Recently I spoke about playing hockey growing up. It was kind of my passion as a kid and I worked hard at it. I was good, but I wasn’t “great”.
By the time I hit 13 or 14, I was old enough to have a sense of self-awareness and I knew that it didn’t matter how hard I worked I was never going to be “good enough” to be a pro. I just didn’t have the right genetic makeup that gave me the physical attributes needed to be successful in a dream like that.
That was a great life lesson, sometimes you just aren’t good enough. It doesn’t matter how much you want it or how hard you work, there are occasions where that will never be enough.
It May Never Happen For You
I see people online all the time who just don’t come to this realisation. They are trying to be something they’re not, running around like crazy and basically getting nowhere. The truth is, it’s probably not going to happen for them.
There’s no shame in that. You just need to accept it, figure out what positives you can take from that experience and move on to something else.
That’s a vital point. You need to move on. I was once in a board meeting of $20B/yr publicly listed company and heard the CEO of a well-known international company say to a senior executive pitching an idea, “You’re like a dog going back to lick up its own vomit.”
While crude and a bit disgusting, the analogy was apt. This guy had failed spectacularly with this project. The subsidiary literally went bankrupt and he was back asking the board to buy it out of bankruptcy so he could fix it.
The thing was, it was a good business, he just didn’t know how to run it. A couple other board members spotted it, they agreed to buy it out of bankruptcy and give it to someone who knew what they were doing. That $7m bankruptcy purchase just four years later turned into a $1B windfall.
Which raises the issue that if something isn’t working for you, it may actually not be the market or the business model, it may just be you. I hear so many people make stupid excuses when things don’t work out but very rarely do I ever hear, “I just wasn’t good enough.”
Maybe You’re The Problem
It can take a little while to get to the point where you know that the problem is actually with you. You’ll be sitting there one day, racking your brains trying to figure out why the business idea you’re working on just isn’t happening and it will dawn on you, “Maybe it’s me.”
It will sting, I know because I’ve been there on a few occasions. A few years back we invested a fair amount of time and effort into extending our services business into web development and e-commerce shop development. Technically we had the skills, we had a client base that was interested and we’d done our homework to understand our niche. Two or three clients in, I just came to the staggering realisation that this particular niche was not aligned to me – I simply wasn’t good enough.
Let me elaborate, it was pretty subtle. I could sell the services, we could deliver the outcomes and technically, if need be, I could do the work myself. I just wasn’t good at putting it all together. Things worked, sites got delivered, they looked good and we did ok financially, but I just didn’t have the mental makeup to do that business. About three-quarters of the way into delivering our pilot projects, I hated it, lost the plot and just checked out mentally.
I didn’t have the mental strength and commitment to that type of business to see it through, so I accepted I wasn’t good enough, finished off the work, handed the clients over to someone to support them and walked away. Better to leave with your dignity that trying to dig yourself out of a train wreck.
In the post-mortem, we came away with the knowledge that we could do the SEO and content for clients and we could even offer some technical advice, but the end to end delivery of their websites and e-commerce stores… Not our thing.
You Can’t Force Things To Happen
It staggers me how many people try and force things that aren’t working. There’s a difference between perseverance, hard work and dedication versus beating your head off a wall. People who are focused on improving, they’ve usually got a plan and are making ongoing incremental improvements. They’re also testing things to see if they can find an angle that works.
Eventually, you’re going to run out of things to improve or try and that’s when the hard decisions will have to be made. If you get to that point where you’ve exhausted your ideas and skills, then it’s just not working, time to consider moving on. The silly thing to do is to keep mindlessly plodding on with a bad idea or worse, a sound idea that you’re not good enough to execute on.
Now, before anyone runs around and screams, “That sounds like you’re telling me to fail fast” let me assure you, that’s not the case. I’m telling you to put the effort in, exhaust your options, but when you get to the end of the line, be smart enough to walk away from something that isn’t working because it’s ok to not be good enough sometimes.