Playing the Game of Business
Excerpt from Chillpreneur: The New Rules for Creating Success, Freedom and Abundance on Your Terms by Denise Duffield-Thomas
“Most people consider life a battle, but it is not a battle, it is a game.”
Florence Scovel Shinn
Having created a multimillion-dollar business without taking outside investment or working my guts out (while also raising young kids), many women ask me my number-one secret to success.
The answer is: mindset. Constantly working on your mindset is honestly the most important – if not the only – thing you have to master. Everything else, you can just Google. Really. Business isn’t that complicated.
Unfortunately, women often think they need more qualifications, a new funnel, or a different website, instead of working on their fears, beliefs, and other mindset issues. (Seriously, stop worrying about your funnels, you’ll figure it out.) Of course, you need a product or service that people want to buy, you need to market yourself, and there are a million logistical things to do, but without the right mindset, everything else will fall apart.
And many women also think they have to be perfect before they can start: an attitude that’s the antithesis of being a Chillpreneur – it will derail you and make things way harder than they need to be.
Basically, being in business is like playing a giant, real-life game of snakes and ladders (aka chutes and ladders). The board game version is a game of chance. If you roll the dice and happen to land on a snake (chute), you fall behind. Bad luck. And if you land on a ladder, you get to skip ahead. There’s no skill involved at all – your fortune is totally determined by the luck of the dice.
In reality, I believe we make our own luck. In the world of entrepreneurship, each time you encounter an obstacle, you can choose how you engage with it. You can’t avoid obstacles, but fortunately, you don’t need to do that to ‘win’ the game. The weird thing is that, when normal, inevitable challenges come up – like a refund request – some people not only fall down, they launch themselves down a snake/chute and refuse to play the game again, convinced they’re a failure. They quit, or remain paralyzed by fear, shame, and indecision for years.
Knowing ahead of time about these inevitable rites of passage gives you the opportunity to be reasonably chill about things you can’t avoid. It’s unlikely that you’ll have zero refund requests for your services; so if you know that they’re inevitable, you can stop ‘pre- worrying’ about them, and they won’t bother you as much when they happen (and they will).
You have a choice: throw yourself down a snake/chute and stop playing the game, or shrug, pick yourself up, and roll the dice to see what’s next in your entrepreneurial adventure. Being an entrepreneur isn’t life-or-death. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not that serious or hard. As scary as it is some days, it’s still better than doing a job you hate or wasting your potential.
I’m not that amazing at business, but I know how to play the game. I’ve become successful because I choose to see obstacles as inevitable rites of passage along the path to my destiny. I’ve experienced the same challenges as any other entrepreneur, but I’ve always found a way to reframe them instead of letting them derail me.
Seriously, I’ve celebrated every ‘bad’ thing that has happened because I know it brings me one step closer to success. My first one- star book review on Amazon? I celebrated! My first refund request? I felt like I’d made it! It’s not that these things felt good (far from it): I just knew that it was a mark of success, like making it through to the next level of a challenging video game. I made it through and I didn’t die! Whoo-hoo! See the difference?
How many people do you know who have experienced an ordinary setback like this and just quit in shame and fear? I’ve seen women quit after a single refund request, convinced they must be terrible at their business. I’ve seen women give up after a less-than-spectacular launch, not realizing that anyone who has created a thriving business had crappy launches too.
Everyone starts from zero, everyone! The journey is inescapable. You have to be willing to get through everything on your way to your fabulous life. Playing the game doesn’t mean you won’t get scared. In fact, the biggest obstacle you’ll face is fear.
Do You Really Have What it Takes?
You might be thinking I’m not brave enough to do this. Or I’m not competitive enough to make it in business. I understand. I don’t even like playing Monopoly, and I’m not at all cutthroat. Plus, I’m the biggest introvert in the world. But the belief that you have to be a certain way or a particular personality type comes from a place of scarcity. There’s more than enough business to go around, but we’ve been taught from a young age that there are only a few slots available for success, and they go to the most competitive, deserving, or ambitious.
I call this the ‘Highlander Myth.’ Highlander is a cult 1986 movie starring Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery whose premise is that some immortal Highlander warriors have to defeat each other for the ultimate prize: the power to rule the world. There’s no amicable sharing of power. It’s a fight to the death, and the winner absorbs the other’s life-force after basically decapitating him for no reason other than to win. On its release, the movie’s tagline was ‘There can be only One.’
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to rule the world: I just want to contribute to making it a better place. I don’t want to kill my competitors – I actually like them. I’m just not that competitive or ruthless; I want everyone to win! Before you beat yourself up for not having the right ‘edge’ to make it in business, think about the messages you’ve been absorbing your whole life: success is a zero-sum game. This age-old story leads to all sorts of screwed-up business beliefs, including:
- There can be only one person like me in my industry or niche.
- There’s only one guru of the gurus.
- There can be only one success story in my peer group.
How many times have you come up with a great idea, but thought it was already taken? Or believed you have to be the Oprah of your industry, and therefore didn’t even try? Think of the ‘cool girl’ in your industry. Do you compare yourself (unfavorably) to her? Is she your benchmark of success because she seems to be the popular one who everyone wants to work with?
Good news: you don’t have to decapitate her to be successful in business! Whew, right? She’s probably no more special than you are; there’s room for you, too. There’s only one Oprah, and there’s only one you. You have just as much right to be here as anyone else. So, every time you think you’re not unique enough to make it, remember: you don’t have to kill everyone else in your industry and absorb their power. There’s more than enough to go around!
It’s not just Highlander. Pretty much every movie perpetuates this ‘there can be only one’ myth, especially when there’s room for only one primary female character. She’s usually of royal birth (Princess Leia, Snow White, Wonder Woman), The Smart One (Hermione Granger), or the token minority character (where there’s definitely only one).
In the Smurfs cartoon, there was Brainy Smurf, Clumsy Smurf, Greedy Smurf, Hefty Smurf, Jokey Smurf, and… Vagina Smurf. Sorry, I mean Smurfette: the only female Smurf in the whole village. Smurfette didn’t have any defining attributes or personality traits – she was special because she was the Only.
But that’s the message all around us. Most reality shows follow the same concept: there can be only one winner. Participants have to compete and be eliminated each week until there’s only one contestant left. Most of the time, there isn’t even a prize for the runner-up! Everyone else must lose, which sucks, because most women don’t want to win at the expense of someone else. It feels mean and bitchy, especially if you’ve ever been excluded from the ‘cool group’ yourself.
The great news is that you don’t have to be the best or the smartest to succeed in business. It’s not a popularity contest, and there’s more than enough room for everyone. But you do have to choose yourself.
And that’s one of the hardest mindset lessons to master: I deserve success. I’m good enough. I’m ready. I believe in myself.
— Denise Duffield-Thomas is a lazy self-made millionaire and unbusy mother of 3 young children. Her new book, Chillpreneur: The New Rules for Creating Success, Freedom and Abundance on Your Terms is out now where all good books are sold.