Wow. It’s been a wild 12 months! With my 34th birthday looming (on the 15th), I thought I’d look back and review what I’ve learned about business, work/life balance, and self branding. Many of these lessons are hard-won, especially considering the way the year went, and I hope they will help amplify your own work. So here we go!
1— Share Everything
Sharing is caring, no? But sometimes fear of competition gets the best of us. As a result, we covet our ideas and keep them to ourselves. Each of us has a choice — to live by a competitive dog-eat-dog paradigm, or to live by the nurturing ‘all ships rise paradigm. I choose the latter, and it has been fruitful.
When things get stressful (ahem-pandemic) human instinct is to hunker down and harbor through the storm. To do so, our energy flow reverses, and anything we receive comes inward and stagnates. Imagine an energy vortex of energy flowing into you. This creates a vacuum. As they say, nothing good can happen in a vacuum.
I, too, instinctively hunkered down. My speaking engagements were dropping like flies in March and it felt scary. But it wasn’t until I began reaching out to my network and connecting with strangers for short virtual coffee dates that my energy flowed outward again. Imagine the energy coming from you and flowing out into the world. This resulted in opportunities I couldn’t have imagined.
3— Just Take Action
A month after my birthday last year, I moved to Los Angeles. I had been thinking of doing so for years, but hadn’t taken action out of fear. LA is expensive, and I was very, very comfortable where I was. I lived in a house I owned in a neighborhood full of friends I love. Sadly, this also meant my energy was stagnant, similar to the description above. I wasn’t growing. And that was painful.
Looking back, moving was easy. I just had to pack up and go. It took emotional lifting and identity shifting to get myself there, and that was the real challenge.
If you’ve been wanting to take a big leap in life, honestly examine your reasons for not doing so. It’s likely the logistics aren’t the issue.
4— Pay the $$$
Sometimes us entrepreneurs get a bit tight with our purse strings (I know, you’re all shocked). Sadly, this actually can hurt our growth. I spent months hemming and hawing about a software program that would automate my outreach. It would save me tons of time and multiply my efforts ten-fold. It wasn’t even that expensive! Still, I didn’t buy.
The moment I took the leap, everything changed. My connections went through the roof, as did my income. Big sigh moment. How many times have you held back an investment (in software or advising) and stayed stuck when you could have grown faster, sooner, had you simply taken the leap?
5— Read, read, omg read
I love reading. Reading is nurturing to the mind, expanding to knowledge, and good study for any writer. But sometimes reading gets put last on the list. I find that the times when I read the most, I grow the most, so this year I put it first. I read (nearly) every morning. My days start off better because my brain is nourished, and I’m in a massive growth spurt as a result.
6— Affirmations, baby
Okay, so we all know that affirmations are good for us. They tell our brains what is important so we can focus on progressing our goals. For many of us, they have an even greater effect. In the middle of the pandemic, I started saying an affirmation ‘prayer’ every day. It made me feel better and my work smoothed out a bit.
Then I remembered something my mom told me as a child to help me study. She said that, when one writes out the answers to the study questions, rather than just read them, the knowledge goes up the arm and into one’s brain. Now, we all know science doesn’t work like that, but there is something special about writing out what one wishes to focus on and retain. It takes extra thought and attention from the mind to tell the hand to create each letter. As a result, what was written by hand remains in the mind.
So I started writing five affirmation phrases for the five areas in my life I wish to improve (ie. my Big Hairy Audacious Goals) every morning. This took things from good to great in very short order. I can’t recommend it enough!
Remember: affirmations should be phrased positively and in the present tense, as if it has already happened.
This is one I struggled with for years. I got messaging EVERYWHERE that I needed to start meditating, but I just couldn’t seem to build the habit. I’ve found that when a new habit needs to form, it needs a home alongside other habits or rituals so it doesn’t get lost in daily activity.
I now meditate either to wake up, or to finish my day. These are times I already have made space for quiet and relaxation, so the habit was easy to build. As a result, my mind doesn’t react as strongly to stress and I feel more content with life.
8— Keep Your Hobby
Ok. So I know that this seems obvious, but sometimes us entrepreneurs turn our hobbies into a business. That’s fine to do, but it’s still important to have an activity you love to do that isn’t work. In my case, my hobby just fell to the wayside in the midst of my hustle and COVID panic.
I resumed picking up my guitar and realized how much I miss singing and writing music. I bought a really neat guitar stand and now keep my guitar next to my desk to pick up when I have a gap in work. As a result, I feel more well-rounded and energized, and my work improves.
9— Date Your Partner
I’ve not always had a romantic partner during my tenure as an entrepreneur. I’ve been a business woman for a decade, and partners have come and gone.
One thing myself and my partner realized during the pandemic is that intentionally dating each other helps keep us feeling cared about. Remember how great it was when you first started dating your partner? All the thought you’d put in to a date, or the surprise of being taken somewhere new? Why does that have to end?
Despite the hectic schedule of being an entrepreneur, I now reserve every other Saturday for date day. We trade off the responsibility of planning, so I’m only planning a date once per month, and we both feel the thought put in by the other. And it’s been great!
10— Health Comes First
I realize that I frequently speak about the importance of self care for the mind and soul. We can’t be successful if we burn out! But what about the body? Yes, I jog and do yoga. But earlier this year, when the stress of the pandemic was rising, my body started telling me that wasn’t enough. It took some research, but through listening to my body I learned I have a genetic disorder that makes me far more sensitive to the cortisol released during stress, and as a result, am insulin resistant. Holy smokes! I had to overhaul my diet and give up a lot of favorite foods, but it’s been worth it. Sometimes life gives you hard choices, but if a long life and legacy are what you dream of, you may have to face them.
BONUS— Dreams Can Wait
Uggghhhhh did I just say that!? Sad but true, the pandemic disrupted A LOT. My dream was to live in Los Angeles. I got six months there, and then had to bug out to stay with my partner while sheltering and regulations went into effect. We had intended to return in autumn, but at the time of this writing, Los Angeles is one of the hot spots of the pandemic. So we’re going somewhere else for now. I have every intention of returning to LA.
I was also in the midst of starting a med-tech company in January. I had sat on this idea for years and it was finally gaining traction! I even had a meeting with Apple and was encouraged to apply to their accelerator. That’s exciting! And then COVID. I had to choose one dream, my baby startup, or writing a book about this frightening once-in-a-lifetime event. I chose the latter. The startup can wait, but the pandemic is time limited (thank goodness).
And so I’ve made peace with pausing and pivoting. Though none of us knows how much time we have, we also can’t live each day on the edge of our seats, lest we miss the moment.