5 Life Lessons Learned From Entrepreneurship
Any time in life that you undertake something that challenges you, I believe it forces you to make a distinct choice—to grow or to shrink. Entrepreneurship is no different. In fact, some may say (myself included, depending on the day) that it is one of the more challenging choices a person can make regarding career and making a living. The truth remains—it calls you to introspect on yourself and your life in ways you may have never imagined you would.
I knew going into launching my own creative business, that it wouldn’t be easy. I haven’t been wrong about that. To be frank—I didn’t want it to be easy, and still don’t. Here’s why: the personal growth that has come as a result of this adventure, has changed me on some seriously deep levels. It’s shown me pieces and parts of myself, that, without the grind and friction, may have never been revealed.
When I sat down to write and share this morning, and I started thinking about what this journey is teaching me, I knew I wanted to share relevant things—things that can be applied and tried and tested in life. Tangible things that have shaken and stirred me. Some things that, hopefully, you can take away as well, and try them on for size during your next challenge. So, here’s the top 5 for this season. The top 5 for right now.
1) You are capable of far more than you give yourself credit for.
Yes, YOU. It’s so easy to stay comfortable in life, if that’s what you’re trying to do. Sure, there are opportunities on every side calling our names and entreating us to take them on—but if we want to stay cozy and safe, there is nothing stopping us, except us. Starting a business can feel so overwhelming at times. You’re always having to juggle both the big picture and the day-to-day details. In doing so, you’ll be required to face both your strengths and weaknesses. You’ll have to acknowledge early on that, while you may have a strong and valuable expertise, there is much you do not know that you will be required to learn in order to succeed. But here’s the thing—you CAN do it. Believe in yourself. You’ll be amazed at what you’re capable of when your passion breeds motivation, and your motivation breeds powerful action. Which leads me to number two…
2) It’s gotta be one foot in front of the other, ya’ll.
Think about an invention or accomplishment that impresses you most. For the sake of an example, let’s use the mobile phone. If you look at the device that was first introduced in the 70’s, it looks far different than the one that we all carry in our purses or back pockets nowadays. In fact, could you really even consider that first model truly mobile? BUT...it didn’t stop the visionary folks at Motorola from creating something that they thought would be beneficial and worthwhile, even with all of its notable limitations at that point in time. We look at the advanced technological device we hold in our hands now, and while we marvel at the amazing things it allows us to do, we can often take for granted the loooooong journey it took to get from model 0001 to model 1001. Business is the same way. It’s highly likely that you won’t reasonably jump from having the idea of starting your business, to being booked solid or having a request for 10,000 units of your product within those first few days, weeks, months, or even years of launching. And that is perfectly okay. Great things are developed over time. We diminish the journey (and yes, even the reward) when we forsake the small steps along the way that will eventually bring us to where we’re going. The journey is sweet—don't rush through it.
3) It’s not personal—but sometimes it really is.
Does that sound like a riddle? Probably! Let me explain. There are a lot of things in business that we must choose not to take personally. We have to realize that while we are super, duper, totally and overwhelmingly passionate about what we’re creating, not everyone else will be. And that’s actually a good thing. Think about flavors of ice cream. Baskin Robbins alone has 31 flavors. I’d wager a bet that they offer all those flavors because not everyone wants vanilla. Or chocolate. Or bubble gum cotton candy with sour worms and sprinkles on top. Right? It’s no different when it comes to our own brands of business. People are attracted to different things, and those attractions will lead them to spend their dollars and time where they feel the best fit. Not everyone wants your flavor. Sometimes you’ve got that mint chocolate chip on a cone thing going, and what Sally is really looking for is raspberry swirl in a cup. You don’t have to take that personally. Now, here’s that other half of the lesson—the things we do choose to take personally are the things that will make or break our businesses and lives. Things like relationship, communication, flexibility, generosity, kindness, and integrity. I’ve learned that these components of business MUST be taken into consideration with every single personal interaction. You are dealing with people, and people require a personal connection. That’s where relationships are built, and in those relationships, mutual loyalty. You’re in trouble when you start thinking about your clients as transactions or meal tickets (or your friends and colleagues as a way to get ahead). Make things personal when it matters.
4) Time management and prioritization is the golden ticket.
This one is short(er) and straightforward: you do have the time to do what you want to do. But, here’s the hard truth—you have to make the time, because it won’t be magically gifted to you. Everyone gets 24 hours each day. As a business owner, there’s no getting around the need to prioritize well in order to manage your time effectively. And quite frankly, it’s the same with life, isn’t it? Everyone who has something they want, has it because they’ve made space for it in their lives—they’ve made choices that have led them to reach that object or goal of their desire. Don’t be fooled to think you’ll be the exception. If you want to own your own business and do something you love day in and day out, you will have to make space in your life for it. That means you’ll have to make sacrifices. And, if you have key relationships in your life as well that you want to be intentional about (husband or wife, kids, extended family, friends, etc.), you will have to make time for those too. I’m not saying this will be easy. All sacrifice comes with the sensation of a pinch. You have to choose what you want most, and then stop making excuses for why you don’t or can’t have it. You can. But only if you want it badly enough and are willing do the intentional work required to put that desire into action.
5) Being clear and faithful in your commitment has considerable power.
Determination can only go so far without commitment. Commitment is the token that allows determination to blossom into real results. Once you’ve set your mind to something—whether it be running a business, spending time with your kids, chasing a hobby that brings you joy, or getting out of debt—you won’t get there unless you commit yourself to taking the steps and staying the course. Being clear about your goal(s) is the first part of it. I’m a believer in making your ultimate goal(s) so personal that they become a part of your vision in everyday life. For me, my ultimate, big picture goal for running my own business is to create a certain kind of life—the kind of life that has significant freedom in both finances and time, so that my family will be supported and have opportunities to spend quality time together exploring the world and deepening our relationships with one another. The second part of that goal is being able to give freely and to serve God in that way. My husband and I believe that, as Christians, we’re called to give to those in need. We desire deeply to have the resources to do that on a greater scale. As we build this business, I keep those things in mind. They drive me forward, because those goals are so personal that they’re a force for action. I’ve committed myself to reaching those ideals and that vision for our life. When I have days that this business is HARD and I feel overwhelmed and exhausted and beat up, I remember why I’m ultimately doing it. Remembering those crystal clear reasons helps me to stay faithful when doubt or fear or frustration arises. You need that kind of vision for your business and for life. Without it, it will be very easy to give up when the going gets tough.
Til next time...
"Everyone who has something they want, has it because they’ve made space for it in their lives—they’ve made choices that have led them to reach that object or goal of their desire. Don’t be fooled to think you’ll be the exception. If you want to own your own business and do something you love day in and day out, you will have to make space in your life for it."