I LOVE the Olympics. Every two years, my world basically stops while I spend hours watching the Games, which is super uncharacteristic as I never watch TV and am not a huge sports fan. But the Olympics are different.
I think it’s the admiration I have for the athletes. The commitment, the passion, the discipline it takes to be that good. I mean, they’re the best in the world at what they do. How many of us can say that? They’re so good, in fact, that they make it look easy. And that got me thinking about business.
If you work for yourself, you’ve probably spent some time online learning tips and getting ideas. You read blogs, listen to podcasts, watch how-to videos, pin inspirational quotes. You follow the big-name internet marketers and join business Facebook groups.
And, if you’re like me, that’s a double-edged sword. On one hand, you can learn so much by seeing what other people have done. But on the other hand? HO-LY hell, it can make you feel like shit.
It seems like everyone is just killing it. 6-figure months, million dollar launches, overnight success. It's enough to make you want to give up because you'll never be where they are, so why even try? Well, before you throw in the towel, let's chat.
1. Give it time-- and hard work
The problem is the more you pay attention to what other people are doing, the more you start feeling terrible about what you’re not doing.
I, for one, am not having 5-figure months. I haven’t had a 6-figure launch (hell, I haven’t had any "launches" at all!), I don’t have thousands of Instagram followers or hundreds of thousands of visitors to my website.
Which is normal. These things take time, right?
Well, if you spend time online, you might not think so. Every ad or Facebook group post or online course you see would have you think that everyone except for you is making millions within their first year of business.
But watching the Olympics saved me. I watched those athletes “make it look easy,” knowing damn well that behind that ease were years of blood, sweat, tears, early mornings, injuries, setbacks and giving up all semblance of a social life.
And I realized they weren’t the only ones.
Those 6-figure launches you read about? The millions of followers? They don’t just happen. They take work. A lot of work. More work than I’ve been willing to put in so far.
And that’s ok.
2. Do what works for you
The Olympics helped me realize that you don’t have to be the best in the world to be good.
When I watch Olympic runners, I don’t feel jealous that I can’t run like them. I don’t feel bad about myself that I haven’t reached their level. I don’t want to be at their level, so I’d never even think of comparing myself to them.
So why do I do that when I look at super-successful business owners?
And there’s nothing wrong with that.
When it comes to creating a brand and a business, the most important thing to remember is that you have to do what works for you. The only dream you can follow is your own. You have to be authentic. You have to feel proud of the work you’re doing and how you’re promoting it.
Because if you don’t? You might as well not do it.
3. Listen to yourself
That said, it takes time to know what works for you. I’ve been doing this for eight months and I’m still figuring it out. The reason?
You don’t know until you do it.
If you work for yourself, you know, it’s all trial and error. You learn by doing. You don’t know your limits until you push them.
To give you an example, when I first started, I kept reading that posting inspirational quotes on Instagram was good for building a following. Allll the internet marketers were posting inspirational quotes. Inspirational quotes were a must.
So that’s what I did. I posted branded quotes from my blog posts and watched the followers roll in.
But I hated it.
I felt cheesy and inauthentic every time I posted a quote. I had always used my Instagram account to show the human behind the brand, but with those quotes, I felt like just one of the thousands of internet marketers with palm tree emojis in their profiles.
But for my business? From a branding perspective? Inspirational quotes aren’t exactly what I’d call “bold,” ya know?
The moral of the story? Don’t do something just because everyone else is doing it. You have to listen to yourself and accept that what works for someone else doesn’t necessarily work for you.
And that’s a good thing.
4. Keep it authentic
At the risk of venturing into cheesy inspirational territory, authenticity is key when it comes to building a personal brand. Yes, staying true to yourself helps you build a business you love and yes, that’s important-- but there are practical reasons for being authentic as well.
Building an authentic brand isn't just good for business-- it’s the only way to stand out.
Think about it. Chances are, your market is pretty saturated. I know mine is. So unless we’re doing something different from our competition-- something uniquely and authentically ours-- no one is going to pay attention.
Believe me, it’s not always easy.
We get stuck in that comparison trap, which can quickly become a game of copycat: it worked for them, so it should work for us. We get obsessed by what we’re not doing, instead of focusing on what we are doing. We consume other people’s work instead of creating our own.
And we lose our way.
5. Decide what business you're building
The good news? You get to decide.
While it’s easy to get swept up in the comparison game, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. It’s your business. It’s your life.
And you get to decide what that looks like.
Don’t want to work all weekend on an upcoming launch? Guess what? You don’t have to just because someone in your Facebook group did. You don’t have to post on Instagram three times a day just to get followers. You don’t have to be on Periscope if you hate video.
You also don’t have to make 6-figures a year. You don’t have to have a million followers. You don’t have to scale your business and hire a team.
I’d never encourage you to play small or limit what you can do, but bigger isn’t always better. A massive business isn’t for everyone.
And that’s the beauty of it: you get to decide what you build.
The key is making that decision and then going after it in the most authentic way possible. It’s learning from the big dogs without copying them, and without feeling pressure to do what they’re doing. It’s creating a brand in line with your personal values. It’s building a business-- and a life-- you’re proud of.
That’s what we’re all here for, right?
We started our businesses to make a living doing what we love. We didn’t set out to win gold medals, we set out to make a difference in the world -- no matter how small-- using our unique talents. There are no podiums, no awards ceremonies, no glory-- there’s just each of us, slowly working to build a business that lets us live the life we want.
And in a way, your business is a part of you. It’s an extension of who you are, what you believe and what change you want to make in the world. And, while all of that advice on the internet can be helpful, at the end of the day, it has to feel right to you.
So listen to yourself. Trust yourself. Follow your instinct.
Because running your business isn’t enough. You have to own it.