This Is How You Know You Are Not Meant to Be an Entrepreneur

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Tony O. Elumelu, an economist by training, a visionary entrepreneur and a philanthropist. Tony is the Chairman of Heirs Holdings, the United Bank for Africa, Transcorp and founder of The Tony Elumelu Foundation.

Tony O. Elumelu, an economist by training, a visionary entrepreneur and a philanthropist. Tony is the Chairman of Heirs Holdings, the United Bank for Africa, Transcorp and founder of The Tony Elumelu Foundation.


By Aliza Licht

Plans. Dreams. We all had them growing up. When we are younger we’re taught to believe that if we plan properly, our dreams will come true. I went to college with the intent of being a plastic surgeon. I majored in neurobiology and physiology, but in my junior year decided to throw it all away and go into fashion. Fashion was not part of the plan. Fashion was never the goal. So much for plans.

In my book, Leave Your Mark, I speak about the idea of career journey. Our journeys have twists and turns, but there is not one right path. There are many.

Last December I left my 17-career at DKNY behind me, and decided to go out on my own. Feeling bold and confident, I even wrote a post about it for Forbes called “Seven Steps to Entrepreneurship.” Being on my own was exciting. The possibilities seemed endless. It was a blank canvas, ready for any color paint I wanted to use. It was also scary. How do you know what to say yes to, how do you know what to pass on? The thing was it didn’t matter. Everything was a gut decision. I decided to pursue some creative avenues and some more traditional ones. Write a treatment for a show? Check. Start a consulting business? Check. Pick my kids up from school? Check. Go the gym at least three times a week? Yeah, not so much. But I could have. My time was my own. Entrepreneurship was amazing. Why on earth would anyone ever work for a company when they could be their own boss and build something?

Being your own boss is empowering and empowerment is a really interesting concept. What defines power anyway? Well, in my humble opinion, it’s the ability to choose what you want and make it happen when you want to. I had a dream career, but I was more than willing to let it all go to gain back my own personal power.

During my time consulting, I would keep track of all my business leads and my networking activities. I was busy, like really busy. I raced around the city and I met with new people daily. I was building my business and my new world.

But then a month ago I decided to reflect on the past 10 months. I always think it’s important to take stock, see how you’re doing, and analyze how far you have progressed. The truth was, I wasn’t impressed. Sure if I looked at my calendar, it looked good. Meetings were happening and connections were being made, but it wasn’t moving the needle. I didn’t want “it” enough. That hustle, that passion that makes people strive as entrepreneurs was totally nonexistent from my headspace. I said no to consulting jobs that any normal person who wanted a legit consulting business would have said yes to. I didn’t pitch anyone. I relied totally on people coming to me. You can’t do that and be successful. So I had to ask myself why? Why wasn’t I trying harder? Why didn’t I care? Did I want to fail?

Because being an entrepreneur is not for everyone. I was fooled by the allure and sexiness of being able to say, “I have my own company.”  It is glamorized, isn’t it? It’s made to look easy. It’s the shiny object that looks just within reach. Well, it’s not easy to grab. Even when you really make it big, it can all come crashing downs evidenced by the Girlboss herself recently. Female entrepreneurs are in a class all their own and let’s face it, it’s trendy right now to start something up. Anything, really. So, I tried it; and I am happy I did. To my surprise, taking back my power instead meant a 10-month break from the grind so that I could energize my brain, freshen my mindset and reboot my passion. I realized that I thrive in a collaborative environment. I like being part of a team. I value focus and common goals. I missed being a part of something bigger than me. Entrepreneurship was a lonely proposition. It was a mobile office, transient projects and often, fair weather people. I didn’t have the drive necessary to make it successful.

Back in August 2015, a few months prior leaving DKNY,  I met with the president of Alice + Olivia by Stacey Bendet. It was a lovely meeting but I was not ready to go from my 17-year stint at DKNY into the arms of another company. Oh, definitely not. I wanted the freedom to do all the things I thought I couldn’t do while having a full-time job. But 10 months later at exactly the right moment, Alice + Olivia popped into my inbox again. It was a wonderful and timely surprise. More than a year after that first meeting, I am proud to say that I am the new EVP of Brand Marketing & Communications there.

I have rejoined the traditional working world. I am not an entrepreneur. I don’t fear missing out on the startup life. I don’t fear not being my own boss. My power lies in being honest enough with myself to know when the path has ended and I need to make a turn. It’s about understanding my strengths and my weaknesses and learning how to apply the strengths to enhance my growth. I am thankful today for clarity.

So back to that five-year plan. It doesn’t exist. It never has. People who plan out every aspect of their lives may be high achievers, but they also may miss the opportunities that pop up when they least expect them to. If you say no to opportunities because they aren’t listed in your five-year plan, you might just be saying no to your destiny. Conversely, if you can’t recognize when something isn’t working, you’re doing yourself an equal injustice.

My strategy has always been to set an immediate goal and keep an eye on the one that should follow. When you accomplish the first goal, reassess if the next goal is still the right move. Don’t plot the next 50. Because here’s the thing, you have no idea what you’re doing. I have no idea what I’m doing, but I know this: My immediate goal is always crystal clear. I see doors and windows open daily. I ignore some, I walk through others. There is no wrong way to go. There’s just different. Success is making things happen that you never thought you could. It’s also being able to realize when something you thought you wanted isn’t something you want after all.

We get one life, but many chances. It’s up to us to take them.

Source: Forbes


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