One of the most influential business books of all time is Good to Great by Jim Collins. In it, Collins profiles some of the characteristics that have allowed some companies to make the leap from being “good” to being “great”. Although the book wasn’t originally written for home based entrepreneurs like myself, there has been one concept from the book that has absolutely changed our business for the better. Once we started to really apply this concept, our Scentsy business took off. We were able to grow exponentially, expand internationally and really find success.
What is this concept: The Stockdale Paradox (Confronting The Brutal Facts)
I would argue that this concept has had more impact on us than any other (with the exception perhaps of the Compound Effect). I would also argue that it is one of the most critical principles than any new home business or direct sales entrepreneur must accept and embrace.
So what is the Stockdale Paradox and what are the Brutal Facts?
When Collins was writing his book he interviewed Admiral Jim Stockdale, the highest ranking military officer in the “Hanoi-Hilton” prisoner of war camp during the height of the Vietnam War. Stockdale was tortured over 20 times during his eight year imprisonment, and would later go on to become the first three-star officer in the history of the Navy to wear both Aviator Wings and the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery in not giving up information despite the repeated torture he endured.
Collins asked Admiral Stockdale how he was able to withstand this torture, and not give in. He replied that he “never lost faith in the end of the story”. Simple enough. So then Collins followed up with this question: “who didn’t make it out”. That is where the paradox comes in:
Now Collins was confused, because only moments early Stockdale had said that never losing faith (ie. optimism) was the secret, now he was saying that the optimists never made it out. That is when Stockdale revealed the real secret, he noted:
This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end – which you can never afford to lose – with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.
So – there it was. Maintaining faith, yet confronting the most brutal facts of one’s current reality. In Stockdale’s case it meant accepting the reality that torture would be involved before he was rescued. So he never lost faith that he would be rescued, but he was able to confront the brutal facts of his current reality (ie torture).
How does this apply to a home based, or direct sales business. Simple. Many people get into these businesses not knowing how hard it is to actually be successful. They are mislead by the person who gets them in, and they think that their path to success and financial freedom will be easy. Then when they find out that it’s not, they get discouraged and quit. We have seen it with hundreds of independent consultants in this business. The same story over and over. They get in. It’s harder than they thought. They get discouraged. They quit.
The people who stick, including us, are able to confront the brutal facts of their current reality, whatever they might be.
What are the brutal facts of a direct sales, or home based business. Here are just a few:
- You have to do things that scare you. You can’t just post Facebook status updates and be successful. You have to actually pick up the phone, or get out of your house, and talk to real people, and market your business;
- Not everyone that you talk to will be interested in your product or the business opportunity. In fact the majority of people won’t be interested;
- Rejection is a part of the business, accept it;
- The people who are the most successful are the people who take the most consistent action, and those that persist past disappointment;
- You can’t treat this business like an employee. You can’t just take out every cent of profit. You have to be willing to invest back in;
- It generally takes longer than you think it will to get to a six figure income;
- You will likely have to figure a lot of things out on your own;
- There are sales cycles. It is generally slower in the summer than in the fall and Christmas;
- Many people who get involved in a home based business will quit.
- It is possible to build a wonderful home based business if one accepts the brutal facts and acts in spite of them (this is a brutal fact as well)
Now some people may read that list and get depressed, and maybe even want to quit (if they are currently a home based business entrepreneur).
If this happens, my point is illustrated perfectly. The people who are successful in this business will confront these facts, and accept them. They won’t whine about it. They just accept it, and once they have accepted it, they are able to take action, in spite of the brutal facts. When one of the brutal facts happens they don’t get discouraged because they have already, in their minds, accepted them as reality.
Those who fail in this business model, never accept the brutal facts. They get discouraged easily when the facts of reality come to fruition, and they eventually quit.
This is the secret weapon of a home based business entrepreneur. Accepting the brutal facts. Whatever they are. Embracing them. Making peace with them, and then going on to build a great business.