The road to success as an independent operator, entrepreneur, small business owner, professional, artist, contractor or farmer can test our endurance to the limit and beyond.
Both mundane, repetitive, administrative, commercial or industrial jobs and high level corporate careers have their own stresses and challenges but there are some headaches that the employee never has to worry about. Chiefly, making the payroll each week or month. Even a solo operator must bring in a certain amount of revenue to survive.
I have experienced both worlds, a senior manager in the corporate world with responsibility for a large staff, pressure to increase sales, meet budgets, and one of the most irritatingly stressful – getting monthly reports produced on time!
As an owner of several businesses at various times, I know only too well that sinking feeling of approaching month end without enough cash in the bank or room on the bank overdraft to meet the payroll. Somehow, I always made it, even in the dark days of the chaos in Zimbabwe when I had up to 180 workers on our farm to pay, I never had to delay a pay-day.
Perseverance is one of the most important strengths a solo operator must have in huge quantities, but even perseverance has its limits.
When all we can see before us is a long and twisting road with more hurdles and challenges than smooth, straight stretches, it can be hard to look far ahead, beyond those hurdles without draining our reserves of perseverance.
It is at times like these when we need to adopt a short-term tactic, narrow our focus, do what predators in the wild do. Focus on the immediate, what we can do today, in the next hour, this afternoon.
Leopards and Lions in the African bush do not worry about where they will find baboons or antelope to kill and eat at the end of the month. They focus all their attention on finding one prey animal now, today.
I am not advocating a head-in-the-sand approach to problems, hoping they will go away by ignoring them, not at all, but if our problems cannot be put on hold for one day, we have left it too late to handle them responsibly.
From years of my own experiences and watching successful, unsuccessful, brilliant, mediocre and average people, I know that sometimes, our problems can seem so overwhelming that we cannot see a way around them.
That’s the time to just concentrate on persevering for one day, today. Make a commitment to ourselves that we will put tomorrow’s and next week’s worries in the right place on our calendar and just persevere for today.
That is how throughout history, people have survived terrible adversity and deprivation. Prisoners of war relate their determination to endure atrocious conditions, solitary confinement, torture, just for today.
Endurance athletes have a goal of finishing the race in a certain time, a vision of crossing the finish line, but when fatigue sets in late in the race, it is taking the next step that matters, then the next, one at a time until the end. That is how I got through many ultra-marathons, just convincing myself to ignore the pain and exhaustion, to endure and persevere for one more step.
Having persevered for just one day, two things happen:
- We build the strength to do it again tomorrow.
- By putting tomorrow’s challenges on hold for a day, we give ourselves space to create better solutions.
This tactic of short-term focus worked for me at other times too. During the terrorist war in Rhodesia, men were required to undergo military service. My age group did four months basic training followed by five months active service in the bush, then regular call ups increasing in both duration and frequency over a 10 year period until we spent more time in uniform than at home.
Any one who has served in the armed forces will know that apart from the danger, boredom is the biggest problem. Reporting for duty on day one, the weeks or months ahead seemed like a life sentence. We endured it one day at a time, then another day until there was only one more day to endure and then it was over. We went home to our families, businesses, jobs, life got back to normal.
The road to success in any area is not always huge advances over smooth roads, more often it is small steps, one day at a time.
graphic courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net