I made a mistake. A big one, over a sustained period of time (namely these last two years that I've been in business for myself). A mistake so glaring I can't believe I didn't catch it sooner. First, some context . . .
I have a fierce inner CFO.
In my former working life, she's the one that helped me buy a condo, fund a 401(k), and buy a car without taking out a loan (a Prius named Red Velvet that I've since sold).
She's also the one that kicked and screamed the loudest as I thought about leaving my job at Google. Are you crazy?! But this is so comfortable! And secure! They pay for all of your meals, your yoga, and they give you a huge bonus every year! You will never top this!
Or at least those were the big fears. I had to constantly counter those thoughts with, "But what if I make twice as much in half the time? What if I'm twice as happy and healthy, and money isn't an issue?"
In order for me to finally quit, I showed my CFO some numbers (yes, in an actual mock business plan Google Doc): my savings "runway," my new coaching rates, and my plan for creating new products. I also reminded her I can be frugal when called upon, and about my ability to be creative and figure out how to make a new living.
But just about as soon as I quit, the subtle self-imposed pressure to reach financial solvency hit. I desperately wanted to avoid the "I told you so!" of financial failure. I didn't want to be one of those 4/5 businesses that fail in the first year. I didn't want the naysayers to be right.
Although I did just fine in that first year, my big mistake was this:
I stopped creating for the sake of meaning, service and problem-solving — and started focusing most of my attention on business-building instead.
That's what a good entrepreneur should do, right?
As I read and researched, in a subconscious hurry to turn my blog into a profitable business overnight, words like scalable, repeatable, passive, time-for-money, outsourcing, sales page, conversion rate, and on and on rained down.
"When we are motivated by the desire to sell, we are looking out for ourselves. When we are motivated by the desire to serve, we are looking out for others." —Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love
I spent so much time on what I could sell next and how, that I forgot about the most important question:
What do you have to SAY?!
How can you add value for the world? How can you take risks for the benefit of others? How can you be of service?
No wonder I've felt confused these past few months. I kept trying to think about the topic of my next book, my next blog post, and my next product launch. It never felt very good, or very prolific.
So it's time for me to go back to my roots. To speak from the heart. To take a stand, and to focus on the weekly risk of putting my thoughts, feelings and ideas out for public critique and consumption. It's a bit scary (and always has been) . . . especially because as my platform grows the fears do too. Growth is a great thing, of course, but we don't get to side-step the growing pains.
Will I be a one-book wonder? Will I ever find my next big idea? Those voices are fear.
The voice that got me here, from when I started the online gig almost eight years ago is, "How can I be most helpful? How can I turn my struggles into learning (and a template or two) for others?"
I may need to pause the money-side for a little bit (or maybe not, the universe is funny like that) but I definitely know that it doesn't work very well for me when money or sales are my direct, primary focus. Maybe it works for others, but not for me.
I've got a big ol' beating heart-on-my-sleeve and it doesn't appreciate being closed down, creatively or otherwise.
"For years we may have worked for power, money and prestige . . . we don't know where to search for motivation anymore.
There is no more powerful motivation than to feel we're being used in the creation of a world where . . . we are no longer ambitious for ourselves, but are rather inspired by the vision of a healed world.
Inspiration rearranges our energies. It sources within us a new power and direction. We no longer feel like we're trying to carry a football to the finish line, clutching it to our chest and surrounded by hostile forces. We feel instead as though angels are pushing us from behind and making straight our path as we go." —Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love
I finally know what my next move is: to bring my focus back to honest writing that's worth reading.
And to have faith that it's from that place the best business ideas will follow.