I talk a lot about my trademark program, Self Care Through Scaling™. It’s something I learned the hard way, and I coach my clients so they can get there faster. In my latest YouTube video, I explain what Self Care Through Scaling™ is, and how I burnt out (and then learned) to do it for my own business.
Many women who deal with mental health conditions like Depression or Anxiety find it necessary to leave their jobs in exchange for the control of Entrepreneurship. It is extremely difficult to work a strict schedule and in specified circumstances when mental health is a factor. I, myself, have PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and PMDD (pre-menstrual depressive disorder), and would likely find it impossible to productively work for an employer ever again. With my own business, I can allow myself my Down Days without self loathing, and then make up for them when I am feeling better.
I’ve built a lot of systems for working around my own mental health. I even teach a workshop called Self Care for Entrepreneurs. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.
The Rule Of Three
When I’m down, it’s like pulling teeth to work any sort of productivity out of myself. But the world is still turning, and clients or customers may need things from you. I find that reducing my own expectations of myself to baby steps helps me still get something done.
This is what I call The Rule Of Three. If I wake up bumming, I coax myself into choosing three things to accomplish that day. Just three goals. They could be as simple as order business cards, apply to a speaking event, and follow up with a client. Often I find that I’ll end up doing more than three, simply because there were adjacent tasks at hand. But if not, I still accomplished my goal of three items and that can feel like moving a mountain on Down Days.
The 24 Hour Rule
I love this rule. I teach it to everyone I can. The 24 Hour Rule is releasing yourself from responding to any messages (email, instant message, or phone calls) for twenty-four hours. This is a good rule for simply staying sane at work. It helps ensure a level-headed response when heated messages come your way. It also relieves me of the impulse to clear my inbox throughout the day instead of check emails only twice — morning and afternoon.
When down, keeping up with messages can be exhausting. Since I always practice The 24 Hour Rule, I already feel comfortable ignoring much of what comes through during the day.
The only messages I do respond to are emails marked Urgent from clients or employees. Usually my team can handle it, but they may still need guidance. I offer what I can so the issue doesn’t get hung up on me, and then release myself from the task of completely clearing the rest of my inbox.
What self care have you done today? Any? It’s so easy to do a self care routine when we’re not down, but when the feels hit, things get really hard. The last time I was down I thought to myself, “I haven’t even showered… but did I even try?” I was beating myself up for not even having had taken a shower, but I also hadn’t tried! This is the way the depressed mind works.
I write down my morning routine so I can’t ignore it. It gives me something to point to and say, “Ok, this is what I try to do every day — so let’s try.” I coax myself into doing yoga, even if all I actually do is child’s pose; to take a shower, even if it doesn’t happen until mid-afternoon; and make myself some tea.
I also try to listen. I texted a friend one time and simply said I was in a funk. He replied, “Have you tried meditating?” Well, no, ’cause I’m depressed and the couch is my best friend. But he’s right. Meditation is part of my self care routine and I totally skipped it. So I got upright (but still on the couch) and meditated. The Universe will try to talk to you through others to coax you back to good, but you have to listen.
Who’s In Your Corner?
It’s taken me years to build a compassionate and safe friend group, and another few years to allow myself to feel vulnerable enough to reach out to them when I’m down. Yet, as you saw above, they are so helpful!
Even if you’re not ready to post to Facebook requesting backup, try texting your best friend, partner, or someone else you trust. As you read, the response may be simple, but it also might be the thing the Universe is trying to tell you.
Recently I simply posted “No energy — bring food.” Guess what? Three separate friends stopped by with food! Again, my friends are very understanding, many of them also having experienced mental health conditions, so I felt safe doing this. Even though I know my friends are compassionate, I was floored by their generosity. Another prime example of how silly depressed brains can be (because of course I would do the same when I feel good!!!).
What Do You Love?
I know that when I’m really down, I want to read. I also read to wind down for the day, and to help me fall asleep at night. Reading is as important to me as breathing — which is why my bookshelves are overflowing and I have a Little Free Library in my front yard so I can cycle books faster.
When I’m down but I want to get something done, I read one of the business books that is waiting for me. That way I’m still educating myself about growing my business and good business practices for my clients, but I’m doing something that is comforting to my brain. These books are on my ‘to do’ list anyway, so I actually am accomplishing something for my business, just not quite what I had meant to that day.
Start with this brain dump: What do you love to do, and how can you integrate it into your business day today? Maybe being outside helps your depressed brain. Can you work on your business outside? Bring your laptop out, or a book, or your mind map? Could you write the next chapter of your book outside? Maybe going for a walk helps you. Steve Jobs would go for walks to come up with new ideas for Apple. Can you bring a notepad and jot notes as you walk? What else makes you feel good? Get creative about integrating it into your work day.
Above all, forgive yourself. Forgive your brain. It is doing the best it can, and you will feel better, soon.
Need managing your depression, PTSD, ADHD, or anxiety as a business leader? Get on my calendar!
I admit it. Sometimes I wear yoga pants to work, too.
Yes, I practice yoga. But not at the end of the day after I’ve been working. I do yoga in the morning to wake my body and prepare for a busy day of doing what I love. It level sets me so I can be mentally present for my clients and serve them as best I can.
When you’re doing what you love, it can be hard to stop at the end of the day. But you must! Otherwise what you love will soon be what you hate. You’ll find yourself mentally exhausted, antsy, and displaying avoidance behavior, even though you love your work.
Yoga pants are a symbol for me. In donning them, my mind automatically switches into ‘lounge mode’. I no longer feel like I need to be on point and focused. I can go for a walk in comfort, garden, cook, sit in funny positions, and whatever else strikes my fancy. My yoga pants create the mental space to just be me.
I’m not suggesting you do the same if it doesn’t fit your personality — although, I do suggest you find a similar practice. How might you punctuate the end of your busy day so you can wind down and relax? In the past I’ve used evening showers, going for a walk, or meditation to cool my jets and tell my mind it’s time to stop working.
This does have a caveat. You see, when you love what you do, you’re likely to be inspired by just about anything in your life. Though your evenings and weekends should be ‘non-work time’, it’s important to leave space for that inspiration. However, there’s a difference in reacting to that inspiration. During work hours it’s appropriate to follow the rabbit hole to see where it leads. But when you’re at home, whether alone, with your partner, children, or friends, it’s important to stay present.
Create a system for capturing the inspiration and ideas that come your way. Write them down, put them in Evernote or another app, or leave yourself a voice memo. Whatever you need to do to have the peace of mind that the idea is secure. Then, return to your evening.
Want help creating a badass work / life balance? Get on my calendar!
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 some time 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,
Need help communicating about your business goals and needs with your romantic partner? Get on my calendar!
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.
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.
Watch the companion video on YouTube.
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.
If you prefer journaling, however, the Happier Mind Journal may be the best way for you to do this. It helps you track how well you slept, your moods, your goals for the day, and more. This is a great way to stay mindful when you feel like you have eight heads and twenty arms trying to accomplish everything at the same time (or is that just me)?
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.
Need help staying sane? Let’s schedule a 1:1.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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