LessonsEntrepreneurs are hardwired very differently from most people.  They almost always have an interesting mix of passion, drive, intuition, creativity, leadership, exceptional communication skills, and unreasonable optimism. They also have the capacity for self-criticism, unrealistic expectations, a propensity for “perfectionism,” and the tendency to take on too much.

This combination is both brilliant and difficult, and because it is, the ride is almost always intense.

There is so much I’ve learned in this last year since I became an entrepreneur. I anticipated I would grow from a business perspective, but I was completely blindsided 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.

Some of the best lessons in life are ones that hit you between the eyes – early and hard.

Here is my quick (and dirty) list: 

1.  Do what you are excellent at, allow others to do what they are excellent at, and outsource everything else – without shame or apology.

At some point in my life I decided that my self-worth was dependent on my productivity and ability to be instantly great at everything I tried. If I wasn’t instantly an expert, I felt 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 allowed this unreasonable expectation to control my behavior, making me hostage to my emotions.

The worst part is that I didn’t come to this realization about myself on my own; a mentor pointed it out. I was explaining an issue 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?”

His question was an obvious one and I was speechless. I have always lived with the assumption that I should just know everything. But my mentor was correct – how would I have known?  His question was like turning the light on in a room and noticing walls I’d been walking into for years. 

These kinds of walls are useless; kick them down and find a way to outsource the stuff that doesn’t feed you.   

2.  Know that becoming an entrepreneur is 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 rationally, bear down, and face it head on without sugar coating it.  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.

There is freedom in accepting things exactly as they are; it allows you to realistically prepare and honestly navigate tough seasons in life.  It also means that you trust you will figure out the peaks and valleys in your way, in your time. 

3.  Know that you alone determine your value, and in doing so, determine whom you’ll allow to influence and shape you – even (and especially!) in business.

Giving others the power to determine our self worth commits us to a cycle of chasing external approval and validation; it is exhausting.  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 allowing their view/opinion carry weight in your life. 

Knowing the difference is fundamental. 

4.  Know in your most sacred place what your vision is and then articulate it honestly, clearly, and passionately.

Your vision doesn’t have to be short or limited to two minutes (this is popular advice on the Internet), but it does have to be meaningful and honest.  Authenticity, passion, and vulnerability are what inspire people to want more for themselves. In this digital age, we are craving connection more than ever before and if your vision inspires people, they will follow you.

Be clear on what your vision is and refuse to water it down for the masses. Understand that it may be polarizing and cause strong reactions in people, both positive and negative, and then embrace that reality. Strong reaction to your vision is what you want, indifference is useless. 

Nothing is more powerful and humbling than living with the knowledge that people deeply believe in you and your vision.

Riding the roller coaster

Becoming an entrepreneur and being successful in business is a roller coaster ride in every sense – financially, mentally, emotionally, physically, and relationally.

Learning how to manage the ride is necessary for your sanity.

Learning how to appreciate the ride is key to your success.      

Over to you

Do any of these resonate with you? What have your lessons been? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.