As a kid, I thought quicksand would be a much larger problem in life.
I thought I'd be exploring the Amazon rainforest with a group of adventurers. It'd probably be unbearably humid, I'd be covered in dirt, and the last time I'd slept was three days prior. I'd stop to quench my thirst with a sip from a quickly depleting canteen - thankful for a moment of respite.
Slowly, I'd realize the tree I'd be leaning against was somehow getting taller. How peculiar?
Then it would dawn on me:
Luckily, quicksand is much less prominent in life than my childhood mind thought (or perhaps hoped) it would be. Yet, there are still times in life, particularly as entrepreneurs, when we feel stuck. Trapped by a problem with a firm grip around our metaphorical ankles, we can't get loose no matter what we try or do.
Operational bottlenecks. Financial limits. Writer's block and other creative dry spells. Quicksand manifests itself in all types of problems that every entrepreneur faces.
How do we get unstuck?
Try Giving Up
Not actually. Well, not permanently, at least.
Psychologists have long known that our brains are incredible at processing information in our non-conscious minds. If we walk away from a problem - even for just a few minutes - our minds still work to make connections and find patterns.
Removing yourself from the problem you're stuck trying to solve can be incredibly fruitful. By spending time in moments of quiet, engaging in activities unrelated to the problem you're trying to solve, or simply distracting yourself, your brain will still be working in the background.
To most entrepreneurs, this feels backward. You think, "If I can spend a few more hours working on this problem, I know I'll crack it. I can't waste any more time." Time spent thinking through a complex problem feels like a sunk cost when the problem isn't easily solved; taking more time away feels pointless.
In reality, time away from the problem that you're trying to solve is an incredibly effective problem-solving strategy.
Bring Other People Into Your Stuck
Two heads are better than one, especially when the other head is coming from an objective point of view.
As entrepreneurs, our thinking often becomes focused intently on solving one thing. We get so deeply invested in solving the one problem plaguing us that we forget to look outside ourselves for answers. We get incredibly close to the issues that are keeping us stuck. We think we know them and understand all facets of them incredibly well. We believe we are the only ones who can solve our problems.
This is why bringing an independent, 3rd party opinion to the table can be helpful.
Instead of relying on your brain power to solve an extremely tough issue or think through a complex problem, having a coach or someone less familiar with the matter you're faced with provides a new perspective. By explaining the situation to someone new, you're forced to take a step back and look at the issue from a 30,000-foot view. You get away from the myopic nature of being so intimately familiar with the problem and begin to see it from a new angle.
Teamwork is exceptionally fruitful when solving complex problems. You're not required to do everything on your own!
Success and Failure Are Not Linear
We often think of success and failure as being two distinctly different points that have no relationship with one another. Instead, consider success and failure as a spectrum. The point at which you're stuck falls somewhere along that spectrum.
For every issue we tackle as entrepreneurs, we need to identify what both a successful and a failed outcome look like.
For instance, if you're working on increasing sales in your business by generating more leads, it's essential to define a successful outcome. Let's say you're currently generating 50 leads per month and would like to be generating 100. On our success-failure spectrum, failure would look like generating 50 leads per month or less.
You've tried everything you can think of to increase the number of leads coming into your business, but the best you've done in a month so far is 60, an increase of ten from where you started.
Where we find ourselves stuck in this example can be pinpointed. We haven't failed at our task; we've successfully generated ten leads! We're not quite at our point of success, but we're on our way. From here, we can identify what's worked so far. How did we get an increase of ten leads in the first place, and what can we do to replicate that kind of small success over again on a bigger scale?
By looking at success and failure as a spectrum, we can begin to create a process for getting unstuck. We can identify what works, what doesn't, and what will bring us closer to our goal.
Ultimately, we won't be stuck forever. Given enough time and effort, something will inevitably change.