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No entrepreneur wants to hear this, but I’ll just come out and say it: You’re not that special.
And I mean that in the nicest way possible.
It’s easy for us to believe our business problems are unique and so different that they require a degree in economics or neuroscience to navigate. But when you work with as many different types of CEOs as I have, you start to realize how oddly predictable most challenges are, even if they feel catastrophic in scope to the person experiencing them.
It’s all about pattern recognition, really.
Pattern recognition is the reason my 96-year-old great-grandfather says he’s “seen every movie known to man,” even though I know he hasn’t seen Black Panther yet.
Billionaire hedge fund genius Ray Dalio recognizes patterns, too. In his book Principles, Dalio describes how events repeat themselves over and over again in business — and how he began to predict the outcome of these events based on pattern recognition.
Successful people are those who can go above themselves to see things objectively and manage those things to shape change. – Ray Dalio
It’s not just about recognizing the patterns, though. The secret, he says, is learning how to rise above the fray of everyday confusion and make the critical decisions that will drive you closer to your goal. So, where does this leave you, the entrepreneur on the journey?
Here are three patterns for you to recognize. I call them Pivotal Points — and they represent the most common areas of struggle, confusion or fear that most entrepreneurs encounter. If you’re on the journey, you’ll have to pass these tests over and over again.
1. Turning Points
Turning points are times of inflection, decision and change. They can be startling. The first turning point I remember early in my own career is documented in my book — the moment my former manager said something that sparked a chain reaction in my head and implanted a business idea.
Turning points continue to come as you see more and more success. This could include repositioning your products or rebranding your entire company. Hiring (or firing) key team members can be a gigantic turning point. Getting a big round of PR and media attention is often a big turning point, too.
Turning points storm into our lives with a tremendous amount of energy. They can shake you up and propel you toward exponential growth — if you know how to see them ahead of time and take advantage of them. If you nail it, things will never be the same.
The key here is keeping your eyes wide open and switching your brain into pattern recognition mode. If you don’t recognize Turning Points in time, you miss the opportunity and may be left wondering why you never got “your shot.”
So stay woke.
2. Learning Points
Learning Points highlight a gap in your knowledge that needs to be filled in order to go to the next level. These gaps may be hard to admit because for many strong, ambitious leaders…well, we’ve gotten to where we are mostly by looking things up and making it up as we go along.
But there will be times when in order to progress, you’ll have to admit complete ignorance.
You’d be shocked to know how many CEOs don’t understand what’s happening financially inside the business and couldn’t tell you where the leads are coming from. You may be surprised to learn that many of your “successful” entrepreneur friends have no idea how to manage their health or their relationships.
These are skills that we just have to learn, but we’re afraid to admit that we don’t know what we’re doing. At least that’s how I used to feel.
When you’re willing to admit that you don’t know something, that means you’re at a critical Learning Point — and it’s through overcoming the resistance and acquiring new skills that you’ll progress. I like to think of Learning Points as safeguards in place to protect me from my own ego.
They are to be embraced and celebrated, not avoided.
You’ll be better for it, and so will everybody you work with.
3. Earning Points
Earning Points are the revenue plateaus we hit in business.
Along the way, you’ll get stuck at different revenue milestones. Each one will present its unique challenges — and there’s no timeline for when something should or shouldn’t happen. I’ve seen clients go from six to eight figures in nine months. That’s like skipping middle school and going to high school.
I’ve seen others explode out of the gate, plateau for a bit and begin the slow and steady climb from six to seven figures. You’re going to get stuck at an Earning Point. Everyone does. If you can’t get your business to create more revenue, there is likely one of two issues at hand:
- The cash flow inside the business isn’t being properly managed.
- The business needs additional sources of revenue to grow.
Before you brush past those bullets, I’d encourage you to read them over once more. Most entrepreneurs think that the key to all money problems is sales. Sales cure all, right?
Yes, and no. Sales will boost your numbers and create the illusion of healthy profit in a business — but more water won’t fix a leaky boat. The truth is, one of the biggest reasons why business owners get stuck at an Earning Point is not because they can’t make sales but because they can’t manage the money from the sales they are already making.
Having the courage to recognize where your problems are really stemming from, and acting on that information, is the key to overcoming Earning Points.
Fortunately, that very same courage is the most valuable attribute an entrepreneur can possess.