There is a lot of excitement in the Barber-Starkey household these days. Our three-year-old daughter, Tiana, is performing in her first dance recital in a few weeks. The younger children are sharing the stage with the older, more experienced dancers, so it is a big event and Tiana is practicing up a storm. Well... not so much. The other day, when my wife Marianna suggested to her that she practice her routine as a ladybug, Tiana turned to her and announced, "I'm going to do my own thing!"
In a way I felt gratified, realizing that my daughter is becoming her own person. But her declaration also reminded me of the many times I have heard the same statement from aspiring entrepreneurs who are struggling in their businesses.
Doing our own thing is a natural human desire, especially for those of us who prefer the uncertainties of self-employment to the comparative safety of a nine-to-five job. We don't choose to start our own businesses because we want to fit the mold. We believe in ourselves and want the freedom to express our individuality; to "do it our way."
The most appealing part of doing your own thing is the freedom to step beyond the constraints of the mainstream; to ski outside the boundaries, so to speak. Expressing yourself in this way is a wonderful thing, but if not done right it can lead to struggle and failure. Most of us know artists, writers, inventors - in fact people of every profession - who live below the poverty line because of their dogged determination to do things their own way.
Why is it that some entrepreneurs succeed on their own terms, while the majority fail? And how can you succeed financially and materially and also do your own thing?
To start with, there are some fundamental laws in business and also in every industry or profession. You can ignore them if you wish, but you do so at your own peril.
For example, the most fundamental law in business is the "value proposition." People will only hand over their hard-earned money if they see the value of what they are getting in return. It does not matter how excited you are about your product or service. The customer's perception of value is the only thing that counts. You could even have a product that really is fantastic for the customer, but if they don't see it as relevant, valuable and affordable for their situation, you are not going to succeed financially.
In addition to general business laws, every profession and industry has a set of tried and true guiding principles it follows. The key to success is to respect and truly master these fundamental rules before you break them.
You only need to look at the successful entrepreneurs, performers and artists who have forged their own paths to realize this is true. The famous fashion designer, Coco Chanel, trained with a master seamstress for many years before launching a line of clothing that broke all the fashion rules of her day. Automobile manufacturer, Henry Ford, apprenticed as a machinist before establishing the Ford Motor Company. And Steve Jobs worked for Hewlett Packard and Atari and was mentored personally by William Hewlett before co-founding Apple Computers.
These and other innovative entrepreneurs who made it big all mastered the fundamentals before doing their own thing. They did not ignore the established principles when pushing the limits; they were able to bend and even break the rules because of their deep experience and understanding of them.
I'm no exception. Before starting ProCoach four years ago, I had been heavily engaged in personal development work for almost 20 years. I was certified as a Master Coach and was earning a six-figure income coaching self-employed entrepreneurs. Harv Eker had mentored me extensively and taught me the basics of designing and marketing a group coaching program. My many years of study and experience gave me the foundation I needed to create my own coaching system and develop a unique way to help my clients achieve their goals faster.
But what about people like Richard Branson, the billionaire who challenged the establishment from a young age as a magazine publisher and record distributor? After all, he become a millionaire when he was only in his twenties. In some ways Sir Richard and others like him are exceptions because they are blessed with the gift of genius. What is different about these people is that they intuitively know the rules and do not need to learn them the same way as the rest of us. However, they still understand and work with the same fundamentals.
What does this mean for you? I suspect that if you are one of those rare geniuses like Richard Branson, you know it by now. If that is the case, by all means ignore my advice.
If you are like the rest of us you can still succeed doing things your own way, but first you need to earn the right. Whatever industry you are in, become an expert. Read everything you can get your hands on. Look closely at what your competition does. Study with the masters. You might even approach some people whose track records you admire and ask them to mentor you. Build a strong foundation and you can fly with the eagles instead of landing up with the turkeys.
In the meantime, if you want some good entertainment, Tiana's recital is taking place soon. Come and watch someone who, unlike us adults, can do her own thing and get away with it!
Master Certified Coach
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Andrew Barber-Starkey is a Master Certified Coach residing in Vancouver, Canada. His coaching program, the ProCoach Success System, is designed for entrepreneurs, small-business owners, self-employed and commissioned sales people who want to double their income while simultaneously doubling their time off within 3 years.
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