I’m old enough to remember the first Star Wars movie. I was deeply enmeshed in building my first company. My partner was a “veteran” businessman who was fifteen years older and had already achieved a decent level of success. One night we decided to take the evening off and go see this movie that was getting so much buzz.
It was a mind-blowing experience. While it seems like ancient technology today, at that time what we saw on the screen was a level of innovation that was almost beyond imagining. I still believe this first movie is the best of the series.
One enduring impact from the film for me is how closely the maturation of the Luke Skywalker character mimics the entrepreneurial journey. Let me explain.
Early in the movie Luke is excited to be leaving home and beginning a new stage in his life. He meets new people, learns new skills, and discovers some new tools (like a lightsabre). If you think back to when you first hatched your business idea and launched, you’ll recall it was an exciting time. You had an abundance of energy and it seemed like opportunity was all around you.
Soon Luke encounters some rough water and realizes that he needs help. It is the same with our entrepreneurial journey. We go through times where we feel like the mountain is just too tall, we are scared, overwhelmed by all that must be done, and even feel like an imposter sometimes as we try to navigate through these periods.
Luke had Obi-Wan Kenobi to encourage and mentor him. Who do you have? When you are this second stage in your company it helps to have advisors who have been on this journey and emerged successfully.
It is normal to leverage the advice of these early mentors and grow your business quickly. But there comes a time when you outpace what they can offer and begin the next phase of your journey. In “hero journey” literature this is referred to as ‘the dark night of the soul.’ It is again a time of frustration and groping for answers.
Luke found a new mentor, Yoda, who again pushed him to his limits. The training was more than challenging and Luke failed several times. This led him to questioning everything, he wondered if he was qualified to reach new heights, or if his current level was the end.
As entrepreneurs we too reach a point where we begin to doubt ourselves, wonder if we should even be a business. Life in a corporate cubicle sometimes seems desirable. The strategies that we used to get to one level aren’t working to get to the next. Continuing to do the same things isn’t going to change the result…we have to venture out of our comfort zone.
There is a pivotal scene where Luke is sitting next to a swamp on the planet Dagabah where he subconsciously abandons his preconceptions and surrenders to The Force. This is his point of true transformation, of revelation.
For we as business owners, sitting next to the swamp of our own making, this moment of truth and self-examination is critical. It is the flash of insight that will propel us to the next level. Maybe we need to develop a new product, hire a key executive, expand to a new market area. Whatever your revelation is, it will propel you and your business to the next level.
When we reach new heights it’s important to take a breath, pause and enjoy the success for a time. But keep in mind that to achieve that next higher level you will cycle through each of these phases again. You’ve done it before, you can do it again!