How to Talk Your Way Out of Success

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I’ve never been a fan of censorship. As a teenager, I thought I should be able to say whatever I want, and listen to whatever I want. I can still vividly remember the first time I bought a CD with a “Parental Advisory” sticker on it.

There is, however, a word that I would like to permanently stricken from the vocabulary of all small business owners.

The If Word

I’m sorry to have darkened your innocent eyes with such filth. Yes, the “if” word. It’s the word I use so often to my own detriment, and I’m sure you use it all the time too? Ok, I suppose I should be more specific. Just casting out the word “if” might be a bit tricky in everyday conversation. Here are some examples.

If I had 100 clients I could stop worrying about advertising.
If the bank would just approve that loan I’d stop worrying about the bills.
If I could afford to hire someone I would finally get some sleep.

Do any of those sound familiar? Can you think of other examples you tell yourself? There are certainly times when planning ahead is not only a good idea, but necessary for your business. The difference is that those are “what if” statements. No, it’s not the same thing. “What if” helps you plan for the future.

What if our site gets linked to from Lifehacker tomorrow?
What if that TV spot we’re running brings in 100 new customers next week?
What if we don’t meet our sales goals next quarter?

It’s often a subtle difference, but it’s a dramatic shift in attitude toward your business. “What if” statements like these help you plan for realistic scenarios. They help you setup systems to allow for future growth or temporary setbacks. “If” statements take you out of reality, and get you stuck imagining your business being different. It sets you up with a load of excuses for failure. “If only” you had started with $1,000,000, the business would be some much easier to manage. No kidding? Of course it would be.

But that’s not reality, is it?

No, you’re working at the kitchen table next to your kids doing their homework. You’re up working at 3am with the flu because you forgot about the 8am deadline you promised your client last week. Don’t is everyone else. The 22 year old that just got $10 million in VC funding gets a lot more press, but is a miniscule exception to the rule. When you sit around wishing that was you, you’re cheating your business out of valuable time and effort.

Instead, ask yourself powerful questions that have their roots in the current situation.

What could I do today to land 1 new client?
How could I increase the sales to my current customers by 10% next month?
Is there a way for me to put aside $200/month into an emergency fund in case I have a slow month?

No, these are not sexy. You’re not getting on the cover of Wired magazine because your iPhone app brought in $300 more this month than last. It does mean that this month you can actually afford to buy a copy to see who is. It also means, if you keep increasing your sales by $300/month, that a lot of that stress you are putting on yourself will start to fade away...and isn’t that the point?