Let’s talk about a topic that might seem fluffy on the surface, but we’re going to go really deep. And I also want to include a number of practical insights or things you could look into to really get grounded, stay focused, and keep taking even higher quality action in your business.
The question I want to kick off with is: why are you building a business?
First and foremost, I want to preface the conversation by saying you get to define your reasons for starting and building your business. Don’t let anyone, including myself, sway you from your own genuine reasons for starting a business.
But that’s exactly the thing I want to explore; what are your current reasons and are those your own reasons? Or are they reasons that you might have picked up from the people or social conditioning around you?
The inspiration behind this topic stems from how I was recently reflecting on my own journey in my business, and I thought about how in the first 5 months of my business, it felt really hard.
Yes, I signed clients and I created “results” within the first month of starting my business. And I am able to reverse engineer what worked and what didn’t work. But this period of time felt really, really hard.
I started my business in March 2019 and I hustled hard from March till August 2019. And by then, I basically crashed and burned down my business, meaning I literally shut everything down and stopped my business for the next 7 months. I’ve shared about this in previous episodes, so feel free to scroll through the podcast and check out the relevant episodes that interest you.
When I was thinking about my business burnout back in 2019, I came up with a new term, and I’d like to call this feeling “an average high achiever”.
The way I would define this is: Feeling like you’re good at what you do, but you’re not the best. And as a result, the recognition you get is just kinda so, so. You feel like people do know that you’re good at what you do, but that’s about it. The credit and recognition always goes to the small percentage of people who are seen as the best and hence are better than you in whatever it is that you’re comparing yourself to.
For many of us, in the context of our business, feeling like we’re not good enough is so prevalent. I think it’s especially prevalent for those of us who have the drive and work ethic. And we also identify as someone who is high achieving or capable of achieving big things.
But we feel like we’re not as good as other coaches or entrepreneurs. Perhaps because they’re way more established or making way more money or they’re super well known in their space and are now speakers and authors.
We feel like we have to compensate by working really, really hard, by doing more, and by doing better so we can also be recognized for the value we bring to our industry and become an in-demand coach or entrepreneur.
When I was contemplating this, I went back in time and thought about how this type of pattern showed in my own past lived experiences. And the most prominent memory that came to mind was from my younger days in school.
All the way up until my junior and senior year of high school, I always felt like I was a good student and got really good grades. But I was usually just second best in the class, at best.
Back in primary school, I studied in a local Hong Kong school for grade 1 and 2. The teacher would actually read out the results of the top scorers of the class. So I remember that in grade 1 and grade 2, the teacher would announce the results and say so and so got 6 As this semester. And Cheryl got 4 As. I was like 6 or 7 years old. So from a young age, I always felt like I’m not bad.. But I’m not the best.
This carried over to my high school, where in freshman and sophomore years, I was not bad at all when it comes to my grades. Like, I’ve always gotten pretty good grades. But at the award ceremonies every year they would celebrate the top scorers in each subject and announce who got the highest overall average grade of the class, and it was not me.
I remember back then, I felt jealous and compared myself to them. But at the same time, I also felt like I had to do better. I had to study more. I had to clock in more hours to study next academic year. Because I wanted to be acknowledged for my own efforts.
So, in junior and senior year of high school, that’s what I did. I studied my ass off and when the award ceremonies came around again, this time, it was me who got the top GPA award.
But when I graduated high school, even though I “hit my goal”, I felt oddly empty. I remember feeling really depressed around graduation time because I felt like, even though I hit this major milestone and got the recognition for it, I felt strangely empty.
In hindsight, I can understand why this was the case. I think for many of us, we chased goals or metrics of success that honestly weren’t our own goals or how we’d define success.
We would hustle and grind our way to achieve some other person’s definition of success or what a successful life or career or business looks like.
It makes sense that when we do hit certain milestones, it doesn’t make us feel any better about ourselves or how we feel about our life, because we haven’t spent any time doing what matters to us.
We don’t have goals that matter to us and as a result, we haven’t made time for what matters most to us.
And I saw this exact pattern come up for me for years beyond high school, and also later on in my own business, especially in the first year of my business.
For example, in University, I focused on studying and getting a 4.0 GPA, but did not make much effort to build genuine friendships.
Throughout my four years, I constantly felt alone and isolated, but I still didn’t do anything out of my comfort zone to meet a new friend. Whether through school events or my existing social circles or even outside of my connections.
After university, I went to law school thinking that being a lawyer would be super fancy and prestigious. I thought it would look good to be a lawyer.
But in my first year of law school, I was like “Oh shit… This is not for me at all.” As many of you may know, I dropped out after the end of the first year of law school.
You’d think that by now, I’d have enough data to not repeat this behavioral pattern anymore. Where I’d go after big goals that I was following blindly or because I thought that’s what the standard was or it’s what I need to pursue in order to look good to others.
But because my self-awareness muscle was still in developmental stages, I saw this pattern come up again in my business.
So for the rest of this episode, let’s shift the focus back into how all of this relates to our business and how we show up in our business.
Then, we’ll talk about how to ground back to your own reasons for doing what you do, and letting that drive results in your business moving forward.
When I think of my first few months of being an entrepreneur and coach, I remember feeling like I was just an average or baby coach compared to everyone else I saw on Instagram.
There were already so many established coaches with large audiences, beautiful branding and brand photos. Many of them were already highly successful and created six or multiple figures in their business. Who am I to call myself a coach?
Who am I to teach people about confidence, content and personal branding? This was how I positioned myself before I dove more into business coaching for side hustlers.
Because I was navigating so much self doubt and comparisons during the first five months of my business, between March 2019 to August 2019, I really believed that I had to work my utmost hardest to “make it” as a coach.
I thought I had to do twenty different things at once and go for quantity because I thought that is what’s going to help me repeat success, just like how it worked back in school.
I thought that if I kept doing these things and did more of them, then sure I’ll be practicing my skills at the same time, so I’m hitting both the quantity AND quality markers, right? So that’s exactly what I did.
For those five-ish months, on top of my full time job as a research assistant. I also worked with 1:1 clients, posted on Instagram stories every day and posted several times on my Instagram feed every week.
I also had a private Facebook group where I did weekly and monthly challenges and livestreams.
In addition, I sent out weekly email newsletters, participated in other people’s Facebook groups, posted on LinkedIn, started a podcast, and even posted a few YouTube videos before closing that down because it was just too much for me. That’s a lot of work, especially for a side hustler.
And if there’s one thing I learned back in those five months in 2019, it’s that doing a bigger quantity of things is not an absolute guarantee to success.
The correlation between the number of things I did for my business or the number of hours I clocked in, is not a direct guarantee or reflection of my results.
Because first, when I compare 2019 to 2021, let’s just say that we created way more results in 2021 AND we worked less number of hours per week in 2021.
Instead, I now focus way more on the quality and energy of each thing we do. So we can do more or less the same quantity and frequency of things. Hence, have a regular working schedule for the business each week that feels manageable.
And also, I got to a point back in 2019 where the business no longer felt worth continuing, despite creating noticeable results for someone who just started their business.
It was no longer worth the toll it had on my mental health, my physical health, my relationships with my loved ones, my focus at work, and so on. It was no longer worth it anymore.
That’s why I also know that back in 2019, I was not building a “sustainable” business and I was not setting myself up for success in the long run. Lessons learned.
But back then, I really, really believed that what I was doing still wasn’t enough and I wasn’t doing good enough. Period.
These beliefs really stemmed from my identity back then as a so-called average high achiever. I knew I could work hard, but because I wasn’t the best. I then felt like I had to work even harder and push myself more to be even recognized for what I was doing. That, in the end, led to my burnout in 2019.
If you can relate to what I’ve shared so far and you’re currently in a position where the thought of “I need to do XYZ in order to sign a client” comes up very frequently and strongly for you… One thing I want to offer for today is sure, maybe, okay you could do XYZ. But to what extent do you need to do XYZ?
Because I think we often jump to the extreme and think we need to go from 0 to 100, but is that even necessary or is that even in line with the season of life you’re in?
For example, as much as I’d love to be on more platforms, such as starting a weekly email newsletter, having a blog for the podcast and repurposing our content for LinkedIn and TikTok.
Even though I know exactly how to do those things, I understand my own capacity and I intentionally choose to focus my time and energy on personal life and my existing clients.
That’s why right now, as of this recording, September 2022, my main priorities in the business are coaching our clients, continuing to work on our brand new curriculum and client portal for our clients (which is a HUGE project on its own), and also creating regular podcast and Instagram content.
I understand that I could also look for support from a virtual assistant or a content repurposing expert, but right now, I’m speaking from the perspective of a solopreneur.
We hear so many business coaches or marketers or wildly successful entrepreneurs promote the idea of multiplying your content and repurposing for as many platforms as possible. And I understand the value of doing so.
But right now, I am perfectly happy with my own reasons behind the decisions I am making.
I don’t have to maximize all opportunities right now. I don’t have to go all in on all available resources or platforms right now.
Yes, that’s the long term goal. But right now in the short term, in this season of life, I am happy with my decisions to take it a bit slower so we can really ramp things up in 2023.
And trust me, I have big plans for us in 2023.
It’s been over 3 years since I started my business and since my seven month burn out period. My business has grown tremendously since then.
But here’s the interesting thing: Even when things are “ fine” and I am signing clients “consistently”, I will still feel anxious about not doing enough and think my content or coaching for our clients isn’t good enough.
Comparisons with other business coaches still can happen.
I’m sure some of you listening right now might also experience thoughts of, “I’m not doing enough” or “I’m not doing it good enough” in literally every area of your life.
In the context of my business, I still have to continue to work on unbinding from those thoughts and feelings about judging my potential or success or worth as a business owner/coach based on how much I was doing or how many hours I was clocking in.
I still have to work on learning how to better manage my anxiety and the thoughts or actions that might fuel the anxiety. Let’s be honest, it’s an ongoing journey of self development.
That’s also why I now think so much about how our clients can incorporate thought work practices and daily routines that allow them to ground into that energy of calm.
Because when our brain is not spinning in twenty different directions at once, it’s much easier for us to be creative, to think about our ideal clients, to market and sell from that state of mind, to coach our clients, and so on.
Only then can we really be the best entrepreneur/coach version of ourselves. But it all starts with different types of inner work.
Now, for clients inside our coaching program, we coach so much on their thoughts and daily routines or day to day life. Because I have seen how creating more calmness overall has consequently strengthened our clients’ ability to stay resilient and committed to their business, even during times where their business results are not what they were hoping for.
Having those mindset practices and physical wellbeing or energy routines can do wonders for your ability to show up and work on your business.
Your mindset, energy, and life matter, not just for you, but also for your capacity to show up as the decision maker, action taker and creator of your business results.
When I think back to some of our clients who have created the most results and are doing it “consistently”, they also make time for their overall wellbeing and energy levels.
For example, one of our clients created their first 5k months inside our program. And one of the things she also cared a lot about in addition to her business and full-time job, was actually her nutrition and how she was fueling her body.
Another client who made back double their investment in our program as a career coach, also hired a health coach to help support her own health goals.
Another client is also huge on having regular and consistent meditation, affirmations and thoughtwork practices in her weekly life. And I am confident that these routines are the reason why she’s been able to sign clients for her high ticket mindset-related coaching program on a regular basis.
Taking care of your mind and wellbeing and just how you feel daily, matters.
I think that for these clients, they are an example of how “working hard in your business” might actually look different from what we’d expect.
These clients didn’t necessarily clock in more hours in their business to grow their business, but rather, by spending time working on themselves as people. As a result, they were able to have even more capacity and creativity to create even more results in the business.
And I really love how they challenge the notion of what “working hard” is “supposed” to look like.
I also want to quickly add that it wasn’t like these clients naturally wanted to spend less time on their business. Because let me tell you, we had to coach them on NOT putting their time and energy into doing more manual labor for their business.
Especially when we already had something that was working for them. Such as their Instagram content and marketing were already creating clients for them.
Instead, we had to coach a lot on letting go of correlating more hours spent typing on their keyboard with more clients or higher income months.
Rather, we focused our coaching on their sense of identity, their belief in their offer, their belief in their content and messaging, and being open to taking better care of themselves.
All so they can in turn create even more amazingness in their business.
Again, your life, overall wellbeing and how you feel about yourself, it matters.
With this in mind, I would really invite all of us to think about the following questions:
Because if you believe that only entrepreneurs with certain characteristics can be successful and you feel like you’re lacking those things, how can you be motivated to build your business?
If you feel like a successful coach who is in demand and magnetizing to their clients, look a certain way on social media, and that’s just not how you naturally are. How can you feel excited to show up online to share how you can help?
How are any of these expectations supposed to help you even feel excited, passionate, convicted, or motivated to do anything in your business? Really let that question sink in.
I believe that each of us here are capable of building a successful business because I really really believe that each of us have ideas, skills, lived experiences, stories that can help someone.
Hence I believe that each of us has something to add to our niche or industry and can create a business out of. I also believe that work ethic isn’t even a question for each of us.
I know that we’re all capable of putting in the work and working our asses off for what we believe in. So I’m not ever questioning whether someone is lazy or if they’re not motivated.
I have high belief that if you’re in my community, that is not even the question I need to ask you.
But rather, a question I do think is worthwhile for each of us to explore is, what are we working hard for? What are our reasons for doing what we do?
Why are we pursuing this business, even through all the ups and downs that are innate in entrepreneurship?
What are your own reasons?
The reason why I am genuinely curious about this question is because one observation I’ve noticed is that when someone really has a clear reason for why they’re doing what they do, their hard work feels different.
For someone who has a clear reason for doing what they do, their work ethic is purpose-driven and focused. And it doesn’t matter if their reason is to make money to support their family or primarily focused on impact.
If their main reason is one that means a lot to themselves, the energy of their hard work and their actions and even their thoughts about what they’re doing, will all reflect that intention. The commitment just feels different. The energy just feels different.
This is one of those things where it’s not the easiest to articulate through words. But I do think it’s still something that all of us should consider.
Are you operating for reasons that mean a lot to you? Or are you doing this for reasons that perhaps you picked up from society or from influences around you?
Another thing I’ve observed from my own experiences is that when I’m working hard on something that means a lot to me, I feel proud of what I’ve done so far and the progress I’ve created so far.
Whereas if I’m pursuing some sort of standards or goals that I kinda just chose because that’s what people around me were striving for, I constantly would feel like I wasn’t doing enough or I wasn’t good enough compared to people around me.
And I feel like this could be a helpful way to explore what your relationship with your business is right now.
Here’s a very, very relevant client example I’d like to share.
Any of our clients who really struggled with content creation and marketing their offer, have invested in other business or content strategy courses or even business coaches, where their containers have a very specific clear cut method that they teach their students and clients.
Their containers look like, “This is THE way to do content”. This is the exact step-by-step framework to content, marketing and sales that have worked for me. And if you also implement what I did, then you can save yourself months of pain and heartache I’ve gone through and you don’t have to repeat the same mistakes I made.
But here’s the thing. What often happens, and I say this because I’ve worked with many clients who have experienced this, is that this is where they start to hate content.
They literally come to me and say, “Cheryl, I want to sign clients and help people. But I just don’t know what content to create to get people to work with me. I don’t know what works and what doesn’t. I just hate having to create myth busting content and all my content sounds so salesy because that’s what my past business coach or course told me to do.”
In other words, a lot of people end up just loathing the things they do in their business.
And let me tell you, staying “consistent” is gonna feel even harder if you don’t enjoy the action you said you’d do every week.
It makes sense why your content isn’t working if you yourself don’t even like what you’re posting. It makes sense why you feel like you’re burning out in your business because you’re forcing yourself to do things and post things that you don’t even like.
And on top of that, it also makes sense why your ideal clients can sense that in your content.
If you’re wondering whether your content sounds salesy and it sounds nothing like how you’d typically communicate to a fellow human being, then chances are, your people are feeling the same.
This is why I teach you how to develop your own unique thought leadership inside our programs. We coach our clients a lot by looking inwards and literally using their own brain to come up with what they want to be known for. And then we work together to come up with a plan on how to articulate exactly this to their ideal clients.
So many of our clients who have created results from working together would say that this is one of their biggest takeaways from working together. And it’s a big contributor to how they were able to sign clients, even if they started their business from scratch before working together. Or if they were already trying to grow their businesses for many months prior, but still didn’t see the results that they wanted.
This is also why I developed the Money Making Theory framework inside our curriculum, which is a framework based on the idea that your unique thought leadership, ideas, opinions, thoughts, and everything else inside your brain is not only of value to your ideal clients, but it can also make you money.
And it’s not based on any other business coach or marketers advice of requiring a specific type of content or saying things using a particular language to convert your followers into clients.
Rather, the framework is structured to give you a direction, but it’s flexible and you can adapt it to what you genuinely want to talk about and what you want to be known for.
All in all, when it comes to specific parts of your business such as your content or marketing, or maybe in general how you’d like to show up to your business.
My hope is that we can all be open to the idea that the value and impact of what you do is not based on how others perceive you or how many clients you work with.
Your worth as an entrepreneur, coach, content creator, or even human being isn’t, and shouldn’t, be dependent on what people think or how much money you have made in your business.
Why I really believe in this is because the way I think about it is, if entrepreneurs opted to start a business and do unconventional things, then why should they subscribe to conventional metrics of success or adhere to other peoples definition or expectations?
Shouldn’t entrepreneurs NOT want their impact and value and worth be measured by such “common” societal expectations or standards?
Rather, entrepreneurs help people.
For some, depending on the nature of their industry, creating something highly innovative is the goal.
For others, it simply means offering a solution that solves a particular problem.
Either way, the end goal is to help people.
If anything, I hope you view your work in your business through how committed you are to helping people. Even if you are building your business to make money, which by the way, is expected. Nothing wrong with that.
But I also want to urge you to consider how committed you are to helping people through your business in addition to the beautiful benefits attached to having a business, like more income, more flexibility, more career options, and so on.
How much you care about helping people has nothing to do with how much money you make or what people think of your branded photos or how clear your messaging is.
Only after I got clear on why I do what I do, was I able to put down my defenses and the need to look good or impress strangers on the Internet to want to work with me.
The way I want to build and scale my business is not through curating the best, most polished image of myself, but through my personal preference for taking my business to the next level. By being myself and letting the essence of who I am, my thoughts and ideas, my skills and experiences, be the reasons why our amazing clients choose to work with me.
Because I know how shitty I felt for so many years, trying to present myself in a very curated way. Striving after certain metrics or definitions of success that really had little meaning for myself personally, and just trying to impress everyone I met.
After doing so much of that, I’ve decided that within my business and brand, I will give myself permission to operate without the rules and expectations created by others. And instead operate out of my own reasons and make decisions from there.
I value being genuinely and honestly myself in my business, over trying to look or sound like what I think a successful entrepreneur is supposed to look or sound like. That’s important to me and how I want to build my brand and business.
This is why my conviction in my business is stronger than ever.
I think some people get bored of what they do and they pivot to something else. For others, their purpose in their work gets even stronger.
And for myself, I happen to fall into the latter camp and I cannot be any more grateful and proud of the work that I do as a coach, entrepreneur, and content creator.
This is a career I’m so immensely grateful for and I’m extremely proud to call myself a coach and podcaster.
So I want to take a moment to say thank you to those of you who are listening to this right now. Our work wouldn’t be where it is today without your support. Thank you.
Now, to wrap up for today, the last thing I want to say is that I find that people who become entrepreneurs do things differently and they think differently from those who never have the urge to start a business.
It’s not that one is better than the other, but there is a difference in the way they view the world and how they operate in the work that they do.
So that’s why one thing we all have to work on is untangling behavioral or cognitive patterns from our non-entrepreneurial days or settings. And being able to discern where those patterns may be helpful for the business and where it may not be as helpful or hinder our progress in growing our businesses.
I really mean it when I say that I think we all have something that can help others and therefore create a long-term business out of.
When we operate our business out of the belief that we aren’t good enough and hence we have to work even harder to compensate or just to be recognized for the amazing work that we do, isn’t sustainable for our long-term lifespan as an entrepreneur.
Instead, I rather all of us get really clear on why we do what we do so we can continually ground back to our work whenever things get hard.
I want all of us to really lean into our unique thought leadership and build a brand and business around who you are, what you uniquely bring to your niche or industry, and what you really want to be known for. Rather than what you think you’re supposed to be known for because EFF THAT.
Join Us in The Side Hustle Club Hybrid 1:1 + Community Program.
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Our program and curriculum is centered on 3 core skills to help you do this:
1️⃣ Becoming known for your unique thought leadership
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