3 Takeaways from Year 1 of My Business Re-Launch
In January 2017, my family relocated to Washington, D.C. after living overseas for 18 months. My husband’s new job was the only thing that was certain for us. We had no place to live, no school for the kids, no car, no church, and no friends.
I knew that I wanted to re-launch my business, but, if I’m honest, it felt extremely daunting. I hadn’t done any consulting work in two years (due to my visa limitations living overseas), and I had very limited professional connections in D.C. In January, I set out with my laptop, my wits, and nothing to lose. In the spirit of year-end reflection, here are the three big lessons I am taking away from this year.
I Learned to Protect My Energy
When I was living overseas, normal, mundane things — like buying milk — would sap my energy faster than you can drain a battery on an old iPhone. That’s typical culture shock, and I learned the hard way how to preserve my limited energy so I could get through the day.
Being an entrepreneur is a little bit like dealing with culture shock. Like a stranger in a foreign land, much of what you do feels unfamiliar and uncomfortable. You are responsible for things that are way outside of your wheelhouse and that you have never done before. Early in the year, I noticed that my energy was being sapped more quickly than I was used to, and I had to adjust as a result.
It’s so tempting to opt-in to the “hustle” mentality of trying to get ahead by working harder and longer. But, I found that if I tried to save time by sacrificing things that replenished my energy, it didn’t translate to more work getting done.
So, I’m learning to protect my energy. This means consistently doing the things that energize me, like:
- Starting each day with bible reading and prayer.
- Getting enough sleep (for me, this means 8 hours).
- Eating nutritious foods.
- Going to the gym.
- Staying engaged with my church community.
- Getting out of the house (since I work from home).
And, it also means taking a more relaxed approach (to put it lightly) to other areas of life. I’ve had to siphon off excess energy from these areas in order to channel it into my work. This is the keepin’ it real stuff, like:
- Letting housework slide. (Our condo has one bathroom, and it isn’t clean.)
- Letting my kids eat school cafeteria lunches. (Sometimes all week.)
- Not signing up for involved volunteer opportunities at the kids school. (I brought bottled water to the Thanksgiving feast.)
- Not going on field trips. (Not sad about this one.)
- Disengaging from draining relationships. (Sorry.)
- Keeping our social calendar sparse by saying no to a lot of stuff. (Sorry.)
- Doing almost no personal or house projects. (No photo albums. No DIY furniture projects. No decorating.)
- Almost never fixing my hair. (Jane’s teacher last week told me, “I didn’t know your hair was that long!” It’s December.)
- Asking Travis for help with things I used to take care of on my own. (I have the best husband in the world.)
I’m not prescribing these things as a program that everyone should adopt. I’m merely being honest about the provisions I have had to make in my life in order to have enough energy to meet the demands of a family and a start-up. It’s tempting to sacrifice energy-replenishing things in the name of getting more done, or to hold myself to an impossible standard of being 100% amazing at everything all the time. It’s just not sustainable, at least for me.
I Confronted My Fear of Self-Promotion
For my entire freelance career until this year, I relied on my personal network and word-of-mouth referrals to bring work in the door. There is nothing wrong with that; it's where almost everyone has to start. But, somehow I never moved on from this passive approach.
It became obvious to me about halfway through the year that I needed to make a change. Within a matter of months, I did a complete about-face from reactive to proactive marketing. I created a website (thank you Hale House Creative). I started this blog. I started email marketing. I made my peace with social media. I created, marketed, and launched my first program. During this season, I still got some word-of-mouth referrals and relied on my personal network. But, I also saw my network broaden and momentum begin to build.
The mental block that was preventing me from actively promoting myself and my work was fear. Mostly, fear of how I would be perceived by others. Fear that they wouldn’t take me seriously, that they would think I was a phony, or that they would think I was self-aggrandizing or arrogant. I think many people that work under personal brands struggle with the same feelings.
It’s not that these fears are totally gone. But, I had to covenant with myself to move forward with this new approach in spite of them. In creating all of my content, I stopped agonizing over what people would think of me and started concerning myself with what I was saying. For everything I wrote, I asked myself, “can this benefit someone?” If the answer was no, I threw it away. If the answer was yes, I posted it.
Again, I’m not prescribing this as “the way” to do marketing. I’m still figuring a lot of stuff out. I had to learn (and am still learning) how to promote myself without being a self-promoter. It’s a tricky line to walk.
I Remembered that It Takes Time
Comparison is a creativity-killing, soul-crushing, joy-robbing virus, and the internet is its breeding ground.
I’m sure there are a lot of reasons why the internet causes me to draw unfair comparisons between myself and others. But, in the last year I have zeroed in on a big one: the internet makes people seem like overnight successes, and overnight successes don’t really exist.
Overnight success stories only look like they happened overnight by outsiders who haven’t seen the buildup. Who haven’t lived the late nights and early mornings. Who didn’t see the total flops along the way. Who didn’t experience all of the iterations of a project or an idea. Who haven’t seen the person wake up, every day, for as long as they can remember and try to be better than they were yesterday.
And so, I have been reminded this year that the people who achieve great things are the ones that keep showing up, keep learning, and keep going when other people would quit. Who keep pushing the flywheel until eventually, one day, the flywheel leaves the ground.* To others, it will look like magic, like you had the “secret sauce” that translated to automatic success. But, you will know better.
There is a place for admiring what others have accomplished and aspiring to one day reach their level. But, the more time you spend admiring the accomplishments of others, the less time you spend appreciating your own growth, your own lessons, and your own progress.
I challenge you to consider what you have accomplished this year, congratulate yourself, and dream of what’s next. Then, get back to work.
* I borrowed the flywheel analogy from Good to Great by Jim Collins.
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