Sharing the 5 big lessons I’ve learned about building a business in the last ten years.
Pocket-rocket. Radical rebel. Not cut out for “success”. Sounds familiar?
Ah the playground stories that started whirling somewhere around the age of 8 and descended into a rapid decline of creativity as the system knocked it out of you and tried to peg you into a world of tests and preparation and, let’s face it, bloody ridiculous multiple-choice careers advice dished out at school. And the reports! So utterly destructive.
Oh Mrs M, how you hated my shrill whistling and inability to concentrate (in PE) is forever etched in my report, but it doesn’t show the fact that I disliked the way you looked at the girls in the shower; disrupting your classes was my way of communicating that.
I loved the social element of school, but the structure bit was hard. I was awash with ADHD when I look back, just hated being told what to do, people pleasing the teachers who all wanted something different.
I craved creative inspiration and stories and connection. Something a lot deeper and more emotional. School did not deliver on that front for me.
And I think this quote by Stanley Kubrick is relevant:
“I think the big mistake in schools is trying to teach children anything, and by using fear as the basic motivation. Fear of getting failing grades, fear of not staying with your class, etc. Interest can produce learning on a scale compared to fear as a nuclear explosion to a firecracker.”
It’s no surprise that George Land, who was commissioned by NASA (check out his TedX talk) — who tested kids aged 5, 10, 16 and 25 — found that 98% of 5 year olds fell into the “creative genius” category and by the age of 15 that had fallen to just 12%. Only 2% of adults score in this “creative genius” range.
Now I’m not sharing this because I think I’m a creative genius — far from it — I’m just a human, like you, who’s learning and developing my infinite potential, but as a creative business owner this area interested me hugely.
If you’ve ever read the book Playing Big by Tara Mohr, you’ll probably be nodding your head in agreement with me already. She talks about how we’re chained to an out of date school system, how we’re conditioned into desiring letters after our names.
Fabulous and necessary if you want a traditional career like a lawyer or doctor but if you’re a creative or working in a commercial or entrepreneurial world the required skillset is so different.
And when you look at the fact that self-employment is rising as more and more of us want flexible working. According to the World Economic Forum, in the US, 35% of the workforce are self-employed, and in the EU it’s 16.1%. These numbers are rising rapidly.
As freelancers / entreprenuers and business owners we need more than academic qualifications. We need to take risks, to really think for ourselves, to be prepared to fail and learn, and keep going.
I didn’t realise that my super powers and creativity could actually take me to wherever i wanted to go. No limits. I’ve always enjoyed risk, but nobody ever told me this was great for being in business; I was made to feel dangerous and rebellious.
And even when I ran my first business — a social media agency — I didn’t know any of this. I was still deep in the throes of doing what I thought I had to do to be successful.
I was tied to the conditioning that years of school, work and other influences had on my life.
And this is where I met the dark side. Working all day every day in a “traditional” business mode. Waking up at 4am to speak to clients globally. Taking on more and more (people, offices) that caused stress. The stress of getting paid because of this model of business (if only the EXCELLENT Paul Jarvis had written Company of One back then).
It was only when I was looking down the barrel of a gun as a breast cancer diagnosis helped me figure out what I did and didn’t want in my life.
It took a hard life lesson to actually crack me open in a way that feels so joyful and so me and to give me the courage to redesign my life. And I invested heavily – both financially in coaching and adventures, but also in terms of learning, being open to new things, listening to all kinds of podcasts and re-discovering old passions.
And I see so many of my clients now getting to this stage, but not knowing which way to turn.
It’s often big life events that trigger these crossroad moments.
If you listen to Dr Wayne Dwyer as much as I do, you’ll know that it is impossible to be the person we used to be, our cells are completely renewed.
Finding out who you are an honouring that person is the most important work you will ever do.
This year, I’m celebrating ten years in business and twenty years in the online world, this is what I’ve learned from my visit to the dark side.
- Adventure opens my heart
I still couldn’t see just how burned out I was back in 2014, but luckily I have a partner who could see it, who knew my desire for adventure was what we needed. Looking back now, there are many forms of therapy and travel is one.
The best thing we ever did as a family was just say F**k it and move to Barcelona and invest in two years of continuous travel and buying our beautiful campervan Annie: You can read more about our experience of living as a family in a van over here.
It’s why we’re committed to living life less ordinary and making travel the focus of the next chapter of our lives.
And it’s not just me. My client and friend (and full-time adventurer) Fay Doyle — shared this incredible story recently about how hiking healed her eating disorders (and when I say hiking, not talking a Sunday walk on the South Downs — go check her out).
2. I learned to find my spirituality
Travel partly opened my heart but at the same time I started listening to lots of podcasts, reading lots of Hay House books and started to surrender to my own spirituality.
The results have been profound.
I don’t impose my beliefs on other people but it has been proven time and time again that people who hold beliefs (whatever those beliefs may be) are happier.
If you’ve researched the Blue Zone’s — the places on earth with the most people who live to 100+ — this idea of belief and community runs through.
And whilst I don’t align with any one religion, since I started to truly believe in my soul, my highest self, I’ve felt more safe and secure than ever before. I surrender daily through meditation, self-hypnosis and finally trusting my own intuition.
There are so many wonderful books I’ve read, but I especially loved Dr Tara Start’s The Source – a neuroscience view that the Law Of Attraction is how life works.
3. Expressing my story is a form of therapy
When you’re going through the big life stuff it’s impossible to see life the other side, but what excites me most about the work I do is watching people heal as they share their real and messy stories with the world.
It’s like years of therapy as their shoulders feel lighter, and I know myself, when I started to share my personal story, I could move forwards with a lightness and ease that I didn’t previously have.
4. Learn with a beginners mindset
That point I made earlier. You are not physically or mentally the same person you were X years ago.
Whether you feel like you’re in a rut in work or business, or whether like me, you’re worried about burning out and the effect that might have on your health and you spiritual wealth and family, then it’s time to strip back all the layers and find yourself again.
I love to work with my private clients on this. To really strip back who they are and help them find their North Star. To learn to tune in, work less and earn more.
This article sums up the areas to skill-up in that will help you achieve your goals: 8 Timeless Skills to Learn Now in Under 8 Hours to Change your Life Forever.
Adopting a beginner’s attitude to learning has been hugely beneficial to me. The art of writing, public speaking (even if it petrifies you), meditating, negotiating are all skills we need now, but also in the future.
5. The other people I worry about aren’t my people
People-pleasing is another thing that we’re taught in school to do; we often worry more about what an ex-colleague from 10 years ago thinks more than we do about our best friends.
If there’s one thing I want to pass on to my kids its this: be more yourself. Have the courage to embrace all your traits that make you, you.
It’s the same with budding entrepreneurs and creative business owners. I get asked (on the daily): how do I stand out more? My answer is always the same – be more you.
Most people know this but they still shrink back online and often present a watered-down version of who they are.
And I geddit; it’s a confidence thing. We think we might “put people off”.
But putting people off is good! The more we can feel happy to be ourselves, the easier it is for the right people to do a little dance towards us – it helps them find us. And equally importantly it helps the wrong people – someone else’s tribe – figure out we’re not right.
But how? This is where values come into play. Knowing who you are, what you believe and stand for helps you create a grounded base. It’s the foundations for you and it’s where you have the opportunity to create chemistry content that expresses it.
The advice I’d go back and tell me – the newbie creative business owner 10 years ago – have the courage to figure out who you are and then listen to her, and her alone.