One of the most powerful things a mentor ever said to me was “your business isn’t about you.”
Ouch! At the time it felt like a sharp slap in the face, but she was right. While tough to hear, it changed my life and business forever. That’s what good mentors do if we’re willing to put our defenses down and listen.
I’ve been the CEO of my own successful business for twelve years now, when most business owners barely make it to five. But if I were to get real about it, for half that time, I wasn’t operating as a true CEO. Instead, I was operating as a business owner. There’s a difference.
That face slap moment helped me to understand the crucial difference between a business owner and CEO. I’ve lovingly delivered the same “slap” to many clients in the years following. In many cases, it has also saved their businesses, careers, marriages and given them a life better than one they had even dreamed of.
It isn’t about YOU. It’s its own entity. Stop centering yourself.
I’ll explain what this means in a moment, but even if you don’t own a business, this still applies to relationships, your job, or even where you live, so read on. You can replace the word “business” as you read this with anything in your life.
For years, one of my favorite Instagram accounts was that of an artist. She had over 100,000 followers who watched her videos and several online art courses for which I signed up. She was making a good living!
Then something peculiar happened. She sent an email about how she wasn’t feeling “lit up” by her art business lately, felt overwhelmed by it all, and “bored”. So she was shutting it all down and, welcome to this email list again which is now all about sex coaching! It was very confusing as a follower.
I’ve helped so many people through similar “crises of purpose”. So, my “spidey sense” tingled big time when I got that email. She was making a common mistake MANY make:
She was misinterpreting her lack of capacity to handle business growth as a symptom that she must be “out of alignment with her purpose.”
I had a feeling her new sex coaching business was an “escape fantasy” that would allow her to avoid facing the real problems she needed to face in her art business. And this never goes well. (Kind of like when people quit their jobs thinking starting their own business will be the answer to all their miseries and quickly discover building a business is ten times harder and not a vacation on the beach with a laptop in your hand.)
Well, a year later, I got another email from her saying she was struggling to make ends meet, the new business didn’t work out and she was re-opening all her art courses at a huge discount because she needed money. A total shame!
It’s common to misread the symptoms of your overwhelm, burnout, or boredom as a sign you need to do something entirely different, quit your job, leave a relationship, launch something new, or start a whole new business.
Here are some common capacity deficit symptoms often mistaken for “I’m not aligned/maybe it’s time to leave this” symptoms:
- Feeling resentful about your business (or anything else!) when you used to love it.
- Having built something successful and wanting to walk away from it.
- Not feeling “lit up” by your work anymore, it feels too routine and “boring.”
- Feeling dissatisfied and wondering if you should explore another path you’ve always been curious about.
- Feeling strongly compelled to “burn it all down and start over.”
- Wondering why you don’t feel happy after you got what you wanted.
If you’re feeling any of the ways I listed above, people will often tell you “you’re out of alignment” or “not in your purpose” and need to shake things up. Sure, sometimes. But not always.
In fact, most commonly this is a capacity issue. Capacity deficit symptoms can look a lot like “purpose misalignment” issues. So they’re easy to misread and attempt to solve with the wrong solutions. Big mistake.
There are two beliefs causing you to make this mistake:
1. You were so focused on making money fast in the first few years of your business, you didn’t also grow the capacity to receive what you were trying to manifest.
- Now you achieved your goal, but you don’t know how to handle it.
- You don’t know who the version of you is who has this goal completed. And you feel uncomfortable. Or bored. Because you don’t know who you are when you achieve your goal! But you misinterpret that as “a misalignment with your purpose.”
- You don’t know how to BE this version of you, but you blame the unease with this on your business being “boring” instead.
- You don’t know how to be the NEXT version of you that corresponds to your new goal. This lack of clarity is a capacity issue, but instead you interpret it as a sign you must be ready to move on to another business.
- You’re still doing things in your business that aren’t your zone of genius. You think this means your business needs to launch “new” things. Instead it means you need to delegate and stick to your zone of genius.
2. You think your business is here to fulfill all of your needs
- You don’t know your business isn’t about you, nor your needs. Instead it’s its own separate entity with its own needs that need to be listened to and respected. It’s not a playground for your whims and obsessions. If your revenue has decreased, maybe it’s because you keep destabilizing your business with every whim and confusing your followers.
- You’re addicted to the “hustle” and the drama you had when you were first growing your business, so now that it’s stable, you want to create more drama to keep it feeling like it used to. This usually creates ongoing rollercoaster, feast or famine issues. Instead you need to learn to find fulfillment when your business is stable and at peace. That’s a capacity skill, not a strategy skill.
Many times when a client comes to me telling me they want to quit their job and start a business, or change their entire business model or message because it’s “unfulfilling”, leave a marriage or sell their business and start a new one…
These can be impulsive decisions that aren’t going to solve the problem. And they end up costing people A LOT of money, even bankrupting them. You can quit your job, for example, but if you don’t change who YOU were in that job, the same problems will follow you to the next job.
You can change your business model, branding, or niche, but if your capacity issues don’t get addressed, you’re going to feel the same sense of boredom and dissatisfaction in the new business. I’ve helped SO many entrepreneurs and business owners out of this kind of mess.
You can leave your marriage or relationship, but if your capacity issues don’t get addressed first, you will still have the same issue in your next marriage. Or you will leave a relationship that would have been fine had you focused on expanding your capacity.
Businesses, relationships, areas we live, etc… they are separate entities we are a part of. They are entities we feed and nourish. If we treat them like our own personal whim playground we can break them irreparably, lose a lot of money and end up ruining a good thing.
That’s the difference between being a business owner and a CEO.
A business owner thinks their business is only there to make them feel good. So if something doesn’t feel good, they destabilize it by constantly changing it to fulfill their need for drama.
A CEO knows the business is a separate being that has its own needs, is here to serve others (including giving jobs to the people you employ) and it’s not there to “make them feel good and fulfill all their needs.”
(Kind of like how you shouldn’t expect your romantic partner to be the fulfiller of every need in your entire life, that’s a recipe for unfulfilling relationships all around.)
As a CEO, I’ve had to do some things I didn’t really want to or prefer to do, but I did them because I’m a grown up who understands this is what my business needs right now. I could sit there and treat it like “oh my business is so unfulfilling and draining” or I can just simply say “hey, not fun, but right now, this is what the business needs. In the future, when the business can sustain it, I can bring in someone else to do this job.”
And often, the business, relationship, or situation isn’t the problem. The problem is YOU haven’t been speaking up and asking for what you want, you haven’t set boundaries, or you haven’t expanded your capacity to meet where you want to go. And if you just worked on that, you’d stop feeling uneasy.
I’m sharing this with you today because it’s time to be the grown up CEO of YOUR business and entire life. What would happen if you stopped centering yourself in your relationships, job or business and instead started looking at it as a separate entity? What would shift?