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How I Decided to Take Focus OFF My Business (& on to the next BIG thing)

season-end soccer partyIt was a glorious weekend filled with family and fun: the photo shows me with the little sister of one of Griffin’s friends who joined us for his Season-End Soccer Party. How sweet is that?!

Last week I read this quote:

When you are in doubt, be still, and wait;
When doubt no longer exists for you then go forward with courage.
So long as mists envelop you, be still;
Be still until the sunlight pours through and dispels the mists
– as it surely will. Then act with courage.
– Chief White Eagle

Many of my long-time readers will recognize in the quote the “I know I’ll know” lesson that I often share. And it’s so true.

For months I’ve been feeling the pull to things other than my coaching business.

As many of you know, I had a literary agent who was “shopping” my book to a lot of publishers over the last year – and all of them came back with some form of this response, “We love Stacey’s message but we feel it would be a hard sell given the fact that she doesn’t have a background/degree in mental health.”

When I first heard that feedback a year ago I rejected it. I thought, “NO WAY am I getting a degree in mental health!” But after hearing it over and over again over the last year, the sunlight finally poured through on the decision that I clearly needed to make.

I’ve now applied for a program that offers a masters degree in counseling and it seems likely that I will get in and start my studies in January. So in the interest of pursuing this degree, something has to give – and that’s my coaching business.

I will no longer promote my business, create new programs or write this newsletter. I will still take on coaching clients from now until the end of the year, so if you’ve been thinking of working with me – NOW is the time!

I’m also offering half-off on all of my self-study programs – until November 15th and then they will be off the market forever. Just go to staceycurnow.com/coaching, choose your program and enter “halfoff” in the coupon code box.

I published the article below in February of this year and it’s particularly salient now because the questions I ask helped inform my decision to take my full focus away from my business and onto graduate school.

If needed, I hope they will help you find the clarity and courage to make a big change in your life too!

You’ve heard me talk before about purposeful perseverance.

But here’s the thing: If all you need to do to succeed is not quit, then why are there always people less motivated, less talented, and less tested who have their day in the sun before you do?

And what if the thing you desired so much, or loved so much to do, just doesn’t have the same pulling power it once did?

It used to make you tingle with anticipation, and now it’s about as exciting as an old sweater, and serves you about as well.

Sure, it still fits, but it’s also moth-eaten and smells of mildew. So why do you keep it around, anyway?

I think Helen Keller put it best: “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure.”

making a changeI’ve been thinking about that quote a lot. I’ve also been thinking a lot about Seth Godin’s book The Dip: A Little Book that Teaches You When to Quit (And When To Stick).

They both have a lot to say on what it means to live your life as a daring adventure.

Almost everything worth doing involves a lot of time and effort. Ask any concert pianist. Excelling means doing your best and whatever else is required. There’s usually a long slog between starting and mastery.

We’re talking about a long time of doing stuff you’re not even very interested in, or that doesn’t involve your “natural” talents.

And that’s fine because you can learn all that stuff if the dream or goal truly does matter to you.

Think of anything you’re proficient at now that you once tried as a novice: You wanted to speak Spanish fluently, write a novel, play a chord progression—and it took a lot of time and effort. Most of us understand that.

Where it gets tricky, though, is when we can’t tell if we’re just going through a particularly challenging patch on our way to the final goal or beating our heads against a brick wall.

Godin describes two curves that you can use to classify all the challenging stretches you might meet as you try to accomplish something.

Understanding and addressing these two types of situations—one that might make you want to quit, and one that’s telling you that you should quit—is the first step toward figuring out whether or not to keep working.

The first of these two situations is “The Dip.” The Dip is the long stretch between beginner’s interest and real mastery. Most people who undertake something bail during The Dip – and that’s exactly why society puts such a high value on real accomplishment.

But the second situation—the second curve—is just a dead end. You work and work and nothing changes. There’s not a lot to say about The Dead End, except that when you spot it, turn around and get out of there.

That dead end is keeping you from what you’re really supposed to do. Your life energy is too precious to invest in a dead-end anything.

There may come a time when you are doing work you love, work you feel you were meant, no, destined to do—but it’s hard and you’re not seeing the results, the accolades, the paycheck you’d like to have associated with it.

If you reach that point, or if you’re at that point now, and you’re considering quitting, here are the questions that Seth Godin suggests you ask yourself:

#1 Am I panicking?

Panic is never a good reason to quit. That’s why it helps to think about possible crises before you start any passion-driven work, and decide beforehand the point at which you would be willing to give up.

For example, before I started my business I decided it would be time to quit if I ever couldn’t pay my bills or didn’t absolutely love it.

Bottom line: panic is not a reason to quit.

#2 Who am I trying to influence?

If you’re trying to influence one person (like your boss), or even a small group of people (like your colleagues)—that is, if your success is dependent on changing someone else’s mind—forget it. Changing someone’s mind is difficult if not impossible.

Bottom line (and this applies to everything in life): your happiness should NEVER depend on getting a particular response or outcome from any one person.

Note, though, that if you’re trying to influence a market, the rules are different, and it’s fine to try to influence a big group of people.

In fact, getting feedback from a bunch of people is one way of keeping tabs on your progress (see #3). But don’t expect to get a big response from The Market until you’ve been tested and proven with a lot of individual players in it—until you’ve learned on a small scale what people are after and that you can give what them they want.

Sure it would be great if you had tons of adoring fans right off the bat, but it really benefits them and you that they wait until you’ve honed your skills a bit.

#3 What measurable progress am I making?

This ties in with number #2. If you’re not getting a little better every day, you should quit. To succeed you have to be moving forward, even if you’re taking small steps.

If you’re standing still and you’re choosing not to quit because it’s easier or safer (or because you believe in persevering as a virtue in itself), I can promise you that there is something far better, far more satisfying and rewarding for you to be doing.

And the world needs you to do it.

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