6 Personal Lessons I Learned in 2018 Every Entrepreneur Should Know

Photography by Maribel Morales

It’s the end of one year and the beginning of a new one. It’s always worth reflecting on everything that made this year great, bad, ugly, beautiful, and most importantly … where we were to where we are now. I shared my 12 favorite moments in 2018, however, I also want to share the hard lessons too. For the sake of transparency, my year in review is my highlight reel. It was an incredible year with so many blessings and opportunities that continue to make it possible for me to continue doing what I love. Now I want to share 6 major lessons I learned every entrepreneur should know:

You have to OWN what you do

I personally used to be very shy about saying this phrase: “Hi. I’m Mai Lyn Ngo and I am the founder and CEO of Fitness Ambassadors.” I was so uncomfortable saying it. For the first two years, I don’t think anyone knew I owned Fitness Ambassadors because I never talked about it as a business owner. I would mention our events or talk about it generically, but never specified that I founded the damn thing. Strange right?

When I realized many of my friends assumed I was just a member and not the actual founder, I knew that had to change. I told myself it was because I didn’t want all the attention, but really it was me feeling like a fraud when that wasn’t the case. So, I made it a point to get up at the beginning of each event (nerve-wrecking), say those words over and over until it no longer felt strange and really own it. In a way, I battled with imposter syndrome. I learned to be more confident even if it meant faking it for a bit. It wasn’t until this year did it feel real and I’m able to say it with pride.

Growth also means outgrowing people (and removing bad energy)

It took a long time for me to understand that there are people who come into your life just for a season. No one comes into your life by accident. They are there to test you and teach you. I had friends walk in as quickly as they left and as someone that takes my relationships seriously, it was a bummer. I learned to be more cautious in who I trusted and how much energy I wanted to spend on people. It also showed me that it is absolutely ok to remove negative energy in order to protect my own. This year, I also met some incredible people that SHOW UP, that are on the same page as I am, and want to grow, learn, and succeed as badly as I do. I’m walking into 2019 with the right people in my life. I learned to trust my gut – if someone tells me they’re no good, believe them the first time. Great potential is just that – potential. I want people that are the REAL fucking thing.

It’s ok to take it personally. Just learn from it.

You hear the old adage, “It’s not personal, it’s business”. I disagree. Especially as a business owner, I’m not spending the “company’s money”. I’m spending MY money and MY time. I feel that it’s almost impossible not to take things personally when working with different companies and/or employees, but it comes down to what you do with those feelings. I’ve learned that it’s ok to feel that way, however, I’ve also had to learn to identify the pain points and DO something about it. It’s pushed me to reevaluate my communication skills, my expectations, and my teaching approach. This year I’d find myself getting worked up when my working relationships did not go the way I wanted or my expectations weren’t met. It was very frustrating and my goodness… it was such a huge source of my stress. I’ve learned to address issues sooner, be more patient with the process, and also be ok with failure.

You will question your worth. Often.

Growing Fitness Ambassadors was so hard. You see all the amazing opportunities and collaborations, but what you don’t see are the many more lost opportunities. The meetings that lead to no where, the proposals that I spent hours on that got no response, and how cut throat it can be in when the company you are pitching goes with someone else because they’re cheaper or have more followers. *eye roll* I swear it’s worse than dating; a brand/company will reach out to meet, showers you with compliments, asks you out for lunch to talk business and then when you hit them with a proposal and pricing, they go radio silent. GHOSTED.

I’ve had big deals fall through last minute that could’ve changed my life and it’s really hard to not let that eat at you. It makes you question your worth and value. I had moments where I straight up wanted to quit Fitness Ambassadors because I was sick of the back and forth bullshit. But, luckily for y’all, I’m not ready to throw in the towel. I learned not to get excited until there is a signed contract on my desk. I’ve also learned not to give away my ideas in my meetings because I’ve had businesses take them and execute them without me. Know your worth and stick to your guns. Don’t sell yourself short.

Productivity guilt is real! Check that shit.

Productivity guilt is a very real thing. I can work 15 hour days, every day for a month and still never feel like I did enough. I had to acknowledge that I am working my butt off and that I am doing as much as I can and that needs to be good enough. Checking those voices in my head has helped me learn to be more present as well. When I’m working, I work. When I’m out playing, I play. Instead of thinking of what I could be/should be doing, I’ve had to learn to accept that this feeling of guilt is in my control and there’s no need for it.

Defining what success means to me helped me 

This is by far one of the hardest questions for me to answer. I fully believe success for me is not going to be conventional nor will I ever “feel successful”. Success for me is not fame or money or material items. If I wanted money and material items, I definitely would not have quit my day job. LOL. Relating back to imposter syndrome, I had several conversations with friends and fellow entrepreneurs with how they defined their own success. I don’t think I’ll have this “a-ha!” moment where I just feel successful. I think as business owners, we’re so IN the process and we’re constantly iterating and innovating, there isn’t exactly a destination or a point where you feel success.

I believe you almost forget the milestones you reach because you’re so IN the process. This question was totally eating away at me, so learning to accept what reality and what is true in the present moment helped change my perspective immensely. Am I making a difference? Yes. Am I profitable? Yes, thank the lord I can pay bills! Am I doing what I love? Am I fulfilled? Yes and yes. I can say at the end of the day, I started a business at 26 doing exactly what I love and I’m making a difference (and I’m not homeless). That’s success to me. The goal is just to keep on growing.

Final Thoughts

There were definitely way more lessons learned in 2018, but wanted to share the top ones! While last year was full of blessings, it was also hard as hell. One of the hardest years in terms of growth and scaling as a business owner trying to juggle so many things. I want to be as transparent as possible, because I know social media can be misleading. Trust me, I ugly cried more than I can count. I was also able to experience some incredible things and take advantage of wonderful opportunities, however I also battled with intense stress, anxiety, doubt, and frustration. You can’t appreciate the good without also taking into account the crappy parts of it too. I failed a lot last year. I am going to fail a lot this year too and that’s ok. For any entrepreneur or business owner, it’s ABSOLUTELY NORMAL to feel a roller coaster of emotions, but it’s so important we embrace the good with the bad. Here’s to another year of success and abundance and self-made luck. Thanks for reading you guys!

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