Can The Wrong Relationship Hinder The Growth of You and Your Business?

Relationships can be a source of joy.  They can create a rock solid foundation from which you can launch every day, offering you the freedom and confidence to start a business or to push through to the next stage of growth.

So what happens if a relationship doesn’t support your passion-based work?

I got out of such a relationship several months ago.  I couldn’t explain it, then, but I felt like I was ready for inner growth and business evolution that, for some reason, wasn’t happening while I was with my partner.

It wasn’t that I hadn’t tried — I had.  I remember being sad and confused because I couldn’t seem to evolve the way I wanted to when I was with my partner.  I was exploring new options, launching new ideas, and getting to know other entrepreneurs who were ahead of me and could show me the way.  I had all the tools — but it wasn’t happening.  And the longer I was stuck pushing on the same invisible glass ceiling, the worse I felt.

Here are some of the things I was experiencing:

  • Jealousy of my ability to manage my own schedule (and misconstruing it as laissez-faire freedom)
  • Fear of the space I requested to grow and evolve
  • Imbalance of power due to our careers
  • Misunderstanding the natural ebb and flow of funds for an entrepreneur
  • Lack of connection on the passion-based work I am driven to do

How to Start A Business While in A Relationship

Hold the phone.  I’m not saying you can’t be in a relationship and be an entrepreneur!  Starting a business while in a relationship can be tricky, but with the right communication, it can be an amazing experience for you both.  Here are my tips and best practices for this process.

Start With The Passion

There is a reason you want to start a business — and I’m pretty sure it’s not just to make money.  You’ve got an idea, a passion, and some savvy, and you’re itching for an adventure.  I know you’ve been thinking about this for a while, and you partner has probably noticed a glimmer of the idea, too.  When you speak about your passion, you will shine.  Tell your partner as much as you can about your idea — why this idea, why this passion, why this business.  Just thinking about it probably makes you excited to get up in the morning, and they will see that.

Explain Why You’re Not Trying To Get A Job

Entrepreneurs are a special breed of people.  Getting a job in the field of your passion isn’t enough.  There’s something more — a vision of the future that only we can see.  For some, this is a hard concept to grasp (it was hard for my former partner).  I can’t tell you what to say, because everyone is different, but for me I wanted to be able to control the vision so that it doesn’t get muddied over the years by other agendas.  I also have seen what happens at tech companies to women, and I didn’t want to experience that, anymore.  You have your own reasons, but also remember who you’re speaking to, and what words they will respond best to.

Show Your Cards

If your partner is anything like mine, they’ll want to know you have some kind of next steps or direction.  This isn’t because they want you to prove you can do it — if they know you well, they know you can — it’s that they are worried about you.  By demonstrating your next steps, you show that you’ve truly thought this through.  Even better, describe any steps you’ve taken already, even if it took place on Google.  The more specific you can be, the better.

What Do You Expect Of Them?

Setting expectations early on can be difficult if you’re starting something new, but it’s important to try.  Your partner will be better able to support you if they know how you want to be supported.  Some partners may jump to the conclusion that you’re asking for a business partner — which is probably not the case.  Start by making that clear, and then tell them how they can help.  Some of my clients appreciate a homemade meal waiting for them after a long day of meetings and calls, while others just need a quite house during the day.  One of my clients is lucky enough to have a partner who loves building systems, and while they are not officially part of the business, they join in business building activities.

Make sure you listen, too.  Your partner will tell you if they have the gumption to join you in your journey, or truly want to remain a cheerleader.  This part of the conversation will likely take some negotiation, so be open to that.  Asking too much (or too little) can lead to burn out for you both.

Set Boundaries, Baby!

If you haven’t heard of the work / life balance, yet, it’s time you do.  Not only is it important for you to not work yourself to the bone early on, it’s also important that you don’t suck your partner in unwittingly.  If your partner is not going to have any involvement in the business (not even giving you ideas about your business) then learn to leave them out of it.  This means your partner is a part of the “life” portion of the work / life balance.  Some of my past partners are helpers, just like myself, and any mention of stress or difficulty made them want to jump in and solve the problem.  Keeping this balance means that you can vent, you can complain, but you also don’t allow them to jump in to help without a deeper conversation about what it means and why it’s ok in this instance.

How has it gone with your partner or spouse?  Share below to support others!  Yours in passion,

The B-Word Might Mean You’re Right

One of my favorite television characters is Dr. Lisa Cuddy from the show House.  She is strong, independent, smart, and willing to take on anything (including Dr. House).  She gets into arguments I never would have the guts to, and seems to proceed confidently despite the regular antics in the show.  Though I know she is technically fictional, I look up to her.

My favorite episode is called “5 to 9”, and it follows Dr. Cuddy exclusively for the entire day / show.  The episode wasn’t just a great behind-the-scenes — it really showed what it’s like to deal with complicated situations.  The Dr. Cuddy that I thought was invincible actually cries in the stairwell after a confrontation.  Woah!

One of the most notable features of the episode is the B-Word.  It gets thrown at her at least five times throughout the episode, and but not because she is doing anything wrong.  It wasn’t even because the word slinger was pissed about not getting their way.  In fact, it was almost always because she was doing something right.

If You’re Nasty

Our political climate has absolutely cast a new light on what it means to run for office.  Personally, it’s left me scratching my head as to our vetting process, but that’s a different conversation.  I know no one will argue with me if I say that there have been some memorable sound bytes this time around, the latest of which seems to back up my theory about the B-Word.

During the final Presidential Debate, Trump interrupts Hillary’s answer regarding taxes to call her a Nasty Woman.  Literally, he leans forward after shaking his head and utters, “Such a nasty woman.”  It seems so out of left field it’s hard to believe it happened.  Hillary’s reaction was admirable — she had none.  She kept right on with her answer rather than feed the negativity.

More and more it seems that being called names (ie. the B-Word) in your work means you’re probably doing something right.

The B-Word is A Hot Button for Most Women

It’s really hard for a woman to be called a b****.  The word typically drums up sexist connotations, especially when it comes from a man.  I know that if I’m called any name, I want to curl up and die.  What usually happens is a tin of ice cream is eaten under a blanket while I wonder where I went wrong…

Most of us aren’t equipped to handle such slander.  Even when it’s constructive criticism, it can be hard to hear.  The extent of our training typically comes from high school mean girls.  I’m a pleaser, so I didn’t even get that training.  I just avoided the ‘nastiness’ altogether.

Piss ‘Em Off

Let’s pause to remember the age old phrase “If you’re not pissing people off, you’re probably not doing anything at all.”  We live in such a diverse world that it’s likely even your smile will make someone mad.  Actually, it probably has — cynics like to read into that stuff.

Going into business for yourself means you’ll be touching lives and becoming a slightly more public figure.  You’ll be networking for your business, marketing it, managing employees, and maybe even writing about your life like I do.  Someone is going to get pissed off, hate it, think it’s stupid, or just plain tell you you’re wrong.

Let’s take my friend as an example.  Sherri is awesome.  She went into business to help make people feel better about themselves through coaching and healing.  Her work literally changes lives for the better.

Sherri is also a mom, and she lives in a conservative part of America.  There is no doubt in my mind that she is doing the right thing, but she is regularly told that she’s a “terrible mother” for spending time on her business.  To which my jaw drops because she would stand in front of a bus for her kids.

All this to say I know it’s really hard to hear something negative from someone, especially when it’s about your life’s work, but you have no idea through what lens they see you.  More often than not, they’re not talking to you — they’re talking to some preconceived notion or are upset they’re not getting their way.

So next time you get called the B-Word (or a Nasty Woman), pause before getting out the ice cream.  You may be in the middle of achieving something great.

Time For A Dose Of Honesty

I need to tell you something.  And trust me, I thought I was crazy when I decided to do this.  But I think it’s important for you to know.

I have no idea what I’m doing.

Didn’t expect a business coach to stay that, did you?  Neither did I.  But it’s time to peel back all the pretty colors and polished photos and take a good look at what it is to be an entrepreneur.

Most of the time we’re flying by the seat of our pants.  There’s no school that can prepare us for the amount of know-how we need, the constant pivots and dodges that are required, or the stress we’ll deal with.  Every day is a new idea, a new strategy, and a chance to show the world what we’re made of.

Which means I’m still figuring my shit out in spite of having done so much on my own.  In my first venture, I started a nonprofit – by myself.  I figured out how to complete the 40 page IRS application for tax exemption – by myself.  I led two teams to the Gulf Coast to rebuild after Katrina, including putting together the volunteer packets and liability waivers – by myself.  Know what my brain says?  “So what.”

Every entrepreneur I know (and a lot of non-entrepreneurs, too) struggle with imposter syndrome.  I was just visiting my friend in Chattanooga and he confided that he spent all week expecting to get fired.  He’s one of the most experienced developers I know!  To his surprise, the lead developer’s critique at the end of the week was, “You improved my code so much!”  He shouldn’t have been shocked, but he was.

So what the hell?  Why do our brains insist on sabotaging us?  We work so hard to learn everything we can about our chosen industry, what it means to run a business, how to market it to the world, deal with social media, etc., and still spend energy on our Shadow Self.  Why do we do it to ourselves?

I can’t answer that, but I can tell you it won’t go away.  And maybe that’s a good thing.  With success often comes a dose of pride.  Maybe this is how our brains are keeping us humble.

Next time you see yourself thinking “I can’t do this” or “Who do I think I am?”, pause, take a deep breath, and let that thought go.  It’s fear and humility speaking, and it’s there only to acknowledge the big leap you’ve taken.

8 Ways for Entrepreneurs to Avoid Losing Their Shit

Owning a business is thrilling — just like a roller coaster.  That new idea, new employee, new client, or new product excites the pants off you, but getting turned down feels like you lost your heartbeat.  Some days it feels like you’re on top of the world, others feel like you’ve been buried in the sand.

As an entrepreneur, people will challenge you.  They want to know why you started a business, who you are, and why they should trust you.  You will constantly be on the hot seat, scrutinized for every detail of your life (not just your business).  With that kind of pressure, it can be easy to get pushed around and forget your original goals.  Even worse, you can actually lose yourself as you try to meet external demands — demands that may not even fit your original goals!

I’ve been through all of it, and want to help you avoid some of those moments.  Here are eight ways to make sure you don’t lose track of yourself to your entrepreneur identity.

1. Write down your raison d’être.  

When you started your business, you probably had some lofty ideas and goals.  Maybe you wanted to change the world (or the industry).  As you began introducing yourself as an entrepreneur, were you asked why or how you got into your work?  With each answer you gave, did you have to mould it to your audience?  What if your audience was always a little different?  What happened to your truth?

I didn’t write out my goals with my first business because I didn’t know I should.  I actually didn’t know a lot of things when I started out, and missed out on a lot of resources and support.  Now that that business is four years old, things look way different, and it’s hard to recognize what I started.

If your business is already in full swing, try to think back to who you were the day you decided to start it and write down your motivations.  If you are just starting your business, write down why.  Write down a one year plan, and a five year plan, stretch goals, and anything else you can think of.  Don’t just put it away when you’re done.  Post it somewhere, or formalize it into a manifesto / mission statement.  It will help you know when you should (and shouldn’t) work with someone.  When it’s time to hire employees, show it to them so they can help steer what will become your company culture.

2. Ask why when someone says ‘no’.

Yes this is scary.  So is starting a business, and you did that.  The work of an entrepreneur becomes a part of our identity that it’s easy to internalize a ‘no’ as a personal hit.  While it can become hard to hear anything negative about your business, sometimes you need to.

Recently I had a client who told me ‘no’ when I thought we were a sure deal.  I mean, I had already done a little dance in my head about his positive responses leading up to decision time.  But when the decision came, I was shocked to get a no.  Instead of allowing my imagination to run wild with all the horrid things he must think of us (which it loves to do), I asked why.  Turns out I was right — they loved us — but they are a nonprofit and their budget couldn’t quite stretch far enough to hire us for our original proposal.  The awesome part is they hired us for some side work instead.

I can’t promise that every answer you get will be as nice, so don’t forget to use a filter.  Some people are assholes who drop bombs willy nilly.  You’ll need to filter through the crap to find the constructive part of their criticism.  Most of the time, however, you’ll receive feedback from kind people who have something real to say, and it will make you and your business better.

3. Keep that work / life separation.

I don’t think I’ll ever stop talking about this one.  In fact, my partner came home last night and said he and some mates were discussing working from home.  They complained that clients often think that you’re available 24/7 when you’re independent, and he replied, “Oh yeah, my partner is militant about cut off times.”  I wouldn’t quite use that word, but I guess I am…

Without work / life separation, your work identity will bleed into your personal life, and the highs and lows of business will begin to affect who you think you are.  Imagine getting a ‘no’ from every client call of the day, but not internally separating the fact that they are no’s for your business, not for you.  Your self esteem would tank!

The people in your life will also be thankful for your work / life balance.  As entrepreneurs, we tend to disappear into our work, rarely coming up for air.  If you’re working from home, your partner probably knows what your ‘do not disturb’ face looks like.  I’m sure you don’t want to wear that face all the time (queue the old adage “your face will get stuck that way”).  Your friends and family hear about your work enough.  You don’t need to be working constantly, too.

4. Create a system for following up.

I know this sounds like a no brainer, but self-sabotage is a tricky beast that weeds its way into the best entrepreneur’s work.  Maybe you’re tired on a given day, or the work isn’t exciting (who wants to follow up on their taxes?), or something has zapped your excitement for your business.  You need a system to get around self-sabotage so, down the road, you don’t find you’ve missed a huge opportunity.

I love writing things down, and I love my Passion Planner, so I do my best to write down everything.  When I leave a potential client a phone message, I write down a reminder to call them back in a couple days.  It seems overly simplistic (at least to me), but over and over I have forgotten to return a call or email because something distracted me.

As an entrepreneur, you will be juggling many aspects of your business, and this will happen to you.  Do whatever it takes to create a system that doesn’t allow you to forget.

5. Reassess regularly.

I don’t just mean for your business.  Since entrepreneurship means that your work is very closely tied to your personal identity, you’ll want to reassess your personal life as well.  In fact, conduct an assessment for how your business is affecting your personal life, and vice versa.  You may discover an imbalance in friendships is burning you out at work, or that work is obliterating family dinner time.

Find a frequency that feels right to you, and mark reassessment days on your calendar.  I do it monthly, but you may find your business better fits a quarterly model.  Personal life can get crazy quickly, so monthly might be better.  Don’t set a frequency any less than biyearly, or things will get away from you.

Do them all at once so you can draw parallels.  Write, draw, or type out how you think things are going.  You can use a tool like the Passion Planner (I told you I love it), any number of questionnaires on Google, or make up your own.  I like that my planner keeps them all so I can flip back to see my progress or make comparisons.  In doing so, you’ll catch problems quickly and can ritualize what works well.

6. Take a vacation!!!

So often do I hear of entrepreneurs who don’t take vacation.  Listen when I say that there is no award for working yourself to death.  Sorry, ladies.

I have found that when I take a vacation (an actual vacation without a computer), I gain some serious clarity about my work and my personal life.  I realize where things have been failing, what goals I’ve forgotten about due to stress, and often return with new direction.

If you find it hard to go on vacation, put it in your calendar way ahead of time.  Actually, put it in your calendar on the same month of each year.  Now you have a task / event that is both in your way and something you can plan for.   If you don’t have a partner, plan something with friends, or go alone.  Vacation doesn’t have to be a resort in Jamaica — if you like stimulation, go to a music festival or explore a new city.  Take at least one week a year to get out of your entrepreneur head.  Your mind, business, and the people around you will thank you.

7. Start using affirmations.

Affirmations have kept me sane in more ways than one.  Affirmations are phrases that you repeat to yourself to reach a goal.  That goal could be boosted confidence, but it also could be working with the Law of Attraction to grow your business (Sarah Prout has a lot to say about that, so I’ll leave it to her).

This is a great way to reinforce yourself and your goals when things get busy, since you’ll choose phrases that you identify with.  Some people make them up, some pull quotes from movies or thought leaders, and some are written by someone else.  I do a blend of all three.  My favorite affirmations book is written by one of the elders I interviewed for my book, called Ribbons of Love.  It is divided in sections covering many topics and the pages are perforated so you can tear them out and put them where you’ll see them — and read them.

8. Practice self care.

Self care is a hot topic these days, but it’s usually the first to go for busy entrepreneurs like ourselves.  That is one of the worst things you can let happen, as the trickle down will affect every aspect of your life.

Last year I realized that my self care had pretty much disappeared.  Had you asked me what I did for self care, I would have looked at you with a blank stare.  This led to some bad times and a giant stress ball named Veronica.  I don’t think I was very pleasant to be around, let alone the physical consequences of constant stress.  So I started thinking about what makes me feel good — things like tea, herbal baths, and yoga.  If you had told me then that I would soon be waking up two hours early so I would have time for yoga and a real breakfast before I start work (at home or at the coworking space) I would have laughed.

There are a ton of resources that discuss self care online, but the most recent one by The Mighty was really good.  Self care isn’t just about aromatherapy and meditation, it also includes doctor’s appointments and family.  Do some work to decide what will most benefit you, then stick to it.

What else keeps you sane as an entrepreneur?

You’re Not A Snowflake (but you’re close)

A while ago I read a blog that blatantly stated ‘you are not a snowflake‘.  Essentially, many Millennials have been taught that they are special and different, and the author was calling them to face reality before they grow up disappointed and frustrated.  She’s right — but hear me out.

How You’re Not A Snowflake

It’s important to understand that “Snowflake Syndrome” is the idea that no one has ever before graced this earth like you have.  The idea is played out in a lot of ways today.  Soccer games with no winner declared so there are no losers, mothers who refuse to hear any criticism by an authority of their son or daughter, etc.  I’m assuming that, if you’re here, you already know that this mentality is over the top.

In fact, this thinking is rather detrimental.  It effectively stunts growth by blocking the person from hearing even the most constructive of criticism, advice, or seeing how they relate to others.  “Snowflake” people tend to surround themselves only with people who enable them, furthering their world-view and never challenging them.

I think a lot of us go through a similar phase in life when we think our ideas are brilliant and everyone else is wrong.  Typically this is called being a teenager, but sometimes it lasts.  For those who do not grow out of this mindset in a timely fashion, they are due for a rude awakening.  Sometimes that moment comes with a harsh boss, others it’s a bad breakup or financial distress.  When the bubble is burst, it hurts, and the bigger it is the harsher the reality.

You Are Actually Unique

Here’s the thing:  you wouldn’t be an entrepreneur if there wasn’t something unique and driving within you.  You have a passion and are able to do something with it that no one else can.  Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs fail because they are unable to market what sets them apart from others — that is, their value proposition.  In this culture of ‘everyone is awesome’, we have a hard time seeing our own awesome.  But it’s our differences that makes us great business owners.

So how do you determine your unique value proposition?  Consider all the ways both you and your business are different.  Seriously.  While it may seem counter to what I’ve said above, believing yourself and your work to be no different from your competitors will truly hurt you.  Start with why you started your business, what passion drives you, and follow that thought process to what you’d like your business to look like in the next five years.

An example from my own work.

This is what I’ve discovered about myself since founding my first venture in 2010.  I am a fast learner, and my degree in Anthropology taught me to research anything I need to know.  Combined, I am able to find and absorb information like a sponge.  Every venture I have ever started has been on self-taught information.  That includes a 40-page 501(c)3 nonprofit application to the IRS, designing websites for startups, and organizing major events.

But it took several years for me to realize this is a gift that not everyone possesses, such that I was confused the first time a client was taken aback by Google’s ability to provide answers to a question.  It took my own business coach highlighting how unique the skill is for me to realize it as useful to others.  Today I use my skill to learn about other industries in order to better coach my clients and teach Webinars or in-person classes.

If you’re unsure how to get started, try asking others what makes you unique.  Be clear with them, however, that you’re not fishing for compliments.  You’re looking for details that will help you grow and guide your business.  If you’re lucky, they’ll tell you where you need to improve, too.

Another great way to get started is by using the Value Proposition Canvas.  This allows you to jot your ideas and notes on a page that guides you.  It will help you see the needs of your business to make the value proposition a reality, and get you out of your head.  The button below will take you there.

Keeping that Work / Life Divide

Ever since I started my business, I knew that a work / life divide was critical to my continued sanity.  Without a commute or separate office (I was working from home) to ensure this divide, it became very important that I stay on top of the issue.  This has become second nature to me, so I’m a little surprised when other entrepreneurs struggle with it.

It’s not easy — one of my current clients has a day job, making it difficult to meet.  The urge to make an exception is strong.  But if I allow myself this excuse, more will follow.  I have to put my foot down and find a compromise (in this case by phone).

After being interviewed on the podcast Hello Tech Pros, it became apparent that this is not so easy for everyone.  I’m here to say DO IT.  I don’t care if you are 10 years or 10 months into your business.  If you haven’t set any work / life boundaries, it’s time to do so.

My Work / Life Divide

Work never starts before 8am.  Eeeeevery so often there is a networking event that eeks its way into my life at 7:30am, but that is rare.  If I start working before 8am, I’m more likely to wake up too early for my own good and lose the slow mornings I cherish.

Work ends by 6pm.  Sometimes I cut out early.  Either my brain will just have stopped or I’ll have done all I can for the day.  But even when I’m on a roll, I don’t go past 6pm.  Let me be clear — sometimes a networking event goes later.  These usually involve beer and not a whole lot of work-thought.  I let these slide, but usually only one a week.

Don’t be checking email on your phone.  Seriously.  It’s so, so easy to do, but you’re way more likely to slip into checking email on your phone during family dinner or in bed, so just don’t.  The only time that it should be acceptable is when you are traveling during the work day.  If I’m between meetings outside the office, I may glance at email on my phone to check for emergencies.  I find that if I actually begin to respond to email on my phone, I mistype (which looks unprofessional) and have to toggle between apps to find information.  Pain.  In.  The.  Ass.

Put it away.  When the day is done, put your sh-tuff away to avoid burnout.  If you have a home office, shut the door and don’t reenter until the next business day.  I either work from home or from a coworking space, which means that everything is in my briefcase.  Everything stays in that briefcase when work is done.

There are exceptions.  For example, when a client pays extra to have me work over the weekend for a rush job.  That’s a worthy exception.  A conference or event can qualify as an exception as well, just be sure to have some relaxing time built in or take Monday off so your mind doesn’t fatigue.  Some of my board meetings are on weekends as well — these matter a lot to me so I accept them but keep the rest of my day clear.

Whose Voice Holds You Back?

One of my favorite books to peruse time and again is Julia Cameron’s  The Artist Way.  The first section of the book is dedicated to cleansing yourself of all the negative input you’ve received in the past regarding your creativity.  You see, if your parents or friends told you your passion (drawing, dancing, singing) was stupid or a bad idea, it’s likely that those comments were internalized.  For some this means that they (over)work to defy these comments.  But for others, sublimation of their passion occurs, and they avoid their creativity.

Likewise, entrepreneurship is about big ideas based in passion — ideas that no one else has.  It requires us to be self-empowered and self-motivated.  This makes us specially unique to accomplish great things, but also means that when we hold ourselves back, there often is no one to get us back on track.

If you have ever told yourself that your idea isn’t good enough without a factual / statistical reason, it’s time to decipher where the reasoning came from.  Why does it matter?  Because stopping yourself from taking a leap can become a habit, and just like with writer’s block, you may become entrepreneurially blocked.  Ideas being our livelihood, that’s bad.

How to Find the Source of the Negative Commentary

You didn’t think I would leave you hanging, did you?  I want to help you find where that negative reinforcement is coming from, so you can heal it (or tell it to bugger off, if you prefer).  Note that I’m not a psychologist, I’ve just done this for myself to great benefit.  I am only able to instruct you based on personal experience.

Each step will take time — how much time varies with each individual.

Step One

Think about the last time you had an idea for your work that you gut reacted negatively about.  This may take some time — I know my memory is odd with things like this, and sometimes I need to tell my brain to find a fact, then step away from the task for a while.

Once you have the moment in mind, we can proceed.

Step Two

Think hard about what stopped you from pursuing the idea.  We’ve already decided that it wasn’t a fact or statistic, otherwise you wouldn’t be doing this exercise.  Did you stop yourself because the idea felt silly, wrong, or too ambitious?  Perhaps you felt it was selfish, or would be too much fun (not ‘work’).  Nail down exactly what it was, otherwise the next step won’t work.

Step Three

With the reason pinpointed, you can now consider who in your life might have left that impression on you.  This could be through the language they used, or the attitude they exuded toward things similar to the idea you had (or toward entrepreneurship in general).  I see a lot of entrepreneurs hold themselves back not only from individual ideas, but from success because someone, somewhere, once left a negative impression on the pursuit.

For many of us, these internal conflicts formed when were were too young to write off the attitude of the person we were with.  That is why this exercise is, at times, necessary.  Basically, we’re going to go back in time and re-teach ourselves that what we were taught was wrong, and release it.

Use the reason you abandoned an idea as an indicator.  90% of the time, my clients immediately know who it was who negatively affected them, even if the actual event isn’t remembered.  Just like your best friend may be the only person you know who uses the word “rad” anymore, the attitude or words left with you by someone is quintessentially them.

If you can’t remember, despite your best efforts, it’s alright to proceed to the final step.  Sometimes things happen to us at too early an age, or weren’t consciously remembered because, at the time, they seemed to be insignificant events.

Step Four

Was it a parent?  A friend?  A teacher?  With this person in mind, are you able to think about the moment this attitude was taught to you?  What was that moment really about?  Sometimes, as young people, we don’t realize that the comment or attitude wasn’t directed at us.  We pick things up because we are learning at break-neck speed, and garbage gets rolled into the good.

If you meditate, try to enter the space in which the event occurred, and see it for what it really was.  If directed at you, it’s time to forgive the person, and yourself (I know I get frustrated at myself for internalizing other people’s issues), and let it go.  It will be easier to let go of something that wasn’t directed at you, but it’s nonetheless important.  If you don’t meditate, do your best to put yourself in the shoes of the person in order to acheive the above result.

This is a process, and I expect it to take time.  Ultimately, business decisions should be based in fact, so if you find yourself negatively reacting unnecessarily to a new process, growth, or idea, take the time to go through this exercise again.  You may have more than one incident to clear up, or require positive reinforcement for the change to stick.

If you try this, please tell us about your experience in the comments!

Balancing Entrepreneurial Life and Travel

It can be dangerous to own a business.  That’s right, I said it.  Those of you who know me may be confused.  Indeed, I love owning a business, including its ups and downs.  But it takes a lot of time and effort to keep things rolling, and distractions like travel or big hobbies often have larger consequences than when working for someone else.  Many of us started our businesses with freedom in mind.  The question is, how to balance it all?

Start Planning

The most important thing is to plan.  Plan plan plan.  If you can’t plan, you’re going to have a hard time running a business, no?  Start small — plan your daily life.  When do you start work?  When do you end?  I’ve discussed the importance of balancing the work / life divide before, and I stand by every word.  Knowing where your line is drawn in the day-to-day is the first step to knowing when you can ‘get away’.

Once you have a rhythm, start adding and taking away from it.  This will give you a better idea of what you can manage.  If things get overwhelming or out of hand, pull back or hire someone.  Make some changes.  And don’t stop experimenting while maintaining your foundation.

Systemize

The most important important part of untethering yourself from the day-to-day is finding a system.  That system may be a person — either a manager, assistant, or trusted employee.

Virtual Assistants

Many small businesses, startups, and entrepreneurs take advantage of a Virtual Assistant to manage the day-to-day.  It is worth finding this person long before a trip so you trust them completely during your absence.  My personal favorite VA program is Fancy Hands, but a lot of entrepreneurs I know found theirs on Fiverr.

Scheduling

Simply working ahead once you have a trip / event in view may be all your business needs.  This includes alerting your clients that you’ll be less responsive for a period of time.  By telling them in advance how their accounts will be managed before you leave, they don’t worry.  Nearly everything in your day-to-day can be automated, including social media posts through the likes of Hootsuite.  For example, this post went live without me using WordPress’ post automation, as I am currently in Croatia.

Update Your Followers

My clients really appreciate knowing where I am so they can feel a part of the journey.  When I tell them I’ll be gone, I also offer to send a few photos of the trip.  That way they know they were considered the entire way.

Network

Networking while on vacation is probably a bad idea unless you can compartmentalize and spend only one day per week away doing work / networking.  But if you’re like me and prefer to take long trips and work away from home, this is a wonderful opportunity to experience CoWorking Spaces and meet colleagues abroad.  Start asking your local network for connections where you’ll be at least three months ahead of time.  Reach out to those people or locations to introduce yourself and explain your intent.  Why do you want to network abroad?  Why do you want to work at a coworking space for a day?  Not only will you get valuable experience, you also may build connections that will grow your international referral network — and it makes your trip a tax write off!

Traveling takes your body away, but what about your mind?

I once heard a story about an entrepreneur who was checking his email in the lobby of a Caribbean Hotel while on vacation.  A couple walked by, and the woman said to her husband, “What a shame that he can’t let go of work while on vacation.”  Yes, it would be a shame if the entrepreneur was working for someone else and was forced to work during his vacation.  Luckily, the foundation of being an entrepreneur is passion for what you do.  The entrepreneur in this story felt very differently about his situation than the couple.  He was proud to be checking his email while away, to see how things were going, and maintain contact with clients and employees in spite of his travels.  Most importantly, he had a choice in doing so.  Likely, his level of commitment is indicative of a successful venture.

There is no harm in thinking about your business when you’re not there.  In fact, vacation can be the most generative time for ideas and growth.  As Inc. Magazine put it, some of the best places to come up with next steps for your business are way outside of your normal environment.  The most important thing is to make sure you document these ideas in a way that allows you to save them for when you get back, so you can relax while you’re away.  Draw a mind map, throw down some bullet points in a notebook, or record your voice on your phone.  Then set everything down and soak up some rays (or ski that alpine slope, if that’s more your style).

How do you manage work while you’re away?

My “Work From Home” Bible

I started working from home over five years ago when my employer was bought out.  I was excited when I first began working from home.  I’m home when my grumpy but obliging UPS man comes, I can make it to the bank and cleaners before they close, and dishes don’t pile up like they used to.  If I had a cold, I didn’t need to leave bed and could still be productive.  Heck, I didn’t need to leave bed at all, and if I did, I could keep my slippers on all winter.  If I wanted to sleep in and work late, I just had to reset my alarm.  The world was my oyster.

As time passed, I realized I was becoming a shut-in.  I sat in one place most of the day, stairs became a challenge (sort of), and leaving the house meant bringing everything I could possibly need with me.  After six months, a change was necessary.

Since then, I have carefully collected recommendations from other entrepreneurs and work-from-home folks, to great benefit.  I still have all the perks of working out of a home office, and certainly still take advantage of working from bed if sick, but overall I have struck a great balance between home and work life.  I am excited to share these lessons with you.

The Bible

typewriter

Start your day early.  
My body argues whenever I wake up before 9am, but I do it anyway.  My aim is between 6-7am depending on the season (raise your hand if you hate waking up without the sun around).  I’m definitely not always successful, but if I sleep in I feel like I’ve wasted my day.  Set a goal time and a cut off time for yourself.  Snooze if you must, but do not pass the cut off time.

Your first hour should be silent.
Avoid the radio, podcasts, music (I break this one regularly), and phone calls.  Give your body and mind the chance to wake up.  Check out the sun rising outside your window.  Stretch. Try meditating as long as it doesn’t put you back to sleep and set your intention for the day.  Get yourself a cup of tea or coffee — most yogi’s recommend starting your day with warm water before eating anyway to prepare your stomach for food.

Get ready as if you were going into the office.
Shower, you dirty bum!  Put on your make up (or shave yer face), do your hair, dress dapper.  You’ll feel like a million bucks, ready to take on the world.  If you have meetings later in the day, you’ll be ready and able to focus on preparing instead of scramble to primp at the last minute.  Several studies show that being well-dressed also changes your attitude and demeanor which your clients will pick up on, even if they never see you.

Try not to eat at your desk.
It’s the same principle as not working in bed (please tell me you’ve heard of not working in bed…).  You’ll confuse your mind and your work area will become a mess.  Plus no one wants mouse poop on their computer.

Make sure you STOP working!
If your industry ends its business day at 5pm, then stop working at 5pm!  Try really hard to schedule meetings according to this rule.  Use programs like HootSuite or Buffer to manage your Social Media during off-hours.  If you work into the evening, your work/life balance will become blurred and you may begin to hate your boss (that’s a self-employed joke).

Do something to signify the end of the work day.
I had a hard time getting out of work mode for the first few months.  I would physically stop working, but I’d feel antsy and my clients would be on my mind.  My solution is a regimen of five activities that I vary depending on my mood:  yoga, meditate, go for a walk, have a dance party, sing.  All of these are decidedly not work activities, and all provide peace of mind.  I especially enjoy my walks as they replace a commuter’s decompression time.  Once I’ve bookended my day, I’ll begin making dinner or chat up some friends to make sure I don’t get cabin fever once more.

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I’m really interested in what you do to keep yourself sane.  Please share so we all can continue to refine our methods!

Oh my god – Stop Apologizing!

A few weeks ago, a graphic design friend requested I look over a tee shirt design she was working on.  I was happy to do so — I often ask colleagues for their second opinion so I don’t say something silly — and happened to notice a few minor errors in her work.  The text was off center in one place, and the line work heavy to one side.  Her response when I made my suggestions?  “Sorry.”

Why Does Sorry Suck?

A quick lesson (can you tell I’m a business coach?) — “sorry” is an especially Midwestern handicap (see #17).  On top of that, women say it more than men.  We apologize for all kinds of things, most of which don’t require an apology.  In doing so, it inherently makes us seem lesser to others, automatically giving the impression that we have something to be sorry about.  Humans have problem-solving minds, and by apologizing unnecessarily, you’re playing into its Confirmation Bias.  Upon receiving an unnecessary apology, one’s mind unconsciously tries to find the reason.  So start being careful with your “sorrys”.

Let’s zoom in to this case study further.  Here is why it was odd for my friend to apologize — I’m not her boss and I was reviewing her work as a favor.  She neither hurt me nor ruined anything by accidentally sending me a less-than-polished copy.  In fact, my role was a part of the polishing process.

Say Thank You Instead of Sorry

Think about every time you might apologize, and see if you can make “thank you” fit better.  Bear with me — this totally works, and it will make you and everyone around you feel better.

Let’s say you drop a dish at your partner’s home and it shatters.  You could apologize for breaking it (not a horrid idea in this case), but you could also say thank you — thank you for your partner’s patience and understanding when s/he doesn’t get mad.

Ok…  What about when you are late to a meeting?  You could say sorry, which, even if your client wasn’t tapping their toe, might make them think they should have been.  OR you could say, “Thank you for your patience – I really appreciate it,” making your client feel great for being tolerant.  We all know that they’ve been late to meetings, too.  Everyone has.

Here’s a good one — you get a latte and it sucks.  Or it has cow’s milk in it and you asked for almond milk, so you have to bring it back.  Instead of apologizing for making the barista make you another — likely making them think ‘yeah! you should apologize!’ — say thank you for sparing the moment and being considerate of your situation.

To have handled it better, my friend could have said, “Thank you so much for catching those errors!  That’s why I sent it to you.”  I’d then feel great that I helped a friend and good about my design skills.

Try it and tell me how it goes in the comments below!