Ten years ago, I underwent a spiritual awakening. Sounds spookier than it was. OK, it was a little spooky.
The girl I was dating at the time cautioned me against becoming a “90-day Christian” — basically, someone who was on fire for God for three months and then turned back to being cold or lukewarm.
You and I, fellow entrepreneur, face the same danger when presented with new information. Yesterday, I attended the 2011 Growth Conference hosted by Entrepreneur Magazine and The UPS Store. Author Perry Marshall was there. Tim Berry, President and Founder of Palo Alto Software, was there. Starr Hall, international publicist and social media strategist, was there. I received a TON of information, five books, business cards, notebooks, pens, and a cupcake sample that took me to my happy place.
I left the Georgia World Congress Center ON FIRE. (Good thing is was metaphorical flames, because I promptly got stuck in rush hour.)
I listened to an incredible audio book on neighborhood marketing on the way home. I posted a Facebook status using some info I had just learned, tweeted Ms. Hall a thank you, and went to sleep — still on fire.
Here’s the danger, which I learned a life lesson while grilling (I’m talking charcoal fire, people. Propane grilling is against my religion): when the fire first starts, it burns most of the fuel I sprayed on the coals. What really sustains the burn is the charcoal. Once it has burned for a while, you have to stoke the coals and spread them out so the heat is evenly distributed, and then you can cook. Put your items on too soon and they cook too fast. Wait too long and they cook too slowly.
I’ve had two businesses before and failed at both of them. Both times, I started out with grand ideas and youthful enthusiasm (fuel). Both times, I failed because I did not stoke the coals (sharpen my knowledge) and the fire burned out when my ideas and enthusiasm waned. You, my friend, run the same risk. Avoid epic failure by doing the following:
1. Have a plan. Hall, my new “professional crush” (with a regular crush, you like how they look, with a professional crush, you admire their business swagger), talked about getting in a car and driving to California with no map. You and I need plans for everything. I have a business plan for Great Nation Publishing. I have marketing and distribution plans for The Lost Testament. However, I do not have a plan for my online presence. How many people do I want reading this blog? How many Twitter followers do I want? Facebook fans? What’s the goal of my website? If you have the same questions, you’re trying to drive to California without a map too.
2. Get a mentor. This mentor has to be someone who is above your level. People below your level talk below your level and drag you down. People above your level challenge you to rise. As an author, I sought out a Christian fiction author more successful than I am. When she talks, I listen, and I implement what she says. The most annoying thing for a teacher is a student who says they want to learn but does not do what you tell them to do in order to succeed, yet he/she still expects to succeed.
3. Get an accountability partner(s). Once you’re on fire, you need to stay that way. Accountability partner(s) will do that. He/she knows where you want to go and how long you plan to take to get there. They ask you questions and call you out when you have not done what you said you would do. It should be someone different than the mentor; the mentor gives you the plan, the accountability partner makes sure you follow through.
4. Work it. My pastor once said the the major problem Christians have is not a lack of preaching, but a lack of application. I have notes I never look over and books I’ve never read. Anna Karenina has been collecting dust on my shelf since I bought it in December, 2009. Are you doing the same with what you’ve been given? Even the most aggressive fire needs fuel and air to survive.
5. Come correct. This used to be a catchphrase in pop culture when I was a teenager; when a man would approach a woman romantically, he should “come correct.” When you apporach business, I advise you to come correct. Do business above board. Be licensed. Pay your taxes. Be fair with your price points. Be benevolent as much as possible. My mentor volunteers her time to answer my e-mails. She does not get anything tangible out of it. I, in turn, help mentor others who want to do what I’ve done. You should do the same.