Entrepreneurship is never easy and it’s not always fun. For many entrepreneurs, the first business idea does not pan out as planned, and some find themselves left with all the grind and none of the passion. After the buzz of freedom has worn off, you may realize you don’t love the work, the industry, the product or the service that is now your livelihood. If it’s time to stop and overhaul your products and services, redirect your business and even restart your life, this article is for you.
Recently I had the opportunity to interview Gretchen Rubin in New York, which was exciting because I feel like she is sort of my counterpart; as I break down success for the rest of us into small, actually-applicable-in-everyday-life steps, she does the same with happiness.
Currently the leading authority on happiness, Rubin is the host of the wildly popular podcast Happier with Gretchen Rubin, and her books about habits, tendencies and happiness, Better Than Before, The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, were all New York Times bestsellers. Online, millions of followers watch her livestreams, take her quizzes and read her daily blog. She offers multiple tips and insights on why we make habits, how to break them, and small changes that can have huge effects on our happiness levels.
Though a “happiness bully” now, she was once unhappy, unfulfilled and unsure of what to do next. That’s when she completely redesigned her life and became the influencer she is today. Here’s her advice on how you can do the same in your life.
Get self aware.
Some say that self-awareness can’t be taught. Others say self-awareness is a given, as we are, after all, with ourselves and our own thoughts all day long. But Rubin disagrees with both, and has some great advice on how to start knowing yourself. The first tip came from her own journey, when she realized she was unhappy, even though she was already very successful in her law career (serving as the editor-in-chief of the Law Review at Yale and clerking for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.)
“Whom do you envy? Because envy is a very, very unpleasant emotion, but it reveals a lot,” she explained to me. “I would the see alum notes in my college magazine, people had cool law jobs, I was like, ‘Eh, that sounds interesting.’ But then when people had cool writing jobs, I just felt sick with envy.”
She went on to suggest some more questions.
“What did you do for fun when you were 10 years old? What part of the newspaper are you reading? What books are you reading? What do you remember easily? Those are some of the clues.”
Put aside all the “shoulds” from your community, your industry, society, your family or upbringing, etc. Examine how you naturally spend your time, energy and emotions — what gets you excited? What have you loved since you were a child?
Finally, Rubin had decided. She was going to be a writer. What did she do first?
“I went to the bookstore and got a book called something like How to Write and Sell Your Nonfiction Book Proposal and just followed the directions, literally.”
It can be as simple as that, and simpler now, thanks to Google and the wealth of blogs that exist about any and every industry. Don’t neglect this step; even if you understand the basics, make sure you research the industry, business models and customer profiles of whatever you decide to do next.
“Always educate yourself about how things work . . . . You don’t necessarily have to [get started] the way most people do it, but you wanna know how most people [achieve success in that industry.]”
Even now, with multiple bestsellers in her portfolio, she still asks recently published authors how their launch went, because the industry is changing so fast. When it comes to learning a new technology or marketing tactic, she recommends going straight to an expert.
“I know 80 percent about a lot of things, but I go to the people that know 100 percent about one thing.”
Use what you already have.
Rubin was leaving her law career, moving to a new state and trying to land an agent, even though she was an unknown. How did she do it?
“I had no clips, no short stories, no track record,” she recalled. “So I worked very, very hard on the book proposal to have every piece there.” She also used her law career as a selling point — she was the type of person who stuck with things, such as years of very competitive schooling, and did what she said she was going to do. She leveraged existing relationships she had on the outskirts of the publishing industry to vouch for her.
If you’re going to take the leap from one career, business or industry to another, consider all that you’re taking with you such as years of experience, a long list of contacts. Figure out how you can use those assets to help you through the transition.
Aspiring writers look at Rubin’s platform now and get completely overwhelmed, she explained, thinking they have to write the book, and also create a popular podcast, and also keep up social media, etc.
“The thing about these things is they’re not all that much work once they’re up and running, but it is hard to get them up and running and become familiar with them and get a feeling of how you’re gonna use them, ’cause all of this, we’re gonna have to use ’em in our own way, our own voice, our own audience.”
If your end goal has many moving pieces, such as multiple income streams, various kinds of content or more than one complex problem to solve, force yourself to only launch one thing at a time. Once one is running smoothly, add on the next.
Set yourself up for success.
The key word to this point is yourself. Rubin’s work has shown that different tendencies and personality types require different working environments for both success and happiness. You may not need to change industries; perhaps you need to change your business model. Maybe you simply need to tweak when and where you work, or which things you outsource.
Look back on your work so far, do you perform better with outward accountability or do you need spontaneity and freedom? Do you work better in a clean, calm workspace or the buzz of a busy coffee shop? What if you could love your business again simply by joining a coworking space? Find what works for you, embrace it and structure your life accordingly.
Once you do, it will be worth it, Rubin said. “The best thing is, every day, I’m like, ‘What am I interested in? What do I wanna learn more about?’ And that’s my job. That’s fun.”