Here’s my general daily routine for the past few months:
I wake up at 9am. Eat something. Watch some YouTube videos. Nap at 11am. Wake up again with a headache at 1pm. Read TechCrunch, Tech in Asia, e27 and feel that my startup’s a failure. For the next few hours I think constantly on how to make my startup work but usually it ends like how it started, all thinking and no actionables. At 7pm I patiently wait for my mum to buy me dinner and I YouTube again till 12mn and go to sleep feeling sorry for myself.
“A startup’s not easy.” “There’s only a 1% chance you’ll succeed.” “Just take it as a learning experience if it fails.”
This is what I heard, what I told myself, what I believed in. I never told anyone else how I truly felt. It was bad enough to find myself a loser. I didn’t need others to think that I’m a loser too.
Then comes one day we realized that our startup is running out of cash and venture capital firms have no interest in funding us unless we provided a proof of concept in the most fundamental way possible — Attaining first revenue.
Without cash, we weren’t able to conduct marketing to acquire users. Without users, we cannot provide leads to our customers. Without leads, our customers will soon abandon us. Without customers, there’s no startup.
Within the team, we decided to approach our potential customers whom we spoke to in the past few months to get them to pay for a 3-month trial period, when we originally promised them a 6-month free trial. To further the ridiculousness of this, we haven’t been able to generate many leads for our potential customers since the last time we talked to them.
I went into the office of our first customer with dread. How is it possible that we can convince them to pay us? Even I wouldn’t pay if I were them.
The meeting lasted for an hour and a half. It started from “I thought you said free for 6 months?!” to “I’m not really sure this will work out.” to “Fine, I’ll try you out but this will be the last shot I’m gonna give you.”
With that, we achieved our first revenue.
The feeling when I held on to our first cheque was as if Fixir (I guess it’s okay for me to promote my startup a little now) was given a new lease of life.
It wasn’t the amount that was going to sustain us. It was the fact that we had customers that valued the potential service we can offer them and were willing to pay that made all the difference.
Fixir was no longer some cash-burning-one-in-a-million-startup. It is a revenue generating one.
That day, we managed to close 2 more customers and 6 over the course of the week.
So here comes the main part of my story:
I began to be in the flow.
Being in the flow to me refers to a state where a person can do great work with minimal disruptions and with repeated transient productivity.
It’s something like when coders can create wonders via coding for hours and painters drawing upon inspiration to do up great pieces of art.
Steve Jobs was in the flow when he took long walks. He convinced top executives to join him in his mission in changing the world and had creative ideas while taking those long walks.
Gandhi was in the flow when he meditated and drew strength from his spiritual life.
Being in the flow for me looked like this:
I started to wake up naturally early to go for jogs (something I swear I hated to do previously).
I started to have new interesting ideas popping into my head.
I started to want to interact more with friends, to hang out, to have fun.
I started to feel happier, in a way I stopped feeling sorry for myself and stopped complaining as frequently as I used to.
And I felt compelled to write this. Because I want to document the reason why I’m this way now, why I’m in the flow, so that when I feel lost subsequently, I can drag myself back up.
I really like ‘The Last Lecture’ by Randy Pausch. It’s a meaningful book and I’ll encourage everyone to pick it up. Today, I’m going to borrow one of the concepts he made famous, and it is that all that I’ve written above was a ‘head fake’.
My purpose of this post is not to help you find your flow. You’ll find out why.
I couldn’t see the value in my startup. But our customers saw our sincerity as something they wanted to support. They wanted us to succeed too because everyone stands to gain. Drivers get better deals, car workshops get more customers and of course Fixir becomes a successful business. (Thanks for letting me promote my startup once again).
The revenue generation was a trigger. It was an external trigger which caused me to regain confidence and do all the things I do now that make me happier.
That trigger led to another trigger in my mind. A trigger that caused my paradigm to shift. It was from a ‘My startup wasn’t gonna work out’ to ‘My startup provides real value. I’m doing something purposeful.’
And that’s something very powerful. Something I never quite subscribed to because I haven’t really experienced being in the flow till now.
That initial trigger wasn’t a huge financial investment, but it was all it took to change me.
It dawned onto me how little it takes to be a trigger for someone else. If you’re a parent, maybe your words of encouragement can change a whole trajectory of your child. If you’re working, maybe some kind words is all it takes to brighten up your colleague’s day and build a long lasting friendship. If you’re an established business owner, then of course your support for budding entrepreneurs can mean everything to a startup.
So today, my purpose here is not to help you find your flow, but to show you that you can easily be someone else’s trigger for a better life.
It doesn’t take much, but it can mean the world to someone.