It’s amazing how having a conversation with someone who knew you “back then” can help you understand where you “right now” – how far you’ve come, and where you’re headed.
In the past three years, my life has totally changed. Much of this I attribute to my career path. Not the one I chose, but rather, the one I’ve created for myself as a business-owner and entrepreneur.
Lately I’ve been asked on numerous occasions what I attribute to my success (so far). While there are a number of things to share and stories to tell – I’ve ultimately been able to pair it down to five key actions/values/ideas. One’s I’ll continue to put into practice – and one’s that I think any entrepreneur, aspiring or thriving, should take to heart.
In that, I’ve never lost touch with who I am. My identity has remained intact. A couple months ago I got an email from a friend and blog reader after I wrote this post – who commended me for being so open and honest about my views on politics, faith, and equality. I really hadn’t though twice about putting those thoughts out there, but she thanked me for being so honest, even at the sake of being less “professional”. My theory? The kind of people I want to work with are the one’s that – whether they agree or disagree with my beliefs – understand the importance of having these kinds of conversations in an open forum. They understand that I’m a human being – just like them. One that’s capable of learning and sharing beliefs – challenging myself and others to think in new ways.
Personally and professionally, I haven’t forgotten my “roots” – and in a world in which we often find ourselves changing to appease the masses – staying true to yourself and embracing who you are is an invaluable asset.
At the sake of sounding contradictory, one of the most important things I’ve learned is the value of maintaining an open mind. To new ideas. New perspectives. New opportunities. I’ve surrounded myself with people who inspire and enlighten me. Who challenge me and aren’t afraid to speak up.
It may make me more vulnerable to criticism – but I crave feedback. I want to know what I can be doing better. I want to learn more and try new things. I’m not afraid of failure – as I know it leads to success. It’s easy to be set in your ways – never allowing yourself to see things in a different light. But we grow, truly grow, when we open our minds to new possibilities. When we admit that we don’t know it all.
I’m never, ever afraid to go above and beyond for my clients. My colleagues. My peers. My friends. This is made easier because I’m fortunate enough to really enjoy what I do – making all that “extra” work feel much less “worky”.
This excerpt from a recent Inc Magazine article sums the “extra mile” concept up beautifully.
“Everyone says they go the extra mile. Almost no one actually does. Most people who go there think, “Wait… no one else is here… why am I doing this?” and leave, never to return. That’s why the extra mile is such a lonely place. That’s also why the extra mile is a place filled with opportunities.
Be early. Stay late. Make the extra phone call. Send the extra email. Do the extra research. Help a customer unload or unpack a shipment. Don’t wait to be asked; offer. Don’t just tell employees what to do–show them what to do and work beside them. Every time you do something, think of one extra thing you can do–especially if other people aren’t doing that one thing. Sure, it’s hard. But that’s what will make you different. And over time, that’s what will make you incredibly successful.”
More importantly – I started trusting other people. It hasn’t been easy – but I’ve slowly but surely let go of the reigns and have focused on bringing together a team of talented, passionate, excited individuals to do great work. Together.
Entrepreneurs are clingy with their ideas. A business is an entrepreneur’s baby – and it’s hard to trust that baby in the hands of other people.
But a funny thing happens when you start trusting other people. You regain your sanity. You start to understand not only that you cannot do it all, but that you don’t have to. That you can focus on what you’re best at, and allow other people to do their best work.
Business is better together. Which is why I always suggest, to anyone in the early stages of operating a business – that as soon as it makes sense (financially, etc.) – hire someone. Then when you can, hire someone else. Building your empire MUST start with building a collaborative team you love, respect, and trust.
This would appear as something odd to include, but it’s this one thing that has helped me maintain my focus and drive. I worry. I worry about failing. I worry about success and how to manage it. I worry about when the next client will come through the door. I worry about what a client will say about me when my work is done. I worry about getting paid.
I worry about everything. Possibly to a fault (I’m working on it) – and while fortunately so far I’ve had very little to worry about, it’s this humility – this idea of “staying hungry” – that continues to motivate me to do more. To try harder. To be better.
Worrying can become completely toxic if you let it – but it can also fuel your passions and creativity. For me, it’s helped keep me grounded – as I’ve taken on more projects and seen increased success, I make sure to maintain that those great opportunities – that the success I want for myself and those around me – will only continue if I continue learning, trying, trusting, and hustling.