10 Valuable lessons I learned from starting a business

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Everything you do… every step you take… one way or another affects your future circumstances. You’ve probably heard it a million of times, but do you stop to think about how serious it is? I’ll be the first one to be honest and admit that it took me a while to realize how powerful this statement is.

From the day FTM Fitness World started to now, I can see how everything slowly unfolded to teach me all kinds of valuable life lessons. And the main one that I keep close to heart is that networking is everything and if you have a community, you have everything you will ever need. And I’m not necessarily talking about a community based on common circumstances like race, gender identity or religious experience. I’m talking about the power of keeping good relationships and working together for a common goal.

I did not start FTM Fitness World because I wanted to start a business and get rich quickly. I started it because I wanted to help people but also because I wanted to reach a fitness goal and I knew that I could easily do it by having a group of people that helped me stay accountable. Then I realized that I had a lot of business skills and experience but also enough knowledge on different topics that I could freely share with the world. That’s how it all started.

Even though I had spent hours day and night writing codes, laying out the website design, the business structure, organizing the ideas, the contents, the social media platforms and everything else, I still saw it as a hobby and not as a business. Then I realized that people were taking it more seriously than I was because more and more people would subscribe to the blog, like the Facebook page and send me messages, but I was getting overwhelmed and to be honest (just between the two of us…) a little annoyed.

It hit me one day on why I was feeling that way:

1. I was counting on people to finish what I started:

I had worked my butt off getting this thing off the ground and somehow in my mind, I wasn’t really thinking about the big picture or the next step. It all just kept happening. I was still hopeful that the people whom mainly were the reason why I started it all, would help where I needed it and when it came time for launching. But I was wrong. Lesson #1 learned: Just because you have a dream, doesn’t mean that everybody is dreaming the same dream with you. It’s up to you to share your vision with others and it’s YOUR responsibility to transmute the excitement that you have to them so that they can share it with you.

I wore more hats than I could handle and I was burnt out: I realized that I had to write all the blogs, manage the forum and all social media platforms, write articles, manage the Facebook group (that started it all), the Facebook fan page, the e-mails, the store and everything else that came with it.

I had unstable suppliers’ resources, angry customers and people who would promise to blog only to realize that I had nothing to offer them in exchange. Lesson #2 learned: There is no such thing as failure; only feedback to correct mistakes! Like Einstein said “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.” You have to recognize when something has to change whether it’s the people you are working with, your strategy or your mindset. Failure doesn’t always mean that it’s time to stop. Sometimes it’s mean that it’s time to backtrack and see what can be corrected.

2. I wasn’t proud of my business because I wasn’t proud of myself:

Since I’m already being honest with you, here is one more thing to admit… I never took the business seriously because I wasn’t proud of walking into a room saying “Hi, I’m Neo, founder of FTM Fitness World.” The main reason was because people would ask me about the business and automatically I would have to out myself as a man of Trans experience.

I’m not ashamed of who I am but it took me a while to get to where I’m comfortable enough to share that part of me, because it’s a very private part of me; something that I didn’t choose to be born with, that I’ve struggled with most of my life and that I’m glad to have been blessed enough to correct. I didn’t want people to automatically see me as Neo, the transguy and undervalue everything else that I am: A spiritual leader, a man, a brother, a partner, a son, a business owner, an athlete, etc.

But something changed when my girlfriend’s friend Michelle, who owns a very empowering blog asked me to share my story on her blog. I felt somehow vulnerable because I’m a very private person, but my spirit knew that it was the right thing to do. Not only people got educated on the Trans issue, but it opened doors to more opportunities.

Which leads me to lesson #3: Be willing to get out of your comfort zone because that’s when you grow and that’s where the most rewards are and lesson #4: People are everything and networking is a major key to success: Because Michelle believed in my story, Anise who owns an online radio network asked me to be a guest on her show, and Deb from SalonLGBTQ asked me to be a guest on a panel discussion about blogging.

This leads me to lesson#5: If you give freely, you receive more than what you’ve given: Because I went into it not thinking “what’s in it for me?”, I gained more than I was ever expecting.

It’s interesting that even though I wasn’t fully committed to the business, I kept going at it, not in a complacent way but because I didn’t want to let people down -those who somehow believed in it, like my business mentor (whose name won’t be mentioned) who kept encouraging me even when I was on the verge of cussing him out, and the people who messaged me questions that they needed answers to. But I realized that I kept moving forward because this was my lesson#6: “If you help enough people get what they want, you will get what you want.” -Zig Ziglar. 

After I “smelled the coffee” and realized that things had to change and that I had to completely re-brand the business before taking it to the next level, I pondered about all the lessons learned and a few more came to me:

Lesson #7: Faith can move mountains: Even though I could barely even afford the monthly fees to run a site like this, and my financial situation was horrible, I knew deep down inside that if I believed hard enough there will be a way to make it happen.

Lesson #8: Everyone comes into your life for a reason: It’s either an opportunity for you to learn and grow, or to teach and help them grow.

Lesson #9: Don’t take anything personally: Don’t mix emotion with business and don’t burn bridges. There have been people that I almost swore I would never do business with again or people that I decided that I didn’t want anything to do with anymore because they didn’t keep their word or because they were bashing me or my business, but I realized that that:

  • 1: It’s their issue, not mine. If someone doesn’t keep their word, it’s something that they have to work on but usually it’s not directly targeted towards you. Maybe they don’t keep their word with anyone else, or even themselves.
  • 2: Everyone does the best that they can, the best way they know how. “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” -Plato
  • 3: You never know when you will need that door open again, so don’t slam it!

Lesson #10: Everything that you need for success is already inside of you: Most likely anything that you want to accomplish has already been proven that it can be done, so therefore not impossible. If it hasn’t been done yet, then it’s your opportunity to be the first one to prove that it can be done. That’s how we got the first airplane, the light bulb, the microwave, the car or even the internet. You just need a great idea, the desire to help others and a little faith!

“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”

-Vincent Van Gogh

Life has an interesting way of unfolding different events and I’m thankful that I’m always growing and will never stop learning; like Mark Twain said: “I never let schooling interfere with my education.” I’m a forever student of life and I thank God for opening my eyes to its lessons!

To your success,

Neo