Even though I have been out of school for much longer than I was ever in – it's funny how those years caused me to get stuck in business later in life.
Times might be different now, but when I was in school conformity was the thing and my sense of self worth came from what other people thought of me and my work.
But today, as a solo entrepreneur – originality has to rule the day. And at the end of that day, there is no one to tell me whether I did a good job.
It is up to me to keep going or give up.
Back in School It Was All About Conformity
In school, I wanted to be like everyone else. I didn't want to stand out from the crowd – how embarrassing.
Not only that, but everything I did was to please others. I worked hard to deliver exactly what the teachers because I wanted a good grade.
There was room for originality but the end product had to conform.
I remember doing a creative writing piece back in elementary or middle school that included a conversation.
To make it more conversational I had my character, who was a child, say something like “I won't eat that 'cause I don't like it.” Whatever it was that I wrote included the word ” 'cause” in place of the word “because” – because that was how my character spoke.
All I recall is that I had points taken off because ” 'cause” was not proper use of the English language, I suppose.
From that day on I always used “because”.
I wasn't about to lose points again for such a ridiculous reason.
Relying On Outside Sources for Self Worth
The result was that my sense of self worth came from the outside.
If others approved of my work, then all was good.
But if I got a bad grade or displeased others then my world fell apart.
Some people may have a stronger backbone than me.
I craved outside approval.
So, of course, my life became a roller coaster ride. ‘Cause ( 😉 ) we all know that we can never please all of the people all of the time.
When I graduated college and went to work for a company, my immediate supervisors replaced the teachers in my life.
I worked hard to make them happy.
The carrot, of course, was good performance reviews, possibly a raise, and hopefully no pink slip.
How Entrepreneurship Is Different
So, what happens when you work your whole life to please other people and then you become an entrepreneur?
Well, fortunately, that old model of seeking your self worth from outside sources no longer works.
Unfortunately, it can be a learning process that costs you time and money and makes you get stuck in business efforts of your own.
You don't just wake up one day and say “Hey, I'm an entrepreneur now – so I am just going do my own thing and be happy with myself and my progress.”
If only it were that easy.
You start off with the same old approach – looking for approval from other sources – your clients, your customers, your coaches.
You look for formulas that are guaranteed to work, you want to conform to some standard that will bring you success.
Yet your business is original.
What works for another person might not work for you.
What pleases one customer or one visitor might not please another.
And you spend your time and energy trying to please everyone and you end up pleasing no one.
Your AHA! Moment
At some point, hopefully sooner than later – you realize that you need to be true to yourself.
When you let your personality, originality and passion shine through your business your clients and customers will self select.
They will pick you because of who you are.
Sure, some people will pass you by – because you are not right for them, and that is ok.
When you have a group of people that seek you out because of what you have to offer – you are building a tribe not a crowd.
Leave Your School Days Behind
It's time to stop hiding behind the veil of conformity – don't allow other people to cause you to get stuck in business stagnation.
Find success by being authentic and visible.
In school you learned many useful skills – and for that be grateful.
But learn to value your own self approval.
Your Assignment, If You Will
Are you building a business that YOU love and that makes YOU happy?
Reflect on whether your school years have caused you to get stuck in business or whether they empowered you to grow.
Share your experience in the comments below.