Ever sit down and just take stock? Evaluate? Reevaluate? Assess? Tweak? Think about work? Worth? Contemplate life? I do. I am actually in the midst of a MASSIVE “twessaluation” (yes, I made that word up) right now.
My recent findings have me admitting that a lot of improvements need to be made. These findings in and of themselves reek of growth and progress because acknowledging flaws and growth opportunities is brave as shit. I’m not perfect, but I am getting better every day — and I just so happen to be brave as the day is long.
Launching a business can be tricky stuff. Incredibly rewarding and the fuel for your passion-fire. But tricky, nonetheless. I’ve been at the whole entrepreneur create-a-life-you-love thing for a few years now. And, I have made some mistakes. Multiple mistakes. Big ones. Little ones. Repetitive ones. Costly ones — literally and figuratively. A minefield of foibles that I am currently navigating and reassessing so I don’t make them again. It’s time to take this ship where I imagined it would sail all along. No more putzing around in the harbor — this girl was meant for the open seas.
So, here it is. The big reveal. These are my top 10 things I could have done better. There have been MANY more, but this is a good place to start. And, if you are on your own journey, may you learn from MY mistakes so you can be spared the time and pain of making them on your own.
- I incorrectly assumed that the people I loved (family and friends) would support me unconditionally and be ever-present, ringside, on my journey. I was wrong. The vast majority of my family and closest friends haven’t been a part of my journey at all. They don’t attend my classes, they don’t share my news on social media, and many of them don’t have a clue about who I am or what I am trying to accomplish. Some don’t even want me to share my story for fear that it will negatively impact them in some way. And, trust me when I say I am okay with that. I truly am.
Lesson Learned: You cannot “expect” those closest to you to be the launching off pad for your dreams. You can hope for it, you can ask for it, but you should never, ever expect it. Don’t start with family and friends; there is too much history there, and family and friends are usually the crabs in the bucket who want you to change the least.
- My main marketing strategy revolves around Facebook, occasional newsletters, and this blog. That’s a mistake. Because all I am doing is repeatedly marketing to the people I mentioned in Lesson #1, who I have already admitted do not want to participate in this journey. Over 800 friends on Facebook. An average of 1% engagement. Time for a new strategy.
Lesson Learned: Know your audience and market to them. Unless people are sharing your updates on FB and reposting blogs, you are not reaching any new people. Seek the like-minded. Utilize different strategies.
- I assumed I could still do it ALL (and be absolutely flawless at it), and to this day I am still trying. I’ve made myself crazy over the years. I told myself that I could give 100% to my business, while also giving 100% to my marriage, and 100% to my kids, and 100% to being a housewife, and 100% to being a social person, etc. Without even tallying up the “etc,” I am already at 500%…and ain’t nobody got 500% to give!! We have 100% TOPS, and probably more like 75% on most days. So, I am re-allocating my resources.
Lesson Learned: My life is like a pizza. My pursuits and passions are like the slices. I can’t give 100% to the whole pizza at once. But, I CAN divide my life into slices and give 100% to the slice I am working on at the moment. I can be present. And, if you are lucky — you might even be the slice that gets a free topping from time to time!
- I thought I had to be perfect in my line of work, or you wouldn’t like me. It took a year of formal business coaching, multiple online courses, and countless personal development seminars for me to realize that perfect is passé and authentic is timeless. Many of my favorite mentors are recovering drug addicts. My favorite business coach has been divorced, grew up in a dysfunctional household, and has a messy relationship with his parents. Rejection is part and parcel for this line of work. Knowing all of this makes me feel incredibly blessed that I have never had a drug problem and I have a husband that I adore like crazy-cakes. Knowing my mentors’ stories also helps me know I have multiple allies in the messy-relationships-with-parents arena. It also makes me more willing to admit that, where I have never done drugs, I DO tend to numb my pain and quell my fears with carbohydrates…something I continue to work on.
Lesson Learned: I don’t have to be perfect, but I absolutely, positively must be REAL!! From that, I will attract the right people to the arena. We all have flaws — it’s in how we share them that we can derive great strength and community.
- I had a longstanding case of “JustLikeItis,” which stems from deep-down not feeling “enough.” Back when I had my craft and scrapbooking Web site, I felt like I had to be just like the icons of the time: the Ali Edwards, Tara Whitneys, and Rebecca Sowers of the world. When I was focusing full-time on my anti-aging business, I was trying to be just like the top business developers. I used their language when speaking to new clients, I modeled their presentations. I was less than myself…and I think everyone knew it but me. What I didn’t know then was that I couldn’t develop MY OWN business to its fullest potential when I was too busy trying to copy someone else.
Lesson Learned: I have value. My stories inspire. It may not feel like it all the time, but being me is absolutely, positively enough and the world will benefit from MY gifts. Not my gifts all chameleon’d under someone else’s packaging. I can still pull from the people I admire, the trailblazers that have gone before me, but I need to make what I am pulling my own. I am enough.
- Sometimes mother doesn’t know best. Nor do your friends. Nor do your trusted advisors. I started out my entrepreneurial life seeking business advice from my mother. My mother has never been an entrepreneur, and where she is a wonderful employee and one of my biggest supporters — she is not a “business” person. Then I wanted network marketing advice from a very successful hedge-fund manager who had never been involved with network marketing. I was hoping friends who hadn’t had children yet could commiserate with me over the challenges of parenting. And so on, and so on.
Lesson Learned: I was often barking up the wrong tree. I lacked clarity and direction. People might have been telling me what I wanted to hear, but what I actually needed was the real deal from sources who knew what they were talking about. I have now become part of a mastermind group for business advice. As I start to bark up the right trees, I am much more selective in where my information comes from. And, more of the right people are starting to magically show up in my life.
- I am not the Statue of Liberty. Even though I might think I want to, I cannot take on all of the world’s poor, misguided, weak, tired, and effed up. I WANT to help the world with this Self Esteem Through Art program and my other initiatives because I really, truly believe the world needs help. But, I need a niche. I need to refine my clientele. I need to specialize. As a purported people-pleaser, I have a tough time with that because I want to do it all and be your everything. It’s not working. I can’t teach in a school, AND run birthday parties, AND do one-on-one counseling, AND host after-school open studios, AND run women’s retreats, AND be an advocate for the disabled, AND write a book, AND develop a curriculum, AND work with people of all genders and backgrounds from ages 5 to 105, etc etc etc. I am ONE PERSON blazing a trail of love and light, and I need a focus. A specialty. A specific and meaningful calling. As we already agreed, I don’t have 500% in my pizza, but for some reason, I continue to think I have 500% in my business.
Lesson Learned: Be clear. Focus. Specialize. Say no. Reevaluate. I need to work with the demographic I resonate the most with — OR with the one I enjoy working with the most. There is only one Statue of Liberty and she lives on Staten Island. Less is more.
- The tricky part about asking for advice is that it can sometimes guide you down a path that doesn’t feel good and that you had no initial intention of exploring. That misguided path can be like a rabbit hole that you eventually feel powerless to get out of. Sometimes people give fear-based advice as opposed to faith-based advice and if you buy into it, BOOM! Off course. The crabs in the bucket, pulling your brave and fearless ass back in with them.
Lesson Learned: Be clear about what you want BEFORE seeking advice. Know what your soul wants and THEN refine how you will get there with some advice from people who have blazed the trail before you. Steer clear of crabs.
- I have friends who are contractors and joke about the irony that their home repairs are always last on the list because they make a living helping everyone else. I know chefs who don’t cook at home. I see the same thing happening with me. I lead this creative life where my focus is on creating projects and programs for the outside world, but I have sacrificed my personal creative pursuits in the process. I can’t remember the last time I created something for myself JUST FOR PLEASURE. It makes me irritable. It ultimately stifles my mojo. It leaves me feeling bottled up and frustrated. It is the creative equivalent of blue balls.
Lesson Learned: My personal creativity and passions, when pursued wholeheartedly and without guilt, will lead to greater professional creativity and passion. The light comes from within. It’s time to take “artist dates” with myself seriously…they are no joke.
- My pre-entrepreneurial life came really easily to me. I did fabulous in school, with minimal studying. I was a great athlete. I thrived in interpersonal relationships. I was beyond blessed. Naturally, I assumed that my own-your-own-business life would be equally as easy breezy. WRONG! This has been the most difficult, challenging, humbling, eye-opening, life-altering, relationship-changing few years of my life.
Lesson Learned: Things can be tough, but I am not a quitter. I am a lifelong learner who has a desire to succeed, and I will keep going until I really feel like I got it right. And, it just so happens I am as brave as the day is long.