I was sipping my morning Earl grey while doing the usual reading dose of the day when my eye caught the article from Arianna Huffington, the Founder and CEO at Thrive Global. And in the article, one certain phrase reflected on me so deeply, so truly, that I couldn’t resist sharing my experience and what I have learnt in my journey.
The phrase was “We have little power to choose what happens, but we have complete power over how we respond. It all starts with setting the expectations that make it clear that no matter how much hardship we encounter — how much pain and loss, dishonesty, ingratitude, unfairness and jealousy — we can still choose peace and imperturbability. And from that place of imperturbability — or ataraxia, as the Greeks called it — we can much more effectively bring about change.” – by Arianna Huffington at her post “This Is Our Opportunity to Take Action on Mental Health”
I am an entrepreneur and being able to make a difference, being able to change others lives, and being able to bring others to their best, dream selves bringing a smile to their faces rewards me for being one, every single day.
Today I am at a very good place that I am very happy and proud to be, but it was not a fast track ticket within overnight.
Years ago, I was a piano lecturer. People loved me for being a lovely pianist, they looked at it with grace, and I was reputed as a lovely lady. I had friends, everything was going smooth, and my career was never really a topic to criticise.
But this didn’t last long. A few years ago, I decided to start my own business. I realised that I am meant to do bigger things and I have the potential to change others lives differently. I have realised that all in my lifetime, I was preparing and dreaming to do one thing.
And there started the next era of my life. Once I announced that I am not going to be a pianist anymore, but a business owner, the response was unbelievable. So many unsolicited advice showing me how silly that is, so many jokes, so many negative comments suddenly started showering, surprising me to the ends.
I was not the lovely lady anymore to them.
I must say, this is a kind of mental stress that I was not prepared and that I was never told or taught. And this happened at all stages of my journey, and it is even happening in the present. The only difference now is, the way I am responding and looking at it. So I thought, I have to let you know about it, acknowledge you about it, so when you go through it, you are well-armed.
Looking back at it from where I am today, I have recognized that this type of stress (stress coming from outside) usually comes in three stages.
Stage one – Right at the beginning, when you share your idea with your family, friends and other people around you, it can be almost like the next world war. There are so many people to show you how many failed attempts you have had in the past, how many things that you haven’t done up to the expectations, your weaknesses, and all the reasons why you shouldn’t start a business. At first, this shocked me because this was completely unexpected. I couldn’t believe it. Some of them are so strong that they almost made me believe that I am not capable of doing this. The worst situation for me was, there were people who are honestly worried about me, and were thinking if I am taking the right move. And then there were people who don’t understand what your vision is, what good you can bring to the world, and simply don’t want to know. And at the most of the times, the latter is combined with a hidden flavour of jealousy. I was sort of torn between these two.
The second stage – Once you got into some place at your business, then starts the unfriending process. I had friends, whom I was always talking about my business idea, and they seemed very relaxed and sort of supportive about it, and once I started producing real results, it was just too much for them to handle. The truth is, they have never believed that I would really make it happen. As long as I was in the building process with no real results, they felt comfortable. But once I made results, once they know that I am about to go higher, that made them very uncomfortable.
The third stage– Once you have an established business, once you are at a place where things are really working for you, then comes all the judgmental questions. Some people question your journey. They ask why are you trying to go bigger and bigger, they ask you why you want to earn even more money, why you want to expand even more, why you want to grow more. Some people try to make you smaller, they may try their best to pull yourself back to where you once were and to use your drive as greediness.
As an entrepreneur, I find this mental bullying is the biggest challenge I faced, especially as a woman. No matter how developed the society is, no matter how much of gender equality we talk about, when it comes to wealth and money, it still takes a brave woman to press forward. When a woman rises up, there are so many questions thrown at her, so many judgements thrown at her, so many unsolicited advice given to her, which makes me wonder, if that is the same when your husband, partner or any man you know starts a business.
In this journey, I learnt that one must develop and train the mind to be a neutral observer, who doesn’t get sunk in the situation. We must learn and know that every human behaviour has a positive intention behind it. That means the people who try to make you smaller do that because they feel insecure and threaten by your action. Or they are simply scared. So they want to make them feel secure again, and they do that by trying to make you smaller. We entrepreneurs are usually highly motivated, passionate about what we do, and we are not ready to settle in the middle. We are driven to do what it takes to go the top. Building a business takes a massive amount of energy. You need to give your complete attention and focus on it, especially at the beginning. But we are ready to go through this process because we are not ready to settle for less.
But the majority of the population are the ones who receive a paycheck, who look for a permanent job where they are safe for the rest of their lifetime. There is nothing wrong with it. But when you try to reach the zones that they have never been before, some of them may not the be same with you anymore. That is sad, but the truth is, we cannot control what others think and do. All we can control is what we do, how we create our journey.
So in my journey, I have learnt that no one else is responsible for my life. I realised that I don’t have to be with or listen to anybody. It is all a choice. We have the choice to select with whom we are surrounded with, with whom we work and who we love. There are easy choices, and hard ones, but they are all choices. Find the people who back you up, who respect you for who you are with all your passions and causes even if they have different passions and causes. There may be ups and downs, but they are the ones you want to stay with.
Most importantly, never doubt yourself. These mental challenges can happen at any level of your business. At every level, some people align with you, and some don’t, and that is something we cannot control. So always believe in yourself, believe that you are meant for bigger things, even the rest of the world around you have settled for less. Believe in your biggest and most daring dreams, even if they seem different than others and impossible at the moment. And it is ok if your family members, friends or colleagues have chosen not to do such big things, you still are meant for greater things.
In the end, it all narrows down to one. That is, NEVER GIVE UP. Storms may come on your way, there will be rainy days, there will be days where you feel like to tear your hair off. But remember one thing. Remember that you are strong, and you have a dream to achieve, a legend to create, an empire to build. Feel that unconditional love of the universe towards you. Never let anything outside dim that flame. When you look internally into that flame, that alone is enough for you to keep moving on. There are things that you can control and things that you can’t control. So why to be stuck at the things that are not in your control?