I must be a very slow learner as I took me until my 40’s to realise that one of the main jobs in your life is to figure out YOU. This whole thing about working ‘on yourself’ and self-development was a world I knew little about in my 30’s and nothing at all in my 20’s.
Even though I was always a positive person, and driven and determined, I was still a ‘victim’ without ever knowing it. I used to believe that life happened to you and there was nothing you could do about it, you just had to be stoical and get on with it (whilst internally lamenting your cruel fate or wondering why other people were so mean).
It wasn’t until I started really thinking about running my own business (something I did know from being a teenager, that I would do someday), that I started reading a few books that I thought might help. One of the first – and still a favourite – was a book called “The E-Myth” by Michael Gerber. The eye opening part of this book for me was not all the many brilliant tips for how to actually structure your business and grow it, but it was the mindset stuff he talked about.
His theory is that most small businesses fail because the owners of the business don’t think of themselves as entrepreneurs, they think of themselves as ‘a hairdresser’ or ‘a mechanic’, and therefore they set about doing all of the work of the business themselves. When you do this of course, your business is always going to be limited to the amount of hours in the day and how many of them you are prepared to work.
So instead you have to understand your ‘job’ as the business owner is NOT to work in the business at all. Because if the business is in any way dependent on you, then you do not have a business. You just have a job and the worst boss in the world (because no-one will make you work hard and longer for less pay, than you will).
That made a lot of sense to me and so I set up my business with a structure in mind of who I needed to have in the business when it was as I wanted it to be. That helped.
But here’s the thing. That’s not it. The job of the business owner may be to work ON their business and not in it. But they are not just a business owner, and you see the same principle applies to life. The job of the human being is to work ON themselves.
And just as you figure one thing out, it seems there is another just waiting there for you to realise how little you know and how much further there is to go!
For example, in my business at the moment there are 13 of us. That’s quite fast growth in 3 years. So now I know (since I have done this 3 or 4 times before) that I can grow a business to 10+ people. Now I need to figure out if I want to grow it to 50, 100, 500 people. Or is there something else I am supposed to do now? I don’t know yet – I’ll let you know when I do.
But the point is you have to continue to do the work on yourself. You have to keep trying to understand yourself, and reprogram the bits of yourself that no longer serve you.
I am in France at the moment, staying with one of my oldest (school) friends, Jane. And we were having a conversation last night about another of our friends. I shared with her that when I was at school I wasn’t that close to this friend because at the time, she seemed SO much cleverer than I was, that I didn’t think I was in the same league and that I couldn’t compete.
She looked genuinely surprised. She hadn’t known I felt that. Probably because I used to hide negative feelings a lot, as I picked up from the adults around me that you didn’t talk about things that were ‘negative’, you just got on with it.
The problem with not talking about stuff like that it, that your brain just puts your own interpretation on things, and quite frankly, that’s often not helpful.
And so, I probably missed out on stuff at school, because I self excluded, and felt alone much of the time. All a perception of course, but your perception IS your reality.
I don’t think that now of course, because over the years I have done a lot of work ‘on myself’. I have read a lot, I have surrounded myself with people who challenge me to be better, I have a network of supportive peers and I have some great mentors.
And it became really clear to me the other day, the importance of doing this stuff, which is sometimes painful, but always worth it.
I went to see an old friend. Someone I haven’t seen for some time, who I used to spend a lot of time with and be very close to. This friend has a problem. She is probably an alcoholic, but that’s not her problem. Her real problem is that she hasn’t done any work on herself. She doesn’t even know how to start. She doesn’t think it is possible for her to change her life.
She is not in a good place health wise – physically or mentally. And she is stuck. Her life is the same as it was 10 years ago. Smoking, drinking to excess, with few real friends, won’t leave the house unless it is to go to work, lots of time off sick.
It was nice to see her, but it really brought home to me that when you don’t change yourself, nothing changes. It was like stepping back into a time warp. It was sad.
And it made me realise HOW important it is to constantly look at yourself and see what beliefs you are keeping that are holding you back (I can’t stop smoking/life would be boring without a drink/I haven’t got time to……/I can’t do anything about this job I hate/it’s not possible to change).
Holidays are a good time to reflect. Of course, I will try and help my friend if that is possible. And I can that I still have a way to go with the whole, working on myself stuff! And that’s great, because I know life will be different this time next year, and the year after, and the year after that, for me – and I hope for my friend too.
Sometimes it is easier for the people around you to see what is holding you back though isn’t it? So if you are feeling stuck and like you are a broken record, saying the same things to yourself about your life and your business then please know – you have the power to change it. You can’t always control what happens to you, but you can totally choose how you feel about it, what meaning you give it, and how you can behave and think differently which enables change.
And if you need some handholding why not come along to our Get Shit Done Retreat in October in Majorca, where we will be talking about how to effect change in yourself and your business as well as ACTUALLY getting shit done ! Read more about it here