Recently, on April 19, 2023, I quietly celebrated my one year anniversary of formally quitting my PhD and going full time into coaching and entrepreneurship.
Today, I want to unpack some of the most profound business, career, and life lessons I’ve learned in the past year since becoming a full-time entrepreneur.
There’s a lot I want to expand on today so let’s keep the intro super short and let’s get right into it.
First, I learned to develop a new relationship with my business.
Specifically, I really, really learned to see my business as a life-long, long-term passion project that I’m excited to build and continue carving out even more time to practice my craft as a coach and entrepreneur.
Even with all of the highs and lows that are inevitable as a full-time entrepreneur, I learned to embrace all of it and truly enjoy and love the journey as an entrepreneur and full-time coach.
Although I think my stance on this was more flexible and lenient previously, I’d say that I’m now a lot more firm on where I stand on the following, which is: I personally would not encourage someone to pursue entrepreneurship unless you’re committed to this for the long term.
It’s been over four years since I started my online coaching business, and I’ve seen so many people give up after 6 months, after 1 year, after 2 years.
I think what happens is that many people like the idea of calling themselves an entrepreneur but they’re not willing to endure the mental stamina required, such as being willing to keep going even if you’re disappointed by your results, not blaming external circumstances, and so on.
I’ve seen a lot of people who want to have the title and Instagram clout of being an entrepreneur, but they’re highly resistant to leaning into the messiness that is often natural and expected in your journey as an entrepreneur.
I also hear a lot of people say that they wish they could just coach clients and not have to worry about the marketing and sales part of their business.
But the more I think about it, the more I become curious about whether the person really cares about being an entrepreneur, which includes the “business” components, the steps required to build a profitable business.
Because if someone does not want to commit to the art and science of building a business, then are they really dedicated to growing a business and being an entrepreneur?
For many people who love the practice of coaching, your “purpose” might not actually require you to be an entrepreneur. You can do a craft you’re passionate about without being an entrepreneur. For example, you can be a coach as part of a larger organization.
Building a business truly requires skill and commitment. If you feel so discouraged and defeated by the marketing and sales component of growing a business, I’m going to venture to say: Don’t be an entrepreneur. Find another way to do the work you truly want to do, without having to go through the “pains” of entrepreneurship.
Don’t put yourself in a situation where all you do is feel discouraged and defeated about your “lack of results”. Because truly, I do think that you can do the thing you love without being an entrepreneur.
The first lesson I learned in the past year of being a full-time coach is to really be committed to the practice of being an entrepreneur, a business owner, someone who is willing to do the work of building a business.
This ties in nicely with the second lesson I learned, which is to learn to sharpen certain skills to grow your business.
While I do believe that there’s so many skills we can choose to learn and hone, I don’t think it’s necessary to learn all the possible skills that can help you grow your business.
I do believe that being an entrepreneur will require you to develop and sharpen certain skills and learn to be really, really good at those skills of your choice.
But the thing is, for many of us, we don’t like not being good at things. Often, we will be absolutely shit at a lot of the skills we want to hone within the context of our business, when we are first starting.
Mastery of skills, such as marketing and sales in your business, will take time and repeated practice, and a hell of a lot of mindset and identity work.
And throughout the process of not being good at something, it can also simultaneously bring up a lot of shitty thoughts about yourself, such as comparisons, feeling like you should have results by now because you’ve been “doing the work” for 6 months yet you still haven’t signed your first 3 clients, feeling like maybe you’re just not likable or popular enough, and so on.
When we’re not yet good at something, it can often be pretty painful because of the thoughts about ourselves that come up. But the good news is that you can learn and sharpen skills.
I learned to really commit to three skills in the past year in my own business, and I’ve also learned a hell of a lot about how I want to teach these exact skills to clients inside our coaching container:
All that to say, the second most pivotal lesson I’ve learned this past year is to take the time to get really good at certain skill sets that will help you pave your long term, lifetime career as a coach and entrepreneur.
Yes, there will be times, often extended periods of time, where you might absolutely suck at certain skills. But if this is the career you want to build for the long term, please be willing to be bad at these skills so you can get really, really good at them and ultimately create the impact and income you wish to make in this world.
Now, I want to make a hard pivot and talk about how we are all going to experience very, very human experiences and human emotions even as a full time entrepreneur. Meaning, we’re all going to struggle, and sometimes struggle deeply, no matter what your business looks like.
For quite a while after I decided to formally quit my PhD, and actually, even for about two months before I formally quit.
It was a really, emotionally and personally difficult period of time for me. I guess you can say that there were a number of personal events, decisions, identity crises, and relationship/marriage strains, friendship situations, and several other financial or logistical stressors that were all happening simultaneously.
As a result, I struggled really deeply and I could see myself feeling extremely depressed during this time. It was compounded with the frequent episodes of anxiety and panic attacks during this timeframe. My physical body also responded poorly to the stressors and I actually developed two noticeably large balding spots on my head because of the stress.
The two keywords that I would use to describe this period of time after becoming a full-time entrepreneur was:
1) Shame. I felt like I shouldn’t be feeling so heavy. So sad. So anxious. depressed. Unmotivated. Defeated. Especially from the outside looking in, I was living so many people’s dream lives. I was newly married. I was now doing my business full time. I had just finished the previous year at 6 figures in my business. And so much more. I shouldn’t feel all that I was feeling and consequently, I felt a lot of shame for what I truly was experiencing.
2) Lack of control. I felt like I had no control. I even wanted to just quit my business altogether because I felt like I no longer had the capacity to create for others or give to others because I felt that I was just in such a dark place. To be very honest, there were so many moments during this period of time where I almost made the decision to just refund all of my current clients and just delete everything and just hibernate. I just felt like I had no control over anything, even in my own business.
Because of all that was going on internally and in my personal life, it kind of makes a lot of sense why my external business results reflected my internal results.
There were months throughout 2022 where I didn’t make any new sales at all. Now that some time has passed and I’ve had a lot of time to process and work through a lot of those stressors, life and business looks, let’s just say it looks very different.
That said, there are two very profound lessons I learned from this part of the past year.
First, I can now see how we’re all so prone to gaslighting ourselves, in both business and in life.
For me, I kept telling myself that I shouldn’t be feeling XYZ emotions because I have so much goodness happening for me. I shouldn’t be thinking XYZ thoughts because I’m literally living someone’s dream life. I shouldn’t be “like this” because I have everything I need to live comfortably.
Over the past year, and it took maybe, I think around 7 months to really arrive at this place where I finally felt accepting of “It is okay if I feel this way. I get to feel this. It is valid. I don’t have to gaslight myself. I get to experience all of these feelings and I’m allowed to experience them”.
When I finally embraced that I am allowed to feel whatever I was feeling and that I don’t need to shame myself for feeling this way or thinking whatever I was thinking. When I was finally able to unwind and unbind from the shame. I could then learn another profound lesson which now really influences how I coach my clients, which is: There’s always options in every difficult situation. There really are always options.
But let’s be honest, there’s usually no “perfect” option. And I think that’s what I personally struggled with during that period of time because for all of the stressors that were happening, although I was able to intellectually recognize that there were options to every stressful situation.
I was resistant because none of the options seemed super 100% optimal. They all had pros and cons. And I was fixated heavily on the cons.
But the thing I didn’t quite realize at the time was that I did have options and I had control over which option to try. I wasn’t as powerless as I thought. Because of this realization, over time, I’ve started applying this belief of “I have control over my situation” in other multiple parts of my life and business.
I even apply it to how I view my thoughts and mindset: I have control over my thoughts. Because for many months this year, I felt like I had no control over how I was feeling, how my body reacted to stress, and so on.
I always have the power to retell the story about myself and my situation. I always have the power to lean into gratitude. I also always have the power to not blame my anxiety, depression, and panic attacks for my results.
This realization of how we always have more control than we think, also now shapes how I coach my clients through their thoughts about failure. For example, I now know how to help them get back up even when they fall.
If a client is going through their own “client drought” period in their business, I know how to coach them through it.
The crazy thing is, I wouldn’t be able to say this confidently if it wasn’t for me literally going through it myself first – my own experiences of feeling powerless in my business.
But because I was willing to go first, and at times, that also meant being willing to fail first and fall first and being willing to get up first, I’m now a much, much better coach for my clients.
All of the struggles I went through both within business and in my personal life, they’ve shaped me into who I am today, one year later.
Now that a year has passed, I’ve left my PhD and have been a full-time coach for a year, I can clearly see that we’re literally just getting started. It’s clearer to me what I want to do in this world, how I want to help people.
I realized my previous dream, when I was side hustling and pursuing a career in research, was just the stepping stone to what I’m embarking on next.
I think for a while, I was grieving the shedding of what felt comfortable as a side hustler. I was grieving the shedding of that identity.
But now that I’ve processed all the emotions, I’m allowing myself to lean into the bigger vision I have for myself as an entrepreneur and taking the next steps to make that vision come to life.
Over the past year, I also noticed that whenever life things happen and I feel powerless in that situation, it seems like I will then try to “take my power” in my business by making some sort of drastic decision in my business.
I actually observed that there were many times where whenever some life thing happened, I’d then quickly spiral into “Oh I need to shut down my business”.
It took me some time to unpack why that happened so often, and I eventually realized that it’s because I was feeling powerless in my life situation so I wanted to feel like I did have power over something by taking it out on my business.
But, more often than not, what that would look like is me putting my business on the chopping block. Which literally doesn’t help anything. It doesn’t help the life situation that’s going on and it sure as hell doesn’t help myself or my business by taking away the business.
There is literally no correlation between my business and the life events, but I’d essentially turn my life problem into a business problem.
For example, my grief over quitting my PhD has nothing to do with my business. I’m sad about my life, not sad about my business. It’s not my business fault that I decided to quit my PhD and move to Singapore. Those are life problems, not business problems.
The emotions I was feeling had nothing to do with my business. So in the past year, whenever life things happened, I also had to learn to take back my power and realize I always have control within my life situation, without making it mean anything about my business.
While I was learning that lesson, because I was constantly putting my business on the chopping block, one more thing I had to learn was to stay committed to what I care about. Which is my business and what I do within the scope of my business.
Just because I’m unhappy about something in my life, or even something related to my business, I had to learn to continue to stay committed to my work as a coach, as a content creator, and as an entrepreneur.
Meaning: I constantly had to recommit to my business. I constantly had to remind myself why my work matters. I had to continue to remember who I am and why I do what I do. And this work is ongoing.
Being committed to your work and the impact and income you’re here to create, is very, very likely something each of us will have to continuing working on and recommitting to throughout our lifetime as an entrepreneur.
This concludes the most profound lessons I’ve learned over the past year since officially quitting my career in research and becoming a full-time coach and entrepreneur.
I also just want to say that as someone who struggled a lot with the belief that because I have my own mental health shit going on or because of life stressors happening, I am not where I want to be.
I really hope that if you’re someone who’s also currently navigating certain stressors or circumstances and now you also feel like you’re struggling to keep up in your business, I really, sincerely hope that the lessons I shared today could be helpful to you in some way.
I also hope that through today’s conversation, we can start to rewrite our story about ourselves and reframe how we view ourselves and our business.
Because we honestly can feel like a hot mess sometimes and still be able to create amazing things in this world. We can struggle deeply with something and still be able to help others. We can feel like we’re lacking in one area but still absolutely thrive in another area.
It doesn’t have to be one or the other, such as “I must have it all together and have the perfect thoughts and mindset in order to have a successful business.”
We’re all allowed to go through human experiences and have human emotions at times, if not, all the time, right?
We’re allowed to go through life and feel whatever we’re feeling. It is valid and it doesn’t make us any more invalid as an entrepreneur.
I hope that this message is able to shine through the lessons we unpacked today.
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