“Baby I’ve been here before, I know this room and I’ve walked this floor” Hallelujah, Leonard Cohen

The words that I rock out to when I feel that things aren’t going to plan – that help me get clear on why I do what I do and why walking away is not an option.

Sometimes, temporarily in the gap between the strategies and tactics, is a space where I don’t know what’s next in my world of running my business (when all the gurus tell you how you are supposed to know what to do next, based on all those planners and implementation strategies), so I just trust that the universe will take me there. I trust that my passion for doing something big will suffice in the total lack of strategy and tactics.

I call it my blind faith – something bigger than belief.

And when I go to that place, it doesn’t take long until something or someone will inevitably cross my path, take my hand and lead me to where I am supposed to be and do and go to next. The secret though, is in allowing yourself to go to that place and also in doing something. It may be a small step or it may be a giant leap but it’s about doing something in those moments – anything to move your forward.

I have long learnt not to resist the shift in direction, the new face that connects with me, the opportunity to say ‘yes’ to something that scares the bejesus out of me, just as much as I have learnt not to attach myself to those who don’t ‘get me’ or those who court me and then, not dissimilar to being on the playground at school, ‘drop me’ for the next person they can leverage, whether it be for information or money.

Because I have been here before, I do know this room and I have walked this floor.

It may have been a decade ago when I walked in and then after two years, walked away. I walked away because the scariness, the emptiness, the caring what other people thought and the thoughts around how I had to succeed immediately, and how I had to know and do everything perfectly, or risk viewing myself as a failure, were all front of mind. Not dissimilar to most people, but I didn’t recognise that at the time.

Being an entrepreneur has more uncertainty in that label than the nine months of wondering if my two children would be perfect, more insecurity than wondering where our next dollar would come from when we lost everything, more self doubt around intelligence, true grit and having what it takes, than the imposter syndrome leads you to believe. What if.. I don’t have what it takes?

But it also has so much opportunity, so much more fulfillment and growth and the uncertainty of who you’ll meet, what you’ll earn, what you’ll learn and where you’ll go, that far outweighs all else. It allows you those moments where your level of certainty and conviction and service to others outshines any form of self doubt or hesitation.

And who you hang out with, what you to, who you trust and who you have at home supporting you, are critical factors in your success.

What I have come to experience are two types of entrepreneurs – those who are ‘entrepreneurial artists’ and love what they do because they want to make a difference in the world. They take the path that makes a difference, that has purpose, and people, and the planet all wrapped up in a big vision and mission. They might even be leaders in an organisation and whilst their goal is to make money, being driven by the dollar is not their major goal.

The second type of entrepreneur I have found, are those that are driven only by the dollar, who take massive risks, who move money and people around and in doing so make their difference in the world. They, too are artists in their own right and they, too could be leaders in an organisation, but tend to be ‘risk based entrepreneurs’ and the values are different. Neither is right and neither is wrong.

This is a huge distinction when you are working for yourself.


Because if you are an entrepreneurial artist you are more often than not driven by emotion rather than logic. Chances are you will be hanging out and mixing with both types of people, and by not being aware of these subtle differences or different layers of thinking, your own thinking begins to play out in ways that may hold you back, that may cause you to walk away from your dream, with you also believing you don’t have what it takes.

Cliche’s abound in the world of the entrepreneur and some, fortunately or unfortunately, roll so easily off the tongue that they become part of the psyche, contributing to someone’s success or sabotage. A couple that have created debate include:

Fake it till you make it – Here’s the thing, people want real! Buyers today and people today can see those who latch on to the next best thing and pretend. All of our BS meters are so highly tuned. There is nothing wrong with winging it to a degree, in fact it beats waiting till something is perfect hands down, but you must be able to substantiate the area that you focusing on. I have seen people come and go because they figured they could be an expert in their space but once the clichés and surface level ideas were verbalised or work-shopped or ‘winged’, not a lot was left as depth. In my field of sales leadership, if only those that said they played in this space really did for more than five minutes, they might now be telling a different story today. If you want to ‘make it’ in an area, be real about it and totally involve and immerse yourself in your chosen field.

Fail Fast and Fail Often – Why would you want to fail ? I’ve always wondered about that statement. I understand testing the market on different ideas in order to sort the wheat from the chaff is important but I also believe that if you want to be a subject matter expert or an authority in your industry or a leader in your company, then failing fast is a mindset not conducive to success. At the moment, it is a cliche that is the flavor of the month with some people, but the rabbit and the hare story comes to mind. Malcolm Gladwell talks about the 10,000 hours to mastery. You may not necessarily need to stick at your chosen field for that amount of time to experience success, but you definitely need longer than the proverbial ninety days. Someone I have watched grow her business is now claiming expertise in yet another market that she has no experience in after failing an initial market because it didn’t work within a short ninety day period of time. This approach screams ‘follow the bright shiny object’ or ‘jump on the next bandwagon’, and I think thinking this way is dangerous to your business if you want your brand associated with consistency, longevity and quality.

Follow Your Heart – This is the downfall of many small business owners. We’ve read the impact of this thinking in the works of Michael Gerber – budding entrepreneurs buy a dream and a big idea. But what about commercialising the dreams. Following your heart only, leads you to comparisons with others. Others you may deem more successful than you, because they have more strings to their bow. The strings they have added include not only following their heart but engaging their brain, their mind, their body, other people, the ability to sell and market but most of all, they have put themselves out there and executed. They have taken small steps and giant leaps. Following your heart is the beginning of the journey. If you don’t factor in the business acumen you will be forever in comparison mode and others will be forever on pedestals around you – invisible pedestals, I might add.

My suggestion is to pick something you not only love to do, but you know you can commercialise:

Own it. Have an inner knowing that what you know will contribute to others and allow you to be seen as someone who knows their stuff, enough that you will be paid to help others. Remove the ‘faking it’ part, because for most people, if they were honest, this won’t even sit right with them from the start and ultimately their lack of belief, physiology and language will be a dead giveaway to others. People won’t say it to you, but they will know when you are faking it.

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” – Warren Buffett

Take your time. If you are going to make a difference in the world, then you want to do just that and building your profile, portfolio and your positioning is going to take time. Give some thought to your ideas, test the market, try new ideas on like a new pair of shoes and be OK with them not fitting. It is not about failing fast, it is not even about failing. It is about iterations and building platforms on what has gone before. Where you are now is necessary for where you want to go. We all crawled before we walked, and walked before we ran. Imagine the late bloomers who had to can the crawling phase because it didn’t happen within a certain timeframe!

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” Confucius

Get your head in the game. Don’t compare. You’ve heard those words before. Lock yourself away for a while and to your own dreams, voice and soul and take the pressure off yourself. You are on the right course, now it is a matter of staying on course. Work with those who can generously and genuinely take your dream and help shape it into something that fits your values and your own individual rate of growth.

“Personality begins where comparison leaves off. Be unique. Be memorable. Be confident. Be proud.” Shannon L. Alder

I can tell you now – those people you put on a pedestal are no better or worse than you. They have the same doubts, uncertainties and fears – decorated differently. You’ve been here before, you know this room and you’ve walked the floor as well.

It’s time to:

Own It.
Take Your Time.
Get Your Head In The Game.

And a gracious hat tip to Mr Leonard Cohen [who, incidentally, co-wrote with Jennifer Warnes, a beautiful piece called ‘Song of Bernadette’ ;)]

Be Bold and Brilliant!

Bernadette McClelland - Keynote Speaker



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Image courtesy of gaët

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