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Have you forgotten why you started your business?

The dark side of the entrepreneur’s learning curve isn’t often discussed. We’re so obsessed with reframing failure as “learning” that we ignore the scary reality of doing so.

What if each learning curve you hit also meant a compromise of your goals and vision? What if you’ve “learned” so much on this journey that you’ve forgotten why you even began it?

If you’re feeling your gut churn as it contemplates the brink of existential crisis, read on… Almost every entrepreneur begins their journey into self employment (and beyond) in a state of naivety. We foolishly harbor massive dreams for creating wealth and freedom for ourselves – easily and effortlessly. Some even start out with a vision to change the world they live in.

Either way, our warm and fuzzy intentions smash head-first into the icy blizzard of the real world. Ol’ mother business has been waiting for you… and she can’t wait to teach you a lesson or five.

When you set out to journey from Position A to your ultimate destination (wealth, freedom and impact) at Position Z, it’s way too easy to “redefine your vision” when the first painful lesson occurs.

You rationalize, chat it out with friends (or *gasp* coaches) and then decide it wasn’t really “Z” that you wanted after all… perhaps you’d be better suited to X. It’s more your style, you tell yourself, and X is easier to achieve.

Then learning experience number two happens (The Curve Strikes Back!) and your goals shift once more – X is looking tricky and suddenly Y seems seductive. After all, X is too much about hard work. And, you’ve learned about the “lifestyle design” Y offers.

What I’m describing here can also be (and often is) described as “growing up”. It’s the process that takes a newbie entrepreneur from “I’m gonna take over the world” to “paying off my mortgage one day would be nice”.

It’s the death of your ambition – so slow you barely notice. It’s a tragedy.

This process comes with side effects too. As the fire of your original ambition is doused, you become lethargic. Your motivation fades. You start looking for other sources of entertainment beyond business – what used to be a fun game becomes a chore. When things get really bad, you start fantasizing about giving it all up for a regular job.

Thing is, achieving X and Y (or P and Q) instead of your original goal Z… can actually be a lot of fun. There are many many different incarnations of “success”. Happiness and fulfillment can be found more places than you’d think.

However, a part of you never forgets what you originally set out to do. Your inner child remembers the naive dream that used to keep you up at night out of sheer excitement.

So what can you do?

I wrote this post with just one intention: To convince you that it isn’t too late.

If you’ve been an entrepreneur for some time, you’ve probably come to accept a compromised vision – perhaps you’ve already achieved it. Since you’re feeling successful, you’re good with X.

But it isn’t too late.

In the last few years, you’ve learned a lot. A LOT. You’ve connected with incredible people and now have access to resources that never used to exist. Technology has changed everything too.

It isn’t too late.

In fact, you’re more qualified now than ever before to revisit your original vision. The achievement of Z is still a possibility.

What if your striving toward vision X was simply preparation – the schooling and experience you needed to finally arrive at your true vision. This reality could be the truth. Your actions will create the hindsight that makes it true.

It isn’t too late.

When you reconnect with the ambition that started you out on your journey, incredible things will happen. You’ll wake up motivated. Your world will seem brighter, your life richer. Your inner child will be nourished by the wonderment you create as you finally start doing the things you always wished you could.

Want to leave a really brave comment after this post? Tell me and the community why you started out in business.


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  1. This post was sort of difficult for me to read, because I wasn’t your traditional entrepreneur who said, “I want to start a business.” I sort of fell into it — and discovered I loved it. But my “reason” for doing this is that I genuinely *love* helping people get better at what they do, and I love seeing their transformation.

    1. Hey Mare, thanks for adding this perspective – great that you love helping people (we all do I think)… but I’m really curious about what you *want* out of it. For yourself.

      Helping people is valid and outcomes are too.

  2. Hi Peter,

    Good post.

    I started my business because I no longer wanted to spend my life rotting in a cubicle. I also wanted to see if I had the courage to do it. My father had a successful business, yet my school years/college/grad school etc., never presented that option. The model was always to work for someone else.

    I had to face some truths about myself that became self-evident as a business owner. That ended up being the best part of my business. Growing into myself. Conventional work is usually designed to keep folks dependent and scared. (Witness the fear of being laid off.) I’d taken on those traits although I spent my pre-school childhood independent and brave.

    The softening of ambition happens in life as well. People start to accept mediocrity for many reasons. The main one being that it’s what’s expected. If you look at our society it’s geared toward mediocrity. If you want to step out of the mediocrity line it becomes that much more of a challenge.

    I once tried to do exemplary work at a state job. My boss wrote me a note: do only what you are asked. They blocked me from trying to rise about the staleness.

    The best way to counter that is to hang out with other folks who want to change the world and refuse to give up their ideas to do that.


  3. Great post Peter. I started my business for personal freedom and satisfaction. I also agree with Giulietta where I just wanted to escape the cubicle life and working for people who didn’t encourage or appreciate what I had to offer.

    1. Right on Tennille – thanks for visiting! 🙂

      I think it’s so crucial that working for/with the “right people” is a value of yours – I love that your original vision was all about freedom, satisfaction and moving in more positive circles.

      I hope you’re living all of those right now!

  4. Peter,
    Great post. I went into medicine because I had to. It was a calling I had even in childhood(really…I’ll show you my baby pictures). I did try really hard to avoid, though. It seemed to present too many obstacles. But there does come a time when you can chose to either fight the whole world or fight yourself. Trust me, fighting the whole world is easier.

    Once I submitted to my fate, I found that the person medicine called out of me was a really cool, grounded, wise and curious medicine woman who loved what she did and who she did it for. When the day came to chose a career path, I “knew” I couldn’t work “for” any entity that I didn’t create. I couldn’t shove the creativity, curiosity, and collaboration I felt working with patients into a 10 minute appointment. I wanted the time to go deep, to really listen, to know someone well enough to be of genuine help. At the time I was frequently called (and often called myself) “stubborn”, “idealistic,” and outright “deluded.”

    My delusion has been so successful, however, that the success perpetuates a demand to see more and more people in progressively less time. And now I have employees whose livelihoods depend on my success. Simply by insisting on being the kind of doctor I wanted to be, I’ve become “The Organization” I never wanted to work for.

    Then recently, I had the opportunity to go deep into a question that an on-line client asked me, using no overhead but my brain. Suddenly, it was there again…that elusive healing muse…the one that needs only time and a human being with a question. I was riveted as if it was the very first day I had introduced myself as “Doctor”.

    Just as a good relationship presents me the opportunity to fall in love with the same person repeatedly, so, it appears, does right livelihood. So I’m lucky enough to get to reinvent this luscious thing again.

    Thanks for keeping it real, Peter.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  5. In the beginning, I wanted to start a business in order to be financially free, and be able to start very personal art projects that would be free from any market/commercial production criteria.

    But as I was warming up to start some business projects, I found I couldn’t focus on doing just one single thing.

    Ideas were fighting each others; that chaos was not practical to get things started.

    So you’d have found me making just one thing and nothing more.
    Example: one blog post posted, other unfinished articles were suffering from a halt and haunting abandoned folders on the hard drive… amongst a cemetry of other project grave folders that took hours of search, thinking and planning…

    I was still planning to do the cleaning of unstarted project files, but was still hoping they’d start someday soon, as soon as I’d have finished some other searches about another project that would have started as soon as possible… too.

    I saw that coaches and encouragers were talking about a business “clarification” step. I was thinking about it as simply taking the right décisions.

    Those décisions seem to be easy to think of when you’re writing your plans and todo lists, but once you’re into getting those great ideas done you quickly find that things aren’t flowing as smoothly as planned, because of X number of reasons (“learning curves” pops up down on the lower rightern corner of the screen, saying: wah hee! After that uppercut.)

    So in the first place I wanted to go from A to X, and found myself stuck at C!
    Once that C point became a whole big body of another you that you were fighting like a videogame boss, you discover that the only way to beat that invincible stubborn boss is by UNPLUGGING your Player1 joypad and insterting it in Player2 port (because you need to get out of your own box so that that other you doesn’t read your mind and anticipate your movements anymore)

    Only then were you able to hit that secret switch that opened up for a hole under that big other you and get rid of him/her for enough long time to rethink your heroic quest towards awesomeness. Whew that was close.

    So the process should be simple: grow big giants, wrestle with them until you find a way to unplug and let them fall in the void, wash and repeat.

    Those giants should become less fierce every time, and your endurance and experience may have grown bigger.

    That’s how i’m currently aiming for E, and the way towards X and Y is still far away, I would resurrect the Z’s giant once I gained everything that was possible to gain from all the other levels and bosses, equipped with the right skills/armor/weapons and any other secret bonuses 🙂

  6. Love the article and comments! I’m not necessarily in business, but I’m on my journey to becoming a stand-up comedian and writer! It’s something I’ve wanted to do since elementary school and I’m still overcoming fears and obstacles. I’ve since started a blog, performed a few times and am meeting really cool, interesting people.

    One of my newly found quotes tends to keep me motivated. “Never let the fear of failure outweigh the excitement of succeeding in your goals.” Sites, as this one, also makes the journey much more bearable.

    Happiness is a journey, not the destination, and that’s evident because “being happy” is a verb, which is an action, not a place!

    -Nate…feel free to checkout!

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