4 Business Takeaways I Learned From Grief
This year has been a very interesting and disruptive time in my life. Within the first few weeks of the New Year, I suffered an incredible loss with the death of my Aunt that I’m still dealing with today. Not a single day since she passed have I not thought about her, or thought about a conversation we had, or even just mentioned her name in my heart.
That loss was the beginning of me questioning and reexamining my entire existence up to this point. The career choices and the impact of my decision on my family. My approach to and thoughts on my marriage and my husband. My insecurities and fears regarding my daughter and the fear of dying and leaving her without me, her mother.
All this internal, emotional and spiritual turmoil led me to reexamine my life and my business. What do I really want to do and more importantly what is my purpose? I, like so many people, have always been driven by passion and the desire to succeed. The definition of success for me is one that I’ve shed many a tear over. For the longest time, I always defined my success by how much money I made. On the corporate ladder, that success was very clear. But when I made the switch to become an entrepreneur, I could no longer use earnings as my marker because it was slow to come and it would have broken me (and there were times it did). On the surface I told myself I was doing great! Look how many accomplishments I have gained, how many press hits I have received, how many noteworthy people I have met, the kinds of room and conversation I have been a part of, the opportunities I have been blessed with, the goals I have achieved, products I have produced and so on. But deep down on a subconscious level I felt like a failure. What did all this mean if I wasn’t an asset to my family? If my husband had to carry the load by himself? And if ultimately I still didn’t feel good despite all of that?
That loss I suffered this year, has forced me to confront all these questions and more importantly has forced me to confront myself and really look to understand WHY I do what I do. What is my true motivation and intention? Why despite how passionate I am, am I still so unhappy and unfulfilled in my work?
It’s been a tough few months. While I am not completely out of the internal chaos yet, I have realized four takeaways that apply in life and in business that I am learning from grief:
1. God gives us what we ask for. I realize that everything I’ve asked Him for (personally and professionally) He has given me and yet I don’t see it or feel it because I prayed the wrong prayer. I realize I have been doing it all wrong. For so long I’ve been trying to tell God what I need/want instead of asking Him to open the doors He has in store for me. In other words despite my faith and belief I haven’t fully surrendered. When you are in emotional and spiritual turmoil you have no choice but to surrender. The same applies in business.
Takeaway #1: If you believe in a higher being that guides your life, then the prayer for your business shouldn’t be about what you want but more so what you need in order to fulfill your stated mission.
2. I NEED to do PURPOSE-DRIVEN work. That no matter what my next steps are, if they are not steeped in purpose, then it is not for me. I have come to realize and embrace that my purpose is to help people with the knowledge, experience, and expertise that God has given me. So I created Elaine Mensah Inc and Brand Meets Creative as the vehicle to fulfill that mission. I always say “I don’t know how I know what I know. I just do.” But in fact that statement is wrong. I know what I know because God imparts that wisdom on me. I can see peoples businesses and brands, journeys and paths so clearly. I wish I could see that for myself but the gift doesn’t work on me. And so I’ve taken the turmoil and over the past couple of months and created an avenue where I can step into my gift and fulfill my purpose of helping others build / grow / nurture their ideas into full fledged businesses and brands.
TAKEAWAY #2: Take a look at your business and examine whether your purpose aligns with that you are doing and if not, tweak as necessary. You will find greater fulfillment and a better ability to withstand the tough times.
3. I need to OWN my greatness. I have always been uncomfortable with praise and accolades. My comfort zone has always lied in self-deprecation and yet ironically I was always in my feelings when my worth wasn’t being validated by the outside world. I realized that while I genuinely do not care about people’s perception of me, I seek validation in the outside noise. From complete strangers who don’t know me because I believed that if they liked my work then my work has spoken for itself. So I always downplayed my resume. I didn’t like for people to know the breadth and depth of what I did, do, and can do. I felt uncomfortable saying “I’m a Strategist” ” I’m a Speaker” or “I’m an Entrepreneur”. Those declarations felt boastful and my internal reaction was always “says who?” Or “Who do you think you are?” That voice of fear, insecurity, doubt I believed dimmed my light. It stunted my career and growth as a person and businesswoman. The loss I experienced this year has forced me to face myself and own the greatness that God has given me. I have NO CHOICE than to truly step out on faith. I’m running out of time on so many things, so if not now when?
Takeaway #3: Take an internal inventory of your greatest personal fears as it pertains to your business and examine if it is hindering your success in any way. If it is, address it with yourself or confide in your tribe and work through it.
4. Sharing as a form of inspiration, motivation and self expression. I’ve always believed that my integrity, work ethic, work product, and personality would speak for itself. As such social media is and has ALWAYS been a STRUGGLE for me. My friends will tell you how much thought and agony goes into every post. The guessing and second guessing of the decision to post at all is excruciating. I’m am fiercely protective of my family, marriage, and most importantly my thoughts. I frequently admire people who just put it all out there seemingly with little to no effort. I don’t think that I ever will or want to be that open but I’m committing to sharing more of my thoughts, interests, and perspectives in the hope that it impacts others (in big or small ways). It is also important for me to let go of the fear, doubt, and second guessing. It is important for me to free myself from the mental bondage that I have created. This post I hope is the first step.
Takeaway #4: In business as in life, RELEASE is critical. Social media when used strategically and authentically, can share your message and the essence of who you are. You don’t have to be an oversharer or try to emulate your favorite blogger to be successful. Just speak your truth in a way that works for you.
So in closing, I don’t know what this new journey will look like or what the outcome will be in the end but I know that at the end of the day, I will be a better person, wife, mom, and businesswoman. I also know that I will help a lot of people, open doors for them, and contribute something of significance to this world via my work.
It’s not easy, nor do I expect it to be but I am glad that despite the darkness, I am figuring out how to reach for the light even if I can’t quite see it yet.
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