Don’t Mess With Their Rice Bowl: Seven Business Lessons from Ten Recent Workshop No-Shows

 

rice bowl chopsticksI want to tell you a story.

I know that, on this blog, I share a lot of “how to’s” and philosophical pieces and there can be the risk of people thinking that because I generally post positive things, I must never mess up, I must have everything together and I must never get frustrated with clients.

Which is certainly not true . . .

This story has to do with something I heard Stephen Covey speak of years ago which was to never mess with someone’s rice bowl. It was an Asian proverb he’d heard. It meant, in essence, don’t mess with someone’s means of sustenance. Note that the aphorism isn’t “don’t mess with someone’s rice.” It is don’t mess with the bowl. The rice is one meal, but the bowl is the thing that carries their food and makes it possible to eat. In modern times, people’s businesses or computers are a sort of rice bowl. They are the things that make sustenance possible. If you run a workshop, it’s your rice bowl.

And recently, my rice bowl got messed with by ten people.

So I want to tell you the story of this and what I learned from it.

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At the end of February, I hosted a workshop in my living room in Edmonton.

My living room isn’t very large. It can accommodate about 12 people.

This means that my Edmonton workshops tend to sell out quickly.

And that means that once it’s sold out, people don’t bother asking about spaces or if they do, I have to turn them away and hope they might make it to a future workshop.

It means that, if people no-show without telling me, I lose money. On a day-long workshop, where the price is a $25 deposit and pay-what-you-can (PWYC) by the end, I tend to make about $100/person (in addition to the deposit). Because the workshop is PWYC, my only expectation is that you show up. Not that you pay a lot. Just that you show up. That’s it.

On this day, five people no-showed. They didn’t come and they didn’t, for the most part, tell me they weren’t coming.

And then again, just a month later, it happened almost identically. Five no-shows for a workshop of twelve.

Of course, most of my blog posts are trying to help you look at your business through the eyes of your potential customers; helping people see how their marketing might come across as gross or disrespectful.

But this one is also about helping you look through the eyes of the entrepreneurs you might be doing business with. I’m hoping to lift up the impact of your own conduct as a customer.

And . . . perhaps also to commiserate with you a bit, my dear reader, about shitty behaviour you’ve had to deal with from your clients and to offer you seven lessons on how to deal with it.

 

Here’s the story:

Both workshops started at 10am but in both cases, only six of the 12 people registered were present so I asked everyone’s patience to wait until more folks arrived. By 10:15am we just got started anyway. And the others never arrived.

After the first workshop was done, I realized thar I had accidentally left the “pay at the door” option on Eventbrite on and a few of the registrants had chosen that option. Which means they hadn’t had to pay the $25 deposit. It’s a rookie mistake on my part, and not the first time I’ve done it. Whenever people don’t show up for my workshops, it’s almost always the people who’ve not put down a deposit because they “promised” to pay at the door.

Classic.

So, that wasn’t great, but that was my bad. It’s not good behaviour on no-shows’ parts to not let me know, given how few spots there were in the workshop, but it’s predictable and I know better. I learned this lesson first in Seattle, when 36 people signed up for my PWYC weekend workshop and only 12 showed up because there had been no deposit asked of them. Since then I’ve required $100 down for the weekend workshops and no-shows have vanished. When I began doing day-long workshops, I asked for a $25 deposit, and hadn’t had an issue with no-shows . . . until these past two workshops.

Then I noticed that one of them had actually been on the waiting list and I’d forgotten to tell that person that they could now come as someone had dropped off the list. My bad again.

But, by the end of it all, there were still five people who had paid their deposits for the second workshop and simply not shown up. Ten people in total. Not even a courtesy message the night before or the morning of.

 

mfh-video-leftHere’s What Was Particularly Frustrating:

This was the first workshop in which I’d decided to give everyone my $80 Marketing for Hippies 101 video in advance of the workshop.

The pitch was that, before participants showed up, they’d get all of the content of the workshop and our day together could be 100% question and answer focused on applying the content to their own particular situations. It was, I knew, an experiment. It was my attempt to be generous with my people and also avoid my having to go over the exact same content again and again in my workshops. I’d hoped it might be a win/win.

And yet, it is the workshop with the highest percentage of no-shows I have ever had since instituting the deposit system.

Most generous offer = most no-shows?

What gives?

I was left with a sense of having been taken for granted at best or, at the worst, taken advantage of.

For someone who operates their business largely on trust (and is most often rewarded for that), it felt brutal. It’s the worst I’ve felt in business in years.

Looking through my email after the workshop I saw one message had come in that morning from a couple, but via Facebook and it landed in my “Other” inbox:

Morning Tad! My partner and I are registered For your workshop today. We are sorry we aren’t going to make it, our jobs at a show last night went much later than expected. We are happy for you to keep our donation of course and will keep an eye out for more of your workshops in the future. Our apologies again!

I felt grateful they’d let me know. And apologized. And . . . there was still a hint of . . . the fact that they’d not set themselves up well enough to be able to keep their word on attending the workshop. That if, let’s say, it had been a friend’s wedding, they either would have shown up, even if tired, or made sure they weren’t working so late the night before.

And so, after the workshop was done, I messaged those who had no-showed to see what had happened.

One of the responses felt 100% good. Some others felt mixed. And some, though well intentioned, felt downright awful. I will share their words here anonymously and my reactions candidly.

 

pain2The words that didn’t feel good:

“Unfortunately we were unable to attend. Feeling worn out and tired after to much travelling, we felt it was best for us to rest. We have been told wonderful things about your class and would love to attend in the future. Do you be having anymore classes coming up? We are located in Medicine Hat which is in the south eastern corner of Alberta. We are always open to travel to Calgary, Edmonton or Lethbridge. Would you ever consider doing this class in Medicine Hat? We look forward to hearing back from you.”

Unable to come. Because they were tired. That felt not great to read because it felt like a shirking of responsibility. It’s not that they were “unable” to come. They chose not to come because they were tired. They were tired because they arranged their travel schedule in such a way that it had led them be tired. If it had been important for them to make it, they would have made it.

Sure. Maybe it was best for them to rest. But what about me at the facilitator and host? And the other participants? What about the people who weren’t able to come because their spots had been reserved? Void in their note is any sense of the impact their behaviour had on others.

Also, the light tone that assumes I would even be excited, in that moment, to have them sign up for another workshop. Or that, having just bailed on me, I’d be so thrilled come to their corner of the world.

And most of all, why didn’t they email me the night before to let me know they wouldn’t be coming so I would, at least, have a fighting chance of filling the space. Or even the morning of. No. I had to email them to even hear that. Which feels deeply disrespectful.

Another:

I was so stoked for the workshop but sadly I have been so sick I wasn’t able to attend today. I hope everything went well and I hope to meet you one day as I loved the video and get a lot of inspiration out of it.

Ugh. Again, “wasn’t able to attend.” How about you just let a brother know as soon as you think it’s likely? So glad you enjoyed that video I put thousands into producing and that I sell for $80. Glad it entertained you. And again, this light tone of “hope to meet you someday” as if I’d be really excited to meet someone who totally bailed on my workshop and didn’t even think enough of me or the other participants to let me know.

Yet another:

Everything is ok. I was up late working and needed some sleep. It’s been a crazy work week for me

So, they chose to stay up late working and then decided the need for sleep trumped the need to keep their word,  my need for income from my work and someone else’s need to learn what was offered in the workshop. At a certain point, this is the inescapable algebra that they had to wrestle with. I understand having crazy-busy weeks. For sure. But I’m not okay with using that as an excuse to no-show. Especially with no notification.

And then this one:

Hi Tad, sorry I missed this… Two of my kids are sick and I hardly slept last night. :(

I get not sleeping. But, you can still let the workshop facilitator know you won’t be coming. You can set your alarm to wake you up to send an email. You could send me an email before going to bed. I didn’t get that message from her til 1pm. Three hours after the workshop had begun. And it was only in response to a message I’d sent out asking, “Are you coming?”

And:

yes, I was going to come with two others. Sadly it didn’t work out. I really do appreciate your words. So passionate and inspiring. Keep up the great work Tad. (Another time I hope. )

This one might have felt the worst. Again, it only came after I had written this person. And . . . it just “didn’t work out.” Huh. Not their fault. And who knows – this is me being extraordinarily cranky. There are, of course, all manner of reasons that would be entirely justifiable to not attend to my super duper important workshop at the last minute. I get it. I know it’s pissy. But it’s also how everyone feels when you break your word to them. This is desperately important to get. You can tell me, “I really do appreciate your words,” but if that’s not backed up with some sort of action, the feeling I’m left with is, “the hell you do.” Because, no-showing for a workshop and costing the facilitator hundreds of potential income dollars and others the chance to attend . . . that’s not how you treat someone you actually appreciate. And again, the assumption that I’d be so happy to have her come another time given her behaviour.

And, finally, my personal favourite:

I can’t make it today. Please pass my ticket on forward.  Thanks :)

Yes! You’re welcome! I’ll totally pass it onto that lineup of people I asked to be waiting outside of my door this morning just in case you canceled. I wonder who the lucky person will be!

The Words That Felt Mixed:

There were some participants whose words felt better because they were willing to actually do something to make ammends and pay for their spot.

“sorry my friend, we didn’t make it today for your workshop. we live in white court (2.5 hrs away), and it was just too treacherous a drive with all the snow this morning. really i just feel sorry for myself, for having missed it! i only moved to alberta a few months ago, before that i lived in toronto and that’s where i first heard about you, through a friend. so i was pretty excited when i realized i’d be able to take a workshop with you in edmonton! maybe next round – please keep me on your mailing list for workshop announcements. in the meantime… i have two questions: of your online materials, what would you recommend as most relevant for a yoga teacher/massage practitioner?  also, is there a way that i can send you a bit more money towards these amazing downloads that you provided as part of the workshop? i can’t give a lot, but i would like to give something. thanks for being such a cool dude and doing what you do.”

What didn’t feel good here was that I didn’t get this message until 3pm and only, so I thought, in response to an email from me. Which had me feel cranky. But, it turned out that, even though the email was later than I would have liked, it was sent entirely on her own initiative which feels good to know. The road conditions were very bad that day and I am glad they stayed safe. And they could easily have emailed me three hours before the workshop began. That would have felt really good. But, one of them sent me $60, unprompted, to make up for it which was incredibly gracious. So, overall, this felt good. The only part that didn’t feel good was it coming later than I would have liked and that I’d thought they were only emailing after I’d emailed them. Knowing it was sent unprompted is touching to know. It strikes me how much of this all comes down to feeling valued by people. Which, by the end, I did.

You probably already know, but I missed your workshop today. I really loved the video series that you sent out a few ago though and I know your event was pay-what-you-can, so I’d like to send you a cheque. Where should I mail it and who should I make it out to? Hope the day went well!
What didn’t feel great was they sent this after my workshop was over. What felt great was that they offered to pay something for having no-showed and to acknowledge the material provided. That’s incredible integrity. And then they saw my Facebook post from the morning of the workshop, “No showing workshops is bad behavior. Period.” and they wrote:
Oh gosh, I just saw your fb post about no shows. I’m now feeling super embarrassed….sorry to have caused any negativity today.
And that felt good to me, to feel like they were getting it – but also not-so-great because it seemed to be news to her that no-showing might cause some negative feelings. This is often our culture – woefully unaware of the impact of our actions on others.
But then she sent me $175. Which, I admit, felt better.

 

The Words That Felt Good:

Of all of the messages I received, this one felt best:

I’m registered in today’s class although I’ve come down w something, I was hoping it would pass and I could still attend. Do I pay for the video w pay pal? Although I was sick I don’t want to flake out. Any idea when you will offer this again?

It felt better because they sent it at 4am. That’s incredibly considerate. As soon as they knew they wouldn’t be coming, they let me know and offered to pay for the $80 video that was provided in advance. I get that things come up. I do. Life happens. If you just let people know as soon as you can, that’s all most folks want or need. In the end, even though they’d missed my workshop due to illness, they sent me $240 for my work, which felt . . . incredibly good and honouring.

Given the fact that the average PWYC donation was $197 per person that day it also meant that nothing was lost financially for me due to that person missing the workshop. And, because of their graciousness, you can bet I’ll be available to them for questions here and there and am excited to meet this person in a workshop when they finally make it to a day-long workshop as my guest (I won’t charge them at all as in my books, they’ve already paid). I did my best to be as generous as I could in communicating and they returned the generosity to me which made me want to give her more. I did the same with the person who sent me $175. The truth is that, while those amounts feel good and fair for the work and materials provided, it’s not really about the amount. It was that they wanted to send me something. They sent what they could. If it had been $20 I would have felt wonderful too because . . . that’s why I do PWYC. So this work can be accessible to whoever needs it. If they’d come, maybe they could only have paid $10. That’s fine. What is not fine, for me, from my perspective, is no-showing and then doing nothing to make up for it.

 

The Email I Would Have Loved to Have Received:

In my perfect dream world, this is the kind of email I would have loved to have gotten and, therefore, the kind of email I am committed to sending should I need to cancel last minute for a workshop. Imagine you’re a workshop leader and I’m bailing from your class but you get this email from me.

“Something has come up and it looks like we won’t be able to make your workshop. We wanted to give you as much heads up as we could, and wish it was more, in hopes that you might be able to find someone to fill our space. We feel awful because we know there were so few seats and that our missing the workshop means that others were turned away and might not get the chance. Of course, we know you’ll keep our deposits but we also got this video from you and we were wondering if we might be able to pay you for that to make it right. It’s not your fault we can’t make it. If there’s anything else we can do to make things good, please let us know because we respect your work in this world so much and wouldn’t want our inability to keep our commitment to come to take away from your ability to do your work in the future.”

I would have felt so good about that.

 

So, What’s The Solution?

One woman from England, upon reading an early version of this post said, “This man doesn’t make what he is offering important enough for people to respect him, pay in advance and make sure they show up to his workshops. That’s what he needs to be addressing.”

So, her stance is that, I don’t value what I’m doing enough and need to command more respect.

And this is where things get tricky.

The reality is that, again, until shifting the offer to add the video, I got very few no shows. Negligible. Adding the videos was an experiment and it turned out differently than I’d imagined it might. That’s life. This is not an endemic pattern in my life or business.

And aside from the arrogant tone of her knowing what I need in my life somehow, this whole idea of making what we offer ‘important enough’ for people to respect us is fraught with peril. First of all, it’s very connected to the troubles of the notion of charging what we’re worth and the way that many people walk around trying to command respect from others by posturing.

I run my workshops on a pay what you can basis. So, I don’t get all the money upfront. There are a lot of reasons I do this (some strategic and some altruistic), but a lack of self respect isn’t among them.

I want to suggest that the way forward isn’t a one size fits all approach but about finding a way of structuring your business and offers that feels good without needing to puff yourself up so that others value what you do and it’s more subtle than simply making what you do ‘more important’. I have no idea what that actually means.

 

Seven Business Lessons to Pull From This:

Lesson #1 – Don’t Tolerate Bad Behaviour From Clients.

Sometimes your clients behave badly. They do things that won’t work for you. It’s ok to be upset with your clients. When your clients do things that break agreements you have or are unkind or thoughtless, it’s okay for you to speak up and address the issue directly.

Too many entrepreneurs put up with it because they think “the customer is always right.” But this is not true. This feeds the bizarre, spoiled, community destroying and toxic entitlement in which we are constantly swimming as a culture. They collapse and say, “Oh. It’s okay. Don’t worry about it. It’s fine. No big deal.” because they don’t feel like their needs matter at all. They’re trying to be “nice.”

It’s far worse that this though because this niceness actually robs the other person of something. It robs them of their humanity. When we refuse to let people know that their actions impact us, for better or worse, we turn them into a ghost. When we refuse to be real with them we contribute to them being less real; we contribute to their loss of understanding of what real is.

Sometimes we don’t speak up because we know we’re guilty of the same things too. We know that if we speak to their lack of integrity, we are suddenly incredibly vulnerable to have ours pointed out to us too. So, it can feel easier and safer to let it slide with them in the hopes that they’ll give us the same pass when we drop the ball and flake on them. And if they don’t? Well, then at least we get to feel morally superior about how chill we were about them bailing and how uptight they are. Soooo… that’s something.

It’s easy to tell ourselves the story that, until we get our own integrity sorted out and are 100% consistent that we have no right to expect it of others. But I want to flip that all around. Yes, work on yourself. But let’s make part of that work about having good boundaries, about letting yourself respond honestly. When we hold others to a higher standard, it also calls up and galvanizes that in us. The more we consciously do it with others, the more likely we are to do it in ourselves. The act of holding someone accountable is a more visceral and real reminder about the importance of keeping our word than a year or meditation on the subject because it makes us vulnerable.

And, if, out of laziness, fear or just low standards, we don’t hold others accountable to their word, we won’t be able to court something better from the other, and that robs not only our business but the community of a more mature person.

This isn’t about punishing clients or calling them out. It’s about courting the possibility of a more whole village in which all of us could live.

Lesson #2 – Set Up Clear Cancellation Policies.

Giving away all of the content in advance was a small experiment (which we’ll talk about later). What I learned from that experiment was that, for whatever constellation of reasons, it dramatically increased the rate of no shows. That was reality. Adding those videos was literally the only thing I changed in the arrangement. I imagine a small part of the no showing may have been the guilt of them having not watched the videos and not wanting show up and be embarrassed by this but I think a big part of it is, even if unconsciously, the sense that, “Well . . . I’ve already gotten all of the content so . . . there’s no real need for me to show up.”

I’m open to doing this same offer in the future. But, if I do, I will have an iron clad cancelation policy that says: “If you cancel within 48 hours of the event, your credit card will be charged $100 as I won’t have the possibility of filling the space. If you no-show without letting me know in advance of this workshop, your credit card will be charged $200 for being an asshole.” Or something like that.

This is a common policy. My dentist does this for missed appointments. Many therapists and massage clients do this. I think it’s wise to have a cancellation policy because, without it, you leave yourself open to being taken advantage of by those raised in a culture that only ever taught them to worship at the altar of what-works-for-them.

Someone recently shared her version of Alexandra Franzen’s brilliant cancellation/no show policy wording (students have to tick the box indicating they have read this before payments are made):

“When you register and make your first payment, that’s my cue to block out a seat — and shoo other folks away if the class will be full. I prepare your 40+ page manual. I start crafting your name tag and graduation certificate. I start brewing and meditating on your journey that’s just beginning and holding you in my mind while I’m stuck in traffic.

I invest in you — just like you invest in yourself, by investing in this class. And that’s why, with exception of tsunamis, earthquakes, tornadoes, avalanches and unforeseeable grief-stricken situations, I do not offer refunds for cancellations —which, to my delight, are fairly infrequent.

If you are in dire straights and need to reschedule your training to a later date, please please get a hold of me (via email or phone) as soon as possible — out of respect for me and my time to re-jig the class, and most importantly out of respect for those other fine souls I may have to turn away if a seat is not available. If a rescheduling happens in advanced, I will hold your payment until you are able to join me again. Because commitment is sexy, and extra time + energy goes into the process, an additional fee of $50 is charged to reschedule to another class. If less than 48 hours (2 days) notice is given, you will forfeit the entire $225 and rescheduling will happen with another full payment. That, my friends, is my Karma-Friendly Cancellation Policy.”

Lesson #3 – “It Matters That You Come” – Get Payment in Full Before or Set Up Deposits on PWYC Events.

If you decide to run a pay what you can workshop, I beg of you, get a deposit for it when they sign up. If you let them pay at the door, they’ll likely never end up arriving at the door at all. Make sure the deposit is enough that, if they cancel, you still feel good and you’re not out too much money. I used to not require a deposit and the no show rate was huge. Ever since adding it, until this recent experiment, it’s been negligible.

A colleague, Audrey Seymour wrote these words about an earlier version of this blog,

“Tad wrote a great blog post yesterday about how no-shows increase for workshops when you don’t require prepayment. This matches my experience, and when you look at it from the perspective of parts of the psyche, you can see the part that signed up and the part that is resistant to the shift that the workshop is likely to create. Requiring prepayment supports the part of the client that wants the shift. I found this to be particularly true when teaching Speaking Circles, helping people get past stage fright. I offered a prepay discount for a package of sessions, and I remember one client saying “I’m SO GLAD you offered that prepay package, because if I hadn’t prepaid, I never would have come back the second time. My fright was still so strong, and I would have missed this incredible transformation that has happened! Thanks for doing that.”

One of my colleagues Sue makes sure new clients read this before booking with her:

Please provide payment prior to your session, via PayPal (Internationally) or Interac Online (in Canada). If you encounter an emergency that requires you to cancel a session, please just let me know and we’ll schedule another at a time that works better. If you need to change an appointment time for any reason OTHER than an emergency, again, please contact me asap and we’ll find a good time for both of us.

Lesson #4 – Overfill Your Workshops.

No matter what you do, there will always be some no-shows at your workshops because “shit happens.”

People get sick.

Blizzards happen.

People’s cars won’t start.

In my experience, unless they pay everything in advance, you’re looking at a 10-20% no show rate. You’ll learn what it is in your own situation through experience. But, if you notice that you keep having 10% of the people not show up, then make sure you consistently sell 10% spaces than you need. If your workshop has a limit of 30 people, sell 33 seats.

Doing this is an immense relief.

And if everyone shows up? You’ve got three extra people. No big deal. And if, predictably, three people no show you or cancel so last minute that you can’t fill their spaces? You’re prepared and harbour no bitterness towards them because you already filled those spaces. If I’d done this in this situation, I wouldn’t have felt half as bad. How do you fill up your workshops? Read this, son.

Lesson #5 – Take Responsibility for Your Business.

This ties into all of the other lessons but the heart of it is this . . . as much as I bitch above about people no-showing and kvetch about their overall lacklustre responses, my business is my responsibility, not theirs.

The truth is that they are doing exactly what they need to be doing.

They’re just being themselves. They’re responding perfectly to the parameters of the offer I made. In their shoes, I might behave the same way. How they act is their business. My business isn’t to change them. It’s to notice how they’re being in response to what I’m offering and adapt to that. My business is to take care of myself while loving them as they are. But if I don’t do the former, the latter will prove impossible.

I have seen clients deal with clients showing up late or not at all for years and never do anything about it beyond whining and complaining. And, the longer that goes for, the more it becomes a story like, “People are inconsiderate” or “There must be something wrong with me.” etc.

My colleague Joseph Riggio who wrote the guest post for my blog Are You More Comfortable Being “Salesy” Or “Subtle” had this to say…

I do charge in full before people can attend my program and I have a very generous refund policy before the program begins, but they need to initiate it, because I don’t want to become responsible for them showing up and I make my living this way. If I want to give something away because I think someone needs it or I simply want them to have it I do that too. Currently I’m running a major certification training program (4 modules of 3 1/2 days, $9000 regular investment) and I gave away 12 spaces in it as a scholarship, and make another 6 available at a huge discount as a sponsorship. All the spaces were taken and I had zero no-shows. What I did was establish the importance of what the commitment I expected was up front and assumed responsibility for making sure my clients got it, 100% on me. IMO my clients are only able to treat me as I allow them to, and I never, ever take it personally. I work this way now because I totally get it. I been there before … i.e.: in a room “full” of no shows. I’ve also been the “no-show” in a room and while I pay for the space I haven’t occupied when I do that, I don’t feel guilty for not being present if the presenter hasn’t indicated that it’s important to the program and/or others who will attend for me to be there. When I get that, i.e.: my presence and not just my money is significant, I make a much more informed decision about what I need to do if I decide to register.

You have people no-showing you consistently? Do something about it.

You have clients who don’t treat you right? Say something.

You have clients not paying you? Change something.

This is your business and your responsibility.

Whining and blaming your clients is a dead end street that will leave you broke, bitter and full of resentment to the very clients you profess to love and want to serve. Don’t blame others for your own laziness or miscalculations in creating systems.

Lesson #6 – Reminders.

If you have a workshop, send a reminder about it 48 hours before the event. You’d be surprised how many people forget it’s coming up. Sometimes these emails will actually prompt people to email you and say, “I can’t make it.” and then you’d at least got a fighting chance of filling those spots.

Lesson #7 – Start Small.

I’m currently on tour. I’ll be leading eleven workshops. Only one of them is getting the same “here’s all the content free” deal because it was one of the first ones I set up. Thank God I didn’t plan out my whole tour like this. I decided I would test it in Edmonton and see how it went. But then I got so excited about it that I decided I would do my whole tour that way. Luckily, I led my first attempt at it at the end of February, before the whole tour was planned and noticed that half of the people no-showed. That was all I needed to decide not to do the whole tour that way until I understood the dynamic better. Then, just before going on tour, was the second workshop where the exact same thing happened. I felt annoyed and really frustrated, but also relieved that I’d been able to test small before going big.

Business and marketing are not guaranteed things. You’re always taking risks and experimenting with things. Every time you make a new offer, explore a new niche, change the name of something or try a new activity in a workshop – it’s an experiment. That’s unavoidable. The only thing you can control is the scale of the experiment. Too many people go big with every experiment.

In business this is called doing your due diligence. Any time you’re going to invest your time, money, reputation or energy in any significant amount, it’s vital that you investigate and test to make sure it’s worthy of it and will work. Too many entrepreneurs fail because they don’t.

To be clear: If I’d set up my whole tour this way, I’d be looking at half of the money for the same amount of effort. That would have been brutal.

I encourage you, whenever you’re thinking of changing something significant about your business or what you’re offering, start small.

 

The Community Lesson:

Everything we do and don’t do makes a wake, a legion of waves and troughs that pound the shores at the edges of what we mean, grinding away on the periphery of what we know. This goes on after the years of our private lives are long past. If we don’t learn that simple, devastating, and redeeming detail of being alive – that what we do lasts longer than we do, that the past isn’t over – then the parade of our days stands to indict much more than it bequeaths.”

–  Stephen Jenkinson, Die Wise – A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul

The business lessons above are important, but the lesson in community here is even more important.

Every action you make builds the village up or tears it apart.

If there’s a most important lesson that I’m taking from this it’s not to no-show other people’s workshops. That feels most important. Because I can be out of integrity all over the place. So this blog post, while coming from a cranky place, isn’t coming from any place of moral superiority.

I just had this chat with a friend on Facebook about this:

Friend: “There’s some sort of illusion of busy = I’m a good person and you should understand …

Me: Interesting … Wow. Totally. “You should understand” gets said as this non-verbal, “awww. but you understand what it’s like, right?” with a wink as the charm pours on and the accountability rolls of their back.

Friend: Ya, like that. I’ve done it myself.

Me: It’s most of my life.

Friend: Sigh.

And I’m not being cute about it. I’ve really done that most of my life. Learned how to be charming as a way of avoiding responsibility for the consequences of my actions. If I had to sum up immaturity into six words, they would be “trying to get away with things”. That was me. Learning how to be likeable to protect myself from the impact my lack of integrity was having. If integrity is so important to me today, it’s because I’ve had times where I personally had so little of it. And when we let others off the hook for doing this, we hurt the community. This is so important to understand. When we don’t honestly share the impact that others have on us, we make them less human.

Every time you make a promise and break it, it tears at the fabric of trust in your community. This is just as true as a business or as a customer. We all have a role. When businesses overhype their products and services and ultimately let people down, trust in the marketplace is diminished. And when customers behave poorly, it is the same. When customers lie to businesses or business owners lie to customers that “everything is okay,” trust slowly drains out of a hole in the bottom of the marketplace that’s approximately the size of that lie.

At a recent workshop I had a participant ask me what was being covered in the last part of the day because, “I really want to leave early to go to satsang. What time does it end? 5? Oh I thought 3:30pm. Can I pick your brain before I go?”

It felt so gross. Like I was just a tool for her to get what she wanted with no thought that her leaving early might impact the vibe in the room, that her holding my workshop so casually might impact me and that she was entitled to get what she could out of me before she left early. I stood there feeling sort of stunning by it. In her mind, this whole day seemed to be all about her getting what she wanted and then leaving as soon as she’d gotten it. It felt awful. I nodded and told her that we needed to get started soon and I wouldn’t have time. It wasn’t the most honest answer, especially since I then went to the back of the room to answer someone else’s question from whom I felt a sincere level of respect for what was going on. If this woman had said to me, “Tad. I am loving this workshop so far and I’m going to have to leave early which I’m sad about and I was wondering if I could ask you a quick question.” I would likely have sat down and given it a shot. But she hadn’t even valued the day enough to know when it ended. She seemed to place no value on my accumulated knowledge. She just wanted to pick my brain.

Ugh.

At minimum, both entrepreneurs and clients are called upon to keep their promises. Keeping our word is the basis of trust. Trust comes from people being trustworthy.

Gealladh gun a’choimhghealladh, is miosa sin na dhiùltadh.Chan eil fealladh ann cho mòr ris an gealladh gun choimhlionadh. (Promising but not fulfilling, is worse than refusing. There is no deceit/fraud so great as the promise unfullfilled.)

– Scottish Gaelic Proverb

A small story: I recently created a project in Edmonton called The Social Yogi which creates monthly social events for local yogis.

But, being as overwhelmed with things as I was, I asked a friend to help me launch it. This friend then proceeded to bail on scheduled meetings fifteen minutes before because he was too busy. Each time he bailed he would use charm and good vibes to deflect the consequences. After the third time, I sent him a terse email letting him know that this could never happen again. He received the words well but then subsequently, and unsurprisingly, stepped down from the project.

You can’t build a project, a business or a community on the shattered remnants of broken promises. You can’t plant the seeds of new initiatives in depleted soil.

The hippie scene, in which I operate, is full of flakes. They bail on commitments all of the time without ever really “getting” the impact it has on others.

I think that this has a lot to do with our culture. If we have a culture of selfishness, I would submit that it’s because it’s rooted in the Cult of the Self.

We worship individualism.

An important point to notice: most of the emails people sent me were them expressing regret that they had missed the event and that this was a loss for them. While I appreciate this expression on one level (them letting me know they really wanted to go and were sad they couldn’t) what’s utterly missing is an acknowledgment that anyone else was impacted at all.

There’s no meaningful sense often that they understand the impact their actions have on the world around them as they trudge through the woods scaring all of wild nature and the spirit of goodwill away from them and anyone close to them. They proceed as if their needs are paramount rather than proceeding as if they are needed.

Author, elder and teacher Stephen Jenkinson once shared a story about his work with a therapist. Each time he would see the therapist, he would pay him the money for the session. But, on this day, things were tight and so Stephen casually told the therapist, “So, things are tight right now. I’ll pay you for this session next time.” Not thinking much of the impact this might have on his therapist in the same way that most of us don’t think of the impact of our actions on others.

“Why me?” were the words than came from his therapist’s mouth after a long and considered pause.

Those two words eviscerated the shroud of myopic complacency of Stephen’s excused. It asked something important of him. There was no blame in the words. No shame intended. Just the honest and, until then, ignored consideration of how he had come to decide that his therapist should be the one to bear the consequences of his lack of money. Why not his parents? Why not him? Why would the therapist be made to wait?

Why indeed.

I get my haircut at Barberha (best barbershop in Edmonton). Three times since starting to go there about a year ago, I’ve been too late and missed my appointment. Each time, I’ve insisted on paying for the appointment I missed. Then, one day, I was speaking with Linda the owner and she said, “You know Tad, you’re the only one that does that.”

I was incredulous. “What? What do they say? That’s ridiculous. They wasted your time and cost you money.”

“They just sort of say, ‘Oh man . . . I really can’t afford it right now . . .'”

My response was, “Fuck them.”

And if I were behind their counter when they pulled that, I would look them in the eyes, pause and ask them, “Dude. Why us?”

The Five Impacts of The No-Show:

When you no-show someone’s event you promised or committed to attend, it has an impact. Sure, you miss out on the workshop and that’s a bummer, but that’s too easy. That’s only the lense of the “self” this culture so celebrates. More profoundly and importantly, looking at it through the lense of the village, we see that there is an impact on many others.

Impact #1 – Money Lost: These five people no showing mean a loss of at least $500 of potential revenue for me. And maybe more if those who might have come in their place might also have spent money on other follow up products and services.

Impact #2 – Time Wasted: Now I need to follow up with the no-shows and deal with them individually. If they want to send me more money to make up for their absence, as generous and unlikely as that is, I will have to arrange payments for each of them. And there’s also some time wasted at the start of the workshop waiting to see if they’ll show up. Just 15 minutes of time wasted? No. That’s 15 minutes times seven for the seven people there who waited. It’s 15 real minutes of each person’s life, including my own.

One reader shared this,

“I can so relate as I worked 20 years for Canadian Blood Services, just retired a couple of months back and in the past year 2014, the no shows were at their highest ever. People commit an hour of their time to give blood to save peoples lives…we, CBS so heavily rely on those units and commit those units to the hospitals for people who are in great need in order to survive. To just blow it off as its nothing and say I will go another time and not even call in advance so that they can find a last minute donor to fill the seat, is so disheartening and also so frustrating and discouraging!! Staff spend countless hours understanding exactly what is required for the hospitals and then all the time spent to book donors all across the country. Then each day a dedicated team drives to locations all across Canada, through bad weather, and work long hours to ensure they get the necessary units needed to reach the daily goal. We go to the donors!! A lot of time and money is spent to pack up a team of health professionals on a bus to go to a town that has committed, say 100 units and only 30 show up….can’t describe the daily frustrations they all feel. The people I work with, especially out in the field, are beyond committed and do this job because they deeply care and most of the donors are deeply committed too….but I am not sure if it’s a generation thing or people are just so busy these days that they don’t even realize that by backing out and not informing in advance that they can’t make their appointment that someone’s loved one, a child, a sibling, a parent are lying in a hospital, with their only hope of survival, is by receiving those precious units of blood!! People need to be conscious of their actions when they commit to something and don’t follow through.”

Impact #3 – Someone Else Can’t Make It: If the workshop is a sell out, it means that, very likely, someone else wasn’t able to be there. Someone who really wanted to attend. And who was able and willing to be there.

Impact #4 – The Workshop is Changed: I plan my workshops for a certain number of people for a reason often. When people no-show, I have to change my plans and, sometimes, whole exercises need to be cut because there just aren’t enough people to carry them out.

Impact #5 – Impact on the Facilitator: My colleague Russell Scott said it so well, his words capturing the visceral essence of the thing I experience every time people no show me.

“At the beginning of the event I’ve been so pumped and excited anticipating the numbers and then 1/2 the people don’t show. Imagine going into a room of people with your heart totally open and then someone punches you in the stomach. That’s what it feels like right at the beginning of the workshop. The presenter has to deal with the excitement of doing the workshop and the disappointment of the no-shows at the same time. Its not a great way to begin.”

It’s so easy to forget that the facilitators are human beings too. That we’re not vending machines for wisdom that aren’t impacted by the group with which they work.

But it’s also important for us to remember that most people won’t see things this way and so, it’s good to consider how you can institutionalize and systematize the education and elucidation of this into your marketing and registration systems so the importance of their attendance is lifted up to them.

Crucially, we’re no longer talking about the importance of their attendance to them. Whether or not coming is important to them is literally none of my business or concern. I have no interest in making it important to them. I have interest in setting up the agreement, boundaries and payment structure so that it’s fair for both parties but I have no interest in trying to position what I’m doing as vital and therefore that, should they decide not to come, that they’re missing out on something important. None of my business.

Trying to get people to love or respect us in their hearts is a huge red herring; a false thread to follow. It looks like a good path to follow but it only takes us further and further away from where we need to be. In the end, it actually doesn’t matter if they love or respect you. What matters, very much, is how they behave. How they feel about you? Not so important. How they act around you? Very important. You have literally no control over how they feel, but there’s a lot you can do to create the conditions out of which good and courteous behaviour will grow.

Now, I will, of course, share what I have to offer as clearly and compellingly as I can. I want to help them see not only what I’m offering but the benefits it could have to their life. Of course. But that’s done with the offer to help them see if it’s a fit, not to convince them it is.

This is huge. If you don’t establish, with crystal clarity who your work is fit for and for whom it isn’t a fit, people will tend to see what you do as a commodity. They’ll see it as something generic and common. And that won’t engender respect. If they see that you do some things but not others, if they see that you have a scope of your work outside of which you’ll need to refer them to other people, they begin to get this sense of respect for what you do because they actually understand what you do. The clearer you are about your point of view and perspective, the more clear what you do becomes.

Respect begins with clarity and relevance. It deepens with trust and credibility and solidifies when they understand the value of it.

When I say, it’s good to lift up the importance of their attendance, I mean lifting up how and why it matters to other people besides themselves. This can show up in:

  • the contract they sign when they sign up
  • a welcome video you make
  • a box they check where they say, in essence, “I agree not to be a dick and no show because I know that impacts other people, costs you money and is a general buzz kill.”
  • a personal welcome call
  • a welcome email that they get

But it also shows up in…

  • the way you treat them with the kind of courtesy and respect you’d want from them
  • the kind of welcome they get in your programs so that they actually have the experience of knowing their presence is noticed and mattered
  • the way you carry yourself and speak about your work with the kind of respect and reverence you want from them (which has to have its roots in a real and meaningful respect you have around it – if you don’t respect the work you do, your own time and energy – they will smell that on you like a horse smells your nervousness and backs away)
  • your willingness to check in with them directly when they do something that doesn’t feel good to you

There are so many ways to do this and so many ways of wording it. Note: I’d love to read yours if you’d be willing to post it below.

You can’t build a village out of a group of people who only think about themselves and what’s in it for them. To hell with the invisible hand of self interest.

And we can’t build a village out of people who think that beautiful words are enough or that saying something is the same as doing it.

What was present in most of the words I received was the sentiment “I value you” and what was absent is any meaningful action about it. It is jarring to have someone utterly no-show a workshop and then say the words, “I really value you and your work.” To which my honest response is, “No. You don’t. If you actually valued it, you would have behaved differently. You just showed me how little you valued me. Now you’re trying to manage me and have me not be upset with you.”

During the lunch hour of the second workshop of the no-shows, I was venting my frustration with my friend Megan. She’d worked in the restaurant industry for 10 years and she related how, on big days like Valentines Day, people would often make reservations at three or four restaurants so that, on the day, they could choose whatever worked best for them. But that meant that the unchosen restaurants found themselves with too many staff and a lot of empty tables, costing restaurant thousands.

Cab drivers deal with this when people call a cab company to book a cab but end up hailing one down later and never calling to cancel their booking with the original cab company. They justify it by saying, “Everyone does it. It’s just how it is. No big deal.”

All too often, people make promises to others to do things not because they intend to do them but because they want to keep their options open and so they use their promises like a credit card that accrues the interest-based debt of resentment from others as the cost for buying more possibilities and time than were actually available to them without it. Instead of feeling the real human grief of our limitedness and all of the things we can’t say a real, solid, genuine “yes” to, we pretend that maybe we can say “yes” to everything and everyone and then, at the last minute, if things don’t work out for us, we can just bail and walk away.

Responsibility is a bigger thing than just trying our best to do what we say we will. It’s also about taking responsibility for making sure we’ll be ready and able to deliver on what it is we’ve committed to. It’s about creating the conditions we know we’ll need to succeed. If we promise to be somewhere and then choose to stay up late the night before . . . we chose to do that and, in that moment, we made our own comfort, productivity etc. more important than our promise to that person.

There’s nothing inherently wrong about that. But, at least, let’s be honest that that’s what happened.

If you need to bail, then own that that’s what you’re doing. Don’t pretend to have been a victim of something so much smaller than you.

Most of our lives are dramatically over committed (as a result of a desperately sick culture that creates this, which is a topic for another blog post). Most of us are barely scraping by as we sort out how to live a life of integrity in a larger system that utterly lacks it, how to enjoy the natural cycles of community in a culture addicted to linear growth and how to give our gifts in a culture that only values gifts if they add to the GDP. All of this can add up to overwhelm and burn out. And, unless we’re deeply committed to village mindededness, we can draw a straight line from this overly committed life to broken promises, hurt feelings and shattered rice bowls.

The task before us is immense: to tear down this failing culture, to build something new, and still –  in the midst of it all – have the space and support we need to be there for each other in a good way. Before us is a hard road to learn to balance taking care of our needs and the needs of the community. And there’s a lot for us all to learn in the process. This process is guaranteed to be messy and woven together with the threads of our own self righteousness and hypocrisy until enough thread has been stitched in that we can see its sickening colour but, instead of tearing it out, we leave it in so that we remember that even our approach to solving the issues of community was, itself, tearing the community apart. I don’t know all of the answers in this, but I do know that it’s worth the mess of being real with each other.

And I do know that, as entrepreneurs, we have the opportunity to not only sell people things but to be a part of re-educating people on the etiquette of graciousness and courtesy through our own example.

Let’s treat each other as if we plan to work side by side in struggle for many, many years to come. Because the task before us will demand nothing less.”

– Naomi Klein, address to Occupy Wall Street

Further Reading:

There’s a Modern Affliction Ruining Our Friendships — And We’re All Guilty of It

Save The Bros

This ad is amazing. Save the bros. Before it’s too late.  

Why “Stop Playing Small” is Bullshit

Alberta_Williams_KingBorn in the Autumn of 1904, Alberta Christine Williams returned to her home in Georgia from teachers college and taught for a short period before getting married to her husband on Thanksgiving Day in 1926.

At the time female teachers were not allowed to work while they were married, so Alberta had to give up her job. However, as the only daughter of Reverend Adam McNeil Williams, she would grow to play an important role in the affairs of the Ebenezer Baptist Church and in her family, which grew to include three children in whom she instilled deep levels of self-respect.

Alberta served as the organizer and president of the Church’s Women’s Committee from 1950 to 1962, yet that would not be her greatest contribution. Tragically, the church that held and heard the voices of her father, husband and son – who all served as pastors there – also echoed the sudden, loud, sickening sound of the gunshot that took her life inside its walls six years after her son was murdered for speaking not only his mind, but for the minds of so many others.

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Recently, in an online program, a participant shared, “I know I need to overcome the overwhelmed feeling, otherwise I’ll just keep my game small, rather than making a big impact.”

Over the years, I’ve heard so many people share some version of this with me.

When they say it, there is often a backdrop of shame and embarrassment.

And I’ve seen too many speakers exhort their audiences with the same messages. I’ve seen so many coaches challenge their clients to “think bigger” as if bigger were always better.

In Edmonton, where I grew up, I remember frequenting Willard’s Magic Shop. Willard was a scary old man who looked like a wizard and his shop felt like a genuine wizard’s store. I was 12 years old, just getting into magic, and the dark shop was tantalizing – piled with boxes full of secrets that I desperately wanted to know. Yet when I was older I heard a story of Willard trying to sell a boy in his late teens a $1500 stage illusion. Willard’s desire to sell it likely had more to do with his desire to make the sale than his wish for this teen to “go big.”

I find myself wondering how much the encouragement to go big is tied to the pocketbook of the coaches who happen to also be offering “Going Big” coaching packages. Or to their egos for getting to be the one who empowered this person to make “The Big Thing” happen. Or just to their hopes. And I’ve been that coach many times. Seeing something that seemed possible and exciting to me and not being able to let it go, even though the client was clearly uninterested or not ready for it for whatever reason. And then being frustrated at the client for being so perfectly and utterly themselves.

I’ve been at networking dinners where, after introducing myself and asking others what they’re up to, I am told some version of, “My mission is to impact 100,000 people to live better lives.” The number always seems to be very large and the emotional impact of it would feel hollow. As if they were just saying words they’d memorized from a workshop exercise and built a vision board around in an effort to convince themselves this what they really wanted. It never sounded or felt like what they really wanted. Something was “not quite right” about it.

The invisible algebra of much of the business scene (even conscious business scene) seems to be this: in order to have a big impact, you must reach a lot of people and make a lot of money. Without this, there will be no impact. And the more money you make, the bigger an impact you can have.

And, woven deeply into the fabric of this story is the thread that “jobs are for chumps.” I’ve seen speakers make fun of anyone who’d trade time for dollars. Like they’re idiots for doing so. Because, yeah, f*ck those teachers. And firemen. And police officers. And road maintenance people. What a bunch of chumps. This is the sometimes-subtle, often-overt background of the conversation.

Also woven into this story, which we’re fed with too many of the email subject lines or sales letters we read, is this sense that if we charge more, we will be worth more. But the whole notion of “charging what you’re worth” has always been, is, and will forever be, bankrupt (along with many of the ideas on prosperity that prop up our rapidly collapsing economy that has its roots in the perverse insanity of constant growth and hatred of limits).

10888534_10155030151555195_334459728987611680_nAnd I want to directly challenge that math because F*ck. That. Noise.

This story keeps us feeling constantly inadequate.

This story makes people the victim of their own success with goals that are far too high, building a business bigger than they really wanted, and then paying the emotional and financial price for going beyond any meaningful sense of balance.

Who’s to say that those reaching hundreds of thousands will have a bigger impact than those who only ever reach 100, but do so very deeply? No one. That’s who.

Niching, the finding of our role in the community, will always and forever be the dance between width and depth. And that width and depth are both equal and needed. We need people working broad and shallow. And we need people working narrow and deep. And everywhere in between.

The only question worthy of being asked is, ‘What is it that you see missing that you want to give? And how do you want to give it?’ That’s it. There’s no right answer.

And then how do you make it financially sustainable?

I recall a friend of mine telling me how he’d spoken with best-selling author and sales trainer Brian Tracey after one of his talks and asked him, “What would you do differently if you had to start over?” To which Brian replied, “I’d never build it so big.” It turns out that he spent most of his days travelling and speaking just to pay for all of his staff. I imagine you might find the same answer if you were to ask many of the business gurus out there. The businesses they’ve created to liberate themselves have become the albatrosses around their necks.

And yet we try to copy them. We do this even when it doesn’t feel right.

A colleague of mine recently wrote, “I’ve recently been through my own experience of acknowledging I’m better and more profitable when I stay small and keep my focus on the few things I love to do. Especially odd when I spent 7.5 years working for the biggest seminar guru and mega-bestselling author in that arena. Or at least he was in the top five. And people saying, ‘Denise, you’re going to be bigger than him.’ For a long time I thought I wanted to be – but I spent all my time running around promoting, which doesn’t make as much of an impact as really helping a small circle of people. Some of that was fun, but after awhile it started getting old. Plus I KNEW what he spent to get his book on the NY Times bestseller lists. It was serious six-figure stuff. The kind of money I absolutely didn’t have. I no longer feel like I have to make excuses for ‘playing small.’ It works for me. I know it’s ‘the American Dream’ to be big and be recognized, but happiness brings freedom – it really does.”
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10436274_10155030167540195_5701275771766354030_nI want to lift up another possibility.

Small can be beautiful. Small can be agile and nimble. Small can be making a difference in your own community instead of trying to “change the world” (as if “the world” were one monolithic thing we could effect as opposed to being another story that has come out of the mouth of the deep cultural poverty into which we are born and can no longer see).

Not to mention: small can be far more profitable than a big business (sure, less revenue but also less expensive).

If there was a theme song of this idea, for me, it would be this:

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Not everything needs to “scale” to the global level.

What if you were to just make a business that was “you sized” and let that be whatever size it needed to be?

What if we stopped competing and just focused on creating something beautiful?

Sometimes people grow a big business so that they can one day return to the lifestyle they already had when their business was small.

I see the marketing world awash with exhortations to build a six or seven figure business. I’m sure by this time next year, we’ll be seeing programs for 8 and 9 figure businesses. There’s an implication that being broke is a sign that something is wrong with us.

After reading this post, a colleague commented, “I’ve had the idea to create a ‘High Five Club’ to exalt the worthiness and adequacy of a five-figure income (which is what most of us actually need and earn). Perhaps that can be a movement too.”

Amen.

One of my colleagues Aine Dee said this:

I have experienced myself and with many clients that when they make an intimate, informed, and conscious choice to limit the size of their business and to increase the depth of their impact, that true wealth is naturally accessible in organic and nourishing ways. It’s always a shocker to the client who truly believed the bullshit that it would require going bigger. It’s bullshit brainwashing. Period. Not all of us desire or are soulfully inspired to a big stage, big bucks, big fame, big email list, big following, or big anything. Unfortunately many of those with a big platform are espousing this ‘big’ bullshit.”

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10891669_10155093360975195_904568337707258007_nI remember my friend Julianna’s restaurant Bacon. It was nestled in the main strip in the Highlands neighbourhood of Edmonton. I loved it for its quirky charm, independent spirit and delicious local food.

Before it shut down, due to a disagreement between the owners, Julianna would often be encouraged by savvy business people to franchise what she had; to open up a second and third Bacon restaurant in Edmonton.

This is, of course, not a surprising bit of advice as it’s the dominant business model in the world: grow big and then sell. You can see it everywhere. How many organic food products you buy are now owned by “the man?” Most of them. After all, if you want to to grow big and sell then what kinds of corporations will be big enough to buy you? Not the ones you admire the most, that’s for sure.

OrganicIndustryStructure

And that is not surprising giving the way we relate to time in this culture. This culture sees time as a straight line from the past to the future. But not just any past and not just any future. It’s a straight line from Cave Man to Captain Kirk. This is the assumed inevitability of our evolution as a species. We start as “primitive” and eventually we develop warp drive, become a class-five planet and travel the galaxy promising not to interfere with other planets but doing it all the time anyway (and let’s face it, we’d steal their resources in a second if it would make us a buck). And so, in this story, the growth of a business from a mom and pop shop to a multinational corporation is the most natural thing in the world.

Of course, there are other conceptions of time, like cyclical time. The idea of living in one place (like the pygmies of Africa did for 40,000 years) by the cycles of the seasons with an ever enrichening body of stories and rituals based on the relationship to that place with no particular agenda or intention of getting to anywhere else that’s better (because is there anything better than being here together, right now?).

Julianna’s response to the suggestions to franchise was that she might, one day, open up another restaurant, but that it would have it’s own name and character. That what Bacon had was something unique, particular and special. It wasn’t something you could duplicate.

What if small was beautiful?

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My colleague Caitlin Sisslin wrote these important words in a recent newsletter she sent out:

The SOCAP conference was a field of inspiration. I heard a keynote from Vivienne Harr, the ten year old girl who raised $100K+ from a lemonade stand to end child slavery – and is now revolutionizing mobile crowdfunding. I met the founder of Groundwork Opportunities, which crowdsources seed capital for community-based entrepreneurs focused on ending poverty in their regions, throughout the Global South.

And of course there was plenty of conversation about growth and scale.

Many social entrepreneurs will advise you that the goal of any good social enterprise is to scale. To cause a proven solution to proliferate across a substantial social and/or regional dimension. Thought leader Kevin Starr of the Mulago Foundation asks, of any proposed fix to a poverty-driven problem, “will it get to those who need it most (a lot of them)?”

Scale seems largely unquestioned as a value in the social capital space. And in many situations, scaling is the right approach. The world’s on fire, after all! If something works, spread it around as widely as possible. But one of the best panels I attended at SOCAP, The Nature of Investing, explored a different response to the question of scale.

Katherine Collins of Honeybee Capital told the story of her transition from a top investor inside a major financial institution, to an ardent student of theology, and then a leader in the sustainable investing field.

Yet her concern is not simply with “sustaining” the status quo – she’s modeling her investing on the principles of nature, a reflection of the practice of biomimicry. At its most basic level, biomimicry asks, “what would nature do?” Applied to investing, it looks like directing our resources in ways that are effective, regenerative, and tied to the well-being of the whole.

I asked Katherine about the overall bias towards scale, and she offered something really interesting: “Nature grows and replicates, but it doesn’t scale.

Instead of a singular focus on scale as a measure of impact, she urged that we look instead at questions like: what is healthy growth? What should actually shrink, or even die and decay, to make room for the new? When you consider it that way, at one extreme, scale for scaling’s sake might start to resemble cancer, or extractive capitalism. Something that simply multiplies, without regard to the nuances of the landscape or the web of relationships it encounters. I resonated with Katherine’s idea. An essential part of any ecosystem is the cycle of birth and death, emergence and fading, bloom and wither.

Regenerative design – of our organizations, our systems, and our impacts – has to account for those cycles.

So as you’re thinking about how best to measure the impact of your work, concerned that you need to show only an upward trajectory, only bigger numbers each year, only an ever-expanding reach . . . Let your work breathe inside of a regenerative framework. Feed the parts that are springing up and bearing fruit. Let the parts lie fallow, that need to rest. Tell the real stories of growth, depth, lessons learned, and transformation. And when something is ready to die, let it go. If you’re interested in learning more, check out Katherine’s book The Nature of Investing: Resilient Investing Strategies through Biomimicry.

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What if there was such a thing as enough?

What if there was more to life than succeeding in a suicidal global economy?

What if part of this new economy we’re all trying to build had, in part, to do with scale?

small-is-beautiful-bannerJudy Wicks said it best here:

“The Local Living Economies Movement is about: Maximizing relationships, not maximizing profits, Broad-based ownership and democracy, not concentrated wealth and power, Sharing, not hoarding, Life serving, not self-serving, Partnership, not domination, Cooperation based, not competition based, Win-win exchange, not win-loose exploitation, Creativity, not conformity, A living return, not the highest return, A living wage, not the minimum wage, A fair price, not the lowest price, ‘Being more, not having more,’ Interconnectedness, not separation, Inclusion, not exclusiveness, Community and collective joy, not isolation and unhapppiness, Cultural diversity, not monoculture, Bio-diversity, not mono-crops, Family farms, not factory farms, Slow food, not fast food, Our bucks, not Starbucks, Our mart, not Wal-Mart, a Love of life, not love of money.”

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“There are no great deeds. Only small deeds done with great love.”

– Mother Theresa

“Lionar bearn mòr le clachan beaga.”

(“Great gaps may be filled with small stones.”)

– Gaelic Proverb

 *

Woven into these stories of “having an impact” is a deeply flawed and historically inaccurate understanding of how this impact happens.

The story of social change we are told is that of the hero.

We’re told, constantly, that one person can make a difference.

Implied in this story is that Martin Luther King Jr. was the spokesperson and only person who really mattered in the civil rights movement. That Gandhi was the movement for India’s independence. That Nelson Mandela was the leader of the anti-apartheid movement, etc.

But that’s not true. That’s not how it happened at all. There were millions of people involved in these movements without whom all those mentioned above would have been lone and lonely voices.

One person can’t do much, really.

10868215_10155030157675195_8186575161666033261_nThat’s what communities are for. That’s what movements are for.

And any of the big names you could mention of positive change makers (and there are, thankfully, many) were outgrowths of a movement, not the leaders of it. They served the movement, not the other way around. Their movement wasn’t a thing they began and trademarked as a sort of pyramid scheme to become rich and famous.

Too often when people say, “I want to make a difference,” the emphasis is on the first word, not the last.

“I know that all of my enterprises will fail. I know that already. I’m not holding out hope that somehow anything’s going to change as a result of doing them. All I’m trying to do is participate in some small way in the small collection of memories that will accompany my death. That’s all I’m trying to do is having a small part to play in what those memories might be. Understanding now, that the way I’m proceeding is helping to author those things that people will remember. If they’re inclined to. And there’s not much more to me than that. But that is not a recipe for futility. One of the things I learned at the deathbed is . . . that’s the whole thing. That’s the magic of it. Our willingness to remember turns out to be a kind of banquet . . . and the remembering is the food. And I think that’s what we have to do in a rough time like this one, is that we have to give people even not yet born, we have to leave in the air a kind of an aroma . . . let’s call it ‘inconsolable possibility’ – a possibility that won’t be consoled into impotence.”

– Stephen Jenkinson

But that bitter pill of history doesn’t sit well with the narcissistic, modern ego which, when it says, “I don’t want to play small,” often means, “I don’t want to be seen or remembered as being small.” The idea that we can only ever play some small and humble role in the course of history is not a popular notion. Our society teaches us to be apart from instead of a part of.

And the notion that we can control the impact our actions will have? Not very popular either.

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not arguing against being strategic in our do-gooding. I’m arguing for being as savvy as we can be. I’m arguing for thoughtfulness and trying to have the biggest impact we can have.

I’m just lifting up for our collective consideration the possibility that your greatest impact on this world may have nothing to do with fame, fortune, the number of people you reach while you’re alive, or the scope of your reputation.

Consider the profound loss the world might have experienced without knowing it had Vincent Van Gogh been convinced by his friends to paint more commercial and saleable things. He died poor and not very well known but the beauty he created out of his tormented heart has done more to feed this world with beauty and repay our debt to the Holy in Nature than all of the infomarketing gurus put together.

Consider your parents, the camp counsellor who inspired you, the animals you’ve known and loved, the countless seeds and animals who gave their life anonymously so that you might live to be here today. They were not big and famous . . . but without them you wouldn’t be among those who could count their good fortunes for your safe and timely arrival into our growing community.

The late Phillip Seymour Hoffman put it simply:

“It’s not about going into ‘the business.’ The business can’t be a thought. You get a foothold because you want to get a foothold as an artist. Your desire, your intensity, has to be about being a great actor or a great painter or a great musician. If that’s strong enough, it’ll lead you to good teachers and to places where you’ll learn. For me, the business wasn’t a thought. I was doing a play, and a friend in the play said, ‘My manager is here tonight and she wants to meet you.’ And I said, ‘Oh.’ And that’s how I got a manager.”

And I’m not arguing for poverty. Being broke is an overrated thing. One of my most popular blog posts is called 15 Things to Do When You’re Tired of Being Broke. I teach marketing. I get it.

I’m not arguing to make all business tiny. Some businesses are meant to grow.

10385396_10155030170325195_169231752928543090_nI’m not arguing that the urging people to “not play small” doesn’t have a place. I’m just trying to sing another song that I don’t hear as much as I’d like on the radio station of this conscious business and personal growth scene and hoping that it might get some airtime in the face of the Top 4o hits we constantly hear. I’m trying to sing a song called “Good Enough” and hoping it might catch on.

I’m not arguing that this story is without value but that, without being questioned, it is a story that is told and acted out in places and ways it doesn’t belong.

I’m not arguing for people to quit too soon, never stretch or push themselves, and to not really go for it. I’m just saying run for the joy of running, not to win some race set up by others with a dubious prize you might not really want in the first place.

“For the Indigenous Soul of all people who can still remember how to be real cultures, life is a race to be elegantly run, not a race to be competitively won. It cannot be won, it is the gift of the world”s diverse beautiful motion that must be maintained… it is an obligation to engender that elegance of motion in our daily lives, in service of maintaining life by moving and living as beautifully as we can. Living and running were holy things you were supposed to get good at, not things to use to conquer, win, and get attention for. Running was not meant for taking but for giving gifts to the Holy in Nature. Running was an offering a feeding of life. By trying to feed the Holy in Nature the fruit of beauty from the tree of memory of our Indigenous Souls, grown in the composted failures of our past need to conquer, watered by the tears of cultural grief, we might become ancestors worth descending from and possibly grow a place of hope for a time beyond our own.”

– Martin Prechtel, The Unlikely Peace at Cuchumaquic

What I’m arguing for is that smaller might be more profitable. I’m arguing for some sanity. I’m arguing for waking up to the reality that my Gaelic ancestors affirmed in the words, “Tha gu leor cho math ri cuilm [Enough is as good as a feast].” I’m arguing for waking up from the starvation based yearning for the toxic mimics of fame, big followings and big money. I’m arguing for the possibility of finding our role and place in things. I’m saying that the admonition to not play small (and therefore to “play a bigger game”) might actually lead people away from the contribution they’re supposed to make. I’m arguing for a diversity of business models.

I’m trying to make the case that the simple words “don’t play small” come carried inside of the larger, toxic stories of this culture that “bigger is better,” that the world is a monolith rather than a diverse web of connections, that money = impact and many others.

988972_10155030170035195_1160517093420416824_nI’m saying that the opposite of being collapsed isn’t puffing ourselves up and posturing as if we’re some big f*cking deal, but instead being composed and comfortable in our own skin and then doing whatever the f*ck we want.

And I would say that the holistic and personal growth scene tends towards this pattern of collapsing and making one’s self smaller than one actually is. Whereas the mainstream business scene is full of posturing and people making themselves seem bigger than they actually are.

So, I get it. In that way, people in this scene play it smaller than they secretly want to be playing it and the encouragement to play bigger may actually be precisely the medicine they need. It’s just that these words are so loaded with cultural baggage that I think that it behooves us to look inside our luggage to make sure what’s inside is worth carrying the distances we want to travel.

Some people love the spotlight (some days I’m one of them). Some people would rather work behind the scenes in the shadows (other days you can find me there).

For God’s sake, don’t play small if you aren’t.

But it’s okay to be small if you are.

And don’t play big if you aren’t.

But it’s okay to be big if you are.

10410665_10155352897430195_1905880515879259217_nThe problematic word isn’t “big” or “small.” It’s “play.” Don’t pretend to be something you aren’t.

Sometimes when people are “playing small” they’re doing it out of a deep level of fear. They have realized the truth that stepping out in the world with their businesses will require vulnerability on their part. It could mean rejection. And they realize that, the bigger their reputations become, the more rejection will follow. This isn’t crazy. It’s real. And, knowing this, many people play things very cautiously, conservatively and close to home. They let things slide and fall apart because they’re terrified for someone to really see them. They spend all of their time being lost in the minutia of font sizes, editing and editing and never releasing, thinking about things, trying to get their website “just right” because if it’s not perfect and, if it’s not perfect, then we’ll be vulnerable to attack.

And they will be safe from all of this, but, what they often miss is that in shielding themselves from criticism, they also shield themselves from the overflowing love and joy of the community who would surround them and lift them up in gratitude if they showed up.

If you show up honestly in the world, you will polarize people. And that’s okay.

So, in that way, “playing small” robs the world of the gifts you came here to give.

But I don’t think the answer to all this fear is to push through and to grow a huge business. I think the answer is to get soft, make friends with the fear and vulnerability, and get comfortable in our own skins as we grow businesses that feel right in the moment, knowing they may grow or shrink over time.

The problematic word isn’t “big” or “small.” It’s “play.”

The rental rate for being alive is not that we become well known and speak in front of 100,000 people with our “message” (though that is certainly how some people are meant to serve). We’re not all here to become big names with big followings (though that might be your fate). Becoming well known is not necessarily better than living a quiet life. Being big is no better than being small.

“. . . the rental rate for this gift of being allowed to flourish and reside in this continuum with the rest of the world is that we do everything possible to be indigenously beautiful, promising that we make ourselves spiritually full and delicious so as to feed the next ones to appear in the ongoing river on the occasion of our passing.”

– Martin Prechtel

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An excerpt from my new book The Niching Nest:

. . . this world is nothing but nests within nests. One of the great losses of this modern culture is that we have lost the ability to see this. The bird’s eggs lie in the nest. The tree is the nest for the bird and its nest. The soil is the nest for the forest. The Earth’s bedrock is nest that holds the soil. The solar system is the gravitationally-spun nest that holds our Earth inside of our remarkably nest-shaped Spiral Galaxy which is, itself, nestled in the impossibly vast Universe. Nests within nests.

The civil rights movement was a nest for Martin Luther King Jr. The anti-apartheid movement was a nest for Nelson Mandela. India’s movement for self-determination was a nest for Mahatma Gandhi. Certainly, and under no circumstances would any of them ever dared to claim credit for the creation of the nest in which they found themselves. This would have been unthinkable.

And yet, in the modern world of marketing, we are exhorted to stop marketing and start “building a movement.” This would be like exhorting a bird to stop building its next and to start building a tree.

And so whatever remains of this life affirming nest of history — that comes to us in the form of various movements for social justice and environmental sanity that struggle keep the eggs of the future generation safe — was woven by the actions of those who came before us. But it was not woven for them. It was woven for us, those to yet come, just as whatever weaving we might do in our now is not only done for us ourselves, but mostly on behalf of those whose faces haven’t yet pushed out of their increasingly threatened shells.

“You are song, a wished-for song.”

– Rumi

 When we understand the larger nests we are cradled in, and how they all fit into each other, then what comes with this is a deeper understanding of our role, which is to be faithful to all of the work that has gone into the work of creating the many layered nests in which we find ourselves and to which we owe our lives.

When a bird builds a nest, it does it in service to two things. Of course, the eggs of the next generation. But also it builds it in service to the tree and the forest itself. The presence of the birds in the forest is a central part to what keeps the forest healthy.

And so a niche is not a movement no more than a nest is the entire forest. Your niche is your small part in it and humble contribution to it.

Over the past few years, I’ve heard increasing talk about this idea of movements in business. As in, “Don’t market your business, build a movement!”

But I want to suggest that if you can build it on your own, it’s not a movement.

And that this is not how any movement in history was ever built.

Your niche isn’t a movement. It’s your role in that movement.

Most of these admonitions I’ve been hearing seem less about building a movement and more about becoming famous or well known. They’re less about the movement and more about you being seen as the leader of something.

A movement is so much bigger than your business, than you, and even your lifespan. A movement is a larger cause towards which many people will dedicate their lives. A movement may have many spokespeople but never just one leader.

If your business dies, the movement will go on without it. If it doesn’t, it was never a movement.

If you die, the movement will go on without you. If it doesn’t, it was never a movement.

So, ask yourself not what movement you want to build, but what movement you want to play a role in. And then ask yourself what role you’d most love to play.

That’s more than enough.

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So, who was Alberta Christine Williams? And what does her story have to do with this story of playing small?

You thought maybe I’d forgotten her. Perhaps you did. You would find yourself in good company because popular history certainly has.

Well, she was born Alberta Christine Williams. But she died Alberta Christine Williams King.

Her husband was Martin Luther King.

Her son was Martin Luther King Jr.

Her name is not well known and yet, through her son (and in many, many other ways we may never know) she blessed this world.

In my blog post, Why ‘Charging What You’re Worth’ Is Bullshit I wrote,

“I imagine a modern day marketing guru speaking to Martin Luther King Jr’s mother and saying, ‘Why just be a stay at home mom? You’re thinking too small! Stop trading your time for dollars. You need leverage if you want to make a real difference in the world. Stop doing the one-to-one model of raising your son. What you really want to do is the one-to-many model. Don’t you value your time? Isn’t your time worth more than that? So, hire a nanny, and start building your business so you can be an empowered woman. What if you started teaching workshops on how to be a social justice leader and converted the attendees into a high end coaching package on how to be more effective at social change? You could create info products and sell those via mail order and make millions! And think of how much bigger an impact you’d have on the world with all that money and with that size of following!’ Of course, sadly for all humanity, because she thought so small and didn’t value her time, all she did was raise up Martin Luther King Jr. to be the man he was.  So sad for all of us.

In an essay written at Crozer Seminary, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote that his mother “was behind the scenes setting forth those motherly cares, the lack of which leaves a missing link in life.” Until the day he was killed, he was close to his mother.

Without Alberta, there would have been no Martin Luther King Jr.

Who’s to say what might or might not happen because of you and the seemingly small, mundane or common things that you do.

“Stepping into your power is not hardest thing. The hardest thing is to step in and remain grounded, humble and generous. Much of mundane training would have us believe we are inferior. If you begin a dedicated dance with Spirit you will start to see and feel your own power. It comes in brief slices in the beginning. Like shafts of light beaming down into the shady forest. We get a glimpse of who we are and what it feels like to be powerful. If we continue our dance with dedication a glimpse becomes a knowing. Along the path come opportunities to heal. In a perfect world our awareness would grow equally as our healing grows. But that is not always the case. It is possible to be powerful and broken. And that is an challenging combination. Don’t rush to power. Rush to healing. Rush to love. Rush to generosity. And a humble power capable of transforming the world will follow.”

– Naraya Preservation Council

Recommended Further Reading:

Small is the New Big – Morgana Rae

Bigger is Not Always Better – Ryan Eliason

What if I Can’t Guarantee a Result?

GuaranteeThis is a blog post I’ve been meaning to write for years.

Fairly often, in workshops, the question (and it’s a very good one) comes up: “What if I can’t guarantee a result?”

That question usually emerges from the shiny palace of conversations about creating guarantees, and better than risk free guarantees, doing clever and bold risk reversals etc. But, of course, not all kinds of work are suited for these kinds of marketing manoeuvres.

Recently, in the Meantime Program I’m leading, someone shared the following comment which contains this same admirable problem.

“It’s difficult/impossible to predict an outcome from Reiki treatments. There are 2 reasons for this: 1. If I did identify a specific condition that Reiki could help people with I probably couldn’t advertise the fact due to the Advertising Standards Agency not accepting that Reiki is effective for any medical condition (without the ‘robust’ research to back it up they say it’s not acceptable). 2. Probably the stronger reason is that what happens as a result of Reiki treatment is not predicable because it’s not under my control: what the Reiki energy does for each individual depends on their sub-conscious need on that particular day. I cannot, in all integrity, promise any specific result, because I don’t know what it will be. I know that I can offer a compassionate, non-judgemental healing space where change is possible, but nothing can be guaranteed.  There’s a more predictable outcome for people I teach Reiki to: that they will have healing in their own hands. So should I focus on this instead? However that doesn’t really work in terms of the funnel because most people need to receive treatment first.”
So, you can see the sticky wicket here.
Let’s retrace our steps a bit.
Your business is like a boat that can take people from Island A (where they’re suffering from some problem) to Island B (where they have some result they are craving). These are the basics I delve into in the Marketing for Hippies 101 program.
That’s the essence of a business, that journey.
Stated another way: without the journey, there’s not much of a business. There’s just a boat.
Stated another way: every business exists to solve a problem. If there’s no problem to be solved, there’s no business.
Stated yet another way: if there’s no result being offered, then it begs the question if there is a problem or if what one is offering is, in fact, a solution in search of one.So, in this case, she can’t advertise to treat a specific condition because a) it’s illegal and b) it’s unpredictable.

What to do?
Consider this, as it is always vital to do, from the side of the customer and imagine how it might feel to them for someone to say, “Pay me money. Then you’ll lie down. I’ll do some things on you. You may or may not notice anything. It can be very subtle. But, if, in the next few weeks, something good happens, then I’ll take credit for that. If nothing happens or something bad, I’ll say it’s either so subtle and powerful you can’t notice it or that your fear is getting in the way.
Consider how that might sound less than accountable or desirable to most people.
So, what does that tell us? First of all, that her ideal client is not going to be most people. That her ideal clients are going to need to be people who are already open to, at worst, and irresistibly drawn to, at best, energy work – in particular, Reiki. These are people who will understand the idea that energy work is unpredictable and not be bothered by it.
That’s distinction number one.
Tied to that, fundamentally, her target market is going to need to be people who want to get on her boat (even just to sail around). They will need to be people who want a reiki session and be happy to pay for it. They need to be people who wouldn’t need or even want any kind of guarantee. People who want to enjoy a “a compassionate, non-judgemental healing space”. And she will absolutely get clients based on this alone. There will be people who want those things. There will be people who meet her and think she’s so lovely and want to hire her. She will meet people who have been dying to try out reiki and say ‘yes’ to her. That will all happen.
The only question is, will it be enough to sustain her. If it is, then I would encourage her to just enjoy that.
But if not, it’s likely got something to do with what we’re left with in her scenario. We’re left with someone saying, ‘My boat is beautiful. I can’t promise to take you anywhere, but it’s cozy inside. And everyone is welcome.’
Which isn’t bad (truly). But it’s not great (double truly).
That offer is the offer of a ‘generic healer’. Of which there are likely hundreds, if not thousands, within 50 miles of where she lives. And more and more every year.
Of course, the immediate response is often going to be something like, “But this can heal anyone! That’s the best part of this modality! It’s for everyone!
It’s for everyone? Maybe so. But you could make the same case for yoga and I could give you a lot of examples of different niches people have found in that world. Or permaculture. Or Traditional Chinese Medicine.
The ‘it’s for everyone!’ approach will work if you want to do reiki as a hobby for friends, but you are unlikely to build much of a business out of it. To continue the boat analogy, it would be like someone going down to the harbour and seeing thousands of identical boats. How are they supposed to choose? I’ll tell you how… price. They will go for the cheapest one.
In terms of the Four Stages of Business Growth, this is classic stage one.
What that means is that, as it stands, her marketing plan needs to be geared towards finding people who want “a compassionate, non-judgemental healing space”.
Huh.
And where would you find those people? Is it possible that this is actually code for every human on the planet? And why would they want it from her vs. someone else? And, if they want that but haven’t tried reiki yet, how do you get them to try?
It could also be that her target market, a bit more narrowly, could be those who just want a straight up reiki session. But, again, many of the same questions arise. Where do you find them? What makes her different than the thousands of others who do reiki?
You see the marketing questions that immediately arise.
So, what’s clear is that, to make the marketing planning easier, a bit more focus and definition in her niche could be useful.
There are, fundamentally, two different approaches to this. The Artistic approach and the Entrepreneurial approach. I got into these in much more depth in my book The Niching Nest.
The Artistic Approach: I would encourage her to clarify what it is she most wants to give and how. I’d encourage her to look in the marketplace and notice what she sees is missing that she’d like to offer. I’d want her to clarify her point of view, find her voice, bring her personality more to the forefront, tell her story and speak about why this work matters to her so much. And I’d want to know all about what kind of lifestyle she might want. I’d be so curious about which parts of her work she loves the most and which parts she wouldn’t mind losing. I’d want to know which conversations come up between herself and clients that she’d love to explore more. I’d want to see her try to sum up her platform in a page. And then to weave that together into the most clear and beautifully offering she can manage. It would end up looking something like these.Then, the basic pitch is, “Here’s the art I make. If you like it, great. If not, I bless and release you.”

And, once she was done that, I’d invite her to consider who might be most interested in that.
Thomas Leonard, the grandfather of the modern life coaching movement operated in this way. And he was a business coach. People would ask him what results he would guarantee and he’d tell them he didn’t guarantee anything but that he was pretty sure they’d be happy with the results. They’d ask him why on earth they should hire him at his high rates then. He’d tell them, “You probably shouldn’t.” And often they’d hire him anyway. He refused to get caught in the trap of promising something that was out of his control.
But, and this is an enormously important part of it, he had the skills and competence to back that swagger up. He was incredibly good.
The Entrepreneurial Approach: I would encourage her to hone in on one particular target market (i.e. a particular group of people struggling with a particular problem). She might ask herself, “who needs a compassionate, non-judgmental healing space who I most want to help?” and then focus her marketing efforts on them. Then, the basic pitch is, “I’ve created this thing to help you solve your problem and here’s why it’s so good.” It would end up looking something like these.
And, once she was done that, I’d invite her to create the most wonderful and creative offer she could.But, for this to become a solid business, one of those needs to move.

Until one has a solid niche, it’s difficult for much to happen. I can promise that, as her niche gets clear, many of these questions will answer themselves.
You can find a lot of free help on your niche at www.NichingSpiral.com
Seven Things to Look at When You’re Struggling With, “But I Can’t Guarantee my Offers!”:
When people say, “But I can’t guarantee anything.” It’s often code for:
  • competency: real talk. This is the big one. It’s very easy to hide incompetence underneath a blanket of jargon and bullshit and claims that the process is unknowable. Facilitators, consultants and healers do it all the time. But, as shaman Martin Prechtel said, and I’m paraphrasing, “If people don’t get better, don’t call yourself a shaman.” Not that it’s controllable but, if there’s never any measurable or noticeabable result, then who are you kidding? The truth is that if you help people get better, if you help them produce a measurable, noticeable, and meaningful result in their life that they’ve been craving but could not produce on their own, you won’t need to worry much about marketing or worrying about not being able to guarantee your offers because the word of mouth will be so strong. If people come to you with back pain and leave without it, if they come to you suspecting an emotional cause to their physical ailment and you help them solve it, if they come to you with heartbreak and you help them find some meaning or peace in it, if they come to you struggling with their finances and you help them find clarity… they will tell everyone they know about you and, because the recommendation is coming from a friend, asking for guarantees are likely to be the last thing in their mind.
  • niche: as you can see above, the lack of a niche means there’s no particular journey being offered. This makes it impossible to guarantee anything. Because there’s no ‘thing’ to guarantee. After reading a draft of this post, the Meantime participant who had emailed me about the issue with reiki wrote me the following,

Wow thanks for writing the blog about my question Tad. Yes I understand your points. I think my issues are 1) not wanting to opt for a niche in the past, still lingering a bit – because yes Reiki can help anyone with anything if they are up for it 2) Not being clear enough about the niche I want to serve – and perhaps not daring to 3) Not having clear packages/free stuff/funnel although this started to evolve at the beginning of this year and I think more clarity on this will help. Perhaps a shift from seeing what I offer as just Reiki and more as a wider ‘package’ – something about self care and self honoring perhaps. Healing seems too vague as an offering, so I know I have to try to get down to who I really love to help.”

  • your map: If you’re taking people on a journey from Island A to Island B, they may not need a guarantee if they trust your map and the route you have plotted out. Sometimes them just knowing you’ve got a clear plan, process, perspective, approach, philosophy or set of principles on which you base your work is enough to eliminate any need for a solid guarantee. Not sure how to do that? Here are Five Steps to Identify Your Point of View.
  • how safe your clients are feeling: fundamentally what’s being hinted at here is the sense that people perceive some risk in spending their time and money with her. And so, to address it, we offer guarantees. What’s important not to lose sight of is the fact that the guarantees are just a tactics to address the underlying issue of fear. They’re a tactic to help people feel more confident in their investment. And they’re one of many tactics. Other ways to reduce risk include testimonials, online video, writing blogs, certifications, public speaking and leading workshops etc. Any kind of free sample you can create will be a huge help. Creating compelling packages is another way to reduce risk. All of these tactics will do ten times more for you with less effort if you have a clear sense of your niche.
  • are the results you’re offering big and vague?: if you’re making vague they will come across as untrustworthy. If you claim to be able to help everyone with everything, you will absolutely come across as a charlatan. It’s such an unbelievable claim. Sometimes the result we’re offering is too big. And sometimes while we’re not guaranteeing any particular big result, we’re implying it with phrases like, “this can help anyone with anything.” And when people feel uncertain they’re going to want more reassurances from you (such as guarantees). I recall being at a networking meeting in Calgary where everyone introduced themselves. One lady shared her work which was so incredibly vague, new agey and ungrounded and, when she was done there was silence and everyone sat there in an uncomfortable trance of trying to understand what she’d said and also not wanting to make eye contact with her at all. Then my friend Adrian Buckley shared about his incredible permaculture work where they’d do permablitzes and install an entire permacultured landscape in a day and the room broke out into applause. People knew something real when they heard it.
  • what can be guaranteed: you can’t guarantee everything, but there are often parts of it that you can. The whole conversation around guarantees is bigger than this blog post can handle but, in this context she might be able to guarantee that she’ll do everything in her power to make the space as compassion, non-judgmental and healing as possible. She could even get specific about how she does that. She could set agreements between herself and her client that would have them feel safe. She could guarantee her part of the process (e.g. ‘I commit to spending 30 minute in meditation at the start of each day and showing up to sessions well rested. I commit to continuing to grow in healing my own life. I commit to continuing education‘).
  • what your clients can guarantee: sometimes we can’t guarantee things because our clients actions are out of our control. You can make it clear what you need from them for the results to happen as promised and, if they’re unwilling or unable to do that, that you are free from any promises you made. That could look like committing to some basic health and stress relieving tactics everyday. It could look like showing up to sessions on time. Being willing to do some reading.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this below in the comments.

Guest Post: Why You Should NOT Work In The Gift Economy

 

by Mirror Living

January 2015

 

Occasionally on this wild path of working in the gift economy, I’ve been approached almost with a sense of reverence. Some souls are deeply touched, moved to tears by me doing this so publicly. It confirms their own insights into alternative pricing models, the ruin that is our current economic system and the myth of money and debt. It gives a sense of possibility for those of us who’ve felt like outsiders, freaks and rejects of society our entire lives. It echoes the journey of the heart’s deepest wisdom and the more beautiful world we can create together.

Many are certain mainstream pricing and business models are not for them. Or they’ve tried it for short periods of time and it’s been a difficult and overwhelming road leading to retreat or blame of the system or themselves. A sense of powerlessness and inadequacy is evident. When someone comes to me for help and they tell me they work in the gift, my heart sinks a little for I cannot recommend running a business this way initially. I don’t teach people to work in the gift because I don’t yet know it’s possible. For me the ride thus far has been crazy-making, humbling and incredibly challenging (just like working in the mainstream economy is) with the very idea of alternative economies still being confronting to the majority. There’s a familiar, comfortable weight of security in the way things have always been done. There are mammoth amounts of fear and complacency that first need to be met within the self and then met with love in others before we can embrace what it means to truly work in the spirit of the gift.

There’s also an assumption (the illusion of good marketing if you will), that because I’m doing this visibly and I’m seen regularly in both pixels and real world events and because I present myself in a professional manner, I must be successful working in the gift. And if I’m successful, then you will be too. (I’m doing OK but definitely not making as much money as I was in regular ol’ business. Also, for the first time since I left home at age 17, my partner is paying my rent so I no longer have the responsibility of having to earning enough to keep a roof over our heads. I am also debt-free.)

I define the gift economy simply – a model of the movement within society of necessary goods and services wherein human relationships are valued above all else, one in which money no longer determines the existence of relationship. Money may still be used as part of the gift economy but it’s presence (or absence) does not define the relationship (unlike in the dominant economy). It’s a movement from accumulation and separation toward generosity and the natural reciprocity that arises in the face of a gift freely given. Models like pay what you want / pay what it’s worth pricing, you decide invoicing and by donation are all interpretations of the gift economy and attempt to capture the essence of the pure gift economy found in traditional cultures. For me, the gift economy does not include barter and trade models that seek agreement on value before the transaction can occur.

Before transitioning into the gift economy 6 months ago, income earned via business in the current economic model paid my way 100% for more than 4 years. Without looking at the nitty gritty of exactly what the number of zeros I made annually add up to, from a survival perspective I was running a “successful” business. This journey has been (and continues to be) one of the most intense and liberating spiritual paths I could possibly imagine. It’s not for the faint-hearted or for those who want quick and easy money. There have been years of hard work, long hours, multiple failures and disappointments, challenges, depressions and crippling self-doubt. Money issues shoved in my face. Putting things out there and getting no results, not being noticed, not being seen, not being responded to. Measuring achievements against others and believing with every cell in my body that of course, it’s obvious, I’m just not good enough and never will be. Drowning in unworthiness. Attempting to change who I am (yup, even going so far as to wear makeup and collared shirts. blech!) to better fit in. I’ve tried to sell, played the game, manipulated, become obsessed with money and woken in sweaty panics at 3.00 am. I’ve felt desperate, alone and ashamed of how little I have to show for the time, effort and energy I’ve put in. I’ve been scarred and have let fear dictate action (all this despite being a devoted yogini and dedicated-to-consciousness-and-higher-states love bunny). I’ve been human.

Alongside this, there’s been unspeakable thrills of putting out offers and overnight making rent for the next month. Sold out courses. Coaching sessions booked for weeks in advance. Beautiful feedback on blog posts and emails. Co-creative opportunities flowing in. Published print and online articles. Being sought out from word of mouth glowing referrals. The sense of one’s power that comes from taking action, showing up every day and seeing direct correlations between said actions and results. Knowing you’re the master of your own destiny. Moments of Awe. Radiant insights beyond this realm. I’ve cried many a tear of gratitude and received many an unsolicited testimonial of soppy thanks. I’ve seen and known the omnipotence of Source in my business and life. Witnessed miracles, coincidences, gifts of such incredible abundance I’m humbled and brought to my knees by the beauty and glory of it all. I’ve tasted heaven and know it is within. I’ve been spirit.

This has only been possible because of a willingness to step into the world as it is, not how I would like it to be. To look at business from every perspective, honour and identify what I don’t like about the mainstream economy and how most run their businesses and make choices that come from an empowered and embodied place that’s here, now and grounded in the third dimension.

The three reasons below outline why you should NOT work in the gift economy. The opinions contained here are strong (partly because I wish someone had been as straight with me when I first started working in the gift instead of having to messily hash it out on my own! But then again, maybe they did but I just couldn’t hear them…?). The pointers below are written specially for those new to business and for those who want to make enough money doing what they love in the world. 

1. Working in the gift economy can reinforce and perpetuate separation, creating an Us vs Them mentality

Many of us carry core wounding from lifetimes of feeling like an alien, of looking at the world around us and seeing nothing but deceit, unconsciousness and violence against each other and the earth. Many of us have exited in a variety of ways: into drugs, eastern spiritual, metaphysical and artistic paths and communal living with greater and lesser degrees of peace and lasting happiness. If less than lasting happiness has been your experience, I urge you to sit with and hold any part that wants to escape from this economy, judge or pull down society gently. Society and the economy is messed up, it’s true. But it’s no more messed up than our own internal processes. Pushing against it, avoiding it, shaming or blaming it is not an effective strategy for transformation or success in business in any kind of economy. It creates separation. 

And if our beautiful, profound and magnificent education is preventing us from engaging in the world as it is, we are contributing to separation on this planet. 

This may sound harsh but I’ve seen this truth repeatedly. I’ve also tried separation as a path more than almost any one else I know. It’s painful and it doesn’t work. Because we have to keep coming back into society as it is now. We have to engage in the economy. We have to invest in certain things to live in even rudimentary levels of comfort. We have to make decisions for sustainability that are more about the lesser of two evils than about real solutions. We have to interact with family and people who live here, in society. 

We can no longer avoid a world that doesn’t appear to value love and vulnerability. We can no longer afford to keep ourselves apart from others because of superior concepts of consciousness, inclusive economies and dedication to saving the planet. We can no longer judge others for their apparent lack of understanding of a view so radical and confronting to the norm they can’t even see it. Until we know every person who surrounds us is us, despite their convictions and choices demonstrating degrees of light / dark, willingness and ignorance we will not have a business from the heart (regardless of how pure our motives are of working in the gift and alternative economies). Instead, we are moving from fear, reaction and separation. I’m pretty sure this is not the kind of world we dream of.

2. You won’t learn the language of the world (and the world is where the money is)

One thing I know for sure is that if you step onto this path of the gift economy you will be judged as naive, potentially loopy, silly, and a crackpot hippie by many. Folks may be polite and supportive to your face but some part of them will be doubting you and your motivations, wondering what the catch is. Or people will be confused and won’t book in or buy because of this. Probably not your friends, for they love and understand you but in the wider community you will be likely be disregarded as someone who is too radical and far out to be serious about much of anything. This is reality (however narrow and sad it may be). This is how we live in the west. Our primary way of defining and determining interactions (outside of family and friends) is fiscal. Money determines the value, worth, breadth and depth of relationships and if you challenge this overtly you will be labelled, discounted and discarded. Your audience will be limited or worse, may become so far left-of-centre as to appear non-existent (I saw this clearly in a recent exploration “Working In the Gift Economy 7: The Experiment May Be Over). 

This is not how to make enough money doing what you love in the world :-(

I know many gifted individuals sharing their offerings in low-key, off-the-grid kind of ways working in alternative and gift economies. Some are amazing examples of how these models work effectively (in small, highly local, cloistered permaculture communities). Others are struggling with ideals they haven’t yet been able to actualise (without withdrawing from society and heading to the hills) or dealing with depressing internal conflicts around self-worth and integrity in making money, enoughness and survival. Many I know working in alternative economies have very low confidence in who they are (see core wounding above). They don’t know their message or what they stand for. They’re unable to talk clearly about what they do or invite people to experience it or communicate the value of their offerings. They cannot share from a pristine place of exactly what their service will help with, exactly who it’s for and exactly how much it costs. They haven’t learned how and because of this, are unable to attract clients and create enough income. They may then become disillusioned and leave before the energy of business can transform. Or shelve dreams entirely, holding onto stories of inadequacy for years ahead, go get jobs or opt-out of society to live in ashrams because it’s easier than running a business and facing fear and money every day. It’s easier to avoid learning a new language than to be yourself in the world as it is.

Before I started in business and had to learn the language of the world, I was steeped in separation (I didn’t know it at the time. I thought my heart was so wide open in divine angelic love, rainbows would pave every step of my way!). Learning this language, at even a basic level, has shown me a true connection that cannot be threatened by environment and noise. It’s taught me compassion for others and the world of mind, thought, judgement and comparison within my self. 

If you step into the gift economy without first having met and mastered communication, your experience and ability to serve others will be less. It’s likely you’ll tire rapidly of the hard work required to explain what you do because it’s not in terms people can easily understand. You may give up, believing you’ve failed and this is the real tragedy. There are way, WAY too many soft, caring, intelligent, talented, extraordinary people of the heart NOT doing what they love, NOT being seen because they haven’t yet found a creative and conscious way of being in business and marketing or they’ve given up looking. Their messages of self-healing and self-responsibility are not being heard or contributing to the wellbeing of the earth because of illiteracy.

3. A vital part of your own self-development and personal evolution will be neglected 

Our souls of course, are perfect, innocent and complete and need nothing to be done ever but if you’re feeling a call to share your voice, save the planet and make a difference, THIS is the next stage of evolution being asked. It’s not about changing who you are at your core or “playing the game”. It’s not about forcing our sacred geometrical shapes into a square holes, conforming or compromising. It’s about understanding reality and meeting it with love. For self and for others. A love that proves you understand the realities of busy lives lived from values that, although different from yours, are no less valid, necessary and meaningful. A love that’s willing to listen and be moved by the universe because you’re here for a reason. You’re not somewhere else, living in a close-knit traditional culture where they value the gift economy as essential to daily life. You’re here.

If we skip over the mainstream economy we will fail to understand fully the depth of conditioning and cultural influences inherent in both ourselves and our clients (no matter how conscious and aware we might be) therefor true communication and self-knowledge is limited as is a felt, direct experience of oneness and connection. If we bypass the mainstream economy without knowing it well enough to get a sense of our own power and right to exist, we also risk bypassing our potential and feeling like perennial outsiders. If we miss the learning contained within the structure of the mainstream economy to work in alternative economies, we are preventing and short-changing our own evolution.

Running a business in the dominant economy teaches us about the nature of the Self and Mind. It will show us how magnificent and infinite we really are. It leads to an understanding of truth, value, worth, community, presence, perception, trust, commitment, surrender and deep communion of the heart. And once we know these things, we can do it our own way for conscious business is an intimate and personal path to enlightenment.

*******

This article is not intended as direction to never enter into alternative economies (that would also be a tragedy! The earth needs this! We need you! The dominant paradigm must be challenged by the passionate rebels among us!) rather let it be an organic transition that comes from a foundation of (at least) a basic level of competence in business in the current economy. Let it come from solid ground and from service to the whole. Let it come from realisation.

So how do we do both? Step onto the path of business in the current economy while remaining rooted in the heart’s desire to be of service? It’s an ongoing exploration, constantly moving, flowing. There’s no wrong way or right way. Only your way. The answer isn’t important, it’s the asking of the question that matters most. And a willingness to keep on asking the question as new information, experiences, challenges and learning come your way. To return often in the midst of chaotic effort to ask, “How can I be of service? How can I give?” In this way, gift economy values are anchored and become the norm. In this way we slowly but permanently shift the dominant paradigm by bringing more light to business. We become the gift.

Below are 9 ways of working in the spirit of the gift while running a business in the present economy. It’s imperative to know your limits and know your self and be gentle in the face of other’s misunderstandings for this is truly a radical path. If we are not, the gift economy may be reduced to just another fancy marketing strategy designed to influence perception instead of a deep honouring of the sacred breath of life we’ve been given. I hope your heart finds solace and inspiration here and practical ways to express the spirit of the gift through your business. 

1. Have deeply loving customer service as your primary priority. 

I’ve been shocked at the level of service many businesses seem content with and I’ve been shocked by how poorly I’ve been treated as a paying customer at times. Your clients will have similar experiences. They will notice and appreciate your willingness to listen and understand their story. This is a gift in a world where many successful businesses don’t honour, value and respect customers and their money. You may feel that being kind and loving to every person who walks in the door is always present but this question asks you how you can bring even more caring and connection to every exchange on every level. 

2. Offer one of your services “by donation” or “in the spirit of the gift”. 

Getting clear on what you’re happy to give and what is definitely a paid service will help you identify where to start with what to give. You might have a weekly community yoga class for $5 or a monthly community get together, satsang, movie night, devotional music performance or something else. This way, you’ll always have an option for folks who want to connect with you but cannot afford full price. This way you’ll be nourished and inspired to continue giving when natural gratitude arises from your clients and students. If you’re a healer, consider forming a small group with other local practitioners to share regular, community giving back days – one afternoon every month or so where everyone offers low-cost sessions and treatments in one location. 

3. Give expansive time frames for instalment plans.

Many businesses do not do this, leaving little room for flow and negotiation. I’ve even heard flexible approaches denigrated by teachers of spiritual entrepreneurs as “betraying the many to give special treatment to the few”. There are good reasons for this but the reality remains in the life of a small business owner –  there have been 7 different higher-end programs and courses over the past 5 years I wouldn’t have been able to participate in were it not for the generosity and understanding of the facilitators. This is not about special treatment, it’s about responding to the realities of life. I remain forever grateful for the love the facilitators showed me and I’ve referred many clients to them because of this. Don’t offer extensions immediately – honour your own commitment to cash flow and covering expenses first but have this as a quiet option. Wait until you are approached personally. If someone really wants your services and they cannot find a way to make it happen financially right now, they will take action to connect with you. Trust them and trust their process. See what your heart and intuition say when the situation arises. Always be flexible when you can for it is a gift.

4. Ask for feedback and deal with all complaints and issues in a loving way. 

Ask your clients for their honest feedback – how can you improve? What worked for you? What didn’t work for you? Many businesses lack even a primitive platform for feedback and so are missing valuable ways to connect and deepen in relationship with their clients. Have a loving and supportive refund policy. Tell folks what it is and why it exists. Let them know refunds and credits are possibly in extreme circumstances. Assess these on an individual basis instead of having one blanket policy that is enforced regardless of the individual situation. If you don’t want to refund them, that’s totally OK but what can you offer to make them feel just a little better? How can you be supportive of them instead of dismissive (like so many business) if they are dissatisfied? How can you listen to the feedback they are giving you? This is a gift.

5. Be open to giving when your heart is called. 

If your heart really wants to work with someone but you know they cannot afford it, see if you can still help them while supporting yourself and the reality of your needs simultaneously. Can you give them mini sessions? Invite them to the community events? Give them a referral to a government service? Call them on a phone for a brief chat once a month or so? Whatever your heart feels to give. There are no rules and no limitations. Just make sure that it’s a genuine YES from your heart and that you’re not giving with any sense of obligation or rescuing as this can lead to resentment. And if you notice resentment building in relation to this particular client, let them know you can no longer keep supporting them as a gift. They will certainly understand and may have some ideas and suggestions themselves (perhaps they can give to you in some other way? Perhaps their situation has changed from when your relationship first began and they may now be able to pay you for your time?). 

6. Share interesting, excellent, informative and transformational stuff online. 

Share things that are of genuine value and bring more love to the world. Do not just talk about all the amazing things you’re doing in your business on social media. Give. Give. Give. Honour another practitioner. Honour your own teachers. Share a story of how much a certain book or practice has changed your life. Tell a story that’s restored faith in humanity. Celebrate a client. If you look, there are a 1000 ways to give and combat the narcissism that mediums like facebook create. This takes skill, time and thought to develop and helps negate the quick-look-at-me, blaring, hyped-up messages that are the norm online. Over time, people will notice the depth, stillness and integrity shared and associate it with you. This is a gift.

7. Be integral in giving as much as you can be. 

Do not give in order to get all the time. This is a deeply transformative and passionate enquiry that only you can find the answer to. Only you know the deeper motivation behind your giving and the purity of your intentions. It’s OK in business to give to get from time to time. In fact, giving to get is what business and marketing is all about. It’s the truth. Know when you’re giving to get and celebrate this, make this OK for yourself, understand that giving to get is the way of the current economy and of the society we find ourselves in. Giving to get is also how traditional gift economies work in the purest sense (tribal members give to get positive regard and public accolade for example. Or they give because their generosity ensures they will also be supported in the future when they need help). Don’t always give to get though or before you know it, every decision you make in business and life will be determined by what you will get out of it and this does not feel good. Give for no reason other than because you can occasionally. Give because it feels amazing to be of service especially when there is no hope of return. 

8. Give referrals. 

If you cannot help someone do your best to find another excellent teacher or practitioner to send them to. Don’t do this for an affiliate or referral fee as it changes the energetic. Do it because this other person is genuinely more skilled in a particular area then you are or because you personally have benefitted from and love their products or services. Do it because you want to help. Do it because you cannot benefit from this immediately. This is a gift and it shows you care deeply about another’s path and that you’re willing to take time to find out enough about them and their issues to give them something genuinely worthwhile.

9. Support a local charity or cause.

Is there a cause you’re inspired by and want to support? Some businesses choose to donate a set amount from every dollar earned or product sold. Others host fundraising community events for a cause or recent natural disaster. Perhaps you can find time to volunteer personally with hands-on work in your local community on a regular basis (reading to children or people in aged care homes for example) – this is my favourite option because of its immediacy. Guaranteed, it’s one of the fasted ways to bliss and you’ll leave your time volunteering uplifted and with a ton of new energy to devote to your business and life. Think about something that truly benefits those around you and how money you earn through your business could support this.

*******

Working in the gift economy is one path of many to enlightened relationships with each other and the Earth. Mainstream business is another and if you’re wanting to make enough money doing what you love, it’s the only one I recommend (at this current point of personal and planetary evolution anyway). Stepping into the gift and alternative economies as a reaction to what we see around us (and judge as destructive and ignorant) is an incomplete approach. At this point, it’s a utopian dream for many who live in cities and gift economy teachings are destined to enter lives, inspire greatly and then depart once reality kicks in (sometimes leaving a trail of lost and disappointed bodies behind). Keep going, keep giving in ways that feel good, keep living in service, keep sharing from your heart but be honest about where you and where the world are at. Come from a place grounded in the current reality and the love that’s already and always here. You and I right now are crumbling walls of separation and changing what it means to be in business.

Love, Mirror

MIRROR LIVING SHORT BIO

Mirror Living - Business From The HeartDevoted yogini, gift economist, love bunny, living room dancer and closet songwriter madly in awe of any practice that takes us from our heads to our hearts. Mirror teaches authentic marketing for yoga teachers and healers and digs playing with puppets, swimming naked, crystal singing bowls and anything that even vaguely hints at offering the tiniest taste of divinity… Come join the community –www.businessfromtheheart.com or on facebook – https://www.facebook.com/mira.living

 
 

36 Reflections on “Who am I to teach and charge for it?”

 

“Who am I to teach and charge for it?”

 

This is a post that has been on my mind for many years to write. 

It comes up in most workshops that I teach, this question of “Who am I to teach this? I’m no master. Besides, everything has already been said. I’ve got nothing new to add to this.” or “Who am I to be a healer? I’m not that good yet. I’m not ready. I need more education.” or “Who am I to hold circles? I don’t want to feign that I know things or that I’m some big deal.”

And it’s a weighty question that deserves more of a response than the pat, “Believe in yourself” answers given out as though the heart of the malady was a lack of self esteem and that the miracle cure could be brought about be popping the pills of “valuing yourself.”

No. This is a bigger and more important question. So, I want to try and write a response that might be worthy of everything that is inside that question.

It’s one I feel a real personal connection to as, when I was 21, I was leading personal growth, weekend long workshops for a leadership development franchises. There were people attending them who had sandals older than I was. I had no legitimate business leading those workshops. I remember one man who, seeing this overexcitable boy was going to be leading the course, politely and graciously asked for a refund. I was offended at the time but I wish I could hug him now. I knew the basics of some fancy NLP and other ‘technologies’ for personal growth and I imagined that this gave me some permission to lead groups of adults through some incredible deep waters. I thought that my having some theory I’d learned by rote (and yet hadn’t sincerely implemented into my life) meant I’d learned something worthy of sharing. 

I was so young. 

So, when some come to me with these questions of “Who am I to do this work?” I take that question very seriously. 

Of course, sometimes they’re often secretly angling for pity or approval. You won’t find that in this blog post. If you’re here for encouragement, that’s not exactly what you’ll find here. And if you’re here for advice or ‘the answer’ you definitely won’t find that here. What you’ll find is the encouragement to keep wrestling with these worthy questions as honestly as possible. 

As my colleague Mark Silver put it, “I would say that, deep down, it’s an honest and sincere question when asked as a real question, and not as a statement masquerading as a question, where ‘Who am I?’ stands in for, ‘I can’t/not supposed/not the one to do it. The integrity, the care, the humility is all needed in this inquiry.” 

What I want to offer here isn’t a solution but some ideas and reflections that, like seeds, might take root and grow into an apple tree than can at least provide food to you to sustain you while you keep up the wrestling.

One reaction to this question is to collapse, shrink down and back away from opportunities. Another reaction is to posture, puff ourselves up and pretend to be a lot more together than we are. But, if we’re going to explore this meaningfully, it’s got to be a response from a place of composure. I hope that these reflections might help you get a bit closer to that.

 

Reflection #1 – You Deserve To Have Your Needs Met:

This is baseline. At the heart of a lot of these struggles (around being ready) is this deep feeling of discomfort that we have needs at all. There’s this big feeling of shame in a lot of people that they need the level of support they do. They feel like they should be able to help anyone who wants their help for free and be okay with that.

But you’re a human being. You have needs (e.g. food, water, shelter etc.) And, in this culture, without money, those are hard to get. So, unless you’re consciously choosing to opt out of the cash economy (a move I would applaud loudly and celebrate) then it’s something to come to terms with.

Can you be humble enough to admit that you need support to live? Can you be humble enough to receive that support in the form of money from clients who you are helping?

You have needs. You deserve to have them met. 

This doesn’t mean you’re entitled to be a billionaire. It doesn’t mean you’re entitled to anyone’s business in particular.

It just means that you deserve these things as much as any other human on earth. 

And it means that it’s important to be incredibly real with yourself about what it is that you need and what it will take to make that happen. This shows up particularly clearly around money.

Action: Identify these two numbers – How much money do you need to just scrape by (i.e. food, rent and paying basic bills)? How much money would it take to sustain you in a good way that would allow you to give your gifts to the community? Once you’ve identified the second number, I would suggest adding 50% more to it because you probably aren’t seeing clearly the number of unexpected things life will bring you that will cost money. Then make that number your goal.

 

Reflection #2 – You May Need to Appoint Yourself:

I have written a longer note about this notion here but, here’s the gist of it – most people walk around life feeling needy and unsure this world is asking anything of them. Most people are waiting for proof that the way they live matters to others. The invitation is to stop waiting and to proceed as if you are needed. This might mean you develop a bit of swagger and self appointing yourself. So be it. 

“As a rule nobody asks you to do your life’s work. More often, at least in the early going, you have to do your life’s work as a self-appointed task. And in the early going you’re not very good at it. It is a learning thing, expensive, demanding, relentless. That’s how it has gone for me at least, paring down the list of reasons I was born until only a few likely candidates were left standing.” – Stephen Jenkinson

But, of course, if we’re needed, it’s the most natural thing in the world to doubt our capacity to rise to the occasion. That’s not a disempowering belief to get over, it’s a human response to explore. It’s a part of the learning and growing that helps get you ready. If you skip an active engagement with your doubts, you may find that they linger around like ghosts of the departed who, never properly grieved and yet willfully forgotten, stick around to haunt you in a world to which they no longer belong. Your doubts are like seeds and they can only give you the plant inside them if you are willing to plant them in the fertile soil of your curiousity and willingness to admit there’s something you don’t know.

 

Reflection #3 – Your Doubts Are Often Your Integrity In Disguise:

When people say to me, “I don’t know if I’m ready.”, I immediately trust them a bit more.

Because, in they’re asking the question, I hear a deep integrity trying to assert itself amidst a desperate need to pay the rent. I hear a deep concern for the well being of others. I hear a humility of knowing how little they know and how much they still struggle. And I hear the tension between not wanting to be a fraud and yet not wanting to pretend they don’t know anything at all. They are simultaneously lit up by the possibility of stepping into a work that they love and also terrified. They want to help people but are also scared they might hurt them. They want to fly but are terrified that they will fall.

They are aware that the bigger a job they take on, the more potential there is to screw things up and really hurt people. They’re aware the more trust that’s invested in them, the more they have to be faithful to. They know that this trust isn’t a resource we actively try to cultivate, it’s a sort of human-making burden we carry with us because we know the more of it that people pile on our back, the more damage there would be should we ever get lazy and drop it. Trust is a burden. When people court it too fast and too soon, before they’re ready, they are actually courting disaster. 

On one side people never starting because they’re not perfect or ready and not wanting to hurt people. Other side people blindly charging ahead and imagining they’re ready and that people are lucky to get what they’ve got to give. Neither of these orientations are particularly helpful or sustainable.

Another possibility is to consider that your teaching what you know and offering it as a service isn’t a sign that you’re ‘done’, or ‘perfect’. It’s you signing up for your next step in your schooling without any illusions that it will be easy. And learning should give you pause. You should have second thoughts about learning. Because learning is expensive and you can only pay with the thing you can least afford to give.

Learning is what helps refine you. Sometimes I think that, when we get started, we should be paying our clients for the chance to learn. It’s a good argument for doing probono work and apprenticing (which we’ll get to soon).

When people express their doubts I want to fall on my knees and thank them for really considering it. 

The people who scare me are the ones with very little experience but extreme confidence. Those are the ones most likely to hurt people. 

 

Reflection #4 – Your Questions About Money Are Also Often Your Integrity Too:

Intimately tied into the question of “Who am I to teach?” is the often unspoken ending to that sentence, “… and get paid for it?

It can feel very strange to many of us this notion of being paid to do something we love to do that’s bringing healing to the world. There can be a guilt associated with it and this urge to just give it away for free.

And again, when people bring up these issues, I want to worship at their feet for a while because these concerns don’t come from nowhere. They often have roots found it a concern about the direction of the larger economy – both where it came from and where it’s going. As people learn more about what’s happening in the world, it’s the most natural thing in the world to have questions around money start to emerge. What is it? Where did it come from? For what kinds of work should I accept it and for what kinds of work should I refuse it?

And if you work in the healing arts, this becomes an even more pressing question as people will start bringing many things to your door to question your making money. They’ll point out that traditional medicine people almost never take money for their ceremonies or healings so how on Earth can you? Aren’t you just participating in the commodification of something that should never be commodified?

When I see people wrestling with this, I want to hug them and thank them for being willing to engage and grapple with something for which there are no easy answers. I want to praise the deep integrity of their political and spiritual landscape. I want to urge them to keep following those threads. Nowhere in me is there an urge to ‘fix’ anything. I have no desire at all to do anything other than hold those people’s feet even closer to the fire so they can really feel the burn of anywhere they might be out of alignment. Many of my colleagues would see all of this as a set of disempowering beliefs but, frankly, I think a lot of their beliefs about money are deeply toxic – here are twelve of them. And I’m not saying there aren’t beliefs that aren’t serving you if you’re wrestling with this all, I’m just saying the wrestling with it is a noble endeavour that deserves to be applauded. It’s a rare thing in this culture to bring anything to money other than desperation and entitlement. 

Those are questions people should be bringing to the topic of money. Thank God they do.

I’ve been broke before (and I didn’t care) because I’d decided to spend my time enjoying my life and doing volunteer work in my community instead. There’s nothing less spiritual about that. But there’s also nothing particularly spiritual about being broke and not being able to take care of yourself and therefore being a burden on others. If you’re tired of being broke, here are fifteen ideas and you might want to check to see if I’m running my 30 day cashflow challenge called The Meantime.

And there’s a big difference between using these questions as a shield to actually not wrestle honestly with these questions and avoid ever dealing with money vs. as a doorway to an even deeper sense of integrity and alignment with your political and spiritual values as you live in the modern world. 

Having said all of that, a few thoughts do occur to me that I offer on the off chance they might have some use to someone.

We no longer live in a tribal set up. Were you to be a healer in that set up, your needs would be met. You would be taken care of by the village. That is no longer the case today and so we need to do something different.

To take indigenous rituals and profit from them without the explicit permission and blessing of traditional elders in those communities is the height of disrespect and deeply dangerous to those you ostensibly want to heal. 

You do not need to make an income from healing. You could also work a job and do your healing work outside of that. That is an absolutely legitimate and beautiful model. You can be a healer without making a business out of it. 

Offering your gifts to the world? Non negotiable. That’s a mandatory part of being a human being. Making it a business and charging for it? Entirely optional.

 

Reflection #5 – Figure Out Your Resonant Price

All praise and credit to my dear, dear friend and colleague Mark Silver for bringing this notion to the world: resonant pricing.

If you struggle in figuring out what to charge, I can’t recommend enough that you check out this simple, human, effective and liberating process

It will help you find prices for what you charge that feel not too little or too much but ‘just right’. 

 

quotes-655Reflection #6 – Doubt is a Part of The Creative Process: 

Doubt is unavoidable.

It’a part of the creative process as KC Baker brilliantly lays out in her blog post What It Takes to Give Birth (To a Baby or a Dream). Although, it’s rarely self doubt anyway. It’s more often other people’s doubts we’re reacting to or imagining. We ask ourselves, ‘What would others say about this?’ But, in a world on fire, obsessing about ourselves is not what’s needed.

Self hatred and self doubt are still a form of self absorption. 

 

Reflection #7 – Be Clear About Your Goals:

When people say they don’t feel ready, I want to ask them, “Ready for what?

And most of the time the answers I get are fuzzy. How clear are your business goals? Less clear than you think, I promise you that. Read this to help them get more clear.

 

Reflection #8 – Be Real About Your Timelines:

Let me save you a trip to your therapist in which you fruitlessly explore how your lack of valuing yourself is stopping your business from growing.

It takes time to grow a business to be solid. Eighteen months to three years if you’re really focused on it. If you don’t settle on a solid niche early on? It’ll take you longer. I see so many people fail before they leave their day job too soon. They leap into their business before it has any chance of supporting them and then it collapses and some well meaning new ager tells them it may be a reflection of their lack of self worth.

It takes time to build a business. 

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Reflection #9 – You Might Not Be Ready, But…:

This is an important one to wrestle with.

You genuinely might not be ready for the work you’ve imagined for yourself.

Try that on for size.

Hey, we’ve all seen it. Someone is shoes way too big for them. Someone crashing and burning because they weren’t ready.

That could be you. 

If you don’t seriously consider your level of readiness, you’re a fool.

You actually might not have the skill, wisdom, internal fortitude or capacity to do the work you’re so drawn to do. History is full of people who thought they were ready, thought they were invincible and then, like Icarus drawn by his desire to get closer to the sun and deaf to his father’s pleas, fell helpless to his death as his wings fell apart as a result of his hubris. There are many examples of those whose arrogance outstripped their ability and whose lack of regard for limits cost others dearly. 

So you might not be ready but… it’s important to ask ourselves, “ready for what?”. Ready to be a guru to thousands? Maybe not. Ready to run some free workshops in your living room? Maybe so. Ready to quit your day job? Maybe not (but hey here are 11 celebrated artists who kept their day job so whatever…) Ready to go to part time? Maybe so.

Often what this question of “Am I ready?” boils down to is the belief that “I need to be perfect to be ready.” Ah. No wonder you never feel ready.

Healers often feel like, “I know I still have unhealed issues so who am I to heal anyone else?” and thus set themselves into this impossible to escape place and rob anyone they meet of whatever portion of healing they might have brought. You may not have healed everything in your life, but I bet you’ve healed something. If you stick to helping people with that or issues of a similar intensity and dynamic, you’ll be on solid ground.

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Reflection #10 – You Have Something to Offer:

This is vital.

Can you offer everything you might want to right now? Probably not.

But do you have something to offer that could help people? There is no doubt.

Is what you are able to offer enough to sustain you in a business? How much could you charge for it? Those are very open and worthy questions.

But that you have something to give this world? That is not a question worth any time at all because it will distract you from the needed work of you giving your gift to the world. So many people shut down because they don’t want to be a burden on others, but the real burden we put on the world is one you put there by not giving your gifts and making everyone else carry your load to make up for it. You are needed. 

 

Reflection #11 – Don’t Underestimate The Important Gift of Empathy:

You’d be surprised how much of what people are paying for is actually empathy. You’d be amazed at what a significant factor ‘feeling gotten’ is for people when they’re spending their money. Sure, they want the particular result they’re paying you for, but do not discount the impact of them feeling understood by you. Don’t underestimate the real value that has and the gift it is. Sometimes people would rather work with someone who is a little less skilled if their bed side manner if much better. 

The life coach and healing arts industry is full of a lack of that. And there’s more new age bullying than you might think.

It can be an immense relief to realize that our presence is a gift to others (and nice to know it is of such help to our marketing).

Who are you to heal people?” Maybe someone who really knows how to listen. Maybe somebody who won’t push or bully people into doing something that’s not right for them.

 

Reflection #12 – There’s a Difference Between Not Being Ready Out of Fear and Out of Intuition:

I’ve met a lot of healers who never feel really ready. They always need one more course or one more certification. And it’s often that they’re scared to really launch.

But not always.

Since I started my business, people have been telling me to write a book.

Practically since day one.

I didn’t feel ready. It wasn’t fear. It was just knowing that I wasn’t ready to do that yet. I knew my point of view and my ideas were still cooking. This year, about 15 years into my career, I finally feel ready. The feeling is clear and uncomplicated. 

Don’t let people bully you into doing something you’re not ready to do yet. It’s your life. Do what you want to do.

 

Reflection #13 – You’ll Might Be Great At One Thing And Crap At A Lot Of Other Things:

I recall Stephen Jenkinson talking about a very earnest young man who wanted to learn from him and came to stay on his farm to help out. The trouble was, he wasn’t much help at all. Finally one day the young man said, “I don’t know if I’ve been much help with the farming.” and Stephen said, “Farming? You haven’t even done any! Look you’re not a farmer. You’re an academic. That’s where your gifts and passions lie. Go and pursue that!” And the young man did, was excellent at it and no more farm equipment was broken that year.

Not sure what your natural gifts are? You might check out the good work of Vancouver’s Natural Gift Society or the book Strength’s Finder (order at your local bookstore).

 

Reflection #14 – Almost Everyone is Crap When They Start:

There are a few geniuses who seemed to hit the ground running brilliantly, but, for the most of us, this isn’t the story.

The first marketing workshop I did was terrible.

The second one I did was much better. 

The first youth leadership workshop I led was an abysmal and mortifying failure. They got better from there. That’s how it is. It’s not always so bad but I’ve often started things well before I was ready. It’s not a path I recommend. But it’s comforting to know that you’re in good company.

A truism I heard once was that “every master was once a disaster“. Everyone you see who is celebrated now likely struggled in the very areas they are celebrated. The legendary Casanova was terrible with women. He dedicated his life to learning the arts of courting and seduction. He was not born with that. In story after story, we learn about the masters who, in their beginnings struggled too. But they stuck in there. This is known as playing the long game. So, this truism teaches us that no matter how deep a disaster we are now – there is the promise and possibility of greater competence and skill. As we continue to teach what we most need to learn – we in turn learn.

 

 

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Reflection #15 – Beware of Comparing Your Insides to Other People’s Outsides

It’s really easy to look at others doing the kind of work you want to do who are more successful than you and imagine you’re seeing the full picture. 

I promise you that you are not. 

It’s easy to look at people who are doing the work you want to do and imagine you’ll never be ready to do what they do, that you’ll never reach the level they have.

I’ve been behind the scenes of many organizations that seem phenomenally together and professional from the outside, the very picture of success, and yet, on the inside are an utter shambles.

I’ve been behind the scenes at many holistic expos that might seem like a money grab from the new age scene but the reality is that, despite all of their new age law of attraction philosophies, they are almost all losing money or barely squeeking by.

I’ve hung out with the big names of the personal growth scene and seen the human foibles they have that never seem to make it onto the stage. I’ve seen a new age author famous for his books about his near death experiences be hammered every time we met – a profound (although delightfully charming) alcoholic. 

I’ve heard of countless yogic gurus who have taken advantage of their female followers but in a way that never makes the mainstream media. 

I’ve come to know that a very prominent figure in the personal growth world cheated constantly on his wife despite speaking of how great his relationship was on stage. 

It’s easy to believe the hype and to see those who are actually only a few steps ahead of you (whatever that means) as ‘perfect’. But the truth is that they’re people too.

Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides. Don’t compare the movie of your life to the highlights reel you get to see. It will leave you feeling inadequate and miserable. Just keep focused on creating something wonderful, beautiful and useful to the community. Create something worthy of the problems you see in the world with the gifts you have. That is more than enough.

 

Reflection #16 – You Know More Than You Think You Do:

It was 2002, and I got a call from the United World College in Las Vegas, New Mexico to lead a facilitation training. 

Having just lived through what was an utter disaster of a facilitation training (that I led (we’re talking exorcisms, people running out of the room screaming and some deep racism coming out) I felt zero desire to go there again. I’d spent the past years leading workshops and summer camps but was feeling particularly humbled. My immediate response, upon getting the invitation, was to say to myself, “What do I know about this?

But still, I gave myself permission to do the same thing I hope you might, I sat down and made a list of what I might teach were I to lead such a training. Four densely packed pages later I found myself stunned with how much I had to say and how lucid it felt. Yes, I’d made a lot of mistakes in the past, but, when I gave myself this chance to reflect on them, I found that the seeds of my failures had bloomed into apple trees bursting with fruit that I could offer to others. There was such a wealth of ideas that I felt selfish to keep it to myself. If what I had learned could help stop others from going through the same pain I had, I wanted to share it. 

Action – You could do a similar exercise around making a list of all of your current qualifications for the work you are drawn to do. What is the formal education you’ve had? What experiences? What books have you read? Have you had a lot of conversations about this? Have you done much writing about it? etc. Most of us don’t, because we’re stuck in our fear and feelings of inadequacy, give ourselves enough credit for all that we bring to the table.

Also, great news, if you get through this all and realize, “Man, I actually don’t have much to offer.” then that’s great news too. You can let go of the urgent dream of building a business and get a job for a while so the heartache can stop.

 

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Reflection #17 – Under Promise, Over Deliver:

If I had to just pick one of these ideas, it would be this one.

If all you did was this, your fear of not being ready would likely vanish over night.

As you go about offering whatever you have, however humble it might seem, make sure that you under promise and over deliver. Promise less than you think you can truly deliver as a result and then deliver more than that. Of course, this means that you need to get very real with yourself about what it is you are capable of delivering as a result. 

Of course, if you claim to be able to heal any condition and then you don’t, people will be upset. But if you say, “I’m just beginning and I’d love to offer you a 60 minute reiki session.” and you do it, that’s wonderful. As long as you’re not promising more than you can deliver there is zero ethical issue at all. People know what they’ve signed up for. 

“Gealladh gun a’choimhghealladh, is miosa sin na dhiùltadh (Promising but not fulfilling, is worse than refusing).”

– Scottish Proverb

Again, is the result you’re currently capable of offering enough to sustain a business? That’s a different question.

One of the best pieces of advice on this that I’ve ever read is to offer people the tip of the iceberg you have. They will feel how much in unseen, under the water, and trust you more. And you will feel more solid knowing that what you’ve offered them is really only 10% of your actual capacity. 

If you do this consistently, your clients will be thrilled. 

This idea is so simple, but its consequences are so profound.

 

1560707_10155030029375195_519340342724674419_nReflection #18 – Apprenticing:

Our culture is not big on humility.

In a day and age where you can become a reiki master in a weekend or a life coach in a year certification, the notion of meaningful, long term apprenticeship is a fugitive idea, hiding out in our better sensibilities until we wake up to the need for it or are brought to our knees by some humbling experience where we realize the impossible price we often need to pay to really learn something and the even more dear price to pay when we don’t learn properly and try to do it anyway.

In traditional highland Scottish culture, to become a story teller meant a seven year apprenticeship. To become a Druid? Twenty one years. You can find these sort of time frames the world over. Sadly, you can also see people going to a weekend workshop and then feeling qualified to lead sweat lodges and ceremonies. 

One of my friends in Edmonton, Randall Benson, works in solar power. He only hires journeymen electricians and most of his jobs are based around fixing the screw ups of less qualified people. 

If you want to feel totally solid in what you’re offering, find yourself a mentor. Be willing to work for free for a while. Offer free workshops in people’s living rooms for five people. Do it for free until people start to insist on paying you. Make your money in other ways.

There’s a good chance that, if you’re having these fears, you’re in the first of four stages of business. And, at that stage, your business is actually incapable of sustaining you financially. Your business is like a young tree that’s unable to bear the weight of your livelihood. So don’t crush it. Give it time to grow while you grow too. 

One approach that can take a lot of the pressure off this is to consider offering a portion of what you do on a pay what you can basis. I’ve done this with most of my daylong and weekend workshops for about 15 years. It let me feel okay about leading weekend workshops even though I was just starting because I knew people wouldn’t pay me more than they wanted to. It felt amazing to never have to worry that I might be over charging or that people weren’t getting the value they paid for. 

And, if you’re really apprenticing to someone, there may come a point where they kick you out of the nest because they know that you’re never going to be ‘ready’ enough to do it on your own. And, do you know what? You’ll be okay.

 

 

10885222_10155030030675195_4287047097716463695_nReflection #19 – Honing Your Craft:

When you’ve finished apprenticing to a teacher or school, you’re still learning. But now you’re learning from your craft directly. You’re now learning from experience. This means giving yourself time to reflect on what you’ve gone through, developing better systems and checklists and taking time to improve your skills here and there.

It means taking a deep pride in doing the best job you can do in creating the most beautiful offerings you can. When you do this, questions of self worth fall away and are replaced with an excitement to give what you’ve made to the community. 

Most entrepreneurs I see don’t do this.

Instead of creating a few programs and honing them over time, they are constantly creating new programs.

On a marketing level, this is a bit of a disaster because then people never get to know you for anything in particular. On the level of confidence, it’s a disaster. How are you supposed to feel totally confident about something you’ve never done before? Of course you feel nervous and unsettled. And on the level of craft, it’s also a disaster because you can’t do something once and expect it be be of much worth.

If you create a workshop and do that same workshop one hundred times, then you’ll have something of incredible worth. You’ll speak with some swagger and bravado when asked about it. You won’t have doubt. It will be good and you will know it’s good. You will have found all the holes, integrated so many learnings – big at first and subtle towards the end. You’ll know every inch of it and will barely be able to let it go at the high prices you charge. 

When you are more in love with your craft and your clients than your business or reputation you’ll see things bloom in ways you couldn’t imagine.

Honing your craft includes seeking out candid feedback from clients and implementing it to make your offerings better.

Honing your craft means making time to reflect on what you thought went well and what didn’t in your last offering and improving it for next time.

Sometimes I’ll do a program and, by the end, I feel awful, because I see everything that I could have done differently. But, once I’ve found some meaningful solution to each of those issues, my feelings shift to excitement to offer it again.

 

Reflection #20 – Focus On Creating An Offer That Feels Wonderful

There are some things that, when you think about offering them, you go into a panic zone and freeze up.

Maybe it’s leading a week long retreat. Maybe it’s healing people around certain issues. You just don’t feel ready to do that at all. It wouldn’t feel right or good to offer it. It’s too scary.

And then there are other things that would feel totally fine. Maybe that’s just going for tea with someone to talk about what might be possible. It’s so important to start with something that feels good, right and comfortable to you and to go from there. 

If, instead of obsessing about whether or not you’re ready, you were to pour all of your love and attention into making the best offer you could, you would find your self-concern dropping away and being replaced by a deep, authentic excitement to share. 

Action: Take a blank piece of paper and draw a line down the center of it. On the top left hand side right, ‘Feels Good’ and on the top right hand side write, ‘Feels Bad’. Underneath the ‘Feels Good’ side write down all the things you could offer right now that would feel free and easy for you to offer with an uncomplicated heart. Under the ‘Feels Bad’ side, write down the things you might want to offer that feel questionable for you, you’re not sure you’re ready for or could handle. Go back and forth for no more than 20 minutes. 

And then get moving on the ‘Feels Good’ side. Hustle that hard. As you do it, your confidence will grow. Or you’ll learn from failing. And then you’ll feel more confident as a result of your learnings. 

Action: Ask your friends what they would most trust you to do in terms of your work. What result would they most trust you could help them achieve. 

 

success-really-looks-likeReflection #21 – Start Small & Pay Attention

If you’re scared, start with something tiny. Start with leading a small workshop in your living room. Start with writing a simple ebook. Start by making on youtube video. Offer a free hour long coaching session to ten people just so you can try. Offer it to a community that needs it most as a volunteer (e.g. immigrant population or those in prison). 

You might take like a duck to water and see how many of the fears you had were just in your head. You might get hooked on it and want to do it more and more and watch as your fears fall away from you like a bird’s shadow as it takes off into the air.

But you might also realize that something didn’t feel right. And you can learn from that too.

This is also how you figure out your niche. You start small. You try things. You experiment. You notice what worked and what you liked. It’s not some linear path with three easy steps. It’s full of loops and round abouts. 

Am I ready?” is a terrible question. Ready for the big time? Likely not. Ready to help somebody? You’d better believe it. 

 

8983_10155030031520195_1269127059724895516_nReflection #22 – They Don’t Notice What You Notice:

Performers know this one all too well.

I’ve been doing improv comedy with Rapid Fire Theatre since 1992. And there have been many, many shows where I would walk off stage feeling defeated at what a terrible show I’d just done. I would head into the front of the theatre where the audience was leaving carrying the accumulated weight of every choice I wish I could take back and every choice I wish I’d made I’d stage and didn’t, only to be greeted by someone saying, “That was amazing! Thanks man!” and get a high five from a stranger who was leaving with a big smile on his face and joking with his friends about how we’d had an Octopus as a student in our scene only to have him eventually eaten. 

I thought the show was sub par at best. He thought it was great.

This happens all the time. 

We are often our own worst critic. 

 

Reflection #23 – Get Candid Feedback

If you’re not sure you’ve got much to offer, why not find out the truth and put your obsessing to rest?

Why not create a google form or surveymonkey survey and invite your past and current clients to give you candid, honest, forthright and totally anonymous feedback on how you did with them? What worked and what didn’t? What would they give your work with them from a 1-10? If it wasn’t a ten what would it have taken to be a 10? What do they see as your greatest gifts and strengths? What do they see as your weaknesses. 

And, if you’re unwilling to do this, I’d like to suggest that you might, indeed, not be ready after all. 

 

Reflection #24 – To a Third Grader, a Fourth Grader is God:

You don’t have to be a PhD to help a third grader. You just need to be a fourth grader.

You don’t need to be ten thousand steps ahead of someone to help, just a few.

This is so important to let sink in. And, as long as you’re not over promising, you’ll be fine.

My colleague Jana Beeman put it this way, “I tell my students, ‘Look at your journey, look at what you’ve surpassed in your life. Look at everything you’ve learned and the power of who you are. If you find someone a few steps behind you on your path, how can you NOT be the one to help them? If you don’t, you both lose.'”

 

Screen Shot 2014-02-21 at 1.45.15 PMReflection #25 – You’ll Improve Faster Than You Think You Will:

Think of the design of the nautilus shell. Imagine that the centre of it represents you as a very skilled and confident practitioner of what you do. 

That first ring on the outside is the biggest. But they quickly become smaller and smaller. In this image you will see that, within five loops, you’re at the centre. And improving your craft is a lot like that too. 

Let’s take leading a workshop for example:

You learn so much the first time. The lessons are big and glaringly obvious. You can’t imagine you didn’t see them. The second time you lead the same workshop (assuming you took the time to reflect and learn from the first time and implement what you learn, it will be much better. Much. But you’ll still learn things. They just won’t be as big as the first, The third time you do it, the learnings are becoming more subtle still.

The first student leadership workshop I did was in a theatre to 250 students. By the end of the day, which consisted entirely of me talking to them and almost no interactive activities, there were 20 people there. Most of them had left, it was that bad. 

But I had already confirmed a second workshop the next day and unable to feign my death as school had already let out, I set to work to change everything I could to make the next day not be something for which the legal changing of my name would, afterwards, be a requirement.

Fortunately, the next day was in a dance studio with chairs that could be moved about. That changed things. And I added in as many interactive activities as I could. And I gave a powerful heart to heart at the end of the day which had students coming up with tears, telling me it had been the most powerful day of their lives. Myself and my friends were stunned at the turn around from one day to the next.

I ended up leading that workshop about 80 times. By the time I’d done my last one, the refinements I was making were so subtle that no one but myself would ever have noticed them but I knew they were making my events better. 

 

Reflection #26 – Be Trustworthy:

Do you due diligence. Know the risks. This is why apprenticeship is so important. 

If you want to trust yourself, then you need to be worthy of that trust. Don’t focus on courting trust. Focus on being trustworthy.

If you’re doing something that could put people’s lives at risk, you’d better put in the time that’s needed to make sure you’ve done everything you can to make it safe.

If you’re leading an emotional process, don’t go further than you know how to go. People are counting on you. When you act in a way that is worthy of that trust, you’ll feel so much stronger. And it’s important to distinguish between the non-action of obsessing about what might, possibly go wrong and the real world work or preparing for those things. 

There is nothing that will make you feel more confident at a baseline level than having all of the bases covered. 

Action: Make a list of everything that could possibly go wrong when you offer what you offer and then come up with a plan to either eliminate that risk or to deal with the worst case scenario if it should ever happen.

 

532948_1002840949731014_2320471839994335280_nReflection #27 – You’re Going to Fuck Up:

No matter how much you apprentice, learn and master you’re craft, you will still make mistakes.

The question of, “How can I proceed in such a way that no one ever gets hurt?” is a set up for pain. Someone will get hurt at some point. That’s life. You’re going to disappoint people. Sometimes you’ll disappoint others because you stretched too far. Other times you’ll hurt yourself because you didn’t stretch enough. And vice versa. 

If your metric for success is that you never fuck up anything, then give up now because it’s going to happen. But, when it does, you have a job. And the job is to learn, to make amends and then to be faithful to that learning.

Making mistakes doesn’t make you a failure. It gives you the opportunity to be human as you work to make meaningful amends that might even be a greater gift to the other and the community than the original gift you’d intended because not only do they, perhaps, get more value than they’d imagined, but the community gets someone who’s a bit wiser and more humble. And learning from our failures gives us, ironically, an incredible sense of self trust and confidence. Learning to trust ourselves is central to the process of creation.

“Many people misunderstand the concept of safety. They think they can gain it by protecting themselves from other people or choosing safe people. Safety actually occurs when we learn to trust our ability to take care of ourselves.” ~ Mary MacKenzie 

And, in fact, the fact that you have failed in the past might be the most trustworthy thing about you.

When you fuck up use it as a chance to learn what you need to learn so you’re less likely to make that mistake again.

Whenever someone asks me for a refund on something, I get excited. I’m excited because I know something. I know that they are asking for a refund because what they got from me wasn’t what they wanted. More accurately, what they got from me didn’t match their expectation of it. They imagined it would be a better fit than it was. And this was created by my marketing. Something in the way I described it gave them a false impression. So, to me, these moments are golden. I always promptly refund the money and then ask them what I could change in my marketing that would have ensured they never would have bought it in the first place. And they always give me gems. That means a higher integrity in my marketing, a clearer understanding of what my product is and isn’t and less wasted time for everyone in the future. 

But if you fuck up in a larger way that causes genuine harm, then you’ll need to do more than simply ask a question to learn. If you’re going to really make amends, that might take a lot of effort. But that effort you put into making things right is your education. It’s what ensures that you ‘get it’ at a level you never could have if you’d simply said, “Oops. Sorry.” and walked away. When you genuinely make things right, often at great cost to yourself, you walk away with a deeper inner strength, sense of integrity and feeling of readiness to carry yourself well in the future. If you really handle it, you will learn the true cost of laziness and selfishness. You’ll learn how cutting corners costs you more than you want to pay. It will make you a better craftsman of what you do. 

Extra benefit, you get more permission to become cranky and curmudgeonly whenever you want at all the young whippersnappers who think they know it all. Bam! 

 

10888363_10155030031730195_6054306267309366097_nReflection #28 – Stepping Up is Vulnerable:

“Give up the notion that you must be sure of what you are doing. Instead, surrender to what is real within you, for that alone is sure.” —Baruch Spinoza

There are no two ways about it.

Stepping up is vulnerable.

When you’re putting yourself into the world you can bet that all of your internal demons of ‘who does she think she is?’ are going to show up. You can bet that that’s going to come from the outside too. Luckily, you don’t need to please everyone

Have you ever thought about how hard and humbling it is to actually show up like you do have something give (being full aware of your faults, lacks, needs, struggles, etc. and showing up anyways)? When will/would/could you ever be ready (beware those ever-elusive criteria)? To own your value and worth by sharing your creative output, your knowledge, your skills, your passions, your love -yup, that’s the other side of humility. Showing up and sharing yourself fully, to the degree it’s done in loving service, takes courage, humility, VULNERABILITY and love —for others AND for yourself.  You are 10,000 stories of fears overcome, of suffering endured (and not, we need those just as much), of miracles & doubts, of life-lessons; you are full of dreams, solutions & brilliant ideas; you have creative works -poems, songs, dances, art, projects —that would bless many people. If they only got to experience them. “But they’re not ‘ready’? not ‘perfected’? Consider them, as my father-in-law of late would say, as ‘perfect enough’. Sure, don’t be ‘more’ than you are…but also don’t be ‘less’. You’re a hell of a lot ‘more’ than you probably think you are. Consider the ‘more’ side, if you’re open to seeing/feeling/being/knowing that ‘more’ in yourself and others (Namaste), you might discover that it doesn’t even have a limit.” – Leif Hansen

 Also, consider this possibility, the bigger the fear is for you, the more likely it is that you are aimed in the right direction. 

 

Reflection #29 – When You’re Starting, Give Yourself More Space Than You Think You Need:

This is huge.

I remember a facilitation truism that I learned years ago. If you spend an hour on an experiential exercise, then give yourself an hour to debrief it too because that’s where most of the value will be harvested. If you are taking people on a ropes course and they have a fun time but you never talk about it, much of the benefit is lost. If you simply have a conversation about fear and trust, but don’t pair it with an experience, it will likely stay as theory and simply be an interesting conversation. It’s the combination of experience and reflection that gives these things their full measure of power.

And so it is with this learning you call being in business. When you first begin, consider giving yourself one hour to reflect on every hour you work with someone. If you lead a weekend long workshop, consider that you may need a weekend to reflect on what you learned from leading it. 

If you really take this on (meaning if you really take seriously the proposition that your work is actually just the continuing education in which you’re engaged) then you’ll realize that it may ask more of you than you’d initially bargained for. If you plan to really be responsible about your work and to master your craft, you’ll see what the actual demands are. And it might be a price that’s too high to pay. Good to know. Let yourself walk away in good conscience. 

It will also lift up that your life may be, currently, too full for you to really learn well. 

It may not always be a 1:1 ratio, but when you’re starting off, you could do worse than to take this into consideration and put it into practice. 

 

Reflection #30 – Your Failures Are Your Credentials:

It’s easy to get lost in, “But I can’t teach this. My life has been such a wreck. I’ve made so many mistakes.

But those mistakes are actually what make you trustworthy to the people you want to help.

The fact that you’ve overcome some of your own struggles in, perhaps the deepest source of credibility you have. 

Our deepest wounds are often not only the doorway to our trust niche but what make us trust worthy. 

It’s the genius of Alcoholics Anonymous, partnering those just coming in with those who’ve been there too but are a bit further down the path.

Looked at another way: I’ve often heard it said that “we teach what we most need to learn (and needed) to learn.”. This reminds us that we never stop learning. That because of the wounds we’ve received in our life and because of the nature of who we we are when we’re born – we find ourselves, in this world, curious about certain things. Drawn to things. Needing to know about things.

We try things and they don’t work. And we wonder why. We try to be healthy – but we get sick. We want to be happy but find ourselves depressed. We want to make a good living – but find ourselves broke.

And in our struggle to figure out how it all works, we learn things.

Things we quickly take for granted as if everyone knew them.

That’s the assumption that has us feel as though we’ve got nothing much of value to offer.

We look at what we know and think to ourselves, “Sure, but everyone knows that.” I encourage you to ask yourself if that’s really true.

We all struggle with things (e.g. dating) and so we try to learn about them. And this learning gives us things to share (e.g. becoming a dating coach).

And this truism reminds us that the best way to learn anything is to teach it – to sit back, reflect and ask ourselves, ‘how could i express this so that others would understand it?‘ And in our efforts to articulate and express the thing we know from our own experience – we come to understand our own experiences better. And understanding our experience helps us hone our own particular point of view and map on the best way to make it from point a to point b. The clearer our map is, the more trusted we are. But, if we’d had no first hand experience of struggling on the terrain, we’d never make such a fine and helpful map in the first place.

Your failures aren’t a reason for you to opt out, they’re the prime reason potential clients want to opt in.

To make this one even better, your past failures and current foibles are actually also what make you human and relatable. My colleague Meredith Broome put it brilliantly when she said, “I like to remind people (and myself) that we are humans working with humans, and I wouldn’t want it to be any other way. Nobody actually wants to work with a know-it-all. I know that for me, the second I think I have the answers to someone else’s life is the second I have stopped listening to them. In the coaching profession, I think that’s a kind of violence we risk doing to our clients, to stop listening. The second you have it all figured out is the second you stop learning and growing. And that’s usually when clients stop showing up, or its hard to sustain your practice, right?”

Your failures are your credentials because they were your most important education.

 

Reflection #31 – This is Not About Self Worth: 

At least not entirely. And, again, this idea might just save you years of therapy.

When talking about ‘not feeling ready’, I think it’s useful to remove ‘self worth’ from the conversation because it can be a terribly seductive red herring. It’s something I’ve written about extensively in my post Charging what you’re worth is bullshit.

In fact, the way we make it about ourselves and take it so personally is telling.

There can be a kind of narcissism here where we obsess about how we’ll be seen by others. The story of Narcissus, in brief, is thus: there’s a guy. He has a fling with a goddess. He’s a cad of a man. She’s upset. She curses him to fall asleep and fall impossibly in love with the first thing he sees when he wakes up. When he wakes up he looks into the body of water he’s sleeping by and sees his own reflection. He falls in love with it so much that he falls into the water. Many take the message of this to me, ‘don’t fall too in love with yourself’ but the message is actually, don’t fall in love with your reflection. Don’t fall in love with how others see you and base your self worth on that. If you base your self worth on what others are willing to pay you or whether they think you’re ready or not, you’re in for one hell of a roller coaster ride.

This constant focus on ourselves can be a slippery, spiralling slide into neuroses. 

What does a reflection need to survive? Your presence. When you withdraw it, the reflection goes away.

So I commend, withdrawing your attention from yourself and pouring it into creating beautiful things. When you do that you might just find that the self doubt goes away because you’re no longer paying attention to your self. Stop obsessing, start creating. Stop journalling and start making your art. 

I’ve seen so many people spend years trying to get their thoughts perfect, their sales letter exactly right, their website perfect before starting when they should have been getting out there and giving talks and learning as they went. 

 

10402504_10155030021850195_1946557437040297243_n

 

Reflection #32 – Remember Why You’re Drawn to do it in The First Place:

It can be easy, in the midst of our fears that we’re not enough, to lose track of why we are drawn to do this work in the first place.

My colleague Curt Rosengren shared these words when I asked about this topic, I would be inclined to ask questions that expand the focus beyond their limited-self focus. For example.  1. Why do you feel called to do it? (Put the focus on what inspires them about the idea, rather than their own sense of insufficiency). 2. What difference does this have the potential to make? How could doing this work change the world for the better? 3. If doing this work wasn’t about you (if it was solely about the impact it makes), would you do it?  4. If you have the gift to do this work, and the world needs this work, who are you *not* to do it?

You can read more blog posts on this notion of discovering your why here

Action: Journal about why you felt drawn to this work in the beginning.

 

Reflection #33 – Make Your Case As To Why You Can’t Do It, And Then Debunk It:

My colleague Curt Rosengren shared these words, “I might also be inclined to have them make a case for why they can’t do it, and then have them refute that case, point by point. Maybe even have them make a counter-case for why they can. The more clarity people have about the stories they’re making up (and it’s all made up – some of the stories are just more productive than others), the more potential they have to shift into a more supportive story.”

Action: Do that thing described above.

 

Reflection #34 – Give Your Clients Some Credit:

This isn’t an excuse to be careless or to feign greater expertise than you have, but give people some credit in making their own choices. If someone gets hoodwinked by a charlatan, yes, there’s a lesson around integrity for the charlatan, but there’s also some lessons there for the one who got conned. If people fall for a fake guru, there are lessons for them in how they fell for it. All you can do is do the best you can. I’ve had people sign up for workshops and, because they hadn’t read the sales letter, demand a refund. Not my fault. Did I learn from that and make systems to make sure it didn’t happen again? Sure. But the people spending money have their responsibility too. 

 

Reflection #35 – Your Story and Point of View Has Value: 

It’s easy to feel like ‘it’s all been done’.

It’s easy to look at the market place and think, “Oh man. There’s nothing I could possibly add here.”

And maybe you don’t have anything to add yet.

But it doesn’t mean you never will. And, just because the market seems flooded doesn’t mean that other voices aren’t needed desperately. 

Consider this: have you ever gone to a seminar or class on a topic and found yourself totally confused only to have another teacher explain it in such a way that you totally got it? Something about the examples they used or the way they broke it down had it land inside of you with a solid ‘thunk’. Imagine if they’d decided, ‘There are already so many people teaching this. I’m not needed.’

Imagine if a musician listened to Bob Dylan and thought, “I’ll never be better than that” and decided to quit music and thus selfishly robbed the world of what he had to give. 

I teach marketing. You might have noticed that there are quite a lot of other people out there doing it. And yet it never occurred to me not to do it because of that. And here I am with over 10,000 people on my email list years (and an appalling lack of effort and strategy) later. There are a lot of people who seem to like what I say and how I say it.   

Because of your life story, you bring a unique perspective and point of view to any issue with which you’re grappling. Don’t discount that. That doesn’t honour all of the investment that people and this world have poured into you just to get you here. 

And this video by Marie Forleo says it so well…

 

Reflection #36 – You Can’t Charge For Your Gifts

I leave you with this final thought from Mark Silver to meditate on. 

Here’s the truth that I’ve seen: we can’t charge for our gifts. The Divine gives always to the human. We can be humble enough to receive from others, and we can be plugged in enough to let the love come through us to others. Like this image below...”

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mariannewilliamsonquote

 

More Resources:

Check out Seth Godin’s new book Your Turn.

My ebook, The 22 Myths of Building Your Practice

To help you uncover your niche (the place you’re most likely to do well in business) go to www.NichingSpiral.com 

Guest Post: The Natural Business Cycle: How to Grow Your Business Organically Starting with a SEED

 

by Julie Wolk

 

What if, instead of feeling overwhelming, growing your business could feel as natural as the growth of a plant or tree? 

This post is about relaxing into a natural process to grow your businesses organically by:

  • Starting with a powerful core vision – the Seed,
  • Putting down the Roots of a solid business concept and model,
  • And continuing to follow the fundamental natural cycle of growth, maturation, and rebirth.

Natural cycles are engrained in us, whether we notice them or not.

The cycles of a day, of the seasons, and of our lifetimes are the most routine things on earth – and we are part of the earth.

In fact, I would say that pretty much everything can be tracked around the natural cycle… how we learn, how we build community, and how we start and grow a business.

So, since pretty much everything is a circle, let’s stop thinking in lines and start thinking in circles. And spirals!

Because here’s the coolest part: as an evolving person and business owner who is constantly growing and changing, you get to circle round the wheel again, further and further refining your gifts, your business, and your life each time. Like an upward (inward?) spiral (like Tad’s Niching Spiral!).

Don’t get me wrong, you CAN create a business with even one pass around the wheel, but for those of us on a personal growth path, it’s actually a relief that we get to go around again. We can relax knowing business and life-building is an iterative process – there is no moment of “arrival” or perfection – and that we are constantly evolving; just as a tree grows, blossoms, fruits, sheds its seeds, takes a rest, and sprouts again.

Stage 1: So What’s this Natural Business Cycle and Where Does it Begin?

The Natural Business Cycle meshes essential business development processes with the life cycle of a plant.

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 11.30.34 AM

And just like a plant, our businesses start with a Seed. And seeds are totally magical – right? I mean, all of that possibility inside a tiny little speck. A whole oak tree, or a gorgeous lily, or a sweet blackberry bush. The seed is a mystery. It’s all about potential and vision.

As a conscious business owner, mission-driven entrepreneur or however you categorize yourself, I have a feeling that your business began from a seed. From a vision. From something that came from way beyond you in some mysterious place. A vision was planted inside of you, and your business is an outgrowth of that. A special gift or talent was bestowed upon you… and it’s unclear how. Why am I so damn good at organizing things?? I don’t get it. That’s the magic of it.

And when you tap into that vision, or that unique gift that was given to you, then you can create a business that you love.

I always say that if you’re a remotely conscious human and you’re going to start a business, you best take the time to align that business with your vision and unique gifts, or a few years will go by and you will really be wondering what went wrong – why you’re exhausted, not making money, or feeling stuck and uninspired.

But if we nest our businesses inside our deepest visions and gifts and create a business model from that place, we are so much more likely to succeed and thrive.

Here are some questions to ponder to help you get to know your vision and gifts:

  • What’s my vision of an ideal world? No holds barred.
  • What are my greatest gifts? What comes so easily to me I could do it with my eyes closed? What makes me lose track of time?
  • What’s my purpose? Don’t get too tripped up on this one… Try filling in the blanks: I am the ___________________________ who ________________________________.
  • What’s my mission? In other words… what’s the strategy I want to use to offer my gift to the world? What do I want to offer?
  • WHY do I do this work? What makes me care so damn much?

Answer these questions whether you have a business or if you are just starting out. How does it feel to clarify your vision?

This stage of business growth corresponds really nicely to Tad’s Steps 1 and 2 of the Niching Spiral.

Stage 2 – Setting Down Roots

Ok, so we have a vision. We know our gifts. We’re ready to build a business. Stage 2 is all about putting down Roots.

Imagine a BIG ol’ tree. Did you know that there are as many roots below the surface as there are branches above the surface? Truth.

Your business needs Roots. It needs a solid foundation built upon a powerful vision.

This stage is super important, and people tend to gloss over it. I make all my clients do a Seed and Roots process with me before we dive into coaching and the rest of the cycle, because I am so clear that defining this stuff is foundational to a successful business.

Here are a few of the things that we figure out in the Roots Stage:

  • What’s my special sauce? How do I offer my product or service that’s different from everyone else?
  • Who is my ideal customer? Who do I really want to help, and what are their challenges and desires?
  • What are all the amazing benefits and results that I provide for my customers?
  • What are my business goals, both financially and in terms of impact?
  • What is the business model that will allow me to achieve those goals?
  • And, what administrative systems must I create and what help must I get to build a successful business?

When we know the answers to these questions, then it’s time to go public with a brand, message, and marketing strategy that align with our Vision (Seed) and our Strategy (Roots).

This stage of business growth corresponds really nicely to Tad’s Steps 3, 4 and 5 of the Niching Spiral.

Stage 3 and Beyond

Of course, there are more stages to a plant’s life, and more stages to manifest a business from a Seed. We’ll have to leave those for another blog post.

But the bottom line is that having a system like the Natural Business Cycle provides a logical order of operations, a structure to lean into, and a place to start.

For overwhelmed business owners, knowing where you are in the process and focusing on that stage, instead of worrying about what’s to come, can by itself be a huge relief.

When we slow down and tune in to the cycles of nature, we gain a lot: patience, for one, and the understanding of what organic or natural growth really is — that one thing follows another, and we can’t do it all at once. 

If you’re interested in creating or growing your business through the lens of the Natural Business Cycle, please get in touch for a free 30-minute consultation to see if we’re a fit for individual coaching. I love helping consultant-experts, teacher-guides, holistic practitioners and other mission-driven entrepreneurs who truly have gifts to give, really rock the business side so they can thrive.


Website Bio PageBio: Julie Wolk, Business Coach, CPCC:
For 15 years, I’ve worked with talented business-owners, visionary leaders, and passionate change-makers who have gifts to give. My clients draw from the business and nonprofit worlds and are teacher-guides, consultant-experts, holistic healers, and other mission-driven entrepreneurs. I facilitate the creation of transformative and connective experiences, programs, businesses, and organizations. I move easily from idea to action, I love the way structure creates more freedom, and I get totally lit up encouraging people to follow their passions and offer their gifts and visions to the world. I’m a natural leader, and I plan businesses in my sleep. (Literally. It’s hard sometimes). I am co-founder and former co-director of a thriving nonprofit dedicated to reconnecting people to the earth.

 

 

 

 

The Four Stages of Business Growth

wood-outdoor-stairs-landscaping-steps-1Business is like a staircase which it’s best not to skip any steps.

One of the things that can put us squarely and repeatedly into what I call The Meantime is not understanding what stage of business we are at (or even that there are different stages of business). A classic blunder is for people to try and skip a stage. They are working a job and quit it to start their business hoping to land right in Stage Three when they’ve barely begun Stage One. And, the reality is that it takes a year and a half (at the very fastest) to three years to develop a solid business – and that’s with consistent focus. All due credit to my dear friend and colleague Mark Silver for introducing me to this idea. 

So, let’s look at the stage of business growth and see if we can’t find where you are.

Stage Four: Independence – At this level, you could go on vacation for six months and your business would still be making money for you. You likely have many people working for you and airtight systems in place.

Stage Three: Momentum – At this stage, you likely have a full time employee or two and your business is generating enough revenue that everyone is getting paid a fair amount. You are thriving. Your have a solid niche and business model. In momentum, there’s a firming up of your business just as plants get that woody growth that prepares them to bear fruit later.

Stage Two: Concentration – At this stage, you might be beginning to get some part time help but you’re only barely paying the bills in your business. You’re squeezing by and the money is up and down. You focus on your marketing and money comes in but then you focus on delivering your products and services and the business dries up. Back and forth. Feast and famine happens a lot here. But, at this point, you’ve figured out your niche and what your business is about. You’re getting the business model down and developing the systems you need. This phase is like the phase of rapid growth of a plant. There’s a lot of hard work and a lot of learning here.

Stage One: Creation – In stage one, you’re doing a lot of experimenting still. You don’t have a clearly defined niche yet. You likely have no help at at all with your business and you are absolutely not able to sustain yourself financially – you can’t make a living at this level. In creation, things are new. You’ve had the idea to start a business and are full of excitement. The seed germinates and begins to sprout. At this stage the plant is far too soft and flimsy to bear much weight. It’s very flexible but not that sturdy.

Which stage are you at?

The enormous payoff of knowing this is the dissolution of stress when you realize that you are precisely where you’re supposed to be (e.g. If you’re in stage one and confused why you’re not making a living, well… be confused no more! You aren’t supposed to be! You’re supposed to be sorting out your niche). 

 

Video Interview: Danny Iny on The Positioning Matrix

As many of you know, I’ve just launched a new website all about how to successfully navigate the often difficult and perilous journey of figuring out your niche. More about that soon.
 
But one of the best tools I’ve ever come across in figuring out your niche was something I heard about from one of my favourite colleagues Danny Iny. It’s called The Positioning Matrix. I recorded a 45 or so minute conversation with him about it where we tried to figure out the niche of Danny’s ideal massage therapist. Good times. The film quality is pretty fuzzy but the sound’s good. 
 
This tool is so simple but can have such a profound impact. Go watch the video and then give it a try and let me know, in a comment below. what you come up with because I’d love to include your example in a thing I’m working on.

 

Here’s the PDF of his notes.

Seven Reasons to Sign Up for The Meantime Today

meantime-336x280Just a brief courtesy reminder that my 30 Day Cashflow Challenge – The Meantime is launching in two days on February 3rd.
 
If you’re thinking of signing up, selfishly, I’d love it if you did it as soon as possible. 
 
Last September, we had 70 people sign up in one day. That was wonderful from a financial standpoint but, frankly, hellish from an administrative standpoint – to try and process 70 people in less than 24 hours so we could be ready for the program. And I’d rather not put my assistant Susan through that again.
 
But, that’s about me. 
 
Here are seven reasons that might be relevant to you
 
Seven Reasons to Sign Up Today:
 
REASON #1: It’s Super Affordable.
 
This program is only $300 and I can promise you it’s worth much more than that. 
 
If this content helps you get even one new client, just one, you will have likely immediately made back your money for the program. If they come back more than one time, you will have made a handsome profit. My guess is that the combination of the material you’ll be learning in this program and your intensive focus on applying it for thirty days will get you much more than one client. 
 
REASON #2: I Won’t Be Doing it Again Until September, 2015.
 
‘Nuf said.
 
REASON #3: Fast Acting Content.
 
Of all my programs, it’s the one designed to bring in new income and clients the fastest. You’ll be learning more than 30 proven approaches that bring in clients and money fast. 
 
And a lot more. 
 
If you’ve been struggling to get out of the vicious downward spiral and start bringing in some income fast, you could be starting on that path in just a few days.
 
I suspect you may make more immediate, financial profit on this program than any other you’ve taken.
 
REASON #4: Get Meaningful Support.
 
For thirty days you’ll have my support and the support of peers from around the world to not only encourage and cheer you on but to give you meaningful feedback on your ideas and strategies. From my heart to yours, doing things solo is likely what’s gotten you into whatever pickle you might be in. Whether it’s this program or another, consider opening yourself up to help.
 
REASON #5: $100 Profit Guaranteed.
 
Finally, and perhaps most compellingly, I’m offering a double your money back guarantee on this event. Meaning, you’ll make at least $100 in profit on this event, guaranteed. Really, actually. 
 
REASON #6: A Chance to Make Big Changes in Your Business Life You’ve Been Putting Off.
 
Many of the people who’ve been in this program have commented to me that one of the biggest blessings of being in The Meantime (the program and the cash flow crisis) is that it opens up the opportunity to make big and bold changes to their business. Changes they have known they’ve needed to make for a long time. 
 
REASON #7: Three Pay – Just $100/month for Three Months.
 
$300 isn’t a lot, but, when you’re in a crunch, it might be more than you have. So, I’ve set up a payment plan option where you can do it in instalments.
I hope you’ll consider joining us, or at least check it out to see if it’s a fit for you. You can learn more (and watch a quick video from me) at the link below.
 
 
 
 
 
warmest,
Tad
 
p.s. I won’t be leading this program again until September, 2015. 
 
p.p.s. You are guaranteed to make at least $100 profit on it. If you do your part but, at the end of the 30 days you aren’t satisfied, I’ll refund everything you paid plus $100 out of my own pocket. Actually.