The Case for Ordinary Success

SuccessSo much is said about extraordinary people and their incredible success. It seems like we’re bombarded with it these days, from viral YouTube videos to the non-stop diet of celebrity “news” served up by the media.

But what about the rest of us? Where do we fit in? Are we failures because we’re just not that special?

I am not extraordinary.  I’ve never been extraordinary.  I’ll never be extraordinary.  I’m about as non-extra-ordinary as they come.  I am, in fact, ordinary.

But I’m successful.  Rather bold of me to just go ahead and say that, don’t you think?  But it’s true.  I. Am. Successful.  And this is how I know.

People Don’t Avoid Me

I have friends.  Family.  Colleagues.  Acquaintances.  Relationships.  People don’t go out of their way to avoid me.  Don’t people generally try and avoid toxicity and failure and disease and despair?  But I have a support system.  I have people in my life I can count on, who will help me, who will extend a hand to me when I stumble.  Success.

I Don’t Avoid Myself

I almost never feel lonely, but I often seek time to be alone.  I like being alone.  Gives me time to think, create, dream.  Write.  I know people who hate being alone.  Or fear it.  I’m not sure why, it’s one of those things I can’t really relate to.  But they’ll go out of their way to avoid being alone.  Some will even spend time with people they don’t want to spend time with, doing things they don’t want to do, just so they don’t have to be alone.  What is it about themselves that they need to avoid?  I like myself.  I have nothing to avoid.  Success.

I’m Happy

This is the weird thing about saying, out loud, that you’re happy – people don’t believe you.  I’ve never been treated more like a liar than when I’ve told people I’m happy.  Why?  Maybe because they’re not happy, and misery loves company?  Or some sort of automatic cynicism in a world that reveres it?  Nonetheless, facts are facts, and I’m happy.  Some days are harder than others, always has been so, always will be so, but for the most part I’m content with who and what and where I am.  For this, I’m immensely grateful.  It’s a fragile thing, happiness, and it could change with a sudden turn of fortune, but for now I’ll relish it.  Success.

There you have it.  A completely unimpressive, ordinary, average, successful person.  Imagine that.




Want to work for yourself? Cash is King

Cash is King

I recently wrote an article about how you can start your own business while still juggling a day job.  Not only is it possible, it’s also possibly the best way to make the transition from employee to entrepreneur without losing your life savings in the process! 

Budget Planning

Starting small and putting in the effort while you still have a steady income makes a lot of sense.  It’s hard to juggle two jobs – and yes, if you’re actively working on your new business, it is very much your second job – but if you want something bad enough you can make it happen.

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

One of the items I mention in the article is the importance of staying on top of your budget.  Eventually you’ll get to the point where you want to focus solely on your own business.  Of course you will, because YOUR business is YOUR passion and YOUR dream, and wouldn’t you rather spend every available hour working on your dream rather than working on someone else’s?  The only way to do this is to work for yourself.

In order to work on your dream full-time, you’ll need to quit your job.  And in order to quit your job, you’ll need money in the bank.  Again, the best way to make this transition is to have some customers already buying what you’re selling before you quit your day job to really amp things up.  But how many customers is enough to walk away from your job and still pay your bills?  This is where budgeting comes in.  If you can master your expenses, grow your revenue, and get insight into your financial transition points, you can plan toward making this transition a reality without any unforeseen financial disaster.

Know Your Numbers

What is a financial transition point?  This is what I call a turning point in your financial forecast.  Many people think that the right time to quit their job is when their side business earns them as much money as they would earn as an employee.  Maybe.  This is certainly one potential transition point. But there are others as well, depending on how much risk you want to take, and how much risk you need to avoid.

But you can’t make an informed decision about any of that until you have all of the information.  And there’s no better way to assess your financial position than by taking the time to write down what you spend and how you spend it.  More importantly, what you plan to spend (and earn) in the future will help you realize your business dreams and stay 100% focused on your goals.

Keep it Simple

You don’t need complicated or expensive software to do some basic budgeting and financial forecasting.  Create an inventory and make sure you include all of the money you earn (income, sales) and all of the money you spend (business and personal).  Understanding how your money flows is the first step in turning your dream into an action plan.

If you need a little help, or just want to save yourself some time, sign-up and download my basic budget planning spreadsheet for free.  It’s simple to use and has everything you need to get started today.

The lack of money is the root of all evil.  ~Mark Twain

How To Start a Business Without Money

Start a Business With No MoneyWhen I talk about how to start a business or the benefits of owning your business rather than working for someone else’s, people often leap to the conclusion that I’m talking about building the next Facebook.

I am not talking about building the next Facebook.

On the other hand, if you think you have what it takes to build the next Facebook, or Uber, or Google, then good for you. Make it happen. And then let me know how you did it.

But for the average 9-to-5’er who dreams of breaking free from the daily grind, there are very tangible and very attainable ways to make this happen. And no, you don’t need $1,000,000 in funding first. Or $100,000. You don’t even need $1000.

How to Start a Business With No Money

Create Value

Earning money is simple. If you can create value, you can earn money. We learn this as children, when completing chores or mowing a lawn or selling lemonade brought in that much sought after cold hard cash. The principle doesn’t change that much when you’re a grown-up. Do you have skills that other people lack? Are you willing to do work that other people shy away from? Do you have knowledge that other people seek?

When you have something that someone else needs, you’ve created value. When you’ve created value, you can earn money. Or exchange it for something you equally value, but that’s drifting too far off topic for today. Figuring out how you can provide value to earn money requires your brain, a pen and a notebook. Cost? $2.50 (plus your superior brainpower).

Tell People You Can Create Value

Tell people about your valuable thing, and how it’s for sale. People can’t buy it if they don’t know it exists. Starting a grocery delivery business? Let the people know. Tell them what you have to offer, and tell them how to get in touch with you. Keep it simple initially by creating or updating your LinkinedIn page, or Facebook page, or page. Cost? $0. Pure sweat equity. And at some point you’ll need to evaluate this as well, but not just yet. Not when you’ve just started the journey.

Understand What Has Value For You

Everyone has a set of misconceptions about what they “need” to start a business. Why we have this clutter in our brains is debatable. Too many Hollywood tropes perhaps, that stick in our heads and prevent us from distiguishing between reality and fantasy. You don’t need a glass corner office in a high-rent district to start a business. You don’t need employees, at least not right away. You don’t even need business cards. You likely need a computer, or access to one. But it doesn’t need to be the best computer money can buy.

Make a list of what you absolutely need to create the value that you’re going to get paid for; not what you think you should have, or what would be cool to have, but what you need to get from point A (value realized) to point B (money received). If you’re starting a grocery delivery service, then you likely need a car. But you don’t need a Land Rover.

Understand what has real value in helping you meet your goals, and let go of optical value which exists only to impress people that you shouldn’t care about impressing. This is probably the most critical lesson for starting and running a business.

A continual process of separating substance from flash, and truth from bullshit.

Cost? Priceless.

Hesitation Guarantees Failure

Hesitation Guarantees Failure

Hesitate and Wait

What is the value of the hesitate and wait approach?  Hesitation gives you more time to do less.

More time to wait, less time to act.

More time for insecurities to creep in, less time for positive reinforcement.

More time for stagnation, less time for seizing opportunities.

More time to atrophy, less time to leap ahead.

Be Brave

Naysayers insist on waiting. They insist on having all of the answers for every possible question before beginning an action.  The ultimate paradox, since you typically gain the most knowledge through practical experience.

Wannabees are the wishers and dreamers who smugly refuse to try.  They refuse to change, to move forward, to act because different is bad.  Or because not all of the conditions are perfect yet.  They assume anyone who is doing what they only ever dream of doing is “lucky”.  But fortune favours the brave. Wannabees are never brave.

Not Reckless

Forging ahead without hesitating doesn’t mean throwing yourself off a cliff without a second thought.  It means taking steps and continuing to march forward. It means putting yourself out there.  It means risking failure, risking reputation, risking pride.  It means having the audacity to declare yourself, your idea, your dreams and face head-on the criticism of the naysayers and the judgment of the wannabees.

I’ve done this, more than once, and sometimes I’ve been successful and sometimes I’ve failed.  My failures have been public, and I’ve survived.

To the smug smirks and all-knowing nods, I happily reply, “but I had the courage to try”.

What dreams do you have the courage to chase?

Must Have Checklist for Starting a Business

Starting a Business ChecklistTurning dreams into reality requires action.  Imagining, day-dreaming, wondering, and googling only take you so far.  Which is to say, they take you nowhere at all.  Most people rationalize inaction as “waiting for the right moment”.  Really, they’re waiting because they’re either afraid/unsure, or they simply don’t know where to start.

So in that spirit, I pulled together some of the key “to do” items that must be checked off the list before embarking on any new business.

Top 10 To Do’s When Starting A Business

  • Make sure your business is something you have passion for. There’s no separation of “work life” and “personal life” when you’re responsible for generating your own income. For entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, freelancers, and other small business owners, work and life are highly integrated. If you don’t love it, you’ll leave it. Sooner than you think.
  • Make sure your business is something people need. It doesn’t matter that you would buy your service or product. It only matters that other people will.
  • Spend some time doing market research on your business idea. Get a sense of who the competition is, and who your potential customers are.
  • Figure out what value your service or product provides. If you had everything in place to begin your business tomorrow, how much effort would it take every day? How much would you charge people for your service or product? How much would people be willing to pay?
  • Figure out how much income you can actually generate. Make a list of potential customers who would buy your service next week, next month, next year. Determine what percentage of potential customers will become actual customers.
  • Find your bottom line. How long will it take to break even, and then how much longer after that will it take to start making a profit?
  • Invest in a consultation with a lawyer, to at least know what you need to have in place, from a legal perspective, before you start. Some things can be deferred until income starts flowing in. But some things you’ll need sooner that later.
  • Get the word out. Generate buzz. Create a web site. Keep it simple at first. Use digital and social marketing. Tell your friends and colleagues. And their friends and colleagues.
  • Know exactly how to collect and track money from customers. Manage your billing flawlessly. Invoice mistakes do not instill confidence, regardless of your business niche.
  • Hustle, deliver, improve, refine, repeat!