Why “Stop Playing Small” is Bullshit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This story keeps us feeling constantly inadequate.

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

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

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

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

And then how do you make it financially sustainable?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen.

One of my colleagues Aine Dee said this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What if small was beautiful?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What if there was such a thing as enough?

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

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

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

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

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

– Mother Theresa

“Lionar bearn mòr le clachan beaga.”

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

– Gaelic Proverb

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

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

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

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

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

One person can’t do much, really.

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

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

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

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

– Stephen Jenkinson

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

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

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

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

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

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

The late Phillip Seymour Hoffman put it simply:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Martin Prechtel, The Unlikely Peace at Cuchumaquic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it’s okay to be small if you are.

And don’t play big if you aren’t.

But it’s okay to be big if you are.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Martin Prechtel

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An excerpt from my new book The Niching Nest:

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

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

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

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

“You are song, a wished-for song.”

– Rumi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s more than enough.

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

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

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

Her husband was Martin Luther King.

Her son was Martin Luther King Jr.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Naraya Preservation Council

Recommended Further Reading:

Small is the New Big – Morgana Rae

Bigger is Not Always Better – Ryan Eliason

The Rant Experiment: Let Off Some Steam, Catalyze Social Change and Grow Your Business

rantI want to offer up the opportunity to participate in a bold experiment.

It’s going to ask you to be vulnerable and honest.

It’s going to ask you to use a tool that not many people even think of as a tool (indeed, I didn’t until a few days ago when a number of things came together).

Here’s the gist: I want you to write a rant that’s been brewing inside you for a while and share it with your list and social media. After about a week, go post your rant and the results in the comments below.

Then, in July, I will collect the best rants and make a blog post featuring them all. This is all very informal but it should be fun.

The Rules: videos rants = 3 minutes or less. Written pieces 1000 words or less.

I think it will not only feel really good for you to do but that it could also help you grow your business.

 

Why do I say this and where is this experiment coming from? 

I think that the world needs more people ranting.

I think that you have a rant inside you that, if you let it out, would not only free you but a lot of other people too.

I think that letting yourself rant could do wonders to get to you more clients too.

Let me back up and explain why I think this…

I’ve written 551 blogs on this site.

Most of them have gotten a few comments. Many none at all. A few of them have gotten a lot of comments and been shared widely.

You might think that the ones that were the most shared were the most tactical ones. The ones with ‘how to do something’. The ones with an immediately practical application. But when I do a search of the blog posts in the Marketing Tactics category the following are the ones I find with the most comments on them.

Note: Some of these may have a lower number of comments because they were written years ago when my list was smaller and they may never have been mailed directly to my list. But the most recent ones, in the past couple of years were.

Also: comments are not the only or most meaningful arbiter of success. I would say how much a piece is shared or how much traffic it gets is more important (and I can attest to the rant blog posts I’ll be posting below being the ones that have been shared the most on social media and drawn some of the most new people to my site). But, comment numbers are still a useful lense to look at as it demonstrates that people not only went to that page, but read the material and got enough out of it to leave some complimentary words in the course of their busy lives.

 

How many comments do I get on my Marketing Tactic blog posts?:

25 CommentsHow to Approach Hubs and Potential Clients Cold – This one has the most comments of any of them. But, given how packed it is with content, real life examples, I am surprised there weren’t more comments.

16 CommentsHow Do I Fill Up My Weekend Workshop or Retreat Last Minute? 21 Practical Ideas – This one is interesting. I emailed my list of 10,000 with it and then my colleagues Justin and Callan emailed their list of 30,000+ with it. And yet only 16 comments. And, holy hell is this ever one of the most practical blog posts I’ve ever written. This blog post, with some other additions, will be turned into a product I sell within the next year. And I bet it will do well. And yet… only 16 comments.

6 CommentsThe Two Secrets of an Effective Business Card – Only six comments? A blog post on the most ubiquitous of all marketing tools?

6 CommentsThe Top Ten Ways to Become a Hub – If people really applied what was in here, they’d double their business this year. But a paltry number of comments.

6 CommentsHow to Make a Welcome Video for Your Website – What the hell. Most folks should have some sort of welcome video on their website. I’m telling people exactly how to do it. Half a dozen comments. Boo.

3 CommentsFive Simple Ways to Get New Clients – This one blows my mind. Again, I would feel very good about turning this blog post into a paid product. It’s so good. It’s so clear and step by step. But only three comments.

3 Comments14 Ways to Make it Easy for People to Spread the Word About You – A distillation of a year’s worth of me reading every book on word of mouth marketing I could get my hands on and… three comments.

1 CommentMarketing for Psychotherapists – Did this explode in the psychotherapy community? No. Not sure if this one hit my email list but still. I’ve personally sent it to dozens of psychotherapists and had it met with deep gratitude. But only one comment.

0 CommentsCreating Your Hubs Database – Quite possibly the most important marketing tactic I know that very few others teach. And the crowd goes mild.

0 Comments21 Powerful Word of Mouth Intensifiers – Again, a years worth of research boiled down into 21 actionable items and met with zero comments.

To be clear, if I were to email my list with some of the ones with fewer comments, we’d see those comments go up. But what follows is very illustrative.

 

Those rants though…

When I look in the Tad’s Rants category I find these six blogs. All six of these were emailed to my list within the past couple of years. So there’s that. But the difference in the number of comments is orders of magnitudes higher.

And they’re all rants. None of them contain a single practical idea. None of them are tactical at all. And yet, this is a consistent pattern. When I share a rant, I get the most response. To prove it…

174 CommentsI’m Broke (And I Don’t Care)

122 CommentsWhy ‘Charging What You’re Worth’ Is Bullshit

104 CommentsIs ‘Conscious Marketing’ Bullshit? Discuss

92 CommentsSlow Marketing

86 CommentsWhy ‘Stop Playing Small’ Is Bullshit

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

So, that’s 652 comments in total for six blog posts vs. 120 comments for what I would consider to be my top ten, most useful tactical blog posts.

To break that down further, that means that, on average, my tactical blog posts have gotten 12 comments each, whereas my average rant blog post above got, 108 comments. So, even if we factor in a smaller email list and not each of those posts having been emailed out and tripled that number to 36, we’re still looking at rant posts performing at least four times better at worst and ten times better at best.

You might be excused for thinking that the secret is to add the world ‘bullshit’ to any blog post. And… you wouldn’t be right but you wouldn’t be entirely wrong either. However, more on that in a moment because it’s not just in comments on my blog.

I also shared my Why ‘Stop Playing Small’ Is Bullshit blog on my Facebook Page. I generally get next to no response on posts to my Facebook Page because of this.

But when I shared this one, it went crazy. Shared by 34 people. And, on a Facebook Page a share means much more than a comment. Note: I did not boost that post. I paid nothing. And yet, boom.

Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 4.19.41 PM

 

What is a rant?

Before we dive much deeper, we should really define our terms.

verb (used without object) 1. to speak or declaim extravagantly or violently; talk in a wild or vehement way; rave: The demagogue ranted for hours. verb (used with object) 2. to utter or declaim in a ranting manner. noun 3. ranting, extravagant, or violent declamation. 4. a ranting utterance. via dictionary.com

rant (n.) Look up rant at Dictionary.com “boisterous, empty declamation; fierce or high-sounding language without much meaning or dignity of thought; bombast; a ranting speech,” 1640s, from rant (v.). rant (v.) Look up rant at Dictionary.com c.1600, “to be jovial and boisterous,” also “to talk bombastically,” from Dutch randten (earlier ranten) “talk foolishly, rave,” of unknown origin (compare German rantzen “to frolic, spring about”). A 1700 slang dictionary has rantipole “a rude wild Boy or Girl” (also as a verb and adjective) [Grose] via etymonline.com

In the definitions above you can see that ranting is a style of sharing views that doesn’t fit into the conventions of polite conversation.

 

Eleven reasons why rants get such a strong response

So, what’s up with the difference in response?

I think there are nine reasons that rants get such a strong reaction and are shared so much.

Reason #1 – They Send The Right Messages:

I wrote a blog post called Five Simple Messages That Can Have Potential Clients Melt and Fall in Love With You (41 Comments). In it, I laid out five key messages that clients need to get from you in order to feel safe.

Message #1: That you ‘get it’ (or at least will try to).

Message #2: That they’re not crazy.

Message #3: That they’re not alone.

Message #4: That there is hope.

Message #5: That there’s a bigger context.

I believe that a good rant can send all five of those messages.

Reason #2 – A Rant Comes From a Point of View:

Years ago, I wrote a blog post called Nine Reasons Point of View is the Future of Marketing. In it, I explain why having a clear, well articulated point of view, perspective, philosophy or ‘take’ on things was so vital. And a good rants comes from this. A rant comes from a way of seeing things that is being ignored and is an attempt to call attention to it, or tear down a point of view we see as doing damage.

Reason #3 – A Rant is Raw and Real:

So much of what we see in business and marketing is posturing. People pretending to be more together than they are. And a rant shatters that pretense. A rant is honest. A rant cuts through the bullshit and calls a spade a spade. A rant isn’t trying to be nice and polite. It’s not concerned about offending people. And people respond to this. People are craving honesty. This kind of genuine boiling over of emotion and frustration when things make us wanna holler is a tonic for people. A rant is done to express, not impress. They’re done primarily to get something out of you not to make an impact on others. You rant because you need to or because you see it’s needed, even if you don’t know if it will make a difference at all.

The realness you express with engender respect (even if they disagree), trust, credibility and a letting down of the guard. People will be more open to you because they see you’re not hiding anything. There’s no pretense. They know where you stand now.

I learned from Stephen Jenkinson that there were two type of marble that were used for stone carving. The first type, which is the most expensive, has a very tight crystalline structure which will take any blow and which can be carved with incredible levels of precision. The second type was harder to carve and the final results would often be covered with holes and imperfections that would need to be filled and covered with wax. So, in that way, a cheaper marble could be used but made to look more expensive than it was.

Now follow this: the Latin word for wax is ‘cera’. The Latin word for without is ‘sine’. And so marble that wasn’t covered up, where the holes could still show, were sine cera. Or sincere. And so, in this way, this common word is brought down through the ages, holding close to its chest this story about letting our holes show.

And so a rant is a tremendously sincere event. We’re not trying to posture or say it exactly right. We’re not trying to pretend we have it all together or have all of the answers. And, because it’s so sincere, people trust it.

Why don’t people rant? Because it’s vulnerable. It risks, even courts, rejection.

If you try to fake it and use a rant as a technique when it’s not something you genuinely feel, it’s going to suck hard and everyone will notice it.

If you try to control and constrain it too much, it will lose its oomph. You’ll notice that in almost all of the rants below, there is swearing. There’s a reason. When people are really ranting, their filters fall by the wayside. Things come out of their mouth that normally never would.

And, because of their rawness, a rant is big medicine. This isn’t something we want to do all of the time. They have real impact precisely because they are so rare and so raw. If all you do is rant, you will lose credibility. The less often you use this tool and the more emotion that is let loose when you do, the more impact it will have.

My colleague and friend Morgana Rae said, “I call those the ‘Dark Goddess of Morgana’s Wrath’ blasts. They’ve been surprisingly enrolling.”

And it’s important to understand that rants are only one kind of medicine. They are needed but they’re not the only thing that’s needed. We also need listening, patience, organizing, well articulated and thoughtful requests etc.

Reason #4 – A Rant is Polarizing:

Not everyone will agree with your rant – it will likely be controversial. It’s going to get a polarized response from people. And that’s good. Clients who aren’t a fit will be repelled, and the ones who are a fit will be magnetically drawn towards you hard. It gets people off the fence of how they feel about you.

Reason #5 – A Rant is Releases Pressure:

One of the highest performing headlines of all time was written by Jay Abraham:

“I’ve got to get this off my chest before I explode.”

He wrote it once as the first statement in a long, rant like sales letter. It got an incredible response. And, whenever he or others have used it after, it got a huge response too.

When people hear a good rant, if they agree with it, they often experience an immediate sensation of relief and release. A good rant gives people permission to stop pretending they see the Emperor’s new clothes when the man before them is clearly naked.

By the time a rant happens, pressure has been built up to an untenable point. When you rant, you not only release the pressure for you, but for everyone listening. The people listening have been, whether or not they’ll admit it, feeling a sense of ‘I don’t know how much longer I can take this…’. If you try to hold a rant in, it will hurt you. If you release it, it will free not only you but everyone listening who agrees with you. Rants are like a thunderstorm that come in loud and strong and, after which, the air smells fresher than it has in months, the stagnancy gone and replaced with someone more life giving.

A rant can create an incredible sense of connection between yourself and the person listening as they whisper, ‘Thank you for being willing to say it.’

Because rants are the release of pressure, they require some pressure to build up first. They have to arise from something real vs. an attempt at saying the ‘right thing’ to get a ‘particular response’ (e.g. a crafted statement from a politician that is clearly false indignation, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing).  This means we can’t manufacture them without their ringing exceeding hollow. In that way, they’re spontaneous. It’s not about making them happen perhaps, but not stopping them when they arise.

Reason #6 – A Rant is Emotional:

A rant is not an essay. It’s not an analysis or breakdown. It’s not a manifesto (though a manifesto may arise from it). A rant isn’t that well thought out yet. It’s from the heart. It’s an expression of pain, heartbreak, anger or hurt. It’s an expression of a deep love for something. It’s not abstract. It comes from a real place of real impact. It comes from a not being able to hold it in anymore more than an excitement to share some new idea or concept.

That might be why people swear so much when they rant. The gasket has blown and the filter is off and the only thing coming out of that spigot faster than you can manage it, is hot, liquid truth that is going to burn away anything that isn’t real.

A rant wants to tear apart bullshit. It wants to grab people’s masks right off their face, throw them down on the ground and step all over them. It wants to grab people by the shoulders and shake them and tell them to wake the f*ck up for god’s sake. It wants to go to a polite dinner party and turn over tables if that’s what it takes to get people’s attention.

And there’s a good chance that you won’t know it’s a rant by what you say but by how they respond.

Reason #7 – A Rant is a Call to Action:

A rant is a message. It’s a call to action to change things for the better. And that energizes (and, hopefully) enobles people. A rant is a call for people to wake up, stop being so f*cking apathetic and to do something. A rant isn’t just done to vent feelings and then move on – that’s what therapy is for. No, a rant is there to start something.

Think of the rant at the end of Trainspotting:

Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed interest mortage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage. Choose a three-piece suite on hire purchase in a range of fucking fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pishing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourself.

Reason #8 – A Rant is Unauthorized:

Rarely does anyone ask for permission to go on a big rant because rants are often deliver in the face of some oppressive authority, reality or set of assumptions. So a rant can actually be a step in reclaiming your own personal authority. Rants often happen when boundaries (real or imagined) have been crossed too many times or in egregious ways and so rants are a way of saying ‘no more’. A rant often breaks social conventions. It’s not polite. It often interrupts whatever is going on.

And in a world full of posturing, lies, injustice, pretense and deep confusion about how we’re supposed to relate to each other as humans, rants are deeply, deeply needed.

Because they are not authorized or a part of the common public discourse, when rants appear, they are like lightning. They get attention.

Reason #9 – Rants Can Be Tonic or Toxic Destructive Force:

Make no mistake. A rant is destructive.

But this destructive energy can be tonic or toxic, depending on how it’s used.

When coming from a deeply wounded place, it may seek to scapegoat groups of people. Think Hitler ranting against the Jews or Jim Crow ranting against black people or religious leaders ranting about homoosexuals. Toxic rants are the life damaging use of anger to protect unearned privileges and the punitive use of force to crush those who would question those privileges and control.

But there’s a tonic version where the rant is coming from the impulse to tear down anything that isn’t real, to expose hypocrisy, to flood light into the darkness and to call attention to injustice. They want to blow up the damns that are killing our salmon, break the shackles that are enslaving us. Tonic rants are the life affirming use of anger and the protective use of force when something precious is under threat.

A toxic rant will result is real casualties or real people being hurt.

A tonic rant will only result in lies being hurt.

The key thing to understand is the destructive power of them. But, hidden in the middle of that destructive power is something precious. It is not a new thing, but rather the yearning for something better. A good rant is a pleading with the world for something finer and fairer, a plea for beauty in the face of ugliness, kindness in the face of cruelty, fairness in the face of injustice, integrity in the face of hypocrisy, honesty in the face of deceit and duplicity.

Reason #10 – Rants Resonate:

If it’s a good rant, it will resonate with people.

As Carl Rogers said, “That which is most personal is most general.” He meant that the things you most deeply feel that you think you’re the only one who feels them? Everybody feels that. And so the more honest and vulnerable you’re willing to make yourself, the more others will resonate with you.

James Baldwin put it so well, “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”

This is what rants do. People hear them and say, “Me too! I thought I was the only one!” and then they want to share them. If no one comments on your rant, likes it or shares it, it might not have struck a chord in people.

Reason #11 – A Rants is a Response:

This is vital to understand about rants.

It’s why you can’t just ‘manufacture’ a rant.

A rant has to come from somewhere. It’s got to be a response to something real that you have experienced in the world that genuinely upsets and frustrates you. It’s got to be something you have been unable to find a solution to despite trying.

A rant is about something bigger than you. A rant places you somewhere. A rant is not a political speech about you and how amazing you are and why everyone should vote for you. A rant is not a speech about some neat new idea or technology or philosophy. It’s a response to something that isn’t working.

 

The Three Places A Rant Can Come From:

Maybe even more important than the content of the rant is where it’s coming from.

I want to suggest there are three places. You can read more about this in my blog post Collapse, Posturing & Composure.

Collapse: If you rant from a place of collapse, victimhood and ‘poor me’ your rants will sound whiny and complaining. This is not attractive. And it’s not vulnerable (even though it seems like it is). Instead of sharing the pain they feel, they use the pain as justification for their story about themselves. The former melts people’s hearts, the latter disgusts people.

Posturing: If you rant from a place of puffing up and pretending to be more together than you are, or pretending to care so much, you’ll come across as immensely disingenuous and only succeed in appealing to other people’s posturing.

Composure: This place, of comfort in your own skin, of finally coming to trust yourself over external authority, is where all good rants come from. Rants that come from a desire to get love (collapsing) or get respect (posturing) never resonate. But rants that come from a place of self love and self respect always do. You can’t be vulnerable unless you are composed. If you’re posturing or collapsing you are, inherently, basing your identity in how others see you. That means that to feel okay, you need to manage how they see you. That means you need to be in control of it. And you can’t be in control and vulnerable at the same time. Only when you feel safe in your ability to handle yourself and meet life as it is, will you every be able to be vulnerable.

But, it might be good to look at some real examples of rants so you can get a flavour for them.

So, here are…

 

Eight blog post rants worth checking out:

Is It Possible to Financially Harm a Client? by Mark Silver

Addicted to Breakthroughs by Mark Silver

My Prediction of the HUGE ‘Launch Bubble’ That’s Coming Fast… and How to Surpass It… – by Ali Brown

Life Coaches, Don’t Quit Your Day Job (What They Don’t Tell You in Life Coaching School) – Rebecca Tracey

Before You Quit Your Job – Morgana Rae

It’s not your abundance mentality, it’s your crappy copy (and 8 other reasons why your business is stuck) – by Makenna Johnston

Can We Quit the B-S Marketing? An Easier Way to Honest Marketing – by Tova Payne

Statement to the Court Upon My Unjust Arrest – by Leah Henderson

Is it wrong to get paid to care? – by Corrina Gordon Barnes

Authentic Networking – by Lisa Barber

Thirty-two video rants worth checking out:

Watch these all. You will feel uplifted and emboldened by them. They all have different styles which is part of what I’m wanting you to see so you can understand all of the different ways your rants could look.

Rants in Politics:

Elizabeth Warren goes off about the debt crisis and fair taxation.

Australian Prime Minister Gillard lets loose on the leader of the opposition for his blatant and long practiced mysoginy. What I love about this rant is that it’s clearly not scripted. She had some points set out to make and then just let loose.

Hillary Clinton gives an incredibly well measured response to a question on birth control where you can feel her entire life of real world experience coming to bear and all rushing to form themselves into words. You can feel the long line up of examples forming inside of her as she builds momentum in this and yet, somehow, keeps it together.

Rants in Comedy:

Bill Hicks famous rant (NSFW) about marketing and marketers. This is one of my favourite rants of all time. Eloquent. Well thought out and full of emotion.

George Carlin, much of whose career was based in rants, delivers this incredible three minute of lucid, angry brilliance.

Louis CK goes off about why he hates cell phones. But the beauty of what he’s offering here is a deeply personal and intimate look at what it means to be human and how we distract ourselves from this constantly. It’s funny, but it’s also a plea for humanity.

Louis CK’s stand up style, much like George Carlin’s, has a rant like quality. In this one, he imagines how God might rant at us if he were to come back to Earth and see what we’d done to it. This particular rant resonated so much that someone decided to animate it.

I couldn’t do this without throwing in this third Louis CK clip (which was how many people heard of him first) where he ranted about how incredibly spoiled and entitled this culture has becomes.

Lewis Black is one of my favourite ranters who channels his anger at the bullshit in the world into something well worth watching as he articulates many of our deepest held frustrations for us.

Jim Jeffries goes on a rant about gun control in his comedy show. A brilliant use of comedy to get a point across and to address a real problem of gun control by pointing out the inconsistencies and hypocrisies in the arguments against it.

Rants in The News:

Rachel Maddow crushes it in her post election rant. I love the rhythm and momentum that this rant builds as it goes. Like a steady drum she keeps beating as she builds her case point by point.

Nobody in Canada rants better than Rick Mercer as they make up a regular feature of his show This Hour Has 22 Minutes. What I love about Rick’s rants are the momentum they have as he’s always walking when he does them and he’ll physically stop to make a point.

Kanye West’s propensity to go off script can sometimes be seen as self serving but, in this moment, he just lets loose and starts telling the truth as he sees it. This video, as many good rants are, was shared incredibly widely. Out of all the rants I’m sharing, this one might be the most spontaneous and unscripted.

Dylan Ratigan goes off and will not be stopped. He breaks decorum of his show, interrupts everyone and can’t seem to stop himself. Agree or disagree with him there was nothing contrived about this rant. It was not a carefully calculated Ezra Levant style meltdown. It was a very real frustration boiling over.

Rants on Fake News and Talkshows:

Bill Maher has built a career on rants. The ‘New Rule’ portion of his show is a well constructed, well thought out rant on a particular topic where he punches up and skewers the wealthy for their hypocrisy on drug policy.

Jon Stewart often goes on rants on his show. This one moved me because it was so incredibly honest. The footage of the murder of Eric Garner at the hands of the NYPD had just come out and Stewart was beside himself with dismay at the appalling and unbelievable injustice.

Spoken Word Rants:

The following spoken word poem is scripted. Every word. And yet, it’s a rant. It drips with real emotion, swells and builds. It is a plea for something as must good rants are. You can feel the poem bursting out of her as she opens herself with incredible vulnerability.

Another example of the power of spoken word, poetry and excellent video editing to express a rant eloquently. This is a personal expression of feelings on a topic which many would share. This video was shared widely.

Through spoken word, Prince Ea expresses his despair and hope in the world but then brings something beautiful towards the end. This rants is the shroud of sadness that protects something beautiful inside it. This rant is a passionate plea.

Prince Ea goes on a poetic rant about cell phones.

Evalyn Parry, one of my favourite Canadian singer/songwriters, delivers this beautiful spoken word piece as an ode to lift up all of those she sees making the world better in the face of all the opposition she knows they experience.

Climbing Poetree is an incredible poetic duo whose spoken word pieces are some of the finest and most eloquent rants I’ve ever experienced.

This poetic, moving, surging and heartfelt rant for the hope of something better by Andrea Gibson brings tears to my eyes every time.

A powerful piece by Katie Makkai in response to a life telling her she wasn’t. beautiful. enough.

Rants on TV or in The Movies:

This is a little micro rant on bankers a game show by David Mitchell who’s a brilliant British comedian. What I love about it is that he can’t seem to stop himself. He interrupts the proceedings with it.

In the movie, A Few Good Men, Jack Nicholson’s character is goaded into going on a rant that ends up with him (spoiler alert) admitting his guilt. But how much better is it with this young man in a tub doing it? Nailed it kid.

I disagree with where the following one comes from politically and the amount of history it leaves out (e.g. slavery and genocide in the United States), but it’s a great example of a rant…

Rants By My Colleagues:

My colleague Jay Fiset of Calgary went on a rant about his frustrations with the personal growth industry .

Rants by Celebrities:

Actor Tyrese Gibson goes on a rant about responsibility to the people following him about them. He expresses how tired he is of their whining and complaining. It’s a beautiful, tough love rant.

In this famous interview on BBC, Russell Brand gives some incredible well tempered, rant-like answers. What I love about Russell’s style is the incredible lucidity but also the pacing, tempo and rhythm of it.

 Jenna Marbles, who is amazing, goes on a rant about the whole ‘nice guys finish last’ idea. Extremely NSFW.

Vandana Shiva is one of the most remarkable and wonderful people I know. In this interview she goes off about Monsanto. This kind of rant is driven by a passion for exposing the lies and false causes of real troubles.

So, How Do You Participate in the Rant Experiment?

Step One: Identify Your Industry Frustration

Complete these sentences. Try coming up with ten answers per sentence stem. This is a great exercise to do with a friend. Have them interview you and record it or have them take notes and just let yourself vent. Critically, don’t try to be nice. Let yourself be petty and opinionated to start. You can clean that up later (if you want to). For the moment, just let it out.

Note: Replace the word industry with scene or community as it makes sense.

  1. I’m so sick of _______ in my industry.
  2. The elephant in the room that no one is willing to talk about in my industry is….
  3. The biggest piece of bullshit going around my community is…
  4. The emperor’s new clothes in my industry is…
  5. The thing I’m most frustrated about in my industry is…
  6. The things I’ve thought about for years but have never said out loud about my industry is…
  7. The dirty secret of my industry is…
  8. The thing I’m most sick and tired of hearing, seeing, or dealing with in my industry is…
  9. The thing I feel like I have to bite my tongue about (while I roll my eyes) the most when at industry events is…
  10. The thing they never teach you when you’re in school for our industry is…
  11. The biggest lie I see my colleagues peddling is…
  12. How the hell is ______ still a thing in my industry?
  13. I don’t give a shit about _______ anymore. What I care about is _________.

Step Two: Express it Out Eloquently

I’m not talking about word smithing something to death so it’s stripped of all inspiration. But I am talking about holding yourself to a higher standard so that even your consternation is expressed in a way that adds more beauty to the world in its realness. I’m talking about stripping the ‘uhms’ and ‘uhhhs’ and ‘like, ya know?’s from it. I’m talking about speaking right from your heart in the most beautiful, honest and real way you know how to do.

Oriah Mountain Dreamers urgent and deeply honest poem The Invitation is a gorgeously articulated rant.

I don’t think that this kind of eloquence is something you can just summon up in the moment. I think it’s the result of a lifetime of practicing eloquence in speech being brought to bear in a moment like this. The only way to practice for an eloquent and moving rant is to practice more beautiful speech right now in your day to day life.

AGAIN: For the sake of this experiment: let’s not having videos go more than 3 minutes long at the most and let’s have written things be no more than 1000 words.

Step Three: Sleep On It & Share It

It’s always a good idea to sleep on things. Even rants. Let it out and then look at it the next day with fresh eyes. Can it be improved? Polished? Made even more powerful? Almost certainly.

Step Four: Share the Results in a Comment Below

I look forward to seeing what you come up with.  But more than that, so does everyone else. Maybe the world has been waiting for you to blow off a little steam.

Also – if you can think of other rants that should be featured, please share them below as well.

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

I was so young.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

You have needs. You deserve to have them met.

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

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

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

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

 

Reflection #2 – You May Need to Appoint Yourself:

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Reflection #5 – Figure Out Your Resonant Price

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

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

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

 

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

Doubt is unavoidable.

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

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

 

Reflection #7 – Be Clear About Your Goals:

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

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

 

Reflection #8 – Be Real About Your Timelines:

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

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

It takes time to build a business.

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

“You are currently NOT the person who can deliver the calling that is within you. You will grow INTO that person as you say yes to your calling. God does not call the qualified. God qualifies the called.”  – Rev. Michael Beckwith

This is an important one to wrestle with.

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

Try that on for size.

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

That could be you.

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

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

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

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

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

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Reflection #10 – You Have Something to Offer:

This is vital.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

But not always.

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

Practically since day one.

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

The first marketing workshop I did was terrible.

The second one I did was much better.

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

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

 

 

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

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

I promise you that you are not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Reflection #17 – Under Promise, Over Deliver:

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

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

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

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

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

– Scottish Proverb

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

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

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

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

 

1560707_10155030029375195_519340342724674419_nReflection #18 – Apprenticing:

Our culture is not big on humility.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

10885222_10155030030675195_4287047097716463695_nReflection #19 – Honing Your Craft:

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

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

Most entrepreneurs I see don’t do this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Performers know this one all too well.

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

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

This happens all the time.

We are often our own worst critic.

 

Reflection #23 – Get Candid Feedback

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Let’s take leading a workshop for example:

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

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

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

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

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

 

Reflection #26 – Be Trustworthy:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

10888363_10155030031730195_6054306267309366097_nReflection #28 – Stepping Up is Vulnerable:

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

There are no two ways about it.

Stepping up is vulnerable.

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

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

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

 

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

This is huge.

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

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

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

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

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

 

Reflection #30 – Your Failures Are Your Credentials:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Reflection #31 – This is Not About Self Worth: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Action: Do that thing described above.

 

Reflection #34 – Give Your Clients Some Credit:

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And this video by Marie Forleo says it so well…

 

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

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

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

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mariannewilliamsonquote

 

More Resources:

Check out Seth Godin’s new book Your Turn.

My ebook, The 22 Myths of Building Your Practice

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