Entrepreneurship -The Road Less Traveled

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By Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, CSP, FAAN

Two roads diverged in a wood and I-I took the one
less traveled by and that has made all the difference.

— Robert Frost

When I started my education business 22 years ago, I had a dream and a vision – to launch a public seminar for nurses and take it on the road. I couldn’t possibly have known where that road would lead me – and what a difference it would make for me – personally and professionally.

Certainly, I set out to make a living and was looking for creative freedom and flexibility in my life when I launched my venture. What I didn’t realize is that in taking big risks, stepping way out of my comfort zone, pushing myself to places I never dreamed I’d go, I began to learn who I really was and what I was capable of. When you start to master things you always feared and never imagined you’d be able to do, barriers start to fall away, courage and confidence starts to build, and inner vision starts to expand.

Initially, I offered public seminars for nurses on career-related topics. But I quickly discovered that there were even bigger and better opportunities to speak in hospitals, at conventions, association meetings, corporations and other venues. So I researched what the needs of my target audience were, learned to develop and deliver continuing education programs, and took the all important step of learning how to run a business. I did all this through self-study, by attending how-to seminars, networking with more experienced people and sometimes by trial and error. Each time I pushed myself a little further along, I acquired a little more courage and a little more skill to keep moving forward.

Although I never set out to write and was convinced I had no ability to do so, I found myself being “forced” (in a good way) to write because clients had that expectation of an educator. So I learned how to write articles by reading about the craft in books, studying the content of publications I wanted to write for, and by starting small with short articles submitted to association newsletters. When an opportunity to write my first book was presented by a publisher, I said ‘Yes,’ signed the contract, went into a deep state of panic, and was once again forced (in a good way) to figure out how to get it done. Since then I have written two additional books and am working on my fourth. Who knew I had a writer hiding within?

I also discovered that being self-employed gave me the ability to reach a wider nursing audience through my speaking engagements, advice columns, and articles. When I was asked to blog at DoctorOz.com, be on cable and national TV, and be quoted in national mainstream publications, I realized the opportunity and the responsibility I had to represent nursing to the general public and bring health information to the masses. This has been both empowering and exhilarating not to mention self-satisfying. To find your own voice and then have an outlet to express yourself, share acquired knowledge and experience and make an even bigger difference in the world – there is no greater gift.

Beyond all that, my business has taken me around the world to military hospitals in Europe, on education cruises to exotic places, and some of the world’s top medical centers. I’ve spoken to groups as large as 6,000 and been on panels with industry leaders and experts that I was star struck to be near. I’ve met politicians, celebrities, authors, change agents, gurus and best of all – thousands of nurses and fellow human beings in every corner of the planet who have shared their life stories, their challenges, their successes and their inner most thoughts, desires and fears with me. These are all things I likely never would have experienced had I followed a more traditional path.

It’s important to note that when I decided to take the plunge into entrepreneurship almost two decades ago, I was at a low point in my life and experiencing a spiritual crisis. I was not happy, my self-esteem was at an all-time low, and I had fallen into a physical and emotional slump. I also had plenty of people telling me why starting a business was a bad idea and that the odds were against me in succeeding. But sometimes you have to veer from the seemingly safe and sure path and see where another path will lead, even if you have to walk alone for a time. It forces you (in a good way) to rely more on yourself and your natural instincts. You are required to try things that you wouldn’t have otherwise done. It makes you realize that as Christopher Robin said to Pooh “You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

Yes, entrepreneurship is the road less traveled for nurses, but for me it has been the road to self-actualization, self-discovery, happiness, lots of hard work – nothing new to a nurse of 30+ years – and a very comfortable living. As Robert Frost wrote, it has indeed “made all the difference” in my life, and hopefully in many others’ – in a good way!

©Copyright Donna Cardillo www.dcardillo.com. All right reserved.

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