For entrepreneurs, struggle is real. So let’s talk about that.
Among screenwriters, there’s an old joke about the plot. We like to show just enough of a character’s struggle to make their triumph believable later … but not too much. That’s why so many films use montages: those quick series of shots that show passage of time and a character’s increase of skill level, very often set to catchy music.
Fight training montages are particularly classic. Take the Disney film Mulan, where the filmmakers used the humorous fight training visuals, set to the song “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” to show Mulan’s growth from rookie recruit into bona fide soldier. What is actually months or even years of cuts, scrapes, and failure, turns into a rousing one- or two-minute piece of theater. All the while, the audience noshes their popcorn and swigs their soda, knowing full well the “real plot” will move forward when the song is over.
Very often, we expect our sales and marketing journey to feel like a movie montage. As entrepreneurs, we know full well that we’ll struggle and lose our footing many times before finding solid ground. But still we ask ourselves, can’t it last for just a metaphoric moment or two?And can’t we have a catchy Donny Osmond tune to serenade us while we quickly get our bearings?
No one wants to watch hours of struggle and skill-building … because that’s just one part of the plot.
Yet in real life, the struggle and skill-building often go on for a very long time. And that’s perfectly okay.
It took me several years into my business journey to realize what my real calling was. I had to offer different packages, fall flat on my face, go back for a painful stint in the corporate world that gave me a lot of new skills, return to entrepreneurship, get smart enough to hire a coach to set myself up right, and spend almost two years running that first successful business before I realized my real calling.
That’s a heck of a long movie montage. I would have preferred the two-minute version, artfully cut by one of Hollywood’s best editors. Oh, and how about a chart-topping P!nk anthem to carry the plot along?
But it didn’t work out that way. And so many times, my movie-conditioned brain couldn’t understand that. It wanted its struggle out of the way as quickly as possible so the plot could move on.
Except that for that part of my life and business, the struggle was the plot.
In my work today, I meet so many entrepreneurs who are in the space where I was, learning valuable lessons, trying out different ways of doing business and (like Edison before us) finding out the 1,125 things that “don’t work” before we hit the one that does. And I’m here to say today: that’s okay. Learning what doesn’t work is just as important as learning what does.
Take it from a screenwriter who knows every storytelling trick in the book:
Your entrepreneurial journey is a story, but it’s definitely not a movie.
Every fall, every scrape, every misstep now will benefit you later … if you take time to analyze what happened and learn what the universe is trying to teach you through those experiences. In my case, every time I worked with a real client, I’d analyze what went really well and what didn’t in the interaction. I kept refining my understanding of what I could deliver 110% at, and what I was really only a 50% or a 75%.
Only in just the last month of my life have I felt I fully understand what Version 2.0 of my business is going to be. Also for the first time, I’ve begun to feel like I’ve caught a glimpse of the larger impact my work may be designed to have. Like, for the first time I truly understand the gifts the universe gave me, and how I’m being asked to use them.
This, after at least five years of earnestly chasing down that vision? I don’t know about you, but to me that is one heck of a long movie montage.
But that’s often the way it works.
Now, as a caveat to that, I’m not suggesting you should try for five years to make money, and if you can’t make a penny, keep on trying. There’s a difference between having a business that works but isn’t fully your zone of genius, and one that just doesn’t work at all. Hire a good business coach. (I can recommend some!) Get a real thing going and make yourself some money.
But while your real thing is going, if it doesn’t feel quite like the dream you envision . . . that is okay. You are gaining resources and experience that will help you shape the real thing. Every moment you spend studying and learning from your experiences is one moment less you’ll have to wait for the real vision to unfold.
Because life, while it can feel like a movie, isn’t really one at all. There is no skipping over the struggle with the beauty of a montage. You have to live through the whole thing, moment by moment. It’s the experience of the struggle and the questions that will help you find your way.
The screenwriter in me is amused by this. Frustrated, too. But my wiser, deeper self nods her head and says, “No, no. This is good.”
This is the story we are meant to live.
Until next time, speak freely.
Can you identify with feeling like everyone else has their business "act" together? What is one way you could embrace your journey toward clarity in your business, right now? Comment below.
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