-aware of the traps that entrepreneurs can fall into.
You can go to college nowadays to “learn” business, and you can even go and do an MBA as a business owner at colleges like Cranfield or the London Business School, however, this is out of the reach of most ordinary people, for either practical or financial reasons. But – I truly believe that learning business “on the hoof”, as it were, is the best, fastest, and most significant way for entrepreneurs to do it. You can implement what you are learning about being an entrepreneur as you go.
You have to realise though that you may be learning the wrong things at the wrong time from the wrong people, so watch out for that. There is “just in time learning” and “just in case learning” and the latter really slows down your success as an entrepreneur.
Go and find entrepreneurs – mentors – to learn from that have done the things that you want to achieve IN THE WAY THAT YOU WANT TO DO IT.
What Do I Mean By An Entrepreneur’s Mentor?
There would be no point in my being mentored by an entrepreneur who built a successful business by telesales and cold calling, because there is no way on the planet I would ever be able to make myself do that.
So I needed to find another way. One that played to my personality (outgoing, curious, no stage-fright), my strengths (working on my own, communicating, absorbing large amounts of information quickly, a love of people, particularly fellow entrepreneurs, and passion to help them succeed) and my skills (speaking, writing, quite techie, interviewing, sharing complicated core concepts in simple terms).
Much is made of the principle, when starting out in business, that you should be able to “do whatever it takes” to succeed, but I totally disagree. If it would take something that you don’t agree with, for legal, moral, ethical or religious reasons, then of course you won’t do that. And I believe that entrepreneurs HAVE to be ethical and stand by their word.
But equally, I think you need to take your own personality, strengths and skills into account and create a business strategy that works WITH that personality, those strengths and skills, rather than try and push yourself to do “whatever it takes” if that whatever makes you miserable, because there may be another way.
Where Are You Stuck?
Over the years, as I say, I’ve coached hundreds, if not thousands, of entrepreneurs – usually self taught – and I can usually spot very quickly where they are stuck.
I’ve come to realise that the places people get stuck fall into a key number of Entrepreneurial Traps and, in the hope that you can recognise where you are and get unstuck, here are my Top 10 Entrepreneurs Traps, in roughly the order you will experience them, depending on how experienced a business person you are.
The Top 10 Entrepreneur’s Traps
Entrepreneur’s Trap #1 – Lack of Strategy
For many new entrepreneurs, in the beginning, it feels impossible to create a strategic business plan because you generally don’t know what works, so how can you make a plan? Well, the first thing to do is to set a goal, because if you don’t have a goal (and a date by which you want to achieve that goal) how will you be able to measure your progress?
It may sound obvious, but the next thing to do is to go and find a successful business in your general speciality or niche and work out what they do that you think contributes to their entrepreneurial success. Think about the various elements that make up that success – these things are called the Critical Success Factors (CSF), of which there should only be 4-5 at most. If you can, talk to the entrepreneurs who started that business.
Then think about each CSF in turn and work out what conditions have to be in place, for that CSF to happen or function. These are the Necessary Conditions or NCs.
For example, if you think traffic to your website is a CSF of your success, then the NCs of traffic might be “getting paid traffic” and “attracting organic traffic”. You know that organic traffic is attracted by “constantly updated relevant content” or blogging, on-page search engine optimisation, and backlinks to your site. You know that paid traffic is either Google Adwords, Facebook Advertising, StumbleUpon Advertising, or perhaps advertising on a site like Plenty Of Fish.
If you can, it’s a good idea to identify who your competitors are, what they sell their customers FIRST, and then work out the various elements of that offer, be it price, number, components, delivery times, delivery methods etc. Then work out your offer elements and see if you can add something, or even take something away, that will make your offer more attractive.
The best entrepreneurs are readers (or listeners, now audio books have come along) and you can read more about how to outdo your competition particularly, and even how to ensure you don’t end up competing at all, even in a crowded marketplace, by reading “Blue Ocean Strategy” by W.Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne.
Draw a line sideways across a piece of paper, and then write today on the left hand side, with your Goal Date on the right. Add each necessary condition you have come up with, in the order of how they should be done. This is your strategic plan and it should be reviewed every week, and if necessary, changed every week.
By working through all of the above, and beginning with the end in mind, you will come up with a plan geared to success, that will move you from creating the necessary conditions, which will then put the critical success factors into place, which will then lead to the achievement of your goal in the time frame required.
But knowing what you have to do and actually doing it is another matter entirely….which leads me to Top 10 Entrepreneurs Trap #2 ….
Entrepreneur’s Trap #2 – Procrastination
The next Entrepreneur’s Trap is procrastination, and as a business coach, it’s the one that drives me the most bonkers. I’m a 9 on the Kolbe Index “Action Taker” scale, so I suppose it’s to be expected that I just don’t get it when I see entrepreneurs dithering.
To me, taking action, taking any action, is far preferable to not having done anything at all. If you are in motion, you have some momentum, and if you make a mistake and have to change direction, it’s much easier if you are moving. Think about parking with a car with no power steering versus one with power steering, it’s much easier to park the one without power steering when the car is in motion.
But if you are not moving forward, even if in the wrong direction, you have no momentum and everything feels like much harder work! Momentum is the entrepreneur’s secret weapon, so use it!
I can’t bear that feeling that days are slipping away without having done at least one thing to move me towards my goal. Actually I find it hard to know that an HOUR has slipped past without my having moved at least one step towards my goal.
OK, so you have your plan, you know what is needed, you know what to do… So why are you not doing it?
I find it fascinating when I observe procrastination in action with entrepreneurs; either in my family, friends, or coaching clients, and I’ve come to the conclusion that there is one big reason for all procrastination.
Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of what others will say, fear of what others will think. Now, entrepreneurs are traditionally thought of as risk takers, but there are other kinds of fear that can hold entrepreneurs back, not just fear of failure.
I can understand fear of failure to some extent, because I never used to write down my goals in case I came across them years later in a drawer or cupboard, then see them, and feel disappointment that I hadn’t achieved them!
How’s that for a negative visualisation? Not writing them down was practically guaranteeing that I wouldn’t achieve my goals, even if I had any, which I hadn’t, because I hadn’t dared to make any!
However, when I started speaking to mega-successful entrepreneurs, I found that they ALL wrote down goals, often without knowing HOW they would achieve them, which is very “The Secret”, is it not? But by writing them down those entrepreneurs were ensuring that their sub-conscious was able to get to work making those entrepreneurial dreams come true.
The funniest thing I’ve ever experienced around Fear of Success was at the first ever World Internet Summit I spoke at, in 2006, where a girl got up and said “I really want to be a multi-millionaire internet marketer but I’m worried about how I’ll cope with all the email!” Bless her, it hadn’t occurred to her that she would have several secretaries by then! Do you think successful entrepreneurs really read and answer all their own email?
Seriously though, I do find it hard to understand the so-called “fear of success”, because I’ve always been of the attitude that I would deal with the challenges success would bring, when they arrive. As successful entrepreneurs, it’s got to be much easier to deal with challenges with cash in your pocket than without surely?
I edged closer to understanding Fear Of Success when a British coach I know introduced me to the concept of Anti-Goals. For every goal, there is an anti-goal he said, and these are the reasons why you might NOT want to achieve something.
An example of that might be that you had a goal to become an international speaker, travelling the world to share your message and being paid handsomely to do so.
What might your anti-goal be, around that? Why might you NOT want to achieve it?
Perhaps you have a dislike of travelling alone, or staying in strange hotels of variable standard, driving long distances, or waiting around in airports. You find the whole travelling thing a bit boring and stressful. Unless you are going to conferences and seminars of course, in which case you will be hanging out and having fun with other entrepreneurs!
Well, if you can identify your anti-goals, you can re-frame your goal to take them into account. For example you could say…
I travel the world first class as a successful international speaker, being paid handsomely to do so. I have several wonderful travelling companions, fellow entrepreneurs; we only stay in 5 star hotels and usually take mini-breaks in the cities where I’m speaking. We are always picked up by a professional driver who makes sure I’m looked after and arrive where I’m supposed to go, on time and refreshed. I use my travelling time to read, learn, and create great new content.
As for fear of what others will say or think… Well, that’s a tricky one and comes from low self-esteem and negativity, having had critical experiences when you were younger. Often, if you listen, nowadays it’s you that’s being critical of you – it’s your voice you are hearing in your head when you think of the nasty comments that your efforts might attract.
Sometimes it’s the voice of a long-dead relative or an ex boyfriend or girlfriend. People who are usually NOT successful entrepreneurs! Ask yourself, are you really willing to let the ghosts of these people – who you probably didn’t even like! – hold you back as entrepreneurs?
Because whatever the reason for your procrastination, you must find a way to break through, and take action. Because nobody else is going to do it for you! Your success is down to you, and you alone. As entrepreneurs, we are responsible for the success, or otherwise, of our business.
Entrepreneur’s Trap #3 –Responsibility
The Trap of Responsibility is a multi-faceted trap, the first part of which is you NOT taking responsibility for your own success. This manifests itself as a feeling that others owe you help, or that you don’t need to invest in yourself, your learning, or your business.
In newer entrepreneurs, that can feel like anger and frustration that people are not finding and then buying what you are selling! Whereas the responsibility is all yours to drive traffic to your site and then make such an irresistible offer that they can’t NOT buy!
Another facet of the Trap of Responsibility is where your business is up and running but you get cold feet because you feel that you are indispensable to the whole process, responsible for all the people involved, everyone is depending on you. The focus is on you instead of the larger calling of the business.
This is where you start to overwork, entrepreneurs become too hands–on, feel overwhelmed, overworked, stressed, and the load starts to feel unbearable.
Your productivity and effectiveness goes down the drain, and instead of experiencing an effortless flow, you scramble to fight fires all the time.
You can get out of this trap by seeing things the way they really are, namely that there is nothing special about you particularly and it’s time to outsource all the dull repetitive jobs that need to be done daily or weekly. However, you’ll gradually find people more talented than you, who can take over some of the creative stuff too.
Talking of which, you have to learn to make space for the creativity to come through, and all the time you are doing everything, you can’t get creative or solve challenges.
The other side of this trap is that of feeling responsible for others, which can lead you to make bad business decisions.
While you can feel ‘concern’ for and ‘care’ about your employees and colleagues, you shouldn’t feel responsible for them or their happiness. They are grownups, they are responsible for their own happiness! You shouldn’t ‘worry’ about them. This trap is simply a habit of thought and when we can recognise it, it loses its power and it just melts away.
When people come up to me at speaking events and talk about the fact that “that was great, their friend / brother / mother / wife really needs this…..” they are shouldering responsibility that is not theirs to take, that of the success of their friend or relative, instead of concentrating on their own success! This is a great avoidance tactic I see quite often.
If you feel responsible for the livelihood of others – which is a perfectly natural response as an entrepreneur – it can lead you to re-invest your personal savings into a failing business, rather than make difficult business decisions, such as overhead cutbacks and redundancies, for example.
If you keep someone on, who is not performing or worse, being negative (see below) or disruptive, because you know what impact letting them go would have on their finances and family, you are taking responsibility for their happiness and well-being, rather than helping them take responsibility for their own behaviour.
In those two examples, you are putting your perceived responsibility to others even above responsibility to yourself, your business, and your family!
Entrepreneur’s Trap # 4 – Ignorance
Who was it that said “If you think knowledge / training is expensive, you should try ignorance!”? They were definitely thinking of entrepreneurs and their challenges!
In the early days of my entrepreneurial journey, I didn’t have any money at all, but I still knew I needed help. My first coach, back in 2001 cost me £250 a month, which I could totally not afford, and sometimes, when we talked about the wooly, fluffy stuff like self esteem, mission, and purpose, and all that lovely stuff, I used to question my investment. I just wanted her to tell me how to make money as quickly as possible! I wanted practical, down to earth, actionable “how to” stuff that is proven to work for entrepreneurs, not waffly, woolly platitudes (as I saw them then).
Many of my clients are the same, which is why I structure our webinar calls around the Question & Answer format, and welcome any challenges and questions, whether they are about the Business Marketing or the Business Money. We usually start talking about the practical stuff and out of that comes the deeper stuff, the Business Mind stuff, the stuff that is REALLY holding you back.
My mentor does the same – he welcomes practical questions, but most of his Q&A calls (sometimes 5 hours long!) are about the business owner’s mind – negative and limiting beliefs, and just plain ignorance about how successful businesses work – and how all of that is holding them back from achieving the success they desire.
As I started to get results from working with my first coach and I realised that what was going on in my head was just as, if not more important, than the practical “how to”, I relaxed and started to trust her. After all, she had not only worked with many entrepreneurs, but she herself had run several multi-million turnover companies at the age of 19-20!
The problem is, that your mentor or coach doesn’t know what you don’t know so they can’t help you unless you talk to them.
Worse, you don’ t know what you don’t know, so unless you show up and say “Hey, what do I do next?”, we can’t help you and you can’t help yourself!
When I’m coaching entrepreneurs, the ones who stay the longest are the ones who are getting the most value, and THEY are the one’s who show up to EVERYTHING!
Not just their 1:2:1 calls, but they come to the group calls, they subscribe to the podcast, login to the membership area, read the blog and the eZine, and email me in between sessions with their thoughts, fears, and questions about what to do next. They participate in the private Facebook group, asking for feedback, support, input.
And then, sometimes aspiring entrepreneurs turn up to calls etc., but they don’t have any questions. It’s like they don’t know what to ask…
Well, my mentor always says on his calls, if you are not where you want to be yet, you MUST have a question. Even if you know what to do next, if you are not doing it, why not? Is there a better way, an easier way, a faster way?
We might know how you can move forwards like a Ferrari, where you are happily trudging along at the speed of a slug.
Entrepreneur’s Trap # 5 – Clutter
We had a great Q&A Webinar call the other day, which, because one of my clients is the Clutter Angel, turned into a deep discussion all about Clutter and its impact on your working environment and success.
The call was made all the more fun because we were discussing the ongoing attempts by one of my clients to de-clutter her husband’s office and the rest of the house, which his office spilled out into (and how to do all that while he was away sailing!). Her husband then inserted himself goodnaturedly into the call and we carried on talking about the challenge regardless!
I can’t imagine how any entrepreneurs can work when they have clutter around them. I’m almost fanatical about no clutter (but not even as much as some people I have known, as long as my desk is clear I don’t’ mind what is behind me!).
Having said that, many creative people work in a right old mess and seem to do ok, and many entrepreneurs are creative. However, I do believe that, in order to be successful, you need to be able to think clearly, and have discipline, and if your desk is cluttered, your mind will be too. And how can you think clearly with a cluttered mind?
This is where journaling can come in very handy for entrepreneurs – something I personally resisted for years even though my mentor practises it himself and advised it for me.
There is something about journaling – with a pen and paper no less – that really clears your head. It gets all of those swirling (often negative) thoughts out of your head and into a book, then your mind is clear and ready for creativity to come in. I journal first thing in the morning, in bed, with a cup of coffee, then when I go for a shower, I turn my thoughts to my current challenges and often, a solution just pops into my head in the shower!
For internet entrepreneurs, it’s especially important to get away from the computer occasionally, because creativity happens when you are not involved in a task, because your brain has to be empty, not full, to have ideas.
I can’t write a blog post or my eZine, for example, unless everything on my desk is clear. And every day, I write out my To Do List (no more than 10 things or they go on tomorrow’s To Do List), with the most important 3 at the top. These are the ones that MUST get done. The “Entrepreneurs Must Dos” if you like, rather than the would be nice To Dos.
So my mind is clear, my desk is clear, I know what has to be done, I’m ready to begin.
The other thing I need for focused productive days is no clutter of appointments. My ideal day has nothing in the diary. I find diary zoning works brilliantly for me here, and many successful entrepreneurs I know say the same. Big blocks of time and allowing your brain to get in the groove of what you are doing.
If I am going to have meetings they are very early or after 5pm. If I know I have to go somewhere in the daytime, it hangs over me like… Well, it just hangs over me and stops me being able to concentrate. After 5pm feels like the evening, so it’s fine. Early in the morning feels like before the day has started, so that’s fine too.
I need as much of the 9-5 time at my desk, with no interruptions, so that means phone calls only on certain days, webinars only on Wednesdays, and Mondays and Fridays with nothing in the diary – no calls, no meetings – because these days are for my own projects or marketing (like writing my eZine).
Entrepreneur’s Trap #6 – Lack of Focus
I used to be a shocker for being unable to focus on one business! My first coach used to despair because she felt I had two great businesses – ArtistManager.com and my coaching business – but getting me to focus on just one exclusively was impossible.
I think a lack of focus feels like an insurance policy for newish entrepreneurs…. It’s almost as if, by focusing on more than one business, we have more of a chance of success, whereas actually, by focusing on more than one business, we are practically dooming both to failure.
Every mega successful business person I know, picked a great idea and focused on it, to the exclusion of EVERYTHING ELSE. They focused on it at least until it was making money and could either run largely on it’s own, or if they could put in a manager / joint venture partner THEN they decided if they were going to carry on focusing on that business or build a new one.
How did they make that decision as entrepreneurs? By deciding if the business is scaleable. Can it be built bigger and bigger? Is the capacity / potential marketplace for this business unlimited, global?
I stopped focusing on more than one business at a time back in 2007 when I saw Mike Filsaime present at World Internet Summit and he showed, in about 5 powerpoint slides, why not focusing on one business at a time killed the chances of success for ALL the businesses you were working on. I’ll have to dig them out and make a little video for this post, but essentially, here is the gist of it:
If you have a project (business idea) that, if you focused on it for 30 days, would start making money, and then create a recurring revenue, then you should focus on it for 30 days before moving onto the next one.
However, what most entrepreneurs do is they start one thing, then when they hit an obstacle, they start something else, and so it goes on, until by the end of 90 days, they may have 3-4 ideas on the go, all at varying stages of completion. None of them making any money.
However, if you had focused on one at a time, then when you hit an obstacle or challenge, if you were just focusing on one business, you would have nowhere to hide, nothing to distract yourself with, you would just have to go and find a solution.
So at the end of the first 30 days you would have a business making you some money. At the end of 60 days you would have TWO businesses making you some money. At the end of 90 days you would have THREE businesses making you some money.
No money, or three sources of income, you choose.
Focus comes slowly sometimes, for example, the great blogger Yaro Starak, over at Entrepreneurs-Journey.com took a while to find his “sweet spot” – as did I this time around. You can read Yaro’s blog back as far as 2005, at least (as I have), and you will see he grew into his passion – but he was blogging his journey all the while. You can do that too if you are not sure what to do, write about your journey to find out what to do!
Entrepreneur’s Trap #7 – Lack of Commitment
Have you heard the great joke about the chicken and the pig and the full English breakfast? The chicken is fairly interested but the pig is totally committed.
Let me ask you a question. Are you going to be a success or are you just trying to be a success?
There’s your commitment level right there.
If you decide that you are going to be a success, like I did many, many years ago, then no lack of knowledge, no setback (and in the words of Ole Blue Eyes, I’ve had a few!), no obstacle is going to get in your way. I’m not “trying” to be a success, I bloody well will be (and I’ll go to my grave doing it)!
In my opinion, this is why entrepreneurs who turn into millionaires and billionaires don’t stop – because the resolve and determination and commitment don’t just fade away when they “make it”, they just turn it to another goal.
I often get asked to meetings to talk about internet marketing and website design for aspiring entrepreneurs who have no intention of investing in my skills or services, but who just want to “pick my brains” to see if they can get any information and tips for free. Most of the time I resist the temptation to say yes *grin* but occasionally – usually for friends of the family – I give in and go for coffee or dinner and share what I know (or as much as I guess they will be able to take in).
I always ask about their lead product, profit margins, current sales, traffic, one year value of a customer and I can quickly get a feel for what their return on investment would be on my services, be it coaching or my social media ppc “Done For You” service.
When I do the sums for these entrepreneurs and point out the possibilities for the potential earnings for their business if they just invest a little bit in some serious marketing, they are often shocked at the upside but then rarely do they then decide to invest. They are just not committed enough to their success to make the leap and invest what is needed.
For example, I recently had a meeting with some musicians where they could have hired me to do ALL their online marketing for £9000 per year, including a total revamp of their website and social media presence – less than the cost of a part time secretary – and if we had just managed to fill the 6 concerts they already ran per year, they would have made £19,000 profit per year. Not to mention the other upsides, which were attracting the best singers, selling their CDs from their website, selling PDF documents, gathered lovingly by hand over many years, into a library useful to all.
They admitted that if they even achieved HALF of that, they would be ecstatic.
But the person concerned was frantically taking notes, in the vain belief that he could learn to do it all himself in the next few months AND have the time to do so. Which was daft, as he already had a demanding day job.
Entrepreneur’s Trap #8 – Negativity
We all know someone who is a negative person, you know, when they open their mouths a whole stream of what feels like freezing air pours out in the form of sentences. Or, if you are talking to them online, it feels like Skype has just opened a hatch and dumped a load of freezing water on you. It’s almost a physical sensation!
Often going under the guise of “being realistic”, negativity seems, to me, to be a form of protection against disappointment. Negative people really want things to turn out well, but they really deep down don’t believe they will.
However, as entrepreneurs, there is no place for negativity in your quest for success. You cannot afford to be or feel negative for a moment.
Being negative practically GUARANTEES you won’t succeed.
When you read this you might recognise it as a universal truth.
How can you succeed as a negative person, if every action you take every day is underpinned by a feeling of NO! A certainty, that it just won’t work? If you felt like that, as aspiring entrepreneurs, why would you even take action?
Think of the most successful entrepreneurs you know, and let’s hope you know some! If you don’t know any personally then think of the most successful famous entrepreneurs you can think of (and get to know some personally, quickly!) Are they negative in any way?
No, they’re not! They might be practical, down to earth and pragmatic, always with Plan B up their sleeve, but negative? No, negative they are not.
You are MUCH more likely to be successful if you banish negativity from your thinking. I’m not talking about being unrealistic here, or being unwilling to make mistakes, but just stop handicapping yourself from the very beginning!
My friend, previous multi-millionaire and now best selling author, Andy Shaw, describes in his brilliant book “Creating A Bug Free Mind” negativity as a disease, like any other, and we all know how catching and contagious that disease can be – just like a virus.
Think for a moment… Have you ever lived or worked in an environment where there is a deeply negative person around you – perhaps it’s your boss, or even worse, your spouse?
Imagine coming up with all your best ideas for a nice life, or a successful business or career. All the stuff you instinctively know and want to put into action and try out. Now imagine that negative person opening their mouth and directing all that freezing air at you or using Skype to dump all that freezing water all over you.
Where is your enthusiasm now? Where is your “get up and go”?
On a happier note, as entrepreneurs, you have two choices if you have a negative person around you.
- You can choose to remove them or yourself and surround yourself with positive people
- You can choose not to let them affect you (this is the more difficult choice).
Whatever you choose, let’s banish negativity from our thinking and move forward in the positive knowledge that it’s worth aiming for success every day, and that we are much more likely to be successful if we ARE positive people and we are surrounded by positive people.
As I say, as entrepreneurs, we can choose who we surround ourselves with, and you really must seek out positive people, fellow entrepreneurs en route for success, no matter if they are a little bit behind you, or a little bit ahead of you on your road to success. This is possibly one of the biggest unspoken entrepreneur’s secrets of success!
Entrepreneur’s Trap # 9 – Dependency
The Trap of Dependency is where, as entrepreneurs, we feel so dependent on key staff, key colleagues, or the details of a key plan, that we feel our enterprise will flounder without them.
This feeling makes us compromise the stand we would normally take for the dream, for our ideal business.
We stop being straightforward with people for fear of offending, or fear they will leave the team, and we pussyfoot around instead of speaking from our heart.
We forget that it was our passion for our business and the sense of belonging to something greater than themselves that attracted them to our business, and us as entrepreneurs, in the first place.
This trap comes from our fear of inadequacy and unworthiness.
This trap can also lead you to think of a change of direction as weakness, as a need to adapt to changing circumstances as a lack of commitment to the Plan, forgetting that plans can change as people and circumstances change.
A great example of this can be seen in committed relationships like marriage, where people stay because they said the words “till death us do part”, whereas perhaps the other partner has not fulfilled their part of the bargain, or changed the way they do things, like being faithful (or not), like loving and cherishing (or not!), but because we made a “deal” we stick with it rather than renegotiating the terms of that deal.
By not realising that something is not working, you are being focused on the process and the people rather than the end result you are trying to create. And the result is not about what you are trying to achieve for yourself, but about the result you want to achieve ‘for its own sake’ as Joseph Jaworsky puts it in his great book “Synchronicity”
He quotes Robert Frost as saying ‘All great things are done for their own sake’ and when I went to check that quote I see that I’ve written it in the margin of my copy of the book ‘just for fun’.
My daughter Phoebe, who was 8 at the time, thought that I wrote that to indicate that I was writing in a book just for fun, but I was actually remembering that some of the most amazing things in my life have happened because I thought they would ‘be a laugh’.
Once you focus on doing something for its own sake – the bigger picture, bigger even than your own success – you find that doors opens, hidden hands help, incredible coincidences occur, and things move faster than you ever dreamed they would.
But not if you are focused on people or processes, and feel dependent on those, and incapable of changing them if they no longer serve your bigger purpose.
Entrepreneur’s Trap # 10 – Overactivity
The Trap of Overactivity is not where, in the beginning, as entrepreneurs, you are getting loads done, creativity is rolling, everything is working in the flow, it’s all just happening.
It comes later when there are a myriad of tiny decisions to be made, details to be juggled, and your sense of true freedom and clarity gets overwhelmed in the day to day minutiae.
This is where you are so busy deciding which colour the tiles in the staff loos should be, that you haven’t got time to take a call and you miss a phone call from potentially your biggest client ever.
This is where it becomes really easy to blame other people for the situation, but it’s really all about us, our entrepreneurial history, and our feelings of unworthiness.
The Traps of Responsibility and Dependency get a lot of their energy from a fear of no alternative, yet there is always an alternative. It’s just that we are unable to see, or unwilling to look.
Once you are willing to accept that there is an alternative you can look at the traps more objectively, ‘there I go again, thinking I’m indispensable!’ or, ‘look at me, overly depending on Bert and thinking that if he leaves we are sunk!’ or, ‘how funny, that part of the plan obviously won’t achieve the end result now, we had better change it’.
The Trap of Overactivity can be overcome easily by entrepreneurs, by actually doing less and making time to think.
We need an anchor, the reminder of why we are there in the first place, of what is important.
Getting together with the core team gives everyone a chance to maintain a space at the heart of all of the activity, so that everyone can be re–nurtured together by the things still waiting to happen, the unfolding of events and ideas still to come.
The discipline of reconnecting with each other, with having meaningful dialogue, is so important – especially when it feels like there is no time for another meeting!
The good news is that it’s really easy to get back in the flow as entrepreneurs once you realise what is going on.
And I would add that the way to tell that we are out of the flow is when it all just seems like hard work.
We have been brought up to think that in order to succeed, as entrepreneurs, we must work really, really hard.
Not so. In order to succeed, you must be in the flow.
Which Trap Are You Falling Into Right Now?
If I were talking to a group of entrepreneurs and I had to take a bet which of the traps they were falling into, my answer would depend on the stage they were at with their business.
If they were in the entrepreneur’s startup phase I would say Traps 1-5 perhaps, particularly No Strategy and Procrastination.
As “adolescent” entrepreneurs they might be falling into the Trap Of Dependency, because your business is growing but you have lots of skills, equipment, finance or people that you feel you need before you can move forwards.
If the entrepreneurs are more established, I would guess that you are falling into the Trap of Overactivity, because you would be working long hours, feeling that your business would die if you are not there 24/7, and you feel unable to take the time to plan, unable to see the woods for the trees.
And the more established your business is, the more the danger of the Entrepreneurs Trap of Responsibility.
I am particularly prone to this one, having been the eldest of four children, being responsible for others was drummed into me at a very early age. It even manifests itself in my choice of tavernas while on holiday, because I am so friendly with Elias at Pefko Taverna, I feel that my choice of where to eat impacts on his business and that I am responsible for that!
Take a good look at yourself, note which trap you fall into most regularly, and pin up a note where you can see it, every day.
Remind yourself that success shouldn’t be hard work, if it is, then you have fallen into a trap. Take some time, and get back in the flow, the feeling of why you started your business in the first place.
And of course, I’d love to see your comments, hear about your Traps! Do you recognise some of the above or have you identified traps of your own?