Today I’ve been chatting with several friends on Facebook – about all sorts of matters of conscience, but particularly about the notion of “SUCCESS” and how it relates to people’s idea of what constitutes “HARD WORK,” what qualifies as “self-made wealth”, and other supposed virtues ….. virtues that are, (if we believe our culture’s own archetypes, myth and narratives), to be cultivated so that we can be more like “successful” “entrepreneurs”.
Now, I don’t think I’m completely comfortable calling myself an entrepreneur all of the time – it kind of depends on when you plan on asking me,
“why, little lady, do you believe yourself to be an entrepreneur??”
Well, Have I started and run businesses before? Sure.
Events? – I’ve directed and produced dozens over more than a decade as a large events producer.
Community organizations? – I’ve started several and served on the board of heaps.
….But the thing is, to a lot of people, I don’t fit the label of a true entrepreneur.
You see, I am female, and I have two children.
For most of the last 7 years I have SINGLE parented them. They come before my business, for me, always… and certainly for the next several years until I have delivered them safely into the blissful world of Adulting.
For this reason, if I’m honest, at the moment I’m more comfortable with the simple title “self employed” over “entrepreneur”. It feels more aligned with my current life priorities.
Perhaps I’ll “entrepreneur” into another set of business ventures again soon enough, but then again, on the other hand, maybe I’ll go clean houses and use the opportunity to relax and catch up on all my favorite podcast episodes, albums and other audio delights, scrubbing away at someone else’s bathrooms all the while thanks to my smartphone and headset, without an entrepreneurial care in the world. On a level, I honestly don’t give a hoot at the moment either way. Both sound like fun in different ways.
Whatever happens in my illustrious career next, I’ll tell you THIS: I’ll be at home with my kids when they are home, as much as possible – that is my priority right now. In 2 short years, my son will reach adulthood. My daughter starts high school next year! Time is precious, and right now my kids getting a decent, present, healthy and available mother is more important to me than my career. That’s not to say that I don’t put in dozens of hours each week in my business right now, but the business is there to SUPPORT me and my FAMILY, and not so much the other way around at the moment. To everything there is a season. I can start more businesses later. It gives me a perspective that I doubt many other than mothers could really understand, and that’s generally ok.
So, at what point in this blog post is Laura going to get annoyed, you ask? My answer is here. Right – about – HERE:
During my afternoon forays onto social media, a friend shared a blog from someone who had gotten quite upset about another blog. (And here I am, writing a blog about that blog about the other blog….lolol) In this first, primary source of a blog, a well-known, very successful entrepreneur was basically boasting about how he was a “self made” success, and if he had more “success” (aka money) than the next person, it’s apparently because he “worked harder” and had something I believe a set of young men like to refer to as “hustle.” MY friend got pretty peeved about this blog, because the entrepreneur in question ACTUALLY started out by being given control of his family’s $4 MILLION A YEAR business. That’s where he started, and “self made” from – as opposed to my friend, a woman of color who REALLY knew what “self made” meant.
Now, I have to say this before I say anything else here:
Ordinarily, when I read anything that takes a person’s success and cuts it down, I’m the first to object. As a woman, I’ve been exposed to a lot of that “glass ceiling” phenomenon – the one where others, particularly women, aren’t actually HAPPY for me when I succeed – they’re jealous. In this emotional state of mulled jealousy and spiteful, catty, instinct, a handful of “friends” have managed to show themselves to me for what they really are – let’s just say I don’t count them as “friends” anymore. Sometimes, if I’m honest, I can’t quite “forgive and forget” the critiques directed at ME for being a successful events entrepreneur (at one point… the jury is still out on whether or not I want to be an events producer ever again at the moment…)…or directed at me for launching a website that is mainly about Tarot, Intuitive development, Energy healing and all that woo-woo stuff that I get up to… or criticism directed at me for what I wore when I led my first mastermind group… or criticism directed at me for having the wrong hairdo on a video, or whatever….. so I’m going to be the first to say that, naturally, when I read about someone else’s rise to success, I’m usually the first to applaud them. We are supposed to lift others as we rise. Cheer each other’s victories, and make our communities stronger through SUPPORT.
There’s one notable exception to this rule, for me, though, and that is this:
When someone not only shares their successes, but goes so far as to tell other people that they are under-performing, that they are LESS than the successful people, that they aren’t successful because they’re NOT WORKING HARD ENOUGH. That’s right about when you’ll start to see my neck tense up, and internally I usually sense my heart rate climbing, probably along with my blood pressure. Now you’ve pissed me off.
I’m going to take this opportunity to say that most of the “self made wealthy” that I have had the absolute privilege of studying with and being inspired by have a VERY different definition of what “self made” means. I’d love to see a show of hands… let’s take a random sample of 500 of these “self made types” and ask them to keep their hands raised IF…
- They have been in a profitable, independent business for longer than three years.
- Then keep their hands raised if they received NO startup investment for their business.
- Then keep their hands raised if they put THEMSELVES through university, completely by themselves… like, no help with rent, tuition, transport, etc.
- Then keep their hands up if they haven’t ever received a business, home, property or other source of income from family… in other words if 100 percent of their business was funded through their own EARNED INCOME, right from the get-go.
- if there are ANY remarkable souls left with their hands up at this point, please ask how many dependent minors each of them has at home, and LISTEN TO THEIR WISE WORDS. – THESE are the ONLY people I would count as “self made” successes, in the truest sense.
Why does the arrogance of “successful entrepreneurs” enrage me so?? – Because I see so many struggling, broke individuals with WHOLLY different sets of life circumstances and none of the lucky breaks working in their favor absolutely IDOLIZE these rich, lucky “entrepreneurs.” – Trust me (because I tried and failed, personally….), if you’re broke and don’t have a family to support you, a trust fund, or super connections with the right people, the advice of someone who had ALL of those things isn’t going to work for you the same way it worked for them.
oh – and just so we’re clear on how these “self made entrepreneurs” actually make their money, of course there are all sorts of ways they have done this. When I say I am inspired by my entrepreneur friends, a lot of the time that’s me getting inspired because of someone’s brilliant new business model, or company, or marketing campaign….don’t get me wrong. Some of the most inspiring people I know have made a lot of money in some ingenious ways that have truly made the world a much better place, and I feel very fortunate to know these people and to be able to learn from them all.
However, I am just busting to say something, finally, about one particularly nefarious pattern of “earning huge income” that I have seen develop in the “entrepreneur” community over the last decade…so here it is:
I know many, many individuals who are perfectly ok charging exorbitant sums for “coaching”. (When I mean exorbitant, I’m talking about 5000-10,000-dollar-an HOUR “consulting” sessions being charged to individuals- often women- with no existing businesses- because that’s what these individuals often charge for their time… that’s the large portion of their businesses, oftentimes – and they call it “high end consulting.”) – when I looked deeper at this “breakthrough business model” it immediately resembled a slimy pyramid scheme to me- I know HUNDREDS of “life coaches” who have paid sometimes more than 50 or even 80k A YEAR to study with OTHER high-priced life coaches… to learn to become a high-priced life coach, who 99 times out of 100 seem to be perfectly ok “life coaching” others on how to so this exact same thing.
Another lovely version of this “successful entrepreneur” game is where a couple of dozen people all pay a single life coach around 30-70K a year, to get together in a mastermind of other people shelling out the same amount to their “coach” of choice. They then pump each other up regarding how to properly “value” each others’ services, and then go around giving each other 10-50k sums for each others’ services. It’s a bit of a self-perpetuating-feeling, right??? sure… especially when seen with the perspective of distance… and it’s a bit fishy-smelling as a bonafide business concept if there isn’t a LOT more substantive growth happening to keep the “business” going. Otherwise it’s just a really inefficient exercise in moving tens of thousands of dollars around from one delusional person who thinks they have a business to another.
In other words, entrepreneurs who have less than 5-10 years of SOLID, REAL GROWTH in business shouldn’t blog about how they are “self made” and got there completely through their own “hard work” if they’re not going to be completely honest with you about how that actually happened for them… without leaving out ANY details. Did they have a loan?… or investors into their business to start out? How did they get that initial break? How do they manage their work-life balance? Do they have a family? – these are all really important considerations.
Why is this so important to me?? – because of all the poor souls I see who are trying to emulate these wealthy people!!. -.. people who are trying to “work hard”, (bless them), with none of the same foundational resources that actually could enable their hard work to pay off – (compared to the resource set, that is, that their “successful, self-made wealthy coach” actually had at THEIR disposal to build their own successful businesses from. ) -And then when these poor, average people fail to measure up to the levels of success that their “coach”-of-choice led them to believe would be available to them? If that “expert” who couldn’t even be honest enough to show them exactly what their success entailed tells them that they’re NOT WORKING HARD ENOUGH?? Do you know how damaging, how discouraging, and how downright ARROGANT that is to do to someone who needs your HELP? – This is why I get mad. This sort of schtuff.
Don’t let yourself feel that you are LESS THAN any of the already-crazy-wealthy people who claim to be “self made” entrepreneurs. They’re exceptionally lucky people who don’t fully understand how exceptionally lucky they are. They have a completely different understanding of the words “self-made” than you or I. You can get crazy-wealthy too, but if you don’t have that same privileged foundation, your path to wealth is going to understandably look quite different. Most of us have much more normal stories of normal success and normal failure to share, and I for one promise to keep my own blogging real, honest and ethical in this way for you.
I’ll promise you this – your path to YOUR exceptional life won’t look anything like that of a “highly-paid consultant” until you build a FOUNDATION upon which you can become a “highly-paid consultant”… if that’s even what you want to do. Your path will be unique – yours.
And that is PERFECT. For you.
I spent waaaaayy too long taking it personally when “successful” people turned around and critiqued others’ struggles, judged others’ stories, and reprimanded others for not having “enough hustle.” In hindsight, I shouldn’t have listened to these people. I should have found kinder inspirations who could show an overwhelmed, broke single mother how to build success. They do exist… but often, I find that they are the more humble people in my world. It takes a bit longer to find their stories because they don’t brag or boast. But their quieter stories would have been more nourishing for me if I could have only found them sooner – They would have been kinder for my heart.
If you want a young child to grow and develop normally, you make sure to protect his heart, treat him with love and kindness, support him and encourage him, and, mostly, ensure that he has everything he needs to get a great start in life. You should learn to think of yourself as a young child. Protect your own heart, treat yourself with love and kindness, and be sure that you are fully supporting yourself and your family FIRST. No amount of “hustle” is worth anything if you don’t have this foundation for yourself. In fact, if you “hustle” WITHOUT this foundation securely in place, it can have devastating consequences, ultimately even for your businesses as well as, of course, your relationships. Accomplish everything from your center – your balanced, true self, in integrity and alignment with the words, feelings and thoughts that you experience. And most of all, be humble about your successes – celebrate them, but don’t put others down to make yourself feel better! That’s not how this new economy works, anyway.
Thanks for reading, everyone – I know this was a bit off-topic for me, but it needed to be said.
Happy Autumnal Equinox, by the way. 🙂