“Lake District!” I replied. The prospect of a lift adding eagerness to my voice.
“Get in… but I’m only going to ‘arrogate’.”
I forget how many times I had the ‘Harrogate’ conversation with drivers. I have nothing against the place; in fact it’s a beautiful Yorkshire Dales spa town and definitely worth a visit if you like good food, antique shops and a bit of healthy living. But it was a buggar of a place for hitchhiking because all the main roads went through rather than around Harrogate. As a consequence, I was typically dropped off on one side of town and then had to walk 2 or 3 miles to get somewhere suitable to hitch another lift.
Such occurrences were not too bad if the sun was shining and time was on my side. But when raindrops were bouncing off the pavement and/or daylight hours were in short supply it wasn’t much fun. Being alone, ‘giving up’ was an option; however, I always sensed the situation was a problem to solve. Put another way, it was an opportunity to achieve something in difficult circumstances that might help ‘build character’ and even teach me a thing a two.
Expect the hurdles
The journey for the entrepreneur is very similar. Whilst the freedom to make your own way can be exhilarating, there are always obstacles to overcome. Most of the time the test isn’t too trying, but the real trial is when a number of problems combine at the same time and you have to dig (sometimes quite deep) in order to get through.
Weak finances, personal stress and insufficient sales are common problems that most start-up businesses face. And when they combine, the task of resolving the overall situation can seem quite daunting. The easy thing to do is to do nothing, pretend the problems don’t exist and/or run away from them. Unsurprisingly, this approach can have catastrophic consequences for the business.
What you must do is face up to and focus on the biggest problem first and address it properly. This will be uncomfortable initially and almost certainly means more work; but invariably the moment the extra effort goes in, things start to ease or at least new perspectives are gained.
In addition, tackling/resolving the biggest issue, gives you confidence and energy to attend to the other problems. And as you make progress so you learn about business and discover things about yourself.
Interestingly, when you reflect on what you achieve, you discover one of the keys to sorting things out was simply getting out of the tunnel vision ‘doom’ perspective that clouded thinking. This is probably where the phase ‘things are never as bad as they seem’ comes from.
By just taking action you realise that you’re allowed the luxury of viewing things differently – and then you realise the issues were perhaps not as big as you thought. Whilst this might not always be the case, it is also the experience you have gained which has given you a new perspective and made you better, more resilient and more confident in the job.
Hitchhiking alone taught me the value of being able to depend on myself. Travelling thousands of miles, sometimes in difficult circumstances, also helped prepare me for the life of self-employment. Since starting in business I’ve discovered I am motivated by achievement and being tested. Such circumstances give me a sense of purpose and perhaps identity. And If like me you enjoy making things happen and get a buzz from overcoming difficult challenges, then running your own business is almost certainly always going to appeal to you.
Key Learning Points: Self-employment is not a fair-weather pastime and resilience, and preparedness for hard work are important character traits. When problems arrive simultaneously, tackle the biggest one first and always learn from the experience.