A bootstrapper takes a brutally honest look at his business

When you run your own business, you need to project an upbeat, positive appearance. You could say that we need to act like the sun is shining brightly even when standing in a thunderstorm.

That’s why this episode of Startups for the Rest of Us is so refreshing. Mike Tabor (co-runner of MicroConf) is remarkably open about his struggles with his current business, especially with motivation and progress:


It is worth listening to.

After listening, you might choose to be pessimistic: “If Mike, who runs a popular conference for bootstrappers, and has connections the rest of us can only dream of, has these troubles, what hope do I have?”

But I think it is better to take consolation, by accepting that almost all of us, from time to time, face these types of problems. At times, I certainly have.


The struggle is real, my friends.

That episode of SFTROU was excellent.

We’re all familiar with the old management theory/trope of Big Rocks vs Small Rocks, right?

Yeah, that video feels trite, maybe even a bit corny… but at it’s heart, the lesson is sound, right?

Every single day, we have to find a way to sort the big rocks from the small rocks. We have to make progress on the big rocks (tasks that move our businesses forward), and—with the scant time, focus, and energy left in each day—tackle a few of the small rocks as well.

But be careful: those small rocks have an appeal, a pull, a gravity all their own.

You get a rush of endorphins from having strung together a series of tasks, so you do more. It’s intoxicating. Small rocks are being accomplished left and right.

Once you accomplish a few of those small rocks in a row, it starts to feel as though you’ve made progress. You build momentum. You’re busy, but not productive, and you don’t even realize it. It’s a mirage of “busy-ness.”

Days go by of this, and one day you take stock.

You tally up where you’re at, what is left to do, and it hits you: the total volume of all the small rocks you’ve accomplished doesn’t equal any one of the big rocks you should’ve been working on.

And, this realization can be absolutely crushing.

You’ll feel stuck. Overwhelmed. Like you’re suffocating.

In the video, the woman just started fresh with a fresh, empty bowl, free to rethink her decisions and reprioritize so she could get it all done.

In real life, though, it doesn’t work this way.

We often look at the tasks in front of us, and—real or imagined—we feel overwhelmed and stuck…

and it can be absolutely paralyzing.

In Mike Taber’s case, he’s obsessing over this issue with a Google security audit process, but in getting into a mental tailspin on that issue, he’s ignoring all the other big rocks like getting to profitability, growth, marketing… product-market-fit… product-FOUNDER-fit.

How do you get out of your own head and get straightened out?

Mike did the right thing: talking through the problems, aloud, with Rob.

That’s the key. There’s a healing power in manifesting those thoughts into words.

No, it’s not magic. But it’s a start. It interrupts the spinning just long enough to let some clarity in.

You have to get out of your own head, folks. Discuss your hurdles with someone.

No, it doesn’t have to be a podcast episode for each of us, it can be private. But talk it out.

Reach out to folks on Twitter, LinkedIn, or in Facebook Groups. Discuss it with folks here, on this forum. Get an accountability partner. Join an accountability-driven community like WIP.chat. Join a mastermind group. Go on Clarity.fm and hire a mentor for a call to sort things out.

One step further…

If you find that your business hurdles are becoming so overwhelming that they’re having a negative effect on your mental health, your physical health, or on your relationships, seek professional help immediately.

Talk to a therapist and your doctor. Seek counseling with your spouse, partner, or loved ones. It’s okay to feel embarrassed or nervous, that’s normal. Take a moment to acknowledge your feelings, then power through and get the help you deserve. Don’t let those feelings stop you from getting the help you need.

Have a great day, folks.


That was a great episode … I feel for Mike… he has been struggling with that thing for a long time now… Somehow I think he does not like the business he is in… It’s tough to push through without fun… I know, I fell out of love with a business I had and it tanked it… I should have moved on…

Hopefully he can find a good buyer for it… I think he is going to tank it, especially with the Google Audit thing… You never want to depend on one of those big companies… We will see in a few weeks I guess…

Wishing him all the best…

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