Don’t Get Off the Treadmill: 7 Questions to Ask Before You Throw in the Towel

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Usually, when I meet someone I ask them two important questions: “Where are you from and what do you do?” Often, this stimulates more conversation and I get to hear great ideas and big dreams. Sad to say, so many of these ideas never materialize because the vision diminishes before it ever sees the light of day. Everyone faces challenges in business. In fact, it’s part of life in general. Learning to stick and stay the in the face of obstacles is often what separates dreams fulfilled from dreams deferred. Asking the following questions when you’re facing discouragement can help you refocus and regroup.

1. Why am I here? No building can exist without a foundation nor can any successful business thrive without a clear vision. When you find yourself discouraged, discontent and dissatisfied, take some time to ask yourself this question. What is your mission? Why did you start your business? What are your core values and what excited you enough to start your journey? Often times when you revisit your initial passion and motivation you can realign your purpose and productivity.

2. Is this worth it? James Allen, author of As Man Thinketh once said, “Circumstance does not make the man, it reveals him to himself.” When tough times inevitably arise, your response is more important than the situation. Beginning with the end in mind enables you to stay focused on the light at the end of the tunnel. There are far too many people who do not want to put in the hard work necessary to become successful. Instead, they become anesthetized by the culture of instantaneous results not realizing there is no shortcut to greatness or microwave for success.

For kicks, try this: place a bag of popcorn in the microwave and let it run for five seconds. Then stop it and let it start again for another five seconds. You can do this for years and years; however, the popcorn will never ever pop. Why? Simply because it’s not being microwaved consistently at the right temperature for the right amount of time. Your consistency for a sustained amount of time gets results.

3. Do I invest in personal development? Abraham Lincoln once stated, “If I had eight hours to chop down a tree I’d spend six sharpening my axe.” Your organization is a reflection of your leadership. Your leadership is a reflection of your character, and your character is a sum of your manifested thoughts. Personal development is so easy to do that it’s equally as easy not to do. What’s the latest book you’ve read? What about the last workshop, webinar or conference you’ve attended? Roman politician Marco Cicero said, “As a field, however fertile, cannot be fruitful without cultivation; neither can a mind without learning.” How have you invested in learning more about yourself and about your business?

4. Do I have a support team? We all know the saying “birds of a feather flock together”, so what happens if you’re flying solo? Frequently, young entrepreneurs are well-intentioned, but ill-informed and attempt to conquer creative conquests without support. Having a good, competent, qualified support team is like having a good pair of tires. When they’re working well few people notice, but when one is flat the car is immobile. Since no man is an island, it’s good to have people in place that not only genuinely support you, but have some level of experience in your area of business. It’s one thing to have motivators; it’s another to have motivators who move us in the right direction. Do not let what you can’t do interfere with what you can do, so learn to lean on others for help.

5. Have I left everything on the field? There’s a story of a man that wanted to become a lifeguard. He signed up for lessons and went faithfully. Test day came and he got into the water and performed just as he was taught in previous lessons. Then, the final test came-he had to backstroke fifty meters. Once again, he jumped in and performed just as taught, but around meter thirty his body grew weary and he slowed down. As he approached meter forty, he moved even slower. He decided it was just too hard so he stopped moving, and unsurprisingly he sank. The instructor grabbed him, brought him to the surface and turned him around to see his progress. To his surprise, he was only four meters away from meeting his qualification. He is like many of us. Sometimes we are so close to our next contract, client or deal, but we give in before we see results. Have you done everything in your God-given ability to succeed? Can you honestly say you’ve left everything on the field? If not, this is not the time to get off the treadmill!

6. Did I do my research? I speak with people all the time who have great business ideas but have not done any research. They don’t know industry trends, costs or competing businesses in their market. It has been said, “A question correctly stated is already half-solved.” What questions have you asked? Have you taken the time to understand the trends in your business? Have you spoken with someone you consider successful in your industry and sought advice? Most businesses fail within their first five years largely due to miseducation and misinformation. Simply put, creativity and ingenuity solely do not produce success. Albert Einstein put it this way, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perseverance.” Part of that genius is knowing what to expect. This comes through diligent research and education.

7. Have I tracked my results? This is vital to keep a proper perspective concerning your effectiveness and comes through documentation. This is important because at times we confuse our real investment with our emotional investment. For example, you may invest countless hours thinking, rehearsing and replaying your failures and future endeavors, but have you actually invested an equal amount of actual time in income generating activities? Sometimes eight hours of worry can feel like forty; that’s why it’s critical to document your work. Time capital isn’t the same as emotional capital. Don’t let the latter confuse you and fuel a hasty, uneducated decision.

Keep your eye on the prize, get a game plan, and be confident in the calling God has given you. Faith tested cannot be trusted, and the entrepreneur’s life is definitely a faith journey without shortcuts, back roads, or straight lanes. Reach for the stars and remember the big shot was once a little shot that kept on shooting. I’d love to hear from you. Email me questions, comments or stories to mistertimswain@gmail.com.

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