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What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do

When I started my entrepreneurial career, I really didn’t know what I was going to do.

All my friends were graduating and moving onto corporate jobs.  It was the logical next step.  So I did the same.  I vividly remember signing that employment contract with a well known company here in Canada.

The pay was good, it came with great benefits and there was plenty of opportunity to move up within the organization.

But something didn’t “feel” right.

You know the gut instinct I’m talking about right?

On paper everything looks good but there’s “something” that you just can’t put your finger on.  It just doesn’t feel right.

For some reason I listened to that feeling and made a dramatic decision that forever changed the course of my life.  But it all started with one small step.

My Decision

There I was looking down at the signed contract for a job that my parents dreamed I would someday get.

But inside, my stomach felt like it was doing flip flops – a sign that something wasn’t right.

Deep down I knew going the corporate route wasn’t for me.  I hated wearing suits and the thought of having my income “capped” just wasn’t inspiring for me.

I wanted more.

I wanted more control over my own destiny.

So one day following a conference, I made up my mind.  I was going to resign from my position before I even started.  Luckily for me, I had negotiated some time in between my graduation and my actual “start date” – a VERY smart move in hindsight (although at the time I just wanted to delay entering the “real world” 😛 ).

My rationale for resigning was simple…

At that time in my life, I was used to not having money given that I had just graduated university.  So a financial struggle wouldn’t feel anything different for me at that point in my life… I was already used to peanut butter sandwiches!  Logically speaking, if I was going to take a risk on myself, that was the time to do it.

“If you start this job, it will be ten times harder to make the decision to do your own thing later in life when you have more responsibilities and you’re used to the paycheck”.

At least that’s what I kept telling myself.

So I somehow got the courage to tell someone (one of my good friends Braden Douglas) that I was going out on my own.

Then he asked me a simple (and probably obvious) question…

“What are you going to do?”

After hearing those words “what are you going to do?” I could feel time just stand still.

I had no idea.

I felt stupid for not having some “master plan”.  The only thing I did know was that the option of starting that job just didn’t feel “right”.

Have you ever been in that situation?

You know doing “X” isn’t the right thing but you feel stuck because you don’t know what the alternative is going to be either.

That’s how I felt.

Starting the corporate job wasn’t right for me but I unfortunately had no idea what I was going to do.

The good news is, everything worked out – but how?

Take A Step In A Direction

Often when we don’t know our “next move”, we stand still.  It’s paralyzing because it feels like everyone else has everything figured out.  We feel stupid because everyone is moving forward and we feel like we’re falling further back.

The problem is, many times when we’re in this situation we don’t do anything about it.  There’s a greater fear that if we start doing something, and it’s not the “right thing”, then we’ve wasted time.  We’re always trying to think of the “perfect” next step.

Here’s what I learned…

So out of fear of making the wrong decision we don’t move which creates more anxiety that we’re falling behind.  Psychologically it’s a no-win situation.

Crazy right?

The only way to combat this standstill is to take a step in a direction and start doing something.

One of the best quotes I ever heard was from Mike Litman who shared some advice from a mentor of his.  He said…

There’s a lot of truth in that.

By taking a step, you go from analysis to action.

Action breeds momentum.

Momentum creates opportunity.

Opportunity will open doors that would never have been available to you if you didn’t do something.

Here’s an example of what happened to me…

  1. I started speaking to college and high school students about Creativity (learning to be creative helped me go from failing out of university to eventually graduating top of my class and voted Most Outstanding Male – so it was something I knew and had a passion for at that time).
  2. Speaking led me to information marketing (I was looking for ways to package my presentations so that I could get beyond the dependance/limitation my speaking business had on me “being there” on location and trading time for money).
  3. Information marketing led me to creating software (I wanted to build a membership site for the people I was speaking to but the software available was too difficult for me to use – so I teamed up with two others to develop something better… now WishList Member).
  4. Developing software led me to where I am now and that is a passion for “web based” software as a service (software that solves a specific problem for a monthly recurring fee… example:

Look at what happened…

I went from a guy not knowing what I wanted to do with my career to building a 7-figure software company with a sharp focus on exactly what I want moving forward.

If you had asked me if developing web based software was what I wanted to do when I began my career I would have laughed not even knowing what that was.

I would have said “I’m not a programmer, I can’t do that”.

I would have been blinded by my current situation without knowing how one could lead to the other.

Not knowing your final destination can be very frustrating because we think we need to know exactly what we want before taking that first step.  I think that’s the wrong approach because that’s what stops you dead in your tracks.

People get stuck trying to figure out exactly what it is they want to do (and they never end up figuring it out and therefore never end up doing anything about it).

All you need to do is take a step in a direction.

Start with your interests.  Explore them a little deeper.

When you see someone mention something that sparks an interest, follow up with that person.  Pretend you’re an investigator following up on leads trying to get to the bottom of the story.

Talk to people.  Ask questions on Twitter or Facebook.

What you’ll find is that one thing will lead to another and you’ll begin to discover options you never knew were available.

Here’s a quick example…

When I was in university I was determined to find a cool summer job and being a sports nut, I wanted to do something related to sports – but I didn’t know what that would be.

I was studying Business so my first step of investigation was typing “Sports + Business” into Google.

Low and behold, a bunch of interesting things came up… so I started exploring some more.

Long story short, I discovered that there was this HUGE industry for the business side of sports and there were all kinds of sports marketing companies out there specializing in this one area of business.

One website led me to another until I eventually found a number of companies in Toronto (closest major city) that had a bunch of summer jobs available.  I applied and eventually got one of the jobs 🙂

In this case my first step was combining two words “Sports + Business” and typing them into Google.  That one search led me down a rabbit hole of discovery until I eventually got what I wanted (but had no idea was available), a business job in the sports industry.

So when you’re getting started with all of this, start doing something… even on a small scale.

When I started my speaking business, that meant securing my first paid speaking engagement.  Just know that my first paid gig didn’t happen right away.  In fact, I spoke to a number of local schools for free before I finally managed to get paid for one.

It was part of the process.

But one of those free gigs led to my first paid gig (thanks to referrals).

Then once I got the first paid gig, I looked to leverage that into other paid gigs by asking the school that was hiring me if they knew other nearby schools that would like to split the travel costs of bringing me to the area.

That opened doors to other schools and before I knew it, I was off to the races (and you know how the speaking led to everything else).

It all starts with that first step.

Think On This

If you want something different in your life or in your business, you’ve got to take a step.

You can’t stand still – otherwise it will paralyze you.

Get moving.

Then once you start to get some momentum, you can start being more strategic about what you’re doing.

But in the beginning, don’t try to have some “master plan” – especially if you don’t know exactly what it is you want.

Just start exploring and take your first step – otherwise you’ll never end up doing anything.

Your Turn

Have you ever felt stuck with a decision?

What did you do to get yourself past that point in your life?

Let me know in the comments below.

Also, do you know someone struggling with their “next step”?  Send them a link to this post… maybe it will help.