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Feel the Fear, Take the Leap

Bit of a mixed metaphor there but it’s literally and metaphorically what I wanted to talk about.

I recently went to France to see family, we were in the Mont Blanc mountain range and every day the bright blue sky was filled with brightly coloured paragliders enjoying the stunning views and getting their Adrenalin fix. I’m scared of heights- like struggle to climb those open staircases or go up ladders but for some reason I wanted to be up there with them. I also get motion sickness, in a car, in a boat, on the swings in the park.

Without allowing myself time to think I found a company, I emailed and I’d booked myself in for 9am the next morning. I was too busy sorting logistics to think about it too much. The next morning I was coursing with Adrenalin, got to the meeting point only to be told the weather was too bad to do it.

I can’t tell you what it’s like to build yourself up for something only to have it not happen, it’s like psyching yourself up for a fight only to have your opponent run away!

Long story short but after lunch the sun came out and it was back on. Back I went, up the mountain in the cable car and a brisk walk to the take off spot.

It was at this point my brain decided to remind me that I don’t like heights and that running off a cliff edge was not the most sensible idea. I’m having this internal dialogue whilst Oliver is strapping me into all the gear and giving me instructions. Then he was telling me that the wind was perfect and I had to go.

I didn’t think, I just walked- literally off the edge of a mountain…

It was the most amazing thing, that feeling of flying and the view was stunning (despite being a long long way away!). I cannot tell you how glad I am I did it.

It made me realise that sometimes fear is crippling, it stops us doing things that could change our lives or enhance our experiences and we should never let that happen. Recognise your fear, admit it but do the thing that scares you anyway- great things can happen.

Turns out I get air sick as well by the way. Good to know though!

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I’m Sick of This…

I’m just kidding, I’m not really sick of anything; but it did get your attention! What I was actually going to write about was the difficulty of being self-employed when you’re ill and the title just kinda jumped out at me.

Recently I got sick, not seriously so but a nasty little infection that really knocked me for six. I took Monday off sick, just the one day, I indulged in my illness and felt a bit guilty the whole time (when I wasn’t asleep because I slept A LOT that day!).

On Tuesday I dragged myself up, I went to the office and I worked a long day- it was mostly productive, I got more tired as the day went on and started to ache but, whatever, I was working and that was the main thing.

On Wednesday I had two infections. I know this because the GP told me, slightly incredulously, but still. On Friday I had three infections… you honestly can’t make this stuff up.

So, I stopped, I took more days off and I swear the guilt I felt was almost as bad as the pain. I hated resting, I hated not working and most of all I hated feeling like I’d let everyone down.

I don’t think that’s abnormal. Self-employed people don’t work and they don’t get paid, so being ill is an actual problem. However, trying to do too much only makes it worse. Had I not gone back after only one day I might not have been as ill for as long… who knows.

Guilt is a projection of our own anxieties, not a realistic reading of the situation. So, trying to guess what other people are thinking is pointless, try to focus on what the problem is and how you can solve it and if that’s taking your time to get yourself better then so be it.

What I do know is that working when you’re not your best means subpar work and that’s no good to anyone. I also know that taking time for yourself stops things getting bad and the results aren’t catastrophic- I took a few days off and my clients didn’t disappear, the work got gone in the end and everything is fine.

I also know that my GP is not self-employed as she diagnosed stress and suggested a couple of weeks off. I rolled my eyes.

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Fighting or Flighting?

When you start a business your main focus is on making money through getting customers or getting clients. There’s a time at the start when you’re too scared to say no to anyone because you need the money and because you’re scared there won’t be another one.

The longer you work at what you do, the more confident you become and the more you realise that liking the people you work for is important. Stress is very much the reserve of working for someone else for me because working for myself gives me the choice about what I do and don’t want to put up with.

For me that means that if I come across potential clients who I don’t gel with or whom I genuinely feel, despite great intentions, cannot be changed or helped to become more organised then I can chose not to work with them.

However, that has another side to it as well. It might mean that you end up listening to your flight reflex and give up when things seem a bit too difficult. I’ve found over the last few years doing this that it’s important to recognise the difference.

You see, facing a challenge or facing unnecessary stress are not the same thing. You shouldn’t have to do something that makes you unhappy or puts you in a position where you dread getting out of bed. But a challenge is great- it stretches your mind, gets your adrenaline going and is generally good for you… within reason of course!

So my tip would be to not make snap decisions, sleep on a choice if you’re unsure and make sure you make the right choice between flight or fight.

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I can’t hear you…

Sometimes you have to give a message to people that you know they don’t want to hear- you know that feeling you get when you stomach sinks and you dread doing it? Well I had that.

I have a rather over developed flight or fight response that means that in the past I’ve followed a rather strict regime of a) bury my head in the sand b) pray it will all go away and then c) run away.

Needless to say this is the least effective way of dealing with, well, anything. As I’ve got older I’ve got better- that might be confidence, it might be age (that equals wisdom right?), it must just be practice. This last time I blame- sorry, credit- my non use of the 3 step tactic to a good friend who basically told me to stop whining and man up.

So I’ve got this message I need to give. I was describing the situation to my good friend who suggested that I help that person learn from themselves- encourage them to uncover the answer without me saying a word.

Sound advice and I know it had worked for him in the past… But the more I thought about doing it that way, the more I thought about how disastrous the outcome might be. So the principle was sound but the delivery was wrong.

I thought about all my interactions with this person, how they like information delivered and how they respond best and it came to me that they had an incredibly visual learning style (people like that are solely keeping printer ink in business as you have to print everything out!). So how did I take a challenging message and tailor it to the audience who only really connects with something visually.

The answer? Metaphor. A lovely visual metaphor with me drawing on a piece of paper, lots of gesticulation and embroidery; and do you know what? It worked. Better than I could have hoped. I did something I was frankly dreading and it was well received and actually appreciated.

So I think my conclusion is two fold. Firstly, don’t be afraid to give challenging messages to people if they’re important but secondly, make sure you do it in the right way for the person you’re speaking to and sometimes that means getting a bit creative but it’s worth it.

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What does success mean to you?

I saw a meme the other day that asked that exact question, it made me think about my clients and how different they all are.

Taking on a new client is about understand what success means to them so that I can spend my time working to help them achieve it. That may just be freeing up their time to allow them to focus on activities that make them money; it may mean helping them streamline their processes to increase their earning potential; it may mean helping them with their marketing which directly results in sales.

The simple fact is that success is different to everyone. For me personally I am not motivated by money, it’s flipping useful to pay bills and things but it’s not my only driving factor. I am motivated by far more personal reasons, they’re not all important right now but one of them is my deeply held need for order. I love things to be organised and neat and most of all I love feeling on top of things.

I guess that’s why I do what I do, helping other people feel like that is what I hope helps towards them achieving their is success. And I like being a part of that.