This morning I decided to plant a lovely red geranium I received as a gift recently. I’m not much of a gardener, but I thought I could handle the simple task of digging a hole in the dirt. I retrieved my clean, pink gardening gloves (first clue I am not an avid gardener) and the toy spade from my daughter’s gardening kit (second clue I’m not a gardener). With tools in hand I set out to dig.
As I began unearthing the soil, I felt a small sense of accomplishment. There I was taking matters into my own hands. I had a rush of excitement as I pictured the geranium decorating my yard. As I dug, however, I hit something hard in the dirt, a rock. No problem I thought, I will just dig it out. I scraped up more soil and tried to pull it out. It was a no go. The rock was much bigger than I realized. Determined, I dug on. Actually, I dug 20 more minutes and STILL was not able to loosen this blessed rock. The rock was at least 10 inches deep. What had started out as a simple gardening task had now turned into a mission. I was not going to let that damn rock beat me. Finally, after 40 minutes of digging and with much grunting, I was able to pull it out. When I did, I discovered it was not in fact a rock, but pieces of the lamp post foundation which had been poured to keep it in place. I quickly put the pieces back, stuck the geranium in the ground, and covered my tracks before anyone noticed my foolishness.
It struck me how my gardening adventure is so much like our experiences in our businesses. We have a vision of how we’d like things to look. Maybe we picture a beautiful store front, a cool new product, or a snazzy website. We embark on the process of bringing our ideas to fruition and move forward with a naive notion about the complexity of the job or the effort needed to complete the task. We jump right in, but when we bump up against something hard, we are surprised and not properly prepared to deal with the challenge. Sometimes are well-equipped for our mission because of past expertise or experience, however more often than not, we are marching into new territory. We begin to question our decision, we doubt our abilities and wonder whether it’s worth it to go on. As passionate entrepreneurs, the only answer for us is to forge ahead.
Lest you break a freshly manicured nail in your fury to clear out the debris, here are some things to keep in mind when next you find yourself between a rock and a hard place.
1. Know the territory. What is the landscape of the problem you are facing? Are there any clues about why you are experiencing difficulties at this time? Is there anything you should be aware of BEFORE you dig in? Is the neighborhood conducive to a high-end doggy grooming shop or is it better suited for a Petco? I should have realized the gargantuan mass I kept hitting was part of the lamp post foundation. It only makes sense. How else would it stay in place? If I had thought it through more carefully, I would have started digging just a little further out. You can avoid a lot of headache if you do your research.
2. Have the right tools. I managed to dig up the rock eventually, but if I had had the proper tools I could have saved myself a lot of time. Do you have the right tools to tackle your business challenges? Do you need to learn a new skill, for example, master social media? Do you need to update programs on your computer or buy a new printer? Do you need to update your wardrobe? Assess ahead of time what you might need to make your job easier.
3. Clear out the littler rocks first. Remember the old saying “Q: How do you eat an elephant? A: One bite at time.” Even though I tried many times, I was not able to pull the rock out of the soil until I cleared out some smaller rocks first. I’ll be honest, it was a pain in the neck. It was disheartening to realize each baby rock was just another small obstacle that needed to be addressed. However, it was also rewarding to clear away the small bits. It made me feel like I was one step closer to my goal. There may be smaller issues you need to deal with in your business before you are ready to take a bite out of the big enchilada. Perhaps you need to get your accounting in order before you can ask for a loan. Or you may need to clean up some back end programming issues before you can launch your new sales pages. Whatever it is, just do it and keep moving forward.
4. Put some muscle into it. Even though I had cleared away a lot of soil around the rock, it was still a struggle to wrangle that carbuncle out of there. I was not prepared for how difficult this project was going to be. A few years back, my husband and I hiked the Cinque Terre, a beautiful trail connecting 5 ancient towns along the Mediterranean Coast in Italy. It was a very difficult hike. I remember panting most of the way. Again, I had not realized what I was in for on the initial ascent. However, despite the strain, it was a deeply rewarding experience. At the pinnacle of each trail was a vista of blue ocean and pink umbrellas in the villages below. If you are going to reap the benefits of a successful business you are going to have to put your back into it. With great rewards comes great effort, there is no way around it. However, once you can accept the fact you will have to work hard, you can let go of feeling like things should be easier and get on with growing your business.
I have yet to experience the zen of gardening my friends keep telling me about and I will probably never have a green thumb. However, I am very proud of my little geranium. She is a victory hard won. There are always going to be obstacles along your journey to success. It is not how big they are that matters, but how you handle them that determines the outcome.
“The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.”