You are not your business — vous n’êtes pas vos affaires.
I remember being fascinated with the Dada and Surrealist art movements during a trip to Europe in my high school years. The art I saw there opened my mind to new ways of perceiving the world.
I still remember the first time I saw Rene Magritte’s painting, The Treachery of Images — the one with the pipe that says Ceci n’est pas une pipe. (This is not a pipe.) Reminding the viewer that this is painting of a pipe and not the pipe itself…
But what I didn’t realize at the time is that Ceci n’est pas une pipe offers some very practical life advice too. It wasn’t just flipping a bird at the institution of art.
As a business mentor, I often see my students, customers and clients make the fatal mistake of thinking that they are their business… and their business is them.
When you make this mistake…. every failure can feel like a blow to your self-worth.
When failure is not an option… every decision can start to feel so much bigger than it actually is.
Whenever a mistake becomes a strike against your honor, your integrity or a reflection of your value as a human being… then shit can get real fast.
And that can quickly make business really scary and even paralyzing.
When I first got started, I used to agonize for hours and even days over emails and blog posts and for months over products. I wanted everything to be …. perfect.
I desperately wanted to help…
I wanted to be of service.
And all those good intentions made me take my business way too seriously.
When we’d receive negative feedback or criticism, I’d get defensive and take it personally… but, but, but, they don’t understand! And when we received praise? I felt like I was on top of the world…
So it felt like I was a yo-yo being pulled back and forth… without feeling like I was in control of my emotions or destiny.
And after a couple years in business, I just started to let go by repeating a simple mantra: My Business Is Not Me. It Is Simply An Expression of Who I Am.
This has made it possible to work on my business with perspective and objectivity. It’s helped me realize that there are very specific things that the business needs that are different from my own needs.
For example, money isn’t even in my top 5 motivations. It’s not a core value for me at all. But money is absolutely essential to make a business go round. So in order for the business to be successful, it needs money to function, just like I need oxygen to breathe.
Because I understand that while my business is an expression of who I am (but not who I am)…
- I’m able to separate my needs from my business’ needs
- I can give my business the SPACE it needs to really thrive
- I’m able to take a step out of my business and work on my business with perspective and objectivity… and,
- I’m able to let go, delegate and hire a team to support me without feeling like I’m handing over my baby
- And everything has become a whole lot simpler and easier, even while my business has gotten busier and more complex.
So if I had one piece of advice from the future to the me of 5 years ago, I would say, “You are not your business. Don’t take it so seriously. Let go and enjoy the ride.”