Sometimes, no matter how experienced we are or how much we have accomplished, we all can use a little help to keep going, a bit of motivation if you will.
In the face of the inevitable obstacles we are going to encounter, here are ideas that have worked for me, my friends who run both entrepreneurial and micro businesses, and others I talked to.
At the end of this post, I am going to ask you to tell me what motivational techniques have worked for you–just click the “comment button; if I get enough good ideas I will do a subsequent blog crediting you, of course–but first the list.
Some of these will resonate with you.
1. Necessity. A lot of my friends are incredibly literal. When asked what keeps them going, they point to the mortgage that has to be paid or an elderly parent’s medical bills they are responsible for. Says one, “John Wayne got it right. ‘A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.’ And that applies to women, too.” (I have to admit I could relate to this response. At one point, three of my kids were attending private colleges simultaneously. During that period, I took to saying “I can’t afford either writer’s block or sloth.”)
2. Quotes. Inspirational quotes were cited by many, but how they used them were as unique as they are. Some literally had a wall or white board filled with quotes they had discovered through the years, while others took to putting a particular favorite (such as “just keep swimming,” from the kids’ movie Finding Nemo, taped to their monitor or they used a favorite quote as a screensaver. For a great list of quotes, see my Forbes colleague Kevin Kruse’s recommendations.
3. Employees are relying on you. This is related to the necessity argument. An extremely high number of entrepreneurs I talked to mentioned all the people who could be potentially out of work, if the entrepreneur did less than their absolute best and their company suffered. Feeling responsible for their employees’ economic future kept them going.
4. Personal pride. It was hard to get people to admit to this one until they had a second (or third) glass of wine. But although they rarely talk about it publically, many entrepreneurs are extremely proud of what they had accomplished and take (usually quiet) satisfaction in keep the enterprise going no matter what problems arise.
5. A mission to change the world. Not everyone was evocative as Steve Jobs (who used to tell Apple employees “we are going to make insanely great products”) but a significant number of the entrepreneurs and business people I talked to truly believe their offerings will make the world a better place. It is the deeply help belief in that mission that keeps them going.
6. Support groups. This provides benefits in one of two ways (and it was possible for one group to supply both.) Either the entrepreneur met periodically with other entrepreneurs who could offer words of encouragment and advice when they were stuck, or even if they didn’t ask for advice, simply being associated with other successful people made the entrepreneur work harder. He didn’t want to fall behind his peers.
7. They have a chip on their shoulder. More people than I would have thought say they keep going no matter what to prove to all the people “who told me I would never be successful, that they were wrong.” Intriguingly, that chip didn’t go away once they were successful.
8. Consider the alternative. This one, too, took two forms. To keep themselves going, some entrepreneurs either thought back to the days before they started their companies and recalled how unhappy they were working for someone else. Or they pictured what it would be like to once again have a boss. Either image, they said, was enough to keep them plugging away.
9. A legacy. Knowing that their company may be the only real thing they are remembered for, or hoping that their kids will take over the business someday, keeps many entrepreneurs going, when times get tough or they simply get tired.
10. Create Momentum. This one was cited by just about everyone I talked to. Goals like: $1 million in sales within the first year can sound awfully daunting from a standing start, i.e. you are beginning with no revenues. But, if you say, “let’s get $83,333.33 coming in this month; and $83,333 next month,” the numbers don’t seem as big, and you get a chance to celebrate 12 small wins, as well as the one big one, when you hit $1 million in sales.
11. Get a Diagnosis. Here’s how one entrepreneur described this one for me. “You know when you are physically feeling lousy and know it is more than a cold or the flu, but you don’t know what it is? Simply not knowing is worrisome. Once you get a diagnosis—even if it something bad like pneumonia—you actually feel better because you know what it is and what you are up against It is the same for me in my business. If I feel bad but I get a friend—or even a shrink—to tell me what is going on, I feel better once I have a name for it. That, in and of itself, is enough for me to come up with a battleplan to keep going.”
12. Visualization. This one has never worked for me, although several of the people I talked to swear by it. They say focusing on what success will ultimately look like keeps them going. I worry that having fixed image of success could keep you from pursuing other opportunities that you could encounter on the way, but I am including this one here because it seems to work for so many.
13. Exercise. Think. Sometimes being tired, depressed and wrung out is “simply” a matter of over-work or being out of shape (or both.) Taking a break—at regular points–could be enough to keep you going. And at the very least, if you get into shape you will have more energy—even if your exercise program doesn’t do a darn thing to improve your company’s performance.
14. Learn from your mistakes. Having things go wrong—you don’t get the sale; the client hates your solution to their problem—is enough to get anyone demotivated (if that is a word.) You are going to feel bad. Accept that. And give yourself a SHORT period to wallow. Then learn from what went wrong. That way you will be turning the rejection into something you can benefit from going forward. It sounds simplistic and cliched, of course, and it is extremely difficult to do. But it is true. And more importantly, it does work.
15. Don’t Get In Your Own Way. There will be enough circumstances beyond your control which could take the wind out of your sails, as my grandmother used to say. Don’t make your life harder than it has to be. Simplify everything you can. (Leaving yourself 10 minutes less than you need to get to the airport is never a good idea.) Delegate the stuff you are bad at. And become as organized as humanly possible. Stress is the enemy of creativity. And creating more stress than you have to for yourself is simply dumb.
16. Keep score. This one is for all the hard charging, Type As out there. If you are keeping a running tally of the jobs completed, clients landed, sales recorded since you first opened your doors, seeing the numbers increase–and wanting them to increase further–can be a great motivating force. Just looking at the scoreboard, and knowing that you need to get the numbers higher, can keep you fired up.
17. Keep telling yourself the best way to predict the future is to create it. And then go create it.
That’s my list. What’s yours?
What is the one thing–or things–that helps keeps your motivated?