Breaking Through: 5 Tips for Reframing Challenges into Opportunities

by / ⠀Entrepreneurship / April 24, 2014


Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you to sit down and visualize. Or meditate. Or do yoga every day for a month. (Although I have tried those things.)

I’ve been an entrepreneur for my entire (six year) career. After a few short-lived internships in college, I realized I’d do whatever it took to be my own boss until the end of my days.

With that said, I’ve seen challenges. Oh, have I seen them. The days when I couldn’t get out of bed if a 10-foot crane was pulling me out by the cranium. The day when I got my very first hater and even though everyone told me, “That means you’ve made it!” it still made me cry. The days when I realized 50 percent of my first production-run had holes and crooked pockets that couldn’t be shipped to customers.

Good times.

And even though it always seemed like the end of the world in the moment, I survived. And what I’ve learned is that the most successful people are the ones who are able to reframe challenges to see the silver lining of opportunity. Here are five ways to do the same:

1.) Remember that the early stages are the easiest time to reroute. Don’t miss the turnoff.

So you’ve invested your life savings, spent uncountable hours, and sacrificed all of your relationships for one idea. For six months, you’ve dreamed about the day when you, too, would tell Mark Zuckerberg, “Yes, I’ll accept your $2B offer.” Except that you’ve recently realized there isn’t market demand for your product (oops, forgot to add research to the to-do list) and you’re pretty certain you’ve hit a dead-end.

Abandon ship. Instead of lamenting hours lost, focus on the hours gained by walking away from a bad idea. In the grand scheme of your business and your career, there’s never a better time to let go than in the early stages.

2.) Embrace the bad times with the good times. It becomes your story.

In the early days of my first company, my co-founder and I started a blog a year and a half before we had a product to sell. We were 23 years old, and we wanted to share the bumps and triumphs of two young entrepreneurs trying to start a business.

We were candid. We shared everything from a play-by-play of our first big fight to the hundreds of dollars we burned on a designer who botched our first prototype. When it came time to launch our Kickstarter campaign we had built a loyal following of people who had been through the bad times and the good times with us. They knew our story and they supported us unconditionally.

It was in large part because of our story that we became the highest-funded fashion project in Kickstarter history at that time. Your challenges are compelling — embrace and share them.

3.) Know that you will lose money, you will waste money, and you will burn bridges. It’s called growth.

Early-stage startups tend to hold onto money tightly (especially if we’re bootstrapping). But don’t hold on so tightly that it paralyzes you from making decisions. Assume that you will spend money you regret. But know that everyone else does, too. You will piss people off, you will kill the deal, you will say things you don’t mean. But you will also find freedom in knowing that it’s inevitable. So don’t be afraid to grow.

4.) The next idea is usually better than the one before it.

The initial vision for my first company was to create a clothing line of 10 pieces that could be mixed and matched to create over 100 different looks. We called it the “ideal wardrobe for the female traveler and minimalist.” When we realized how difficult (and expensive) it would be to go into production with all 10 pieces, we began to reevaluate.

By the time we officially launched the company, we had created an entirely new product to sell: one garment that could be worn over 20 different ways. When it comes to entrepreneurship, opportunities are often disguised as bumps in the road. Don’t hold onto the dream so tightly that you can’t see the better option on the other side.

5.) Your customers will tell you what your USP is. So get your product out into the world.

Your unique selling proposition isn’t always obvious. Or you think it’s one thing and the market tells you it’s something completely different. If you listen to the response of your customers, they will happily tell you. Oftentimes, it’s more important to get your offering out into the world, so you can gather feedback, reevaluate, adapt and rework. Done is always better than perfect.

Shannon Whitehead is the founder of Factory45, an accelerator program that gives independent makers the resources to start sustainable businesses in the USA. Shannon got her start in 2010 when she co-founded {r}evolution apparel, a sustainable clothing company for female travelers and minimalists that was featured in The New York Times, Forbes.com, TheWallStreetJournal.com and Yahoo! News. Applications for Factory45 are now open until April 28, 2014.

Image Credit: http://www.commentskart.com/

About The Author

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on Under30CEO.com, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.