I’m writing this after a 10+ hour hike through the Jungfrau mountain region in Switzerland. This was a pretty grueling experience that stretched the limits of my endurance. But it also helped me realize that there were many principles you can apply to an online business… some of them good, some of them bad. So with that in mind, I’d like to discuss eleven lessons I learned today:
Lesson #1- Make a plan
My plan for the hike wasn’t anything crazy. All I did was map out the spots I wanted to see with a rough estimate of how long it takes to get to each post. The plan was simple:
Lauterbrunnen (elevation 796 meters) to Wengen (1274 meters) to Wengernalp (1873 meters) to Kleine Scheidegg (2061 meters) to Eigergletscher (2320 meters).
Then a possible train ride up to Jungfraujoch (3454 meters).
Eigerglestscher to Apliglen (1615 meters) then up to Mannlichen (2227 meters) way down to Wengen (1274 meters) with a long hike back down to Interlaken (567 meters).
All told, this plan involved hiking up to two large mountains with elevations exceeding well over 7000 feet, plus a small pit stop to Jungfraujoch (which has the tagline of “The Top of Europe”). It would be a long day, but I was sure it was completely manageable.
Lesson learned: All online businesses should start with a plan. This could be anything from a rough mind-map on a piece of paper all the way to an elaborate business plan. The value doesn’t come from what’s written down. Instead it’s about taking the time to think about the process. Planning will clarify your objectives and ensure that you’re considering every factor.
Lesson #2-Adapt along the way
I’ve never been to Switzerland before. And I mostly certainly haven’t hiked the Jungfrau mountain region. I had a plan. But I knew it would change as the day went on. My philosophy was to stick to the plan, but be adaptable if I ran out of energy or saw something cool to check out.
Lesson learned: All plans change the minute you start them. Expect the unexpected and you won’t be surprised. It’s important to be adaptable. Sure it’s great to have a plan, but be prepared to change as you get feedback and results.
Many businesses fail because they’re afraid to adapt to consumer trends or changes in technology. Just look at MySpace. This site was the “800-pound gorilla” in social networking. But then came Facebook who thrives on innovation. Almost overnight, MySpace faded into the background. MySpace failed because they were slow to change how they operated.
Lesson #3- Have an exit strategy
I wrote down certain “escape spots” during the planning process. These were trains that would take me back down to Interlaken if something went wrong. And as I reached these spots along my trek, I did a quick evaluation. I only continued if I felt like I was physically able to do so.
Lesson learned: One of the best lessons I’ve learned with an online business is to know when it’s time to quit. There’s nothing glamorous to continue to work on a project that’s not getting results. Sometimes it’s best to cut your losses and move to a different plan.
Yes, persistence is important in business. But there’s a fine line persistence and stubbornness. For instance, let’s say you’ve been working on an online business for a few months and you haven’t earned a penny. Perhaps it’s time to evaluate the situation. If you can’t think of any way to fix things, you’d better off moving on to a different business model.
Lesson #4- Bring the right tools
I didn’t bring that much during my hike:
- A map
- Two sandwiches, fruit, and gummy bears (Yum!)
- A rain-jacket
- A t-shirt
- A thermal long-sleeve
- A pair of gloves
- And a cell-phone for emergencies
Compared to some, this is traveling pretty light. The important thing is I knew from experience that these were the exact tools I needed to get through the hike in an efficient manner.
Lesson learned: There’s a huge mistake that I see many “newbie” Internet Marketers make. They refuse to spend money on their business. Typically they’ll look for free versions of critical tools…like autoresponders, hosting and automated software.
As they say in business, sometimes you need to spend money to make money. This is especially true when it comes to the five critical tools for an Internet business. I know you might be trying to save some cash. But don’t do so at the expense of building a solid foundation for your business.
Lesson #5- Don’t wait, get started right away
There’s a reason I only took five minutes to plan my hike. I wanted to jump on the trail and get started right away. Like I said before, I knew my plans would change as the day went on. So I didn’t waste time overanalyzing things. I just put one foot in front of the other and see where the road would take me.
Lesson learned: I hear a variation of this excuse all the time, “I’m going to wait till I learn everything or make the perfect plan.” Plans are great and all. But as we’ve learned, the greatest plan changes the moment you start it.
I’m a firm believer in the ‘ready, fire, aim’ approach to life. Definitely make a plan of action. But don’t get stuck trying to perfect it. In fact, I’ll let you in a little secret…NO plan is perfect. It’s better to take action and learn things along the way. You’ll definitely make mistakes. But it’s through these mistakes that you learn some of the most important lessons.
Don’t procrastinate and make excuses. Take that first step and then the next. You’d be surprised at how far you get with a simple ‘one step at a time’ approach to your online business.
Lesson #6- Consistent effort
The beginning part of the hike involved going from Lauterbrunnen to Wengernalp which has almost 1000 meters in vertical distance (over 3000 feet). This meant over an hour of an uphill walking. And if you’ve ever done something like this, then you know how tiring it can get.
Although the beginning was strenuous, I never stopped or took a break. I figured the best way to get through it was to keep moving and not lose my momentum.
Lessons learned: Success with an online business comes from consistent, day-to-day effort. You don’t work hard one day and then take the next off. There is no such thing as an overnight success. The people who do well with Internet marketing keep momentum. They keep working hard till they achieve their goals. But even when they reach a plateau, they’re constantly looking for the next step.
Lesson #7- Know your metrics
According to my map, the hike would take over 11 hours (not including the trip to Jungfraujoch.) I knew I could do it a lot quicker, but I also made sure I was keeping a good pace.
At every major signpost, I recorded the current time and how long it would take to get to the next point. This helped me track the overall progress of the trip.
Lesson learned: A major part of consistent effort is to know your metrics. With an online business this can involve a number of things… traffic stats, opt-in rates, earnings, etc. The key here is to determine which metrics are most important for your business AND consistently track your progress. Then when you have statistical proof that something is working, you concentrate on doing more of that.
Lesson #8- Know when to use shortcuts
At the start of the hike, I was annoyed that they don’t allow hikers all the way to Jungfraujoch. I guess it makes sense since it’s basically a huge glacier at 11,000 feet of elevation.
Fortunately they have a nice little train that brings you to the top. My logic was I hiked to highest allowable point in the Jungfrau mountain region. So I felt entitled to take the shortcut to the top.
Lesson learned: Normally I don’t recommend taking shortcuts. Or at least when you’re getting started with an online business. But once you learn the ropes, you’ll discover different techniques and hacks you can use to get massive results.
This is a major part of the learning process. Sometimes you’ll encounter something that really works. And once this happens, use every necessary tool you can find to exploit this technique.
For instance, let’s you’re getting great results with Twitter. Then perhaps you could find a piece of software that helps you manage your Twitter account and automatically add followers. That way you’ll quickly increase your results without having to do a lot more work. This is a shortcut that saves you time, but isn’t based on some dodgy, “make millions with Twitter” advertisements you see plastered all over the Internet.
Lesson #9- Expect obstacles along the way
I hit a major obstacle toward the end of my hike. It was around 7:00 PM and was starting to get dark when I hit the stretch from Mannlichen to Wengen. When I originally reviewed the map all I thought was, “A downhill walk of 3000 feet…no problem.” What didn’t occur to me at the time was a 3000 feet vertical drop in an hour is very, freakin’ scary.
Maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but picture walking down a thin path after trekking for 8 hours and seeing that if you made one mistake you’d fall 1000 feet to your death. (I didn’t take a picture because I was more concerned with living at that moment)
Anyway, my point was I didn’t expect this obstacle. But at that point all plans and time schedules went out the window. I took as much time as I needed to get safely through the rough patches. Mostly this involved grabbing one side for balance and manfully whimpering as I inched my way across a trail with a sheer-cliff drop on the other side.
Lesson Learned: As I said before, expect the unexpected. It doesn’t matter what type of online business you run. There will be days when it seems like the world in conspiring against you. Or even worse, there will be times when you have to clean up the mistakes you’ve made (like I did today). The important thing is to overcome the obstacle and realize the lessons you’ve learned from it.
Lesson #10- Enjoy the little things
Sometimes it’s fun to enjoy a moment when it arrives. At Jungfraujoch, I took time to enjoy a once in a lifetime experience.
I played in the snow, slide across the Ice Palace and had a beer at the “Top of Europe.” I knew I had more than six hours to go on my hike. But I wasn’t going to be rushed by some self-imposed timetable.
Lesson learned: Hard work is important. But sometimes it’s equally important to enjoy those special moments. If you’ve spent all week on your online business, take a day off. Spend time with your family, go to the beach, or even relax by reading a book. As I said last week, there are a lot of benefits to taking a day off and relaxing.
Lesson #11- Achieve one goal? Make a new one!
My goal for the day was a simple one…Get to the highest point in the Jungfrau mountain region. Then once I got there, I decided to add the challenge of hiking up another nearby mountain. At the end, I was very tired, but I was also satisfied at what I accomplished.
But with that said, I’m now looking at other goals. There are a few marathons I could try in Germany/Austria during the next month. Or there’s the Gross-Glockner mountain in Austria. Right now, they’re just ideas in my mind. The important thing is I accomplished one small goal and I’m now looking for the next one.
Lesson learned: At one time, my major goal for an online business was to make $100 a day. Once that happened, I pushed for $200…then $300 a day. Now that I’m near the $300 mark, I’m trying to find the next big goal.
It’s important to set goals for your online business. After achieving your goals take time to enjoy them. But don’t rest on your laurels… Set a new goal! Keep pushing the boundaries of what you think’s possible in your life. You’d be surprised at what you can achieve by setting a series of challenging, but doable goals.
It’s been a long day. Frankly…I’m pretty tired. But, I hope that you got something my little adventure and the related lessons. As I do with many of my posts, I’m asking for your comments. What are some lessons that you’ve learned from your online business? Obviously it doesn’t have to relate to hiking or anything. Just some take-aways your fellow readers can use to improve their own success.
Leave a comment below…Take Action. Get Results.