From young, our parents attempt to decide our future. We think we know what we want to do with life, whom and at what age we want to marry, how many children we’d like to have – and figure the whole work-life-family balance along the way. When things don’t exactly go according to (my) plan, and God calls me to another path – the pathway can be gut-wrenchingly difficult.
Every journey starts with the first step and, boy, that was the hardest part.
Having come from a Christian missionary family, doing business was never in my DNA – but God had a purpose, which slowly unfolds day-by-day. No, there was no business plan. No, there were no Excel sheets on revenue targets year-on-year. All I had to offer was a willing heart – and God moved mountains to do the rest. He brought into the business the right people, at the right time.
Looking back over the past two years since LivingWord Communications was born, there’s slightly a little more clarity but what I can see clearly is that my myopic view of what’s best, often isn’t. What appeared to be ‘greener grass’ turned out as brittle weeds blowing in the wind. My so-called past failures were all building blocks of hard lessons learned about humility, willingness to forgive, and viewing myself without the rose-tinted glasses.
As we start the new decade, all of us will face the same questions in different scenarios. Are we going to trod down familiar lanes because it’s familiar? Am I going to answer the call to become who I was called to be, even if it’s the harder road? How can I leave a legacy behind me? How can I lend a hand to other female entrepreneurs trodding the path after me?
These are questions I don’t have figured out, but what I have learned over the past two years:
1. Keep going back to your roots and why you’ve chosen this path
Reading all the articles about entrepreneurship, do’s and don’ts of the journey is useful. But someone else’s journey isn’t your own. Some entrepreneurs may have a full-blown business plan and the works. Being an entrepreneur means putting everyone else first and looking out for the team first. It’s wearing many hats and figuring how everything works along the way. Keep in mind the motivation for starting this journey, especially when the going gets tough. The flame of hope seen from a lighthouse in a raging storm will only shine brighter in the darkest storms. It’s that internal compass which sets the tone of the business, in how we deal with our team, our clients and people we work with.
“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans.”
2. Beware of the lure of success or the bitterness of failure
Behind the external “face” of an entrepreneur may be the unseen face of a person facing their fears head-on, every single day. While success is to be celebrated, it could be a lure to complacency, a competitive spirit and a winner-takes-all attitude. On the flip side, the sting of failure is crushing and can be debilitating to the soul. Sounds like an emotional rollercoaster, swinging from one extreme to another. What’s the antidote?
“A good name if to be more desired than great wealth, favour is better than silver and gold.”
3. Leadership starts with serving
I’m not a natural-born leader, much more of a follower. I’m happy if someone else wants to lead but if no one steps up to the plate, then ok, I’ll do it. It’s the comfort zone mentality. How do I lead when I don’t want to lead? It’s like writing with your left-hand or balancing on a beam. It takes effort, purposeful intention and yes, bravery, to try my best. Reflect on past efforts, learn from mistakes and persevere in trying again.
I’ve also found that learning to lead others is taking a leaf from past bosses in how I was being managed. Often, bosses lack empathy and being relatable, once their career trajectory takes off the charts. I always remind myself, and my teammates, the designation behind your name doesn’t define who you are. Respect is to be earned, regardless of your title and we are all here to serve others – be it clients, or each other.
So this area is still very much a work-in-progress for me.
“But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.”
4. Get the small things right – Even when no one is looking
There’s a good reason why entrepreneurs all start from ground zero. Every bricklayer added to the business builds on the previous row. In the frenzy of getting a business off the ground, the pressure is to rush through things and quickly scale the business. But with a sloppy foundation, it could put the rest of the business at risk and having to redo or undo past work will take even more time.
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?”
5. Fighting fears with the true Living Word – the source of all wisdom
Did the scary monster under my bed morph into (fill in the blank)? The stuff of childhood nightmares might seem amusing for adults, but the subject of the fears remains the same. We’ve not grown up, but rather, transferred the fears to something or someone else. As an entrepreneur, these fears seem to grow exponentially, when you’ve skin in the game and people depending on you for their livelihood. When the worries pile up, peace gets squeezed out in the hustle and bustle. Sleep becomes a private brainstorming session on how to fix the problem.
Fighting the fear monster takes a deliberate approach to not just “face the fear” or “dig deep”, “lean in” or many other seemingly-helpful sayings. While they’re all good, the issue is that they all point us to looking inward and not upward. I’ve had to learn this lesson over and over again, especially when the panicky feeling creeps. What has worked for me is learning to trust in God in a practical way. I call it “de-onioning” or peel off the layers of worries, stresses, anger and annoyances to the Lord, on a daily basis. Best times to do it are quiet times in the morning and evening. Sometimes, I need a time-out throughout the day to talk to my heavenly CEO.
We have nothing to fear for the year ahead, because God is holding us through the thick and thin, with his righteous right hand. So when things are going sideways, quell the tide of fear with God’s Word. When things are going great, quell the pride with God’s Word.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”