Getting Through Business Owner Puberty
I apologize in advance if you thought you could live the rest of your adult life without hearing the word "puberty" again.
This idea was inspired by my recent reflecting on my first official year in business. Come May I'll be celebrating my 1 year business-versary, and while I'm proud of myself for making it this far, that's not to say there hasn't been both learning experiences and setbacks. (I don't know if anyone could say it was all smooth sailing in their first year of business).
In short, owning a business can be hard at times. There are days when you think, "I am seriously killing it like wow this is a dream come true!" and other days are more like, "Am I really cut out for this?" I have to constantly remind myself that there are and will continue to be growing pains, learning experiences, and self doubt. The more important element is my reaction to each obstacle—reactions of positivity and root-source examination.
Separating Real issues from emotional fantasies
When I refer to examining road-blocks from the root source, I'm saying looking at the true cause of an emotion or event. So, if something happens that I might feel defeated by, I ask myself what caused it. I examine the root source. Was this an actual event that needs fixing, or am I reacting because of something I've personally been through in the past? If the latter is true, I try my best to remove all personal investment and emotion from the situation and solve the problem logically. That might be overcoming a communication issue with a client, setting aside a couple hours to troubleshoot software issues, or re-designing my packages so I can better serve myself and my customers. Regardless, it has always helped me to address emotional and logistical issues separately, as it can be easy to let them intermingle.
The reason I refer to this first year in business as "puberty" is because, frankly, it can be really awkward. Being a new business owner can make you feel a lot of things, actually:
Insecure - Am I making the right choice in pursuing a business?
Awkward - Why do I feel like I don't know what I'm doing half the time?
Embarrassed - Well, that could have gone a lot better.
Left Out - What about retirement? Company parties I no longer attend? Paid time off? Is doing this whole business thing really all it's cracked up to be?
Doubtful - Will this actually be enough to support me and my family? Am I turning my passion into an obligation?
Is business owner puberty anything like regular puberty? The thing is, everyone has to go through puberty as a human being. It's inevitable, necessary, and pretty important. Business owner puberty though, you put yourself through that. And unlike regular puberty, there's no guarantee you'll come out of it. There aren't adults on the other side saying, "Don't worry Junior, just give it a few years and you'll sprout right up!"
Actually, the closest thing I think we business owners have to that level of reassurance is learning from other business owners. I absorb every bit of advice from successful business owners, especially their stories about how it was for them when they first started out. It makes me think, "Okay, that's so me! I'm glad I'm not the only one. Okay, one day I'll be reflecting and telling people my story, too." I truly believe that to be true. See, I'm motivated by the idea that all of these obstacles I face are teaching me the necessary skills I need in order to master my craft. I have faith that, over time, I will gain enough of those skills to become truly confident in what I do. I also acknowledge that it's unlikely I'll ever stop facing these obstacles. With each phase of business ownership, I think, will come new and elevated challenges.
Either way, it's helpful to use this analogy to remember that no one can be good at something at their first go. Even the best of the best had their first time trying something...their first (of many) failures followed by their first (of many) lessons. It's not so much a phase as it is a foundation. Truly "successful" people see past it, and are willing to endure.
So, although it can be uncomfortable, it's okay. One of my all-time favorite quotes has and continues to get me through my fear of failing at this whole business ownership thing. I highly recommend tacking it up on your wall or writing it on your mirror. Repeat after me: