I tend to think in metaphors. Right now, the imagery I am using to put my current situation into perspective is that of a rock climber. I’ve been bouldering for months by myself. It’s tiring, but around each turn there are unexpected finds that I would not have come across had I not been alone with my thoughts. My project idea has survived a few different reincarnations already, and I need to keep moving and protect the space in my head to get there.
Now I’m at the base of this mountain. It’s breathtaking – and terrifying. I’ve been able to get a little ways up by hoisting myself on fairly easy, obvious footholds. The branding process is complete, and our logo is perfect. It inspires me and is my vision for the company. The COMING SOON page on our website is in the works. I am off the ground but not high. Falling from here would injure my pride more than my body.
The next stage in the journey requires ropes, harnesses and expertise. I’ll need equipment which takes money – more than I have, of course, or this blog post would be irrelevant. The dilemma is one which is familiar to small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. The options are these: put my family’s house up as collateral to get an SBA loan, lose some autonomy and take on investors or put the project up on Kickstarter and risk someone else taking my idea and launching it before I can get funding together. I have posed all three as negative, though each one certainly has its advantages.
I know that people in business take calculated risks all the time. They use their understanding of the context surrounding their situation to decide whether to leap or to wait. And I suspect that they often do not regret having leaped at an inopportune time if that experience makes them wiser the next time around. Live and learn. But when you don’t have a string of successes beneath you to buffer a misstep, the stakes feel higher.
When the house where my kids sleep is on the line – or I risk losing the opportunity to pursue this dream altogether because I shared when I should have kept it close – I want to pull the ropes tighter, lean towards the rock and steady myself, wait until there’s no wind at all and think hard about my next move. But when in life does that strategy work out for anyone? In life, as in rock climbing, looking down is counterproductive and pointless. Eye on the prize – ever upward – and forward march.