This year marks my twelfth year of running my own business. Twelve years of growing something out of nothing, of creating something because we believe the world will be better because we did. It’s been a long road, it’s been a good road. It’s been a road that has been much harder than I ever would have imagined… and far more worth it too.
And after a decade-plus of being in the trenches building something from the ground up, I can tell you this, when it comes to the secrets to success I think there are the ever-important, timeless staples: It takes hard work and a lot of time for things to grow.
But that being said, I also think there are things I wish I would have known in our first few years that would have made all the difference to make sure that what we were planting were always good things.
If I could write a letter to my younger self, here is what I would say:
1. Remember that in between the time of planting and the time of harvest, there is always this season in between while a lot happens just under the surface that the world can’t see yet. But that doesn’t mean that the most important work isn’t happening right then. As my husband, Justin, always reminds me: slow growth equals strong roots. Don’t be afraid to grow slow & steady over the long haul. Don’t be afraid to take your time and build your own substance to stand on. Remember it’s only the weeds that pop up overnight.
2. The people you surround yourself with and making friends any chance you can get will grow you so much more than ever trying to go it alone. Be a really good friend.
3. Be incredibly committed and work really hard at always getting better in your craft. Never think that it’s “good enough” or that you’ve arrived. You haven’t. You won’t. If you do, hang up your work and walk away for you have lost the love of it. Never, ever stop learning. Show up every day and do the work.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask. Don’t get too big to answer. Never think that you will reach some place where you’ve “made it” and suddenly you’ll have permission to do what it is that you want. You have to be that permission for yourself right from the beginning.
5. Do your own work. In everything you do act with integrity. Give credit where credit is due. Don’t step on people or take what isn’t yours to try to get where you’re going. Instead, learn from other people. Learn like crazy from other people. Ask them questions. Ask them what’s working. Ask them what’s not. Learn from their experience and mistakes.
6. Do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it. Be humble. Let your talent speak more than you do. Your gifts are exactly that… a gift. You were lucky enough to be given them, so make sure you don’t leave this earth without using every last one of them to leave the world better than you found it.
7. Tell stories that matter more than ones that get a lot of Instagram likes. Look at the big picture with your work and make things that will last the long haul. When in doubt, remember that classic never goes out of style and there are a lot of things you can do to your work, but that doesn’t mean you should. Hold yourself to the standard of being the person, the creative, or the business owner that you want to be. So that when you are at the end of your life, you can look back on the body of work and the legacy that you leave behind and know that this work that you did…this work always mattered.
8. But above all, here is the most important one: These goals that you might have listed out that you think are what you need to have in order to be successful, to be just like somebody else… Those aren’t really the dream. They only feel like the dream because that’s what success happens to look like right now. When you base success on a checklist of someone else’s dreams, that success will always, always be just beyond your grasp. And there will always be just one more thing to add to the list. So, you will spend your life in the pursuit of More. More, more, more… just to barely keep up. Instead, I’d rather see you be the one who invents a whole new version of success that no one has ever seen before. One for all of us to look up to. Step bravely out as a leader, the world needs more leaders. Don’t just do what has already been done. Find success for what you say it is, and always, always on your own terms.
One of the bravest things you’ll ever do is to set out on your own and chart a brand new course. To gaze off in the opposite direction of where everyone else is always running to so fast…and allow yourself the quiet and wonder of a solid, silent minute to go curiously and willfully wherever which way the wind draws you… calls you… beckons you home.
You can spend your whole life chasing currents, you can spend your whole life chasing trends. You can wish away your sails and long to be something faster.
You can chug along somehow always in last place in a race you never signed up for, wondering why you can never seem to pick up speed. Or you can turn around, lift your determined face to the light, strike out boldly for a brand new horizon. And realize that the second you are willing to turn away from what everyone else is chasing…that last place position suddenly puts you first in line for exactly what you were meant to do.
It’s a big ocean. There is more than enough wind for everybody.
And whether seeds or sails, the most beautiful vessels… the kind people will remember?
You’ll know them when you see them out there doing exactly what they were created to do.
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