What I learned in one year of entrepreneurship
2017 was not my year.
Sure, I was making more money than I ever had. I was leading a phenomenal team of staff I also called friends. I bought my first ever *brand new* car.
But I was also burned out. Depressed. I didn’t believe in myself. I felt like a total impostor. I was sick all the time. And drinking way too much.
After grad school, I climbed the corporate ladder like my feet were on fire. I held every volunteer role I could. I said yes to EVERYTHING. I had no time left for me.
Something had to change.
At the end of that year, I was recruited to join an international company as a consultant. I resigned from my job thinking that a new job in a new industry with nearly 100% travel would give me more confidence and improve my health.
But I would never find out if it would. The day before my last day at work, that company announced an indefinite hiring freeze.
New Year, New ME
After a blissful two-week vacation in Abu Dhabi, I came home with a plan: to take my coaching side hustle and make it my full-time job.
Working for myself gave me the freedom I crave as a Sagittarius and the ability to create, all day every day. My work was meaningful and had lasting impacts on the lives of hundreds of women.
And most importantly, I learned so much about myself.
I came to terms with the pieces of my personality that no longer served me (looking at you, negative self-talk!). I got in touch with my spiritual side and let the Universe take the wheel. After many months of inner work, I finally got back to my true, authentic self.
I also got really clear on my major life goals and what it would take for me to achieve them. That meant going back to full-time employment. But this time, I have the tools and the right mindset to help manage my stress and maintain my wellbeing.
2018 was a year of uncertainty, failure, triumph, testing, redoing, discovery, growth, adventure, and lots and lots of learning. It was one of the best years of my life.
Here’s what I learned in my year of working for myself:
Mistakes are a good thing
When I was younger, I was terrified of making a mistake. Especially in grad school, where it felt like my whole life was riding on a single paper or project.
We’re conditioned to believe that failure is bad. That we’ll be reprimanded if we make a mistake. Well, weren’t we? When we were children and we destroyed the house or talked back to our parents, didn’t we get in trouble? We were at least sent to “time-out.”
And unfortunately, our adult brains process mistakes the same way. We feel ashamed and unworthy when we mess up, especially at work. And we often experience failure in a spiral: we are thrown off by our mistakes instead of learning from them. It takes time and effort to change this thought pattern.
But mistakes are part of the process. Failure, in business and in life, is inevitable.
It’s how we react to failure that leads to our success. The first step is to externalize the failure. Believe that mistakes are the path to success. Instead of blaming yourself, see if you can learn from this failure.
What other doors may be open to you? What new insight have you gained? Did you learn anything new about yourself? Sometimes it’s helpful to write down your ah-ha moments after a failure. It’s one thing to make a mental note, but the act of writing helps to solidify this new learning in your brain and rewire your reaction.
Vulnerability is powerful
If you’ve been following me for awhile, then you know I’m not afraid to get vulnerable. It’s how I connect with women who are going through the same things I am.
Many of us think of bravery in big, physical terms, like saving someone’s life or doing something really dangerous or hard.
But isn’t being vulnerable just as hard? It’s hard to expose your weaknesses and mistakes to others, especially when you don’t know how they’ll react.
And yes, it can be dangerous. Sometimes getting vulnerable is risky. When I first started this blog, I wrote a lot about my previous job and my boss. I risked alienating former coworkers and future colleagues. But you know what? It was worth it.
So many of my clients came to me this year with the exact same problems: a boss who didn’t believe in them, burnout, glass ceilings, impostor syndrome… If I didn’t share my story and experiences, would they have believed in my ability to help them?
You never know who you can help by sharing your story. You can form powerful, emotional connections with virtual strangers. You can save someone’s life.
As Brené Brown says, “Vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage… When we shut ourselves off from vulnerability, we distance ourselves from the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives and our work.”
Emotional connection. Sharing. Storytelling. This is what brings meaning to our lives.
You can start slowly with vulnerability. Start by sharing simple stories from your childhood or lessons you learned in college. Over time, you’ll get more comfortable sharing pieces of your life with others.
Time is a precious resource
I used to spend hours commuting to a job that drained me. I didn’t realize how much time I wasted sitting in traffic until I started working from home. Hey, I went through a ton of business and self-help books on Audible – a commute can be good for something!
When I worked from home and had oh, a thirty second commute, I immediately realized the value of time. But it was a blessing and a curse.
The blessing was I had plenty of time to work on the projects I wanted to work on. The curse? I found myself working from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to sleep. Some days I felt like I didn’t even have time to shower.
It took some getting used to, but finally I found a good balance between working and downtime. And it made me identify the priorities in my life.
Remember how I used to say YES to everything? Well, that wasn’t exactly good for my business. When social things started creeping into my work hours and I felt less productive, I started to take stock of how I spent my time.
I made a list of the most important goals in my life, and the most important uses of my time, and I started basing decisions off that. If a task or activity didn’t fit in with my business or life goals, I said no.
It was really freeing to think about time in this way. I was never great at managing my time at work – I was constantly late for meetings or overcommitting myself to committees or projects. Now, I have a system that works for me, and I’m able to apply it to my new job.
If you’re struggling with time management or overwhelm, start by taking an inventory of how you spend your time. Then, think about how you’d ideally like to spend each hour of the day. Think about how all of your tasks and activities relate to your larger goals. Then, schedule everything. Make time for the important things like family, health and work before adding in smaller tasks and responsibilities. Time is precious. Use it wisely.
Giving is more important than getting
I’ve always believed in this mantra. My sorority teaches us that “to receive much, you must give much,” and that motto has served me so well in business.
I have a Woman for Woman business model where for every woman who purchases one of my coaching packages or services, I give the same service to a woman in need.
Here are a few of the women I helped this year:
A woman in Illinois landed her dream job with the Girl Scouts of America in Michigan after struggling to find a job after grad school
A woman in Ghana left her full-time job at a building design company to work in marketing part-time while launching her photography business
A DC yoga studio owner increased her foot traffic and monthly memberships and broke even for the first time since opening the studio
A woman in Australia found the courage to leave an emotionally abusive relationship and go back to school part-time
I also partnered with Empowered Women International, here in the DC area, to provide free business coaching and mentorship to their Entrepreneur Bootcamp and Entrepreneur Training for Success programs. My favorite part of this partnership was teaching my 6-week confidence training program to their ETS graduates, who represented 12 different countries and cultures.
I also unabashedly promote causes and women I believe in. Last year for International Women’s Day, I wrote an article about different organizations to support. One of those organizations was Women for Women International, who saw my article on Thrive Global.
They invited me to attend their annual Match Her Courage Luncheon in NYC to write an article about the event and promote their new fundraising campaign. While there, I had the incredible opportunity to meet and interview the legendary Marianne Williamson. And my article was published in Ms. Magazine.
All of that from giving back.
You don’t have to have your own business to start making an impact in your community. Simple acts of kindness like holding the door for someone or paying for someone’s coffee spread goodness and generosity like wildfire.
Think about causes you’re passionate about. How can you give your time, talents or treasure to make the world a better place? Maybe you can tutor low-income children in science or help a local small business with their bookkeeping. You could plant trees or flowers in your neighborhood or run a canned goods or clothing drive. The opportunities are as endless as your imagination.
Everything is Figureoutable
I can’t take credit for this one. I learned this from the incomparable Marie Forleo when I enrolled in B-School early last year.
Bottom line is this: no matter what life throws at you, you have the power, the capacity and the know-how to figure your way out of it.
When I decided to work in my business full time, I didn’t know where the money would come from. I didn’t know how to get clients who weren’t my friends and coworkers. I didn’t know if my website was converting or how to get people on my email list or what the heck SEO was.
But I figured it out.
I also struggled with finding my purpose and questioning if I was on the right path. And you know what? I figured that out too. I figured out who I was, what I stood for and how I wanted to show up in this world. All on my own. Me. I did it. And I’m damn proud of that.
I learned so much about business and life and myself over this last year. But my biggest lesson? Finding yourself is priceless.
It takes time and energy and mistakes and love and vulnerability. But at the end of it all, you’ll have an unshakeable, powerful, extraordinary version of yourself that just might surprise you.
Can’t take a year off to find yourself? Start with this life purpose workbook and start to change your life.
Pssst! New service alert! I’m now offering Health Coaching programs. Learn more here!