At the end of last year, I made the awkward decision to leave a dream job. I had made it to a CEO position for a large healthcare financial company. Life was good. Actually, life was great. We had turned around the company and my career was soaring.
And then I decided to simply leave it in order to pursue something that wasn’t well defined, yet oddly I knew was the right path for me to take.
After 8 months in my new life as an entrepreneur, I’ve learned so much. That was actually one of the main reasons I left – to continue to learn on an exponential level.
The things that have surprised me most are the things I didn’t know I didn’t know – things that are so much less tangible than learning how to write blogs or host a podcast.
I want to share those intangible lessons with you with the hope that you will start to think more about these things that you also may not know you don’t know.
10. You can toggle between being an extrovert and an introvert.
I am a self-proclaimed extrovert. I can literally feel the beams of energy that I get when I interact with people.
So it’s been really surprising to me how much I love – even yearn – for my own time to create, write, have white-space. I thought this would be my biggest challenge, yet I’ve found I was missing this so much in my previous life.
If you haven’t had time to get quiet with yourself, you MUST. Whether that’s taking a day off from work just for yourself, blocking your calendar at work for a few hours, or taking a full-on break from the working world for a few months – it’s absolutely critical to your mind, body, and soul.
9. Anxiety can be a hidden disease.
I’ve never thought of myself as an “anxious” person. When others would describe their challenges with anxiety, I would think, I’m so lucky I don’t have that problem.
It wasn’t until I left my corporate job – the one that had me running to 6-12 meetings a day, commuting most days, traveling…always on – that I realized I’d lived with anxiety for many years.
It had simply become part of my normal. I thought it was normal to always have a flutter in your stomach, worried that you were late for something, not working hard enough, or doing three things at once.
It’s important to do all you can to remove anything that feels like anxiety from your life
As I work in my new “normal,” I now realize that the most precious gift I’ve given myself is removal (mostly) of that flutter. I now work hard, but when I’m not working, I feel zero guilt, zero anxiety. I don’t know quite how to describe it other than I now have this entirely new internal aura.
Pay close attention to how you feel as you go about your day. Don’t let others over-run your schedule, your priorities, or your life. It is possible to make an impact in your job without being a nonstop buzzing bee. Remove guilt wherever possible. Take deep breaths often.
8. People assume that when a woman exits her corporate job, she is doing it to be with her children.
This has been interesting yet not totally unexpected. It’s just another bias that I am learning we all need to be aware of and fight through.
Yes, spending more time with my children was one of the reasons I left Corporate America. But it was one of many. I wanted more “breathing room” with my kids, but I didn’t want all the time in the world with them.
Sound harsh? It’s just the God’s honest truth. I love them to high heaven, but I am also fueled by working and having my own time and space.
Moms – it’s ok to make a change and not declare it’s for the children. It’s ok to have huge goals and dreams that require you to still send your kids to daycare or have a nanny.
Others – don’t assume a break means a woman is going home to lead the PTO and knit sweaters. Ask them thoughtful questions about their dreams, what they’re seeking, what impact they’re looking to make. Assume nothing.
7. It’s important to understand why you eat and/or exercise.
Random. I know. I didn’t leave my job to lose weight. But this has been a wonderful unintended consequence. Yes, some of it I contribute to the fact that I can now run at 6 am instead of 5 am.
I had an epiphany one day. I was working on a million things, and it was about 3:00 and I realized I hadn’t eaten since early that morning. (I NEVER miss a meal). And then, I realized that I was ok. I was happy. I realized that I eat as a reward.
So often it was not even noon in my old days, and I was [supposedly] starving. I then ate a lunch typically followed by eating a handful of York Peppermint Patties (sometimes gasping at the unexpected number of wrappers in my garbage).
It’s important to understand what barriers you have to improving your health.
I rarely do this anymore. Why? Because working is now not a chore. I don’t have to offset that with food as a reward. I eat less, I workout more and voila, I’ve lost a bunch of weight.
Be sure to get really quiet with yourself and understand why you eat. Or why you don’t workout.
What are your motivators and your barriers? What can you change in your life to turn those around?
6. Investment in learning is one of the things that set people apart from the pack. And it’s easier to do than you might think.
When I started b Authentic inc, I assumed that my biggest costs would be a) lawyers (true), and b) software.
What I didn’t realize is that there are so many incredible investment opportunities to increase your knowledge. Whether it’s through podcasts, online courses, or coaches – you can significantly fast-forward yourself by leveraging the abundance of programs and information out there.
So that may sound like duh, but there’s more. What I’ve also learned is that by investing in even the few online courses I’ve taken, the knowledge is great, but the network is magic. I’ve been able to meet, interact, and share with a whole new community, without even leaving my home.
Invest in yourself. Sometimes that should be in ways that others may not be doing. Don’t just wait for your company to give you the training you need. It’s rarely going to set you apart or take you places you never imagined. Be the person that takes risks – invest in something new and watch it propel you forward.
5. Your children learn more by observing you than what you’re doing for them.
So often, especially us mom-types, we feel so guilty about the amount of time we spend – or don’t spend – with our children.
We forget that our primary role isn’t to do for them. It’s to inspire them. And often, the inspiration doesn’t come immediately. It may not even come for several years.
As I’ve been on this journey, I have been blown away by the changes in my kids. They are sponges and are watching my every move (even when their noses are in their iPads). My 8-year-old son is working on a new motivational business concept he’s named, “Believe Achieve Repeat.” Domain name secured, t-shirts designed, vision articulated, and website in process.
Mick’s new company slogan – Believe, Achieve, Repeat – Raise the BAR!
My daughter bought me a book of 365 quotes – one for each day of the year. AND IT WASN’T EVEN MY BIRTHDAY OR A HOLIDAY. She saw it, she knew I’d love it, and she bought it with her own money.
Focus your energy on doing the things that you want your children to do when they grow up. Don’t wait for them to hear some 10-minute speech at graduation to hear about taking risks, the power of failures, or how to dream big. YOU need to do those things, and they will follow in your footsteps.
4. Connecting people is one of the most amazing gifts in life.
There is one consistent thread I’ve noticed among the entrepreneur community – we all love to be connectors.
We love to introduce people to others we think will help them, we love to show each other the courses, podcasts or other information we know they need to succeed.
We love to cheer each other on and relish in each other’s success.
Connecting others is fun, powerful and rewarding.
It’s counter-intuitive – you might think the entrepreneurial world is cut-throat, that we’re all competing with each other.
But there is something I think we all learn quickly – there is abundance in the world. There are plenty of people who need our help. The world is not a zero-sum game.
How do you think about your colleagues, your neighbors, your friends?
Do you sometimes find yourself competing for the most attention at work or worried that their success will mean your failure?
How often are you helping others make new connections at your company, with your friends, or to knowledge you have that would be useful to them?
Cheer on others, share information and be a connector. I PROMISE you, your reward will be tenfold.
3. Your definition of success needs close examination.
Cliche alert. And it’s cliche for a reason.
It’s funny, when people first asked me, “Hey, how is the business going?” I struggled. How do I gauge and report on that? I’m not really making a ton of money – much less than I used to.
Yet I am SO happy. I am so convicted about what I’m doing. I am so confident in its ultimate success.I felt strange telling them “FANTASTIC” when I couldn’t pin that to a success metric. Am I lying? Is it inappropriate to say “fantastic” without numbers to back that up?
I am now getting to the place where I am getting more comfortable with defining my own metrics for success.
- Success = people reaching out, telling me they connected with my message or were positively impacted by something I said or did.
- Success = I’m moving forward and accomplishing things in a way and timeframe that I think is worthy of the success label.
- Success = the fact that there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think – or say – “I love my life.”
I encourage you to examine your own definition of success. Write down all the things that make you happy and fulfilled. Then rank them in order. Are you doing enough things to ensure #1-3 are improving? What steps could you take to put more focus behind your top three criteria for success?
2. It’s ok not to be able to fully define what you’re doing.
“What does your business do?” I have changed my answer to this question so many times. It’s not that I’m all over the place. It’s just that I have this big vision. It’s a lot to define when people ask me, “What does your company do?”.
It used to bother me.
Are people going to think I haven’t a clue? Are they going to place a bet on my failure as a result?
This one I’ve now nailed. I don’t care.The people that make the biggest impact are often the ones with a vision that isn’t easily explained. They’re also the kind of people that aren’t afraid to learn, adjust, and pivot.
They’re the kind of leaders that people follow, if only out of curiosity.
Don’t only chase jobs, occupations, and goals that can be easily defined. Pave your own path. Do things your mom might not approve of. Make people curious.
1. The Universe rewards risk takers. Sometimes it’s easily explained. Sometimes it’s not.
Take a risk. You will be rewarded.
When I left my job, no corporate package in hand, some people thought I was the craziest person ever. I kinda thought that too.
But I now truly believe that success is easier if you’re running at something without crutches. The Universe rewards you for taking risks.
Sometimes I define the Universe with my left-brain – for example, people know you took the risk, they try and help you, more success comes your way.
And sometimes I define the Universe with my soul – magical, unexplained synchronicities that come to you way more often than when you weren’t taking risks.
Many of you probably think, If I ever get laid off, I’d pursue this passion. Or maybe you think, When I finally make more money, I will invest in myself more.
It doesn’t work that way.
You have to take the risk first. Whether it’s something like spending the money first to get the promotion or switching jobs before you’re unhappy, it’s always better to stay ahead. You’ll be amazed at how much faster the propeller on your back goes…and where it takes you.
Erin Hatzikostas is a nationally recognized CEO and thought leader on Authentic Leadership. After turning around a 9-figure company – tripling earnings while also building an industry-leading culture in three short years – she is now on a hell-bent mission to empower more authenticity in the workplace. She is a Career Coach, Speaker, Podcast Host and the Founder & CEO of b Authentic inc You can take her free, fun and insightful “What Dog Are You at Work?” quiz here.