But not all goals are effective at driving progress and success in your business.
The sweet spot for goal setting, without a doubt, is 90 days.
Why are 90-day goals so effective?
90-day goals are effective because:
90 days is long enough to achieve something substantial.
It’s close enough to feel a sense of urgency and to stay focused.
There’s a clear end in sight.
There’s no time to procrastinate.
This has definitely been my experience.
Since using 90-day goals in my business, my productivity has increased dramatically. You’d be amazed at what you can achieve in 90 days! I’ve created and launched an entire online ‘Find Your Purpose’ program in that time, I’ve completed my first book draft, and we’ve recently created and delivered a whole 6 week online Fempreneur Business Breakthrough program to 40+ ladies, all within less than three months! Interestingly, 90-days seem to be a natural rhythm for our bodies and minds. Ninety days is roughly the length of a season. It’s about the length of a school semester and the span of a business quarter.
We’re used to operating in 90-day periods personally and professionally, so why not make the most of that for your business goal setting?
How to Set 90-Day Goals to Drive Your Business Success
1. Check in with your 5-Year Business Vision When you do your 90-day goal setting you need to check back in with your 5 year business vision (if you don’t have a 5 year vision, you need to create one!) 2. Chunk it Down into 12-Month Goals Chunk your big vision down into 12-month goals. You might need to refer back to the 6 Stages of Business Growth and look at the key areas you need to work on in your business to get to the next stage. I define the different goals for each phase of business growth in my free handbook The Fempreneur Success Handbook: How to Start or Grow Your Wildly Successful Business.
3. Chunk it Down into 90-Day Goals When chunking your 12-month goals down in 90-day goals, you need to figure out which things are on the critical path to your success.
I love using Gary Keller’s philosophy ‘The One Thing’ to do this, which is:
“What’s the one thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” – Gary Keller
When it comes to 90 day goals, I ask myself this question (based on Gary Keller’s ‘One Thing’ philosophy):
“What are the key things I can achieve in my business that make everything else easier or unnecessary?”
4. Break Down Your 90-Day Goals into Actionable Steps. Once you have your 90-day goals defined, you’ll need to break each one down into actionable steps.
I love using Trello to capture my actionable steps. It allows me to go in and break each goal down into actionable steps that are specific, defined, and have a deadline attached to them. This gets me out of procrastination, fast!
Here’s a screenshot of what my overall goal setting Trello board looks like:
I then break down each umbrella goal into actionable steps, as shown in my Trello card breakdown below.
5. Block time in your diary to action your goals!
If you don’t block time to actually work on your goals, you’ll never get them done! Once I started blocking time in my diary to work on my goals, I actually started getting stuff done – and fast.
Here’s an actual screen shot of my diary from last month when I was working on my Pathfinding online program. I blocked time to work on my goal, and I didn’t let anything interfere with that.
If for some reason something comes up that interferes with your blocked time, be sure to shift that time block to another day in the future. Don’t delete it!
Have you been wondering whether blogs are passé, or whether you really need one for your business?
Have you been procrastinating about starting a blog because you’re not convinced of the value of having one?
If so, the following points should clarify any misconceptions you have about blogging and convince you to either start one, or to keep going with your blog.
I wrote my first blog article in 2013 and it’s been the main vehicle through which I’ve grown my audience over the years.
Today, my blog is the cornerstone of my marketing and content strategy and I couldn’t recommend blogging highly enough as a tool for you to grow, evolve, and profit as a business – for the following powerful reasons.
10 Reasons Why Your Business Needs a Blog
1. Blogging is a highly effective form of inbound marketing (SEO)
In this modern era, you need to be actively engaged in ‘inbound marketing’, which is the art of drawing customers to your products and services via content marketing and search engine optimisation (SEO). It’s how people find you organically through search engines, without you lifting a finger!
Outbound marketing, on the other hand, is anything you ‘push’ out into the world, like advertising, events or social media posting.
A blog boosts your SEO by giving Google and other search engines an abundant supply of keywords and phrases to work with so that it can link the people who are searching for content to your website.
This is a compelling enough reason to start blogging on its own, but if you need more convincing, keep reading!
2. A blog gives your brand a voice and helps you stand out from your competitors
Consumers want to buy from brands who they resonate with and who have similar values.
Blogging is a great way to give your brand a voice and to share your insight, perspective and views so that your ideal clients can connect with you and become loyal fans.
3. It keeps your website content ‘fresh’ and increases your search engine rankings
Google and other search engines love websites with new, fresh content and they reward those websites by increasing their rankings in search results. If your website hasn’t been updated in a while, you’re not doing yourself any favours.
Include a blog module with the last three posts of your blog on your website Home Page so that your home page is updated each time you publish a new blog (this is good for Google rankings). Plus, when you get into a habit of regular blogging, it signals to search engines that you’re an up-to-date, relevant website and you also provide search engines with a continuous supply of keywords and phrases to continue boosting your rankings.
4. It establishes you as an authority in your field
Blogging is a great way to showcase your expertise and passion in your field. When you take the time to provide relevant, valuable information to your audience on a regular basis, you establish yourself as a leader in your field and your audience will respect you for it.
5. It helps you organise your thoughts and ideas.
I love blogging because through the writing process I discover what I think about certain topics and it helps me to organise my thoughts and ideas. This in turn makes me a better coach and teacher.
Over time you’ll become more articulate and confident in your thoughts and ideas, which makes you a better business owner.
6. It builds trust and confidence in your brand.
Regular blogging shows that you’re committed to sharing your knowledge in your field and providing value to your customers – for free – which increases your credibility and instils trust and confidence in your brand.
And people want to buy from brands who they know, like, and trust.
7. It teaches you important reflection and introspection.
Blogging forces you to take time out from the busy-ness of your day to sit and reflect deeply on a particular topic. This process teaches you introspection, which leads to greater depth of knowledge and self-awareness, which makes you a better leader.
8. It makes you a better writer and communicator.
You become a better writer when you commit to writing your thoughts and ideas down on a regular basis. Like everything, we get better at writing and communicating through practice.
I laugh now when I look back at some of my early blogs (and feel a little embarrassed!). It’s a wonder to see how far my writing has grown and evolved over the years since I’ve committed to regular blogging. And you will find the same too if you keep up the practice.
9. Amplify your brand’s reach.
If people resonate with your message, they’ll share your blog with their friends and family, giving you a much greater reach without any paid advertising on your part.
Remember to ask your audience to share your article and use social share buttons to make it easy for people to share your blog to their platforms.
10. It’s free publicity.
Blogging is free PR!
You don’t have to wait to get featured in a media outlet, journal or magazine, you can simply put your thoughts and ideas out into the world off your own bat – because you can!
Blogging is one of my favourite things in the world for growing my business. If you’d like some guidance on how to get started or to up-level your blogging efforts, please reach out to me at email@example.com and I’ll be happy to chat with you!
Want to know more about how to start and grow a wildly successful business? Get your FREE copy of The Fempreneur Success Handbook and start building your Fempire now!
Perhaps you started your own business because you were tired of the constraints of your job and you craved more freedom and flexibility. Perhaps you don’t like working for someone else and you wanted to be your own boss.
Or maybe you went into business because you have a product or service that you’re passionate about and you love making a difference in the lives of others through your work.
There are so many benefits to working for yourself and being your own boss really is a beautiful thing.
One of the hardest things I’ve experienced as a business coach is managing a clients’ expectations when they first come to me for coaching. Often a client will say things like “I need to generate $100k within twelve months in order to replace my corporate salary.”
I then need to introduce them to the six stages of business growth and show them how this goal is unrealistic and highly unlikely (unless they’ve already worked through the first three phases).
As you can see, there are four major phases you need to work through before you can start generating profit.
And those phases can take anywhere from 18 months to 3 years, depending on a variety of factors.
The key message is that there’s a period of time in which you’ll need to invest money into the business, before your business will start returning a profit. And this is the message that many first-time business owners don’t fully appreciate when they start out on their journey.
In a nutshell, you need to invest money in order to grow a business.
Typical initial investment requirements include the cost of business registration, building your own website, developing your marketing and brand materials, and investing in any inventory or materials you need to get set up and started.
A common complaint from my clients in the beginning is that “everything costs money”.
And especially in the beginning, it feels like you’re constantly spending money on your business, with little coming back in terms of revenue. And this phase can feel extremely frustrating, uncomfortable, and scary. It will most likely trigger all your deepest fears and insecurities. This is the point where many people decide to give up and go back to get a job.
But as a startup business owner, you have to appreciate that even when you can’t see the fruits of your labour yet, all the work you’re doing is laying the foundation of a profitable business. There’s no avoiding going through this phase that feels like hard work for no return.
You have to trust that with persistence and focus, you will eventually hit break through and profit.
I highly recommend you take the time to get acquainted with the different stages of business growth and you understand the critical elements you need to be focusing on in each phase.
3 Important Reasons Why You Need to Know which Phase of Business Growth You’re in.
1. You Can Focus your Time and Energy on the Right Things.
There are so many bright, shiny objects in the entrepreneurial world (have you fallen prey to the Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS) before?). Every marketer seems to have ‘the silver bullet’ to your success.
Back when I was first starting out, I spent so much money on different courses and programs, each one promising to help me finally make the progress I wanted. Everyone had conflicting advice and a different ‘system’ that made them millions, if you just follow their advice.
How do you decide whose advice to follow or what to spend your time and energy on, and when?
Once you understand the different stages of business growth, you’ll appreciate that there are a few key things you need to focus on in each phase, all of which are outlined in your FREE Fempreneur Success Handbook.
Don’t get distracted by the shiny objects and be sure to focus your precious time and energy on the right things!
2. You Can Intentionally Plan and Manage your Cash Flow.
Once you know which stage of business growth you’re in, you’ll be able to plan your financial resources more effectively.
You’ll know exactly which things to invest your money on in order to move through to the next phase most efficiently. You’ll know where to spend your money for maximum growth and biggest impact.
And perhaps more importantly, you’ll know what not to spend your precious money on in each phase of business growth.
3. You’ll Find Greater Peace and Acceptance (and Enjoyment!) with Where You Are in the Process.
You’ll need to establish different measures for your success in the beginning, for example by client feedback, by how quickly your email list is growing, or how many word of mouth referrals you’re gaining through your networking, or how your website is converting, to name a few.
Progress is all about measuring your success with the right metrics.
And appreciating that you’re moving up the trajectory of business growth, even when you can’t see dollars in the bank (yet).
I hope you find the courage and strength to stay true to your path, because with passion, persistence, and great support, you will get there and establish a thriving, profitable business!
If you’re in need of strategic advice on how to best grow your business, let’s chat! You can reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s get on the phone for a free 30-minute discovery call to see if our programs are right for you!
And don’t forget to download your FEMPRENEUR SUCCESS HANDBOOK and make sure you’re spending your precious time and resources on the right things, at the right time.
Search Engine Optimisation is one of the most important forms of Inbound Marketing that you can engage in as a business owner. Inbound marketing refers to marketing efforts that are designed to draw visitors and potential customers in, rather than outwardly ‘pushing’ a brand or product. SEO is a form of inbound marketing because it draws customers to your website via organic searches in search engines (like Google,Yahoo, Bing etc). If someone is searching for something that your business offers, you want to make sure that you appear in the Google search results so that they can contact you and become a paying client.m
Outbound Marketing refers to any form of content that you ‘push’ out into the world (advertising, social media posting etc) in order to bring traffic (visitors) to your website.
But in addition to the fundamental SEO methods described in my previous article, there are also three important SEO trends that you need to know about this year if you want to stay ahead of your competition.
You can waste a lot of time and money by using marketing methods that are old or ineffective. This is why staying on the cutting edge SEO is so important. The following are some of the SEO trends you need to be aware of in 2020.
3 Critical SEO Trends You Need to Know in 2020
1. Featured Snippets Can Drive Organic Traffic to Your Website
In the past, business owners were mainly concerned with getting their website to the top of a Google search engine results page, or at the very least on page one of Google search results.
In the past few years, Google has unveiled the Featured Snippet functionality. Featured Snippets provide users with a concise, direct answer to their questions, right there on the search results page, without the users having to click through to a specific result. If the snippet is compelling and the visitor wants to know more, they’ll click through to your website and increase your web traffic as a result.
Google picks the snippet from the web page that best answers the query in a simple, concise format. This levels the playing field and leaves the door wide open for content that isn’t in the number one search result spot to be featured above everything else. This has massive potential to drive visitors to your website.
If you want to get more clicks from Google, you need to optimise what your site looks like in the search results. And you can do this with Featured Snippets.
HubSpot research has shown that content with a featured snippet gets a 2-times higher click-through rate. This is huge! But getting your website into the coveted spot of Featured Snippet is not easy. In order to accomplish this goal, you will need to work on answering common questions about your industry in your website content. Sites like Answer the Public are great for helping you understand the long tail keywords that people are searching for in a given topic.
If you’re unable to develop content for either your website or a guest posting site, working with professionals is a good idea. Outreach Mama has a plethora ofBlogger Outreach Services options to offer. With their help, getting great content and relevant back links will be a breeze.
2. Voice Search Optimisation is Important
Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few years, you’ll be well aware of technology like Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri. These devices have changed the way consumers interact with search engines and other parts of the Internet. Instead of using text to find items in Google, more and more people are using their voice to search the web. As the popularity of voice search grows, you’ll have to adapt. Changing the way you approach the content on your website is essential when trying to capitalise on the popularity of voice search.
Using long tail keywords is smart when trying to optimise your website for voice search. Putting yourself in the mindset of a consumer searching for something in your industry can help you develop the right long tail keywords. Most search queries performed with voice search will be posted in the form of a question. Answering these questions can help you increase the amount of organic traffic your website receives.
3. Modern Consumers Love Video Content
If your website is devoid of video content, you need to fix this problem in a hurry.
The amount of time that consumers spent watching YouTube nearly doubled last year.
With the power of engaging and entertaining, you can draw in potential customers and increase sales. The key to making a great video is developing a script beforehand. Trying to get your point across in a concise manner will take some planning.
With an outline of what you want to cover in the video, you can avoid rambling and potentially boring the water. If you don’t have experience withthis type of marketing, consulting with professionals is vital. Paying these professionals for their help will be worth it due to the results they can provide.
Don’t Let These SEO Trends Pass You By
Now that you know more about the marketing trends of 2020, it is time to take action. These trends can help you bring your marketing campaigns into the 21st century.
In 2018 I had the privilege and honour of becoming part of Marnie LeFevre’s vision to uplift and empower women in business by becoming a Fempire Business Coach for Women. Our mission at Fempire is to provide female entrepreneurs with the support, knowledge, & strategy to bring their business dreams to life. Just as the Dalai Lama said, we believe that the world needs more ‘peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of all kinds’. Women are naturally drawn to these roles and small business is the perfect vehicle for them.
My first twelve months as a Fempire Coach were a wild and fast ride of rapid growth and learning. There was laughter, tears, celebrations and commiserations. And while I came into the role with many years of coaching experience under my belt in my own practice, my first year with Fempire took me on an accelerated path that taught me so much about myself, about others, and about women in business in general.
In order to help you succeed as a business woman, I’m sharing the most important lessons I’ve learned in the hope that they give you comfort, help you to know that you’re not alone, and give you the courage and confidence to continue on, knowing that with courage and persistence, you will succeed as a business owner.
11 Fascinating Things I Learned in my First Year as a Fempire Coach
1. All Women Struggle with the Imposter Syndrome
If you feel like a fraud when starting out in your own business, you’re not alone. Every woman struggles with the imposter syndrome to some extent, but it’s even more prevalent among female entrepreneurs because we’re constantly stepping outside of our comfort zone. According toRebecca Burn-Callande, the imposter syndrome is “the single biggest block to success” for women in business. Thoughts of “Who am I to do this?” or “When will they figure out that I’m not qualified to do this?” can send you into an anxious spin and prevent you from showing up as your powerful self, with negative consequences. I see it all the time.
And just in case you’re wondering – yes, you are completely qualified to do the work you’re doing. We need you!
2. Women Struggle to Charge What They’re Worth
Women have a natural tendency to over-deliver and under-charge. Especially if you’re struggling with the imposter syndrome, you’ll be afraid to charge your clients what you’re worth, because even you don’t believe in your own value yet. Most of my clients come to me drastically under-charging. But here’s what I’ve learned:
And if you need to start out with low prices in order to build your confidence and to prove to yourself that you definitely do add value and that you provide an amazing product or service, then do that. But make sure you increase your prices when you start to feel resentful. You’ll quickly realise that your clients are often relieved when you increase your prices because it means you’re finally stepping into your power and claiming your value. And the clients who know and appreciate your value will be more than happy to pay you what you’re worth.
3. Being a Successful Business Woman Requires Sacrifice
There’s no denying that even in this modern era of working mothers, women still do the lion’s share of household duties. In surveys across the USA in 2016, it was found that women spend twice as much time on household activities each day than men. All those school drop offs, lunch preparations, loads of washing, and kids sporting activities take time. And if you’re serious about being a successful business woman, you have to make sacrifices and compromises at home.
You need to have difficult conversations with your husband or partner around them doing more at home, or maybe you need to hire help so that you can spend the time required to grow your business. Perhaps you’ll need to put your kids in before- or after-school care. But you can’t be one hundred percent responsible for your domestic duties and grow a business at the same time. I know that for a fact. And you’ll need to decide which one is a priority for you.
4. Mother Guilt is Real
Since us women have to make the tough decisions between work and children, we carry a lot of the guilt that goes along with it. When you finally decide to sacrifice some school pick ups to grow your business, you’ll be plagued by a constant sense of guilt and at three o’clock you’ll be thinking about your kids and wondering if you’re doing them any damage by not being there. I struggle with this too, and so do all working women.
Even though it won’t rid your guilt entirely, you might be comforted to know that groundbreaking studies have shown that children of working mothers actually fare better later in life. Carmen Nobel write that “Children whose mothers worked outside the home are more likely to have jobs themselves, are more likely to hold supervisory responsibilities at those jobs, and earn higher wages than children whose mothers stayed home full time”. Kathleen McGinn says:
So focusing on growing your business is most certainly not harming your children in any way, and may even have a positive effect. Plus, you’re being an inspiring role model for your children and helping future generations by helping them to understand that woman’s work is equally as important as a man’s.
5. Not All Women are Cut Out to Be Business Owners
The Technician: This person knows the craft of your business. If you started a clothes line, then you’re a great seamstress and designer. If you’re a life coach, then you’re great at helping people find solutions to their life’s challenges. Most of us start out in business as technicians with a honed craft.
The Entrepreneur: This person has the ideas, innovation, passion, and charm. They have the desire and ability to forge strategic relationships with collaborators and investors. They’re forward thinking, and thinking about growing and scaling. They’re focused on opportunities and closing them.
The Manager: This person is details-focused and organised. They’re a planner and always on top of the accounts, the timelines, and the project milestones. They know which items are on the critical path to success.
Gerber says that the number one mistake that business owners make is this:
And this isn’t true! The majority of us go into business because we’re technicians and we want to make a business out of it. But we’re not trained entrepreneurs or managers. These are skills that we absolutely must learn and grow.
Women who understand this and embrace it become successful business owners. They dedicate themselves to learning the art and craft of being an entrepreneur and manager and they go on to establish thriving businesses. But some women discover they’re not at all interested in becoming an entrepreneur or a manager, nor are they naturally inclined that way. And they then realise that small business is not for them.
6. Women Have Different Business Coaching Needs to Men
Having coached both men and women, and having worked among men and women during my professional career as an engineer, I’ve learned that women have different needs when it comes to coaching. Men generally need the right strategy and ongoing guidance, and they’re off and racing. As women, we need a lot more nurturing and validation. We need someone to believe in us until we can believe in ourselves. We need someone to discuss not just our business challenges with but also our emotional ones too. We need someone to remind us of our value on a regular basis. And when we get all of this, we thrive.
7. Your Coach Can’t Do Your Work for You
If you’re a business owner then hopefully you have a business coach who’s helped you to map out the best way to grow your business and establish yourself as a successful business owner. Your coach would have worked with you to develop your business vision, your mission, your goals, your business funnel, your pricing structures and your marketing strategies to promote your business, to build a sustainable and growing client base.
But unfortunately the onus is then on you to implement the advice and strategy. It’s up to you to carve out the time needed to take action on the things you agreed upon. It’s my greatest frustration when clients come to their sessions with their tail between their legs, having to admit that they haven’t done what they agreed they would do. I understand it’s hard. I have a young family too. And I really want you to be successful. But if you’re not willing to make the time to do the work that’s required to grow your business, then maybe being a small business owner isn’t for you.
8. Your Coach Can’t Save You
As a coach, my biggest desire is to see my clients succeed and to enjoy the fruits of running a successful business. And I want to be there to support you, guide you, and give you encouragement and inspiration along the way. But unfortunately I’ve had to learn the hard way that I can’t save you if you get yourself into a pickle. For example, if you’ve sold out a workshop and then you haven’t been able to generate the content for it on time, I can’t jump in and rescue you. While I would love to, I’ve had to learn (the hard way) that as a coach, I need to pull back. Because if I do it for you, I’m not empowering you or teaching you how to do it yourself. This is really hard for a coach who wants to see her clients succeed.
9. Women Thrive in Community
An essential component of our Fempire business coaching programs is the monthly group workshops we provide where all of our coaching clients come together to network, workshop, and learn business education. We often get clients coming back after they’ve left the nest, asking to re-join the group workshops again because they realise that they need the support of the sisterhood in order to thrive.
10. Once Their Confidence Catches Up, Women are Unstoppable
One of the most beautiful things I get to experience as a business coach is watching my clients grow their confidence and then blossom like flowers. Often they start their business journey doubting themselves, struggling with imposter syndrome, and under-charging for their products or services. But with the right support guidance, encouragement, and sisterhood, they start to believe in themselves, step into their power and claim their worth. And they become unstoppable. It’s a beautiful thing to see.
11. Collaboration is Infinitely More Powerful than Competition
Once women get over the need to compete with each other, and instead start supporting each other through collaborations, referrals and affiliations, amazing things start to happen. We see it time and time again. When we come together, we really do have the power to change the world.
If you’re a business owner, you need to get your head around the topic of SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation. It’s critical to your business growth and success.
For the first few years in business on my own, I completely ignored SEO simply because I didn’t know what it was and I didn’t appreciate how important it was. If you haven’t paid much attention to it until now, I hope this article helps you to understand the basics and to take some critical first steps to getting on top of it.
SEO is also about improving the user-friendliness of your website to increase its credibility, so that search engines rank you more highly. SEO is critical to your business because it’s how people find you. If you’re a remedial massage therapist working in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, you want to make sure that if someone in eastern Melbourne searches for a remedial massage therapist, you show up in the search results!
It’s funny, and also metaphorically very accurate! If you can’t find what you’re looking for on page one of Google search results, you usually just refine the search and try a different search term, right? So obviously, you want to do everything in your power to rank on page one of Google search results.
Google is increasingly the go-to tool to find anything on the internet for the majority of the population, so it’s important that you harness it correctly. Search traffic has grown by 2000% in the past 20 years. In 1999 Google processed one billion searches, and now that number is up to 2 trillion searches per year! The average person conducts 3-4 Google searches per day (for more mind-blowing stats on Google, check out this article 27 Mind Blowing Stats About Google).
SEO all starts with understanding the keywords and phrases (long tail keywords) that people are searching for when they’re trying to find a product or service that you offer. It’s all well and good to use fancy language and phrases on your website, but if people aren’t actively searching for those terms you’re using, you won’t appear in search results.
There are some great free tools that are available to do keyword research such as the Keywords Everywhere browser extension, or the Keyword Tool, or the Answer the Public site. Take the time to research your keywords extensively. Spend at least 1-2 hours doing this if you can. And once you have an extensive list of commonly used keywords and long tail phrases that people are searching for in your field, you should keep them somewhere where you can access them regularly, and make sure you use them across your website.
There are two ways you can build your SEO capability – with ‘on-page SEO’ and ‘off-page SEO’.
‘On-page SEO’ is all about getting those keywords into as much content on your website as possible – blog articles, page titles, picture descriptions.
You want to eventually have an even spread of keywords throughout your website, however the most important places so start with are your page titles, post titles, and meta descriptions as a minimum. If you can get your important keywords into titles and meta descriptions, you’re well on your way to maximising your SEO.
Obviously you don’t want to go overboard and do what’s called ‘keyword stuffing’. Keyword stuffing is trying to get as many keywords into your site as humanly possible. But it will ultimately work against you because it doesn’t look or sound natural, and your top priority should be making your website a positive user experience so that people spend longer on your site and become returning visitors (both great qualities for increasing your rankings in Google). Plus, Google algorithms are extremely clever and they can always recognise when someone’s trying to ‘keyword stuff’ – and it’ll work against you!
Other forms of ‘on-page SEO’ include things like proper URL structure, user-friendly 404 pages (for when a link is broken), mobile-friendly pages and a fast loading page (I can’t understate how important it is to find a fast host! I highly recommend Little Bizzy for fast-loading hosting and great customer service). Slow loading pages simply won’t rank highly with search engines and your potential clients will click away before your site has had a chance to load.
‘Off-page SEO’ refers to SEO activities that are performed beyond the boundaries of the website. One of these important activities is known as link building, which is the process of acquiring hyperlinks from other websites to your own. Companies spend a lot of time and money trying to acquire links from other websites back to their own because it increases your site’s credibility and Google rankings.
In my short video below, I give an overview of all the very basic tips and tricks you can use as small business owner with limited tech-savviness (like me!) to optimise your SEO so that you can easily win more clients on autopilot, starting now.
Make sure you’re doing these essential things and you’ll start growing your business with ease.
3 Critical SEO Trends You Need to be Aware of in 2020
Check out this article to discover three trends that you need to know to get the most out of your site SEO and stay ahead of your competition.
If you want to be a successful business owner, you need to be keeping a close eye on your competitors.
In marketing, the act of monitoring your competitors is referred to as Competitor Analysis or Competitor Intelligence. And even though you might protest and say that what you do is unique and special, which I’m quite sure it is, the simple fact is that there are other businesses out there delivering a similar outcome to you. And when people are shopping around for the best person to deliver that outcome, rest assured they’ll also be checking out your competitors and assessing all their options before deciding to buy. I’m sure you do your due diligence and shop around before you decide to purchase something, right?
Unless your business marketing and social presence is compelling and instils trust and confidence in your brand, it will be difficult to win business over your competitors.
But that’s not the only reason you should be spying on your competitors.
You should also be doing Competitor Analysis with the intention to find ways to improve your own business strategies, and to elevate your business above the rest.
Competitor Analysis can give you inspiration and ideas on how to do things better.
And don’t worry. By doing Competitor Analysis you’re not doing anything wrong. On the contrary! Competitor Analysis is an established requirement of all marketing teams in all businesses. It’s completely legal. It’s simply the act of collecting information that is already available in the public domain and using it to better understand your position in the market.
When I first engaged in Competitor Analysis (which I resisted for a long time), I found it strangely empowering and liberating. It helped me to understand how I’m the same, but also different to my competitors. It helped me clearly establish my USP – or Unique Selling Proposition – which made all my branding efforts much more powerful. Your USP is one of the most critical ingredients in your marketing strategy.
There are 9 steps we recommend you follow for a simple but powerful competitor analysis. There are all kinds of clever ways to get competitor information online (for example Spyfu,iSpionage, Fanpage Karma etc), but it’s not necessary for a robust competitor analysis. Keep it simple to start.
Follow the 9 steps below to spy on your competitors and set yourself up for maximum business success!
How to do a Simple but Effective Competitor Analysis
1. Stay Ahead of Industry Trends & Competitors with Google Alerts
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of competitor analysis, the first thing that every business owner needs to do to stay on top of industry trends and announcements is to sign up to Google Alerts. This is a free service offered by Google that notifies you of all publications across the web for keywords that you can specify. For example, if you’re a Life Coach, you could set up an Alert using the keyword ‘Life Coaching’. Then Google will send you a daily digest of everything that’s published each day that contains that search term.
This is a fantastic (and essential) way to learn what’s happening each day across your industry and to stay on top of what your competitors are doing. These Alerts can also provide great content for your curated posts on social media.
2. Make a List of Your Top 5 Competitors
Set yourself up with a spreadsheet or table with 7 columns: 1 column on the left for the headings outlined below, 1 column next to that entitled ‘Your Business’ and then 5 vertical columns labelled Competitor #1 through to Competitor #5 (you’ll have one vertical column per competitor).
Do a simple Google Search using your industry keywords to determine who else is delivering a similar service, in a similar way to you. For example, if you’re a Health Coach specialising in the Keto diet in Sydney, Australia, you might search for ‘ Keto Health Coach Sydney’. Write down all the names of other coaches who appear in the search results. If you’re in the online space then location is not as important. Simply search for keywords that are relevant to your perfect customer and service or product.
Try to imagine that you are your perfect customer and you’re trying to find the service you offer. Which search terms would you use?
Keep searching online until you find five competitors who you feel are most similar to you in terms of business size, service or product and the specific market they’re targeting.
Before you proceed, make sure you have a table with five columns with five of your most relevant competitors at the top of each column.
3. Analyse Your Competitor’s Business Profile
Your first task is to try to understand a bit about your competitors’ businesses. In the left-hand side of your table, write down the following row headings:
Business Overview: In this row, write down any general notes that you observe about their business. What’s their business name? What’s their brand promise?
Year Established: See if you can find information in their About section on their website about how long they’ve been operating.
Website URL: Write down their domain name (e.g. ketohealthcoach.com.au).
Company Size: Can you find out how many staff or business partners they have, if any?
4. Analyse Your Competitor’s Marketing Profile
Now try to find out everything you can about your competitors’ marketing strategy by looking carefully through their website, social media profiles, and publications they’ve produced.
You might even want to sign up for their newsletter or lead magnet if they’re offering one so that you get an insider’s perspective on what’s being offered. Don’t feel awkward, people join their competitors’ email lists all the time! It’s the best way to understand how your competitors are marketing themselves. You probably have several competitors on your email database too!
Try to write down detailed information about the following:
Target Market: Who do you think is this competitors’ perfect customer? Who are they targeting? Try to be very specific, including their gender, age, education, interests etc.
General Marketing Strategies: How are they marketing themselves? Do they run live events? Do they frequent trade shows? Do they offer free discovery sessions? Are they using Facebook Ads, and if so, what exactly are they pitching? What appears to be their main way of attracting clients?
5. Analyse Your Competitor’s Product & Service Profile
Now it’s time to analyse the different products and/or services your competitors offer. In your table, write down row headings as follows:
Products/Services: Describe their products and services. What types of programs do they offer
Pricing: How much do they charge for their various products and services? This may require some digging around or joining their newsletters in order to get pricing information.
Gather as much intelligence as possible about their products and services and write it all down in your table.
6. Analyse Your Competitor’s Website Profile
I recommend doing ‘website walks’ through each of your competitors’ websites. This means taking some time to browse through all their different web pages to get a good understanding of their business. Make notes as you go.
In your table, include the following headings:
Website Overview: Is it easy to navigate? Does it look good on mobile? Is it professional? Is their branding and messaging appealing and compelling? Would you buy from them?
Lead Generation: What do they offer on their home page? Do they offer something for free in exchange for your email address (i.e. a lead magnet)? Do they offer a free consultation to get you in the door? Or do they simply provide their phone number and tell you to ‘Book Now’? Are they offering a free challenge, webinar, or telesummit? Write it all down.
7. Analyse Your Competitor’s Social Profile
Visit your competitors’ social media accounts. Write down the following headings in your table.
Social Media Overview: Which platforms are they present on? Do they get good engagement? Are they actively replying to comments? Which one appears to be their dominant platform?
Social Media Strategies: Try to figure out what social media strategies they’re using. How are they getting their followers to engage? Are they running different promotions? Do they send people to an opt-in page? Write down all the details.
Social Media Following: Make a row for each of the social media platforms and write down the number of followers they have across each one. Capture the number of followers they have on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn, SnapChat and anywhere else they have a presence.
8. Rate Yourself Against Your Competitors
Now it’s time to use the information you’ve collected to rank yourself and each of your competitors relative to one another across the different categories. This allows you to assess how you currently stack up against your competitors.
In your table, give yourself and your competitors a score out of 10 for each of the following categories:
Social Media presence
9. Determine Your Strengths & Weaknesses Relative to Your Competitors.
Now that you’ve spent some time researching your competitors, you should have a really clear idea of your strengths and weaknesses relative to your competitors. Your table of Competitor Intelligence gives you a clear understanding of your position in the market, as well as the threats and opportunities for your brand.
Focus on building on your strengths!
While it’s good to be aware of your weaknesses, be sure to continue building on those areas where you’re a step ahead of your competitors. This will continue to set you apart from the rest.
Can you see how powerful this research can be? You should now feel confident and strong in where you are as a brand and know which steps to take to continue to establish your unique position in the market.
We can’t overstate the importance of Competitor Analysis for you and your business.
If you take the time to do it well, you’re setting yourself up for success!
We wish you all the best on your business building journey.
Have you downloaded your FREE copy of THE FEMPRENEUR SUCCESS HANDBOOK yet?
Learn the 6 stages of business growth and exactly what to focus your time and resources on in each phase so that you can fast-track your success and establish yourself as a thriving, profitable business as quickly as possible!
In service to your success,
Kate De Jong, Ph.D Fempire Coach for Thriving Female Entrepreneurs katiedejong.com email@example.com
You have passion, a huge vision and a burning desire to get your work and message into the world through your business – but how do you navigate your way through the mountains of conflicting information out there?
How do you know which advice to follow, or what to focus on first?
Our mission at Fempire is to help you cut through all the noise and help you focus on what matters most when it comes to establishing yourself as a sustainable, profitable business. Loyal customers and steady income are a result of your ability to develop trust and confidence in your brand, which takes time to build. But if you commit to implementing the following ten elements, and keep plugging away at your business with focus, passion, and determination, business success will be yours!
Here are our recommendations for the 10 most critical elements you need to implement for business success.
The Top 10 Most Important Elements That Will Set Your Business up for Success.
#1. A Professional-Looking Brand.
Don’t cut corners when it comes to your brand image. Remember, first impressions count, and in business it’s all about developing trust and confidence in you and your brand. Take the time to find a good, professional designer to create your logo, your brand colour palette and your brand fonts, and stick to your brand style consistently. Invest in some high quality portrait photos of yourself that allow your personality to shine through. It takes time to build brand awareness among your potential buyers, but it will be so much easier (and faster) if your brand looks professional.
#2. A Professional Website.
There’s a lot of advice out there about how you can build a business without a website and do all your marketing and sales through your social media channels. But if you take this approach you’re limiting yourself. Consumers searching for business in search engines will never find you if you don’t have a website. And most people will want to check out your website before they do business with you because they’re trying to establish whether they can trust and rely on you.
Your website builds brand awareness, allows you to be discoverable in search engines, establishes your credibility, and allows you to stay connected with your potential buyers through contact forms, blog comments, and your email list. Also, a website gives you the ability to do blogs, videos or podcasts – which can get you upwards of 4.5 times more leads! In this day in age, a website is a ‘must’ for your long term business success.
#3. Compelling Social Media Profiles.
In this modern age it’s essential that you have an online presence across multiple social media platforms. Your social media profiles display your credibility and authenticity. Choose at least two platforms that you will commit to and show up there consistently. You don’t have to be posting every day, but choose a consistency that you can commit to and maintain. Consistency and transparency shows that you are reliable and professional.
#4. Make Your Business Find-able.
Take some time to research the important long-form and short-form keywords that people are searching for in your niche and use these keywords across your website so that Google and other search engines can find you. Invest in your website SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) because you want to show up in search results when people are searching for services like yours. There’s a funny – but true! – saying:
Where’s the best place to hide a dead body? On page two of Google search results. – Anonymous.
You won’t get found without good SEO! Also, use appropriate hashtags so that you can be found across platforms like Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. SEO is essential for gaining paying customers. I write all about the essential fundamentals of SEO in my article How to Use SEO to Skyrocket Your Business Growth on Autopilot.
#5. Show Ample Social Proof.
Social proof is validation of you and your brand by your clients, business partners or colleagues. It establishes your credibility. You might have great marketing materials and strategies, but if you don’t show your potential customers evidence of where your service or product has worked for other people, they won’t be convinced. Social proof includes testimonials, customer reviews, brand associations, partnerships, accreditations or awards that you’ve won. It’s essential that you find a way to show genuine, compelling social proof of your product or services.
#6. Compelling and Valuable Lead Magnets.
A lead magnet is something of high value that you offer for free via your website or social media, in exchange for someone’s contact details. It’s the most effective method to grow your email database with high quality, warm leads. Your lead magnet might be an E-Book, a downloadable checklist or guide, a free video series, or a free training.
Choose a lead magnet that allows you to showcase your expertise in your niche and allows people to experience you and your brand – for free. For examples, you can check out my lead magnet page here.
Lead magnets grow your email database with potential buyers, which then allows you to nurture the relationship with them, build trust and confidence in your brand, and eventually offer your services to them so that they become paying clients. This is hands-down the most effective marketing strategy to build your business.
#7. An Email Database Manager and Follow-Up Campaign.
Once you have a lead magnet that allows you to collect the contact details of your potential buyers, you’ll need a mechanism to store all those contacts somewhere and have a way to communicate with your leads regularly. For that you’ll need an email database manager (or CRM – Customer Relationship Management) such as MailChimp, or AWeber (my favourite), or ConvertKit or InfusionSoft. For a great overview of how CRMs work and why you need one, check out this article What is a CRM by Christopher Sirk.
Did you know that on average, people require around 20 touch points with you and your brand before they’ll consider buying from you? This is why it’s so important that you begin a process of communication with your subscribers so they can get to know you and trust you. Implement a welcome campaign that includes around 2 – 5 welcome emails (spread out over 1 – 2 weeks) that provides your subscribers with information and valuable resources that showcase your expertise and establish you as an authority and leader. This will make them more likely to buy from you when you finally make your offers.
# 8. Offer and Deliver Great Services and Products.
This one goes without saying. In order to be successful in business, you obviously need to deliver services and products of a consistently high standard. Focus on delivering outstanding service and you will get great word of mouth referrals. Statistics show that 85% of small businesses get customers through word of mouth, which means you can spend less time and money on marketing and more time on doing what you do best – serving!
Find a way to package and price your services and products in a way that’s compelling and encourages repeat, long-term business with you. Develop an effective business funnel to move clients through the different offerings you have. Try to move away from charging per session or a time-for-dollar model. It’s essential that you find ways to package and leverage your services so that you can serve more people more effectively.
# 9. Produce Great Content, Consistently.
‘Content’ is the term for any original material you produce to educate or connect with your audience. Content includes blog posts, video trainings, social media posts, podcasts, or downloadable workbooks and checklists to name a few. You need to create content to build your brand awareness, to generate and nurture leads, and ultimately to generate sales.
Good content showcases your expertise, establishes you as an expert in your field, and builds that much-needed trust and confidence in you and your band. You’ll need to find a way to new, original create content regularly in order to establish yourself as a credible brand.
#10. Invest in Systems, Processes and People.
You won’t be able to do everything in your business if you want to do all of the above and focus on growing your business. You’ll need to invest in a good CRM that automatically captures and nurtures your new leads, and you’ll need to automate things such as your calendar bookings, your social media post scheduling and payment procedures so that clients can easily pay you.
It’s key that you learn to work on your business and not in your business in order to grow. As you grow, find good people to outsource your time-consuming activities to so that you can focus on serving your clients and growing your business.
Are you starting or growing your own business? Download your FREE copy of my FEMPRENEUR SUCCESS HANDBOOK to fast-track your business success! This value-packed guide contains everything I wish I knew back when I was starting my own business in 2011. Click here to download it now.
One of the greatest joys of being a business coach is witnessing how much progress our clients make.
Recently at Fempire we were over-joyed to receive a beautiful message from one of our clients Revital Chai, the director of Melbourne’s Paint for Fun, who was celebrating one year with the Fempire Group Coaching program – and a tripling of her income in that time! Here’s what Revi had to say:
This is the kind of feedback that makes our heart sing! This is why we do what we do, helping women like you to achieve business success so that you can make the impact and money you desire.
In our group coaching program, all of our clients receive a one-on-one private ‘Hour of Power’ coaching session each month to work on the specifics of their business, as well as a group training on a specific business topic with their sisterhood of fellow #ladybosses, over a period of twelve months.
I asked Revi if she would mind highlighting the specifics of what changed the game for her. Find out what she said below.
Revi’s Top 5 Game-Changers for Growing Your Business.
1. Running a business is a marathon, not a sprint.
Revi says: “First thing – the deep understanding that running a business is a marathon, not a sprint. As I’m a person who likes immediate results and I tend to sabotage if I don’t get instant results, it made me understand that if I want to be successful I need to have a clear vision and just stay focused in that direction. Be persistent and focused.”
It’s been Revi’s persistence and focus over the past 12 months that’s earned her the success she’s achieved. It doesn’t happen overnight, as most of us in business know only too well. But it absolutely does happen with sustained, consistent action and focus. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, as Revi says!
2. To be successful, you have to start planning.
Revi’s next big game-changer was planning:
“Second – planning! I hate planning but that’s something that separates successful people from the ones chasing their tails. If it’s finances (I didn’t do cash flow before Femme), marketing and working with my team to plan, I now take the time to plan because I know it grows my business.”
3. Work ON your business, not IN your business.
“Third – work ON my business and not IN my business to become bigger. So I now have people that write text, post in social media, teach, make calls etc. so I have more time to look forward and grow the business.”
This one is so important. If you’re someone who hates to delegate, or you’re a perfectionist, you’re not going to grow your business. There’s is no way you can do everything yourself when you’re running a profitable business. Outsource the activities that are highly time-consuming and allow yourself to focus your time and effort on what’s important – those things that are required to grow your business.
4. Get uncomfortable!
“Another thing – get uncomfortable! You can’t break through if you play safe – not possible. It’s OK to make mistakes as long as I’m taking actions and making moves. Follow my instincts is a good one as well.”
Yes – if you want to grow your business, you have to get uncomfortable! Learn to become friends with fear and discomfort. Do those things that scare you but you know will open doors and bring you new clients and opportunities. And listening to your intuition and following your intuition is essential too.
5. Grow – personally and professionally.
Revi’s final game-changing strategy is:
“Finally, grow as a person, be strong mentally. Which I knew already but there’s nothing like being around one to really get it.”
Are you surrounding yourself with people who are mentally strong, who uplift and inspire you? Are you finding ways to learn and grow consistently? Do you have a mentor who’s walked the path before you and knows the right steps to take? Do you have a sisterhood of women who are there to lift you up when the going gets tough, and to celebrate your successes with you?
If not, come and have a chat with us at Fempire!
Nothing gives us greater pleasure than to give you the support, knowledge, and structures to thrive in business and life. Click here to schedule a FREE, no-obligation 30-minute discovery call to understand how we can support you to achieve your business dreams.
Did you like this article? Check out these great articles too:
Are you starting or growing your own business? Download your FREE copy of my FEMPRENEUR SUCCESS HANDBOOK to fast-track your business success! This value-packed guide contains everything I wish I knew back when I was starting my own business in 2011. Click here to download it now.
And when it comes to building your own business, this is 110% true. Your mindset will make or break your ability to establish and run a profitable business.
I’ve learned many lessons along the way to building my coaching practice since 2013, often the hard way.
Here are the top ten mindset shifts you’ll need to make if you want to succeed in business in the long term.
1. Your business is not about you.
It’s a wonderful thing to go into business because you want to make a difference, or you want to have more freedom and flexibility, or be your own boss (all reasons why I started my own business). But you won’t survive long in business unless you’re selling something that people need.
Your job is to figure out the ‘pain points’ that people in your niche struggle with, and then find a way to help them overcome those challenges. And do it in a way that’s different to, and better than, your competitors.
Obviously you want to do something you love and enjoy so you can go the distance, but make sure it’s something people need – and if you do, you will succeed.
2. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
If you’re going into business for a quick solution to your money problems, you’re in for a big disappointment. It takes time and persistence to build a profitable business from the ground up. You need to take consistent actions each and every day and have realistic expectations.
You have to be in it for the long haul. It won’t happen overnight.
In those start-up years, try to view your time and efforts as a process of planting seeds, with the intention to eventually harvest a crop. You’re spending your time sowing the ground, making it fertile, and nurturing your seedlings with the right conditions. Over a period of time, your seeds will start to bloom and you’ll eventually harvest the rewards.
If you’re willing to stick it out with persistence and dedication, you will absolutely get there.
3. Know your ‘Why’.
Do you know why you’re in business?
There’s a reason you’re pursuing your business.
What is it?
What’s the specific difference you want to make through your work?
Powerful brands have a clear vision that their clients resonate with.
As the great author and speaker Simon Sinek often says:
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
Every business knows what they do, and most businesses know how they do it – their systems, processes, or programs. But few businesses know how to articulate their why – their purpose, cause or belief. And as Simon Sinek says:
“Your WHY is why anyone would care about what you do”.
What do you believe?
When it comes to your business, finish the sentence: “Because I believe …”.
Forget about anyone else. You’re not here to serve them.
4. Be obsessed with your ‘why’.
You might have started your own business because you’re passionate about making a difference, or doing things on your own terms. But as a business owner, passion isn’t enough – you need obsession in order to succeed.
While it can be a wonderful experience building your own business, you also get knocked down and experience rejection, obstacles, and self-doubt on your path to business success. And your obsession will get you through the tough times and inspire you to keep going. It’ll get you back on the horse after it kicks you off.
Make sure your business vision is one you’re willing to obsess over!
5. Be willing to get uncomfortable – often.
To succeed in business, you’ll have to become friends with fear and discomfort. You’ll be required to step out of your comfort zone and do things you might never have done before.
Whether it be public speaking, live videos, networking, or something else you find scary, you’ll need to put yourself out there in ways that are bigger than you have before. You’ll need to say ‘yes’ to anything that helps build your brand visibility and awareness.
It’s completely natural to feel fear – you’re literally hard-wired to feel scared whenever you step out of your comfort zone; that’s how we’ve managed to survive as a species for so long.
6. You’ve got this. Develop an unshakeable belief in yourself.
When you’re building your own business, all of your inner critics will rise to the surface for you to face. Those little voices in your head that say “You’re not good enough” (or other such untrue things) will be right there every time you make a brave decision to step out and put your work out into the public domain. Be prepared to work on your mindset constantly and do whatever it takes to develop a strong mind and an unshakeable belief in yourself and your abilities.
One of the big stumbling blocks for many small business owners is the mindset that you need to invest time and money in order to grow a business. Some people go into business thinking they’ll be making great money within 12 months, with little investment, while this is rarely the case. I’m going to use a chicken and egg metaphor here to describe what I mean and compare it to being an employee.
As a new employee, you’re joining a company that already has a profitable ‘hen’ (business structure) that’s laying eggs (generating income). Therefore as an employee, you show up and do your work, and you get paid (you receive some eggs).
But when you’re starting out in business, your job is to first build your ‘hen’. You need to go through the process of establishing profitable programs, structures and systems to bring in reliable revenue streams.
You can’t expect your chicken to start laying eggs immediately. It’s impossible! That’s like asking your two-week-old chick to hurry up and lay eggs. It won’t happen!
It takes time, money, and patience to get your business off the ground. Be prepared to build your chicken first. The eggs will come later.
8. Adapt a CEO mindset.
The mindset of a business owner is drastically different from an employee mindset. As CEO of your business, you know that the onus is on you to bring in clients, deliver great customer service and develop a base of raving fans. You need to develop an entrepreneurial mindset. Here are some of the qualities you’ll need to develop to succeed as the CEO of your business:
Be constantly on the lookout for opportunities and follow them up rigorously.
Get out and network and build relationships.
Stay on top of industry and market trends.
Get connected with other leaders in your field.
Be optimistic but realistic.
Take calculated risks.
Develop great communication skills.
Learn from your mistakes.
Be an inspiring leader.
Think outside the box.
Be flexible and adapt quickly.
9. Develop a positive relationship with money.
Starting a business requires money to start, to operate and for you to live on as you get established. If you’re not good at managing money, those bad habits will follow you into your business. Your ability to generate profit requires the discipline of tracking every cent and reviewing your numbers as you go, so you can start to see patterns and be on the lookout for ways to reduce your operating costs and increase your profit margins. Especially in the early years, you have to be frugal. Which is not something a lot of business owners want to hear! You’ll need to get into the habit of saving as much as you can so that you always have a cash surplus. The number two reason why most businesses fail is they“run out of cash”.
Become friendly with the concept of Return on Investment. Don’t look at something as an ‘expense’, but view it as an ‘investment’ instead. And how much are you likely to save or get back in return by investing that money? Are you prepared to spend now to save later?
10. Fall in love with planning.
If you’re someone who likes to fly by the seat of your pants, you’re going to struggle in business. Business success requires solid forward planning and strategy.
Successful business owners have their entire year of marketing and service activities mapped out, and they have budgets and income forecasts to accompany it.
You’ll need to embrace the habit of sitting down at the beginning of each month and mapping out what you need to create, achieve, and deliver. I can tell you from experience that planning is something you can learn to love, especially when you experience how much easier it can make your life – and not to mention profitability!
And perhaps most importantly – enjoy the ride!
It’s not easy to establish a profitable business, but there’s also nothing quite as rewarding or fulfilling either.
You get to be your own boss, earn your own income, and create something that didn’t exist before that has a positive impact on other people. And if you can truly enjoy what you do each and every day, the whole journey will be so much sweeter.
I hope these mindset strategies will help you set yourself up for success so you can enjoy becoming a successful business owner!
Are you starting or growing your own business? Download your FREE copy of THE FEMPRENEUR SUCCESS HANDBOOK to fast-track your business success! This value-packed guide contains everything I wish I knew back when I was starting my own business in 2011.Click here to download it now.
There’s a path that’s perfect for you… let me help you find it.
– Kate De Jong
It’s been many years since I left my corporate career and took the leap of faith to follow my heart.
When I finally realised that I not only wanted, but needed, to quit my career, there were no career coaches or mentors I knew who could guide me through the process of transition. I had no idea what I wanted to do. I only knew that continuing on my current path was no longer an option. Fumbling along on my own, my transition was filled with more doubt, fear, and uncertainty than was necessary. And this is why I’m now so dedicated to being a guide for you, to help you avoid the struggle I went through, and to help you transition into a life you love with ease, grace and, most of all – joy.
Are you living fully in alignment with your personal truth, both personally and professionally?
Are you walking your true path?
What is your ‘true path’? I define it like this.
Your ‘true path’ is the path or vocation that allows you to express yourself fully and to contribute your unique gifts in service to something you care about, while making a positive difference and earning you an abundant, reliable income.
Do you long to feel more fulfilment and joy in your professional life? Do you wish you could wake up each morning excited to jump out of bed and start your day because you absolutely love what you do? Do you wish that your work could energise, uplift, and nourish you? Does all of that sound wonderful, but also like an impossible dream? If so, I’m here to tell you that it might be closer within your reach than it seems, and I’m here to guide you there.
I know how painful it feels to wake up each morning with a sense of dread, knowing that you have a busy day ahead with so many meetings to attend, deadlines to meet and different balls to juggle. And that despite how ‘busy’ and full your days are, you still won’t be able to escape that nagging feeling of emptiness inside.
If you’re tired of the struggle and you yearn for something different, it’s time.
Your feelings of frustration and emptiness are a signal that you’ve wandered off your true path. Prolonged struggle and frustration are not noble, admirable or necessary. If you’d tried to tell me that seven years ago, I wouldn’t have believed you. I’d grown up hearing constant messages like “Success takes hard work, grit, and determination” and “Nothing worth having comes easy”. I had seen my parents work incredibly hard to build their lives and I believed I would have to do the same.
But here’s what I now know: Yes, of course you will have to work hard to achieve your goals and dreams, but if it feels like hard work, you’re probably doing the wrong thing. When you follow your heart and do what you’re good at, what you’re passionate about, it won’t feel like hard work. It feels easy, joyful and fun. But you’ll find that you’ll want to work hard, because you love what you do.
There’s no ‘struggle’ on your true path, just committed and inspired action that feels good!
Take some time to tune into how you feel about your work right now. Do you look forward to getting stuck into your work each day? Or do you feel a certain level of anxiety about it? Does your work inspire and uplift you? Or does it bore you or tax you too heavily? Does it feel light, easy and joyful? Or does it feel constricting and heavy? Does your work fill you with a sense of purpose and meaning? Or is it something you do to pay the bills? You’ll know if you’re on your ‘true path’ or not – and if you’re not, what I’m about to tell you will help you find it.
How to Find and Walk Your True Path
“Sometimes your hear a voice through the door calling you… This turning toward what you deeply love saves you” – Rumi
Step 1: Turn and Face the Longing
The first thing you need to do in the quest to find your true path is turn and face the longing. This is hard for many of us; I know it was for me. I felt scared that if I surrendered to my deepest desires, I’d be completely overtaken by them. I had responsibilities and obligations after all. I had bills and a mortgage to pay, savings and superannuation plans to build, and a rising cost of living to cover. Over the years, the ‘Golden Handcuffs’ had kept my straying heart at bay, with financial benefits and bonuses rewarded to me in exchange for my loyalty to the company. How could I possibly give that up to follow my heart’s wild impulses?
As Oprah says in her book O’s Little Guide to Finding Your True Purpose “Concerns about money and status long ago extinguished most people’s ability to think authentically about their career options.” I’d been so caught up in my perceived obligations and expectations from others that I’d learned to suppress my heart’s desires at all cost.
In my ‘Moment of Clarity’ I’d finally realised that my constant effort to suppress my authentic desires was the cause of all my feelings of emptiness and depletion.
It took an enormous amount of courage to walk away from all the financial security into the fire of risk and uncertainty, to surrender to those deep desires.
But I haven’t regretted it for a second. The feelings of freedom and satisfaction I now feel are indescribable. With the right guidance and support and a pragmatic risk management plan in place, you can navigate the process of career transition with grace and ease and set yourself up financially relatively quickly. When you do what you love, the money will flow. I have seen this happen too many times with my clients to think otherwise.
If you hear your heart whispering but feel too afraid of the risks involved, I urge you to ask yourself this question:
What is the cost to you of not following your heart?
How is your current career direction impacting your health, your happiness, your relationships, your family life, your freedom, your ability to have fun and enjoy life, and your sanity? Try to imagine how you will feel at the end of your life about the decisions you’ve made. In Bronnie Ware’s famous blog article Regrets of the Dying she describes the number one top regret of her elderly patients as:
“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me”.
You have a choice. You can choose to commit to following your heart and doing whatever it takes to be true to yourself. Or you can live with the whispers in your heart for the rest of the days and wonder what it would have been like if you’d had the courage to follow them. Which one do you choose?
Don’t be afraid. Turn and face the longing.
If you truly wish to live a life that is fulfilling, joyful, rewarding, deeply satisfying and abundant, you must start to listen to the whispers. Your desires contain the seeds of your calling. Yes, your path will be challenging at times like every path in life, but the rewards will be greater than anything you could ever imagine. You’ll feel profound levels of joy, freedom, prosperity and satisfaction when you make the decision to find and walk your true path, full out.
Step 2: Start the Process of Figuring Out What You Really Want to Do.
So, what do you really want to do? That’s the million dollar question! And it’s not one we’re easily able to answer. If you’re like most of us, you’ve probably heard the whispers in your heart and you know you can’t ignore them any longer. And yet you don’t have enough clarity to know what those whispers mean and how they could possibly translate into a new career direction. It’s very difficult to decipher the whispers and yearnings to know what you really want. As the famous psychologist Abraham Maslow once said:
It isn’t normal to know what we want. It is a rare and difficult psychological achievement. – Abraham Maslow
So don’t be discouraged if you feel lost and confused; it’s completely normal.
I know how difficult it can be to feel the longing for a more joyful and fulfilling professional life, and at the same time to have no idea how to make sense of the longings to create a new career direction that really is the right direction.
The last thing you want to do is give up your current career and financial security to follow a brilliant idea you have, only to find out that your new direction doesn’t leave you feeling truly happy and fulfilled either.
So before you take the leap of faith to forge a new career path, take the time to do some deep self-reflection to uncover the four elements that are critical to finding your true path.
Your True Path or Purpose: Where your natural ability meets your true nature, your passion, and your ability to meet a societal need (profit).
You’ll know when you’ve found your purpose: You’ll find unlimited creative energy, motivation, inspiration, dedication, devotion and a deep and lasting sense of satisfaction and fulfilment.
Finding your professional purpose feels like coming home.
It connects you to something fundamental to your sense of identity, purpose, and well-being. Living in this zone provides a sense of self-revelation, of defining and expressing who you really are and you finally know – without a shadow of a doubt – that this is what you’re ‘meant’ to be doing with your life. There’s a feeling of devotion and obsession, almost. Many people who finally find their unique calling describe it as an ‘epiphany’.
Step 3: Clarity Comes Through Consistent, Inspired Action.
If you’re waiting to find out exactly what your calling is before you start to take action, you might end up waiting forever. You’ll only discover what you’re ‘meant’ to do by getting out there and trying different things. You might have lots of wonderful ideas, but it’s not until you actually engage in them that you discover whether they really are the foundation of your true calling. When experimenting with different ideas, be sure to pay close attention to what lifts your energy and excites you and to keep moving in that direction. If you try something and realise it’s not what you thought it would be, that’s OK and completely normal. Try to view the whole exercise of finding your calling as one of trial and error, adventure and discovery.
There is no failure, only feedback.
All feedback is useful and helpful. But don’t quit your job and pin all your hopes on a big idea you have before you’ve had a chance to test it out. The big question I often get asked is “When is the right time to quit my job?” This will depend entirely on your unique situation and the answer is different for everyone. If you’re happy (enough) where you are to try different ideas while still holding down your full-time job, that is the best option. Try to provide yourself with as much financial stability as you can while experimenting so that you don’t have the stress of finances while trying to find your way. If you want to break free and go it alone, figure out how much money you’ll need to cover your cost of living for at least six months and make sure you can cover it before you throw yourself into the new venture.
It takes time to build momentum and get traction.
Inform yourself as much as you can about your idea or new career direction. Read up on everything you can and better still, talk to people who are already working in the fields you’re interested in. You’ll find that most people are happy to let you buy them a coffee in exchange for some insight into what their job is like and what a typical day looks like. Dave Evans and Bill Burnett call these Life Design Interviews, where you interview people with the intent to find out more information about different vocations. A wonderful by-product of these conversations is a valuable network and connections in fields you’re interested in.
Don’t jump into a new venture without first informing yourself fully. Research, investigate and talk to as many people as is humanly possible.
Step 4: Leap!
As scary as it sounds, at some stage you will have to take the leap of faith and dedicate all your time and resources to your new career direction. This feels incredibly scary, I know. Something I’ve discovered since quitting my corporate career in 2011 to build my own thriving coaching practice is this:
Fear and excitement are in constant tension on your true path.
You’ll be called to do things you haven’t done before. You’ll have to jump without knowing whether you’ll land on safe ground. And you must be prepared to feel the fear and do it anyway. In Jenny Blake’s wonderful book Pivot she reminds us “Do not expect courage to rain down from the sky before you make a move. It comes from taking action. Courage will not arrive in full [beforehand]; it will appear afterward, when the confidence from making a life-changing decision settles in… The more courageous action you take connected with your vision and values, the more confident you will feel along the way.”
Step 5: Get the Right Guidance and Support on Your Journey
Finally, remember that you can’t do it alone. We all need guidance, advice, support, cheer leading and mentoring from those who have walked before us. I’ve been so fortunate to have the help and support of many mentors throughout my journey who each provided a valuable piece of the puzzle. It’s thanks to their wisdom and guidance that I’ve managed to build my thriving coaching practice that allows me to do what I love and love what I do while helping countless men and women to find their true path and live the life of their dreams. If you feel stuck and need help, I’m here for you! Please do get the guidance you need. I know how frustrating it is to feel lost and stuck, and it’s not necessary!
Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to help you navigate through the fear, doubt and uncertainty into your ‘zone of magic’ where your clarity, confidence, and abundance reside.
Those of you who run your own business know how critical it is to be able to articulate clearly who you are, what you do, for whom, and why. And yet it also happens to be one of the most difficult things to do.
When I first felt the call to step out of the corporate world and into the entrepreneurial world, I was full of ideas and excitement. Finally I was going to be able to unleash my own unique genius in the way that I wanted and I was going to do things on my terms, in my own way. I had a vague idea of how I wanted to serve others through my business, and I thought that would be enough to get started.
But it wasn’t.
I struggled to find the right words to explain what I do in my branding and marketing material in a way that would captivate and magnetize people. Despite the passion I felt in my own heart, I wasn’t able to convey that passion to others in a way that made sense to them.
And then the dreaded question at social gatherings – “What do you do for a living?”
I always dreaded that question because no matter how hard I tried, I struggled to spit out a powerful, succinct answer. And my business was suffering as a result. I failed to consistently attract the right people who needed what I uniquely had to offer.
ArtMark is a group program designed to help you “Captivate Customers and Community with an Irresistible Brand Message and Story.” The program helps you get crystal clear on your unique brand promise, identity, and services – and perhaps most importantly – who you are here specifically to serve.
Jeffrey’s philosophy and approach are built around the idea that inner clarity about your business comes from a deep awareness and appreciation of your own unique personality, gifts, and strengths.
The program begins with a deep dive into understanding your unique personality, and how you specifically captivate and elevate people. One of the tools used is Sally Hogshead’s Fascination Advantage Personality Test, which helps you discover the Primary and Secondary Archetypes that best describe your unique personality – and more importantly, how to leverage them fully to captivate your audience.
The program then leads you through a deep process of self-reflection and self-discovery to uncover:
Who your competitors are and how they present their unique brand message and story so that you can understand where you fit into the already existing market;
‘Your Signature Elixir’ – the unique services that you offer that solve a particular problem that people have.
Developing your Captivating Story to magnetize your people.
Your ‘Gallery of Experiences’ that will serve your people in the most effective way (often referred to as Business Funnel – as a side note, Jeffrey has developed a refreshing vocabulary to describe common marketing terms in a way that feels much more authentic, customer-focused, and service-oriented.)
Your Visibility Strategy.
The beauty of the program is that it helps you distill large amounts of information and self-analysis into succinct sentences that capture who you are and what you do. The ability to clearly describe yourself, your mission, and your vision, are truly empowering.
Here are some of the sentences that emerged on my ArtMark journey, which have allowed me to overhaul my branding and marketing strategy and materials in order to attract the people I am here to specifically serve.
My Anthem (My Fascinate Unique Advantage)
I guide people to freedom and joy by reconnecting them to their hearts and true potential.
In a world where we’re so often pressured to be something that we’re not, I guide and empower heart-centered professionals to find and walk their true path so they can make a difference doing work they love.
Helping Heart-Centered Changemakers Find and Walk Their True Path.
The biggest revelation in the whole ArtMark experience for me personally was discovering the words to describe my ‘niche’. I’d struggled for so long to clearly articulate this part, which meant that I sometimes attracted clients who were a great fit to work with me – and sometimes not. I could never quite understand what the missing piece was in being able to consistently attract the right people.
There have always been a couple of threads running through my unique ‘purpose’.
I empower people to reconnect with their authentic voice and to live their truth proudly and impactfully.
I help people who feel unfulfilled in their career to find the path that allows them to express themselves and their unique gifts fully.
Until ArtMark I was missing the one critical thread that makes my purpose complete:
3. I help heart-centered changemakers make the impact they desire.
These were the words I finally uncovered thanks to Jeffrey’s powerful process:
My hat goes off to Jeffrey and his team for their ability to help passionate and budding entrepreneurs like myself and my fellow ArtMark colleagues find the clarity and insight we desperately need in order to thrive in business and make our unique impact on the world.
Doing It Together
Jeffrey’s operating motto is always “Doing it together (DIT) beats Doing it Yourself (DIY)”. To honour some of the great work being done by my ArtMark colleagues, here are some beautiful branding examples that are the result of this year’s ArtMark experience.
Do you feel resistance when it comes to setting goals?
I know I have in the past. The whole process can feel too masculine, pushy, or ‘corporate’.
I do, however, believe that the act of tuning into your heart to listen to what wants to be expressed or created through you is essential to creating a life you love. Without some form of heart-centered intention or goal, you can drift aimlessly in a sea of possibility without having anything secure to anchor yourself onto.
Research (like this) has shown that you feel happiest when you having something to work towards that allows you to really stretch, unleash your full creativity and potential, and contribute to something you care about.
A clear, heart-centered goal acts as an internal compass to guide your daily decisions towards your ‘true north’, allowing you to more intentionally create a life you love.
What do I mean by your ‘true north’?
I mean the genuine, authentic desires of your heart and soul. And heart-centered goals are the means by which you align yourself with your true north.
An essential component of setting heart-centered goals is the act of first tuning into how you want to feel. I give full credit to Danielle LaPorte and her Core Desired Feelings concept that has been a major force in shaping how I now approach goal-setting. Danielle was one of the first people to make me aware of how we have our traditional goal-setting processes backward. Traditionally, we focus on an end goal without taking the time to figure out how we actually want to feel, which often leaves us feeling empty and discontent when we actually reach the goal, because it didn’t actually make us feel how we wanted.
A heart-centered goal lights you up just thinking about it. The thought of reaching it uplifts, inspires and motivates you.
Heart-centered goals lead to ‘inspired action’; tasks and actions that feel exciting and joyful. If you’re feeling the need to set some powerful, heart-centered goals for the year ahead that will actually get you to where you want to be, I recommend you use the following process. This may take some time, but I promise you it’s worth it.
How to Create Powerful, Heart-Centered Goals That Actually Work in 6 Steps
Step 1: Acknowledge & celebrate everything you did and experienced in the previous year, or the year so far.
Sometimes we don’t give ourselves enough credit for everything we do do, and instead focus on what we think is still missing. The simple act of documenting, acknowledging, and celebrating everything you did in the previous year lights the fires of passion, purpose, and creativity for the year ahead. Gratitude and appreciation for all the goodness that manifested in your life provides an inspiring and exciting platform from which to springboard into your dreaming and goal setting. The easiest way to do this step is to write it all down, making sure you document:
What you DID;
How you GREW;
What you LEARNED;
Which new CONNECTIONS or networks you established;
And any other highlights of the year that feel significant.
Make sure you find a way to celebrate and give gratitude for all the goodness that manifested in your life. If it feels right for you, close your eyes and spend some time in quiet gratitude. Perhaps light a candle. Practicing gratitude stimulates all the wonderful high-frequency emotions that are necessary for getting into an effective frame of mind for goal setting (including appreciation, joy, optimism, hope, grace, ease etc).
Step 2: Tune into the vision and mission you have for your life.
To effectively map out exciting and magnetic goals it’s important that you first tune into a vision of your future that makes you feel really excited when you think about it, as well as your purpose. There is a subtle but very important distinction between your vision and your purpose. They’re very closely linked, but you can think of it this way:
“If your vision is the map, your mission (or purpose) is your inner compass.”
– Jeffrey Davis, Tracking Wonder
Your vision is the final destination you desire to arrive at. You need a map to show you where you are now and where you want to end up (your vision). Then you need a compass (your mission) to help you continuously point yourself in the right direction, in order to reach your final destination. Your vision summarises the qualities of the life you would like to live, while your purpose defines the details of how you serve others through your work.
Your purpose statement should contain a summary of WHO you want to serve, HOW you help your people, and WHAT the result will be from your actions. To help you get the idea and to stimulate your own reflective juices flow, here is my current vision and purpose (these tend to evolve as I grow and evolve):
What is your vision for your future? This might be something you’re very clear about. Or maybe it’s something that’s still a bit murky for you.
To develop your own vision, try to think about what your ideal, dream life would look like in 5 – 10 years time. What would you be doing? What kind of person will you be? What are the qualities of the life you desire to experience? What is the end destination that excites and uplifts you? And how would you define your personal purpose?
Step 3: Get clear on how you want to feel in the year ahead.
I believe this is the critical missing piece in all of our goal-setting processes. Failing to take the time to do this step might set you up to achieve goals that don’t necessarily make you happy or satisfied or fulfilled. To tune into how you want to feel, take some time to get quiet. Take a few deep breaths in and out. Place your attention into your heart space if you can. Take a few deep breaths and really feel into the energy in your heart centre. As you try to keep your focus there, ask yourself:
“How do I want to feel this year?”
Write down whichever words come up for you. My words for this year are:
Step 4: Engage in divergent thinking to dream big and imagine quantum leaps for your life!
If you want to set exciting, uplifting goals, it’s CRITICAL that you undergo some form of DIVERGENT THINKING before you narrow yourself down and choose goals that you want to shoot for in the year ahead.
We use divergent thinking to CREATE CHOICES, and then we use convergent thinking to MAKE CHOICES.
An important part of the divergent thinking process is allowing yourself to DREAM BIG and to expect ‘quantum leaps’ in your life. In the video below, I describe how Price Pritchett defines Quantum Leaps in his book You2 – A High-Velocity Formula for Multiplying Your Personal Effectiveness in Quantum Leaps. I highly recommend reading his book if you want to learn more about his approach, which integrates quantum physics principles into personal effectiveness tools.
Don’t you think it’s a pretty amazing thing that the only thing limiting us in life is our imagination? That we can literally do anything we want if our heart and soul want it badly enough? We get to literally dream up the life we want to live. As Price Pritchett says in his book You2:
“Seeking the quantum leap means violating the boundary of the probable. It means achieving well beyond the obvious. So don’t limit your desires to what you think you ‘can have’ …. start going after what you ‘want’. This means you must give yourself permission to dream, to risk. You must set yourself free.” – Price Pritchett
Once you get clear and excited about what you ‘want’, you can create it through harnessing the proven physical laws of our Universe, including The Law of Attraction. To learn more about this, check out my articles:
Now that you understand what Quantum Leaps are, here’s how you can align your quantum leaps with your core desired feelings that you uncovered in Step 3.
How to do ‘divergent thinking’ that opens your mind to the possibility of ‘quantum leaps’.
Task 1: In your journal or notebook, write down all the words you chose as your CORE DESIRED FEELINGS for the year ahead on the left-hand side.
Task 2: Next to each desired feeling, make two columns. In the first column, try to brainstorm some ‘normal’ goals, i.e. what Price Pritchett would refer to as your 10% incremental goals. This is how we usually approach the goal-setting process, setting goals that we believe are within are ‘achievable’ range. In the next column, brainstorm some possible Quantum Leap goals, i.e. things that require you to stretch your imagination and dream bigger than normal. What would be REALLY AMAZING if you could achieve it next year? This is where you get to play with your imagination and dream up some really BIG and EXCITING goals!
Step 5: Choose the goals you want to focus on in the year ahead.
Now that you’ve been through a process of divergent thinking, now it’s time to ‘converge’ and choose which goals you want to aim for in the year ahead. When doing this, remember that ‘more’ is not necessarily ‘better’. Choosing a few quality goals that are closely aligned with your desired feelings and desired quantum leaps will position you to live a wonderful year. Be sure to check each goal with these questions:
Will this goal help me feel the way I want to feel?
Is this goal aligned with my authentic heart’s desires?
It’s also important not to focus on a single outcome (e.g. Publish my book), but rather to set goals that define the various milestones you’ll need to reach in order to reach that outcome (for example: Finalise the book structure, secure book agent, submit first draft etc). This is called ‘chunking down’ the goals into tangible milestones that you can work towards. This is where you get the chance to be specific and set realistic, yet challenging milestones and targets.
To be effective, your goals need to feel like a stretch (but not too much of a stretch that it feels overwhelming), and they need to feel exciting!
This allows you to take ‘inspired action’ that feels good.
Step 6: Get your goals and milestones into your diary and put them somewhere where you can see them!
To make your goals real, you’ll need to schedule them into your Yearly Planner so that you can work towards them. Put them somewhere where you can see them and be reminded of them consistently.
Lastly, have a think about some support structures you can put in place to make sure you regularly check in with your goals and modify them if needed if they’re not aligning with your desired feelings. What support structures can you put in place? A vision board? Hanging your goals up somewhere where you can see them? Telling your partner so they can remind you? Telling a friend and asking them to check in with you? Joining a group that will actively support you in pursuing your goals?
Once you decide on the goals, the actions and the support structures you’ll put in place to achieve your goals, you’re on your way!
I sincerely hope this article helps you set yourself up for a wonderful year and I wish you so much success and magic in creating the life you love.
In service to helping you live your brightest life,
Those of us who choose to be a small business owner are in some way required to step into leadership, even if we’re not explicitly aware of it.
When I quit my corporate career of almost fifteen years as a Consulting Engineer in 2011, it wasn’t because I wanted to become a leader. I’d taken on various leadership roles throughout my career and enjoyed the opportunity to lead, support and inspire others. But I quit my corporate career because I wanted to experience more joy in my work, more creativity, more authentic self-expression, and perhaps most importantly, I wanted to be more impactful and to serve others more effectively.
As time has gone on, it’s dawned on me that in order to fulfil my dream of creating positive change through my business, I need to consciously and proactively step into leadership; which is not something I was prepared for, at least initially.
As I grow and evolve my ‘craft’ with time and experience, I’m realising that if I want to thrive as a business and as my own personal brand I must:
Step out of the shadows and claim my position as a leader;
Have a clear vision that inspires and resonates with people;
Be able to communicate that vision and why it’s important;
Know how to serve my people with services and products that help move them towards that vision.
Like all of us, I’ve had the opportunity to observe some great leaders over the course of my life, and some not-so-good examples of leadership. The great leaders are, of course, the ones we all aspire to be. And if we want to create positive change in the world as business owners, we need to be great leaders.
To me, the single most defining quality of a ‘great leader’ is their genuine passion and devotion to serving their people.
It’s often easy to tell who is in the game of leadership to further their own egotistical pursuits (power, status, influence or control) as opposed to those who are in it to make a difference. In his book Return on Character: The Real Reason Leaders and Their Companies Win (2015), Fred Kiehl describes the results of seven years of a landmark study of more than 100 CEOs and over 8,000 of their employee’s observations of their leaders. He showed that leaders of ‘strong character’ achieved up to five times the Return of Assets (ROA) for their organizations than leaders of ‘weak character’.
Kiehl defined four qualities that leaders of ‘strong character’ show:
As I reflected on those qualities, it took me back to some of the moments in my life when I’ve personally experienced leaders of ‘strong character’ and the profound effect they had on me, including:
The boss who came past each morning and asked my team members and I individually how we were going. Not in a superficial chit-chat kind of way, but in a genuine “How are you and is there anything you need to do your best work today?” kind of way.
The senior colleague who believed in me and empowered me to step up, break out of my comfort zone and achieve more than I thought was possible.
The manager who took it upon himself to undertake hard negotiation with company executives on our behalf to significantly improve our salaries and workplace conditions.
The manager who took responsibility for a ‘big mistake’ on behalf of our team, worked with us to brainstorm solutions and empowered us to collaboratively get things back on track; no blame, just compassion, forgiveness, and empowerment to move ahead.
The manager who very compassionately told me to go home to rest and take care of myself when I wanted to keep working through a personal crisis.
The leader on Twitter who says she’s working on a particular issue of national concern and would like to hear everyone’s input and feedback in her comments section. She then reads all of them and acts upon them, responding to all the concerns raised.
As small business owners, it’s even more critical that we continuously display qualities of strong character because our strength of character is our business; it’s our personal brand.
And since Kiehl has shown an astounding 5-times increase in financial performance in businesses with ‘leaders of strong character’, strong leadership is critical to deciding whether our business will thrive or fizzle out. So to all you small business owners out there who want to step up your leadership game and more consciously and proactively choose to be a leader of ‘strong character’, here are my 7 tips on how to do it:
Have a clear and inspiring vision of the future that serves as your inner compass and the compass for your business – #vision.
Embody the morals, principles and values of your vision – ‘walk the talk’ – #integrity.
Demonstrate your genuine passion for your vision and for serving your people – #service #passion #devotion.
Genuinely care about the people you’re serving and leading. Connect with them. Request regular feedback, listen to the feedback and act upon it – #listen #Compassion.
Believe in your people and inspire them to be better, do more and reach higher – #empower #believe #inspire.
Be transparent and vulnerable when you need to be. Admit your mistakes. It’s OK to be ‘imperfect’ and still lead your people. Genuine vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness and your people will respect you even more for it – #responsibility #forgiveness
Be kind, compassionate and forgiving to others. Failure is success when we learn from it – #failureisfeedback.
What are some of the commitments you can make to yourself to uphold greater levels of ‘character’ and become a truly inspiring leader in your role as a business owner?
Are you starting or growing your own business? Download your FREE copy of my FEMPRENEUR SUCCESS HANDBOOK to fast-track your business success! This value-packed guide contains everything I wish I knew back when I was starting my own business in 2011. Click here to download it now.
A trusted asset who takes away your frustrations by completing the tasks you don’t want to do, letting you focus on what you love.
It can be so hard when you’re starting your own business, or running a ‘side hustle’ alongside your main job, or even trying to stay up to date in the rapidly changing online world. For Gen-X people like me (born 1963 – 1980) or older, it’s particularly challenging since we haven’t grown up with the Internet, Social Media and the Online Business World like the younger generations have.
Proficient ‘digital literacy’ isn’t part of our basic, native skill set, unless we’ve been educated and worked specifically in the IT fields. When I see how easily my 6- and 3-year-old boys navigate an iPad or computer, or how easily a ‘Millennial’ navigates their way through the online world, I realise how much things have changed since I was growing up and how much we’ve had to learn and adapt to stay afloat.
There have been so many technological breakthroughs during our short lifetimes
… from the emergence of home computers, to fax machines, to E-mail … from ‘floppy discs’ to recordable CDs to USB memory sticks … from record players to tape cassettes (and ‘Walkmans’), to CDs and then to MP3 players … from Analog TV with four channels to cable-TV with 100+ channels … from basic old Radio to ‘online streaming’ … from videocassettes to DVDs and eventually Netflix-like systems. It’s been one continuous stream of technology upgrades that requires constant adaptation to stay ‘up with it’.
The very first Apple Mac computer that we had in our home in the ’80s. We felt very modern and ahead of the times!
Still, I was proud that I always adapted well to all the technology changes. I embraced social media in 2007 and was doing fine in my previous career as a Consulting Engineer, mastering all the software and technology systems we used to do our work efficiently.
I thought I was doing pretty well at keeping up with the times…. Until I started my own business.
And then I realised oh how very little I actually knew about anything in the online digital world. Of course one of the first things I had to do was develop my own website, which meant finding a domain provider, a web host, choose a website builder, develop a logo and brand colour scheme, choose an email marketing host (which one?!), build an email list, understand digital marketing, develop digital products for my marketing, make sure my website was SEO-friendly (what’s that?!), choose business management software. People were recommending all kinds of different platforms/scheduling tools/business ‘must-haves’.
To say my head was swimming in this sea of endless information would be an understatement. There were times when I just felt like curling up into a ball and retreating back into my old corporate career where none of this stuff was necessary.
I’m usually pretty good at figuring stuff out. But at some stage, I had to admit that I was well and truly LOST. There were two things that helped me navigate through all the noise and FINALLY find my way in this seemingly impossible world of digital information:
1. A great business coach.
2. My Virtual Assistant (VA).
My business coach helped me “see the wood for the trees”, helping me figure out what was important at that stage in my business and to choose systems and strategies that would work for me. We developed a business strategy for my small coaching business. This gave me an enormous boost of clarity and was a big help in moving forward (if you’re stuck, I really highly recommend working with a good business coach).
My business coach often suggested that I start employing a “V.A.” to help me out with all the tasks that were needed to set up and keep things running. When she first said “V.A.” I didn’t have a clue what she was talking about. And when she explained what it meant, I resisted the idea enormously. I was just starting out and hardly making any money, so how could I afford to pay someone to work for me?
But it’s the chicken and egg thing.
Do you continue spending your time doing things that are well outside of your own ‘zone of genius’, or do you hire someone who’s incredibly savvy in the online world to do these things for you in the blink of an eye? Do you first need to make money before you can pay someone to help you? Or do you need someone to help you before you can start earning money? It’s been my experience that it’s the latter.
A Virtual Assistant is someone who is right on top of everything in the online world. They’ve either been trained or educated in the world of web development, software and/or digital marketing, or they’ve worked in these fields their whole career and so it’s second nature to them. So things that feel hard and clunky for many of us feel very easy and light for them. Their genius is website development, social media engagement, digital marketing and more … all the things that are clearly NOT my genius.
And hiring a VA is not as overwhelming or daunting as it might seem.
You can initially hire someone for just a couple of hours a month to help you with the most basic tasks you need covering. And as your business grows, you can increase those hours as you need. But it’s certainly been my experience that they can at the very least help you GET THE BALL ROLLING, and once it’s rolling, they can help you keep it rolling smoothly (as possible).
So what kind of tasks can a Virtual Assistant do for you?
Here are some examples of what they can do for you:
Website changes, web page development, sales pages, website analytics to measure your site’s performance;
Set up your online payments or accounting/invoicing systems;
SEO-optimisation for your website;
Social media graphics, social media scheduling, social media analytics to measure how you’re performing;
Email community newsletters, Email broadcasts for particular promotions;
Blog broadcasting and distribution;
Manage your Email inbox,
Set up your Client scheduling system, manage your schedule … and more.
Anything you need to have done in the online world, they can do for you.
The biggest challenge I find is in having the courage and foresight to DELEGATE. This has never been a strength of mine, but I’m working on it and it feels so good and so efficient when I manage to do it well.
What have been the BIG POSITIVES I’ve found in working with a Virtual Assistant?
I learn so much from my V.A. As I work with her I’m learning so much about all the different aspects of online business and my own knowledge and proficiency are increasing exponentially. Just one example is that she taught me everything I need to know about SEO (a concept I ignored for the longest time because I had no clue what it was). It stands for Search Engine Optimisation and it’s just a little bit critical to running a business. Thanks to my V.A., if you now search for keywords related to my business, you’ll actually find me. I hadn’t appreciated how important that is. If people are looking for a service you offer, they need to be able to find you!
She allows me to focus on the core elements of my business – i.e. the coaching, writing, and content development – rather than wasting my time doing things that I’m terrible at.
She figures out ways to do things that I am just completely stuck with. She saves me time and energy and handles the online things with way more elegance and finesse than I would ever be able to.
She has helped me professionalize my online presence and as a result, I feel more professional and can deliver services that are more professional.
It can take some time to find a good VA.
It took me some trial and error to find the fantastic V.A. I now work with. I tried a couple of girls in the USA because the whole concept of V.A. is much more widely accepted and implemented over there (relative to Australia where the concept is still emerging). But due to the time zone differences and currency exchange (with the US dollar being significantly stronger than our Australian dollar), it was ineffective and expensive for me.
You may need to try a few different people before you find the right one for you. Sometimes you’ll have a very different working style to your V.A., which can become an obstacle to a good working relationship. But when you find someone who you work well with, hold onto them because they’re worth their weight in gold!
With my wonderful V.A’s permission I’m going to share her details with you (very begrudgingly because I don’t actually want to share her with anyone – lol). But she does have some spare capacity at the moment and would be able to help you out if I’ve managed to convince you that you need one!
Her name is Alex Hammett at Lemon and Lime Business Solutions. I couldn’t recommend her more highly so please do reach out to Alex if you need some virtual assistance.
I really hope this insight has helped you and if you’ve been unaware that you can hire a V.A., or if you’ve been sitting on the fence about getting one – please do go ahead and find one as soon as possible. You won’t regret it!
Are you starting or growing your own business? Download your FREE copy of my FEMPRENEUR SUCCESS HANDBOOK to fast-track your business success! This value-packed guide contains everything I wish I knew back when I was starting my own business in 2011. Click here to download it now.
With his prediction that purpose was the next major economic era, many are racing to find answers and direction toward finding their personal, professional, and organisational purpose. – Aaron Hurst
We’re on the cusp of the emerging Purpose Economy in which ‘purpose’ is the new driving force.
Your personal and professional purpose – or BIG WHY – acts like your internal compass that keeps you finding ways to serve and thrive financially, no matter how much instability and upheaval is going on around you.
Only businesses with a strong, positive purpose will survive in this new era.
It’s not often that a book comes along that feels like a real game-changer, but that’s exactly how Aaron Hurst’s book THE PURPOSE ECONOMY (Oct, 2016) felt for me recently. His book felt like a welcome confirmation and validation of everything I’ve been observing and witnessing over the past several years, and his ability to clearly articulate what I’ve been sensing for a long time felt so significant that I wanted to share it with you.
You might have seen this happening around you too: People are increasingly craving more MEANING in their work. More and more people want to contribute something positive through their work.
And with this new Corona virus situation in 2020, this is being brought home even more loudly.
It’s clear we can’t go back to the way we were before where society was ‘asleep at the wheel’, blindly harming our natural systems that support and sustain us. And being ego-driven, instead of taking care of the collective.
It’s no longer enough to simply go to work to pay the bills, or to view work as a means to an end. We spend such a large percentage of our waking lives working that more and more people are realising they need these three things in the workplace:
1. Engaging work that’s meaningful. We want to feel as though our work MATTERS.
3. Connection: To each other, and connection to our sense of purpose.
In his book, Hurst describes how as a human species we’ve evolved through various different economies in the past few thousand years and how this evolution has created the era of PURPOSE that we’re experiencing now. I’ve summarised the evolution of these different economies briefly below.
The Agrarian Economy
Starting out as hunter-gatherers for many thousands of years, we eventually learned how to farm and cultivate the land in ways that allowed us to produce more stable sources of food and to stop moving around. An economy began to develop, centered around our agricultural interests. As the farms grew, so did the first villages and towns. This also marked the beginning of land ownership, social classes and specialised trade. Wealth and freedom were tied to owning the land and the ability to optimise its output.
The Industrial Economy
With the invention of the first commercial steam engine in Britain in 1712, a new wave of industrial innovation was born and the new Industrial Economy emerged in which wealth was tied to the large-scale production of goods and services and value was placed on increasing efficiency. Many industries needed more and more specialised labour and saw education expand to develop the talent needed. As people moved from farms to factories, vocational services were introduced. Modern democracy merged. International trade boomed, connecting cultures around the world. All of this came at enormous cost to the natural world, with widespread pollution and the mass extinction of countless species.
The Information Economy
By the middle of the 20th century, the marketplace was dominated by large corporations and institutions. The bigger the organisations became, the greater their need for improved communication and information systems. In the Information Economy, the commodity of value was information and the ability to develop it and transmit it quickly and efficiently. We’ve been fully immersed in the Information Economy for at least the past 30 years. And we’re now standing on the rising tide of the Purpose Economy.
The Purpose Economy
What is the Purpose Economy?
As Hurst says: “The Purpose Economy describes the new context and set of ways in which people and organisations are focused on creating value and defines the principle for innovation and growth; the quest for people to find more purpose in their lives.
It’s an economy in which value lies in establishing purpose for employees and customers.
The emergence of purpose as the new organising principle of our economy is a product of our current moment in time, based on where we stand in history: our current culture, values, education, technological abilities, social organisations, political realities, and the state of our natural environment.”
These are the global forces shaping the emerging Purpose Economy:
Our increasingly interconnected global community. The Internet has allowed people all across the globe to connect, communicate, and collaborate, independent of our physical location. As a result, we’re collectively more aware of global issues and how our actions impact the world around us.
Our evolution upwards in Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Many people around the globe have reached a level of personal fulfillment and now desire to transcend our own needs to prioritise the needs of all society and future generations, seeking more connection and self-actualisation.
Longevity. The average lifespan in 1796 was 24 years old. Just 100 years later, the same person could live to be 48. And now 100 years later that average has almost doubled again. And given the aging population, we won’t be able to retire at 60 and live off our savings and pension anymore. We’ll be required to work until we’re much older, which means we need to find something that feels purposeful and that we ENJOY doing, or life will get very tedious!
Changing families and evolving roles. Both parents in most families now work, and we’re hiring people in record numbers for the jobs highest in purpose – caring for our kids and aging parents. We want to know that our carers feel a sense of meaning and purpose in their work too, since we’re trusting them with our precious people. AND since we’re giving up our precious time with our families to work, we want to know that our work MEANS something and has an impact.
Environmental, economic and political turmoil has created great instability, upheaval, and uncertainty worldwide. The pace of change in our lives is ever-accelerating as large institutions and organisations restructure, collapse or merge in order to stay relevant and survive. People are seeing this upheaval and turmoil and desire to do something to help.
A rising desire by many to have a positive impact on the world somehow.
All of these factors have caused major changes globally that were magnified by the ‘Great Recession’ in 2008. The global instability has drastically changed the fabric of today’s professional workforce. We no longer have a single employer for our entire career and the average tenure in a company has dropped steeply, with the average employee staying at a single job fora mere 4.5 years today. As Hurst says:
“We’re all becoming de facto freelancers, on our own and navigating great uncertainty in every direction. The global shift has placed meaning and purpose at the heart of the contemporary workforce. Purpose, rather than career longevity, now provides the stability we need.”
In the new Purpose Economy, win-win solutions are the new commodity of value. People increasingly respect companies that provide a product or service that creates a positive net benefit or outcome for other people, nature, and the economy. There is no longer any respect or room for exploitation or selfish aggrandisement.
If your business doesn’t create positive value to all stakeholders, it won’t survive. There’s a rising need and requirement for businesses to lead the way and show how to not only create a win-win solution but to thrive because of it.
Here’s why I’m personally so passionate about ‘purpose’:
I quit my corporate career of fifteen years in 2011 to start my own business in a completely new field (career coaching), because no matter how many changes I made or roles I took on in my previous career as an environmental engineer, I just couldn’t find or sustain a real sense of fulfilment, satisfaction or JOY in my work.
My health and relationships suffered terribly as a result. I felt completely lost and off-track. It wasn’t until I made the decision to quit my career to follow something more aligned with my strengths and passion that my health started improving and my life started feeling better and better.
Ever since then, I’ve been on a mission to understand why some of us seem to easily find a professional path that we love, while some of us really struggle with it.
Through talking to people, coaching many clients and doing in-depth research on the topic of career satisfaction, it seems that there’s one thing that separates someone who really loves their work from someone who feels just “meh” about their work, and that is:
A clearly defined sense of purpose.
Once I was finally able to clearly define and claim my own purpose, everything fell into place and my life took on a whole new level of meaning and fulfilment, both personally and professionally.
Over the years I’ve pondered the topic of ‘purpose’ extensively and developed my own definition for it. It reads like this:
Your purpose is the path or vocation that allows you to express yourself fully and to contribute your unique gifts in service to something you care about, while making a positive difference and earning you an abundant, reliable income.
Do you fantasise about quitting the rat race to start your dream business?
Are you tempted by all the #laptoplifestyle posts flooding social media platforms?
Thanks to high-speed internet and cloud-based systems, it’s easier than ever before to work from anywhere you like. Culturally, we’re getting tired of the rat race and more and more people are craving more flexibility, freedom, purpose, and creativity in their work.
I quit my corporate engineering consulting career back in 2011 and I have to say I haven’t missed it at all. I now get to create my work days on my own terms, and I fit my work life around my busy life as a mother to two young boys.
Freelancers now make up 35% of the American and Australian workforces, and these numbers steadily are on the rise.
The percentage of freelancers is even higher among the younger workforce. A survey conducted by Upwork and published in The Herald Sun showed that in Australia, “Among workers aged 18 – 24 years old, 47% are freelancing either part-time or full-time, versus 28% of Baby Boomers”. Having grown up in the digital world, it’s natural that young people in the modern era are more flexible, agile, networked, and connected – the perfect ingredients for entrepreneurship and freelancing.
It’s interesting to note also that the majority of older people who chose to start their own business did not do so out of necessity, but by choice (57% of the total), with flexibility, freedom, and improved work-life balance “luring them from the rigid confines of the 38-hour work week.”
I know that when I was growing up, freelancing seemed incredibly risky to me; the responsibility for generating your own income throughout all economic cycles seemed like a far bigger risk than I was willing to take. However, independent workforce surveys such as the UpWork survey in the USA show that freelancers are now, in fact, earning more relative to their old jobs. Among respondents in the UpWork survey, more than half are earning more than they did getting a steady paycheck in their former job. A total of 46% were able to successfully raise their rates in the past year.
53% of freelancers believe that having a diverse portfolio of clients is more economically secure than having one employer. Times are changing indeed.
But if you’re sitting on the fence about whether to finally answer that little voice that’s nudging you to quit your day job to pursue something closer to your heart, I understand from personal experience how hard it is to make that decision. Deciding to leave a stable career path and a reliable salary for an unknown outcome, no matter how exciting or appealing the idea, is absolutely not an easy decision to make to. And it’s not one that I made lightly myself. It wasn’t until I started suffering from severe chronic health issues that I was finally forced to change direction (you can read my full story here).
And even when all the signs were pointing to the fact that I needed to branch out on my own, it was still an absolutely terrifying thought; I had a lot of fear and insecurity to overcome before I was able to consider the idea of becoming a ‘business owner’ seriously.
But taking the leap of faith to start my own business was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life, for the reasons I’m about to share with you. Of course, it hasn’t always been easy.
Starting your own business is not for the faint-hearted. It requires enormous amounts of resilience, grit, perseverance, and most of all, belief in yourself.
But the rewards more than outweigh the sweat and tears you put in.
There are days when it all feels too hard and I want to give up on my dream (as I write about in my article Those Days When I Want to Give Up On My Dream – And 7 Ways I Manage to Get Through Them). But they’re happening less frequently as I establish more reliable structures, systems, and approaches that allow me to earn a more reliable and predictable income. Establishing yourself successfully in your own business won’t happen overnight, but it will happen. As long as you approach it with a practical, low-risk strategy and get advice from those who have gone before you, you’ll find a way to make it happen.
Here are 5 big reasons why you should break free and start your own business.
1. You’ll Enjoy Greater Freedom and Flexibility
If you’re tired of the groundhog days of alarm clocks, rushing and commuting, then you’ll love being your own boss. No more forcing yourself into the office early in the morning no matter how late you stayed up the night before, or the complete lack of free time to do the things that sustain and nourish you. As your own boss, you can work according to your own schedule and work with the natural rhythms of your body clock and creative impulses. I love that I can now take time off when I need to and catch up on my work in the evening if I have to. Freedom and flexibility have become especially important to me since becoming a mother to our two young children.
Yes, you’ll need to have robust self-discipline and sufficient structure in your days to force you to be productive and be able to enjoy the traction and momentum you need in your business. But when you’re doing something you love, it’s not hard to find the motivation to get onto your work.
It’s been my experience that structure and routine are your best allies as a small business owner. The good part is, you get to decide on the business structure and routine that suits you.
2. You Can Do Things on Your Own Terms
If you’re someone who finds it hard to be micro-managed or to follow someone else’s ideas (especially if you don’t agree with them), then you’ll love being your own boss. In the great article “Why entrepreneurs choose freedom over money”, they conclude:
“Despite the fact that people who work for themselves often work more, have fewer benefits and experience more on-the-job stress than those who work in a company, the majority of Americans would prefer to be entrepreneurs. Our research shows that entrepreneurs are more satisfied with their jobs – and happier in general. Workplace autonomy is a powerful motivator.”
3. You’ll Experience More Fun and Pleasure in Your Work
I really needed to pinch myself the first time I received money for my coaching services; it seemed such a gift to be paid for something I found so enjoyable and enriching. Doing something you love really is the biggest gift you can give yourself. Plus, entrepreneurs are a fun bunch of people! It continues to amaze and inspire me to see how much entrepreneurs seem to enjoy their work. One of my favourite mentors Jeanna Gabellini always says:
“If it ain’t fun, don’t do it!” – Jeanna Gabellini
A central part of Jeanna’s work and message is teaching people how to harness the Law of Attraction in their business to attract more profits and abundance, and having fun is an essential part! This was something that took me a long time to get used to. I was used to having to work hard and to ‘struggle’ at work; I’d come to accept that work is a necessary evil to pay the bills and to get ahead in the world. It feels so great to now to actually have fun in my work each and every day. To learn more about the Law of Attraction, check out my blog article: How to Create More of What You Want Using the Law of Attraction.
4. You Get to Fully Express Your Unique Gifts and Talents
You have your own unique zone of ‘natural genius’ – the things that you’re naturally good at without even trying. During my corporate career, I think I was operating in my own zone of natural genius only about 20% of the time. The rest of the time I was doing things that weren’t aligned with my natural strengths and didn’t feel joyful.
I know that every career includes tasks and activities that we like and many task and activities that we don’t like. But when you’re working in a way that allows you to fully express the gifts you do have, somehow the other parts don’t feel so onerous or annoying – they’re in service to the beautiful thing you’re creating through your business. Are you working in your Zone of Genius? Find out in my article: How to Live & Work in Your Zone of Genius: Your Strengths are More Than Just the Things You’re Good at.
5. You Get to See the Direct Results of Your Efforts and Enjoy Making a Positive Difference
Do you often wonder whether your daily work is having any impact? In my former career I spent countless hours writing Business Cases, proposals and strategic plans that were often shelved, delayed due to lack of funding, or often dismissed because it was “not the way we’ve always done things”. And while I was part of some important breakthroughs during my career, I wanted to spend less time justifying and defending my ideas and more time just getting on and doing them.
When you work for yourself, you can pitch your idea and philosophy clearly and those who resonate with your vision – and need exactly what you’re offering – can respond. And then you can get on with the task of serving those people directly and effectively. I believe the more people who embrace their yearning to make a difference and put themselves out there to start serving in their own unique way, the faster we’ll see things improve in the world.
Are you ready to leave your day job to start your own business?
If you’re at the point of wondering whether you should leave your career behind to pursue something closer to your heart, Helena Klein suggests asking yourself these questions:
Do you have to justify your job to yourself and others? Do you find yourself saying your work is actually ‘not that bad’, when in reality you know there must be a more joyful and fulfilling way to spend your working days?
Is your work giving you energy or draining you of it? Is there at least one part of your work that you look forward to each day? If there’s no part of your work that truly excites you, it’s time to make some changes.
Is there anybody I work with whose life I would like to have? If you don’t see any positive role models at work to look up to and who have the kind of life you want, then why are you there? There is no use in working your way up to a job that you don’t want to have.
Do you feel inspired by your work? Are you able to think freely, out of the box? Or do you feel trapped and patronized? If you spend too much time completing other people’s tasks, ignoring your own thoughts, or withholding your talent from the world, then it’s time to think seriously about change.
Last but not least: is my work in line with my personal values? If the things you’re doing at work don’t feel good to you, this is a big warning sign. You should feel proud of what you do and feel good about yourself when you do it.
“If you want to venture out on your own, pursue a call to greatness and live a meaningful life on your own terms, do it. Do not wait for permission. Do not wait for acceptance or validation. Do.Not.Wait, my friend. Because time is the one thing that you cannot buy back with all the gold and power in the world.”
Do you want to break free but you’re not quite sure how to go about setting up your own business? Get yourself a FREE copy of THE ULTIMATE FEMPRENEUR SUCCESS HANDBOOK and learn everything I wish I knew when I decided to start my own business back in 2011!
Are you still trying trying to figure out what you’re meant to be doing with your professional life? This FREE E-Book will help you: PATHFINDING: How to Find Your Inspired Path & Purpose.Learn how to build a career that unites your true nature, your passion and your natural genius into work that is a full expression of yourself, allowing you to get your unique and valuable gifts into the world in a way that is FUN and deeply fulfilling!
For the first time ever, this year I joined an inspiring group of wide-minded, visionary entrepreneurs in Jeffrey Davis’ Quest 2017: 12 Principles to do Business as Unusual – a powerful approach to planning the year ahead that involves weekly writing prompts to invoke “a possibility mindset, provocative points of view, deep reflection and a healthy dose of wonder”.
The group shares their thoughts and ideas in a Facebook forum that provides the container for everyone to share what kind of possibility 2017 could hold for each of us. As Jeffrey says “Together, we’ll seek meaning, integrity and impact in life and career while remembering that Do It Together (DIT) beats Do It Yourself (DIY)”. This is an open, free forum that you can join too if you’re looking for a thought-provoking and creative way to plan your year. The QUEST2017 group process is finished for now, but you can still use the writing prompts in this blog to reflect on your own journey. I decided to share the process with you here for two reasons: 1) To share my reflections, hopes and aspirations with you for the year ahead, and 2) To help you reflect and ponder your own plans and ideas, in the hope that it helps you align your own heart, body, mind and soul. This is a long blog post with 12 short essays so I don’t expect you’ll have the time to read through all of it! But please feel free to scroll through and jump to the sub-headings that feel relevant for you. Below are the 12 different writing prompts from 12 different visionaries, plus my responses.
THEME 1 – INNER YOU
Writing prompt #1: Your True Calling
The first writing prompt has been contributed by Krista Tippett (@kristatippett). Krista is an American journalist, author, and entrepreneur. She created and hosts the public radio program and podcast On Being. In 2014, Tippett was awarded the National Humanities Medal by U.S. President Barack Obama. Krista asks:
“What is your vocation, your sense of calling as a human being at this point in your life, both in and beyond job and title?” #YourTrueCalling
This happens to be an easy one for me to answer right now because the question has been a central theme in my life for as long as I can remember. They say that what we’ve struggled with most in life is often the very thing that we’re called to do as our vocation. And interestingly enough, the one thing I’ve struggled with most in my life is having a clear sense of what my true calling is. And I’m quite clear in my heart now that helping others find their true calling is my true calling. To me, your true calling is something that makes you feel completely aligned in body, mind and spirit. It allows you to unleash and fully develop your very specific and unique gifts in a way that feels joyful, uplifting and energising and allows you to contribute your gifts in service to something larger than yourself. I believe we each have unique and valuable gifts that the world needs and that we each have a specific calling that we’re uniquely designed for. I’ve come to believe that your true calling is the alchemic ‘sweet spot’ where your true nature (your authentic self), your natural genius (your natural strengths and talents) and your passion (what you care about deeply) intersect. Walking the path of your true calling allows you to become more and more of who you are (a process of unfolding), while giving your gifts in service to something that the world needs.
“Our purpose in life is to become the fullest expression of ourselves”– Kate Northrup
We start walking our true path when we commit to following what feels light and easy and joyful (I agree completely with fellow QuesterPaula Trucks-Pape on this concept). And as another one of our fellow Questers Ginny Lee Taylor quoted, your true calling is:
“… Where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.”– Frederick Buechner
I now dedicate my business to helping people uncover their true calling through a process that’s designed to find their own sweet spot where natural ability meets passion and joy. If we’re doing something for the money or success or image, it isn’t our true calling. If we’re doing something for the job security and to play it safe, it isn’t our true calling. Sure, we may have to do these things as intermediate steps on the way to our true calling, but I believe it is our intention that defines whether it’s our true calling or not. If our intention is to serve the world somehow through our unique abilities, then we’re living our true calling. The calling itself may take on various forms and outwardly appearances along the way, but if we stay committed to developing and expressing our natural genius in service to something we care about, we’re on the path of our true calling. I know firsthand how soul-destroying it can be to feel completely out of alignment with our true calling and to ignore what wants to be expressed through us. I’ve felt a deep call to do something meaningful with my life for as long as I can remember. There was a distinct moment when I was seventeen years old as an exchange student in rural Paraguay, South America, standing on the banks of a local river looking out at people bathing in the polluted water that was just downstream from a major cement factory. I felt called to do something about situations like this where people and nature suffer from the effects of heavy industry. And that’s what I ended up doing for almost fifteen years, working as a process engineer designing wastewater treatment plants that clean up polluted water before it’s discharged back into the environment. It felt good to be doing something to keep our environment and waterways clean. For years I was a strong advocate of sustainable planning and strategy. But even though it felt good to be doing something positive and to work on interesting, challenging and rewarding projects, internally I felt empty and frustrated and a continuous, nagging feeling that there was something else I was ‘meant’ to be doing. If I’m completely honest, I pursued science and engineering to please my parents who thought that engineering would give me lifelong job security and opportunities (which is true). But I most definitely wasn’t operating in my zone of natural genius, or in my zone of joy or true passion. I knew I had gifts to give that were completely untapped. My gifts are in languages, writing, teaching and connecting with people. For years I struggled on in different roles as an engineer, always hoping that the next role would give me the fulfillment and satisfaction I was seeking. But it never did. Eventually, this stifling of my natural talents and heart’s desires turned into very real physical effects. I developed what the medical world could only describe as ‘chronic fatigue’. I battled constantly with lingering illnesses and viruses, combined with continuous, overwhelming fatigue. I kept going to work during this period, but every day felt like a living hell. I can now see clearly that the illness was a ‘soul crisis’ and my body’s way of telling me that I was completely out of alignment. But it took me almost ten years to finally accept that I had to stop living my life to please others and to finally find out what it means to please myself. I had to go through a process of shedding everything that I’m not, and to instead embrace everything that I am, in order to ‘find’ my true calling. Interestingly enough, after years and years of seeing different therapists, medical professionals and natural healers (with little to no effect), my health made a sudden turnaround on the day I decided to quit my corporate engineering job of almost fifteen years to focus on things closer to my heart. I gave myself permission to give up the struggle and striving and committed to doing only what feels joyful and uplifting. And every day after that my health and energy improved. Today I feel so blessed to experience ongoing health and vitality. And I’m convinced that it’s because I chose to finally listen to my heart and give myself permission to be me. If it feels at all relevant for you, feel free to get a copy of my free E-Book Pathfinding: How to find and start living that special calling that you are uniquely designed for, where I discuss this topic of finding your true calling in depth. Helping you find your true calling really is my true passion!
Writing prompt #2: Do I love myself enough to stop working on myself?
The second writing prompt comes from Susan Piver (@spiver), a New York Times bestselling author, a meditation teacher and renowned speaker. She is the author of eight books, including How Not Be Afraid of Your Own Life. Susan’s mission is to teach everyone to slow down, soften our hearts, sharpen our minds and create a life of fearlessness and authenticity. Susan asks:
“Do you love yourself enough to stop working on yourself yet?Who would you be in that case?”#LoveYourself
My immediate response to the question “Do you love yourself enough to stop working on yourself yet?” was – No. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to answer that question in the affirmative, although after reflecting on this question these past few days I’ll definitely strive to. Here’s a picture of my bedside table today. It pretty much always looks like this, the titles of the books just shift and change over time. But they’re almost always on topics of personal and spiritual growth, psychology or social entrepreneurship. I’m a life coach by profession, so it’s hard to know how much of my reading is to stay informed and abreast of the latest developments in my field and how much is my desire to improve and ‘fix’ myself (because I don’t love myself enough to stop working on myself yet?). But I find this question intriguing and through-provoking and I’m grateful to Susan Piver for asking it. I feel such an ongoing hunger for knowledge in the area of personal growth, and despite how many times I’ve told myself to take a break and read something different for a change, I always end up getting bored and reverting back to whichever self-improvement book I was reading. So am I constantly reading because I don’t love myself enough to stop working on myself yet? Or am I doing it to better serve my clients? I think both. And because it feels like my calling. In my response to the first Quest 2017 prompt #YourTrueCalling I explained how my true calling happens to be helping others find their true calling. And funnily enough, the one big issue that gets in the way of people having the courage to follow their true calling is SELF-LOVE. We all know the inner critic dialogue that says “I can’t do that, I’m not smart enough” or “I couldn’t run my own business, I’m not savvy enough” or whatever line it is that comes up when you try to justify to yourself why you can’t make the transition to making your JOY your full-time job. “I can’t/couldn’t …. [insert what your heart really wants to do] because I’m not … [insert limiting beliefs and negative judgments about yourself]”. A big part of my work is helping my clients work through their own inner barriers to authentic self-confidence and self-worth (= self-love), just as I struggle continuously with this myself (we’re all human after all). We’ve all built up so many excuses and reasons for why we can’t and won’t commit to pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone and into the zone of uncertainty and fear – where the magic happens! – to follow our true calling. And why? Because we think we’re not good enough and can’t make it happen. Because we don’t believe in ourselves enough. And perhaps because we don’t love ourselves enough to do whatever it takes to make ourselves blissfully happy…? Don’t we think we deserve this and nothing less? We were all born as pure, unconditional love, before we started getting bombarded with negative judgments and criticism from our environment. Panache Desai calls our original pure love essence the ‘liquid gold’ that’s inside each and every one of us. And he refers to it as gold because it can take time to excavate and dig through the layers of emotional scarring that we’ve built up around it to protect ourselves from the pain in the world. If we want to fully love ourselves, the opinion in the psychology/healing world has been that we need to peel back the layers of the emotional onion, layer by layer, with the help of a therapist, counsellor or healer, to heal them and to rediscover our original, undamaged inner child who knew only love. Or do we? Could we just make a conscious decision right now to love ourselves anyway, emotional scarring, warts, imperfections, flaws and all? I guess that’s the whole purpose of Susan Piver’s question “Who would you be if you loved yourself enough to stop working on yourself?”. Perhaps we’re fine and worthy of 100% self-love right now, as imperfect as we are. What if there’s nothing to learn, do, or fix or improve? Who would I be then? Hmmm. Good question. Could I stop working on myself and love myself anyway? Could I stop bombarding my clients with techniques and tools for removing emotional barriers and instead just mirror back to them the unconditional, pure love that is within them already? Is it my true calling to reflect back to others the liquid gold that is already theirs? Interestingly enough, I had similar thoughts recently when I realized that everything boils down to being able to love ourselves in the midst of all our imperfections. I wrote about this recently in my article Radical Self-Love & Acceptance: Could this be our one true purpose in life? But back to Susan’s question. Who would I be if I loved myself enough to stop working on myself? I would be free. I would be relieved. I would be relaxed. I would be at peace. I would love and be loved, fully, unconditionally. I would be secure in the knowledge that I have arrived, and there’s nowhere to go. I would be someone who feels so at peace in my own skin and in my own heart that I naturally exude peace and love to all those I come into contact with. A kind of Dalai Lama. Is that possible? I don’t know. But I’m sure as hell willing to give it a try. Thank you Susan for your beautiful question. I can see now. This is it. This is what we’re all being called to do. To love ourselves unconditionally just as we are, right now, right where we are. In our all imperfection and total perfection.
Writing prompt #3: Where will I be brave enough to bring forth even more of myself this year?
The third writing prompt comes fromKristen Noel at Best Self Media (@BestSelf_Media). Kristen is a writer, speaker, motivator and Editor-In-Chief of Best Self Magazine, the leading voice for holistic health and authentic living. Kristen asks:
Where are you going to go deeper this year, where can you be brave enough to bring forth even more of yourself — to infuse your work, creativity and business with that which is uniquely YOU, thus inspiring others to do more of the same? What could that look like in 2017 for you?#BringYouForward
Hmm. Another good question, thank you Kristen. I guess this brings me to the first question – who am I if I’m being uniquely ME? I believe the keys to our uniqueness lie in who we were as a child, before we became conditioned by our environment. So I started looking there. My uniqueness #1 – An ability to embrace the paradox of life The first thing that comes to mind is that I’m quite a person of paradox. My brother Cam who’s 14 years younger than me always saw this quite clearly. He used to call me a ‘square on the edge’, which I thought was hilarious (once I could get past the square part). When he was young he observed me as a teen and young adult and he saw someone who worked hard, studied hard and got good grades, but who also loved to party hard, rebel and push the boundaries. My mother used to say that I didn’t just burn the candle at both ends, but that I “snapped the candle in two and burnt all four ends”. When people asked me how I did it all I would reply, “I don’t sleep much, I’ll sleep when I’m dead” (thanks Bon Jovi). As I’ve grown older I’ve been forced to find a more appropriate middle road, because living that way is not sustainable (obviously). But I still walk the tightrope between the polarities of my character. I love yoga and meditation and reading books on Buddhism and spirituality, but I also love to drink gin and rock out to Led Zeppelin or AC/DC. I love going for slow, peaceful hikes in nature but I also love to compete in high-energy triathlons. I love drinking my hot lemon juice and green smoothie every morning, but I also love to eat hot chips and drink beer on occasion. I’m a responsible Mum to two young boys and a focused and disciplined small business owner, but I also love to goof around, be silly and dance to Hi-5 with my boys.
“We cannot run from paradoxes; we can only embrace them and become one with them. For, in reality, the apparent opposites are two sides of the same coin that are meant to reside in harmony” –Patricia Spadaro
How will I use this quality to infuse my work, creativity and business this year to inspire others? In reflecting on this question, it strikes me that the ability to embrace seemingly contradictory behaviours can actually be beneficial for all of us. It’s about balancing out all the different aspects of ourselves. By giving ourselves permission to embrace all the crazy impulses we feel, we start expressing ourselves more fully and feel more alive as a result. This year I’m going to commit to embracing my paradox even more. And I’m going to encourage my clients to give themselves permission to feel all the unique impulses they have and to find ways to act on them. This seems to me a fun and enjoyable road to authentic and full self-expression. And since my calling is to help others express themselves fully through their work and life calling, this is probably an essential component that I hadn’t thought of until now! (thank you, Kristen) . My uniqueness #2 – A (latent) ability to speak my mind freely As a child I was always very forthright with my opinions. My mother tells me that she always knew exactly where she stood with me. But growing up, I was constantly told by my family that I would end up having no friends if I didn’t learn to keep my thoughts to myself and be ‘nice’. So I learned to temper my opinions and say only what I thought people wanted to hear. I learned the hard way that others don’t always value what you think and that true authenticity and honesty is an opinion that’s tempered with maturity and compassion for the other person’s perspective. Otherwise you’re just being obnoxious and small-minded. But over the years I’ve swung completely the opposite way and it’s now a major challenge for me to speak my mind freely and to put my opinions out there, for fear of upsetting someone. I’ve developed a hyper-alert sensitivity for knowing when I could upset someone and to keep my thoughts to myself. But given the challenges we’re facing as a global community right now, I don’t think we have the luxury anymore of beating around the bush. I need to develop the courage to voice my opinion and withstand the inevitable controversy and discomfort this brings, and hopefully inspire others to do the same in the process. I’m going to shift my focus from wondering how I might offend someone, to how I can say the right thing to inspire and motivate someone towards positive action, even if I risk receiving negative feedback. I have to assume that the number of people I will help will be greater than those I might offend. My uniqueness #3 – An ability to see and hear others It’s really important to me that the people I’m with feel heard and seen. If I’m in a group I want to make sure no one feels left out. I like to really seepeople and to appreciate the unique qualities, abilities and perspective they bring. I’ve been fortunate to live more than half of my adult life overseas in different countries on four different continents and this has given me a deep appreciation of different perspectives and the huge challenges that people face around the world. It’s helped me see that at the end of the day, no matter what our background, history or culture, we all want the same things – to feel secure, to belong, to feel valued, to be appreciated and to be happy. This is my true desire for everyone. Where will I be brave enough to bring forth more of this quality this year? I feel committed this year to take an even stronger stand to connect people with each other (to nurture a greater sense of belonging for people) and to really see and hear the people I connect with. I will make a commitment to ask and listen, rather than teach and talk. My pledge for 2017 This year I commit to bringing even more of myself forth into my work, creativity and business with that which is uniquely ME, by focusing on these key areas:
Embrace and nurture the paradox in myself and others.
Speak my mind more freely with the intention to inspire and motivate.
Nurture connection and belonging. Ask and listen.
Thank you taking the time to read my thoughts. I’m so excited to dive into the next writing prompts to plan the year ahead with possibility and wonder!
THEME 2 – ENGAGE
Writing prompt #4: How will I use my power as a force for good in 2017?
Today’s writing prompt comes from the visionary psychologist Dacher Keltner at the Greater Good Science Centre (University of California, Berkeley). Dacher asks:
“In your work life, your personal life, and in your community, how will you use power as a force for good, and empower those around you in specific acts that make up your day?”#PowerforGood
At first glance I found this a difficult question to answer, given that I haven’t had a particularly broad sense of the word ‘power’ until I decided to download Dacher’s highly revered book The Power Paradox. I was immediately glad that I did. This is a man who speaks to my heart and who believes that each and every one of us has the potential to be a force for good in the communities and networks we move in. I love how he defines power: “Power is the medium through which we relate to one another. Power is about making a difference in the world by influencing others.” Keltner has a beautiful way of describing this concept further: “Power is not something limited to rare individuals in dramatic moments of their highly visible lives – to malevolent dictators, high-profile politicians, or the jet-setting rich and famous; nor does it exist solely in boardrooms, on battlefields, or on the U.S. Senate floor. Instead, power defines the waking life of every human being. It is found not only in extraordinary acts but also in quotidian acts, indeed in every interaction and every relationship, be it in attempt to get a two-year-old to eat green vegetables or to inspire a stubborn colleague to do her best work.” Given that I’m a mother to two young boys, much of my ‘power’ these days is indeed in getting children to eat green vegetables. I found Keltner’s description refreshing and uplifting, reminding me that power is indeed not limited to how we conduct ourselves in business, but how we operate as a person in every aspect in our lives. In his enlightening book, he defines four ‘social practices’ that constitute powerful, positively influential leadership: empathising, giving, expressing gratitude, and telling stories. He suggests that each of these practices “dignify and delight others… They constitute the basis of strong, mutually empowered ties. You can lean on them to enhance your power at any moment of the day by stirring others to effective action”. So, to answer this writing prompt, I decided to address how I’m going to implement these four practices in my work life, my personal life and my community. Empathising: Like many creatives, I have a natural ability to empathise and I’ve spent much of my adult life trying to figure out where the other person stops and where I begin, so that I can untangle myself from the emotional problems of others and give back what is not mine to carry. Learning to turn down the dial on my empathy register has been a challenge for me and to move from being a ‘fixer’ and ‘saver’ into someone who has healthy, strong boundaries, while still maintaining my ability to empathise. I spend a significant amount of each day empathising with my sons and my husband and the issues they’re dealing with, as well as with my coaching clients where I act as an empathetic sounding board for the challenges they’re working through. However, in terms of using empathy in service to ‘power’ more effectively, I could be more empathetic in my networks and social communities by asking more questions and listening to the answers, as opposed to focusing only on giving and teaching. People like to know they’re being seen and heard, and I can definitely pay more attention to seeing and hearing those in my social networks in 2017, and showing genuine empathy for the challenges they’re dealing with. Giving: Again, giving is a natural part of your profile as a mother and wife. It seems that most of our day is spent in giving our time, attention and focus to people other than ourselves. However, I can definitely focus on giving more to my clients this year in terms of excellent service, providing more free resources and helpful information to support them on their journey. The same goes for my social media networks. After reading Dacher Keltner’s book, I believe that a subtle shift in focus from ‘marketing’ with an agenda of giving to receive, to plain and simple ‘giving’ will help me grow my social outreach more organically, with more authentic and genuine impact. Expressing gratitude: While gratitude has been a focus of mine for a few years now, this is definitely something I can always do more of. I can extend heartfelt gratitude to those people already within my networks and in my community, because without them, I have no ability to have any ‘power’ or ability to influence others. I can express more gratitude to my family and friends because they are my support, my nourishment, my everything. And I can especially extend more gratitude to my clients, because without them, I have no ability to build my business, to develop my gifts, to live my true calling or to affect any kind of positive change. Telling stories: I love this one. I really believe that stories are how we connect to each other. It’s through sharing our stories that we connect authentically, share our humanity, our vulnerability and our strength. And most importantly, stories help us know that we’re not alone in our humanly struggles and triumphs. I’ve written about the Power of Story in a recent blog post. Until now I haven’t thought of telling stories as an effective ingredient of leadership, but I can see how it is. Leadership is all about creating connection and a sense of camaraderie around a common cause. I will strive this year to use story – both telling my own stories and encouraging others to share theirs – as a way to nurture a feeling of camaraderie, belonging and togetherness in my networks. As Jeffrey always says, Doing It Together (DIT) beats Doing It Yourself (DIY)! Thank you Dacher Keltner for helping me reflect on this topic and for your valuable, refreshing insight.
Writing prompt #5: What sacrifice am I willing to make in 2017 in service to the greater good?
Today’s writing prompt #5 comes from Scott Barry Kaufman, Scientific Director at theImagination Institute in the Positive Psychology Center (University of Pennsylvania). Scott asks:
“What is one major personal sacrifice you are willing to make this year in the service of the greater good?”#Sacrifice
This was a really hard question for me to answer. I’m coming out of a long phase of life that’s felt like one long, challenging road of self-sacrifice. I’m 41 years old and we’re very blessed to have two young boys aged five and two. It took us a long time to manifest these two little guys and it wasn’t easy. It was a journey filled with heartache, loss and pain, but we did it and we’re so grateful that we’re one of the fortunate couples who were able to make our baby dreams a reality. I’m acutely aware of how many couples struggle every day with the pain and devastation of unfulfilled baby dreams. The road to parenthood was filled with much sacrifice; sacrifice of the small pleasures in life while we tried to live, eat and be extremely healthy to give our bodies the best chance of conceiving. And then as every mother knows, the first few years of raising young children requires an enormous sacrifice on every front. We sacrifice our sleep, our bodies, our sport, our free time, our work, our social lives and more. I really like the quote that fellow Quester Alicia Anderson found on sacrifice:
“A sacrifice to be real must cost, must hurt, must empty ourselves.” – Mother Teresa
I’ve definitely done all of that and more 0ver the past six to eight years. Would I have it any other way? No, absolutely not. And yet I’m at the point in my life where I’m ready to reclaim my life, to start building my own identity again and to keep working on building my business and my dreams, which include the ability to inspire and empower others to live their best lives through my small coaching practice. The hardest part for me over the past six to eight years has been the need to put my work and my business on the back-burner to focus 100% on my family. This year I’m finally in a position where I can start to focus more on myself and my work and that feels good! So, what is one personal sacrifice I would be willing to make this year in service to the greater good? Hmm. My greatest challenge as a mother to young boys is time. What do I need to sacrifice in order to find more time – Sleep? Family time? Time with friends? Sport? Social outings? No, I’m no longer prepared to sacrifice those important things because they’re what make life so rich and rewarding and I believe we must enjoy the journey as much as – if not, more than – the destination.
“You should never sacrifice three things: Your family, your heart, your dignity” – Unknown
Rather than sacrificing life’s small pleasures for the sake of the greater good, I believe that my ability to make a positive impact will lie in becoming more focused in the time that I do have. I’m making a commitment to myself to spend more time planning and less time jumping in and engaging in random actions that aren’t aligned with a bigger vision. I’m making a great start by planning the year with Quest 2017 for the first time, and I start private business coaching next Monday to help me approach 2017 with laser focus. I’ve decided that my one big personal sacrifice this year will be along the lines of what many fellow Questers have already voiced – my addiction to playing safe and small. While I continue to play small and keep my (potentially) controversial thoughts to myself, I’m not serving anyone. The fear of speaking out and attracting negative feedback is irrational and no longer a reason to withhold the gifts I have to offer by speaking and writing freely. It’s only through truth, raw honesty and authenticity that we have the ability to provoke, invoke and inspire. It’s only by daring to put ourselves out there and be seen, that we reap the joy and satisfaction of being of true value and service.My pledge for 2017 This year I’m willing and prepared to sacrifice my addiction to playing small and safe. I will endure the (potential) discomfort of negative feedback when voicing my opinions freely and without inhibition. I commit to stepping up into greater visibility in the knowing that in doing so, I’m helping others do the same. Thank you Scott Barry Kaufman for helping me reflect on this topic and for your valuable, refreshing insight.
Writing prompt #6: How will I shift my focus from ‘keeping busy’ to ‘leaving a legacy’ in 2017?
Today’s writing prompt #6, the final prompt under the theme ‘ENGAGE’, comes from Jocelyn K. Glei (@jkglei), author of the book ‘Unsubscribe’. She describes herself as a writer who’s obsessed with how we find more creativity and meaning in our daily work. Jocelyn asks:
“How can you shift your focus from “keeping busy” to “leaving a legacy?”#Legacy
Hmm… another great question, thank you Jocelyn. I often help my coaching clients get a sense of the kind of legacy they want to leave, so they can build a life vision and goals around that. It’s a very useful and powerful technique for getting through to people’s desires and motivations in life. But it’s been a while since I’ve reflected on the question of legacy myself. So thank you Jocelyn for the prompt. What kind of legacy would I personally like to leave? When I think of legacy I often think about what my dearest ones would say about me at my funeral. I’d love to be remembered for my big heart, for my big dreams and my zest for life. I’d love people to say that I uplifted them, nourished them and made them feel good about themselves and their choices. I’d love people to remember me as someone who was fun to be around and who could make them smile and laugh. I would be touched if people felt that they could be themselves fully around me, knowing that my heart is warmed by people who have the courage and confidence to be themselves without inhibition, who don’t care what society expects or demands, but who choose to do what makes their heart feel good. But in reflecting on this, I have to remind myself that legacy is not what people will remember about you when you die … it’s about what you leave behind that will continue on without you when you’re no longer here.
“We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will” – Chuck Palahniuk
So what will be my legacy? Who am I to leave a legacy? Is it reserved only for the mighty and powerful who change the world in some significant way? Or is it possible that we all have the oportunity to leave a positive legacy, no matter how small we feel our contribution might be? If I’m to leave a legacy, what would I like to leave behind? I love to empower and inspire people to embrace everything about themselves and to find ways to express themselves authentically in life and through their work. My business mission is to help as many people as possible in this way: “I’m devoted to helping you connect to your heart and find your calling, to design a life that feels truly joyful and fulfilling.” I believe a life well lived is one where we give ourselves permission to own the desires and dreams we have and to make them a reality in whichever (small or large) way we can. I believe we’re all born with natural, innate gifts and talents – what I call your natural genius – and I’m on a mission to help as many people as possible to unleash their natural genius into the world in service to something larger than themselves. My business vision is all about helping people harness their natural gifts in service to the greater good. It states: “I hold a vision of a world in which each and every one of us is expressing and contributing our unique gifts in a way that feels deeply satisfying and rewarding, in service to something larger than ourselves. This focus on serving the greater good while bringing our full, authentic selves into our work creates a world in whicheveryonefeels connected and valued and is expressing their full potential, while contributing to the flourishing of life.” If that could be my legacy, to know that I’ve contributed to this vision in some bold, impactful and courageous way – I would be one proud lady. If what I leave behind is a trail of people who have – because of me – had the courage to follow their hearts and to impact the world in some way through their gifts, then I would know I have left a positive legacy. And what is the part that will continue on without me? Perhaps it will be an organisation that I set up, dedicated to helping people get their gifts into the world. Hmm, I like that idea… So – how do I shift from simply keeping busy, to aligning my daily actions and choices directly with this greater vision for my life and my business? I believe the answer may lie in questions that I could ask myself each and every day before I jump into action:
What’s one thing I can do today that will allow me to serve people more effectively?
What can I do today to uplift or inspire someone to step up and find more courage and confidence?
What can I do today to build on my legacy of helping people get their natural gifts into the world?
I’m excited about the New Year and the chance to see how these questions might act as a daily compass to keep me focused on the bigger vision and legacy for my life and my business.
THEME 3 – CHALLENGES
Writing prompt #7: Do you spend your time acting or reacting?
This week’s writing prompt came from Jonathon Fields (@jonathonfields), a New York City dad, husband and lawyer turned award-winning author, media producer and entrepreneur. His most recent book,How to Live a Good Life: Soulful Stories, Surprising Science and Practical Wisdom, is a wake-up call and a path to possibility, complete with 30-days of inspiring, actionable explorations. Jonathan’s current focus, Good Life Project, is a global movement that inspires, educates, connects, and supports mission-driven individuals in the quest to live better, more engaged, connected, and aligned lives. Jonathon asks:
“When it comes to the way you live each day, do you spend more time acting or reacting? If the latter, what one commitment can you make to be more intentional in the year to come?” #ActingorReacting
This will be a short response today. I’m very fortunate that I’m a Mumpreneur who gets to divvy up my time in the way I want, working from home while raising two young boys. They both go to wonderful schools and so I have time during the day to work on projects that I want, without the inevitable disruptions and distractions that come with working in an organisation or company. So, I spend my days every day acting very intentionally, rather than reacting to things around me. It’s a delightful way to live and I chose very intentionally to live and work this way so that I can focus my time and efforts on my life work and passions. One of my biggest frustrations in my old corporate career was the inability to focus and get things done, due to the constant need to react to the things happening around me. So it’s truly a blessing to be able to work the way I do now. My biggest distraction while working from home is my own procrastination and household chores than can always be done, rather than working! I find that having a very detailed plan of what I need to do each day helps me to focus and stay on track and inspired with the work I’m doing.
Writing prompt #8: Adapt from within or adapt from without. Are you ready?
Today’s writing prompt #8 under the theme ‘Challenges’ comes from Linda Rottenberg (@lindarottenberg), author of the fantastic book ‘Crazy is a compliment: The power of zigging when everyone else zags’’. Linda is the CEO and Founder of Endeavour, the world’s leading organisation supporting high-impact entrepreneurs. Linda asks:
“Today we all have a choice: We can take risks and actions to ensure that we adapt with the constantly changing times or we can hope for the best and do nothing. Adapt from within or you may be forced to adapt from without. Are you ready?”#Adaptation
I think this is a great question and so relevant for the times we’re living in. I’ve spent a lot of time in my life wondering how to best adapt to the times we live in. I studied Biotechnology at University, largely because of long discussions I had with my Dad when I was trying to figure out what to study. We both agreed that innovation and environmental protection were going to be big needs in the 21st century and Biotechnology was at the forefront there. My Honours research was on a topic called ‘Bioleaching’ – a mining process that harnesses bacteria to remove precious metals from minerals. It was a pretty novel process for the mining industry back in the late nineties. My first professional job was with BHP in Reno, Nevada (USA) in 1998 as a process engineer. It was exciting to be involved in cutting edge, innovative projects that promised to be more environmentally responsible. But then I experienced my first mining industry crash in 1999. Less than one year out of University and the entire mining industry ‘busted’ as metal prices came crashing down. The BHP headquarters in Reno was forced to close its doors and my colleagues and I were made redundant from one week to the next. A classic case of ‘adapt from without’. I vowed after that experience I would never work for such a volatile industry or allow my life to be so heavily dependent on market conditions. I decided to go back to University and study further in the field of environmental engineering. I was determined to do something positive for the environment and to immerse myself in a more stable and predictable industry. I had an interesting and challenging career in water management and I was fortunate to experience the good times in Australia from 2005 to 2011. Infrastructure projects were booming and the engineering consultancy I worked for had an over-supply of exciting, large and challenging water projects to work on. Engineers could name their price and pick and choose where they wanted to work. We received generous pay rises each year and bonuses were in abundance. They were definitely the glory days. And then in 2012 the bubble burst. On the back of yet another resources industry collapse, engineering consultancies across Australia were forced to let go of many of their staff and those left behind were forced to fight over the small project scraps being tendered out, as infrastructure expenditure halted across the country. We were fortunate enough to be in a position to move overseas with my husband’s work in 2011 for a 5-year long adventure in Paris, France followed by Geoje, South Korea, for his role on Shell’s first ever floating LNG facility. When we first arrived in Geoje in 2013 it was yet another ‘boom’; big companies from all over the world were working on large shipbuilding and oil & gas projects at the massive shipyards here in Korea and expats were flown in from all over the world with generous salary packages. And then the bubble burst again. For the past two years oil prices have come crashing down and again massive projects are being shelved and people are being laid off. In 2011 I’d had enough of the boom-bust cycle in engineering and I made the decision to branch out on my own and start my own coaching business while raising our young family. I’m so grateful I did. It hasn’t been easy and I’m learning the hard way that working for yourself is uncertain and challenging and it stretches you well beyond your comfort zone. But the rewards are deep job satisfaction, flexibility and an ability to do things on your own terms. You get to do what you want, when you want, and work on things you care about deeply. But most importantly, you develop a certain resilience and ability to generate income even when times are tough globally. If you offer something of real value where there is a deep and consistent need, then you’ll always find a way to serve people and build your business in the process. Adaptation has become my middle name since branching out on my own. I’ve been on a steep learning curve while adapting to the field of coaching and the online business world. I’ve had to learn how to set up and run my own website and blog, how to create and launch programs, how to market and sell my services, how to set up online systems to support and develop my business and how to move with the times in technology so that I can stay afloat and embrace the fast-pace changes in the online world rather than get left behind. It’s become plainly clear to me that we’re facing times of unprecedented change. It’s most definitely a time where we need to adapt from within or be forced to adapt from without, as Linda Rottenberg suggests. I’m so incredibly grateful that I happen to love change, variety and finding new and creative ways of doing things. So to answer Linda’s question – “Adapt from within, or adapt from without – are you ready?” – my answer is YES! Bring it on.
Writing prompt #9: How will you stop yourself from being held back this year?
This writing prompt was contributed by Desiree Adaway of Adaway Group (@desireeadaway). Desiree is a writer, speaker and coach whose mission is to build resilient organisations. Desiree leads difficult conversations on race, class and gender. She asks:
“How have you allowed a system, institution, or tradition to hold you back? What will you do to make sure this does not happen in 2017?” #HeldBack
I didn’t need much time to reflect on this one, and my answer will be short. I’m thankfully in a phase in my life where there is nothing holding me back except my own fears and inner gremlins. I’ve worked in many organisations and institutions during the course of my life where I’ve felt held back in some sort of fashion. My decision to branch out on my own in 2011 was a direct result of this frustrating feeling. Now that I’m working on my own terms, I’mrevelingg in the delicious feeling of freedom and free reign to work how and when I want, and to impact the world around me in the way I want. Nothing feels more delightful than that, and it’s my mission to help as many people feel the same way! Thank you Desiree for the prompt!
THEME 4 – LOOKING AHEAD
Writing prompt #10: What is your intuition telling you to do in 2017?
Prompt #10 is from Jess Lively of The Lively Show, a podcast designed to uplift, inspire, and help you add a little extra intention to your everyday.Inc.com named it “the #1 podcast that all female entrepreneurs should listen to” and Levo League named it “one of the 10 best podcasts every woman should know.” Jess asks:
Whew. It’s mid-January and my family and I have just returned from a few weeks away to my second home – Holland – where my husband comes from and where we lived for many years. Although our time away was filled to the brim with jetlag, visits and catch ups, I always find holidays a refreshing break from the routine of day-to-day living and they allow me to gain fresh insight, even if they are crazy busy. They also help me tap into my underlying intuition. There are a few things calling to me this year. Intuitive nudge #1 – Forgive more I’m a believer that things don’t tend to come into our awareness ‘by chance’. As I was reflecting on this question this morning, a tweet popped up on my phone screen by Emily Burgess that says “The only type of growth comes from forgiveness. Heal your heart. Forgive more.” I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I think my intuition is telling me loudly that in order to make sure this year is a good one, I need to forgive more. Forgive myself, firstly, for the things that I could have/should have done better in 2016, and give myself permission to be human and to make mistakes. What’s important is that we acknowledge our mistakes and try to make amends where we can. I need to find the grace within me to forgive those who I feel ‘wronged’ me in 2016 and refer to the quote by Lewis B. Smedes that says “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and to discover that the prisoner was you.” We all do the best we can under whatever circumstances we’re presented with, and sometimes our imperfect actions hurt someone else. We need to cut each other some slack and allow each other to make mistakes, and forgive quickly. So first port of call this year – more forgiveness. Intuitive nudge #2 – Step out of the shadows into full visibility Next, I’m feeling a very strong intuitive urge to step up and out of the shadows. I’ve been comfortably hiding in the shadows for the past few years while I’ve undergone several major life transformations; quitting my corporate career to re-educate myself and start my own business, becoming a mother to two young boys and living in several different countries as we follow my husband’s work. As we prepare to move back to Australia in the next six months, it’s time for me to have the courage to live my message out loud. I’m passionate about helping people find their true calling and to live the work that lights them up and energises them. The only way I can do this effectively is if I commit to stepping up and proactively getting myself in front of people, with the intention to serve them in the best way I can. Intuitive nudge #3 – Employ at least one virtual assistant to help develop my business The next message coming loud and clear from my intuition is that I must start to leverage my time more effectively and employ one or two people who can assist me with the things that I’m not good at – social media, website development, email newsletters, administration, book-keeping etc. This past year I’ve spent way too much time trying to figure these things out myself when I could have been spending that time coaching or putting my ideas together and developing services and products. I’ve been stuck in the chicken-and-egg thing; I want help getting my business off the ground properly and yet that requires a significant financial investment. So I continue to try to do everything myself, which means I don’t have time to move my business forward as effectively as I could. So it’s time to bite the bullet and employ people to do the things I’m not good at and frankly do not have the time for. It’s time! Intuitive nudge #4 – Develop and launch my coaching programs My next intuitive nudge for this year is to work hard at developing the content for two coaching programs I’m working on that provide people with the opportunity to do much of their deep self-reflection and introspection at home, privately, before they enter coaching sessions with me. This leverages my time much more effectively, and allows me to serve and reach more people. I just need to stop procrastinating and get the programs developed and out there! Intuitive nudge #5 – Continue to get private coaching myself At the end of 2016 I decided to invest in private coaching from Jennifer Smith at The Art of Better Blogging, and it was the best decision I’ve made. Thanks to Jenn’s help, I’ve been able to get crystal clear on exactly what I need to do to grow my business and get the exact, specific advice I need to hear in order to step up into full visibility and get my products and services out there. For too long I dabbled in online programs and courses without private coaching, thinking I could do it myself once I had the necessary information – wrong. I became stuck in an endless cycle of spinning wheels and was not going anywhere. Deciding to invest in private coaching was by far the best thing I did in 2016 and I now know it’s an absolute necessity going forward. Intuitive nudge #6 – MORE is not BETTER Something I discovered in a very tangible way last year was that doing more does not mean I accomplish more. What’s important is that I take the time to get quiet, to listen to my own intuitive guidance and to align my heart, mind, body and soul before proceeding in any particular direction. I’ve been a perpetual ‘doer’ my whole life, and it’s not only exhausting, but ineffective. In recent years I’ve experienced that when I take the time to slow down and align my actions very intentionally, magic happens. And this year I intend to infuse a whole lot more magic into my life! Wow. That’s a LOT to work on this year. I’d better stop writing and go and get started. Thank you Jess Lively for your wonderful prompt and for your super insightful podcast that I’ve recently started listening to. I highly recommend Jess’s podcast to anyone who wants support, encouragement or advice on how to live your best life. @JessLively.com
Writing prompt #11: How will you take stock of your habits and improve them in the coming year?
Writing prompt #11 comes from Charlie Gilkey (@charliegilkey), a self-described “Walking contradiction: author, consultant, social philosopher, and veteran. Co-creating a better tomorrow with others today.” He’s a champion of and catalyst for Creative Giants, talented Renaissance souls with a compassion-fueled bias towards action. Charlie asks:
“How are you going to take stock of your habits and improve them the coming year?” #KeepDropAdd
Charlie advises that in order to make way for new things in our limited time, we need to ‘drop’ some things. He asks us to reflect on which things in our lives should stay, which things should be dropped, and which things should we add? Thanks Charlie for this reflective prompt. It was necessary for me to think about these things with intention, even though my habit is to just keep ploughing ahead without thinking about these things. I think I can answer this one fairly quickly. Here’s what I’ll keep, drop and add this year. KEEP: My morning 20 minute yoga routine, quality family time on weekends. DROP: Unfocused time on social media, trying to do things myself that I’m not good and instead pay for help to do those things. Paying for help with the tasks required for running my business is the only way I’m going to break the unproductive cycle and win some extra time in my day. This will be a big goal for me this year. ADD: More self-care (a massage once a month, more yoga practice, more meditation), more telephone chats or catch-ups with friends, more date nights with my husband.
Writing prompt #12 – What does your ideal day look like?
This prompt comes from visionary Jenny Blake (@jenny_blake), an author, international speaker, business strategist, career coach and yogi now living and working in New York. She’s the author of ‘Pivot’, a wonderful book I’ve just finished reading that outlines a four-stage process to mindfully navigate career paths. Jenny asks:
“Describe your ideal average day one year from now. Where are you? What routines help start the day? What projects are you thrilled to dive into? What kind of impact are you having on the world around you? Who are you with? How do you unwind at the end of the day? Don’t think too hard about the answers; go with your gut and fill-in whatever first comes to mind.”#IdealDay
This is a fantastic exercise that I get my coaching clients to do when I’m working with them. The only way we can begin to create the life we reallywant is to first imagine it. The hard part here is to let our mind think truly big, rather than confining ourselves to what we think is possible. It’s not easy to imagine our most ideal life, but opening up our imagination to what’s possible is the first and critical step to creating more magic in our lives. It was great for me to spend the time reflecting on this (I don’t tend to do it enough myself). Here’s how my ideal day would look: It’s December 2017 and it’s been a truly wonderful year. I wake up to the gentle noise of birds outside our window and as I lie in bed I give quiet gratitude for the day ahead and for all the blessings in my life. I wake up gently, put on my yoga clothes and head outside in the cool, fresh morning air with my yoga mat to do my fifteen minute yoga routine on the back lawn. The sun is just coming up over the horizon and the birds are chirping on this beautiful, warm summer morning. I feel my body ground down into the earth as I move through my yoga poses and then I sit quietly in ten minutes of meditation and reflection, imagining a perfect outcome to the day ahead. I head inside to make my morning lemon juice. My boys are now awake and we enjoy a cuddle, a chat and breakfast together. It’s my husband’s turn to get the kids organized and off to school this morning, so I take the time to relish a long shower and prepare myself for my exciting day ahead. Today I’ve been invited to speak on ABC Radio about my Joyful Career Academy that helps young adults through a process of self-reflection and self-discovery that identifies their unique strengths and soul gifts, to uncover the most ideal career path that allows them to bring their full self into the work place. Before the talk after lunch, I’m spending the morning with two of my favourite coaching clients who I’m guiding through a process of starting up their own business. We’ll be working through some of their biggest challenges and helping them break through their blocks to maor growth in their business. After the delightful coaching sessions I go out for lunch with a dear friend of mine and we discuss all things from family life and holiday plans to the things that light up us up and make us feel excited. We discuss music, fashion, sport, shopping, our latest projects and ideas. After a nurturing conversation, I head off to the ABC to get ready for my talk. It’s a wonderful afternoon connecting with like-minded people and reaching out to more people with my message. I feel uplifted and inspired by the impact I’m able to make in helping people unleash their natural genius and get their unique gifts into the world in a way that makes them feel deeply fulfilled, satisfied and valued. I head to school to pick up my beautiful boys and we head down to the beach for a play in the sand, a swim and an ice-cream. My husband meets us down at the beach for fish and chips. We all head into the water for one more swim and play before we head home. The kids go to bed easily after a bath and bedtime story, and my husband and I relax onto the couch to enjoy some quiet alone time with a good glass of red wine. It’s been a great day. It’s been a great year. I’ve developed a full and rich website of resources and guidance for people seeking a more fulfilling working life. I’ve earned my first wonderful annual income based on my high-end coaching packages and public speaking engagements. I’ve launched an online course to help fulfilling career seekers find and live their calling. I have a wonderful team of talented, highly competent people working for me and helping me serve and reach more people. We moved back to Australia and found the perfect family home, in a suburb we truly love. We’ve made new connections and rekindled old ones. We’re surround by caring friends and family. We really are truly blessed.
BONUS writing prompt #13: How will you manifest your understanding that we’re all connected?
Our final visionary for Quest 2017 is Rebecca Walker (@rebeccawalker). She may be best known for her role as the original leader and founder of Third Wave Feminism, the movement, and the co-founder of the Third Wave Foundation, a non-profit organization that works through grant-making, leadership development, and philanthropic advocacy to support young women ages 15 to 30 working towards gender, racial, economic, and social justice. She has authored many books, including her latest collection,Black Cool, which explores the singular aesthetic that has helped to shape the world. Time Magazine named Walker one of fifty most influential American leaders under forty because of her transformative views on race, gender, sexuality and power. Rebecca asks:
“This coming year you have the ability to share a bit of your privilege, energy, and love in a way perhaps you haven’t done before. In 2017, for what person or group will you support with your whole heart and clear voice to make their life easier and personal evolution more possible? How will you manifest your understanding that we are all connected?” #Connected
I truly do believe that we are all connected and that when we make the decision to show up powerfully and be the best version of ourselves, we have a positive and inspirational impact on those around us. We impact the world predominantly through our connections and relationships. And so this year I commit to connecting and reaching out more, to proactively building networks and communities with the intention to serve as many people as I can with my message. My message is an echo of Howard Thurman’s famous quote “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive”. There are so many people out there feeling less than excited about their work. So many people drag themselves into their office or workplace and feel frustrated, uninspired or at worst, depressed and loathing about the way they spend their days. Many people don’t know how to lift themselves out of the rut in which they’ve unknowingly landed and struggle with the nagging feeling that there must be a more enjoyable and fulfilling way to live life. Many people feel they have a ‘calling’, if only they could figure out what it is and know how to live it, and how to make enough money in the process to quit their day job. I will show up for those people this year. I’ve heard many stories lately from friends and acquaintances who struggle at a very deep level with overwhelm and fatigue in life. One of them said “I just have to rediscover my love for my work”. But perhaps the love for your work has changed or been lived to its completion and it’s time for something different. We need to let people know that it’s okay to crave change and something different. It’s a very normal and healthy reaction to life, if we could only embrace the positive side of wanting change. We shouldn’t see it as a failure or a shortcoming of our own in some way. It’s simply acknowledging that you’re ready for the next exciting phase of life. There are ways to change or shapeshift your career to find more pleasure and enjoyment in day to day living. It is possible – and necessary – to move in the direction of something that lights you and up and allows you to use your strengths and talents in a way that offers real value to others. It’s possible to love your life, and you should! Life is too short, it’s a tragedy if we spend our time feeling stuck and overwhelmed. So – my commitment this year is to show up for all of you who struggle with the issues I just described. I know how it feels. I’ve been there – for almost 15 years I was there, struggling with feelings of frustration and complete lack of inspiration. And now that I know the joy of finding my calling, I want more than anything for everyone to feel that kind of deep joy and satisfaction every day. So dear friends, this year I will be here for you, cheerleading you and motivating you to dig deep, to find your calling and most importantly find the courage to take the necessary steps to get out there and start living it. And since we’re all connected, I know that any small positive impact I can have on someone’s life, those changes will flow onto the people around them and the ripple effect takes action. All we need to do is step up and show up for the people we’re here to serve.
Pulling it all together – synthesising the QUEST
Wow. What a process! So much reflection and deep processing of my values, thoughts and ideals. I’ve emerged so much clearer and stronger in my convictions and plans for the year ahead. Thanks to Jeffrey Davis’ tools and resources, I’ve been able to process the different themes and visions to come up with a solid plan for 2017. I feel really thankful to have been able to participate in this process. A big shout out to anyone who wants to jump on board this process for next year, I highly recommend it. And I hope that by sharing this process with you, it’s helped you in some way on your journey.
In service to helping you live your fullest and brightest life,
Kate De Jong is an expert Fempire Coach, blogger and inspirer who intimately understands (and shares) what it is like to juggle motherhood and entrepreneurship, whilst staying sane and enjoying the freedom and fulfilment of being a successful coach and fempreneur.