I’ve been self employed for a little over 13 years now and the lessons that I have learned in 13 years of entrepreneurship have been invaluable. In the 13 years since quitting my career in business development at BMW in 2009 – my entrepreneurial journey has been a wild ride. Sometimes it’s been a smooth journey and other times it’s felt as if the speed dial was turned all the way up, the emergency brake was broken and I was heading towards a break in the rails… on the edge of a cliff.
When you sign up to be an entrepreneur – you sign up for the roller coaster. There’s no way to predict what hurdles can come at you as a business owner. However, we can learn from our own mistakes, as well as the mistakes of others. Below are 13 lessons I’ve learned in 13 years of my entreprenurial journey, many of which I learned the hard way – by making the mistakes myself.
13 Lessons I’ve Learned in 13 Years of Entrepreneurship:
Most People Love Their Problems
This has been a hard pill to swallow, especially with my consulting clients over the last decade or so. But, the unfortunate fact of the matter is that most people have become attached to their victim story and subsequently they’re in an abusive relationship with their problems. They enjoy complaining and love the negative attention they get from the “woe is me” stories they peddle.
Learning to distinguish between the client that wants to change and the client that wants to complain has been one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned as an entrepreneur.
The client who loves their problems is going to create problems, for you.
They will not be diligent in the work you give them, they will not take your advice and then they will turn around and be upset, with you, painting you as the villian in their sorry story. More often than not, they’ll also complain about the results they didn’t see, as a consquence of the work they didn’t do and the diligence they didn’t have, and seek a refund.
Learn to distinguish between the client who wants to make a change and the client who wants to complain – and only work with the latter.
You Have to Crave Change
We don’t begin the entrepreneurial journey to remain the same. We start a business because we see a vision of something different or because we want a different life. Wanting a change so deeply that you crave it has been a huge lesson for me as an entrepreneur.
You will not succeed as an entrepreneur if you’re afraid of change.
If you’re afraid of change – how can you scale your business from six to seven figures? If you’re afraid of change – how can you prepare yourself to go from working with small businesses to working with Fortune 500 companies?
You have to embrace change with open arms in order to assist you in recognizing opportunities as they’re presented to you (often disguised as a challenge or setback). Accepting change as the general way of life as an entrepreneur will also help prepare you to level up, both as a person and in your business. After all, you didn’t go into self employment to remain the same.
Being Selfish is Necessary for Success
I know this can be a touchy subject for some people but you can be selfish without being narcissistic or egotistical. If you don’t understand what that means – the entrepreneurial journey likely isn’t for you.
In order to truly succeed – you have to put yourself and your vision first. You have to make sacrifices with your time and energy and you have to preserve both of those for your business(es) and your vision.
They don’t call it “self” employed for no reason! You can’t sacrifice yourself for the wants and needs of others. You have to put your goals at the forefront, unapologetically.
Learning to be “selfish” with my time and energy was one of the biggest of the 13 lessons I’ve learned in 13 years of entrepreneurship.
Your “Why” is 10x More Important than “How”
I’ve seen countless people fail in entrepreneurship because they focus too much on, “how” to get things done and lose sight of “why” they set out to do it in the first place.
When you focus on why you’re doing something – the how will find its way to you through a line of thinking that only you can truly understand. After all, it’s your vision.
If you’re having a hard time with the “how” I encourage you to zoom out and shift your focus back on to your “why”, that’s where your solution is.
Fast Money Usually Doesn’t Last
There have been countless times where I had quick money opportunities and every single time they went just as fast as they came.
I’m not suggesting not to take the fast money opporuntities.. just reminding you to use your discernment and not to bank on fast money.
If it Sounds too Good to be True, it Probably is
Piggy-backing off of “fast money doesn’t last” is another tried, but true, lesson. There will always be opporuntities that come to you that seem just a little too good to be true and it’s because they are.
Developing a strong intuition and using your discernment will take you far on your entreprenurial journey.
There is No Road to Success
I mean this, wholeheartedly. You have to pave your own road! What works for me may not necessarily work for you and what works for you may not work for me. With that in mind you should tune into that discernment you need to develop to know if you should even be reading this right now.
You Can Not Do Everything
I’m going to say this again just because it’s that important: YOU CAN NOT DO EVERYTHING. Being a business owner or an entrepreneur means you already have to wear a bunch of hats but there are always going to be a few that will never fit you.
Learn your strengths and weaknesses and distinguish between the tasks you love doing and the tasks suck the life from you.
You don’t want to burn yourself out on work you’re not good at or work you don’t even like doing. Instead, outsource it.
Routine Meets Organization (+ vice versa)
As en entrepreneur: your routines need to be like rituals. Treat them like a ceremony, worship them, respect them. Also as an entreprneur: you can’t afford to not be organized.
Organize your routines and rountinely organize.
When you organize your processes – they become routine. When you’re routined, you’re organized. Routines and organization go hand in hand and if you lose one it usually means the other is about to fall off, as well.
You Can’t be a “Yes” Man (or Woman)
As an entrepreneur one of the best lessons you can learn is, “how to say, ‘no'”. People will always pull at us, looking to “pick our brain” or trying to get us to lower our prices or throw something in to make the deal a little sweeter.
Many of the times we say, “yes” out of societal or social programs that have us in the role of people pleasers. We can’t be successful in business if we want to please everyone else. Going back to an earlier lesson – you have to be selfish if you want to succeed.
I remind you, again, to say, “no”.
Tune into your intuition and your gut instincts to only say, “yes” when it feels good.
Your To-Do List Can Kill You
We live in a time where we guage our success based off of our productivity and as such, having a stacked to-do list can create an illusion of success. Many to-do lists are filled with nonsense that doesn’t actually help us reach our goals and create a false sense of accomplishment when in reality you haven’t acheived much of anything.
Zoom out. Focus on your bigger picture.
Don’t set weekly or monthly goals but instead create quarterly goals. Your new “to-do” list should be filled with objectives to help you reach those bigger goals.
There is No Self-Employment Without Self-Care
This was one of the hardest of the 13 lessons I learned in 13 years of entrepreneurship. I always wanted to do more, achieve more, produce more, make more… and more and more and more, until there was none of me left.
Let me say it for you: YOU NEED A BREAK! Maybe two, possibly three. You also definitely need a vacation. And not one of those vacations where you bring your work along with you.
If you never take off from your business(es) you will soon burn out. Make sure you’re scheduling time off! Make sure you also have time to yourself on your time off. Taking time off for family, friend or other obligations isn’t time off – it’s time spent doing other things.
You have to pour back into your cup if you want to reach real success. Find some self care routines that work for you and make time for them.
My morning routine is something that I developed out of necessity to ensure I poured into myself before pouring into my work or my clients.
Diversify Your Income
Don’t put all your eggs in the same basket! I made the mistake of putting most of my eggs in the travel basket between 2018-2020. What happened when C0vid hit and the entire travel industry was shut down? I learned a hard lesson.
If this needs to be explained any further.. I’m not sure that entrepreneurship is for you!