3 feet from gold

Business can be quite unfair.

In Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill writes about a man called R.U Darby during the gold rush. 

Darby’s Uncle struck gold and asked him to join him in prospecting his mine. Things started well and they struck a decent vein of gold, but over time it dried up.

Having borrowed for the purchase of the claim and the machinery to prospect, the pair had debt, so they continued drilling, hoping to find more gold.

However, they kept adding more and more debt until exhausted, they quit in desperation and sold all their equipment to a junkman, and walked away. 

The entrepreneurial junkman sought advice from a mining expert, who told him that if he continued with the vein abandoned by the previous miners, he would find gold just three feet away. He did. And he did. And it made him very rich!

Darby told Hill that this incident was one of the most defining moments of his life.

There’s a lot to be learned from this story, the main lesson being to persist even when things get hard. As Hill writes, ‘before success comes in anyone’s life, that individual is sure to meet with much temporary defeat and, perhaps, some failure. When defeat overtakes a person, the easiest and most logical thing to do is to QUIT. That is exactly what the majority of people do.’

And that statement probably summarises why 80% of UK small businesses fail within 5 years of starting.

No business owner’s journey is easy…

We all know it’s tough at the top. It’s not just tough though, it’s often lonely and stressful too. We’re expected to be experts in every area of the business and often take responsibility for the lot. Our teams look for us for leadership, confirmation and certainty and sometimes, the truth is, we all wing it. 

The reality is that no one likes or enjoys everything in business, we all have our own skills and interests. 

These stresses of running a business can also have a significant impact on our personal lives and relationships, which cause their own stresses. 

When everything piles up, and we cant see a way out, for some, the only thing left to do is quit. 

But it doesn’t have to be that way…

Before making the decision to let everything go, as business owners, we need to look to find solutions. Because when you let go, you might just regret it your entire life. 

The gold may be just 3 feet away.

What should Darby and his uncle have done?

So what then should you do if the gold starts to dry up for you, and things start to get tough in business? 

1. Seek advice 

Overwhelmingly, the story of 3 feet from gold teaches us that we all need to rely on the expertise of others. If Darby had just reached out to the mining expert that the junkman knew of, the story would have had a very different ending. 

In the modern day, very few people have all the knowledge it takes to run a business, especially a growing one.

Even if we did have all the knowledge, it’s hard to multitask.

Getting some advice from outside the business is important whether you’re struggling or not. External advice from a coach, mentor, bank manager or other business owner can help you in areas such as identifying money-making opportunities, time management, balancing business & life, and team challenges.

A business coach can help you to increase short term motivation & provide long term results.

2. Outsource expertise

As much as we would like to, we can’t do everything by ourselves. Imagine, rather than digging themselves, what would have happened if Darby and his uncle got others to do the heavy shovel work. Might they have had a bit more energy left to continue, may they have more time to ask for advice?

If you’re feeling business fatigue, recruiting someone to take some of your tasks off of your plate can be a life saver.

Be willing to hand over these responsibilities, and to train the person how you like things to be done. By doing so, you’ll have more time to focus on the areas of business that are most fun and most profitable,

In the long run, by spending extra money on hiring and salaries, you’ll make more money by getting more work done than ever before. 

The lesson here is quite simple – Sometimes you have to spend money in order to make more money.

3. Learn how to manage your money

Cash flow problems within an organisation are not unusual. We know from the story that Darby had money problems. If the pair had managed their money slightly better, would they have had reserves to continue to prospect that final 3 feet?

Small business owners must either be heavily capitalised or pick up extra income to shore up cash reserves when needed. 

This is why many small businesses start with the founders working a job and building a business simultaneously. 

While this split focus can make it challenging to grow a business, running out of cash makes growing a business impossible.

It’s important, as a minimum, to learn the basics of accounting.

4. Diversify your marketing strategy

Another challenge that comes up in business is that you are not getting to your target audience. And thus you’re not making enough sales.

Try as you may, your marketing strategy may just be bearing no fruits.

The solution to this is to diversify your marketing strategy.

Combine elements of social media, digital marketing, organic marketing, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), email marketing, telemarketing, and the likes.

A good marketing strategy doesn’t depend only on one pathway. It’s a mix of tried and tested methods to come up with the perfect strategy.

5. Learn to rest, not quit

Fatigue in business is real, It certainly was for Darby and his uncle too. “Broke and exhausted they quit”. When we’re really tired, we don’t think straight. 

In business there are so many moving parts, when we’re tired, it’s much easier to drop the ball. When we drop the ball, it feels like the world conspiring against us. 

Anne Lamott says that almost everything will work out if you unplug it for a while. Including you.

Quitting sometimes seems like the easier way out of things, but we must teach ourselves that rather than giving up, we just need a break to put everything into perspective.

Taking a break may give you the clarity that you need to carry forward with your work. And when you get back, you will find that you were just a mere 3 feet away from gold.

I’d like you to think about these three things this week:

  • Do you seek advice when the way forward isn’t clear?
  • How do you handle frustration when you feel like things are not going right, do you quit or do you persist?
  • Who keeps you accountable?

If you need support finding your way forward, get in touch. Outside ideas are on a mission to help people and businesses grow.

Onwards and upwards my friend.




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