1. Comparison: We all do it but when it comes to business, comparing yourself to others can really be especially hazardous. Over the last year, I have had to stop myself several times from looking at fellow entrepreneurs and wondering if I measure up. This dangerous game not only leads to false insecurities but also takes my focus away from my overarching goals. Simply put- worrying about others distracts me from pursuing whatever it is I want.
Lesson: While I (aim to) no longer compare myself to other entrepreneurs, the act of doing so has actually helped me see how destructive this is beyond business. This entrepreneurial “mistake” has allowed me to identify all of the wasted energy and mental real estate dedicated to fruitless endeavors in every aspect of my life. This realization has been powerful.
2. Verbal Agreements. On our way out of an industry meeting last summer, Colin Lester, the CEO of Twenty First Artists and a really down to earth guy, imparted some words of wisdom that I’ll never forget. He said, “If you want loyalty get a dog, for everything else get a contract.” So well put- so easily forgotten. Before diving in full-time, I had been running my company on the side for nearly two years so I had already made a heap of mistakes before going in full throttle. I quickly learned the importance of getting agreements in writing but somehow, on this road, I have gotten myself into situations in which I convinced myself that it was ok to wait on a contract because what was to happen had been discussed verbally in detail- oy. Long story short: I got burned. Lesson: Obviously, I’m now a stickler for contracts but I have also become a much better record keeper when it comes to emails, conversations and the like and it has also made me much more direct with my negotiations. My frustrating bouts with verbal agreements have actually made me a more astute businesswoman.
3. Faith: So I’ve often referred to a spiritual essence that I have discovered in entrepreneurship. However, I have come to learn that there is certainly a level of scrutiny that should accompany intuition when it comes to business. This may sound obvious but when you are on an unpaved road whose direction moves as you do, new ideas and promising prospects constantly shoot at you and there tends only to be time to react. I have especially learned this the most in the past year now that many small business owners, non-profits and artists approach us for help. There are so many amazing people with great ideas and organizations out there that I have been tempted many times to jump into bed with them or work for free because I really have faith in what they are up to. (I have succumbed to the latter afew times already.)
Lesson: I have quickly learned that my faith in people and ideas needs to be focused inward first in order for my business to be extraordinary. While there is nothing wrong with believing in others, offering free help and forging new relationships, this “mistake” has helped me affirm my commitment to my own dreams before becoming too carried away with those of others.
4. Ego: This mistake is one I continue to improve upon but has been most challenging to really get; it is but it isn’t about me. Yes, entrepreneurship can be a self-interested road about you following your own dream, and being committed to that is tantamount to success. (As I alluded to in the previous section.) However, there is much more at stake than yourself and when this remains at the forefront of the commitment, the results are bigger and more powerful. There have been many times when I have become focused on making the business work because of the impacts it has on me: my income, my lifestyle, my wardrobe, my reputation, etc. When this happens, my results are smaller and less moving- a paycheck feels less meaningful, a project is less enjoyable, and it feels like “work” again. When I have become focused on making business work for the impacts it has on my community (my business partner and I, my family, my neighborhood, my city, etc.) it takes on a greater purpose. This changes everything.
Lesson: Every time I make the mistake of creating an intention based on something as small as me, the impact is small (and can be frustrating,) but I am thankful for the reminder that this mistake provides; that I am much more powerful when my intentions have a grander scale. No more playing small.
5. Planning: As an event consultant, plans are everything. When it comes to entrepreneurship, however, plans can sometimes debilitate me. My last favorite mistake challenges me often because I generally rely so heavily on plans. Whether it’s the business plan I wrote in 2009 or the 3-year vision plan I wrote after graduate school, I have trouble letting go of the frustration if they’re not completed to the tee. Every now and then I become stuck in the ideals and standards that I created in a time that was completely different and/or no longer applies. There are definitely goals that I have met and that I’m glad to hold on to (first employee by next year!) but I have fallen flat on my face anytime I become fixated on why an outdated plan has not come to pass.
Lesson: It is important to remain pliable on this road. When I make this “mistake” of beating myself up, what I appreciate is that it enables me to regroup often. It is so easy to plow forward in business without taking the time out to reassess former goals. Any time I fall in the trap of getting down on myself about a past plan, I am to assess where I am currently and create an improved one.
Mistakes can be embarrassing. They can be difficult to prevent. They bring me down to reality when I need it, especially when I’m feeling self-righteous or too important. They help me relate to others, especially my clients. They remind me that everyone’s fears are just like mine, that people’s words may not always be enough, that focus is key, that everything isn’t always about me, and that plans change. These lessons make my work more thoughtful, more effective and the results more impactful. When I fool myself into thinking that I am somehow better or smarter than my mistakes, I fail.