How do you move forward with your aspirations without letting other people's opinions influence your perception of success?
I was asked this question last week during a Q&A about starting a business. As context, I work part-time along with working on J. Margaret Weaver. After stepping back from full-time work with a heavy travel schedule when my son turned one, I was honored to be asked to continue consulting and working on special projects for the organization. Not only has this opportunity allowed me to continue to support the company, albeit in a different way, it has also helped me to stay professionally current and sharp.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of my current role are the presentation, education and public speaking opportunities I am able to participate in with our associates. Our Analyst team puts together a fantastic internship program every summer, and they have grown it from a couple interns to over 25 this year. When I spoke to them at orientation, I mentioned that I’d started a business - J. Margaret Weaver - and received a lot of questions and interest about it. Consequently, I offered to share more about my experience with anyone who was interested. I figured a few people would join and was blown away when twenty-something people showed up!
Small businesses have consistently made a tremendously positive impact on our economy, driving innovation and competition as well as generating 44% of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and creating 67% of net new jobs according to this report from the SBA. We talked about managing risk, learning a new industry, and how small businesses can make a big impact in their communities.
As I mentioned at the beginning, one question that struck me was this:
In life, we always face the opinions of others. Throughout my life, there has been an emphasis for me to take the least risky path to success. How do you move forward with your aspirations without letting other people's opinions influence your perception of success? How do you find the strength to do something that may be socially considered a more risky endeavor?
Have you ever thought something similar? I have.
Early in my career, I opted for what I thought was the least risky path to success, only to find that risk still existed in ways I had not anticipated.
In my experience, we will face the opinions of others regardless of whether we try something new and “risky” or take the “safer” path. Particularly in an era where people are hyper-connected and empowered to share their opinion through social media, we are subject to unsolicited feedback and commentary from others 24/7. What I have found helpful is not to try and change my behavior so as to avoid facing negative opinions from others, but to ground myself and my identity in a way that allows me to value and consider the opinions of others without letting them inform or affect my self-worth.
If your identity, value, or worth is mainly tied to something external - for example, success, goals, a relationship or job, the opinions of others, etc - you get where I’m going here - then you are living for other people. Your resiliency will not be sufficient to navigate through the tough situations, because all of those aspects of your worth can be gone at any time. If, however, your value and worth are internally-focused and grounded, you will find that you can hear the opinions of others without being crushed and defeated. You will be more comfortable taking smart risks because your worth isn’t tied to a successful outcome. You will enjoy learning from failures and be resilient to bounce back when you don’t meet your goals.
Is this easy? Absolutely not. I’ve spent years working on this. A year ago, I’d pretty much talked myself out of launching J. Margaret Weaver, or at least put it off indefinitely. It wasn’t until I talked to a friend that I realized I wasn’t delaying because of COVID or because I didn’t have time, it was because I was terrified to fail. Once I realized that, I decided to set a date and launch regardless of what was happening around me. Selecting a date was the most terrifying step in the entire launch, because it meant I was committing to trying something new and could publicly fail. But even if I failed, I would still learn a lot. And if I learned something from the experience, then I decided that it was worth it.