The morning I decided to write about this subject, I saw a post on one of the popular discussion forums.
It was from someone who had invested quite a bit of time and effort into building his online business, was nearing the point where it could start being profitable, but was running short of energy and inspiration to keep going.
I’m never giving up. But I need some motivation. Please help!
…was his plaintive cry.
I responded briefly. But that reply got me thinking about how to address a similar problem that every entrepreneur faces at one time or another in their own online business.
That sickening feeling of burn out or angst.
I’ve fielded this question several times over the 15 years that I have worked on my online business:
Dr.Mani, how do you fit so many things into your schedule? Isn’t it hard? Don’t you feel like giving up sometimes?
And to be honest, it isn’t always easy juggling three parallel careers – heart surgeon, Internet infopreneur and non-profit fundraiser – each of which could be busy full-time jobs. There are often periods when I’m tempted to scale down, to take it slow, to reduce responsibilities – until I ask myself that magical question.
Thinking about the answer to your deeper ‘WHY’ is always illuminating – and inspirational. Fame or money, curiosity or circumstance, whim or worry… something pushed you into building an online business.
What was it?
For some entrepreneurs, starting a business was a career decision. They saw an opportunity in the marketplace, seized upon a chance to profit from it, and ended up building a business that grew rapidly and made them rich. But in many instances, if that was their sole motivation, the sense of satisfaction and thrill they gained from the venture is transient and unfulfilling, at least after the initial rush is over.
That’s why some of them become serial entrepreneurs, creating one start-up after another, well beyond the point where they need to do it from a purely financial standpoint. The thrill and excitement of building something keeps them going.
For others, the stimulus to build a business is rooted in a deeper passion or desire. It may be selfish – or selfless. It may be relevant to many others – or only to themselves. Whatever their motivation, it is often powerful enough to get them to overcome inertia and take action.
Launching a business, even an Internet based one, carries a certain degree of risk. There is financial risk, for sure, and there is risk of failure, of time invested into the project, and of not picking the right choices. To overcome all these risks and plow ahead takes some courage and fortitude, and that’s often provided by one’s passion or sense of purpose.
A person appalled at the state of cleanliness of his neighborhood may launch a garbage hauling business to fix the problem. Another who sees the daily struggle of her handicapped parent may invest into building a company that manufactures wheelchairs or other aids for elderly folks. And online, too, the business one builds can be related to a real world problem or opportunity that can be leveraged on the Web.
My own information marketing business, for instance, grew in part as an extension of my love for writing. But the driving force behind it was the desire to generate enough profit from it to pursue my true passion to carry out life saving heart surgery for children from under-privileged families who couldn’t afford the cost.
So while every business is not directly connected with the purpose behind it, it’s often true that successful small online businesses are run by people with a passionate purpose.
Does being passionate really matter for business success? Some would argue that it doesn’t – and maybe they’re right. I don’t believe, however, that working on a business you’re not passionate about is as deeply fulfilling – and even as likely to succeed – as one where you are.
The reason is simple. Any venture, no matter how small, will bring with it some attendant hurdles and obstacles that you must overcome. As your business grows, these challenges multiply, grow bigger, and take more effort to work through. During these times of challenge and struggle, the one thing that will keep you constantly motivated and focused is the purpose behind the venture.
… and above all else…
You’ve probably read about the Spanish conqueror Hernan Cortez scuttling the ships in his fleet during an attack on the Aztec empire, leaving his army no alternative but to defeat the enemy. It’s a similar attitude, one that leaves you with no ‘out’ or ‘escape’ but to succeed, that will ensure that you stay on course despite rough weather.
Your equivalent of “scuttling the ships” must be your driving purpose.
An accountant who works with non-profits once taught me a valuable lesson. He said:
When I total up figures in rows and columns for my clients, I don’t see numbers. I see the faces of the children I’m working to help!
Learn to keep your purpose clearly in mind all the time. See beyond the day to day challenges to the results of your hard work, sacrifice and struggle. Dream and visualize the changed reality that you will be creating through your business.
No matter if it is mundane or world-changing, your personal purpose matters greatly in keeping you motivated and engaged. That’s why its so helpful to keep asking yourself:
What made you do this?
If I asked you that question, what would your answer be? Please share in a comment below!
Image courtesy of pescatello on Flickr