The $64,000 Question

Starting a new business? Grappling with doubt and anxiety? Trying to squash the worry gremlin that appears daily, thrusts his leering face at you, and spits out the biggest concern of all, “Do you really think you’ll be able to support yourself doing this?”

game show

Add the lack of support from family members and the poor economy and you get nervous jitters, sleepless nights, and a growing sense of uncertainty. You aren’t alone. As a rule, first-time entrepreneurs are beset with questions they have no answers to, from morning till night, day after day.

I was there not long ago. I was consumed with uneasiness; I wondered how I and my team would be able to continue, day after day, three people doing the work of ten. We asked ourselves all the same questions I know other new business owners ask themselves – and listened hard to the silence, in response:

  • “How long can we keep this up?”
  • “Who do we know that will help- can we even find volunteers?”
  • “When will things pick up so we can hire?”
  • “What do we need to do, that we haven’t done already, to get that bank loan?”

Truth is, the answers aren’t that hard. Reality dictates that you “keep on keeping up” for as long as it takes. If you’re focused on excellence, if you’ve looked at your business from all possible angles and you’re confident it’s viable, you work harder, smarter, longer…because keeping up is only a small fraction of what you need to do.

You learn that volunteers are there, they’re the people who believe in you. They’re the people who wish they’d thought of doing what you’re doing. They’re the people who offer to help, every day, and who you’ve pushed aside again and again, because you didn’t want to take advantage. You learn that asking for their help isn’t taking advantage; it’s offering an opportunity.

Hiring help? You do that when you can afford it. You’ll be able to afford hiring when you achieve a profit – when you’re doing more than just keeping the lights on. The numbers don’t lie. You may be able to ‘hire’ sooner than you think. You’ll figure it out, if it’s necessary.

To the bank loan – everyone knows that answer to that. You just keep trying. You make more sales, you put your own money in to prove you’re serious, you put together a stellar business plan, and you take it to as many places as you need to, until someone says yes.

As entrepreneurs greet each day, they tackle these questions and dozens more. The questions come in an unrelenting flow.

But, there is one question most entrepreneurs don’t ask. One question, the $64,000 Question (game show from many years ago), that they should be asking.

It’s tough. It doesn’t have a simple answer. It will tear apart the same-old, same-old you’ve embraced again and again – where the devil you know is easier to deal with than the devil you don’t, so you think. This question will shock you out of your comfort zone and remind you that your dream of independence is more than hard work – it’s a belief system.

A week ago, I was jolted out of my sense of warmth and safety, into a world of possibility by this one question. My mentor, Bruce Peters, a business radio talk show host on WCEOHQ Radio, emailed me and shook me to my core.  He wrote:

“What is the one question that if answered would make it impossible to remain as you are?”

I sat at my computer, stared for what seemed like forever, at those words, and blinked like a fool.

“What do you mean?” I emailed back. “What is your one question?” Of course you should always defer tough questions back on the questioner. (No, you shouldn’t, but I did.)

“I keep it in front of me to sort of shake things up in my daily thinking,” he wrote back. “In a sense the question is the answer. Rilke’s admonition is to ‘not seek answers now for which will not be given…..but learn to live the questions and you will gradually live yourself to your answer.’

“So, I keep it there because I want to ask the most provocative question I can to live to my answer.”

I’m still staring at the words. I don’t have the answer. I don’t have the question. It’s a new year and a new me and I will not remain as I am, in that too cozy comfort zone, any longer. I am determined to be provocative, because it’s extraordinary and if I am not extraordinary, I will merely fade into the shadow of everyone else’s ordinary.

Therefore, I ask you, “What is the one question that if answered would make it impossible to remain as you are?”

Game Show Photo via Shutterstock


Yvonne DiVita Yvonne DiVita, President of Windsor Media Enterprises, LLC: Books, Blogs and Beyond, is focused on consulting with businesses on how to effectively use new media tools. Yvonne maintains a blog, LipSticking, with a focus on the women's market.

5 Reactions
  1. Yvonne,
    Thank you for the thought prodder. Not sure where the original question emanated.
    That said, each day that question stares at me on a flip chart in
    my office along with “what will I do today to make a positive difference in someone’s life”? And the end of the day “what did I actually do today to make that difference”?
    The answers are entered into a daily journal.

  2. Excellent! Makes you think and few small business owners take enough time to think. The question that I ask my clients is similar and may be my answer, “If you keep doing what you are currently doing are you going to get out of this what you want?” I might take this one to our blog!

  3. “What do you really, REALLY want?”

  4. As a new business owner, I recently sat in one of Bruce Peters’ Facilitative Leadership classes where he pointedly asked me when I would make my first sale. Uh, how do I answer that when there are still so many unknowns??? He would not let me off the hook until I committed to a date. That “hold-your-feet-to-the-fire” mentality, that ability to ask the hard questions we’re afraid to ask ourselves, is what makes Bruce a great mentor, someone capable of coaching leaders to excellence.