“If you think life is magical or life is hard, either way you are right. Your thoughts are the source of reality.” I love this quote by Dr. Debasish Mridha, an American physician and philosopher. And here is a phrase that is toxic to the entrepreneurial mindset – “It’s too hard.” Why? Because it is an affirmation – and a powerful one at that. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging that the mountain in front of us may be huge. But we can easily tip over into defeatist territory if we say something is “too hard.” Often that is a signal that it is time to give up. Au contraire!
Conquering something difficult and maybe even insurmountable is a true entrepreneur’s dream, much in the same vein as climbing Mount Everest or something less daring like public speaking. I want to “run to hard” and embrace it. I do so because I know that many others have run away from it. “Too hard” is an opportunity to blend innovation and creativity into a solution. It is an opportunity to witness the power of a positive attitude. It is an opportunity to learn how tough we are and how able we are to persevere.
There are examples all around us of how “too hard” really wasn’t. Think how hard it must have been to put a man on the moon in 1969 before the technological advancements we have today. The first heart transplant must have been amazingly hard – yet someone did it. And how hard was it for swimmer Michael Phelps to win 28 Olympic medals over the course of his career? There is no doubt that someone uttered the “too hard” phrase with each of these accomplishments. And that someone was obviously dead wrong.
Here is what I have learned. A leader must be the eternal optimist. He or she must absolutely and totally believe in the goal or objective. This belief must be authentic and genuine – not playacting for the team. There’s confidence on steroids at work here. But more than sheer willpower is necessary to generate the desired result. The effort must be strategic and smart.
Hoover, Electrolux, and Oreck seemed to have a corner on the vacuum market for years. Then along came James Dyson with a revolutionary idea in the late 1970s. He created 5,127 prototypes over five years and the G-Force Dual Cyclone was born. Dyson has since become a worldwide market leader with 2019 sales of more than $7.3 billion. Here is another example. Blockbuster had 2004 revenue of $6 billion while Netflix brought in $500 million. Today, Netflix has more than nearly 208 million streaming subscribers and Blockbuster is out of business. What happened to “too hard” with Dyson and Netflix?
Dyson revolutionized vacuum cleaner design and eliminated the need for a bag. It was clearly a disruptor in its industry. Its swivel ball technology also made it easier to use a vacuum cleaner in tight spaces – something the incumbent makers had failed to do. Netflix was all about convenience for its customers. I remember having to drive to the Blockbuster store to rent a movie. Meanwhile Netflix was sending them through the mail. Ultimately, the company figured out that streaming was the future and rode the wave in handsome fashion. “Too hard” was transformed into stunning success through innovation, creativity, perseverance, resilience and above all a “can’t lose” mindset.
How do these stories apply to us? If nothing else, it is imperative that we learn how to convert “too hard” into “let’s do it.” We must first convince ourselves that we can do whatever we set out to do. Then we must persuade our team to believe the same way. I know that this sounds like a lot of rah-rah. But the formula is a simple one. Yes, there will be risks – but we figure out how to manage them. Yes, there will be failure – but we use it to learn what works and what doesn’t. And yes, there will be periods where progress seems painfully slow – but we keep moving forward until we break through.
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.