“A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”
By Ed McLaughlin and Wyn Lydecker
There comes a point in everyone’s life when you have to assess the journey ahead and choose your next step. If you are feeling the pull to become an entrepreneur, will you follow through this year or abandon the plan? That time to choose came to a head for me on October 5, 1983, when my close friend and mentor, Annette Field, asked, “Are you happy, Ed? Where do you want to go with your career? What are you doing about it?”
Annette’s questions hit home because I had been thinking about starting my own business for over ten years. Suddenly Annette’s questions made all my entrepreneurial thoughts and frustrations come tumbling out. Even though I did not have a business idea or plan, I asked Annette for a piece of paper, took out a pen, and wrote down a promise to myself that I would start a business within the next five years. Then I signed it and asked Annette to add her signature as my witness. I placed it in my wallet and put it into my pocket. Of all the certificates and legal documents I’ve signed and witnessed over the years, this note, written on a borrowed piece of paper, carried the most weight. It represented a pivotal moment on my road to becoming an entrepreneur.
Put A Promise In Your Pocket
The truth is, no matter how closely you scrutinize your life and talk about your innovative ideas, hopes and dreams, the only person who can decide if you are going to leave the world of “what if,” and “what could be,” is you.
On the surface, the promise I wrote carried little ceremony, but it carried great force. It was the visible expression of movement toward my goal. It solidified my mindset to start my own business, and it colored every professional decision I made from that point forward. I wasn’t where I wanted to be, doing exactly what I wanted to do, but with that written promise witnessed by a trusted friend, I finally felt at peace.
I carried that promise in my wallet for five years while I struggled, pondering the type of business to start, its potential for profit, and the cost of possible failure. It stayed with me as I thought through hundreds of scenarios and their associated risks.
Reach Beyond Your Grasp
Robert Browning wrote, “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp.” Mine certainly did, and it kept me alert for the opportunity to disrupt the status quo with a winning idea. I encourage you to reach beyond your immediate grasp, too. You may not have the golden idea that will change the world, but you can be watchful for pain points in the market and ways you can solve them. One solution to a pressing need can make all the difference for you.
Strive For Excellence Along The Way
While you look for a winning, life-changing idea, don’t live your life as if it’s a rehearsal waiting for real life to happen. Live each day with the deliberate intention to develop your distinctive competence – your skills and expertise. As you gain experience, you will also compile a network of contacts that may fill the future role of advisor, professional liaison, customer, team member, co-founder, or investor. You cannot know when your opportunity will arise, but you can control your readiness to meet it with preparation.
Write Your Own Story
The advent of a new year is a good time to reassess where you are versus where you want to be. I’ll pass on the same questions to you that my friend Annette asked me long ago:
- Are you happy?
- Where do you want to go with your career?
- What are you doing about it?
You don’t need to have your entire life mapped out to be able to commit to your goal. You also do not need a boardroom of advisors, attorneys, or investors to empower you to take a step toward your dream to start your own business. It might just take a promise in your pocket, or whatever you fashion as a visible representation of your own personal commitment.
What will be your defining step? I encourage you to take advantage of my free download, “The Pull To Become An Entrepreneur!” Email me email@example.com, and I will send you the PDF. I always welcome you to send me a personal email with your comments or your questions.
We wish you a joyous and prosperous 2015!
Ed and Wyn
Ed McLaughlin is currently co-writing the book “The Purpose Is Profit: Secrets of a Successful Entrepreneur from Startup to Exit” with Wyn Lydecker and Paul McLaughlin.
Copyright © 2015 by Ed McLaughlin All rights reserved.