Last week my husband and I took a tennis lesson together. The teacher watched me hit a few balls (with a racket borrowed from him) and then informed me that I needed to completely adjust my form. Tilt the racket up, grip the racket low, pivot back on my left foot, point ahead with my left arm, watch the ball and follow all the way through.
As I awkwardly and mechanically flubbed swing after swing, I decided that this tennis thing wasn’t as fun as I had expected. The clumsy reality of the lesson did not match my vision of the two of us successfully rallying on a beautiful sunny day, working up a light sweat and then breaking for lunch. However, I couldn’t quit mid-lesson, so I reluctantly persevered through the hour. By the end, I had made some progress and we scheduled a second lesson.
This experience reminded me of what many of us know but often find hard to truly understand. Beginnings are hard.
When it comes to tennis, I know that if I practice over and over, I will improve. After enough lessons, I will one day enjoy a recreational game. With tennis, it’s a clear path: Sign up for lessons, hit ball over and over and over and over (or in my case, miss ball) gradually improve and sustain a rally. I doubt that I will need to come up with a new strategy for this endeavor.
And yet even with tennis, in the middle of that lesson, as the teacher corrected my form swing after swing, I thought to myself that I would never get the hang of it. I just wanted to sit down on the court and have some sort of tantrum, like this, (compliments of the film The Royal Tenenbaums):
Starting a company is a whole different endeavor. The way forward is unclear, and it varies for every business. The challenge is not just doing it; it’s knowing what to do.
In the early days of SBC, my husband gave me a little annex room in his office… I sat there all day and worked in silence, alone and…nothing. Nobody called. Nobody emailed. I was overwhelmed by feelings of self-doubt and self-pity. I remember telling (more like whimpering to) my husband, “I sat there all week, working day in and day out, researching schools, creating materials, trying to get the word out…and nothing happened! Not one single person wanted to talk to me. What am I doing? Will anyone ever call? In the huge Internet world, how will anyone learn about me?”
I’m still not sure what made me keep going, as I experimented with different approaches and hit many dead ends. I suppose it came down to truly believing in the service and I knowing I could help people achieve their goals. So, I persevered despite many lonely days and many stumbles. Ultimately, SBC is here today, 16 years after my very first client because I made it through the beginning. It was ugly and messy and very un-glamorous, but I kept going.
Most people don’t make it through the beginning. 95% of bloggers just abandon their blogs. They stop because the reality does not match the fantasy, and it’s no longer fun. It’s harder than they expected and they are not quite sure how to proceed. Make sure you keep going through the murky, confusing beginning.
Beginnings are hard, but if you can be one of the very few that perseveres, you have a chance at something great.
Are there times that you have struggled at the beginning? Are you launching something now that feels especially challenging? I’d love to hear what types of projects you are taking on and if the beginning has been tough. How have you gotten through?