We’ve all heard the big stories about people who have founded groundbreaking companies outside of their day jobs—how the co-founders of Airbnb started their business out of their apartment when they couldn’t make rent, or how Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook out of his college dorm room. Although inspiring, these stories can feel too grandiose and far away to be relatable to the average person.
But what all of these success stories have in common is that someone, somewhere, started working toward a dream or goal before they knew where it would go. That’s it. There was no business plan. There were no investors. There was no market research to inform their thinking. In these cases, actionable steps and forward momentum toward a goal trumped detailed research and planning.
Jenny Treadwell didn’t have another job lined up when she left her full-time job as a paralegal to pursue her passion in the male-dominated field of racecar driving. When asked what her plan was the day she quit, she said, “You know, I would like to say that I had it all figured out in advance, but I really didn’t… I just decided to take a leap of faith and start working it out.” In 2016, she became the first woman to win a divisional championship in her class.
As to what advice Treadwell would give to other people who want to make a big shift, she says, “There’s never going to be a good time to do it. Move past your fear—whatever it is. It’s easy to focus on that part, but focus on your potential.”
In this economy, everyone is an entrepreneur. If you’re thinking the word “entrepreneur” doesn’t apply to you, you’re wrong; we’re all charged with being adaptable, quick on our feet and able to acquire new skills on the fly, even within the traditional business environment.
And although it’s true that there are a myriad of tools you can use to advance your skill set, promote your personal or professional brand, build your network, etc., the sheer volume of resources, options and avenues for development can cause analysis paralysis. Which path is the right path? Which course? Which skill set?
“Just because you don’t have it all figured out doesn’t mean you can’t move in the direction you want to go.”
However, it matters less what you do and matters more that you do. Don’t think of development as a linear path—think of it as a maze. You might go in one direction and quickly hit a dead end, so you try a different route and this time you get much further before you hit another dead end. You only have to back up a little to move in yet another direction.
When it comes to making a shift, make an educated guess about which direction to pursue and see where it takes you. Successful ventures always begin with an idea and a series of actionable steps. You will course-correct along the way—It can take several changes in direction before you find a definitive path.
So if you’re reading this and you have a dream, passion or side project you’re secretly itching to pursue, don’t wait for the stars to align before you make a move. If you do, Treadwell says you’ll never get there: “Just because you don’t have it all figured out doesn’t mean you can’t move in the direction you want to go. If you’re waiting for the perfect time or the perfect plan, that’s just not going to happen.”
Here are some things you can start doing today to build your confidence and craft an entrepreneurial mindset:
1. Identify your fears.
When those dreams pop up in your mind, do you immediately engage in negative self-talk? Identify the negative stories you’re telling yourself and change the narrative.
2. Focus on the positive.
Start watching inspiring videos, reading motivational articles and hanging around other positive people.
3. Think about smaller ways you can get started working toward your dream.
For Treadwell, this meant reducing the number of hours she worked at her day job (versus quitting altogether). You might also work outside of your normal business hours or even during your lunch break.
In short, stop planning and start moving toward your dream. What can you do to make a shift and get going?
This article was published in April 2017 and has been updated. Photo by @ira_lichi/Twenty20
Simon T. Bailey is an international speaker, writer and personal transformation strategist. He is the author of Shift Your Brilliance: Harness the Power of You, Inc., and Be the SPARK: Five Platinum Service Principles for Creating Customers for Life. When he’s not working, he enjoys rooting for the Buffalo Bills (his hometown team).