How I Achieved the American Dream by Giving Up Being “Good on Paper”

10/12/2016 03:17 pm ET Updated Oct 27, 2016
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…and How to Build a Business and Life that Defies the Odds

Who’s the Boss?

In 1986, I was a freshman in high school, and Who’s the Boss? was one of the most popular shows on television. Fans of Alyssa Milano, Tony Danza, and big shoulder pads and hair that defied gravity will remember it well. Who’s the Boss was built around the main character Angela Bower (played by Judith Light), a divorced advertising executive and mom. The other main character, Tony (Tony Danza), was forced to retire from professional baseball, moved to Connecticut, and ended up taking a job as Angela’s live-in housekeeper.

This show defied stereotypes for women and men, since Angela was the main breadwinner and Tony stayed at home and took care of the family and house. At that impressionable time of my life and coming from a conservative, military family and traditional upbringing, I found this show to be a game changer for me. I saw Angela as powerful, strong, independent, and successful, and I wanted to be just like her. I remember one particular moment, sitting on the arm of the couch, pointing at the TV, and telling my dad that I was going to be “just like Angela when I grow up.”

Good on Paper

I proceeded to do everything I thought I needed to do in order to achieve levels of Angela-Bower success. I went to college (check), got an undergrad degree (check), went to grad school and got a master’s degree (check), landed my dream job (check), and married Mister Right Now (check.) Everything was lining up perfectly and I had achieved “Good on Paper” life status!

Except there was a major problem: I hated my life. What I thought was going to make me happy did not.

So, in an attempt to address my mid-life crisis, I started my own business. I turned my photography hobby into a six-figure business and poured my heart and soul into it. If you are an entrepreneur, you know how the story goes. I was working day and night, weekends, and holidays to make it work. Unfortunately, due to my preoccupation with my business, my marriage ended, and I was again forced to reevaluate my priorities.

Finding Balance

About 7 years ago, I began to strike the right balance. I gave up trying to be “Good on Paper” Angela-Bower successful and focused instead on building a business that would give me freedom. I created a business that could run even without my being there every day, and I began to share my knowledge instead of my time. Wow, what a difference this has made!

I have finally achieved the American Dream of owning my own business, but not at the expense of my family life and happiness. Three years ago I married the man of my dreams, and I am now focused on keeping my priorities straight and leveraging my tools and time so I get paid for what I know, not what I do.

Here are my top 5 tips for creating a business and life that defies the odds:

1. Design your business model around the lifestyle you desire. Most of us design our life around our business. It should be the other way around (especially if you want to have a life outside of work!). Click HERE for a free Vision Planning Guide.

2. Tap into your talents, gifts, and experience. In order to not be seen as a commodity, you need to share your unique point of view and voice with the world. Share your positive message and be an encouragement to others. Turn your tests into testimony and your trials into triumphs.

3. Don’t try to do everything yourself. Instead, focus on doing what only you can do and outsource the rest. The earlier you start delegating, the sooner you can start thriving. Hire the bookkeeper, find a web developer, get a virtual assistant. Just do it. Check out Fiverr.com and ServiceScape.com for virtual talent.

4. Turn your expertise into intellectual property. Start with a blog, then write a book. Host webinars, organize workshops, and create products out of what you know. This will create recurring revenue streams that work while you sleep. I use and recommend Wordpress for blogging.

5. Leverage technology and tools. Harness the power of the Internet to stay productive, relevant, and top of mind. Create a community of like-minded individuals by turning your message into a movement. Help others get what they want, and you’ll get what you want: the business of your dreams.

A few of my favorite tools for entrepreneurs include Basecamp project management and social media for networking.

The main takeaway here is this: Don’t be afraid to let go of your preconceived ideas of success in order to achieve the business and life of your dreams. It’s never too late to start again. With the right tools, you can leverage your talents and knowledge and get paid for what you know, not what you do, and gain the freedom you desire.

You can find more insights from Jen DeVore Richter on building a purpose-filled business, entrepreneurial life, and small business marketing atwww.jendevore.rocks

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Author, Speaker & Marketing Expert Jen DeVore Richter
Richard Fleming Photography
Author, Speaker & Marketing Expert Jen DeVore Richter
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