You know that feeling when you get caught in a vicious circle of bad habits or actions that aren’t working, but you keep doing the same things over and over? Don’t lie. We all fall into that trap once in a while. The classic example is to get invested time-wise or money-wise in something that you finally realize isn’t really working out as well as you planned. You don’t want to quit and lose all the time or money you have invested already, but you know that if you keep going, you’re going to have to invest a whole lot more of time or money… so, you keep going.
Or perhaps you don’t yet realize that your efforts aren’t bearing fruit. Many pursuits or philosophical notions hide their flaws well. At least most obese people can undeniably see that they have issues. Whereas, an ill-conceived business pursuit or other life goal often doesn’t manifest its inherent problems for years.
Obviously, sometimes persistence is all you need. Sometimes, you’re closer to the finish line than you thought. And, you tell yourself… “if you’re going through hell… keep going”. You remind yourself that swimming the distance back to your starting point would require the same effort as just continuing on to your original destination.
Or… perhaps you just need a reality-check…. a dose of objectivity. Because, perhaps you are swimming in the completely wrong direction. I love Jack Welch’s version of a reality-check question (I think he borrowed this sentiment from Warren Buffett). In reference to some existing business objective that you have underway, he says: “If you were starting today, would you go into this business or this product line? If you can honestly answer yes, then keep going! If not, then completely pull back and cut your losses (i.e. your time and money investments).” In essence, what he is saying is you’re better to re-set your focus and channel your energies on a pursuit that makes sense by today’s climate instead of pursuing yesterday’s dream.
Another way to put it is: Doing more of what doesn’t work, doesn’t work.
When I look back on my years in the internet industry, which started in 1994, I can proudly see many pivotal points along my journey when I dropped pursuits, partnerships, goals, etc that were leading nowhere. However, I can also see some points along the way when I stubbornly kept going in the wrong direction despite all better judgement to the contrary. Happily, the missteps were minor and right steps were major, so our company’s net gain has been very much to our benefit. However, one must always be checking the horizon for reasons to make course-corrections and other adjustments.
One of my very good friends supplied me with the ultimate reality-check question that I would like to share to the blogosphere. In relation to some goal or activity or dream that I am pursuing, he says “remember to ask yourself ‘how’s that workin’ for ya'”?
You’re looking for Mr. or Ms. Right? Someone who has their head on straight, works for a living, looks after themselves, knows how to say please and thank you without grunting?. Yet, years have gone by and you still go to the bars every Friday and Saturday night in search of your ‘destined’ love interest… without any kind of meaningful long-term success. Hmmm… “How’s that workin’ for ya?”
You’re goal is to be a successful author. You dream of the accolades and awards you’ll win. You imagine your name being spoken in enlightened circles. Yet, you rarely put pen to paper to develop your facility in writing. You prefer to dream wishfully about all of the admiration you’ll receive. You have undeveloped story fragments scratched into a notebook, but nothing really concrete yet. In fact, you haven’t even really finished a story in over 5 years. You attend lots of seminars and hang out with people who share similar fantasies. You read lots of books presuming that all of that reading will help your writing. Yet, where is the beef? Hmmm… and “how’s that workin’ for ya’?
You have a business goal and keep hitting a wall. Your revenues aren’t increasing. Your phone isn’t ringing. No one is walking through the door except some friends and family who prop up your fantastical dreams of business success. Progress, you think, involves lots of hurried action. If you just keep busy, you must be doing something right. Busy people get places, right? The thing is, have you ever seen a car spinning its tires? It looks and sounds like something big is happening, doesn’t it? Yet, the car doesn’t get anywhere. In fact, the car often just digs itself into deeper ruts. So, remember to ask yourself… ‘how’s that workin’ for ya’?
If you can be honest with yourself, you can make changes that will really become pivotal to new directions… and maybe even success, whatever you define success to be.
So, here’s my personal disclaimer. I humbly refer to my company’s success as a kind of ‘falling upstairs’. There have been many course corrections and there will no doubt be many more to come. A few missteps here and there… all survivable thus far. When I express my strong opinions, it comes from a position of someone who has probably made up with hard work and persistence for anything that we lacked in innate talent. Call it sweat equity. I call it enjoying the journey AND the destination.
Stay consciously attuned to where you are succeeding and failing… enjoy the ride… and all the best.