When I was first starting out in my career, I didn’t believe that I was meant to be an entrepreneur. I thought that running a successful business required something special or rare, and I assumed I didn’t have it.
Having internalized the idea early on that in order to have a stable career, I needed to be an employee, I told myself that entrepreneurship wasn’t for me and that I didn’t have what it takes. I thought I would be an employee for life.
Fast forward to several years into my corporate career, and I had begun to feel disconnected from my work life. I knew that I had to make a career change, and so ten years into my career as an employee, I pursued an executive MBA, which meant working full-time and going to school full-time for 15 months. It was hell on earth (I literally had no social life), but it was during this time that I realized I actually had an innate entrepreneurial spirit.
Looking back, it’s obvious that I’d been developing an entrepreneurial spirit from a very young age. As a young child, I had a lemonade stand at the end of my driveway, where I’d sell the homemade beverage (I opened those cans of frozen lemonade concentrate myself!) to passersby. At 9, I got a paper route, and at 10, I was putting on magic shows for neighborhood kids.
I vividly remember doing the mental calculation that if I charged each kid 25 cents to see the show and gave them each a popsicle that cost me 5 cents, I’d pocket 20 cents per kid. Essentially, I was doing a net profit calculation as a 10-year-old.
A short-lived lawn mowing business followed, then a prolific stint as a babysitter (during which I managed to save and invest $1,000 from the ages of 11 to 13 from my $4/hour wage), and later, a gig doing entertainment for kids’ birthday parties.
Despite the negative narratives I was telling myself, my behavior as a youngster reflected that I was creative in developing ideas, industrious about executing them, and courageous about failing. I became really good at selling myself and my products and at building relationships with people — all of which are components of a successful entrepreneur! And in fact, I now realize that the same qualities I developed in my childhood ventures are the ones that have helped me become successful as a business owner.
Fast forward to today, and I’ve been running a successful consulting firm rooted in inclusion, which is my life’s passion and purpose, for almost ten years. It was a long road to get here, and those negative narratives, self-doubt, and fear held me back from doing it sooner. I’m so grateful that I was finally able to see that I embody the characteristics of an entrepreneur.
If you’re someone who wants to be an entrepreneur — whether that means launching a business, a side hustle, or becoming an innovative leader in any work that you undertake — there are three things you need to do and a handful of questions that it’s key to answer.
Working for myself, I’m happier now than I’ve ever been. Among the benefits of being an entrepreneur is the ability to custom-build a career around who you truly are — one that allows you to feel freer in your life and anchor to your personal values. And you can get there too!
The first step is to look at the barriers in your way, especially the ones you yourself have put up and have the power to change. I encourage you to reflect and unlock your inner entrepreneur!
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