July 16, 2020 6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
When the country got turned upside down in March and the lockdowns and layoffs began, I was instantly brought back to June 2008, when I was let go from my job at the time. I was completely blindsided. I had been working my way up the ladder at an architecture firm, and everything was going according to plan. But then my life changed forever with these six words: “We have to let you go.” The months following my layoff were the lowest of my life. I even had to move back in with my parents to make ends meet. Plus, the company broke the news to me just weeks before my wedding.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Those early days mostly consisted of sitting on the couch and watching Back to the Future on repeat. With the job forecast in the architecture industry looking grim, I had to find a way to reinvent myself.
As it happened, while working at the previous firm, I had started a blog that housed my study notes for a niche industry exam known as the LEED. As an experiment — 50 percent curiosity and 50 percent desperation — I created a study-guide PDF consisting of my notes for this exam and put it up on my blog for sale. Overnight, people began buying it. To this day, I still remember seeing that first sale come in. That discovery changed everything for me. It set the stage for my next career as an online entrepreneur and eventually sparked the idea for my business Smart Passive Income, a learning and development platform for online entrepreneurs.
I tell this story because if you are experiencing rock bottom right now, I want you to know you are not alone. I’ve been there, too. In fact, the memory of that time is so vivid that when everything started locking down this spring, I knew I had to do something to keep my community going. I started going live on YouTube every day at the same time to give my audience something to look forward to. Little did I know the daily live stream would continue for 100 straight days and ignite an incredible community of business professionals.
Here are four lessons I learned in those 100 days, some of which I hope will help those of you likewise looking to start over.
1. People want to help and be helped
Many of us are afraid to ask for help because it can put us in an uncomfortable situation, but in reality, research proves that humans are wired to help each other. Studies show that smart people and progressive workplaces have discovered that asking for help is the key to success. In fact, those who ask for advice are perceived as more competent rather than less competent.
The last 100 days have proven this to be true. I’ve been blown away by how many people show up to these live streams not just to learn themselves, but so they can help others. The community has even started its own group chat channel so members can continue the conversation after the live stream — sharing tips, learnings and mistakes they’ve made in their own businesses and careers. To me, it’s a reminder that people want to help, so don’t be afraid to ask for it. You will never know the answer unless you ask.
2. The same people show up every day
When I started live streaming, I presumed I’d meet a handful of new people every day. And while that’s true, overwhelmingly the trend has been that the same people show up repeatedly. What this tells me is that people want a friendly community right now.
Many psychologists are warning that the mental health impact of the pandemic may be just as profound, if not more so, than the medical repercussions. According to UCLA neuroscientist Matthew Lieberman, humans are wired for connection. In fact, Lieberman says the need to connect socially with others is as basic as our need for food, water and shelter.
It also shows that humans crave routine. Never in my wildest dreams did I think waking up to my face would be a part of someone’s routine, but there you have it. Consistency is king (or queen) right now, so find creative ways to show up for your audience, clients or customers. Even though many states are actively trying to get back to some semblance of normalcy, the fact of the matter is social distancing could be our norm for the foreseeable future.
3. Storytelling is more powerful than ever
The underdog story is in right now. I know, I know, hasn’t it always been? (Cue the Rocky theme song.) But really, people are down and looking for a pick-me-up. I’ve found that rather than hearing my success stories, my community is mainly wanting to hear about the mistakes I’ve made and how I worked to flip those failures.
Storytelling is where the power lies because it instills emotion and therefore is more likely to stick in a person’s mind. As Jim Kwik, founder of Kwik Learning says, “Information combined with emotion becomes a long-term memory.” Without stirring up emotion, there’s little chance your message will resonate long-term.
As millions of protesters across the globe stand in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, let us not forget how powerful the act of storytelling has been for the Black American community. I recently read an article in my alma mater’s Greater Good Magazine by Andrea Collier that says it best: “No matter who you are or where you come from, the human spirit wants — no, needs — to be validated.” She goes on to quote late Congressman John Lewis, who once said, “The movement without storytelling is like birds without wings.”
4. Your nerves will never go away
More than 100 days in and I still get nervous every single morning just before I go live. There is always going to be that sense of fear, and I don’t anticipate it ever going away. Anytime you put yourself out there for the world to see the feeling is inevitable, but that shouldn’t stop you from doing it.
My favorite tool to use is Mel Robbins’ 5 Second Rule. If there’s something you know you need to do and you’re hesitating, then count down from five and just do it. Email that company you’ve always wanted to work for, launch the business you’ve been dragging your feet on for years, stand up for what you believe in. If you don’t do it, it’ll be gone.