How to turn mistakes into profits

by | Feb 1, 2010

Even the most talented artists need to learn their craft. The same is true of learning how to make a profit when you work for yourself.
And we learn largely by trial and error.
The artist has the luxury of making mistakes in private, or at least in the relatively private confines of the studio. But attempts to make a profit are necessarily public. And that brings up all kinds of stuff.
Embarrassment. Feelings of rejection. Self-doubt. All of which can make you reluctant to try again.
And if you don’t try again (and again, and again), you’ll be lucky if you make ends meet, let alone make a profit.
So you need a new model for making mistakes along the path to profitability.
Making a profit is an art, too
Though you may not be accustomed to thinking of it this way, making a profit is an art. It’s a process with two goals, one of which you can meet and exceed, the other which you won’t reach no matter how long you try.
The first kind of goal is measurable and specific. Like earning $75,000 or getting 6 new clients.
The second goal is mastery.
And however striking the first kind of goal is, it’s pursuing mastery that makes earning a profit an art.
The path of mastery
Mastery is something you never accomplish, no matter how long or hard you try. Paradoxically, that’s what makes mastery worthwhile. It’s bigger than you are, bigger than your personal wants and needs.
While you can be motivated to reach the first kind of goal by extrinsic factors, only intrinsic motivation, the desire to learn and grow continually, is sufficient for the path of mastery.
The path to mastery is paved with repeated mistakes, both public and private. And the only way the ego can tolerate repeated mistakes is if it’s subordinated to something bigger, as you probably know from learning the work you love.
The work that got you into the position of needing to make a profit to begin with.
When profit is incidental
When making a profit is incidental to the work you do, it’s natural to approach it as a necessary evil. Something you seek because of extrinsic factors, like needing to pay your mortgage or put food on the table.
And as important as those extrinsic factors are, they aren’t enough to offset the pain of inevitable mistakes. Which is why so many Accidental Entrepreneurs pursue profitability with less than their whole hearts.
Which means avoiding repeated mistakes. Which explains a lot about why you probably aren’t making as much profit as you want to.
Shifting focus to mastery
In order to persevere on the path to profitability, you need to shift your focus from short-term needs and wants to mastery. And to do that, you need three things.
* A bigger purpose
* A learning path
* A support system
Connecting with a bigger purpose
Fortunately, your bigger purpose is as near as your commitment to your primary work. After all, profit is an energy source without which you can’t do what you’ve chosen to do. When you reframe profitability in terms of the energy that brings your work to life (and allows you to share it more widely), you infuse it with a purpose that can impel you toward mastery.
In other words, you make profit bigger than personal gain.
Choosing a learning path
Choosing a learning path is a bit more complicated. You’ll want a path that not only teaches the skills you need, but that also resonates with your values and your bigger purpose.
And having chosen that path, you need to make a commitment to follow it through thick and thin. It’s not enough to take a class here and there, to try a technique only to abandon it when it doesn’t quite work out the way you want.
You need to keep walking the learning path you’ve chosen.
Building a support system
Staying on the path even when you’re stumbling requires a support system. You need challengers to spur you on and cheerleaders to encourage you. You need peers who are a bit ahead of you to show you the way, and peers who are right where you are to share the journey.
And you need folks coming up behind you so you can teach them what you have learned.
You can gain mastery over profit
Pursuing mastery is a lifelong commitment, but benefiting from the pursuit begins as soon as you step on the path. With a bigger purpose, a learning path, and a support system, you move out of isolation and vulnerability into a bigger field of endeavor. A place where even your mistakes have dignity and meaning.
And that means making a profit is not only possible, but well within your grasp.
The Art of Getting Clients
To make a profit, you need clients, and not just any clients. You need clients who really get and benefit from your work. The kind that stay a while and that spread the word to their friends.
The kind of clients that fit just-right.
On February 10, you’re invited to a no-cost teleclass in the art of getting clients. I hope you’ll join me for 3 Keys to Getting Clients with Ease and Grace. Read all about it.