The ‘Figure It Out’ Key To Success
“Figure it out! Nobody is going to give you all the answers!”
One of my mentors, usually a little exasperated, used to snap at me at least once every couple of weeks.
“Just figure it out!”
I had a bad habit, and it’s a habit that I see now in the vast majority of wantrepreneurs.
My bad habit was this:
I wanted to know the right answer.
I didn’t want to find the right answer – I just wanted someone to tell me what I was supposed to say or do or think.
Seriously, Just Figure It Out
As usual, my mentor was totally right.
Figure it out is some of the best advice I’ve ever received, and now I’m passing it on to you.
Here’s why it’s so profound:
Thinking is hard.
I’m not saying that facetiously, either – I mean it. Thinking is actually a difficult skill to learn.
That’s why so many of us struggle with math subjects in school:
In math, problems are solved through thinking, but it’s presented as if we’re supposed to memorize a formula. In pretty much every other school subject, you memorize answers and recite them later, no thinking included.
Memorizing an answer is easy. Figuring out an answer is hard, especially if you’ve only memorized related facts.
Unfortunately, remembering and repeating an answer doesn’t do an ounce of good when it comes time to apply that information to real life.
An Anti-Thinking Epidemic
Obviously, I’m not the only one who’s struggled with the “just give me the answer” thinking.
It’s one of the reasons people fall for questionable get-rich-quick solutions and systems, and one of the reasons we fail to recognize true opportunity. Instead of thinking through our challenges and problems, we’d rather have someone tell us the simple, correct answer that makes that problem go away.
Here are some examples of questions asked in a Facebook group:
I’m a blogger who just started in June, and I’m doing well so far. I’m looking to monetize with informational products. What informational products should I create?
What do you all think of “Home Office” as a blog topic? I enjoy talking about desks, chairs, and home office organization, but I don’t know how profitable a topic that could be. It would be hard to sell digital products, and I don’t want to be an organizer or a home office consultant.
And this one:
I am in the process of researching niche options. I have a few that I’m interested in pursuing, but I want to start researching each more in depth to be sure I actually want to write about the topic, and the niche is worth pursuing. How do you effectively research a niche topic?
All of these questions are perfectly valid, and they probably need to be answered before the person who asked them proceeds with their business.
The answer, though, can’t come from a Facebook audience.
These questions shouldn’t even be answered by a trusted mentor.
Instead of properly researching options, weighing the pros and cons of each, and coming up with new ideas, these would-be entrepreneurs asked strangers on the internet for the right answer.
They got answers, too…
The average quality of advice was about what you might expect from a random group of strangers on the internet.
I completely understand the urge – there are times that I still make this same mistake and want someone to just give me the answer. Fortunately, I have a mentor who is perfectly willing to repeat the same advice he’s given me hundreds of times before:
Seriously, Just Go Figure It Out!
It seems so simple to just get the answer and move on.
Here’s what happens when you rely too heavily on advice and answers you didn’t come up with yourself:
You become dependent on other people.
There will be situations when that decision no longer works, and you need to change course. If you chose a particular action based off of what someone told you to do, you’ll keep going back to other people for the answers whenever problems arise.
Eventually, that’s going to be a huge problem.
When your blog gets big and starts generating hefty revenue, you have a lot to lose – and you’re going to hinge all of that on someone else’s judgement.
The ‘someone else’ making decisions for you has no financial interest in your success. If you make a mistake and lose everything you’ve built, it’s no problem for those other people. The only one who stands to lose anything at all is you, and if you haven’t learned to make your own decisions, you probably won’t even see your demise coming.
Is that how you want to operate your business?
Successful Business Owners Think For Themselves
That doesn’t mean that successful people don’t have mentors. They do.
Most of the best known and most successful business owners continue to work with mentors throughout their lives and careers.
They’re just not dependent on their mentors.
Learn To Think Before Your Life Depends On It
The “figure it out” process is messy, and you’re going to make mistakes. The more you do it, though, the less frequently you’ll make major errors in judgement.
Start become self-reliant now, before a mistake could mean the loss of years of work, effort, and investment.
Begin with small problems, like “what should I blog about?” Use a search engine and learn a little bit about blog niches, then make a decision on your own without consulting anyone else. Then, when it comes to slightly bigger questions, like “how do I make money?” you can practice thinking on a larger scale.
How To Tackle Bigger Problems
Let’s talk about big, important problems.
I mean those problems where your decision is going to have a profound effect on the course of your life.
When you’re faced with important decisions and you’re tempted to look to someone else to give you the “right” answer, try this method instead:
Get a few sheets of paper and a pen.
Yes, I mean real paper, and a pen that you hold in your hand – not a computer screen.
Writing by hand helps your brain work. It’s science or something.
Now, sit down somewhere that you won’t be interrupted for at least 30 minutes. If you have children or housemates that usually bother you, make it clear that you need this time alone.
You can listen to quiet music without lyrics if it helps you think, but silence is ideal for best results.
Begin by writing down every option you can think of that might tackle your problem.
Remember: doing nothing is almost always an option.
There’s always more than one choice. Spend some time on this. Think about choices that might not be obvious. Even write down the choices you already think are bad. You’re training your brain to analyze a situation and recognize many possible outcomes.
Once you’ve got as many as you can possibly think of (and perhaps a headache, too) the next step is to consider possible outcomes of each choice.
Don’t get dramatic. Be as logical as possible.
If you decide to launch a new product on your site, the options probably include things like:
- The product sells well and makes a substantial profit
- The product sells, but not particularly well, and I need to come up with a new strategy
- The product does not sell at all, and I need to come up with a new strategy
You’re not going to launch a new product on your site, fail, lose the respect of your family and friends, and withdraw from society in utter shame and humiliation. That’s not realistic, even as a worst case scenario.
Each choice probably has a few possible outcomes, and you can likely figure out which ones are most likely.
Now that you have a clearer view of the situation, rule out any choices you know you don’t want to make.
With the remaining possibilities, ask these 3 questions:
- What’s the worst possible thing that can happen?
- What’s the best possible thing that can happen?
- What’s probably most likely to happen?
Again, leave the drama at the door and be as logical as possible.
Once you’ve got best, worst, and most likely scenarios for each of your possible choices, it’s time to make a decision.
What If You’re Wrong?
Of course you’re going to be wrong sometimes. As a new entrepreneur, you’re probably going to be wrong a lot. That’s a side effect of doing things, and there’s no amount of preparation and education that can stop you from making mistakes.
You’ve already figured out the worst case scenario.
If you choose wrong, you already know the worst thing that can possibly happen, so there’s no need to keep worrying about it.
Sometimes, things will happen that you don’t expect, both positive and negative.
At least you know why you made your decision, and you have the means to adjust if needed since you’re aware of the alternatives.
Besides, you’re much less likely to fail if you’ve made the decision yourself.
When you’ve put real thought and effort into a decision, you’re much more invested in producing a positive outcome.
Here’s That Formula Again
When you’re faced with a big, scary challenge, you know what to do.
- Get a pen and paper, and set aside 30 uninterrupted minutes for analysis
- Write down all the possible solutions to your problem
- Write down the potential outcomes for each solution option
- Eliminate choices that you’re unwilling to consider
- With the remaining options, determine the best, worst, and most likely results
- Make a decision with clarity of mind
Your head might actually hurt afterwards – it feels sort of like exercising a muscle that you haven’t used in a while.
This method gets easier with time, and as you train your brain, you can eventually do this much faster without a pen and paper.
And, if this post doesn’t quite answer all your questions, take a note from my mentor:
Figure it out!
What’s the first step in the thinking exercise above?
Hint: It’s to find a quiet place to sit and think.
Sometimes, that’s easier said than done, isn’t it?
Your homework today is to designate a place somewhere in your house as your special thinking place.
Perhaps it’s a favorite chair in your living room, or it might be the desk where you complete most of your work while you’re at home.
Whatever you choose, make that your thinking place from today forward.
Leave a notebook and pen nearby.
If you have children, set a rule that they’re not allowed to interrupt you when you’re in your thinking place, and only go there when you need time to think.
Having that part already squared away will make it much easier to get your uninterrupted quiet the next time you need to work through a tough problem.
When you’ve picked your thinking place, consider sharing it in the comments to inspire others!