How to build your entrepreneurial muscles, at work
It was somewhere around 2002, when I began to realize that while I was making great money as a Senior Manager working for one of Forbes Top 100 Companies, I was losing the parts of myself I valued the most. Then, I began to look around and notice others were doing the same. There was a lack of congruency in my life. I had learned skills and amassed knowledge highly valued in the Silicon Valley (San Francisco Bay Area). There was no shortage of opportunities, and accolades abounded but if I were really honest with myself (and that was about the time I began to awaken)… none of it mattered because I was doing something in a subject area I didn’t care about… software, and before that – hardware. Was I really born to spend most of my time (aka: my life) selling technology?
About the same time, I began to notice how much happier the independent consultants were versus the employees. What was that about? The consultants would bounce into the office pretty much when they wanted to, do their work and leave when they needed to. They were getting the work done (very well in fact) and on their terms (within reason of course)… but really the biggest difference between “them” and “us” was the freedom they had created for themselves…. freedom to be who they really are. Now, there are exceptions I’m sure but basically, the consultants I hired were far more authentic then the rest of us because they chose to live that way. They simply wouldn’t tow the company line. They lived in alignment with their values.
Within very short order, I took this path. I left employee status in 2004 and never looked back. It was the best thing I ever did (picture me doing a happy dance :)). My goal was freedom… to get closer to who I truly was… and that was a fantastic step to getting there but here’s the thing… it wasn’t there–there. Why? Because that environment has a way of encouraging (ahem – requiring) people to conform to be successful, even if you’re “independent”. So while I was able to come and go, set my rates, and decide when I took time off… I found myself in the earlier years of being a consultant still thinking (somewhat) and speaking like an employee. I knew I was destined to blow out of the joint and launch something amazing like I have now (outside the corporate environment) and I also knew that to accomplish that, I needed to start living my truth sooner rather than later (for my own sanity). I knew that if I were to jump off the corporate train, even as an independent, and leap into making money doing what I loved “on the outside”, there were a few skills I needed to hone to be successful. I decided I would test those skills while consulting in the corporate world (felt safer that way I guess).
I didn’t realize it at the time but I was giving myself permission to be myself and risk the consequences. (What strikes me here as I write this is that there was any risk at all.) What did that mean? It meant I would say what I actually think (gracefully of course ;)) even more than I already was. It meant I would not live in fear about doing so. It meant I would begin to speak up in meetings more and more and stop pretending. It meant I would do my best not to participate in office gossip that I once thought had some measure of usefulness (bonding with co-workers, sharing information etc.) even though my conscious nagged at me every, single time. It meant living my values here and now, even more than I had already begun to do.
But really, it was all about freedom.
As I began to take these “risks”, I was met with astonishment from those around me. They wondered how I could “get away” with certain things without having my contract terminated. I wasn’t acting recklessly; I was simply being really straight about what I thought, to those around me (including those “above”). To be honest, it was a rush. It felt like I was opening a part of myself that had wanted to be freed for years, and that was actually the case. It felt good, freeing… as though I was going through a re-birth. Every fiber of my being was emerging as a true entrepreneur and you know what? It’s been absolutely critical to my success now. Releasing myself from corporate funding (in essence), would have been a heck of a lot scarier had I not already built up the muscles of living fully as I am as an empowered woman.
The icing on the cake was greater respect from those around me, my boundaries being honored, and people coming out of the woodwork to find out what I was up to. In other words, as I turned up my light, it illuminated others to their own feelings of bondage. As I expressed more courage, it shed light into an issue that I feel is quite tragic – the slow and steady dimming of people spirits.
So, how do you begin to exercise your entrepreneurial muscles while still in a “job”? How can you ready yourself for self-employment?
#1: Begin to think of yourself (and act) as a business owner, even if you aren’t one yet. One of the greatest gifts I ever received in the corporate world was from a boss early in my career. She said, “Run your job as if it were your own business.” It gave me an entirely different perspective than most of my peers were willing to adopt.
While at work, ask yourself: What would I do, if this were my business? You can think of “the business” as your job, organization, or department. What would you do differently (within your circle of control)? Hint: your circle of control is much larger than you imagine it to be. Then, bring that idea to your boss. When he or she shoots it down ;), don’t back off. If you truly believe your idea is a good one… defend and protect it… advocate on your own behalf. Bring all the pertinent information to the forefront and prove you know what you are doing.
How will this help you later? As your own boss, you must have confidence in your ideas. You also need to learn to innovate and execute quickly. Following through on your idea at work will help to strengthen your innovative ‘and’ quick execution muscles. Now I know how difficult “quick” is in a corporate environment ;), but try this – blow everyone away (most importantly yourself) by how quickly you can take a new idea to final execution. Begin to prove to yourself that you can do this, and do it often. This will strengthen your ‘Innovation-Execution-Don’t-Take-No-For-An-Answer-(Even From Yourself)-Confidence’ muscles.
#2: Get out of reactive mode. It’s a dis-ease ;), and it doesn’t work when you have your own business. Think: exhaustion. This is a really important one. Begin to get control over the areas you are reacting to most of the time. Yes, email is a big one. The most successful leaders (in and out of corporate), are not quick responders on email. They have their priorities set and know how to discern the noise from the really important stuff. As an entrepreneur, you need the same skill… only it becomes even more important because you become your own boss for the freedom and fulfillment, yes? You don’t want your dream business to become a “job”. You’ve been there, done that.
To be successful and truly free, you must strengthen your proactive muscle. That means carving time that is focused on your top three priorities – those that give you the biggest bang for your buck. In corporate, that is looking for ways to save the company or organization time, money, or effort/man-woman-power. Even better, to bring in more revenue! As an entrepreneur, that means focusing your efforts on projects that provide the greatest value to your clients or customers, setting up systems for greater efficiency, finding new and interesting ways to reach those you are here to serve, and bringing in revenue. Either way, getting yourself out of reaction-mode is one of the best ways to free yourself. This will bulk up your ‘Proactive Muscle’. Bend your arm, let me see that bicep :). Nice!
#3: Ignore the naysayers… really, and you are most likely one of them – tisk, tisk. We don’t blame you (for now – 😉 )… here’s why… Most corporate meetings are about why something cannot be done. This is because people are burnt out. They know if they propose a solution, they will probably be called upon to actually do it. This requires more work, and everyone is over-worked these days. It’s understandable. However, this pattern of shooting things down before they get out of someone’s mouth trains people to feel helpless (and hopeless) that things can ever get better, and that’s a very disempowering feeling. It also kills creativity, which makes for a very boring workplace not to mention the impact on business itself. Most people resolve themselves to never actually creating change in an environment where this is the prevailing pattern.
Here is what I’d like to suggest you try instead. Find something you can really get behind… an idea you actually feel pretty good about. (We know this isn’t your dream job, but again – this is about exercising your entrepreneurial muscles so you can be successful making money doing what you love!). As the tapes begin to run in your head about why it can’t be done, or you aren’t sure how… stop, and say this, “I will figure it out. Everything has a solution.” This pattern change is absolutely necessary as an entrepreneur. Simply begin practicing ignoring the negative thoughts… don’t buy into them. It’s just your ego, trying to keep you safe, and small. They get us nowhere anyway, right? If you really want to pursue your dreams, you need to become an excellent problem solver. Moreover, you need to believe that everything has an answer, and that all things are possible. After you get one or two home runs under your belt at work, you will feel a sense of empowerment that will strengthen your ‘Get-Er-Done-Naysayers-Beware-Muscle’. It’s that little one on the back of your arm – hehe ;).
One final thought: Every day while at work, ask this question – “How can I use this experience to prepare me for my dream life and business?” You will be surprised what answers come. Your current job is training you. Make sure that training will benefit you later. None of it need be wasted. Make use of it all.
The sooner you begin training yourself, the better. It will make your transition a whole lot easier but most importantly; it will set you up for success as the CEO of your life and destiny… and beloved, there is nothing sweeter.
I hope you found this blog helpful. Do leave a comment. I love reading and responding to them!
Wholly devoted to your freedom,
Wendy, SoulFUEL™ Business Coach
P.S. If you want to set a soulful exit date and begin your transition plan this year, join the other gutsy, wicked smart women who have already begun the SoulFUEL™ Systems For 6-Figure Success Program (group closing 1/31/14). Start here. I am on a mission to free women from lives that are doing them, and the world, a huge disservice ♥.