Breian has been struggling in her business mentally the last couple of weeks because things are going so well. And if that sounds strange, it isn’t.
When you start a business there’s so much uncertainty and fear that you really get used to the feeling of things not being “quite right.” In fact, it can become a habit to feel like things “aren’t quite there yet” even as you start to reach some of the goals you used to think were either impossible or waaay off in the future.
But over the last year Breian has realized exactly what she wants her business to give her and exactly what she’s willing to give her business. And she’s found herself exactly where she wants to be: clients she loves and a workload that fits her life.
So why does she feel so anxious? Why does she still feel like there’s a lot she “should” be doing that she isn’t doing?
It’s such a normal feeling. I think it’s largely because so much content is flying at us all the time, telling us what we have to do if we want to be successful.
Almost none of that content tells us we might already be exactly where we want to be. None of those newsletters or blog posts are saying “You’re all set. Just relax. Find a new show on Netflix you can use to unwind after a few hours of coaching.” Even the content about “self-care” is mostly telling us we need to rest…so we can hurry up and GO DO MORE STUFF.
I’m not saying Breian should stop all productive activity. I’m saying the hardest work she’ll do in her business for the next little while will be to keep reminding herself she has what she wants, she’s doing a great job, and she doesn’t need to beat herself up about all the “important” business tasks she’s not doing right now.
My friend and advisor Bev Aron once taught me that we humans are as likely to avoid excessive positive emotion as we are to avoid excessive negative emotion. Both are outside our comfort zone, and when we find ourselves uncomfortable we tend to numb the emotion with activities like eating, or maybe obsessing over “creating more content.”
Breian and the rest of us can find some peace of mind by checking in with our true values and deciding what we do and DON’T need to do in order to live those values.
Breian and Shira are two great examples of lives of balance (in my opinion). Both of them are spending their time how they want to. One is much busier in her business than the other. Both feel pressure to follow a crowd, but they resist that crowd because the little voice in their head says “I’m doing exactly what I want to do.”
I vote for listening to that voice.
Shira stays very busy. Her business is a hybrid of in-person coaching and services, online courses, lots of content, and now a book deal with a well-known publisher. She enjoys all of it and is excited about the future, but she’s feeling spread thin.
She finds herself working very early in the morning and very late at night. She feels pulled in multiple directions. She feels some pressure to delegate, especially because her peers and mentors have told her over the years that she “has” to build a team if she wants to build a successful business.
I’ve known Shira for a couple of years now, which is why I took a slightly different angle with this coaching.
Shira has always been very busy. I’ve never known her to NOT be working very early in the morning and very late at night. I’ve never known her to NOT feel pulled in lots of directions. The projects have changed during the time I’ve known her, but the activity level has stayed approximately the same.
So here’s my theory: Shira likes being exactly as busy as she is. She loves her work and her workload, and the only real resistance in her business comes from the “shoulds” she feels around delegating.
When I mentioned that theory to Shira, she visibly relaxed and said she immediately felt so much less pressure. I take that to mean that the negative pressure Shira feels is NOT the pressure to do more; she’s great at doing more and getting it done exactly as she wants it.
The negative pressure she feels is the pressure to build a business she doesn’t think she wants, ie one with a big team where she’s more of a manager than a creator.
Whatever my opinion is worth, I think it’s just fine to be the creator in the business and to only delegate those parts of your work that you know you won’t miss.
Is there a tradeoff here? Yes. The simple math is that a business can produce and deliver more stuff when there are multiple creators in it. So you’re giving up some money and some reach when you choose to do it mostly alone. The question becomes which would you rather give up: some money? Or the creative work you love?
I don’t mean to create a false choice here either: there is such a thing as becoming a manager and a creator in a business.
But in Shira’s case, she feels no natural pull toward becoming a manager, so she’s happy to make the tradeoff that comes with keeping all (or most) of the creative work to herself.
Her approach is to keep her expenses low so she’s keeping as much of her income as possible while continuing to do the work she loves. This is very helpful for her right now because she’s the earner in her household at the moment.
The great lesson from the conversation with Shira is that we get to choose what we do in our business and we get to always check in with why we’re choosing it. Advice from mentors and peers is great, but it has to be filtered through our values.
Amber is struggling to feel confident in her offer. Her goal is to help people leave their corporate jobs to start a business and have more freedom and flexibility in their lives.
She’s struggling because she only feels like half that story is true for her: she did leave a well-paying corporate job, but she hasn’t replaced her income yet through her business. How can she offer that to others when it isn’t true for her yet? She even feels like she sort of gamed the system because her husband’s job has been the reason she could let go of her job without loss of lifestyle.
My thought is that she might be making too many assumptions about the people she’s hoping to coach. Her thought seems to be that they need to be able to make the same transition she did without any loss of income. So she’s feeling like she has to help them do something she hasn’t done (although she’s in process with her business) in order to get what she has (freedom from the day job).
What if all she has to do is coach them on their thoughts around quitting? They’re adults. They know they’ll need to provide for themselves one way or another.
And hey, maybe they don’t even really want to quit. Maybe they’re in a rough patch and Amber can help them through it. Maybe they end up feeling as good staying as she felt leaving.
Amber’s been creating some content around this idea of quitting, and it’s been getting traction. That’s a great sign because it means people she has access to (such a huge key) are feeling pain in an area of experience and success for her (another huge key).
I think she can use the positive response to her content to get into conversations with the people she wants to serve, let them describe their pain in their words, and then invite them to coaching.
Becky is trying to figure out how to successfully hire two other coaches in her business to help facilitate her group program. On one hand, she’s excited to feel like she’s not alone in her business. She’d feel more free to travel and spend time with family; she’d also feel less worried about getting sick or otherwise unable to deliver the program herself.
But she has a couple concerns:
First, she thinks she doesn’t have enough work to make an appealing offer to a prospective coach. She doesn’t see how anyone would commit to coaching in her business with only the promise of (maybe) two hours per week of work. Why would anyone make room in their lives for such a small amount of work and, by extension, such a small amount of money?
Second, she thinks that anyone who would coach in her business would have to have gone through the program herself. And she’s thinking she’d have to pay them to go through the program.
Third, she’s worried about a) being able to pay enough to make the job appealing, and b) risking that amount of money on someone who might not stick anyway.
This is a great example of what I call creating the rock and the hard place, and squeezing yourself between them.
Becky has set a sort of mental trap for herself here:
I need help because I don’t want to do it all alone.
I can’t get help for all the reasons.
The way to get out from between the rock and the hard place is to recognize we invented them ourselves.
Instead of saying, “no one will be excited to accept an opportunity that offers relatively few hours per week,” ask, “what kind of people would be looking for an opportunity with low hourly requirements?”
Instead of saying, “I’ll have to pay someone to go through my program,” ask, “which of my happy graduates would be excited to become an alumni instructor?”
Instead of saying, “I’m risking a lot of money by paying someone to work in my business when they might not work out,” ask, “how many hiring practice rounds am I willing to go through on my path finding a near-ideal team member?” and “what will it be worth to find an ideal team member, and how much would I invest in the business to realize those benefits?”
By the way, the cost of hiring a firing a couple not-ideal team members will definitely be less than the cost of coaching programs we’ve all paid for. The skills that come in that process will pay dividends through our entire careers.
The idea is not that Becky–or any of us–have to hire help in our business. The idea is that once we know we want to, we should approach it like any other project in our business, ie with lots of patience, some willingness to fail, and a willingness to invest in the success of the thing.
Dara has done the math and realized that a long-time income stream just isn’t worth it anymore. She’s done quilting-for-hire for years, earning $50 per hour. She’s in demand, so the income is reasonably steady.
The problem is she’s started successfully selling coaching, which pays 5x the hourly rate. And she knows it will only go up from there.
Her challenge is not the math, it’s that she’s saying goodbye to work that’s meant a lot to her for a long time. She feels like she’s letting part of herself go, so there’s a mourning process. I couldn’t agree more.
You know me: I don’t care enough about the money (or the math) to tell her she “has” to let go of quilting. If she felt like her heart were in that work, who cares if it pays less?She told me that she knows she wants to help women as a coach, and she’s willing to let go of one good thing for the sake of another good thing where she feels like she’ll be making her highest contribution.
I’m all for it, and there’s just not much more to say about it.