Whenever I get asked about my experience as an entrepreneur (whether it’s in a podcast interview or a simple conversation with a friend), one of the top questions that comes up is “What lessons have you learned?”
Generally, it’s from a place of curiosity, connection, and honestly, a desire to avoid these lessons themselves. So I figured these lessons would be helpful to share with all of you as well so you can hopefully learn from my mistakes. Just because I’m a coach doesn’t mean I’m perfect (no one is!) so I learn and adapt, edit and adjust, just like everyone else.
Lesson #1: You can’t control everything (or really almost anything).
I used to be a very controlled person. Perfectionism wasn’t my weakness, but I wanted to be able to choose how people saw me, what parts of me I gave to them, and what my life would look like. I would pick and choose how the world would view me — and foolheartedly thought that meant I was in control.
Newsflash: I wasn’t. I couldn’t control anything but myself, and pretending I could was only hurting me in the long run. Unnecessary stress, unnecessary frustration, unnecessary worrying. And the worst part wasn’t even what I was doing to myself! It was the fact that the connections I had with other people (which are pretty much the top of the list of things important to me) weren’t as genuine as they should have been. In trying to control myself and the way others viewed me, I wasn’t letting others get to know the real me. And that in and of itself was the worst part of trying to control everything.
It wasn’t until I let go and surrendered control that I started to see things change for me for the better. My business started to take off, I made real connections with friends, clients, and colleagues. I started to have more fun because I wasn’t holding myself back or trying to be something I wasn’t. I just let go. And it was the best thing I’ve ever done.
Lesson #2: You can have the best website/company/product/service/etc but it won’t generate money unless you’re willing to work at it.
I can sum this one up really quickly for you. You could have an amazing service, but you won’t start getting clients if no one knows who you are. It’s that simple. Visibility and the willingness to put yourself out there again and again and again and again (and probably again) is how your business takes off. You can’t just sit on the couch watching Netflix and expect your company to thrive. You need to put in the work.
Lesson #3: Get uncomfortable. Often.
You will never grow unless you get uncomfortable. If you’re doing the same things over and over again that you know how to do and never reach for the next tier, you’ll never get there. It’s only in the moments when you stretch yourself — try the thing that makes you want to puke from nervousness or hide from embarrassment — that you’ll find yourself moving forward. You’ve lived your life up to this point doing things you know how to do, and it’s gotten you to the place where you are today. If you want to change that, you’re going to have to do things you don’t know how to do.
Lesson #4: Stop viewing failure as a bad thing.
I once heard a successful entrepreneur explain that he sets a goal to fail big a minimum of five times every month. I wish I could find that quote again, because I really love its premise.
Failure is not a bad thing. Failure is how we learn. Failure is how we grow and evolve and move forward and figure out what works and what doesn’t. Imagine when you were learning to walk as a child or ride a bike or add and subtract. If we never tried because we were so afraid of failing, we’d all be crawling around on the floor to get from place to place. Children aren’t afraid of failure, but somewhere down the line adults got terrified of it.
Now imagine if you aimed to fail big five times a month. You reach out to that dream client who probably won’t hire you, or you launch a workshop that you’re afraid no one will go to. What if you aim too big, expecting to fail…and it works out? This goes hand in hand with getting uncomfortable. You have to take the risks in order to gain the big rewards. I’ll admit, it’s still something I struggle with, and might always struggle with. But the important thing is to just do the thing anyway.
Lesson #5: Your business has a reputation. And people will talk about it.
While this isn’t a lesson I’ve experienced myself, it’s one I’ve witnessed enough times to want to include it anyway. If you are not leaving clients or colleagues with a good taste in their mouths, it will get around.
Don’t “get inspired” by a conversation and take it on as your own without giving credit to the person who sparked the idea.
Don’t give clients whiplash by changing or adjusting your products and services over and over again.
Don’t establish yourself as an expert in the industry when you’ve barely worked with clients, or haven’t started making money, or are releasing a new service.
Don’t sell yourself in every interaction with your potential clients. If every Instagram story, every email, every Facebook post is about your services, people will find it smarmy and will get turned off.
Don’t think about earning money. Think about providing value.
I’ve seen many companies or entrepreneurs who are either so afraid of not being able to support themselves or wanting to be “successful” so much that they unconsciously burn bridges along the way. You want success, yes. But you also want respect.
What lessons have you learned so far? Share in the comments below, or join the party on my Instagram and share there: https://www.instagram.com/katrina.widener/
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