THE MIRROR PROJECT
As an entrepreneur, you are likely well aware...
I'm Rebecca, and this is a fabulously awkward picture of me.
I'd like to share a little bit of my story...tell me if you can relate.
I immigrated to America from Ireland when I was 3 years old. I was homeschooled through all of school because I started reading at 4, and by the time I got to age 5, my mother realized I was already too far past the Kindergarten class for it to be of any use to me. She started me on 1st Grade that year.
I didn't really start talking to people outside the family and my best friend until I was 7 - when I got my first taste of door-to-door sales as a bona fide Brownie in the Girl Scouts. I showed up at the door, and despite my incredibly quiet voice, they knew what I was offering thanks to my handy vest. They handed over the cash while I took note of their order. I realized that talking to strangers wasn't all that bad.
I didn't really make friends with the neighbour kids or other homeschoolers. They were too immature, too loud, too clingy, or their parents yelled too much, or I didn't like the way their house felt, or their food was gross, or they never talked about anything interesting, or they only wanted to play with Barbies.
I preferred reading in my room, or playing with my brother and his friends - creating pretend economies using snail shells and seed pods in my back yard, designing obstacle courses, creating a city out of boxes in our spare room including houses, a jail, a lunatic asylum, and a full-blown store with snacks, or staging murder mysteries where I was simultaneously the director, script writer, and murder victim. (I frequently practiced holding my stomach as still as possible so I could be a highly convincing dead person.)
People called me quirky, unusual, strange, odd...and it never bothered me. But I wasn't sure why they called me those things.
I sold lemonade at 10, friendship bracelets at 13, duct tape wallets and purses and roses at 14, which turned into freelance transcription, editing, web development, graphic design, direct marketing consulting, online marketing campaign management, and more as I got older. From a young age, when people asked what I was going to be when I grew up, I usually defaulted to my very matter-of-fact - "A millionaire". I was completely serious and saw it as a sort of inevitability in my future that would kind of happen by accident.
Alex Charfen of WeAreEFT.com highlights some common differences between entrepreneurs and the rest of the population:
- High Sensitivity and Awareness
- Future Focus
- High Processing Capacity
- Highly Adaptable
- Intense Focus on Results (or a Single Result)
- Bias for Improvement
- Experimental/Experiential Learning
- Perceive Unique Connections
- Drive for Gained Advantage
- Innate Motivation
Recognize any of these in yourself?
Looking back over my past, I can see how these traits have set me apart from those around me in a distinct way, and I can see why it created some distance between us. I didn't understand that not everyone finds the idea of having a job abhorrent. Not everyone spends most of their free time reading books and articles and taking courses on things like business, marketing, programming, and more, as if their life depended on it. Some people are perfectly happy with a regular joe, status-quo sort of job. I am not one of those people!
And please keep in mind, this might be you even if you've never made a penny outside of a normal job before! I think people that have the entrepreneurial spirit need to start fostering it long before they reach success.
All that said, Alex found that more than anything, entrepreneurs need:
- A reduction in Pressure and Noise
- An increase in Protection and Support
- An increase in utilizing their Strengths and Abilities
- An increase in the Contribution they’re making in the world
When it boils down to it, identifying what is noise and pressure, identifying the best sources of support and the kind of protection you need, identifying your strengths and weaknesses so you know what to focus on, and figuring out where you can make the most impact are all questions of “who am i?”
The underlying key to these four needs is self-awareness.
And let me tell you...I've had some serious self-awareness shifts over the last few years.
- I discovered that I'm TiNe, a very rare pesonality for females. This explained why I rarely got along with other girls growing up - I didn't get them, and they didn't get me. I spent all my time trying to mimic and adapt to them just so we could get along, not realizing that it created an unhealthy one-way relationship.
- I figured out that I have celiac disease, which explained why I was so sick throughout my life, why the doctors always thought I was making it up, and why I never had the energy to run around like the other kids. It also meant that I could finally stop doing damage to my body and heal it instead. In 3 years I went from it taking me hours to get out of bed most mornings to being healthier than most people I know!
- I found out that I fall on the autism spectrum and struggle with Alexithymia, which explained my sensory sensitivities - like my strong aversion to non-cotton clothing, my struggle to be around loud noises, strong smells, and unfamiliar environments like my friend's houses. It also helped me understand why I generally had trouble making friends, why I seemed to have a lot more trouble than my friends when it came to naming and comprehending my emotions, and why people always said I was different.
- I realized that I was queer. This let me finally begin to untangle a huge mass of unidentified emotion I'd been trying to untangle over nearly 6 years. That crazy mess went away when it all clicked and I realized I was in love with my best friend and then promptly asked her out!
- I finally understood that I really was an entrepreneur, not just an imposter. I stopped being afraid that people wouldn't listen to me or respect me, that when it came down to it I had no idea what I was talking about and I would end up living with my parents and working at Starbucks. I now own three (soon to be 4) businesses and I quit my job at the age of 24. I was set up to be at least a few months ahead on my bills within just a couple months of quitting - including tons of days off and a two-week vacation to Ireland with the family for my uncle's wedding!
- I put 2+2 together and realized that I'm a polymath, meaning I am sooo not the type to pick one thing and do it for the rest of my life. Rather I learn lots of things and balance and combine them all to be able to solve problems no one else can solve. This was a relief as it meant I didn't need to stick to one thing to be successful, but rather that my many interests can actually be an advantage!
I would be a very different person without these core realizations, and I'm sure there are more to come. What I've found over time is that it can be a real challenge to step outside of ourselves and our contexts - like the things people say about you that stick to you for years - to get a clear picture of who we are. It’s also a struggle to get good, honest feedback from people.
The problem is, when you lack self-awareness, you make a lot of otherwise avoidable mistakes. You can spend years on things that would have gone far better and saved yourself stress and heartache if you’d known they were a bad fit for you. And it’s amazing how much we put up with when we don’t understand ourselves!
A little while ago, a colleague was telling me about this guy he met at a funeral who spent 35 years working at a rubber plant, hating every moment of it. He had been retired for 4 years and he was still talking about it. He never figured out who he was or what he liked. He never made an effort to get out of the hell hole he was living in.
You don’t become someone special by accident.
You have to know yourself to not only comprehend that “Hey, I hate my life and I’m not fulfilled even though from the outside it looks like I should be.” That’s the easy part. The hard part is second half of this thought which is, “What if I did ____?”
It sounds simple, almost too simple, but that “What if?” can change everything. As an entrepreneur you probably already know what I’m talking about. You didn’t get here by following the well-trodden path set before you. You took risks, you didn’t choose the easy way of a secure job with a 401k. But it's still easy to end up like the guy at the funeral when you don't have the right tools to differentiate between all the work you're doing that's wasting your time and the work that will bring in the big money and leave you satisfied and stress-free at the end of the day.
Now it’s not hard to admit that you probably don’t know yourself as well as you could. We all have a limited vision of our own potential based on who people have told us we are. And to be totally frank, most people are A) Not being honest with you because of their own positive and negative biases (jealousy, wanting to impress you, not wanting to offend or upset you, manipulation, etc.) and B) Aren't healthy, intelligent, and objective enough to actually give you useful, accurate information. When you rely on piecemeal descriptions from imperfect people, you never really see yourself for who you are. The hard part is knowing how to change your perspective and actually doing something about it.
If you want to get out of the rough cycle of decades of trial and error and really see who you are, you need a mirror.
When you know how to identify your strengths, you can double down on them and get more results at work, in your personal life, all across the board. You’re able to see how and where your time can be spent to produce 10x or 100x the results, and you get clarity and reassurance on which path to follow and what decisions to make.
This isn’t just a one time thing. Once you open up the door to self-knowledge you start seeing yourself through a new lens, and that knowledge will continue to grow exponentially as you put it into practice.
There’s a term - psychosocial reciprocity - that was proposed by Erik Erikson, a psychoanalytic theorist, as the final stage of development in a person. What is essentially boils down to is the world seeing in you what you see in yourself. And if you’re still reading this, there’s a good chance you know how it feels when the greatness and potential you feel you have is completely hidden from those around you. It’s a painful experience.
Erikson posited that your sense of identity is tied to your social reality. It’s not hard to see how rejection and lack of understanding from those around us makes it much harder to figure out who we are and to be comfortable sharing it with others.
So today we're going to shift your perspective of yourself.
We're going to give you a mirror.
Now let me warn you - this may cause you to fall in love with self-awareness. And being dedicated to truly knowing who you are is not always easy. At times, revelations can take you along an emotional roller coaster. But I can tell you that it is 100% worth it. If you want to avoid regret and wasted time and energy, this is one of the best ways to do it.
So let's begin!
Step 1 is an exercise that's going to take you outside of the daily grind and show you not just what you do best, but what you do differently. It’s a perspective shift that takes less than an hour of your time and gives you a springboard to start putting together a clearer, more whole picture in your mind of who you are. Now it is a more surface-level activity, but throughout the email course, we'll ease you into deeper discoveries about yourself. It's something I learned from Perry Marshall, Google Adwords and 80/20 Marketing genius, who borrowed it from Dan Sullivan of Strategic Coach.
Here's the first part. You'll get the rest through our email course.
Email at least 7 of your friends and colleagues, preferably having a variety of relationships to you (current or past co-workers, managers, relatives, friends, church, volunteer work, neighbors). Say this:
"I'm taking Type in Mind’s self-awareness class. They gave me an assignment and I’m wondering if you can help me with it. Would you take a few minutes and tell me what you see as my Unique Ability? What do I naturally do better than most other people? I need a reply by ______ ." [2-4 days from now]
Step 2 is to sign up for our Self-Awareness Email Course. This will take you through the rest of this exercise, plus all the other elements I personally recommend for you to really build a solid foundation of who you are, whether you're 16 or 96.