“I can’t believe it’s been 5 years!” a friend messaged me this morning.
Five years – already?! While it’s hard to believe, at the same time, it feels like it has been dog years since Mike and I formed illuvint llc, our boutique digital marketing company. I continue to manage illuvint as I develop iAmplify, my nonprofit initiative to help religious organizations.
“You will feel everything directly. All the joys, all the challenges, and the failures – they will impact you. There is no longer a buffer.” That was the wisdom that a seasoned entrepreneur and friend imparted at the onset of this journey.
Still, I was not prepared for what would be required of me. If you really know me, then as much of planner as I am, you also know that my ambition was not to be an Entrepreneur and Nonprofit Founder; however, these unplanned endeavors have shaped who I’ve become and my life would look radically different today had I not given my fiat five years ago.
“Negative occurrences in our lives affect us more deeply than positive ones, and can serve as ‘windows of opportunity for growth’.” That was a theme I wrote about here many moons ago.
My failures, challenges, and life lessons have imparted some battle scars along this journey. If you’re going to be the woman or “man in the arena”, be ready for battle scars.
While these scars are invisible to the naked eye, they have power – the power to transform. There’s so much I’ve learned, but the insights I’ve gained from these 5 battle scars over 5 years of Entrepreneurship are quintessential.
No one will care about this work as much as you, not even your supporters. I define Entrepreneurial detachment as separating emotionally from the need to control, particularly where it concerns outcomes.
Sometimes, ok a lot of times, you will take things too personally. Detachment is not one and done; but rather it is a necessary, continual process amidst forging your initiative in response to your passion, purpose, and gifts.
Unless you’ve lived this, it may be hard to fully grasp the attachment and temptation towards that end which Entrepreneurs feel. The work we do requires pouring ourselves out, over hours, days, months, and years. And while it is our passion, it results in a lot of sacrificing, especially time with family, friends, having downtime or vacations, etc. Our brains and our “to-do lists” may keep us restless until we work it, re-work it, then stir and repeat. Refine it, and become refined by it. Again. And again.
A healthy level of attachment is required, though. If we weren’t connected to the work – we wouldn’t care. Not caring yields a lack of motivation, which is the wasteland of entrepreneurial dreams. A healthy level is the key here.
2) Consider the source.
There’s no shortage of opinions and advice that others will share – particularly from unsolicited “advisors”. The age of technology also feeds us a steady stream of multi-media that is full of Entrepreneurial “musts.” If you want to be successful, you must do these 20 things well (derived from this exclusive 14-week program for just $1,599.99 today, by the way).
First, always consider the source. Listen to the feedback of others, and later reflect on it. When you reflect on it, also reflect on the person who provided the feedback. Who are they? What is their experience and expertise in this particular realm? What motivation might they have for providing this feedback? What may God be trying to teach me through this encounter?
“But the things which proceed out of the mouth come forth out of the heart; and they defile the man.” Mt 15:18.
Listen to what comes forth from their heart and ponder what is intended for you. Do you need to be disciplined? To refocus? Or do you need to shake this one off? Consider the source, and seek The Source of all good as you do.
Most importantly, do not allow the nay-sayers voices to get into your head and feed self-doubt. It takes great courage to put yourself out there in this way, so remember your why, and hold fast.
3) The state of imperfection
“Hi, I’m Lisa, and I’m a recovering perfectionist.”
I’ve learned the hard way time and again that perfection is not something achievable this side of heaven. But excellence, on the other hand, that is something worth pursuing. My mind has confused seeking excellence as the need for perfection, but that’s a trap. Oh, and people pleasing, that’s a dead end.
Friend, avoid the snare of perfectionism – it’s not self-fulfilling, it’s self-defeating – and leaves one always feeling less than while chasing unicorns. Perfectionism is not something I chose, but something I learned, falsely ascribing my self-worth to the desire to be perfect. My wounds longed to be filled with my achievements, or to let “things” define me, instead of finding worth in who I was.
As an Entrepreneur, what I can do for people through my business may gain accolades and recognition. Conversely, what I fail to do for people may afford objections and complaints. And it can swing from one experience to the other within the time it takes to receive a text, email, or phone call.
If you can receive both in the same spirit of humility, then I believe that’s the mark of excellence in progress. And yes, it’s progress, not perfection as they say.
4) Have a plan. Then adjust to what really happens.
Business plans, marketing strategies, mind-mapping, strategic alliances, big data – it’s all good and important. There’s value also in gut-reactions, instincts, intuition, and failure. In fact, “fail fast” is one of my favorite lessons from “Creativity Inc”. And then there’s prayer, which is more than part of my daily routine or a task to check off the list, it’s what feeds my soul and directs my path.
Creating a plan is what leaders do, but good leaders either know or learn how to roll with the other factors that crop up beyond the plan. Leaders who thrive on being agile while executing a plan are particularly fascinating, as they see challenges as opportunities.
Don’t be surprised when things don’t go according to plan. And consider that it even might be better that way.
5) Wait, and be patient in the not yet.
Taking risks and being action-oriented are often among the most celebrated qualities of Entrepreneurs. But what about the patience, and retooling, and waiting, and working, and realigning, and rebooting? What about timing? And then trying, failing, trying again, and again and again. Or crafting and honing a concept, service, or product over months and years?
There is the vision. And then there is today. What we are doing now is (or should be) in order to achieve some aspect of that vision – which has not yet been fully realized. But it is the vision that keeps us reaching, working, hustling, focusing, failing, and journeying.
Entrepreneurs generally seem to be “movers and shakers”, so patience may sometimes be counted among our lesser virtues. When we take that step out and respond to a higher calling, we may feel on some level – “ok, it’s all going to come together now.” And sometimes it does. But more often, the journey is more along the lines of Thomas Edison and his invention of the light bulb.
When a reporter asked, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.
There’s been a lot of steps made in the past five years – sometimes backward, sideways, and even hairpin turns. There have been extreme highs and lows on this journey — the demands and the gains, the victories and the setbacks, the supporters and the nay-sayers. I’ve felt it all, without a buffer – which would’ve been a real comfort sometimes. But I’ve learned, and grown, and hopefully helped a few people along the way.
God only knows all that the next five years will bring. But I do know that I’ll have a few more insights gained from the next round of battle scars; “so that [my] place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” –Theodore Roosevelt