Funny enough, just before I was offered to write on this topic I saw the movie Joy (this ain’t gonna be a spoiler if you haven’t seen it) and it resonated with me, as a young entrepreneur, on more levels than I can put into words. The movie is based on a true story about a woman inventor who struggled her way to success in the early 1990s. What’s fascinating about Joy’s story is that her journey, from rags to riches,would pretty much look the same today. The journey of becoming (or rather, unbecoming) is timeless because the struggle is not externally conditioned. Let me elaborate on this through 5 lessons that living my life and building my business has taught me.
1. Don’t take motivational quotes literally
The internet has more motivational quotes (and cat videos) than the humanity will ever need. Yet, dogmas, if we understand them as dogmas, not the way we live our life, remain just that. Let’s face it, we live by certain principles when it’s convenient for us to do so and when it’s not, we find excuses to circumvent them. My favorite quote by Martin Luther King is, “You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step”. This one must be among the top ten for entrepreneurs. Dr. King, of course, was speaking metaphorically. In actuality, you have to take at least 100 first steps or more. No one can tell how many with great certainty, numbers differ. This is a ridiculous daily practice of blind faith that great entrepreneurs can take pride in as much as Buddhist monks.
What makes this blind faith challenging is that, at least for a while, barely anyone will be fully supportive of your business. Not because you don’t have a loving partner, parents or friends but because people generally believe in what they see. Even your faith in your business shivers in the winds of the unknown. Your family and friends love you of course, they just don’t believe in miracles. That’s ok though, it’s important that you learn to do so. Just think about it from the most banal perspective, even the dumbest idea, if you tweak it and test it and don’t let go long enough, will grow into something worthwhile. Can anything made out of love, faith and perseverance really fail? That’s a trick question.
2. Use shame and rejection as tools for personal empowerment
We have all been rejected and we’ll continue to face rejection as long as we live. For this or that reason, we’ll not end up with that partner, or that investor, or that college or even that local food co-op. Rejection sucks, but we all know it’s inevitable. Learning how to deal with that shame of being rejected is crucial for any creator. Process it, shrug your shoulders and, move on. After all, you are not what happens to you. You have to know who you are and stick with it, for better or for worse. Having faith in your business is really having faith in yourself. Stick with that vision you’ve set for your business as the crack addict sticks to crack. That’s where you’re going, everything else is a distraction. Also, this is why investing yourself into finding a mentor is a great idea. You need someone to cheer for you, life is hard enough. The internet doesn’t have all the answers. Actually, it’s important to recognize that it has a lot of wrong answers.
3. There is no one way to get there
When you read about the development of great businesses it seems like the moon, stars and sun have to align for the magic to happen. It seems like our job is really to show up and keep doing our part until all the pieces of the puzzle come together. It’s kind of hard to relax and keep doing your thing when you’re just about to take that second mortgage on your house. I get it, trust me. But remember, you’re not here to be Mark Zuckerberg. Don’t you think that one is enough? There is no one way to get where you want to be. Maybe it’s gonna be a loan, seed money or an angel. Maybe none of these. Maybe all of these, and you’ll still fail at seeing the staircase. Sometimes, the most bizarre occurrences can bring that perfect unfolding. You already have enough proof for this just from living your life so far.
4. Don’t get busted by the “legitimacy police”
It’ll take time for you to feel “legit”. Entrepreneurs and artists are really creators of the same kind. Amanda Palmer writes in The Art of Asking, “There’s no “correct path” to becoming a real artist. You might think you’ll gain legitimacy by going to art school, getting published, getting signed to a record label. But it’s all bullshit, and it’s all in your head. You are an artist when you say you are. And you’re a good artist when you make somebody else experience or feel something deep or unexpected.” That’s it. You are an entrepreneur when you say you are. And, don’t go all defensive on me – But I said it, I said it! Take some time, sit quietly and feel if what you’re saying sounds true to you. You’ll need some time to nurture that strong belief in your identity regardless of the circumstances. That’s called confidence. The journey is internal, it’s about you living the life of a great entrepreneur. You have to believe you’re one and become one, before anyone else really opens the door for the idea. People generally invest in other people because they feel they inspire confidence, not because they have the most immaculate track record of success.
5. Do not EVER play small
I can’t help myself but ending this post with a quote by Marianne Williamson, probably my favorite quote of all times, “Our deepest fear is not that we’re inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we’re powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others”.
I’m a secular spiritual person so this really speaks to me, but even if you’re an atheist, you must believe that there is some kind of force greater than all of us that turns form into non-form and vice versa. Whatever your understanding is, Marianne’s quote touches on the most important lesson of our lives. We know where we want to go, we know who we want to be and, we know what to do to get there. Yet, we keep not doing all of these things we know we should do to get where we want to be. The journey of becoming is timeless because the struggle is internal. When in doubt, it would be safe to make a decision that caters to long term growth as oppose to, immediate benefits. Take all of your decisions seriously and show up for them with all of your heart and soul.
It has been comforting for me to write this piece, inadvertently, it took form of a letter to myself, that I can always return to. I hope it will serve you as well, as a reminder that you really are brilliant and courageous (you cannot be anything else) and you’re most definitely not alone in your struggle.