3 Lessons for Entrepreneurs from the 18th Century about Mindset: Inspired During a Visit to the Art Museums of Williamsburg

3 Lessons for Entrepreneurs from the 18th Century about Mindset: Inspired During a Visit to the Art Museums of Williamsburg

Jul 27, 2022

I love living in Colonial Williamsburg- have I mentioned that before?

Only a ton of times. It truly inspires me. It’s a constant reminder of my Free At 50 lifestyle, my moving here and being location independent. Also inspiring: the history! It’s everywhere and if you just pay attention, there are lessons for entrepreneurs around every corner.

Wandering the art museum, I had an idea for this post. It fit right into my message of using your skills in an “out of the box” way and adopting the mindset that corporate titles don’t matter. (Yes, another mindset shift!)

Here's what I learned from one exhibit: Upholsterers were undertakers. Because they had the skills to create a comfortable and fabulous casket! And what if they didn’t start out wanting to be an undertaker…

  • Who cares what you got your degree in or what it says on your resume or C.V.?
  • Who cares what label you were given?

Warning: possible unpopular opinion coming!

RELATED: In June 2023, I've launched a blog specific to American history! Click here to read it.

Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

1st lesson for entrepreneurs: Disregard labels. Your skills are what matters.

There. I said it.

If I’m going to look to you for information, training, a product or service, here is what I care about: do you have the skills? You can use your corporate skills (and non-corporate skills) for other things.

When I was in corporate, a friend told me I needed to ask for an upgrade to my title. I thought it was ridiculous but did it. She was right. People were congratulating me on my “promotion.” Funny story: I was doing the same thing and the budget for our program didn’t increase mid-year, so I didn’t get a salary increase. In fact, I never used my title when I met people or introduced myself doing presentations; I told people what I did.

Not what my title was.

Corporate titles don’t matter - I even wrote about that in an earlier post because it is so important!

Here is the mindset shift: your title does not define your ability to use your skills to have an impact.

As I was reading the exhibit sign about how the upholsterer not only did furniture, but coffins, it hit me: what was the person’s chosen career? Why did they do these other things?

photo by Daphne taken at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg

The fact that you’ve been using your skills to succeed in a specific job description does not supersede what you can do as an entrepreneur; your skills are likely to be valuable in other settings. And they can have an impact.

Example: I never focused on writing at any point during my 30 years working for others. It was not in any job description of mine. However, I love writing and though maybe some of you disagree (I hope not!), it’s a skill I have.

As you know if you’ve been following me, I read the 4-Hour Workweek after my Covid layoff. It encourages us to write down our skills and our passions, then research how we can marry them with our skills to earn income.

One passion I’ve had all through my career and into this new life as a blogger: inspire, empower, and encourage others. It’s why I stuck with my corporate job, even when the corporate part was miserable.

I also love connecting people to valuable resources that help them in their quest. My a-ha moment was realizing this blog is the perfect marriage of all these things.

RELATED: Join my Facebook community by clicking here- it's a place where "connection" is happening!

2nd lesson for entrepreneurs: Do not short-change yourself, your skills matter once you shift your mindset away from the perceived value of corporate titles.

If your product or service is the high-quality fabric because of your skills, don’t feel hesitant to charge more because you’re new to being an undertaker.

I could write a whole new post based on the photograph below (also from the same exhibit). Do not undersell or undervalue yourself.

photo by Daphne taken at the Art Museums of Williamsburg

Just like in the 18th century, your pricing needs to be based on the quality and on the labor involved. It is not based on how long you’ve being doing this new “thing” as an entrepreneur.

You have the skills. Charge accordingly! That old adage “you get what you pay for” is true.

Charge for the high-quality fabric, not the cheap stuff.

In my new world of entrepreneurship, I see a lot of chatter about “imposter syndrome” (explained here on Jugde.com) and I get it, it’s a real thing. And let’s be honest, some people want to do things they don’t have the expertise to back up.

I do not condone charging unreasonable prices for a product or service you cannot do effectively.

BUT (and this is a big “but”), if you’re enthusiastic about honing your skills or gaining new ones based on your passion, you can.

Coaches, mentors, peers, courses, books, training… it’s all out there!

How do you determine pricing? Research.

Understand pricing by doing research. Also think about the income you need. Check out this video interview I did with Marinella Yule where we discussed everything from how to set your pricing to invoicing and selling internationally.

And here it is: the 3rd lesson for entrepreneurs. You have permission to evolve.

The chair may look the same over time, but the quality improves.

No one expects any business to stay the same over time.

photo by Daphne taken at the Art Museums of Williamsburg

Let’s talk about the factors that can be catalysts for change:

  • Gaining more skills. I’m a blogger and a writer. But I may learn more about publishing an e-book and offer that in future. It’s a skill I need to learn. One thing I did learn through the Digital Acceleration Academy was how to run a Facebook group. Everything from messaging to growing the group came from a course. It enhanced and expanded what I already knew about Facebook. My group became an extension of this blog and a new aspect of the Free At 50 brand!

RELATED: Get a month-to-month membership to the Digital Acceleration Academy and get access to valuable training here.

  • Market research. If you come from corporate, you are well aware that both consumer behavior and demands change. You also know that messaging can have an impact. These are just two reasons to do market research. As an entrepreneur out of the 9-5 and with no marketing team on speed dial, this can seem daunting, but don’t freak out. It can be simplified (what this blog aspires to help with!) and Lindsey Sacco of the Forza Collective wrote this guest post for y’all, taking the guesswork and overwhelm out of market research.

  • Technology. You may start with a simple landing page, then ultimately build a website, start a blog, create a membership portal, or launch a podcast. Or more. But as technology advances and your skill set expands, you may evolve your business.

RELATED: Kickstart your technology journey by signing up for Groove here (at least at the free level!).

Photo by Lluvia Morales on Unsplash

Whatever the reason, evolving is not only normal, but exciting!

Keeping it fresh can both ensure you keep clients/readers/customers because you have “new” and “more” to offer but it can also mean reaching people who haven’t noticed you before.

Closing with a message from Martha Custis Washington and a call to action!

I genuinely believe in Martha Washington's advice about business.

Business coach Elise Willett drilled into us the value of controlling your income in this guest post, because the only way to have total control: not working for someone else. And especially not a corporate entity that can sell or restructure at any time!

My call to action: no matter where you are on the journey out of 9-5: thinking about it, working on a side hustle or already escaped, grab the 6-Step Checklist to Escape the 9-5 if you haven’t already and keep moving forward.

In the end, use the lessons from the 18th century I dropped in this post and shift your mindset!