I open with the 'think twice' subject not to scare anyone from taking a leap of faith, but I say that because we are often inundated with inspirational books and articles telling us to go for our dreams. I LOVE this, but I also think it only fair to lay out the truth. See, I 100% support anyone who is pursuing a dream, but I have found over the years that there is a big difference between a dreamer and a do-er. Dreamers are the ones who have grand ideas and see the path easily in front of them, do-ers are the ones that work hard for the idea, then work 10 times as hard doing the research and figuring out a way to make it happen. So, I have listed below the 5 characteristics that I personally believe are a requirement if you are going to take a massive risk and pursue a career dream.
1. Stubbornness - Okay, so hear me out on this one. So, if you are hard-headed, unwilling to value the advice of others, and arrogant enough to believe that you are right, always, then head for the hills now. You will fail many times before finding humbleness. On the other hand, if you are stubborn enough to plow through your challenges, determined to find a solution, determined to prove your naysayers wrong, then you have a leg-up on others.
I remember in my Junior year of high-school, I was way more interested in my career than high-school. I would often cut class and go log more hours at the dance retail store where I was working and very involved. My guidance counselor pulled me aside one day to tell me that I was going to be a failure and with this record would never be successful in a career. Funny enough, his little talk motivated me to 'quit' my high-school and head to the bad-girl school where I could sign in and out as I'd like, finishing my senior year in less than 3 months. This enabled me to carry multiple jobs, while going to school when I could work it around my schedule, including nights. I have still never forgotten that little talk we had, as it has pushed me to prove him wrong, even to this day. Thanks Mr. Nelson!
2. Work ethic - The one thing I hear over and again from entrepreneurs is that they didn't realize how consumed they would be by their careers. I am included in this, although wouldn't trade it for anything. Often, the most successful entrepreneurs are not the smartest, they are the hardest working. I didn't go to an Ivy League school, actually neither of my parents even went to college at all, but I saw them both working their tails off. To be 100% honest, when I am surrounded by other successful people, I sometimes feel a bit uneducated and not well-spoken, but I know if put to the test, I could likely hang with the best of them when it comes to work ethic. I recently read a book by Barbara Corcoran, the Real Estate Mogal on Shark Tank, and she is the walking billboard for what is really possible. She says it over and again in her book and also on the show, she may not consider herself the smartest, but she was darn determined to be the best and she did!
3. Willingness to sacrifice - Before pulling the trigger on your big idea, you need to write down a list of what you are willing to sacrifice for it, literally. How about time with your kids, your life savings, friends, how about time with your spouse? Does your spouse support the idea? As a mom, I do the balance dance just like every other, but I have to make a conscious decision to miss out on a lot of time with my kids. It is painful and often confusing. They grow up so fast, and I certainly don't want any regrets, but it is just a fact that you don't grow a multi-million dollar company while having a bunch of free-time and hanging out with the kids during the week. Every single day is a decision on how to best spend my time to maximize the results, both with family and in business. Maybe you have a business idea that is not full-time, and there is a different way, but so far, for me, this has not been an option.
4. Competitiveness - I can't think of a single successful person that does not have a competitive edge. For me, I am not competitive in a harsh way. I don't wish ill-will on our competitors or even our copy cats, but I do have a pure drive to out-perform them every single day. I firmly believe I would not be where I am today without this. I feel blessed to do what I do, and obligated to our customers and my employees do it better than anyone else.
5. Unselfishness - I think some other successful business people may disagree with me on this one. I have heard many times over that no one is watching out for you except for you. Well, this may be true in many ways, but I have found in life that the moment that you become the focus, the moment that you lose humbleness, and the genuine concern for others is the moment you fall flat on your face with no one around to support you. I started this business with a promise to God that I would use the success he gave me to pay it forward, to honor our customers, and to share my journey. I wouldn't be honest if I said there are not moments when I get completely caught up in running the business that I forget to take a step back, but there is not a moment that goes by that I am not eternally grateful for this opportunity that I have been given. If your only goal is to make millions, in my opinion, you should think twice.
With all of this, I will end with a quote shared by one of my favorite Shark Tank sharks, Lori Greiner, on her facebook page recently. I agree all the way!
I saw this quote today, and found myself in a moment of thought...which is rare around my office, usually not so much time to actually think! Anyhow, this one really resonated with me today. There are many days in this business and in life where I run on high-speed, handling the daily decisions the best way possible, overcoming obstacles, and creating solutions. Then, there is the occasion, to be quite honest with you, where I am deeply challenged and not quite sure how to handle it.
To take a step back, I am not your average CEO. My formal education is not from a fancy Ivy League school. My parents, although both extremely talented and hard-working in their own right, do not have a college education. I am not the most well-spoken person you have ever met, nor the best-read. I try my best to keep up. I have two children that are at the top of my priority list, and this business was really baby #1 before they were born. I read a great business book when I can fit it in between days in search of carousels (my sons request this weekend), and I challenge myself to learn from others whenever possible. I think for the most part, I do okay most days. Really, I am not unlike most of you reading this post, most likely. We are just 'normal' people working super hard to do the best we possible can.
So, back to those challenged moments. I realized today that these challenges I face, are truly my most valuable teachers. Whether a loved one, an employee, or a vendor, those that challenge me, often force me to take a step back and evaluate. I evaluate my actions, the actions of others, ways to improve, and ways to grow. In retrospect, I should be grateful to these people. I should also remember in those moments that these will be the people to lift me higher, to make me better, and to teach me the most.
Do you have someone challenging you at the moment? In writing this blog, I often think it a bit silly to write about my life...really everyone has their own lives to worry about, why care about mine? But, I do it in hopes that what I am going through at the moment may touch someone else. May, the unlikely chance, be just what they needed to read that day. If you are being challenged by someone in this moment, maybe this perspective can help...what are they teaching you? I'm fairly certain I am stronger, wiser, and maybe even enlightened by the people that have pushed, tested, and challenged me the most. I may not have enjoyed the process (to say the least), but I am grateful for it.
If you don't go after what you want, you'll never have it. If you don't ask, the answer is always no. If you don't step forward, you're always in the same place. ~Nora Roberts
I have told my story here on the RuffleBlog a few times over. From day one, the intention of this blog was to pay it forward, to inspire others, to share my journey (the real thing, not he sugar-coated version). So, today, I was asked if I could deliver one message to people based on my experiences and 'success', what that message would be. I knew pretty clearly that my message would be the same one I have shared here over the years...that dreams are not handed to you on a silver platter, you must go after them. That success is a culmination of God's blessings, a LOT of hard work, risk, commitment, and the decision not to accept less for yourself. Then, I was asked the key question, "where does someone start?".
I wish I had the million dollar answer here. I would love nothing more than to give this gift of passion and fulfillment to every single person I meet. I truly strive to share my passion with our team at RuffleButts to the best of my ability, and it is beyond rewarding when they tell me that they love their job. Totally puts a smile on my face to know I made a small contribution to this.
So, back to the question...if you are in the place that I found myself just 5 years ago, what do you do? Well, the quote from Nora Roberts above is a good place to start. Ask yourself if you are truly prepared to go after what you want. Are you ready to put yourself out there? Are you ready to commit to the journey? If the answer is yes, then you have to follow your heart, but the steps below are a basic guide:
1) PRAY - This applies no matter what your religion, but for me, my faith in God has given me the courage to take steps when the staircase was out of sight. Before quitting my real estate job, I would sit in my car before going into work, and have my own personal time with God. It was in this quiet time, that I heard myself asking for something specific. I found myself repeatedly asking God for an 'idea'. It was in this time, that I clearly understood my desire for entrepreneurship. That was my destiny, but it was many years of searching before that path became clear.
2) READ - It is often that the seed of a dream is planted by inspiration. What or who is it that inspires you? Read about the accomplishments of others. Magazines, books, newspapers, blogs. Today is a day of information. There are so many amazing people out there sharing their stories. Take in as much as you possibly can.
3) WRITE - This one may seem a little corny, but isn't it worth a try? So, take a piece of paper and a pen to a peaceful spot, outside with nature, if at all possible. Draw a line down the middle. On the left jot down the things that bring you joy and things that are important to you. It can be as simple and far back as hobbies that you enjoyed in your childhood, when there wasn't the pressure of bringing in a paycheck, or status. Don't think too much, just write. Then, on the right, list the things that don't bring you joy. List the things that you want out of your life, or things you want to change.
It's funny, I always say that life is a bit like a book that you can only read backwards. It all makes sense looking back. I always felt lost in my career search. I had no idea what I was supposed to do with my life. But, looking back, I started businesses and clubs as early as I could remember. I loved it. There was the ninja turtle club in elementary school, then the baby sitting club in middle school. In high school, I tried to start a grocery delivery company. Seriously, could it be more clear? Then, the funny part...my hobby in elementary school was fashion design. I would carry around a notebook and draw fancy dress designs. I never really wanted to be a fashion designer, but was always interested in the fashion business. Reading this paragraph it almost sounds silly that I was unsure of a career path. It is so black and white, but it certainly didn't feel that way.
The next step on your journey...ACTION. At this point, it comes down to faith. Do you have faith in yourself, in your journey, in your decision? If so, go get it. Earn it. Live the life that you dream of. It is completely possible.