Biggest Business Lesson of 2011: Be (Gasp!) Human

Biggest Business Lesson of 2011: Be (Gasp!) Human

Earlier this month, I talked about the Bears (and how to keep them from eating your business). That post sort of explains the comeback to small biz ownership I made last year.

But it’s not the whole story.

Nope. See, this is the anniversary of something pretty darn huge for me. Something that — on it’s surface — might seem a little underwhelming to most of you.

It was one year ago today that I started a personal blog. Just as a way to get back in touch with my long-lost passion: writing.

Funny how things unfold. Once I stepped back into the role of writer (a role I had relinquished during my senior year of college), I found…my voice!

And it wasn’t long before I realized (duh!) that I wanted (no, needed) to focus on writing in my work.

It only took me about two months after that, to figure it all out. (I launched this site on May 17, 2011.)

Inspiration for the Word Chef — as a brand and a business — came to me in the shower. (I often do my best thinking there!)

Before I could say “Have some ciopinno,” I was writing entire blog posts in my head as I whipped up dinner. (And yes, the cooking metaphors do seem to be endless. For that, I apologize in advance.)

And then? I picked up a copy of Seth Godin’s Linchpin. It was a book I’d been meaning to read, but had put off because my heart was busy falling for Ira. Yes, sometimes you have better things to do than read a Seth Godin book. But not often!

Anyway. In this beautiful little book was a phrase that seemed to jump right off the page at me:  The future belongs to chefsnot to cooks or bottle washers. 

And after reading the manifesto that summarizes Mr. Godin’s thoughts on the Linchpin opinions, I decided I needed a manifesto of my own. Something that would help me crystallize my ideas and values for this new business I was birthing. Something that would act as my touchstone, inspiration and branding message all in one.

The Lesson: Embrace Your Whole (Human) Self

Writing the manifesto was a process. I didn’t just sit down and create it as is. There were (are) refinements.

Yes, I captured the bulk of it in one sitting.

But then I had to let it sit on the back burner of my brain and “stew” awhile. I had to play with it like a bread maker kneads her dough — punching it down and letting it rise back up in a warm spot on the hearth.

I feel like I’ve pretty much captured the entirety of what I needed to say. But who knows? There may yet be more to discover.

The big lesson for me was an unexpected side benefit from the writing process. The self-reflection required that I look at what was different from my last attempt at self-employment. I’d been in business before — so why did I think I could do it better this time around?

I looked back to 2006 and the mission I’d put in place then: Social Good Marketing helps its clients create waves of positive change. I would be a shining example of how business could change the world. And for awhile it seemed to work really well.

Until it didn’t. (Which is another story altogether — written about at length for A Year With Myself.)

If you put your ideals on a pedestal, you’re sure to trip over them on the way down.

In short, I couldn’t live up to my own values. But I only just realized that last year.

Up until that time, I thought it was my clients who couldn’t live up to them.

Um. NO. It was me.

And guess what? Once I got that, I felt like I could breathe again.

I knew — then and there — that at least part of what I needed to do this time around, was allow for the gray areas of being human.

To not draw a line in the sand so deep that it would come back to bite me in the as$.

To be comfortable with imperfection in all its glorious forms and lessons.

And to keep writing!


This post is part of the February Word Carnival — a monthly group blogging event specifically for small business owners. (It’s the most fun you’ll have all month!) Check out the rest of the fabulous carney work here.


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  • Emily Suess

    Happy Blogiversary! And congrats on finding your way back to the writing you love. :)

    • Tea Silvestre

      Thanks Emily! It’s always a good thing to reconnect with your passions. ;-)

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  • Sharon – ParkRideFly

    Great lessons, Tea. I especially like the notion of being comfortable with imperfection (and continuing to write, of course).

    • Tea Silvestre

      Yep. I think the ACT of writing is what really pulled me back to my center. It’s something everyone (not just writers) can benefit from!

  • increasesalesblog

    Tea, great article.  “The Dip” is also a brief, but spectacular Seth Godin book.  I loved your point about being completely honest with yourself and not blaming your clients for not meeting your value but instead owning it yourself.  What a great reminder for us all.

  • donna_tribe

    Tea I can’t believe it is one year already!  I’ve watched you grow in your process and you are an awesome blogger.  Happy Anniversary!   Your journey is fascinating and I loved reading this story.  Growth is a wonderful thing and you have done it!  I am glad to see that you have a manifesto of your own.  May your second year be prosperous and happy,

    • Tea Silvestre

      Thank you, Donna! 

  • Michelle Church

    You know how much your ROCK with me.  I am very grateful to have been a part of your 1st year of the Word Chef.  I so love that branding so much.  All I can say is if what you have achieved in the one year is just the tip of the iceberg that is coming and I sure hope to continue to be a part of the landslide as we grow, expand and do the damn thing!  Love ya!

    • Tea Silvestre

      I love your choice of metaphors, Michelle (and your enthusiasm)! Thank you for being part of this wonderful process with me. ((hugs))

  • clarestweets

    What inspiring words, Tea. Not just words, you put it into practice every day and your clients as well as the Word Carnie Bloggers reap the benefits. So wonderful to see you embrace your inner you. Happy Anniversay and here’s to many more years and stellar business growth.  

  • Nicole Fende

    Happy blogiversary Tea!  I find it hard to believe you’ve only been doing this a year, your site and services are wonderful.  Thanks for the reminder that we all need to accept our humanity, and that means flaws.

  • Annie Sisk

    Happy blog birthday! I am thoroughly impressed with your ability to hit the deepest truths and turn them into practical lessons-learned. Someone once told me that my biggest life lesson this go-round on the planet would be “learning to be comfortable in the in-between spaces, in the pauses, in the question marks.” That sprang to mind when reading your words about the grey areas. 

  • Creativekatrina

    What an amazing thing to remember — that your talents set you free. This was a great post about reconnecting to the parts of you that may be missing and how empowering it is to look honestly at yourself to re-embrace them with an open heart. We are, for better or worse, only human : ) Thanks so much for the invitation to join you and the other amazing, insightful, talented folks as part of word carnivals. I’m so excited! Cheers!

  • Sandy McDonald

    Tea, I’m completely awestruck.  

    Since being involved in The Word Carnival, I’ve studied your site often.  The organisation of content, breadth of information, authority and brand integrity have the depth of a very mature business, one that has been refined over many years, not just ONE year!  Bet this translates into some very lucky folk who have been mentored/tutored or consulted with by you.  Well done on so many levels, not least of all spearheading and creating the community around Word Carnivals.  PS.   Annie, what a great quote: “learning to be comfortable in the in-between spaces, in the pauses, in the question marks.”  

  • Nick Armstrong


    Most definitely.

    Your own worst critic is yourself; but what happens so often when you shut them up is that you can get over-confident in your own abilities and aim so high that there’s no coming back down again until someone points out a fallacy or a flaw.

    I got my butt kicked by a difficult client this year, which was the beginning of the end of my web design career. I realized I wasn’t nearly as passionate about the design work as I should have been and it was causing a lot of problems down the pike.

    It just takes one moment of things going terribly wrong before a new normal sets in – the only question is will you be open to the change! :-)

    Thanks for the post!

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