At 34, my business started much like my yoga career did, by necessity. I didn't chose to be a yoga instructor, it chose me. At the time, it was only supposed to be so that as the program director I could step in when the yoga teacher "no showed" a class. I took a "weekend warrior" certification. I liked yoga, but I didn't want to teach it. About the time I did that, we hired a new teacher who was very committed and I never had to teach.
When I left that job to pursue a new career, I basically forgot all about the long list of certifications, especially the yoga. They were on my resume, though. Six months later, my internship for my new career ended and a week later 9/11 happened. Jobs froze. I searched and searched until finally, out of desperation, I walked into a YMCA and applied for a teaching or trainer position. The director looked at my resume and hired me on the spot -- to teach yoga. My first class had 34 people awaiting and I taught from notes for the first six months until I started my 200-hour teacher training.
Yet, there was something magical every time I stepped on the mat. I observed my transformation as much as the students transformation. Relationships developed. Within two years, I'd forgotten all about the new career and was back to my roots in health and fitness, teaching 20 hours a week and personal training. The only problem was where I worked. It became more and more limiting as I grew. A student approached me after class and told me about a doctor looking to offer classes on a regular basis in his office. My business began shortly after. While I am a good teacher, I sucked at the business.
I did not know who I really was serving or why. I didn't know how to market to them. I just kept throwing ideas out, like spaghetti on the wall, to see what stuck. Miraculously, despite my ignorance, my tenacity and my guides kept me afloat, albeit often just barely. It took 10 years to learn the foundation for success and almost a lifetime to fully grasp the key lesson that I wish I'd recognized all along.
There is an abundance of business books, courses, and coaches out there all touting business acumen. None, however, know the wisdom within you. These are the top five lessons I have learned. I hope they help you shortcut many of the painful mistakes I made.
What makes your heart sing?
You can rationalize why you should do a particular job or business, but until you do what makes your heart sing, you will be out of alignment with your heart and your highest self. Stephen Pressfield calls this the "resistance" in his book The War of Art. Let me assure you, being in resistance and being out of alignment with your deepest Source of wisdom, joy, and energy of Love is going to keep you stuck. It is, in my opinion, the root of suffering.
While teaching yoga certainly makes my heart sing, what makes it hit those high C notes is helping people reconnect to their essence and live in the most Divine, infinite potential, especially when they are doing a business or career that is designed to make a difference in this world. I absolutely love the "ah-ha" moments and holding sacred witness to the reconnection and then awakening of the soul. Pure joy. Discovering your joy allows you to work in the flow or as athletes call it, "the zone." Honestly, when you are in flow, you can hardly call what you do work because it is ease.
When did you start playing small?
There are many reasons why you get out of alignment with you heart wisdom. Most have to do with that very first time when you realized you needed to tone down your Light, your gifts even, in order to fit in, be safe, or feel loved. This happened for me at age 4. I knew that I had to "take care of mommy" because I promised my grandmother on her death bed that I would. As I tried to comfort or help my mom in a Divine way, I would feel I made it worse. As a child, I didn't get why my mom would turn away out of her own shame and guilt. To me, I thought I'd done something wrong. So I held back, played small, and thus, the seeds of resistance and suffering were planted.
I worked deeply in going back to those roots to see the situation as it was, not as I'd always viewed it, and surrendering all of the energy attached in order to return to Love. I had to give that 4-year-old a safe space to play and remember how to use her gifts again. The investment in that relationship has been the highest return on investment I have ever made. Taking the time to love and accept the part of you that made that choice dissolves the guilt and shame that you may not even be aware of holding onto. As you love all of you, it gives you the freedom to show up as a more whole version of you.
Who do you serve and why?
Until you do the work in the previous two questions, this one will be illusive. Trust me. You'll think you're clear, but a veil will remain because you're not fully stepping into your knowing and certainly not trusting yourself. That lack of trust carries an energy felt by others. They won't know why exactly, just that you're not the right person to do business with. They won't get what you're offering and they certainly won't say yes of ambiguity.
To start to discover who you most want to serve, imagine the people you have or would love to work with. These are the people you are energized to work with or for. In your minds eye, put them all around a table at one big, fun, deeply engaged dinner party. They are sharing their hearts contents with one another and you can magically follow every conversation. Who's there and what are they talking about? Allow that to guide you in what you create and how you market.
Listening to the inner wisdom
You know what you know. You have to learn to trust that rather than the voices of those who got you to play small. As a Divine, infinite being, you have the power to create and destroy. You are far more powerful than you give yourself credit. How will you use your skills, wisdom, experience, and inner knowing to spread your unique expression of the Light and Love within you?
I love spending 15-20 minutes with my heart in conversation via a spiral notebook (because I don't want to mess up the pretty journal). This is a free writing exercise in which I ask my heart what it wants me to know. I listen. When it is complete, I express my gratitude. I have had some incredible pearls of wisdom come through this simple exercise.
Play until you need to rest. Rest until you're ready to play. And it's all play.
This beauty is from author and life coach, Martha Beck. She's right. If this life isn't fun (yes, there will be hard, sad, challenging, and difficult moments), what's the point? If work is drudgery, why are you doing it? Shift! And while you're at it, look at your inner circle. The five people you spend the most time with. They are mirrors of your future. If they are not fun, inspiring, motivating, encouraging, and even educational, find a replacement. Certainly you can't get rid of family, but you can sure cut back on the time spent with them. Replace that time with someone who fuels you. Honor yourself when you need to rest. Then get back to the play once you're rested. Life is too short to waste another moment.
In those quiet, frightening moments of doubt, "What am I doing? Am I crazy? How's this going to work? Am I good enough? Why would someone want what I offer?" I invite you to take a breath, place your hand over your heart, and hear these words.
You are a Divine, infinite being. You know what you know and there's no mistake in this Divine path. You're hear for a reason and there are plenty of people waiting for you to show up to shine your Light in the unique way that is perfectly you. So lean in. Breathe. Know. You've got this.