Written by Alanna Gardner, MFT
At 26 years old, I’m in the process of launching and building a successful (speaking it into existence) business and brand; and quite frankly I am scared to death. Putting myself out there and following my dreams has been one of the scariest things I’ve ever done in my short life. Physically I am so keyed up and anxious 70% of the time while fear periodically travels in and out of my mind even when I being a beacon of positivity. Although doubt is constantly trying to be my bestie, I’m focused on the goals and aspirations I have for myself.
My dream of starting a business was always there, it was covertly one of my motivations for enrolling in graduate school. Growing up I watched my parents struggle going to jobs that just “paid the bills” but didn’t fulfill their passions while dealing with coworkers and higher ups that were the bane of their existence. As a result my father would always say at least once a week “Alanna be your own boss so you don’t ever have to deal with people and their BS. Do what you want to do with no limits.” I never quite understood what he meant when I was younger and like most children I tossed the words of wisdom deep into my memory banks with no intent of ever using it. It wasn’t until I joined the entry level work force fresh out of college and got caught up in the rat race that I fully understood what he meant. I was burnt out, under-appreciated, overqualified, underpaid and fed up with the negative office energy. I decided right then and there that I was going to graduate school to acquire my masters of science in Marriage and Family Therapy so that I could offer myself the opportunity to do what I love with no limits.
After graduation I was gung-ho about the idea of me being a business woman. Picture me a sharply dressed entrepreneur in a magnificent pair of pumps scheduling clients on my iPhone and having meetings while sipping on a venti from Starbucks (Because that’s what all business people do right?) But then I woke up from the dream and realized I have limited funds, limited contacts, and not so limited bills to pay. I had to now worry about things like health insurance, my credit score, and the evil serpent known charmingly as Sallie Mae breathing down my neck. To top it all off I also had no business experience. Sure I knew what it took to become an excellent therapist but the actual logistics that goes into becoming a fiscally successful business owner wasn’t taught alongside “Techniques in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy”. So what now?
I had to have a long honest conversation with myself and did what any dedicated person does: I made a way out of no way regardless of my current circumstances. I’ve been obsessed watching and reading the success stories of those that I admire and was reminded that there are no easy routes when trying to get what you want out of your life. I had to become realistic about what my journey as a business was going to look like. If this is something I really want to do I have to put in a tremendous amount of effort to achieve it. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I already didn’t know this going into it but no one truly understands what it’s like to go after their dreams until they have tried it and been slapped around a few times in the process. The footwork that goes into being a successful anything is filled with failure, loss and mistakes but it’s also filled with triumph, victories and satisfaction. There have been a few things that have really helped me during my preparation of developing, marketing and selling my brand. For those who are going through or attempting to follow your dreams I hope these four tips can be of some help to you:
- Believe in Yourself
Even though it sounds incredibly Disney & cheesy, that is the first step in going after what you really want in life. You have to be crazed to a certain extent about your faith in yourself. I’ll never forget watching a Lady Gaga documentary (Don’t judge me I love me some mother monster) and listening to her about how she used to talk to herself everyday about her goals. To some this may sound crazy but positive thoughts and self-talk, on top of her work ethic of course, is what got her to where she is in her career. You will always have setbacks that will shake your faith. During those times, you have to be able to pick yourself up and remember why you even started to being with. Plus, if you don’t believe in yourself and what you have to offer the world how on earth is anyone else going to believe and support you.
- Utilize Your Network
No one gets to where they are in their life by themselves. You will be surprised who knows who and where your support comes from when you take a chance on putting yourself out there and working your network. Opportunities, relationships, and other assets are born out of creating and maintaining a network so making that a priority is vital to your success.
- Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable
This is one of the hardest things for me because I HATE being uncomfortable in any way, shape, or form. But through my most distressing moments is when I grow the most as a person. Pushing myself to do things I’ve never done in order to achieve things I’ve never achieved is the key to my success. You have to be fearless and step out of your comfort zone by trying new things. Promoting myself via Facebook, Twitter & other forms of social media was something I would’ve never done in the past out of fear of being judged for shameless promotion (It sounds so silly writing it now.) But now that I’ve done so it has really opened up opportunities I never would’ve received if I didn’t step out of my comfort zone.
- Remain in a Constant State of Humility and Gratefulness
This is a big one for me. Humility and gratefulness go hand in hand. Since I am new to the world of entrepreneurship I am willing to listen to anyone who is willing to teach me something new and that’s something I will always be grateful for because they don’t have to. I am also grateful for where I am in my life and the journey that I am on. Oprah once said that she believes being in a constant state of gratefulness is what changes her life for the better and has gone as far as to create a gratitude journal to keep her on track. I’ve been doing the same recently and it seems to really be helpful in keeping my spirits up whenever I have set backs and to also value the things I’ve been blessed with during my journey as a business woman.
With all that said and done, if you are willing to take on the crazy responsibility of following a dream and turning it into a reality just know that anxiety, sacrifice, diligence, and humility are all a part of the job description. At times it can be taxing and overwhelming but in the end it’s all worth it.