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How to Write a Bold Story Through the Mess of Everyday Life

Tiffany Sauder, president of Element Three

I've always been driven by significance – to be seen, to know my life matters, to know my priorities have an impact on people.

My personal story is written, in part, through the business I lead – Element Three. I’ve realized that the company will never grow if I'm not personally willing to grow first.

Here are a few lessons my entrepreneurial journey has taught me.

If I knew what to do, I'd already be doing it.

When we limped our way through the recession of 2008 and 2009, I knew that we were only going to survive if I could learn how to sell. We dug ourselves a deep hole financially, so closing small clients were not going to fill the gap quickly enough. We had to close bigger deals – and fast.

I remember sitting at my desk and saying, "If I knew what to do, I'd already be doing it." I wasn't holding out on myself; I just didn't know what to do. And it was at that same moment that I reached out for help. I spent the next three years investing in sales training.

But this was more about the training – this was learning the key to success. Our willingness to recognize our flaws and ask for help prevents our own knowledge from being a limiting factor to growth for the company.

The people you are feeding excuses to are the relationships you are sacrificing.

Doing something difficult requires sacrifices that sometimes feel impossible. However, the leaders who define what will not be sacrificed in the name of success are the ones who are the real winners.

Our businesses will never tell us to go home. Our employees will never stop asking us questions so we can make it in time for dinner. Gmail will never stop accepting new messages.

It's you who must draw the line.

I failed to do so early on in my career and pushed my relationships to the edge. I hadn’t made decisions to protect my marriage, my family and my commitment to my church. And as a result, I nearly lost it all. I am eternally thankful that I learned before it was too late.

Guilt is a choice. And so is fear.

I've made the choice to be a working mother, and with this intersection of responsibilities can come an incredible amount of guilt. I've chosen not to allow the feeling into my emotional vocabulary – and I won't let others make me feel shame or regret either. I own my choices and the consequences (both positive and negative) that come with it.

After I had my second daughter, someone told me that the guilt train is a choice – you can ride it or step off. On that day, I watched it speed down the tracks without me.

Fear works much the same way. Don't let it control you, your emotions, your decisions or your vision.

I've spent my energy on running a company and being a mom, neither of which were forced on me. I chose them, and I will choose to love them each day.

Time is your only non-refundable resource. Choose wisely.

Good is the enemy of great. As leaders, parents, employees and mentors, we can spend our time on countless ideas and assignments. However, prioritizing is critical if you want to find success, both professionally and personally. Ask yourself if your priorities actually treated as such.

Early in my business, I realized that there were tons of networking events I could attend, people I could have coffee with and organizations I could be a part of. But I realized that while these things kept me busy, they were not helping me grow a company I was proud of.

I made the decision to spend time only with people who could help me or spend money with me. It might seem selfish, but it made all the difference.

Write bold stories.

Running a business is hard. Running a fast-growing, profitable business is even harder; and choosing to do so in an industry where your only true differentiator is people is just insane. Twelve years ago, that's that task I set out to accomplish when I started Element Three.

What I've started to realize is that this isn't about building a business at all; it's about the lessons I learned about myself and how to live a more intentional life.

I've just started to think: What if the gift I've received from Element Three is actually my gift to give? What if we could make it not about business at all? What if instead of building a business with people, we could build people with business?

Maybe that’s the whole point.

About the author: Tiffany Sauder is the president of Element Three, a full-service marketing agency that works across channels to solve real business problems for clients who aspire to market leadership. From coaching executives through the brand considerations of an acquisition to helping them use marketing and sales technology to track marketing performance, Sauder understands that success results from an integrated approach to business, brand, and creativity. Sauder has been a featured speaker at Inbound - HubSpot's annual user conference, appeared on Inside INdiana Business, and is a contributor to Harvard Business Review and Forbes, among others.

Image Credit: Tiffany Sauder