From This Day Forward

Let’s play a little alternate reality imagination game.

Note: Because this is a website about business, the game we’re playing uses examples that apply to business. But you could substitute your abusive marriage or your rotting house or your relationship with your codependent mother if you want. The game stays the same.

Let’s say your business isn’t going very well.

You’re not making money at all.

Or you’re making money, but barely.

Or you’re making more money that you can count and you hate every minute of it.

Or you’re making money now but you’re pretty sure the trend is going to pass and the bottom’s going to drop out.

You have invested a lot in this business. You have inventory. You have a list. You have a social media following. You have intellectual property.

But for whatever reason, you’re still wondering if you should break it and start over, or if there’s a way you can turn it around.

Now imagine the Pod People came and You were replaced by Alternate Reality You.

Alternate Reality You looks like you and thinks like you and wants all the same things you do.

The only difference between You and Alternate Reality You is that Alternate Reality You has no history or memory of anything that happened prior to this moment.

They don’t know how hard it was to build the business.

They don’t know how much you struggled to build that inventory.

They don’t know how much it took out of you to build that following.

They don’t know how grueling it was to create that intellectual property.

They weren’t here then, but they’re here now.

You’ve been replaced with somebody identical to you in every way who has effectively inherited your business, sight unseen. They have no ties to the past, but they have plenty of desires and preferences for the future.

They are just as subjective about the future as you are. The difference is, they have no attachment to the past. About the past, they can be completely and purely objective.

Alternate Reality You looks around. They’re a bit disappointed about the state of the office and they’re confused as to why one wall in the kitchen is yellow and the rest are not. They’re not 100% sure they understand why there are so many clothes in the closet with the tags still on. But they’re adjusting.

Alternate Reality You goes to work at their “new” ittybiz and surveys the situation and their gut response is exactly the same as yours.

“Holy hell, list growth is slow.”

“Man, we’re spending a lot of time in social media.”

“Sweet Jesus, these clients are time-sucking emotional vampires.”

Then Alternate Reality You does just what you, or anyone else, would do. They start thinking about what they would like to change.

They start imagining a life where the problems that currently exist do not exist anymore.

They start envisioning a business that does not suck.

They start seeing nice clients, and more of them. Or they see a business that isn’t focused on clients at all. Or they see scrapping the whole thing altogether and writing smut novels instead.

So far, what they’re feeling, thinking, and dreaming about is exactly what YOU are feeling, thinking, and dreaming about.

But here’s how they’re different.

The only time Alternate Reality You can comprehend is the present and the future.

Alternate Reality You is not attached to the past.

Either they don’t know or they don’t care. Doesn’t matter. All they’re thinking about is now, and after now.

All they can think about is what happens…

…from this day forward.

If Alternate Reality You looked at their/your intellectual property and said, “God, I hate that my name is on that book,” they would not follow it up with, “But it took me so long to write.”

They don’t know and they don’t care.

If Alternate Reality You looked at their/your month ahead and said, “God, I hate every single one of those clients,” they would not follow it up with, “But I worked so hard to build up that client list.”

They don’t know and they don’t care.

If Alternate Reality You looked at their/your incoming vs. outgoing business statements and said, “This is not working and never has,” they would not follow it up with, “But I’ve been doing it for three years – I can’t quit now!”

They don’t know and they don’t care.

Imagine You and Alternate Reality You (ARY) sat down for a coffee somewhere.

You: See, but, I’ve been doing this for three years. I can’t quit now!

ARY: OK, so if you can’t quit now, when can you quit?

You: [awkward pause] I love these new pumpkin muffins.

ARY: No, seriously. Should you quit after you’ve put in three more years?

You: [annoyed that ARY is not playing the game right] Shut up. Don’t be like that. You know what I mean.

ARY: I’m actually not sure that I do.

You: Yeah. You know. [pause to twist your hair and fix your sweater] It’s just, it’s really hard, you know?

ARY: OF COURSE I ****ING KNOW. I’m the one who got dumped from a perfectly delightful alternative reality and now I have to spend forever in your ****** life because you’re too much of a ***** to make it better for either of us. DO NOT TALK TO ME ABOUT HARD.

At this point they would quite reasonably storm out of the restaurant and you would have to pay for their muffin.

Stop scanning now. The lesson’s here.

You cannot do anything about the sunk costs.

You cannot do anything about how hard you’ve worked so far.

You cannot do anything about anything but NOW and AFTER NOW.

The only thing you can think about is everything that happens from this day forward.

How long has it sucked for?

How long are you willing to let it keep sucking?


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About the author: Naomi Dunford started IttyBiz in 2006. In her free time, she likes to… ha! Free time. You’re adorable. Learn more about her here and catch up with her on Twitter or Facebook.