You’ve probably been learning valuable life lessons like rapid fire if you’re an entrepreneur. Besides the tactical and strategic side of being a business owner, I’m learning daily that so much of it is mindset. Sure, an expert or coach can give you the tools, tricks, and roadmap, but if your head is not in the game, you most likely won’t succeed–end of story. I’m well beyond my 20s and I still struggle with keeping a solid mindset (I’m human). Sometimes I wonder if I have what it takes. As part of a recent mastermind I attended, the question was asked, “Knowing what you know now, what would you tell your 20-year-old self?” And it got me thinking…
You’re smarter than you think.
I’ll be honest; I was a middle-level student my entire academic career. I only really aced English and writing classes (no surprise there, I loved those classes). As I got older, I found myself shying away from talking about politics, religion, or anything that remotely related to science and math. Conversations that felt “intelligent” were ones I stayed quiet during–always listening and soaking it in but never really giving an opinion because I didn’t think I knew enough.
Well, guess what? Turns out I’m pretty well-versed in those “smarty-pants” topics. I read a TON and always ask questions, get other people’s perspectives, and form my own ideas. And science? If you know me well, you know I’m heading to the moon at some point (no, really, bye), and I love anything that has to do with science and space. One might say I’ve grown into my intelligence, but I think it’s been there all along. I just didn’t know it.
You’re past actions don’t need to determine your future progress. Let that sh*t go.
I’d tell my 20-year-old self that you don’t have to be a know-it-all to get in on the conversation, and you don’t need to feel any “less.” Instead of feeling insecure, be bold–ask questions, get involved, and know that your opinion does matter, regardless of your academic degree. Raise your hand and speak up. On the flip side, I’d also say, check yourself before you wreck yourself. If you don’t know the answers or enough to speak intelligently about it, then go find out about it. Do your homework.
Everyone is just like you.
It sounds cliche because it is cliche, but heck, it couldn’t be more true. I don’t think I realized until after college that everyone struggles, everyone succeeds, and everyone is just trying to do their best daily. Feeling inept at what you do is also known as impostor syndrome (thanks, social media). But even the most successful people with millions of followers have struggles of some kind in their lives. It’s not all IG-amazing and picture-perfect, white kitchens and flawless faces. Successful people have strife. We all have it. We’re all just trying to do our best.
Our mental health needs to be a daily priority. Checking in on yourself (and others) creates a productive, healthy, and solid foundation for everything you do in life. It takes work, and I would argue that nothing is more important.
Being an entrepreneur can be incredibly isolating, but everyone is just like you. It’s ok to feel confident in what you’re doing, and the work will pay off if you let it. You can feel less alone and more supported. I’d also tell my 20-year-old self to join a group of people who share similar goals and beliefs. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people gives you a built-in support system and a reminder that we’re all going through the same tough shit.
Start networking now.
This brings me to the next thing I’d tell my 20-year-old self: Start building your network right now. I will preface this by saying that back then, I’m pretty sure I had zero idea of what having a “network” meant back then. I don’t feel like networking became a buzzword until well into the 2000s. At least it was never on my radar.
We’ve all heard that you are a sum of the five people you spend most of your time with. In my early 20s, I’m not 100% who I was hanging out with, to be honest. The fact is, I grew out of those relationships pretty quickly and never looked back. Building a network doesn’t mean having loads of friends from your childhood to call on when you need something in the future. Building a network is being aware of who you surround yourself with. It’s finding people who share the same interests and goals as you, and reciprocating support, insights, and perspective. I’ve been lucky enough to have people I admire around me and the wherewithal to maintain those relationships. I can count them on one hand, but the quality of these individuals is exponential.
Having a collective of people who offer advice, love, and support, is arguably one of the most important things I’ve had in my life. Yes, I developed it late, and I should have started earlier, but regardless, they are paramount to my mental health and success.
Don’t fight for what you don’t want.
Early on in my entrepreneurial journey, I was prospecting a client who started out asking about content and email marketing (music to my ears). But as our conversations grew more serious–and financial–the scope of work became something entirely different. The client wanted me to shop around for billboard advertising opportunities, run customer referral reports, and meet a very unrealistic goal of increasing their Instagram followers by the tens of thousands within the first quarter of our business relationship. Initially, I just kept adding these responsibilities into our work in the contract along with an appropriate budget. I quickly realized the client had no intention of increasing our rates even though the scope had increased exponentially. This is also what we call a “scope creeper.”
Instinctually, I’m a seller. So I’m generally willing to do whatever it takes to close the deal. The fact that I could simply say, no thank you, and walk away, hadn’t dawned on me. In my previous corporate jobs, you never leave money on the table. And I obviously don’t plan on making this a habit in my own business. But when you’re the boss, you get to call the shots, and that includes when and if you need to politely decline.
At the end of the day, when you’re trying to close a deal and it gets intense, remember to take a breath. Stop. Access what’s developed and consider what’s been added or subtracted from the partnership. Does it still make sense? If not, and you have the leeway financially to do so, you can say no. The point is, you don’t need to fight for something you don’t want. You can spend that time and energy searching for partners that want what you’re offering, and ultimately, will pay for you to do the things you love.
Listen to your gut.
Have you ever had that tug at your heart before you’re about to make a decision about something–one that says, “um, hold up, this might not be a good idea,” and you pause for a second, but then decide to do it anyway?
Same. We’ve all done it. Only to find out days, weeks, maybe even years later, that it wasn’t a great choice. The effects of your decision caused emotional pain, anxiety, and sometimes, even financial repercussions.
It’s funny because almost every time I’ve made the wrong choice or in hindsight, should have done something differently, I have had that tug at my heart or a flick in my stomach. After years of ignoring it because of peer pressure or the promise of immediate gratification, I’m learning to listen to my gut more readily. I’d tell my 20-year-old self, your gut is always looking out for you–LISTEN to her.
I’d also tell her you can’t move forward if you’re always looking over your shoulder. Your past actions don’t need to determine your future progress. You can let that shit go, and you probably should. Store it in your mind under, “Whoops,” and then move on.
Hindsight is 20/20
Another great cliche, but also a true one. Though I’m well out of my 20s and have since accumulated 20 plus years of experience and insight, I would have benefited from someone sharing these tidbits with me. Even now, as I write, I am reminded of their importance. I hope you find them helpful too.