Starting my own business, much like deciding to run a marathon or bake the perfect loaf of challah, was a dicey proposition. Come to think of it, it was much, much harder than either of those. Because I did make it past that finish line, and eventually I did craft the perfect Shabbat treat … but there is no entrepreneurial finish line, and no business is ever perfect.
Today, however, I’m proud to say my business is growing all the time, and I have every confidence in its ability to continue on an upward trajectory. So just how did I get there? Well, mostly by making a whole lot of mistakes and holding on to a whole lot of unreasonable expectations. (We’re talking death-grip hold here, people.)
Luckily, when you make mistakes, you also learn their antidotes. And here they are:
Stop Expecting People To Notice Right Away
Starting a business took a lot of courage for me. I had hoped, once I mustered enough chutzpah and stepped out there, that the immediate accolades would help buffer me against the fear and nerves that come with writing, illustrating and creating content in public.
Instead: Crickets. Nothing. Basically for years. It was horrible, and I almost quit so many times. If you’d asked me before, I would have thought criticism was the worst thing that could happen, but I was wrong. Dead silence is the worst, because you can’t even tell what to fix. Eventually, I realized what online gurus had been telling me for years: Accolades come after the work, not before. Obvious now, but not then.
Stop Expecting Glamor to Win Out Over Experience
My two most embarrassing disappointments as an entrepreneur were a) starting a design business and having it fail utterly, and b) writing a novel, getting an agent and then losing that agent because I couldn’t edit the book to her satisfaction.
I made the mistake of taking both of these failures incredibly personally, placing blame and downing pints of Ben & Jerry’s and what have you. But the real mistake I made was going for glamorous careers I wasn’t prepared for, rather than sticking to my strengths. Once I started copywriting, a role for which all my schooling had prepared me, I saw success right away.
Stop Expecting to Skip Blogging
Close your eyes and imagine the digital marketplace laughing at you. Because if you, like me, decided you were “above” blogging for several years, you deserve to be laughed at. Oho! the online sphere is thinking. You thought we would just pick you out of a crowd because your mom told you you’re so great? THINK AGAIN!
Okay, that might be going a little overboard. Seriously, though, the interwebz are awash in content. I have no idea why I thought mine would automatically rise to the top. Only when I started actually, devotedly blogging did I start to see results. If you want to gain an audience and make it online, you have to blog. Let me repeat: You. Must. Blog.
Stop Expecting To Become Competitive Immediately
One of the biggest frustrations of entrepreneurship, especially in the digital space where you can seemingly see everything everyone does all the time, is the constant comparison trap. It’s easy to look at someone who’s doing well and think, “They’ve got it together … how come I’m not successful like them?” And this is a sin I committed all the time at first, to the detriment of my business and my happiness.
Eventually I realized: You can’t actually see what everyone does all the time. If I look at a fabulous Instagram account, it’s hard to tell whether they’ve been doing it for three months or three years. If I examine someone’s Amazon author page and see 20 books, again, I don’t know how long that took, how much schooling they had or how many hours of sleep they skipped to get to where they are.
The comparison trap is deadly, though, because it makes you think you should be there immediately after you start your business. But really, we’re all exactly where we should be on our journeys. When I rush or compare, I’m just unhappy. When I put my head down and work, my success and satisfaction blossom.
The Real Secret: Stop Expecting to Arrive
But perhaps my biggest, and wrong-est, expectation as an entrepreneur was that eventually I would “make it.” Well, I did. And then I did again … and again. But each time I checked off a goal, I found another on the horizon. I’ve never felt “there,” and I don’t think I ever will. Making my peace with this has been, hands down, the best move I’ve made as an entrepreneur.
And frankly, leads to way less joint trouble than completing a marathon.