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I have a deep respect for anyone who takes the leap to go out on their own to start their own business. For most entrepreneurs, that means living life without a safety net. You’re putting yourself, your product, and your service out into the market and acting largely out of faith in yourself: faith that you will be able to make a living and faith that you will be able to support yourself, your family, and your employees.
For me, the experience has been both thrilling and terrifying. Thrilling because it has allowed me to have an enormous amount of freedom–both with my time and with my finances. Terrifying because my success depends on me. I have no one to blame but me. I alone am accountable to my clients, my employees, my family, and to myself.
There are a few things that I’ve learned over the years of being self-employed that I think are worth sharing. Things that I wish someone had told me in the beginning.
Lessons that I’ve had to learn the hard way.
There will be highs–and there will be lows
Some days, I’ve felt on top of the world. Unstoppable. Like a gladiator in the battle of a lifetime. On the other hand, some days (and weeks) I find myself hardly able to get out of bed. I’ve learned that the bounce between highs and lows is a necessary evil. It’s my belief that anyone who tells you that everything is always amazing really isn’t paying enough attention to their business.
Shit happens, and it happens to us all. You have to experience the lows in order to assess what’s causing that low, which allows you to correct your course. The aim is to not have that particular low again; lows are opportunities for learning.
I confess that I’ve not found one magic bullet that gets me through the valleys faster and on the peaks longer, but I do have a few tools in my toolbox that I have found helpful over the years:
- Get out of your head. Get out of self and into service. Do something nice for someone else that has nothing to do with your business. Write things down so that you can see in black and white if you’re being dramatic (most entrepreneurs have a flair for the dramatic) or if those thoughts swimming in your head are real.
- Take time off. As the leader, your attitude is contagious. If you’re in a bad mood, it’s better to stay home than to allow your energy to infect your team. Take a personal day and reset. Take a day to just drive and sing to the radio. Shake up your routine. Exercise more than usual. Don’t beat yourself up for taking time for yourself. You work hard; you have to take time to recharge your batteries and get your mind right. Trying to push through it, I have found, only results in you being more worn down, more frustrated, and bitchier with the people around you. Take some time and come back a rock star.
- Stop isolating yourself. Your employees and your significant other are not the best people to blow off steam with (at least for me). Your employees will get scared when you’re just blowing off steam and expressing frustration, because, let’s face it, sometimes you just want to shut the whole thing down. That kind of talk will freak them out, and most likely, the truth is that you don’t really mean it. Your spouse is going to want to fix it (especially men) and sometimes you don’t need a fix… you just need a sounding board. Find someone that you can blow off steam to who is outside the influence of your business decisions. That can be a coach, friend, therapist, a bartender… the point is to start talking. When you hear yourself talking about what’s going on in your head, you’ll likely be able to detect the bullshit and correct your course.
There will be distractions
Have a goal and a plan that is yours and make sure that they excite you. There are going to be so many distractions disguised as opportunities. Don’t fall for them! Stay on track and don’t be tempted by distractions that aren’t authentic to the outcomes you are looking for in your life.
Everything will take at least twice as long as you thought it would
I’ve been practicing time-blocking for years. I love it! I think it’s a great practice. But for the life of me, I can’t accurately project how long it will take to complete a task. I think I’m finished, and then realize I have 10 more steps to go.
I’ve found it helpful in my business to think about the stages of a project when I go into it. For example, there’s planning, building, polishing, preparing for distribution, marketing, and then sales. Since I’m a creative type, my focus is on the building. Therefore, I budget enough time for the building, forgetting that all the other steps need attention too.
Go into any project with eyes open to all the parts of the project, not just the parts that you particularly enjoy.
Find the fun in what you do
If you’re anything like me, you’ll grow bored with the day-to-day. For example, I like to continue to build out new courses and opportunities to engage with my students/clients. That’s my personal way to find the fun in what I do, so I create as many opportunities to be with my users face-to-face as much as possible. I also like to travel; that’s a fun activity that I’m able to have because of what I do.
Those two things help me get through the day-to-day and move forward. The fun doesn’t always just appear… you have to actively look for it.
You can't do it alone
As an entrepreneur, you likely have an independent streak. I’m guessing that you’re the kind of person that says things like, "If you want something done right, do it yourself." I say that a lot even still after all these years!
I’ve realized that this mindset holds me back. Talented people are drawn to opportunities that allow them to develop their skills and have an impact. If you’re hogging the ball, you’ll end up with an empty court.
When I think about the big things that I wish someone had shared with me when I started, these would be a few of them. I hope you find them helpful!
Chad Peevy is an entrepreneur who helps businesses realize their potential. Chad is the Founder and Creator of The Agent School: an online learning platform to help build the business of real estate agents and fellow entrepreneurs.