Why BURNING THE BOAT worked for me
Two years after I quit corporate America to start my business I found myself driving an hour and half each way to a new job. I was getting out of bed at 4:30 AM in order to get my workout in before leaving for work by 6:30 AM. I was missing walking my little girl to the bus stop, and I was missing a million other precious things about self-employment. I knew my new position was not for me, but I had become desperate.
When I started my company in 2014 business came to me easily. I had leveraged my corporate contacts into work - mostly websites and search engine optimization. We did well during the first year.
Still, during my first years in business I kept in contact with the corporate and IT recruiters that would call on me every once in a while. Because of my skill set I got lots of calls about various jobs in the online marketing realm. Let me be clear - I did NOT want another job. But talking with recruiters was easy. It was fun to think about a large stable income and paid travel. And the conversations were more enjoyable than looking for new clients. I also kept up with the job boards like Indeed.com - telling myself I was just keeping abreast of what was going on in the market
By mid-2016 all the work that had come my way via my corporate contacts was completed. It was time for me to bring in some new projects. And that's when the trouble started. I am no sales person, and I had trouble balancing networking with maintaining a full load of projects.
Things got bad. I had to let my marketing assistant go. I didn't pay myself for a long time. I didn't send a significant invoice out for about 6 months. I kept doing the work that came my way, but I wasn't bringing in any new work. Also, I kept entertaining conversations with recruiters and looking at job boards.
I started working from the couch. I got depressed. I started working from the couch with my computer in the other room. It wasn't productive or fruitful.
I ended up interviewing for a great position with a company that I loved. The owner was a charming, brilliant woman and I wanted to be near her to learn everything she knew. But the job was an hour and a half away from my house with no chance for a telecommute. And neither the pay nor the benefits were competitive to my last job.
It was not a good fit, and I knew it going in. But I was desperate and saw this job as my way out.
So I took it. I started driving an hour and a half each way to work every day. I traded my entrepreneurial lifestyle for less than I was worth in a bid for security.
Within 2 weeks of getting up at 4:30AM and doing three hours in the car every day I was sick. Like coughing, sneezing, trying not to fall asleep at my desk sick. For a week straight. I couldn't go to my doctor because I had no time off and my doctor was an hour and a half away.
On top of being sick I was a nervous wreck. I knew this was the wrong situation - and I knew it was only a matter of time before everyone else figured it out.
As soon as I had the strength I sat down with my new boss and we quickly came to the agreement that this wasn't going to work. I immediately felt better.
I hated that I had wasted valuable time, but it was a lesson learned. Here is what I now know for sure : Burn the boat. And send the lifeboats floating.
Burning the boat is self explanatory - you have to get in the water and swim.
Now imagine trying to swim while dragging your lifeboat with a rope you are holding in one hand. You think you are keeping yourself safe by dragging your lifeboat along for the ride, but you are really wearing yourself out.
Each time I climbed into the lifeboat for a little break the current dragged me further from shore. I climbed in when I wanted to avoid issues. At that time in my life I had a major problem with anxiety and insecurity, and spending time talking to recruiters and thinking about taking a job allowed me to avoid doing things that scared me.
Burn the big boat. Let go of the lifeboat. Completely. Fully. Forever. Burn the boat.
For me that meant no more talking to recruiters. No more looking at job postings. I have taken my last job as an employee.
Entrepreneurship is scary. every. damned. day. And I wasn't ready to face that reality.
With no boat and no lifeboat, I was forced to work out my issues with anxiety and come closer to the entrepreneur I was meant to be.
For you your lifeboat may be your full time job. It may be the sense of security you get from driving Uber on the weekends. Or staying in a relationship provides security but nothing else. It could be a pattern of self talk that you tell yourself is keeping you 'realistic', but keeps you tethered to a low place. It could be Facebook - you may tell yourself it keeps you connected but in reality it sucks away time and leaves you feeling bad.
Think about your lifeboat. What is the thing that costs you time and energy without bringing you closer to your goals. How could you let it go? What would really happen if you stopped allowing it to suck your time?
Let it go for a week or a weekend. See what happens. Take stock of how you feel. Notice whether or not you feel lighter, freer, more ready to make your goals happen.
I have heard many an entrepreneur say 'Jump and the net will appear.' My net came in the form of restructuring the way I worked with my clients. Now instead of constantly looking for new projects I focus on the clients I already have. My relationships with clients are now true consulting relationships. I meet with them every few weeks and I advise them on what to do next. Some of the ideas we come up with are executed by my team, and some they are able to complete using internal resources. It's a rich and rewarding way to do business, and I wouldn't have come to it if I was still thinking about going back to corporate work.
Thanks for spending time with me. Share your comments and thoughts with me in the comments section below. More soon! - Kelly
I'm Kelly Coulter. I help businesses grow their revenue and their happiness.