Cheers to the one who had the courage to sink!

One of my favourite stories in the Bible clearly illustrates what it’s like to step out in faith.

The Disciples were travelling on a boat across the Sea of Galilee when they saw a figure walking on water.  They were rightfully terrified until the figure identified Himself as Jesus.

Still unsure, one of the Disciples – Peter cries out, ‘If it’s really you, then call me out unto the water!’

Jesus does so, and Peter walks on water.

That is until, Peter sees the waves, and the storm, takes his eyes of Jesus and begins to sink.  In desperation, he cries for help.

Jesus immediately grabs him, stops him from sinking and says: ‘Faint-heart, what got into you?’

Reading commentaries on this passage I frequently see Peter chastised for his lack of faith – if only he kept his eyes on Jesus, then he could have kept on walking on water, etc.

Now all this is true, but what about the fact that Peter was the only person to have the faith to step out of the boat in the first place?  

What about the fact that he remains the only person in History (outside of Jesus) to actually know what it feels like to have water under his feet?

What can we learn about faith when we are on the edge of stepping out? 

I wonder if his fellow disciples who saw this event with their own eyes were commentating on Peter taking his eyes of Jesus when he sank, or were they highlighting the fact that he was the only one who had the faith and courage to step out of the boat in the first place? We may never know.

What we do know, is that Peter stepped out of the boat and he experienced both victory and defeat.  He was set apart from the others who were spectators.  I say, “Cheers to the one who had the courage to sink!”

Being part of provides me the consistent privilege of meeting new and upcoming business owners who are stepping out in faith.

I am frequently asked: ‘How did you know it was the right time to start your business?’

The answer?  I didn’t!

In fact, there were many reasons why it was not the right time.  It was post the ‘dot com’ crash of 2000. I had limited experience, little start-up capital and I was in a great job.

Whilst there was no key reason, there were numerous personal epiphanies that lead me to step out in faith – five of which I am going to share with you now.

Epiphany 1: Good is the Enemy of Best

Many of us on balance, have ‘good’ lives, and there will always be more that we desire.  We may have a stable job, a comfortable place to live, safe neighbourhoods, solid development opportunities etc. These are all blessings to be thankful for. The real danger for us lies in the ‘good’ – becoming comfortable. The ‘good’ has the potential to prevent us from taking the steps towards the ‘best’ (whatever that may be).

Prior to starting, I was in a ‘good,’ scratch that, ‘great’ career position.  I reported to the Australian CEO of a Fortune 50 company with more than US$1 Billion annual turnover. I had strong development opportunities and had recently completed my post graduate studies in Business.

Whilst I was thankful for these amazing blessings, I had an even stronger desire to start and run my own business.  I realised that if I stayed, I would have settled for the ‘good’ – comfort, convenience, and foreseeable financial gain – over the ‘best’ (for me) of purpose, conviction and adventure.

Epiphany 2: Redefine Success and Failure

A key critical success factor of any organisation (whether it is for profit, charitable or otherwise) is its’ ability to remain financially viable.  If an organisation has an inability to achieve this, then in some ways it fails.

When involved in a new venture, the ability to predict the financial viability of the organisation is difficult. It can be so difficult that it becomes debilitating.

Whilst every new venture needs solid economic modelling, a clear business strategy, a structure to foster vision and accountability through mentors or a board clearly have their place – our personal convictions to start an organisation far outweighs them all.

When I first started, I had to redefine what ‘success’ or ‘failure’ meant for me personally.  It went something like this:

  • ‘Failure’ was redefined as: ‘Stay in my current job and have a successful career.’
  • ‘Success’ was redefined as: ‘Start this new business venture.’ Note: that there was nothing in this definition that was related to financial success.

By redefining ‘success’ and ‘failure’ it gave me the courage to start despite all the unknowns.

Epiphany 3: Commentary is Easy.  Participation Demands Far More.

As people, we love to watch and comment – we all have an opinion.  There are lessons to be learnt from the lives of others, we need to remember that participation demands far more from us than commentary.

Theodore Roosevelt summed this up well in his famous speech to the University of Paris in April, 1910.  In it, he rallied against the cynics who looked down at others who were trying to make the world a better place.  ‘The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer,’ he said.  He then delivered what would become one of the most quoted speeches of our time.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.’

We always have high hopes when we start a new venture.  Dreams to change lives, our industry or the world.  These dreams can be fragile. Life rarely goes the way we plan or hope for.  Regardless, of the ‘success’ or ‘failure’ of our venture, we have a place, an insight, a knowing that we are amongst a rare few that dared to follow through on our dreams.

Epiphany 4: Everyone is an expert in retrospect.

Everyone knows the answer in retrospect.

Had Cavalry been a ‘failure’, I knew that everyone would know why it failed in retrospect.  Wrong time, wrong commercial offering, wrong person, the list goes on!

Now that many regard Cavalry as a ‘success’, it is amazing how many of those original cynics share with me how they ‘always knew it was going to work.’

The take out?  Don’t worry about the expert opinions made in retrospect.

Epiphany 5: Do Your Best to Listen to God Over the Opinions of Others

We all need support and encouragement in life.  Sometimes when sharing a dream with someone close to us (whether it be a close friend or family member) we can be hurt when they do not share our same enthusiasm.

Whilst such interactions can be discouraging, I believe this is an unfair expectation to place upon our friends and family.  We must remember that the individual make-up, purpose and plans our confidant has for their life is different to ours.  We need not be surprised when the direction our lives are taking are different to those that are closest to us and we should not be surprised when a lack of understanding ensues.

Stepping out in any venture always takes a level of maverick thinking.  This type of thinking is always going to be confronting for others.

I love this quote from the late Steve Jobs that talks to this:

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.  Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.  Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice.  And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.  They somehow already know what you truly want to become.  Everything else is secondary.’

I also love what the numerous passages of the bible say about this.

God knows us so intimately that he has engraved us on the palms of his hands and has numbered the hairs on our head.  He has determined the exact times and places for us to be.  He wants us to be in partnership with Him on a purpose that is far greater than ourselves.  The way forward will not always be clear, but there is a glory in seeking God in whatever the circumstance.

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.’ Proverbs 25:2 NIV.

More than God giving us direction, He desires relationship with us.  There is a glory as we seek God despite the circumstances.

So is there ever a ‘right time’ to start a business?  I think the answer is ‘no,’ but these five personal epiphanies continue to help navigate my path and I hope they provide encouragement and direction for you on this journey.

To your ongoing success and that your lives may leave a legacy for others.