by Krista Miller
As I write this, the social enterprise that I founded a little over a year ago is thriving. Our membership numbers for Q1 2015 have already exceeded the total for all of 2014, we’ve secured funding for the next three years to help our startup efforts, and our brand is slowly but surely becoming the household name we envisioned it would become over that first glass of wine and excited brainstorming session. With still so much work ahead, it’s easy to minimize the blur that was the year’s work that has already gone by – but it was a lot of work. With this in mind, I’ve been reflecting on lessons learned and what they mean for me, and indeed anyone looking for that magic formula to a fulfilling and successful career. This is not a how-to on social media or a step-by-step on forming that perfect business plan, but some humble, gut takeaways about taking that big leap. I’m sure there is yet much to be revealed to me on this journey, and that this list is not all-encompassing, but this is what stands out to me, today.
- Draw on your personal experiences for inspiration. Some people seem to jump to the profit as their main driving factor – i.e. “What will make me the most money the fastest?” But many of the world’s greatest ideas come first from a passion for the product – the rest comes later. True innovators see a problem in their lives or in the lives of those around them, and recognize the opportunity (responsibility?) to solve it. Not only that, but they are PUMPED about doing just that – not about the financial reward that might come from it. Recognize the opportunity lying wait in your passions and grab it.
- It’s doable. Haters gonna hate, people. You’ll probably read countless articles about how impossibly difficult your attempts will be. A handful (only a handful, if you’re lucky) of people will tell you it’s harder than it looks, with a hint (or heap) of pessimism in their voices. Some might even ask why the hell you would take such a risk. Heed their warnings, but recognize them as just that – precautions about what might be a tough climb. Let their words speak admonition into your journey, but don’t let them deter you. Think of it as a map of the terrain ahead, not a road closure. Plus, they may have hyped up the difficulty so much that when you get through it you actually think “Hey, that wasn’t that bad…!”
- Don’t settle; don’t rush. Once you see the opportunity, it’s hard not to dive in head first and get the ball rolling as fast as possible. Go for it, but do not make compromises to speed the process along. Carefully assemble a powerhouse team, even if it means leaving seats open for longer while you wait for the perfect match. Not only that, but go ahead and count on your own success and build a strong foundation up front. Getting your product to market is key, but if you aren’t set up to gracefully meet the success you know you’ll have, you’ll crumble under the weight of it when it happens.
- There is no such thing as luck. This is a hard one to sell. A lot of successful people look like they were lucky to be in the right place at the right time. A lot of my organization’s history in the past 12 months looks a lot like luck. But I really, truly do not believe in pure luck. I believe in opportunities that, if you don’t have your heart, eyes, and mind open, could easily be missed. If you do see them, it’s not just luck – it’s a keen recognition of possibility.
- Dare to suck. You’ve heard it before, but I’m telling you to truly take this to heart; make it your mantra. We have it ornately framed in our office and try to live and work by it, daily. Theodore Roosevelt said “Above all, try something.” Be brave and bold – success isn’t defined only by what works. Fireflies need darkness to be anything special, and those dark failures between the shining brightness of success are just as important to the process.
If I know you, reader, you’ve always known what your passion is and what your ultimate dreams are. And I know you have this feeling deep down inside that you’ve got what it takes. If you have that feeling – even a tiny glimmer of it – then you’re already on your way. Don’t let fear, naysayers, impatience, or greed block your path. Get after that opportunity and get after it all the way. The rest will follow.
Krista Miller is the founder and Executive Director at Partners in Parenting, a 501(c)(3) purpose-driven organization in Austin, Texas that organizes and facilitates neighborhood-based peer support groups for new parents. When she isn’t chasing her dreams (however haphazardly), she’s chasing her toddler, gardening, cooking, and exploring the city with her loving and supportive husband.