You took the plunge 20 years ago. You are a business owner/operator. You, my friend, are living the American dream in all its glory. You get all the prestige that comes with being an owner. You get to call all the shots, make the big decisions and take Saturday off. You even have a cool vanity license plate on your new F250. You opened your 4th store two years ago in an effort to make more money and grow your brand. You notice how strange it is that you made more money personally when you only had one store. Yet you keep moving forward, and now with four stores, you’re in deep from a financial point of view.
The local oil-based economy has been a tough nut to swallow. Companies have left the area and you have been feeling the pinch in terms of lost commercial and fleet business. Year-over-year revenue has declined by 3-6% for each of the last three years. At the same time, overhead has grown and you now have 35 total employees working six days per week. You’re doing $4,100,000 in total revenue this year which is 4.5% less than last year. And there are some additional challenges on the horizon.
Price competition is fierce in your market and the big box stores are hammering you every day. You lost two good techs in the last 60 days, and you don’t know how you’re going to make up for that loss in productivity. Replacing them is a very real challenge. While that’s going on, unfortunately one of your managers, age 56, passed away in his sleep. Just like that! As if that’s not enough, your best lube tech rolled an ATV in your parking lot and nearly severed his arm in the process. It was deemed “work related.” Two more big blows to the system.
As you sit with your KPI reports and P&L, you wonder how the hell you’re going to survive the next six months. What looked like a sure bet a few years earlier, now looks like an anchor around your neck. You’re losing sleep and working 80 hours per week. You and your wife have everything on the line. What are you going to do? What keeps you going at this point?
In private moments driving along the highway late at night you feel like packing it in. Maybe it’s time to “shut it all down.” Why am I doing this? Why me? Who’s idea was this anyway? It’s been twenty years, and this is one of those moments when you are enveloped in a fog of pure terror. It surrounds you and overtakes you.
Like blues legend Robert Johnson says, down at the crossroads, “I fell down on my knees, asked the Lord above for mercy… take me if you please.”
My aim here is not to make it sound depressing, but everything I’ve shared above are true tidbits shared with me by clients over the past few months, and I know from personal experience that whatever the journey you set out on, you can expect that “it” happens. It’s all part of the package. Life always comes as a complete package with moments of absolute joy followed by thoughts of imminent demise.
WHY You Need a Why
Getting into a close relationship with your Why, I’ve discovered, is mission critical. Being able to speak about it, to savor it and to articulate it to yourself and to others is the only thing that will carry you through the rough times and propel you into the future without being overwhlemed with paralyzing fear.
So here are some questions you need to answer if you’d like to get in touch with your own Why and if you’d like to “supercharge” your journey.
• Why am I on the planet?
• Why do I do what I do?
• What special talents do I have?
• What traditions do I want to leave behind for others?
• What kind of footprint do I want to leave behind?
• What special talents do I have that I’m not exploiting?
• What have I always wanted to do that I’ve never had the nerve to start?
• Is it about the money?
• Is it about the people?
• What impact have I had on others?
• What is my real potential?
• How far can I go?
• What kind of legacy do I want to leave behind?
• What do I want people to say about me when I’m gone?
• What is my destiny?
Understanding your Why, that is, being able to “recontextualize”and “re-interpret” what’s going on in your life in a useful way, is a lifeskill worth developing. Being able to see and feel and cultivate your Why on a regular basis is an important activity to master, lest the weeds of negativity fill the garden.
Surely, as life and all the chaos knocks us off our stride, we need something to puff up our sails again. We need a reason to keep going when most would surely quit.
At the age of 66, here’s how I look at life now:
Having a context for living and working and contributing to others is the key. I’ve discovered, in my own case, that I’m here to “fully develop” my potential as a human being so that others may be inspired to do the same. I’m here to expand my skills and my repertoire. I’m here to continue learning how to be “comfortable with being uncomfortable” for it’s when we’re uncomfortable that we are learning. I’m here to take on new challenges. I’m here to fail and to succeed. I embrace the fact that every adventure comes “complete” with the good stuff and the bad stuff. It must, because life will always show up as “complete.”
I realize that there is a need for me to continue to work to master the art and science of communication, because communication with myself and others is the foundation for everything. I must continue to practice “recontextualizing my life” when bad stuff happens, because the roadblocks, injuries and failures are all part of a much bigger and amazing journey. Developing the skill and ability to hold the entire journey in my mind’s eye brings enormous peace, regardless with what’s going on in the moment.
I realize that my physical survival depends entirely on my ability to work with others. Without my family, I’m done. Without my customers, the company cannot survive. Without my employees, we cannot service customers and would cease to exist. Without our local community, we are living in the wilderness alone. Without a strong country and strong military, we are surely overrun by our enemies.
I realize that I am not an island and that I cannot survive without others in my life, that my purpose in life is a simple one. I exist to teach others, empower others, support and encourage others. I exist to inspire others to take chances and to experience growth and progress in their own lives.
I’m here to help you.
That’s my Why… What’s yours?
Dan Molloy founded Molloy Business Development Group in 2001 with one mission in mind: to help companies grow sales by training and aligning team members on how to handle each opportunity based on rigorous business analysis and data. Learn more at www.molloybdg.com.