There are a lot of awesome things about going to work for yourself. You make your own schedule, you get to work from anywhere, you can decide who you work with and what projects you take on, you get to create a culture that is in line with your core beliefs and most importantly you get to put something in the world that is a product of you.
There are a lot of things that no one warns you about before people take the leap to be an entrepreneur. Like how most of us wrap ourselves so deeply in our work and let it define us; how we throw ourselves so head first into the fire, we don't think about getting burned; how our relationships, emotions, and exhaustion come second to our employees, our clients, and our investors; and how the money coming in is a product of everything we put out and everything we put out is a product of us. I have a lot of conversations with entrepreneurs, want-rapreuners and those who are in full-time positions with large companies looking to leave and start their own initiative, and everyone is pretty much asking each other the same questions.
Before they jump, I like tell people a few things that I have learned and am constantly learning every day. While I try to do everything on this list, there are still days where I forget to eat until 3 p.m. and have to call a "lifeline" for advice and support. But these are the most valuable lessons I've learned so far:
1. Take some time to just think about what you want for your life. I don't mean your 800 new awesome business ideas, I mean your life. What does your ideal life look like? What are your priorities? What is important to you? How much money do you need to make in order to make that happen? While it's great to have mentors and guidance, it's useless if you don't have a foundation to be anchored to. If you don't know what you want for yourself, then I don't think you should be putting anything out there in the world until you do. The world of entrepreneurship is becoming an integral part of our economy, it is not a science experiment. Don't just create because you like the idea of something. Find a need in the world, match your gift to it and then create.
2. Find a wellness-related, consistent hobby in your life that is not work-related. Meditate, surf, Soul Cycle, walk outside, do yoga -- whatever you want, but make sure you are doing something that is connecting you to “you” and to your body. I love to work and had to find a time in my day to do something for me. It is not healthy to always be on. As an entrepreneur, you are always grinding, always on. You are doing interviews, pitches, advising, consulting, having to be a good boss, close rounds, create business plans, and oh yeah, also have a life "outside of work." When you are your work and your work is your life, if you don't have a sacred moment for just you, you will lose yourself.
3. Create a trusted network of people to go to when you need advice. Once you decide what you want to create in the world and have taken the time for yourself, choose a handful of people whom you can call in case you feel like your world is crumbling and no one can possibly understand what you're going through. These individuals should not all be on the same level as you successfully. They do not have to be people on your advisory board. They are lifelines. Choose people who are either on the same page as you success-wise, one step ahead or 20 years ahead, do not turn to people for advice that have not started a successful company. Anyone can be an entrepreneur, but not everyone is a successful entrepreneur. Surround yourself with people who know what you're going through because they have overcome it themselves.
4. Stop talking about work. When I'm out at an event, a date, a situation that is not work-related, people ask me what I do and I tell them in 5 sentences or fewer, then I change the subject. I am so passionate about what I do, I could talk about it for 5 hours, but instead, I take down the person's information and set up a time to meet with them to talk about work. As an entrepreneur, you make your own schedule which means if you wanted to you could always be on. Separate the “you” as a person with the “you” as a boss. It is totally OK to be a human being.
5. Don't look down, but hire people whose job it is to be on the ground always. Entrepreneurs don't have time to think of failing. They keep working day in and day out and keep grinding to make sure they can pay their employees and continue to grow as a company. Sometimes it feels like they live on another planet. They start speaking in a language of world take domination, but they forget to go to the dentist. Hire people you trust to remind you of the menial tasks and minute details that are necessary for any business or personal life to be sustainable.
6. Breathe. Don't ever lose sight of why you are doing what you're doing. And if you don't love it, figure out what you do love and change paths. You may not realize that you can hire someone to run a company you created that you may not love, and work for a company you do. Don't sit on someone else's dream by staying in a job you hate. Even if you created that job in the first place if you aren't happy its OK to figure out ways to change your role and figure out what will make you happy.
7. Surround yourself with people you love and respect. Do not let people who can hurt you too close. You have to be at your best, your clearest mind to be able to do your job as an entrepreneur, which is to be you and create something beautiful in the world. If you're busy stalking someone on Facebook and fighting with friends who don't get it, separate. You are your biggest commodity.
8. Recognize that sometimes your reality doesn't align with others' realities. We all talk to each other, but in a business where people whose self-worth is wrapped in their work, it is hard for us to really hear each other. We have our own understanding of our reality, of our story and easily get defensive, and emotional because we are our work. When someone insults you or says something you think is wrong, listen to them. Take time to ask them questions of why they feel that way and realize they may be right, and if they're wrong they may need someone to help them sort through their problem.
9. Communicate as much as possible...to your clients and to your employees. I don't mean on interviews and press mentions, save those for when you do something that has earned this right. I mean to the people you are doing business with and the people you love. Be clear of what you're asking, pick up the phone and call people, make time for those whom you need to make time for, those who have made sacrifices to work for you and with you. Be clear and prioritize who these people are: your coworkers, your family, your board of directors. Be clear and concise with your plan of action, deliverables, production and always make time to see your grandma.
10. Last but not least, love yourself, know yourself, put in the time for yourself. You will be defending yourself to many, selling yourself to even more, and you better be sure of why you are doing what you're doing and who you are because not everyone is going to agree with you all of the time. Most of the time, you will have to pitch yourself in less than a minute, before someone gets a text. You will tell people things that frustrated you with work, only to hear it come back to you as gossip. If you don't love yourself and invest in yourself, don't think anyone else will want to either.