In part one of this series about success and hard work, we talked about Etsy shops, successful entrepreneurs, and why you may think others may have it easier than you, or just be confused about why “it’s not working” for you when you try to build your business. Read What You Need to be a Successful Entrepreneur.
This post is part 2, where I share some articles I’ve really related to, about being a hard worker. The most important things you need to run a successful business aren’t “tricks” or “secrets,” in fact they’re pretty much the opposite – really obvious:
- To work hard
- To work smart
- To be in it for the long haul
But first, a little personal tidbit from me.
What parenting has taught me about running a business
I have two boys, three and five. I am a nerd, and whenever I am interested in something, my first instinct is to read some books about it. So yep, I’ve read my share of parenting books. One thing that stuck out to me was not to praise your children for their talent, but to praise them for the hard work and practice that went into it. If children are praised for their intelligence or skill, they can grow anxious about living up to that standard and stop trying. If they can see that effort, practice, and learning from mistakes is what is valued, you will be preparing them for all types of work that await them.
Rather than count the high points of your business or try to stack yourself up against others in your field, why not put the focus on making an effort each day, doing your best, practicing, and learning new things? I guarantee it will take you far.
My recent parenting breakthrough has been with my kids’ picky eating. I had read and bookmarked Child of Mine: Feeding With Love and Good Sense, as well as some articles and blogs on how to feed picky eaters so that they’d mellow out and learn to eat a variety of food. Somewhere along the line their insane food dislikes (and I am cool with calling preschoolers “insane” because aren’t they quite literally not sane for the first few years?) made me go a bit nuts myself, and even though I believed in putting a variety of tasty and healthy foods on the table, I didn’t really see it working and I thought I was either doing it wrong, or my kids were just broken somehow and it didn’t work on them. It really didn’t help that I was seeing my friends’ kids chowing down sushi effortlessly or not crying about the shape of their noodles.
I desperately flipped through the book again, reading my flagged passages. Oh: there are three types of eaters, and if your kid is a “late bloomer,” there is nothing you can do about it. What I am doing maybe is working. I just didn’t realize that I was in it for the long haul. I had somehow misread the book to think that if I did the right thing, my kids would quickly come around and start eating Thai curries with me. Now that I know it may be years before my food education gets through to my darling Late Bloomer (I think his little brother is just in a phase, and I can’t accuse him of being a Late Bloomer yet), I can relax and get back to doing what I need to do confidently.
The same for your business: if you think that doing x, y, and z will have an immediate effect on your business, slow down! Maybe what you’re doing now will look unimpressive at this very moment, but will gradually build into something that works really well.
For me, the difference between “failure” at feeding my kids and “success” was just knowing how long the journey was going to be. I also find myself less concerned about what other little kids are eating (what other businesses are achieving) now that I have my long-range plan in mind.
For some reason, I’ve never really given a toot about what other web design studios are doing – I guess raising kids worries me more than running a business!
Working hard to build your business
I’ve collected a great group of articles on the subject of working your booty off to get your business where you want it to be. You entrepreneurial types out there will know that there’s never actually a “good enough” with your business – once you make it to one goal, it’s time to set a new one!
Joy Cho talks about her career path and how to be a goal-getter yourself
We often look at successful people and assume that they must be really lucky or have “connections” that have helped them get to where they are. Sure, there’s often a little luck involved and knowing certain people in certain situations can be helpful, but I fully believe in going after what you want in life. 75% of the business successes I’ve had are ones in which I sought out the opportunities and pitched myself or my ideas in order to make them happen. It’s all about knowing what your goals are, then taking the right steps to achieve them.
Read “The Art of Being a Goal Getter (part 1)” by Joy Cho
You have to (really) want it. Sometimes I say, “I want to open a restaurant,” or “I want to run a marathon,” but I really have no desire to work the hectic hours that a restaurant requires, and my knees are way too banged up to run more than a few miles at a time. Some of my ideas are fleeting—not dreams I’ve had for a really long time. But when I think about designing products, that’s something I really want, and something that’s been a goal of mine for a long time. What are the things that you constantly think about wanting to do? Tell me what you want (what you really, really want). Whatever it is, that’s what you’re most likely to achieve because you want it. A lot.
Read “The Art of Being a Goal Getter (part 2)” by Joy Cho
Erin Loechner’s quick thoughts about how important hard work is
But for the most part, things have been busy in the perfect way, the kind where you crawl into bed at the end of the night with a heavy feeling in your muscles and your brains and your bones, but a light feeling in your head and heart. Hard work is so, so good for the soul.
Read “Weekend Scenes” by Erin Loechner
Thoughts on doing the work that is necessary
I feel that having a “good work ethic” doesn’t only mean doing work tirelessly, or without complaint. It means you have a good grasp of the work that you are doing, and why – a big picture awareness, whether it’s creating a website, sewing a jacket, teaching a class or mowing a lawn. I think this message gets lost within the rhetoric of “doing what you love” which, yes, I am guilty of having promoted in the past.
Work Ethic and the Ethics of Work by Rena Tom
Five behaviors that will take your business nowhere
Five behaviors that often come clumped together, each conspiring to lead you toward disappointment: [..] Just for kicks, imagine someone who embraces the opposite of all five of these behaviors. Someone focused on doing the work, her work, relentlessly getting better, shipping it, racking up small wins and earning one fan at a time. And doing it all with a trained eye on what it means to do it better.
Read “Meandering Toward Nowhere Special” by Seth Godin
Why your parents may have accidentally raised you to fail
Unfortunately, the funny thing about the world is that it turns out to not be that easy of a place, and the weird thing about careers is that they’re actually quite hard. Great careers take years of blood, sweat and tears to build—even the ones with no flowers or unicorns on them—and even the most successful people are rarely doing anything that great in their early or mid-20s.
Read “Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy” on Wait But Why
Do you relate to these articles?
It’s important to know that hard work is expected of you, and to be able to relax, slow down, and make yourself a five year plan or ten year plan – or if you’re like me, no plan at all – and enjoy the knowledge that it takes time. Slowly but surely you will get to where you will be thrilled to be.
How long have you been running your business? How long do you think it will take to be where you want to be – or at the first stage of where you want to be? What kind of hard work do you put in?
Stay tuned for part three, where I share some stories from business owners that show the work that goes into it, their longevity, and how it all happened.
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