Happy Birthday, Me!

Well, it’s not really my birth day, but March 20, 2017 was the day that I sent an email to a number of friends and former colleagues, wrote a blog post, and declared to the universe, and my cats – since they were the only ones around at the time – that Mterprise Inclusion Strategies and VidaLife were officially open for business.

These are the names I chose for aspects of my consulting practice that had been a few years in the making. Ideas had been percolating for a while, but sometimes you need the universe to give you a kick in the rear to make something happen. For me the process has been equal parts exhilarating and terrifying, and through it all, it has been the little things that have kept me going along the way – like a note or a single word.

Last year, I had dinner with someone I had been friends with in elementary school when she was in town for work. Social media allowed us to reconnect after, let’s just say quite a few years. Shortly after our visit, D. sent me a card with one word on the cover, “jump”. It was a message of support for my efforts to start my business, and it is now pinned on a bulletin board above my desk, so I can see it daily.

While it is really easy for me to make a long list of things I have done wrong in the first year of “doing my own thing”, and while there is no shortage of items on the “ if I knew than what I know now” list, I am committed to focusing on the positive – – on the wonderful people who have crossed my path; on the great opportunities and experiences I have had over the course of this past year, and the sense of fulfillment that comes when you know you are growing personally and professionally.

The lessons I have learned, I believe, are meant to be shared. So, today, I am passing along of my take-aways from this past year. In reflection, these are not about starting your own business at all. They are lessons that apply to any journey you are on, whether it be personal or professional in nature.

#1) You have to be your own loudest cheerleader and you have to know what you are cheering about. Of course, most people want to be helpful. Some will actually even lift a finger or two, or if you are really lucky, a hand to help you along the way. However, at the end of the day, it is important to remember: you are your own responsibility! You have to do the hard work. You have to figure out how to communicate what you are about; why you are fabulous and what it is you bring to the table.

I get that this doesn’t always come easy. We may have years of socialization that has taught us to not make it about us. Maybe we are in careers where the whole point is to be a voice for someone or something else. But, there is a difference between being self-centered, and being able to communicate your vision. Sometimes, though, we use one as an excuse to not do the other. Formulating and expressing our vision, mission or passion takes reflection and requires asking the hard questions of ourselves. What is it you really want, and why? Clarity brings its own level of energy that can help push you farther along that path.

#2) It’s ok if you are still figuring it all out, because it brings me to my next point which is this: even if you have an idea of what you want your path to look like, be open to taking side trips. Opportunity may come in unexpected ways that may lead somewhere more interesting than where you thought you were headed. In turn, that unexpected experience may help you hone your understanding of yourself.

I do a lot of professional counseling with people in the early stages of their careers, and I always worry if someone comes in with too definitive of a road map early on. It is important to have an idea and a goal, but don’t go through life with blinders on so you can’t see what else may be out there.

#3) Walking your path can be lonely at times, so remember, whatever it is you are seeking to achieve, no one does it alone! After a two-decade career, I thought I had a pretty well-established network. The problem was that most of my contacts were in one field. I needed to connect with people who are going through the same professional challenges that I was, so I gave myself a professional challenge to meet people in areas where I previously didn’t have many or any contacts. That may have been the single best decision I made for myself. These individuals I have met in the past year have become friends, supporters, and resources in ways I couldn’t image before I started out.

#4) Finally, if I had a dime for every time I said, “I have to take my own advice”, I probably would be on some tropical island enjoying spring break – not that I am not enjoying sitting here at my computer typing this. My point is that a lot of the times, we have the answers within ourselves; we just have to create the quiet space so that we can hear them and be willing to listen.

But, and this is an all caps BUT…too often we think trusting our instinct means we are supposed to have all the answers, when really, quite the opposite is true. The times when listening to my inner voice has been most valuable have included when that voice has said to me, “you don’t know what you are doing! Go ask for help!”

I know, I know – you all have heard my “stop shoulding yourself” line. It really does apply here, because sometimes it sounds contradictory to say go get advice from others but don’t do something just because they say to do it. The challenge we all face is to learn how to wade through all that you hear and figure out what is right for you.

When you are excited and enthusiastic about what you are doing, or what you want to do, it is so much easier to bring people along with you on your journey. When you have a clear idea of what you are looking for, it is easier for people to be helpful. When you have faith in yourself, you are going to make better decisions.

And thus, the cycle begins anew. I love symbolism which is why I chose the first day of spring as the day to launch my business. In some cultures and traditions, the start of spring is also considered the first day of the new year.

The thing is, no matter what happens, tomorrow is a new day, a new chance to get back on track, to start anew. I am looking forward to reading this piece a year from now to see what new things I have learned in the process and where I have gone that I didn’t expect to.

Yes, it takes a leap of faith – but how will you know where your wings will take you unless you unfold them?

There are some things on the horizon that I look forward to sharing this path as they develop, but in the meantime, I would love to hear from you. How are your wings carrying you along your path?