Life Lessons through Entrepreneurship

I’m building an app.  

There.  I said it.  

I’m building an app and I am not ashamed that there’s a possibility I may publicly fail.  (Lie #1)  

From here on out, I will shout from the mountain tops to anyone who will listen that I, Ashley Williams, have committed to the potential of something great.  I refuse to shy away and cower in protection of this small, nearly nonexistent thing I have poured so much of my time and energy into.  I have great confidence that this work of today will be the shinning foundation of the future I am creating for my tomorrow.   (Lies #2 and #3)

I have not been on this entrepreneurial journey for long, but I’ve certainly learned a lot along the way.  These are some of the lessons that building an app with no skills in development have taught me.

Lesson #1: Entrepreneurs lie.  A lot.

Before you throw me off the deep end, let me explain.  I am not the most confident person you’ll meet on the street.  Yes, I successfully completed high school, went on to earn a degree at a university 2,000 plus miles from home, jumped into an MBA graduate program having absolutely NO background in business and decided kick the 9-5 for the freedom of the entrepreneurial life.

Who exactly knighted me with the authority to do that?  No clue, because I am one of the greatest instruction followers I know.  (I mean, not all the time, but let’s say relatively speaking.)  Give me some directions and I’ll get to the final product.  Tell me what to do and I got you.  Break down the gist of what you’re generally looking for and I will run like the wind, returning with a result that will likely surpass your initial expectations.

I am great at taking orders.  I never really like the restriction, though — so I’m the queen of taking someone else’s structured something and making it my own.  (Yeah, I’m that chick in your Sip and Paint class that asks for colors that weren’t offered on the palate and ends up with the same background in her painting as everyone else but a completely different focal point.)

Now, all entrepreneurs may not necessarily lie to themselves as much as I do, but I know confidence is a major part of most entrepreneur’s success.  We all know someone (maybe it’s you) who always has these awesome ideas but is too afraid and comfortable to leave the front porch.  

In essence that was me, but I no longer wanted it to be.  So I lie to myself.  Daily.  I try to work like I already have the wildly successful business.  I talk to people as if my app already exists and I sell it as if I can’t believe you aren’t already using it…when in reality I have nothing.  I’ve learned that if I don’t believe in the possibility of it, why should anyone else?

In the wise words of my father, “fake it til you make it!”.

Lesson #2: The magic is in the execution, not in the details

I’ve hit this entrepreneurial lesson hard. Multiple times. And honestly, this lesson really teams up with the mantra of “there is nothing new under the sun”.

I don’t think it was necessarily silly for me to believe that there is “nothing else in the market available like this” or that my idea would be the prototype for “x” industry, but the reality is, people will use the resources they have to find the solutions they need with or without your business — and many times there’s already a system in place to do so regardless of how inefficient it is or not.

So…then the magic is in the details, right?  

Wrong.  

At least not for me.  Even now I’m still working to remind myself that the magic is not in what I’m offering, but it’s execution and efficiency.  In the beginning, this was really hard for me to understand.  I’m an analytical girl who’s always dissecting her detailed world but the ever growing tasks and due dates on my to do list are constant reminders to let that go.  

I just don’t have time to focus solely on details if I want to execute!  Every day I’m reminded that striving for perfection only leads to unmet goals.

Lesson #3: Understanding your personality, work style and motivators is more than half the battle to success.

Man oh man.  This is something that’s become very apparent in many areas of my life, from relationships to fitness.  Entrepreneurship has proven to be no different.  

Until I got to the point where I realized these were important factors of my productivity, I was fake productive.  No, really.  I’m good at spinning my wheels without necessarily reaching any goals.  Throwing things together that aren’t quite cohesive enough to create value was a never ending thing.  

The A for effort felt good though…until it didn’t.  Eventually I had to come to terms with who Ashley is.  Once I was able to truly see myself in the mirror, it hit me:

  1. I cannot function successfully without structure — even if that means it will cost money.  From killing it in the gym with crossfit to joining the Apps Without Code Bootcamp, I do much better when I have a set plan to follow, an accountability group to check in with and a to do list to cross reference.
  2. I need the freedom to explore who I am in my work.  Anything that’s too restrictive is depressing and frustrating.  I’ve got to be able to express who I am and explore what that  means in an environment if I’m going to be successful.  So yes, I need to change background colors, fonts and screen layouts.  It’s imperative for my sanity!
  3. Sometimes I just need to strive for good enough.  That feels horrible to say aloud, but I finally understand that my over analytical virgo mind will get the best of me and my productivity in the small details if I allow it.  Every day I have to consciously make a choice not to get wrapped up in details that will hinder my progress and execution.  Some stuff can wait to be picked over later.  When it’s time to focus on the bones, commit to focusing on the bones, Ashley!
  4. Bite sized goals help me keep a healthy appetite for success.  Like anyone else, I get tired.  I may start out excited, but sometimes I just lose steam.  Call it elementary, but small, attainable goals are very important to me.  It’s a lot less likely that I quit if I make progress palatable and give myself plenty reasons to celebrate.  So yes, I’ll take my “Awesome Work!” star sticker, please and thank you!

I’m forever grateful for these entrepreneurial lessons but the crazier thing to me is how translatable they have been in my life as a whole.  Overall, I am confidence building daily and know if I keep putting one foot in front of the other, I’m bound to accomplish all those deferred dreams in due time.

Watch me work!

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