In January 2019, I launched my first online business.
In the 18 months leading up to this, I was unstoppable and full of so much confidence. I had no doubt in my mind that I was going to succeed; I was going to turn my life around.
I worked day and night and learnt an entirely new set of skills to get this up and running, through a really personally challenging time. I kept surprising myself though with what I could achieve step by step and day by day; it was all adding up.
After 18 months, when I was close to launching and at the point of exhaustion, I was looking at the finish line and couldn’t wait to wake up in the morning soon to see how many dollars I had made while I was sleeping, but more than that, I wanted to inspire people and make a difference and show that if I could do this, anyone can.
But that didn’t happen.
The months that followed were beyond hard. Slowly the realisation set in that I had launched in a highly saturated market and it was going to be really difficult, if not impossible, to make sales, when there are already so many people doing a great job of this product.
I invested in a lot of stock and was in debt. My confidence took a massive hit. I felt so deflated and so much guilt that I was in a way worse position than when I started. I had to step away from it for a while because it was too confronting.
I dropped the ball and now that I have had some space from it, I can see my glaring mistakes. I know what I would change, but the biggest challenge is that I have fallen out of love with the brand and am finding it hard to feel inspired by it anymore.
How can I overcome this hurdle, shift my mindset and get back on top of it and reinspired when it has been so hard?
Fallen Out Of Love
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Dear Fallen Out Of Love,
You’ve made my chest and my throat constrict. Like I’m sitting here typing and I’ve had a physical reaction to reading your letter.
I doubt I’m the only one. Because YES. THIS IS THE REALITY.
Here in startupland, we share the glory, the capital raises, the exits, the wins, so readily. We paint this picture of purpose and hustle and with some data-driven SaaS dev and some AI we’ll be the next Scott and Mike and Mel and Cliff, and on our way to launching our own VC fund, and then we’ll start a foundation, and a podcast, and save the world.
But we’re actually all just starting a business, and starting a business is, well, it’s pretty fucking hard actually. And rarely goes smoothly. At any stage.
I’m not going to glibly rally your grit and resilience and cheer you on to dig deeper, find that determination and push through until you’ve made it. Conquered.
Instead, I want to ask you, and everyone reading this: what is it that makes you? If you had to put a percentage to it, how much of your sense of self is dependent on you succeeding in this, or any venture?
Probably a lot.
We like to think it’s not a lot, that it’s who we are, and how we treat the people we love that defines us, and success or failure doesn’t change that, but that’s not quite true, is it?
Because we’re ENTREPRENEURS.
You put your heart into this. For 18 months. Not only that, but this STARTUP was going to TURN YOUR LIFE AROUND. You dug deep, truly deep, and you found what it took to build your product and launch it into the world.
Let me tell you that takes courage. Many of us can’t quite take that leap. And it is a leap. That analogy that launching a startup is like jumping off a cliff and learning to build a plane on your way down — it’s not completely off the mark. And many don’t want to jump. And fair enough.
But you did. You went into your workshop and you built something, and you gave it everything you had — money, time, all your heart and all your hope — and then you showed it to the world, and the world said ‘that’s lovely, I have one too’.
And now you’re stuck with a whole lot of these things you built, and nobody wants them. Oh, that hurts my heart just to say. Of course you have fallen out of love. You’re human. You’ve been rejected. Rejection hurts. You’ve lost hope. That’s devastating.
It’s pretty big stuff, this startup business, isn’t it? You bet it is.
But I want to ask you: what is it that you fell in love with? Was it the thing that is sitting, I assume, in a warehouse? Was it the logo of the brand?
Or did you fall in love with how you could inspire people, and make a difference, and show people that if you could do this, then anyone could? People like YOU. Because it sounds to me like that’s your purpose.
Well here’s your chance.
If you still want that, you WILL find homes for those things you made, even if you don’t make money from them. You WILL find a way to get back to a place where you can breathe again through the debt, even if that means getting a job for a while.
If you want it, you’ll spend the next five years loving this bruised and battered startup into life, slowly and gently and constantly and unconditionally, like a child.
And you will doubt and regret and lose even more confidence and sleep and it will give you moments of hope and light and every now and then wild ecstatic jubilation, but more importantly, it might just, if you share it ALL, give someone else a spark of inspiration. If you’re honest, like you have bravely been with me, then this will only give others hope that they too can persevere, can adapt, can rethink and rebuild.
I think that this thing you’ve created deserves your love, more than ever. Because it’s you, Fallen. You gave it you. And you deserve to fall back in love with yourself.
Bruises and all. xxx
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One of the most important things in business is to be human, and this is exactly what old-school advice column Dear Human aspires to encourage. If you have a question for Good Empire founder André Eikmeier, please email him at [email protected]