When I started my business, everything was pretty foggy. Visibility was non-existent. Each day, each month, each blog post, each product launch was an effort to simply cross the short distance between what I could see and step carefully into the space I couldn’t see.
Fog alters our perception of reality.
When I’m driving through fog, I’m hyper-alert. I’m sitting straight up in my seat, both hands on the wheel, craning for every additional inch of visibility I can get. Things feel like they’re happening fast–unexpected–even though I’m driving much, much slower.
Each moment is an opportunity to make a decision that could have incredible consequences. It’s nerve-racking. In business, it’s also thrilling.
As time goes on, as you move forward in business, the fog begins to lift. You can see more road ahead of you. You can anticipate the effects of your actions at longer intervals.
Your nerves are eased… and the thrill can be harder to find.
Clear Visibility in Business
In the last 18 months, I’ve gone from planning 3-4 months out to planning 12-24 months out. I have mixed feelings about this, and I suspect you might, as well.
The first set of feelings is relief and confidence. I can sit back, relax a little. For the most part, I know what’s coming. Not only do I feel pretty confident about the actions I’ll be taking, but I feel pretty confident about their effects. I can anticipate my workload, my revenue, and my expenses.
The second set of feelings include things like terror and vulnerability. I’m on the open road and I’m looking toward the horizon. I can see far ahead, but I feel exposed and unsure.
Put another way, it’s like the boats that are currently occupying the Columbia River outside of my office window. It’s salmon season and there are tiny fishing boats everywhere. They strike a stark contrast to the container ships that anchor waiting for clearance to proceed to Portland.
The tiny fishing boats can steer quickly and react immediately if necessary. The container ships… not so much. Their fog horns bellow out and say “get out of my way!” Not because they are so powerful, but because they just don’t have the ability to change course.
While I love the confidence and sense of relief that comes from being able to steer my business looking at a clear horizon line, there is a certain amount of terror that comes from not having that hyper-alert, turn-on-a-dime ability.
Growing your Business With Changes in Visibility
One of the growing pains of owning a microbusiness is navigating this change in visibility, from guiding your business through a fog to looking toward the horizon line. You’re worried that you don’t know enough and can’t anticipate enough to look that far out.
As counterintuitive as it might be, it seems easier–even more productive–to keep operating like you’re in the fog of beginning. Hyper-alert, ready to react to anything unexpected. Thrilled.
But… you can’t lead your business where you want it to go if you keep operating in a fog. It’s a challenge to look further ahead, to gaze out toward the horizon. But it’s worth it.
Entrepreneur, Chris Guillebeau suggests that your goals may be too small:
“Don’t get me wrong: when you’re beginning, the little things matter. Running a mile is a big deal if you’ve never done it before.”
But later, when it becomes a regular thing to lace up and hit the neighborhood for a 4-miler, and the whole time you’re thinking about other things and there’s no challenge … that’s when you’ve got to make a change.”
“It’s time to sign up for that marathon—before you’re ready. It’s time to say, you know, I’ve been thinking about this thing for a while. Maybe instead of thinking about it, I should do something about it.”
“Or maybe I’m already doing it, but my vision has been too small.”
Can you see what’s on the horizon for a year or two from now? Maybe not. But maybe you could if you tried. Maybe you could challenge yourself to lead your business to a new destination.
You won’t know until you start looking toward the horizon.
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