For most people, the holiday season means giving thanks: For family, for friends... and for the many blessings we often forget to count.
That last point can be especially true for entrepreneurs. The uncertainty, stress, and challenges entrepreneurs face on a nearly constant basis, especially in the early days of a startup, can make it hard to find reasons to give thanks.
Yet those challenges are also the perfect reason to give thanks, since facing and overcoming those challenges is what will make you a better entrepreneur, better leader... and better person.
This holiday season, take a moment to give thanks for a few of the things you might not realize are actually blessings in disguise:
1. The constant uncertainty.
You might have so many options and potential choices, both business and personal, that you feel stressed and even overwhelmed.
Flip it around: Imagine how it would feel to have few, if any, options. Imagine how it would feel to have few, if any, viable choices.
Be thankful you have choices you need to make--the more choices the better.
2. The relentless struggle.
Not unintentional struggle. Intentional struggle: like choosing to work incredibly hard or to push through a mental or physical barrier or to make sacrifices for the good of the people who rely on you.
When you struggle and fight and endure, you not only stretch the limits of what you believe you are capable of, but you also sometimes enter a state of grace that you find only when you strip away what is truly nonessential (which turns out to be most of what you worry about).
Struggling helps you learn who you really are--and who you really want to be.
3. The never-ending pressure.
As newly-crowned NASCAR champion Joey Logano told me, "It's really cool to have the opportunity to have pressure. A lot of people don't get the opportunity to have pressure. It's a privilege to have pressure. There's no better feeling than winning when your back was against the wall."
Feeling pressure means you have the chance to do something meaningful, something that matters to you, something you care about.
Embrace opportunities to feel pressure. You should only be concerned if you never feel pressure... because that means you're missing out on opportunities to improve yourself -- and to truly live.
4. The occasional regrets.
Think about something you wish you had done better. Or handled differently. Or think about something you wish you had done but for whatever reason, you didn't.
Painful? Sure. And motivating.
Use that motivation today. Call a friend you've lost touch with. Mend fences with a family member. Be the bigger person and say you're sorry. Do something you wish you had done.
You'll be thankful you did.
5. The need to be patient.
Staying patient, especially when you dream big dreams, is rarely fun. But being forced to wait can be a good thing.
For example, research shows that where vacations are concerned, the biggest boost in happiness comes from planning to get away. And this vacation anticipation boosts happiness for an average of eight weeks.
After the vacation, though, happiness levels quickly drop to baseline levels--usually within days. Soon the people who went on a vacation are no happier than the people who did not.
Be thankful you need to wait -- especially for something you really want. The anticipation alone is worth it.
Besides, waiting for what you want -- not what you need, but what you want -- is a luxury only those who are already blessed can afford.
6. The challenge of forging your own path.
Steve Jobs believed in the power of taking an unconventional path -- of doing things that other people usually don't consider. As he once said,
"When you grow up, you tend to get told that the world is the way it is. Your life is to live your life inside the world, to try not to bash into the walls too much: Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money ... but that's a very limited life.
"Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call 'life' was made up by people that were no smarter than you -- and you can change it. You can influence it ... the minute you understand that you can change it, that you can mold it, that's maybe the most important thing. To shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you're just going to live in it -- versus embrace it, change it, improve it ... and make your mark upon it."
It's much easier to follow a path established by others. It's much easier to follow than lead.
Living life on your own terms is hard. Betting on yourself is scary. Building something you believe in, especially when others do not, is lonely.
But that's what makes you an entrepreneur.
Be glad you're an entrepreneur.