Don’t Let The Crabs Pull You Down
When I first began sharing my dream of leaving my full time job to build my own successful entrepreneurial business, I was surprised by the response I got from family and close friends. If I mentioned my latest success at a family gathering, the topic would quickly die and then someone would step into the awkward silence and change the subject. At one event, a family member pulled me aside just to remind me that dreams like mine don’t come true for most people.
I want to believe that person meant well. I’m sure his goal wasn’t to see me fail or feel disappointment if my business venture didn’t work out. He, like so many people, just had no idea how to support a goal he didn’t understand. Few in my circle of family or friends have ever been successful at taking a dream and building it into a business.
It’s the unknown that tends to bring out the pessimistic side of human nature. People who haven’t successfully pursued their dreams, tend to zero in on the risks. In my circle of family and friends, I was doing something none of them had done. I was being a pioneer; in today’s lingo…an entrepreneur.
Even as my cache of successes grew, there were still ‘crabs’ trying to dismiss my accomplishments. Feminist author and journalist, Ninotchka Rosca documented what Filipino fisherman noticed about the behavior of crabs in a bucket; when one gets close to the rim of the bucket the others seem to be grabbing its legs to keep it from escaping.
The ‘crabs’ in our lives are the individuals who don’t deal well with anyone happier or more successful than they are. They will do or say whatever it takes to taint our success, dismiss our joy, and remind us that there’s nothing special about us, or what we have to offer.
This is when it’s very important to remember that we get to decide who we are. Starting anything new is a challenge and although it’s difficult at times, we have the power to change the language of our self-talk so we can stay positive and keep moving forward.
When my children were growing up, I taught them a mantra-like phrase to say to themselves for inner strength whenever they were confronted by the discouraging words dished out by others. The phrase was, “No matter what you say or do to me, I’m still a worthwhile person.”
As I continued to build my new business from scratch, I frequently put a similar phrase to work inside my mind. I used it to stay strong against the discouraging messages around me: “No matter what you say about my dream to build my new business, it is still a worthwhile dream, and I will remain steadfast to pursue it.”
We need phrases like this to replace the ones we might have heard over and over again during our youth. If we don’t create them and use them, we could end up becoming our own worst enemy, forever at the mercy of a monologue of self-limiting doubts constantly running through our mind.
In his book Real Magic: Creating Miracles in Everyday Life, Dr. Wayne Dyer wrote about how we all had delightful thoughts as children that let us believe we could do great and magical things. Over time though, those thoughts were replaced by thoughts that now limit us. He wrote:
Somewhere along the way you began to doubt your ability to create magic for yourself. Never doubt that being able to walk from the perspective of the crawler is truly a miracle. You lost the ability to extend that belief to new and more ‘impossible’ miracles. You began to buy into the misbeliefs of those around you who were ‘many limits’ people, who said, ‘You must learn your limitations.’ Or ‘You can’t do that.’ Or ‘You are just like your father, and he couldn’t do those things either.’ The list was endless, and so too became the limitations.
To recapture that childhood magic and become your own miracle worker, you will have to change the thoughts that created your world of limits and boundaries. That takes place in your mind first, and since thoughts originate with you, you have the ability to recreate your own image of what your life is going to be from now on. Why not include the presence of real magic in your life as well? (Dyer, 1989)
One of the many people who inspired me is author, professional speaker and ultra-athlete, Croix Sather, a man who followed his dream. Croix ran 100 marathons in 100 days from California to New York and inspired hundreds of adults and teens along the route. In his book Dream Big Act Big: Breakthrough and Unleash the Superstar within You, he wrote:
Don’t EVER let anyone tell you that your dream is impossible! Nobody! Not your friends, not your parents, not your brother, sister or grandma. Certainly not that schmuck boss, or that narrow minded teacher you once had. Not that pathetic boyfriend or girlfriend whom you never should have dated in the first place. Not that moron critic or the town gossip. Nobody. Most importantly, don’t ever listen to yourself when you hear those words of self-doubt creep out of the darkness of your mind. (Sather, 2011)
There is no better time than now to follow a dream and/or start a new business. For some people though, trying to figure out where to start can generate overwhelming feelings of doubt that end up stopping them from ever getting a dream or an idea off the ground. Fortunately, amazing technological advances are transforming how people connect and engage, making it easier to start new endeavors capable of changing people’s lives for the better while also producing income.
This book is designed to take you step-by-step through 2.0 strategies you can use to start turning your dreams into realities, or to grow an existing business to a size that matches your goals. It will also introduce you to the advantages of adding speaking to your marketing skills portfolio.
One of the best things about all the strategies and information in this book is that they include both traditional and nontraditional, online and offline marketing strategies you can begin using immediately. With a little effort on your part, you can start doing many of them without quitting your day job. In fact, even if your dream is to start your own business, the ideas in this book might even help improve your current job situation. So, let’s get started!
Think Like an Entrepreneur
Like a lot of things, if deciding to follow the path of an entrepreneur was easy, then everybody would do it. They don’t. There are some very good reasons to pursue this path though. One of the most important ones is because you have something worth sharing. Your experience and expertise have the potential of helping other people.
I made the commitment to pursue my goals because I knew it would allow me to live a more fulfilling life and use my gifts and passion to help others build and live a better life too.
I love what career consultant Cliff Hakim wrote in his book We Are All Self-Employed: The New Social Contract for Working in a Changed World:
For most of us, it is not enough merely to survive – to change according to other people’s desires or to get by on a day-to-day basis. Rather, I believe, we want to go beyond survival, not only to awaken our ‘inner core’ but also to live our passion, express our spirit, and make worthwhile contributions. When we are ‘self-employed,’ we are not cogs in a wheel, cared for by the organization, but individuals responsible for our own job productivity, career mobility, and career fulfillment. With self-knowledge, we can better identify our needs and values, build a sense of mission into our work lives, and contribute more to others. (Hakim, 1994)
If you already love what you do then perhaps you’re already on the right track and just have to make a slight switch at the next ‘junction.’ Maybe it’s time to change from working in the trenches to helping all those people who are in the trenches with you.
The reality is that too many people feel trapped in a job they hate going to everyday. Just look around you the next time you’re at the grocery store, the coffee shop, or at the mall. Sometimes it feels like you’re living in a zombie movie surrounded by the walking dead. So many people doing the same thing day after day, existing for the sole purpose of producing for someone or something else, and once those widgets have been produced, they get their reward of returning home to the sofa and their television or computer each night. They sit there, remote control or mouse in hand feeling unfulfilled and empty, ready to give up the idea of searching for a more meaningful way of living.
In the early 1980’s I began my journey as one of the walking dead. I was just out of the US Air Force and my grandmother told me I should go into the field of data processing because it promised good pay and good benefits. My grandparents were hard-working immigrants who came to this country as children. They did whatever it took to pay the bills and they did it well. But, they also complained about their employers, their jobs, the neighbors, and pretty much everything else. They weren’t fulfilled and happy. Still, I had great respect for my grandmother so I took her advice.
Within a few months I found myself working for a bank, mounting magnetic reels on tape drives and loading and unloading giant reams of green and white striped paper called green-bar into humongous printers. I spent my days punching cards and bursting forms until I eventually moved into programming and from there onto management.
I’m not telling you this to fault my grandmother; she was only doing what she had been programmed to do too. Besides, I was making good money and had good benefits. I’m telling you this because back then, I didn’t know it was okay to dream of being all that I was meant to be in this life. I didn’t know I had a passion for consulting in the fields of behavior and parenting patiently waiting for me to find it.
One of my favorite books was written by American professor of computer science, Randy Pausch. Before dying from complications due to pancreatic cancer, he wrote his national bestseller The Last Lecture. It contained 61 mini-lectures providing wisdom and guidance to those who read it. My favorite lecture is the one he wrote for his own children titled Dreams for My Children. Here is an excerpt from that lecture:
It can be a very disruptive thing for parents to have specific dreams for their kids. As a professor, I’ve seen many unhappy college freshman picking majors that are all wrong for them. Their parents have put them on a train, and too often, judging by the crying during my office hours, the result is a train wreck.
As I see it, a parent’s job is to encourage kids to develop a joy for life and a great urge to follow their own dreams. The best we can do is to help them develop a personal set of tools for the task.
So my dreams for my kids are very exact: I want them to find their own path to fulfillment. And given that I won’t be there, I want to make this clear: Kids, don’t try to figure out what I wanted you to become. I want you to become what you want to become. (Pausch & Zaslow, 2008)
Fortunately, I discovered an idea that inspired me very early in my career as a young professional. The large company I was working for called all of its employees into the auditorium-like conference room to hear a presentation that was supposed to motivate us and get us excited about changes that were coming down from the new regime.
Our department head walked to the lectern and introduced the guest speaker as a leading voice in the field of innovative thinking and change. As applause filled the air, a short, bald-headed man in a suit strode confidently and quickly across the stage carrying a plastic milk crate. My attention was instantly captured by the fact that he was carrying such an odd thing until I saw what he did next; he dropped it on the floor behind the lectern and stood up on it, giving him the height he needed to stand well clear of the lectern. The entire audience immediately broke into laughter.
That was just one of the techniques the speaker used to capture our attention though. Of all of them, one technique in particular really made an impression on me and I’ve used it many times in my own presentations. As a means of reinforcing a point, he produced that day’s local city newspaper and read the headline of an article regarding a large scale event that was meaningful to all of us in the room. What made it so memorable to me was that the speaker was from Utah and he had flown into our area just hours before taking the stage!
Yes, his message was inspiring and most likely exactly what the company’s leadership wanted us to hear, but what I remembered were the things he said and did to invoke laughter from my fellow professionals. I took note of the components of his speech like the pitch and tone of his voice, his body language and how well it matched each individual message in his talk, and how well his eye contact seemed to make me feel like he was talking to me personally.
Prior to this presentation, I had sat through too many presentations that were about as engaging as watching paint dry. This speaker helped me realize that there were techniques like the milk crate and the local newspaper that could be learned and help entrepreneurs and individual thinkers stand out as the kind of professionals people want to do business with.
Something happened in my mind during that 90-minute presentation. You see… up until that moment, I wasn’t exactly inspired by my job. I certainly wasn’t inspired to stand up and try to get the people around me excited. Instead, I felt like my job was to fit in with the group I worked with. Standing out from the rest was not an option.
By the time I’d left that corporate auditorium though, I had witnessed the skill of a professional presenter, and experienced the energy of a truly engaged audience. And, for the first time, I was beginning to think outside the box I was currently residing in. I had just been introduced to the entrepreneurial spirit inside me and was excited and determined to learn more. I didn’t know how or where to begin yet, but I made the decision to become one of those people who gets hired to motivate others, and leaves their customers inspired, informed, and moved to action. Since then, I have been on an amazing journey developing my entrepreneurial spirit and skills.
For the next several years I bought coffee or lunch for many professionals who were building their own business and were willing to share their knowledge and expertise. The most memorable cup of coffee was the one I bought for national radio talk show host, Phil Valentine, who shared many tips that I’ve used throughout the years. Mr. Valentine has been a featured presenter at numerous events, has written several books, has appeared in television and movies, and is considered one of the 100 most influential radio talk show hosts of all time. At the time of this writing, he was ranked as #39 according to Talkers Magazine.
I had the honor of meeting Phil when I was hosting my own weekend radio show at the Clear Channel studios in Nashville, Tennessee. We met for breakfast at the world famous Pancake Pantry restaurant on 21st Avenue in Nashville and I had the privilege of asking him many questions.
Phil generously shared many tips and ideas with me, but the one thing he really emphasized was that successful people bring their passion into their work. I’ve always been grateful for getting that insight so early in my career. Over the years, I’ve learned first-hand that people who are passionate about what they do will have the greatest impact on their clients, customers and audiences.
In his book PASSION! How to Do What You LOVE For a Living & Wake Up The WORLD With Your Work, Ian Hollander describes what passion is. He writes:
The truth is, passion is such a personal thing – an intimate exercise in expressing your authentic self… I believe whatever it is that burns brightly in you – that you’d love to get up every day and DO – is simply waiting to wake up. What you feel called to offer, or in a perfect world, simply able to do because you can.
Whether you frame this a deeply “baked in” spiritual exercise in expression and authenticity that reflects something deeper about your true purpose, (as I do) or maybe you simply believe it’s something purely random or chance that you happen to do well. Or maybe you have a lifelong hobby that you really love and would love to wake up and work on every day. (Hollander, 2013)
Maybe you’ve had the experience of realizing that there is something burning brightly in you. Maybe you’ve been living your parent’s dream, someone else’s dream, or you’ve become a member of the ‘walking dead’. If this sounds like you, then this is the perfect time to discover new dreams or to reconnect with dreams you’ve been denying all along. Right now is the perfect time to reach deep inside to discover and remind yourself of all the ideas you have – or have had – that light your soul on fire.
When I decided to start pursuing my dreams, goals and passions, it wasn’t just because I wanted to pursue things I was excited about. It was also because I wanted to step off the path everyone else had chosen for me. I wanted more than an existence as someone else’s employee. There’s nothing wrong with working for someone else. There’s just something very fulfilling about being able to take care of yourself and your family doing something you love to do.
Gratefully, one of the things I learned as I started pursuing my dream is that it’s absolutely possible to grow your business without quitting your ‘day job.’ Jon Acuff advises in his book Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job & Your Dream Job to launch your dream job or business while you’re still employed. He points out several reasons for taking this approach: it helps avoid freaking out your spouse and putting your marriage in peril, it side steps financial risks that could destroy your dream and your life, and it eliminates the loss of leverage when decisions about your new venture get tough.
An entrepreneurial business is one that can easily be started while maintaining full-time employment. This book is set up to show you how to do it, one step at a time. It may not be the only way to do it, but it’s a way that has worked for many individuals, myself included. Even if the field of expertise you’ve chosen includes complexities that don’t allow you to use all of the steps in this book, a great majority will still apply.
It should go without saying that your success is also dependent on the action you take and the effort you put into it. But if you are still trying to come up with an inspiration, here are a few questions to help you get started.
What do you love to talk about so much that when you talk about it, you feel alive? What have you discovered in your life that you’d like to share with others so that they can start living a better life too? What guilty pleasures would you love to bring out into the open?
Are there things you know how to do really well? Do you have natural talents others would love to hear about, or that you could teach? What have you learned ‘the hard way’? What insight or knowledge do you possess that you could talk about right now rather than waiting until it’s time for your last lecture?
Getting Started and Finding Your Unique Message
To truly take advantage of 2.0 strategies, you should start by taking some time to make an inventory of your interests, the things you know about, and what entrepreneurial ideas you have that you’ve filed away. As a reminder though, you don’t have to worry about quitting your day job to start living the life of an entrepreneur. You can start pursuing your ideas today, even if you enjoy the work you’re doing now.
When it comes to selecting a business idea to focus on, passion and interest are two of the criteria you can use to narrow down your list of possibilities. Another important consideration is whether or not people will benefit from your idea. Ideas with a future usually solve a problem or address a situation people struggle with. The more defined, refined, and specific your solution is, the more likely people are to respond positively to it, and the more likely you are to stand out as an expert.
The great thing is that being an expert doesn’t mean you have to be the person who comes with all the answers. There are a lot of people out there who have figured out how to solve problems. I’m not suggesting you take credit for someone else’s work and pass it off as your own, but all progress is based on the work of others. We wouldn’t be able to travel by air the way we do today if it hadn’t been for the Wright brothers. Even if you do apply other people’s ideas, you usually end up adding to them, tweaking them, or making adjustments so they fit your audience even better.
For example, I started one of my first entrepreneurial businesses in 1985. I was looking through my mail one day and noticed that I was getting pieces of advertising with my name and address printed on a stick-on label. One of them had misspelled my last name so I called the company and asked them where they got my name. The woman who answered the phone apologized and told me that the mistake probably originated at the company they were buying their mailing lists and labels from.
I didn’t think about mailing lists again until I was having a conversation with the owner of a small tropical fish store in my neighborhood. He was trying to figure out a way to get customers to come to his store more often. For some reason, that misspelled address label on the piece of advertising mail popped into my head. My entrepreneurial interest took over and I quickly came up with an idea.
I asked the owner if he’d ever thought about having a giveaway contest. I explained that if he did, customers could fill out an entry blank with their name and address on it and then he’d have the information he needed to mail advertising directly to them. He thought it was a great idea, but he didn’t have a computer. Without hesitating, I told him that I had one, and for a small fee, I could do the work for him.
With that, ‘Data Management and Graphics’ was born and I began building mailing lists for small businesses on my brand new Commodore 64 computer – one of the first consumer computers on the market.
Today, the idea of using mailing labels on snail-mail advertising is considered by many to be old technology, but back in 1985, it was an easy way for me to earn extra income. I didn’t dream up the idea of building a data base of names and addresses, I borrowed an idea that someone else had used to send me advertising. For all I know, they could have borrowed the idea from someone else too.
The point is, when you start creating your list of ideas and/or solutions, your first instinct might be that you don’t know enough about one specific thing to focus on it. Nothing could be further from the truth; most people just don’t realize how many things they know a lot about. Creating a list of things you already have knowledge and command of, will come from taking a good look at your skills, knowledge, experience, likes, dislikes, and passions. The bigger your initial list is, the more opportunity you will have of zeroing in on an idea that gets your creative juices flowing.
You also have an advantage I didn’t have when I started. You get to start by asking yourself the right kinds of questions. Better questions make it easier to identify topics that inspire you. Jon Acuff asks his readers in his book Quitter to answer these five questions:
• What do I love enough to do for free?
• What do I do that causes time to feel different?
• What do I enjoy regardless of the opinions of other people?
• If only my life changed, would that be enough?
• Are there any patterns in the things I like doing?
Think about the people who inspire you. What do they talk or write about? When you go into a book store, online, or read a magazine, what kinds of ideas or information catch your attention first? Whose name would you search on the internet to see if they’ve written anything new lately? What kinds of things do you research on the internet?
When I decided to start a consulting business, I didn’t automatically know I was going to focus on children and parenting. For me, the process evolved a little differently; it was the people I came in contact with that helped me progressively hone my skills and focus.
My close friend and co-worker, Bill Watson, suggested I join our company’s Toastmasters club to develop my presentation skills. I had never heard of Toastmasters before. He explained that it is an international nonprofit educational organization dedicated to helping individuals develop their communication and leadership skills. Our company had an in-house chapter to help employees become more skilled and comfortable when they were required to speak in front of or lead work groups.
At the first meeting I attended, chapter member Clyde Talley stood behind the lectern and preceded to inspire and motivate his audience to take responsibility for their own individual emotions. With a great deal of passion, he encouraged us not to allow ourselves to be pulled down by the negative people we came in contact with on a daily basis.
The passion he spoke with made it very clear how much he believed in what he was talking about. The expression on his face, his tone, and how well his body language moved in unison with his words, it all pulled me in to listen to every word he spoke.
As strange as it may sound, I had never heard that message before. Like everybody else, I was a product of my upbringing and my experience was a circle of family and friends that reacted to whatever life tossed their way. I remember thinking to myself after hearing Clyde speak, “You mean, I don’t have to let others control my emotions?!”
How long would it have taken me to figure this out if I hadn’t heard Clyde’s speech? How many people go through their entire lives without ever truly hearing a simple thought, idea or truth that could dramatically improve the quality of their lives in such a short amount of time? Both answers are moot because I had heard him and now I was even more determined to help other people in the same way Clyde had helped me.
Over the next few months I felt compelled to attend more and more of the club meetings. Every time Clyde spoke I saw and heard his passion. In fact, I noticed passion when other members of the club spoke about things they really cared about too. It didn’t matter whether they were speaking about their children, their hobbies, or their fight down at city hall; their passion was loud and clear. You could see it in their eyes and feel it in the room.
I also wanted to hang out with these people more because they appeared just as positive and passionate in their real lives as they were when they were speaking to their audience. This was who they were as people and their positivity was contagious!
Author Jack Canfield, co-creator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series, said that during his first year of teaching in a Chicago High School he began to realize he didn’t want to hang out in the teacher’s lounge anymore. The talk always seemed to come back to topics of negativity; what the administration was doing to the teachers, judgments about the challenging students, and how difficult their jobs were going to be.
Instead, he stopped going to the teacher’s lounge and discovered a different group of teachers who focused on the positive aspects of their jobs. Jack reminds us that we have the power to choose who we spend our time with. In his book The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, he wrote:
Make a conscious effort to surround yourself with positive, nourishing, and uplifting people – people who believe in you, encourage you to go after your dreams, and applaud your victories. Surround yourself with possibility thinkers, idealists, and visionaries. (Canfield & Switzer, 2005)
If you’re having difficulty whittling down your list of topics, begin surrounding yourself with positive people who use their passion to inspire others and distance yourself from those who generate negativity. Take an inventory of your circle of friends and family and assess whether each one encourages or discourages you.
One of the most difficult things my wife and I ever decided to do was to modify the guest list of who we invited into our home. The number of people we realized we actually enjoyed being around suddenly grew quite small. It was a difficult task to complete, but we knew it was necessary. Do the same for yourself and don’t be afraid to say NO to invites from toxic people. As the amount of negativity you are exposed to starts to decrease, the things that you feel good about will start to appear and help you refine your list of topics even more.
Another thing that will help if you’re still struggling with finding your message is to try spending some time alone listening for the voice inside of you that wants to guide you. Some of us think of this voice as the Greater Power and some of us call it God. It doesn’t really matter what you call it, just take the time to listen. Your inner voice holds clues to what you may be passionate about.
Heather Hansen O’Neill tells us that it’s important to find ways of visualizing what you want and where you believe you’re supposed to be. In her book Find Your Fire at Forty: Creating a Joyful Life During the Age of Discontent she wrote:
We are so often pulled in different directions that we don’t know who we are or what we want. It becomes imperative to make time each day to be quiet. If you meditate or do yoga that would be optimal. But if not, simply put aside a small portion of the day to sit quietly… The habit of being quiet will help you get a clearer picture of how to live a more joyful life. (O’Neill, 2011)
In the end, it was my three children who helped me find my unique message, unbeknownst to them. After trying my hand at being a motivational speaker capable of speaking about a variety of topics, I quickly learned that there were many speakers like this. As someone once put it: “they are a dime a dozen.”
I started to wonder if being a professional speaker really was the right direction for me, so I started spending time alone, in prayer and meditation to see if I could hear the guiding voice of the Greater Power inside of me. Our family began attending a new church and I watched as my children began to develop a deeper level of spirituality. As I watched them grow, an idea began to take shape and my kids were at the center of it.
After a series of enlightening conversations with my pastor, I realized how passionate I felt about being a dad and how important my relationship with my children was to me. He told me that whenever I talked about them or spent time with them he saw the ‘fire in my eyes.’
My own father was absent from my life after the age of ten, and even before that, he wanted nothing to do with me or my seven younger siblings. My parents were finally and officially divorced when I was 14. That experience made me strive to be the kind of father to my children that I never had when I was growing up. I realized how passionate I was about this and started feeling like this was a better direction. I was getting closer to finding my message!
For some people, deciding on a solution they’d like to share with others is easy because they’ve been thinking about it for a while. For other people, it might not be as easy because it’s been a long time since they’ve dared to think that it might be okay to do something they enjoyed and really believed in. Either way, the following exercises will help you reconnect with ideas and dreams patiently waiting to be rediscovered.
In chapter 1, I mentioned that Wayne Dyer talked about ‘recapturing our childhood magic’ in his book. So when we think about the things we loved to do as children, we are reminded of what it’s like to think in terms of possibilities rather than limits. To remember what possibilities feel like, list five things you loved doing when you were younger – things you really looked forward to.