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How To Do Really Hard Things

Usually the hardest things we want to do have a high level of uncertainty, and a high level of risk. Knowing that there is a summit up there in the clouds even though you can’t see it from your current position is often a troubling mental block. If you can’t see the top, your final objective or goal, how do you know it’s there? If you can see it does it even exist? Can you reach it?

In business you lay out a roadmap, you create partnerships with people that will help you reach your goal faster, you surround yourself with mentors that will give you sage advise on where they’ve gone before. But these people, these guides and mentors can’t take the journey for you. If they did it would be their journey, and it would be their summit. They would be the avatars, the actors playing out your dream for you. You would be better off just staying at home and watching them play it out for you on the HD TV.

So you need to ask yourself: Are you a competitor or a fan?

Do you want to get in the game? And if you do, what is it going to take to get you in there?

Perhaps you have some turning point in your life like a divorce, or a career change, or maybe you just came into an inheritance and actually have the freedom to take the action you’ve never been in a position to take. You are in the position to actually make a run for the summit. You have some cash in the bank. You have some experience in the field you are going after. You have mentors that will coach you through the hard times. Everything is in place for you to take the first step.

But do you have the guts?

Do you have what it takes?

Does your desire outweigh your fear?

So how do you take as much fear away as possible and evaluate the risks?

First you determine if you have the skills to give the summit a reasonable attempt. Have you covered that type of terrain before in a similar situation?

Have you done something like this before? Maybe not in the same field of interest, but perhaps you’ve done something close but not exactly? Your skills should transfer, but there is still the chance that forces outside of your control, say an avalanche, could come down and destroy your plan and take you out of the game. Of course, the avalanche could never happen. What do you think the odds are that it’s even a possibility, and if it is, is there a way to take a better course to avoid it?

Is there someone that has done this before that can give you a map to the route from the last time they did it? The business terrain and landscape might have changed, there could be new competitors on the field, and new dangerous obstacles or hurdles that you will need to make it through. At least some of the hazards and unknowns are revealed to you by your mentor, and you can make it through those quickly and focus on the unknown challenges ahead.

What else can you do to remove the unknowns from the path ahead?

Can you get a better view of the path ahead?

Can you improve your skills for handling things you might encounter?

Can you get a new team member that can handle the challenges that you can’t?

Can you plan for a retreat, or a place to fall back and regroup to if things don’t go as planned?

Can you just go up the mountain a bit and do reconnaissance? Maybe do a low risk test to get some more information? Get a better view? Test out the conditions?

Can you view this as just the first step? Break out your larger plan into more reasonable objectives with each stage being one step closer to your main objective?

Finally, after you have done everything possible to stack the odds in your favor, you’ve gotten all of the information about the path ahead, you’ve gone up and done some reconnaissance, it’s time to make a push for the summit, even with some unknown objectives ahead.

So what do you do to handle this? How do you handle the unknown in your own mind?

  1. You can wet your pants. Sit frozen in your own fear of taking action. Wallow in the muck of your mind that says you can’t do it and shouldn’t even try.
  2. You can accept that even if you don’t succeed this time, you will have more information to retreat, regroup, and go after the summit again.
  3. You can accept that you don’t know what’s ahead, and actually get excited to see what’s out there. Get pumped! Roar like a lion! Give yourself a high-five!

So what are you going to do? Are you going to stay on the sidelines and let everyone else have fun? Or are you going to get in the game, go after your dreams? Remember, you can’t win if you don’t play. Don’t spend your life regretting not even trying, get in there and be smart about it. Learn from each attempt, and try until you succeed. Don’t just sit on the sidelines wetting your pants.

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