Is your venture sustainable for YOU?

I made my first video post! Be gentle please when judging the quality and the background (our lovely master bedroom)!  I decided to prioritise content and I wanted to experiment with other formats and tools.

In this video I talk about the importance of checking with yourself whether you are ready to start a business venture by analysing the four following aspects: lifestyle, emotional capacity, life stage and business model and financial sustainability.

Hope it is helpful and please leave your feedback, questions, ideas on the topic, I would love to hear from you.

 

 

 

How do you know what do you want?

In my coaching practice and in my private life I see lots of people (especially women) facing this situation. After taking a career break, having kids or when changing careers, they are usually told: just do what you want!!

Following your passion and your dream it’s a double edged sword: it’s a gift and a privilege if you know what you want, but it can be very disempowering and overwhelming if you are lost. 

When we have our conversations, I avoid asking about passions, dreams or call  unless they bring it forward and I can see there is a deep self understanding and a level of articulation around it.

Not being able to answer the question usually triggers lots of negative feelings: people think they are lazy, they don’t know themselves, they don’t have a call, they are not special or particularly good at anything…all these feelings go against their own ability to be introspective and to internally motivate themselves, both elements key to understand what you want and be able to pursue it. 

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So, what to do instead? what to ask to help someone to find their path if they haven’t tapped yet in their true motivation? The following steps are suitable both for entrepreneurs that are unsure about whether to take the leap or not and for career and/ personal changes:

  • Give yourself time: change is messy and has lots of consequences for you personally and the people around you. it brings a range of emotions, from discomfort, to worry, euphoria, excitement…one day you believe you can conquer the world, one day you don’t trust yourself. It is the nature of change to be very unsettling, so if you are deciding to launch a venture or to change jobs,  try to persevere regardless of the initial second guessing and mood swings. Anxiety Slayers have a beautiful podcast about the four stations of change: discomfort, introspection, exploration and celebration.
  • Show compassion for yourself and your context: your situation NOW is unique. Try to avoid as much as you can to compare with other people’s journeys and successes. When I was doing my MBA it was very hard for me not to compare with other students’ performance and career movements. But I had a toddler, a baby, I was moving inter-estate and was working part time. My situation was unique and based on what I had going on I did the best I can. Support yourself with kindness and compassion and if you start beating yourself up, don’t engage and stop that voice. It takes practise, but it is easier than you think. Just don’t allow your mind to be a bully to yourself. After all, you don’t do it with anyone else, so just include you in the list of people you treat nicely and with respect.
  • Don’t buy the idea that we all have just one dream or job we are born for:  Emily Wapnick talks beautifully about the idea of having different calls, passions and dreams and to follow all of them. She calls us multipotentialities. Check her website out to get a better understanding of what she means and most importantly, to shake off the guilt of not knowing what you want to be since you were 5.
  • Brainstorm with yourself and hold the judgement: brainstorming is a well known process to generate ideas, in business and in your personal life. So follow the rules to make sure you have a productive session and come up with wild ideas. And as the Greek Epicurean and Stoic Philosophers recommended, try hold your judgement. Focus on letting the process flow without discarding ideas too early. Allow yourself to think it through without telling yourself “this is stupid/silly/impossible to monetize/what my mum would think” or sorts.eb9a2921f8b5df36e09f30e15519c0e1
  • Share it slowly and safely: as much as you want to shout out your new truth, I always recommend it to tip toe a little first. Either with a new venture, project or career move, it is safer to get exposed gradually, when you are vulnerable and quite green. In business, we have incubators to support early stage ventures. A safe space when they can grow before facing the wild world. Apply the incubator metaphor: share your change with people you feel safe with first, get their feedback, go inwards, pivot, digest, evolve and go out again to tell more people. 
  • You will never be 100% sure, so give it a go: but I have so many questions/doubts/uncertainty!! that means you are in the right place to start. No one knows 100% if  their change will work out...the only way to guarantee 100% failure is by letting those questions and fears to stop you rather than help you to move forward. After all, you want to know the answers to those questions right? A tip to navigate this step better is to not engage in what if? thoughts.
  • Prioritize: starting a venture or changing career, requires lots of emotional and physical energy, as well as tangible resources. So if you are facing an important transition put it on top of your list and if possible delay other big personal and professional changes such as getting pregnant, moving country or house, taking on other big project at work, getting too active in your social life. Sounds obvious, but our mind will try to get out of the discomfort of having to deal with the change by immersing itself in other business to avoid the work. That’s completely normal, we humans avoid suffering and seek pleasure, so nothing wrong with it.  Just be aware of it and gently bring yourself back to work. If you feel stuck, take care of your mind and body with meditation, journaling, mindful walks or enjoyable exercise. As much as you can try to avoid entertaining yourself with other projects unrelated with what you have at hand.

This process is hard and can be overwhelming. Coaching and mentoring can make a difference to hold you accountable, helping you to identify the next right thing and supporting you along the way. As much as you can, try to invest in this type of help to guide you and walk with you through your transition.

Investing, collecting, wasting, recycling

In my work with entrepreneurs and clients and in and in my own life I see constantly this battle against time and, consequently, this need to prioritize. We all know about the importance of organization and prioritization, but how can we do that? For most entrepreneurs everything is equally important, as they are the bottleneck in pretty much all the decisions of their business. In our personal lives, we also find sometimes lost, with no strategy on how to go about things. Whether to attend an event after a busy day, whether to take some free work or not, whether to do someone a favour that could pay off later, whether to take a break  to do some personal and professional development...I am sure you have been there asking yourself: should I? 

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As always, there is no one size fits all answer, but  I developed a framework that I found a very useful starting point. When approaching a decision that needs to be made about whether to do something or not, I try to see where could it fit better:

  1. Investment: Am I planting the seed for something good here? Clarify to yourself what good/successful/interesting means for you in this particular context. An example of investment could be to pay $2000 for a two day seminar on transformational leadership. In this example, the question could be something along these lines: Am I going to get the learning, tools and networks needed to advance in my career and my role as a leader in this company? Depending on the context, the type of investment will be tangible or intangible, measurable or not, but the key is that every investment has 1) an opportunity cost and 2)a foreseeable, desirable gain, so you have to identify both. In the example, the opportunity cost is the things I won’t do with these $2,000 and the potential gain the advancement in my career, so more reputation, better salary, better chances and connections…
  2. Collecting: Am I gathering something of value from this action? this can mean money (Am I getting paid for attending this event?), contacts, reputation, potential referrals, personal well being (Am I going to feel emotionally and physically better after this break?)…again, whatever it is, it needs to be worthy for you and be an improvement of your current situation.
  3. Wasting: the opposite of collecting, which means a worsening of your current situation. It could go from wasting money on the wrong investment, hire or website domain (being there) to -the worst of all- wasting your time on something that didn’t report you anything.

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Once you have decided what type of action are you dealing with (an investment, a collection or a waste) you can proceed in the best way given your circumstances. For me the key when deciding what box to put things in, is to think holistically. Something could be an investment or a collection in one aspect of your life but a waste in other (e.g. attending an event at 7 pm could be an investment professionally speaking but a waste in the personal arena). Thinking holistically means to understand what arena is most important for you at that moment in time. Just you know the answer and just you can make the decision. And if you are honest with you, and answer it from the right place, you won’t be wrong.

Before wrapping up, a short note on the last category. In case you feel tempted to recycle, this is for you:

4.Recycling: not all the waste is the same right? some experiences that we thought were a dead road and a waste of time or energy end up surprising us and giving us something back. Maybe we thought that meeting was a waste of time, but surprise surprise, two months later we got a new client through a referral from one of the grey guys sitting silently in the corner. These things happen, and is amazing when you get your time/money/energy back in an unexpected way. But as this is out of your control, I recommend to take this category as a bonus, rather than not put anything on the rubbish bin (a.k.a say always yes) because your are afraid of throwing something valuable to the trash (a.k.a FOMO). You eventually will.  That’s ok, it’s part of life. My rule here: don’t try to play God and if you feel something is a waste, file it and let life and serendipity do its job.

Don’t shame my choices

I love egg and yogurt. Not one after the other. TOGETHER. AT THE SAME TIME. MIXED. Of course for years I ate it when nobody was looking, too afraid of being shamed for such a weird/gross/strange combination. But I still ate it. I thought other people will find it disgusting and that was a reason good enough for me to deprive myself of something that I liked. At the same time, I was the best at shaming people’s choices, especially when it came down to food. Shaming your choices, and therefore others’ peoples choices, is a form of control. Shaming is after all a way of organising behaviours in your world, a way of categorising things. Should and shouldn’t, good and bad. Shaming is a poor strategy to try to convince ourselves that something is bad. Shaming is a way of trying to help ourselves to do the right thing from a place of control rather than power. Shaming is actually the opposite of power: we think we can’t take good decisions and choices, therefore the only way to do it is by making us feel so bad that the feeling will stop us. it is as useful as to shoot you on your foot to stop yourself from going to the fridge to grab the ice cream. There are better ways. More supportive. Less painful. More helpful. Unfortunately they haven’t being taught to us. Why? In most cases I think our immediate environment didn’t know any better and did that to themselves and to us growing up, so it’s a legacy issue (manageable and changeable). It is also promoted by media and mainstream culture: diet culture, for example, is a the epitome of body and food shame.

This is what I do to escape self shame and shaming others’ choices:

1- Embrace your choices in a proud way: feeling proud and confident of your choices and not being apologetic drives people crazy. Crazy people run out of arguments pretty quickly. You win. Battle is over. You get to fully enjoy your egg and yogurt and give the other person some food for thought. Not too bad.

2-Show empathy: when a person is shaming my choices I think that they probably are twice as hard with themselves. And that’s painful. So I try to understand where they are coming from, what type of people they have in their lives modelling that behaviour for them and how horrible that must feel. Particularly when there is no awareness on those internal processes and they feel powerless and condemned to feel like that forever.

3- Show curiosity: as soon as the person is a little bit off guard I ask them about their own choices. If they have a choice or behaviour they like but hide because they are ashamed, they’d love the opportunity to open up without being judged. Secrets are painful, and again when trying to control them we become less powerful. So talking about them takes the power back from them to the individual.

4- NEVER AGAIN SHAME SOMEONE ELSE’S CHOICES: if you do that to other people you do it to yourself. There is no way a happy, supportive person is the worst critic of others but love herself unconditionally. NOPE. That doesn’t happen. So every time a shaming feeling comes to your mind (about clothes, body, food, parenting, relationships, career move…) REFRAIN YOURSELF. STOP YOURSELF.JUST DON’T DO IT. It won’t happen overnight, so if you do it, just apologise mentally to the person and commit yourself again to not doing it. This is a mindfulness technique and a great way to regain your power: you decide what thoughts enter your brain. your intelligence has the power to control the mind in a gentle way and decide what is best for it.

I’d love to listen to your experiences with self shame and shame from others and to others!

 

Fly but not too high: protecting you from being capable

I listen to someone last week talking about four types of personalities we all surround ourselves with: people that support us unconditionally to pursue our dreams, people that are neutral to us, don’t care/don’t bother type, people that love us but bring us down and people that don’t like us for different reasons and try to hurt us or hold us back. When I think about this categories, people come to mind very easily: my husband, my mum, my former boss.

I found very interesting the type of people that love you but because over-protection, jealousy, fear…they don’t like you to fly too high. They like you to be independent, they like you to be happy…but they can’t stand that you suffer, or leave your comfort zone or struggle. I think it is a very human feeling to try to spare the pain of people we love, but at the same time, feeling uncomfortable and leaving the comfort zone are the only ways to grow and expand our horizons.

Mums seem to frequent this category. The love us soo much they want to make sure nothing bad happens to us. It happens with my mum all the time. When I told her I was going to enrol in an MBA program (I had a 18 month old baby and pregnant with my daughter and was living in Sydney with my husband) she freaked out. Her first reaction was: your are not going to be able to do everything! you are gonna get sick! As Always with her, my first reaction was trying to calm her down, saying that all will be fine, that I will manage. But that’s not what she needed to hear, neither I wanted to be listening to her projected fears. I wanted to hear: wow, you are so brave. I know you can do it  even if it’s hard, and I will be here to support you and help you if you need. By the way, that’s what she always does. She supports us and helps us, but from a place of fear and mum-coming-to-the-rescue, more than in a positive way.

Of course, I understand where she’s coming from. She finished her bachelor when my two sisters that are 11 months apart, where four and five. She had no support and no one really advocated for her and told her how brave and strong she was to do so. She was just judged by other people and felt isolated. My grandma told her “a madam doesn’t work”, which is funny because then my father lost the job and my mum was the one supporting the family for a while.

Because of her fearful reactions I started to stop telling her about the new challenges I was embarking on. I wanted to share them with her, but last thing I needed was her telling me all the possible catastrophic scenarios and negative outcomes.

I truly believe that the way parents talk to us become our inner voice, and for me, that voice telling me that you are not capable, has been the root of many of my insecurities and lack of self worth. Didn’t matter how many things I accomplished because I thought that I was not capable of doing them, so I tended to sabotage myself a lot. When I dropped an English course that she paid for because it was from 7 to 10 pm two days a week, she almost praised me for it, rather than telling me to persevere. So even if in many different context she showed me her appreciation and never actively told me that I was wasn’t worth it, she never told me the opposite either.

For me the way to deal with it is as follows:

1- Empathy: I understand where she comes from and the lack of support and advocacy she had for herself. I understand that she feels she worth nothing so it is hard for her to teach other people to do so. Even if she does in theory, as kids model after their parents, her actions taught me that if she wasn’t worth it, neither was I . So, keeping in mind that she doesn’t know any other way to it and she is not even aware of it .

2- Break the silence and raise awareness: I force myself to tell her my challenges and listen to what she has to say. I ask her: why are you scared? I noticed that you are freaking out about this thing I just told you… you seem scared about this…….what do you think that would happen?…open questions like this so she feel understood. Also by saying things out loud, her stress levels come down and she calms down and see my challenge from my point of view and my context, rather than from hers. Also by saying things like “you look very scared about this” I state for her and myself that is her fear not mine, that is how she sees not how I see it, and most importantly, not how actually it is. 

3- Replace her voice with my voice: her thoughts and fears affect me in a deep way and can make me feel that I actually can’t. So after I tell her my challenge and listen to her concerns, I tend to leave it there. I don’t defend my position, I don’t try to convince her. I remind to myself I AM CAPABLE OF DOING IT AND HER FEARS ARE NOT MY FEARS ANYMORE.

4- Write to her after few days: Then I move on with my day and usually a day or two later I send her an email or a voice message that goes like this:

 Mum, I understand your concerns about the thing I mentioned yesterday. I know you think it is challenging but that’s what I am doing it. It is important for me, it is a positive thing and I have thought about pros and cons deeply. I am very excited and I appreciate you say you will support me. I will need your encouragement and your kind words, so thanks for being there in a supportive way for me. I will feel very accomplished and proud once I have done, and I will learn a lot along the way. 

I wait a couple of days so her fear is not so overwhelming. I also prefer writing so I have the time to say what I really want to say and her objections don’t make me lose track of my thoughts and jumping to defense mode. When I write I am connected to the point I want to make and I am not carried away by the conversation. I feel more powerful and strong, but because she is not in front of me, I am not trying to control her emotions saying things I don’t believe in. 

Usually she is very grateful of this messages, as she also needs time to process and digest the information. she is able to think about her fears and come back to me in a more positive way that I really appreciate.

I would love to listen to your experiences with these type of personalities and how you deal with them!

How to fully enjoy when I visit my parents with my kids

I think this is such a common issue for most families. I live in Australia and my parents and in laws in Spain, so we don’t see them often, but when we do is 24/7. It is hard to land into their houses, their habits, their needs and wants and try to enjoy them and please them while you try to protect yourself and your kids at the same time. There is so many unpacked emotions and needs in each visit from both sides: ideas of worth, competition, jealousies,  not very healthy ideas about protection and affection, comparison… I would like to talk about this in more depth in another post.

Again, for me here the problem was about control. I think my parents’ ideas about education are outdated and ineffective, and although they express their love in beautiful ways to the children, it hurts when I listen to them bribing, throwing illogical consequences, o lecturing them. I had to learn to try to stop them and educate them on how I think they should be with them. I tried it of course, in gentle ways when the situation is calm and neutral and in more hysterical ways in the middle of a blow-out (not recommendable). It didn’t work, especially for my mum. She became very frustrated and quite lost. It was like asking her to keep talking but using a language she didn’t know the words of. That was insensitive and painful, at the end of the day it is your daughter telling you you don’t know how to educate kids which can easily being read as: you did a poor job with me that’s why I am doing the opposite. Imagine your employer tells you after 20 years of  (unpaid) work that you did a really bad job. It must hurt a lot especially if you did your best and no one taught you. So now I try to not control the situation, nor control them, nor the outcome of the relationships with my kids.

So this is what now works for me:

1- Remember they are the grandparents, not the parents. They don’t have the same educational duties you have, therefore they don’t play the same role for the kids. YOU are the one that needs to be consistent and follow -through but you can’t expect your parents or anybody else will do the same. That is actually liberating because you have the power of parenting, and that power of educate and coach your children. Other people don’t have that power, so you don’t need to control them.

2- state the difference clear to the kids: different people, different rules, different beliefs systems. Use this opportunity as a way to teach diversity and authenticity to your kids. Nobody believes in the same stuff or talks in the same way. Your kids have to follow and adhere to the rules, routines and practices you have created for them, but at the same time, you can’t deny what they see: that some people don’t have those rules or don’t follow them. That’s ok: here is when the authenticity piece kicks in. Respect to what others do, but stick to what you do and believe it is ok. As a parent this is key, but as a kid is equally important, as it helps them to stand up and be assertive. Of course, there are rules they are not happy about and they will break (going to bed later during sleepovers or watching more TV). So draw a line for yourself: ESSENTIAL RULES AND PRACTICES and NON ESSENTIAL. When you are visiting your parents, make sure the (few) on the first list are clear to everyone, kids, parents, spouse. The other ones, I personally adhere myself when I am with my kids visiting, but if I leave them for a sleepover I forget about them. This means: if we all sleep over at my parents’ house, they go to bed at 7. If I am not there, that rule doesn’t need to be followed to suit my parents’ schedule. So if works for them to put them later to bed so they can have a loner bath or listen to music for a little bit longer that’s ok. When you are not use to take care of kids, time slips into your fingers very easily, so it is common finding youself realising it is already 6 pm and bedtime routine hasn’t even started. At that point I rather  want my parents to keep things at the usual path and put them in bed later than rush them to make it to bed by 7.  I think this works best for them and for the kids too.

With this technique I keep the important rules for me in place and make it more manageable for my parents, where I let them space to take their own decisions and have fun. Kids and adults don’t want to be told of all the time, so give them the chance to take choices for your kids without showing up with an endless list of do’s and don’ts.

3- Don’t ask, build trust. If my kids are happy and my parents don’t seem too exhausted or worn out, the outcome is successful. I try not to ask questions about times, routines adhesion or sugar intake. I try to wait for them to tell me and then I ask follow-up questions, such as: “and when you went to this new park, how he reacted?”. That way

The don’t ask wait method works for me for three reasons : 1)there is nothing to do about it 2)if there is something they did they think I won’t be happy about chances are they don’t tell me or they tell me feeling ashamed or guilty. Not good outcomes anyways. 3)I learned also how my parents interpret situations and how they describe them. That also helps me to put things in perspective and learn strategies from them.

Their time together is not a test or an interrogatory. It is their experience to bond over and I have to respect it by kindly staying outside. By doing this, I know that if there is something that went wrong or they are unhappy about they will let me know because they can trust I won’t be harsh or blame them. They also will learn from their mistakes and see the negative consequences of not adhering to sensible rules about sleep, eating habits or too much TV. The deeper educational stuff, that’s harder to change but I have already see with my mum that if she sees that descriptive prising works, she will slowly and safely incorporate it into her toolbox, without me saying a word. Set the example and they will follow it when they see the value. If they don’t, they won’t, and that’s your time to accept it and adapt it by following the steps above.

Honesty

This is what I promised myself when I though about sharing my journey and my experiences on parenting, womanhood, business ventures, feminism, self care, entrepreneurship and whatever comes next. I wanted to create a space for me and hopefully for others to share our thoughts with honesty, with no shame nor guilt. I don’t want to put any pressure on this project to become anything else than MY project. A place for me to express myself freely, without having to be productive, profitable or scalable. Just a blog for me to share and listen to other people. 

This is me for the first time with no plans, no lunching strategy, no business model, no financial forecast, no marketing strategy. That’s what I teach at University, that is what I coach entrepreneurs to do. I decided to do something different, to see where it leads me. (I won’t dare to quote Einstein’s famous say AGAIN, but oh boy he was right. Why though, is it so hard to change?)

This is just me sharing my path to living a more comfortable life in my own skin, based on  awareness, appreciation, compassion and gratitude. A journey were I let go perfectionism, control and obsessions. A journey that it hasn’t finished yet and that is worth everyday.