At the beginning of the year, I decided that I was ready to start my own business. I was talking to my friend Natalia about my startup and upcoming birthday when she asked me, "So how do you feel about turning 30?" I responded, "I've never felt happier. I'm so incredibly excited about entering this new decade of my life."
Why Older Is Better
She was shocked, and I understood why. How often do we hear women say that they are actually looking forward to getting older? In our culture, attitudes toward aging certainly seem gendered. When a man turns 30, it is never viewed as a problem. As women, however, we are told that our intrinsic value lies in our beauty and our youth.
Unlike most women, I've never been self-conscious about my age. At a recent networking event, someone asked me if I was an intern, which I took as a compliment. On the flip side, when someone tells me I look older than I am (which almost never happens), I take it as a compliment as well. My mind reframes what others might perceive as an insult. I tell myself I must come across as intelligent, and perhaps more mature, for my age.
Natalia's surprise about my excitement around turning 30 made me realize something -- I think about age differently than most do. To me, the more experiences we accumulate, the greater clarity we can have about the life we really want to live. If each day, we take just one bold step towards what we truly want, eventually it is possible to create the life of our dreams.
On Being an Entrepreneur
Being an entrepreneur has always been a dream of mine. However, it was something I continually delayed. Maybe five years from now, I would tell myself. Maybe 10. In my mind, I needed to be perfect in order to be ready. I needed to have all the answers. But finally I realized this truth -- being an entrepreneur is more about a mindset than a skill set. It's about believing so passionately in your work that there is no other option but to do it. Furthermore, not knowing all the answers can actually be an asset. As my friend Danielle LaPorte says, "A beginner's mind is an open mind, and an open mind innovates."
Many people, including friends and mentors, have tried to dissuade me from starting my own business. It's much safer, they caution, if I work at an established marketing firm first, move up the corporate ladder, and then venture out on my own. What if this or that goes wrong? While their points are certainly valid, deep down in my bones I knew that I was ready. I also knew that there was no way I could ever succeed by focusing all of my attention on the worst-case scenario.
Being an entrepreneur has been both a joy and a challenge. I've had moments of extreme confidence, as well as moments of sheer terror. I've experienced extraordinary wins, as well as painful disappointments. Despite it all, I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm learning more than I could in any MBA classroom. I've never felt more alive.
The Secret About Success
At the age of 30, what makes me most proud is not any particular accomplishment, but rather a marked shift in my perception. Today, I define success differently from how I did in my 20s.
For me, success is not about the end goal or even about the journey. To me, success is a state of mind. It's about the optimism and faith you have in yourself. It's about the resilience you bring to life's challenges. And most of all, success is about quietly tuning into who you are and what you really want, and then taking consistent steps towards those goals.
The old me used to define success by my external accomplishments. Every day would start at zero; I needed to constantly achieve things in order to feel good about myself. I was constantly seeking approval. As I pushed myself to the point of exhaustion on a daily basis, my physical and emotional health suffered.
Today, the new me is different. The new me understands that being still and content can be more powerful than the constant act of striving. The new me understands that, at the end of the day, the only opinion that matters is my own. The new me understands what I've discovered to be my most powerful truth -- that self-care is the foundation of my success.
At its core, self-care is about honoring your needs. For me, my primary need has always been to do work that I love. I want to use my life to make a difference, and I want my work to mean something. I'd rather struggle doing something I love, than succeed at doing something that makes me feel empty.
When I think about turning 30, I feel like I've finally become the person I've always wanted to be. Despite the uncertainty and challenges of being an entrepreneur, I feel deeply happy, at peace, and most of all alive. Sometimes I feel like pinching myself, because I can hardly believe what I've created. Most of all, I feel grateful that I get to wake up each day and do the thing that I love the most -- promoting visionary people and helping them change the world, one person at a time.
For more by Selena Soo, click here.
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