Lighting your entrepreneurial fire is a lot like making an actual fire. You need to create the right conditions: fuel + oxygen + heat. Or in entrepreneurial terms, maybe that formula can be switched out to 'inspiration + will power + patience'.
I've always learned to understand concepts and processes through analogies (thanks Mom and Dad!), so I've been making sense of my entrepreneurial journey the same way.
At first, it started with noticing a feeling of being cold or numb in the career region. I found myself getting lost in social activities, dwelling on and dissecting past decisions, and spending too much time wondering what's going on in someone else's world and how they were perceiving my life decisions. I knew that I still had an internal fire that was lingering somewhere in my soul, but how do I start to grow and productively direct it?
By the time you're 28, you've likely had many random experiences that haven't quite all stringed together yet. If you're anything like me, curiosity over the years has convinced you to try multiple career paths, coerced you into (reasonable) illegal activities, taken you abroad for a few years, and conditioned you to try everything and finish almost nothing.
But then, I was ready to build! I was ready to finish something that takes longer than 2 months! I wanted to be an expert in something other than hacky sac.
So, in about May of 2016, I started 'rubbing two sticks together'. I wanted to grow my internal fire that would be what drives a new business. My current work at the time, (as a mortgage loan officer), was by all means a 'real job', but I wasn't inspired at all doing it. There was just the tiniest little sliver of room for creativity, and I kept looking for meaning that I couldn't find. Sure, helping people secure a mortgage was nice and all, but I was selling products that were all pretty standard and undifferentiated, and my clients could secure elsewhere. (I did my best to always offer a great experience though.)
So after a few months, those 'sticks' got hot, and even started sparking. In less philosophical terms, I was ruminating, visualizing, and researching those with lives that I wanted. I could feel smoldering embers in my tummy that shifted my focus from random, wasted energy disbursements to an overall career strategy.
I started brainstorming and experimenting with business ideas. They were across the board, and focused on smaller details, like a great name. (Figure out the business model first!) Instead of focusing on my strengths 100% - what I wish I had done in the first place, I focused on what I wanted to be.
I knew that I wanted to be known as an American businesswoman. (That's at least what I'd like my title to be on my Wikipedia page.) But initially underestimating the amount of pre-steps and mental shifts that needed to happen before I owned a successful business was a severe under-calculation.
Another under-calculation that I initially made was how much I would grow and learn since setting out to start a business.
But about 6 months into deciding that I wanted to funnel my random life experiences into an awesome career, that smoldering fire caught some air, and lit up! I could actually piece together and see my future clearly. At first, it was a tiny flame that I protected from 'the wind', (which was mostly self-doubt), until eventually, that hot flame started licking up through my belly and into my chest. This truly is how it felt. This energy manifested into a productive anxiety - there's so much to do! I'm so far behind!
"It was a tiny flame that I protected from the wind, until eventually, that hot flame started licking up through my belly and into my chest."
My brain was lagging in evolution though, as it pondered how others would perceive me, or if the people around me really thought that I could be a worthy entrepreneur, as if that was some sort of validation that I should go for it. I pictured, (and watched), their eyes roll and subtle chuckles as I told others about my plans for entrepreneurship. But I was pretty sure that I had something that some of those eye-rollers didn't.
It's vision - any given entrepreneur has it.
There's nothing wrong with owning and fostering entrepreneurial traits. It's not narcissistic, and there's no need to explain it to the world, because most people aren't going to understand your journey enough to be able to help anyways.
So, now that you're clear on your entrepreneurial goals, where do you start? Maybe you’ve already started your entrepreneurial journey, but you just can’t seem to gather up enough momentum. Either way, this may take some time to get through depending on your schedule and motivation, but here's Step One below. (You might be skipping a few steps depending on where you're already at in your journey):
Step 1. Cold, lots of distractions
How is this a step, right? It’s a step because it helps if you can realize where you’re at. You’re going to need some fire in your belly to be a super successful entrepreneur, and if you don’t have that right now – just acknowledge it so that you can move on. It’s ok – this is where everyone starts. Try to figure out what those distractions are. Social activities? Draining work? Spending too much time on social media or Netflix?
Step 2. Rubbing two sticks together
You’ve totally got sticks! Whatever voice deep inside you that has an interest in being a boss-ass entrepreneur is a 'stick'. Your willingness to seek out information and read this article on how to foster that is another stick. Put them together, and realize that you’ve got something here. You’re special.
Step 3. Smoky, smoldering
You’ve been rubbing those sticks together, brewing up a mental storm, and now have some ideas on what type of business you want to be in! Research entrepreneurs that you admire or wouldn’t mind being like. Check out their stories, where they started, how they started, and what drives them. If you’ve already figured out your specific niche too – awesome. That took me almost a year of getting to know the market through trial and error.
Step 4. Tiny flame, shield from wind
So now the goal is to just keep this ball rolling. Visualize yourself as an entrepreneur, speak about yourself as an entrepreneur, and most importantly - believe that you are an entrepreneur. Because if you take action after this, you are. The ‘wind’ that threatens to blow this tiny flame out is usually nothing but self-doubt. It’s not the discouragement of others – you don’t need the random (or not random) people in your life to approve of your dreams before you start chasing them. Once you start telling people about your entrepreneurial dreams, you’ll get plenty of eye rolls and blank stares. DON’T LET THIS DISCOURAGE YOU. They’ll probably understand it later.
“You don’t need the random people in your life to approve of your dreams before you start chasing them.”
Step 5. Getting bigger, getting warmer
By now, you should be able to identify leaders in your industry, and have an idea of where to start. Let this motivate you! Yay!! Doesn’t it feel like there’s so much to do? You’ve still got to pay your bills and handle day-to-day life, but now, plenty of your energy is going towards defining and outlining your new business.
If you’re not able to find the energy at this point, figure out where your imagination energy is actually going. We all have it, and it all goes somewhere. (And I believe that there's lots of places it can go). Imagination is going to power your entrepreneurial journey because it takes creative vision, and your business is a creative project.
Step 6. Chillin’ with my big flame, now just maintain
Maintain that flame! Don’t let it go out, or you’ll have to churn that momentum up all over again!
If you keep feeding it, your entrepreneurial flame will most certainly get bigger. Feed it with not just plans, but action. Action, action, action. Action all the time. It’s ok if you only have 10 hours a week for it at first. (Or less.) And there will be lots of stuff that you don’t know how to do – spend the time learning! If someone else learned how to do all that random stuff, you can too!
Now, I’m not usually a very patient person, but being an entrepreneur is going to take some patience. Every great accomplishment and journey will take time – this is why I feel like a lot of people want to be entrepreneurs, but don’t actually have the patience to keep up with the follow through. BUT YOU JUST GOTTA DO IT. And keep doing it. And then start doing it well.