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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”.