If it comes easy to you, it might not be your path
The world is changing. Having been in the world of work for eight or nine years now, three as an employee, three as an employer and two as a start-up entrepreneur I have never felt a shift on this scale before.
I wrote this blog sat on the train on the way back from London to Manchester. I got to London via Northallerton to see my brother on the way back from a marketing event in Glasgow on Sunday. I earn six figures a year as a consultant working on all kinds of projects from coaching and training through to marketing strategy and delivery. No-one works for me and I don’t have an office.
The business I run is called IX7 – it’s a coaching and consultancy practice that helps entrepreneurial individuals and business owners to set a really compelling vision for their lives and make it happen. What people don’t realise, and what I help them see, is that personal goals come first. I learnt that the hard way.
When I was 22, I left the world of work to follow my dreams by launching a coaching business. I failed and went back to work, skint and confused. Why didn’t that work? I asked myself. When I was 23/24, I left work again to set up something else, something that was easier and came more naturally to me – a marketing agency. In truth, it happened quite by accident and not by design. Broke, I’d learnt how to build web sites to launch my first company (my first attempt at a coaching company). The web site market was about to explode and I could build web sites. I more than tripled that business in size for three years running and I got up to just shy of quarter of a million in business by year four.
It was a tremendous feeling – I was in business and I was successful – but it wasn’t to last. You see, I’d made a fatal error. Instead of asking: “What do I need to learn, do and figure out to make a living from my coaching business, my dream?” I asked: “How can I make money in business?”.
There are lots of ways to make money in business and people have always said “it’s business, it’s not personal” but they’re wrong! It is personal. This is your life and the boundaries between business and your personal life are coming down day by day – after all they’re united by something pretty fundamental: you! This is your life and you deserve to love what you do. When you add value to the world doing what you love, you deserve to get paid for that too.
I had a moment in life where I realised I’d gone about it all wrong. I’d built businesses I wasn’t deeply passionate about to make money, as opposed to figuring out what was needed to make a living from my dreams. I’d compromised and hadn’t even realised it. It started to feel like I had a job again and I wasn’t happy but I’d built up such huge infrastructures that it seemed impossible to get out. What’s worse, I’d just borrowed £30k from the Funding Circle to fuel that growth and I had a £20k overdraft. Without those earnings, I couldn’t pay back what I’d borrowed. That was an awful heart-crunching feeling of dread.
What happened next was monumental. I’d been reading loads of books on topics such as spirituality, strategy and personal growth – quite a mix, I know! Somehow, I knew I had to stop acting out of fear, elaborating on all the terrible things that could go wrong and start acting act out of belief, focusing on all the things that could go right. What if I could make this work? What if I found a way to transition to my new dream life? What would that new life look like? What strategy would I need to execute? What can I do right now to get moving?
Over the next 6 months, I proceeded to sell my recruitment agency and started to downsize my marketing agency. I went from £30k – £40k per month in revenue, a team of 8 with plush offices in Manchester and Durham to a few thousand per month in revenue, just me and Alice working from my parent’s house in Northallerton. I spoke with my team and told them everything. I ended contracts with clients where it was in their best interests to move on and find a new agency. Where it wasn’t, I explained exactly what situation I was in and continued to help them, I still do. I love my clients and am proud to help them.
Meanwhile, I set about launching my dream business: the coaching and consultancy business you’ll know as IX7 and started picking up incredible clients, mostly in London. Not everyone could afford my time directly and so I launched a supporting brand – DARETOGROW – through which I started holding events where I shared what I’d learnt to growing audiences. I built two new web sites – IX7 being more focused on business services and DARETOGROW being more focused on individual growth.
I priced my services accordingly and things took off. In no time at all, I was earning six figures doing what I love – coaching, consulting, writing, reading, speaking. It’s a bloody dream…no…it’s not a dream, it’s my life!!! I work from home, or coffee shops and fancy hotel dining rooms all over the UK. I spend almost 80% of my time with the person I love and I set my own diary. I say no when I want and yes when I want. But more important than all of that I am doing my own thing, I’m living a life of integrity. I love what I do, I’m deeply passionate about it and I get paid to do it.
This is why the company is called IX7. ‘I’ stands for integrity. The ‘7’ is significant too. There were seven letters in D-i-g-i-t-i-a and seven people in my team when I first launched IX7. I wanted to bring my Digitia team with me into this new business but I couldn’t make it work. I tried but we all wanted different things ultimately and my vision wasn’t clear enough in the early days – IX7 has been an evolution. I’ll be forever grateful to Dan, Rachel and Sophie for everything they did in helping me make this transition. Alice too – but that’s a different story altogether! We all still talk and meet. I love my team – we’ll always be a team and I know that.
So, how did I do it?
The first thing I did was give in to my passion. I was always drawn to helping people grow – through writing, speaking and events. In Digitia (the marketing agency), I’d put on networking events so I could talk and teach people what I’d learnt about how to grow a business (who remembers Fresh Air Networking?). I’d hold motivational team meetings and insist my team read game changing books like Jim Collins’ “Good to Great” so we could talk about what we’d learnt as a team. I set projects to stretch us all the time…if you’re reading this Digitia team – do you remember Project Hedgehog, Project Butterfly? They were life changing for all of us – that’s when we were learning, growing, changing. With clients, I’d start out talking about marketing, sure, but we’d always end up talking about personal goals and how to make them a reality. My passion is empowering people to live the life of their dreams and it comes across in everything I do. From interns through to MDs of million pound companies, it didn’t matter to me: we’re all people and our dreams matter in equal measure.
The next thing I did was set a compelling vision for my life. I sat down with a pen and notepad on several occasions and wrote out what my life will be like in ten, five and three years’ time, in great detail. I’d fantasise about everything I wanted – the villa, the Mercedes SLK, the million-pound bank balance. I knew I wanted a book deal, I knew I wanted a coaching company, I knew I wanted to be the world’s leading transformational speaker. This is my vision, this is what I want and I will add all the value in the world to get there. I want to get paid for changing lives, nothing more, nothing less.
What I did next made all the difference. I wrote a plan for myself, for my own personal growth. What I figured out pretty early on was that these things wouldn’t come into my life until I’d grown into the kind of person who could have those things. Could I be a millionaire if I was spending more than I was earning? Erm, no Lisa!! Could I have a coaching practice if I was constantly networking for marketing work? Erm, no Lisa!! Could I reach my ideal weight if I wasn’t eating right and working out? Erm, no Lisa!! You see, you can’t have what you want in life until you grow. That means learning, reading, trying new things. It means building new habits and behaviours. It means change. I made those changes and my life changed forever. Now I know what people mean when they say millionaires will also be millionaires, no matter how much money they lose. It’s not about the money: it’s about the person. It’s their attitude, their behaviours, their actions. Money will always flow in to those people.
And this is why I’ve called this post “If it comes easy to you, it’s probably not your path”. Too often in life we do what comes easy, what’s convenient because we’re afraid to grow and change. Plus our dreams seem so big and ridiculous, don’t they? But we all have to start somewhere. I am so much better at speaking than I was a year ago – I’m getting better and better through practice and coaching and studying. I’m not the best in the world yet, but I will be, through more practice and more coaching and more studying. I’m prepared to go on that journey because my vision is so clear. The payoff is worth the time and the effort and the risk. This is what I want from my life. Just because it’s my passion and my purpose, doesn’t mean I have all the skills and knowledge – I need to develop those skills and acquire that knowledge.
As I said in the beginning, what people don’t realise is that personal goals come first. Businesses, jobs…they’re all just vehicles for helping us to live out our dreams: our personal goals. That is why I was always pulled back to coaching, speaking and teaching people what I know. It’s my passion, it’s my purpose. It never goes away.
What’s interesting is that the world has never been more open to this way of working: making a living from your passion rather than earning a living to spend in your free time. It’s all free time: it’s all your time. You trade time for money so you’d better hope you’re doing what you love every single day.