When I was young, it was your taste in music that could make or break you. If you didn’t have the latest vinyl by that band no one had heard of (but everyone actually had) you were out of fashion. The cool kids were those who knew the latest riffs and upcoming bands.
I certainly don’t envy the teenagers of today who have to compete with an Instagram and social media-fuelled world. It was hard enough making sure I knew the latest trends back then, never mind throwing a globally connecting, multi-media social network into the equation.
With unachievable lifestyle, body image and wealth trending in images and videos across the internet, it is incomprehensible to think of growing up under the pressure of showcasing a perfect life.
In fact, it is not just teenagers and young people who feel that pressure. I admittedly feel that myself.
Interestingly, one of the most popular posts on my blog of all time is one about time zones. It’s about how you are on your own time zone, rather than comparing and competing with those around you.
There is a trend for flaunting success and luxe lifestyles that I worry is skewing the perception of what being an entrepreneur is really like. Rather than craving the independence and driving to make a change in the world, entrepreneurship has become a term associated with having a lush life.
The reality though, is very different. Before the private jets, the luxury holidays and the fancy cars are years, if not decades, of hard work and sacrifice. I spent years being unable to pay my mortgage, having no spare time for nights out, and even having little food to eat. The amount of sacrifice in those early years is enormous. In fact, there is a level of sacrifice that continues to this day, but in a very different way.
To be a successful entrepreneur, you have to put your heart and soul into it. When the money isn’t coming in, when things start to go pear-shaped, it is that passion that will drive you through the tough time, not the prospect of driving a nicer car. I can promise you that, speaking from experience.
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Ultimately, it is impossible to be an overnight success. Whilst it may look like people are leap-frogging to the heady heights of the business elite, behind the scenes is nine times out of 10 a very different story. I have heard of self-styled entrepreneurs who have been driving hugely expensive sports cars within a couple of years of being in business. It turned out that they had actually sold huge swathes of the business they have built from the ground up and now owned very little of what their hard work and innovation had created. However, Instagram just showcased the sports car and lifestyle, one that so many people envy.
Time and success
The challenge here is that the focus moves away from the business, and instead, onto what the business can give you in return. That’s a guaranteed recipe for disaster.
The absolutely essential ingredient of any success story is really simple. Focussing on your business and your journey. Not on those around you. We are all on our own time zones. I didn’t start UKFast until my thirties. Colonel Sanders didn’t start KFC until he was 40.
I remember reading a quote from philosopher and poet, Henry David Thoreau. He said: “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”
I think this perfectly sums up how we need to approach our own journeys. We are all dancing to the beat of our own drum, working to our own time, on our own paths – I am not sure how many other clichés I can fit in here, but the point stands.
When you focus on those around you and what they are achieving, you take your eye off the ball. You begin imitating instead of innovating. You lose that unique thing that makes your business special.
The key is being able to live authentically. No one person can be all things to all people, so why not be yourself and do a great job at it?
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