I recently returned from a summer camp for adults–for entrepreneurs, to be exact. If you’re anything like me, you want to believe summer-camp nervousness is limited to the kiddos in our lives. Adults, on the other hand, are evolved enough not to experience such trifles. Sigh. I really want to tell you my newest camp adventure came without any nerves, that my grown-up poise shone through at every moment. Darn it all, though, I never have been good at telling lies.
Here’s what actually happened. For weeks beforehand, palpable unease overtook my body. Two afternoons prior to camp, my hesitation grew so strong I contemplated skipping the whole thing and staying home. It wasn’t that I was concerned about meeting new people, though the weekend would be nearly 2,000 miles from home and I didn’t know a soul. No, what worried me was this: I’m not an entrepreneur.
For 20 years I’ve worked as an educator, mostly in the nonprofit sector, at jobs that galvanize employees but tend to bleed them dry. As it happened I’d been dreaming about entrepreneurship for the better part of a year. Deeply in awe of people who build their own opportunities, I secretly wanted to join their ranks.
Dreaming was one thing, however. Openly admitting it, surrounding myself with actual business owners, would be quite another. I was pretty sure my arrival at camp would be accompanied by sirens blaring, “Imposter alert! Watch out, all you REAL ENTREPRENEURS, there’s a phony in your midst!”
My entrepreneurial dreams started to sink in about a year ago. I didn’t know what I expected this to mean (spoiler alert, I still don’t), but I sensed some internal shifts. My creative side starting acting braver, weirdly, almost without my knowledge or permission. Something inside had grown tired of feeling invisible and decided it needed more light.
Last fall, a girlfriend and I started a journaling project. For the next 52 weeks, we’d follow prompts in Cheryl Richardson’s Life Makeovers. The book promised “practical and inspiring ways to improve your life one week at a time,” and we figured our lives were good candidates for some renovation.
And so, I began. I started calling myself an artistic, entrepreneurial spirit. At least in my journal, my head, and weekly talks with my girlfriend. A few months later I started this blog. This act alone emboldened my creative confidence, immediately and with force.
I enjoyed expressing my voice, unencumbered by the hierarchy that sometimes dogs my day-to-day. Unexpectedly, I found joy in community of bloggers I discovered. What a gutsy group they turned out to be!
Fast forward half a year. One summer night I found myself awake and grumpy in the middle of the night. To combat my negativity, I chose to fill my mind with something better. Browsing one of my favorite podcasts, Jonathan Fields’ Good Life Project, I spotted the promo for Camp GLP. I noticed the call for volunteers and filled out the application, right then and there.
Before I knew it, I found myself at camp in New York, surrounded by 370 kind, innovative souls known as fellow campers and crew. Over the next 4 days, I received the kick-start I’d been seeking.
I attended workshops on things like finishing projects and understanding revenue models. All of them energized me and sparked new ideas. Arts and crafts projects–LOVE THESE–were a key part of my camp experience. When I got the chance I enjoyed solo moments, on a patch of grass under a sunny sky.
Most importantly, though, I met people who inspired me. People who make podcasts and write ebooks and travel the world and create documentaries and make a living through art. They believe it all can be done, not only in ways that serve communities with compassion, but also that energize the creators themselves.
Now that I’m home, I’ve discovered a whole new set of nerves. These particular butterflies flit in a new pattern, carrying uncertainties on their tiny backs. “What does being an entrepreneur really mean,” they want to know. “What makes you think you’ve got the energy to start something new?” Oh, how I wish I could jump on their collective wings and take flight!
For now, though, I’m content with my role. My current job is to befriend them first, or at least get used to their presence. I want to let them take their time, while I take mine as well. As the journey unfolds, I’ll figure out where we’ll be traveling together months, a year, whenever from now.
So, what about you? Are you feeling any butterflies? What kick-starts are you seeking? Feel free to share in the comments!