Pushing past my comfort zone

The past three weeks, I’ve been working like crazy on Marie Forleo’s B-School program, trying like hell to figure out what in the world I’m supposed to be doing with my life — at least, my professional life. The rest of my life is up for grabs, too. (I’ll write about that in a post soon.) For the moment, I’m focusing on my professional self.

So basically, if I’m not at work or running an errand (or maybe — maybe — at the gym), I’m glued to my Mac and going through a series of really intense exercises that have to do with starting and nurturing my own business.

Did I say intense? I meant to say I N T E N S E.

This course is pushing me past my comfort zone, in a good way. Luckily, the comments by other people in B-School show me I’m not alone in that. I see people saying they’re alternately feeling inspired and overwhelmed: recognizing that where they are right now isn’t where they want to be and seeing, in fact, that they can forge a path to get there.

I made a huge discovery two weeks into the program: I don’t want to start a business as a professional copywriter. Nope. Will do it for my 9-to-5 while I’m building my own business, but not outside of that.

I do want to keep writing fiction and nonfiction books as an author. I’ll never stop doing that; I love it too much.

What I really want to do for my own business is help “solopreneurs” set up their WordPress websites. I have quite a bit of skill in this area and am realizing more and more that people need a “non-techie” person to walk them through it. They want someone who speaks their language to help them. I love this business idea because it uses all of my skills, including setting up and running online courses (love that), writing (also love that), teaching (so much fun for me) and working with graphic design elements (I lose hours to photography and playing in Photoshop).

During this past week, I’ve done a lot to get this business started and plan to open the doors in mid-May. I still have a lot to do, but it doesn’t feel like work to me. I get to create tutorial videos and lessons, and then I get to engage in marketing the business to people who really need help.

What’s not to like about that?

I have to admit something, though. With every step forward that I take, I still feel a twang of bittersweet grief, wishing that I were 20 years younger with more time to be who I really am, now that I know I can really live my life and not just exist within it.

OK, enough of that. It’s back to B-School. I think I need a cup of hot chocolate first …

 

A sigh of recognition

If you have read my latest posts here, you’ll know that I’m enrolled in B-School, an entrepreneurship program by Marie Forleo. We’re just finishing up the first week. Believe it or not, each week of the 8-week program Marie hosts 4 “live” office hours, where people can talk to her and ask their questions.

Yesterday, I attended all four hours. Although I didn’t ask a question, I learned a lot by listening to everyone else’s. And I might add, Marie has amazing stamina. She did two hours of solid questions, took a one-hour break, and then did two more hours. I was impressed.

One young woman’s question really hit home for me. She said, “As I was working on the exercises where we write down all the things we like to do, I realized that I don’t know myself very well. I don’t really know what I like to do. This has me worried, because I feel like I can’t start a business if I don’t know myself. It scares me, actually. What do I do?”

As soon as she asked that question, I literally heard myself let out a big sigh. All the years I spent locked inside the after-effects of trauma prevented me from learning what I really like to do.

I know what my skills are, basically. And I know that I have some hobbies, like photography and knitting. But I had the same problem when I did that exercise: What do I really like to do for my work?

I ended up answering it in the best way I could, which is that I mostly like teaching. I know I’m a good writer, especially when it comes to marketing copywriting. Do I like doing it? Yes, but only for clients who really value and appreciate what I can do for them.

Where does this leave me? During the past 3 weeks, I have spent 100+ hours working through the B-School materials and trying to come up with the best entrepreneurial endeavor for myself that I possibly can. As Marie said on the phone yesterday to someone else, “At some point, you just have to choose.” That’s where I’m finding myself right now.

What she said to that young caller was really good, too. She explained to her that this whole B-School venture is a process of self-discovery, and that the more uncomfortable you feel, the more likely you are to grow and learn something about yourself. And what you choose now may not be what you end up doing forever, so as you grow and change, your business can grow and change with you.

At my age, 51, I don’t have the luxury of time to try things that won’t work. I suppose that’s why I feel so much pressure to make the right choices, and it’s why I’m in this program instead of floundering around on my own any longer. All I can do is try, try, try to listen to that inner voice that still, too often, seems so far away.

There’s that sigh again.

 

Forged by fire

This weekend. I’m doing two things, and two things only: writing and preparing.

Writing: I’m dedicating one full day — 8-10 hours — to writing my next short story in my series. I’m going to publish it on Amazon Kindle sometime this month, and I’ve already plotted it out. Now, the fun really begins. I can’t wait to spend more time with my characters and send them on the next leg of their journey.

Preparing: Monday is the first official day of Marie Forleo’s B-School. Already, I’ve learned so much from going through the pre-course materials, it’s rather mind boggling. I’ve been sick this whole week and have had nothing to do but work on all this (fun) stuff. Today, after probably 60 hours spent this week on working through everything, I finally honed in on what it is that I can offer to people as a business. We’ll see if it holds up to B-School scrutiny. This weekend, I’m going to review all my pages and pages of notes one more time.

I’ll share more in the weeks to come re B-School. As freaked out and intimidated as I am about being in this crowd of (mostly) women entrepreneurs, I will keep going. What makes it difficult for me is knowing that if all of this stuff didn’t happen to me, I might have been one of them at age 30. Or I might have been a professor of English, or a big-time author, or a really fantastic mom, or all three of those things. It’s hard not to be sad and wish I could go back in time, start again, have my life: my real life.

glass blowingI remember getting a close-up demonstration by a master glass blower in Murano, Italy, a couple of years ago. He took a blob of glass and shaped it into a vessel that will probably last for centuries, unless someone drops it on the floor.

I feel like that sometimes. I’m a 51-year-old woman who is trying to recycle the pieces of a broken life into someone whole, forged by fire … but still fragile.

Feeling deaf & intimidated but pushing forward

In a recent post, I talked about enrolling in a fantastic entrepreneurship program by Marie Forleo, which starts officially this coming Monday. Even before then, however, Ms. Forleo provides a lot of “bonuses” that can help people make sure they’re starting, or have started, the right business. These materials are really, really good. So good, in fact, that I have a much clearer idea of what I want to do as an entrepreneur.

Sounds perfect, right? It is, except for one thing.

I’m totally intimidated by the other people in this class. By far, most of them are waaaaay younger than I am. And most of those younger women (they’re almost all female) have businesses that already look successful, if a website is any indication.

Yesterday, I read a blog post by someone who did the class two years ago. She’s in her late 20s, and she admitted that she was intimidated, too. I wish I could find the link to share with you, but in essence she said, “Right from the beginning, there’s a tendency of women in the class to start comparing themselves with everyone else. Some of the other students almost like to flaunt their success.”

I have nothing to flaunt, but I’m certainly doing the first part of that: comparing myself to other people and, frankly, feeling old, unaccomplished, inadequate, and like I should just give up. That’s the brutal truth. I have a better sense of what I could do as an entrepreneur,  yes. I know I have skills that people would pay for, yes. In the end, though, I also feel like I’ve missed my chance.

The only thing that’s keeping me going is that I know that this sense of defeat stems from the trauma I experienced. It’s not the real “me” talking. That “real me” has a voice, and I’m desperately trying to listen to that woman’s voice right now. She is very, very far away, though. In fact, the more work I do on establishing my own business, the more I feel like I’m falling into darkness. All I can hear in my head are those terrible, negative messages that were pounded into me by my ex-husband — who was an extremely successful entrepreneur.

Somehow I have to ignore what everyone else is — or at least seems to be — achieving and focus on myself. I’ll interact with others in the class, but I must continue to find my own sense of self and my own direction.

And most of all, I have to tune in to my own voice: the one that says, “I love you, Lucy. I believe in you. You’ve accomplished a lot already, and establishing your own business is the next step toward creating a more fulfilling life. You not only can do this, but you will do it.”