8 things I’ve learned so far - an honest account of my entrepreneurial journey of 2017
It’s been some time since I’ve done a weekly update. (Way too long. I’m sorry!) But I hope to redeem myself by posting some more blog posts in the future, as well as this massive update, which sums up some of the most important lessons of 2017. Admittedly, it's difficult to narrow more than 6 months into one post and there is no way I can cover everything. So, I've decided to write about the 8 things I feel have had the most impact on my work and my approach to entrepreneurship.
1. The learning curve is so real!
All my Mondays start off with me asking myself two questions:
- What am I doing this week that I’ve never done before?
- How am I going to make it work?
Every single Monday: New ideas, new people, and new ways to make it work. Prototyping, concept developing, business development, research. (And some occasional swearing.) But being pushed out of my comfort zone all the time has made me realise how much I can actually accomplish. It’s much more than I ever thought I would. And if there was a scouts’ badge for “braving into the unknown every week and coming back again, despite scratches, and scars”, I would award it to myself.
On a more personal level, I’ve found out that the bravery that comes from managing a project like this, has a bleeding effect. So, now, in my personal life, I’m also a lot more comfortable with being uncomfortable.
2. It’s a rollercoaster
As I mentioned, there are constant ups and downs in this process. There are times when you feel like you take a giant leap forward and times when you feel like backwards is your general direction for the project.
And with the project comes an emotional rollercoaster too: At one point I felt like I’d completely lost my sense of humour (which is one of the worst things I could ever imagine. You need it to laugh at yourself from time to time.). There’s also been times where I didn’t want to get out of bed, and times when I have called up friends and family in despair and frustration.
On the other side of the scale, the highs have been exhilarating. I live to learn and every new learning experience is just so exciting. When you fail you’re the only one to blame. But when you succeed you can take credit for all of it and that’s incredible. I've never felt more bulletproof and vulnerable at the same time.
3. A shared office space is the best
On the more practical side: Hands down, the best decision I’ve made is joining a coworking space. There’s no way I would have made it this far without my beloved coworking space. Just the thought of sitting by myself, working at the kitchen table seems completely absurd.
I’m the type of person, who needs to be surrounded by colleagues, a place to go to work in the morning, and sparring. That’s the beauty of working in a coworking space. You get all that, plus an amazing network of people.
4. You need a big (and honest) network…
I sometimes refer the onboarding project as “my baby”, and as we all know: It takes a village... So does entrepreneurship. You’re not the expert on everything, so you need a great network - especially if you work alone and you’re new to the business. I’ve spent a lot of time branching out and cultivating a network of people, who can give me feedback on my project and guide me in the right direction.
I can’t tell you how grateful I am for all those people I have met so far, who have helped me carve out the steps of this journey. When you meet that kind of honesty and kindness, you want to give back.
5. ...and a pep squad
It’s pretty simple: You need friends and family, who support you when the roller coaster goes up and down. Sometimes it’s just a hug. Sometimes it sharing your victories. And then again, sometimes it’s just to get a coffee and get your minds off everything.
6. There is no “right way”
Everyone’s entrepreneurial journey is different. Different skills, experiences, personalities, the magnitude of the project, the timing. The list is endless and with so many different factors, it’s no wonder that there are no right answers or simple recipe when it comes to startups. There are no guarantees and the only thing you can do is your best every day, and make the most of what you got.
Surprisingly enough “the right way” might be leading in a different direction than you first expect, and that’s fine, too. I’m still carving out my path, and even though I have an idea of where I want to go, I might end up somewhere else. But that’s all part of it.
7. Honesty, (self-)compassion, and resilience
I try to be as honest as I can by sharing all the best and worst parts of my work (and everything in between) in my blog posts. I’ve found that honesty is one of the best qualities you can arm yourself with on this trip. The more honest about my skills, my mood, what I’d like help with, where I am in the process, the better responses I get. And the responses have been overwhelming
The same goes for resilience and self-compassion: They’re like muscles I need to exercise on a daily basis to counterbalance the twists and turns. (There will be a blog post on this later.)
8. Great ambitions and small steps
If there was something I’ve learnt in this process it’s that being (overly) ambitious is fine, as long as you take small steps towards your goal. Wanting to do everything all at once is one of the classic mistakes that I’m guilty of all the time while being outside of your comfort zone is fine, I highly recommend carefully stepping outside of it and do your research, instead of just diving straight into the deep end without a safety net.
9. It's worth it
Ok, I said 8 things, but I felt like there was a ninth point missing. The question is really: In the end, is it worth it? And the answer is yes! With everything I've learned, the people I've met, and the skills I've earned, I see it as one of the best investments I've made in myself and my future worklife. And I'm happy to continue the journey.