I’m back in New York after a successful end-to-end hike of the Long Trail with my brother! It was an incredibly difficult, incredibly wonderful 273 miles over the high peaks and through the wilderness areas of Vermont. All those miles gave me time to think and, amidst those thoughts, I began piecing together some of the ways backpacking prepared me to venture off on my own as an edupreneur and poet. I’ve decided to share them below, as they’re important traits and considerations for anyone planning a similar adventure in self-employment!
Take Care of Little Things- Getting a blister 20 miles into a trail might not seem like a big deal, but if I had just left it alone then the next 253 would have been miserable. I needed to stop and take care of my feet with each blister and hot spot that popped up . Similarly, small issues like a broken link or mislabeled website header will inevitably come up when I’m working on larger projects like books or presentations. While it’s annoying to stop, especially if I’m in a good pace with the project, if I let those little things go they'll become problematic later. For example. If I don't fix that broken link because I don't think it's worth taking my time from my presentation, then if someone visits my site after hearing said lecture and can't access what they want, I've lost a customer.
Preparation & Planning - While developing a full business plan has become a thing of the past (check out the principles of the Lean Start-Up) I still had to make sure I had the right tools in place before I set out. Backpacking requires not just gear, but knowledge about my gear. It doesn’t do me any good to have a tent if I can’t set it up. Before I set off on my own business venture, I had practiced blogging, done volunteer workshops with the non-profits who would later hire me, and practiced talking about my curriculum at conferences. So make sure you’re ready before you head out the door!
Adapt, Adjust… Adapt Again - With a good plan you also need to be flexible, because you won't truly know what you'll need until you're in the field. Be ready to change on the fly or, drop something all together. When I started Donnie Welch Poetry I also started a podcast because I thought it would be the thing to do… then I realized I didn’t have clients yet. The podcast was a fine idea, but not practical from a business standpoint so I had to ditch it. Maybe it’ll be useful on a future adventure (I still have all the accounts in place), but I don’t need to be lugging it around right now.
Take Measurable Steps Toward a Goal- A big hike like the Long Trail takes patience. We had to chip away at miles over 25 days. This practice, breaking down a massive undertaking into small goals, is exactly what I do when I know I want to put out a new book. I don't expect to sit down and write, edit, and publish everything in one day or even one week, instead I break down what sections of it I'll need to do. I’ll start with a writing schedule, then I'll work on the design, then send out an advance text to close colleauges for feedback, finally I’ll plan the promotional work for a release. It’s a process. If I rushed right to the finish line, not only would the quality be sub-par, but I’d burn myself out!
No One's Going to Do It for You - As an entrepreneur you're on your own, no one is going to carry you up that mountain, you're either going to climb it or you're not. That’s not to say you can’t have a support network or find like minded people. I had my brother and around us were a bubble of other end-to-end hikers. But my hike was ultimately up to me to walk or not. Running Donnie Welch Poetry there are no sick days, no boss to hold to me accountable for not working one day or slacking, it’s just me. I either get up and work or I don’t. This can be a hard choice (especially with so many bingeable shows a click or two away!), but one that any aspiring entrepreneur needs to be aware of.
Trust Yourself- This kind of a more optimistic pt 2 to "No One’s Going to do it for You.” Trust yourself. Trust yourself when you make a decision. Trust yourself to get the work you need done. Trust yourself to succeed. You've trained and focused to get where you are so act with confidence. This isn't to say you won't make mistakes, you will and you'll correct for them (again and again) but don't let that deter you. Enjoy the journey, you’ve got this!