“Life is just a chance to grow a soul.” –A. Powell Davies
When I decided to go on the journey of starting my own business, I had no idea it would be so hard. All I knew is that I wanted to make a difference in the lives of other people, I wanted the freedom to express myself through my work, and I wanted the flexibility of being in business for myself. Being an entrepreneur has been filled with ups and downs, tears and joy, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It has been part of my purpose here on Earth, and I have learned many lessons about life on this expedition. Please allow me to share with you words of wisdom you may find helpful for your life.
Life is a Constant Learning Process
When I started my business, I thought I knew a lot. I worked in business for over 20 years and had a great deal of experience. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The knowledge absorbed while growing my business is incredible. I can’t even begin to count the number of books and articles I have read. And it doesn’t stop there. I will be learning new ideas for as long as I am in business.
Life is no different. There is always something to learn. When we choose to be curious and intrigued with learning, we grow as individuals. Learning keeps life interesting, and keeps your mind stimulated. Have you ever noticed how life keeps handing us the same lessons over and over until we finally learn them?
My friend and I once attended a three-day intensive seminar. After the seminar we were discussing some of the highlights and our favorite takeaways. One thing my friend mentioned was she noticed quite a few contradictions throughout the three days. She said the trainers would say one thing and then either do something else or say something that was the opposite of what they had originally taught. To her, this was a learning opportunity. She was curious as to why she kept noticing so many contradictions. What was life trying to teach her about contradictions? How was she contradicting herself in her life?
What is life trying to teach you right now? What situations seem to be occurring again and again?
Be a Student of People
As an entrepreneur, you have to know your market. Who are your clients and what is important to them? You have to understand what your clients’ needs and desires are. Only then can you truly serve your client. The funny thing is that people are different. I’m sure that doesn’t come as a surprise to you. Although most business owners have common needs and desires, they are uniquely different. And the only way for me to meet the needs of my clients is to listen deeply to who they are and what they want.
Understanding the people in your life is no different. We all have family members, friends, coworkers and other people in our lives, and each of them has their own personality, needs, passions, style of communicating, and love language. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. In order for you to have the best relationship you can with the various people in your life, it’s important to study who they are. How do you need to communicate to each person to ensure your message is heard? In what way do you need to express your love so they understand you? What makes them happy or crabby? What are their triggers and how can you avoid them?
Be willing to open your awareness and learn from the mistakes you make with people. In any given moment, we have the ability to be both a student and a teacher in every relationship we have.
You Have to Stay Connected to People
One of the easy habits to fall into when you are an entrepreneur is hiding behind your desk away from the rest of the world. Especially if you have a work-at-home business, it can get somewhat lonely if you don’t get out.
The same thing happens to busy entrepreneurs. Our business becomes the center of our attention, and understandably so, but this doesn’t mean we don’t need to stay connected to other important areas in our lives. How often are you getting out and connecting with your friends? Is your family complaining that they want more time with you?
It’s fine to stay busy with growing your business, but making time to get out of the office to socialize is essential to your health. As human beings, we need to be in relationship with other people so we don’t feel so isolated and alone in life.
Surround Yourself with Positive People that Share Like Minds
Does it matter who you hang out with? You bet it does. Entrepreneurs like to hang out with other entrepreneurs. Why? Because we are on the same path in life and we can benefit from each other.
I’m sure you’ve had the experience of hanging out with someone that drains your energy, or just doesn’t seem to understand who you are. On the other hand, you’ve probably had the privilege of sharing company with someone you felt totally connected to. When we surround ourselves with positive people that share like minds with us, we create a synergistic relationship.
Synergy in our lives enables us to work together to create something greater than what we could have created on our own. If you don’t know how to stay organized or deal with your latest business challenge, wouldn’t it be nice to have synergy in your life? You and all your like-minded small business owners can creatively solve problems, encourage one another, and fill each other with the renewed energy needed for growing your business.
Action is the Only Way to Move Forward
I learned an interesting fact about sharks one time when I was reading a book to my son. Most sharks, can’t breathe if they are not swimming, and they can’t sleep for very long, if at all, or they will sink. In other words, sharks need to keep moving forward if they are going to survive. I’m glad life is not so extreme for us, but we can learn something valuable from sharks.
Taking action in our lives enables us to move forward on the goals and dreams that are most important to us. I’ve learned as a business owner that it’s great to have a lot of creative ideas, but it doesn’t help grow my business if I don’t put them into action. Any great dream requires forward momentum. The people that have made the most significant impact on our world are the movers and shakers; the people that are willing to do something different to bring about change. So if you want to grow your business, make more money, or have more time, taking action is the only answer.
And sustained action requires discipline. If you don’t have the discipline to stick with a task, a goal, an activity or change from beginning to end, then you will never realize the fruits of your efforts. A successful business requires discipline and so does a successful life.
You Need to Get Out of Your Own Way
Nicole had dreams. She wanted to be a successful business owner. She wanted to become financially independent, and raise her two girls to be happy and healthy. Nicole wanted to write songs and use her voice to express herself. And she wanted to find a good man that she could settle down and build a family with. Every week we would meet to develop steps she could take to help her reach her goals. I encouraged her and helped her put together a plan to overcome the obstacles that kept arising. Sometimes Nicole would show up for our weekly meetings with some success stories to share, but more often than not, we talked about why she couldn’t get the tasks done she promised herself she would do. After six months, she made very little progress towards her goals, and she finally gave up.
Did Nicole lack the desire or ability to achieve her goals? No, she truly wanted to achieve her dreams and she was capable of following through, but she just couldn’t get out of her own way. What I mean is that she had internal blocks that needed to be removed before she could move forward. We all encounter internal blocks that stop us from moving forward. Sometimes those blocks are temporary, and other times they are long standing.
What I’ve learned while owning my own business is that I am my own worst enemy. When I let fear and negative mind chatter take over, I am going to be stuck. My energy will be blocked and the creative ideas that I normally have are buried, nowhere to be found. There have been times I have sat at my computer to write, only to sit and stare at the blank screen. The little voice inside me shares all kinds of nonsense. You are not a writer. This is boring. You can’t engage a reader. You’re not creative enough. If I am feeding myself these messages, is it any wonder that I get writer’s block?
Most of us, on a deep level, deal with self-doubt and negative self-talk. We all have limiting beliefs at times. We make assumptions that may or may not be true. We wrestle with negative emotions that drag us down. Unfortunately, all this mind junk gets in the way of us experiencing all that we are capable of being. Conquering our minds is not an easy task, but it’s worth it to try. Think about what your life would be like if you could let it all go and get out of your own way.
You Can’t Give Up on Your Dreams
Starting and building a business is hard. There is no other way to say it. In the beginning, you wear all the hats because you don’t have money to hire people. You work hard and you receive very little for all your efforts. You try ideas that don’t work, and you get discouraged. You worry about where the next dollar is going to come from. Sometimes you want to throw your hands up and give up. You tell yourself it’s not worth it; things would be much easier if you would just go work for someone else. This is why so many businesses fail in the first five years. Entrepreneurs give up on their dreams.
You can’t give up on your dreams. You have to have persistence even when you feel like you don’t have any steam left. When I work with my clients, I am forever reminding them not to give up. When you try and try and still fail, it’s so easy to stop trying. But that dream will still be inside of you. And chances are, if you keep trying and learning and growing, you will eventually succeed. Keep your eye on the prize, whatever that may be, and be determined. Don’t ever give up on what’s important to you.
Sometimes You Have to Let Go
I know it seems contradictory to tell you to keep trying, and to let go in the same breath. But it works. I cannot tell you how many times I have worked and tried so hard, only to be discouraged and ready to throw in the towel. I surrender and walk away, and amazing opportunities come my way. It’s true we can try too hard. Sometimes when we try so hard, we have a tendency to control, especially when things are not going as planned.
Controlling and fighting blocks our energy. One of the main reasons individuals struggle with losing weight is because they fight the process. Many overweight people don’t want to change their eating habits. They don’t like to exercise, and they fight inside themselves with what they want to do and what they feel they should do. I can’t tell you how many women say to me, “I have to lose weight or I have to exercise.” My reply is always, “No you don’t. You can stay at that weight.”
When you feel like you don’t have a choice, your tendency is to fight and rebel. Give yourself the choice to stop trying and you might find you want to do the very thing you were fighting. Or better yet, what you were working so hard to achieve might just flow to you naturally.
Capitalize on Your Strengths and Let Others Do the Rest
When you first start a business, you do everything because you can’t afford to hire anyone to help you. In the beginning, I taught myself how to design a website. I did my own homemade brochures and business cards. I was the accountant, the coach, the administrator, the marketing representative, the speaker, the salesperson, the copywriter, the graphic designer, the writer, and anyone else I had to be. Am I good at all these roles? I’m not bad, but some of these roles are not my area of strength or passion. Eventually, I got to a point where I could afford to hire other people to do some of these tasks, and they did them much better than I could.
When you come to a place in your business when you can begin to let go and admit your limits, you can then capitalize on your strengths and let others do the same. There is a certain level of freedom we experience when we focus on what we do best and stop trying to master tasks we don’t naturally excel in. Why fight against who you are at your core? To admit you are not naturally organized or you lack structure is not an admission of failure, but rather a sign of strength. It takes self-assurance to ask for help in an area of challenge for you.
We are all gifted at different things, and life works much better when we pull together as a team and take advantage of each individual’s strengths. Let a housecleaner do what she does best if you can’t find time to clean. Allow a virtual office manager to step in and take over some of your administrative tasks. Hire a PR agency to write and issue your press releases. And don’t feel guilty about it. Focus on what you do well and life will be much easier and more enjoyable for you.
Follow Your Heart and Fulfillment Will Come
I became an entrepreneur because I decided to follow my heart and honor my true self. Prior to owning my own business, I worked in the business world for over 20 years. One of the things I was very good at was identifying when I felt happy and when I was unhappy. Even though I was in a thinking world, I stayed close to what my heart was trying to tell me. At times, I would try and think my way out of a situation, and it rarely worked if my head and heart were disconnected. There is nothing wrong with thinking, but sometimes we have to transcend our ego to find our true path in life. When I followed my heart and acted on its promptings, personal fulfillment would come.
When you can tap into your heart and trust what it is telling you, you are more likely to follow the path that is right for you. Some people would argue that you can’t trust your feelings. I would argue that you can’t always trust your mind either. Eva Broch Pierrakos summarizes my point nicely, “When you feel and experience your real self, you will not fear and consequently overemphasize your ego faculties. Nor will you leave unimportant underdeveloped ego faculties to slumber, untended.” In other words, when you have a healthy balance between head and heart, your intuitive self will always point you in the right direction.
There is no continuity or order to these life lessons. Rather, they are just important, but random thoughts intended to cause you to reflect for a moment about how you might apply these to your own life. You can apply them to your business, your family or to your life. Or you can take the time to reflect on your own life lessons you’ve learned over the years.
TAKE ACTION ASSIGNMENT:
Which of these life lessons, if any, do you relate to? How might you apply them to your life today? If none of these lessons touch a chord with you, what life lessons might you be struggling to learn right now?
10 Life Lessons I’ve Learned from Being an Entrepreneur
August 10, 2016