If you’re an independent business owner, you’ve probably spent a lot of time reflecting over the past year.
How did your year go? If you’re like a lot of folks, there were probably some plans that went swimmingly, and others that, well, didn’t go quite as nicely as you hoped. I’m certainly no exception to that! Fact is, when you’re trying new things, whether they go well or poorly, they often don’t turn out quite like you expected.
So, you might be asking yourself: what things did I do last year that made me actually feel successful?
I looked to other parts of my life when I thought about that question, and the thing that stuck out most? Roller Derby. I came into 2014 as a pretty green derby player–I had little play time in my rookie season, I was still learning the game, and I definitely had skating skills that needed help. But, by the end of the year, I became a heavily-utilized player for my beloved home team, I’d won an MVP award, I made it onto RCR’s All-Star Travel Team, and the league voted for me as the Most Improved Skater of the year. For someone at my level, it was a pretty darned successful year of derby play!
I must have done something right to have such a great season, so I thought, “what did I do to make these successes happen? What can I learn from that?” And, there were things I did for derby that could definitely bring into Real Life, and into Business.
Small steps add up to big goals.
Early last year, I had skating skills that needed a lot of work. (granted, they can always be better, but you get my meaning!) I needed a plan to work on them, but I thought, “how will I find the time to work on these skills, when I already have so much going on in my life, and so many practices to attend?”
So, I folded little tasks into my regular practice schedule. I made a deal with myself to do at least 8 plow stops after each practice. When I was in a pace line, I told myself to always skate lower than the person in front of me. I added forward/backward transitions into my pre-scrimmage warmups. Just by doing those little things, all of those skills improved, and so did my skating overall–no extra trips to the skate track necessary.
Translate it to business: Something I’d like to improve upon is networking. It’s often an overwhelming thing for me, and finding more time for it seems impossible! So, I plan to take small steps, like attending one networking event per month more than I did last year, and meeting at least one treasured connection for coffee/drinks each month. With any luck, it’ll add up, just like those skating skills did.
Seek out feedback, share, and listen for ideas.
Asking for feedback can be a tough thing, at times, but there were certainly moments when I took the time to start conversations with other skaters about what I was struggling with. Sometimes, they had good advice for me, and I’d come away with something new to try. Sometimes, just by listening to the questions other people asked our coaches, I’d hear something in the discussion that I could apply to my own skating. You’re never the only one who’s struggling, and you can always learn from each other.
Translate it to business: My business has evolved quite a bit over the past three years, and the strategies that felt right at the beginning aren’t quite so fitting anymore. Something I’d love to have when I’m feeling stuck is feedback and outside perspective. So, one of my plans for this year is to seek out a new business advisor, to get some good coaching and feedback.
Be committed, but recognize your limits.
When I tried out for Travel Team, I knew there would be a lot of work ahead. And, that was on top of the time I dedicate to my Home Team, and all the work I do for Upswept, plus much-needed self-care, and time I spend with my sweetie and my friends and family… the list goes on, right? Still, if it’s something you really want, you make the time… sometimes, even when it’s not there.
For Travel Team, we had to make 80% attendance, but I habitually make 100% attendance for my Home Team–sometimes, even extra credit! The idea of less than 100% felt almost wrong, but you know what? Giving 100% of yourself, to 100% of the things you want to do, 100% of the time isn’t always the most sustainable lifestyle.
So, I used that 80% requirement. When I went to practice, I’d give it everything I had, but if I tweaked a muscle or ligament the wrong way, I’d give myself permission to sit out and rest it. If I was completely fried from a day at Upswept HQ and I had no energy left for a practice, I’d let myself stay home that night–I’d get that time for a break and some self-care, still make 80%, and I’d be that much more ready to give it my all at the next practice.
Translate it to business: I did well at being committed, but not overcommitting in 2014–even during the tough times, I usually pulled back before I got too seriously burned out. Yet, I also wound up skipping out on some potentially-fruitful things, because I was too wiped from other obligations. SO, I think being more strategic about what I say No to is the lesson to learn for this year!
What can YOU learn from your own big wins?
Even if you had a tough run in 2014, there IS something you did really well last year, and you can learn from it. Even if it’s only a small part of a bigger scheme, there’s something to take forward with you. Maybe you really rocked it on your e-newsletter. Or, maybe you did a great job of being a parent, or saved up for a car. Maybe you got out of debt, or ran a race, or tried something new and scary.
Whatever it was, it was a Big Win, and you likely had a plan to make it happen… even if you didn’t know it at the time. So, take a moment to learn from yourself, and from something you did that made you feel AWESOME.