By Eric Zuckerman, President and Owner at Pac Team Group.
There is no shortage of articles from entrepreneurs advising the “keys” to being successful. Yet there is one factor that has been invaluable to me that preaching entrepreneurs often overlook in their advice: one’s life partner. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, it’s a fitting reminder that often your “secret weapon” is not just what’s within you, but around you.
To me, the freedom to be myself, take risks and fail has been at the foundation of my business’s success. And I owe this all to my valentine, my wife.
Freedom To Be Myself
When I graduated from college, I immediately set on the entrepreneurial path. Like many wide-eyed young graduates with lofty aspirations to start a company, it was not an experience filled with much glitz and glamor. On the contrary, it started with little income paired with long hours and enormous doubt. My first couple of years after graduation seemed to be an endless cycle of sleeping in my childhood room and working 15-hour days. When living such an exciting existence, it is normal to start envying your friends who took a more traditional road. They begin to earn money, live on their own, meet people and overall enjoy being young and free (with some actual means). However, naïve or not, I had a strong conviction that if I made sacrifices then and was able to establish my path, I would be able to lead a more independent life in the long run.
Seventeen years later, it may seem like that was an obvious choice to follow my entrepreneurial aspirations instead of starting my career within an established company. Today, I am fortunate to live the independent life I had envisioned. But as a 23-year-old with no crystal ball and no prospects, it was certainly not an easy decision. In truth, much of the credit goes to my girlfriend at the time, Amy, who I am happy to say is now my wife.
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Amy knew me then and knows me now. She knew what motivated me was not a paycheck, but a challenge. She knew I got bored from routine and got anxious when my life felt stagnant. She knew that when I was a father one day, I would be miserable having to miss milestones because some superior told me I had to be away. She knew that I would likely be happier as my own boss with less, rather than being an employee with more.
These were the characteristics of mine that she fell in love with, and so she encouraged me to follow my gut versus trying to be something I was not. This freedom to truly be myself provided me the assurance I needed to follow my path regardless of the outcome.
Freedom To Take Risks
My professional life thus far has not been without significant risk. Many times throughout my career, I had to throw in chips with just my instincts telling me how the hand would play out. We have faced the prospect of “losing it all” more times than I can remember.
Being a strong businessperson is having the confidence to take measured but necessary risks. Yet it is much harder to take those risks if you are petrified of the outcome.
I never once in the 20 years we have been together have felt any pressure to “keep up with the Joneses.” In fact, Amy has absolutely no interest in what the Joneses are up to.
She has always made it clear that whether we had a box or an estate, we would figure it out and make it work. We had each other, and the rest was simply details. Now don’t get me wrong; Amy is never one to promote recklessness. Yet she has the confidence that we are responsible, fairly intelligent individuals who can tackle whatever obstacles come our way. More so, she has the confidence in me that if I strongly believe a decision to be the right one for the company, then it is the choice I should take. This outlook in a partner is an incredibly powerful asset for any entrepreneur. It allows you the freedom and courage to take risks, without living in fear about the worst result.
Freedom To Fail
For every success, I’ve had many more failures. For any entrepreneur, failures are part of the game and the true ingredient to professional growth. With that said, no matter how many times you fall down, failures are scary and can make a crack in your confidence.
Fortunately, each time I’ve had to get up and clean my wounds, my wife’s confidence in me never wavered. Soon enough I would have a new idea I was excited about and she would offer the same support and encouragement as before. Never has she expressed doubt in my ability to achieve what I have set out to do, no matter how many times I have fallen short.
I think many people who dream of being an entrepreneur give up prematurely because of the mounting pressure and self-doubt. Having that advocate by your side can be the difference between throwing in the towel and realizing your business’s potential.
The Key Is In The Unconditional
To me the key to success is to surround yourself with those who love you unconditionally: people who know you and accept you for what you are. People whose feelings for you would be exactly the same regardless of whether you were a billionaire or struggling to make ends meet. You will face many personal tests launching a business and, naturally, there is a chance it might not work out how you envision. But having the freedom to be yourself, take risks and fail will allow you to face those obstacles confidently and enjoy the bumpy yet rewarding road of being an entrepreneur.