Everyone wants to know the secret to success, but success doesn’t look the same to everyone, and every business is different in terms of what it needs. Having been in the “game” of this since 2011, I thought I’d share the 5 unlikely things that had the biggest impact on my business.
Work less, not more.
As a society we’re indoctrinated that we have to work all the time to be the best at what we do. Early on I learned the lesson that too much work led to self-inflicted health problems that definitely didn’t do anything to help my business. Over time I’ve learned to make sure to build in plenty of down time into my schedule (although it’s still never quite enough) in order to process information and let my ideas percolate. As I do this I’ve become more laser focused on the kind of work I want to be producing and taking on.
Tip: Just because you have a free slot on your calendar doesn’t mean you have to fill every minute. Don’t overbook yourself because inevitably new opportunities or unexpected curveballs will come up.
Step away from the computer.
I know it seems counter intuitive to unplug when you need to get things done, but I find it makes the time I am in front of my computer far more productive. I’ve learned that my best ideas rarely happen in front of the computer, but rather while I’m out walking, making connections in the metro, or swimming. I’m all about having a paper notebook nearby, and my favorite marker pens. I joined the gym less to get in shape, and more for my mental health and to make sure I move my body and don’t sit at a desk all day. In offering tours I’ve also managed to find a way to get paid to step away from my computer, and to connect with people.
Tip: Consider what you know you need to do in order to produce your best work. Moving forward this may also involve thinking about alternative ways to monetize your work. Passive income is ideal, or just something where you don’t need to be connected 24/7..
Talk to strangers.
Every year I pick a word or theme of my year. This year is “talk to strangers”. It’s a good reminder that we all need to get out of our bubbles and there’s a world out there to learn from. Networking was always exhausting for the introvert in me, and the whole idea of it kind of made my skin crawl. But then I started to think of networking as making friends. I set a goal to talk to one new person at every event I go to. It doesn’t have to be an earth shattering conversation, but I’m there to help push myself out of my comfort zone and to listen to them and be open to learning something new. Inevitably in every interaction I have these days I learn something I can apply to some aspect of my business. I don’t directly ask them for help or to work together, I just listen—really, listen.
Tip: Sometimes putting yourself out there means going to an event alone so you don’t get stuck only chatting with your friends. Don’t not do something because you can’t find anyone else to do it with you. I’ve found doing something that scares you is one of the best ways to grow.
Listen to podcasts.
Podcasts have become an integral part of my business education. I like to think of them as eavesdropping on awesome conversations. Anytime I hear something discussed that piques my interest, I’ll just down a note and look it up later. I often buy the books of the guests (or hosts) which further sends me down the rabbit hole of discovery. Because sometimes you just need to know something, or someone exists, in order to be inspired. When it comes to pods, I’ve learned that the best way for me to take podcasts in is to listen while I walk. If I listen at my desk or at home, I’m more likely to tune out and get distracted doing something else.
Tip: Start with what interests you. Here are some of my favorites which I regularly update.
Invest in learning.
Whenever I find an awesome conference or workshop I often share it with friends or my network. 99% of the time people respond saying it’s too expensive or they don’t have the time. For me, these kinds of events are a no brainer. As soon as I started prioritizing my time—and money into learning and investing in myself, everything in my business started going so much better. It helps that I can business expense things to justify the expense, but even if I couldn’t I’d be asking for these experiences as gifts for Christmas or my birthday. The ones I’m most attracted are not the most expensive offerings in the world. They’re the best investments for me. Some may be online workshops, others are the perfect excuse for me to travel and get out of town—a double dose of inspiration. I still love learning from free webinars and talks that have been recorded and posted online, but there’s something about going somewhere to be in the same place that really makes it sink in.
Tip: Don’t be afraid to branch out beyond your immediate industry to learn something new. I always consider learning something new and figuring out how to apply it in new ways as a great super power. For me, I’ve learned everything from graphic design for film to screenwriting. In 2017 I went a bit crazy learning new things.
Ok, it’s your turn! What’s your secret sauce to success? What have you learned about business or the way you work that has surprised you or you wish you had thought of sooner? I love learning from fellow creatives, entrepreneurs, and small business owners.
photo credit: Ashley Ludaescher