When I was a little girl, I use to be a figure skater. I was even good at it. But when I look back one of the reasons I didn’t become great at it was that I spent a good deal of time hanging out on the barrier chatting to friends. It wasn’t that I couldn’t skate and needed to hang onto the side, rather that I was good enough and getting great was, well hard work – and sometimes just a bit risky.
Often my coach would shriek across the rink “Kristin Austin – stop chatting and GET OFF that barrier” in somewhat exasperated tones. Of course that would get both I and whomever I was chatting to back to practice that mattered – until the next time.
When I moved my butt and focussed stuff happened and I improved. I nailed jumps, spins and complicated step sequences. I won competitions. Yet somehow, every time things got hard, I’d gravitate to back to chatting, leaning on the barrier, coach shrieking at me. Had I have spent less time on the barrier, I might have made a national team – but that’s a long time ago, in woulda, coulda, shoulda-land.
Fast forward to today and that barrier has become a great analogy for life particularly in business, where every other day presents something that’s outside one’s comfort zone. It’s entirely far too easy to hang there and there are sooooo many people Checkto hang with.
What does the business barrier look like?
A business barrier comes in many forms. Meet-ups, lunches, seminars, webinars, blogs, forums, social media land, the water cooler, the cafe, catching up for a coffee, etc – anything that distracts you from the task at hand. All these places and distractions are filled with people who want to look like they’re doing the work, but who aren’t really. Just because you learn how to do something or talk about doing it, doesn’t mean that it’s any closer to getting done in your business.
So learning the latest tips on how best to sell more to customers, doesn’t mean you have or even will – even though it FEELS like you’ve already done it.
And I see far too many people thinking that hanging on the business barrier is part of the work. Ummm, no it’s not. Chances are, chatting on the barrier won’t get you any closer to your goal – even though you’re decked out in the right apparel and you might be physically where you can get the right sort of stuff done (or maybe not).
Let me be clear. Unless you’re actually doing the work that is going to get you closer to your actual goal – you’re not getting any closer. Hanging at the barrier watching someone else do the jumps on the ice didn’t mean I was any closer to landing that jump myself. I actually had to practice, practice and practice some more – often for weeks at a time before I achieved it.
A little while ago client of mine sent me an email asking if I was going to a particular event spruiked by a women’s network that promised to show you how to build a successful business. It had super successful people who’d built businesses coming along to talk.
I think I surprised my client by giving her a bit of tough love. I merely said that these super successful people didn’t go along to these sorts of things when they were building their businesses – they put their head down, bum up and got the work done, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year – until they achieved the success they were after. Now they could afford the time to go chat and hang. They were already successful.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing inherently wrong with any barrier-esque activities. A momentary stop on the business barrier is fine. It’s a chance to catch your breath, do a brain dump, be social, get sorted, etc.
It’s just that if you want to get great at something – be it building your business, selling, marketing, your chosen profession, leadership, etc – you have to focus and go do it. It’s that simple. View business barrier activities as business ‘fun’ – not real work.
Do I wish I had focussed more, felt the fear and done it anyway with my skating – yes, absolutely. Have I learned to apply that lesson in business. You bet. I know without a shadow of a doubt, if I do the work, things will happen – not always overnight – but it does happen (to borrow from an old Pantene commercial). Do I wish that I could magically have the work happen? From time to time, yes. And wishing will NEVER make it so.
So if you, like all business owners from time to time, have fears that have sent you to the barrier and you find yourself in a merry-go-round of events, seminars, social, etc – STOP CHATTING AND GET OFF THAT BARRIER. You can thank me later – for now though, just go and do the work.
Of course if we can help you get back on course to achieving your own business goals by creating a process for your marketing or customer outreach that happens automatically and means you can focus on what’s critical for you to focus on in your business, we’d be delighted to help. You can give us a call on (02) 9994 8005 or drop us a note.
PS: I now have my own children that like to skate, swim and play sport – who have the desire to improve and compete – I often find myself muttering under my breath – “stop chatting, get off the barrier, sidelines, pool deck and just bloody get into it.”