My tough love approach (heavy on the love) focuses on bringing order to chaos, and creating solid (and straightforward) strategic plans. I take surveys for fun, never met a process I didn’t like, and am a big believer in personal growth as a keystone to business growth.
“Do one thing every day that scares you.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
This quote has always spoken to me. I remember this call-to-action from the longest-serving First Lady of the United States (who was also a diplomat and human rights activist) every time I think about stretching beyond my comfort zone.
After all, if Eleanor Roosevelt can do so much to change the world, I can absolutely take a risk by embarking on a new project or introducing myself to someone I respect and admire!
As business owners, even starting our ventures took a lot of courage – we had to believe in ourselves when very few other people did. But what are you doing this year, this week, and today to push yourself to reach your full potential? Not all of us can be a First Lady during wartime, but how can we adapt the sentiment behind Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote to better serve ourselves, our clients, and our industries?
Now that I’ve got a few years of experience in being a successful VA and entrepreneur, in this post, I’ll share what I’ve learned through a lot of trial and error, and some formal instruction (along with some great resources to motivate you to kick butt!). Let’s get to it!
Three years ago, my local co-operative coworking space Cowork Niagara hosted an eight-week Introduction to Freelancing Lab. It was a course based on the successful practices of our mentor Trevor Twining and a few of our local successful business owners. At first, the prospect of doing this seemed terrifying – having to sit in a room with a bunch of strangers judging me and everything about my business? Were they crazy? Yet this course ended up being a huge boon to my business, and just the mental kick I needed to rise from my complacency.
The lab was an invaluable course chock full of expertise on what we could do to stabilize our income and avoid common freelancer pitfalls, and the camaraderie, knowledge, and support shared among both the students and instructors was immensely helpful. As an entrepreneur, sometimes it can feel like it’s you against the world no matter what stage your business is at. But having a mentor or entrepreneurial friends in your corner who have been there and can offer valuable insights or solutions can make all the difference.
PRO TIP: Surround yourself with people who are a few steps ahead of you. If you ever find yourself as the guru in the group it’s time to find someone else to add to your network.
To a lot of people, speaking at a Lunch & Learn hosted by their local Chamber of Commerce is a routine thing. But for me, the first time I did it was heart-in-my-throat terrifying! My audience may have only been 25 people, but most were strangers, and I was offering the first resource I had ever created – my guide to finding your ideal client. Again, I was rewarded for taking the risk when I received a lot of great feedback and even made a connection with one attendee who later became a client! This was the impetus that led me to make the jump to establishing myself as the go-to VA in my city. Not bad for a few hours of investing my time in preparing and presenting!
Lesson: If you have a chance to present at a conference or event geared to professionals in your industry or potential customers, seize the opportunity. You’ll establish yourself as an authority in your field, get some public speaking experience, and meet many interesting faces (this also involves conquering your fear of networking, if you have one)!
PRO TIP: Invest in your personal and professional development. If you struggle with public speaking and want to be able to present better check out your local Toastmasters group.
I love giving back to my community in any way I can, so finding a volunteer role that would let me put my organizational talents to work for a cause I believed in was on my “To-Do” list as I built my business. The Garden City Food Co-op came along at just the right time, and it was another change I had to push myself to embrace.
As a member of the Governance Committee and Board Treasurer & Secretary, I was the person many people came to for answers. Suddenly, a bunch of strangers were asking me to do things I’d never done before. I was managing a bunch of different personalities coming together in a grassroots, community-led effort. I found myself constantly being thrown into new and uncomfortable situations, like managing volunteers at events, manning tables at our local farmers market, calling businesses to ask for donations, and serving as a board member. Sometimes my brain screamed, “What the heck are you doing? Who are you?!”
But I had no choice to push through my discomfort, because my community needed me, and I was being called to lead.
That’s a powerful feeling, and one everyone should experience. Any fear you feel takes a back seat to being part of something bigger than yourself. You’ll learn a lot about leadership, teamwork, conflict management, budgeting, and organizational dynamics…all lessons that you can apply to your business.
PRO TIP: Build volunteering into your business model. You get to give back in a meaningful way while learning new skills, meeting new people, and opening yourself up to new ideas.
One surefire way to reach beyond your comfort zone is to continually expose yourself to new ideas, environments and people. One of my favourite mantras is “Always be learning!” For business owners, learning doesn’t stop after college – if we’re not learning, we’re not growing and the competition will eventually push us out of the market.
The Cowork Niagara Lab was such a great experience that I realized I needed more, so I joined Marie Forleo’s B-School. It was another big, uncomfortable leap for me, but again I met some great people, gained an invaluable resource, and even acquired one or two new clients – a huge return on investment! Of course, there was all the learning and coursework that helped me plan to make practical changes to grow my business, too. Would recommend, 10/10.
Attending Jeff Walker’s LaunchCon was another fantastic learning experience. This was a large conference – picture networking, super-sized! It required me to take a deep breath, and interact with so many new people…asking them questions, chatting, giving hugs and high-fives, and DANCING – in public!! A decade ago, this would have been unthinkable, definitely outside the realm of possibility. But in 2017, I did it, and I learned so freaking much! I took advantage of some fantastic opportunities, and learned how to just relax and live in the moment.
PRO TIP: Include education as part of your business planning. Pencil in what courses you’ll take, what podcasts you’ll focus on, what blogs you’ll read, what tools you’ll learn, etc. If you schedule it you’re more likely to do it.
Pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone isn’t a one-time thing; it requires you to take small and big steps every day to shift your mindset from one of complacency and fear to one of growth, self-confidence and hunger for new challenges and ideas. And it doesn’t just happen in one instance or one environment…you have to try a bunch of different things to find out what works for you and who you should surround yourself with.
Start by finding other positively-minded business owners and challenge each other to take the next step, take on some small challenges to build your confidence, explode your potential by seizing opportunities you would have let escape you before.
I can’t wait to hear how you’ll push yourself this year! What’s next for you? Are there any tips I missed? Tell us in the comments!
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