The Up and to the Right Entrepreneur

Damon is an entrepreneur. He runs a small but growing company that recycles old computer equipment. Damon is very frustrated right now. Stephanie is a stay-at-home mom. She has two small children under the age of five and produces marketing materials for three companies, working from a spare bedroom. Stephanie is very frustrated right now. Why are Damon and Stephanie so frustrated?

Damon’s company has been growing at a rate of 25% a year for the past three years. He’s doubled the size of his team and his margins are increasing. If you looked at a graph depicting his business, the line would be up and to the right.

Stephanie has two beautiful and healthy children. Her husband is a physician, and the family is financially secure. Her marketing venture is flourishing. She’s landed a new client each of the last three years and the type of work has become much more substantive. By all measures, Stephanie’s graph looks the same as Damon’s – up and to the right.

Why in the world would these two individuals be so frustrated? Damon has chosen to reinvest a major portion of his profits back into his company. As a result, he hasn’t seen his personal cash flow increase in any meaningful way. Intellectually he knows he’s doing fine, but it still rankles him that his bank balance has remained fairly static.

Stephanie loves her marketing business, and she is ecstatic over motherhood. She worries that her two primary roles may someday collide (at times they already do) and she feels guilty that she may fail to do justice with either. Stephanie wonders how she can possibly achieve her personal and professional goals with the juggling act that she is managing. 

Here’s a simple but powerful truth. Damon and Stephanie have not yet learned how to celebrate their success. To those of us looking in from the outside these two are ideally situated. Everything seems “up and to the right” for them and yet they are frustrated. Damon and Stephanie are trapped in the tunnel of limited thinking. They have set lofty expectations for themselves – both in terms of what they want to achieve and how quickly this will happen. How many entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs do you know who are suffering the same plight? What can be done to break this negative-mind cycle?

If we were coaching Damon and Stephanie, we would tell them to become quiet for a few minutes and clear their minds. Then we would suggest that they “go to gratitude.” That would involve creating an inventory of all that in their lives for which they are grateful. Going to gratitude helps them get out of themselves and see beyond the tunnel walls of their frustration. And it’s a way to re-set the mind in a positive manner. In fact, we would advise Damon and Stephanie to use the gratitude exercise in the future whenever they feel frustration welling up.

As armchair coaches we would next encourage Tyler and Stephanie to discover how to celebrate their successes – no matter how large or small. Sometimes we tend to singularly focus only on the BHAGs – Big Hairy Audacious Goals – that we have set, and we fail to see the progress we are making along the way. Damon and Stephanie need to re-pattern their thinking to be able to see the smaller achievements that occur every day and intentionally celebrate them. One of Damon’s team members earned a difficult industry certification. Damon celebrated this success with a pizza party and some congratulatory remarks. When his company recycled its 10,000th CPU, he walked into the middle of the warehouse and rang a big brass bell. He left the bell there to be used as future milestones are realized.

When Stephanie’s four-year-old daughter read her first book Stephanie took her out for a special lunch and lavished her daughter with praise and encouragement. One of Stephanie’s clients entered her brochure in a regional marketing contest, and it won first place. Stephanie celebrated her accomplishment by laminating the brochure cover onto a plaque along with her award. She hung it in her home office to remind her that she does really fine work.

We all need to learn to celebrate our successes no matter the size. And going to gratitude helps us to break out of the tunnel of limited thinking. This puts us on the path to appreciate each and every day as one filled with joy and promise.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

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