As an entrepreneur, I am frequently confronted by people who see success in different ways. But, true success and happiness comes from within. Understanding what you want out of life and what makes you happy is key in this process. You cannot attain success if you have not first defined it for yourself.
When I look back at my journey as an entrepreneur, the hardest part for me was dialing in on what I wanted and what would make me happy. This is where we come to one of the most important concepts of succeeding as an entrepreneur: self-awareness.
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Recognize your strengths and weaknesses
Self-awareness is, according to self-help author and coach Debbie Ford, “the ability to take an honest look at your life, without attachment to it being right or wrong.”
For me, step one in becoming self-aware was recognizing my strengths and my weaknesses. When I finally enrolled in community college, sitting through a single class was impossible. I was anxious, I wanted to get out into the world, and I wanted to start making money. I felt like I needed to learn first-hand, I wanted to rub shoulders with other financially successful entrepreneurs, and I wanted to get my hands dirty.
So, I sat in classroom after classroom and just watched the clock tick. Fast forward three years, and I dropped out. Still completely unprepared for the “real world,” I decided to pursue some half-baked business opportunities with friends. I took my first few shots at meal prepping, did some bartending, made some poor decisions, enlisted in the Navy… the list goes on.
When nothing seemed to pan out, I decided it was time to get a “real job.” This, looking back, is the peak of my self-unawareness, if you will. So, what I’m getting at here is, bro, any idea can sound like a good idea when you don’t know what it is that you truly want.
Now that I have highlighted my weaknesses for you (lack of organization, poor time management, short attention span, record keeping, memory, and did I mention disorganization?), let’s dig out the strengths.
Clearly, it was going to take more than a couple of failures to stop me. No matter what bizarre situation I ended up in, I always seemed to be able to lead those around me. I had a knack for getting people fired up, getting them excited and getting them on my team. I was a natural born promoter and had built a network that seemed to stretch around the world.
Once I realized what I did and did not have, I really started to pick up on who I was. Things became clearer to me.
Ask for feedback and accept (constructive) criticism
My path to self-awareness was not an easy one, but it was when I started being honest with myself about my strengths and weaknesses that I was able to start formulating a plan to run my own business.
The next step in becoming self-aware is asking for feedback and accepting criticism.
During one epic New Jersey summer, I rented a beach house with my friends. I landed a bartending gig down the street, and after a busy Memorial Day weekend making a ton of cash, I was fired. Of course, the first person I told was my best friend, Kenny. I will never forget the look of concern on his face when I told him I had been fired, again.
He wanted to know what I could possibly be doing wrong. I told him that I was always outspoken about ways the business could improve, I wanted to do things my way, and I was really bad at communicating my accomplishments and successes to my managers. It was then that Kenny told me that I really just needed to go to work, take direction and not make such a big stink about my crazy ideas or ways my managers could improve.
I took his advice and I began to apply it to my work and to human interactions I had in general. My journey in the importance of learning to accept feedback was pretty ironic.
Experience is the toughest teacher; giving the test first and the lesson later. I have never lost sight of the value and importance of continuous and honest feedback.
As a person who is always trying to improve, finding mentors and peers to provide you with feedback becomes a more difficult task as your business grows and your life becomes more complicated. You must learn to know the difference between destructive and constructive criticism. Never lose sight of the value of honest feedback.
Find your why
Lastly, to become self-aware, you need to find your “why.”
What is your passion in life? What drives you? If money did not exist, what would you work for?
Now that you understand your strengths and weaknesses and you are open to feedback from others, you then must take a deep dive into your soul and find the true purpose of your life.
I discovered my true passion in life at a very early age, but because of my lack of self-awareness, it wasn’t until many years later that I made it my career. Money somehow always entered the conversation when I began to talk about my dream career. Over the years, after numerous failures, it was undeniable: cooking healthy and delicious food to fuel a change in one’s body was my passion and my purpose.
I always wish that I was more aware, because that purpose was right in front of me the whole time. Because of the abundance of opportunity, we tend to overcomplicate our lives. Sometimes, doing so leads to the point of depression or anxiety. The most important attribute you can have is honesty to yourself, as this will be the foundation for all of your future successes.
Self-awareness will save you a lot of headaches, bro. Be honest with yourself and choose to do something because it makes you happy. I speak from experience when I say that success does not come without true passion and distinct purpose.