I expected many things when I decided to build my own business at 21. Hard work? Certainly. Struggling to make ends meet? For sure. Success? I could only hope.
Six years and four successful businesses later, I want to share five surprising life learnings which I hope might encourage more people, especially women, to pave their own paths in business or other passions.
1. I was able to build my self-worth and connect with others on a healthy foundation
When I first built my tea company, Zen Green Tea, I was 21 and so young and naïve. I knew nothing about business, but what I did have was a product I loved, and a desire to share it with the world.
Over the years, I found that one of the surprising benefits of being an entrepreneur is that I have been able to develop a stronger sense of self confidence. I have learned to focus on my abilities, rather than fallible metrics like beauty or relationship status.
Running my own business has given me an avenue to feel confident, and a way to meet incredible people. As I have gotten older (I’m 29 now), this confidence turned into a strong sense of self-worth and well-being, a happiness that is not based on factors out of my control.
2. I spent more time with my loved ones and developed stronger bonds with them
When I first started my business, everybody told me that it would be all-consuming and that entrepreneurs have no time for a social life or their family. I completely disagree. My experience has been the complete opposite. Zen Green Tea was built with the help of my family and friends, who never failed to step up whenever I needed them.
I remember one occasion when I had just received a new contract to sell my tea in retail stores. The order was more than all the stock I had available in the country, so each of my parents took a week off from work to help me prepare the entire order by hand. I will never forget that.
As my businesses grew, I implemented more efficient processes, so that I am now able to work from anywhere in the world. My days are now spent from either working next to my partner – to whole months working from my parents’ home – or even inviting them over to enjoy their retirement in the country I decide to work from. It has been a pleasant adventure to say the least.
I hope other people see that they can run a business this way, and that it can give them back more quality time with their loved ones.
3. I performed better in my full-time job
While growing Zen Green Tea and my other businesses, I still worked full-time because it helped me feel less isolated. It also allowed me to earn extra income to help my businesses grow larger.
Within the corporate field, there are actually many people who dream to start their own business. I found that having started my own gave me a huge advantage in securing an interview and landing a job in management consulting. Do not be afraid to be in your own skin, employers love that.
Running my own business allowed me to understand that a manager wants staff who are proactive, take accountability, and deliver value. My colleagues and boss, knowing that I had my own business, treated me as a trusted pair of hands. I found myself being promoted faster than my peers.
I would love more people to know that running a side business or a stint in entrepreneurship could accelerate their career prospects.
4. It has given me a glimpse of retirement – and why I don’t want it
Having built my businesses to a level where I can pay myself a decent salary, and have the option to cut my work down to just a couple hours per week, has given me an early glimpse of “retirement.” And to be completely honest, I don’t want it.
Like many others, I used to think that having all my time for leisure was a dream come true. Society has wired us to believe that all the time we sacrifice throughout our lives will be worth it for the golden pot of retirement at the end. I have found that to be a lie. My taste of retirement completely bored me. I have realized that I want to spend my time learning and being productive, and intersperse that with leisure.
This was a huge insight for me, and has changed the way I live my life. I take all the chances I get to do activities, sports, and hobbies, and I think more about how I can use my business skills to build something which will give back to society in a meaningful way.
I wish more people could get a glimpse of what retirement is actually like, so they can stop sacrificing their present and start bringing a more mindful balance to the way they are living their lives.
5. It has made me think deeper about what makes life worth living
This final learning ties into the previous realization about retirement. When I realized that money was just a means to an end, it left me facing a blank canvas. This blank canvas was scary and intimidating, and for me to colour it, I had to define for myself what it meant to live a meaningful life.
I have started to read a lot more, as I try to answer for myself some questions philosophers have been asking for centuries, as well as anyone who felt they had achieved their dream.
It has been a wonderful journey to experiment with answers to these questions, and it is far from over. I have added more elements to my life along the way, such as practicing gratitude, which has contributed to making my life more meaningful and fulfilling.
I have shared these five surprising life learnings with the hope of encouraging more people to explore their passions and find more meaning in their daily lives, whether through entrepreneurship or other pursuits. If you had all the money and time in the world, how would you make each day meaningful? You will be surprised how little there is holding you back from living that vision now.
Author: Erin Young
Erin Young, founder (and Chief Tea Officer) of two tea businesses: Zen Green Tea Matcha in Australia and Evergreen Matcha in the US. Erin has been travelling full time while running her businesses for the past two years. She has so far visited over 60 countries and taken up many hobbies in the places she visits like salsa dancing in Colombia and diving in Honduras. You can find more writings by Erin on the blog Faster To Master including this article on Achieving Growth Through Pain.