I’ve heard that when someone asked Ernest Hemingway how to begin to write a novel, his response was “First you defrost the refrigerator.”
Do you have a project you’ve been putting off forever? Are you feeling like you’ll never complete it because it feels too big and overwhelming? Maybe you’ve begun and then put it on hold to do something else and never gotten back to it. Or you haven’t even started it.
My friend and client Keri told me about a brilliant idea for a business. She was working a full time job and couldn’t quit until she had her business rolling but the thought of all she had to do to get to that point felt overwhelming. She imagined taking an unpaid sabbatical to work on her business but kept finding reasons she couldn’t take time off. The whole project just seemed too big to tackle so she felt paralyzed. An entire year went by and she did nothing.
Here’s how we solved her dilemma and got her business going. We made a list of all the things that would have to happen before she could launch her business. I helped her put the tasks in order and then asked her to commit just 2 hours a week to this list. Some weeks she worked the 2 hours straight on a Saturday. Other times, she found it easier to take fifteen or twenty minutes in the morning and do one thing on the list. Some days, it was simply a phone call or sending one email. Imagine if she’d done that a year prior? Instead of feeling discouraged and overwhelmed, she’d have put in over a hundred hours in tiny increments and have her business up and rolling.
If you’re like many of us, you have an idea for something that could make a big difference in your life or career but you just can’t seem to ever get to it.
In my private consulting, group coaching and also in the Mastermind Groups that Barbara Winter and I facilitate, I see this often.
Here are several ways you can get out of overwhelm and get that project launched once and for all:
- Break your BIG idea down into small, manageable parts. (Think about Keri’s 15-20 minutes a day. That’s 104 hours a year. Or if your project involves completing 90 tasks, do one small thing a day and you’ll have it nailed in three months.
- Make appointments with yourself to complete incremental tasks more frequently. Rather than wait until you can take a couple of weeks off to work on your project, schedule each small step on your calendar.
- Reward yourself for completing each piece. My favorite activity is walking my dog in nature so I promise myself that once I complete a particular chunk of work, often a tiny piece, I get to take a walk on the beach, by the lake or in the woods.
- Pay yourself. Seriously. You know that gorgeous lamp you covet for your home office but you don’t feel right spending the money until you have your business going? Try this: every time you mark off one item on your to-do list, put a dollar in your “purple lamp fund jar” and in six months, you’ll have your business launched AND $180. for the lamp.
- Track your progress. Try what my friend Laura did last winter when she was feeling particularly unproductive. One evening she sat down and made a list of every small thing she had done all day. Then she titled it “to-do today” and checked each item off. Particularly if you’ve been telling yourself you’re a procrastinator, listing even the tiniest tasks can give you a sense of accomplishment which will keep your momentum going.
If you are ready to tackle that BIG project now but need help lining up the priorities and implementing the above steps,
- Find an accountability buddy, coach or join a mastermind group. There is something powerful in having a small group of entrepreneurial friends to run ideas by, help you with challenges and celebrate your triumphs. If you’ve made a commitment to your group that you will have a particular amount of progress accomplished by a specific time, you’ll be more likely to get it done.
My friend, mentor and workshop co-facilitator Barbara Winter talks about how small is still great for many of us when it comes to business. I experienced this first hand years ago when my partner and I butted heads over this issue: he wanted to grow our business more quickly. I knew that if we wanted it to be sustainable, we needed to strengthen our existing organization. With eight stores, we made a fantastic income and had a fulfilling lifestyle. He argued for rapid expansion. Exhausted from trying to reign things in, I backed down. Simply put, we doubled in size and volume but made half as much money and had twice the stress. Obvious lesson: BIG is NOT always best.
The same goes for seminars. There is a trend the last few years for big name authors, speakers and coaches to hold huge events with hundreds or even thousands of attendees. For some entrepreneurs, this works just fine. If you’re an extrovert, those huge seminars are a good way to network and get re-energized. If you tend to be more introverted, you’re likely to feel overwhelmed in that setting and feel drained afterwards.
The decision to participate in a large seminar vs small workshop can also depend on where you are in your business. If you’re already established, profitable and clear that you’re on the right track but just want to grow your connections and expand your presence, the larger venues might be a good tool for meeting the right people to grow your business.
But, for those of you who need more guidance and support to launch or grow a business and more fulfilling life, those mega-seminars just don’t cut it. If your business is not yet making the income you desire or enabling the lifestyle you envision, you need more personal attention and ongoing support and accountability.
That’s why Barbara Winter and I limit our Mastermind Magic to 8 participants. Rather than sitting in an auditorium listening to us TELL you the “secrets to success”, we spend 2 1/2 days in a hotel suite LISTENING to your individual dreams and helping you overcome the obstacles that have held you back. There is no formula, no lecture and no agenda other than to focus on YOUR personal goals and and map out a customized plan to make that vision a real, income producing business. There are still a couple of spots to work face-to-face with us in August and if you register in the next 3 days, you save $100. Find out more HERE
This holiday weekend, I was very well fed at the home of my friends Pat and Chad.. The first morning, I was greeted with the aroma of freshly ground coffee beans and a savory omelette and fresh fruit. I joked that I’d hit them on a good weekend since she was making a big holiday breakfast. As he cleared the table, Chad told me “This is how we eat every day: 3 healthful, well-balanced meals with ingredients picked fresh from the garden. I”m spoiled.”
Not long after the breakfast dishes were done, Pat went out to the garden and brought in more fresh herbs and commenced to prepare the next meal. In fact, she spent most of the weekend either tending the garden, snipping herbs, peeling chopping and sauteing vegetables. She appeared to be enjoying every minute of it. I asked if she’d always loved to grow and prepare nutritious food and if she’d ever considered making a career around this passion. She said, “I’ve always loved it but growing up in the 50s and 60s in Minnesota, it just never seemed like a viable option. I was supposed to choose a stable career so I went to law school.” I knew Pat had not ever worked as an attorney, that she’d lost interest by the time she earned her law degree.
Since I’ve known her, she’s held retail and clerical positions, cleaned houses and been a companion to the elderly. She’d never particularly enjoyed any of them but she took these jobs to contribute to the family income. Now, in her mid sixties, she’s finally able to spend her days doing what she loves: planning and planting, gardening and cooking, but she’s convinced she’s too old to make a career of it.
Watching the joy and satisfaction she appeared to find in these activities, I felt sad to think she spent a lifetime doing work she found unfulfilling because doing what she really loved was not considered a “viable option” as a means of income.
Are there activities that light your fire but you can’t see them as income opportunities? What things have you always enjoyed doing that were never seen as “viable options”?
Bring your passions to Denver in August and Barbara Winter and I, along with a handful of other creative entrepreneurs, will work through the obstacles and help you figure out how to turn that burning interest into income. Find out more HERE
Here in the US we celebrate Independence Day July 4th with barbecues, sparklers and parades. It’s a time to commemorate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and for many with jobs, it’s a day off work.
As the fireworks light up the night sky this week, I am also reminded of another independence to feel grateful for. I am not dependent on an employer to tell me when I can or can not spend a midweek day playing with friends and family.
If you envy those of us who are self-employed, maybe Independence Day is the perfect time to finally make that commitment to give your own dream the time and energy any good idea deserves.
Are you ready to create your own independence? Here’s another reason to celebrate:
If you register by July 15th, you can still get the Early Bird price for the upcoming Mastermind Magic: Overcoming Obstacles and Maintaining Momentum with Barbara Winter and a free hour on the phone with me refining your big idea. HERE’S THE SCOOP
Is isolation or lack of supportive entrepreneurial friends holding you back from growing your dream business?
Whenever I visit my son outside Asheville, I notice signs on I-40 in Western North Carolina declaring towns as “Certified Entrepreneurial Communities”. Of course, my first thought was, “shouldn’t all communities be entrepreneurial?” I finally Googled “certified entrepreneurial community” .
AdvantageWest Economic Development Group’s official definition of their economic development strategy (Certified Entrepreneurial Community) : “a program that helps communities (towns, areas, and counties) become entrepreneur ready. That means the overall business climate, policies, regulations, and opportunities to learn and grow are simple to find and available. It also means there’s a positive, enthusiastic attitude that permeates the culture. One that asks “how can we help you start and succeed at business?” A Certified Entrepreneurial Community is one of economic opportunity for entrepreneurs.”
Having been a brick and mortar retailer in the past, I have been part of developing an entrepreneur-friendly physical environment but I know that it’s even more vital for those of us who do all or most of our business on-line and by phone to find or form a “community” of entrepreneurial friends.
Yes, there are online forums, chatrooms and social media sites where you can connect with fellow entrepreneurs and support one another. Still, I hear from many fledgling self-employed folks who feel isolated trying to launch or grow their solo businesses without the support of entrepreneurs they’ve met in person. Coaches these days offer group virtual self-study courses and some organize mastermind groups but it’s not the same as face-to-face time with a small group of kindred spirits who commit to continue to support one another as they grow their livelihoods.
This past year, I’ve had the honor of witnessing the power of a mastermind group who originally met in person and continue monthly phone calls and frequent emails to hold each other accountable and work together to meet their goals of self-employment.
The past two years, Barbara Winter , best-selling author “Making a Living Without a Job”, and I invited a select group of aspiring and fledgling entrepreneurs to join us in an intimate setting to address any and all roadblocks that have been holding them back from finally launching or expanding their dream business. Since then, we’ve had monthly group sharing and accountability calls. In the time between those calls, lots of emails have flown back and forth amongst the group asking for and receiving advice and feedback, helping one another get un-stuck, sharing resources and of course, reporting triumph and celebrating successes.
Barbara and I are so inspired by the forward momentum and victories of the attendees of our last Mastermind that we’ve scheduled a new Mastermind Magic for August. Whether you know what you love but not how to make it profitable, or you already have a business and want to make it MORE fun and more profitable, this is for YOU. Learn more about how you can be part of our entrepreneurial community and hear what previous attendees have to say HERE.
I received so many inspiring entries, I wanted to give copies to everyone. Thank you all for taking the time to make comments and send emails. I hope you will all follow your dreams now, not put them off until “someday”.
The winners are: Sonya Lin, Steven Terry, Jan Lopez, Fran Cooper and Kelly Diemond. Those of you who didn’t win and haven’t read the book, GET YOURSELF A COPY TODAY. I don’t receive anything for recommending this book. I just think it’s one of the most valuable books on self-employment and anyone wanting the start or grow a business should read it now.
Are you trapped in a job that’s just not you? Always dreaming of your next vacation and counting the days until the weekend? Imagine getting paid to do what brings you alive AND making a living without an office or a job.
Can you guess the one comment I hear most frequently from clients who come to me for guidance through the world of self-employment? Their one biggest obstacle to starting and growing their own business?
I’ll give you a hint: It isn’t “I don’t have enough capital” or “I’m afraid of failure.” No, it’s “I don’t know where to begin and when I read the books on how-to-start-a-business, it’s as if they’re speaking a foreign language so I get into overwhelm and do nothing.”
Honestly, if I had read any of those “How to Start a Business” books, I probably would have never launched my first business. That MBA speak is boring and downright daunting.
Those how-to’s read like texts books and I don’t believe I’ve ever been able to get through one cover to cover.
Until now. Because someone finally wrote the book I wish I’d had when I started my first business. Except that was the 70s and the author wasn’t born yet. And the world of self-employment looked very different then.
Some of my contemporaries have written inspiring, practical, valuable content and juicy storytelling but they are my generation. And things were so different for us. We had many of the same challenges but not the ability to do business from a remote island as as easily as from our kitchen table.
Before I’d even read the book, I knew from just the Table of Content that Marianne Cantwell’s “Be a Free Range Human: Escape the 9 to 5, Create the Life You Love and Still Pay the Bills”, would be required reading for all my future workshops. You see, Marianne made the leap from fancy corporate title to a life of free ranging in her 20s and quickly earned more than her previous big corporate salary so knows what she’s talking about and she understands YOU.
Not only does she share her personal experience. Marianne’s “Be a Free Range Human: Escape the 9 to 5, Create the Life You Love and Still Pay the Bills” is full of brilliant story-telling about actual people who’ve escaped the caged-in cubicle life and created a business doing what they love AND making money. She shares unconventional ideas and practical, do-able steps to:
- Discover what you really want to do with your life
- Create a “free-range” career tailor-made to YOUR personality and interests
- Ditch the Job and still make as much or more than you do now
- Get time and location freedom: make money traveling the world or hanging out in your favorite cafe
- Get started in 90 days for less than $100 without a business degree or stuffy business plan AND
- Do it all YOUR WAY.
I haven’t been this excited about a book since Barbara Winter updated her “Making a Living without a Job” a couple of years ago.
Even if you’ve already started a business, this practical guidebook is chock-full of easy-to-implement steps to grow your dream. AND there’s NO MBA speak. It feels like having a conversation with Marianne.
I’d love to be able to give each of you a copy but I only have a few to give-out so you’re going to have to do a little work for your copy.
I’m holding a book give-away contest. Here’s what you need to do. In the comments below (or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org) before April 30th tell me in 200 words or less what a free-range life looks like to you. Do you dream of working from home with your kids or pets by your side, from cafes or beaches around the world? What’s your idea of doing something all day long that feels so natural to you that when you glance up at the clock many hours have passed? This isn’t a writing contest so don’t worry about penning a masterpiece. I won’t even judge your spelling. Just share your dream. If you don’t know what that “thing” is, just tell me where you’d like to spend your days. Do you want to wake early or sleep in and work unconventional hours? Will you make things? Write? Work alone or in a group? There is no right or wrong here. This is YOUR fantasy. Just take a couple of minutes right now and tell me what your version of free-ranging would look like, feel like, be like.
Recently, I’ve had the great honor of witnessing just how powerful a mastermind can be. In January 2012 and again this Jan., Barbara Winter and I invited a select group of aspiring and fledgling entrepreneurs to join us in an intimate setting to address any and all roadblocks that have been holding them back from finally launching their dream business. Since then, we’ve had monthly group sharing and accountability calls. In the time between those calls, lots of emails have flown back and forth amongst the group asking for and receiving advice and feedback, helping one another get un-stuck, sharing resources and of course, reporting triumph and celebrating successes.
Barbara and I are so inspired by the forward momentum and victories the attendees of our last two Masterminds that we have scheduled a new Mastermind Magic for August. Check out what past participants had to say HERE
What do Bill Gates, Plato, Harvey Firestone, Andrew Carnegie, Ben and Jerry (ice cream), Aristotle, Thomas Edison and Socrates all have in common?
What do Bill Gates, Plato, Harvey Firestone (tires), Andrew Carnegie, Ben and Jerry (ice cream), Aristotle, Thomas Edison and Socrates all have in common?
None of them did it alone. They all were part of a group that met regularly with the purpose of helping one another attain their goals. They were each involved in a Mastermind.
In fact, I don’t know of a single person who has been super successful without the help of a mastermind.
Just as you’re more likely to drag yourself out of bed if you’re running buddy is counting on you and you’re less likely to stray from your diet if you have to weigh in weekly with the group at Weight Watchers, having an accountability group keeps you on task.
Accountability is only one of many reasons entrepreneurs need to be part of a mastermind.
The beauty of a mastermind group lies in it’s ability to defy mathematics. You see, when you put 8 entrepreneurs in a room together, the resulting brain power is much more than the sum of 4+4. I can’t tell you why but I believe it has something to do with the way entrepreneurs thrive on challenge and problem solving. We love to share what we’ve learned to help others achieve success.
If you haven’t been successful in launching or growing your small business, it’s likely because you don’t have a group of other entrepreneurs to brainstorm with, network on your behalf and challenge you to work towards and meet your goals.
An effective mastermind group will give you the benefit of different perspectives and share resources, tactics and connections. You’ll inspire each other and offer valuable feedback that your friends, family or employees can’t give because they just don’t understand the way an entrepreneur thinks. You need people who can relate to and give input on your unique challenges because they’ve been there.
When you occasionally spin off course, get sidelined or distracted by too many ideas or you lose momentum because of a let-down, your mastermind will help you get back on track and regain focus.
A well-functioning mastermind will help you overcome your stumbling blocks because they are looking at your obstacles through varying lenses, bringing different skill sets from diverse backgrounds.
If you’re a solo-entrepreneur, you can’t go it alone. You need the mutual support, advice and counsel of other entrepreneurs and the guidance of those who’ve climbed the mountain before you.
Because we believe that being part of an effective mastermind group is like having your own board of directors, Barbara Winter and I have put together something you’ll want to be a part of. Get the scoop HERE.
Whether you’re just starting out or have been in business awhile, you probably realize you can’t go it alone. As author Barbara Sher says, “Isolation is the great dream killer.” Even if your ideal business vision is spending your days alone in your home office, your likelihood for success is greatly increased if you have a tribe of other entrepreneurs to bounce ideas around with, help you problem solve, share resources and celebrate triumphs. But how do you find those people?
If you attend networking meetings or join a philanthropic business leader club, you’ve probably noticed that there’s not a lot of exposing vulnerability. The goal of those meetings is often to promote your business so the friends you make in that type of setting aren’t likely the friends you share challenges with.
The best way I know to stay motivated and continue to move your business forward is to join a mastermind group but where do you find the right group for you and your business?
A great way to find your tribe, those whose values you share and will benefit from masterminding with is to connect with people who attend workshops facilitated by the same mentors you follow. For example, if you enjoy small, interactive workshops, it’s not in your best interest to mastermind with people who like to attend glitzy speaker seminars with thousands of attendees. I learned this when I went to one of those seminars to learn about internet marketing and formed a mastermind with friends I met there. They were lovely, smart women who I like and respect but have very different goals from mine. They wanted to be like that speaker. I have no interest in glamour and spotlight. I’d have done better masterminding with entrepreneurs who admired the same mentors as I did.
Four years ago, I was searching around online for someone whose philosophies, values and ideas about entrepreneurship were similar to my own. I don’t think I was looking for a mentor as much as a tribe. On a fluke, (there are no coincidences, right?) I found Barbara Winter. She was going to be speaking in Lexington, Ky the next day and I happened to be flying out of a Northern Ky airport the following night. It is through Barbara’s network that I met many of my current “tribe” of entrepreneurs who believe small is still smart and crave connection not fame.
Consider whose blogs you enjoy reading, in whose company you would like to spend a weekend. Then look at who else communicates with those mentors. Find out if those mentors offer a mastermind group and if not, see what type of events they facilitate. You’re more likely to get to know other entrepreneurs at small group events than large seminar where the speaker stands at the front of the room. Most likely the people you meet at your mentors’ events will be like-minded people who you’ll benefit from masterminding with.
Because Barbara and I recognize how much entrepreneurs benefit from in-person workshops and ongoing support, we’ve put together an intimate event in a place where people go to realize their dreams. HERE’S THE SCOOP
My friend Barbara Winter, author of Making a Living Without a Job, has said, ” We can either have our excuses or we can have our dreams. We can’t have both. ”
If you’re an idea generator like I am, you know that feeling of “I will never live long enough to bring all these ideas to fruition”. For those of us who have a constant flow of fresh ideas, we choose which to give our attention to first and don’t fret over those that may not be hatched for awhile. (and I’ll tell you a little secret. Sometimes I give my best ideas away to clients, because I don’t know when I’ll find time and I want to see them come to life. Each time, the muse gifts me with several more.)
When I speak with people who have lots of ideas, I suggest they jot down some notes and keep them in a file. Once they’re recorded, the anxiety over possibly forgetting them subsides. The mind is then free to focus on one idea at a time and the file is always there when you are ready for it.
What about the ideas that you thought were brilliant when you stashed them away but when you have time, you never revisit them? Why are you neglecting them? Is it fear of failure?
If you’re risk adverse, let me ask you this. Which is scarier to you? Trying and failing or the regret of never having tried? I’m sure you can guess which frightens me. Regret, for sure. I take risks because I am more afraid of regret than failure. (and for the record, I have no regrets.)
It wasn’t until recently that I realized there are people who fear success. Some worry about having to live up to others’ expectations of them if they succeed. For some, it’s uncomfortable to be in the spotlight. Well, contrary to popular thought, I know that a private person can be successful without having to show up on Oprah.
Another excuse I hear for leaving a good idea by the wayside is the fear that someone will steal your idea. Of course it’s possible that someone will copy your great idea, manufacture it cheaply in China and it will outsell your original. But you know what? You can’t do anything with your great idea if you never take it out of the closet.
Fear is definitely an obstacle to bringing ideas to life but the most common reason people give for not moving forward on their dreams is overwhelm. When I speak with aspiring entrepreneurs about what’s been holding them back, they most frequently site overwhelm with not knowing what to do first. They just have no idea where to begin so they freeze and do nothing. One of the best ways to overcome that overwhelm is to get a clear vision of the whole project and then break it down into actionable small steps.
What’s happening with YOUR neglected dream? Are you still making excuses or are you ready to put it on the table and give it the attention your great idea deserves? check out what Barbara Winter and I are doing to help a small group of aspiring entrepreneurs break through the barriers and start their dream businesses NOW. HERE’S the SCOOP