There is a path of personal growth that every entrepreneur travels.
Sometimes it is quick, sometimes it is slow. Often it is painful.
Some will fall along the way but this isn’t survival of the fittest. It isn’t the survival of those who are most prepared to grit their teeth and push, hustle and prove their worth to the world.
Entrepreneurship is for those who are prepared to get to know themselves and be brutally honest about what they see.
If the glossy images splattered across the internet are to be believed, the entrepreneurial life is the high life. Freedom, wealth and total flexibility are the stories that are told. But they are not the true stories.
Entrepreneurship is hard.
It’s hard because everything comes down to you.
It’s hard because you will feel more alone than ever.
It’s hard because you will come face to face with yourself and you may not like what you see.
It’s hard because you are bringing the deepest, most intimate parts of you out of safety and sharing them with the world. When it doesn’t go as we want, when the criticism flies, when no one listens, it can decimate your sense of self. Entrepreneurs have to be able to get up from the most brutal of blows and face the same again and again.
But for those with the spirit within them, it is the only path that makes any sense. Especially, when it makes no sense at all.
My own journey and the journey of clients, colleagues and peers tell the same story over and over. There are seven hurdles that every entrepreneur must clear to find the freedom to bring their ideas to the world and for the world to pay attention.
Of course, this is entrepreneurship and clearing all the hurdles is not a guarantee of success in itself. But you can guarantee that if just one part is overlooked, success will be elusive.
It would be wonderful if these hurdles could be overcome at the flick of a switch but the reality is much more gritty. It takes time and commitment to see and work through all the blocks, barriers, thoughts, beliefs and habits that surround the seven hurdles. There are no shortcuts and no magic wands.
There is, however, a lot of magic to share.
Hurdle Number One – Creativity
Innovation and creativity are an essential part of entrepreneurship. And entrepreneurs are generally bursting with ideas.
But bizarrely, many entrepreneurs don’t give their creative spirit freedom.
There are so many preconceived ideas and conventions about what business is and how it should be done that far, far too often innovative ideas are stuffed into regular shaped boxes.
Innovation gets disguised as convention so it will be accepted more easily.
Which means it just gets overlooked.
You have to be prepared to take the risk of being different.
Accept that people will be intrigued and interested in a different take or a completely new solution. They aren’t looking for the same old, same old. Be true to your own creativity and share what is really within you. It will give you the freedom to create without the constraints of what everyone else is doing.
Which means you will be seen.
Hurdle Number Two – Visibility
You have a great idea, you’ve got out of the box, ready to speak up...
And now you feel like you are standing naked in the middle of a large crowd.
Your first instinct is to cover yourself up, not reach for your megaphone and declare your presence.
Visibility is one of the BIG challenges. Some people take to it like ducks to water but most don’t.
Getting comfortable being seen is all about the reframe.
Visibility is being seen by the right people, not by everyone. There are a million and one ways to do that which means there are plenty of ways you can choose that don’t bring you out in hives.
Know your strengths in communication and play to those. You will inevitably add more strings to your bow as you get out there bit by bit.
Hurdle Number Three – Making an Offer
Visibility maybe one of the big challenges, but offering people your services is even bigger.
If you feel uncomfortable telling people about what you can offer them there are two possible reasons.
One – you don’t really believe in what you are doing enough. In which case it is time to go back to basics and get really clear on why you are doing what you are doing.
Two – it’s all about you. From issues around self-worth, your relationship to money, resistance to creating your own reality there are a whole host of reasons and conditioning that will be getting in your way. Get brutally honest with yourself and it will be easier to move beyond them.
Making an offer isn’t purely about sales and money. There are many ways you can offer your services. If you wriggle and fidget every time you have to put yourself forward you will stay firmly behind this hurdle. The confidence has to come from within to value yourself enough to make the offer in the first place.
Hurdle Number Four – Giving
Offering services is part of a relationship and every relationship requires you to give something to it.
In the case of services, this means investing your time, energy and focus in making them happen. It means giving your expertise, insight and time and not holding back.
On the face of it, this would seem to be a pretty small hurdle to leap but there are some situations in which it can become much bigger.
If you are desperate to prove yourself and your work, then you may fall into a pattern of dictating how things should be done. Real transformation happens when people are able to explore in their own way rather than following a prescriptive approach. If you try to control the experience, your clients will inevitably try to exert their free will and experience things differently, there will be resentment and frustration on both sides. Your job is to give your expertise and allow your clients to experience it their way.
Or if you are struggling to maintain your focus on what you are doing, client work can seriously disrupt the flow! That bit of work you needed to get done can’t be done because you have clients to speak to. It’s a good problem to have but until you find a way to manage your time, there will be block on how you give to your clients. Either you will give to your clients and ignore the other parts of your business and its future growth, or you will give less than you could to your clients. Learning to manage your energy optimally is an essential skill in using it.
Hurdle Number Five – Receiving
If you make an offer to someone and they say Yes!, you have to receive them.
Client onboarding can be a big challenge and it can feel overwhelming. It isn’t just the logistics; it’s the emotional landscape that comes up when a client signs up.
What if they back out, what if they don’t get results, what if they don’t like me... it all comes up to be answered. Accepting a new client is receiving their energy, presence and expectations. It’s harder than it sounds. A lot of confidence is required to navigate it smoothly; it is definitely a learning curve.
Then there’s the money. You sell, that means receiving money. If your relationship with money is iffy, this will be a challenge. It will show up in a host of extraordinarily creative ways. Learn to feel good about what you are offering and giving, it makes receiving a lot easier.
Once these hurdles are overcome, there is the work itself. Your clients will experience your services in different ways. Some will be model clients, others will challenge you and stretch you and frustrate the hell out of you. Some will do the work and others won’t. But this is the other side of the giving coin. You get to receive the experience, the feedback, the impact of your work – sometimes uncomfortable but always valuable, receiving the change in your clients and in yourself is a big part of personal growth.
And when it is all over, there is the praise. It’s nice but that little voice will pipe up and tell you all sorts of stories as to why you can’t ask for praise or accept the praise you get at face value.
There are a multitude of ways you may squirm over receiving in your business and you can bet they will make themselves known regularly until you shift your mindset and set your boundaries firmly in place.
Hurdle Number Six – Holding Space
Businesses are about relationships on every level. That means holding space for people, which is something you cannot do effectively until you hold space for yourself first.
Entrepreneurship is one hell of a journey. It takes its toll and there is a lot of inner work to do to get through it. There are boundaries to be set, beliefs to shift, habits to break and so much more.
First and foremost, being successful in business is accepting what you need and putting it in place. It isn’t running yourself ragged to serve others, it is putting yourself first so you bring the best of you to the relationship.
Then you have the capacity to hold the space for your clients to go through their own transformative experience. You have the energy and focus to catalyse their growth because you have held space for your own growth first.
It takes a lot of energy to hold space for others. It takes strong boundaries too. If you aren’t clear on this aspect, your client work will drain your energy until you have nothing left to give.
Learning to hold the space without depleting your own energy is one of the biggest, most valuable lessons you will learn on your journey.
Hurdle Number Seven – Leading
There are many entrepreneurs who quail at the word Leader. Whether it is the historical and current stereotypes of leadership or the lingering issues around visibility, the idea of being a leader is enough to stop many in their tracks.
It is impossible to be an entrepreneur without embracing your leadership qualities. Impossible.
Your business can only move forward under your leadership.
Your clients can only experience transformation if they are inspired by your leadership.
You can only create your version of success by being the leader of your self.
You have innovated, created, shared and supported – that makes you a leader whether you accept it or not.
Leadership is much misunderstood. There are many different ways to lead – from the front, the rear or the centre. There are no requirements to be a great orator, impeccable decision maker, camera friendly and permanently visible spearhead. You get to write the terms for your leadership once you have accepted that this is your role.
Accepting it is the fast track to overcoming the seventh hurdle.
The Finishing Line
Everyone experiences this journey uniquely and there is a story or two to be told from each journey.
Entrepreneurship is immensely fulfilling and rewarding. It is also frustrating, challenging, infuriating and more. It’s just that the good outweighs the bad and that’s why we do it.
It would be wonderful to imagine a world where this essential work on ourselves could be done just the once, but the truth is that we approach it in layers. We peel off the layers one by one as we get to the root of our personal blocks and barriers. We will all probably tread this path more than a few times but in the knowledge that it will get easier each and every time.
So here’s to you and your journey. Even when you feel like you are falling over those hurdles, remind yourself that you are at least getting to the other side. There is no requirement for it to be polished and elegant. Messy and scrappy are just as effective.
Just remind yourself that you are putting yourself through this because you have something to offer the world and you aren’t taking no for an answer.