I had no idea that quitting my job and starting my own business would come with so much pain. But surprisingly, if I had a choice to go back in time, I wouldn't change a thing. I have learned that the pain and other unexpected challenges are part of the process, and to avoid dealing with them head-on will only lead to more troubles and failures. To summarize some of my favorite words of wisdom by Viktor Frankl in his powerful book Man's Search for Meaning, life is full of struggles and the only way to survive is to find meaning in them...
I have only been on this journey for 2 short years, so I wouldn't call myself an expert in entrepreneurship or self-help in any way. But if my written thoughts can help even just one person get started on their journey, I'll consider myself helpful. So whether you are an entrepreneur or thinking of leaving your corporate life to follow your dreams, take a look at the list below and let me know if they resonate with you.
- Before trying to be an entrepreneur, it's OK to spend (possibly lots of) time learning about who you are as a human being first.
It was not part of the plan for me to spend almost a year on figuring myself out, but I did, mainly because I had no other choice. I have written about this in an earlier post so I won't go on and on about it here, but I would like to stress that the work you do on yourself is the most important work of your life, so take as much time as you reasonably need and don't feel guilty about it. I believe that finding out who you are, what gives you joy, what drives you, what upsets you, who matters to you, who lifts you up, who brings you down...will be more rewarding than any amount of money you will ever make.
Also, personal development is an on-going process, so don't get frustrated if you don't see progress right away. There have been countless times when I found myself right back where I started: insecure, fearful, anxious, doubtful, sad, worried...Thankfully, throughout the last year, the most important skill I have learned is; instead of being angry with myself for failing to improve, I let myself "sit" with the feeling for as long as I need to properly embrace it and slowly let it go. You know the saying "old habits die hard"...especially mental ones.
- Friends and family might not be your biggest supporters (though you expect them to be) and that's OK.
I don't know what it is, but I have talked about this with some of my entrepreneur friends and they all agree that there is this phenomenon that friends just don't buy from friends. Don't get me wrong, I still have many supporters who are friends and family and am beyond grateful for this, but I used to be hurt by the number of close friends who either just don't care or opt to buy things similar to what I sell somewhere else.
Now, after I have learned to not take things personally and make no assumptions about other people's behaviors (if you have not read the book, The Four Agreements, you need to get it now), I am able to let go of the disappointment whenever I feel under-supported by the people close to me.
There are a million reasons why your friends and family are not supporting you today. Unless there are other clear indications that they are simply not the good friends who want to see you succeed, please don't rush to hasty conclusions.
- It's extremely hard to start a business while working on your own personal development, so you will make mistakes and upset some people along the way. Apologize, learn the lesson, but don't beat yourself up. The right people will stand by you no matter what.
I have made a ton of mistakes, before and after starting my business. However, I feel like I'm more mistake-prone now that I am more vulnerable while having so many equally important things on my plate. I am also more aware of my own behaviors and how they make people feel. For that, sometimes I find myself waking up with regrets and worries, something I have grown accustomed to following years of (subconsciously) living in fear of disappointing people and of not being loved. This sounds ridiculous but I am sure many can relate.
If this happens to you, just think of the number of people who are still your true friends, partners and biggest fans. As long as you're not doing anything harmful to anyone, your people will forgive you and love you no matter what. The ones who stay angry with you probably have their own issues to deal it, so let them be. And most importantly, learn from your mistake, forgive yourself and move on. You are doing your best, and sometimes your best is not as good as other times.
- Doing the right thing means sometimes getting laughed at; proceed anyway.
I still remember the time when I told a rather "successful" Vietnamese friend about my plan to help rebuild a silk village and bring back the silk reputation to Vietnam, he laughed and said, "are you doing it for fun?" Even my own mother kept telling me to go back to work and stop pursuing such a farfetched dream. Many people think "doing good" is for those who have made so much money they don't know how else to spend it.
I'm not one who dislikes money. In fact, I also aim to make so much money I don't know how to spend it all; however, I believe that doing what you love well while benefiting everyone else will lead the road to great success and eventually bring you an abundance of wealth, in one way or another. Just look at Whole Foods.
So do what gives you joy with all your heart, and eventually you will be the one laughing all the way to the bank. No shortcut need.
Enjoy your journey!
Los Angeles August 6, 2018