Jul 23, 2019
Ep 78: How to Be Successful at Anything by Starting Small
We have a bad habit of calling successful people an overnight success—as if they just woke up one day on top of the mountain. But, in most cases, that’s just not true. In reality, most successful people started small doing something unimpressive. Here are just a few examples I can think of:
Television pioneer Oprah Winfrey started her career as a news anchor in Nashville, Tennessee—way before it was the cool and popular city it is today.1 Y’all, she was even demoted once from an anchor job she had in Baltimore.2 (I bet that person still regrets that to this day!)
And then there’s self-made millionaire Dave Ramsey. He grew his business from a card table in his living room to a multimillion-dollar company with more than 850 team members—and he’s helped millions get out of debt and change their family tree.
Did you know that world-famous author J.K. Rowling was living on welfare when she wrote the first Harry Potter book?3
And finally, let’s talk about Ellen Latham—a name many may not recognize. But I bet they recognize the name of the business she started: Orangetheory Fitness. The massively successful chain of fitness studios actually started in a spare room of Ellen’s house.4
Do you see what I’m talking about? The early stages of their careers did not look impressive by any means. But, eventually, because they were consistent and refused to let their humble beginnings define them, their careers surpassed even their wildest dreams.
Related: Don’t Be Sorry for the Struggle
The Importance of Starting Small
Let’s just go ahead and acknowledge that starting small is not fun. You’re probably not going to update your friends about it any chance you get, or post pictures about your journey on Facebook. But you know what? Starting small is actually one of the most important steps in building your business—or anything for that matter—wisely.
That’s why it’s so important to give yourself permission to be a beginner.
Aside from the fact that it works and is proven, starting small makes your dreams and your goals so much more attainable.
As you begin to think about your big dreams and goals, what usually happens? Fear creeps in, doesn’t it? You start to doubt that any of your dreams are even possible, because they’re just too big and overwhelming. But when you embrace the idea of starting small, your dream doesn’t feel so crazy after all.
How to Start Small
The commitment to start small requires persistence, dedication and a go-getter attitude—qualities I know you’ve got in you!
That’s why I want to give you a few do’s and don’ts that you can use as a guideline as you chase your dreams.
1. Don’t wait until you’re ready.
“Ready” is a myth. Because let’s be real—do we ever feel ready for anything in life?
Related: How to Be More Confident
There’ll always be a new doubt or excuse that will try to convince you it’s just not time yet. But the truth is, the only way you figure anything out for yourself is by doing it—by learning on the job.
Early on in my career, I learned something important: Say yes before you know how. When an opportunity comes your way and you don’t feel ready, qualified or educated enough, it doesn’t matter. Just get out there and get moving—ready or not.
2. Do take baby steps.
When you break down your big idea and big dream into baby steps, you begin to see the impossible become possible.
For example, if you want to train for a marathon, you don’t start by running 15 miles. You start by training for a 5K. If you want to open a boutique, you start with an Etsy store. If you need more sleep, you start by winding down and turning off the screens 10 minutes earlier than you normally would. If you miss seeing your friends, you send one text to one friend and set up one lunch date. Baby steps.
What you’ll find—in business and in life—is that small changes tend to make the biggest impact. It’s the small things you do repeatedly that make up life-change that actually lasts. That’s why I don’t want you to think of your dream in terms of giant leaps you need to take. Instead, think: What’s one baby step I can take this week?
3. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing.
In our overconnected culture, it’s so tempting to get on social media and compare your journey to someone else’s. But you shouldn’t compare your small steps to someone else’s giant leaps.
I love the quote by Theodore Roosevelt that says, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I wholeheartedly believe you cannot be present for your dream and for your life if you’re looking and comparing it to everyone else around you. And you can’t make changes or improvements if you’re too busy obsessing over someone else’s progress.
Take the focus off everybody else and instead focus on your life, your business, your dreams and your values. Stay in your lane and run your race. And as you take small steps, be confident in knowing that those are faithful steps God will honor.
4. Do keep it simple.
When I graduated from college with no money and no job, I remember trying to convince myself that I needed to purchase a bunch of new suits for job interviews. It’s ridiculous, isn’t it?
But we do this in business too. We say we need a new laptop, a new studio or new equipment to get started. Let’s be honest—no, you don’t! Often, our desires and efforts to buy new things are not really because the business needs it. We’re just trying to justify and validate our dream.
The truth is: Working on your business is what validates the business, not the stuff you buy. In the words of Arthur Ashe, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”
5. Don’t go into debt.
There is this myth in the business world that somehow business debt is different from personal debt. As if the debt belongs to the business and not to you.
But they’re the same thing. Because guess who has to pay that business debt at the end of the day? You do. Business debt is no different than personal debt. In both scenarios, you’re giving up power, ownership and control—three things you really should maintain. The worst part is, when you take on debt to do anything, every decision you make will become dependent upon the debt you owe.
It’s all debt, and it’s all a bad idea. Save up for the things you want and be scrappy in the meantime.
6. Do make a plan and set goals.
You don’t just need the dream. You need a plan for how you’ll get from where you are today to where you want to be. And once you have that plan, it’s critical to set goals that will get you there.
For example, if you want to become a teacher, your plan might be to get a teaching certificate within two years. That’s a great plan. Then, you might set goals like: take the PRAXIS exam before August, or enroll in courses that start this fall.
When you make a plan for where you want to be, and then set goals for how you’re going to get there, you’re much more likely to make that dream a reality. Because I promise, you will not get to where you want to be by accident.
Get Started Today!
There is no such thing as an overnight success. You’ve got to put in the hours and the work required to accomplish your big dreams. And it’s totally possible when you start small, use what you have, and grow slow. Remember, the impressive things in life often start as unimpressive things.
Someone who has done this really well is my friend Melissa Kaiserman. She’s the owner of A Time for Everything and Makery Space. Melissa is going to be my guest on the show next week, and she’ll share all of her secrets on starting small and working on Etsy. So, make sure you tune in to that bonus episode!
1:21 The Importance of Starting Small
6:06 How to Start Small
Business Boutique Conference
The Business Boutique Conference is coming back to Nashville Oct. 24–26. If you want to learn how to grow your business and chase your dream, you don’t want to miss this event. To save $10 on any Business Boutique Conference ticket, use the code BBWRIGHT.
If you have a success story you would like to share with the Business Boutique community, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.