Chapter 1 – Giving up your inheritance
[This is an early draft but I couldn’t wait to share it. Please let me know what you think – firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d loooove your feedback.]
One of the hardest parts of changing my life was giving up my identity. After all, I had grown quite accustomed to it – as had my family, friends and clients.
I was the happy one. The optimist.
Creative, I could always find the way through. Inspiring, I knew how to bring out the best in people. Generous, I would share it all with you.
That was my identity and the world seemed pretty happy with that.
How would you describe yourself? Because there are two sides aren’t there: the side you show the world and the side you keep to yourself: your secret world. My secret world was dark and lonely. I was lost, sad and stalling. I felt trapped in the very life I had built to set myself free.
You see, secretly I was the sad one. I knew I was more than I was currently demonstrating to the world but I was trapped. Depression had tightened its grip on me and I had borrowed too much money in my companies. I wanted a way out but I knew any escape would be messy and destructive. I was too busy, anyway, encouraging everyone else to follow their own dreams to follow my own. I had shared my time, my wealth and my energy with everyone and had nothing left for my own rescue.
That was who I knew myself to be inside and I wasn’t happy with that. Not at all.
The Sausage Factory of Life vs. Lisa Bean
Years ago, when I was twenty-three and setting up my first business – a coaching company designed to help students land their dream job – I wrote a blog called “The Sausage Factory of Life”. Somehow I had realised very early on that we are all put through the same cookie cutter mould of education. The teachers know best, your parents make the decisions and it is all about getting good grades to further your education and eventually land a high-paying job.
It’s the system.
Things have changed a lot now, thank goodness, but for most of us this imprint burns deeply in our physical make-up: it affects the way we think, the actions we take and even the very beliefs we hold.
‘The system’ and expected order are there for predictability and control, which is probably why my French teacher was so upset when I skipped out of her lesson…and the country for that matter.
I used to hate going to French lessons when I was in college. In fact, I wasn’t much of a fan of college generally. I just never fitted in anywhere; I always felt odd. One day, feeling low, I just skipped out of school and told my parents I was going to Paris for a week. I was seventeen at the time, maybe even sixteen. I booked my flights and my hotel and I just went – all by myself. My parents tried to stop me. My dad said “I’ve always wanted to visit Paris Lisa, I’ll come with you”. But I was adamant. I was going alone.
When we used to live in Canada (I was nine going on ten), I had studied in a French emersion school for one year. All of the lessons and all of the interactions were in French. The only lesson in English was English class. When we came back to the UK I was fluent and much as I had wanted to take French instead of German at my new school everyone (the tutors, the teachers, my parents) insisted: “You must take German instead Lisa. You can speak French”. Of course it made sense in principle…
I wasn’t allowed to pick up French again until I was fifteen – some five years later. By then much of my vocabulary had gone and so had my natural way with verbs, but I still had killer intonation and my accent was bang on. It became an effort to speak French again but I was good at it.
Taking it on to A-level my passion for ‘studying’ French gradually waned and waned. I loved the language, the sounds, the culture but I hated studying it – it was slow and forced and no fun. I was going to fail; I just knew I was going to fail. Everyone said as much. And so, I took matters in my own hands, hopped on a flight and immersed myself in the language for one magical week. I visited the Louvre and the Pompidou centre. I walked up the Eiffel Tower. I ate out and ordered everything in French. I bought French papers and books, getting lost in the language. When I came back I was happy, confident and, well, fluent. I scored 81/90 on my oral exam and whilst my written paper let me down (I never did pick up the verb conjugations in writing!) I still landed a B. But what I got from that experience was so much more than any grade: I got myself back and I did it my own way.
Fuck the system, I thought.
The Red Pill
The system is not for everyone. Have you ever seen The Matrix? The film was released in 1999 and much of the plot is derived from a scene in which the main character, Neo, is offered a choice between taking a red pill or a blue pill. This cult classic is a sci-fi film based on the idea that humans are ‘asleep’, enslaved. The ‘Matrix’ in question is the world that has been created to keep the minds of humans docile while their bodies are cultivated for energy. Morpheus, a leader dedicated to the protection of Zion and the freeing of humans from the Matrix gives Neo a choice: “You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember: all I’m offering is the truth. Nothing more.”
In the film, the red pill would allow Neo to escape from the Matrix – to wake up and enter the real world. In contrast, the blue pill would lead to him staying in the matrix living in a false reality.
I love that film. It is the perfect analogy for what is happening in life right now – the great awakening. The beautiful thing about the analogy is Neo and the fact he even knows there is a choice – the fact he even knew to step back and ask himself: ‘is this it, does this feel right?’. I love that moment when he finally unplugs, looks around and asks: “Why do my eyes hurt?”. Morpheus replies: “You’ve never used them before”.
This is the power of perspective. One moment we believe everything we see, everything we’re told, and then something happens. We learn something new. We read a new idea. We are challenged. And suddenly we see anew – our eyes squinting as we use them for the first time in the new, altered world.
The film ends with Neo talking down the phone to an agent trying to prevent the change:
“I know you’re out there. I can feel you now. I know that you’re afraid… afraid of us. You’re afraid of change. I don’t know the future. I didn’t come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell how it’s going to begin. I’m going to hang up this phone and then show these people what you don’t want them to see. I’m going to show them a world without you. A world without rules or controls, borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible. Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you.”
Life has never felt right to me in ‘the system’. The system is built for mass production – mass schools, mass patient treatment, mass consumerism, you name it. And we’ve all been raised in it. To succeed in the system, you must play by the rules. You must conform. No-one wants innovation in the system, not really. Trust me, I spent five years outperforming every metric every company ever set for me and they loved it at first but it was not long before I was told to “slow down, Lisa” or “watch your step, Lisa”. There comes a time in your own personal story of development when your growth becomes too much for the system. Like a small potted plant, your roots begin pushing at the edges of the small brown pot they forged you in. They do not have a bigger pot for you and so you must slow down, stunt your growth in order to fit in.
‘You can grow, sure – just make sure you grow in line with my expectations of you and in respect of my own comfort zone’, so to speak.
For many of us, this is okay. This is the way of the world and we conform. We wait for permission. We seek approval. We ask before we try.
As for the rest of us, we wake up, we take that red pill and we get the hell out of there.
Only, it is never really as sudden as that. For most of us, we battle with this internal conflict for many years. In fact, some of us never make the move.
The Pain-Pleasure Principle
You might have seen the story that went viral a year ago. The story of the palliative care nurse who said that one of the biggest regrets of the dying is that they never had the courage or conviction to break the mould and follow their own dreams: to forge their own life. Instead, they toed the line and ended up living someone else’s life until it was too late.
I don’t blame them. Our values are engrained deep within us.
Science shows that we are driven, deep down, by one core principle: the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. We will do anything to feel love, acceptance and security: the pat on the back from a boss, the approving look of a parent, the societal kudos of a pay rise. And we will do anything to avoid pain: a scolding from parents, judgements from colleagues, the discomfort of change.
It is engrained deep within us. In fact, in most cases the only reason many of us are still alive is because of the love of parents. When we are born, we are helpless. We rely on parents or the system to feed us, clothe us. The more love we receive, the more care we receive: it is paramount to our survival.
This is how we have been raised and so it is no wonder so many of us conform to ‘group thinking’. No wonder so many of us are trapped in mediocrity: this is the herd mentality. Fit in. You will be safe with us.
It does not stop the question from popping up: should I turn my back on what I know, on the security of my tribe, and go in pursuit of something more, something different? This is perhaps one of the most painful and perplexing questions we ask ourselves as we grow and it is our true human nature to grow: to expand, to explore, to break free of the limitations placed on us.
For many people, this is perhaps the hardest decision they will ever face in life: do we stay put, grounded in what we know, safe in the life we’ve been given or do we break free, challenge what we know and risk it all to build the life we know we can live?
When these questions arise in us they seem ugly, clumsy and terrifying. We feel odd, different. Often, the first place we turn to resolve this inner conflict is family and friends: “I’ve got this idea”, we say. “I want to make a change”, we venture. “What do you think to this?”, we ask. Posing this question often represents the single biggest mistake we can all make. Unless your family and friends are great innovators, leaders, movers and shakers then you are almost certainly asking the wrong people. In fact, I am going to be so bold as to say that when the question first arises, you are almost certainly asking the wrong people. This is because we are an average of the five people we hang out with most. If you have been toeing the line for life, so have they. Don’t ask them – you’ll scare them, they will scare themselves and they will urge you to conform. The pain -pleasure principle will kick in and it will be game over for you. You will falter.
This is the one of the biggest lessons I want to teach people: your family, friends and colleagues – ‘group think’ – will keep you locked in mediocrity. Nobody means to hold you back and it’s not really their fault: they haven’t woken up yet, they don’t know you can choose the blue pill or the red pill. In fact, they do not even know the pills exist. They are in their plant pots, quite content to struggle away within the confines of the system and taking what they are given from the pre-set menu on offer.
No, the moment you realise there is a system and can check out of it to forge your own path in this beautiful world of possibilities it is already too late to ask for their advice. To them you are destructive, challenging, weird. They like their world. It might not be the best but they are safe, secure and happy in their own ignorance. Complaining about it means they do not have to actually do anything about it, I mean come on. You’ve heard the phrase ‘ignorance is bliss’ right?
Success Leaves Clues
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I have longed to go back to that state of sleepy discomfort. Take a ‘normal’ job and blend in. But it’s not possible. Once you are awake, you are awake – and you know it.
So, if asking your immediate network represents ‘the wrong choice’ then where should you go for advice or guidance instead?
Tony Robbins, a great life and business strategist (perhaps my first ever and my biggest ‘virtual mentor’) says that: “Success leaves clues”. In video after video he proclaims that if you want to change your life, then go and find someone who has already done it and model their behaviour. Copy them.
This frustrated me no end when I first heard it. I thought I did not have access to these people. I couldn’t just call up Tony and say: ‘Here Tony, can you teach me?’. But I was wrong, I did have access to him. We all do. Successful people, the really cool people who love personal growth, want to bring you with them. They are awake and want nothing more than for us all to awaken to the joys life has to offer ‘outside of the system’. They write books. They make videos. They create online courses. Immerse yourself in their teaching. Read everything you can. Watch everything you can. Whenever you are driving, listen to an audio book. When you wake up, read ten pages of motivational, instructional content. Be the change you want to see and it will come.
The Price of Happiness
There is a price to this, however.
In 2015, I decided to dramatically downsize my marketing agency. It cost me around seventy thousand pounds to extract myself from the business I had built from the ground up. You see, I had borrowed heavily in order to grow. When I wanted to ‘check out’ and start again the borrowing very quickly became debt I had to repay. To say I was broke would be an understatement. I went down to a salary of eight thousand pounds each month (I got eight hundred pounds or so in my bank each month) and most of that went on rent, food, bills and credit cards repayments.
One day, my car (a beautiful blue Ford Focus my parents had bought me for my 28th birthday) broke down. This was the third time it had broken down in as many months and I just could not afford to repair it – not this time. The garage wanted a thousand pounds to fix it.
At the time, I was living with my parents (I was super broke, remember) and I was fed up. “For fuck sake”, I remember shouting. “Fuck it”.
My parents were devastated for me. They were so confused as to what I was doing with my life, as was I in all fairness. I had just taken the red pill and was making the clumsy, lonely transition from my ‘old life’ to my ‘new life’. I did not have a clue what I was doing or where I was going. I just knew I had outgrown my plant pot and in fact I didn’t even want to be in a plant pot anymore! I wanted out and I was prepared to risk it all just for a taste of freedom.
“I’m going to buy you a new car”, my dad said to me.
“Dad, please don’t”, I implored him. “I don’t know how to handle money”, I said. “If I can’t afford a car on my own I will have to get the bus. This is a lesson I need to learn. Please, don’t buy me a new car.”
“Lisa”, he replied, “I’m your dad and I’m going to help you. You need a car and I’m going to buy you one.”
I told him five times not to buy me that car. “I won’t drive it dad, you’re wasting your time and your money. This is something I need to do.”
I wanted that car, I needed it! My clients were dispersed all over the North East and I had no idea how I was going to get to my meetings. I did not want to alarm any clients, I had to be there. I needed the money!
My dad bought me the car. A lovely little light blue Peugeot. He sent a text to tell me.
‘Dad, I’m sorry but I won’t be driving that car’, I texted him back.
He was gutted and he didn’t understand. My mum was upset and confused. “Lisa, we’re your parents, we can help you and we want to – why suffer when you don’t have to?”.
What they did not understand and what I could not articulate at the time was that the car was just another plant pot. That car was saying ‘it’s okay to spend more than you earn Lisa, someone will always provide for you’.
My parents are lovely and so kind but this is something they just could not help me with. I wanted to provide for myself, the Universe was serving up a hard lesson for me and I just knew that getting into that car would represent a step backwards.
We fell out for a few weeks and I caught a train and two buses to my client meeting the next day.
I have never been that broke since and I will never, ever be that broke again but to learn that lesson I had to upset a few people, break a few moulds and make a few crazy looking decisions.
In my new company, IX7 (soon to become DARETOGROW), I met an accountant at a networking event. He talked about business loans and overdrafts, spread payments and payment terms. I ran from him. That is the system – the system that keeps us owing, keeps us ‘locked in’ based on their rules.
When I first stepped out into this brave new world – “a world without rules or controls, borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible”, to quote Neo once again – I was terrified. I did not really know what I was doing. I just knew I had to go.
Lisa Nichols talks about this in her many online talks. “Sometimes, you have to leave your family behind. When you’re ready, you can come back for them”, she says. That resonated with me on a deeply personal level. She knew she could do no better for her family by staying with them. She wanted to make something of her life, then come back and share what she had learnt. Sometimes, you see, we ‘stay put’ because we feel guilty about leaving, about wanting more, about being different but it is the people who stand up and step out into the unknown that create the future. We are innovators, creators and leaders and the world needs us in all our glory.
Otherwise, we all just stand still.
The Light in You
You have that light in you, don’t you? That is why you’re reading this book. For inspiration, for permission, for confidence? I am not going to lie to you. There is nothing comfortable about stepping up and out into this new world. It is scary and it hurts at first. You can feel a deep sense of being lost because there is no map – you are your own map. But when the moment comes, when you finally ‘know’ who you are without labels, without accolades, without a job title you will know it’s all been worthwhile. You’ll know who you are and what you’re here to do and that, my friend, is an unshakeable feeling – it’s an energy, a life force. Standing in your power like that you know you have come home to yourself.
So, give up your inheritance – the values, the security blanket, the system, the very things that are holding you back – and go in pursuit of your own purpose in life. Look to your role models, read inspirational content, set goals. Look up and out, not down and back. This is your life and you are here to do something very special. We all are. But first you must shake off the expectations of others, put your hand on your heart and ask: what am I here to do? Your heart will tell you.
This is why I opened this chapter with the line ‘One of the hardest parts of changing my life was giving up my identity. After all, I’d grown quite accustomed to it and so had my family, friends and clients.’
Going through these changes is an awkward experience. I mean, how could I explain what I was doing or even who I was trying to become? I actually had no clue. All I knew was that for the first time in my life I was following my heart and not my head.