Today marks the six-month anniversary of when I launched my business!
I say that with a lot of pride, amazement, satisfaction, ambition, hope, faith and excitement.
I don’t think any time you start something new on your own — be it a business, project or any journey — you can ever really know what you’re getting yourself into.
You can prepare yourself, but unless you’re in the trenches, you really can’t know what the highs and lows will be, what unforeseen challenges and obstacles step in your path, what new opportunities will appear, where your strength and resolve will come from.
For that reason, that well-known adage — that it’s the journey, not the destination that matters — has assumed a new importance in my life. I have always been the type more fixated on the destination, but starting my own business has meant that I have to be mindful of the journey and what I can learn from it.
When I launched in July 2013, I had strong ideas about how I wanted to move forward, but I knew I had to be flexible.
I knew that there was so much I had to learn, and would learn, as I embarked on this new big adventure of mine. I knew that I would grow and adapt with each lesson I learned.
The lessons I’ve learned have come from personal and professional experiences, from talking to others, from looking to the example of peers I admire. Many of these lessons I knew, but they have been reinforced as I walked this path.
- Keep your eyes on your own paper: In trying to learn from others’ examples, it is too easy to fall into the deadly trap of comparison. You compare your life and your success to others, and this is a slippery, non-productive slope. It’s important to maintain perspective and realize that what works for others may not work for you. And better yet, whatever you are trying to do or create is yours. You have the ability to make it the way you want. So don’t worry about what everyone else is doing; focus on what you want and how you will make it happen.
- One step at a time — anything worth anything at all takes time: This has probably been my lifelong mantra, and it really helps to keep it in mind on a daily basis. If an idea is worth its teeth, it will take time to make it successful. There is no “overnight success.” It’s that investment we make into making it work, into refining it, into delivering it, that will make it valuable. So be patient and take each thing on as it comes!
- When all else fails, step back and take a deep breath: Disappointments happen. Frustrations happen. Instead of getting caught up in that tidal wave of negative feeling and just reacting, it’s best to take a break. Take what you can from the experience, sort out what needs to be done and just move forward. It’s not the end of the world!
- Make room for improvement: If your to-do list looks anything like mine, there are 1,001 things that need to get done every single day. But on top of running a business and doing the actual work, I want to keep learning and growing. There will never be enough hours in the day, but you have to make time to continuously improve. Whether it’s hitting the gym more regularly, taking that helpful e-course or carving out time each day to recharge your batteries, you have to make time for it otherwise it won’t happen.
- Set boundaries: You have to know when to step on the brakes. You could work 24/7, you could answer business calls all throughout the weekend, you could be flexible with your time and money. But is all of that good for you? Probably not. And it’s not sustainable. Being flexible is great, but knowing what your limits are — that point when you may be over-extending yourself — is really important. Your work will be greatly improved by that.
- It’s okay to not have all the answers: You don’t know everything! No one knows everything! And that’s fine! Recognize what your questions are and seek answers. No question is too big or too small. If you’re wondering about it, keep in mind that many before you and many after you will likely wonder about it too. And someone, somewhere, may be able to inspire (if not outright help) you.
- Embrace change: Nothing is set in stone, and everything changes. In life and in business, it’s important to embrace the changes that are coming or right in front of you now. Adapt and find your own meaning in those changes, so that they have a positive, productive effect on your life.
- Talk it out: I’m a strong believer in talking out your ideas and thoughts. (I have a habit of doing it even when I’m alone!) Sometimes, by just voicing what’s on your mind, something clicks. Maybe an idea just makes sense, or that missing piece you were looking for is suddenly so clear. Maybe the fear you’re harboring doesn’t seem so bad after all. Whatever it is, and with whomever, just say it out loud!
- Don’t be afraid to leap!: You have to take chances to learn new things and reap rewards. Sometimes an opportunity will come that seems too big or overwhelming. Maybe you feel like you don’t fit the cookie-cutter mold of the person that could get it done. That shouldn’t deter you! It’s worthwhile to put yourself out there, to go after something that scares you a little bit. It will push you, but you will learn so much in the process.
- Be yourself and believe in yourself: Self-explanatory!