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Have you ever felt so low and powerless that all you can do is look up and hope that someone will swoop in and take care of you? I have. I was always waiting, hoping, looking for someone to save me — to remove me from my situation, to care for me, love me and protect me.
As a child living in an abusive home, I looked for that person in teachers, mentors and in older boyfriends. As I grew into adulthood, I thought a husband and a family of my own would save me. That isn’t to say I felt hopeless all the time. There are good memories of support and mentorship. But as I look back to my most empowering moments to identify that person that swooped in? That person was me.
Related: 5 Ways to Help Yourself Grow Professionally
I’ve spent the past two and a half years looking back, deciphering the history that built (or inhibited) the relentless entrepreneurial woman I’ve become today. Writing my memoir has illuminated just how much I had to be my own superhero. With this perspective, I’ve identified some strategies to save yourself:
1. Amplify every opportunity to its fullest potential
The year I started Entire Productions, a mom at my daughter’s school invited me to share an office space with her. Though I was reluctant to spend money on an office space I wasn’t sure I needed, I said yes. A couple of months in, she’d introduced me to my first corporate client, Oakland City Center, which was a $100,000 ARR client and one I still have today, 21 years later.
If something as seemingly insignificant as a chat with a parent at school drop-off could lead to my company’s first big break, what other opportunities was I discounting? Every opportunity has a possibility. Say yes, dive in, and see what you can achieve.
2. See the opportunities in setbacks, reflect, and amplify those opportunities
Setbacks, failures, mistakes and unhappy customers are a gold mine for opportunity. Finding a weak point in yourself can be challenging, to say the least. Take time to acknowledge what went wrong, and leave the shame behind. Examine what happened. Instead of focusing on what you did wrong, what does this setback tell you about your approach? Can you alter the way in which you proceed moving forward?
Nine times out of 10, a setback will improve your initiatives in the future. Begin to think of mistakes as lessons, and failures will become something you look forward to tackling, or at least not push you into the deep end of regret.
Related: Why True Entrepreneurs View Setbacks As Opportunities
3. Seek out mentors (inherently, no fee exchanged) and advisors (fee typically involved)
About 10 years ago, I began looking for ways to increase growth. My business was flourishing, and I was happy with where we were at. But I lacked one very important thing: I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
I joined a group called Entrepreneur’s Organization, and through various mentors and networking, I found that I had been running my business with about 1% of the tools available to me. I learned to seek out financial advisors, CEOs of businesses I admired and professionals outside of my industry to take a look at my business from a fresh perspective.
Since opening up my world to professional mentorship, Entire Productions has been one of the fastest-growing businesses in America for three years in a row, and I’ve been an “Entrepreneur 360” honoree two times in a row.
4. Consider mentors/advisors who are outside of the skillset you’re trying to gain
The best advisor I’ve ever had is the CEO of a $4B insurance company. I’ll say that again: The person who has given me the greatest strengths to grow my event production company specializes in insurance.
Sometimes the best mentor is one that allows you to be the expert in your field and takes on the role of an expert in the fields you are not as confident in. A mentor with a business just like yours can help you build a business just like theirs. But a mentor with an outsider’s perspective has the ability to look beyond the tried-and-true template and give you ideas that end up being an “unfair advantage.”
5. Seek out courses, read books, blogs and newsletters by successful people you admire
As a young musician in the Bay Area, I would scour magazines like Acoustic Guitar and JazzIz for tips on how to be a successful musician. A book about growing your audience suggested a living room tour. That little suggestion sparked my idea to host a local concert series, First Saturdays in Alameda. I invited musicians from all over to play. Not only did I throw myself into a crash course in event planning, but I also grew my network of musicians and clientele. Twenty years later, I now own and operate a multi-million dollar events and entertainment production company.
Take an idea, and run with it. The worst that can happen is you learn something. The best? You find something you are really good at.
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6. Laser focus on getting from where you’re at now to where you want to be
This one is hard. When you feel powerless, it is hard to separate personal from professional growth. It all ends up in this muddle of fear and shame. I’m here to tell you that a setback in one portion of your life does not have to affect everything else you’re working towards.
What if your professional life couldn’t be affected by whatever negative thing that is holding you back? What does that look like? Can you find pride in success while also holding compassion for that person suffering inside? Try not to let the negative things happening in your life set you back, distract you, or weaken your spirit.