When I first started my leadership coaching business, I dug into it like any other project plan that I was launching in corporate America. I started dreaming and scheming. I opened my spreadsheet and planned out revenue - income and expenses. And when I was looking at expenses, I accounted for marketing expense, operational expense, business startup costs, amongst others.
But, I missed a big one.
I overlooked an important obstacle that is most expensive to my business (and my career!), not just in financial terms but also in my peace, sanity and potential. That expense is my mindset. Not doing, not acting. While I’m not certain yet how you quantify this on a budget line, the closest thing that I can think of in the economics world is opportunity cost - the cost of things we don't do. Why don't I take action on things needed for my career or business? Most of the time, it’s not because the means are lacking, it’s because my mindset is lacking.
My leap into entrepreneurship from Corporate America revealed three expensive mindsets I've held for far too long. Are any of these three costing you, too?
When I’ve been called to do something new in my life, I’ve often feared the destination unknown. And as much as I dislike chaos and feeling out of sorts, many times I’ve chosen this “known chaos” and conflict over the unknown outcome of a big decision. Ambiguity just felt so darn scary. What if I made the wrong decision?
One thing that seems perennially true is that my gut is never wrong. That quiet, steady way of knowing. The gentle nudges that just wont go away. The still small voice.
Looking back, stalling on these nudges (because I feared the unknown) was expensive. It cost me my peace. In my career it cost me the satisfaction of contributing ideas. Stalling kept me playing small, impacting promotions and my paycheck. In my business today, one of my biggest expenses is stalling on putting out new programs for fear that it might not be perfect, it might fail.
We have clarity on more than we realize. When we slow down enough to notice we deeply know what feels of peace, joy, love - what lights us up, fills our energy bucket, and helps us give our best selves to others. Could following that ever be expensive?
Find your smallest, bravest next step. When I have an idea or a constant nudging, the worst thing I can do is try to imagine tackling the whole thing at once. That seems to be a sure way to wake up my doubtful and fearful Inner Critic. So, I play the game of “halfsies” – breaking the project down in microsteps until I unravel the smallest, bravest next step to take that day.
The second habit is not asking, which is something I witnessed frequently in Corporate America as an HR leader and hiring manager. And yet, I struggle with it myself. The U.S. Census Bureau reveals that women only earn $.80 for every dollar a man makes. There are many reasons that create the #genderpaygap in the U.S. today. In fact, #EqualPayDay for 2019 was April 2. It's the day of the year that symbolizes how many more days women must work to earn what mean earned the previous year.
There are many factors that contribute to this gap, and one of those reasons is because women tend to ask and negotiate less often than men. We often get busy citing all the reasons why we aren't qualified. How many times have you thought about asking for a salary review or negotiating your salary offer, but thought maybe you would come across pushy if you asked? Have you ever thought about applying for a higher paying job, but didn't because you didn't meet 100% of the qualifications?
We’ve heard varying messages as women in our generational stories that it's not polite to ask or we don't want to look needy, greedy or pushy. This thinking results in many missed opportunities where simply don’t ask for something we desire, let alone negotiate a given offer.
Yet, a consistent source of learning for me in my new business is that the biggest leaps come having the courage to send an email. We are so worried about what people will think, and yet, most of us are just thinking about ourselves. Others think about us less than we make up in our heads. Given that, most people are unaware of what you want unless you ask for it. So, whether you're in corporate America or running your own business, it’s a good habit to practice telling and asking.
Practice small asks. Start practicing growing your comfort with small asks like asking for an upgraded restaurant table or airplane seat. Negotiate your cable bill. Building a habit in gaining confidence in practicing small daily asks builds courage for the high-stakes asks. I’ve personally had to make it a goal every day to make one small ask whether it's setting up a meeting to share an idea or negotiating a price. You are worth asking for! You are more than qualified, more than worthy, more than ready.
The trap of thinking that opportunities are scarce leads me down an insecure path of path that there is a limited amount “success spots” for everyone. Looking back, I can count many times when I had the crazy thought that I was a victim of someone else's success - meaning that if somebody else was succeeding or earned a promotion that I wanted, then nothing was left for me. Reflecting now, I what I was actually fearful of was losing my identity - who I was, what I wanted to do, or specific talents. What I learned was that my identity is unique and God given. How can I lose what can’t be lost?
When I was believing the world was a scarce place, it caused me to play small. Like me, have you ever thought, “Well, since they seem to be talking about that, maybe there is no room for me to do that… Since they got that promotion, maybe I won't pursue my passion or that line of business.” A scarcity mindset conjured up my tendencies to hesitate or even quit. It has a huge opportunity cost because it means that I'm not putting out into the world those specific and unique gifts and talents that only I've been entrusted with and that I've been called to do. Instead, it's more helpful to me to reframe my view of the world as abundant.
Reframe with abundance. Dare to imagine that our Creator wonderfully placed on this earth, at this specific time with unique gifts and talents. But even better, He actually created a world that has abundant opportunities for us to actually use the gifts and talents that built us with. This reframe brings much more peace because it frees me to move more confidently through the world knowing there is enough infinite opportunities, and, perhaps we can conspire to help each other be successful.
Making the leap from Corporate America to entrepreneurship is teaching me long-needed lessons in keeping my eyes forward and taking brave next steps in the direction that I've been called to go. These mindset habits are expensive in terms of money, yes, but also for my peace and sanity. It drains us of our ability to actually show up and be seen and give our gifts to the world. They keep us learning and collaborating with people in the way that we're meant to do.
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