Nearly three and a half years ago, I said goodbye to my NFL job with the Detroit Lions to set out on my own as an entrepreneur. To say the journey has been smooth sailing would be a huge lie, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Every bump along the way has been an invaluable learning experience.

With all of that learning going on (believe me … there have been plenty of bumps-turned-learning experiences), there is one lesson that has popped up time and again:

Trust your gut.

It’s easy to veer off-course from gut-trusting. In the early phases of owning our own business, we have no idea what the heck we’re doing … or at least we have the illusion that we don’t know what we are doing.

It’s the equivalent of learning to ride a bike without training wheels: we are capable of doing it, but we have to practice (and fall plenty of times) before we get it down.

When it comes to trusting my gut the past three-and-a-half years, there are four key areas that stand out as the most important to my growth in my business and as an entrepreneur:

1. Knowing When I Didn’t Fit the Norm

This has been huge for me. When we get excited about business, it’s easy to get caught up in the what-everyone-else-is-doing trap.

You may think you’re supposed to build an email list, post to all the social media channels, and develop a “lead magnet” or a course. The truth is that those things may not fit who you are as an entrepreneur.

I don’t really have an email list — I don’t need it. My bread-and-butter is networking and selling on LinkedIn. An email list is actually too impersonal for me. I also don’t have a lead magnet (why do that when I can just send a personal message?) and I don’t post to Instagram, Pinterest, or SnapChat.

You may do one or all of those things and they may work for you — that is fantastic! But I’ve learned to trust my gut and do what fits me and my business.

2. Knowing When Advice Isn’t Right

It’s easy to get caught up in what your mentor, coach, or business bestie is saying, especially when things aren’t going so well and your confidence is in the toilet.

They’ve been in business longer than I have … I should just do what they’re telling me to do.

The bottom line is that you know your business (and yourself) the best. If you have doubt that what someone is advising you to do isn’t right for you, don’t do it. Even if the person giving you advice is one of the top business minds out there … you have to trust your gut.

I have learned this lesson from being on both sides of the spectrum: listening when I shouldn’t have and ignoring when I should have. The exercise builds confidence through success and through failure.

3. Knowing When to Cut the Cord

We’ve all had that conversation with ourselves regarding those clients. You know who I’m talking about … those clients.

Is it me or them? Am I the problem? What the heck is wrong with me?

This insecurity regarding our clients flares up the most when we are first starting out and excited to welcome anyone who wants to pay us. It also flares up when we have a “down period” and haven’t yet learned how to manage it mentally and professionally.

We let clients who are bad for us and our business hang around too long because … they’re paying us, right? Plus, we feel bad. What will they do if we let them go? Raise your hand if you’ve tried to make a client break up with you. Come on, raise it.

I’ll never forget a conversation I had with my business coach, who said, “Why are you letting him dictate your business?” It’s important to trust your gut when it comes to firing clients. When you have to do it, suck it up and do it.

(And don’t get caught up worrying you’re losing money … letting go of one client opens space up for another!)

4. Knowing When to Stand Up for an Idea

Have you ever been caught kicking yourself because you didn’t stand up for an idea in the face of a client’s objections? You were worried you’d be wrong and end up with your pants around your ankles, so you just gave in?

Yeah, me too.

Then, inevitably, what the client wanted didn’t work and you are left knowing you were right. The truth is, you have the expertise. You just have to trust your gut and know that you know what you’re talking about.

I find this often happens because we are so immersed in our expertise that we believe everyone knows the basics of what we do. I, for example, may believe that everyone knows the power of LinkedIn, what Twitter is used for, and that a blog title should be made up of more than three words.

But everyone doesn’t know these things and they’re looking for me to guide them toward the right thing to do.

It’s Gut-Check Time

When have you trusted your gut and reaped the reward? When have you not trusted your gut and realized you should have?

I want to hear your stories!

About Chrissie Zavicar

Chrissie Zavicar is a B2B lead generator and personal brand strategist who works with passionate entrepreneurs and professional athletes. To learn more about her services, visit her LinkedIn profile or contact page.