What The Last 1,095 Days Have Taught Me About Life, Myself, and Being an Entrepreneur
Entrepreneur - a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so. A person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk (dictionary.com).
This past Labor Day Weekend I happily celebrated 1,095 days since moving from South Central PA to the big city - NYC. And, although I had been mulling over my then-current state of ennui and my desire to 'run towards life', it was an unexpected death in my family that catapulted that decision to the top of the list. My decision to move became my 'pivot', my game changer, and my tipping point. I inhaled, and then exhaled. And then I jumped. As I reflect, it has been another year of transitions, relationships, introspection, change, and much more work. And to be honest, before moving to NYC, I don't recall ever using the word Entrepreneur to describe myself..but I do now.
As I start my fourth year in NYC and my thirteenth in private practice, I am taking more time than usual to pause and reflect. For whatever reason, this year feels different. In some ways, I feel as if I got my groove back - I feel more secure, stronger and determined. I am more confident about who I am (and more importantly, who I am not) and understand even more deeply what I am good at and - equally important - what I am not. I think those are good things to know about yourself.
It’s also during this time of reflection that I find myself asking many questions internally. What has changed for me? What is better? What is worse? What I have learned thus far? What are my takeaways? What do I want to be different moving forward? Am I happy? Am I having fun? Do I still love my work? What do I want to be different? The same? What have been mistakes? Regrets? My successes and my failures? How have they changed my direction and how I think about myself and my business?
Although all of those questions have answers, what really rises to the top is what I have learned:- about myself, life, relationships, the choices I made (for good or bad), being an entrepreneur in this vast city, how it differs (greatly!) from where I was originally to where I am now, what it means to have grit and perseverance and carry on even in those dark days (and there were many dark days), and what it means that I have learned (maybe finally) how to reach out and depend on others in a healthy way - that, in the past, I would not have otherwise. For me, there are some real game changers in the answers I’ve found.
Although everyone has their own unique learning experiences, here are a some of my take aways...
1. Above all else, be kind to yourself.
Even during those challenging times*-, even when you have made a decision that did not work out. Don't beat yourself up continuously. We are our own worst critic. Think of the shampoo commercial. Wash, rinse, repeat. Then call it a day and move on!
2. Failures are part of success.
I recognize that some my failures or poor choices are also part of my success. I also learned that I was the one to prevent some things from happening. Maybe I wasn't ready. Recognize this, then, go back to #1.
3. Understand the importance of reaching out.
I became more open to meeting amazing, successful people in my field and learning from them by pushing my limits and reaching out. I also learned and continue to understand the value of creating relationships with people outside of my field as a way to cultivate a network of wonderful referrals for the people I help and those I connect with everyday that are in need.
4. Change is constant.
I am willing and open to changing my game - more than I thought I ever would be. I am open to feedback, constructive criticism, and trying new things even if I am super uncomfortable. I decided to start a YouTube channel and boy, was I was working (still am to some degree) outside my comfort box! But that is what growth comes from - change is constant and it can be great.
5. Be your own biggest fan.
Aside from my husband (whom I met when I moved here), who supports me in everything I do, I have learned that you have to be your own biggest fan. We all have to be. We have to be able to depend on ourselves, pick ourselves, be reflective, and always allow ourselves to evolve. Always. It’s during the most difficult times that we have to reach down deep and still move forward, even when it feels that we are stuck in cement. In the early days of moving here, I found myself going online and looking at all the people in my field that were doing more and better things than me. I thought: am I the only one who doesn't have a huge blog following, podcast, and book out there? Find strength from within.
Why Lasting Change Is Hard
Before we had any children, my wife and I lived in the heart of Dallas. One day, on our way back to our house, we were driving down Skillman Avenue when we were caught in a sudden torrential downpour.
The rain was coming down incredibly hard, which wouldn’t have been a problem if the storm drains were equipped to handle that much water. Instead, the road itself filled with water faster than we could have anticipated. Quickly, the water rose up the side of our car. Trying not to panic, we realized that we could not continue and would need to turn around and get to higher ground.
Water rising up the side of your car door is the kind of roadblock you might not expect to encounter, but when you do, it’s formidable. We couldn’t drive through it or even around it. We had to deal with it quickly or face serious consequences.
When we’re trying to implement change in our own lives, it’s important to identify and plan for common roadblocks to lasting change.
The first and, in my opinion, most important roadblock to lasting change is not addressing the real issue.
Let’s say you wake up in the middle of the night with a sore throat. You’re annoyed by feeling sick but your throat really hurts, so you get up and spray a little Chloraseptic in your mouth and drift off to sleep. When you wake up the next day, you still have a sore throat, so you pop in a cough drop and go about your day.
The change you’re making – using a numbing agent – might work if you’ve only got a cold, but if it’s strep throat, you’re not addressing the real problem. Only an antibiotic will cure what ails you, even if Chloraseptic will keep the pain at bay for a while.
Just like how more information is needed to diagnose your sore throat than one feeling, problems you encounter in your life or business require diagnostics, too. Figuring out the real problem – not just your most apparent needs – requires some introspection and a little bit of time.
Here are eight questions to ask when you need to discover the root cause, courtesy of MindTools.com:
- What do you see happening?
- What are the specific symptoms?
- What proof do you have that the problem exists?
- How long has the problem existed?
- What is the impact of the problem?
- What sequence of events leads to the problem?
- What conditions allow the problem to occur?
- What other problems surround the occurrence of the central problem?
Once you have your answers to these key questions, you can’t stop there. Your vantage point is skewed from your own perspective. You’re going to want to ask someone else to evaluate the problem at hand with the same questions and then compare your answers.
If you and all of the partners at your firm have similar answers, you’ll know you’re on the right track. If you wind up with wildly different ideas, I suggest seeking the advice of someone outside your organization. Fresh eyes can make all the difference in understanding a problem.
I often talk about being ‘too close’ to understand. You’ve probably heard the illustration about a group of people standing by an elephant with blindfolds on, trying to describe what they’re experiencing. Depending on what part of the elephant you’re next to, you’re going to have different observations.
But someone outside of that elephant’s cage can clearly identify the elephant.
The first key to making a lasting change is to make sure you’ve addressed the real problem and are looking for authentic change.
Next time, we’ll address the second major roadblock to creating last change.
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