I took a plunge in early 2016 and bought my first-ever online course that would teach me how to build an online business. It was a $2,000-plus investment. (Interesting side note: This course is GrowthLab’s flagship Zero to Launch, and I loved it so much that I’ve come full circle to work for GrowthLab full-time.)
I was terrified, of course. Terrified that I had just thrown money away because, I mean, who knows if this stranger on the internet can actually teach me how to start my own business?!
Two years later, my fledgling business is starting to find its legs, and it’s earned me money — over 10X my initial investment thus far.
When I first started out, I thought having a business would just, yes, give me the ability to earn money — which is incredible! But it turns out that it’s given me other intangible benefits: I got better at seizing opportunities and forging mutually beneficial relationships, and more important, gained more confidence in myself and what I was truly capable of.
There are a handful of less obvious positive “side effects” that other entrepreneurs rarely glorify.
Here are four of my favorites.
1. You begin to appreciate the ability to sell
The idea of selling makes most of us cringe. We think it makes us seem like a slimy used car salesman or a sellout. I used to be staunchly opposed to selling, but deep down, I was just scared. It took me a long time to get over this fear, but once I learned how to sell properly, my life dramatically improved:
- I became more compassionate and understanding of people.
- I stopped being jealous of other people’s success.
- I felt GOOD being able to help people in any way I could.
Overall, I’d become the person I always wanted to be: more kind and giving, and … happier. Imagine that.
Simply, learning to sell completely transformed the way I viewed how the world works:
No longer was it about what the world could offer ME. Instead, it became what I could offer TO the world.
It was through learning to sell that I was able to fully realize that I had a lot to offer.
What’s more, I had actually been selling my whole life — most of us have. We just didn’t realize that was what we were doing. Most people think of “selling” in the narrowest sense: people exchanging money for something in return. But selling can also be persuading — or in Daniel Pink’s words “moving” — someone to take a desired action. Examples:
- You “sell” your friend on the idea of trying that new Japanese restaurant in town
- You “sell” your latest idea to your boss in the hope of increasing your department’s budget
- You “sell” your kids on the benefits of eating vegetables
Selling is a whole lot more than just “selling.” It’s human, as Pink says.
2. You learn to GO FOR what you want
I used to tell myself things like “I want to get in shape” or “I want to start a business.” But I never quite did anything significant to work toward them. I treated them like pipe dreams that I’d maybe get around to doing one day (good luck, future me!).
But once I committed to taking my business seriously, I realized that if I truly wanted something, I couldn’t just wait around for someone to HAND ME money or a successful business.
I needed to spend a LOT OF time, money, and energy on it. And that changed my mindset about investing in myself (just like how I dropped $2K on that course!). I didn’t see investing in myself as a way to accelerate my growth and help me to get further along to what I want (which at the time was more money and freedom).
Now it’s the complete opposite.
Investing in myself — via books, courses, seminars, self-care like massages and premium services, business trips, dinners with friends, etc. — is now instrumental to my growth.
The decision to grow and go after what you want can also mean not staying in a “safe” job that sucks your soul; not spending time on people or things that you dislike; and not waiting for that perfect time to learn a second language or start that young adult novel.
3. You learn to live with “abundance”
I learned from a very young age to be extremely frugal: it was best to spend more time and energy on something or just put up with it, and spend as little money as possible (even if I can afford it). Examples:
- Spend over an hour on the bus instead of paying the extra $7.49 for a 20-minute Uber ride
- Avoid turning on the air conditioning unless it was absolutely unbearable (if it was too cold, just wear snow jackets inside the house)
- Agonizing over the extra $1 it cost to substitute eggs with egg whites
Once I figured out how to make money with my business and skill set, I was able to slowly undo my “scarcity” mindset that kept me believing that I’d never have enough — money, food, or anything — and I’d have to scrape by. I wasn’t happy, but I thought it was the smart way to live. Over time, I finally felt empowered to spend the money I earn on the things that I used to think twice about:
- Get food delivered from several restaurants to satisfy random cravings and not sweat the delivery fees? Yeah, it was fantastic gluttony and four days’ worth of leftovers.
- Buy all my friends a round of drinks on my birthday? Absolutely.
- Fly to Toronto to visit friends and family on a whim? Already here (as of this writing).
By actually knowing that my hard work turned into rewards that made me happy and feel good, I created a positive feedback loop that looks like this:
Work to make $ → Feel good that I am capable of doing so → Reinforce with “rewards” that make me happy (e.g., getting 90-minute massages or treating my parents to dinner).
This feedback loop feeds into my confidence and pushes me forward even when things get tough (and they do and will) in this entrepreneurial journey.
4. You learn to be more resilient
I’ve taken a fair number of “bets” in my life:
- I took a chance on moving out of California after having lived there all of my life.
- I bought a one-way ticket to Tokyo and “accidentally” became a nomad.
- I invested in an online course.
Each of these has paid off for me, and because of these positive experiences, I understand the importance of taking bets. Sometimes they work out in the best and unpredictable ways possible; sometimes they don’t (like when I thought I had a killer blog/business idea that I wasted eight months on before pulling the plug…). It sucks when they don’t, but the perspective I’ve picked up is … it’s just a matter of time before these bets do.
I learned to understand that not all outcomes are ideal, and the resilience to bounce back and try again is absolutely key to sustaining this in the long term.
And you’ll build up the resilience to keep shaking that opportunity tree and see what falls out.
It’s funny when I think back to that moment of trepidation two years ago when I paid for that course. I never thought I’d ever call myself an entrepreneur, but here I am. Going through the journey makes me appreciate that I am capable of more than I often give myself credit for. The ability to earn money is just the cherry on top.