Are You Holding Yourself Back, Even Though You Don't Mean To?

Apr 5 2014, 8:39am CDT | by

The comment from one of the most successful men on the planet surprised me.

I have known him casually for years, and one day I  got him talking about his very early days.

This is a man who has created a worldwide retailing empire–you can find his stores just about everywhere on the planet where they believe in capitalism–but it all began with one small shop.

“Back  when I was starting, my dream was to make $15,000 a year from that one store,” he told me. “That would have been about 50% more than my Dad ever earned in his best year and would have been enough for me to buy a new Buick every three years.  I thought if I could accomplish both those things–earn $15,000 a year and buy a new car fairly often–I would have it made.”

Well, he obviously succeeded beyond that, as proven by his place on the Forbes 400.

But his comment about his relatively modest (in retrospect) goal for success–just having one successful store–got me thinking about all the entrepreneuers I’ve met, as well as all the other people in general, who seem to be settling for less than they could possibly be.

Is the Second Hurdle the Toughest?

I have never seen a study on this, but it seems there are awful lot of people who really stop trying to grow after their initial success. If they were are in my friend’s situation they would have stopped after opening that one store.

Now, if they stop because they are content –that one store gives them all the money they need; they feel fulfilled, and wish to spend their time in other ways–then I have no quarrel.  We all need to lead the lives that make us happy. Your definition of success is the only one that matters in your life.

But, often that isn’t the case.

Often people stop trying to grow for exactly the same reason so many other fail to try to start in the first place. They are scared they might fail (in their attempt at trying to come up with an encore, in this case.)

Or they think the concept of growing is too difficult.  Scaling an enterprise and/or increasing its scope is different from creating something from scratch. And so people back away from the challenge.

To me, if you accept either reason for stopping, you are short-changing yourself, even if you are not doing it consciously.

How you develop your second product/service/store can be remarkably similar to how you created your first.  You overcome the fear that comes from moving into the unknown again, by taking a small step, pausing after you do, and building that learning into the next step you take.  The smaller the steps, the less risky each one is.

Yes, scaling is different and involves an increased level of complexity and ambuigity, but others have done it. Talk to them.  What did they do? How did they do it? Who did they bring in to help?  This is not exactly uncharted territority.

If you don’t want to grow your company any further, as a result of deep thought about how you want to spend your days, I applaud you.

But if you are choosing not to do it out of fear, break down you next potential goal into a series of the smallest steps it will take to accomplish it. Then, take the first step and see what happens./>/>

Maybe you end up taking a second step. Maybe you don’t.

But in either case, you won’t be limiting yourself.


Paul B. Brown is  the author of Own Your Future: How To Think Like An Entrepreneur and Thrive in an Unpredictable Economy.


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