It has been months since I have properly written on this blog and I’ve been going round in circles not sure of where to start because there is just so much to share!
Two different things have been going on for me:
1. The Work Stuff
Work wise things have been going pretty well. I haven’t achieved world domination but I have had a slow and steady stream of work that has kept business ticking over and moving me in the right direction.
It has all fitted around the kids which has always been my number one priority and all in all things were fine.
But just fine.
And I wasn’t really enjoying things being ‘just fine’.
I often got frustrated with myself and if I am honest with some of my clients.
For those that don’t know already know me, I have been mentoring female small business owners, usually solopreneurs on the practical aspects of running their business – everything from getting their websites up and running to implementation planning to content development.
Two things became clear to me over the course of the year:
Practical Advice Is Only 20% Of The Picture
You can give all of the practical advice in the world but if the recipient is not in the right headspace to receive that advice and take action, then it is pretty much pointless.
I have had many conversations with people about what they ‘should’ do to build their business and then got very frustrated when they weren’t taking the action required.
The old saying ‘you can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink’ springs to mind.
Some of them did and they reaped the rewards.
However, some of them didn’t.
There were a variety of reasons for them not taking action but more often than not the root cause was FEAR.
Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of what others would thing, fear of not being good enough, fear of making the wrong decision…. fear, fear, fear.
Others would head off in the right direction and then get derailed by events outside of their control or distracted by bright shiny objects that came their way.
What I came to realise was that my practical advice was often falling on deaf ears. Many of my clients who had the potential to create and build an amazing business were not having the success they deserved because the self belief, confidence and resilience wasn’t there.
I have a very limited attention span(!)
The second thing that I learned or more accurately, have come to accept, is that I have a very limited attention span.
If you look back at my corporate CV I was rarely in a role for more than 2 years. In my five years of self employment my target market has evolved several times and I’ve had my fingers in various (online) pies.
I realised earlier this year that yet again, I had got to the point where I was getting bored of what I was teaching people.
And a bored person is not an inspired person.
But I fought against this boredom because I didn’t think that I could change AGAIN. I mean seriously…. will I ever find that ‘thing’ that I’m supposed to do when I grow up?
It doesn’t seem that I will…. Apparently I’m a multipotentialite. Watch the clip below if you think I’ve gone slightly crazy and made up a word.
It’s a rather grand word to sum up somebody who has lots of different interests and wants to explore them all.
I’m not sure I want to be a multipotentialite.
There are some people who are born, grow up, get married and raise their children in the same town. They pick a career at the age of 20 and stay in the same job for the next 40 years. And they are blissfully happy!
I envy them! I do think being satisfied with regularity and routine would make things so much easier.
But I’ve always had itchy feet, eager to try the next project, the next employer, the next business opportunity. Although thankfully we do seem to have put down roots in a community and have no intention of moving physical location any time soon.
It’s taken me nearly 40 years but I can now accept that is who I am and I never am going to discover ‘what I’m going to be when I grow up’.
It’s time to face facts, I already am a grown up and I am just me being me.
Incidentally, I’ve always tried and struggled to come up with quirky business names and titles…. a couple of weeks ago I changed all my social media tags to @iamnicolasemple.
A little way of me accepting that I am just me being me.
2. The Personal Development Stuff
Now in parallel to this growing frustration I have been doing a huge amount of personal development work. Thinking about it, the growing frustration may well have been as a direct consequence of the personal development work.
I have always been a keen reader but this year I have voraciously consumed dozens of business and personal development books and most importantly, I have put into practice a lot of the things that I have learned. I’ll add some reviews on the blog over the next few months but in the meantime drop me an email if you want some specific recommendations.
I have also been embracing some ‘woo woo’. For years I had tried and failed to meditate. So many people, particularly other business owners, had told me that they got enormous benefit from meditation and I believed them.
But every time I tried to meditate I just got a sore bottom, a stiff neck and a feeling of ‘so what exactly am I supposed to be doing?’
At the start of 2017 I saw a local mindfulness class advertised and thought ‘right let’s go and see what all the fuss is about’. It certainly wasn’t love at first sight… or love at first breath but I diligently attended the course, did all of the homework and little by little over the course of the eight weeks I noticed a difference.
I noticed that I was calmer, that my mind was not racing at a million miles an hour, I noticed that I was enjoying the time I had with my family more and I noticed that I was better able to deal with life in general.
Also, the more I learned about mindfulness there were light bulbs going off in my head about the impact mindfulness could have on small business owners. Could embracing mindfulness help to stop my clients who were getting derailed and distracted? Could it help to build their confidence and conviction in themselves and their business?
Never being one to do things by half measures…. I signed up for a six month Professional Mindfulness Practitioner training with the Dorset Mindfulness Centre. It has been nothing short of transformative.
I spent a lot of time over the summer thinking about how I could bring this new knowledge to life and how I could use it to help the busy and overwhelmed people around me. Particularly the small business owners with very limited support networks to prop them up and keep them moving on their journey.
As frequently happens, the mind monkeys started to take over and I had to talk them down:
Mind Monkey: Who am I go teach people about mindfulness? I mean seriously, I’m all about business not ‘woo woo’ stuff.
No Nonsense Nicola: There are a lot of people out there who are not into ‘woo woo’ stuff. They’d be scared off by somebody who was but perhaps would be more open to learning from somebody with a practical and pragmatic approach.
Mind Monkey: Busy people are too busy being busy to take time out to learn about mindfulness.
No Nonsense Nicola: Mmmmm but isn’t the whole point that becoming more mindful will help them to free up time and since I was so sceptical to begin with perhaps that makes me ideally positioned to convince them they need to make the time.
Mind Monkey: What will people think?
No Nonsense Nicola: People will think what they will think. I can’t control that. And after the first 30 seconds of thinking ‘that’s an odd shift of direction’ they’ll probably get back to worrying about their own stuff.
And just as No Nonsense Nicola was getting the Mind Monkeys under control, a delicious piece of synchronicity occurred. I received an email from Google congratulating me on my scholarship to their Search Inside Yourself: Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence Leadership programme.
I had applied for the scholarship months ago and had completely forgotten all about it.
It was a little nudge from somebody, somewhere that I was moving in exactly the right direction.
So I now come at this with the acceptance that my business is about to pivot (again).
Indulge me for a minute….when I write the word ‘pivot’ there is only one thing that springs into my head…. if you’ve got a spare 3 minutes, watch this and remember how awesome Friends was:
And I wholeheartedly, unashamedly embrace the pivot, the shift in direction and remind myself that I have the freedom to do exactly what I want and not to give a stuff about ‘what other people will think‘. After all:
“Freedom is not the absence of commitments but the ability to choose – and commit myself to what is best for me” Paulo Coelho
Here is to embracing what is best for you too!
If you are interested in finding out more about mindfulness and the transformative effect that being more mindful can have on your business then please drop me an email and let’s chat.
This is all new and all being scoped out at the moment. I’m developing something that is unlike anything that I have seen before. It’s scary and it’s exciting and I’d love to tell you more about it!
To vision board or not to vision board that is the question that lots of small business owners ask me.
There are two schools of thought on vision boards.
The first school firmly believe in the power of having a visual representation of what you want from your business and your life. They argue that getting clear on your vision is the essential first step on the journey of building your business. And equally checking in and updating that vision as time goes on is of paramount importance.
The second school thinks that vision boards are a complete and utter waste of time and that rather than spending hours faffing around, cutting stuff out of magazines and gluing them together you should be out there actually ‘doing the work’ that will build your business.
My own opinion sits somewhere between these two schools of thought!
Vision Boards Are Awesome
I’m a big fan of the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. If you haven’t already read it then do yourself a favour and get a copy. It is a classic and every time I read it I gain a new insight.
Covey’s second habit is “Begin With The End In Mind” effectively before you ‘crack on’ with the work you need to get super clear on where it is that you are trying to get to.
A vision board is the perfect representation of the end that you have in mind.
Used properly it can be the perfect tangible representation of where you are going and it represents your dreams, your goals, and your ideal life.
Vision Boards Are A Waste of Time
Now I do have a certain degree of sympathy for the ‘vision boards are a waste of time’ school of thought.
Creating and keeping your vision board up to date is not and should never be considered a full time job! I have come across people who spend days (possibly even weeks) making sure that their vision board is ‘just right’ before taking any action to build their business.
Equally I have met people who carefully tend to their vision board on a daily basis and use it as a focus for their morning meditation practice yet they don’t take any of the ACTION required to make that vision a reality.
Staring at your vision board is not going to create that business or that life. Getting clear on what you want and then taking the required action and DOING THE WORK is how you get that business or that life.
My Struggle With Vision Boards
For years I struggled to create a vision board. I had a really clear vision of what I wanted and where I wanted to get to but I would sit down with piles of magazines and sift through them but never find the right images to represent my dreams.
I’m not particularly interested in jewellery, cars and fancy houses and I even seem to be over the handbag fetish of my 20s.
I also went down the online route. This was in the early days of using PicMonkey and I ended up with something that, quite frankly, looked a bit cr#p and did not inspire me at all. I most certainly didn’t want to have THAT as the wallpaper on my desktop!
I tried Pinterest as well, I created a private board and got pin happy but I struggle with Pinterest and I rarely looked at it.
Then one day I was sitting thinking about what I really wanted from my business and my life. I started to doodle. I am not an artist by any stretch of the imagination, stick figures are about my limit.
But I really liked the first little stick figure that I drew so I kept on going and now I have a vision board that I can truly connect with because it means something to ME.
Anybody else that sees it pinned up on my wall will think it is something that my 7 year old created but I look at it every day and know, unequivocally, that I am going to make every single one of the things on my vision board come true.
Over the past couple of months I have felt a shift in how I want to do business and while I still 100% connect with the long term vision that I have created I had been struggling to articulate where I am now and the direction that I moving in over the short term.
Enter The Cavalry – Surrey Art School
I came across Surrey Art School via a friend and decided their Creative Visualisation and Goal Setting Workshop was exactly what I needed.
The Arts School is located in Newdigate in the heart of the beautiful Surrey countryside. As I drove there I could feel my spirits lift immediately as I pottered through the winding country lanes on a gorgeous Spring day.
Stepping into the workshop really made me smile. I am a self-professed ‘non-creative’ so I haven’t been inside anything like a real art studio since my last art class at school at the age of 14!
I was met by Ellie Green, the owner of Surrey Art School and my tutor for the session and what an absolute delight she is. It is a genuine pleasure to come across people who are not only passionate about what they do but incredibly good at it as well.
After I confessed to my lack of creative talents and only being able to express myself artistically through stick people(!) Ellie put me at ease straight away.
We did a simple visualisation exercise to set the scene for the day, then we set to work.
Ellie gave me a huge pile of magazines and instructed me to pull out any images that ‘spoke to me’. This is where I became a bit hesitant. I’d tried this stuff before and it never worked for me. What was going to make this any different?
But to my surprise with some upbeat music in the background, a cup of tea, sun streaming into the studio and some gentle chatter with Ellie I got into the swing of things and before long had a decent sized pile of images and words that I could use to create my vision board.
Ellie then instructed me to divide the images and words into three piles to represent my past, present and future. And again there was a little voice in my head saying ‘this is a load of nonsense’ but I did it.
As I started to lay out the images on a piece of paper, organised into the past, present and future the cynic in me was silenced. The things that I had casually selected, at random, were starting to tell a coherent story.
How on earth did that happen????
This is what I came up with:
In all seriousness, how on earth did it happen? There were probably a few factors at play:
- Ellie explained the power of the sub-conscious mind and even although I thought I was selecting images at random we make every choice for a reason.
- The workshop is just such a lovely space to spend time that I fully relaxed and opened up my mind to new possibilities.
- I had invested time, energy and money to be there and therefore I was much more committed to the process than I would have been if I had gathered a pile of magazines and tried to do the same exercise at home.
If you are struggling to come up with visualisation and goal setting and are in the area I would highly recommend getting in touch with Surrey Art School and booking a session or if you live too far away take a look and see if you can find something similar in your area.
So, how about you. Do you find it easy to visualise where you want your life and business to go? Have you come across any creative hacks to help you along the way? If so, please do leave a comment and let me know.
Procrastination…. that nasty, icky thing that gets in your way and stops you from ‘motoring ahead’ and doing all of the things that you know you should be doing.
For years I’ve been telling myself (and my clients) that procrastination is a bad thing.
I’ve come up with all sorts of strategies to banish procrastination. The strategies allow me escape the lure of the cat videos and instead to rattle through my to do list, ticking each item off with a satisfied flourish of my (coloured gel) pen.
But over the past few months I’ve started to wonder if I’ve been getting it wrong all these years.
Maybe….just maybe… procrastination can be a good thing after all.
Once I had an inkling that procrastination could actually help not hinder us I did a bit of research, only to discover that I was not the first person to discover this startling revelation (damn it!).
Scientists have broken procrastination down into two categories – passive and active.
Passive procrastination is when you KNOW you should do something like tidying your house or making a phone call but you stay on the couch and take no action. This is not the good kind of procrastination.
If you are suffering from passive procrastination then consider this your (loving) kick up the backside to get up and get on with whatever it is that you need to do.
On the other hand active procrastination is when you put off doing something like tidying your house or making a phone call because you are doing something more useful and valuable instead e.g. getting groceries for a sick neighbour.
Here is my rather inexpertly drawn, stick figure lady to illustrate what I mean:
Unwittingly, over the past few months I have been engaged in active procrastination.
I started the year (as I do every year) with a list of goals and objectives for my business. I had projects to work on and self imposed deadlines to meet. I was going to be busy, busy, busy…….
Instead, through a series of events outside of my control, the majority of my working hours in the first six weeks of the year were wiped out.
Through another series of bizarre events I ended up enrolling in a Mindfulness course and have spent the last couple of months fully immersed, learning about and discovering the simple yet unbelievably sensible tenets of living mindfully.
Business wise I have done the bare minimum to keep the show on the road.
Client commitments were being kept but that list of goals and objectives that I had….they were pushed to the bottom of the priority list. I knew that I was procrastinating. I knew that I wasn’t going to hit my targets if I didn’t pull my finger out and ‘crack on’ with the work that had to be done.
But for the first time (possibly ever) I did not feel the ‘need’ to be busy all of the time. I knew that I was procrastinating but it felt OK, in fact it felt more than OK, it felt like exactly the right thing to do. I now know that I had engaged in active procrastination because rather than working through my ‘to do’ list I was doing something much more important.
I was giving myself the time and space that I needed to decide whether those goals and objectives and that ‘to do’ list was actually what I truly wanted to be doing.
It gave me the ability to step back and objectively look at where my life and business were going and decide if that is really where I wanted to go.
And while the overacheiving perfectionist in me got frustrated by the lack of ‘progress’ that I was making, the ‘newly enlightened’ me, fresh from my eight weeks of mindfulness training, acknowledged that I was exactly where I needed to be.
And it was time to stop ‘doing’ so much and spend more time ‘being’.
That period of procrastination has opened my eyes and shown me how I can better serve my clients and deliver even more value.
So the next stage of the journey begins. I would love to have it all mapped out and tell you exactly what that shift in direction will look like. Right now, I have an overall direction but none of the details. But I can tell you that I am approaching it with a huge amount of curiosity and excitement!
If you would like to keep in contact and find out more as the road ahead unravels then please enter your details below. I promise it’s going to be a lot of fun and might just shift how you think about your business.
Today the U.K. voted to leave the European Union.
I’m going leave the political debate out of this. With 51.9% voting to leave the E.U. and 48.1% voting to remain this has been a difficult decision for the country.
Instead, I want to share some thoughts on what Brexit has taught me about the company that I keep.
Jim Rohn the U.S. Author and Motivational Speakers told us, ”You are the average of the five people that you spend the most time with”.
This is something that I talk about a lot with my clients.
Very often my clients feel lonely and isolated. Many do not have any friends or relatives that run their own business. They don’t have anybody to talk to when they want to celebrate the highs and have a shoulder to cry on during the lows of running a business.
I encourage my clients to build their network, surround themselves with people that understand the challenges that they face and share the same aspiration to build a successful and profitable business.
Personally, I believe that I have done a great job of surrounding myself with likeminded people.
I have a fantastic business network and the people that I choose to spend time with are upbeat, positive, have a desire to make a difference and be the best version of themselves.
But this morning I realised that in doing this I have been missing out on valuable perspectives from elsewhere.
If you were to poll my family and the people that I choose to call friends, I suspect you would have found that 95% of them voted to remain in the E.U..
If you were to scan my Facebook feed over the past few days then it would seem that 100% of my Facebook ‘friends’ were planning to vote to remain in the E.U..
I went to bed lastnight quietly confident that the U.K. would vote to remain in the E.U., after all the vast majority of people that I know agreed with me.
I had successfully followed Jim Rohn’s advice, I am the average of the people that I surround myself with.
There’s just one catch.
If you ONLY surround yourself with people that agree with you then you miss out on seeing situations from a different perspective.
I’ve decided to step away from social media for the rest of today as there are too many ‘keyboard warriors’ around.
I’ve seen several posts telling the Brexiters that they shouldn’t complain ‘when interest rates rise and they can’t afford to pay their mortgage any more’.
This makes a massive assumption that they are in a privileged enough position to have a mortgage in the first place.
Equally Brexiters are accused of being ‘ignorant racists’. I find it hard to believe that 17.4 million Britains are ‘ignorant racists’.
There are two sides to every story and if I have learned one thing from this Referendum it is to be more open to understanding both sides of the story.
So today, let’s take a step back and breathe (as the wonderful Ann Wilson encouraged us to do this morning) and make a commitment to really understand both sides of the story and identify how we can work together to create this new version of our reality.
It’s not going to be easy but it’s time for kindness, compassion and working for our collective good.
And while I will continue to surround myself with likeminded people from today I also commit to making more of an effort to REALLY understand other people’s perspectives and viewpoints.
How about you? What have you learned from the E.U. Referendum? Leave me a comment and let me know.
When I started off on the 30 Day Blogging Challenge I committed to blogging about topics relating to my business and my life.
I realise that I have got to day 6 and all of my posts so far are either directly or indirectly related to my business. Talking and writing about my business comes much more naturally to me than talking and writing about my personal opinions, it’s my comfort zone.
But the blogging challenge is all about testing boundaries and operating outside of my comfort zone so here is a more personal one today.
Why are so many people grumpy all the time?
I really can’t fathom it. I live in Surrey in the U.K. I appreciate that the country is having or emerging from (depending on what you read) a tough time but we still live in one of the most privileged countries in the world.
I know that the ‘daily grind’ can get us down, wake up, get everybody ready and out of the house, kids to school or childcare, work, pick up kids, homework, dinner, sleep and this cycle operates on repeat.
For those with children the school holidays punctuate this routine with relief and a break from the routine but also the additional stress of what to do with the kids so that work can be done and businesses can be run.
But really? A simple smile and a pleasant word is not that hard to find.
I’m no saint and I do on occasion have a moan and offload onto friends. It’s healthy to get these things off your chest from time to time. But ‘from time to time’ is the key part of that sentence.
There are people that I know who see the gloomy side to everything and I mean everything…. From the weather to the strength of their morning cup of tea!
These are people who have their health, they live in a free country with their civil liberties intact, a roof over their heads, a job, education for their children and enough disposable income for a few of life’s luxuries.
Life is good, yet for some reason they just can’t see it. Rather than being grateful for and celebrating the abundance in their lives they choose to focus on what is missing and what they are lacking.
Sometimes their grumpiness makes me a bit grumpy(!)
Don’t they realise all the amazing things that they have in their life?
And again, I will reiterate, I’m not talking about the ‘I’m having a bad day and I need to offload’ people, I’m talking about the ones that walk around with a permanent rain cloud over their head, immediately distrustful of everybody they come into contact with.
I would encourage the ‘grumpy pumps’ (as we call them in my house) to consider the people who have a real cause to be grumpy, those people that:
- Don’t live in a country where they can express themselves freely
- Don’t have a home to call their own
- Are battling through a terminal illness
- Have recently lost a loved one
- Don’t have enough money to feed their kids
- That have a REAL reason to feel grumpy!
So if you don’t have a real reason to be grumpy then turn that frown upside down and spread a little happiness in the world!