I’ve been in business for myself almost two years now as a primary source of income.
And, I’m going to say this: I was terrible till a few months ago. And I still have a ways to go. I was–and remain– a better salesperson than practitioner. I was never getting things done, always behind with every single client. I was living on the grace and kindness of my clients, and the fact that the web is opaque to others. In some ways I still am–more on that in a bit.
I didn’t start out knowing everything. I started out slow, doing a bad job and behind the 8 ball. I started out dropping balls everywhere, letting my clients down. I started out making mistake after mistake, being overcommitted, and piling myself so deep in time debt it was a wonder I ever got out. I started out broke and hungry, and needing to hustle to keep the lights on. No steady or recurring revenue was coming in, my (well talked about) struggle with the IRS had me flat broke.
I started out working out of a pantry, literally. I didn’t know anything except kinda sorta how to use fantastico, I had creditors chasing me with varying degrees of success and intensity. I was well intended, but broke, and broke people break other people and their businesses. I was bad at first, but I was good at taking in business, and I kept the worst of the demons at bay.
Each mistake I made I improved. I’d tell you that I wrote it down (I wish), but I wanted to get better, so the skill that comes with putting some fraction of your 10,000 hours in came to me as well as simple experience. But, even six months into it, I was living off of luck. A check here, a 401k withdrawal there was how I was getting by.
But every time I failed, I improved. Every customer got slightly better service.
One day, I started getting referrals from customers.
One day I was able to do the work fairly fast.
I failed a lot, but I improved. And some time about a year in, I stopped hating the work.
And I got better. I didn’t say, “hey, I suck at this” or “hey, my destiny is to suck at customer service.” I did suck at customer service. I did suck at it, but that doesn’t matter. I wanted it to be better, I was papering over my warts with new sales, refunding when needed, and moving forward.
My last refund was in business from July 2009. I’m cognizant that I might have more, and I’ve lived on the grace of some of my clients. I’m cognizant that I’ve had a run of nice people. But, the last refund was for work I took in an ill defined way 6 months ago. It was for work that I largely did but was left open.
Anyway, I’ve got some “permanent noncustomers” now, and some bodies in my wake, but I’ve also developed an increasing reel of good successes. I’ve made good things happen for an increasing number of people.
My secret is not how good I am. My secret isn’t my talent. It’s the fact that I can keep getting knocked down over and over and come back. I am that bozo doll. I am going to be right back up, no matter what bullshit hits me. I’m going to be after it, and I’m going to get a little bit better each day. You can keep whacking me, but eventually you’re gonna get worn out and go home. I’m going to sit there with that insipid smile on my face, ready for the next punch.
That’s my secret. I can take lumps. I’m Rocky Balboa, and you might be more talented, you might hit harder, and hell, you might even be a steroid using Soviet Cyborg, but I’m coming back, and there ain’t nothing that you can do to stop me. It’s not how good you are, it’s how fast you get better.
If tomorrow, your effort was just 1% more effective, you’d become twice as good in about 2 and a half months. 1 * 1.01^68 = 2.
How can you become more efficient?
How can you deliver better service?
How can you prevent mistakes that happen?
How can you fix problems, on purpose?
How can you do this stuff now?
A lot of people are stymied by that question–how can I get better–because it presumes that they aren’t good. I know that I’m OK, but my business needs to improve SO much so quickly. I don’t want to punt that question off anymore. I want to get that question asked every single time. I want to do things correctly and get better.
I know that I’m going to be much better this time next year. And I know that in two years I’ll be better still. I can’t get better fast enough. That’s the attitude. Because if I’m better at getting better than anyone else, I’ll eventually catch damn near everyone. F=MA if you focus on the “A” you’ll eventually get there no matter what the M started out as.