Longevity was the furthest thing from my mind when I started my first business 35 years ago, but when I do an inventory of those years, it’s obvious that creating things with a lengthy life span has been part of the process. Nobody is more surprised than I am that Winning Ways newsletter is in its twenty-third year of publication. Or that Making a Living Without a Job has never gone out of print since 1993. Not all projects have lasted so long, but the things that have are the real core of my business.
Although I’ve been busily promoting and hand-selling for the past twenty years, there are some other aspects to my entrepreneurial life that are also longevity factors. These are things that I think have made all the difference and kept me moving forward. They’ll help you, too, no matter what the current age of your business.
Passion and Right Livelihood are essential. According to the Buddhists, who coined the lovely term “right livelihood”, there’s a simple test to know if your work qualifies. That test is this: the work becomes more, not less, interesting the longer you do it. Avoiding boredom is only possible if passion is present. Best of all, practicing right livelihood keeps pulling us in the direction of mastery, urging us to learn more, do more, be more.
Understand cycles. Every business in the world, no matter how big or how small, goes through cycles. Down is followed by up—and vice-versa. It takes a year or two of entrepreneurial effort to discover the particular patterns inherent in your business, but once you do, you can work around them. For me that’s meant learning what times of year are most conducive to scheduling seminars and then using the down times from that profit center to work on creating new projects. Cycles also teach us about financial management, if we’re paying attention.
Willingly defer gratification. I have advertising whiz Bernice Fitz-Gibbon to thank for teaching me this one. In her marvelous autobiography, Macy’s, Gimbels and Me, she wrote, “It’s smart to defer gratification. Be willing to take less at first in order to have much, much more later.” I believed her and discovered she was absolutely correct.
Stay focused on the big picture. There’s a temptation to declare failure when a project disappoints or, even, falls flat and fails. However, too many new entrepreneurs confuse a project with a dream. Know the difference.
Evolution is your friend. Anyone devoted to preserving the status quo shouldn’t embark on the joyfully jobless path. I constantly remind folks that the business you start out with isn’t the business you end up with. If you’re doing it right, you’re growing and changing and your business is a reflection of that. It’s equally important to make wherever you are in the process as exciting a place as possible. Now.
The real key to longevity was expressed perfectly by Paul Harvey whose broadcasting career spanned seven decades. He once said, “I hope someday to have enough of what people call success so that I’ll be asked, ‘What’s your secret?’ to which I’ll reply, ‘I pick myself up again when I fall down.’”
If you want more longevity-enhancing tools, join me for one or more of my upcoming teleclasses. We open on Wednesday, October 14 with The Thrifty Entrepreneur: Doing More While Spending Less. That’s followed by Outsmarting Resistance on the 19th and A Beginner’s Guide to the Seminar Business on the 21st. Can’t attend in person? You can still sign up and receive the audio download for any of the classes.