The Art of Raising Your Fees

Money.

Abstractly it seems like a good thing to have.

But talk to most conscious entrepreneur types about doing one of the central things that will open the door to more of it appearing in their lives?

Stunned silence and utter emotional shut down.

Money is fraught for everyone in this culture. We’ve all done things with money we regret. We’ve all had people use money against us in ways that didn’t feel good but… add a social, political and spiritual analysis to this?

My oh my.

You’re about to watch a 26 minute video (it’s worth your time) about this thorny topic of raising your rates. My guess is that you’re walking into it with some level of confusion around not only how to do it but if you should at all.

Of course, this comes often in my workshops and whenever people lift up this topic with all of their halting, “But is it right?” and “What about the federal reserve?” and “But what about class dynamics?” I want to fall on my knees and kiss their feet for being willing to even think about this stuff because most people don’t.

What must be faced is that we who are living in the dominant culture of North America, live in a mad culture. It’s a culture of hyper individualism where village-making is sorely needed. It’s a culture where the gifts we might freely give to each other in a healthy culture (e.g. affection, listening, cleaning) are turned into services that are charged for. That’s how it is. You are unlikely to solve that on your own. And yet you want to. And yet the bills. And yet and yet.

So what do you do?

The first thing that must happen, is to have reality-based conversation about money and what we charge. As Lily Tomlin put it, “I can handle reality in small doses, but as a lifestyle, it’s much too confining.” It’s a good laugh but most of us have also confronted the limitations of illusions too and the ways that refusing to face the truth ends up being an inescapable jail built of everything we refused to consider with bars crafted from everything we’ve banished from view.

We need to talk honestly about money and what it takes to sustain us.

This is a topic I’ve thought about a great deal. I wrote an eBook called Who Am I To Teach and Charge Money For It?

One of my most popular blog posts is entitled Why Charging What You’re Worth Is Bullshit.

My next eBook will be me sharing how I’ve managed to lead almost all of my live daylong and weekend long workshops on a pay what you can basis since 2005 (and done well financially from it).

Screen Shot 2017-09-09 at 8.20.35 PMBut, having said all of that, this is not an area I have focused on deeply. It’s not a place I feel the most solid in offering advice.

But, as good fortune would have it, life introduced me to a good woman named Tiffany McLain (pictured here) who sent me an email of appreciation about a blog post I’d written and telling me she was planning of writing an article inspired by it. Which she did.

I went and checked out her site and was delighted to see her focus on helping therapists raise their rates.

I dug about a bit and asked her if she might submit herself to an interview for my blog. I was about to hit the road and I sent her the following questions.

  • What’s your story? how did you end up having so much to say about raising fees for therapists?
  • How do you define under-charging and over-charging?
  • Why do so many people feel guilty about charging anything at all?
  • How should we feel about what we charge?
  • Why do so many therapist under charge?
  • A lot of people would say that the politically correct thing is to charge less so that people in lower economic classes could afford to hire you and that charging higher fees is classist or only allowing those with economic privilege to access your services. what’s your take on this?
  • What are the three biggest blunders therapists make in raising their fees?
  • What tips would you give to those who feel nervous to raise their fees? what’s most important here?

She sent me, in response, the video below which was put together with so much care, thought, humour, candour and love that… She’s officially one of my new favourite people.

We would both love to hear your thoughts, reflections and further questions in the comments below.

Guest Post: Sliding Scale 2.0 – No One Left Out

By Josh Van Vliet, Director of Community, Academy for Coaching Excellence

1000px-Emblem-scales.svgI recently read a guest blog post by Peter Rubin about Privilege-Based Pricing here on the Marketing for Hippies blog (if you didn’t see it, it’s great – go check it out here). In it, Peter shares about this interesting and innovative way that businesses can help address social inequality through pricing structure.

Reading this, I got really excited, because at the Academy for Coaching Excellence, my teammates and I have thought a lot about this too.

At the heart of it, our work is about building a community, a world, where everyone is supported 100% and no one is left out.

Our contribution to that vision is to provide coaching and coaching skills training to people, so they can bring clarity, focus, ease, and grace to their own life, and empower others to do that as leaders or professional coaches. We offer programs for personal and professional leadership development, as well as for professional coaching certification.

In these times of widening inequality and deep uncertainty, we as a business saw that we have a critical opportunity to be a leader in our profession and our society.

So we’ve been asking ourselves:

How do we price our services to reflect our stand for creating a world where everyone is supported 100%, and no one is left out?

Given the fact that different people have different access to resources, often due to factors outside of their control (such as class, race, socioeconomic status, ability, and gender), how do we include everyone, as much as possible?

. . . And run a sustainable, profitable business at the same time?

Enter the sliding scale.

So how did you arrive at this sliding scale?

We started by creating a scholarship fund.

It helped, but it took a lot of energy to run, because it relied on us ultimately making a judgment about how much scholarship to offer someone.

On top of that, the application was enough of a barrier to entry that some people wouldn’t bother applying, or felt like they didn’t “deserve” a scholarship.

We also offered folks resources, coaching, and guidance on how to successfully crowdfund some or all of their tuition for the course.

We’ve supported people to collectively raise over $50,000 to cover course tuition, travel, and other costs, and it’s helped make it possible for many people to attend who wouldn’t otherwise have been able to attend.

And, we know that this is only part of the equation.

So we looked around to see what other people are doing, and discovered a few different organizations using a tiered sliding scale approach (like the Rockwood Leadership Institute).

How does your sliding scale work?

Here’s how we describe it on our website:

We stand for a world where everyone is supported 100% and no one is left out, and our pricing reflects that vision. Our sliding scale empowers people to participate who could not otherwise do so, and enables us to offer our life-changing work where it can do the greatest good.

We use an honour system, and don’t require you to disclose your income. We also honour that both expenses and income factor into your situation, so we ask that you discern the price truly right for you — whether that is below or above your suggested tier.

So that our work serves those who could not otherwise afford it, please invest the amount that is a “stretch” but not a hardship, factoring in your access to outside support (i.e. family and/or fundraising). Referring to the scale below, ask yourself:

  1. What investment level would be comfortable for me?
  2. What level would be a “stretch” but not a hardship — truthfully factoring in my access to outside support?
  3. Am I willing to register at that level?

This is an example of our sliding scale, for the Thriving Changemaker Intensive, our foundational 4-day course:

Gross Annual

Household Income

. . . OR Organizational Budget

(if your organization funds you)

Suggested

Investment

$90,000+ $10,000,000+ $3,000
$70,000 – $89,999 $4,000,000 – $9,999,999 $2,500
$50,000 – $69,999 $1,000,000 – $3,999,999 $2,000
$25,000 – $49,999 $0 – $999,999 $1,500
$0 – $24,999 Not available $1,000


What’s the response been so far?

Virtually entirely and overwhelmingly very positive. To give you a sense of what we’ve heard, here’s what one person wrote to us in response:

“This helps tremendously – financially, psychologically, spiritually – and actually brought tears to my eyes. Your decision to do this feels within me like a synching in alignment with my intentions and values. Thank you for being the change for social change with your sliding scale offer for The Thriving Changemaker Intensive.”

I think the only issue so far has been that it makes registration a bit more involved, especially for someone who has never experienced a sliding scale like this before.

A big part of the work for us has been to refine the way we communicate this approach, so that it’s as simple and clear as possible.

And, on the other hand, it has made “the money conversation” infinitely more simple, because people understand that A) this is an incredibly valuable program we offer, and B) they are empowered to simply pay at the level that is authentic and appropriate to their situation.

Won’t people just pay the lowest price?

It turns out they don’t. We’ve had people register at every tier — including those who pay at the highest tiers and tell us that they are truly glad to do so, because they are so aligned with our mission of inclusion and accessibility.

What have you learned about effective sliding scales?

In order to make a sliding scale work, you must:

  • Effectively communicate the value of the offering. A sliding scale sometimes becomes a way to handle the worry “no one is going to pay me for this” (of course, I NEVER did this in my private coaching practice when I was getting started…wink wink). If you’re not enrolled in the value you are going to get from whatever the service or program is, it makes sense that you wouldn’t pay a whole lot for it.
  • Effectively communicate your values. If you share why you’re doing it, and how their choice impacts others, it takes it out of the context of “let me get the best deal” and puts in the context of being a part of a community. It gives meaning to what they are paying, beyond a simple exchange of money for services.
  • Give people a clear and simple way to decide what to pay. When we’re confused, we don’t take action. If you have no idea how to choose what to pay for something, you’re more likely to either a) not sign up, or b) pay whatever’s easiest, which will be related to whatever reference points you’ve got, such as the low end of a sliding scale (or whatever you make up, if you have don’t have any reference point).

How is it fair to “force” some people to pay more than others?

The tiers we offer are simply a suggestion. We ask that each person see for themselves what the authentic rate is. We know that there are more factors than just annual income that determine a person’s ability to pay. The truth is, there’s no way we could determine the authentic price tier for someone. What we can do is give people some simple guidelines for how to make their choice, and empower them to do it.

What have you learned?

Trust people.  One of the principles of our work is that people have their own answers. They really do know what’s authentic for them to pay, what’s aligned with who they are, and what they value. And when you give them the choice, plus the context in which they are making that choice, they will generally choose to pay what they can authentically afford.

An appropriately-priced sliding scale helps flatten the “money conversation.” One of the biggest worries people have when considering joining a course or program is “I don’t have the money.” And for some, that may truly still be the case. We know this system isn’t perfect, and there are some people for whom even our lowest tier is out of reach. But for many, the conversation becomes instead: Is this the right thing for me right now? And if they see that it is, money is much less of a concern. Indeed, some people have been very happy to pay more, knowing that it helps others attend who otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

It looks like pricing inclusivity is good for business. Over the short time we’ve been experimenting with this (six months now), we’ve increased the number of people we’re serving, AND we’ve seen a slight increase in the average price paid per participant. Time will tell if this continues to hold true, but we’ve been thrilled with the results and the response so far.

How can people learn more about your work?

Visit our website: acecoachtraining.com, where you can find free resources, like our online training Hope in Action: Find Your Center and Empower Your Purpose in Times of Trouble, and learn more about the Thriving Changemaker Intensive, our foundational in-person course in Sacramento, California.

JoshVanVlietJosh Van Vliet leads the creation, implementation, and evaluation of programs at the Academy for Coaching Excellence. He is a professional coach, dancer, teacher, and musician, as well as social entrepreneurship coach, and trainer for Move The Crowd. Josh has taught swing and blues dancing; worked as a case manager with Gilead Community Services supporting clients with mental illness to live independently; and led movement classes for kids in schools through Recess Rocks. acecoachtraining.com

What if the people I most want to help are broke?

5416785_s

There are three main criteria of a viable target market.

First, it needs to be clear. As a prospective client, I should know immediately if I’m in that group or not.

Second, we need to be able to find those clients. There should be hubs.

Third, there need to be enough of those clients who can afford to pay you full price.

Ah.

That third one.

What if the people you most want to help don’t have much money?

If that’s true, hand over my heart, what you have is a non-profit-profit. I suggest you legally structure yourself as such and generate your salary through fundraising. Stop making yourself and your clients suffer by pressuring yourself and them to pay you with money they don’t have.

But what if there might be more possibilities here?

They’re broke.

There’s a big question as to whether or not that’s true.

Sometimes it’s not that clients don’t have money but that your marketing is terrible and they don’t see the value in what you offer; and you are terrified to talk to them about working with you and you utterly collapse when a conversation about money comes up.

It really could be that. Or it might be that your current business model will never be profitable. It could be that too.

Or it might be that your current business model will never be profitable. It could be that too.

Years ago, I met with the good people running Green Enterprise Toronto, an independent, green business network that would, eventually, become Green Enterprise Ontario. The business is still around, now known as Green Enterprise Movement. As I sat at their Spadina Street office in Toronto, they told me that their business model wasn’t working. They were trying to sustain themselves on dues from their members and it wasn’t nearly enough. They needed more money but their members weren’t able or willing to pay more. It wasn’t until they had a conversation with the Toronto City Council that headway was made. The city saw they were providing a service that properly should have been the domain of the city – supporting local businesses – and so the city was able to put some funding towards it. Without the funding from the city at that point, the Green Enterprise Toronto project would have utterly collapsed.

Edmonton had a similar group for years called Live Local, of which I was a founding board member. Same issue but, in this case, the Edmonton City Council didn’t step up and the organization folded.

My friend Robindra Runsan incredible project called It’s Time to Bloom. They throw a weekend event for local yogis that has yoga classes and workshops, inspiring talks from big name speakers and sweet, classy dance parties.

Every year, it lost money.

“Did you make any money this year?” I asked him, full of hope that this might have been the year it turned around for him.

“We only lost about $5000 this year!”

Cities need more people like Robindra who do what they do for the love and not the money and bring such fine things in.

But he was stuck. He couldn’t raise ticket prices and he couldn’t guarantee that his events would sell out. It was always so close to the wire.

“I’m sorry to hear that man.” I said, commiserating with him.

“But we’ve got it figured out for next year!” he said.

My ears perked up.

“Festival grants!” he smiled. “We realized we’re a great fit for a lot of these grants and, with them, everyone can get paid and we don’t lose money.” He told me that they were also deepening their exploration of corporate sponsorship.

What he had on his hands was a social enterprise. His project was a mix of business and non-profit. It took him five years to see it. Some people never see it.

Now, with a different business model, It’s Time to Bloom might not have needed grants. For example, if they came up with a “Bloom Yoga Teacher Training” or a “Bloom School of Yogi Business” or “Bloom Life Coaching Program for Yogis” then maybe they could have afforded to lose on the big event if it was an effective marketing tool to fill their higher-end programs.

If your people can’t afford to pay you what you need to sustain yourself then you have four options:

  1. Change nothing, try to get water from a stone and burn out in an ashen pit of poverty, bitterness and resentment.
  2. Drop that target market for a more profitable one and simply volunteer your time to help those people who can’t pay.
  3. Focus most of your efforts on a more profitable target market and give the work or service to the people you most love at a discounted rate (e.g. gift economy, pay-what-you-can, sliding scale, or barter).
  4. Shift into a social enterprise or non-profit model and raise money through grants, sponsorship or individual giving.

Which option would you choose?

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.

*

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.”
*

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:

*

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.”

*

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?

*

10676240_10155030158345195_697351721460993522_n

*

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.

*

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.”

*

10411121_10155030158520195_4221505816239814050_n

*

“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

*

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.

 *

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

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

 
 

The Meantime: Three Steps to Getting Out of Financial Crisis

Brick-Wall1I’m in the midst of creating a new product and program that I’m really excited to share with you.

It could be for our if you find yourself in a very tight spot financially where you need money urgently and have no idea how to make that happen.

But let me back up.

There’s a certain time that all of us, at some point or another in our business lives, come to experience. I call it The Meantime.

It’s a moment where you feel like you’re headed directly for a brick wall.

And, as I heard Brian Tracey say once, ‘Life is full of problems. In life you’re either recovering from a problem, in the midst of one now, or one is coming. But, every once in a while, life gives you a reprieve from your problems. It’s called a crisis.’

And this is The Meantime. The time of crisis.

In business, I define The Meantime as that time when you are in a financial crisis where you need money urgently and, even though you have faith in things to work out in the long term, even though you believe in the strategies and business plan you’ve put together to be sustainable in the future, you aren’t there yet and you ask yourself, ‘What do I do in the meantime?’

But I call it The Meantime for another reason too.

It feels mean and vicious when you’re in the midst of it. It is an unforgiving time where you seem to have to hustle harder than you ever have before. There often seems to be no way to bring in the kind of money you need as quickly as you need it. It can be a time in incredible stress and anxiety. The Meantime is like finding yourself in the midst of a deep winter without enough supplies to make it through and a sense of dread creeps over you, ‘What am I going to do?’

And, from time to time over the years, people who have been deep in the midst of The Meantime have come to me desperate for help. They are desperate for some magic bullet that is going to make everything okay.

They have a workshop that only two people have signed up for and it’s happening in two weeks. ‘How do I fill it?’ they ask, insistent that there must be an answer.

They have quit their job to start the life coaching business of their dreams but now rent is due, they’re deep in debt and, if things don’t turn around quickly they’re going to have to go back to a job they hate. 

Or they come to me in a panic and ask me to help them figure out their niche right away. I used to dive in and try to help them out. But, niching requires space. There’s something about being trapped in the fear of not getting what we want or losing what we have that seems to shut down the process of niching.

What’s not helpful in The Meantime is theory. What is required is anything actionable that you can do right away.

So my response these days is that there are three steps to dealing with a cash crunch like this. And that they must be gone through in order if you are to survive.

Three Steps of Getting Out of The Meantime

Step One: Create Space

The absolutely most important thing you can do is to figure out how you can create more space in their life so that it’s not such an urgent issue. 

And that space does just happen.

That feeling of no extra money or space? This is The Meantime.

For years, I found myself unsure of what to say because, of course, there are no real magic bullets in The Meantime. Building a thriving and sustainable business takes a lot of thought and care and the one thing that we feel an absolute lack on in The Meantime which is… time. 

To make matters worse, one can get into a spiral of crisis if one handles The Meantime poorly. People start having sales, offering things for free, creating new products every month which eventually exhaust both their bank accounts and their energies.

The real solution to making it through The Meantime is to do whatever it takes to create more space in your life while building a more solid foundation in the future. As the old saying goes, ‘Dig your well before you’re thirsty.’ But, in The Meantime, it is too late for this. We are parched and the ground is unbroken.

This means: tidy your home, get organized, get out of every commitment you can possibly get out of. All those social engagements you’re not 100% jazzed about? Gone. Can you reduce your expenses? Do it. Go for a long walk with a friend to let yourself vent about how stressed you are so you can get it off your chest. 

This takes massive action to clear the decks. But, once you have, you may be amazed at the incredible wave of blessed relief you feel. 

The mistake is to, while feeling totally disorganized, cluttered, and overwhelmed, try to jump into money making tactics directly. This will only add to your overwhelm and usually ends badly.

Step Two: The Short Term Fix

When clients came to me in the midst of their crisis, what they didn’t want to hear were my inspiring thoughts on slow marketing and how ‘these things just take time’. Even if it’s true that strategy is more powerful than tactics, it doesn’t matter when you’re in the midst of needing to make a lot of money fast. Then you need the fast marketing approach.

Thankfully, while they aren’t long term magic bullets and they still require work, there are many fast marketing business tactics that are virtually guaranteed to bring in income and clients quickly. They aren’t the long term fix but in The Meantime, they are just what the doctor ordered. 

If you over rely on them and never really hone your platform, develop a strong sales funnel or marketing strategy you can end up in a perpetual state of crisis (which I’ve seen many times).

Again, do Step One before working on these.

What are these tactics? There are more than we can go into in this blog in depth, but they are things like: offering existing products to your list, doing talks and offering a free consultation to people who might be a fit (and offering those who take you up on the consultation a higher end coaching package), hosting what are known as VIP days for your clients, running a pay what you can workshop, offering people 30 minutes of massage for free (and then offering them an affordable upgrade to 60 or 90 minutes when they call to book). There’s identifying the core risks people perceive in doing business with you and working out ways to eliminate them (this can massively boost the response to your offers). There are many more. But they all work.

Step Three: The Long Term Fix

In step three, once things are in motion to bring in some income, you want to start thinking more strategically about your business and investing some time and money there. In Step Three we want to look at how we even got to be in The Meantime in the first place and make sure we never have to go back there (though, realistically, it won’t be the time you are visited by it). 

The secret here is to use the space and momentum afforded to you by steps one and two to investing more deeply here. Investing in the short term fix gets you maybe ten units of reward for every unit of effort. In the beginning, but then the returns rapidly begin to diminish. However, investing in the long term fix is the opposite. At first you put in ten units of effort and get only one unit of reward but, in time, it flips and your one unit of effort yields ten units of reward. This is the importance and beauty of a good strategy.

If you’re deep in the midst of The Meantime, there’s no shame. If anything, it’s a badge of honour and a moment of initiation into the exciting and, sometimes, terrifying life of being an entrepreneur. To paraphrase the old TV show Fame, ‘You want freedom? Well, freedom costs. And right here is where you start paying.’

I’ll be launching a new product called The Meantime and a 30 Day Challenge (four calls over a month) to help you work through these three steps. If you resonate with what you’ve read and you’d like to be amongst the first to know when it launches, just click on the button below and enter your email.

 

Guest Post: Philanthropic Entrepreneurs: A Natural Evolution of Possibilities

philanthropy-reframed1by Jo Ann Hammond-Meiers, PhD, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Historically philanthropy has been defined as “the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed esp. by the generous donation of money to good causes”. Synonyms: benevolence, generosity, humanitarianism, public-spiritedness, altruism, social conscience, charity, charitableness, brotherly love, fellow feeling, magnanimity, bountifulness, beneficence, kindness, compassion, and other words.

After researching about philanthropy, I see it very differently than how I perceived it growing up which was having the heart towards a cause and being able to contribute by writing a cheque. Morgana Rae in a recent phone conversation suggested to me that she believed it was aligned with legacy building and that is certainly part of it.

I have a whole story or fragments of a life of stories I tell myself about that in my own life and my philanthropic relatives. I am very proud of my mother’s father who gave money to many social causes, as did his brother. The next generation did as well but also contributed through service clubs and time and skills that were donated generously and made a difference in the communities and in the world.

But just like we have money blocks that often come from our subconscious learnings as well as our conscious learnings about money, I see the correlation about my beliefs about who can be philanthropic and who will not have this tendency. But this is a myth based on learning attitudes, what we think is valid giving or not, and how we learn to become philanthropic in the course of our lives.

Just like money blocks, people can have lots of feelings about giving and receiving too. Did I give enough? Did my time in that volunteer work matter? Did I do it for myself too and is that okay? These are just a few of the reflective comments we make. Now, I personally define philanthropy as giving in a wide variety of ways — from heart – heart feeling and heart thinking. Philanthropy can be a learned process and people can navigate it with others. We require dialog and education. With support from others , the possibilities of and the scope of what being philanthropic can be is heightened.

An example of innovation and also philanthropic endeavours on the internet can be shown by J.J. Ramberg of MSNBC. Darlene Cary whom I interviewed recently in the up-coming May Telesummit, Innovative Change for Entrepreneurs, available now at http://www.innovativechangeforentrepreneurs.com, introduced me to J.J. Ramberg who recently wrote a book, who Darlene mentions in a podcast found here.

Darlene was excited about the philanthropic endeavour that JJ and Ken, her brother started regarding a Search Engine (toward the end of the podcast recording). It has been a huge philanthropic success. Ramberg and her brother Ken founded the charitable search engine GoodSearch in November 2005. She gave birth to her first child in early 2007. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JJ_Ramberg. These efforts have raised money for many charities while making a thrive business as well.

Giving to Profit” was a recent Telesummit this April, hosted by Alisoun MacKenzie, who has done amazing work in Rwanda. Tad Hargrave was a speaker in that Summit, interviewed. Alisoun. Similarly, for the Innovative Change for Entrepreneurs: Be the Light Summit, I interviewed Gem Munro from the Amarok Society, found at http://www.amaroksociety.org and he and his entire family and the volunteers of the Amarok Society help remote northern communities in Canada and mothers and children in the Slums of Bangladesh where they have now 20 Schools in that areas where people do not go. The impossible is possible and he has much to teach in the interview as well as gives the password to the documentary that has been made about the work. The film is an education for anyone about another part of the world and how we are able to learn by giving. The May Summit that I’m hosting is free.

For the past 20 years, Mark Scheflen, from NYC, developed his dream to advance communications between the USA, Africa, and Russia, while also working with other volunteers. He did this work by computers, art, interviews, and exchanges between students and he wrote for grants to support the work. The projects that he started from a dream is ‘Kiboko Projects” and an article can be found here. This is an example of the evolution of an idea and being philanthropic. It is about gifting business ideas, skills and time over time. Being an entrepreneurial philanthropist can be challenging, but it is also very rewarding and can make a difference.

Cynthia Kersey’s Unstoppable Foundation was inspired by the dream of wanting to make a significant difference in the lives of others. Many schools have been supported through the non-profit raising of money for African communities and it is a force to be reckoned with a as it influences many socially conscious entrepreneurs. In this Dec 21st post, 2013 posted by Cynthia Kersey . The Unstoppable Foundation was created, and remains committed to changing this picture of our world. Go to the many sites on the internet, Google it for more information. At Marcia Wieder’s Wealthy Visionary Conference in 2013 I was privileged to be among the many in the conference to help raise enough money to have 2 schools, along with running water and an infrastructure that support education itself. It was a collective effort – a wave that is spreading as entrepreneurs gain collaborative visions.

To end this blog, I’d like to thank Tad for having his visions and for exploring the edges of what is or can be new, innovative, and thought provoking for the curious and “mindful” traveler who wants to make a significant difference – big or small – a philanthropic possibility.

Jo Ann Hammond-Meiers can be reached at www.coachingflowsuccess.com

Hosted Telesummits include:
Entrepreneur Breakthrough to Success and Significance (June 2013)
The Money Flow Formula (March, 2014) The Money Flow Formula 2 (Jan/Feb 2015)
Innovative Change for Entrepreneurs (May 2014)
Align Your Business For Success (September 2014)

P23029TA211614_p_15Dr Jo Ann Hammond-Meiers is a Registered Psychologist in Alberta, a Board-Certified Dance/Movement Therapist with The American Dance Therapy Association, a Registered Art Therapist in Canada and USA, a Certified QSCA Life Coach and Law of Attraction Coach. She has a Graduate Diploma in Distance Education and Technology with Canada’s Open University, Athabasca University. For over 20 years she has co-owned and managed a psychological firm. She has been in her online coaching/consulting businesses for three years. She can be reached at 780-433-2269, Edmonton or . or she can be reached via www.drsgaryjoannmeierspsychologists.com

15 Things To Do When You’re Tired of Being Broke

broke monopoly july 27I recently wrote a post called ‘I’m Broke (And I Don’t Care).’ It got well over 100 comments from readers on it and has been shared far and wide. 

I think it resonated with people because they’re tired of feeling like their self worth needs to be tied to the amount of money they make or that their choices to work with people with less money, or to take time off for fun are wrong. And maybe they liked knowing that someone they might have assumed always had money sometimes went broke. 

But since writing it, I’ve wanted to write this to talk about the other side of it: sometimes you are tired of being broke.

And that’s okay too.

Sometimes it can be fun to be reckless and a bit irresponsible and go on adventures, buy things we shouldn’t because it adds joy to our lives.

And sometimes there’s the aftermath.

There’s the non profit we wish we could give money to that we can’t. 

We aren’t able to pay rent or our bills and we feel mortified about it.

We owe money to dear friends who trusted we’d pay them back soon and we just haven’t been able to.

Our spouse or partner is breathing down our neck and needing us to pull it together. 

We’ve not taken growing our business entirely seriously, we haven’t gotten the help we really need to get and we find ourselves in debt, scrambling and feeling desperate. Even though we know that slow marketing is an approach that makes sense . . . we don’t have time for it anymore. We need answers and money fast. 

Being broke is okay – there’s nothing wrong with it – but, sometimes, you just don’t want to be anymore. And that’s okay too.

As easy as it can be to knock the constant barrage of teachers out there promising to help you get to six figures . . . let’s remember that six figures isn’t that much for a family. Depending where you live in the world, you may or may not have health care and most families are one major illness away from bankruptcy. There’s student debt, credit card debt, unexpected expenses, the mortgage, sending your kids to college and supporting them in their dreams and, of course, trying to invest in your business.

There’s nothing wrong with being broke, but there’s also nothing wrong with wanting to have your needs met and have your financial life feel sustainable and debt free. 

There’s nothing wrong with being broke, but there’s also nothing particularly noble about it. And I’ve seen so many friends almost brag about how broke they are because it gives them more anti-capitalist, social justice ‘cred’ but, in reality, they don’t feel good about it. It stresses them out. They’re constantly anxious about it. There’s a way that we can collapse about money and give up but we can also posture and pretend that everything is okay when it really isn’t. 

Being broke doesn’t make us more real, legit or ‘down with the people’. And having a lot of money doesn’t make us cooler, more successful or better. 

If you’re like me, you’re not interested in being a billionaire. Or even a millionaire. 

But I think most of us underestimate how much money (and creativity) it might take to responsibly create the kind of sustainable lifestyle we really want. I think because of our aversion to money most of us resist taking a real honest look at that.

Sometime we’re okay with skimming by and incurring debt – and sometimes it’s not okay.

And here’s another twist: making money can be fun. I just got off of a Skype chat with Mark Silver of HeartofBusiness.com who is one of the hidden gems in the marketing world. He’s got about 9,000 people on his email list (like me) and is poised to be a million dollar business based purely on his slow and steady approach to business. Neither he nor I are particularly driven by making money but at one point he said, “You know, I don’t need to make that kind of money but . . . it’s kind of fun.” 

Making money can become a fun challenge. It can be a game. It doesn’t have to feel heavy. It’s one (of many) metrics we can use to measure our business growth and challenge ourselves like some people do with mountain climbing, triathalons etc. It has zero to do with your self worth. And, ironically, the more you realize that the amount of money you make and your fundamental self worth have absolutely no relationship . . . the more fun making money can be, because you’re no longer taking the ups and downs personally. 

If you’re in a place where it’s stopped feeling fun to be broke, then it’s time to move into to extreme self care mode and treat it like the minor crisis it likely is. 

Here are fifteen quick thoughts on the way out of that situation (and I welcome your additions to it). This list is far from exhaustive but it’s a good start:

  • extreme self care practices: this is a time to get into physical shape, meditate, journal – whatever helps you feel stronger, more directed, more full – do it. When you’re in a financial crisis, it’s easy to cut your self care out but it’s actually the most important thing to boost. The better you feel about your self the better you can do all of these other steps. 
  • clean up your home and office: nothing signals fresh start like clearing out a space. Do a massive purge and clean. You will feel amazing and full of energy after you do it. You will feel energized about handling your money. And, every morning when you wake up and see it, your environment will inspire you to stay on track. Clean it and keep it clean. 
  • eliminate what’s draining your energy: this is huge. There are likely certain people, situations and dynamics that are draining your energy and, when you’re in crisis, having your energy drained is not an option. It’s time to say ‘no’ to anything that is sucking your energy. This can be a time where you need to take space from certain friends and family. There are things you are ‘tolerating‘ that take so much more out of you than you can imagine.
  • stop wasting time: do you spend too much time on facebook, surfing the net, watching TV? Consider going on a fast from those things or giving yourself a hard limit of 30-60 minutes a day. 
  • ask for any money that is owed to you: do you have friends or clients who owe you money? This is a good time to follow up on that.
  • get a part time job: for some reason, this feels like failure to a lot of people. But it’s not. Sometimes you just need to get a job to tide yourself over. And sometimes people realize that being an entrepreneur isn’t for them. Which is a huge relief. I’ve seen a number of clients let go of their ideas about being self employed, go back to a job and watched them experience an immediate increase in happiness, financial stability and overall well being. Getting a job when you need it isn’t failure, it’s self care. And sometimes it’s just a matter of timing and you need to get a job and slowly build your business on the side until it’s at a point you can invest more. 
  • get out of any commitments you can to free up time: this is also huge. Are you on a board or committee that isn’t 100% filling you up? Are you volunteering somewhere? Look at where you’re spending your time and eliminate anything you possibly can that isn’t a 100% ‘yes’ to you. 
  • set a goal and create a plan to make money (and start with the low hanging fruit): sit down with a pen and paper and give yourself an hour or two to really get clear on what your goal is around money and how you can best achieve it. Is it to get a job? Do a major promotion of some product or service? If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
  • set aside chunks of each day where all you focus on is making money and growing your business: it’s easy to make a plan and then not do the plan. Set aside time (one hour a day, four hours a day or one day a week) where all you’re focused on is making your plan happening. Allow zero distractions during that time – cell phone off. Social media off. Lock the door. Focus. Most people are blown away with how productive they are when they do this.
  • get support: this is so huge. Maybe you need to hire a coach. Maybe you need to get a friend of colleague who you can chat with once a week to stay accountable. Maybe you need to get some kind of to do list manager. Maybe you need to read a marketing book. Maybe you need to trade with a friend for web design. Whatever support you need, it’s time to get honest with yourself about that and get it. And you might want to consider therapy around money too. If this has been a lifelong struggle, there’s a good chance there are some deeper issues worth facing. Dealing with money issues might just be the most powerful personal development work you ever do. 
  • brainstorm on how to cut expenses: can you move to a cheaper place? eat in more? ride your bike vs. driving your car? Where can you trim expenses in your life? Most people would be shocked at how much they can save with a little thought and creativity. 
  • stop working on creating more free content: unless they are a direct lead into your products or services. It’s easy to want to keep creating more free content (like me here on this blog when I should be working on my Niching for Hippies program (#doasisaynotasido)). 
  • focus: speaking of niching – pick one and focus on it. When you’re in a crunch is not the time to try and ‘reach everyone’. You absolutely need to focus on something in particular that you’re offering to a particular crowd of people. And it’s a good idea to focus on just a few marketing approaches and really work them. Maybe all you do is public speaking. Maybe it’s all virtual presentations and webinars. Maybe it’s networking events or hosting events. Whatever it is, I wouldn’t have more than three marketing tactics you’re using. When you’re in a crisis, you need to focus. 
  • create a higher end product: My colleague George Huang created a six figure income in 72 days using five simple steps to fill up his high end coaching program. You can read about them here.
  • connect with hubs: And how do you promote and get clients for your programs and products? You need a way to not only identify but then keep track of potential partners and hubs you come across. Unless you want to be stuck at the ‘cold’ level of marketing you must start thinking about your hubs. And then I recommend connecting with one hub a day getting to know them, what they do, how you can help them and how they might be able to help you. Just ask them out for coffee or to skype to chat and ask their advice on how you should grow your business. 

What other ideas and insights do you have here? If you’ve gotten yourself from being broke to having money, what did you do? 

I’m broke (and I don’t care)

images (9)Last week, something happened to me that happens from time to time. Something I’ve wanted to write about before. 

And it’s something that I suppose many of my colleagues would urge me not to share with you as I imagine that the attitude I’m sharing here could be an enormous source of frustration to a coach.

But whatever. 

I was broke.

I was in BC visiting friends when I likely should have been working on business things and I had a couple hundred dollars in the bank. If more money didn’t come in I wasn’t going to be able to pay rent. Or pay for much of anything. I figured my money would run out by Friday and my overdraft the next Wednesday for sure. 

So, here I am, Mr. Marketing Man being broke. I can imagine it might be like seeing a yoga instructor smoke cigarettes. Or a relationship expert going through a bad break up. Which is kind of the point – the unrealistic (and often unkind) expectations we put on others and ourselves. 

And I wanted to write about this because I think that so many of us self employed types carry around a lot of shame at being broke or admitting we’re broke to others. It can seem like we’re admitting that our business isn’t working, that we’re a failure, that we made a mistake in starting it. It’s something we hide and don’t talk about because we really want others to think of us as successful. And this is my point: if you want to make money because you really want to have that money – go for it. If you’re wanting to make money (or seem like you’re making money) to impress people, it might be something to reconsider. 

Back to the story: last week I noticed I was broke. 

And it struck me how little I cared about it. And how little I care what others think about that.

Because I’m a hippie. And hippies don’t mind being broke from time to time. 

To be clear: it’s hardly the first time I’ve been broke. I’ve made money and spent it many times. I remember in the early days being so broke that I couldn’t afford a bagel or a stamp. And I’d already checked the couch for change. Meh. It happens. But my superhuman-like inability to keep a job and utter lack of interest in that combined with my desire for freedom (to the point of real irresponsibility) had me not even consider changing course much. I was just broke. I’d keep going. I’d borrow money and pay it back. I was doing what I loved and following my heart and I didn’t mind not having money sometimes (a little, but not much).

To be even more clear: this last time, I wasn’t totally broke. I had a couple hundred dollars. And there was some affiliate money coming in. I have some money in a travel/savings bank account I could have gone into in an emergency. I could have emailed my list to offer some one on one coaching and likely gotten a response. 

To go further, I could have moved back in with my mom (though she’d likely have loaned me the money). I’m white, male and live in Canada with an impressive social safety net and basically free health care. Etc. I also have very little debt at the moment. So, broke is a relative term and there are an immense number of invisible privileges that I enjoy simply because of the family and place in the world I was born into. Being broke as a white, middle ages, tall, straight man in Canada is different than being a broke black man in the southern United States I am quite sure. Or broke as a single mother. I’m single with no dependents. I’m not a single parent, or taking care of elderly parents. My needs and responsibilities are really very few. Were I in a different situation I likely wouldn’t be so ‘flip’ about this broke thing. Broke might not be an option in the same way. And, like you, I work for a world where being broke wouldn’t mean you’d lose your home or ability to eat or feed your family – a world where the most vulnerable amongst us were cared for and no one slipped through the cracks to end up six feet under the concrete we’ve poured over everything that matters. 

But the not caring isn’t just coming from this strange, inordinate and strange trust I’ve always had that I’ll be fine and that the money will show up when I need it (which is almost certainly deeply influenced by the privileges I have grown up with that were and likely still are invisible to me) – it’s also that I go broke sometimes because of the choices I make in my life about how often I work. And I actually don’t work half as hard as most people would think I do. I’m quite sure that 90% of my colleagues work much harder than me. And I bet most of them are way better at managing money (there’s a reason I don’t run Accounting for Hippies). 

So, I know that my occasional poverty is a choice. It’s summer. I’m hitting up festivals. Drinking on patios. Traveling and letting the money slowly spiral out of my account like a full tub draining. I get it. And I know that I will have to hustle soon to make more. But Summer in Edmonton is an urgent thing. It last like four months out of the year. And then it’s brutally cold winter at times and we’re forced indoors where I’ll have lots of time to work. It’s like I’m a reverse squirrel: I gather my acorns in the winter and live off them in the Summer.

My time management is alright but I often even get to the hustling much later than I should which means I make less money than I could. Whatever. Life goes on.

I value my quality of life, freedom and time with friends. I know that, slowly, I am building up my business to be much more self sustaining and resilient. I know that I keep getting better at what I do. I know I’ll have more home-study courses and products to sell over the coming years. More virtual programs I can offer. I’m on the slow path to those things and watching colleagues with more drive and hustle zoom right past me on most of those fronts. Bravo for them! Perhaps someday soon I’ll decide to really hustle and crack some things out. I’m sure if that seems fun that I’ll do it. 

And . . . whatever.

I’m writing this because I want you to know it’s okay to be broke. Sometimes you need to take a job. Sometimes you just need to hustle for a while. Sometimes it will be feast and sometimes it will be famine. Sometimes your big promotion will be a flop. Sometimes you are going to choose fun over work. Sometimes that will happen a lot. 

But making more money doesn’t make you a better person or a better manifestor. It doesn’t make you worth more than anyone else. It just means you have more money. Which sometimes you’re going to really want to have. 

But, every day, you’ll need to make those choices between short term fun and long term success and, fuck it, sometimes you’re going to choose short term fun. You’ll need to choose between quality of life and working really hard, and sometimes you’ll choose quality of life and enjoyment over working 16 hour days to make money.

And then sometimes you’ll work really hard and not see your friends for weeks because you’re so driven (by inspiration or desperation).

Sometimes you will want (or need) to make six or seven figures. Sometimes you won’t.

Sometimes you’ll have a partner who can support you for a time while you build something. Sometimes you won’t. 

That’s life. 

And it’s all fine. 

Just be honest with yourself about what you’re needing and wanting.

Are there consequences to not having money sometimes? Yes. Is it a drag sometimes? For sure. 

But working hard to make six or seven figures also has consequences and can be a drag. And sometimes the only reason you work so hard is to have the lifestyle you already had before you started.

As the saying goes, ‘There are some people so poor that all they have is money.’

Again: 

Just be honest with yourself about what you’re needing and wanting.

In this industry, there’s can be a lot of pressure to seem successful and have it all together. To manage and craft our reputation so that people are drawn to us and want to emulate us. Truth be told, I could probably care more about that than I do. But I really don’t. There can be so much pressure to create an image that you’re rich and that, if people do what you do then they’ll be as successful as you seem to be. And people can get really stressed out with the posturing and pretending and then live in a constant, low level fear that they’re going to be discovered as a fraud.

I don’t think having less money makes me less successful (I’m pretty sure I’m the poorest of most of my colleagues and I’ve certainly never had a six figure year). I think being happy is what it’s all about. I don’t think overwork is a sign of success (nor, regrettably for me, is laziness a sign of authenticity). 

Here I am, with all I know, after a decade in business and I still have times I go broke. If you’re just starting out (and even if you’ve been in business for a while) I invite you to be less hard on yourself. You’ve got a full life. Family, friends, festivals, events, hobbies, books you want to read, a bucket list to explore. Sometimes it’s okay for work for wait til a bit later. And sometimes we work now so we can do those things later. But it’s all up to you.

Ask yourself which you’d regret more at the end of your life: working hard or relaxing and enjoying life? My guess is that answer will be different for different people at different moments in their lives. And that’s okay.

I’m not writing this to glorify poverty or to encourage laziness and irresponsibility. I’m writing it because sometimes I am poor and lazy and irresponsible. And that’s just the truth. My guess is, sometimes you are too.

Sometimes what we need is a sabbatical so we can come back to our work fresh and ready to kick ass. And sometimes we need to kick ass so we can afford to go on sabbatical. Which season are you in? And can you honour that?

And you might choose to do work that, even with the best marketing, may never bring in a lot of money but it’s so damned satisfying. It feels so good. And you may always be broke as a result, but the world will be left richer. My only hope is that you’re honest with yourself about what feels good and what doesn’t. As long as it feels good, keep doing it. When it no longer feels good I hope you’ll find some way to sustain yourself and make money that feels as good as possible.

I wish it were always possible to always have it all. A thriving business + rich social life + incredible romantic relationship + radiant health etc. Sometimes it is. But sometimes we choose things that mean less money. 

Do what you want to do.

Just be honest with yourself about what you’re needing and wanting.

I can feel a big work time coming up for me in the coming months where I will be immensely focused and work really hard. I look forward to that too.

I know that if I really worked hard and applied what I know, I’d be making more money. If I focused more on my business, it would grow faster. I know when I focus and hustle, results happen. I know that what I’m teaching works when I work it. I just don’t always want to work it. Or work anything. 

This week? I had two big affiliate payments come in plus some more money I’d forgotten about and I’m going to be knuckling down on getting my Niching for Hippies program together. 

Last week? I was broke. And I don’t care. 

Wherever you are this week – it’s all good. Work when you feel like you need to work. Don’t when you feel like you don’t. This is your life. Your business coach wants you to focus more on your business to grow it bigger? Cool. Do you want to do that? If not, screw what your coach wants.

Just be honest with yourself about what you’re needing and wanting.

fast marketing vs. slow marketing

Three months ago, I wrote a blog post called Slow Marketing.

It was all about how it’s okay (even important) to slow down our marketing.

This is a wonderful philosophy but what if you need money yesterday? What if you’re so broke and you can’t afford rent? All of a sudden, the slow approach while philosophically satisfying, doesn’t cut the mustard. So, what do you do when you resonate with a slow approach but you need fast results?

This was a question in my mind when I got on skype with my colleague George Huang (pictured left) of http://freedompreneur.com/. Years ago, George created an income of over $10,000/month in 73 days.

And he did it without most of the things we’re told we need to have.

Note: I’ll be releasing the eye opening transcript of this call for sale soon (at a very affordable price I think you’ll like a lot).

To be clear, he did it without a big list, a Web site or a blog, a bunch of social proof and client success stories, a business card, referral sources and huge hubs, social media, an ethical bribe or free gift, a huge sales funnel with ten levels to it, a million ways to market himself or a business plan.

What did he do?

He did what all of us need to do when we need results fast. He focused and he hustled.

When you need income and clients fast you need to laser in on one project + one marketing method and work it.

George printed out a little poster for a workshop he was planning. And, after wasting a month on trying to get clients with free consultations (which he didn’t know how to do properly) and then two more weeks on a website and blog he went to every morning business networking meeting he could. Each participant had one minute to introduce themselves and he stood up with his little poster and plugged the workshop. He got 19 people to go to his workshop (some for free others paying $25).

At the workshop, he offered a free session to anyone who resonated with his perspective. 13 people took him up on that and then four people became private clients at $1,500 a month. Within 73 days of conceiving of that event, he had seven private clients at $1,500 a month. That adds up in U.S. dollars to $10,500 a month.

This entirely echoes my own experience of creating a lot of money fast. Pick one thing and work it.

When you need money and clients fast what you most need to do is pick a single project focused on a single niche and work it hard.

Once you’ve got the basic project, divide it into steps.

In his case there were three steps . . .

step #1: fill the workshop by using a marketing strategy that played to his strengths. Do you love speaking? Do that. Networking? Do that. Writing? Do that. Don’t worry about doing everything. Just get out there.

step #2: lead the workshop. Give people lots of value and a clear sense of what your point of view is. Let them meet you and get a sense of who you are and how you see things.

step #3: lead the free sessions and, where it felt like a fit, offer his monthly coaching package. Creating a compelling ‘free session’ can be powerful if you avoid the three big mistakes most people make (although George does exclusively paid intro sessions now and can teach you how). You can use that free consultation to figure out (on both sides) if it feels like a fit to explore working together in a more committed way.

Come up with some sort of ongoing package. Some people will do a series of six sessions. Others will set up an annual contract for 12 sessions, one per month. Others will set up an ongoing monthly session with no end date. But invite them to make a larger commitment to their journey and offer your help on it. It’s okay if they say ‘no’ to you. They might just say yes.

But  this whole model would have been a huge waste of time and money if George had left out step three.

Most service providers get stuck in a cycle of Step One and Step Two and then end up broke.

Figure out what you can offer than will bring more financial sustainability into your life and more value and progress into theirs.

Slow Marketing is the long game (and there are three big things you need to do to build that up). But Fast Marketing is the short game – and, being real, sometimes you need to learn how to play it. You need to learn how to drive the golf ball long, but also how to putt. It’s not the tortoise vs. the hare – it’s the tortoise AND the hare.

Let me restate something: he did this without a big list, a Web site or a blog, a bunch of social proof and client success stories, a business card, referral sources and huge hubs, social media, an ethical bribe or free gift, a huge sales funnel with ten levels to it, a million ways to market himself or a business plan.

Let me put this another way: those things are all useful in the long game but irrelevant for your short game.

Stated another way still: focusing on those things will, very likely, not bring you any money in the short term.

If you need money fast, stop trying to grow your business as a whole for a bit (put only 10% of your efforts there) and start focusing 90% of your efforts on the most lucrative and exciting possible project.

Slow marketing is designing and building your dream home. Fast marketing is building one of the rooms in it.

And then, when you’ve got some financial space from the amazing success of your project, slow down and go back to work on your foundation. You’ll thank yourself for it later.