Tired of the calendar’s white space and accusing eyes, I slammed down the lid of my laptop and turned to walk away. “Starting this coaching business was the dumbest idea I’ve ever had. I must have been insane.”
I’d been working on growing my coaching business for almost a year. Putting in 8-10 hour days. Surmounting numerous tests of courage, and leaving my comfort zone at least two zip codes behind. But, I only had three clients to show for it.
Hour for dollar, I could have made more money flipping burgers at the local burger joint and had a cute hat thrown in besides. What in the world was I thinking when I became a life coach?
On the great roller coaster ride of entrepreneurship, I had plunged from the giddy heights of Eager Anticipation, navigated through countless set-backs and struggles, and landed smack-dab in the Valley of Despair.
It turns out, I’m not the only one.
In the years since, I’ve discovered that most coaches who venture onto the wild ride of business building follow a similar white-knuckle path. I call it the Emotional Roller Coaster of the Christian Entrepreneur, and understanding this predictable path before you hop on, may prevent you and your business from meeting an untimely demise.
Phase 1: Eager Anticipation
It seems like it was just yesterday when I stood at the journey’s start. Brimming with anticipation, I was in awe of the fact that people could actually make a living coaching full-time.
This was Phase 1. Thrilling, exciting, and ripe with possibility for all that lay ahead.
In those early days, success seemed so near and obstacles so small and far away.
I started strong. Sure, the work was hard, but the rewards were good. I landed my first few clients, improved my coaching skills, and my confidence fed and grew.
I was all in.
Phase 2: Set-Back and Struggles
The second client quit, and a new one didn’t come. The phone stopped ringing. The networking meeting was a bust, and my bills exceeded my income for the seventh month in a row.
In Phase 2, set-backs and struggles intensified and new ones began.
Strangely, coaches everywhere report that not only is business building MUCH harder than anticipated in Phase 2, but seemingly unrelated family, church, and relational issues crop up as well.
It’s as if the unseen spiritual forces see another Christian coach stepping out into the world and decide to double-down and throw every possible distraction and obstacle in his or her way.
This phase can last for months. Or years.
Then, going from bad to worse, it typically crash lands right into the Valley of Despair.
Phase 3: Valley of Despair
No matter how many times we hear it, nothing can truly prepare us for how difficult building a new business can be.
It’s lonely and long. The hours are grueling. Technology is overwhelming. Income is unpredictable. And a clear finish line is no where in sight.
For me, any entrepreneurial joy that remained fled when my roller coaster ride bottomed out. No matter what I did, it seemed as if I was destined to just scrape by with an erratic income, few clients, and unending work.
There, at the bottom, when I hit my lowest point emotionally and financially, neon exit signs filled my dreams wooing me to quit and walk away.
The first steps towards the exit seemed inconsequential and small.
Privately, I procrastinated and avoided looking at the hard numbers and doing the hard things. I hid behind my computer and fiddled away the hours with safe, surface activities that risked nothing but kept me too busy to think.
Publicly, I chipped away at my decision by moaning, complaining, and saying I didn’t really want new clients anyway.
I started taking on new, easier projects, because they salvaged my ego with quick success.
Fatally, I entertained the notion that it was time to quit coaching and get a “real” job instead.
That day, (who am I kidding, those months) in the Valley of Despair, I decided to quit.
But… as I stood to walk away, I noticed in my rear view mirror a lifetime littered with discarded dreams. The piano lessons I quit, the quilt that never got done, the book I didn’t finish writing, and the world-changing blog that never saw the light of day.
Personal history taught me that walking away from coaching now might bring me back to the ground level, the mediocre, the safe, but the desire for great living wouldn’t lie dormant for long. It would stir again.
Because each of us was born to do great things.
I was born to do great things.
To live full out. Committed to the ride and abandoned to the God who is ready to create supernatural results through ordinary people like you and me.
Any numbing of pain that quitting might bring would eventually fade, and once again I’d be filled with eager anticipation for the difference my life could bring. Inevitably, I’d jump on the next big thing, and the roller coaster ride would begin again.
I could quit coaching. But I couldn’t quit life. And life is hard. There are no shortcuts to success. All positive change comes with ups and downs, setbacks and struggles, and its inevitable valleys of despair.
If my one, precious, irretrievable life was going to count, I wanted it to count through coaching.
Then I noticed another choice in the silence, in the dark. A small, narrow, upward path behind the flashing exit signs winking at me with their Siren call.
Instead of quitting, I could re-commit.
I could choose to believe that the God who called me to this would provide everything I needed, every step of the way. Not ahead of time and certainly not tied up with a neat red bow. But He would deliver, and He would be my companion and guide.
I sat back down, settled into my seat, tightened my belt and determined to hold on for the duration of the ride.
Phase 4: Path of Persistence
From the outside in, the Path of Persistence appears narrow and lonely, it seems that few choose this unlikely way.
But that’s a lie.
This is the path of entrepreneurial joy and life. It’s filled with worthy companions, and on it deep friendships are made and unbreakable bonds are forged.
With each step on the path, darkness fades, seeds sown previously blossom, and income grows.
My heart reinflated with hope, and a renewed vigor characterized each day.
Phase 5: Mount Optimism
Looking back on my journey thus far, I’ve learned a lot, and one of my biggest take-aways is this… those super-star entrepreneurs, the ones who seemed to be an overnight success with every lucky star shining a light on their path…that’s not how it happened at all.
It was their persistence that paid off. Consistency is key.
I can do that. Stick with it. Show up every day. Believe in the God who brought me this far. And you can, too.
And those consistent actions will lead to sustainable and repeatable success, allowing you to face the future with optimism and joy.
You were born to do great things. To make a powerful contribution, and building a coaching business multiplies that impact in a way that nothing else can.
I admit that entrepreneurship isn’t for the faint of heart. It will always be a roller coaster ride of emotion, full of extreme highs and belly-dragging lows.
But for those who dare to dream of making a difference, who want every breath to count—may I just say from personal experience—it’s the best ride in town.
Will you join me?
You can download this graphic for free as my gift to you. Lord willing, it will be a good reminder on those dark days that the best is yet to come. (To download, simply click the link, right-click the image, and choose “Save as…”)