Updated: Dec 2, 2019
It's been 3 years since I quit my last full-time job, and started focusing on building my own business.
That may not sound like a long time, but I've had quite a journey during the past few years. I've learned some hard lessons (and some more obvious ones) along the way, and I think I've discovered more about myself than I might have otherwise.
So in celebration of my 3rd work-iversary, here are 3 life lessons I've learned from running my own business!
1) Be yourself
Guys, I have a degree in music. When I took the leap and started DeBord Studios, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing from a business standpoint. I spent the first year doing TONS of research and taking every marketing, social media, and creative entrepreneur course I could get my hands on. I listened to hours of podcasts, and read hundreds of blog posts.
The result was that my business looked a LOT like the businesses I was learning from.
That's not to say that I didn't learn anything from these folks; I definitely did! But I also learned over time that I needed to take what they taught and fit it within my own style and personality. That meant pruning some techniques, and completely eliminating others. It meant taking a general idea and using it as a starting point to create an entirely new idea.
Through that process, I learned how to be myself...and to be ok with being myself. And it's been a beautiful experience!
2) Your idea of success doesn't have to match anyone else's expectations
Social pressure is a difficult thing to ignore. We all deal with some type of external idea of what it means to succeed in life. Money, status, titles, relationships....no matter what it looks like, there's a cultural expectation to be met.
About a year ago, I sat in a workshop and the speaker asked us, "What does success look like to you?". That simple question opened up a whole new perspective for me. I realized that my idea of success doesn't have to (and definitely does not) look the same as anyone else's version of success. What a life-changing concept!
After that, I spent some time really digging into what I felt a successful business (and life) looks like to me, and I gained some much-needed perspective and insight. I don't need to hire employees; I like running a micro business. I don't need to be an influencer or well-known; in fact, I hate being in the spotlight! I realized that success, for me, means to run my business well, have a good work/life balance, earn what I need, give back to my community, and make a positive difference in the lives of my students and clients.
3) You don't need to go seeking approval I spent the first couple years of running my business being terrified of the question, "so, what do you do?" I hated talking about DeBord Studios, because I never knew which reaction I would get. I've had everything from an awkward "oh" and a quick change of subject, to demeaning ("that's cute"), to complete enthusiasm.
So I started trying to earn approval from everyone that I met. I tried to find worth in being busy, in numbers, in positive reviews. But a surprising thing happened....no matter how hard I tried, I still received mixed responses to the revelation that I run my own creative business. I felt like every person's judgement was a personal reflection of my failures.
One day, while sharing this with a friend of mine, she stopped me and said, "you shouldn't worry about them. The only person who needs to approve of your choices is you." It stopped me in my tracks, and I started to really look at what I was doing. Why did I need approval from these people? What was I really looking for?
For me, the only people who need to be 100% on board with what I'm doing for my career are 1) me and 2) my husband (because obviously my choice affects him too). That's it. Beyond the two of us, it doesn't matter one grain of rice what anyone else thinks. What a freeing thought!
Have you learned similar life lessons, or has your experience been entirely different? I'd love to hear some life-changing things you've learned in the comments below!