Having set up my business just shy of 11 months ago, I have come amazingly far.
In that time, I’ve gone from running £10 meet-up groups in a dilapidated church hall to hosting pitching workshops for global corporate players in London, New York and San Francisco.
A few weeks ago, I was in the EU training delegates to pitch their businesses to investors, and most recently, I hosted a conference to over 1000 delegates in Istanbul, where I got to introduce the 11th President of Turkey, firmly shaking his hand and giving him a little wink ofcourse!
I mention this not to gloat, but to highlight that I practice exactly what I teach. Think big, no half measures and….
ALWAYS GO FOR IT!
But I didn’t used to be this way….
I’ve played small for much of my life. I always had big dreams but was too traumatised to reach my potential, finally hitting rock bottom in 2017. My relationship ended, my father had a heart attack, my mother moved 3000 miles away and my best friend also left the country. Oh and my therapist decided to retire that year too. Losing my beloved pet of 10 years shortly after was simply the icing on the cake. Despair is an understatement. It was such a huge effort just to get out of the house. I had little money, a job I hated and a self-belief in shreds; I thought I was a failure.
Luckily, my younger sister picked me up and took me to Istanbul to cheer me up.
Sitting in our hotel room one evening, she looked me in the eys and said with absolute directness:
“Come on Amy, start your own business!”.
I’d been talking about doing just that for three years; however, I’d never done anything about it. In fact, I’d always found a myriad of reasons to stall. Classic fear-based procrastination.
So, my wise sister ordered strong tequila cocktails, and we both worked till the early hours; she on her investment stuff, me on copy for a new website. Was I a website designer? No. But I attempted to create one anyway. Tequila helps.
By early morning, I’d set up a company, bought a domain and finished my first ever webpage. I took the plunge and hit launch!
Now, that might sound easy enough. All I’m doing is pressing a button, right?
But it wasn’t easy. It had taken me years and plenty of heartache to get to this very point where I trusted myself enough to put myself out there in what felt like a major way.
Pressing launch was a BIG deal. We drank another tequila cocktail to celebrate.
And, to my complete surprise, from that point on, my business grew exceptionally fast. Not because I know any special business tricks, or because I have some secret marketing sauce. I don’t chat sh*t, never pump myself up and have a profound distaste for commercial hyperbole. And I certainly do not pay the slightest attention to self-styled gurus or “experts”. I’m actually quite introverted, which seems a mistake in a world that prioritises extroverts and blow-hards.
So, to what do I owe my rapid business rise?
I believed in myself. At last.
When the crap hits the proverbial fan and you think you’ve lost it all, what else do you have to lose? With a renewed sense of conviction, spurred on by my sister that evening in a Turkish hotel, I suddenly felt that there was nothing I could not do. I rediscovered the confidence I once had as a child, when I had this unwavering idea that absolutely nothing and no one could ever bring me down.
Sometimes, we don’t remember our own strength until someone who understands us reminds us of our potential. And, when my sister pushed me that evening, it dawned on me that if I could haul myself off the floor through some of the toughest moments in my life, then there’s no reason why I can’t make my business project a success. “One life” and all that.
Like most people, I have an inner critic that seems to enjoy tearing into me. Mine is particularly pernicious, born from a history of traumatic experiences that ensured my mind was wired to failure. However, I’ve also developed another softer, brighter, sassier voice that looks the inner critic square in the eye and laughingly says:
‘Oh please. Didn’t you get the memo? I’m in charge now!”
What I’ve learned is that our business success is directly connected to the quality of the relationship we have with ourself. The more you believe in yourself, the greater the risk you dare to take. And, with courage on your side and the inner critic firmly relegated to the shadows, you’re free to dream big and act even bigger without fear of recrimination or personal attack.
After years of living in fear of my own opinion – as well as the opinion of others – what a joy it is to no longer care. I can’t quite describe the freedom. And to think, I spent years hiding in the wings and even crying whenever I was asked to speak up. I would struggle to form words.
The more we can detach from our inner critic, the more we also detach from the judgements of others, and the freer we are to achieve our dreams, both business and personal.
And don’t waste time waiting til the day you deem yourself perfect. You’ll be waiting an eternity. If I had waited til I was “perfect” before I committed to any dream or action, I would still be sitting in my pokey bedroom mindlessly scrolling through Twitter and wondering why I exist. Instead, I was now hosting one of the biggest conferences in Turkey and introducing their 11th President – and I can’t even speak much Turkish nor pronounce his rather long name! Also – why were there so many men in black with guns? Seemed like if anyone was about to be shot, I’d be the first to go. And, yet, I soldiered on.
Lets be frank: I made a few “mistakes” in that conference. I stumbled over words, mispronounced everyone’s name and even walked into a wall. What’s worse, I was forced to go back out onto this huge expanse of stage at the last minute in front of a thousand people with the instuction to “just talk”. “Why?” I asked. “Don’t worry” they said. “The President is late, but he will only be 5 minutes. Just talk .. um…errrr… about talking …and keep the audience engaged!”
I had no speech prepared! So, imagine the pressure. Plus, would I be caught in a shoot out?
But, again, I thought “f*k it”, a mantra I seem to have adopted ever since I pressed “launch” on my ramshackle website over a tequila soaked night in my sister’s hotel room. I walked directly into the spotlight, stood centre-stage, looked my audience in the eye and, without apology, smiled… and launched yet again. This time into ad-lib.
What I noticed is that no one in the audience cared about my mistakes because I didn’t care about my mistakes. In fact, I welcomed every slight error with a mischievous glint. There is something so delicious about revelling in imperfection. It is, above all else, fun! And again, if there’s going to be a shoot-out, I may as well go out with a bang!
With this level of relaxation and poise on stage, I was miraculously able to connect with my audience of over 1000, mostly male, entrepreneurs from various arab states. My extra 5 minutes turned into 30 whole minutes of ad-libbing because, thank you very much, the President was late! Who knew I had it in me to speak for this long unprepared and unrehearsed. But if its sink or swim, what choice do I have?
The lesson: If you dare to go for it, you’ll be surprised at what undiscovered capacities you actually have. But you’ll never know it unless you “launch”.
So launch, people, launch! Don’t wait til you’re ready or til there’s a gun against your head. Do it now. With a smile on your face and a finger up to your inner critic.
Without daring, we wither in the shadows of our lives. We lose backbone. The inner critic wins.
Don’t let that be you.