An Entrepreneur’s Most Important Investment

Why investing in yourself is the cornerstone for a successful company and a successful life.

A reflection by Songya Kesler, Leadership Consultant & Coach |

You Are Everything

Don’t you see? You are all there is. Everything around you exists because you believe it to be true. It all begins and ends with you.

I did not always know this truth. When I started my first and second companies, I worked myself to exhaustion, sacrificed myself for the betterment of those around me, and chose to neglect the only source of power and effect in my world: myself.

I could not see what I was doing wrong. I jumped right into my ventures: ambitious, headstrong, and self-righteous. While others failed, I was determined to be one of the few that succeeded. It did not matter what I had to endure because my vision and my goals for the world were greater than my own needs. I was so wrong.

I saw the great illusion of my external life as all that exists, seeking momentary solace in minor accomplishments and delusions of success. It was not until my health waned and my companies failed that I started asking the tough questions: Is this all there is? What is true happiness? What is true success? At that time, I finally saw the truth:

The single most important relationship in my life is my relationship to myself.

Not only are all other relationships affected by how I treat myself, but my internal condition has a direct impact on my purpose, happiness, and success. Am I kind to myself? Am I plagued with thoughts that I am never enough? Am I always living in the past? Am I constantly thinking towards the future? The source is always me.

I have written this article to support other entrepreneurs who are facing the same mental, physical, and emotional problems that I faced. It is crucial to build a stable foundation within ourselves before building our personal and professional empires.

How We Are Here Is How We Are There

I have heard many people say that they are _____ at home and _____ at work, but “it’s different.” How we perceive ourselves to be perceived may vary in different environments, but we remain the same. Our stress at work may not show itself as stress at home, but it will show up in other ways: fatigue and lack of interest or snippiness and anger. Each part of our lives bleeds into other parts, whether we realize it or not.

As entrepreneurs, we seek flow and efficiency in all part of our lives. Attempting to segment ourselves to best suit the different life compartments is tiresome. The best action we can take for ourselves is to find congruency in our different parts and to show up consistently as the same person in both our personal and professional circles.

The Investment: Work on finding ways to maintain balance in your inner world. If you are stressed and anxious, what can you do to relieve yourself of that stress? Perhaps a run or a massage? Delegating work to other team members? Outsourcing work to free up more time? My recommendations are meditation or escaping into the wilderness.

We Influence Each Other

Have you ever noticed that your state of mind has a subconscious effect on those around you? Happy people are more liked and more successful than unhappy people because they make others feel good by simply being around them. The Dalai Lama (who does not posses any supernatural powers that the rest of us cannot tap into) has a calming and peaceful influence on those around him. Anger and cruelty begets more anger and cruelty while kindness and generosity begets kindness and generosity.

Pets are another great example of this; spending time with animals can increase energy and decrease negative mood states. Can you look at this face and get angry?

canis lupus familiaris

Our mood and our energy seeps into the psyche of the people around us. Even when we take measures to pretend that we are OK or to cover up any other mental/emotional framework that we deem inappropriate, we are imperfect. There are cracks; people sense that something is off. How freeing would it be to live authentically, without hiding, with full trust in ourselves, our people, and our future?

The Investment: Work on trusting yourself enough to be vulnerable and to communicate openly. Internal alignment is a tall order and one that is best accomplished by hiring a coach or finding an intra-personal teacher. Ask friends for recommendations, search on google, or reach out to me for specific references.

We See Through Each Other

Have you ever sensed that someone around you is having a bad day, despite the smile on their face? Or have you known that something significant happened to someone, despite having no evidence? We can sense that something is going on, even if we cannot identify what it is.

Take dating for example. Men can smell insecurity/confidence in women; women can detect maturity/immaturity in men. These internal mental states are subjectively perceived through our physical stance, facial expressions, body language, and non-visual chemical excretions. Objectively asking a date Are you confident? Are you mature? would not go over well, so we rely on our subjective opinions.

To ensnare a love interest, we can memorize proven behavioral triggers, but these tricks may not be sustainable long-term. What happens when we start seriously dating someone that we manipulated into liking us? They will see through us, eventually.

If you think your team and your investors cannot read your underlying mood and state of mind, think again. Each interaction that we have, with an employee, investor, friend, or love interest is laced with an undetectable number of subtleties. The investor-investee relationship is much the same. No-one definitively knows how successful an investment will be; we make our best guess based on some empirical data and subjective inference from the character of the founders.

The Investment: Build genuine confidence and be your authentic self. Confidence is different from worth, but genuine confidence is an extension of self-worth. If you are doubting yourself or thinking that “it is never enough,” you have self-worth conversations. This is natural (everyone I know has self-wroth conversations) and can be improved by rebuilding your perceived worthiness. Self worth is another tall order that is best addressed by speaking with a coach or teacher.

When Will You Be Ready?

Nothing I have stated in this article is revolutionary. We all know to “take it easy,” to “take care of ourselves,” and so-on. We all take steps in this directions by going on vacation, exercising, eating healthy, and spending time with loved ones. But when will we truly be ready? When will we put ourselves first? When will we cast aside the self-inflicted shackles of obligation to escape our delusions of mediocre happiness and to stand as models for those around us to see what life is like when we focus on ourselves as the source of happiness, success, and fulfillment?

“Your level of success will seldom exceed your level of personal development.” — Jim Rohn

Through developing ourselves, we create the framework for our entire existence so that we can overcome any roadblock, tackle any problem, and rise from any fall with strength, serenity, certainty, and grace. Through developing ourselves, we set an example for our employees and set the tone for what is acceptable behavior within our companies.

Each one of us is on our own journey. How we define success is up to us. How fulfilled, happy, or successful we feel is of our own choosing. As Leaders, we inspire others through our actions. What will you choose to inspire?

Songya is a Leadership Consultant & Coach, based in Berlin who works with leaders to become the best version of themselves. She has an engineering MS & BS from Stanford and an MBA from Cambridge Judge. Get to know her better through her newsletter, where she shares learnings, inspiration, and meditations that address the myriad of troubles plaguing young business leaders today.

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