You can’t figure out what’s wrong.
Everyone else seems to have a goal they’ve broken down into smaller tasks and are hard at work achieving them. They seem so focused and put together while you feel … bipolar.
It’s not that you aren’t willing to take a leap and try something new. It’s just that nothing ever seems to stick, nothing feels quite right. And so you go back to the drawing board again and again, feeling a little bit more like a failure each time.
It’s depressing and you’re about ready to give up on your dream all together. Maybe you just aren’t cut out for this. Maybe you don’t have what it takes to really make it.
It’s easy to get the idea that success is a linear process, and you’re either on trajectory … or off it.
In fact, everyone is taking the scenic route to success, just like you are.
The founders of Flikr started out with an online video game before they realized the picture sharing service had more potential than the game itself. YouTube started as a video dating service.
Changing directions itself isn’t bad. The trick is learning how to identify directions and pivot as a result of opportunity, not fear. It’s a matter of being wise enough to acknowledge who you are, not who you wish you could be.
And in this post, I’m going to do something most businesses never, ever do.
I’m going to give you a behind-the-scenes look at how (and why) I’ve built my business the way I have–and why I’m really excited to be closing it in just a few days. (Yep, you read that right. On March 17, I’m closing the No Regrets Career Academy–more on that below.)
Then I’ll show you how to apply these principles to your own situation, whether you’re a budding entrepreneur yourself or working in a corporate job that could use a revamp. It’s easier than you think.
Changing your business means knowing your business
I was exhilarated when I finally decided what I wanted to do for my next career. I wanted to be a writer (cue the trombones)!
But what kind of writer? Novelist, copywriter, professional blogger, freelancer writer for magazines?
I’d solved one problem, only to be immediately faced with another: how do I make money at this thing I want to do, both in the short and long-term?
My initial plan was to focus on growing my blog (or platform as it’s called in the publishing world) while writing thought pieces for journals for my former boss. Eventually I’d leverage my blog numbers for what I really wanted to do: write nonfiction books.
Becoming an entrepreneur wasn’t part of the plan. Becoming a coach wasn’t part of the plan. Shoot, writing articles for my former boss wasn’t actually part of the plan either, but it was fairly lucrative (as writing jobs go) and seemed a good short-term solution.
But as people read my blog, they kept asking how they could hire me. Starting a business sounded fun.
So I quit my article writing job and put together a pilot program on career design. Was I scared? Absolutely. But it went well, so I put together a full-blown course. That went well too.
As an entrepreneur, you’re always trying to balance what you want and what your customers need. And it was clear to me that my course needed a coaching component. So in January, I redesigned the course.
My idea was to include a forum where participants could primarily network with each other and view each other’s exercise answers. I would only get involved in the forum when someone got stuck. I also added six monthly coaching webinars, where people had a full hour to ask me anything they wanted, from questions about the course exercises to advice on how to get hired. And since I was providing a lot more value, I doubled my price.
It seemed like the ideal compromise between what they needed (coaching) and what I wanted (income to support my writing).
I should have realized it wouldn’t quite work out that way.
I’m the kind of person who absolutely cannot keep her mouth shut if there’s an ongoing conversation on a topic of interest. I literally feel like I’m going to explode. So you can imagine what happened in the forum where I’d initially intended to only comment occasionally.
I thought every exercise posted for feedback needed my input. And that of course created the expectation that I would continue doing so.
Not that I minded. I’ve grown incredibly close to my current group of clients. I’ve watched some amazing transformations over the past months. And since inspiring change and creating community are part of my core values, everything felt right.
Except that if you priced out what I was earning by the hours spent, it was really, really tiny. I started this as a business, not a hobby. Making money was integral to the goal, although I certainly had no aspirations of becoming some kind of mogul.
But there was something far worse. I was writing less and less. In fact, the business had so taken over my life, I wasn’t even strategically growing my blog, which was supposed to be my ticket to a book.
I had, in essence, created the exact situation for myself that I was helping my clients escape. It seemed insane to walk away from a business that was doing really well. I thought people would shake their heads in disbelief that I was changing directions … again. It was that little voice whispering, “What’s wrong with me?”
I was trapped by my own success.
I realized that in order to change my business, I had to know what I wanted my business to be.
Making room for envy
There’s a concept that if you’re struggling to decide what you most want to do or be, your envy will point the way.
The truth is, the people I admire most are writers. When I daydream about my ideal dinner party, it’s spending time with the likes of Malcolm Gladwell, Gretchen Rubin, and Alain de Botton.
As I read the books publishers send me in the hopes I’ll review them, I think to myself, very quietly, “This is what I want to do.”
Here’s what I know for sure: the No Regrets Career Academy was an absolutely necessary step in my development. Working closely, intimately really, with this set of clients allowed me to understand their challenges and try out potential solutions in a way that immediately holing myself up to write a book could not.
I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to inspire and be inspired, to watch an enthusiastic community grow around me. It’s been rewarding and fulfilling beyond measure.
And now it’s time to do something different.
On March 17, the course will close to new clients. I’ll continue to honor this arrangement and will shepherd anyone who signs up prior to that time through the six month timeframe.
Then I’ll have the quiet and mental space to find the right balance between my writing and my business. I don’t intend to close the course forever, but I do know that what’s currently up for offer isn’t sustainable.
I’m making room for envy in my life so that one day, the life I admire most is mine.