The Surprising Truth About Building a Successful Business Doing What You Love
BY SHANA YAO
"Do what you love" - it's so cliche it almost feels fake to say it. But the truth is, it's what every creative entrepreneur ultimately wants. To live your dream, doing what your soul has led you to do, and make a lot of money from it. But when you're actually in the trenches, "building your dream business", that dream often times gets pushed to the wayside and traded for a business that feels more like a JOB, except worse, because you aren't getting a weekly paycheck at first. You're working all of the time. And some days you just want to quit.
If that sounds familiar, don't worry. You're not alone. And after spending years studying my own behavior as well as that of my clients and other entrepreneurs, I now know what's going on.
You've lost your sense of your own self worth. Your personal value and values.
Loss of your values happens when you start to sacrifice your soul in exchange for money. Creatives aren't like other people. You have a skill, a talent, and a heartfelt mission. It's not like you're selling some random widget (unless you are :o which is a whole different article). And when you decide to make it your dream, your passion becomes a commodity. You are actually selling what feels like a part of you. "For sale". And personal.
For any entrepreneur, it's a journey of personal growth when you have a business - to be forced to understand your true value, clarify your actual values, and realize that NOT having some people actually like you, is how you stand out in the crowded market place.
And unfortunately, it causes many people to NOT pursue what you actually want. Sometimes even by accident.
I notice it in my clients. In other entrepreneurs You get so consumed with running your business, trying to create the money flow, that what was once your passion, is buried in the randomness of the entrepreneurial world. Your "to do" list, and your bank account take precedence over your own happiness, and for the high achieving workaholic do-gooders, sometimes your business actually becomes an excuse for not actually addressing and facing your life.
As a child I was told to follow my dreams and do what you love. It sounded so great at a time when Barbie and Ken were living in a townhouse and jetting off to some exotic place in their cardboard airplane. But growing up, I rarely saw my dad as he spent countless hours at the office as college professor as my mom spent her days at a job she didn't love.
My parents raised me to go to college, get a job, work your whole life and then retire and die. But being the rebel that I am, I was determined to "live the dream" as I had heard was possible. I took my love of fashion, went to school for it and created a 25 career as a retail and shopping center marketing director, working with international brands, Rodeo Drive, and notable names such like Chanel and Louis Vuitton. But when I started my own business, doing what you love" became "I've got to get a job to pay the bills."
And then one day I woke up. I had been feeling this pain inside of me. This tug towards something inside of me that felt incomplete. And then I started to look around at other business owners. My clients. And I noticed that same resistance.
Resistance to stop doing what they thought was right and instead, start going for what they FELT was right. Because doing what they thought was right - trying to learn what others were doing, learning the latest social media app, trying to be everywhere on social media was keeping them STUCK.
And I woke up and realized I had a business that was supposed to make me be "free" from a "J-O-B", but I was working so hard at it that instead of feeling free and happy, I felt blocked and NOT happy. I wasn't sleeping well. And then I wound up in the hospital with an emergency hip replacement.
And I realized that I had spent my whole life trying to do things right. To do good unto others. And that I had been trying so hard at my business, trying to serve other people before myself, as a way of avoiding the one thing that I had avoided all of my life. To actually take a minute to realize WHAT actually made me happy.
I was using building my business as an excuse to not actually have to be responsible for creating a life that I really loved.
I had spent every waking minute on my business. I told myself that was my passion. But what it really was was that I kept using it as an excuse - to find my value in the validation from others. In the money. In being needed as I had my whole life.
But the trade off was my own personal value. That I used helping others, making money, and being busy as an excuse to avoid having to tell myself I was enough without those things. That when you strip away the money. Strip away the validation - that I was still a whole complete person underneath.
When we are children we are rewarded for doing good. We are given good grades if we are smart enough. We are awarded raises and bonuses for high achievements. And in your own business, you are awarded with money, clients and praise.
But that's not what success in LIFE is all about. No one lays on their death bed and thinks "Wow I wish I could have gotten more clients". Instead you think about the dreams you didn't have the courage to live. The passion you let die inside of you. The opportunities you could have had if you only had taken risks.
And the other day when I met up with one of my childhood friends who had suddenly lost her husband in a tragic hiking accident at age 47 - it confirmed that sadness inside my soul and what my real purpose in life and in my business is.
I had spent 47 years of my own life avoiding the responsibility to create the life I loved - to risk failing so I could succeed. Because overworking somehow seemed less hard than actually doing the deep work. Finding out what made me whole just being me. And now I see others doing that too. And I'm not going to sit on the sidelines and let them waste their lives too.
Life is short. My mom died overnight of the flu. My dad worked his whole life to retire one day with my mom, but when he did, my mom died, and then he got parkinson's and ended his life unable to go walk, go to the bathroom, or function alone. I don't want anyone to go another day without doing what you love, appreciating who you are, RIGHT NOW.
The Truth About Resistance
Maybe you were like me, you dreamed of a "better life". But just like me, most of the world as we know it, are working in jobs they hate, NOT doing what they love, and hoping that "some day" they will have time to do it.
"I don't have time right now - I have to work."
"Someone else is already doing that and they are so much better at it."
"I don't want to leave a secure job, and take the risk to not make money."
What you don't understand is that those excuses are actually preventing the real success that is trying to come to you.
Your Big But
Do you have a big but? No, your butt is fine. I mean your BIG EXCUSE you tell yourself everyday that keeps you from living the life that you dream of. Because if you do, it’s ok. You’re not alone. It’s actually what most people do (including myself), when we get so wrapped up in everyday life, our friends, family, distractions, and, well, making money to pay our bills.
Don’t get me wrong - making money is a priority. But if you would like to view your life in whole as one too, then perhaps you may want to listen up.
Secrets From The Pros
I have some hard news for you if you wake up one day and realize you’ve spent your life NOT doing the one thing you wanted to do and followed your heart. It’s called… YOUR HUMAN.
Haha - yes. In fact, You’re HUMAN. Research shows that we humans have 60-80,000 thoughts a day, 95% of them are unconscious and 80% of them are negative.
Wow, that’s a big kick in your BUT (I had to work that in).
But the truth is you’re human. And with all of that thought, your everyday life is like you’re living your own Groundhog Day everyday.
STOP THE MADNESS. If you really want to do what you love, NOT let life get the best of you and get the best out of your life, here are 6 steps you can take, starting TODAY, to stop living in the zone of unconscious mediocrity and start doing that thing you love, AND make money doing it. To finally be FREE and actually be HAPPY.
1. GET OVER YOURSELF.
Yes, I said it. Literally, if you want to live your dreams, you have to actually start LIVING YOUR DREAMS. It’s not going to happen by accident and it’s not going to happen if “someday” is your goal.
Life is a daily challenge. Accept it and move on. Yes you have bills to pay, a family to take care of, and chores to do, but life happens for you the moment you decide it does.
So if you want to “do what you love” - DO IT. That means, turning what you love into a business model. It’s not a “hobby” or something you do for fun. You actually have to think, if this were a business, how would I generate revenue? Who needs what I have?
This is something a lot of people struggle with, is differentiating between what they enjoy doing for fun, and what they enjoy doing but ultimately want to charge money for. This may take a little research, but understand that just about anything can be turned into a valid business. Fashion bloggers get paid millions to show how great they look in beautiful clothes. Health and fitness coaches and trainers help people workout, get in shape, and do what they love everyday. I have clients that surf everyday and live in Costa Rica while running their business.
The point is, you actually have to go for it and make it happen. NOW. Otherwise it will never happen. Someday doesn’t exist. It just doesn’t.
2. KNOW YOUR EXPERTISE AND PEOPLE THAT NEED IT
Your expertise is actually what you do best. Everybody, whether you want to admit it or not, has something that you’re an expert at. It’s a marketable skill, and expertise, something people have complimented you all your life on.
And it may not be what your passion is. It’s actually something that your life has led you to become. You do it in your sleep. Whatever that is - it fills in the who and how of your “live your dream” goal.
What do you do that you are so good at, that people would buy what you're offering and are actively seeking it out?
I help people with their business. I spent 28 years of my life running multimillion dollar retailers and shopping centers, working with hundreds of different businesses. I understand targeting specific demographics, analyzing and spotting trends, and am a trained copywriter. Even when I don't want to talk about business, it just comes out of my mouth when I can help people. It's not my passion but it's a part of me and it’s something people are googling. People need help with it. They pay money for it.
3. FIND THE HIGHEST VALUE
Find the strategic edge that blends your highest value with what you love. This is where most people get wrong. They go for what they do best even if it isn’t what they actually want.
This is where your PERSONALITY comes to play. Your highest value is your personality + your expertise = the business of your dreams. What your expertise is may not be your passion, and in fact, your passion is a hidden talent or skill that makes you STAND OUT in your category. It’s what separates you from the rest of the people who sell what you sell.
Fashion blogger influencers have mastered this with their social media and blogs. They sell their social influence to brands who want to gain customers. They do this by showing their point of view on style and fashion, and attracting people who “get” them and their style. It’s not so much the clothes that they are marketing, but how they style it.
Just like a fashion blogger, whatever business you have, the more you can show your personal take on the expertise you sell - the more you will attract the customers you want.
In marketing, it’s referred to as your “brand story”. Your business is a brand - your brand is YOU, what you sell, and how you communicate that “story”.
4.CHARGE MONEY FOR IT
If you want to live your dream and make it be how you make a living, you actually have to charge money for it. NOW. And stop giving it away for free.
This means you actually have to find the value in it - to decide what you have is something of value to others. This seems so easy, but it’s probably the hardest thing you will do. It requires a lot of self trust, knowing and trusting your personal value - even when deep inside you are filled with doubt.
Waiting until you feel comfortable to charge for it, waiting for others to validate you, will only result in confusion, LOSS of your personal value, and a lot of self doubt.
Truly, if you want to do what you love and make money with it, you have to fight for it. Know that every entrepreneur has had to go through these mental blocks. It’s about understanding who you are. How badly you want it. And then doing the work - inside and out.
5. FIND A MENTOR
If you don’t understand business, don’t understand people, and haven’t been able to do it yourself so far, you actually need to seek help.
Many people usually give up at this stage. They try to do it, and over time, lose confidence in their own abilities, and their once high value drops below the self trust line.
Mentors can either be people - coaches, strategists, consultants you pay, or they can be people in your social circle who act as trusted guides - who are willing to advise you and have experience in the goal you want to achieve.
The most important thing to remember when hiring a mentor is to make sure that they not only have the skills you need to help you build your business, but that your values align with theirs. Most people don’t mention this, but your values MUST be aligned with theirs, or you will not be capable of doing what they teach you.
It’s your internal guidance system - you’re own perception of the world - that is the unconscious way we, as humans, make all decisions in our lives. Don’t waste your money on trying to learn something that doesn’t inherently feel good to you. It will crush you in the end.
Investing in yourself is actually an energy. It’s a statement to your soul that you matter.
6. TEST, TEST, TEST AND FAIL
The definition of being an entrepreneur is, quite simply, being someone that creates things and charges money for it.
And in order to make money doing it - actually make a living off of it - you have to be willing to test assumptions, pivot, and boldly go where no man has previously gone before. And such is life, this means you are probably going to encounter failure along the way.
Failure in life is unavoidable but failure as an entrepreneur may be any one of the hardest things you will ever do. But in order to actually succeed, you need to re-think and re-define what failure really is.
Failure is NOT easy to accept and nobody purposely wants to fail. But knowing these three things that cause failure to be such a big issues in our lives will help you be prepared:
1 - Wanting to be accepted by others
2 -Not knowing what will happen and avoiding trying anything new because of it
3 -Trying to do things the "right" way (there IS no right way but the way that works for you)
Failure in life is inevitable, but if you can just grasp this one thing - real failure in life is to NOT have lived your life fully and take risks so that you have amazing experiences, NOT learned life lessons, NOT developed self trust, and at the end of your life say you lived with no regrets - that is true failure.
Failure to live the un-lived life inside of you. Learn to be ok with failure. If you can look at it more like being a scientist. Everyday is an experiment as part of your journey. And the more you "experiment", the faster you will start creating the real success you want.
These steps are simple, and while not necessarily easy, they can enact POWERFUL change in your passion driven, happy future success.
When you commit to living a life you love right now – you’re telling the world that you are enough. That you deserve a happy and amazing life with a business that you love. And while I can't predict your future, I can almost guarantee, if you actually do the work - the inner work - one day you will wake up, your personal value in tact and held high, you will have created real, authentic success, from the inside out.
I'd love to hear from you. Are you living your passion and purpose in your business? Are you making the impact you want - taking risks - and honoring yourself first? Tell me in the comments below.
Much love and success to you my friend. Trust in yourself. You are truly valuable.
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