Motivation and the lonely middle

We have been toiling away for the last three months. Living at home with the folks and cycling to our humble office in Mitcham. We’re in that hard in between stage between the initial flush of starting a new enterprise and the excitement of actual sales.

This is a lonely phase. The initial vision becomes cloudy. Execution is uneven. You spend a great deal of time feeling like you’re failing (even if you’re actually just learning). You need to stay positive and stay motivated, but how?

Stanford GSB hosts an Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Series. Each week, they podcast lectures by a truly impressive array of speakers — rounded individuals working on hard problems. Last week, I listened to Ron Gutman of HealthTap. HealthTap is working on the difficult problem of improving peoples’ life-spans by making medical information more widely accessible. Our challenge at Twoodie pales in comparison.

Gutman says that impact should be your motivator through the hard times. You need to keep your values and objectives front and centre. I have set out some of our key motivators below. However, relying on impact as a motivator is easier said than done. The possibility of making an impact is a good motivator for starting, but in the lonely middle it’s not clear your business is having or will ever have an impact.

Gutman also says that it’s important to have the right people around you and to stay positive. On that count, he is certainly right. Basing ourselves in suburban Melbourne during this period was probably less than ideal. It would seem easier to stay positive in a place like Silicon Valley among a community of fellow travellers.

Positivity is hard (whoever you are). However, as Gutman says, we all live in a bubble where our perception of difficultly is based on our own perspective. First world problems surely do not equate with the difficulties faced by those living in poverty.

One must keep their sense of perspective and their sense of humour. As Gail Kelly (the ex-CEO of Westpac) has said: “One should actively choose to be positive, to see the world from a glass half-full perspective”. It’s really not feasible to see the world any other way.

To take a biblical reference, Paul posits in Phillipians that one must master the art of being content in all situations.

Our motivators

  1. We started Twoodie because we feel that the toy market has been neglected. The “physical” toy industry has been mass producing the same toys based on movie spin-off for generations. We thought it was time to review and re-think this market for a digital age. Toys are also a platform for influencing the next generation by educating them in concepts like sustainability, sharing and design from a young age.
  2. We believe in mission driven businesses i.e. that businesses that place a particular mission before profit do better. We do not believe profit is unimportant, but that companies which focus on making the customer happy (and take a broad view of their role as a social institution) do better over the long term.
  3. We wanted to experiment in innovative retailing strategies such as vertical integration, transport supply chains and omni-channel.
  4. We also wanted to learn and test ourselves. This means preparing oneself for the new economy by participating in the digital revolution. It also means growing one’s character by testing it in challenging circumstances.
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