By Joanna Track
You know how the saying goes, “it’s only a mistake if you don’t learn from it.” Well, I’m a true believer in this sentiment. Having been to the entrepreneurial rodeo a number of times (four, to be exact) I know that the way I do things now (and why) are a result of what I’ve learned from my past actions, for better and for worse.
I could probably write a book on all that I’ve learned (and maybe one day I will), but for now, here are some of the best lessons I’ve learned and the ones I continue to take into account as I run my current business.
You can worry or you can work.
I am a born worrier. I’ve probably wasted more sleeping hours (and waking ones for that matter) worrying about things that might happen, things that might not happen, things that have happened, and things that will never happen. And for what? They either happened or they didn’t. And so either I had to deal with them or I didn’t. What I’ve learned over the years is that stressful, unpleasant things WILL happen. So I can spend time worrying about them, or I can just deal with them when they do. As I’ve evolved from my first entrepreneurial venture to now, I’ve seen many of the same issues surface and the only difference is now is that I’ve cut back my worry time and channeled that energy into working towards a solution.
And do things always work out? Hell no, but the world hasn’t fallen apart as a result of it either. (I’ve had a lot to say about failure…you can read about that here.)
It’s just business.
This lesson can be taken two ways. First, it’s just business means keep your emotions in check, don’t let things get too personal, and make decisions using your head more than your heart. I consider myself an empathetic employer and have built some very close relationships with my colleagues, but when that line gets too murky we can easily get drawn into making decisions based on our emotions, not what is best for the business.
The second side to this lesson is it is JUST business. Don’t take it too seriously. You are not your business, and your business is not you (and if it is, you need to work on that.). I’ve learned the hard way that letting business usurp my health and my family and my life is not worth it. Yes, there are times when we need to extend ourselves but it shouldn’t be a constant state of living. One of my favourite quotes (from one of my favourite musical artists, Indigo Girls), goes like this:
The best thing you’ve ever done for me;
Is to help me take my life less seriously;
It’s only life after all.
That line is a daily reminder to me to live my life and not let my business run my life.
Big isn’t always better.
We all love a good rags to riches story, and I’m sure many of us have fantasized what it would be like to start a business in our basement that becomes a billion dollar company and global success (thanks, Jeff Bezos.) But when you really think about it, do you really want everything that comes with building and maintaining a business like that? And furthermore, would you really be disappointed to take an idea and grow it into an average sized, profitable entity that lets you have you have control over your time and allows you to do something you enjoy?
Because these “unicorn” stories are all around us, I feel that some budding entrepreneurs get caught up in the desire to hit that next “home run”, instead of focusing on steady, sustainable growth.
As I’ve matured (aka gotten older) in my professional life, I’ve become more focused on getting to the next base rather than hitting it out of the park. It’s still challenging and exciting but with less of the drama and stress (and with grey hairs starting to appear, I’m not looking for any more stress, thank you very much.)
On that note, a final quote that really encapsulates the lessons I’ve learned comes from an American author and playwright, Rita Mae Brown: “Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.”
So go out there and take action, hopefully some of them will be so bad you’ll learn something great.