Today, I received a few requests to un-subscribe from an email I sent yesterday as part of the email marketing we do. They were on an email list we had painfully and manually built, with no opt-ins. Sending the first email was hard. I envisioned hundreds of spam complaints and my inbox filled with angry responses. That didn’t happen, but every subsequent email has carried with it the same anxious concerns as the first one.

Many years ago, when I first started out, I was trying to drum up work as a freelancer. The closest thing to UpWork that existed was Craigslist and there was a limited supply of possible jobs, because it was just for one city. I decided to try and cold approach businesses to talk with them about their website and its role. I hoped that with this research oriented approach, that I would run into someone who needed help and would hire me. I spent the afternoon walking around a neighborhood in Portland going from one brick and mortar retail shop to the next.

The little mom and pops’ stores I visited were surprisingly stand-offish. I didn’t learn much and was treated like a leper on a few occasions. At the end of the day, I remember thinking, “Wow, that was terrible.” Feeling despondent, I resolved to keep trying. Fortunately, I didn’t have to because I picked up a job from Craigslist.

I often look back and feel, superstitiously, like the universe was testing me, to see how committed I was to making it work. Since then, there have been many more tests of my resolve, with this email campaign being just the latest.

Most of the obstacles that inhibit growth are external: building lead flow, hiring people, developing new offers. But occasionally they’re internal, they’re hard things that we really don’t want to do, but believe to be important like firing employees, cold approaching a possible customer, or putting ourselves out there for the criticism of the audience. What makes these possible is having a compelling reason why.

Building a business that I owned and that would support me and those I care about was and still is a compelling reason for me to do the hard things.

He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how. – Nietzsche