Success is often painted as a straight line. Small achievements lead to larger achievements. Offices grow, together with staffing levels, turnover and profits. What begins as an idea, becomes reality in a spare bedroom and after a few years is taking over an entire building and closing multi-million dollar deals.

But success is never like that. It’s never a steady rise from start to sale or retirement. Every business goes through setbacks, downturns and quiet periods.

Those times are essential for any business. They may be painful and frustrating and sometimes very worrying. But they’re also a time to recharge, a chance to stop, look at the lie of the land and plan ahead before starting again with new energy.

I’ve had times when those quiet periods were forced upon me. When the dotcom bubble burst, I had to lay off my staff and start again. It worked out well. I found a whole new direction that made me even happier and led to even bigger achievements.

But after a decade of working like crazy and building my business, I was tired. So in 2011, I pulled over. I stopped. I deliberately downsized my company and took a break from the pressure of having to meet payroll, churn out products and plan launches.

For a while I did… nothing. I rested. I took a sabbatical from the business world.

But not for long. You can hold your breath for a while but eventually you have to start breathing and moving again. I started slowly. Instead of building my business back up right away, I did something that an entrepreneur would normally never do: I got a job. I walked into the local Barnes and Noble, and applied for a job as a sales associate. I figured that if I could write bestselling books and sell books online, I should be able to sell in a store too.

And it was great! After a career in digital sales, I was once again able to talk to customers face-to-face and put the product in their hands. I got to see their gratitude and their excitement when they walked out of the store with something they wanted. It was a breath of fresh air.

I did the same thing again when I decided to be an Uber driver for a time. I got to drive people around, chat with them about their lives and see life from the factory floor instead of from the boss’s office.

Neither of those jobs was intended to be a career move. They formed part of a couple of years away that gave me a chance to remember what I loved most about being an entrepreneur: not the sales figures or the profit levels but the effect that a business has on the lives of people.

Building a business isn’t a sprint. It isn’t even a marathon. It’s a slow drive across the country with plenty of detours. Assume you’re going to stop on the way… and use those stops to take a breath, relax and take another look at the road ahead.

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