I know everyone doesn’t love the show “Friends” like I do, but stay with me as I bring up a classic episode that I swear does relate to the topic I’m about to get into. Some of you are already chuckling, it’s the “pivot” couch episode.
Instead of paying to have his couch delivered by the professionals, Ross decides he will deliver the couch himself—up several flights of stairs in a Manhattan apartment building.
He convinces Rachel and Chandler to help him and they hate him every minute of carrying that 300-pound couch together. As the trio attempts to squeeze the couch through the narrow stairwell, Ross’ iconic “pivot” screaming moment happens. The couch eventually makes it to the apartment…only after being sawed in half.
You have been warned: A pivot comes in many forms and it’s best not to wing it.
Many of you reading this are bloggers and authors. Perhaps you want to change your blog focus entirely because you aren’t really passionate about the subject matter you initially chose, or you’re a fiction author who wants to transition into non-fiction because fiction isn’t as fulfilling and/or fruitful as it once was.
For others, you might be looking for ways to create or diversify revenue streams.
And yet another group has been forced to pivot because of the times we live in. Whatever you were doing before took a direct hit from COVID, your livelihood was jeopardized, and you need to figure some shit out to survive.
I’ve pivoted a time or two and I know many others who have done so successfully. Here are some things I’ve learned from myself and others about how to pivot on purpose—even if you had absolutely no intention of making a pivot at all.
1. Making the Pivot
You might have thought that “getting started” was going to be the first step in your pivot process. Whoa, there. There’s a lot of deliberation that needs to happen before you get started with a new endeavor. And, I mean it when I say “a lot.”
Whatever it is, you will be pouring time and energy into it. This is your life we’re talking about here. Life is not only short, it also moves quicker than ever it seems in this lovely Information Age we live in where our attention is our most precious commodity and everyone in the digital world wants a piece of it.
Deciding to make the pivot means you need to meditate on some things, then come up with a strategy to manifest your vision. I’ve talked about pivots previously in another blog, Change Your Life Direction in 3 Difficult Steps.
I’ll recap those steps here as they are totally relevant for this first stage…
Sit with it.
If you were forced to change directions (layoff, lost business, etc.), don’t just try to move on quickly without a mourning period, because you won’t move on. “Sit with it” is a good practice for anyone making major changes.
Decide what’s next.
What if I do [insert next direction in life here]? This is a question I highly recommend asking yourself. Run the idea by someone (or several someones) you trust for feedback and moral support.
Give it your all.
In the spirit of today’s topic…pivot like you mean it. You have to throw yourself at it, but you also need to make a long-term commitment. See this as a three-year plan, for example, so you treat it like a marathon rather than a sprint.
2. Getting Started
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stared at a blank computer screen before I’ve written a single word. Chapter 1 of one of my novels. The first sentence of a blog post. Something clever—but ultimately, throwaway content—on social media.
Even when you know something so intimately, even when you’ve reached “pro status,” getting started on a new endeavor can still trip you up.
Chances are that when you are starting something new (job, passion, business, etc.), you are leaning on existing skills and experience. And, if you don’t have relevant skills or experience for this new endeavor? I recommend pausing before proceeding.
I ask all of my guests on Love Your Enthusiasm about their stories of perseverance—I asked life coach Lucy Liu about which failure was her greatest lesson. She told a cautionary tale about starting a restaurant when she didn’t have the relevant skills or experience to pull it off. Eventually, she found a path as a life coach but it took a while for her to get there.
By the way, I freaking love what Lucy had to say about failure…
Failures are events. Failures are not an adjective to describe a person. I can fail many times and they are just lessons for me. I’m never a failure and I will never be.”
But, let’s say you do have the relevant skills and experience to support your new journey. It still doesn’t mean you know what the hell you’re doing. And, that’s totally fucking okay as long as you persevere.
Rather than letting that blank page on the screen trip you up, you write like the wind and never look back. You start now and fix later.
3. Sticking with It
I had to add “sticking with it” because this is the gritty phase we don’t often hear the truth about. While working on a content marketing project once, a person was very adamant about hitting this particular message hard on their website…
Starting a business is hard.
I didn’t agree with her then and I still don’t now. Starting a business isn’t hard. Sticking with a business is hard.
I’ve started three businesses over the past four years: Superneat Marketing in 2017 (still here), Clove Travel and Wellness in 2020 (folded because of COVID), and my podcast Love Your Enthusiasm in 2020 (still here). Once I submitted the LLC paperwork and paid those fees…poof, I had a business.
It’s the part that comes after that when shit gets real. You started your business…now what? You have to make it a business.
Along the way, you are doing things you’ve never done before and you have to continue adapting and making pivots. There will be many times when you doubt yourself and your choices. Even if things are going well, you will question everything, consider throwing in the towel, and dream of doing something else (ah…greener pastures).
This third (I won’t call it “final”) step is truly ongoing. It’s what happens after the couple finally gets together at the end of the story—they have bills to pay and shitters to clean. The honeymoon is over and they’re trying to keep the romance alive.
But when you get through all of that, you arrive at a more intimate and honest place with yourself and your endeavor.
For more on this topic, I highly recommend a recent Love Your Enthusiasm podcast, Pivot Like You Mean It with Kate McCulley. Kate is the publisher of Adventurous Kate, a renowned women’s solo travel blog.
In this episode, Kate shares her experience as a travel blogger who has made some major pivots to adapt to the times and continue pursuing her passion. Kate shares her wealth of knowledge about changing life directions, including pro tips on launching a successful Patreon as a creative solopreneur (something I am planning to do in the coming months myself).
In Kate’s words: “Sometimes when you’re starting a new creative project, you really have to throw yourself in. Know that perfect is the enemy of good and just do it. And, if you do something wrong, just fix it along the way.”