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12 Years in Business, 12 Things I Know Now That I Didn't Know Then

If you had asked me 13 years ago if I'd ever become an entrepreneur, I would have laughed and admitted that I didn't really know what that word meant. One year later - 12 years ago this week, in fact - MAP Inc. became an official business. Sometimes you just don't know where your path will lead!

I have thoroughly enjoyed this meaningful work for a dozen years now and am thankful beyond measure to make a difference doing what I love. And while I definitely love celebrating the wins, the years haven't been all "puppies and rainbows"! :)

Today I offer 12 of the approximately zillion lessons I have learned along the way. I am embarrassed by some of them, but if I help shorten your learning curve - or at least make you feel less alone in your own career path - sharing will be worth it!

12 Things I Know Now That I Didn't Know Then!

1. Reach out for help. I carried the mindset of, "I am capable; I should be able to figure this out for myself" for far too long. Now I reach out much more quickly for help, advice, or even just a shoulder to lean on.

2. Let go of "shoulds." I held back in several areas because of what I thought a professional, PhD, business owner "should" (or should not) do. Now I have basically removed the word "should" from my vocabulary and listen to my authenticity instead.

3. Attend inspiring events. I waited to attend big, motivating events because I felt I couldn't afford them - or perhaps didn't yet deserve them. When I finally attended one, with a significant price tag and that took me out of state for several days, it changed my entire business model and resulted in a breakthrough leap in revenue that year, too. Now I know the difference between investment and expense.

4. Hire a coach. This one act has transformed my business more than words can express. Coaching is definitely another example of an investment - sometimes so steep it makes me gasp when I write the check - but it's my #1 professional development support and now I always have a coach!

5. Outsource. A wise mentor told me early on, "Do what you do best and outsource the rest." I did that immediately in a couple of areas (e.g., accounting and website development) but held on too long to some other less-than-shining areas. Letting go of (presumed) control is difficult, but so liberating!

6. Ask stupid questions. I know, there's no such thing, right? I bit my tongue too often rather than admitting I felt clueless. Now I ask questions constantly and have discovered that, almost always, someone else has the same question. Or at least they make me feel better by telling me so. :-)

7. Say No. If I had to do it over, I would say No sooner to un-purposeful requests on my time or opportunities that didn't truly match my strengths, values, and gifts. Now, I often call to mind Kate Winslet's sentiment: "I wouldn't dream of working on something that didn't make my gut rumble and my heart want to explode."

8. Say Yes. On the flip side, I would say Yes sooner to scary but exciting (and healthy) opportunities, to my gut, and to delight. Fortunately I gained excellent schooling in this with last year's 42 Days Of Yes project and have changed my ways considerably!

9. Join a Mastermind group. For a long time, I actually didn't know these existed, but once I joined I wondered how I managed without for so long. People focused intently on solving my challenges and helping me and my business grow, and for whom I can do the same in return - what's not to love?

10. Trust myself. I suppose much of this comes with experience, but I sure doubted myself waaaaaay too much. I still have overthinking and self-questioning tendencies but I catch myself more quickly and have strategies for moving past them (see #1, #4, and #9 specifically!).

11. Stop reinventing the wheel. Creativity is one of my values and strengths, so starting something from scratch excites me. I've learned the value in building on what works, however, and in how repurposing can serve more people and make a stronger impact.

12. Lighten up. In an effort to be taken seriously, I became...well, serious. In some cases, really serious. Once I let my authentic personality (which is often ridiculously nonsensical) into my work, everything became a lot more joyful - and led to better business results, too.

I definitely don't know it all and have learned a ton by trial and error. (At times, I wish I could have learned a little less this way...) ;-) But I am all about growth, so if lessons from my 12 years of business ownership help you become a better business owner or professional, feel free to learn from my experience!