I Just Made My First Million: My 10 Biggest Lessons
As I was completing my monthly income report, I'm calculating everything, and that's when I see it.
There are a ton of milestones to hit as a small business owner and reaching 1 million in overall income was incredibly special to me!
Not just because of the money, but because of my own belief that it was possible. I am the only person who knows the hard work, dedication, failures, triumphs, doubts, and setbacks that came with making this happen — believing in myself enough to lose all sense of limitations and realize that the possibilities are endless for me as long as I never quit.
A girl with a dream who decided to go for it. These last few years have been absolutely incredible, and it seems like every day I wake up, something exciting is happening.
I know we’re only two days into May, but I just hit my one MILLION mark, I am moving my entire business and life to Maui on the 29th. My family and I get to call Hawaii home, which means I get to explore a slice of heaven every day and finally live right by the beach. AND my 29th birthday is on the 26th. Whoever said you couldn’t have your cake and eat it too was dead wrong.
To celebrate this little moment of my life, I wanted to write out some lessons I’ve learned in the last few years. I know at the end of the day I am no different than anyone out there reading this. Everyone has it in them to chase their dreams; at the end of the day it’s a choice you have to make. You might wonder, is it all worth it? Is it hard? Does this bring happiness? I couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my life than living it to its full potential. I love chasing my dreams.
Here are 10 lessons I’ve learned. I’ll start at the beginning.
1. SUCCESS HAS HUMBLE BEGINNINGS
I will always consider this part of my life as a huge turning point in my life. I had to bike my daughter to school every single day because we only had one car, and my husband worked an hour away. Rain or shine, I had to bike to her school to drop her off and to pick her up. I’m sure most people thought it was because I loved biking. No. It was because that was my only means of transportation at the time.
I remember biking that trip countless amounts of times with the hot Florida sun beating down on me, thinking to myself; this is it. THIS is your start. This isn’t going to always be this way. If you put your mind to it, you can make big things happen. I thought about how amazing it would be if one day I could look back at that time of my life and think ‘remember when.’ Today is that day. I told myself never to forget that time in my life.
Those bike rides turned into a source of motivation for me. A way for me to think hard about my next move and focus on making the right changes to change my life. I learned to love the feeling of feeling defeated, that’s what gave me the drive to push harder into the right direction. I had to learn how to go into this as the underdog and build my way to the top.
The people who struggle, the ones starting at rock bottom have something others don’t. They have a fight deep inside to make things happen for themselves. Don’t ever underestimate that.
2. HELP AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE
I had someone tell me to throw in the towel shortly after starting my photography business. It was a group of other photographers, and I understand why they said it. I wasn’t good at the time. I didn’t understand the business, or pricing, or any of that. I just had a little dream to do something I loved. They weren’t able to see the person I would become.
I remember thinking to myself; No. I will not throw in the towel. I WILL make this happen, and when I do, I will help others do the same. I will use my strength to encourage those around me, not tear them down. Helping others pursue their dreams is at the core of who I am.
I love seeing people succeed in something they are passionate about. I have coached hundreds of photographers and creatives in turning their business into profitable business and love pushing them in the right direction with the same strategies I used to build my own business.
I am incredibly proud of those people, for making the decision to put in the hard work and chase their dreams. One of the people I’m overly proud of is my sister. She is incredibly talented in what she does as a graphic designer. And my husband who for years has stood by my side and helped me build my business is now going after what he loves with is web development. I love seeing that spark in people’s eyes when they talk about something they are passionate about.
The amazing thing about it is this; everyone can pay it forward. The more people I can help succeed, the more they can inspire those around them to do the same. It’s a chain reaction, and I hope that my doing can help people all over this world go after their dreams.
3. IT’S NOT ABOUT THE MONEY; IT’S ABOUT FREEDOM
What’s more amazing than hitting one million? Being 100% in control of my life. Making decisions based on what I want to do, not on what society tells me to do.
I created my own business. I work for myself. I can work from anywhere in the world. I spend every day with my husband and children. I love what I do. My husband was able to quit his job and is now going after his own dreams. We are moving our family to Maui, Hawaii because we think it will be fun to live on an island in the middle of the Pacific.
I’m in control of my life, and that is priceless.
Having built a business that gives me full financial freedom is why I work so hard. It’s not about hitting one million; it’s about being in control of what I do with the life I have. The possibilities are endless when you can create a life you love and be in the driver’s seat. I could care less about fancy watches, or clothes. The expensive things most people dream about getting if they made the money. I care more about spending the life I have doing something I love, with the people who mean the most to me. At the end of my life, that’s what I want to look back on. I’m not in this for the money; I’m in it for the freedom.
4. I HAD TO BECOME A LONEWOLF ENTREPRENEUR
Want to get there fast? Put in the hard work yourself. I know there’s all this talk about networking and mingling, and making the right connections with the right people that can connect you to other people who can help you get to where you want. Not for me. I know where I want to go and have done it by myself. I might be hardheaded with this, but I’ve learned that the fastest way to get somewhere is counting on yourself to get yourself there. Putting in the hard work and focusing on yourself. I can promise you that there is not another person in this world willing to work as hard as me on my business. Same goes for you and your business. Networking with others might be a great way to up our social life, but the truth is that you are the only person in this world who cares about the success of your own business. Learn to enjoy working by yourself, for yourself. Don’t expect others to be passionate about making your dreams a reality.
Become a lone wolf entrepreneur and do the work yourself.
5. YOU CAN’T FAIL IF YOU’RE NOT WILLING TO QUIT
We live in a world where people prepare a plan for failure rather than focusing more on making their dreams a reality. Stop spending time thinking about failing and how you can continue after not making it and start focusing on not quitting. Focus on making something work and push forward. Re-train your mind to focus on continuing to work even when it’s hard. When you get tired, learn to take a break instead of quitting.
Realize that making your dreams happen is supposed to be hard. It’s supposed to test you over, and over again. When you pour your heart into something and don’t see it happen the way you want, it’s hard. That’s how it’s supposed to be. This is where grit comes in. You have to keep going even when you don’t see any change at all. You have to have a special kind of vision in your head to continue something that doesn’t work over and over again until one day, it works. Believe in your dream, your vision, and keep going.
Many people are scared of failure; the idea of not making it happen is often enough to get them to quit. The idea of putting so much time, energy, and effort into something they love and have it not be guaranteed can be paralyzing. But here’s the thing, if you learn to change your focus you’ll realize that the only possible way to fail is by quitting, then the solution is pretty simple; Don’t Quit.
6. THIS IS JUST THE START OF IT ALL
I’m 28, which means if I make it to 85, I have another 57 years to live life to the fullest. I’m excited to see what my feature holds. Proud to have found this sense of freedom so early on in life. I’ll continue putting the people who mean the most to me first. Without them, nothing would matter. I’ll keep working hard on the things I’m passionate about, wherever that ends up taking me. I’ll try to help as many people around me so they too can go after their dreams. Focusing on what matters most & living life to the fullest. I’m just getting started. Think about it this way. If you get to 85 years old, how much more time do you have left? What do you want to do with that time?
7. BET ON YOURSELF. EVERY TIME.
Bet on yourself. Every time. Most people think it’s a safer bet to bet on someone else. It’s safer to get that job at that big company. It’s safer to go to college and get a degree. It’s safer to follow a path that many have traveled. The safest bet you can make in life is on yourself. You are in full control of what you put in, and what you get out. People might consider working in another company as the safe bet, but you’re leaving your job and future in the hands of someone else. Someone who might not even really know you. When you work for yourself, you’re betting on yourself. You can hold yourself accountable. You deal with failures and celebrate the victories. At the end of the day, I’m willing to bet on myself every time because I know I have it in me.
8. TURN “I DON’T KNOW HOW” TO “I CAN LEARN HOW TO”
I can’t tell you how many times I hear the words. “I don’t know how to do this”. Everything you know how to do, you had to LEARN how to do. Just because you’re no longer sitting in a classroom with a textbook in front of you, doesn’t mean it’s time to stop learning. This is called life, and anything in life you don’t yet know how to do, you can learn. There’s nothing you can’t learn how to do. Think about ALL the things you know how to do…those skills didn’t just happen magically, you had to learn them, one by one. I didn’t know how to use a camera, I had to learn. I didn’t know how to do run a business, I had to learn. I didn’t know how to build a website, I had to learn. There are so many things I’ve had to teach myself how to do. The phrase “I don’t know how to do this” is going to get you nowhere. You have to change it to “I can learn how to do this” and you’ll quickly realize that you’re unstoppable.
9. YOU COULD BE ONE DAY AWAY FROM FIGURING EVERYTHING OUT
If someone would have predicted my future, I probably wouldn’t have believed them. Life is funny in the sense that you never really know what lies ahead. Business is the same way. I spent years putting in the hard work and didn’t see any of my hard work pay off. Nothing seemed to be working, but I kept going. I told myself that struggle was part of the process and knew I wanted it bad enough to keep going. Then one week, I tried something new, I changed up my strategies, and all of a sudden it was like the puzzle pieces finally fit together and things were happening how I wanted them to. I felt like I unlocked the right door and I finally understood how business works. I continued with the strategies that worked and changed the ones that didn’t until eventually, everything seemed to run exactly like I had wanted it to. Here’s the thing though, the few months before figuring out the right strategies, I wanted to quit. I was so close in tossing in the towel because I felt like things were never going to change. I was working so hard, but somehow I wasn’t attracting the right clients, which meant I wasn’t making enough money and felt ultimately defeated. I had no idea that I was so incredibly close to figuring it all out. I now know that you never have any idea how close you are to figuring things out and that you could be one day away from that happening. So if you feel like things are just not working out for you, and you’re thinking about quitting, remember this; you could be one day away from figuring it all out!
10. YOU ONLY HAVE ONE LIFE, IT’S TIME TO LIVE IT TO THE FULLEST
Everyone has the same 24 hours a day. And everyone only has one life to live. What matters is how you spend those hours, because that’s how you’ll end up spending your life. The thing is, you have no idea when your last day is, you wake up every day with time on your side until one day you wake up and you realize that you don’t have any more time left. You need to realize that every day you wake up, you wake up with a choice. A choice to live life on your terms, to go after things you want to do or continue letting your potential go to waste.
Think about getting to your last day, and standing around you are your life dreams, the ideas you had, your talents and ambitions. And for whatever reason, you never went after those dreams, decided to not act on your ideas, and let it all go to waste. What was the point? You only have so much time left, and you never know when that last day arrives. The way I see it is that life is made up of dreams. The thing you see around you every day, are there because someone had the courage to go after their dreams and create them. Learn to live life and stop worrying so much about the little things, because those things won’t matter when you’re no longer here. What matters is what you lived your life.
DON’T LET YOUR DREAMS GO TO WASTE. YOU HAVE IT IN YOU TO MAKE THEM HAPPEN.