Lessons Learned on the Road to Entrepreneurship

A long, dark tunnel

I’ll admit it. I’m not a particularly adventuresome person. I like my daily routine that keeps me focused and on task. So the decision to drive from Michigan to North Carolina this month was not to be taken lightly. I had an opportunity to meet up with some business acquaintances and also spend time with a good friend who lives there.

First of all, whenever our family takes a road trip, I’m the D.O.D. ~ that is, the Dedicated Ohio Driver. Ohio has a moderate speed limit,  flat terrain, and well-maintained highways and turnpikes. I am comfortable driving through Ohio, and I’ve done it plenty of times. But, the closer we get to mountain driving, I hand the wheel over to my husband.

On this particular trip, however, it was just me and my thirteen-year old daughter. I had the old-fashioned maps, the MapQuest directions, and Google navigation pulled up on my phone.  The route was fairly straightforward,  and we were looking forward to our trip.

Yet, I’ll be honest. I had a bit of trepidation about driving through the mountains. But I did it anyway.

Lessons Learned Along the Way

I tend to get introspective in situations like this, and the drive ahead kept me thinking about the slow, long journey of  building a business. I reflected a lot about lessons learned on the road to entrepreneurship. If you’re an entrepreneur, you know what I’m talking about. You start out energized, well-intentioned, and excited to see where the road takes you. But then…

We ran into some unexpected, turbulent storms in Ohio. In fact, the rainfall was so intense that people were pulling off the expressway and waiting it out on the shoulder. We had been on the road less than an hour, and I chose to knuckle down and keep moving. As the rain pelted down, a huge shroud of fog emerged in the distance and visibility was greatly reduced. SIGH.

1.  Take it slow

So it’s one of those times you ask yourself, “Should I stop, too?” We kept going.

“Slow but steady wins the race.”  There will always be obstacles to slow you down and make you want to turn back. But winners forge ahead. Sometimes you are reduced to a crawl, but just keep moving. Forward motion is progression.

Eventually the storms passed and a few hours later we were headed into the Appalachian mountain range in West Virginia.  The scenic view along the way is breathtaking, but being unfamiliar with mountain driving, I couldn’t spend too much time appreciating the surrounding beauty. The steep grade and extensive curves that I encountered required all of my concentration and focus.

2.  Don’t be thrown by a curve

The warning signs are everywhere: Slow Down Steep Curve Ahead.

So what if everyone else is flying past you. Are you ready to crash and burn because you’re just not ready to handle what’s around the corner? S-L-O-W down and be prepared for the unknown.

Which takes me to my third point…

3.  Keep your focus

When I’m driving, I tend to drift onto the shoulder when I look to the right. Not a good thing when the shoulder sits so close to the edge of a mountain.

Focus. No matter where you are or what you are doing, don’t ever lose focus.  You tend to drift where you are gazing.

4.  It’s easier coming out then going in

And then there were the tunnels. Yes, the long, long tunnels through the mountains. It’s a bit claustrophobic driving through a tunnel, don’t you think? I found myself looking straight ahead, longing for the “light at the end of the tunnel.” You know it’s coming, but when?

While tunnel vision in a tunnel is one thing, don’t let it limit the possibilities all around you. Lots of good stuff lies in the peripheral distances. There will always be those moments that you think you simply cannot do it: the presentation, the meeting with your boss, the tough conversation with a client. Deep breath. It begins and ends with you, so buck up and go in. It’s always easier coming out.

5.  Enjoy the journey

When the journey becomes wearisome, it’s time to stop and rest.

Part of the destination is to enjoy the journey along the way.

6. It’s not the end of the road

The trip was fabulous. I enjoyed visiting with old and new friends. But then there was the journey back… which I got to do all over again. But going back I decided on a different route that made more sense than what my GPS was telling me.

You have to retrace your steps sometimes. You’ll see the same things but from a different perspective. You can adjust the direction, the compass, the roads you take. You’ll learn to adapt to the changing environment. Trust your instinct.  Just because you change your course, it’s doesn’t mean it’s the end of the road.  It’s just another leg of the journey where you, my friend, are the driver.

And so, I’ll leave you with a quote that I love:

May your dreams be larger than mountains and may you have the courage to scale their summits. ― Harley King

To your success!

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nancy a. locke
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nancy a. locke

Thanks for taking us along on your journey, Michelle. Road trips offer such rich metaphor and life lessons.

Michelle Phillips
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Michelle Phillips

You’re welcome, Nancy. I really agree about the “rich metaphors” a road trip offers; I think we all can relate. Thanks for your thoughts this morning!

Kristen
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Kristen

Inspiring article Michelle…..even for those that don’t fit the mold….but need to adjust the route they are on.

Michelle Phillips
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Michelle Phillips

So true! Great perspective, Kristen! Thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙂

Nancy Babcock
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Nancy Babcock

Michelle, fantastic article with words of wisdom for entrepreneurs or established businesses that need to stop and adjust their compass. Your journey inspired me.

Michelle Phillips
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Michelle Phillips

Thank you so much, Nancy. Really appreciate your comment and it’s good to know I’m not alone on this journey! 🙂

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