There are a million and five pieces of content out there espousing the One Thing you need in order to be a successful business owner. And of course, most of them contain a convenient affiliate link so you can give them your credit card details and purchase One Thing.
This community membership. That fancy journal. Her invoicing system. His e-book. Their e-course. Those apps. These daily routines. Hustle. All are One Thing; One Thing are all.
But I’m here to lay down some harsh truths. None of that shit hits at the real One Thing you need in order to be a truly successful business owner. Sure, some of them help, and some of them are super fun or useful. But One Thing? Nah.
So then why in the hell am I making you read this click-baity BS if I don’t believe in the existence of the One Thing?
Because what I think these other content creators are getting at is that people know something is missing. They buy into the myth of One Thing because they are looking for Dumbo’s magic feather that will suddenly make them great at finding high-paying clients, or managing stress, or saving money, or not watching porn when they’re supposed to be working, or…
But unfortunately, just like Dumbo’s ability to fly, you didn’t need the effing feather—the magic was in you the whole time! And that is the magic of self-awareness.
The most underestimated skill all business owners need is self-awareness.
Yes, you need drive. You need social skills. You need curiosity. But all of those things are about as useful as tits on a nun if you don’t know how to use them to your advantage.
Keep reading to learn how being self-aware can bring you closer to your ideal business, and how not developing this skill can leave you directionless and ready to give up.
If you are self-aware: you’ve heard it a million times: setting good goals is a fundamental business practice. (It is also One Thing). But as one of them self-aware folk, you set clear, attainable goals that strike the right balance between challenging and stupid-easy ego boosters. You know yourself enough to know what you need to do, and how to get there. Goals don’t get in your way, they push you up and above the rest.
If you are not self-aware: you set goals because everyone tells you they are One Thing. You come up with some great things you want to accomplish, and may even set out a plan for achieving them. You probably already know about SMART goals.
But where did these goals come from—your ass? Are they goals you want to achieve, or are they goals you think you want to achieve? Are they goals you can achieve based on who you are and what your business is? If you can’t achieve those goals, will that be ok with you?
Goals have the ability to give your business direction and a way to measure success on your terms. Just make sure they are your terms and not meant for the person you wish you were.
Learning from mistakes
If you are self-aware: you have the ability to learn from your mistakes and from the mistakes of others. You can reflect on what went wrong, and own up to your part of the situation. And you won’t make those same mistakes again! And suddenly, you’ve created trust and value between you, your clients, and your team.
If you are not self-aware: Others repeat their mistakes over and over, failing to grasp the lessons each time, until either they give up, or they run out of chances. Mistakes are human, and especially if you’re doing most of this on your own, a lot of what you learn has to come the hard way.
But experience is often the best teacher, so be open to the lessons. Learn the who, what, where, when, and why of your bad habits and decisions, and you will be ready to turn them into positive experiences.
If you are self-aware: contingencies and Plans B through Z.9.a are a standard part of any growing business. Because you are intimately familiar with how you operate, think, and react, you don’t let yourself get away with anything and make being prepared a priority.
You know that you have an Instagram addiction, so you keep your phone on airplane mode until lunch. You know you hate getting up in the morning, so you get everything ready for your 8:00 am breakfast meeting the night before. It doesn’t matter that one of your clients no longer needs your services, because you’ve got a handful of leads lined up.
If you’re not self-aware: most things are a struggle because you don’t prepare properly how YOU need to prepare. Most things take a lot more effort than you bargained for. If you understand what you need in order to feel secure and productive, you will be able to put systems and contingencies in place that allow you to make the most of your business and turn every change of plans into an opportunity. And eventually you will feel empowered and capable, rather than stressed and overwhelmed when things go off-script.
Knowing when and how to ask for help
If you are self-aware: you know when you’re in over your head, and you immediately take action. You delegate, collaborate, outsource, and ask for support. You know the value of good help and will jump at the opportunity to learn from the wisdom of others. You will also cultivate mutually beneficial relationships, knowing that at some point, you’ll probably need a favour from them (and vice versa).
If you are not self-aware: you will let things slide too long, often existing in constant anxiety and stress around your business. You think things have to be done by you, and you can’t see the line between pride and perfectionism, and ignorance and burnout. Maybe you believe that being a business owner means never appearing weak or vulnerable, or maybe your expectations are too high. But a mindset doesn’t shift unless you know where it comes from, so don’t be afraid to examine why you find it so difficult to ask for help and get over yourself.
Paying a problem to go away
If you are self-aware: you take every recommended product or service with a grain of salt. Your time is precious, and you don’t mind paying a premium for premium value. You know your system and what it lacks. You know how to assess a new solution to see if it’ll fit with your operations before you buy it. You don’t mind not jumping on the bandwagon right away—you do the dirty work to solve a problem, you don’t wave your chequebook at it. If you have a problem, you identify what you need to solve it, research how to fulfill that need, find the best way to fulfill it, and carry on to the next thing.
If you are not self-aware: every issue becomes a crisis. Every lack becomes a road block. Every problem becomes an excuse. When you encounter a problem, you approach it by trying to take the easiest way out. That’s not necessarily because you are lazy, but most likely because you don’t have the self-awareness required to pinpoint the best solution for the problem you’re facing.
You don’t need to hire a $700-a-day business coach if all you need is an accountability partner. You don’t need to invest $13,000 into re-branding unless you know that’s what your business needs for it to make its targets.
So do the legwork—figure out the exact solution to your exact problem and if you need to shell out money, do it! But don’t hand out your credit card for something someone else makes sound good. Even better, self-awareness is free.
Regarding your competition
If you are self-aware: you know who your competition is. You know where they’re strong—stronger than you, even—and where you’ve got the upper hand. You keep an eye on what they’re doing, but you don’t obsess over matching every move they make like a chess player on energy drinks. And that’s because you understand that in the real world, business is not a zero-sum game. You focus on what you can control and in doing your best work for your clients. And if your competitor gets a win? Well, a rising tide lifts all boats.
If you are not self-aware: you are hyper-aware of what your competition is doing, and too many of your business activities are concerned with trying to out-do them. You probably haven’t taken the time to define your USP, your marketing plan, or your niche. If your competitor finds success, you take it as a personal blow.
Remember that you are not your business. Yes, you’ve put way too much time, money, effort, and love into it to see it fail. But if it does, it probably won’t be because your competition killed it. It will be because you didn’t pivot when you needed to, or follow up with the right people, or make the best connections, or invest in improving your product or service. Keep reflecting on your fears and do what’s right for your business and your clients.