Last week, my business quietly turned seven years old. On the exact day, I was at a nutrition school, talking to future nutritionists about the reality of running a business: what it takes to constantly hustle, achieve some kind of balance, stay true to who you are, find your voice and most important of all, preserve your integrity while doing your best to be your most awesome self.
It's easy for most of us to look at those we deem successful, see what they're doing today, and fail to consider what it likely took for them to land where they are. And what did it take? Most likely a lot of work, a lot of really big mistakes, a few risks, some sleepless nights, and just enough success to add up to awesome.
Seven years ago I had absolutely no clue what I was doing, where I was going, or how I would get to where I thought I wanted to be. The one thing for me that has remained constant and completely unchanged is my mission.
I wrote the following on my very first blog post seven years ago:
I have, what I consider, the greatest job in the whole wide world. I get to help people feel their greatest, their happiest and, of course, their healthiest. After all, looking like hot stuff in a wicked outfit means little if we feel like poop. Health is the most important thing and I am hoping this site will help you bring a little more into your life... [My work is] about creating, healing and nourishing all aspects of life from the physical to the spiritual. You don't need a meditation guru, a yoga master, or even a life coach. All of this can be done simply and lovingly in the kitchen... Through my videos, my extra super special recipes, and other lifestyle advice and commentary, I hope this site becomes your 'go to' for a little pick-me up of healthful goodness.
And so, as I celebrate seven years of slowly and steadily growing this business and my sense of what exactly I'm doing, I am reminded of the things I didn't know, but learned, and the realities of what I was faced with when I started out.
These lessons apply when we are starting out in anything at life - whether it be a new job, a new business, a new relationship, or a new lifestyle. It's all the same.
Seven Life Lessons From Seven Years In Business
1. Let Go Of The Outcome
You have no idea what will happen. No one does - ever. You can guess, but it's been my experience that when I guess or expect an outcome I am either:
- A little broken-hearted that no one else wanted to pick up what I was throwing down with all my might. (But I learned I could just hit delete and you'd forget it ever happened, even if I didn't.)
- Totally over the moon excited that you were happily picking up what I was throwing down with all my might and then expect the exact same outcome next time. But that usually didn't happen.
The way I have come to see it, the first few years of running a business, or embarking on any big mission, is a bit like throwing a boomerang when you have no clue how to throw a boomerang. Sometimes it may get lost in the forest and sometimes, often when you least expect it, it comes flying back at you with a trail of unicorns, horns blaring, fireworks and flowered bicycle parades.
Having goals is important, but never be too attached to the outcome. The process is your outcome and you are guaranteed to learn something truly valuable each and every time you create, launch, try, invent, send, sell, write, buy, engage or simply get up off that chair and stretch. Really. Stretching helps your brain work better. Your goals will guide your everyday tasks and your monthly projects, but let the outcome be what it is, which will also invite you to change course when that is really what is needed. Don't worry so much. Just go with it, pay attention, and learn along the way.
2. Slow And Steady May Not Win The Race, But This Isn't A Race. This Is Your Life.
Running a business is ideally something you are doing because you love it. You love the freedom (or at least the sense of not answering to anyone but yourself. Freedom is questionable when you're on holidays and trying to fix a crashed website). The freedom is in loving the work you're doing and how you get to spend most of your time. You might also chose to love the people you work with (because most often, you're the one choosing them). And unless your plan is to be the next lottery winner (aka - the person who invents that app that we didn't know we needed and then sell it for a gabillion dollars), you are in your business for the long and successful run of it. And so - take it easy. Slow down and pay attention. Love is always in the details and if you spend too much energy rushing to your imagined finish line, you'll likely arrive totally nauseated from over-exertion and miss out on the important details (which also includes enjoying your life outside of your biz).
There are going to be times when things move quickly, and there will be times when things trudge along. But there is no finish line - no race to win. Your goal should simply be to do your best work as often as possible, put that work out in the world, and then do it again tomorrow, and the next day until you decide it's time to hit the beach (or the slopes, or the forest, as the case may be).
3. Know Your Voice And How To Use It
It takes time as a human, let alone as a business, to know who you are in your world. The best, best, best way to know your voice is to just be who you are. Know what makes you awesome and celebrate that. You will always be the best version of yourself when you are being yourself. So, tune into that most of all. Be true to that. And once in a while, you have to be quiet and not use your outside voice, so that you can tune into that inner voice. That's the wisest voice of all.
4. Comparing Yourself to Others Is The Soul Vacuum
You've got a business to run! What are you doing comparing yourself to everyone and their dog? If your business revolves around a social media popularity contest, then throw a couple thousand dollars at Facebook and get those likes up and we'll have a winner - but if it's not part of your plan, that's okay too. The more time you spend focusing on (read: worrying/stressing/hating/loving) what other people are creating, the less time you're focusing on your own greatness.
As they say in school "keep your eyes on your own paper". And as they say in yoga "keep your eyes on your own mat". See that six-foot tall supermodel in a back-bend with her leg wrapped around her torso and right hand carefully outstretched balancing her latte? That's awesome...for her. And has nothing to do with you. Your focus should be on the awesomeness you are creating, the awesomeness you want to create next and the awesomeness your steadily growing community wants you to create for them. There's too much to do in a day than let your soul and energy be vacuumed out by comparing and competing. That's a game you will never win.
5. Know When To Zip That Lip
You know that I will always love you - but I can't speak for everyone.
And what do I do? Most often, nothing. It took me some time to be able to delete and forgive, but that's mostly what I do now. There are two assets I value above all else: my time and my energy. Attempting to defend myself against people who just want to be hateful is a dire and irreversible waste of both of my prized assets.
There's nothing wrong with some healthy, intelligent debate, but most of the nasty letters and comments I've received over the years have been far from healthy or intelligent. (My favourite were the long rants from Soylent lovers who called me all kinds of names while claiming to have no time to prepare real food - failing to notice that in the time they composed their rant, they totally could have made themselves a sandwich).
As Mr. Ekhart Tolle says "defense is the first act of war" and I can't stomach war of any kind, so I've learned to zip the lip, delete and forgive. I prefer peace and peas.
6. This Is Really, Really, Really Hard Work. And That's Not A Bad Thing.
You know this, right? The people you see around you, rocking the socks off life are also working their tails off at rocking the socks off life (that's what The Awesome Life Detox is all about!). That goes for the biz rockers, the fitness enthusiasts, the healthy eaters, the happily married, the child raisers - everyone is working hard. I've never been a fitness enthusiast and as I write this have yet to rear a child, but I've rocked and reared a business, two of them in fact, if we count my one year-old The Academy of Culinary Nutrition.
And I work really, really hard. The girls around here can attest to that. Like when I am teaching an evening workshop and decide to come in 'late' and breeze into the kitchen at the late hour of 9:45am instead of my usual 9ish, or when I take a day off and am still sending emails at 12:30 in the afternoon. I work hard because I care. I want this to succeed. I love it a lot (most of the time). I have ideas that I want to do right away. Most of all, I am passionate about what I am building and because of that, I work really hard and if I could work even more -like if there were actually more hours in the day - I probably would.
There is nothing wrong or bad about working hard. It teaches us stuff. It teaches us about what we're truly capable of. It teaches us the value of what we create and put out in the world. It teaches us about what matters and what doesn't. Working hard invites us to fulfill on our greatest potential and I'm all for that. My life/work balance works for me. I work a lot. I play a lot and at the end of each day, if I'm happy about how the day went, than I'm good. If I'm not happy about it, than that's okay too. I can just strive to be more awesome tomorrow.
7. Happily Creating Every Day Is What Matters the Most.
Seven years ago, I lived in a tiny corner of my loft - the same loft where I first started my cooking classes, where all of my videos have been shot, where I'd come on the weekends to write and edit both of my books. Seven years ago I wanted to create a big cooking school. I wanted to be a Shooter McG travelling hither and tither. I wanted to help people on a big and wide scale. My plan was to change my world, and hopefully, as a result, influence those in it and beyond.
Today, seven years later I do get to travel - but unless it's travel for months at a time in far off lands, I like staying home. I have a great big cooking school, but I never would have guessed it would be 100% online and have students in over 20 countries. I didn't know this is how I would create it in order to keep loving it. I wanted to have influence, but I thought it would be one person at a time, through private consults and 6-person cooking classes. I couldn't have dreamed that there would be books and television and social media, and corporate clients and keynotes, and all the other bells and whistles that make this such a fun and unexpected adventure.
Seven years ago, most of my time was spent alone, in my loft, trying to figure out a way to make a living by inspiring you to live a most awesome life through this blog. And seven years later, today, I have figured that out. I built a business. I love and am grateful for all the opportunities, successes and learning experiences that have come with it. And still, what I love to do most of all, is be by myself in my loft, writing blog posts that inspire you to live a most awesome life.