As a coach, this is a question I am frequently asked. When you add in the fact that the earth has just successfully completed another revolution around the sun, thus fueling age-old pressure to change our lives, a pressure increased by advertisers' determination to make us feel worse than usual about ourselves and our lives, and thus sell us more crap...yes, there are a lot of people feeling compelled to make 2015 their all-caps, glitter-fabulous year and START THAT SMALL BUSINESS. Okey dokey.
(The other question I get asked a lot, comes from twentysomethings telling me that they're in the midst of a "quarter-life-crisis," and so: "Carlota...should I become a coach? Like you?" *shifty eyes* No. You should stop over-thinking your existence, stop asking other people for advice, accept that you're going to necessarily make mistakes, log off of social media and START RIGHT NOW doing all the things in your heart that both exhilarate and terrify you. It's that simple and that horrific. You're not having a quarter-life-anything, you're just realizing, to your dismay and horror, that life isn't as easy or structured as you thought it would be, or as you were told it was going to be, that life doesn't care if you "did everything right." You're "just" realizing that life is devastating, unreasonable, fickle, wonderful and cruel, and that you, like the rest of us, are going to be frustrated in others, in yourself, that your heart is going to be broken, that ambition takes a terrible toll, that life is full of enraging, unfair choices...and so what? You're still lucky to be alive. I sound like your memaw, but I'm right. As long as you're alive, there's hope. So stop whining. No one cares. Turn off your smartphone, turn off your TV and go do what scares you. )
Back to the small business portion of this rant. I have many opinions about people starting small businesses because starting my own small business saved my life. I had wanted to start a coaching business originally in 1999, and after almost a decade of excuses, working in TV news, law school (i.e. more excuses), whining, drinking heavily and even more whining, I finally, with much terror and very little true understanding of what I was letting myself in, did it. In 2008, I gave up and gave in and launched my small business, because I couldn't bear to be defeated by my own life.
Today, I have a fancy office on Park Avenue. Today, I get paid to yell at, um, give advice to people around the world, and quite a few of these same people sit in my office and think, "Hmm, I could get used to this." Quite a few of them then say, "Carlota, you remind me of me; I also want to start a small business. Your life is awesome. " As my eyebrow dances in my hairline, like lightning on a summer evening, I think,"Hmm. Is that what you think. Awesome. Hmm." Let us count the ways:
-I haven't taken a vacation since 2008. (All my time and money goes right back into the business.)
-I sleep, on average, about 4 hours a night.
-I work 7 days a week. I work late at night, early in the morning, on major holidays: I work. If I'm alive, I'm working.
On the other hand, despite the exhaustion, despite the unrelenting pressure, my life truly is awesome because I've never felt this alive. To witness an idea that was once a fantasy come to fruition, and to see the impact my ideas have on people's lives, to receive texts from people saying, "You saved me..." Well. I cannot adequately express how that makes me feel. Vacations come and go, designer clothes go in and out of style, but nothing compares with living one's dreams. I say this as someone who wasted years living my fears and my doubts. I'll always take the hardest day of my life today, than the easiest day of my past existence. Fear is no kind of life.
All of this to say, if you have been thinking about starting a small business, yes, maybe 2015 is the year you should do it. But that decision depends on you and your attitude. Far more important than any business idea or business plan is your ATTITUDE. Your attitude will determine your success or your failure. There's plenty of people who start successful businesses with no money and crap ideas, and plenty of people who fail with great ideas and tons of cash. If you want a fighting chance at success, your attitude is crucial. Therefore, here's some things to consider:
Can you learn from your mistakes?
Can you even admit your mistakes?
Do you understand that mistakes are part of being alive...or do you seriously think that perfection is mandatory, and mistakes are heaven's judgment on you for being human?
Can you make difficult decisions and live with the outcome?
Are you able to understand why you make your choices, for better or for worse?
Do you know yourself? If not, are you willing to do the hard work of looking within?
Are you starting a small business because you're passionate about your idea...or is it because you despise 99% of the people in your Facebook feed and you hope your triumph will bring you a bright, new shiny life, full of bright, new shiny people?
Can you handle spending long periods alone?
Can you handle financial insecurity? Can you build and generate business despite horrendous financial insecurity?
Are you flexible enough to create your own schedule, yet disciplined enough to do the hard work flexibility demands?
Can you sustain yourself with your dreams during long periods of poverty, adversity and indifference?
Do you have social skills? Do you understand that empathy is more than the latest NPR social experiment of the week?
Does your opinion of yourself matter more than that of anyone else?
Do you trust and value your judgment?
Do you have a sense of humor?
Do you understand that failure only comes when you give up?
Is the sanctity of your inner life more important than wearing the latest clothes, or having brunch or impressing others?
Being an entrepreneur is very trendy nowadays, but it's not for everyone...and that's fine. My small business saved my life. Meanwhile, there are many other people who will never start a small business, and they will be just as happy in their lives. If you do decide to start a small business, your business will be a success if it achieves YOUR goals. If your business makes you happy, you're a success! Some people want to eventually run the world, others just want to teach a monthly intro pottery workshop. Both ways of doing business are equally valid. As my parents always say, "If you're happy, we're happy."
Perhaps, instead of asking yourself if 2015 will be the year you start a small business, ask yourself if 2015 will finally be the year you start listening to and respecting your own voice. Perhaps 2015 will be the year you'll commit to making yourself happy.
How hungry are you.
"We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be."- May Sarton