I recently attempted something new, and much to my surprise looking back on the experience, I felt much of the same as I have in my fledgling business.
For those of you who don’t know me as well as you’d like, let it be known that I am a fan of a well-made beer. I have always found a great one to be a thing of mystery, as there are so many subtle flavors and complexities that go into the overall experience. And as humans, we are stuck with a desire to unravel mysteries. Neil Armstrong said it best:
Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.
So I embarked upon a mission to understand this wonder. First, I read a great deal on the subject of brewing beer (if you are looking for a great read on the subject, I suggest Randy Mosher’s Tasting Beer). Having done some research, I decided it was time to try my hand at brewing my own beer.
And so I did, using what is referred to as an “all grain” kit. This means my only ingredients were: grain, hops, water, and yeast. There was no laboratory developed concentrate with predestined flavor – only a man, some raw ingredients, and determination.
Through this process of brewing, I felt many different things: first excitement, then trepidation, then doubt and frustration. But in the end, I came out with something that approximated beer and that in itself was wondrous.
As I left the liquid to froth up and ferment, my mind wandered back to the events of the day. It then occurred to me that so many of the feelings I experienced were no different than those from starting out my business. And to be honest, things I sometimes still feel about my business.
Here are a few of the lessons that were reinforced by this process:
Reading only scratches the surface. What an understatement that is too. It’s the same in business. You can read a great deal of theory and learn all the best practices, but it is a whole WORLD of difference when you’re actually executing in the real world. Whether it’s trying to keep your grain heated just right or presenting a proposal to a client. It’s just never going to be exactly like the book said and we have to learn to live with that. We have to see what happens in practice and remember those lessons, as they will come in handy in the future.
I felt serious doubt. Everything sounded so straight forward in the book. But in the real world, my equipment looked different, temperatures changed faster, and I made a MESS. I didn’t know how bad I was screwing it up; I didn’t know how close to right I was either. I just kept going. Because that’s what you have to do. In beer or in business, you have to make it through so you can try and do it better next time.
I’m still not perfect. If I were to do it all again tomorrow, I might be able to do a little bit better, but I would still be FAR from perfect. And that’s okay. Each time it’s going to get a little bit better, just like in our businesses. There will be a little less doubt next time and just maybe a little more of our reading that we can apply.
I never thought I would draw such a connection between these two activities, but there you have it. If you’re thinking about starting your own business or have recently started your own, feeling doubt and frustration is only natural. Learn from your mistakes. It will be better the next time through.
Bryan is a recent cliff jumper looking forward to running a firm his own way. He aims to catalog his experiences here for future generations of cliff jumpers to learn from. Starting in January 2015, he will also be the Visiting Instructor in Accounting at Assumption College located in Worcester, MA. Bryan is also the co-host of a new podcast, Ctrl Alterego, which follows the saga of two new businesses in different stages of development. He has joined forces with Barrett Young of The Green Abacus for this adventure. Follow along atwww.ctrlalterego.com.