Ladies and gentlehumans! Here it is, the essay you haven’t all been waiting for. Yes, it’s time once again for the first-ever instalment of…
“DON’T DO WHAT I DID”
A look at some of the foul-ups, blunders, gaffes and assorted faux pas that I’ve committed along the entrepreneurial road. These essays are designed to be teaching tools, cautionary tales and an excellent cure for insomnia. They also make a fine salad dressing.
Without further ado, (or any ado now that I think about it) let’s get right into things.
Dear reader, you know me as a scribbler, a composer of belles letteres and a general man-about-the-internet, but I was also a coach. Until I wasn’t. Then I was. Then I wasn’t again.
It was like I was doing business via the “Hokey-Pokey.”
Back and forth I went, from “writing coach” to “creative mentor,” back to “writing coach” and then “writing mentor.” I changed titles and monikers so many times my head started to spin.
In the beginning, I wanted to help people tap into their natural creativity, even help them become a writer. I truly believed (believe?) I could (can?) do it.
And then fear came roaring into the room like… uhh… something that habitually roars into rooms.
Anyway, once fear arrived, everything changed. I started doubting myself, my work. Was I a coach? Could I be a coach? What did I REALLY know?
What if I got it all wrong?
What if no one hired me?
What if someone DID?
So how did I respond to these fears? What steps did I take to mitigate the doubt that threatened to choke off my idea?
Dear reader… I panicked.
I started changing things – titles, offerings, prices. Any kind of “busy work” to avoid having to think about my fears. I stopped promoting, focused instead on the writing side of things. I convinced myself that, “I’m a writer first,” and “coaching was never for me anyhow.”
This was of course, my fear talking. Deep down I knew that I could teach people to be creative and to write, but I was justifying.
To put that another way, I was hiding.
In fact, I remained in hiding up until yesterday, when, during a conversation with a good friend whom we will call “Jess,” to prevent anyone knowing her actual name: “Phil.”
I was giving her some advice about starting a blog, and she said jokingly that I should be “a writing coach or something.”
Entirely missing the joke, I responded that I was, “still on the fence about that.”
There it was. The 800 pound elephant in the room. My fear revealed. I was scared to call myself a coach, and I had just called myself out.
“Jess” is a kind and caring friend, and also one who is happy to (figuratively) smack someone when they are being a git, as I was. She achieved this with two words:
Boom. Pattern interrupt. Stick a fork in it, it’s done. Back up that bus and park it by the side of the Self-PIty Turnpike.
It was all I needed. Those two simple words, said with love but also with forcefulness, snapped me out of the death spiral of fear I had gotten myself into.
The fear remained, but now it was a separate thing. I could see it for what it was, make decisions independent of it, and see how I was allowing it to control my own thoughts and beliefs.
My dear reader, I said that this essay, such as it is, was to be a teaching tool, and so it is. Allow me if you would to put aside the jokes for a moment and get straight to the lesson.
My mistake was not that I was fearful becoming a coach. Fear when approaching a new enterprise is understandable, and even healthy, as it keeps you alert. My error was in allowing the fear to take over. Once that happened, panic set in and I lost consistency. I (temporarily at least) lost the tenacity needed to make my business work.
When Jess broke the pattern, I could see what was happening and make a conscious decision to take control again, and for that, she has my eternal thanks.
I’m in the process now of going all-in on the coaching side of my business again, this time, for the long term.
Ladies and gentlehumans, no matter what your business is, no matter what project you’re trying to achieve, the only way to make it work is to push past the initial fears and barriers. Most bloggers for example can go for quite a while with no readers at all (I did). However they keep showing up, they keep writing, they keep posting, they keep sharing their work, until eventually, readers begin to appear. Just a few at first, and then more and more.
Business is no different. I had forgotten that lesson, but thankfully, I have people around me who remind me of these things.
In the end, jumping in and out of projects randomly will not get you where you need to go. You’re either all in, or not in at all.
The Hokey-Pokey is NOT a valid business model.