Whether You Think You’re Ahead Or Behind, You’re Right (And Why It Really Doesn’t Matter)

Starting and running your own business can be a sobering experience and push ALL your buttons of ‘not good enough-ness’…

  • “I’m rubbish at managing money”
  • “I hate selling anything”
  • “I don’t know enough about X, who’d listen to me?”
  • “Selling myself? I’d rather gouge my eyes out with a blunt instrument!”
  • “I’m not good at anything business-y. I just want to create and make stuff”

People have different ways of dealing with this uncomfortable feeling of not-good-enough-itis…

  • They fake it till they make it – giving an impression it’s all going great when under the surface it feels anything but.
  • They hide away – telling themselves they’ll do X when Y (and then do absolutely nothing).
  • They ‘qualification’ the hell out of it – getting as many qualifications as they can to feel more confident.
  • They push though it – working their a$$es off, harder than anyone else to prove to themselves (and anyone else looking) that they are indeed good enough and no-one’s going to prove otherwise, dammit.

The sobering and simultaneously cheering thought is that this happens to us all, at various different points in our journey; no matter how experienced or how far along the path we are.

It’s easy to look behind us, at people we’ve passed along the way, and think:

“Oh well, I’m well ahead of them, what can I possibly learn from them now?” but, in my experience, this is when we instantly lose. There is something we can still learn from everyone.

I consider myself pretty experienced when it comes to business – starting one, running one, growing one, ending one (or several!) and supporting hundreds of other people to do the same in my career – so I’ve felt somewhat confident in my ability to help my über talented 10 year old daughter ‘make the most’ of her creative talent (my words, my goals, not hers!). Except the brutal truth is that she doesn’t need my help. AT ALL.

As I watch her navigate the creation and sharing of her own creative work on not one but two instagram accounts, I am struck by what she, intuitively, seems to just ‘get’ about what she’s doing. Here’s what she’s getting right – and they are lessons for us all!

If you’re not going to plan, at least know what you’re aiming for…

For Mali, there’s no detailed plan (and as a strategist this fills me with horror!). She loosely knows what she wants to do and she probably can’t really articulate it more than “I want to create a comic book (or lots of them)”. That’s clearly all she needs to know for now, and it guides her decisions and actions perfectly well!

If the thing stopping you from starting or from taking the next step whatever that may be, is that you don’t have a plan and have no idea where to start or how to do one, all you really need to know, for now, is this: Where/what do you want to get to?

Share the journey and process…

I’ve long been a passionate advocate of sharing your journey as you do your own thing; it is such a natural, powerful and simple way to build an audience and community by sharing your own experience, and the ups and downs of the journey.

Mali isn’t afraid to share her creative process – to include sketches, works-in-progress and ask questions and request input from her followers. Not only does it show her skill and confidence in her abilities, it also shows her vulnerability and willingness to show up and be seen, finished article or not.

If you’re reluctant to share your journey and process, consider how you feel about others doing this; if it’s ok for them, why not for you? (Pay attention to the answers which may bubble up for you here, they could easily be a blind spot 😉 )

Watch and learn, experiment & play…

As adults, we’re so fixated on showing up – as the ‘professional’, as the all-knowing guru, as the qualified, certified expert – that we forget the power of not having to present ourselves in this way – of being able to show up and be seen even when we’ve NOT ‘been there, done it”, and we’re not ‘all sorted’.

We forget the power of watching and learning on our own without having to take a course or get the certificate; we forget the power of playing and experimenting on our own without having to be guided or shown the way; and we forget the power of being free to show up, be seen AND stand out WITHOUT the veneer we think we have to create to be (seen as) ‘good enough’.

A few months ago Mali was a total beginner to Instagram. Since then she’s watched, learned, tried and applied, and is now a far more consummate Instagram user than I am (or her father for that matter!). She isn’t afraid to experiment, play and have a go; uncrippled by perfectionism and curious about what other people are doing, she’s free to figure out what works for her without anyone having to tell or even show her.

Where are you no longer allowing yourself to play and explore, too focused on showing up as perfect/professional/sorted? What if it was 100% ok to be YOU – wherever you are on the journey right now – and the value that you bring in being you, right now, is good enough?

Create out loud, unapologetically…

As adults, many of us had our creativity stifled in childhood and when it came to choosing a career path; channeled into more ‘productive’ or more ‘profitable’ fields, we lost touch with our creative beings. It’s not been ok to create for creating sake, it has to have a purpose. I call BS.

Since the age of 4, Mali has spent hours every day creating. It helps that she’s home educated and hasn’t had to fit into the school system, spend hours learning how to read, spell or write (she’s effectively picked this up and taught herself and is no further behind – or ahead – than similar-aged children) and instead has been able to practise and hone her natural creative talent. And not only has this developed and nurtured her creative talents, it’s enabled her more practical, logical, left-brained skills to develop too, unrestrained by rules and applied when needed.

What still stops you from creating out loud? Where are you still being held back by those long-held narratives that it isn’t ok to create and you’re better off doing something more ‘useful’ or ‘productive’ or ‘profitable’?

Stay focused and ‘on brand’…

Most branding work focuses on crafting a cohesive, comprehensive ‘brand message’. And once you’ve done this, the expert’s advice is to NEVER STRAY from this path. This is good advice. And it can also lead us down a path we find restrictive, stifling and in which we appear one- or two-dimensional instead of the multi-faceted HUMAN we are.

Mali has a natural focus to her work – it began with collecting Monster High Dolls, then she saw how others were customising them by repainting their faces, re-hairing them, customising their bodies and she was hooked. Then she decided to develop a comic story that had begun as a play theme with some friends.

While her style and work progresses – there’s a natural evolution to it which means she naturally stays ‘on brand’ and focused on her ‘mission’. It simply evolves as she continues to create and learn, but it’s never stifling, never restrictive and she’s free to explore and take it in any direction she chooses (or it chooses to go).

Where is your brand stifling you and (ALL of) who you are? Are you afraid to ‘go off piste’ for fear of diluting your brand? Is your brand doing you justice?

Don’t chase an audience, let them chase you (aka do what you do because YOU want to do it)…

There’s a school of thought that goes “Offer what your audience wants and needs and you’ll have a business for life”. That’s good, solid advice. But there’s also a counter stream that goes “Only when you do what you want/what lights you up, will you have a business for life”. That’s also good, solid advice.

So which is right? It really depends on many, many things – including your own goals, motivations, beliefs, needs and values. Neither is necessarily more right or wrong, but one will work better for you than the other.

My daughter is very much in the second camp; she focuses exclusively on what she wants to do when it comes to her characters, story development and style. While she gets super excited about followers – especially certain ones – that’s not her goal and she’s far more naturally focused on curating quality, meaningful connections than she is on quantity.

If I had to choose, I’d say she’s got the smarter approach – she’s not a slave to the whims and changing needs of other people, and instead she stays true to herself. That’s a pretty powerful approach to business and life.

It’s so easy to look around and see others starting their own business, making waves with their creative skills and pursuing their passions; it’s even easier to dismiss it as a impossible for yourself – all those age old narratives running loose in your head, telling you the many reasons NOT to.

The fundamental question here is this: 

If a 10 year old can do ALL of this, from a standing start of pretty much nothing other than her self-honed talent and passion from hours spent enjoying and practising her craft, why not you?

And the answer? To borrow from Henry Ford’s well-known quote:

“Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right”.

Your Online Self

So just what is an online self? The simple answer is that it’s a REpresentation of you, online.

Many of us already have an online self, we just don’t realise it and certainly aren’t conscious about creating it. If you’re on Facebook or any other social media platform, you already have one.

All of your online activities contribute to you online self, so that means:

  • What you write, what you tweet, and what you post
  • What you share, created by you
  • What you share, created by others
  • What you comment
  • What you private message (note, even this isn’t private)
  • The things you ‘like’
  • What you retweet, and more.

If you really look and see, you can often build up a pretty accurate picture of who someone is, or certainly who they present themselves to be.

[Side note: How do you think Facebook, Google and other platforms know what adverts to show you, and sometimes manage to show you something spookily relevant to what’s going on in your life?]

Your online self is the self your online activities present you to be – consciously or not.

Why Does An Online Self Matter

If you’re aiming to work online – whether remotely for someone else or to start your own venture online – it makes sense to be more conscious about your online self and who you present yourself to be, doesn’t it?

For people to choose you, to hire you, to pay you, they need to know who you are; who you are matters. (It matters in real life too, doesn’t it? So why not online?).

And you’ll get the most benefit if you show up, as uniquely, authentically you.

Sure, you can ‘hide’, pretend to be someone or something you’re not but ultimately, you’ll be the one who suffers the most from this.

Using online tools to show up as you, to amplify and showcase you in all your glory (or weirdness, or uniqueness!), gives you access to a world you’ve never had access to before.

Online tools can be a hugely powerful tool to connect you with people and opportunities you’d never have access to otherwise…

  • Remote jobs and global clients, where you’re no longer restricted by living in a rural community or having to stay at home because it’s not easy for you get out of the house to work or travel to client sites.
  • Knowledge and skills, to learn almost anything you want/need to know, often for free.
  • People and communities, to connect with, learn from, gain support from, give support to without ever having to leave your sofa.

How To Create Your Online Self

The easiest way to start building your online self if you’re starting with nothing is to start writing.

Share your opinions, what do you feel strongly about?

Where do you stand on the things that matter to you in life?

What have you done that you’re most proud of?

What have you done that you’re least proud of?

What are the most important life lessons you’ve learned?

What are the things that have made you ‘you’?

Which book has had the most impact on you, and why?

Employers of the future are going to be looking for folk who stand out – for folk who know who they are, who aren’t ‘vanilla’ or ‘sheeple’.

You don’t have to have a blog to do this (though I’d highly recommend one!) – you can start by writing posts on LinkedIn, Facebook, a Twitter Megathread or an Instagram carousel post or similar.

Effective written communication is THE most valuable skill to hone when you work online.

While you’ll have video and voice calls, the majority of your communication online will be written. Honing your ability to communicate your thoughts, beliefs, and opinions succinctly, compellingly and effectively is key.

Start writing. You’ll only get better at it the more you do.

Where To Start When You Have No Idea How To Get Started

Rewind to 2006…and I’d just spent 2 years and well over £10,000 re-educating and re-training myself as a personal trainer and holistic health coach, and countless hours setting my own business up, including securing a healthy supply of both personal and corporate clients.

Only to realise and admit to myself that I hated the reality of working with clients to help them change their lifestyles in this way 😱

That realisation and subsequent pivot, kicked off one of the most impactful lifestyle changes of my own when we decided to hit the road, travel the world indefinitely looking for ‘home’, and run our businesses from our laptops.

What began as nothing more than a very personal journey of exploration – both metaphorical and literal – ended up resulting in global press and media features and the foundations of a pioneering movement which has impacted thousands of other people since 😱

Start Blogging…

That’s it. Two simple words of advice of how and where to start, when you have no idea where to start or how to do your something great…but that could lead you to everywhere you’ve ever wanted to go and everything you’ve ever wanted to do.

The blog I began back then – to share the many, many things we were learning about running our business on the road, the countries we were visiting and the general ups and downs of a nomadic lifestyle that very few other people at the time were living – resulted in so much more.

But Why A Blog, Lea?

You know what we all love? What we’re conditioned to love from childhood? Stories.

The reason why Location Independent became what it did is because, fundamentally at its core, it began as the story of a pioneering journey of a young couple doing something different, and doing something that others want to do – a hero’s journey of sorts.

That kind of story is compelling for other people to follow – we all love a good story, to follow the ups and downs and root for folk to overcome the odds.

Overcoming Your Objections (Yes, I Can Read Your Mind!)

But, that was then, this is now. There are thousands of blogs these days does the internet really need yet another one?

Who on earth is going to be interested in what I blog about, when X, Y or Z are already blogging and have done what I want to do?

What do I have to say? Surely it’s not that unique? 

It’s too technical for me, I’ll never manage it. 

Here’s Why Your Objections Are BS…

Let’s hit these objections head on, shall we, and move swiftly on?

Wouldn’t you be interested in someone you know deciding to actually DO something different? Not just talking about it but actually going for it and doing it…

So many of us harbour desires to write a novel, or start painting, or unleash our creative powers on something – but we’ve been conditioned not to, because it’s frivolous, it’s not serious, it’ll never make money, it’s selfish, it’s ridiculous etc. etc. Yawn, yawn, yawn.

Here’s what starting a blog will do for you…

You’re always ahead of someone and blogging gives you a platform to share with people behind you on the path…

  • What you’re doing
  • What you’re learning
  • What you’re doing ‘right’
  • What you’re doing ‘wrong’
  • What you’re finding hard
  • What you’re finding easy
  • What you’re enjoying (and what you’re not)

All of those are valuable for others to read.

Wouldn’t you find it interesting to read about someone else doing similar, if you wanted to pursue your interest in writing your own novel, or repainting dolls, or learning how to build your own websites?

But wait, doesn’t it just show how much I don’t know? How much of a novice I am? How far away I am from being a professional/expert?

Yes, perhaps. And it also shows…

  • Your willingness and ability to learn.
  • Your willingness and ability to apply your learnings.
  • Your ability to research and find out what you need to know.
  • Your willingness and ability to think critically.
  • Your ability to communicate.
  • Your ability to write, talk or create.
  • Your vulnerability and willingness to show up, even when you’re not an expert.

Not only that but you begin to build your own presence, your online ‘self’, your own expertise (yes, expertise!) and showcase who you are, what you can do… 

Fast forward to 1, 2, 5 or even 10 years from now, and imagine if you will, how it would feel to have this body of work, charting your journey, being able to look back at your own progress and how far you’ve come…

And that’s just the start. When you blog, you also give yourself the opportunity to:

  • Build a loyal, engaged audience (and it doesn’t even need to be big to earn a decent living, if that’s one of your goals).
  • Connect with and meet a whole raft of folk you might never have met otherwise. I’ve met some of my closest friends and confidantes online, and other folk who I’d never otherwise have come into contact with yet who I’ve learned so much from.
  • Become seen as a passionate advocate in your field (maybe even an expert in time!), and inspire others.
  • Be held accountable to the people who support your sharing efforts.

Blogging 101

So an obvious starting question is “What counts as a blog?”…is it just writing? Is it like an online diary?

To me, a blog is a platform which allows you to share whatever content you want – writing, videos, music, photos/images etc. – on a regular basis. 

So, perhaps you’re a writer who wants to share the journey of writing your first novel. Or you’re an artist who wants to share your artistic creations. Or you’re a musician/singer who wants to share your performances or songs. Or you’re a coder who wants to share your own builds…

It doesn’t matter what you share, more that you share.

There are a number of places you can start sharing…they include platforms like WordPress (what I use for this website), Ghost, Medium, Buy Me A Coffee, Patreon, and more. 

The key is to decide what works for you – what will actually get you sharing – and commit to creating and sharing, consistently. Are you in?