A successful entrepreneur shares her thoughts on business success and failure.

What's most important?

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking lately, and reading, and certainly a lot of “doing”. I haven’t been spending much time writing, however. My thoughts flit incessantly from one item to the next, in a manner that would give me whiplash were I to try to watch them all whiz by. work-personal-life-guilt-pleasure-should-could-whatever — these thoughts often take over my mind.

The self, however, is not composed solely of thoughts, but is expressed by taking action and doing the things it most wants to do. For me, there are a breathtaking number of things I want to do. There are so many that I tend to pick up things to do at a much higher pace than I can actually process and do them well. This problem of overcommitment has plagued me my entire life.

When I meditate and settle my thoughts, I often come back to “What’s most important?” For me, “most important” cannot be defined simply as “things I am good at.” There are far too many things that I’m decent at, or “good enough” at, that were I to attempt to do something in every realm where I am “good enough”, that I would spend my entire life doing mediocre tasks and being bored by them. Thus, I had to take a step back even farther, and define what is most important to me, not simply to everyone else in the room at the time when I am making a decision.

In other words, I must simplify my life, and whittle down what I do to the things that I am absolutely the most passionate about, or else I risk being stuck in mediocrity and futile labor and being unable to pull myself out of that quagmire.

The purpose of this blog, in part, is to attempt to define who I am in a series of posts, each outlining a tiny part of my personal character. Grief, sorrow, and forgiveness have been a big part of this blog, but so have joy, excitement, and acknowledgment of those who have been there for me, and the answers I have sought.

That brought up another train of thought, and one which I’ve been very attached to lately, but which has also (sadly) been the one that has been preventing me from writing for the past 6 weeks. You see, instead of writing to ask something, I started reading, meditating, and thinking to answer the questions I had — and I had many. For a while, I had to take a hiatus and stop writing in order to listen, to form opinions based on the writings and teachings of others who seek enlightenment of the Self and Whole.

I’m back, and ready to share what I’ve learned so far.

First, I defined what was most important to me (personally.) These things included writing, the Internet, reading (books as well as blogs, and newspapers), finding patterns, and solving problems. I also enjoy being in charge and being my own boss…I’d find it difficult to work for anyone else. But most importantly, overall, I found I enjoy helping other people. Thus the crux of my current predicament — I love helping people and solving problems, but the quality of the problems I volunteered to solve was low (web development, for instance.)

I turned my attention to a slightly different focus. Knowing, then, what my motivations were and what was most important to me, what did I want to do? I know that one of my large purposes in this life is to help other people eliminate fear and overcome obstacles…to obtain goals previously thought of as impossible, and to influence people to change in a positive manner and thus leave a lasting impact on the world. Instead of a series of small, relatively unimportant tasks, then, I needed to focus my objectives and only say “yes” to those things that aligned properly with my Big Goals.

I started to clear things out in my head. I realized what my unimportant tasks were. A lot of volunteer work that I had previously performed needed to be completed and then filed away. A lot of previous things that I had said “Yes” to needed to be turned into a “No” or “Not any more” due to my changing life circumstances. I don’t doubt that this left a few hurt feelings, but I did apologize and made what was the most important step — the realization that I can never again say “yes” to these sorts of things, that if the request for help does not completely align with my Big Goals, that I have a duty to myself (and to the world at large) to say “No, I’m sorry.”

And life goes on… either the task gets done by someone capable, or it does not get done. In neither case, though, does it rest on my shoulders.

This may sound facetious to some of you. “How can you turn away people who ask for your help — especially if your skills align with their needs?” And the answer is simple — my life involves a call to action to help millions of other people. I can’t spend time doing web design or volunteer work for a small group if I could instead be turning my focus to things that help thousands or millions of others. If that still sounds bad to you, I recommend that you set bigger goals. There’s no reason you, too, can’t go out there and help millions of other people. But to do it, your life must be keenly focused so that every resource you have is turned toward that goal. Your most valuable resource becomes your time — so much so that you’ll need to hire layers of other people just to help you out. If you succeed, your success will be breathtaking. And if you fail… is there really such a thing as failure if you set out with a goal to help millions of other people, and only succeed in helping hundreds or thousands of others instead? Really? Here’s the worst that could happen — you only improve 1 person’s life. Your own. If you’ve put happiness in your own life, you haven’t failed.

So…now what? I have a couple more volunteer projects that I need to stop. I have a series of blog entries I need to write. But most importantly, what I must find is time. From having someone clean my house to having a personal assistant who can help me/Simpli do the tasks I don’t have time to do (such as filing papers), I must clear out my time so that I have time to do what matters most to me. Once those repetitive, menial tasks start disappearing from my horizon, I can start achieving bigger goals. As I do this, I expect to write more (after all, that was one of my Big Goals for 2007 — “blog more often.”) I expect to work less. And I expect that I will feel happier and more fulfilled, because instead of energy-draining labor, I will be spending time living my dreams and fulfilling my passions.

If this sounds too frou-frou to you, just wait…you’re going to see it unfold week by week in my life, and be able to change decisions about what you want to do with your life. Hopefully, this setting and meeting of Big Goals will encourage you to set bigger goals and be more motivated to live your dreams. That is, after all, why I am here.

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I'm Erica Douglass.
After selling my online business at age 26 for over $1 million, I created this blog to help you grow your own business quickly.

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