6 Things I’d Tell My Younger Self About the Realities of Life and Business

by Meghan Kelly

Jun 9, 2023

Posted in Culture

Formada Founder and CEO Meghan Kelly poses for a photo shot in front while sitting in a tall orange chair placed in front of a wall paper patterned wall.

All Paths Lead To Here

It’s funny how we all have certain experiences that leave us thinking, “Well, if I had the chance to do that again, I’d certainly do it differently.” While we all know that we can’t go back in time, make different choices, and “have a redo” so to speak, I do think that there’s value in reflection. 

Note that I’m saying reflection and not dwelling. Nostalgia can be a dangerous place. It’s filled with “What ifs?” and “Should haves,” whereas reflection is more a realm of “Because of.” 

Plus, I know that by giving myself time to reflect on my life and my accomplishments, I’m giving myself the opportunity to get a clearer picture of where I’m headed — and maybe, just maybe I’m gaining a little knowledge that I can share with others in the hopes that it provides them some benefit as they work through their own lives and careers. 

So while there might be a million and one things I’d tell my younger self, I’ve whittled this list down to what I feel are 6 of some of the most important things I’d want me to know. 

There’s a difference between things that are scary and things that are dangerous

One of the most profound lessons I’ve learned since starting a business is that it’s important for me to run my fears through a filter before reacting. Fear can be really confusing sometimes. 

Since I’ve started paying closer attention to the way my body responds to stress, I’ve come to realize that the way I feel when I’m nervous is pretty similar to the way I feel when I encounter danger. 

So when I realize that I’m feeling like this, I’ll ask myself two questions:

  • Is this situation scary? (As in, am I about to embark on something that is outside of my comfort zone?)
  • Is this dangerous? (Will pursuing this opportunity potentially cause harm to my team, our clients, the business, or my professional reputation?)

Most of the time, what I’m experiencing is something that fills me with fear but isn’t inherently dangerous, and therefore it’s worth pursuing. These situations are necessary for growth. 

For instance, I might want to ask another woman in business whom I admire to have lunch with me, but I’m scared of being rejected, or I’ve been invited to attend a networking event for founders, but I’m scared of showing up by myself. 

These things might seem small, but they’re those little roadblocks that we all could easily overcome if we just had the right nudge. I’m working on growing my confidence and intentionally putting myself in those situations where I learn to trust myself so I can deliver that nudge when I need. It’s not easy, but I’m getting there. 

That said, I’m much more cautious of things that I feel are dangerous. I don’t want to do anything that will risk the safety of my team or our clients. I place both of these relationships in high regard, and know that they deserve a business leader who is thoughtful, decisive, and appropriately cautious when it comes to making decisions that could affect our collective growth.

You’ll get more out of life if you listen to understand rather than to convince 

I’ve spent a good portion of my career in both ad sales and media buying, and perhaps especially in my current role as Formada’s CEO, it’s my job to communicate the value of the services that we offer. 

That said, I’m not sure that I’ve ever felt comfortable with a traditional approach to sales. There’s no argument that, in essence, all businesses are trying to convince their customers that their brand is the best choice, right? But it’s in the way that these businesses often communicate their value that is a huge turn off to me. 

When I’m coming to a discovery call with a client, for instance, I’m not showing up with an off-the-shelf deck to present to them. I don’t think that’s what our clients want. And I don’t believe that doing so would be a good representation of Formada. 

What I’m there to do is listen. I want to know you. I want to understand where you’re coming from — the reason your business exists, who it serves, what makes you proud, and what you feel is getting in the way of you being as successful as you can be. 

Only then do I feel as though I have any business at all developing recommendations for you. I think the same is true in a lot of other facets of life, too. We’re all too quick to start prescribing solutions when really all the person whom we’re speaking to wants is someone who will listen. 

Talk a little less. Listen a little closer. You’ll be surprised how much better things can be. 

Some People Like Camping. You Don’t. Just Admit It. 

Listen, this one might be for me and only me, but I just gotta be real for a second: Camping. You don’t like it. Stop thinking that if you try it one more time, that something is gonna click. It won’t. That’s okay. 

Find A Partner That Shares Your Values And Lean On Each Other’s Strengths

This is 100% true on a personal and on a professional level, but for this blog I’m going to focus on the professional aspect of this lesson. 

Garrett and I worked together for years before we decided to start Formada. In that experience, I was able to learn a lot about him, and it wasn’t limited to his expertise in digital marketing (which was incredibly impressive). 

He was an incredibly dedicated, goal-oriented person, and he wasn’t afraid to make certain personal sacrifices if it meant that in the long-term, he would be creating a better career for himself, and in turn, a better life for his family. His ability to see the big picture was something that I admired and identified with. 

But it was also his approach to managing people. He was fair, he was process-oriented, and he gave people the room to be creative, experiment, and make mistakes. 

When we started Formada nearly five years ago, we both jumped in with an equal sense of excitement and commitment, and, especially in those earliest days, really had to lean into each other’s strengths in order to make it through each iterative phase. 

When you’re starting your first business, you can feel so much self-doubt because each day presents a new challenge. There’s really no such thing as a comfort zone.   

And even though starting this business was something I had total confidence in — I knew that we had the talent to make it a success — it still required a leap of faith, and I’m grateful that we trusted ourselves enough to trust each other and turn this idea into a still steadily growing reality.

Find Your Thing. And Give It Your All. 

When I was in my twenties I had a very skewed perspective of exercise. Or, rather, I was in a place in my life where I didn’t really know how to exercise. 

In high school, I was a swimmer. Competed for years. Once I graduated from college and entered the workforce, I made running central to my fitness routine. Did cardio daily, ran Hood to Coast a few times, and then eventually, it just kinda phased itself out. I wasn’t my thing any more. 

Since then, I had been searching for what “my thing” was — that outlet that provided me the physical and mental release that I was craving, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that everything really clicked. 

I started investing in a personal trainer, learned how to lift heavy weights, learned how to test my limits, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that it completely changed my life. 

Now, to be clear, I’m not saying that everyone should be lifting heavy weights. Not at all. This is what works for me. It gets me out of the house, out of my comfort zone, and most perhaps most importantly gets me out of my head, challenging me physically and mentally and teaching me that I’m capable of more than I previously thought possible. 

Maybe strength training is your thing. Maybe it’s yoga. Maybe it’s trail walking. Maybe it’s something else entirely. Whatever it is, just get into it, make it a habit, and give yourself the mental and physical reprieve that your mind and body deserve. 

You’re Never Gonna Stop Learning. And That’s A Great Thing!

Perhaps one of the most exciting things that you learn throughout life and work is that, when you keep yourself open, you’re never going to stop learning. So many of the things that you were so convinced of when you were younger turn out to not necessarily be true. 

Some are. Some aren’t. That’s the beauty of it all. You have the opportunity to keep going, keep learning, to improve, and to use that knowledge to eventually understand that you still have so much more to learn.

Surround yourself with good people. Learn as much as you can. Laugh as much as you can. Take things seriously without taking yourself too seriously. Give yourself some grace when you make mistakes while having the confidence to keep in mind that you’ll do better next time. 

In all honesty, this just scratches the surface of what I could tell my younger self about what I’ve learned. But, looking back, she’s done alright for herself. 

Life is a series of choices and experiences and trials and opportunities, and I’m so proud of where I’m at right now and where I feel I’m headed in the future. 

So maybe if I did have the chance to speak to my younger self, I’d simply tell her, “Just keep going. You’ve got this.”


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