She Said: When It Feels Too Late
I am going to be honest. I hate being late. I hate being late for ANYTHING. I grew up with a father that was always 30 minutes early and a mother that was always running late. My dad would say that being on time was being late because you needed time to center yourself, find the restroom, and get your name tag on. My mother believed in making grand entrances and then causing a slight stir as you climbed over other people’s legs to get to the seats in the middle while the choir at church was singing. Did you grow up like this?
So, I am now scarred. I do not like making grand entrances and I feel slightly uncomfortable with all eyes on me. Which is an interesting problem because I am a professional speaker; grand entrances and all-eyes-on-me is how I operate. I am more like my father. I am always early; even if I have to sit in my car and wait. I know where the restroom is everywhere I go (or I will find it). I am centered and enjoy greeting people.
But this need to be early has caused problems for me as I began my entrepreneurial journey. You see, I did not even begin to consider business ownership until I was 41 and I didn’t make the full leap until I was 46. I dabbled. I did not dabble because I thought my idea wasn’t a great one. I did not dabble because I did not think I could do it. I dabbled for three main reasons:
In building a business, there will be some years of sacrifice. Financial and lifestyle sacrifices. You don’t immediately show a profit. You don’t immediately pay yourself what you have been making at your J.O.B. You don’t immediately start paying yourself what you have been worth all this time…which is usually 2-3x what you have been making! And, you will give up some lifestyle. You might not travel much…both a time and money problem. You might not have much of a social life for a while…a time and money problem. You will be spending time learning new skills and improving old ones. You will work some long days, weeks and months because the only way something moves is if you move it. Every member of your household will have to be on-board for this. And that ask is hard to make. It was for me too.
I would read articles about successful entrepreneurs, and in most cases, realized these people started building their businesses in their 20s or 30s. I was nearing 50. While I was more mature in my skills, I was also not as energetic as I was at 25. (just being honest) Because I knew the level of work, I was always wondering if someone in middle age had the stuff to keep up. I understood that there was no such thing as an overnight success. But was I too late to this game? Was this game only for the young? That success would take too long to achieve and I might not have the stamina to make it to the end of this marathon?
There is something to be said about security. That feeling that you have “arrived”. That feeling that you “own” something. That feeling of comfort. I was at that point. I could just cruise through the next 20 years of my career. But you know what? Security is a lie. The more years that went by, the more I watched colleagues age, the more I observed what was happening to people by the very corporations and businesses they worked for the more I was convinced that this feeling of security I had wasn’t real. That in fact, I was not secure. (2010 was an eye-opening year)
You are either nodding your head or mentally agreeing with me. You have read the above “excuses” and said “Yep, that is me.” Or maybe, you are already on this journey and you are fretting. You have been at it for a few years and you are wondering WHEN is this going to get smoother, easier, more profitable. Maybe you have a spouse that you feel is silently getting frustrated at the process. Maybe you feel like you are missing out on some life moments. Maybe you are even missing that false sense of “security” you used to have. The thought… “it is too late”, is starting to ring through your head on a regular basis.
But you are not too late. I promise. You aren’t. In fact, you are right where you need to be to succeed. You also come better equipped than the 20 year old entrepreneurs!
Let’s take a look at what I learned about being Right On Time as an entrepreneur:
1. Early is relative.
My daddy said be early. However, early is a relative term. Think about children. Some talk and walk before others. Some potty train sooner than others. However, those aren’t really markers of success. Children that talk sooner than others do not necessary become great public speakers. They are just chatty children. So, that means that the 20 year old entrepreneur doesn’t necessarily have anything “on” me. Starting early doesn’t always translate into massive success “just because”. In fact, I was not a chatty child but trained to be a speaker. In fact, I still know some of those chatty kids from my youth that are now chatty adults and still haven’t figured out how to harness their words as powerful speakers. Early is relative and it doesn’t mean success.
2. Center yourself first.
My daddy said to center yourself. I needed some time to do that. Everything from learning marketing skills to improving my speaking technique. I had to learn some basic accounting and learn how to build a strong support team. I had to also work on myself. My internal world needed some love. I may have been a mature adult on the outside but much of my internal mental world had stopped growing somewhere around 23 years old. Centering myself allowed me to make better decisions the first time around. It eliminated some of the try and fail that comes when you are younger because you have no prior track record to review. Centering myself also allowed me to learn from others quickly. I have outgrown most of the need to always be right. (mostly!) When I was young, I wasn’t as open to feedback or the wisdom of others. That isn’t the case today! I would much rather watch and learn from others. It really speeds up the process.
3. Put yourself out there.
My daddy said to put on your name tag. Of all the issues I encounter coaching other business leaders and owners, putting themselves, their brand and their businesses OUT THERE is the biggest struggle. They feel guilty. They feel uncomfortable. They feel like it is “bragging”. Well, would you feel like you are “bragging” if you put on a sticky name tag that says “Hi! My name ____”? Of course not! I have found that one of the best ways to “beat” the mentality of I-am-too-late is to SHOW UP. Smile and introduce yourself! The best business and life networks are built because you introduced yourself. Be the greeter! Marketing your business and brand should just be an extension of you introducing yourself to a new “friend”. In business, the best way to build business is to be a business that is SEEN. You can’t be a secret agent. It is also the easiest, quickest and most cost effective way to get a “leg up” on those young whipper-snappers!
After years of being early, I have found out that not only was my father correct…but so was my mother!
There is no such thing as being late! I showed up! I deserve a seat…even if you notice me slide in! And…it is okay to make a little bit of a “grand entrance”! WINK!