* W A R N I N G *
The themes in the following post may be distressing.
She was just a year old and her brother, James was aged three the day her father walked out. It meant the end of her mother’s career, moving across the country and restarting life as a family of three.
The years that followed were beyond troubled.
Suffering with insomnia and bullied for being slim, she developed an eating disorder in her teens. Alongside trying to maintain a relationship with her father, she found it extremely difficult to connect with people. It was during this time that she discovered a therapeutic and horrific ritual that, whilst distressing for her mother and brother, was the only thing that made her feel alive.
She cut herself.
Suffering from depression she self-harmed regularly before discovering drugs. In fact there was barely a drug that she didn’t take although heroin was her go-to. Her spiralling self-destruction continued into her twenties and almost with catastrophic results. She planned her own suicide and even tried to hire a hitman to do it for her. Put simply, she was a punk kid who'd be lucky to make 30.
At the age of 24, scarred and tattooed, the safest place for her was the psychiatric ward. When things came to a head, she was detained and closely watched; her life depended on it. She was, for a short time at least, safe from the hitman, the heroin and herself.
The word 'remarkable' doesn't even come close to what happened next. According to Forbes in 2009, this distressed young woman was the most powerful celebrity on the planet.
On the planet.
For someone who found daily life so excruciatingly difficult, how, in the name of Rocky and Bulwinkle, did she find the resilience to reach the very top of her game? As Sharon Salzburg noted (meditation guru, best-selling author and provider of the quote I was looking for):
"You are capable of so much more than we usually dare to imagine." This is a truth. Especially true when it comes to takeaway pizza.
Anyway let's examine the facts about this extraordinary woman. She is a mother of six (by adoption as well as birth), an academy award winning actor (throw in a few golden globes for good measure), a writer, a director, an entrepreneur and a global humanitarian (working with the United Nations). As if that wasn’t enough, she achieved this through three divorces and a double mastectomy (to prevent the cancer that her mum suffered and took the life of her Aunt). Oh and in a final middle finger to her past mental health troubles, she decided to share the emotional experience of her consultation, operation and recovery publicly (despite a challenging history with the media) to encourage other women at risk of breast cancer. Her decision led to an unprecedented and sustained increase in gene-testing around the world as thousands of women faced their fears and stepped forward.
She stared death in the face and death blinked first.
She sat in the darkest of thoughts, across her formative years, yet went on to achieve truly incredible things in the oppressive glare of the public attention worldwide.
But despite all of this, Angelina Jolie will, in her own words: “always be a punk kid with tattoos.”
Mental health support:
Samaritans (UK): Call 116123 - www.samaritans.org
SPL (USA): 1-800-273-8255 - www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
First this: I have no ulterior motive. It matters not to me nor the PopUp Business School if you are successful with your business or not. There is no quota to fill, no target to hit and no incentive to get you into business. All that matters to me is I do my absolute best to help you to create and live your best life, because that's what we are here to do.
You've probably already discovered that entrepreneurship and starting small businesses is not a linear process. I can't remember meeting anyone who went from zero business experience to successful idea launched, making money quickly and with maximum enjoyment and satisfaction in one move! If you have, then congratulations, incredible effort and I’m really pissed off because it’s taken YEARS to create this monster.
Secondly I have no answers for you; you're the only person who really knows. I do have a a few important questions and one or two clues to help you decide you next move. My best advice is to answer the questions and write your answers down magic happens when you write things down)
Thirdly I am not a natural entrepreneur; my feeling is they are unicorns. Which is a pain because that means each of us has within us the capability to become one.
If you’re thinking of quitting then it’s probably because you’re not enjoying the experience, either because you're overwhelmed with too much work (put up your prices and outsource the bits you don't enjoy) or you’re not making enough money (if it's the latter read on).
1. You've become disconnected from your reason why
So if you’re thinking of quitting, I’d probably go back to the reason why you wanted to try out this business stuff in the first place. Here are mine:
Has anything changed for you from your reason why. If the answer is yes, cool. Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate how you pay the bills. But if things are STILL true then will quitting really help you get closer to you what you want. Maybe by fully committing will actually get you closer, faster.
Entrepreneurship doesn't solve any problems - it just means you swap the problems of working for someone else with the problem of where the next buck is coming from. Or the problem of having an annoying boss with the problem of the buck stopping with you. Which problems would you rather live with?
2. You’ve not fully committed
Have you FULLY committed and taken responsibility to make this business happen? This has regularly been my problem. Unfinished projects that in themselves are great ideas that have really been half-arsed attempt will accompany me to the grave. Here are a three of those juicy questions I promised:
3. You’re not looking after yourself
Sometimes we're just plain exhausted and (from personal experience I don't tend to stop until I drop). Then from my pile of exhaustion on the sofa I feel like I can't do this any more. What do you need to do to look after yourself?
4. You’re not investing in your learning and development
Starting and growing a business doesn't really solve any problems it just presents different ones (that sometimes feel tougher than the ones you originally had). How to defeat this you have three main things:
1. Learn new things
2. Learn new things
3. Learn new things
5. You've stopped having fun
This is a tricky one. It's closely linked to point three but something I only realised recently was that I had a tendency to spend too much time in discomfort. Whenever there is growth there is stress but you can’t operate in uncertainty 24/7 without losing your marbles. Stop worrying. Be grateful for what you have got rather than anxious about what you haven't. And look how far you've come and how much you've learned.
6. You haven't got the right to say it’s not working?
If you’ve happened across a business idea that works 100% first time, it plays out exactly how you planned it AND you LOVE every second of it then know this:
I’ll be very happy for you and extremely pissed off in equal measure. It's taken me years of failing, learning, adjusting, regurgitating, failing some more and dealing with unexpected opportunities and problems daily before even getting close to the results I want.
These are the questions I would ask you:
Have you focused on one idea?
Have you niched down properly?
Have you taken huge proactive action to promote your business?
Have you taken a critical look at HOW you've executed, learned and adjusted?
Have you taken the trouble to learn more?
If the answer is no, you don't have the right to say it's not working yet.
CEO & Co-founder of the PopUp Business School.