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Most often I am super-charged and invigorated by the world around me and the entrepreneurial filter through which I experience it.
When I describe my early business model of decorating eggs, what distinguished me from the multitude of other egg decorators out there (!) were the opportunities I saw in the art form.
I quickly let go of using the traditional symbols and colors of Ukrainian Easter eggs in favor of quilt and paisley patterns along with the marvelous hues aniline dyes allowed a contemporary artist vs. one reliant on natural ingredients. I was able to monetize the art by not only selling the decorative eggs, but expanding it to include jewelry, stationery items, framed photos and a book on the subject. My first paid speech was entitled, “If I Can Make a Business Out of This, You Can Make a Business Out of Anything.”
Whenever I am out and about or simply reading the daily news, I find nuggets that pertain to me and my audience. There’s a journalism expression I learned from a colleague, “Notice what you notice.” For me it’s the opportunities that life sends our way and how we handle them. I see the entrepreneurial spirit demonstrated many times a day. There is always plenty to fill these paragraphs on a regular basis.
But today I find myself nursing a cough and laryngitis and feeling better lying prone, laptop mounted on my belly, than in a desk chair. I’ve been in for a couple of days and not interacting in my typical way. So I reached out to my coaching community for help.
One of my members, Jennifer Polk, posed the question, “Where do good ideas come from?” which I immediately recognized as a universal, age-old quandary. Thank you, Jennifer!
My best tool is to close my eyes, quiet my over-active brain and let inspiration come. In this moment, it’s telling me to address another question that came out of that same request for help today. How easy was that!
Another member of my coaching program, Rita Burke, wanted my thoughts on this:
The fear that grips you when you’ve decided to do something and you remove all the noise to get ready to move forward and there it is – you and the blank canvas, the abyss, the unknown. How do you not cycle backwards, distract yourself, inevitably postponing or avoiding the very action you decided to take….
This is an easy one to answer since it comes up for me on a fairly regular basis. It also applies to every entrepreneur I know because we work alone, don’t have cubicles next to us or a water cooler or cafeteria to wander into for support. What we ALL need is support.
My solution is to pick up the phone and call another entrepreneur. I’ve identified a handful of people to whom I am not afraid to say, “I’m afraid.”
There’s something extraordinary about giving voice to our fear. Naming it, saying it out loud, describing that gripping fear this client describes is the equivalent of throwing water on the Wicked Witch of the West. It dissolves it. If you don’t believe me, you haven’t tried it. Fears shared are fears lessened. False Evidence Appearing Real is the acronym I like best to describe this gremlin.
Now, if you’re saying to yourself, no one wants to listen to my nonsense, you’re WRONG! There you go minimizing your impact on the world. Ask one person…today…if they’ll be there for you. Picking up the phone, which is much better than email, and making the human connection is empowering beyond words for both parties. If I didn’t have laryngitis, I’d insist that you call me!
I first received money for my artwork the summer of 1970. My co-designer, Noonie Shear, and I were encouraged by our Professor/Producer, Jim Cavanaugh, to display and sell our pen and ink drawings for patrons during the premiere season of the Mount Holyoke College Summer Theatre. Our prices ranged from $2-10 per piece, and we did brisk business.
It was a few years later that I displayed and sold my Ukrainian Easter eggs at the Pink Tent Festival in Stamford, CT. At that time I regarded myself as a freelance artist and operated in that manner, waiting for opportunities to come to me and taking advantage of them when they did.
Then, in the late-80s, I joined the Entrepreneurial Woman’s Network (EWN) and discovered that I was actually a small business owner who had been operating in a void that EWN quickly filled.
There I began to meet other women business owners and to learn how to give an elevator pitch, set a goal, write a business plan and lead remarkable women. More important, for this entrepreneur, I learned that I had acquired knowledge that others sought and was invited to share that knowledge with my peers. That early participation on panel discussions and leading workshops for my colleagues gave me the confidence to seek other networks and associations with whom to demonstrate my newfound expertise. And, more important, to seek out and create opportunities rather than passively wait to be asked.
Many women from EWN have become lifelong friends, trusted vendors, exceptional clients and mastermind partners. I was inspired, at numerous lunch events, by hearing other successful women share their stories and strategies for success. I’m grateful to them all.
This week we members received notice that EWN would be closing its doors. Like many institutions that have shut down in the past few years, EWN suffered from lack of volunteers willing to take leadership roles, dwindling attendance and a vastly different workforce than when it was formed 30+ years ago when it was the only show in town.
Six women began gathering for lunch back in 1982 and exchanged ideas and suggestions for how to improve their small companies. The group’s original purpose was to help one another by talking about and sharing problems. At the time, their only competition was the local Chamber of Commerce which supported small businesses with different demographics and needs.
EWN was born from the need for women to talk to and hear the voices of other women. Lucky for us they found each other and founded a network that would live to benefit so many over its 30+ years of existence. My Soul Proprietor’s Coaching Program continues to serve that need via a virtual community of women business owners.
Just last week I had the opportunity to attend at least four different women’s networking groups, each with a different focus. This broad a selection was unheard of when I started my business. EWN was there first (for me) and served its membership nobly and well.
I cherish my the relationships formed there and mourn the loss of that special niche that EWN filled.
“I’m killing myself!”
“I’m going at breakneck speed.”
I recognize that these expressions are intended to demonstrate some kind of value in the marketplace, or on the domestic scene, but from the ‘taken-out-of-context’ perspective, read what these words are expressing.
Is this really what you want in your life? Is this the message you want to be putting out there and hearing yourself say? Does it sound familiar?
Right now I’m none of the above, and I’m okay with it. I consider myself to still be in transition from the end of a marriage two years ago and relocating to New York City last fall. Although I’m one who enjoys having a full plate, I’m learning to be with the peace and open space that being “not busy” creates.
I’ll never forget meeting a woman with a cast on her foot. When I asked her what had caused the injury, she said that for weeks she’d been saying, “I need a break! I need a break!” Walking out to her mailbox one morning, she tripped on a pebble and broke her ankle.
What message are you affirming to the Universe, and is it the one you want heard?
In my spiritual fellowship, where meetings are the primary source of connection and inspiration, I’ve often heard this expression: If you’re too busy to go to meetings, you’re too busy.
Does this apply to you?
The ‘impostor syndrome’ came up recently in a group I was leading. One member, who by the way had recently received major recognition in the media, described that less-than feeling she was experiencing. I encouraged her to share her feelings, because they’re real, painful and need an outlet. But I also wanted her to know that she was not alone. I asked if anyone else in the room ever felt that way. EVERY hand went up, including mine.
The best method I have for overcoming or dealing with envy of the competition is to drill down to what it is about their business model you wish was yours and use that information to grow your own company.
In my book Soul Proprietor, Lesson 9 is: In changing what is into what can be, we learn what we need to know.
That issue came up big time for me when I was first exhibiting my artwork. The jewelry display, and its proprietor across the aisle from my booth, were the objects of my jealousy. Not only did she have an elaborate set-up with brown ultrasuede walls dripping with her masterpieces, she also had a mob of women with fistfuls of money seeking her attention and products. There were other sales people in her booth helping her. In short, she had everything I wanted, but with a different craft and more experience.
That didn’t mean anything to me. I wanted instant recognition and fortune. Who doesn’t?
After a bout of unrewarded pouting, I began to analyze what it was she was doing and how she may have achieved her success. I had time on my hands as my booth was not busy at all giving me time to think and plan. Of course, you’ll have to read the lesson yourself for the details, but suffice it to say, my methodology worked. I became successful and stopped looking over my shoulder.
The impostor syndrome doesn’t go away, but now I can recover from it much faster or ask myself the question: Is that really what I want? The answers are changing.
No doubt you’ve heard the saying that when you point the finger at someone else, there are three others pointing back at you. May I tell you how much I hated that adage?
I far preferred to place the blame on anyone but moi. Me, wrong? Can’t be!
I was fueled by self-righteousness and perfectionism. It’s a great smokescreen for insecurity and feeling ‘less than.’ If I could place the blame squarely on anyone else, I could remain on my perch as the hero or the victim, but never the architect of misjudgment or wrongdoing.
Last Friday I was unable to log onto the dashboard I use for administering my monthly call to my Soul Proprietor Community. I entered the usual URL for the conference line, but kept getting an error message. I remembered that my VA had requested my new credit card number for the May billing cycle. But it didn’t even occur to me to stir up anger at her, because even if she hadn’t gotten to that task yet, it wouldn’t have remedied the situation at hand in that moment.
I couldn’t start the recording as I normally would have, so thought quickly and explained to the group that I would offer the session a second time and record it then. I proceeded to conduct the rest of the call without benefit of the muting option, but it went smoothly nonetheless.
Two very cool things happened. One–the recorder went on automatically unbeknownst to me so the call did get recorded (perfectly, btw), and I did not need to duplicate the effort. The second was this message from a participant:
I learned a wonderful lesson today on our conference call. There were some technical mishaps with recording and sound feedback. If I had been in Jane ‘s shoes I would have gone nuts. However, it was so refreshing and eye opening to see how Jane handled the situation. As a participant I found that her attitude did not cause stress to me (the client/guest) and in fact made me find humor and humanness.
I’m about to get on the phone with my assistant,(who had paid the monthly fee for me) and navigate how to NOT have this happen in the future. I’m very grateful that I didn’t blame her for something she didn’t do to relieve my anxiety in the moment. Relationship and sanity saved.
For as long as I can remember I have had set goals: to go to college, to graduate, to get a job, to get married, to have and raise children, to write a book, to become a coach, to speak publicly, to succeed in my own business, to work on my relationship(s), to achieve peace and serenity, blah, blah, blah.
I did all that.
I’m at a point now that feels like a mid-life crisis, but it’s a tad late. I feel goal-less.
The career stuff has lost its appeal. I go onto LinkedIn to look at discussion threads and go right back out. I’ve heard it all before. It feels competitive and repetitive.
Let me be clear that I adore my clients, my groups and the community I’ve created. I look forward to those calls and meetings immensely. It’s the marketing for new opportunities and filling the pipeline that has lost its appeal for me.
For the first time ever, I am waiting for a goal to define me.
While I know that I am in a lull and looking for some form of manifestation to come knocking at my door, I constantly remind anyone who works with me, or for that matter knows me and listens to my opinions (!), that in order to get what you want, you have to be very specific and offer it up in excruciating detail.
So here’s my want ad (versus my goal) to the Universe in the hopes that putting it out there in this form will be useful:
My vision is to coach men (new, I know) and women to become their best and highest selves; to integrate their insides with their outsides, and to be joyful and present in the process.The companies that hire me (I am free lance, not employed) recognize the importance and value of coaching, and that the act of sharing the truth in a safe, confidential and receptive place will add to their bottom line measured by employee productivity, satisfaction and retention.
I visit three different places of business three days a week (Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Fridays are for MY private groups and communities) in New York City where I am the resident coach. These are small (up to 100 employees), conscious (this description is touching their hearts and souls), green (environmentally aware) companies who care as much about their employees as they do their products and services.
My role is to share my experience, strength and hope with those who work there and who feel the need:
- to be visible
- to hear themselves speak about what’s real
- to share a current struggle
They appreciate that my path as business owner, wife, mother, divorcee, woman in recovery and world traveler equips me to hold space for any and all issues that may arise. The outcome of these coaching relationships is more productive, happy and courageous employees.
The salary for this position is commensurate with the value I bring to each company and is abundant, prosperous and satisfying to all parties.
I’m often the guinea pig of my own coaching. I had a task I’d been putting off and putting off for at least 10 days–creating a warm letter to send to clients, friends and colleagues about the upcoming holistic cruise I’m participating in.
I knew I had the necessary information (dates, early bird discount and itinerary) somewhere on my desktop, but when my desk is messy or I have too many windows open on my computer, I can feel overwhelmed.
First, I would have to locate those details, and second create an opening paragraph describing my excitement. Well, that excitement was buried under the mess as well, the same as it often is for the women I work with.
When I’m coaching a client who is procrastinating, in addition to getting beyond the stuckness, I am always curious to hear more about the to-do that’s paralyzing her. Articulating the situation helps break through the first level of resistance. I can hear the pressure being released and relieved. Then I come in with the zinger.
“Exactly how long will it take to do this?”
That’s the question I asked myself earlier this week. How long will it take to actually compose the letter? It felt like the answer would be “Two years!” but my higher self knew the truth–under an hour.
And so I applied this technique, shared it with my goal buddy, and accomplished it within the hour. Not only that, I personalized 15 versions of it, hand wrote a special message to each recipient, and put all 15 letters in the mail.
I’ll send out another 85 by next week. The ice has been broken. It’s downhill from here. And you know what? Now I am really excited about this amazing opportunity.