There’s a line from an old John Denver song that perfectly captures the uncertainty of a self-made career. It goes: ‘When I think that I’m moving, suddenly things stand still. I’m afraid ‘cause I think they always will.’

Stalling can be terrifying. It always feels so personal, and so mortifyingly eternal. So let’s say that it’s happened. You’ve stalled. It’s all dried up and you’re feeling scared. Now what?

Firstly, let’s be absolutely clear: This is not the end for you. Not by a long shot. I contend that a good flat line generally happens several times in any professional life, even in the lives of those who end up as lasting luminaries in their field. Perhaps especially in such lives. Stalling forces you to change your perspective. It spurs new thought, new action, new struggle and new commitment, and it can ultimately lead to greater surges of growth. A little fear and prodding can be highly motivating.

Turning that stall into a mere stutter

My plan for rebooting your career as an expert does not include any astonishing revelations, nor genius esoteric formulas heretofore withheld from you. It’s very simple and very practical. And that’s largely why it works.

So here goes. Start with a mental clean slate. Your opening premise for this exercise is: ‘I have no career.’ No past, no momentum, no clients, no income. Also, no baggage. It’s all gone and we’ve reset the gauge to zero, so take a deep breath and let it go.

Now, starting from this zero point, write down your ideas for ‘how to start and build a career in this industry.’ Do it as though you were instructing an enthusiastic newcomer.

Here’s why it’s effective: This exercise helps you to step outside of yourself and of any current mess of emotional static. It’s a way of stripping away all the emotion, the excuses, the negative ideas and bad inertia trailing behind you. You have no history in this field, and you’re launching a new career.

Now write out your ideas as though you are advising a newcomer to the industry who is keen to get started. As you detail your plan, you will begin to realise just how many of these ideas, which you would recommend for others, you are not currently practicing yourself.

For instance, you might jot down: ‘Go to the association events and offer to present.’ That’s good advice. And you know it’s part of building a career like yours. So, why aren’t you still doing it? Because you no longer need to? Really? If that were the case, you wouldn’t have stalled. So perhaps you do need to. Start doing it, and do it with the enthusiasm of a newcomer beginning to build a career.

Or you might jot down: ‘Find a newspaper and offer them regular contributions on your topic.’ Perhaps you used to do that religiously, but now you do it intermittently, if at all. Again, start doing it as though you were a newcomer, beginning to build a brand and a career from scratch. That scenario would require a vastly different energy and focus.

Or you might create a list of key people to contact with a direct sales offer. Has it been a while since you’ve done that? Did it work at the time? Well, do it again, as though you were just starting out and needed the business.

And how aggressive is your marketing? Is it as strong and focused as that which a newcomer to the industry might create? If you were starting from zero, your marketing would be pretty aggressive indeed.

Do it the hard way

As veterans of an industry, it’s tempting to look at these introductory steps and scoff: ‘I’m too high-level for that,’ or ‘I’ve been around too long.’ But a stalled career might suggest otherwise. And so, the best way to undertake this exercise is the hard way. By this, I mean: don’t take short cuts or gloss over anything by convincing yourself that ‘that’s too obvious,’ or ‘that’s for beginners.’ Write down the ‘obvious’ and ‘entry-level’ ideas and ask yourself whether you are genuinely still doing those obvious things and doing them with convincing levels of clout.

In short, you should write out a complete plan for how someone might launch a career in your field, and then you subject yourself to following that plan as though this were Day One.

Could you do it? Are you brave enough? I bet you could! Because I think you are.

It isn’t over for you. Turn your stall into a mere stutter and restart that engine. I bet it’s formidable once you get it going. Reclaim your story, and one day you just might surprise yourself with unexpected growth. One day you might become the greatest name in your game.

Deep breath. Go get ‘em!


Douglas Kruger, CSP, is a global professional speaker, who focuses on brand, culture and innovation. He is the author of six business books with Penguin and has won the national championships for Public Speaking a record 5 times. Sign up for his newsletter, ‘From Amateur to Expert’ at Email


A gift for you

Douglas’s articles are always free for use in your magazines, newspapers or e-zines. Many have been previously published in magazines like Entrepreneur or online forums like They focus on entrepreneurship, public speaking, expert positioning and innovation. Please attribute any articles used, and drop Douglas an email so that he can also publicise your title.