Hi Legacy Builders! In this post, I’m going to change things up just a little bit. I want to share with you my experience as a business owner of three years in business and what I believe helped me to be successful. Usually, my posts are focused on tips and tools for starting a business or running a business, or building a website. But in this post, I want to check in with you directly and get a feel for where you are in your transition from employee to entrepreneur. Like me, some of you have been on this journey for a few years, while others are just now considering taking that entrepreneurial leap. For some of you reading this post, the question of whether to start a business has become more pressing for you because your job situation may not be as stable as it was before the pandemic. What once may have been a daydream about quitting your job and starting your business is now becoming a realistic goal. And you’ve just got questions. I want to share with you my experience going from a full-time employee to a full-time entrepreneur.
Now, if you are at a point where you are seriously questioning whether you are ready to be your own boss, I have been there. I completely understand where you are and I know what it’s like to feel unsure about taking that next step. I’ll be honest with you, entrepreneurship is not for everyone. And that does not mean it’s a bad thing that if you’re not ready to be an entrepreneur or that it is not the best route for you; there is nothing wrong with that. Only you can determine whether entrepreneurship is a good thing for your life and your career. In this post, I just want to share some things that helped me realize that I could take what started out as just a hobby, something to do, a creative outlet, and then I turn that into a profitable business. This post is not about whether your hobby has the potential for a profitable business or about evaluating whether this is the kind of service that you should have or this is the kind of product you have. That’s not what this post is about. This post is more about evaluating whether you have what it takes to just be your own boss and to take control of your career. This post is about self-mastery, and in particular, whether or not you have the personality and the traits that are necessary to be successful as an entrepreneur.
What I want you to take away from this post is the value of taking stock of who you are and to better understand the importance of your likes, your dislikes, your strengths, your weaknesses when it comes to running a business. These key components are all very critical to your success. I think it’s important that before you start jumping into whether or not this product or this service is what you want to provide, I think it’s really important to take the time to look at who you are and decide whether or not you’re ready to take this leap. So let’s get started.
What is self-mastery?
You may be thinking to yourself, what is self-mastery? Why are you saying that? What is that about? You might be even thinking to yourself, you’ve got a good business idea, and you’re ready to start your business. So why all this touchy-feely stuff about finding who you are? I totally get that perspective because I didn’t know anything about self-mastery or the importance of really understanding who I was as a person, my perspectives about business, and how I respond to certain stimuli. I had no idea the importance of self-mastery until I was knee deep in my business and realizing I was making certain decisions and mistakes based on things that I didn’t even realize were directly connected to my personality.
Starting and running a business is going to require more from you personally, mentally, emotionally, physically than any job that you have ever had. Despite what social media may suggest, entrepreneurship is not always glamorous, and there are elements to running a business that are downright killjoys. Many new business owners quit their businesses and they return to work as employees because they weren’t honest with themselves about their motivations for starting their business or whether they had the stamina to continue when challenges come up in the business, and they will. There are ebbs and flows to being in a business and being a business owner. Self-mastery is a way of identifying your unchecked behaviors, habits, emotions, and those things that drive you in your decision-making process, because that’s what running a business is really all about; making sound practical decisions.
Five Elements: Self-C.A.S.E.D.
Now that I’ve identified the problem. So what’s my solution? I personally believe that to achieve self-mastery, every current or aspiring entrepreneur should confront these five essential qualities within themselves and they need to master those. They are self-control, self-awareness, self-sufficiency, self-efficacy, and self-discipline. I call it Self-C.A.S.E.D. (who doesn’t love a good acronym, right?). I want to share with you these five things because they helped me tremendously starting out. But more importantly, they’ve helped me as I continue to grow my business. And now that I’m pivoting my services, it’s helping me even more because I’m aware of those things about my personality and how I run my business and it’s going to help you, too.
Now, before I go into those five essential elements, one of the main tools that I use to assist me in facing the “woman in the mirror” was a personality test that’s offered by 16personalities.com. I will do a separate video on the specifics of the test and how it helped me not only in my business but also in my personal life. It’s completely free to do. There is no affiliate link or anything like that, but it’s a great way to get started when you’re on the road to self-mastery and it’s definitely a tool in your arsenal that will be helpful as you go through these five essential elements.
The first element is self-control. Self-control is the foundation for every decision that you make in your life and business, recognizing how you respond to positive or negative stimuli when you’re making decisions is integral to mastering self-control. How many times since you started your business have you been enticed by a Facebook ad or an Instagram ad or some YouTube video for a tool or some software or some new gadget that you think that you’ve just got to have for your business, and then you go out and you buy it without considering whether or not it’s even a smart investment for your business? Now, when I first started JWM Designs, I had what’s called “Shiny Object Syndrome.” I was consumed with the excitement and emotion of being a business owner and I wanted to buy the latest and the greatest software or gadget that was thrown in my direction. And believe me y’all, I spent so much money convincing myself that each purchase was for the business, so it was okay to buy it, when in reality, it was my inability to control my impulse buying. I had to learn quickly that I needed to get my emotions in tune with my business goals and my bank account or JWM Designs would not last.
Emotional, impulsive responses to positive or negative stimuli are never a good means of advancing your business. Believe me, I have been there. I had to learn to change my mindset and manage my expectations and approach every decision using sort of an “if-then” technique. Now, I will not lie to yall, my willpower to consistently exercise self-control in my business decisions did not develop overnight, but it’s gotten better over the years. Each time that I’ve made a conscious effort to act only when the action is rationally based on what is truly in the best interests of my business, I’ve been able to take that next step towards self-control. I’m still on that road. But because I know the weak areas of my personality, one of which is my need for perfection and I’m also prone to burnout, I had to create systems in my business to address them so they can aid me in my efforts to be more in control of my decisions in my business. For example, I base the decisions I make in my business now against how that decision will benefit my business in the future. All my decision have to be rationally based, practical, and realistic. It can’t be like, “well, I think it might need this or that,” but I actually have to back up the decision with how will it actually benefit my business before I make that purchase. I also had to recognize how stress in my life and business negatively affect my ability to control my impulses. So now I take the time to step away from everything and release any of that pent up pressure. And believe me y’all, when you are running your business, a lot of things get built up. Oftentimes you don’t even realize that you’re building up so much pressure from all the different things that get thrown at you as a business owner. Whether it’s yoga or going for a walk or eating a meal out or reading an interesting book or incorporating times of meditation and self-reflection, whatever it is, incorporating those things into your routine will help you, just like it helped me maintain self-control. Give yourself the opportunity to relieve some pressure because you’ve got to make sure you have an outlet as a business owner.
The second essential quality is self-awareness. Self-awareness for me was a bit tricky because it required me to do some heavy introspection as to what comprises my personality. I had to critically evaluate my weaknesses, strengths, my core beliefs, my motivations, my temperament, my emotions so that I could better understand why I was prone to taking certain actions and why certain things motivated me and certain things did not motivate me. One of my key weaknesses when it comes to my personality is that I can be sensitive to criticism. And I’m telling you, especially when it comes to things that challenge my principles, my values, my core beliefs, I can be especially sensitive. I have to be very careful when I’m dealing with customers, friends, or really any of my interpersonal relationships when it comes to those sorts of criticisms. However, by taking the time to reflect internally on the details that encompass my psyche, character, and demeanor, I have been better able to see that my bad habits, my negative responses, some of my own prejudices, and misguided beliefs, and begin working to change them. I’ve seen a positive impact of being more reflective and it has allowed me to make new connections with clients, with customers, with friends, and with business associates that I wouldn’t have before because I had those negative traits that were blocking me from them. Because I’ve taken the time to work on these things, I can now use those skills in my business to better understand the action and motivations of others, including my potential customers. I know it sounds like a whole lot of sociology gobbledygook, touchy-feely stuff, but I’ve seen it for myself and for most of my clients. Success in one’s business and how one interacts in the business world generally, is closely aligned with one’s character. I want to be a person of honest moral character and I want to work with people that are the same way. Being able to recognize those positive and negative traits in other people is so vital because you never know who you’re going to partner with or who you should not partner with.
Here’s an example of a self-awareness technique that I use when I’m working with new potential clients. The technique I’ve found that’s been very helpful is Troy Dean’s technique of “Go Wide, Go Deep.” The “Go Wide Go Deep” technique is used for helping clients during the discovery or the initial phase of a project, particularly when it comes to building a website for the client. In my experience, a lot of times clients say they want a website, but they have no idea why they want the website, what they want to put on the website, or the purpose that they see behind having a website for their business, which can vary depending on what your business is and what your goals are. This method allows me to strip away my client’s canned responses and really get to the heart of what is really important to them and move the discussion away from trivial things like, “oh, I just want a website because everyone has one.”
When I do a discovery session, clients sometimes discover there are other specific wants or needs that they have when it comes to building a business website and there may be other digital marketing tools that they did not think about. So after the “Go Wide Go Deep” discovery session with the client, they often say that they had never really ask themselves questions about their business that was so in-depth, and they never really thought about certain goals and things that they had for themselves or their business for the future. I think it’s a great method in the initial phase of doing any project with the client. But it’s also great to use it for yourself. And that’s exactly what I did for my business. Think of the “Go Wide Go Deep” method like an inverted pyramid. The initial questions are broad, and the answers to those questions are usually very canned and generic. And then you continue to keep asking the question why, and you start to hone in on certain reoccurring themes and issues.
So let me show you how I used it for me recently when I was thinking about changing some things up with my business. My “Go Wide, Go Deep” session started with the simple question of why did I start my business? And then I gave an answer, which included that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. So then I asked the next question, why do you want to be an entrepreneur? And then the next question I asked myself was, why do I think the service I provide is beneficial to others, and so on. I just kept asking myself why until I was able to see certain themes and patterns about my motivations. In reviewing my responses, it led me to realize whether or not I was on the path to attaining my goal or if it was time for me to recalibrate and refocus and adjust where I was that I was going in my company. Everybody’s “Go Wide, Go Deep” session is going to vary. Yours is not going to be the same as mine. But the key takeaways for me during my most recent “Go Wide Go Deep” session was that I want my business to align with my values, and it’s not all about the money for me. Now, of course, everybody wants to make money in business, and I’m not saying that I don’t; but that’s not the first and most important goal for my business. I value autonomy for myself, and I also know that I value being able to make a significant difference in the lives of my clients. And because those factors are really important to me-that is, being able to be in control of my time and to also be able to have a very significant impact in the lives of the clients or the people that I work with-I was able to see, that my success was not tied to the amount of money I earned. That knowledge has recently helped me to pivot what I want to do and the services that I provide for my clients. All of this came as a result of my “Go Wide, Go Deep” session. The three words that sum up my business goals for 2021 are: truth, beauty and purpose.
I encourage you to definitely take some time, do a “Go Wide, Go Deep” session for your business. Becoming more self-aware in my business has helped me prepare for and manage those highs and lows of my professional and personal life. It’s made it possible for me to trust myself to effectively and efficiently make the right decisions when a crisis occurs in my business, and I’m telling you it’s going to happen. Now that I’ve taken the time to learn who I am and how I respond under pressure, I have the confidence of knowing that I can handle whatever may come in business because I know what drives me and I’ve become an expert in knowing my own patterns in business and behavior. I can also recognize those traits in other people. Knowing your inward motivation and focus are a necessary part of attaining self-awareness, and having a clear understanding of the world around you and how you fit in that grand scheme of things, is also important. As Plato said, you’ve got to know yourself. I implore you as someone who has been there and done that, take some time and become more aware of who you are and where you want to go.
The next element is self-sufficiency. Every day of my life as an entrepreneur has included some challenges that test my resolve. Each setback, delay, or detour can create just enough space for doubt to set in. As an entrepreneur, sometimes it can be so lonely at times because you feel like you’re the only one trying to make things happen. In my experience, no matter how much my friends and my family may love me, they don’t always understand what it’s like running a business and how much of a toll it takes on you. I can’t always rely on them to give me the support or the comfort or the advice that I need to keep things going. When I started out, I had to quickly develop a level of confidence in my abilities without requiring the assistance, affirmation, or authority of someone else. And that can be a very difficult task when you’ve gone from a job where you’re used to performance reviews and someone talking to you and telling you that you’re doing a good job. As an entrepreneur, you’re at a point where now you have to tell yourself those things. Because no one is going to fight harder for your business than you, the survival of your business cannot be dependent on anyone else but you. Authentic self-sufficiency required me to develop and execute ideas and plans without the advice and the resources of other people.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t seek wise counsel for your business from a trusted advisor. While it’s true that entrepreneurship can be a lonely road to travel, it’s also a road that’s been traveled by plenty of other people before you, and having a trusted advisor who can be there with you in the trenches to keep you grounded and focused is an asset. Advisors can give you that extra boost or a shot of motivation to keep you moving forward. But here’s my warning; advisors should never be a crutch to you. You should never become dependent upon them. You have to be your number one encourager. If you cannot motivate yourself to get up and to grind it out in your business, you need to find another career path. Because there’s going to be days when you’re going to see other entrepreneurs celebrating big wins and you’re going to look over at your accounts receivable, and it’s empty.
When you’re first starting out in business, you cannot focus on what you do not have versus what those who have already been established in your industry have, because they’ve got different resources. Comparing the resources of your competitors with your own is an exercise in futility, and it’s going to leave you frustrated, angry, and in a place of just utter darkness. You may spiral to the point that you begin to think you can’t do this. A better and more productive way for you to spend your time is to take stock of who you are, what you have, and think of ways that you can expand it. This was especially true for me because when I first started out in business, I was on a shoestring budget. I’m not even sure I could afford a shoestring, but I refused to start my business in debt. My business has never been in debt because I resolved that if I couldn’t afford it, I didn’t buy it. And honestly, this perspective made me work harder and smarter to find innovative ways to make things happen when I first got started.
Self-sufficiency is all about your ability to build your business with what you already have. Don’t go into all this debt before you’ve even had the opportunity to make a profit. Unless you have to make a large capital investment to start your business, like with manufacturing, don’t start your business in debt. For most of you reading this, you likely don’t have large upfront costs so you have got to make sure you put yourself on a budget and try your absolute best not to start out in debt. If you do, you’ll put yourself at a disadvantage and be behind the eightball trying to catch up. If you refuse to start off in debt and focus on what you have and ways to improve upon it, you are going to gain momentum and more resources will come along the way. Being lean and agile at the launch of your business, shouldn’t be seen as an impediment. As a self-sufficient entrepreneur, you must have a way to get your head back in the game when you fall behind. Remember, your business is relying on you, so you can’t let it down.
The fourth element is self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is the unrelenting belief in your own abilities to achieve whatever you put your mind to. In other words, you need faith in yourself. What separates the employee from the entrepreneur is sincere confidence in one’s qualifications, capabilities, and intelligence to achieve the maximum level of performance. When you’re an employee, you don’t necessarily have to believe that you can always do the job because ultimately, if you can’t, your employer will find someone else to do it, or you have other people at work that can help you. That’s not the case when you’re an entrepreneur. Successful entrepreneurs who possess a deep sense of self-efficacy typically see obstacles as opportunities to home their skills and use setbacks as a set up for greater accomplishments. They don’t avoid challenges, and they refuse to dwell on disappointments. They understand their limits, but they take on difficult tasks to push themselves beyond their limitations. You don’t do that as an employee because you don’t have to. But when you are an entrepreneur, sometimes you’ve got to push yourself to see how far you can actually go.
Unfortunately for me, when I first started JWM Designs, I had not reached the point where I truly believed in myself. I suffered greatly from “imposter syndrome,” partly because I had yet to master the ability to internalize my own accomplishments. I lived by this misguided belief that my inexperience as a website designer would be viewed by potential customers as incompetence. So I charge less for my services and I allowed some customers to take advantage of me because I didn’t realize the value that I brought. I just thought I was inexperienced and it was okay that I let clients pay less than what they would have if they went anywhere else. To overcome “imposter syndrome” I had to flip my perspective away from me and focus on the value that I knew I could provide to my customers. Once I let my work speak for itself, I was eventually able to see that I have a perspective and a set of experiences that are unique to me and that someone out there is going to appreciate it. Eventually, I began to understand this key concept and to know my worth. The simple truth is that there have been times that I’ve had to fake it until I made it. And everybody has to do that as an entrepreneur. And anyone who says that they didn’t, they’re lying. I had to learn to not let fear stop me from pursuing that big job or asking for higher fees. As an entrepreneur, if we don’t believe in ourselves, it will be challenging for anyone else to believe in us or in our businesses. Self-efficacy is one of those key elements that I definitely think you’ve got to master and you’ve got to master that quick, or you’re going to find yourself being in a position where people are going to use your services but they’re going to lowball you or they’re not going to pay you your worth.
The fifth and final essential element is self-discipline. Now, before you say I’m repeating myself, or that self-discipline is the same thing as self-control, I disagree. I know that the terms get used interchangeably, however, self-discipline and self-control are not the same. Self-control is focused on understanding the difference between impulsive and rational choices and how you respond to certain stimuli when you’re making decisions. Self-discipline, on the other hand, is about one’s ability to persevere and finish what they start exercising. Self-discipline requires you to delay gratification and to do what must be done in spite of any external or internal difficulties, adversities, or even fatigue. It’s your ability as an entrepreneur to carry yourself over that finish line after you’ve reached that point of exhaustion that sets you apart from others.
I love the term “wantrepreneur” because it so beautifully illustrates what so many people who say that they want to start a business really are. These individuals see the results of successful entrepreneurs, but they have no idea of the amount of hard work and sacrifice that went into making those results happen. They don’t know those late nights. They don’t know what it’s like filling orders when your busy with other things or trying to complete different tasks for clients and getting those deliverables out on time and on budget. They don’t know how you toil and toil, trying to meet the demands of your customers.
If you look at self-discipline as a type of punishment, then you will find excuses to justify your lack of consistency in your business. While I make no claim that self-discipline won’t involve some unpleasantness and friction, the benefits of self-discipline far outweigh any negatives associated with it. Launching and growing your business means restricting your lifestyle to devote yourself to your business. It is human nature to try to move away from things that don’t feel good and to indulge in things that bring you pleasure.Distractions, they’re plentiful. They are everywhere. Think about your social media scrolling. Ever notice that no matter how busy you are, you somehow find time to scroll through your Facebook or Instagram timeline? Drafting a business plan or a marketing campaign on a Saturday night is no fun. Making goofy faces on Snapchat is fun.
In my business, I’ve had to find pleasure in accomplishing even the smallest of milestones just because I needed to stop viewing my work as a chore. Because once I view it as a chore, it makes it so much harder to do. For example, I hate doing laundry, and if my work in my business becomes like me having to do laundry, it’s going to pile up. I’ve implemented a regular strategy session to brainstorm long term goals and projects in my business. For each session, I write a list of what I need to do to achieve my goals and what I need to complete my projects. Then I break those goals into manageable steps and try to plan each week in advance. I also list the obstacles and difficulties that I think might come up while I’m trying to complete the task or achieve the goal. And then I go and list the information and the skills that I need in order to complete the task and I list the people or the resources necessary to meet those goals or tasks. Believe me, I get very detailed.
Now, I’m not perfect when it comes to self-discipline. Please do not get me wrong because all of these things that I’m telling you about are things that are ongoing. I’m constantly working on myself, constantly working on on my business. But when I fall short of my goal, I don’t let it stop me and get me off track. I simply re-evaluate, make adjustments, and then I implement improvements where needed so that I don’t keep falling off the path. Remember, here’s nothing to be ashamed of if you mess up, or if maybe one week becomes a kind of like a blow week in your business. That is nothing to be ashamed of. But failing to get back up and try again and to get back into some sort of rhythm in your business, that is something to be ashamed of.
Where Are You In Your Entrepreneur Journey?
I know I’ve done a lot of explaining in this post as I’ve gone through those five essential elements, but I want to know where are you in your entrepreneur journey. Are you a year or two into your business or are you just starting out? No matter where you are in your journey, I challenge you all to apply the Self-C.A.S.E.D. principles to your life and into your business. Maybe you think that I’m silly for focusing on these things and you believe that running a business has nothing to do with your personal habits, characters, patterns, personality. And if that’s you, I wish you all the best. Honestly, I hope that things work out for you. But I know that for me, JWM Designs is more than just my business, but it’s an extension of who I am and the impact that I want to leave on those that are around me. The reason I call all of the viewers of my videos or blog posts “Legacy Builders,” is because when you set up your business, you were doing exactly that. You are building a legacy. Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, built a business that changed how we buy things. Jeff Bezos did the same thing with Amazon. And I’m not saying that your or my business is going to be the next Wal-Mart or Amazon, but for the people in our circle of friends or our family, when they see us persevere and start a business and run a business, we will leave a lasting impression on them for years to come. And that’s what I mean when I say you are a Legacy Builder. If you’re starting a business, if you’re running a business, that’s what you’re building. What do you want your legacy to be?
Let’s recap in this post, I shared with you the importance of self-mastery and the five essential components that helped me realize that I can achieve my goal of transitioning from a full-time employee to a full-time entrepreneur. I use the acronym Self-C.A.S.E.D., which stands for Self-Control, Self-Awareness, Self-Sufficiency, Self-Efficacy and Self-Discipline. Your action steps are to take what I’ve shared with you today, and I want you to walk through them one by one. Ask yourself the tough questions and consider whether you are ready to commit to the full-time life of entrepreneurship. I created a quick download to assist you as you’re going through the process of evaluating each of those essential elements.
I hope that this post is helpful for you, and that you write notes about your personality and how you work in business. I also encourage you to make sure you go to 16personalities.com and complete that personality test, because I believe you’ll find it extremely helpful. It’s completely free for you to try out. As always, I hope that you guys are finding these posts helpful, enjoyable as you continue to navigate the process of being an entrepreneur. If you have any questions or thoughts about this post or have ideas for topics that you would like to see in the future, please leave a message in the comments below. I love hearing from you. You can also find me on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn in my handles for all those sites are listed. I also have a YouTube channel where I talk about this same topic as well as others. Be sure to subscribe to my channel so that you can get updates on any of the new things that I post there. I will continue to post content related to business, marketing, website development, all sorts of things. So I look forward to hearing from you guys and getting your feedback on these videos and more in the future. All right, guys, that’s it for this post, so until I see you in the next post, keep building y’all.