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.
6. Take a team approach.
I have learned that depending and relying on other people is a good thing, not a bad thing. We are social creatures. We need one another. That is not dependency in an unhealthy way – that is dependency in a healthy way. Many people want to help! And, I, too, want to be a resource for other people. It makes me feel good – like I am giving back in a good way. And isn’t that what life’s all about? I also work with a couple of millennials that keep me moving and provide new ideas! Working as a team allows you to not only help others, but open the doors for others to help you as well. Collaboration allows more room for creativity – so don’t be afraid to dive in.
7. Recognize your strengths and weaknesses.
I recognize and embrace my strengths but also thoroughly understand what I am not good at – and then find someone who is. I don’t want to be everything or try everything; rather, I want to focus on the niches I excel in. I am a good therapist – but an even better relationship builder (that’s my new branding title!). What I love about what I do is that I am able to help people build better relationships – with their spouse/partner, parents, kids, siblings, their ex, co-worker. And that’s vital to everyone’s existence – but they don’t always know how to get there. I help them do just that.
8. Take time off.
I have learned to take more time off – even when I feel as if I ‘shouldn’t.’ Time off allows me to reboot and always bring my A game. People that I help depend on that. Don’t be afraid to give yourself a break.
9. Grit – a necessary ingredient.
I recognize that being your own boss and running your own ship is for the strong hearted. You must have grit and a lot of faith and belief; you must be able to look at both the short- and long-term pictures and embrace the motto of ‘keep your eye on the prize’ during challenging times.
10. Home/Work balance.
Meeting someone and getting married (again!) was another game changer for me. But with this, I really started to understand the concept of ‘team’ and having someone in your life that you can depend on. Spending time at home with your significant other gives you time to de-stress and appreciate the love you have. I have also learned the importance and value of a comfortable office!
11. Prepare to weather the financial roller coaster.
It’s not all wine and roses when you work for yourself. A steady paycheck is not always in the books. It takes time (sometimes a lot!), risk, failures and success to get to the other side. You have to be able to weather the storms. Just think about making it to the other side! It’s also an emotional roller coaster – so hang on!
12. It’s all about the branding, baby!
Before I moved here I had no idea about branding, a tag line, how to make myself stand out – but I do now! I am a work in progress, but have learned that in this big city, there are a lot of us (therapists!). I needed to find out what makes me stand out but more importantly what makes me tick? What is my passion in my line of work? Once I answered those two vital questions, I knew I was on my way.
But truth be told – no one is ever really fully prepared for making a huge life transition, right? We imagine. Dream. Envision. Plan. Do our best. But then, life takes over and you find yourself in places you never dreamed of, thinking about things you have no idea about. Understanding – completely – that you really don’t know what you don’t know. And, in some ways – therein lies the gift – if you embrace it. What you do with not knowing is truly key. That is where you discover the diamonds in the rough; this is where you find the gems. Because if we are not open to new experiences, we can miss something that is right in front of us – hiding in plain sight.
Here’s to the next 1,095 + days. Carry on!
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