How I Got Here - And What I Learned Along The Way

life decisions that changed my business

I’ve been in a really reflective mood lately. Which seems weird, because isn’t the summer supposed to be all about BBQs, picnics and eating way more ice cream than usual? But, I’m glad for this current mood of mine, because it comes at a good time – I’m nearing my 6 month anniversary of being a full-time entrepreneur.

Making the leap back in February was a turning point in my life, and that’s got me thinking about what some of the other defining moments of my life have been. And I wanted to share some of them with you, along with what lessons those decisions have taught me.

Turning Point #1: Moving away for university

I grew up with a close-knit group of friends. By the time graduation rolled around, our not-so-little troop had been going to school together for a decade. I was a Big Fish – lots of extracurriculars, excellent grades – and high school was a great time for me.

When it came to selecting which university to go to, most of our class split 3 ways: School A for the social sciences, School B for the engineering, and School C for the business kids. My choice – McGill – wasn’t in that mix.

Lesson Learned: It’s ok to be a Little Fish in the Big Pond.

I was definitely the Little Fish at McGill. Did I thrive? Nope. 

Did I survive and learn a whole lot about myself in the process? You betchya.

In our businesses, we may be tempted to stay in Big Fish mode. Keep circling around the same Facebook groups and Twitter chats we’re comfortable in, or focus our guest post pitches on the smaller, less intimidating sites. But that’s going to hold us back. Yes, it’ll be uncomfortable. Yes, you’re going to spend a whole lotta time dealing with fear and uncertainties. But if we’re going to come out the other side with bigger, better, more successful businesses, it’s time to jump into the Big Pond.

Turning Point #2: What Kind Of Person Am I?

The year I turned 30, I had a brainwave: “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to spend a whole month living in Paris? Just like a local!” Something about renting a little apartment for my dog Jack and I, and settling into a relaxed exploration of the city seemed oh-so magical. After a few moments of daydreaming, I snapped out of it, saying to myself:

“I’m not the kind of person who does that.”

Lesson Learned: You are who you say you are.

Seriously, has a more self-limiting sentence ever been uttered? What “kind of person” did I think I needed to be in order to take that trip? Who was going to be the one to dictate whether or not that person was…me? It was rubbish. And I snapped out of it. And I went on that trip. It was magical and restorative, and by the end of my month there I was a regular at the café down the street and Jack was getting treats from the baker’s daughter each morning. Bliss.

How often do you get caught in that same thought of “I’m not that kind of person”? You’re not the kind that negotiates. Or goes after a sale, or says no to people. You’re not a networker, a writer, or a speaker. Rubbish rubbish rubbish. Go for it!

Turning Point #3: Goodbye cubicle!

For all of the great friends I made, the wealth of knowledge I accumulated, and the success I enjoyed…there were more bad days than good when I was in the corporate world. A square peg trying to fit into a round hole, I would walk through the parking lot most mornings repeating a rather sad mantra: “There has to be a better way”. What made it especially sad was that for a few years, I seemed to expect that ‘better way’ to fall from the sky and whisk me away to a different work life. It took me ages to realize that a change wasn’t going to happen to me – I had to play a part in making it happen.

Lesson Learned: You have to make your own ‘better way’

If I hadn’t woken up and started building my consulting business, I can bet you that I’d still be reporting in to that same grey cubicle. I’d probably be doing it for another few years. You may be in a similar situation, or perhaps you’ve made the leap (congrats!) but are now finding that you still get bummed out about parts of your business. When clients make ludicrous delivery demands. Or you end up on iteration #418985. Or when that invoice doesn’t get paid…There has to be a better way. So change it. Take a small step at first, then make bigger moves. Create your own better way.

What have your turning points been? Did any of mine strike a chord? Looking forward to jumping into that Big Pond, re-defining who you are, or designing your better way? Let me know!