Entrepreneurs: How to shoot yourself in the foot 3 different ways

Three ways to shoot yourself in the foot - cgi image of three bullts

Today Conrad looks at how to shoot yourself in the foot three different ways by falling for some oft-overlooked business mistakes

Entrepreneur: a loaded phrase.

Sometimes it means a go-getter. It means someone who builds up businesses and creates meaningful experiences for people around the world.

Other times it signifies someone stuck in concept limbo. Something isn’t working. It can mean a lifetime of emotional heartache and unfulfilled potential.

There’s a world of difference between what makes for a successful entrepreneur and what doesn’t. I’d argue money is quite low down on that list.

High up among them is an ability to cut through procrastination, inefficiency and muddy thinking.

If you can’t do that, you shoot yourself in the foot from the word go.

Let’s count three ways major issues can manifest if you’re striving to be an entrepreneur.

Issue number one: you keep reinventing the wheel

You shoot yourself in the foot by attempting to reinvent your initial idea or – perhaps just as often – yourself. This normally happens as something of a knee-jerk reaction.

It could be you’re already setting up a business and something hasn’t worked out. On the other hand you could be in a 9-5 and seriously discontent.

The emotional reaction to these two things is to wipe the slate clean. To go off and do something completely different. You think the answer is to go back to college or university, or to enroll in an expensive online course.

And to an extent all of that is fine. If your intuition is truly telling you something then perhaps it is right to follow that gut instinct.

But more often than not this simply isn’t the case.

You are, in fact being hit by a double whammy of push and pull factors, the old carrot and stick. Because you are not happy where you are, you want to leave (stick) and that great idea of retraining or starting again from scratch is where you want to go (carrot).

But often these carrot and stick scenarios become addictive. I’ve explained a little about how ideas can be addictive here. The result can be you become a drifter, going from one concept to another and never knuckling down.

When you do eventually come back to where you started, it’s like trying to get back on the horse after an accident.

The solution is simple.

Don’t shoot yourself in the foot

Instead, do a skills audit. List the things you are good at. Don’t just list the tasks you do in your job or your current business, look at the essence of what you do behind these things. It could be writing skills, planning, creativity. The list is endless

Then step back for a moment.

How could these things either improve the situation you’re in, or help you to gradually transition to something else?

See where your skills can help you to evolve towards what you feel is missing in your life.

Or, maybe, set up a side project. This is the best place to incubate a new idea or a ‘new you’. If you are a driven person, and it matters, the idea or the retraining you seek will flourish.

Issue number two: You keep adding to the problem

This time you shoot yourself in the foot by simply adding to the situation.

I’ve done it myself on a past blog – one that was actually meant to have been a hobby. I felt I was not getting enough traction, so I started to add things to it.

Not things that enhanced what I was already doing, however. To use a metaphor, I was not adding more layers to a cake … rather I was shoving another cake on top.

I decided the best way to fix my site was to do YouTube.

Now, that does have a time and a place. People do this successfully. But in retrospect it was NOT the right time, and YouTube is almost always a separate project.

All I was doing was piling on more pressure on top of something that was meant to be fun. The videos took longer than any blog post I have written before or since. And because I was rushing to “improve” things I had some key skills missing – notably using green screen effectively.

Don’t shoot yourself in the foot

The trick here is to be discerning. We all need to add things to our projects to be successful – that’s life. But they need to be something that genuinely enhances the project, rather than be separate projects altogether.

Ask yourself a question: how direct is your new idea? Does it closely affect the project you are already doing?

Another way to solve this problem is to keep a watchful eye on the cost. Do this in terms of cash and time. If something costs a lot of money and time it’s a separate project.

Conversely, if something costs money but means you are spending LESS time on the existing project, assess it against all your other costs. Maybe it’s worth an investment.

Issue number three: you fail to understand you are doing it wrong

I’ve saved the best till last. You shoot yourself in the foot because you fail to realise you don’t know the right way to do something.

This is based on my own experience. At no point in my life have I done something right that was difficult, or wrong that was easy.

That sounds like a sweeping generalisation but it isn’t. Once you separate nerves from the equation, then it’s true.

Think about it yourself. If you do something right it’s pretty simple. Yes, it might take effort, or courage, but it’s often like ripping off a band-aid. Afterwards you realise it wasn’t that bad.

On the other hand, if you refuse to consider things are difficult because you are doing things wrong, then you are going to be in a sad position for a long time. You might pull off the project in hand, but you’ll eventually resent it when the same task comes around again. You’ll hate something you set out to love.

Don’t shoot yourself in the foot

If things are very tough, take a break. Have an away-day, even if there is just one of you. If you work with other people, head off somewhere and take a pad and pen.

Do a critical analysis. Pull apart the ups and downs. Use whatever critical framework you have.

Then – after that – scour for answers. Look to any mentors you might have. Raid bookshops, scour blogs and dig into YouTube. Look at what you do from as many different perspectives as possible.