Episode 26. Quitting Law School Changed My Business & Life

There are three key events in my life that have shaped me into the person and entrepreneur that I am today. This is specifically for any entrepreneur or online coach who is feeling stuck in their life or business. 

I hope that my experiences can provide some support or even hope for you to keep going in your business, regardless of what challenges you may be navigating both on or offline.

In This Episode:

How I got into law school with an entrance scholarship

The first event that has been extremely pivotal for me was when I quit law school in October 2018. This event has been HUGE for my personal life, career life, and yes, even my business life. Let me explain. 

Quitting law school in 2018 was a huge turning point in my life particularly because growing up, my identity was tied to being a straight A student. 

I literally got straight A’s throughout high school and was the top student of my grade in high school, and in university, my grades were mostly A’s as well. 

I did have a few B’s and C’s in university but that was because I was really struggling in my personal life, and that affected my ability to focus on my studies. 

Up until 2017, when I graduated from university, my identity was heavily connected to my academic achievements.

I had also received several scholarships and awards throughout my academic career up until that point. So as you might have guessed, my mentality even up until the age of 21 or 22 when I finished university, was really focused on “What other check boxes of success can I tick off? What other awards and scholarships can I win? What’s the next prestigious postgraduate program and career for me?”

As someone who pretty much achieved the traditional academic version of success, I was really oblivious to what life is like outside of the school system. 

I guess you could also say I was a major people pleaser. I thought that getting a high GPA and other awards and scholarships and even going into a supposedly fancy career like being a lawyer was THE way for me to be well liked by my family and peers. 

I had an idealized version of myself in mind that I truly believed I had to aspire towards if I wanted to be successful or perceived as successful by others, and that this was the only way for my to be liked by people, whether that’s my family, friends, acquaintances, colleagues, or even a partner. 

Well, young 21 or 22 year old Cheryl basically went to law school immediately after graduating from university because I was literally thinking to myself, “OH MY GOD I’M GOING TO HAVE SUCH A GREAT CAREER AND WEAR SUITS AND HEELS AND IT’S GOING TO BE SO IMPRESSIVE.”.

I’m actually embarrassed I’m even saying that out loud, but I was really naive. 

I didn’t really think clearly about WHY I even applied to law school. 

I had some surface level reasons and wrote compelling application letters and had a strong CV and good grades, so I got into law school in Hong Kong, and was also awarded an entrance scholarship of 100,000 HKD upon admission.

In August 2017, I moved from Toronto to Hong Kong.

Why I decided to quit law school

Then law school started! Honestly, everything seemed fine for a few months. Until it was time to apply and do legal internships at law firms. 

I had the opportunity to do an in-house internship at the legal department of a multinational hospitality or hotel company, and honestly, for me, it was such an amazing experience in every aspect except for the actual legal work I had to do. 

For example, we often had free buffets from one of the company’s hotels and the food was absolutely delicious.

My supervisor was also such a wonderful boss. He was kind, generous, and also just really hilarious.

The work culture for in-house lawyers is also way more chill compared to lawyers who worked at a traditional law firm. So even as an intern, my workload was a lot more flexible and light. 

But even then, I had zero interest in the work I did. And I definitely was not interested in the work that the actual lawyers were doing.

That’s when I realized, “Oh crap. I do not want to do this as a career. I realized I had absolutely no interest in the type of work that lawyers did in real life.”. 

That’s when I knew something needed to change.

I ended up finishing one whole year of law school, which was a three year program followed by fourth year which is basically some sort of qualifying year before you can become an actual trainee solicitor or barrister. 

During the summer between first and second year of law school, I mulled over what to do. 

I had all these flow charts and pros and cons tables to analyze what were my possible options. 

A few months passed, and the second year of law school began. Even then, I was still so confused about what to do next. Should I stick it out and finish the three years, and then find a job afterwards that is NOT a lawyer? Should I leave now and go into another graduate program that’s a better fit? Should I try to work for a few years to get more experience and explore my interests? 

At the time, nothing seemed like a good option… 

However, in hindsight, I knew that was just my ego speaking. I had so many options, and of course, each option comes with a certain type or level of sacrifice. 

But ultimately, each possible option required me to get over my own ego, to stop doing things just to please others, and to let go of my need to impress others. 

If I had to summarize the single perspective shift that pushed me to ultimately make the decision to quit law school, it’s this: If I want my situation to change, I have to change the way I feel about myself. 

All this time, every single academic or career move I made was done out of some self-imposed need to impress others and to look successful. 

I realized that if I wanted to change my situation, I had to let go of my ego. 

I had to stop caring about what people thought of me. 

I had to change my relationship with myself, and I also had to reframe what success meant to me.

After quitting law school and what I did when I literally had no clue what I wanted to do with my life

When I told my parents that I was considering quitting law school, things became really, really rough at home. My parents were absolutely furious. 

Without going into the details, let’s just say the family relationship was really damaged at the time and I was scrambling to figure out if I even had the financial capacity to move out of my parents’ home and live on my own while I figured out my life. 

Sadly, at the time, I did not have the financial means to do so. 

But now with this business, I can definitely move out at this point. 

A business creates so many more options for you.

Long story short, I faced a lot of backlash from my parents and even my peers in law school. 

Apparently, my classmates had a lot of things to say about me, and from what I heard, a lot of those things were not very nice. 

Even though there was clear evidence that people around me thought I was screwing up my life and career, I did have one person in my life who supported me through the entire process even though everything else in my life literally went up in flames. 

My boyfriend, Allister, provided tremendous support for me during this period and I am extremely grateful. 

He has literally been with me through thick and thin since the first day we met. 

I also want to credit my first coach, Vanessa Lau, because she was someone who stumbled into my life at this time. 

If you are familiar with Vanessa, you might already know that she is currently a multiple 7-figure business owner who first left her corporate job to pursue a path that she really believed in. 

With both my boyfriend and Vanessa’ support, I decided to make the decision to leave law school and start over. 

But the thing was, I literally had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. 

I just knew that being a lawyer was not for me. 

So, I experimented with a lot of new things. 

First, I knew I needed to make an income. 

I applied for a number of research assistant jobs in Hong Kong. Because I worked as a research assistant throughout university, I knew I could at least get my foot in the door for now. 

However, I actually never heard back from like, maybe 18 out of 20 applications. 

I’m going to guess that my poor Chinese language skills played a huge role, because for one of the two jobs that I did hear back from, that’s what the professor told me during the interview. 

She shared that even though it seemed like I had a strong skill set as a potential research assistant, I lacked the language skills that were quite necessary to be a research assistant, especially for the research field I applied for within Hong Kong, which was social work and psychology.

I understood that. 

However, for the other position that I did hear back from, the professor and I had an interview and it was a really great fit. 

I ended up working for this professor for about 1.5 years before starting my PhD program in September 2020, and I’m currently supervised by the same professor.

I loved my research work so much that it actually inspired me to pursue a PhD. 

I really enjoyed the role and responsibilities of  this job, and I also had a lot of interest in the research topic and area. So much to the point where I wanted to further explore research as a potential career. 

That’s why I eventually applied to this particular PhD program and am not enrolled as a full time PhD student.

Going back to late 2018 when I just quit law school, I also dabbled in several other things. 

Because I was hungry for whatever experience I could get, I also worked as a part-time English tutor for local schools for a few months, and also worked for a personal branding strategist and executive coach for c-suite executives and companies in Hong Kong. 

At that time, I literally never heard of coaching or personal branding. But because of the internet, I started exploring career websites and came across this term called personal branding, which eventually led me down a search engine rabbit hole. 

And that’s how I connected with this Hong Kong based coach, whom I sent a cold email to and began helping her facilitate her workshops and training for corporate executives and managers. That was pretty fun. 

I think when it comes to these three particular work opportunities, the main point is that I was willing to explore.

I applied to research assistant jobs because I wanted to explore the possibility of a research career and to see if I truly had any research interests myself. 

I applied to be an English tutor because I wanted to explore the possibility of teaching or working in some sort of education sector. 

I also applied to work for the executive coach because I literally had zero idea what coaching or personal branding was, but her work sounded cool.

One more thing I explored was online coaching and starting an online business, so let’s dive into that part of my journey.

The importance of not letting ego keep you stuck in business or life

I shared a bit about this part of my journey in Episode 20: My Business Journey: From Zero to 5k-10k Months

For a quick summary, I did two things: 

1) I literally found the online coaching industry by accident while browsing through Instagram, so I decided to explore the possibility of starting my own coaching business.

2) I was so inspired by people who leveraged social media to share their own personal stories and experiences, thatI explored the possibility of creating content. That’s why I started a YouTube channel and Instagram account.

If you’ve ever checked out any of my solo podcast episodes or consumed my Instagram content, you probably have some idea of what my business looks like right now. 

As of this episode, in March 2021, I’m consistently making between 5k up to 10k months, in USD, in my business, even on top of being a full time PhD student. 

That’s in stark contrast to when I first started my business two years ago in March 2019, where I’ve literally never made a single dollar from social media.

If i didn’t quit law school, I wouldn’t have started my business. 

Without that single decision to let go of my ego, I wouldn’t have found a career path that motivates me so much. 

Without that realization that I can no longer let pleasing people be the reason why I do things in my life and career, I wouldn’t have created a business that makes a massive income and impact. 

I know my story, my message, my experiences, and the work that I do through my coaching programs has impacted others in some way, shape or form. 

I believe so much in the work that I currently do as a researcher and as a business coach. 

If I had continued to let fear of judgment or the desire to seem successful and impressive to others determine every single move I make in my life and career, I wouldn’t have a business or career that I’m so damn passionate about. 

I wouldn’t be making 5-10k months even on top of being a full time student. 

The truth is: Leaving behind something that was stable and “prestigious” was very difficult. 

It was hard because of my own thoughts about it at the time. 

My ego, my fear of judgment, my desire to impress people and look cool. That was what made the decision difficult. 

In hindsight, this was the best decision I could have made for myself at that time. 

Not just that, but to this day I still believe that this decision changed my life. 

The amount of personal growth and level of maturity that has happened since quitting is absolutely unparalleled. The amount of income I’ve made from my business is something I didn’t know was possible. 

More importantly, the impact that I’m making on my clients and audience via my coaching program and even via my free content, I never knew I could do this. I never knew I had something of value to give others. 

I always thought I had to behave in a certain way, that I had to achieve certain things in order to be liked by others or to be seen as good enough. But, building a personal brand-based business has allowed me to really challenge my own assumptions and my ego.

Showing up as yourself to build your business

If you’re building a coaching or personal brand based business, I strongly advise you to not behave in a particular way just because you feel like that’s how you “need” to show up in order to build an audience, to sign clients, and to build your business. 

The reason I strongly urge you to not fall prey to acting a certain way is because that’s going to work against you and your business. 

There are no rules in this online coaching space. 


You being yourself, that’s what your audience and clients need from you. 

Your people don’t need you to put up a front. They need you to be you. 

If everyone is putting up the same front and are aspiring towards the same ideal, then what about the people who simply don’t vibe with that or resonate with that particular ideal? 

It’s really important to be honest with yourself about who are the people you want to work with and attract into your online circle, and think about how you really need to show up in order for them to feel like they know you, like you and trust you.

For example, if I pretend to be some badass high energy in your face, bright, bubbly personality type of business coach, I will be repelling my ideal clients who are generally more introverted and quiet.

Instead, they just simply need me to be me. 

By me showing up as myself, it allows my ideal clients to realize, “Oh hey, Cheryl is the right fit for me.”. 

Because if we all hypothetically aspire to be the cool kids, for example, then what about the people in your audience who don’t identify as a cool kid?

If you’re not naturally a “cool kid” kinda person, whatever that even means, then don’t try to be like that. 

Show up as yourself and show up for the people who need you to show up as yourself. 

Quitting law school taught me to take full responsibility over my business results

The decision to quit law school allowed me to fully stand by this core value of mind, which is: If there’s something you want to change, then do the work and make the change happen. 

Of course, I get that it can feel hard. 

I can relate to people who are scared to make a pivot, who have fears and limiting beliefs about starting something new, or feel a lot of shame or embarrassment around a decision that others don’t support or agree with. 

I get it. I’ve been there. 

But if you really want to change your situation and outcomes, no one else can change your situation for you, except you.

How does this translate into business? Simple. 

If you don’t like the results you’re currently seeing in your business, do something about it. 

For example, if you aren’t signing clients consistently or maybe you haven’t signed your first client, it’s up to you to change your results. 

The truth is, you have full control over the thoughts you think and the actions you take in your business. 

It’s really important to take responsibility for the results in your business. 

Here’s another way to look at it. When I work with my clients, we develop a personalized game plan for them and tailor each strategy to their particular business and to their own personality, time capacity, goals, values, etc. 

We ensure that the strategies are truly aligned with my clients and their businesses. 

However, even if I give them all the strategies and mindset support, if they ultimately don’t take action on those strategies that clearly have worked for others, including myself and my other clients, then their lack of results is something they need to take responsibility for. 

I’d like to challenge you to truly take full ownership of the results of your business. 

This means if you’re not currently satisfied with where your business is at right now, I need you to really think about whether you’ve worked on your own entrepreneurial mindset and whether you’ve truly taken action on the strategies.

Mindset and strategy go hand in hand. 

You can have all the personalized strategies that work, but if your thoughts aren’t in check, it’s really difficult to make the strategies work for you. 

That’s why I challenge you to really reflect on whether you’ve given your best when it comes to thinking the right THOUGHTS and taking ACTION on the right strategy.

Advice for pursuing what you really want to do

Wherever you are right now in your life or business, I hope that you’ll remember to stop choosing options that allow you to remain in your comfort zone, especially if this isn’t where you want to be. 

Because you can’t change your circumstances from doing the same things. 

If anything, you’ll either stay stagnant or things will get more frustrating. 

Imagine a year going by and you never take any action. Nothing would have changed, and you would have let one whole year go by when you could have made the decision to stop letting your ego get in the way and actually start working towards the life or business that you actually want.

After deciding on what it is that you want for your business or life, decide on the  actions you need to take, decide to think the thoughts necessary to help you take those actions. 

Also make those decisions that will get you closer to the results that you want for your life and business.

Of course, You have to be okay with difficulties along the way and feel uncertain or self-doubt, and even fail at times. 

But remember that more often than not, it’s your ego that’s standing in the way of you and your goals.

Finally, if you’re currently at a crossroads in your life, I want you to know that even if right now things feel really really really tough, I know that you’ll make the best decision for you at this current point in time. 

Even in the future, when you look back at your current decisions, I want you to realize that you did what was best for you at this current moment, and that’s good enough. 

Just make the decision and don’t let your ego interfere with going after the life and business that you truly want.

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