[THE BOOK] Preface, Intro and Chapter One
It took me 10 years to write this book. Ten effin’ years. Fair enough, I had some ‘growing’ to do, but not that much! Bloody hell. Not so much that I had to delay one of my major personal goals for nearly a decade!
So why do we do that? Delay our dreams. Ignore the inspiration streaming through our consciousness? Put off the abundance that is available to us right now in this moment? I mean it’s like a back to front version of delayed gratification where we really do delay the gratification…forever!! Maybe I’ll call it denied gratification instead ha!
Anyway…I’ll tell you why we do it, seeing as you bought this book and it is kind of the point:
- We don’t really think it’s going to work so we don’t try – it’s just too painful to fail. I mean what will Roger from school think…(Roger who we haven’t seen or heard from in 20 years.)
- We really do believe we’re not good enough – ‘who am I to share what I know?’ so we continue to consume other people’s content instead of creating our own.
- We think tomorrow really is going to come – “Just one more day ‘catching up’ on my emails then I’ll begin”. LOL!!!!!
But what if it could work? What if it does work? What if we have everything within us that we need in order to grow into the person who can make it work.
What if we are enough? What if we’re ready now? And what if there is a group of people out there right now waiting for exactly what we have to offer? Because our story is unique and it resonates with them, now. Because our unique skill set is exactly their skills gap and they’re looking for us?
What if you took action today and put out your first sh*t version of the book, the online course, the event…YOU…in all your messy, authentic “THIS IS ME” glory?
Just, what if?
I’m typing this preface en route from Newcastle, UK to LA, California. I’m off to spend a week with my business coach Niyc Pidgeon along with a dozen other badass women on a mission to change their lives and change the frickin’ world.
The day before this flight, I was running around like a mad woman. I had a coaching call with a client, a discovery call with another client and a list of errands as long as an elephant’s trunk and I still hadn’t packed. FFS. (That means ‘for f*ck’s sake’ if you’re reading this mum.)
Upload that vlog.
Reply to my graphic designer.
Paint my nails.
Walk the dog.
Feed the dog!
Book taxi to airport.
Call my video editor.
Change the frickin’ world!
Sometimes I have to put ‘eat’ on the list because, you know. Life.
Alice, my beautiful girlfriend, had been asking me all day: “Lisa, will you come in the jacuzzi with me tonight, I’ve turned it on ready?”.
Now hang tight just a second. Yes, we have a jacuzzi…in an extension off our kitchen. We live in a beautiful, magazine worthy five-bedroom home in Tynemouth. There is a living room…a second living room (which we still need to buy furniture for), a guest room, we have an office each and Alice even has a yoga studio on the top floor.
Yup. We’re living it up…As of three days ago, that is ha-ha.
We literally moved two days before this flight. Because, you know…LIFE!
So, I finished up my last call at 8pm, got into my bikini and slipped into the hot, bubbly jacuzzi for the first time.
In that moment, everything stopped. The jets blasted my back with a water massage. The lights changed colour from pinks to greens and danced in the steam. The voice in my head stopped.
Sometimes I forget how busy our minds get. How much that ‘barking dog’ fills our head with worries and woes. Sometimes, you need the contrast of ‘presence’ just to notice how noisy you’ve let it become.
I sat back, looked out of the floor-to-ceiling patio windows onto the perfect square of grass in the garden and breathed.
I wasn’t thinking so much as feeling.
I felt abundant.
I felt expansive.
I felt like anything and everything was possible right here in this very moment. Like this life had been waiting for me the whole time. Like there was so much more available. Like each of us really can have, be, do anything we want in our lives. Now.
It’s the first time I really knew it in a physical, material sense, that anything is possible, and that you will always get what you ask for. Up until that point, I’d prayed for this life. I’d hoped for it. I’d worked for it. And I’d told everyone it was possible because I knew in my heart it was possible. I was seeing the signs: growing businesses, more freedom, peace.
Three years earlier things were very different. I was in the midst of a six-year stint of depression. I was £100k in debt. And I was lost.
Crying to the sky one day, sat on the cold bathroom floor of my parents’ house, I looked through the skylight, beyond the clouds to the heaven and asked in desperation: “There must be more to life than this?!”
Aged 27 I was running two six-figure businesses: A graduate recruitment company and a digital marketing agency. I hadn’t wanted either of those businesses. They’d happened, well, by accident.
You see, I’d always wanted to be a coach. I wanted to help people change their lives. I wanted to help people get what they wanted in life. But I couldn’t make it work.
Aged 23, I quit my job in London and moved home to build my first coaching business.
“Dad, I’m going to be a millionaire”, I proclaimed with confidence.
I failed. Miserably. And within three unceremonious months, I was back in work, embarrassed, knocked, bruised. It turns out I had a thing or two to learn about business, marketing and making money first.
Six months into my new job, I knew it wasn’t for me and I found myself a new job.
Meanwhile, I’d told a few people what I’d been up to. How I’d wanted to coach graduates. How I’d built my own web site using a book I’d bought in Waterstones. How I wanted to help people change their lives. Word got around and a woman in the business approached me in my final few days to ask if I’d build her a web site for her business. It came at just the right time. I said YES! Oh, HELL YES!
I worked for her for a month, building her web site, helping her with her brand and she paid me the equivalent to a month’s wages. It felt amazing! I just got paid, working for myself!
My new client recommended me and I picked up another web site. And another. And another.
Word spread quickly amongst business owners in the North East and before I knew it, I had to quit my new job in order to handle all the work in my business.
Things escalated quickly and it wasn’t long before I was hiring my first team member, and my third, and my eighth.
At the same time, I used what I’d learnt in marketing to relaunch my original coaching business…as a recruitment company. WTF was I thinking?!
Again, things grew quickly again. We picked up FTSE 250 contracts, took on new offices, hired more people. And to sustain the growth, we borrowed money to pay for wages, train up the team, buy new equipment.
To be honest, I got carried away in the buzz, the energy, the power of it all. It sucked me up like a hurricane and spat me out the other side.
There’s a name for this. My first ever mentor, a woman called Donna warned me about it when I was 22. She said “Lisa, be careful of the offers that come your way. If you say yes to what people offer you, you will go off course. It’s called ‘managed career drift’. Instead: Decide what you want and pursue that”.
Obviously, it’s the advice I never took…at first.
And so, by the time I was 27, I was depressed, £100k in debt and running two six-figure businesses I never wanted. I felt trapped. I felt like it was too late to change. I felt like my life was over and I’d wasted it!
I was 27 people, 27!
But that didn’t matter. I felt like if I died in that moment, crying on the bathroom floor, no-one would have known who I was; they wouldn’t have known the real me. I would have died alone with my dreams still inside me. A life unlived. A purpose unfulfilled.
Gabby Bernstein, an incredible and beautiful spiritual leader, once said our rock bottom moments are important. They’re the start of real transformation. And we should never deny someone their rock bottom moment.
So that’s when it happened – at my rock bottom moment. The Universe cleared her throat and whispered “She’s ready”, before smacking me in the face, punching me in the gut and shouting: LISA: WAKE F UP.
When I was 11 years’ old, I was sent to boarding school. Military boarding school. It had long been a dream of my parents to give me what they’d never had: a proper education. And so, in September 1997, when Spice Girls were on the rise and posters from Smash Hits magazines wallpapered most pre-teens’ rooms, I packed my case according to the list supplied by the school and went on my way.
Five white shirts. Tick. Five pairs of 40 denier navy blue tights. Tick. Two plaid kilts; one winter, one summer. Tick. Everything had my name sewn in. It was bizarre. My mum, who was a tailor in her early days, had sat down one evening and sewn in each label by hand. I know that every stitch hurt: she wasn’t ready for this and neither was I.
I remember looking down that list of ‘required items’ and feeling deeply sad, unable to explain why. It was an adventure, to be sure, but I’d just returned from two years in a French-speaking school in Canada where hockey was played on ice and Celine Dion was the pop princess – everything seemed back to front to me.
I mean who the f*ck was Baby Spice?!
What brought the first stream of tears was seeing my new hockey stick. Of all the things to be sad about, I was concerned about how I was going to hit the puck…I mean the ball…with this tiny, stumpy stick. My expectations of life were blown, and things were about to get worse.
My dad drove me to the school, took me to my bunk and made my bed. He introduced me to my roommate and before I knew it, he was gone. He thinks I don’t know but I saw the tears burning in his eyes as he sped away. “Be good” he murmured in his broken voice.
I ran back into the boarding house, straight into the toilets. I locked the door, sank to the floor and sobbed into my hands. Goodness knows how my dad felt, driving back six hours from Dover to Catterick that night.
The first week was tough. I laid in bed at night and listened to the other girls crying into their pillows. Every so often, the ‘Matron’ (our supervisor) would come round and whisper “shh girls, get some sleep”. In some ways, I was lucky. Jason (my little brother) and I had moved every two years as kids and so we knew what it meant to pack a case and move on to a whole new world, make new friends and feel alone. But Jason wasn’t here this time. I sobbed too, silently until I fell to sleep.
Bed times were scheduled each night and we were woken up every morning by a hand rung bell. We showered, dressed and went to breakfast in a dining hall (think Harry Potter) with the other 500 pupils. After breakfast, we did our weekly assigned chore – opening the curtains, hoovering the day room, tidying the shoe room – and went to chapel where we sang hymns and listened to a sermon.
Lessons took place six days a week – Monday through to Saturday. Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays were half days and the ‘free time’ was mostly filled with sporting fixtures. I was on a few of the teams, hockey and tennis, and I joined a few of clubs like horse riding and pottery (as you do!) and so my time was always filled. It was better that way.
Homework was scheduled in too – two hours every night after dinner. With life being so busy, we rarely had time to ourselves and even when we did, there was no-where to go to be alone.
On Sundays we did parade – full on military parade with a marching band, a uniform and ranks. We paraded according to our house and the sixth formers were our NCOs (non-commissioned officers). There was even an RSM (regional sergeant major) on site, who taught rifle shooting (I joined that club too) and continued the longstanding military traditions of the school. Each Tuesday and Thursday evening we did what was called ‘drill practice’. Come rain or shine, we’d file out of our houses every single week to line up and practice moving in military parade formation.
“Left, right, left, right” the NCOs would shout. “Straighten your arms everyone, lock them out” they’d ball… “point your toes, come on we’re not going in until you get this right” they’d yell, to smarten up our look. Things were competitive at school, and every NCO wanted the best house on parade.
I wouldn’t have minded the whole parade thing so much, but I had a serious disadvantage. I couldn’t straight my right arm. When I was born, something went wrong. I was two weeks overdue and was weighing in at 10lbs. My birth was very traumatic and both me and my mum came close to death. As the risked heightened, the doctors took emergency action.
It was too late for a C-section and my mum recalls looking over to my dad – who had pressed his body against the faded wall of the delivery room, white as a sheet and arms flat to the wall by his sides – and the doctor put his foot on the bottom of the bed, took hold of me by my arm and pulled with all his might. As he did, the tendons in my right arm stretched and tore. I was born paralysed down my right side and the doctors told my mum I might never recover. “It’s very likely she’s brain damaged Mr. and Mrs. Bean”.
My mum and dad had been trying for a baby for three years. When my mum was finally due to give birth, my dad had booked off his two week’s paternity leave (he’d been in the army since the age of 18) and had come home from Germany. I was two weeks late and so only days after I was born, he was on his way back to Germany, leaving my mum distraught, scared and alone. A day later he was back: “f*ck that” he said and came home. Go dad!
For weeks after my birth, the specialist physiotherapist came round to my nana’s house where we were all staying and work with my small, paralysed body. One day, after months of work, I moved my fingers and a miracle was declared. I think that’s why I was always so close to my Nana – we lived with her in those early days and she was there through it all.
As I grew up, I had operations to correct the position of my arm. They helped and I’m beyond grateful. My arm originally stuck out 90 degrees from my body, as if I was constantly about to elbow someone taller than me in the face. The operations rotated my arm so it sat closer to my side making it more discreet and much more functional.
Fast forward to aged 11, though, and things weren’t discreet enough. I hated parade with a passion. It was humiliating, pointless and painful. I dreaded drill practice every single day and it took place twice a week…but it wasn’t nearly as painful as parade itself.
On Sundays we went all out. We donned ‘military blues’ – a smart black uniform that was reserved especially for parades – with white shirts, white gloves and parade shoes we’d spend each week polishing. At 10am each Sunday, our NCOs would get us into formation, our hair bound tightly into buns under our berets which bore a family badge.
“AtteeeeeennnTION”, they’d shout and our heads would jolt up from the resting position, our arms would snap to our sides from behind our backs and our right foot would lift and slam down next to our left foot. It was pretty impressive in truth. The noise of the polished parade shoes slamming to the floor in unison could be heard across the school.
My problem was that my right arm wouldn’t go behind my back and it wouldn’t snap to my side either. It just sort of hung there, bent awkwardly and messily and it didn’t go unnoticed, not by me and not by anyone. How could it? We wore white gloves that seemed to shine out across the parade square, contrasting with the sharp black of the uniform. It was like a beacon: Look at her getting it wrong; standing out.
When everyone’s arms were behind their back, hidden from view, my right arm was on display attracting attention and I hated it. I remember, even now, how that felt during those formative years. I prayed to be able to straighten my arm and I hated that I couldn’t. I dreaded every single drill practice and parade and loved those rare days when we had to stay in to polish our shoes, and those even rarer days when parade was rained off. Brilliant!
I spent so much of my time at that school concocting ways to hide this difference in me. Tennis, trampolining, hockey, track, swimming. Everything seemed to make it so damn obvious. I so wanted to blend in.
And that’s when it happened: I formed a belief that was to hold me back for decades: “Blend in Lisa, standing out is bad Lisa, people will stare Lisa, you’re different Lisa, when you stand out, you let people down…”. I actually thought this difference in me would stop me making friends, getting a boyfriend (lol, like that mattered!), the works.
This was the first thing I learnt about change as I grew up: the stories we tell ourselves are just stories, but they are POWERFUL, definitive even. These stories (or beliefs) are not the truth BUT we take them to be true.
In August 2015, I launched DARETOGROW in Manchester – the dream business I’d wanted all along. We had 30 business owners coming to our launch event and I was doing a talk – my first ever motivational talk with paid tickets.
I was very anxious, not about speaking, but about being back on display, just like I was at school. You see, the messages I’d drilled in to my head on parade all those years ago were still playing in my head like a ticker tape of doom: “blend in Lisa, don’t put yourself on display Lisa, everyone will be looking Lisa and you’ll let the team down”.
I knew, this time, I had to face it and so I weaved the story into my talk alongside stories of Roger Banister and Steven Spielberg.
It was my first public motivational speech and I told the story in all its glory: the parades, the uniform, the white gloves. It was recorded and shared online and that evening I gave a huge sigh of relief. Voicing my fears like that, sharing my private story, was liberating, transformative even.
That story had held me back for so long. I’d always felt a deep sense of shame around not being able to straighten my arm: Like there was something wrong with me. Like I was ‘less than’.
Recently, I was the keynote speaker at an event with over 350 female entrepreneurs in the audience. I stood up, moved about the stage and told some stories.
After the event, I had a drink at the bar and met some people from the audience. One woman approached me and asked, “So what’s going on with your arm”. I explained the story. She looked fascinated and I could sense she wanted to reach out and move my arm to see what it could do. It turns out she was an energy worker and offered to work with me to help me straighten my arm. I laughed: “Wait, no”, I said “This is part of my story now. It’s my USP ha-ha”.
What I’ve learnt, you see, is that we all have an imperfection like this; an idiosyncrasy we want to hide or disguise with an elaborate range of compensatory manoeuvres. Often, it’s connected to a childhood or early memory: A moment when we felt deep shame, embarrassment, fear or abandonment.
Can you think of a similar situation in your own life? A moment where you felt shame or embarrassment or fear? When we experience those emotions, our fight or flight brain makes a bold leap. It makes the situation feel life threatening. And when the experience is painful enough, it makes a ‘command’ in your subconscious mind: “Don’t do that again, it’s not safe”. It forms a story that ‘helps to keep you safe from harm’ the next time…by playing small, by dimming your life, by shrinking into the shadows of your potential.
I’ve heard all kinds of stories from people over the years. It’s huge part of The Online Course I run; diving in to help people find the stories that’s stopping them from expressing their authentic truth in the world.
The problem is, we don’t even know it’s there. It’s subconscious. It’s a belief we literally hold to be true.
Jen Sincero says this best in her book, You Are A Badass:
“We as humans have a conscious mind and a subconscious mind. Most of us are only aware of our conscious mind however because that’s where we process all of our information. It’s where we figure things out, judge, obsess, analyse, criticize, worry that our ears are too big, decide once and for all to stop eating fried food, grasps that two plus two equals four, try to remember where the hell we left the car keys etc. The conscious mind is like a relentless overachiever; incessantly spinning around from thought to thought, stopping only when we sleep, and then starting up again the second we open our eyes. Our conscious mind, otherwise known as our frontal lobe, doesn’t fully develop until sometime around puberty. Our subconscious mind on the other hand is the non-analytical part of our brain that’s fully developed the moment we arrive here on earth. It’s all about feelings and instincts and erupting into ear piercing temper tantrums in the middle of supermarkets. It’s also where we store all the early outside information we get. The subconscious mind believes everything because it has no filter. It doesn’t know the difference between what’s true and what’s not true. If our parents tell us that nobody in our family knows how to make money, we believe them. If they show us that marriage means punching each other in the face, we believe them. We believe them when they tell us some fat guy in a red suit is going to climb down the chimney and bring us presents. Why wouldn’t we believe any of the other garbage they feed us?”
When we find the story, process it and reprogramme our minds with a new story, a story that will enable our success, anything is possible. Everything is possible.
I remember telling Alice about the shame I’d felt over my arm one day.
She laughed, look at me with love and passion burning in her eyes and said: “Lisa, that’s one of the sexiest things about you. Now pass me that book so I can see it again.”.
In preparing to write this book, I surveyed over 100 people to find out why they hadn’t already begun to build their dream life and pursue their dreams. 42% of people answered, “because I don’t believe in myself”. Why not? At what point in your life did you make a decision about your potential? What is the story you’ve linked to your ambitions?
The story we tell ourselves has the power to push us forward or tie us down. It’s all a matter of perspective. And this is what this book is all about: the stories we tell ourselves, how the limitations we placed on ourselves long ago are preventing us from bringing our magic to the world and what it truly takes to put out the first sh*t version of our truth to change our lives and change the frickin’ world.
PART 1: Girl, Wake up
Chapter 1 – Giving Up Your Inheritance
One of the hardest parts of changing our lives is often the act of giving up our identities: Giving up who we think we are. I mean we will literally start a fight to defend our ‘impression’ of ourselves. Even if that impression is self-limiting.
By the time I was 27, I’d built a pretty impressive reputation…on the outside!
Two six-figure businesses.
A growing brand.
Happy, optimistic, energised.
I was also quite quiet, introverted and easy going. I’d say “Yer, sure” and go along with other people’s plans socially because I never really made plans of my own. I went to that event, saw that show, ate that food. Even if it wasn’t my cup of tea, I didn’t have the courage to speak up. I didn’t want to rock the boat. I felt like I worked all the time and was lucky to have people around me who ‘let’ me do that, so I should be fair and ‘let’ them decide how the rest of my time was spent.
Is any of this sounding familiar?!
So that’s how I lived my life: Business, corporate, growing on the outside, trapped, stalling and frustrated on the inside. I mean I even ate meat…and I was dying to go vegan, literally!
I was living a lie. Not an outright lie, like my name is actually Laura and I’m Brazilian and I just told you it’s Lisa and I’m British.
No, it was more of a spiritual lie. Like, I wasn’t living my truth. Like, I knew I was made for something in this world but was completely ignoring that calling. Like, I don’t like chic flicks (unless Amy Schumer, Sandra Bullock or Julia Roberts is in them ha-ha) but sure let’s go watch one because I don’t value my own needs enough not to! (For the record, I’m an action / sci-fi kind of girl.)
It’s like I had a split personality: the side of me you saw (corporate, amenable, ‘gets in line’) and the side of me you didn’t (purposeful, hungry, a raging dragon ready to burst free). But how can you ever be happy, flitting between these two personalities? How can you ever find peace when you’re constantly playing a role in a game you don’t even like?
The truth is you can’t. Happiness is uncovering who you are, what you want and how you want to show up in the world and finding the courage to build a life around it.
The Sausage Factory of Life vs. Lisa Bean
Years ago, when I was twenty-three and setting up that first [failed] business – the 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.
For the 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. We need permission for everything!!!
‘The system’ is 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. She’d lost her ‘control over me’. But hear me out…
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…but why couldn’t I pursue what I loved? What I was good at?
Because the system is built for the masses, not the individual.
So 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 and I loved 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 from 1999? 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 (the main character) 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 from the Matrix, 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 Matrix 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”.
I even worked for a company which said ‘Only area managers can use black pens, every else must use blue pens’. I mean WTF?! God how I wanted to use a red pen!!
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. Use the blue pen like a good little worker bee!
‘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, wondering ‘There must be more to life than this?’.
And there is. The is a whole world of possibilities out there. But ‘managers’, ‘parents’, ‘teachers’ can’t show you it. You must go seeking it. You must find the courage to open your eyes and jump.
The Pain-Pleasure Principle
You might have seen the story that went viral years 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 and our community. When we are born, we are helpless. We rely on parents or our community 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. Defy our rules and we’ll cast you out!
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? Do we jump and build the parachute on the way down?
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. And your talk of busting out of here is making them feel very uncomfortable.
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…or worse: Fanciful, silly. 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 tells us that if we want to change our lives, then we must 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.
One of the most amazingly powerful principles I ever learnt is that I created my life. I am 100% responsible for everything I see in my life. I created it with what I know / don’t know, with the mindset I’m currently operating, what I did / didn’t do, who I know / don’t know. Doesn’t it make sense then that to get a new result I’m going to need new knowledge, a new mindset and new actions?! And wouldn’t it just be easier to ask someone who already has the result I want…”So, how did you do it?”.
It’s such a simple principle but it’s hard to accept because it moves us from ‘victim’ to taking full responsibility. It’s far easier to blame other people: Then we don’t need to change. But know this: You can change anything about your life ONLY if you take full responsibility for the life you’re creating now. If you don’t, and you remain the victim, continuing to dwell on the past, then you leave yourself powerless to change.
I remember sat in Alice’s mum’s house, reading Success Principles by Jack Canfield. And I was very upset.
At 27, I was £100k in debt. I just didn’t know about money. Well that’s not strictly true. I was taught about money. But I was taught the poor person’s version: Money doesn’t grow on trees, a good day’s pay for a hard day’s work, save, save, save and enjoy your money in retirement.
In the book, Jack Canfield says: “If you want to be successful, you have to take 100% responsibility for everything you experience in your life…This is not easy. In fact, most of us have been conditioned to blame something outside of ourselves for the parts of our life we don’t like…we never want to look at where the real problem is – ourselves…If you want to create the life of your dreams then you are going to have to take 100% responsibility for your life as well. That means giving up all your victim stories, all the reasons why you can’t and why you haven’t up until now, and all your blaming of outside circumstances. You have to give them all up forever.”
I got it immediately. Blaming my parents allowed me to play the victim. It meant I didn’t have to change. I couldn’t. But the truth is: My parents couldn’t teach me any more about money. They just didn’t know. If I wanted financial freedom, if I wanted true wealth and abundance, I’d have to learn for myself.
And so I did.
The Price of Happiness
There is a price to this growth, that isn’t financial.
In 2015, I decided to dramatically downsize my marketing agency. It cost me around £100,000 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. From that day forward, every penny I earnt went on survival and debt 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 f*ck sake”, I remember shouting. “F*ck 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 all over the North East and I had no idea how I was going to get to my meetings. I didn’t want to alarm any clients, I had to be there. I needed the money! But what I needed more was to change my beliefs around 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, your dad will bail you out’. I didn’t want to be bailed out. I wanted to change.
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, 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 didn’t 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, who show others what’s possible in their lives. 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? And you feel stuck between the life you’re living and the life you want. Between who you are and who you want to become?
The truth is: You’re on the path now. Your awakening is inevitable. Your new life is available. And to claim is, you must find the courage to let go of who you think you are; who they told you that you are.
To quote Wayne Dyer, you’re not a human having a spiritual experience. You’re a spirit having a human experience and you have chosen the EXACT circumstances you needed in order to grow.
You are being called, now, to shake off the labels, the expectations, the job title and rise up into the fullest expression of your truth. You’re being called to build a life around the purpose within you. You’re being called to lead. You’re being called back home.
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. But first you must shake off the expectations of others, put your hand on your heart, ask what am I here to do and find the courage needed to build a life around it.