There is so much that I have learned in the last year since stepping into the world of the new entrepreneur. I had anticipated that I would grow from a business perspective, but I was completely blind-sided by some of the personal lessons and in many ways the learning curve hasn’t been a curve at all, but more of a vertical line straight up. Fortunately, I love this kind of intense learning!
I have had the privilege of being mentored by a few very wise people who have walked patiently alongside of me while I navigate this new territory. The lessons that hit me the hardest may seem obvious and simple, but I believe some of the greatest lessons in life are, in fact, very simple.
Be excellent at what you are excellent at, allow others to do what they are excellent at, and outsource everything else – without shame or apology.
This was a tough one for me. At some point in my life I decided that my self worth was dependent on my productivity and ability to be great at everything – instantly. If I wasn’t instantly an expert, then somehow I felt I was inadequate. I don’t know when this began, but I know that it has become my Achilles heel. It amazes me how much this erroneous belief completely drains me – both physically and emotionally. I have bought into this concept wholeheartedly and it has been detrimental; I have allowed this unreasonable expectation of myself to control my behavior by becoming largely reactive, hostage to my emotions. The worst part is that I didn’t come to this realization on my own; a mentor pointed it out. I was explaining an issue that I was having with my business and prefaced it with “I should have known better” and he responded, “This is something you’ve never done before, how would you have known better?”. It was an obvious question and I was speechless because I have always lived with the assumption that I should just know. My mentor was correct – how would I have known? His question was like turning the light on in a room and noticing the wall I’d been walking into for years. It was a useless wall and needed to be kicked down…and kicking down those walls feels so good!
Anticipate that becoming an entrepreneur will be a roller coaster and commit to the ride – trusting that the peaks always follow the valleys.
There is something so powerful about the ability to look at a difficult situation or season in your life rationally, bear down, and face it head on without sugar coating it so it is more acceptable. The irony is that the sugar coating is what distorts our expectations. There is a fine line between being realistic and being negative and learning to discern the difference is invaluable. One of my mentors is a master at this and I have learned so much by watching the way he approaches the challenges in his life. The phrase “it is what it is” used to frustrate me to no end. I have always thought “duh” after hearing someone say it – how redundant a phrase to use! I now have a deep appreciation for this cliché, in particular. There is freedom in accepting things exactly as they are; it is the kind of freedom you cannot understand until you experience it.
Know that you alone determine your worth and in doing so, determine whom you’ll allow to influence and shape you.
This is a practice worth protecting and I am learning to honor it daily. Giving others the power to determine our self worth commits us to a cycle of chasing external approval and validation; it is exhausting. I am only starting to really understand now, at 40, that this cycle puts us at the mercy and will of others and while some people are worthy of influencing and shaping you, most people are not. There is a distinct difference between respecting the views of others and in having their views carry weight in your life. Knowing the difference is fundamental.
Know in your most sacred place what your vision is – commit to it – and then articulate it simply, honestly, and with passion.
Your vision doesn’t have to be short or limited to two minutes, but it has to be meaningful and honest. I am learning that authenticity, vulnerability, and honesty are what inspire people. I am also learning that sometimes a vision will be polarizing and will evoke strong reactions in people; this can be such a powerful thing because when people follow you it is because they believe in your vision fully, unwavering in their support. Nothing is more powerful and humbling than living with the knowledge that people deeply believe in you.
Being in business for yourself is a roller coaster ride in every sense – financially, mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Whether you embrace the ride by learning when to hang on and when to let go is entirely your choice.