Five Ways to Tell You’re In a Rut, and Five Easy Ways to Break Out of it!

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“We’re stuck in a rut!”
“A good rut, like 200 years of democracy, or a bad rut, like UNICEF?” –Stan Smith, “American Dad”

Nothing is more dangerous to your business, your professional life, and your brand, as being stuck in a rut and not realizing it. A rut, otherwise known as “complacency,” has killed more companies and forced more entrepreneurs back to the 9-5 than virtually any other danger out there.

Ruts are dangerous, because much like illegal drugs or any Aaron Sorkin project, you don’t realize you’re stuck in one until it’s too late, when it’s really hard to quit. (Think about it – Did you even CONSIDER, for a SECOND, leaving The West Wing when we were waiting for President Bartlett to announce if he was going to run again? Of course not.)

Ruts can be business killers, especially when times are good. It’s too easy to get complacent when the fire isn’t under your butt at 300 degrees. When you were starting up, you had the fire. “We’ve gotta make rent! We’ve gotta pay employees! We’ve gotta have money for food!” That’s the fire. When you start doing well, that fire dies out, and all of a sudden, it’s a little easier to not work as hard, not spend as much time coming up with and implementing new ideas, and not focusing on the next big win.

Ruts also come when you’ve had a few down months. Even though you’re busting your butt, you might feel like you’re on a hamster wheel, and there’s no end in sight. That’s also a rut, and it’s also dangerous. That kind of rut makes entrepreneurs question themselves and ask if they shouldn’t consider going back to a “regular job.” And we all know we don’t want to do that.

So – First: Five ways to tell if you’re in a rut.

Things are going good, and you feel like your company could run on auto-pilot for a while. There’s a reason pilots don’t leave the cockpit unattended while the plane is on auto-pilot. Because something could go wrong. Auto-piloting your business is dangerous – You don’t get to see the shifting landscape, and you can’t react in time when threats emerge. So if you feel like you could just chill for a month or so, you might be in a rut, and it might be time to shake things up.

You’re bored. Boredom is dangerous when you’re running a business. There’s no excuse to get bored in the real world, and there’s certainly no reason to get bored running a business. If you’re bored, it means you’re not doing anywhere near enough hustling.

You’re not having fun anymore. Let’s face it – We become entrepreneurs because we love working hard, and in the end, it’s fun for us. When we’re not having fun, that’s a huge, huge warning sign. Something is wrong, and needs to be addressed ASAP.

You’re out of ideas. This is a dangerous one. Without new ideas, we can’t continue to grow. Without growth, there’s no innovation, and without any of that, kiss revenue goodbye. Ideas are key. If you’re out of ideas, you could be in a rut.

Finally, you’re feeling like you’re spinning your wheels. I’m very familiar with this one – It’s the worst feeling in the world. The rest of the world is doing things, and you’re sitting there, feeling like you’re wasting time. There’s nothing worse than that kind of rut.

So… What do we do?


How to Break Out of a Rut

By physical definition, a rut occurs when the same thing happens over and over, carving a hole or indentation into an object. While this is awesome when water does it to make the Grand Canyon, doing the same thing over and over again in business is a guarantee to fail. You need to shake it up! Perhaps that’s doing something as simple as getting into the office 30 minutes earlier each day and reaching out to long-lost contacts, or perhaps it’s having “walking meetings,” outside to get the blood pumping, instead of sitting at a boring table in a boring conference room in the same boring voice.

Ruts occur when people are resistant to change. You simply can’t be afraid of change and expect to succeed. Don’t take crazy risks, but take calculated ones. Calculated risks have built our great nation. Be daring. Client says they want it one way, and you believe it should be done another way? Do it both ways, and present them. I used to do this all the time when I was a photographer. Works wonders! The goal is to try new things, to change, and reap the rewards.

Meet people outside of your industry, in the same boat you are. I can’t recommend Masterminds enough. Essentially, a Mastermind is a collection of 8-10 people, all in different industries, all in a room for a day. You spend a half an hour on each person, where that person introduces themselves and explains the challenges and problems they’re facing. Then the rest of the room chimes in with their suggestions and issues. Why is this awesome? Well, let’s say you’re in real estate. You’re so head-down in your real estate world, that you might not be able to notice other good ideas. But the guy who owns the bakery? He’s not in real estate! He might be able to suggest an amazing idea you never would have thought of, because he saw what you’re doing from an entirely new perspective. New perspectives are key. You can get them in a Mastermind. Added bonus: I hold Masterminds all over the country. Click on the “contact” page and let me know if you’d like to join in your city!

Exercise and change what you eat! Look, entrepreneurs are passionate, and we work until our heads explode. That’s no secret. But – And this is a big but… We need to have balance. I’ve found that the best way to get that balance is exercise. Whether it’s early morning runs, walks, or bike rides, or mid-day spin classes, yoga, or Pilates, or even an evening weight-lifting session, nothing clears your head and puts you in the right frame of mind better than a workout. It’s chemical. Your body releases endorphins. Endorphins are the happy drug. They let you work better, smarter, and with higher quality results. Why do you think I skydive? I do my best writing after jumping! Nothing kills a rut faster than a shot of endorphins from the brain to the body. Nothing.

Added bonus – Drop 80% of the carbs you eat, and replace them with vegetables. Drop 80% of the alcohol you drink, and replace them with water. In other words, try and focus on eating natural food. Veggies, lean meats, etc. Give up dairy if you can, as well as anything processed. Eat real food. Or, as your grandparents called it back in the day, “food.”

Finally, try doing good once a week for others. Whether it’s volunteering at an animal shelter (btw, get a pet if you don’t have one, they’re amazing at busting you out of your rut) working at a soup kitchen, or even helping out an elderly neighbor, two things happen when you do this (and that’s not even including the good you’re doing!) First, you see things from a different perspective. You get to understand a segment of society to which you might not be accustomed, and you can learn from them. Secondly, all the most creative/successful people volunteer. They understand that in addition to the good they’re doing, it’s a way to let the universe help them – i.e. giving back allows for new ways of thinking, and new ways of thinking are the building blocks from getting out of a rut.

As always, I want to hear from you! What do you do to check and see if you’re in a rut, and if you are, what do you do to get out of it? I’ll have Meagan pick her favorite answer and send that person some cool ScotteVest clothing, so make sure you leave your real email!

And hey – Thanks for reading. You look awesome today.

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