The Entrepreneur’s Journey: More Important Than the Outcome?

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All my life I’ve focused more on the destination than the journey. Whether telling my parents what I wanted to do on our next Disney World trip, watching the clock during swim practice, or thinking about the meal I’d have when finished, I’d often not fully appreciate what I was doing in the present. In fact, I’ve often seemed focused on the next thing.

While focusing on destination has allowed me to hone my big-picture thinking capabilities, it has occasionally left me unsatisfied with the present; working towards some future outcome and not fully appreciating what was in front of me. As a result, the outcome or destination is what I often find myself most focused on.

A recent shift in my life has helped me to change that. I’ve begun to embrace the unknowns (aka “the journey”) of entrepreneurism. While understanding that the big picture has its place, I’ve come to realize that in the past I would often become attached to a particular outcome or destination. Little did I know 10 years ago that my interest in business, marketing, and branding would be the force behind this understanding.

I was raised in a family business started in 1925 by my great grandmother. Having come from a creative spirit, I found a partner and ventured out to start a coaching business that incorporated my interests of business, coaching, and acting, using the skills that I had learned in college.

Eventually, we had reached the five-year critical point of business which I had come to believe meant we were “home free.” Dedicating over 60,000 hours of my life to the business was about to pay off. We had a business opportunity that was going to blow us up. I knew that the business couldn’t move forward with the deal without changing the business structure. Then the deal blew us up in the opposite sense, and the business closed.

The business and partnership failings hit me hard. It was the first time in my life that I experienced what, in my opinion, had a been a catastrophic failure. It was heartbreaking. Something that I loved and had worked so hard for was going to be no more. I was attached to the idea of the business becoming a success and to the expected financial rewards.

In a way, it reminds me of the story of how to catch a monkey. I don’t know if this is true or not, but, it is said that in India that people catch monkeys by using a hollowed out gourd with treats on the inside. The hole is just wide enough for the monkey’s wrist. Smelling the treats, the monkey puts its hand in the gourd. When it grabs the food, the monkey doesn’t let go. As a result, it is captured because it doesn’t want to lose out on the treats. The only thing holding it captive is itself.

In this business, I was the monkey. I didn’t want to let go of the fruit. I was so attached to the concept of the business and the outcome of success that I didn’t realize how ensconced my identity was in the business. I had to change my approach and, as I was in the middle of this change, I attended a class at the School for Practical Philosophy called “Philosophy Works.” I realized how attached I was to the outcome and destination of my goal.

Attachment comes in many forms. It’s easy to see in others, but not so easy to see in ourselves. Terms like “co-dependency” get thrown about often, but we don’t always hear about our attachment to “things” like concepts, ideas, material things, businesses, people, perceptions and outcomes.

As entrepreneurs, it’s easy to get attached to any of the following:

  • Business – It’s your baby.
  • Ideas or Concepts – Again, your baby.
  • Material Things – The rewards of hard work.
  • Outcome – Success, Fame, Fortune, etc.
  • People – Those we rely on to help us accomplish our goals.
  • Comparison – Rather than acceptance of ourselves and others.
  • Perceptions – How things “should be.”

When the business blew up, my world changed. The outcome that I was attached to didn’t happen. In the coming months I had to reexamine my relationships within each area of my life. While it was an extremely difficult time, I have to say, that facing these challenges has been one of the greatest blessings I could have asked for because I was able to detach from ideas, ways of being, and people that were not good for me. It allowed me to reinvest in the journey.

Eventually, after putting in a lot of work, I found freedom and sanity in the opportunity for detachment. I decided to take a step back and reconnect with my values and by obtaining my Masters in Education with a focus on coaching and positive psychology. The work has helped me to further continue my work on my relationship with self and letting go of attachment.

Because “every thing before me is my teacher,” I now ask myself: when life throws a curve, what does this curve have to teach me?

Most of the time, I’ve come to realize that letting go of attachment is the key to personal and creative freedom and entrepreneurial success!

I’ve learned that I have to play the hand that I’m dealt and have found comfort with the “unknowns.” That’s the journey.

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