Becoming an entrepreneur was one of the most rewarding decisions I’ve made, yet also one of the hardest. On the outside, it seems glamorous to have location freedom, make my own schedule, and have no ceiling on the income I can earn.
While the benefits of entrepreneurship are huge, there is also a dark underbelly that doesn’t get talked about as much. As an entrepreneur, your business and livelihood hinges on you showing up and striving for success. Most people who have chosen this career path are highly driven, have a big vision for how they want to impact the world, and consequently feel that what they’ve accomplished is never enough.
It’s easy to get so caught up in the desire for success that you find yourself in a hustle and grind… defeating the point of leaving the corporate rat race in the first place. So how can we scale massively without burning ourselves to the ground?
Meet Ralph Ruiz, a master life coach whose focus is to help entrepreneurs lead a life of meaning and purpose. Ruiz works with many six and seven figure clients to create balance, stability, and inner peace so they can enjoy the fruits of their labor as they build their empire.
Ruiz shares invaluable advice on how entrepreneurs can achieve great success without burning out:
Celinne Da Costa: Tell us about your background and how you became an entrepreneur.
Ralph Ruiz: Since I could remember, I had an overwhelming desire to beat the odds and create a better life for myself. I was born in an extremely poor and violent Dominican Republic neighborhood where everyone was struggling with something: health issues, late bill payments, trouble with the law, etc. I moved to the United States at the age of six in hopes of escaping this terrifying environment, only to find myself in a home with an abusive stepmother and angry father. It was clear to me that I could not depend on my parents for safety or emotional support, and so I was fueled by the fear and desire to be seen, loved, and appreciated.
I first entertained the idea of entrepreneurship at age 19 to financially free myself without having to face the fear of authority that was sparked from my childhood. I worked countless hours and focused all of my energy on being as productive as possible. I woke up at 5am, worked two jobs, read books on entrepreneurship during my commute, and was in bed by midnight. To avoid getting robbed in my rough Bronx neighborhood late at night, I’d walk down the middle of a lighted street with nothing more than a book and a dream of making my way out of that misery.
By the age of 21, I reached a level of success that I was comfortable with: for the first time in my life, I had enough money to buy a brand-new car, pay all my bills, go out, and still give some away to friends who needed it. I had everything I thought I wanted (car, apartment, money, muscular body) yet I was not happy with any of it because deep inside, I didn’t believe I deserved any of the things I earned through my hard work and dedication.
Around that time, I was diagnosed with a painful autoimmune disease known as Ankylosing Spondylitis. I found myself struggling with excruciating physical pain, depression, anxiety, and no hope of ever getting better. I was unable to work under those health conditions and within months, I ended up bankrupt, evicted out of my apartment, and with repossessed vehicles. I was a jobless and chronically ill millennial right in the middle of the 2008 economic crisis.
Da Costa: How did this low point in your life set the foundation for entrepreneurial success?
Ruiz: At 23, I was unemployed, struggling with physical and emotional health, and had nowhere to live. At my lowest point, I promised myself that if my health got worse like the doctors predicted, I would kill myself by the age of thirty. I did not want to be in pain anymore.
Shortly after making that promise, I met an acupuncturist with a background in psychology at a social gathering. We started working together, and he taught me that the need for authentic self-expression was key to healing my physical and emotional pain. I had so much to say to the world and to my parents, and the more I expressed my true feelings, the more the anxiety melted away. Little did I know that the soul searching I was doing for my health would eventually lead to the success I always dreamed of as a child, with a very clear and significant difference.
By exploring the motivating factors behind my relentless drive to succeed, I learned that there is a notable difference between success that is rooted in fear versus passion: the prior implies that we need to earn our success, while the latter recognizes that we are worthy of it as it comes. In the past, I could work countless hard hours to earn my success and still feel dissatisfied at the end–I would tell myself that my achievements were “not a big deal” in order to avoid feeling good about it. My goals were not for my own pleasure, but instead for the attention and admiration of others.
To feel healthy success, I had to connect to the feeling of pleasure and satisfaction from my “small” achievements. This created a snowball effect where I found myself achieving goals with ease and having fun while doing it. Needless to say, productivity becomes easier when you enjoy the journey.
Fast-forward to my 30th birthday, and I lived in one of the most beautiful luxury buildings in Manhattan, was happily married to the woman of my dreams, surrounded by loving friends and family, and owned a successful health and life coaching practice. I was happy, and in full physical, emotional, and mental health. As I cut my birthday cake that day, I said “thank you, I have everything I need and more,” instead of making a wish. Suicide was nowhere in my mind, body, or spirit.
Da Costa: What is the difference between fear-based versus passion-based success?
Ruiz: Let’s say there are two people who started a business at the same time. They do the same thing, every day, for the same amount of time: manage staff, administrative tasks, and everything else that goes into running a business. Five years down the line, the first entrepreneur comfortably and happily scales to seven figures. The second one also makes it to seven figures, with the exception that he or she is ready to give up due to the overwhelming amount of stress he or she is under.
What’s the difference between these individuals? It’s what drives them to get up every morning and conquer the world.
Fear-based success has a different energy than passion-based success. Regardless of how much you succeed in your goals, the feeling of accomplishment rarely sets in… and when it does, it fades quickly. Many times, this is due to an unconscious limiting belief that you don’t actually deserve the outcome because nothing is ever good enough.
This kind of success feeds off the recognition and approval of others, and is characterized by an addiction to constant, nonstop productivity that never truly satisfies. People turn to the thrill of staying busy in order to cope with the false belief that your self-worth is your net worth.
You can achieve a six or seven-figure business using fear as a primary driver, but the stress that results from it will keep you from enjoying the fruits of your labor. You’ll unconsciously fear losing what you have worked for as if it is a direct threat to your being. This creates a cycle where, instead of working to express your passions and ideas, you’re fighting to survive and protect the self-esteem that you have attached to your success.
Now, what about the entrepreneur who made it past the seven-figure mark and is scaling with ease? This entrepreneur is driven by passion and a desire to express what he or she believes in. This is the businessperson whose beliefs are focused on delivering value, not because they are addicted to being productive, but rather because they are working towards what they believe will make the world and other people’s lives better.
Passion-fueled success comes from a purpose-driven place, a desire to contribute to our world, and a sense of belonging and worthiness. Fear-fueled success comes from the desire to prove yourself to the world due to feeling unworthy, not good enough, nor fully accepted by others. This type of success will always be draining.
Da Costa: What are some actionable tips for people looking to shift into passion-based success?
Ruiz: To start feeling success with a deeper sense of gratitude, meaning, and purpose:
- Journal in the third person about the end goal for your success. For example, when you visualize the outcome of your success, do you see yourself being respected, praised, and admired by others as a result of your hard work? If so, there is a chance that your desire for success is for others and not for yourself.
- Reflect on what your true passions are, which should come to you naturally and effortlessly. When something is coming from a place of fear, we need substances and performance enhancers to get through the long nights and difficult moments. When it comes from passion, we can completely lose track of time working on our craft. Passion allows us to remain curious and optimistic when overcoming obstacles, as opposed to crumbling under pressure.
- Take yourself on a date, literally! Many times, when we come from a place of fear, we disconnect from our true self so much that we completely forget who we truly are. As you reconnect to your passions, you will also rekindle your relationship with your true, authentic self. Ask yourself the same questions you would ask a date over a candlelight dinner: what movies do you really like? What kind of music are you into? What do you do for fun? And most importantly, who were you born to be?
Give yourself permission to really sit with and freely express your innermost thoughts, feelings, and desires without fear or concern for whether they are good enough or not. Remember to celebrate yourself and your one “small” achievement: reflect on the feeling it brings you and from there, allow the seed to grow. Before you know it, you will find yourself achieving all your goals with a much deeper sense of meaning and purpose.
Originally published on: Forbes