There comes a time in every solopreneur’s professional life, usually fairly early on, when the following thought appears:
“When THIS happens, everything will be awesome.”
THIS can take many forms. Maybe it’s quitting your job. Maybe it’s going to a conference. Maybe it’s joining a mastermind or working with a particular mentor or coach. Maybe it’s starting your business, or making four (five? six? seven?) figures in that business. Maybe it’s traveling. Maybe it’s a family member bankrolling you, or an angel investor dropping you some seed money. Maybe it’s something else. But whatever THIS is, when it happens, all your problems will disappear, everything will suddenly be easy, and the rest of your life will be smooth sailing. THIS is your magic bullet.
So you go after it. You go to that conference. You join that mastermind. You approach that family member. You start that side hustle. And then you wait for the magic bullet to work, your life to transform, the money to roll in, the easy living to start.
Except it doesn’t. You’ve got new problems now, plus you’ve probably still got the problems you had before. You’re still broke, you’ve picked up more debt, and you’re even more stressed. This magic bullet didn’t work too well. Maybe it wasn’t the right one! Better find another. Try a different coach, a different travel path, a different investor, a different marketing plan. Surely that one will work, right? Or the next one? Or the one after that?
You see where this is going, don’t you? (And don’t call me Shirley.) Why do so many solopreneurs (and really, so many people from all walks of life) get stuck in this downward spiral of looking for a magic bullet, a cure-all, something (anything!) that will fix their lives and make everything easy?
Because it’s easier to keep looking for magic bullets than to admit you don’t know how to shoot.
I’m going to say that again.
It’s easier to keep looking for magic bullets than to admit you don’t know how to shoot.
At The Conference For Men, one of the speakers talked about “walking toward the gun,” an analogy for facing fearful situations head-on, as in facing down a gun being pointed at you. But in the context of magic bullets, the analogy resonates for me in a different way. Now the gun isn’t being pointed at your head, it’s sitting on a workbench, or hanging from a nail, or displayed on a showcase rack. The gun is waiting for you to walk toward it, pick it up, and start learning how to use it. Walking toward the gun may mean facing your fears, but picking up the gun means taking responsibility for your life.
Think about the heroes of every great Western you’ve ever seen. Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. Rooster Cogburn. El Mariachi. Shane. Josey Wales. Butch and Sundance. The Magnificent Seven. (If you’re not a fan of Westerns, you can substitute John McClane, or Neo, or Bruce Wayne.) Each of these protagonists had moments where they could choose to let shit happen to them, or pick up a gun and fight for their lives. Some of them didn’t want to take on that responsibility. Some felt they were too old, too tired, too beaten down, or not good enough gunslingers, and they knew doing it would be hard, tiring, painful, maybe even fatal. But they picked up their guns anyway. They chose to be responsible for their own lives rather than wait for others to do it for them.
You, reading this right now, have a choice. You can keep looking for magic bullets. Or you can take responsibility for your life and pick up the gun. In the immortal words of Olmec from Legends of the Hidden Temple: the choice is yours, and yours alone.
I get that it’s a scary choice. Picking up the gun, whatever that metaphor means to you, may mean sacrificing your ego, your comfort zone, your free time, your habits. It will take time. You almost certainly won’t get it right the first time, or even the hundred and first. It will be tedious, or tiring, or terrifying, or all three at once. Some days you’ll fail completely. Some days you’ll look at the gun that you’re still learning how to hold or clean, let alone shoot, and think “damn it, why can’t I just find that magic bullet instead?”
I get that, because I deal with all those issues every day. My personal gun, taking responsibility for creating the income I need to support this trip rather than waiting for my family to fund it, is new enough to me that everything I just described comes and sits at my laptop with me every day. Tedious, tiring, and terrifying? Damn straight. So why do I keep doing it? And more importantly, why would you?
Because after they picked up their respective guns, Doc Holliday became the fastest draw in the West, Bruce Wayne saved Gotham City innumerable times as Batman, and Neo learned he could face down an agent and win. I decided to pick up this particular gun in the middle of May, some ten weeks ago. After those ten weeks, my life already looks completely different than it did before. I’m more comfortable with hard work and with uncertainty. I don’t mind being uncomfortable as much. Many of my habits have changed. I push myself harder. I like myself more. And I’m creating the income I need, one day at a time. So what if no one is coming to save me? I’m learning how to save myself.
Picking up the gun is the first step, or the first hundred steps, to being the hero of your own life. And even though it sucks sometimes, when you take such responsibility for your life that your gun becomes part of your arm, magic bullets become superfluous. You don’t need them anymore.