“Where ya goin?” The van driver shouted above the noise of the engine.
He was leaning over from his seat, pushing the passenger door open with his outstretched hand. Standing on the pavement and with my heavy rucksack held over one shoulder I replied.
“Lake District!” The prospect of a lift added eagerness to my voice.
“Get in. But I’m only going to ‘arrogate’…”
I forget how many times I had the ‘arrogate’ 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 pain of a place for hitchhiking. 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 rain bullets 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. It was me against the elements.
Expect the hurdles
The journey for the entrepreneur is very similar. Whilst the freedom to make your own way can be exhilarating, there are many 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, difficulties with others 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.
The key to overcoming challenges is to tackle the biggest problem first and to address it properly. This will feel 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.
If you can tackle the biggest problem first you develop the confidence and energy to deal with other issues. And as you make progress so you realise that things were not that bad after all and you also learn about business and yourself.
Interestingly, when you reflect on what you achieve, you discover a key to resolving matters 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.
And by taking action you learn the value of viewing things differently and how being able to tackle the biggest problem first creates fresh perspectives. The experience gained also enhances self-belief, makes you more confident and creates greater levels of resilience.
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 challenges arrive simultaneously, tackle the biggest problem first and always learn from the experience.