February 29, 2008
Something shifted for me this week but I think it’s going to take a little while for me to understand it in practical terms.
It started out when I was writing February’s “Elephant Burgers” article for my Chasing Wisdom Blog-Zine. I was thinking about ways to offer practical tips for using a daily schedule to move towards your dreams, but I couldn’t figure out how to keep the ideas from sounding boring.
Synchronicity brought me a structure that sparked my creativity. Check out the process I came up with in the article.
I’ve been following this daily planning meeting format all week now. It’s helping me see my forward movement on large goals. It’s helping me treat each goal with respect by scheduling some time each day or a few days a week to work on the goal. And it’s showing me why I feel really busy some days!
Before, I would do the things I thought of as my “to-do” list, like pay bills and write articles and do specific things on my web site or blog. Then, in the unscheduled blocks of time, I would think about what I needed to do and spend some time doing it. Then I would think of something else I needed to do and get sidetracked with that. Sometimes I would look at the more vague things that involve planning or sketching out an idea and leave them until later.
Now I’m looking at an overall plan, seeing the long-term goals and their importance to me, and seeing how each daily step connects with a goal. I actually see myself moving forward more clearly.
Here’s the strange part. I’m not really doing more work, and I’m not doing things in much more of a focused way. I’m just more aware of the usefulness of what I’m doing at the time. That makes my effort seem more practical and more worthwhile. I’m also able to prioritize tasks better using the larger goals.
Here’s why this shift is important to me. Most of what I’m doing is not immediately generating income! I can easily start feeling adrift or uncertain while working on things that don’t give immediate results. But with the daily planning meetings and the goals in front of me every day, I see how my steps are moving me towards an information product, a training session I can offer, or a targeted coaching program.
Things are becoming more real. It’s not “some day, eventually.” It’s “by the end of May.”
There’s something electrifying about this process I’m trying out. I think it could become a signature workshop and teleseminar, a powerful chapter in a book, and a stand-alone e-book with workbook.
I have some decisions to make soon. I attended my first coaching support group as a member and we discussed the differences in newsletters and e-zines. I realized my blog-zine takes a lot more time than a short weekly or semi-weekly newsletter, but I love writing it.
Maybe it’s time to reconsider the format and how I offer it to people. Lots to consider. But I’ll plan time during one of my daily meetings to do just that!
May You Know the Joy of Sharing Your Gifts,
February 22, 2008
After I tried to find colleagues on Facebook and LinkedIn last week, I started thinking about places I worked long ago. I went in the way back machine nearly twenty years, to a job I had as a therapist and case manager at a Residential Treatment Center (RTC) in Fort Worth, closed down for many years now.
The first person I thought of was a friend I haven’t seen or talked to in years. We maintained our friendship well past the brief lifetime (was it 21 months or 21 years?) I spent at the RTC. His name is Victor. Victor is passionate and lively and a deep thinker. He’s also pretty driven, which can be a little intimidating at times, but it’s one of the reasons I really liked him from the beginning. But the main reason I “clicked” with Victor was because, in spite of being passionate about many things and wanting to have meaningful work, he had a hard time figuring out a path. A kindred spirit! We had many conversations about how to figure out what we wanted to be when we grew up, even though I was already on a general career path as a therapist.
Victor considered social agency work for a while and thought about a social work degree, but that seemed like a fallback position while he toyed with other ideas. When he got married to a wonderful young lady with similar values and life goals, studying in a similar field, I figured he found his career track.
Then he decided to become a minister! Yes, it’s definitely related, and yes, the ministry needs passionate and deeply thinking people who want to serve others. But it was still a surprise. He got involved in setting up a new church in his denomination. Now that made more sense—applying talents to changing and improving the world and not just settling in to a job.
We dropped out of contact within a year or so of children coming into our families, I think. I went on a Google safari and finally found him, or at least a related listing with a person who could find him. He left the ministry a few years back after serving fully and intensely, then relocated and transitioned to being an insurance agent. Now he’s looking at setting up a non-profit agency to start a private school in his new hometown for kids who aren’t being served. He’s still the same core person, still using his gifts and his passions to define his life, but going through different stages of what that looks like.
Then I called my long-time friend Paige, who also worked with me at the RTC. We actually met in college and then were in the same graduate program. We had practicum assignments (that’s internship without pay) together for a couple of years. When I heard about the job at the RTC just after graduate school, I called her and found out she had just been hired there. When I left the RTC after 21 years (or months?) of dedicated service to work in a private clinic, she had just started there, too! We were invited months before at the same time by the same psychologist, but the timing was amazing.
Paige and I have had many conversations about where we are headed in our careers. Would we pursue doctorates? In what field? Would we work in agencies or in private practice? We both went part-time as therapists and tried other careers, and we both eventually left the mental health field for long periods of time. Now she’s staying home with her children and helping one son get the educational services he needs, using her training in a way she could never have anticipated. It’s the right fit for now, for this time in her life based on the needs of her family.
Reconnecting is wonderful. It’s especially good to remember that I’ve been thinking about “what I want to be when I grow up” since before I was grown up. And it’s really cool to realize I will never figure it out, enter that career, and be done. It’s the wrong question!
The right question for me is—
What do you want to do for this season that honors your calling, uses your gifts, engages your passions, and integrates with the values that guide your life?
See. That’s so much easier to answer!
May You Know the Joy of Sharing Your Gifts,
February 15, 2008
Well I think I pulled it off!
I visited the coaches’ support group on Wednesday and tried to be very good. That’s kind of hard for me.
I listened carefully and said very little. I commented only when I was asked and I tried to make sure I shut up just before I started rambling. I flew in under the radar.
So I’ll be joining the group! They meet by phone every other week for an hour to support each other building their coaching businesses. One very good thing I discovered—coaching businesses look very different for different people.
For some it’s a small secondary part-time practice for a full-time professional. For some it’s having enough individual clients to make it the sole source of income. For others it includes group coaching and training and live events. For others it includes books and internet radio shows and a long-term plan to become a nationally known expert doing little or no individual coaching other than in demonstrations.
I did a little more connecting in other ways this week. I was on a teleseminar about using Facebook and LinkedIn. I searched pretty thoroughly to find people I know on the sites. Then I sent some invites to people I know who weren’t on the sites yet.
Using these sites correctly requires putting up plenty of information on my profile, the teleseminar told me. Plus I need to have a good picture taken and post it. Know any good face doubles?
I moved forward in another way when I brought together ideas from different places and came up with a plan. Barbara Sher recommends having a “Leonardo DaVinci” styled book or binder for keeping lots of creative ideas. She especially recommends this for people who have several ideas going at once and get worried they’ll forget an idea or forget to work on it.
In a strangely related concept, I’ve been discussing with colleagues what sort of business plan a solopreneur needs, especially if no loans or investments are being sought. My third source of inspiration was a collection of interviews, articles, and books that extol the benefits of making visualization boards or keeping long-term goals on computer screen savers so you’re constantly reminded of them.
I put these ideas together and bought a three-ring binder to start collecting all my written ideas and mind maps for areas of my business. (I also got one for any creative ideas that show up.) It’s my visual reminder of all the things that need my attention, a place to gather new ideas and flesh out old ones. Going through it will also help me see where I’ve made progress and accomplished some things.
Could this become the blueprint for a great info product for people wanting to start a small business as a self-employed service provider? I’m not sure, but there’s going to be a page in my binder for that idea.
May You Know the Joy of Sharing Your Gifts,
February 8, 2008
There was a business expo in town today. In fact, it was called an Entrepreneurs’ Expo. I’ve been getting e-mail notices for a couple of months. The closer it got the more I thought about attending. I even told my wife I might go to it. But I told her I would go “if I figure out a plan.”
I thought about it last night, and I thought about it this morning while driving one of our dogs to a vet appointment. I figured out when I could leave, how long I could be there before I would need to leave to pick up my son from school, and even how to have a good lunch choice on the way.
But I couldn’t ever think of what I was going for.
I thought about having a small notebook and meeting people and striking up conversations about how they became a business owner or became self-employed. I thought about ways to find the people who would be there just to get ideas, because that’s a big part of the crowd. They are intrigued by business ownership or self-employment but aren’t sure how to go about it. Sounds like exactly the people I should be meeting!
The problem is, I knew what to expect. I’ve been to the Expo before. Back when my family and I got conned into buying a fraudulent “business opportunity.” Yes, conned; the people who ran the company were being pursued by the FTC the last I heard for close to a hundred million dollars worth of fraud.
Maybe that really bad association carried over to my thoughts about the Expo. Maybe, added to that, was the fact the person who talked us into going to the Expo was a marketing consultant from the same marketing training group that I blew thousands of dollars on just two years after the first debacle, and just one year after my second, much less expensive, debacle. (As a happy aside, I got notification that the people who ran scam number two were sentenced to several years and placed securely in a federal penitentiary.)
The marketing training wasn’t a scam, but the people I paid money to join a marketing consulting business only stuck with it seven weeks before leaving the formal partnership and keeping all my money. So maybe there was a second-degree carry-over effect of despising the Expo. But that’s not the main reason I decided not to go!
I thought about who would be there. I read the list of exhibitors. Lots of print shops, janitorial supply companies, suppliers to builders, home-based business “opportunities,” and of course multi-level marketing people.
I thought about the people I met when I went there before. They were small business owners looking for business-to-business customers, and they were opportunity-hawking salespeople. The ones looking into starting a business weren’t at all thinking about their personal gifts or passions or interests. They were looking for a low-cost, low-effort way to make money so they could quit their jobs.
They were in debt and looking for a way out, or in low-pay jobs and thinking it would be easier to find a quick moneymaker on the side that it would be to build their careers.
The thing is, if there really were a quick and easy system to make money with little effort and low overhead, what FOOL would be selling it at a business expo? He (or she) would be setting the system up several times over and becoming stupidly rich.
Self-employment and home-based business ideas that are marketed primarily, or exclusively, on the basis of getting rich and being able to “fire your boss” tend to be shallow. And the people drawn to them aren’t looking for a way to have a meaningful life and meaningful work. They’re looking for an easy fix that’s just a little more expensive and takes slightly more effort than playing the lotto.
I realized I probably wouldn’t find “my people” there, or not many of them—the creative types who know how they like to interact with the world and what they want to offer. And I realized I would be dragged down by all the people desperately grasping at clients or trying to hook a few more people on their “business opportunities” so they could make a quick commission.
We’ve been discussing this dilemma on the career change forum at the Fast Track Your Dream forum. A lot of people offer “systems” and “steps” to take to start a business. They sell plans and how-to books. But cookie cutter plans don’t work for creative people trying to develop businesses that reflect their personalities and values.
For people who don’t feel connected to technology, building an online business is not the right path. For people who want to do individual creative work, setting up a free newsletter and building a mailing or e-mail list might not work.
And for a personal development coach and trainer, walking into a gathering place for the moneychangers from the temple isn’t a good way to find people seeking meaningful change.
So I decided not to go! And I moved myself forward by not moving. Instead of just going because it seemed reasonably connected to my business plan, I thought about it carefully. That helped me define my target market more narrowly and get a clearer idea of my future clients. And the Expo didn’t seem like the place to find them.
May You Know the Joy of Sharing Your Gifts,
February 2, 2008
My birthday was this past Wednesday so I gave myself a gift.
Actually, I accepted and moved forward the gift someone else gave me. Gayle Scroggs let me know that a colleague in the Coaching world is accepting new members to a support group for those of us building Coaching businesses.
I contacted the Coach and then she and I had our first conversation Wednesday. I will be “visiting” the virtual group the next time they meet, and if we all agree I’m a good fit I’ll join them.
It will be an important step. Just planning that first phone call got me to move a little bit on thinking about how I want to structure my services and products. Getting a lot of individual Coaching clients doesn’t interest me right now. In fact, it sounds like I would be building my own cage. But planning ways to offer time-limited training groups and time-limited support groups, along with a couple of open-ended support groups, has me excited.
I was reading through 48 Days To The Work You Love by Dan Miller today and was reminded of something important. He discusses the difference between vocation (a calling), career (a path of related work within a field), and a job (one particular instance). I knew for quite a while that I want to honor my vocation, my calling, which I believe is hard-wired into my DNA and into my spirit. But I thought of a vocation as a special level of career, like a more meaningful career. It’s not just his career—it’s his vocation.
But Dan Miller’s view is that career is a subset that can fit under vocation, just as job is a subset that can fit under career. Once you find your vocation, that life calling, you can choose a career that fits with it. Discovering your vocation is not the same as discovering your career. It just helps narrow the choices and points you to the right aisle.
Now I already understood that a person could have a career and not satisfy his or her vocation, and that recreational activities and creative pursuits can help fulfill a vocation. But I had this black and white thinking going on: either your career is your calling or you have a calling that can’t be a lucrative career so you have a career that supports you and fulfill your calling in other ways.
His notion that a person can discover a vocation and then change careers while staying in the same vocation is transformational for me. My business doesn’t have to be everything in my vocation. It doesn’t have to align carefully and perfectly with every aspect of my calling. It just has to integrate with it.
I know my vocation. I love watching people grow and develop, gain new skills and new confidence, and find out what they’re capable of doing. I love seeing one person extend himself or herself to help another person get the vision and confidence to grow—that’s Mentorship. I love stories because they’re all about personal growth and development in their archetypal forms.
I have to be sure I honor and represent my calling in all my choices. I have to bring it into every aspect of my life. It will shape and help define my business over the years. It will also guide my personal growth and lead me to discover new things about myself that I can share with other people.
This takes some of the stress off of “getting my business right,” but it puts it more firmly on “getting my life right.”
Whew! Clarity and excitement and fear all at once. I must be on the right path again.
May You Know the Joy of Sharing Your Gifts,