Being an entrepreneur might sound like a glamorous and lucrative career, but the reality is that entrepreneurship is more of a roller coaster ride. If you aren’t expecting the ups and downs, then you aren’t prepared for the experience.
Running my own business has been nothing less than some of the best experiences of my life, along with some of the worst. And, unlike a real roller coaster at an amusement park, I haven’t been able to predict when those highs and lows will occur.
I’ve won big deals, then lost them. I’ve hired an employee who seemed like the perfect person for my business, only to have that person snapped up by a competitor. I thought I had the perfect marketing campaign, only to discover I messed up my landing page, and my potential customers couldn’t complete the form.
Understanding the Roller Coaster
Some entrepreneurs admit that the roller coasters’ downs are enough to make them want to give up. Rather than focusing on the individual ups and downs, it’s important to recognize that the roller coaster itself wouldn’t exist without them. It’s the idea that you have to see the project through to the end, just like you would on a real roller coaster. You can’t jump out midway, simply because you’re uncomfortable.
People buy tickets to amusement parks because they want to ride the roller coasters. Entrepreneurs start businesses because they thrive on the challenge of overcoming the difficulties of the ups and downs.
Steadying the Ride
But, after riding the roller coaster for a while, the ups and downs stop being so frightening. Eventually, the business becomes stable, with occasional bumps. Because I have money in the bank, trustworthy employees, and regular customers, I don’t worry the way I used to do. I’m prepared for a crisis because I’ve worked through so many.
As an entrepreneur who has ridden the roller coaster, you’ll build up a bulletproof shell. This shell helps you pick your battles and strategize how you’ll win them for your business and your psyche. You’ll find out that people want to work with you. Some want to use your product or service, while others want you to patronize their businesses. These experiences help you mature, and they harden the shell.
Small business owners often complain about burnout because being an entrepreneur is physically and mentally exhausting. It’s draining, both for young entrepreneurs and veteran business owners.
As you ride the roller coaster, you must recognize that you cannot do everything. No entrepreneur is good at everything, and the sooner you realize this, the sooner you’ll slow the move toward burning out.
To avoid burnout, you should recognize your weaknesses. Then, find someone who has those strengths. If graphic design isn’t your thing, then hire a graphic designer. If you’re good at managing your calendar, then continue to do that for yourself.
Delegating to Stay Involved
It might seem easy to think about delegating tasks, but actually doling out the tasks is challenging. Entrepreneurs are not generally comfortable asking other people to do things for them. Entrepreneurs like to be in charge, and they like to do everything.
But, as your business grows, you need to hire people who can do the things you don’t do well. You might also find yourself hiring people who have the same skillset you have because you need time to do other things.
For example, I love working in Excel and making spreadsheets. People pay me money for my spreadsheets. But, I have to do other things, like meeting with clients and making deals. Therefore, I have to delegate spreadsheets to the outstanding employee I hired to work on them. It’s tough for me to step away from spreadsheet duty, but I must focus on building the business. My Zone of Genius helped me recognize that I had to delegate that job.
How Delegating Helps Your Business
Imagine how much you can help your business if you’re doing the jobs that bring you joy and grow your business. Yes, you have to pay your employees or freelancers, but you also get to bill for the time you’re working for your clients. Your zone of genius time might feel priceless; it also helps grow the bottom line.
It’s tough to do genius work when you’re burned out, and your tank is empty. Instead, you have to take care of yourself and hire skilled people who can give you back your time.
Once I hired a virtual assistant, I got 20% of my time back. And, I got to bill for half of it, earning more money than I was spending on the assistant. When you get to take your time, you’ll start to love your business again. Your burnout levels will drop, and you’ll get back into the flow.
What is the Zone of Genius?
Entrepreneurs who want to avoid burnout need to spend significant time in the Zone of Genius. In this type of work, you get into your zone, where you find inspiration to work unique work where you can excel naturally.
The Zone of Genius is the zone that helps you fight burnout. When you delegate your other zones, you can spend more time with innate skills than learned ones. It would be best if you always delegated jobs that you do not understand or lack the skills for. You should also delegate tasks that you can do with competency, but you may not enjoy it. Lastly, you should also delegate the learned tasks that are highly skilled at doing. For example, I’m excellent at making spreadsheets, but it is not an innate skill for me. I enjoy making them, but I do not get into my flow zone while sitting in front of Excel.
Find Your Genius Zone
If you’ve been an entrepreneur for years, you may have forgotten why you started your business. You begin finding your genius zone by remembering why you started your business in the first place. But, the joy you find in your business might have changed, especially if you’ve been in business for many years.
When I first started my business, I loved making spreadsheets. I saw how my business unfolded in the rows and columns. I could make spreadsheets in my sleep. Now, I have nightmares about making spreadsheets. Not because they are difficult for me, but because they are tedious. Now, I prefer to talk to people to solve problems rather than turning to spreadsheets. I get into my zone when I’m working with people, and we’re solving problems.
To improve your time at work, consider how much time you spend each day in your Zone of Genius. How much time are you doing something in one of the other zones? Can someone else do that work so that you can get into your flow? If you aren’t getting into your genius zone, you run the risk of burning out.
Having Fun in the Flow
As I get into my Zone of Genius, I get into the flow, and I love being at work. I’m in a state that is the opposite of burned out; I’m here to stay.
To get there, I’ve had to let go of things that slowed me down and kept me away from what mattered. I had to do harder things. I had to find out what my purpose – my Zone of Genius – is so I don’t get burned out doing tedious, time-consuming tasks. I find myself doing more while actually doing less. I can dig deeply into the tasks that only I can do because I’ve delegated tasks that other people can do for me.
Be the Lifeguard
Being a lifeguard is often romanticized by people who have never done it. Yes, you get to sit in a tall chair, work on your tan, and blow a whistle when someone breaks a rule. But, there’s so much more to the job! Lifeguards have to remain vigilant for times when someone gets in over their head and gets in real danger. In those situations, they go from pretty much worthless to the most important person around!
As a leader of a growing firm, you’ve probably realized that you can’t sit in a lounge chair and work on your tan. You’ve got stuff to do! But, just for a minute, imagine if your business was the pool and you were the lifeguard. You’re overseeing the pool as your employees maneuver it. You train them to understand the rules and to follow them. You give them a gentle course correction when things go wrong.
You let your employees work, unless they get into trouble – then, much like the lifeguard, you intervene. You create systems and guidelines, so your employees rarely ever need you to jump in and save them.
When your employees can act with your trust, you get to relax and do the jobs that your business needs you to do. Even though the lifeguard can’t leave the pool deck, you can step away from the business occasionally, especially if your employees are well-trained. They aren’t going to drown; they can call you if you’re needed.
Enjoy the Ride
Entrepreneurs might run significantly different businesses, but they all have similar struggles. The ups and downs make running a business an exciting but stressful affair. But, eventually, the hills and valleys flatten out, and the business begins to run itself. The best way to get through the challenges is to focus on what you do well and surround yourself with people who give you time to get into the flow of your genius zone. And, if that doesn’t work, talk to other entrepreneurs and listen to their experiences and advice. Most of all, enjoy the ride!