Last year, I wrote a post on whether inspiration would ultimately be the wedding industry's downfall. I remember feeling nervous when I posted it, because let's face it, certain "movements" and hashtags have become wildly trendy among wedding pros and other creatives. I worried that, by questioning the motives of the people behind it, I'd be seen as some kind of wedding industry mean girl. as negative, as judgmental. (It wouldn't be the first time. Some people really don't like being called out.)
Still, as with most of my quasi-controversial posts on WeddingIQ, I felt the topic needed to be discussed. And I stand by what I wrote, as well as my follow-up piece on how sugarcoating the reality of business hurts wedding pros and aspiring entrepreneurs.
This post is similar, but a little more personal to me. And it's not an easy one to write, that's for sure.
The Flip Side of Inspiration
As much as I've ranted about inspiration alone not being enough to sustain business owners in their success, inspiration is just one side of the coin. The other, and the one that's been my own undoing, is education.
If you're passionate about business like I am, you're probably constantly in entrepreneurial overdrive: thinking of new ideas, plotting new ventures, assessing what skills and resources you have and what you still need.
And behind that unwavering drive, that go-getter attitude, is probably a little voice whispering to you, saying "you're not enough."
Perhaps the scariest part of being in business for yourself is knowing that the responsibility for its success or failure rests solely on your shoulders. The concept of the business is yours. The business model is yours. The sales numbers are yours. The reviews are yours.
If your business thrives, it's one of the greatest feelings in the world, because that success is all yours, and you deserve all the credit and then some. But any struggles, or even failures, are all yours, too. So it's natural that all the ups and downs of your business would become completely entangled with your self-esteem.
So, what's the driven entrepreneur to do? Accept her seat on the roller coaster of emotions, and allow herself to get lost in the endless cycle of celebrating her wins and beating herself up over her losses?
In my case, absolutely not. I know myself well enough to know that if I allowed myself to fall down that hole, I wouldn't be able to dig myself out. So instead, I (and, I suspect, many businesspeople like me) try to empower myself with ever more education, knowledge and skills.
"Empowerment" Through Education?
Any shortcomings I have can surely be eradicated if I just know more, try more, do more. I'm smart. I'm talented. I can do anything I put my mind to, right? That must be true, because if it's not, then that means something much scarier must be true instead: that I'm actually not enough, just like that little voice warned me.
Of course, I shouldn't have to suffer for long, because fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately, as the case may be) the Internet is chock full of instruction and guides and groups and memes and ads, all promoting ever more ways to make yourself a smarter, more successful businessperson. It blows my mind sometimes how, for literally any skill or piece of information you could ever want to acquire, there are dozens of people out there to show you how to do it. Sometimes, it's a free download, but just as often it's an insanely expensive course (hello, $2K for "B-School?").
Not only is anything you want to learn available to you, so is anything you want to be. If you aren't a success story, it's because you just haven't invested in yourself yet. At least, that's what social media would have you believe.
And so much of the time, the people hawking these courses and programs are flat-out misleading people. How many are claiming six-figure incomes when their profit margin is only 20%? How many are claiming to teach people how to run wildly successful businesses, when the only business they've ever run is this miracle online program they're currently pushing?
If the Internet is to be believed, hundreds (if not thousands) of people have mastered the secret of becoming insanely rich without having to work, and they're ready and willing to show you how, too.
Ugh. What about those of us who want to work?
Unfortunately, there's a trap for us too: the endless barrage of articles and blog posts and resources and discussions, all of which add up to one big, debilitating burden of pressure. The eager learners among us become hoarders of information, which pile up in the form of e-newsletters and "boss" groups on Facebook and books never read.
Sure, there are worthwhile resources out there, for specific things that business owners want and need to learn. (If I didn't believe this was absolutely true, WeddingIQ wouldn't offer them.) In this context, I'm talking about all the crap we collect just because we might need it someday - maybe a shiny Facebook ad caught our eye, or a fellow member of a discussion group who seems to really have her act together is suddenly offering a course and omigod I have to scoop it up now before the price increases. I'm talking about every "silver bullet" we add to our cache, assuming it will be the thing that (someday) makes our business soar. That kind of thing.
Over time, this information hoard starts to become a source of shame. That annoying little voice pops back up, only this time it's whispering, "you're not enough, and you aren't doing enough about it."
If we had our shit together better, we'd actually process all of this information we're gathering, and we'd use it to our benefit. We'd save money on the things we have to outsource, because we'd know how to do them. We'd save time in our operations, because we'd know all the latest apps and technology that can help us be more efficient. And we'd look smarter and more accomplished to everyone around us, because hey - look how much time we've put into growing as bosses?
All of this becomes guilt, which leads us straight into the downward spiral of overwhelm, procrastination, shame and, ultimately, paralysis.
The business that once had us so excited and proud now feels small. Insignificant. Unworthy. A reminder of all that we aren't doing. A shell of what it could be, if we were just doing a better job at it.
Time to Let Go
What it's taken me way too long to realize is this:
Those feelings aren't doing anything good for us.
When we overload our brains with information we aren't ready to apply, we're taking up space that could be used for things that would actually benefit us.
If we're constantly looking outward for what we need to do next, we're failing to look inward, which is where the real truths usually reside.
I don't know about you, but I'm about ready to let all of that shit go. My head is already full of everything I need to know right now, and when I come across something I absolutely need to learn, it'll be right there waiting for me. I have an incredible group of friends and colleagues who can help to hold me accountable better than any faceless, nameless group out there. I have goals, ideas and dreams I can pursue as they feel right to me, without having to be reminded that I'm not doing it fast enough.
So, as of today, I've turned off the notifications for most of my groups. I'm unsubscribing from emails left and right. I'm giving myself permission to step back, breathe, and figure out what I want to do next. I'm leaving space inside my head for good stuff to develop.
I hope you'll consider doing the same.
What's your experience been with overloading on inspiration and education? What are you ready to release? Share your thoughts in the comments, or join our Facebook community (overload-free, we promise!) to discuss this topic in more detail!