A few weeks ago I got an email from a 30x500 graduate.
We’ll call them….Discouraged D.
Here’s what they wrote:
“I’m currently at the bottom of a rut with my biz (and life). I sit lots of days at my computer trying to force myself to work.
Not sure what’s up with me.
I think it boils down to wondering at what point does grit become sunk cost? It feels increasingly difficult to work on my business.
I find I’m discouraged that it’s not where I wanted it to be yet by this point (almost 4 years of working on it). There’s always this constant stress every time I try to work on the marketing and my hope of things getting better is diminished.
Every time I sit down to work I feel the overwhelm and discouragement kick in…so I’m making very little progress on fixing the problem.
I feel stuck.”
Truth is, this specific flavor of stuckness is very common among creative people who start a business.
You start making sales. That’s exciting.
But when your initial excitement of launch wears off…the line goes flat and you’re left wondering what you got yourself into in the first place.
If this feels familiar, breathe deep because you are so so SO not alone.
Of course, everyone’s situation is a little bit different, so your “reasons” for this stuckness may feel different. But the root causes are often pretty similar!
With D’s consent, I asked a few pointed questions.
Debugging Discouraged D’s Distress
I asked: “Where does that stress about the marketing come from?”
“I think it stems partly from a comparison of my biz/progress with other people/businesses that appear much more successful, and the thinking that I’m somehow getting more and more behind.”
**I asked: “Are you doing Sales Safari?”**
“Not in the last year or so.”
I asked: “Are you active in any of your audience watering holes?”
I asked: “Are you sending new ebombs to your email list regularly?”
“It’s been sporadic. I’ve only sent 5 emails in the last 9 months.”
I asked: “Do your new subscribers get sent any “old” but evergreen ebombs from before they discovered you?”
“My welcome sequence just has two evergreen articles in it.”
Right. I don’t need a sports almanac from the future to tell me what happened here.
And the Root Cause is….
9x out of 10 when someone writes us about their stuckness, they’re simply not doing something they know they should:
Research. Marketing. Sales.
Often, these critical pieces to repeatable business success get ignored or forgotten while someone goes into “build mode” to create their product…and never come back to the surface for air.
But almost 10x out of 10, the root cause for this particular kind of stuckness is a more subtle mental block.
Ready for the Realtalk?
Discouraged D was paying attention to:
- other people and their “successes”
- their flimsy sales graphs
- decisions about their next product
But they were paying ZERO attention to their audience.
No Sales Safari research. No watering hole participation. No regular ebomb delivery. No strategic nurturing of subscribers over time.
All of Discouraged D’s hangups - and the most common mistakes in business - all track back to one thing:
They spent more time paying attention to literally anything other than their audience/customers.
Lightning Strikes the Clock Tower
D wrote back:
“Gosh dang Alex you’re right, it rings true. I know what I need to do now.
I’m feeling super hopeful and unstuck. THANK YOU Alex.”
While still vibing in their moment of clarity, I gave now-Delighted D one more assignment.
It’s easy to feel good in a moment like this, and then weeks or days or moments later, forget all about it.
So asked D to write a letter to their past self - their discouraged self - from this fresh new perspective.
With this letter (and without a time traveling DeLorean) they can come back to this moment next time they’re stuck in the muck and need to remember how they got out last time.
…and bonus, you can too. Read what they wrote below.
Dear Discouraged D,
You feel like you’re at the very bottom of a rut. You feel hopeless and stuck. You’re trying to claw your way out of it but every time you sit down to work you feel even more discouraged and overwhelmed.
You’re wondering: “at what point does grit become sunk cost?”. You’re considering giving up.
Every business (and every thing worth doing) faces obstacles. You are fortunate in that the obstacles you’re facing are ones you chose.
The entrepreneur life is the kind of life you were made for. You’re happier and more fulfilled than you ever were at any job. Your problem isn’t your challenges, it’s your perspective.
You’re focusing on everything except the people you serve. You’re in your own head instead of your customers’. You’re paying attention to other people’s success instead of creating it in your own people.
Your business isn’t about you. It’s about them. It’s about using your gifts and talents and sweat and time to help them in a way that only you can.
Start every day by researching and interacting with your audience.
Having a regular system of doing this will help you keep focused on them. Solve their problems, and your own problems will be solved along the way.
There's more where that came from
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