I can only imagine what you were thinking this post would be about.
And I can only imagine what you’ll think when you find out what it is. (If you were right, I’d love to hear it. If you were way off, I’d love to hear that too!)
Small business owners, this post will resonate with you. And it might give you a few reminders that we all need once in a while. If you’re like me, you push yourself to get more and more done in less time, and are always looking at the next goal. Wondering how you’re going to get there. And wanting it to happen right now. This story I’m about to tell you will allow you to take a step back, take a deep breath, slow down, and assess the next steps.
If you’re about to start a new business, this story will help you prepare for what growing that business takes. It will also give you permission to take a step back. To approach your new dream step by step.
Here it is.
Christmas Day. Sometime in the early 2000s.
It was the Christmas of 5th grade.
I remember seeing my first pogo stick at the toy store up the street a few weeks earlier. I wanted it so bad. More than anything I had ever wanted. Even more than a Nintendo 64! (I wasn’t allowed to have video games, even though the only game I knew was Mario Kart. That all changed when my little brothers came along).
Santa hid it in the front closet, and it was the last gift I opened. I literally screamed and jumped up and down (on the ground) with my new pogo stick in hand.
I didn’t know it then, but that pogo stick would actually change my life. And lends itself to the perfect metaphor for what it takes to grow a business as an entrepreneur.
The second I opened that pogo stick, I was determined. I’m not even sure why at first. I just had a number in my head I needed to accomplish. I not only wanted to learn how to jump on the pogo stick, I had to get to 1000 jumps in a row without falling.
The first attempt and the irrational goal?
Being winter in Wisconsin, I had to run out back and clear off a patch of snow from the driveway. I shoveled a little area, so I could use my pogo stick on the concrete without slipping on snow and ice.
I carefully placed my feet on the pedals, and jumped once. Fell. Jumped. Fell. I got back on. Jumped. Fell. Got back on. Jumped. One. Two. Three. Fall. Get back on. Jump. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Fall. Get back on.
It took me hours on Christmas Day. I was jumping on this pogo stick late into the evening, well after the sun had set. My parents turned on the back light that kept the driveway somewhat illuminated. I jumped and jumped until I could stay on consistently. Then, I counted myself all the way up to 1000. Mission accomplished.
Then one day, a few weeks later, my babysitter (now lifelong friend and sister!) came over and told me that someone at her school jumped rope on a pogo stick in their talent show. My mind was completely blown! I immediately knew what I had to do next.
After a lot more practice, I eventually learned how to jump rope while on a pogo stick. Something I never thought I’d be able to say I could do (who would even think of doing that?! I’d love to know the story of the girl who did it first.).
As the end of 5th grade neared, our school announced the annual talent show. Well, what else was I going to do with my new talent? I put a routine together to “Jump Around.” I had just learned how to juggle too (my uncle just happens to be a professional juggler from England), so I added that to the list of things I could do on the pogo stick. It now included jumping rope, dribbling a basketball and juggling. I enlisted my best friend to learn how to do it too, and we proudly performed our routine in the talent show.
How Pogo Sticking is Like Starting a Business
Little did I know, this quirky little talent would follow me through the rest of my childhood, and dare I say the rest of my life. I improved upon my routine and performed it in the 8th grade talent show, and in one high school talent show too. I often bring it up now as a joke, but I recently realized how perfectly this story aligns with the things I so strongly want to accomplish in my business and adult life.
Clear the Space
You see, when you want to accomplish something, when you want to reach a goal, you can’t just jump on and get to 1000 right away. I couldn’t even practice right away. First, I had to clear the space. I had to shovel snow from the driveway to give myself the space to practice. When you start a business, you have to clear the space too. Whether it’s in your schedule, in your home or with your family. You need to allow yourself the space and the time to thrive. Whether it’s an hour a day, or a few hours a week to work on your goal. For me, it’s so important that I have the physical space to be creative and productive. It needs to be clean, minimal, inspiring, and separate from the rest of life (even my puppy!). Set and stick to a schedule for your business or your creation. Create a space in your house that feels inspiring, clean and devoid of distractions. Clear the snow.
Once the space is cleared, you have to practice. I didn’t hop right on and get to 1000 jumps right away. I didn’t grab the jump rope and hop on. In entrepreneurship, it’s so easy to forget that accomplishing one large goal takes a lot of little goals. Baby steps. Focus on the next best thing you can do for your business. The next best thing that gets you closer to your goal. So much in business is a long game, but it’s hard to remember that when we want it all to happen now! We see the highlights on social media, and we don’t see the steps, time and persistence that went into getting to that point.
Breaking it down: Baby Steps
Before I could jump rope on the pogo stick, I had to learn how to jump on it. Before I could even entertain the jump rope, I had to learn how to jump on it without hands (a lot of bruised knees in this process!). You have to know how to jump rope off the pogo stick. Before you can even try to put it all together. Same thing with juggling. One ball at a time. Off the pogo stick. Then on. It didn’t come together as a routine until all of those pieces were working, consistently.
Your big goal will take daily work on smaller tasks. Consistency. Planning. Patience.
Only you can do what you do: There is no competition, just inspiration
When my babysitter came home with the news of the pogo stick performance in her talent show, I could have easily said, “Oh, somebody’s already done it. Guess I can’t do it! Oh well!” There are so many people that do what you do. There are people who have come before you. Neither of those are reasons to not do what you want to do. Nobody does it the way you do.
I didn’t let the fact that someone else had done it stop me from accomplishing it in my own way. Thankfully, this was well before Instagram, so I couldn’t even compare myself to her performance! My skill, my routine were completely me. The fact that someone else did it inspired me. It was such a gift! I probably would have never thought of it if she hadn’t come first. I knew the foundation of the task, and it was mine to build off of.
Learn from others who came first. Let them inspire you. And then do your thing the only way you can do it.
Pass it on
Once I really knew what I was doing, I brought other people with me. I taught my friends how to do it, and we made routines together. (Now if we would have charged people to see this show, we really would have been our own little entrepreneurs!)
I used my skills and accomplishments (hey, no judging what I consider an accomplishment!) to inspire the people around me. This is the true gift of entrepreneurship. We can share what we learn at any stage, and really inspire the people around us to completely change the course of their lives. I’m sure my friends’ lives were changed after those talent shows 😉
My one regret
I do have one regret. After all the Christmas excitement, the jumping, the juggling and the talent shows, there is one part of this story that I still regret to this day.
After that 5th grade performance, I wrote an email to the David Letterman show. He had a segment where they invited kids to the show to show off their unique talents. I told them about mine, and much to my surprise, they sent me an email asking me to send them a video tape! I was so excited!
But I never followed through. I didn’t take or send them a video tape. I don’t know if I would have actually been invited to the show, but I’ll never know! Now, I was in 5th grade, so there were a few factors probably playing into the fact that I didn’t send a tape. But I could say that the thought of putting myself out there, without the guarantee that I would be accepted, stopped me from doing it.
And now, I vow to never let that happen again. In life and in business. We cannot let the fear of not knowing stop us from doing it. Don’t let the fear of what people think stop you. Don’t let your fear of the unknown stop you.
I actually do regret never making that tape. It’s so easy to get in my own way. In my business, it might stop me from recording videos, creating content, speaking about what I know, or introducing myself to people farther along than me. But this one little 5th grade regret reminds me that you will never even have the chance to make it there if you don’t try. If you don’t suck it up and put yourself out there.
So get on that pogo stick and start jumping! (But really, those things are dangerous. At least wear a helmet).