The 'Lightbulb' Moment For Entrepreneurs: Finding Clarity And Curiosity

This article originally appeared in Forbes.

When I lead workshops for entrepreneurs and executives, I lead with something I call the Clearing Process, a process I developed to help people step more fully into expanded possibility. The Clearing Process begins with clarity, and sometimes that’s a challenge for new business leaders who are excited about starting their businesses.

“Oh, I’m very clear about my goals,” they tell me. “I’ve spent years thinking about opening my own company.”

“Great!” I smile at them. “What greater purpose do you see your company filling?”

Silence.

The reality is that many entrepreneurs start with a general idea — such as “I want to launch a design business” or “I want to create a marketing company” — but not all realize that true clarity comes from a deep dive. Many of us see clarity as a strike of lightning or the moment of inspiration where a great idea occurs. In fact, clarity is more like landing a plane: flying in circles until the runway is absolutely clear and imminent.

What Is This Company?

A few of the things entrepreneurs need to consider when starting a new venture include:

• What problem will my offering solve?

• What space do I need to inhabit to become the type of leader I need to be?

• Where will my money come from?

• Who is my team?

• Who is my audience?

• What role will my business play in my life, in the lives of shareholders, and in the greater community?

The list of questions facing a startup is almost endless.

I encourage new executives to spend time thinking and reflecting on these questions. Meditating can help, too. Sometimes I ask business leaders to physically step fully into their bodies as executives. What does their body feel like right now? What does it feel like when they imagine leading their business?

An embodied approach can yield clues other methods fail to uncover. For example, if an entrepreneur is excited about launching their own firm but is so focused on their own mission that they fail to look at others, turn to others, or blend their energy with that of their team, the entrepreneur still has work to do. Being too self-focused can make it harder to create a team, which can harm the startup.

Of course, seeking clarity itself is a process requiring some work. “How can I know when I’m clear?” a client once asked me.

We can spend years hunting for answers, never getting closer to opening our business doors. A good rule of thumb for seeking clarity is to keep diving until you can:

• Summarize your business in a sentence

• Define your organization’s greater purpose in one sentence

• Feel in alignment with your business purpose

"Clarity is more like landing a plane: flying in circles until the runway is absolutely clear and imminent."

In a way, hunting for clarity is a lifelong process. Many of the most successful executives I coach still work on developing greater clarity around themselves and their business because they know new insights lead to new opportunities. It’s a practice I follow too; as an executive coach, I am still learning about myself and my business, years after launching my company. It’s a journey rather than a "lightning" moment.

Getting Past Obstacles

One caveat: When you start digging for answers, you may hit something you didn’t expect. When trying to seek clarity about a new venture, many entrepreneurs run smack into an obstacle (or multiple blocks), preventing them from finding clarity in the first place.

For example, it’s not unusual for someone launching a business to want to make a positive impact on their community. Maybe they want to work with nonprofits or offer pro-bono services. Just thinking about it feels good. But immediately, fear sets in and the entrepreneur starts worrying about money: “Can I afford to give away free time? What if my business fails because I’m not pursuing profits all the time?”

It can feel awful to have these doubts, but they unveil a new layer of clarity. Uncovering blocks — and money conversations are common ones — helps you understand what you need to work on to set yourself on the path to success. Think of these obstacles like invisible debris on the road: You don’t see them, but they can still trip you up. Shining light on and working through them clears the way so you can see some real acceleration.

And how can you get rid of those fears, insecurities, doubts and blocks? One of the most powerful tools in any entrepreneurial arsenal is curiosity. Rather than trying to “solve” or “get rid of” those conversations and ideas that make you uncomfortable, settle down with them. Take a close look at them, get curious about where they come from and what they’re doing. Maybe that inner dialogue about lacking and the fear of failure is what will keep you inspired to keep working. Maybe it stems from early childhood conversations about money —conversations that got you here, but that you can let go of now.

Are You Riding The Lightning?

Whether you’ve been dreaming of your new business for years or received a jolt of inspiration from the ether just last week, take a deep breath and work on getting some clarity. Understand what you really want for your business, and step into what you need to be and what you need to do to achieve the level of success you want. As you start digging, get curious about the obstacles and blocks you uncover. Working through them now prepares you for the challenges to come -- and ensures you’re riding the lightning of inspiration rather than being merely struck by it.