Are you taking the easy way or the hard way? Or could there be another way? Let’s explore that idea. We all have learned from trial and error. Some life lessons come from success and also some from failure. Would you consider the failures to be hard lessons? Boy, I would! One of the hardest lessons was a business failure, but looking back, I see now that it was necessary.
My first brick-and-mortar business, Village Jeans, was an epic failure. Business failure is expensive and takes a toll on your confidence. At twenty-one, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. My parents purchased the small clothing store, and I was grateful that they had such confidence in my education and experience. But honestly, I was ill-equipped as a business owner. I was immature, had no past business experience being responsible for the bottom line, and lacked marketing expertise. I didn’t have what I needed in my toolbox to succeed. This was back in the day, before social media, before the internet, and before I had learned that I wasn’t bulletproof.
The one thing I did have was a mentor. Emily owned an established clothing store next door to mine, and her customers were the moms that brought their daughters to my shop. My parents purchased the store from her as she had been our neighbor and was my best friend’s mom. We were optimistic, even though we knew there would be challenges.
Like all experiences, hindsight is 20/20. A few years later, I had to admit I had failed. When we sold the business, it was a hard loss. One of the most valuable lessons I gained through the experience was the importance of having a mentor to share ideas with and learn from, whether business was up or down.
Failure is Valuable
Talking about a business failure isn’t easy. I learned to take responsibility for my part and not beat myself up for what wasn’t. When I realized I could reframe the experience to remember it as a lesson that was necessary for the future, I was able to accept the experience as a part of my history.
Your hard lessons are the ones you can fall back on; they give you the hutzpah to tackle any problem. After experiencing it the hard way, you can tell yourself, If I got through that, this will be a piece of cake. These ebbs and flows of life’s circumstances are how most people grow.
A few years later, I entered into a car repair business with my husband as my business partner. My husband was a talented mechanic, and I ran the office, employees, and parts inventory. We were a good partnership, and gratefully we had surprising success.
Though we had a few setbacks and lessons learned, overall it was a great experience. Our customers were like family and our reputation brought many word-of-mouth customers who became like family too! We eventually sold the shop in 1990 to one of our employees when my husband had an opportunity to teach auto mechanics at the junior college. I can tell you it’s much easier to talk about business success!
No one chooses the hard way. Why would they if an easier way was right around the corner? In contrast to the hard way, the easy way is when things come more naturally. How can you take the easy way? Work with your strengths until you achieve mastery, know your natural tendencies, and do something for which you have passion. Everything is easier when you go downstream, and your abilities give you the paddle. However, everything worthwhile is uphill; you’ll make sacrifices along the way.
There is another way….not hard, not easy….it’s the smart way. Here are three essential aspects to include as you seek the smart way:
The Smart Way
Your experiences have value, though not as much value as the best teacher; evaluated experiences. Curiosity is a precursor to the smart way, so approach it like a scientist. Look at cause and effect, and the facts behind what creates desirable results. Scientists look for facts, not the emotion that accompanies our typical process. What worked? What didn’t work? What did you learn? Was there a better way? What are my best next steps?
Once you have completed your evaluation, you will be able to calculate the risks and look at the facts through a lens of pros and cons. Use your insights to create a well-thought-out plan, then execute the plan. If you run into a snag or setback, evaluate it with the curiosity of a scientist, then go after it again! This works for all stages of business development. Knowing how to take the right actions based on evaluated experience; is a smarter way.
For the most part, successful people attribute their success to others who invested in them. So to this end, listen to people who have wisdom and give you good advice. Note: I said listen. We may choose another way after listening though listen with curiosity nonetheless. You may discover smarter ways to conquer challenges.
The Power of Mentors
Find mentors who can share their insights. Let’s face it. No one comes out of the womb wielding a cigar and sitting behind a desk with a CEO nameplate. May I give you permission to admit when you have no idea what you’re doing? If you are like me, it is hard to do. When you are in uncharted territory, it’s best to use a map and a guide to chart your path to reach your desired destination. It is a jungle out there!
When you need to learn to take your business to the next level, find successful people with a track record to help you. What can you learn from them? Listen to the suggestions, determine the next best steps, commit to what you will do, and do it! This is a smarter way, would you agree?
Find a great mentor with your best interest at heart and who can make the time to meet with you. Being a mentee comes with responsibility. Respect the time of your mentor and yourself and prepare for your meetings. Think about the purpose of the meeting and prepare your questions. One of the best questions to ask a mentor is, “What am I missing?” Take notes about the insights discussed and be ready to take action. A mentor who calculates the risks will help you determine the best direction.
Mentors are not always someone you can have coffee with. They can be authors, speakers, and other influencers who you can find by reading books, listening to podcasts, watching Youtube videos, by taking courses, and by participating in networking groups. Networking groups, like the Heart Link Network Worldwide, have speakers, experts, coaches, guides that you can tap into. Find out more about what they do, and most importantly, find out how they do it. Then with fresh ideas and a new direction, take the next best steps.
The Roundtable Method
Another way to succeed with speed is to create or join a roundtable of trusted, well-chosen people. They can help you with the dilemmas that arise in your business. Look for people who have a positive attitude and an abundance mindset. Are they willing to share their expertise? Do they positively impact others without drama? Your thinking partners can also be your accountability partners and mentors. They can serve you by helping you face your fears, calculate risks and encourage you. The wisdom found in this type of fellowship or inner circle is priceless!
In all cases, the same tactics apply. Listen and learn, take notes, apply what you learn and report back to them if you can. They will appreciate knowing that they inspired you to take action, and that you experienced results. Don’t waste time learning and then do nothing to apply it. Review your notes, extract what you need and take action on what you have learned.
Simply put, you need thinking partners. Some mentors and thinking partners have opened doors I hadn’t realized were there. Isn’t this true for you as well? Did someone speak up on your behalf? Did someone believe in you when you didn’t believe in yourself? Did someone share with you something that propelled you forward? These are treasured people to have in your arsenal.
I would be remiss if I didn’t add one more idea to the smart way. Be grateful for everything and everyone who has contributed to your success. A practice of gratitude is the “secret sauce” of life. Gratitude creates receptiveness, so be ready to learn new things. Gratitude opens your mind and your heart, allowing you to feel fulfillment. Thank the people who have added value to your life, and when you have found success, make it your responsibility to reverse the role and be a mentor to others.
Gratitude is a door, that when opened, you will hear with your intellect and listen with your heart.
Founder -The Butterfly Publishing Company
Chapter Leader, Heart Link Network Worldwide – Inland Empire