One of the classic idioms of our time, and something I’ve used many times with my kids, is “don’t cry over spilt milk.” It’s a simple saying, carrying a wealth of wisdom:
Forget what has already happened, put things in perspective, and move on.
It is important to remember this same simple guidance as you move through your early season of entrepreneurship.
While many people have a romanticized view of entrepreneurship, the reality is that many of us struggle with lofty expectations. These fears, though often unfounded, can easily become deeply engrained in your psyche. And once they are, you can’t help but compare yourself to those around you.
You look around at your “competition” and feel as if you are constantly lagging behind, mired down in the demands of your daily life, while they continue to stretch the gap.
Based on their online appearance (which is not a valid measurement in reality) their website looks better than yours and has more features. Their branding is impeccable. They’re not only present on every major platform, but they have a massive following that is actually engaging with them.
The list of perceived advantages they have over your little corner of the Internet seems unrelenting.
There are two words you need to remember when you start perusing your competition’s websites and online platforms: who cares.
That’s right. Who cares what they have going on? Who cares what they have done to date? Who cares the milk has spilt?
You certainly shouldn’t. They’ve had their own journey — and this is yours. And just as there are individuals who are way ahead of you on the entrepreneurial timeline, there are also a large number of folks who are lagging behind you.
A shift in mindset can better position you for success, and it can also save you from the throes of depression.
Seeing the success of others can inhibit your own potential and — if you let it — it can actually be detrimental to your health. Too often people throw their hands up in frustration and surrender when they find competitors in a better position than themselves.
Worse yet, getting caught up in what the competition is doing, or trying to emulate pieces of what you perceive as their successes, will only distract you from your own mission, and inadvertently derail your goals.
Don’t get caught up in the vanity metrics, professed product sales, or number of followers of others. Settle into your position on the timeline and understand the market potential from those ahead of you. Realize — and embrace — the fact you are on a journey and not limited to a time-boxed period of the current state.
This is especially true for those brave (or crazy) enough to try to build an online business while also having a full-time career and kids. If you are a parent trying to pursue your entrepreneurial dreams on the side, the message is even more applicable. In fact, you need to understand that your timeline is extended.
You cannot keep up with — nor measure yourself against — the single entrepreneurs that are able to spend 15-20 hours a day solely focused on building their business. You must strike a balance with your other responsibilities. The sooner you realize your journey is different than theirs, but no less valuable, the better off you will be.
Here are a few signs that you are on the right track, even if you feel like you are lagging behind your competition:
•Audience Growth… Even If It is One Person
Engagement and true relationships form the foundation of all successful online endeavors. Even a few new followers, visitors to your site, or comments via social media serve as indication that your message is making a mark. Don’t simply look at raw follower counts. Instead, look at how many people you have truly communicated with over the last several months. True value is not measured in the thousands of new followers, but rather in the quality of individual engagement.
•Published Content… Regardless of Venue
Each time you publish a post to your blog, submit an article to a website, or simply post a social media update, you are moving one step closer to your end goal. While each of these steps may seem trivial or insignificant, each is indicative of progression of your vision and will no doubt improve the unique value of what you provide. Additionally, each time you publish content you are improving your skills and honing your message. When you need proof of the growth and maturity of your writing, go back and read a few of your very first posts.
At the end of the day, what you are doing online should be enjoyable. If you are dragging yourself to the keyboard and reluctantly performing tasks that, more often than not, feel obligatory, you need to reevaluate your mission. However, if you find true fulfillment, an awakening of creativity, and growth emotionally and professionally, you are definitely on the right track.
Remember that this is a journey of growth and exploration of a personal passion. There will be times where you feel as if you are falling behind, and there will always be others ahead of you. You will doubt your abilities and question your motives. But, don’t lose track of all of the progress to date and the value you have already provided. Don’t be afraid to say, “Who cares” when you hear extravagant stories from others. Don’t worry about the spilt milk. Continue to enjoy your journey, and personal and professional gratification will be realized.
Written by Jeff Stephens
Author Bio: Jeff Stephens is a proud dad who helps other busy parents find time in their daily chaos to explore their passions and build something amazing online. He leverages experience from 20 years of IT leadership and 18 years of parenting to help others ultimately discover the work they love. His website, CrazyDadLife.com, and his Crazy Dad Life Podcast provide insight, advice, and stories from the front lines as he continues his journey of fatherhood while embracing work/life balance and entrepreneurship.