Entrepreneurial Tightrope: Personal successes count, too

— -- Hi, Gladys, I have tried several businesses and so far I have failed at each. To tell the truth, my self-esteem and self-respect is almost shot. I am 35 with a solid college education. I find great jobs that don't last long because companies seem to be always scaling back and eliminating departments. When this happens it always seems to be my department that is eliminated. So, from both the working world and the entrepreneurial world I keep coming up on the losing end. How does a guy hold on to his self-respect while looking for that business or job where he can hang his hat? — R.E.

Start by recognizing the many things you have successfully done that have nothing to do with earning a living.

Don't allow what you do for a living to define who you are. This is easier said than done because we live in a culture where we are constantly being asked, "What do you do?"

All too often how you answer that question will determine how long the asker will remain in your company.

One day last summer I was taking my usual morning walk in the park when a woman, whom I recognized as a regular morning walker, started walking beside me.

We exchanged greetings and talked causally about the weather. She said that she liked to finish her walk early so she could get to her office on time. She said she was an insurance broker, with very wealthy clients who were demanding. I could sense she was about to pop the "What do you do?" question, and on that morning I decided to have some fun.

After I agreed with her that early morning exercise was a great way to start the day she finally asked it: "What do you do?" I do as little as possible was my reply.

With a puzzled look on her face she asked, "Does that mean you don't work?" Instead of answering, I chuckled and returned to the subject of the weather.

Within a few minutes she decided to walk a bit faster, leaving me behind. From that day to this she had no more conversation for me.

People like that woman are everywhere, and they can lead you to believe you are only as good as the success you display through work.

Again, your work or business is what you do; it is not who you are. There are many other ways to define yourself besides what you do for a living.

Make a list of 50 things not related to a job that you have accomplished so far in life. You will be amazed at, and uplifted by, the many ways in which you have been successful.

Be fair and flexible with yourself. If you were successful in training your dog to alert you when he needs to go out, put that down. That is true success. Last week I was visiting friends who have had the same dog for eight years and they are still trying to house break him.

If you have successfully managed to collect on one of those complicated mail-in rebates, for another example, you are ahead of many of us.

As simple as this may sound, don't laugh at it. Make a list and you will see that you have succeeded in many things both small and large.

Also, don't take layoffs personally. Companies are going to continue to eliminate people and streamline departments as they find ways to become leaner and more profitable.

As for your business ventures, instead of thinking in terms of having failed in business, think in terms that you have learned what businesses don't suit you.

Meanwhile, keep on keeping on and you will eventually either get the job that works for you or find your niche in your own business.

Gladys Edmunds' Entrepreneurial Tightrope column appears Wednesdays. As a single, teen-age mom, Gladys made money doing laundry, cooking dinners for taxi drivers and selling fire extinguishers and Bibles door-to-door. Today, Edmunds, founder of Edmunds Travel Consultants in Pittsburgh, is a private coach/consultant in business development and author of There's No Business Like Your Own Business, published by Viking. See an index of Edmunds' columns. Her website is www.gladysedmunds.com. You can e-mail her at gladys@gladysedmunds.com.