In the dating world, when your dates or relationships fail to pan out to whatever you’d hoped for, you or a good friend pick up your trodden heart with a cheeky and clichéd saying:
“There’s plenty of fish in the sea.”
And there are!
Some special fish out there will love it. Promise.
The underlying message is the essence of the “abundance mentality” — in other words, it’s the perspective that there ARE enough opportunities for happiness, silly-looking fish, and success to go around … for everyone!
But for whatever reason, many of us — myself included — have a heck of a time applying this same rationale to other areas of life, especially when figuring out how to be a successful entrepreneur. In business we start out wrestling with 50 gigajillion business ideas and “what if” scenarios (like “What if I incorporated this sloth into my brand design? Sloths are hip and cool right now, right?!”).
During my own initial brainstorming process to figure out what fancy-pants business I wanted to pursue, I ended up dismissing a good chunk of viable (and equally cruddy) ideas because I doubted my own ability to compete and thought, “What’s the point? It’s already been done so there’s no chance for me to ever get my penthouse suite…”
It was a self-limiting belief, but at the time, it seemed an insurmountable mental block. Two years later, I’ve learned two important lessons that helped me:
- What “success” looks like can be defined only by me, and me alone.
- Just because my business idea already existed doesn’t mean there aren’t MANY MORE new and different customers I could serve.
To think that just because something “has been done already” and believe there’s not enough success for everyone in the world is to view the whole world as a (delicious) pie, with only so many slices to go around. And once those slices of pie are gobbled up, the rest of us are left with gross, stale crumbs — or nothing at all.
But life is not always a zero-sum game, where you only win if someone else loses.
At GrowthLab, we call this the “It’s already been done” fallacy. For me, this was the myth of limited success that held me back from feeling secure and confident about my own endeavors — competition be damned.
And once I really looked all around me, I realized that all the thousands of different kinds of businesses — all these fast food burger chains, personal finances sites, dieting books, or travel Instagrammers — can each thrive in their own way. And what I realized further was that the businesses that flourished weren’t always novel or 100% innovative: They made improvements and added massive value in some way to different customers.
Yahoo was around long before Google. Myspace and Friendster were the “precursors” to Facebook. There are Pepsi folks, and then there are Coca-Cola folks (and let’s not even talk about La Croix folks). In other words, having the “same” idea, concept, or business model as another isn’t what could make or break you as an entrepreneur — it’s how you differentiate yourself in the market, and in turn, the value you provide to your customers.
Think of it another way: Articles.
There are literally hundreds of articles on the internet about “how to lose weight” or “how to be a successful entrepreneur.” If you were to write another article on losing weight, some of us may roll our eyes, but also you’d have to approach it with a fresh perspective using your own background, credentials, experiences, writing style, and knowledge — and that already has the potential to make it uniquely yours and uniquely resonate with different readers!
This is something I tell students of my advanced writing course: That just because someone has written about “your idea” already doesn’t mean there’s no room to have your say too. You don’t need the best or most groundbreaking article idea. You just need to find the “angle” or fresh perspective that makes the article’s message appeal to a few people. If you can think of a better or different way to articulate an idea or solve someone’s problem, then come on down (read that in Bob Barker’s The Price Is Right tone)!
Really, my big ol’ message is that just as there are plenty of fish in the sea to date, there are plenty of potential customers that you can impact with your authentic self, your offerings, your own way of running your business, and you.
Have an experience of finding a way to overcome this “myth of limited success”? Share in the comments! It’d be groovy to read them.