5 inspirational quotes that helped me build a business

Written for Two Six Magazine


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One of the best side effects of my recent lawyer-turned-funtrepreneur conversion is the opportunity it has created for me to write for pleasure. As I’ve said before, writing is one of my three great passions (alongside food, of course, and travel). While I was endlessly writing in my life as a lawyer, there isn’t much room for literary flair and creativity when drafting contract terms. So I have been delighted (and honoured) that the success of Matcha Maiden has led to an increasing number of invitations to contribute parts of our experience to various blogs or publications.

One of my favourite pieces from the last few weeks is this article I wrote for the wonderful Two Six magazine. Because this is all so new to us (and I still sometimes feel like I’m completely faking it), it seems odd to be asked to give other people business tips or insights. But, once I get started, I often surprise myself at how much I have crammed into my brain from the journey to pass on to anyone hoping to begin their own. Anyone who knows me will know I LOVE a good inspirational quote, so I chose some of my favourites that best capture my top tips for starting a business. 

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Inspiration is an essential but frustratingly elusive ingredient to action, progress, and achievement. We all draw our inspiration from different influences as we work towards different goals on our different walks of life. For me, there is nothing more powerful than a succinct and cleverly worded inspirational quote. I know that some people find them terribly cliché, but I’m that person who has them shamelessly plastered all over my walls with a handful perfectly memorised and ready to rattle off in any situation (and yet, I can barely remember my own phone number – the brain is a funny thing!)

While observing inspiring role models helps me figure out the goals I want to achieve, quotes evoke a deeper level of reflection into how I can actually achieve them. Perhaps because the message they deliver is so short and sweet, my favourite quotes really stick with me and have given me invaluable guidance on so many occasions. Different ones have had more or less significance at different times in my life, but I have always found them useful (you should see how I hoard quote-a-day desk calendars, it’s atrocious). I thought I would share a few that have been especially relevant during the very steep learning curve that has made up my past few months.

I entered the workforce as a corporate lawyer, but started a small business (Matcha Maiden) as a creative outlet with my partner late last year. The business recently reached a point where it required a greater investment of time, so I left my suits behind to become a full-time funtrepreneur (yay for gym clothes everyday!) While there is a lot of fun to be had with a new business, it is also a very overwhelming and challenging step. Particularly when you strip away the structure, routine and systems of conventional employment, energetic enthusiasm can turn into exhausted despair quickly and randomly. In those moments, the following five quotes were absolutely invaluable. Not only (but especially) for those of you on a similar pathway, I hope they prove as helpful for you as they have been for me.

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1. Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.

One of our most destructive human tendencies is self-doubt. Our minds too easily find and lament all the obstacles to an idea instead of focusing our energy on how to overcome them. This often leads us to “self-select out” of great opportunities, giving up before we even begin. But the completely non-revolutionary truth is that you’ll never know how great something could be until you actually try it! Sounds obvious and yet we still too easily hesitate. I was genuinely worried that we might not make a single sale, but if I’d let that overcome me I would have ensured we never did. I wouldn’t have known how wrong I was. Obviously don’t jump into things recklessly, but if you have a good idea just START! Don’t let self-doubt be the reason you don’t do something. At least if you try and it doesn’t work, you won’t blame yourself or die wondering.

2. Nothing great ever came from comfort zones.

This one has provided me with so much reassurance in times of apprehension and uncertainty. I have learnt to appreciate and welcome the discomfort of new experiences because I understand the invaluable learning opportunity involved. If you always feel comfortable, you aren’t evolving or developing. You need to try new things and confront your fears to be able to grow. I used to interpret discomfort as a warning sign to pull back from something, but now I feel too complacent if I don’t feel a bit out of my depths. While you do need to stop every now and then to take a breather and congratulate yourself on where you are, if you stop for too long you’ll never get to anywhere else! Having said that, I don’t mean you should always be jumping to the next thing before doing the first thing properly. But just don’t dismiss an idea or experience purely because it’s new.

3. The grass is greener where you water it.

This is especially relevant in today’s world of endless comparison and judgment. We are always so interested in what everyone else is doing and modern technology allows us to indulge our inner stalker far too easily! It’s definitely a positive thing to have role models and to observe the behaviour or strategies of successful people. But when you become so fixated on other people (or, in our case, on other competitor businesses), it’s all too easy to get distracted from what should be your own priorities! This quote is just such a cleverly poetic way to remind us what waste of time it is to always wish we had what other people have. If you spent more time watering your own grass instead of snooping at everyone else’s, yours would be the greenest on the street! Plus how things look on the outside is almost never how they actually are, so be careful what you wish for! Everyone’s closet has its skeletons…

 4. Accept what you can’t change and change what you can’t accept.

“Shit happens” is such a cliché but there’s a reason for that – because it’s so damn true. Everyone has made mistakes or been affected by someone else’s mistake or by something that wasn’t anyone’s mistake but just “one of those things”. When you run your own business, it’s hard not to take everything personally and invest all your emotional energy into things that go wrong. I’ve realised though how unsustainable that is – you just destroy yourself with stress without actually solving anything. If you can’t change something, move on. Invest your energy where you can actually make a difference. The flip side of the quote looks at that exact area – things youcan change. Sometimes, we become too rigid thinking we know what’s best without accepting other people’s opinions or feedback. But it’s equally important to keep an open mind and not fall into complacency or monotony. Keep things fresh!

5. Things turn out best for people who make the best of the way things turn out.

A flow on idea from “shit happens” looks at how you respond when it does. I love this quote because it doesn’t pretend that life is all roses and rainbows, but it does remind you that your response to life is something you can control. Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond. Everything happens for a reason – have you noticed how the greatest lessons you’ve learnt in life often emerge from your most challenging experiences? People who choose to “look at the bright side” are rewarded with the happy feelings that a positive attitude creates. It doesn’t change what happens to you, but it changes how you experience it. I always try to make the best of all situations and of course I still have feelings of disappointment, sadness, anger or frustration but they are so much easier to move past when you focus on what you can take away from the experience. The more you look for the good things, the more you see them!

While these 5 quotes have been especially relevant for me in growing our businesses, they’ve all been floating around in my mind since long before then. They’re relevant more broadly outside the world of small business, so I hope you can all benefit from them as much as I do.

Image credit: Nic Davidson (bless his cotton socks) at the stunning Ocean House, Lorne.

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