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Setting up your own business and being your own boss is the dream we all strive for. Heck, we're even told that our lives are incomplete until we've trodden the path of an entrepreneur.
Today's young men and women dream of being an entrepreneur in the same way that young farm hands of old wondered if they might one day have the courage to become a knight in shining armor, to rescue the princess from the dragon. Today, the princess we long to rescue is ourselves; and the dragon is Corporate America.
Being an entrepreneur is about taking control of your own destiny. It's about having the courage to look yourself in the eye and be who you really are.
If this is how you see business, anyone who's taken the plunge into launching their own company will be quick to disillusion you.
The pipe dreams we're sold of entrepreneurship are much like the fairytale weddings seen in magazines. The fairy tale wedding photos sell white dresses and expensive cakes. But they don't show the family feuds, the credit card debt and the nerves that are part and parcel of many weddings.
Likewise, the fairy tale of the dream life of an entrepreneur sells business books. But the fairy tales don't show the stress, financial pressure, and excessive work hours that are part and parcel of many businesses.
You can have a business you love. Even if you’re at breaking point right now, you can re-kindle the fire.
You can have a beautiful wedding with a $100,000 dress, a unicorn-drawn carriage, and champagne fountains. But the real work of marriage begins when the honeymoon's over and the day-to-day craft of constructing a lifelong relationship begins.
You can dream of the idyllic lifestyle of an entrepreneur living in sun-soaked tropics, barely doing four hours work a week. But if you quit your job, you'll have to struggle hard and beat the odds for this to be you.
Running a business can leave you jaded and tired. Like keeping a marriage going, it's hard work, and often the rewards aren't as we hoped they would be. Being your own boss is no fairy tale. That's not to say running a business can't be rewarding. It can be extremely rewarding, if you take the right approach.
You can have a business you love. Even if you're at breaking point right now, you can re-kindle the fire.
So what's the secret to falling (back) in love with your business?
Keep It Real
As you're reading this blog, you're likely to be in Generation Y (age 21-35). People in Generation Y are typically unhappy because we have unrealistic expectations. We're wildly ambitious and we believe we're extra special. What's more, we believe we deserve a fulfilling career.
Setting up a business is a wonderful thing to do, but there's no guarantee of success, or that everything will go to plan. Most likely, things will take longer and be more difficult than you imagined.
You're unlikely to be the next Bill Gates or Donald Trump. We can't all be super-rich.
But you can earn a good living for yourself doing something you enjoy.
Put On Your Wonder Goggles
It's easy to get dragged down by everything that frustrates you about your business. Maybe customers are giving you grief, or a supplier has let you down, or you get a knot of dread in your stomach every time you think about catching up on the bookkeeping.
Rather than zooming in on what's wrong with your business, take a bird's-eye view of everything, and pay attention to what's going well. Also notice what your business contributes to your overall life. What does it allow you to do that you couldn't do otherwise?
Relight Your Spark
Your spark is the reason you got into business in the first place. If you're in the process of starting a business, it's the reason that you want to set up a business.
What really matters to you? If "money" is your answer, go back to the drawing board. What did you want that money for?
For many people, what really matters is their family, or a friendship. Others will cite a desire for security, or adventure.
Whatever your spark is, make sure your business is set up to keep it flaring.
Know How Passion Really Works
"Follow your passion" is a catchphrase that's soared in popularity over the past 20 years. It's good advice, as long as you know what passion means.
Just like a job, your business is how you earn money. It doesn’t define all of who you are.
Too often, we're led to believe that our passion is the one thing that will make us happy and earn us a living, if only we discovered it. To go back to the marriage analogy, the passion myth is a lot like the romantic myth of the one true love.
The truth is, there are many people in the world who you could have a successful marriage with.
Likewise, there are many potential business niches you could develop a passion for. There are many business ideas that would be "right" for you and would fit your skills and abilities. Passion is something that grows over time slowly.
Just because your business isn't perfect doesn't mean it's not the right one for you. The only way you can develop a true passion for your business is to stick with it.
Finding Your Passion Before Starting Your Business
Finding a passion is a place many people get stuck when setting up a business. That's partly because of the myth we're sold about passion. It's also because the type of person with the skill and energy to set up a business is typically the type of person who has diverse interests. How can they narrow their passions down to one thing?
What's crucial (and healthy) here is to separate your business from you. Just like a job, your business is how you earn money. It doesn't define all of who you are. Assess all your passions honestly, and choose one or two that have the best potential to make money.
Try Different Skills
Whatever business you're in, you are your own boss, which gives you the opportunity to try your hand at different skills:
- Freelance designers could try their hand at writing (or vice versa).
- If you've always left your marketing decisions to your business partner, why not take an interest and get involved?
- Instead of picking products from suppliers, why not try inventing a product instead?
Even if your venture into new territory isn't as successful as you'd like it to be, you'll learn new things about your business, and you'll start to see things in a different way.
Your Business Doesn't Need You
Even if you're a one man band, chances are that your business doesn't need you as much as you think it does. Why not take a break from one another? You can give yourself a much-needed break in a number of ways:
- Outsource Tasks. Do you dread dealing with the mountains of enquiries in your email inbox? Or maybe it's handing the finances that drive you crazy? Whatever's bugging you most, you can probably outsource it.
- Take a sabbatical. Either live off your savings for a while, and put your business on hold, or put your business in the capable hands of an understudy.
- Take 20% Time. Google's famous policy of giving employees one day off per week to work on personal projects no longer exists. But while it was still around, it gave birth to AdSense and Gmail. Why not give yourself some free time away from your business to pursue your interests?
However you choose to take a break from your business, you'll return refreshed and reinvigorated, with new ideas.
Take a Long, Hard Look at Yourself
"The grass is always greener on the other side" is a well-known phrase for good reason. We all have an in-built tendency to assume life would be better, if only —
Your frustration with your business or your job could be an excuse for failing to deal with other things in your life that are bothering you.
No matter how many businesses you start, you can never run away from yourself.
Committing to the business you have can be a way of learning who you really are when you stick with something for the long haul. Jumping from one idea to the next is a way of avoiding reality.
What Are Your Tricks for Rekindling the Flame?
Running a business isn't all that different from any long-term relationship. What begins as a passionate dream fades into a more steady and reliable love.
The only trouble comes when cynicism sets in, or when you begin to wonder if you'd be better off elsewhere.
Sometimes, you do need to break away and make a brand new start. But often, all you need to do is rekindle the flame that got you started.
When the fires of love are burning low in your business, how do you go about pumping oxygen to get the flames burning again?