One of the simple pleasures of working for yourself is experiencing new things. There’s nothing quite like the rush of facing a new challenge and overcoming it, or learning something you would never have if you were cooped up in an office all day.
From time to time, I like to do a little inventory of all the new experiences I’ve had—to make sure I’m making the most of my time.
Items on my list range from long-term career goals—like signing a book deal, creating a new seminar, or collaborating with someone I admire—to keeping a year-long diary, visiting the arts-rich city of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, or simply discovering that I love sweet potatoes after all these years.
“Firsts” are important not only for the pleasure they bring but because they are a tangible way of measuring your growth and progress. And they give you more confidence, which is key for building a business.
One of my favorite firsts came several years ago when my sister Nancy was living in Athens, Greece. One day she emailed me to say that her friend Eugene wanted to market the olive oil he’d begun producing from his country home. Did I know anyone who could help him break into the U.S. market?
I thought about it for a while and then wrote back to say, “No, I don’t know anybody, but I’d be glad to try.” A few weeks later when Nancy arrived for a Christmas visit, she brought along samples of Eugene’s oil and I was off and running.
Although I knew less than nothing about specialty food marketing, I also knew that I could find enough information to get me pointed in the right direction. From there, it was just a matter of asking questions and making connections.
I visited a small grocery store that specialized in imported products. They connected me to an independent sales representative who gave me a lesson in olive oil. I was more than a bit surprised when our meeting turned into something resembling a wine tasting, except that we were sipping olive oil.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, I have to mention that this story doesn’t end with my signing a huge contract with an olive oil distributor (although one such entrepreneur did show up in Athens and form a partnership with Eugene). But by taking on the project, I had an adventure in learning I’d never have gotten any other way.
And that’s why embracing firsts is so valuable. Perfection and mastery are not the goals of trying new things. Learning more about yourself and expanding your future options are what you’re truly after.
You don’t get a second chance at your life’s firsts—your first kiss, opening your first business, your baby’s first steps, only happen once. But you can challenge yourself to enjoy regular firsts and reap the benefits of a life rich with new experiences and learning. Who knows? You might end up bungee jumping on your 80th birthday…discovering a lucrative new business idea…or simply gaining a new-found appreciation for olive oil.