Goodbye Gurus: How I'm Celebrating My Business Birthday
This month, I'm celebrating my 5-year business birthday! That's right. In April 2010, without a strategy or plan, I embarked on a journey into the world of small business ownership. It has been one of the hardest and most rewarding experiences of my life, second only to parenthood. In these 5 years, I've learned quite a bit "on-the-job" about who me and my business are going to be when we grow up.
With each success and failure, I've learned what works and what doesn't. I've come to understand what feels expansive and what feels stuck. I've experienced how fear of what's next can keep me from the joy of right now. Today's the day I'm integrating all that I've learned into the way I do business. I guess you could say, we're growing up, which means saying goodbye my old friends - the gurus.
There are thousands of experts ready and willing to teach me how to become a business success. These generous and talented experts share their genius everywhere. They are in my inbox, on my Facebook feed, and my Amazon suggested reading list. Each one of them offers up the secret formula or perfect recipe for getting noticed in an online world. From social media to book publishing, they have the answers that I need to know about how to be a real success.
I soaked up their advice over the last five years; I just couldn't get enough. I devoured books and podcasts, webinars and free downloads, software and seminars. My inbox became a flooded reminder of everything I'd need to know and do to get it right. Until the day I lost sight of what "right" was for me.
Who knows how long it would have taken me to realize this on my own. Luckily, a client asked me one simple question recently that helped me along: "Where do you get your clients?"
My answer, when I heard it coming out of my mouth, brought me back to a reality I'd lost in the midst of the shoulds. I responded, "All my business, every single client I've ever had in the last five years, is from a word-of-mouth referral."
In that moment, I felt such a freedom. Could I let it go now? Am I ready to shed this guilt I carry daily? Everyday, the gurus remind me that I'm not marketing the way I "should." I don't have as big a list as I "should." And I'm not blogging or posting as often as I "should" if I want to be a real success.
In the midst of my realization, something felt familiar. It was years ago when I was still new at motherhood and reading everything I could on how to be a "good" parent. I felt so much pressure about being a mom. This was the most important role of my life - I had to get it right!
And then one day, all the parenting experts' voices in my head overshadowed my own. Their contradictory chatter confirmed that whatever choice I made was both endorsed and condemned. I knew it was time for me to separate myself from all the noise. It was time for me to hear that still, quiet voice inside reassuring me that I have all I need to know.
That day, I quit reading parenting books for good. The wisdom of one, "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk," continues to guide conversations with my kids. The rest of the time, I try to remember that my formula for parenting is simple: 90% love and 10% grace. This personal truth illuminates my parenting to this day.
This day which brings another separation from the experts. This time from all the great minds shedding their light on the entrepreneurial journey.
And again, there's one book, "The War of Art" by Stephen Pressfield, that I'll keep within reach. In it Pressfield writes:
"Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”
Here's to what I hope will be at least another five years doing the work I'm called to do. My goal in this work won't be to make more money, to grow my list, or help others see me as a "success." Instead, I'll try to remember that my formula for business success is simple: 90% trust and 10% courage.
Trust that opportunities to teach, innovate, and learn through my business will continue to come. Trust that I'll continue to encourage my clients' big dreams. Trust that I'll do the work that scares me. And I'll find the courage to hear the still, quiet voice inside and act on inspiration as it comes.