What do you do when you hit a wall?

When I was a high school freshman I ran my first 400 meter race. 400 meters is one lap around an outdoor track. It is a difficult race to run. I started strong. The first 100 meters felt great. The second 100 meters felt good. The third 100 meters were tough. Then, with just 100 meters left to go, I hit the wall. Everyone who has run a 400 meter race knows where that wall is. Once you hit it you are no longer sprinting. You are just trying to survive. And you are suddenly thankful that more people don’t come to watch track meets.

Hitting Walls

Today I recognize that every difficult challenge has a wall. A point at which things are no longer easy. A point when people typically quit. We hit walls like college students hit weeder classes. And the walls stop those who are not determined to keep going.

I see it all the time. Someone will start a project full of energy and ambition. They start a side hustle, blog, a club or mustache. Maybe they get their real estate license, start writing a book, or begin exercising and eating right. Then something happens. A challenge confronts them. They hit a busy period. Or a dry spell. Or they go too long without seeing results. Or they simply take a moment to nap in a field of poppies with their friends Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion (all of whom have strange New York accents).

It could be hours, days, weeks, or months into the adventure. But at some point people run into something hard. And they stop. The momentum vanishes. The music dies. And the dream end.

Inspiration Strikes

In 2014 a co-worker of mine started taking on exciting marketing projects on his own.  He told me all about the projects, and how much money he was making. I was amazed. He was developing the start of his own agency. It was thrilling to see. It inspired me. I wanted to do what he was doing. And within a year I began planning my own agency.

While I was eagerly planning my dream agency, I sought out that same coworker to get another inspiring update. But when we sat down to talk about his latest success he instead told me he wasn’t doing it anymore. I was shocked, and asked him why.  He said, ‘It got really hard.’

The Perfect Agency Project

I started my wannabe-agency-project as a nights-and-weekends effort in the fall of 2015. By April of 2016 I had legally established The Weaponry LLC, left my job, and committed to making this new agency work. By the end of 2016 we had generated over $400,000 in revenue. Which felt great. Like Frosted Flakes.

The Wall

Then we hit a wall. Our very first client, the client that represented the lion’s share of our revenue for 2016, didn’t have any more work for us in 2017. This was bad news. It was the kind of news that kills businesses all the time. But we did one thing that saved us. We didn’t stop.

Yes, we hit a wall. But we kept marching. We were not going to let the loss of our largest client stop us. We wanted to succeed too much to quit. (We were also too legit.) So we hustled. We found new clients. And discovered more opportunities with our other clients. Instead of folding because things got hard, we doubled our efforts. And we doubled the business in 2017. Simply because we refused to stop.

Key Takeaway

I hope you try to do something hard this year. Something really ambitious. And if you do, know that sooner or later you will run into a wall. All great things are hard to do. The key to success is simply not stopping when things get hard. Find a way around, over or through the wall. Just don’t stop. Because all the great stuff is on the other side of the wall.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them.

Sometimes you let yourself down.

It’s not whether or not you fall down, it’s whether or not you get back up. That is the essence of all motivational quotes on perseverance. Today I’m giving myself a pep talk. Because after having established and adhering to a very regular blog writing and publishing routine, this week I published… nothing. Not even a gif of tumbleweeds blowing past my keyboard.

I have a tall stack of excuses to lean on for my posting miss this week. I had work travel. I had long and late shoot days. But the biggest issue I didn’t overcome was that I got sick. I have been dealing with a strange kind of sickness that attacked my lungs and seems to have fractured my sleep-iphram, or whatever your sleep mechanism is called. After not sleeping all night, the last thing you want to do is get up at 6am to write for an hour or so. So I let myself off the hook.

Now I have to get myself back on the hook. Starting with a Saturday post that is really an apology. The apology is to me, from me. As I wrote about in, How to use fake deadlines to make your dreams come true, we make progress by giving ourselves false deadlines. They are the key to self driven accomplishments.

I had set false deadlines to publish blog posts every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. But this week I missed my own false deadlines. Boo. It’s not that the one week is a major problem. But I have annual blogging growth goals to meet. And I need every post to help accomplish those goals. 

Key Takeaway

We all stumble on our journeys at some point. The key is to not let those stumbles become the norms. The exception should be the exception. Don’t let it get promoted to the rule. Or the law.

And… I’m back on track.

What do you do when you see a road closed ahead sign?

Yesterday morning my family and I piled into our car to make a 2-hour drive to a basketball tournament in the small town of Freedom, Wisconsin. Freedom is just north of Appleton. If Appleton means nothing to you, Freedom is 20 minutes south of Green Bay. If you are from New York City, or a non-American, Freedom is 4 hours north of Chicago.

The Sign

Fifteen minutes into the drive, as we made our way down a country road, we approached a large sign that said: Road Closed 1 Mile Ahead. Local traffic only. As we approached the sign there was one car ahead of us. Upon seeing the sign the driver pulled to the side of the road, then quickly turned around and headed back the way we came, presumably to find a different route.

I ignored the sign and continued down the road anyway. One mile later, I approached a small fleet of construction vehicles parked neatly on the side of the road. They had clearly been put away for the weekend. Despite the warning from the sign, the road was indeed open and passable, even for non-locals like me. I drove through the hibernating construction site, and within a mile I reached the interstate on-ramp, exactly as I had planned.

Don’t Turn Around, Bright Eyes.

As I pulled onto the freeway, and reached my cruising speed, I reflected on this seemingly small incident. Because it was symbolic of how we go through life. We all see signs that tell us we can’t go this way or that. We are told of rules and limitations and regulations that cause so many among us to stop and turn around. Because most good, rule following  people stop when they are told the road ahead is closed.

But if you want to do great things, hard things or never-done-before things, you can’t follow all the road signs. You can’t pull a u-turn every time you are told no.  You have to question, challenge and push ahead. And when you do, you will be surprised how often the closed path advertised ahead is wide open and waiting for you to take it.

Key Takeaway

If you want to start a business, create an innovative new product or service, or forge a new route, you can’t turn around every time you are told you should. The same holds true in our personal lives. You have to find your way forward. Challenge the rules and laws. Question the assumptions. Don’t just take no for an answer. Find out for yourself what is really possible. Because beyond the no, the stop sign and the dead-end are where all the really great things are found.