learning is hard

Explore, Engage, and Enhance

Yesterday was orientation day at my house.

The day began on a college campus, where my eldest child was embarking on his freshman experience, and I was engulfed in senses of pride, inspiration, and yes, a little fear.

While listening to introductions by the college faculty, I found myself immersed in one particular speech.

It was an art professor, who hooked me instantly by quoting one of my favorite quotes by Confucius;

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”Confucius

I sat there, letting the words really sink in and realized that this year, I fell a little ‘out of love’ with my work. Most seasoned entrepreneurs understand the ebbs and flows of business, and I knew this year, I found myself more in the ‘valleys’ versus the mountaintops.

As I reflected on this past year, sitting in the auditorium, the professor began to outline three things she wanted the freshman students to do this year.
  1. Explore
  2. Engage
  3. Enhance

She went on to tell the story of a little girl who was painting a picture with reckless abandon. Her teacher asked the girl, ‘What are you painting?” to which the girl replied, “God.”

Of course, the teacher replied, “But, no one knows what God looks like?” to which the girl replied, “Well, they will in a minute!?”

Thinking about this girl and the first thing the professor wanted the freshman to do made me realize I had stopped exploring and engaging with ‘reckless’ abandon. My work had started to feel like ‘work’, and while sometimes it’s not something you can prevent, I knew it was deeper than that.

Where was my spark? Where was my enthusiasm for projects? What was my purpose?

This train of thought wasn’t making me feel any better, so I decided to ignore my inner voice for the moment, and continued listening to the professor.

She was explaining how the girl was fearless in her exploration and she challenged the freshman to do the same. As children, we were always fearless to try things – never worrying about whether ‘it would work’ or ‘be accepted’ or ‘criticized and critiqued’.

She went on to say to those who were undecided in their professions to not stress about it. Take this time to try new things and see what ignites within you.

I realized I had been holding back for many years in my work.

I have three course outlines in my Google Drive… and not one has been completed.

Oh, sure, one would argue I just haven’t had the time to dedicate to it or the resources financially to hire out someone to do it.

But, the truth is, I’m scared.

I’m afraid because the topics have been covered already, that my audience is small (to say the least), and that no one will buy them. I’m worried I’ll waste so much of my time on something that won’t fly.

Fear of failure is crippling. It seizes you and depletes you completely of all creative energy. Click To Tweet

By this time, the professor was explaining how during your exploration, to have a full experience, you must be fully engaged.

She said so often at the beginning of her class each year, she notices students being extremely frugal and stingy while painting. They fret over each small thing, at the very beginning, and to that, she always tells them to let go! If they do not fully engage and explore where their creativity will go, they will never get to the bigger painting that awaits them.

‘It’s better to waste your paint on the front end work. If you’re stingy in the beginning you will miss your creative process.’

Bam. That was it.

That was the sentence that jolted me into my present moment.

She went on to her third point, enhance.

‘Own what is yours and what you can improve on and let the rest go. Don’t let one person or thing keep you down or hold you back from your dreams.’

By this time, I was feeling exhilarated and was quickly taking notes.

Practice reflection,” she said. “In doing so, you will learn from your mistakes. Remember, learning doesn’t always feel good.”

Learning doesn't always feel good. Click To Tweet

And that was it.

This year hasn’t felt good. It’s been a season of change and reflection. But, while reflecting, I wasn’t learning. I was pushing myself down!

Once I got home, I pulled out all my notes, outlines, and drafts I’d created since I started my business.

notebooks and notes

I then took some time and reflected on my last two and a half years of business.

I realized my business had evolved.

When I started, I was charging only $20 an hour, and some of the work I did included building websites!

I realized I had slowly said ‘no’ to certain tasks and clients that didn’t fit my ideal work rhythms or were out of scope for the work I truly wanted to focus on.

Upon reflection, I realized I had grown and was more confident about my skills.

I just did it at a slower pace.

Then again, who is to say my pace was slow?

So often, we are bombarded by photos, ads, emails, websites, profiles, products, stories – all showcasing glorious designs and statements of success and grandeur.

But, we must remember – so many of these business situations didn’t happen overnight.

A few days ago, Racheal Cook sent out an email, showcasing her new website.

It’s gorgeous! But, what I truly appreciated about her message was she was quick to say, ‘Hey, this puppy has been in the works since last November.’

That’s almost a year! And this from a seasoned, successful business woman with a team behind her!

After taking that time to reflect, I wrote down my achievements and took some time to then chart down hiccups or mistakes I made up till now.

I drafted a list of ‘business course corrections’ and have decided to do two things:

  1. I will go back to basics and really focus on the process and experience I give my clients.
  2. I will be fearless and package my services more efficiently to help grow my business.

This morning, I woke up with a new attitude. I sat down at my computer, and decided today, I’d write this blog post and send out an email for it. That, alone, is a victory, for I’ve not been very consistent in my writing.

But, I’m determined to be fearless.

I’m not going to worry about click or open rates.

I’m not going to worry about my list size or unsubscribes.

I’m just hitting send, marking this task off my list, and feeling so happy inside that I did it.

I now challenge you to explore, engage, and enhance in your business. How has your growth experience been so far? Have you found yourself in a valley and seem to be having a hard time getting back up the mountain? Share your experiences by commenting below!