Teresa Ierullo & Just the Facts!
500 million Facebook users can't be wrong


"Why aren't you on Facebook? You've got to get on Facebook!" These were the words of a good friend that echoed in my head days after meeting for breakfast. At the time, I had no good answer to give her, but it got me thinking: If 500 million people are registered on Facebook, why wasn't I?

I'm one of those people that managers tend to love. I work hard, I am committed, and do even more than what is asked of me. And so, at every job I ever had, there would come a time when the "grooming" would begin; the beginning of the climb up the corporate ladder. But instead of seeing this as a positive, I would start spiralling downwards, and it never made sense to me. Isn't this what everyone wants? So I just decided the definition of success as an employee was not for me and I started a project management business in the not-for-profit sector. I believed that since this is my business, I would get to make the rules.

But a funny thing happens on the way to starting and managing a business; the monkeys on your back come with you, and you find yourself repeating the same mistakes over and over. And for me, they were the "rules" of self-employment success haunting me: don't say no to work; hire more people; grow the business; make more money; don't complain you are too busy; and so on.

So about three years into my "successful" business (read: money), I found myself spiralling downward again and re-thinking it all. If I am not satisfied as an employee and I am not satisfied with being self-employed, what's left for me?

Professional Issue
Setting up a business is a long list of checkmarks that we all have to go through: Finances; check. Business plan; check. Marketing; check. And so on. But one of the checkmarks that I wasn't told about is defining what self-employment success is for me. I only had the typical rules of business as a guide, and they only provide a homogenous way of looking at things: making lots of money and working long hours. Don’t get me wrong, there is no business if you aren't making money and getting customers; they are the cornerstone of self-employment. But that’s only one definition of success. It became critical for the longevity of my business (and me as its only employee) to decide what success is for me. It’s tempting to live life and work through someone else’s lens, but it’s rarely very satisfying.


I never took the time to define success for me as an employee and now I hadn’t done it as a business owner, and I quite simply didn’t know how to do it. There were no self-employed role models to turn to who wanted to talk about the struggles of keeping a business on a small, manageable scale or to define success in an entirely different way. They all just kind of looked at me funny and thought, well then why are you self-employed?


But if you’re going to go through the risks, stresses and challenges of self-employment, you might as well go through the exercise to determine what business success is for you, not the millions of other business owners. For me, it has become a critical, ongoing struggle to balance business needs with personal needs and to make sure that my business fits for me, not the other way around.


Owning a business has captivated me on so many levels, but sometimes the fear of not “playing the game” the way others see it is overwhelming; I start to only see what I may lose rather than be inspired by what I may gain. But that only happens on the days I lose sight of my definition of success. As I know myself more personally, the more I know myself professionally, and the business flourishes as a result.  




Personal Issue

Starting a business forced me stop and consider who exactly now, and in the past, was shaping my thinking. Who was I turning to when I needed answers to my questions? Family, friends, Facebook users, business owners and countless ‘self help’ books can provide some insight, but growth for myself and my business depends on my ability to gather the courage to separate myself from this group mind-set in order to discover my own path. Mentors and books are great, but I still have to be careful that I am working towards living into my own questions and uncertainty, not those of a mentor or famous book author.


It is a difficult and sometimes lonely journey in trying to discover who you are in life and in business. It makes sense we would want to turn to Facebook and Twitter to find the answers and to feel part of something; and if enough people do something or believe in something, it must be “normal”. But “normal” business ideals (there’s never too much money to be made) and “normal” personal ideals (go to school, get married, have a baby, be a successful professional) leads many of us to conflicting emotions, asking ourselves, “is that all there is?”


The first step to better understanding my version of success has been to question everything. Why did I take that project? Why do I live where I live? Why did I study Political Science? (Still don’t know the answer to that one!) Reflection of these questions and answers has been helping me to see which choices I truly made for myself and which were a result of “group think”. No resentment, no regrets; just better understanding and preparation for the next decision I need to make in business and in life.


So, maybe one day I will join Facebook or grow my company even bigger, but I am sure it will be because it fits me, not because 500 million people said so.