This time last year, I was beating my head against my Macbook trying to finish development on what would eventually become The Watchlist. I was convinced that this venture was the answer to my soul-searching and once I launched I would finally be walking on the path of purpose-driven entrepreneurship.
A few weeks later I launched the site from a hotel bed in Chicago. Armed with a bottle of wine and leftovers from lunch, I pressed publish. After the big moment, I went to the site a few times and smiled in admiration at my work. I tweeted out the link and published a post on LinkedIn. I sorted through my likes and congratulatory comments then I closed my laptop and thought to myself, “now what?” I had a to-do list of small tasks I needed to knock out next but I didn’t have a sense of urgency. For the past month or so, the most important thing had been designing and developing the website.
It turns out, I was so consumed with working on the business and getting things right that by the time it was time to start working in the business I was resistant for some reason.
When I made it back home to New Orleans a few days later, I checked a few things off of the list but I found myself looking for a challenge. Instead of tackling my feelings of resistance and hesitation, I took it as a sign that I was missing something and damnit, I was going to find it.
Shiny Object Syndrome
Karyn Greensheet describes Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS) as the moment, “a new idea captures your imagination and attention in such a way that you get distracted from the bigger picture and go off on tangents instead of remaining focused on the goal.”
The biggest obstacle standing in my way was my inability to hold on to the bigger picture while moving things forward day to day.
Listen, starting a business is hard. To bring something from your imagination into fruition is no easy task. You’re making things up as you go and ultimately everything starts and ends with the decisions you make. You’re constantly consumed with trying to figure out if you’re making the right decision or if you’re making a terrible decision. Most days you are 90% sure everything will fall apart at any moment.
This is what makes shiny objects so appealing. When things are tough, the shiny object serves as a welcome distraction. It’s usually at this point when I start to convince myself that if I pivot in this new direction then I can find the ever-elusive idea of success that I’ve been longing for.
So what did I do instead of digging into the issues of building The Watchlist? I pivoted. When my pivot didn’t go as planned, I pivoted again. I spent most of 2018 trying to find a foolproof business strategy that would lead to success. I tried to copy what the people I admired were doing because it seemed like they had it figured out.
What I missed from the countless podcasts, books and YouTube videos I watched was the fact that every business owner is constantly balancing on the business work and in the business work. The part of my brain that was constantly trying to work on the business and find a surefire path to revenue was afraid to allow the other part of my brain the freedom to begin working in the business. Not until I was sure that those efforts would be rewarded with positive ROI. So instead of going all in on any one idea, I searched and pursued at least 5 different ideas that I loved before ending up right back where I was in that hotel room in Chicago. Then it hit me.
I’m really good at a lot of things.
If I really want to do something, I will figure out how to do it well. Period. At that moment I realized that I could pull any idea out of my treasure chest and I would be successful. Not because the idea is brilliant but because the Idea Maker is a painfully stubborn Taurus who won’t rest until her feet are on stable ground. Instead of trying to figure out which idea was the safest, I started to think about which process I actually enjoyed doing the most. Of course, I found myself back at square one with The Watchlist.
Mastering The Art of Steadfastness
Before I began the process of relaunching The Watchlist, I had been listening to an episode of Myleik Teele’s podcast that centered around developing a marathon mindset. The two-hour episode reflected on the notion that greatness takes time. It was something that I knew but it wasn’t something that I accepted for myself. I was so used to instant gratification that when I didn’t quickly see even the smallest fruits of my labor it became a signal that something wasn’t working. Myleik challenged me to stretch out my timeline for success and instead plan with the long term in mind.
2018 taught me that if you want to succeed at anything, you’re going to have to learn how to find hope during seemingly never-ending bouts of loneliness and frustration. You’re going to have to learn how to focus on the big and small picture while managing a constant backlog of issues. Most importantly, and this was tough for me, you’re going to have to stop confusing yourself by thinking that things would be different if you would’ve done (insert decision you said no to) or if you had (insert the thing you need most right now). It’s confusing because you’re tricking yourself into believing that there’s some alternate universe where you are successful without these obstacles when in reality you will ultimately be successful because of these obstacles.
Hindsight Really Is 20/20
This is a story that could only be told in hindsight. Over the last few months, I’ve been giving myself a hard time over my struggle with Shiny Object Syndrome and the time I lost while I was distracted. I’m not sure when things clicked for me but at some point between Myleik’s podcast and my relaunch, I began to understand the value in my journey. The Watchlist, as it exists today, wouldn’t be what it is without every shiny object I touched along the way. Every pivot taught me an important lesson that I would’ve never learned if I hadn’t gone down that particular rabbit hole. Suddenly, what once was a mark of embarrassment was now a point of pride for me.
Thanks to a lack of visibility, I’ve done a good job of hiding the mess I’ve made while trying to figure things out. If you take a look at my highlight reel, there’s no trace of the points where I gave up and changed courses. That’s how most of our stories look and that is a major part of the problem. When I first set out to launch a business, my only reference was entrepreneurs who hustled until it happened. There wasn’t much talk about giving up and the failures along the way, so I was completely blindsided by the fact that most entrepreneurs gave up on their big idea a few times. We tell the story of how everything came together with a focus on the big break because it makes for a better story. No one wants to hear a keynote speaker speak at length about how many anxiety attacks they’ve suffered or the number of times they thought, “This is it. Everyone is about to find out I’ve just been winging it.”
In the spirit of transparency here’s something no one ever told me:
You’re going to give up on your idea. You’re going to quit your business. You’re going to change your mind and then you’re probably going to change it back. It’s all apart of the process. Every pivot you make is building your skill, putting different talents you have to work and developing your character. The key is to keep getting back in the ring every time life knocks you out because eventually, you’re going to win.