How Are You Defining Your Success as an Entrepreneur?

Life of an entrepreneur can often be described as an emotional roller coaster. You have a few ups and a lot of downs, especially when you are starting out.  Choosing entrepreneurship as a career is for people who can handle the ups and downs – those people who are resilient.  Entrepreneurship takes a lot of confidence and belief that what you have to offer will be valuable to others.

I have definitely had my share of ups and downs as being a business owner.  As the owner of three separate businesses, you might think that by the third business I would be set up for what to expect and an expert at building businesses. You’d think that I’d know by the third time around that I’d know exactly what to do and create an overnight success with my business. But I didn’t.

Regardless of what was happening in my business and how much success I was experiencing, I found it wasn’t quick enough, or I would hone in on my weaknesses rather than my strengths.  I would focus on the negative and not be grateful for what was going well.  I found myself letting that fear of failure and impatience creep in.  “Why aren’t I hitting my revenue targets?  I’m a failure.  What’s wrong with me?”  These are questions I would beat myself up with and punish myself.

It was like no matter what I did it wasn’t good enough, fast enough, or just enough.  What were my expectations?  What was I trying to meet?

These are all messages that can creep into your mind and play that game with you.  It makes you question your worth, what you are doing, and above all, your sanity.  You end up wondering what you were thinking, if you even have what it takes, and all the other negative thoughts that can start clouding your judgement, and worse, have you question your self-worth.

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” – Maya Angelou

When you start feeling like this, here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  1. Did I set reasonable goals?By reasonable, are they attainable within the parameters that you set out? Entrepreneurs tend to be overachievers and put high expectations on themselves, so be sure that you have set out a plan that works your way up to success, whether your goals are measured by revenue goals, client wins, or whatever else you choose.
  2. Are there clues along the way that I am on the right track? Don’t underestimate the value of non-financial wins.  Those are breadcrumbs on the trail to success.  They are the clues that tell you that you are on the right track and serve as valuable feedback.  Listen carefully.
  3. Am I really giving it my best? Be honest here, are you giving it your full effort?  Sometimes we think we are, but when you take a step back and assess the overall picture, you can see the areas for improvement.  Maybe you need to be clearer on your messaging, or you could approach something in a different way.  There is always room to tweak and improve upon a process or system.
  4. Nothing worth having comes easy, or so they say.  And with building a business, the overnight success stories are extremely rare.  Behind most of the stories there are the untold stories of being brought to the brink of bankruptcy, stressful and sleepless nights, small wins, huge wins, setbacks, and failures.

Success is rarely a straight path.  We learn and grow from our challenges.  To create an overnight success does not prepare you for the real challenges of entrepreneurism, as the challenges never go away, they just present themselves differently at each stage.

The true measure of success for an entrepreneur is measured by resiliency.  How you react and reposition after a failure is everything in how you set yourself up for success.  

When you are willing to give yourself a break, accept that building a successful business takes time, and that enjoying the process is just as important as the destination, then you will be able to define a more achievable and reasonable measure of success.