“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.” Richard Branson
There’s a lot of truth here. Some of us just have to get up and do it, fall over, get up and do it, fall over, get up and do it and, eventually, we begin to see the right way of doing it because we have seen, close-up, how not to do it. We learn not so much by doing it the right direction but by doing it the wrong way. I am indeed a graduate of the ‘School of Hard Knocks’. Graduates of this school do not usually hear applause at their graduation ceremony but laughter. Laughter and often derision, but I have discovered this: perseverance pays, and it pays well. Stubborn tenacity in the face of adversity pays handsome dividends. My persistence in my many ventures has proven successful while others of my contemporaries are still floundering.
So, you have taken the bold decision to start your own business. You feel nervous, but excited, scared, but happy. What is the first necessity? It is common sense to research. It is well said that ‘ by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail’. Do your research, but this does not mean learning everything there is to know about your business and business practice before beginning. If you do that there is nothing more confident; you will never begin. I implore you, do not substitute research for doing nor contemplation for activity. Study and do. Theories and do. Study and do. You have to walk down the beach towards the sea, across the shingle, step into the water, feel how cold it is, shriek a little, go deeper, start paddling and then get lower and start swimming. And it is possible to enjoy the process. Whatever made you decide to start your own business has to be given action. The initial idea excited you, it got you moving, now you have to move the view. You have to propel it forward, it will not do it by itself. And you really can enjoy it. It will be painful, it will be scary, but you can still enjoy it, and in developing and growing your business you will, in the process, develop and grow as a person. Relish every step, look at every opportunity with the eyes of a curious child. Be open to advise, listen to wise counsel, but be prepared to ask questions. Do not be passive in receiving advice. Interrogate. Why this and not that? What is the reason we do things this way? How is it that some businesses are successful and others not? When is the best time to start doing something differently? Children are naturally curious. Their question and make inquiries. They are not awkward when they do this. They just want to know. For some reason, we so often lose that child-like quality as we get older. We become older but no wiser. We need to recapture and revitalise that child-like spirit and attitude of inquiry. And we do not confuse being child-like with childishness. The two states are entirely different. To be childish is to be immature; to be child-like is to give yourself permission and the capacity to grow.
Being your boss sounds cool, and it is. But remember this: Stay true to yourself. Be who you are, you do not have to become someone else. ‘To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.’ as William Shakespeare put it. You do not have to live up to anybody else’s expectations. But be the best self you can be. This does not mean straining every sinew and exerting every ounce of energy. We can become the best self we can be and still be in a state of rest, on the inside. I do not mean a state of inactivity, but a state of rest, at the core of our being. You can be resting on the inside while being active. Authority and success of our circumstances and business come from within…
“Success is like reaching an important birthday and finding you’re the same”: Audrey Hepburn