Conquering Misbeliefs: If I Build it They Will Come

moving past our misbeliefs--photo credit iosphere of fdp.netYou don’t have to be familiar with the 1989 movie, Field of Dreams, to have heard the popular, yet misleading phrase, “if you build it, they will come.” This ethereal phrase is what initiated Ray Kinsella, portrayed by Kevin Costner, to build a baseball field in his corn field. It’s also the motivation for many starry-eyed entrepreneurs to pursue their own vision of dreams. For many, however, our misbeliefs slither their way into our personal failure files.

Are you one of the hopeful business people lured by the “if you build it” mantra? I was. Like many entrepreneurs, I had an idea and a lofty goal. I fell for the overnight success stories and believed all I had to do was build it. Unfortunately, the trouble with the “if you build it” theory is twofold:

  • It conveys the message that all one has to do is to present a life-changing idea to the world and then sit back and wait for everyone to fall at my feet.
  • Most hopeful entrepreneurs (including me) lack a true understanding of what is necessary to build and grow a business.

The Genesis of Misbeliefs

Mine started in 1996. I was almost 5 years into an unsuccessful job search. Rather than continue the useless pursuit and destroy the fragments of my confidence, I decided to build a business that incorporated my experience and education.

My first steps involved creating a business and marketing plan based on advice from traditional business resources. As I happily wrote the documents that outlined my beautiful business, I was elevated by the “if you build it” mantra. I fully believed all I had to do was make my business look good on paper, toss an ad in the local classified section of the newspaper, and make a few appearances at the local Chamber of Commerce.

My early efforts gained the attention of a postage meter company and sympathetic business community members who suggested I sponsor events or dedicate my expertise to a thinly associated activity related to their business. For free. I was promised that exposure would be my reward. I swallowed their hooks.

The Results of Misbeliefs

Naiveté. Clouded by “if you build it” and the promise of exposure intensified my lack of knowledge. I filled many an organizations’ need for speakers but never earned the money, the opportunities, or the testimonials that was promised. I stubbornly maintained the belief that this was the way.

Taken advantage of. People come out of the shadows seeking naïve entrepreneurs and I was their biggest catch. I was eager to build awareness and a following; they were eager to suck me dry.

Time lost. Clinging too long to this belief resulted in lost opportunity in the form of legitimate clients and revenue.

Lessons Learned

It’s a slow, cringe-worthy process, but over time, those moments led to lessons learned and growth.

  • My naivete eventually revealed how these beliefs misguided me. This discovery led to asking for help.
  • Learn from others. Network. Connect. Share expertise. Talking and listening to others helped me move past shame and embarrassment.
  • Abandon the comfort zone. Once I recognized that building a business is a lot harder than it appears, my comfort zone was no longer comfy. That became my moment to pursue or pivot, then take the proper action.
  • Be stringent with your time and money. Volunteerism is admirable, but when it creeps into a full-time job, then it’s no longer advantageous.
  • Put in the work. Learn about business, not just your industry and niche. You don’t need an MBA, but attend workshops, read, and learn from others.

There is magic in business ownership, and the best magic occurs when you identify your misbeliefs and reframe your knowledge base. As we’re taught to embrace our failures, I felt it most helpful to do so by sharing mine. Read my failure files on good girl, self-sacrifice, and negative mindset then reach out if you need more guidance!


The Failure Files: Good Girl and Entrepreneurship Don’t Mix

Too much weight on shoulders leads to failure--image from pixabayFailure. We all experience failure and are taught to be ashamed of it. Only recently phrases like ‘fail fast’ and ‘embrace your failures’ have become popular, allowing us to see failure as an opportunity to learn. To learn from our failures, however, requires us to drag them out of the dark recesses of our past. We need to take a hard look at them, to study them, and harder still, accept them.

I’ve experienced several failures in my first 50 years. My problem: I kept them too close to the surface, unknowingly giving them permission to rule my life. Now, I recognize when they negatively influence my actions and can reframe my thoughts. It still isn’t easy which is why I’m starting The Failure Files, freely giving you the opportunity to learn from my failures. Are you ready?

Failure: too much good girl

This is probably the crux of all my failures. I was a good girl. I don’t even have a memory of causing undue strain on my parents. My younger brothers did plenty of that. School reports that embarrassed my parents. Police visits. Neighbor complaints. Drugs. Abuse. Alcohol. I saw the effects and avoided it all. While my brothers got arrested, I acquired my bachelor’s degree. While my brothers married and divorced twice apiece, I obtained my master’s degree and married.

Because I didn’t want to stir the pot, I tumbled into the obedient world of sheeple. I followed the herd, trusting and believing in a world that was getting ready to kick us all in the teeth. I graduated from high school in the top 10%, I immediately obtained a bachelor’s degree and got a job soon after, filling the non-work time by doing administrative work at my father’s or boyfriend’s place of business.

Failure #1: My good-girl status didn’t save me from unexpectedly losing my first REAL job 10 months later. It didn’t save me from spending a year in the unemployment line. It didn’t help me find a job in my chosen profession.

Recovery action: Go back to school. I obtained my master’s degree a few years later while working for the university to pay my education. During this time, I married and had my first child.

Failure #2: It took 10 years to find a job in my profession. I jumped on it, consequently accepting a salary that was 64 cents above minimum wage. Following 8 years of dedicated employment, my salary peeked at $9.08/hour.

Recovery action: I quit my job, without a follow up plan. I tentatively began my new business. In 2008.

Failure #3: Viewing divorce as failure. Playing all the society rules for life, marriage, career, contribution, and sacrifice didn’t save me from the sorrows of divorce. Even worse, I caved in to the embarrassment my parents expressed (We’re terrible parents. How did we go wrong?) and the emotional intimidation my husband heaped on me (my job will suffer, my credit score will suffer, it will take you too long to find another job—just like before). As a result, I wore my (I mean their) shame and disappeared with little to cling to. Hope, confidence, and stability shattered.

Recovery action: I recognized that my long-standing goodie-goodie status got me NOWHERE! Reality hit hard and I realized life gave no favors. I was overdue to be me without the constraints of what everyone expected me to be.

When I began my business, however, I struggled to fully release the good girl mentality.

Failure #4: Taken advantage of, under paid, and pushed aside. The business world does not tolerate goodie-goodies. It interacts with people who are willing to take risks, stand up for themselves, and don’t falter.

Recovery action: Take risks and chances without concern for what others think. Especially relevant: I had to be willing to upset the status quo.

It took a while to learn this and depleted my time, energy, and finances.

Lesson to Share

This isn’t a woe-is-me story, but a story I share because of the lessons learned. I had been over-manipulated by a youth where I saw the negative side of breaking the rules then inaccurately transferred that to all aspects of life and career. I learned that playing by the rules doesn’t guarantee anything other than being stomped upon. Breaking a few rules, as in doing something out of the ordinary, gets you noticed. The world likes those that shake up the world in a positive way.

My challenge to you: Let go, refuse to be haunted by your failures and surge forward to become happier, freer, and more confident.

How will you positively shake up the world?

Kristen Edens

Life Lessons from a High School Reunion

high school reunion nametag: life lessonsDid you enjoy high school? Were you one of the Jocks or the Brains or the Hotsy-Totsies? Or were you one of the Nerds or the Hoods or the Bums? Perhaps you were like me and didn’t fall into either category.

High school was not fun for me—and I had the undesirable experience of attending 2 high schools. It was difficult to be my own person with everyone attempting to place a label on me. As a result, I had no interest in attending reunions.

Until recently. I attended as my partner’s guest to his 40th high school reunion. As we drove to the reunion, I asked him how many true friends he had. His reply: very few. I asked: how many have you kept in touch with over the years? His reply: even fewer.

Upon attending the reunion, the crowded room of 100+ from a class of 320 now wrinkled, gray-haired, and slightly overweight men and women struggled more to recognize classmates than remembering which clique everyone belonged to. Back in the day, fraternizing with the wrong clique meant doom. Now the goal was to flashback to a perceived easier time of life.

Reunion Results–life lessons emerge

  • Graduates barely recognized each other—by face or by name. They relied more on where they lived in town, what grade school they attended, and what classes they possibly shared.
  • There were the occasional, “Oh, I remember you!” followed by, “Let’s connect on Facebook.”
  • Some admitted to avoiding those they hated in high school, but couldn’t remember why.
  • Most found high school to be highly stressful.
  • Upon graduation, everyone went their own way toward living their vision of the American Dream.
  • Many were happy with life. Those I spoke with admitted to be comfortable with who they were, preferring their current life with gray hair, wrinkles, and arthritis to puberty, acne, and peer pressure.
  • Cliques no longer mattered. We were all in our 50s, hoping to have enough money for retirement. None I spoke with were living or planning to live the dreamy retirement vision we were raised to strive for. What mattered most was to stay close to their roots and to enjoy their family.

Retirement Revelations

There were 3 types of current retirees:

  • Retired due to health issues, or
  • Age discrimination, or
  • Career limitations.

Given the choice, these graduates would have kept working. Because of where they find themselves now, many are uncertain what’s next for them. They all feel they are too young to ‘kick the bucket’. One graduate ‘fills his time’ restoring motorcycles and cars. Another graduate volunteers until she can find a job—in anything, she admits. My partner, disabled since 2015, enjoys tutoring, helping others organize their lives, and conducting administrative tasks, but doubts this is a viable money-making option for him.

Those that are working toward retirement want to ensure their future is secure in the midst of all the unknowns. Everyone I spoke with feared how long their health will hold up.

Quite a difference from our high school years!

While this reunion is one of thousands that occur across the country, we all share the same hopes, dreams, and fears. The peer pressure and cliques from the past no longer matter. What matters is that we are happy as we continue to live and to share our life with those we love.

How will you grow and live?

Kristen Edens
Making Midlife Better

Is Your Second Act Stagnant? Examine Your Limiting Beliefs

Limiting beliefs keep large dog trapped behind small gateMy daughter recently purchased a pure-breed Newfoundland puppy. It was an adorable bundle of black fur, and now at 7 months old, it is a huge, energetic, and still-growing bundle of black fur. The dog rapidly outgrew the kitchen space it spends a portion of the day in, blocked only by toddler gates. The dog can easily leap up and drape its massive front legs over either gate, but never jumps the gate. Why? Because as a puppy, the gates prevented escape. Now, 7 months later, the dog still believes it cannot escape.

Do you have a business idea you’d like to pursue? Are you itching to try something new in your life? Are you bursting at the seams to break free of your boundaries but feel something isn’t right? Maybe it’s time to examine your mental gates. Just as my daughter’s puppy believes it cannot escape its kitchen confines, we are blocked by limiting beliefs. What’s worse is we may not be aware of these beliefs. Some imprint on us at an early age. Some are as easy to overcome as stepping over a barrier, but it’s our beliefs that keep us trapped. Here are a few exercises to help you explore your past to identify and remove the beliefs that are holding you back.

What challenges did you have as a child?

Did you struggle in school? Were you bullied? Did you have a learning disability? These situations can influence us early in life which leads to early limiting beliefs. As you explore your childhood, review your memories to discover events that may have contributed to your current beliefs.

What was home life like?

What elements of family life crept into your subconscious? Did your family struggle with money? Were you raised by a single-parent? Did your parents work long hours? How our parents or guardians handled these situations plus overheard conversations can impact our beliefs. For instance, I was the quiet child who preferred to stay home, read, and be by myself. Meanwhile, all my cousins excelled in school, sports, and extracurricular activities. I overheard my uncle ask my dad what activities I enjoyed. My dad’s answer: “Kristen marches to the beat of a different drummer.” There was no disappointment or animosity in his tone, however, I knew I was different and for a long time, believed I was too different to make a difference. Thirty years later, I was able to release that limiting belief and pursue my own interests.

What experiences did you have that influenced your life?Large dog believes he can't jump gate

Did death touch your family unexpectedly? Or a natural disaster? Did you move a lot? If you were always the new kid at school, you may have a belief that you won’t fit in, which may translate to your business idea won’t fit in. Were you unemployed or laid-off? This may translate into the limiting belief that you are unemployable.

Give yourself time to review your memories and experiences, then list the ideas that stand out most. Next, reshape those thoughts through meditation, writing, and repetition. For instance, if you moved a lot, reshape a limiting belief to, “I have regional and cultural experience that will be helpful to my business.”

Make each mantra a new habit. Repetition and persistence—especially when you feel blocked by the thought—will help release that limiting belief.

I recently attended a series of webinars on career reinvention for Boomers and GenXers in which confidence was a top issue. The common thread was how to rebuild following our outdated beliefs:

Beliefs => thoughts => actions => results

How are your beliefs influencing your results? If you find your progress less than satisfactory and the results you seek are still out of reach, then you’re overdue to reexamine your beliefs. Some of them will be easy to overcome, like a dog jumping over a gate, while others will take longer to redirect. Explore the exercises above, weed them out, and then reframe them with newer, positive and productive beliefs.

And step over your gate!

Kristen Edens
Making Midlife Better

Ditch the Job Boards! Build Your Second Act Brand Instead

Rejection stamp image signifying denied from job boardsFinding a job is always a difficult task. In my early job-hunt days (age 16 to 26), I would physically VISIT job agencies or the location I wished to work. Attempts to reach the manager often failed but resulted in an almost friendly invitation by an office manager to fill out an application onsite or to mail it in. Today, the process is hastened by the internet, which still results in a long wait…to NO.

I began freelancing in 2006 and took my business to full time in 2008. I scoured the online job boards with resolute determination, especially early days or when clients were few. Guess how many jobs I acquired through these boards.

NOT ONE!Kristen's job post rejection from online job boards

Unless you count the client that asked me to write a full 10-page website for $6. Yes, SIX DOLLARS!

After two primary clients ended their contracts earlier this year, I returned to the job boards with cautious hope. It didn’t take long, however, to walk the agonizing road to NO. Through the process, I discovered that only 7 to 15 percent of job openings are filled through online applications and that most job placement occurs through REFERRALS or my own ACTION. Even as a teenager, building awareness to MY EXISTENCE, AVAILABILITY, and ABILITY was more effective than filling out flat sheets of paper. Back then, as now, I built my brand.

While the job hunt hasn’t changed, what we bring to the world has. We have 30+ years of knowledge and experience and the determination to make something new. Therefore, it’s time to abandon the job boards and build your brand and your second act with these action steps.

  • Create a social media presence where your audience (B2C) AND your peers (B2B) are (these are often not the same).
  • Create bios suitable for both audiences
  • Create an elevator speech that is adaptable to your audience
  • Attend local events related to your industry and niche. Be visible to attendees and event organizers.
  • Volunteer at events
  • Find your people online. Connect, like, follow, comment.
  • Join social media groups related to your industry and niche—Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, and Twitter chats are top methods to build awareness, discover trends, identify needs.
  • Above all: FOLLOW UP! Keep in touch through social media, blogging, newsletters, events, and conversation.

Sound intimidating? Perhaps time-consuming? Nope. When weighed against the long wait to NO from an online job application, these methods keep you active and top of mind.

Put your time and talent in yourself and build the brand that gets things done: YOU!

Kristen Edens
Making Midlife Better