I get to work with lots of business owners every day. They often share their entrepreneurial lessons with me. A while back I started keeping track of a few of my own.
- Own a purple crayon mentality. Remember “Harold and the Purple Crayon?” It’s a wonderful story about childhood imagination that holds a powerful message for business owners. Harold, a small boy who wants to go for a walk in the moonlight, realizes there is no moon. So he gets out his purple crayon and draws one. Then he draws a path to walk on. As he journeys, he makes adjustments to his path, and when he gets to the top of a mountain and loses his footing, he sketches a balloon to soften the landing. But from his vantage point above the crayoned world he has created, he can see where the gaps are, and he draws them in.
As a business owner, I’ve learned we must continue to imagine where we want our businesses to go, and then work every day on that vision. We must plot our path to success and put into place the mechanisms that will lead us further down that path. And, we must make time to survey our businesses from a higher altitude that gives us insights into where the gaps are.
- Be grateful for closed doors . . . so you only walk through the open ones. As I look back now at all the times I was able to change direction or take a major step forward, it coincided with a time when I actually thought a door had closed.
- Go with your gut aches. Notice I didn’t say, “Go with your gut,” but “go with your gut aches.” At key points, I’ve made decisions that were fully supported by data and good business sense. But before implementing them, I would get such a gut ache I knew I was making the wrong choice. Pay attention when your gut aches. It’s saved me from some real heartache.
- Beware of barking dogs. One of my favorite quotes is, “The moon could not go on shining if it paid attention to all the little dogs that bark at it.” I’ve had plenty of supporters along my entrepreneurial journey, and a good number of barking dogs as well. When the nay-sayers surface, they may mean well, but if you believe enough in yourself and what you can do with the resources around you, then go for it. There’s a difference between people who just don’t believe and people who really are trying to save you from jumping off a cliff. Which brings me to . . .
- Facebook friends aren’t enough. Your true supporters are the people who believe in you before you might even believe in yourself, who step out with you and take a chance, even if they might raise some eyebrows for doing it.
- Be a cliffhanger, and then dive off. Stand with our toes on the edge of the cliff. Standing back a few feet puts you in a safer place, but planting your toes right up on the edge and looking over takes some courage. Wow, what a view you’re rewarded with though! The edge opens up a vista that you can’t even fathom from that safe place further back. My biggest successes have come when I’ve planted my toes at the edge, opened myself to the possibilities, and then dived off.
- Learn the value of Pepsi. Pepsi has done a remarkable job of reinventing itself for each new generation. As business owners, we must do the same. Complacency doesn’t mean we’ve arrived and can be comfortable with where we’re at. Complacency means everyone else is running ahead of us and eventually we have a ticket in the back row. I read once that Picasso, one of the most brilliant artists ever, could not go into a gallery that housed his paintings in his later years without being accompanied—because he would try to change his masterpieces. He was constantly reinventing and improving.
- Your masterpiece is never finished. Where are you headed on your journey? Keep your eyes and ears open. Many of the times in my life when I couldn’t understand what I was experiencing, later I was able to look back and see that it was an important step in taking me where I was going next.
How do you get to that next leg of your journey? You’ll figure it out. You’re the artist. You’re drawing your picture. Which brings me back to that purple crayon—don’t just keep it handy. Keep It sharp.