Good advice is always best when it comes from someone's personal experience. And when that person is someone you know or have something in common with, you regard that advice as even more valuable.
In the space of about a year, I stopped doing 20 unusual things that were somehow preventing me from living at the level I really wanted to. I call them unusual because you would not normally consider them, when you think of things that are holding you back.
But wait until you release them...
And what's more, as we small business owners know, anything that's holding us back, is doing the same to our businesses as well.
When I finally, reluctantly (they were such a part of me!) released these things, I felt like I had release the brakes on some hidden part of my life. When I thought my self-esteem was high, it went even higher. I now feel so much more liberated and overall, I worry even less (something I did not think was possible).
And since I'm just like you, I'm using my experience to give you some good advice so you can improve your life and your business together.
So, in no particular order, here are those things I stopped doing and if you're guilty of doing any of them, I want you to stop right now!
1. Believing that opportunities are "missed" or "lost"
They’re not...they’re all around us. And the ones YOU didn’t take up were taken up by someone else, who needed them more than you. This frees you to take up those that are just right for you.
When I embraced this truth, albeit encouraged by my sons, I also became better at evaluating opportunities and selecting only those that were right for me.
So stop regretting that you did not or could not take up an opportunity that was offered to you. Bless it and let it go. But at the same time, keep your eyes and your mind open to those that are just right for you. And if you have the habit of planning for investment, you will also have the money to finance them.
2. Saying "yes" to people who don't respect my time
If you claim to be close to me, then you should have a good idea what my life is like and how I spend my time.
You would think then, that most of my "friends" would be like this one particular friend. She believes that to ask for my assistance with anything, first of all, she needs to be clear what she wants. Then she searches my websites to see if I have already addressed it there, and finally selects the right questions to ask when she calls.
Compare this with others who want help with a proposal they haven't even written yet. And when I direct them to my website where I have a detailed post on the topic, they have the nerve to be annoyed. Or others who send me a document and ask me for 5 questions they can ask at a meeting. Really?
At first I tried to help but that only seemed to encourage them to go all in. And this really started eating into my time to do creative things I wanted to, to think...or even to do nothing at all. So I stopped saying "yes" to as many as 90% of those who were asking for my time. Moreover, I don't even provide a reason.
So I'm here to give you some really good advice. You don’t need to say "yes" to everyone’s requests. You can say "NO" and not feel guilty about it. After all, it's your life and you deserve the breathing space to think.
3. Trying to help those who do not need your help
I forgot completely that my grandmother always said,“You can take a cow to water but you can’t make him drink!” The truth and wisdom of this hit me only after I took “many cows" to water who refused to drink!
Good advice: However desperate a situation appears, however helpless someone seems to you, you sometimes ought to wait to be asked for help, instead of deciding that a person needs your help. If you can do this more often, both you and your reputation will be the better for it.
4. “Cute-naming” issues, behaviors and things
I know it’s fashionable to be politically correct. But a problem is a frigging problem which for the most part, you created. It’s not a challenge. The challenge is for you to come up with solutions and that’s why I'm here to help you.
Here's another example I'm sure you're familiar with. A tantrum from a child is a tantrum and you must deal with it as that. It’s not a “rare and delicate display of future leadership!” as I have heard it described.
So if you're guilty of "cute-naming" issues, whether in your business or your life, please stop now!
Label things as they really are and you will come up with better solutions, and much faster.
5. Pretending that good-looking and attractive are not important
Any naturally good-looking woman (or man) knows how this attracts haters like cats to sardines. So, when you're complimented, you play it down with something like “Who? Me? You must be mistaken!”
If you're guilty of this, then stop now.
You see, there's a good reason why being attractive matters. When you're a small business owner, whether you like it or not, people make judgments about you and your business success, purely based on how you look.
If being attractive means that they think you and your business are successful, why get in their way? By all means, do all you can to be attractive and make your business stand out in a crowded marketplace.
6. Reading every and anything
Giving you this advice is bittersweet for me since I usually read every and anything.
But as small business people, we really need to read more of what's helpful to our personal growth and what helps up to scale and grow our businesses. That means that your reading cannot be all over the place.
So to focus your reading, ask yourself "what do I need to learn to____? Fill the blank with an answer that right for you and your business. In this way, instead of reading just what you feel like, you're now reading something relevant to your needs.
Listen, contrary to popular thinking, reading to learn doesn't have to be boring. Find the writers on your topics whose styles you like or those whose styles are entertaining, and read their work. In this way, your reading won't feel like studying.
7. Promising to write a book...
Yeah...stop promising to write a book and write one!
However unimportant you think you are, you have a story that can help someone out there.
Even as I give you this advice, I still have 2 half-finished books on my computer and another 2 in my head. But before you go "look at her!" it's s not like I wasn't writing. Check the evidence here, here and also here. More than writing a book, I really wanted to help you grow yourself and scale your business so I used my blogs instead.
So I want you to start writing. You will hate what you write at first but the act of writing will bring discipline and clarity to your work. It will also improve your communication skills. And guess what, if you read more (see #6 above) you will be encouraged to write more.
8. Waiting for big businesses to give something call “service”
I had become very good at kinda ignoring them and trying to lead by example. But then my local internet and cable provider messed up and told me I couldn’t get the issue resolved anytime soon, I-completely-lost-it! I back-flipped through a straw, and" bewsed" every agent and supervisor right through his and her entire family tree!
Even though the issue was eventually resolved in about 25 minutes, I felt embarrassed that I had behaved that way and sorry that that was how I had to behave to get the service they always promise.
So my advice to you is to stop waiting for big businesses to give something called "service". Use your small business to demonstrate what great customer service looks like. When all is said and done, it's one of our best competitive advantages.
9. Being uncomfortable with NOT having money problems
Bear with me on this one. I came from a place where I was $100,000 in debt with no way out except to hold on to my faith. Not to be braggadocious but today I am relatively debt free and drama free. But guess what?
Instead of celebrating flat out, I find myself trying to fit in when friends and colleagues start talking about their financial problems. So, I would reach into my life...and ah yes...there it is...that broken shoe heel I didn't have the cash to fix...now I have a money problem! Now I feel like I belong!
Well, I'm done with that!
As a matter of fact, here’s some good advice for you: If you don't have any burdensome debt, celebrate this fact and don't be shamed into feeling uncomfortable with it. And for those of you still have debt, you don't have to feel less than human because of this...
10. Being sorry that person “X” or “Y” is no longer on my to do list
If you’re no longer on my to do list, it just means I’ve outgrown you. No offence. I’m committed to my own growth and no, you will not be part of my network.
That's my current position but I did not come to it easily or quickly. I usually agonise long and hard over giving up "good" friends colleagues or clients, even though I know the relationships have run their course. For example, check out # 3 above.
So if you have to remove someone from your network, do so professionally and let them go. Growing your business and developing yourself often makes this inevitable.
11. Trying to do the right thing for my family
As we say in our house, "I don’t know who sent me" on this one!
I can only think it must have something to do with the death of Jesus Christ and my trying to fill his shoes. But several “telling-offs” by some of the recipients of my crusade, forced me to beat a hasty retreat. Lucky for me, I stopped playing Saint long enough to be able to think “I told you so!” when things turned out just as I was trying to prevent.
Look, family is family and we cannot choose them. Don't get me wrong, I love mine and you should love yours too. But I advise you to try not to meddle in their business, driven by your need to do "the right thing" for them. They are adults and we should allow them to make their own choices.
12. Neglecting to call out people on rude behaviour
It’s not like I am frightened or don't know how to communicate my feelings.
The problem is, I usually just feel very sorry that adults just don't know how to behave in a decent manner. So I roll my eyes and remain unaffected by the rude behaviour. But I've come to realise that this only give rude and boorish people permission to repeat it again and again.
In essence, people like me, who are not personally affected by rude behaviour, are actually contributing to its spread by not using our voices to call out the guilty on this behaviour.
So I want to advise you to join me, in using your voice to call out rude behaviour whenever and wherever you come across it. You don't want to be similarly rude in doing so but rather, you want to show them examples of better ways to get what they want.
13. Worrying about getting website subscribers
I can’t believe I even started this! But the gurus are always talk about getting subscribers so who am I to doubt them?
But almost every time I strategically post something on my blog, someone will contact me, and without subscribing, enquire about my services. After the “right” conversation I almost always turn them into customers. And to think I was worrying about getting subscribers instead of focusing on the opportunities to acquire clients and partners.
Good advice: subscribers and prospects are not an end in themselves. Share your information in such a way that you help whoever shows up on your "door step" and you will get clients, build partnerships, build trust and even make friends.
14. Refusing to join organisations
I had pretty much mastered this. I felt I no longer had the stomach and the patience for the "non-progressive" culture I find in too many organisations.
After careful consideration, I decided that instead of focusing on the problem, I could be a part of the solution. Also, strategically, I realised that in order to expand my network quickly, being part of an organisation could help.
So with fingers crossed, I joined the Barbados Small Business Association. In the time I have been a member, I have made several presentations to groups of members, assist them one on one and attended several important sessions. Oh! and I was the recipient of the President's Award.
So here's some good advice for you: if like me you have avoided joining organisations, like me, you can decide to be a part of the solution. In this way we can make the problem smaller...hopefully?
15. Negotiating with myself
Okay...you can call it procrastinating if you want.
But you know what I'm talking about. It's about those times when you have something that must be done and by a deadline too. Not only do you put it off but you begin negotiating with yourself as to when and how you will do it.
If you had asked me about this before I took my work on myself to a higher level, I wouldn’t know what you were talking about. But then I found it, ever so subtle, but it was there. So I cut it out. Done. No procrastinating. No negotiating with myself.
And if you’re doing it...Stop! Then watch your productivity sky-rocket!
16. Preventing shit from hitting fans
I thought this was a good thing to do – both for clients and friends.
But sadly and shamefully, I have to admit that more and more, I seemed to be caught smack between the shit and the fans. Furthermore, I knew deep in my heart, by serving as this type of buffer, I was really preventing some people from learning some necessary life lessons.
Listen carefully, if you keep trying to stop people from getting into the trouble they have created, I want you to stop at once. It's not good for you or the people you're trying to save.
17. Hesitating to share my money with friends
Why would anyone hesitate to share their money with their friends?
I hesitated because I didn’t want them to think I was better off than them and patronizing them with handouts. But increasingly, I saw many instances where money could make a difference for a friend and hesitating to give mine did not help them. When I got past myself, sharing my money as I wanted to turned out to be good for me and for those who received it.
So if you can, share your money with your friends, whether you have a little or a lot. Money is just a medium of exchange and the good energy you put out there, will come back to you multiplied big time. I certainly will be doing more of this going forward.
But here's some good advice for you: don’t be contacting me for handouts – that’s not how it works!
18. Embracing “dumb”
Now I know that being dumb is not a crime. But it's a severe handicap! I was reminded of this only after I did not 1, not 2 but 3 dumb pieces of “s-h-i-t” in the space of almost a year. As a matter of fact, I felt liked I had embraced "dumb"!
What I am most concerned about however, is how comfortable people generally are with doing dumb things. They casually write it off as "life". Don't get me wrong, you SHOULD learn valuable lessons from every dumb thing you do. But to me, embracing "dumb" is when you appear to go out and do dumb things to learn valuable lessons.
Take my good advice, don't do this, you're smarter than that. You know the difference between smart and dumb. If you do something stupid, the minute you realise it, correct it and reflect on what you can learn from it. Then try hard not to repeat that mistake.
19. Denying my success
I did this for years. People would introduce me as successful or hold me out as an example of a success black woman and I would be so uncomfortable with this.
I am very clear on the reasons for this. (1) I was raised to believe that "you should not blow your own trumpet" and (2) I live and work in cultures where when you embrace your success you are perceived as arrogant.
Now I am done with denying my success. As a matter of fact, I now embrace my success. I've work hard, I've made the sacrifices, I've done the blood, sweat and tears. You see, I have come to realise that to play down our success does no one any good. When we do, we actually undermine those people who have contributed to that very success.
Therefore, my advice to you is to accept and embrace your success, especially when you have worked hard to turn failure into success. This does not mean that you need to turn into an overbearing braggart, you just need to keep things real.
20. Constantly Saving clothes for a "special" occasion
Do you do this: You keep acquiring really fabulous clothes but you seldom wear them, keeping them for the "right" occasion? I didn’t realise how much I was doing this until my Coach/Mentor gave me my own “Hidden Holdbacks” activity to do. What a laugh!
Apparently, this behaviour points to deeper feelings of inadequacy and "I'm not good enough". When I was forced to examine my behaviour in this regard, especially how I was feeling as I put off wearing my "super fab" clothes, I realise it went deeper than the clothes.
So my advice to you is simply this. Do not hold back on yourself. Take the advice in #5 and dress for success. If you want to dress up for the opening of a sardines can, go ahead. But be careful not to make a fool of yourself.
So...what are YOU going to stop doing?
I have shared 20 things that I have stopped doing that improved my life. If you're doing them and you work on stopping, you too can really improve your life.
Believe me when I tell you that you have a head start that I didn't. What luck! I had to figure out all these things for myself (Hey! I'm not complaining!) and now I am advising you what to do. That's really taking all the hard work out of the process for you.
My only question for you is: Which one will you stop doing first?