When I went into business for myself, I started to realized there would be an “unlearning” process – and I was curious to discover just how deep the rabbit hole would go. To find out, I decided to take things to the extreme.

I relocated from my very fast-paced world in downtown San Diego to an extremely small agricultural community, got rid of my cell phone, cut communication with most of my old contacts, and got rid of cable. Essentially, I cut off every form of outside influence for 2 years to see what would happen if I had complete control over the information that shaped my way of thinking.

Making the shift from the corporate world to working for myself was a lot like unplugging from the Matrix. There is a completely different world all around us, but we are unable to truly understand it unless we live it. This, I believe, is why I had been unsuccessful for years trying to start my own businesses part time while still working full-time for someone else. Self sufficiency is a completely different mindset.

There was a great deal of “unlearning” to do in order to move into a self-made mindset. After 3 years, I feel as if I am only in the infancy stages of this unlearning process, but my thinking is much different from those early days. Here are some key things that I needed to unlearn in order to make it:

#1 Not Waiting To Be Given a Task By Someone Else

After years of going to college and working for someone else where I had always been giving something to do, I had no idea how to attract business to me. In the beginning, I spent a great deal of time combing through Craigslist and freelancer resource sites looking for and replying to project requests. This was a huge waste of time. Most of the time, I never heard back from anyone – plus, it felt horrible. The job requests were often demeaning, written as if they expected replies from groveling beggers who should feel lucky to be granted the opportunity to complete their low paying job “offer”.

What had to change, was that I needed to find a quiet place within myself and discover exactly what type of value I could provide. Then, I crafted a basic text email, and sent it to the types of companies that would need my services. Within the first half hour of sending that email, I generated enough business to pay all my bills for the remainder of the year.

#2 Turning Down Opportunities

When you work for someone else, you really don’t have the luxury of telling your boss that you prefer not to do a job that you are asked to do (unless you want to get fired or be viewed as not a “team player.”) With this old mindset, I first accepted every job that came my way – even if I didn’t really like it or believe in it.

Now I think differently. Every job I do must be something that I believe in. It must provide a great product or service to people. It must enrich my experience and strengthen my portfolio. And it must give me an opportunity to make good use of my skills. When you call the shots, there is absolutely no reason to take on projects that you don’t feel great about. Leave that for the people that are working for someone else or who haven’t yet unplugged from the Matrix.

#3 Creating a Void

This was perhaps the scariest lesson to learn. In fact, I cognitively knew that this was necessary before I ever had the cajones to act on it. However, this step is essential in the early days in order to fully live step #2. There were a few clients that I really wanted to let go of. I just did not feel good when I worked on their projects and procrastinated doing the work.

I wanted to let them go, but that meant losing a decent chunk of money each week. I wanted to believe that if I created a void and freed up my mind and my energy from these projects, that new ones would surface to fill the gap. I had seen this phenomenon in other areas of my life but was hesitant to bet my family’s rent money and grocery money on this. Shouldn’t I just suck it up and continue doing these projects – even if I didn’t like them?

After some time, I decided to drop them. Within just a few weeks, new projects came to me. Both were referrals and they were more exciting and paid better. I believe that if you create a void, something will come along to fill it.

This phenomenon is much like digging a hole in the sand at the beach when the tide is coming in. If you dig the hole, the water will rush in and fill it with new sand. If you leave it filled, it remains virtually unchanged. If you don’t have the energy or time for new things to come into your life, they won’t.

#4 The Art of Self Promotion

When working for someone else, it is frowned upon to toot your own horn too much. But when you work for yourself, you have got to get comfortable doing this. If you are not out there promoting your strengths in the beginning, no one will be.

When I felt I had become an expert at my craft, I began referring to myself as such, and other people followed suit. As Donald Trump says in his book “Think Big and Kick Ass,” people look to you to decide how they should treat you.

#5 Making Deals With People Far Outside of Your Comfort Zone

When you work in a corporation – especially if you are somewhat low on the totem pole, it is generally frowned upon to go hang out in the executive’s office. Going to the execs with an idea or an issue is often seen as overstepping your boundaries or going above your superior’s head.

Luckily, I held some high management positions before going into business for myself, so talking with C-level execs wasn’t entirely unfamiliar. But still, I was only accustomed to working with those particular executive teams. There is always someone outside of your comfort zone. We can never let our fear of talking with them stand in the way our goals.

If you are completely unfamiliar with a particular industry or rank of executive, try seeking one out as a mentor. Another strategy that I have used is asking to interview someone in that position. Sometimes, just getting to know one individual on a personal level can dispel a lot of the fear you may feel about others in their same industry or position.

If you want to make the big deals and branch out into new areas, you have got to get comfortable talking with people who are way outside of your comfort zone. Otherwise, you will hang out at around the same level of pay, the same level of status, and the same level of experience that you always have. This is one thing that I will be taking to a new level this year. I’m nervous, but excited. I know that once I make this new breakthrough, I will have achieved a new level of knowledge, confidence, and expertise.

How about you?

What did you have to unlearn when you went into business for yourself? What thought processes do you think are holding you hostage in your current role or income level?

This is a new year with all new possibilities. I wish every person reading this incredible success in the coming year – let’s make it amazing!

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