Choose the words that you allow to take space in your mind carefully or risk them becoming true for you. Words are more powerful than we realize.
At the age 25, I started my first business. I was totally lost and overwhelmed. I didn’t know then that entrepreneurship and feeling overwhelmed often go hand-in-hand and I had many nay-sayers in my life who just wanted me to jump onto a predictable career path. Not feeling supported, I began working with a therapist to get clarity and confidence on my life decisions. Keep in mind, I was in Argentina, far from my immediate family or friends, so I needed all the support and guidance I could get. There were no entrepreneurs in my family and this was far from what I had studied or prepared for and way out of my comfort zone.
Quick backstory detour. I’m Argentine. My family immigrated to America when I was a little girl and shortly after finishing college I decided to move back in order to pursue a second degree in fashion design. My plan was to only stay a year and then transition into an advanced design program based in NYC. Those plans changed after I began dancing tango and realized that there was a mega business opportunity in tango fashion. Up until then, the dancewear was slightly dated, yet the scene had received a recent injection of young dancers wanting to keep the tradition alive. They were beginning to make it young and relevant by dancing to modern music and electronic remixes of classics. New bands were being born and updating the sound. This thing called ‘Nuevo tango’ had revolutionized the dance and the music, yet the clothing was far behind. With my knowledge of dance, sports and activewear, I decided to bring these concepts into tango clothing. The first collection did better than an insecure 25-year-old could have expected and before I knew it, I’d rented a large apartment in Palermo, converting the living room into a cutting and sewing room and subleasing the spare rooms for more stability. Many good stories came out of that apartment, but this one is about the power of the words we choose to believe.
We were working through some of my blocks by doing specific visualizations together. In one particular visualization, I envisioned “future-successful-career-woman-me.” You know the one. HERRR. The one you secretly desire to be while feeling like she’s totally unattainable. She keeps pulling you forward, whether you are aware of her calling.
On one occasion, I clearly saw myself advising entrepreneurs all over the world on how to grow their businesses. I had no idea really, what I was even seeing. I didn’t know that business consulting was a thing, let alone a possible career choice. The thought of helping people with my accrued skills, talking business strategies and impacting some lives- that was a thrilling concept to me. And, maybe even more importantly, this was the first time I had felt excited by the prospect of anything in…well, quite a while.
When I wasn’t completely overworked by managing every aspect of a manufacturing business (yes, all of you fashion people can laugh at how incredibly naive I was), I was fending off other people’s worries and fears for my career future. If there happened to be any quiet moments in between, I was balancing my own self-doubt, criticism and negative talk. Those of course were easier to quiet by just making myself busier. And busier became a stand-in for happier more and more of the time. The truth is, I’ve always been pretty good at appearing more confident than I actually am, when in fact, deep down I was worried about what I was doing with my life.
This visualization was the first time that I got excited about anything, even if it was something that wouldn’t exist until well into the future. It meant that I could look forward to becoming this version of me!
As we wrapped up the visualization, I opened my eyes eagerly anticipating her to join in our celebration. Instead, she looked at my sternly, slightly concerned.
I still remember to this day what she told me. “Lower your expectations. Set your eyes on a more realistic career.” Heart – immediately deflated. Back to depression and confusion, I spent my 20’s and even early 30’s a bit lost. Sure, now in my 40’s, I understand it’s totally normal to feel lost at that age. Yet at the time, I took her words as expert advice, therefor making my journey a much longer and harder one. I kept wandering somewhat aimlessly, while ironically over-working myself to prove I was on the right path. Years later that distant vision returned around the time that I contemplated pursuing an MBA. It was then that I realized that it wasn’t too late to build the vision of myself I had once imagined.
That vision made that therapist uncomfortable. She couldn’t see what I saw. She didn’t know how to build that person, so she thought we should lower our sights and do something more “achievable.”
What I can say is, be careful what thoughts you let in, no matter who they are coming from.
The irony is that today, I am mostly paid by clients to see the road ahead for them, the one they can feel but not yet see. This is literally what I do. I advise entrepreneurs and all kids of businesses on how to materialize their visions and bring into the world those things which for so long had remained buried inside of them. I lay out the path for their growth, the one they can’t see yet, because they’re still stuck in the weeds, and yes, often feeling that entrepreneurial overwhelm that can be crippling. My ultimate goal with all my clients is to teach them the skills they need to become their own strategists. Once we get past some of their initial blocks… they are often on their way and send me postcards from their new destination. Which is exactly how I want it to be.
What you believe about yourself is true. If there is something deep down that you believe you can do, you probably can. This also holds true for the negative thoughts in your head. If you believe you can’t do something, you’re probably right about that too. What I can say is, be careful what thoughts you let in, no matter who they are coming from. They will guide you to the outcome whether you want that particular outcome or not.
And full disclosure, I currently have a pretty bad-ass therapist these days and I do believe her…most of the time.