The Big New Idea: the need for courage and clarity

courage and clarityHi, my name is Jenny, and I’m mostly tired and not entirely sure what I’m doing.

Not necessarily what you’d expect to hear from a business mentor and coach, right? Being mostly tired and uncertain may not sound like what you want from a person whose job it is to help you run your business better.

I have turned these truths – that I’m tired, and that that might not be my best ever marketing message – over in my mind many times in the last few weeks. I thought maybe I’d just have an unintentional break from blogging while I’m in the difficult, murky work of setting up Copper Boom Studio (LIMITED!!), and then re-emerge when it’s all shiny and functional and awesome.

But then I realised that it didn’t feel right.

So many of my favourite writers and people do it differently. They share while they’re going through The Hard Stuff, rather than just looking back at it when they feel sane again. Elizabeth Gilbert continues to do it so elegantly and evocatively. Glennon Melton Doyle warriors on through difficult times. Brene Brown talks about this as an important step in Rising Strong.

So I knew I had to write about my progress, even though I don’t feel clear or enthusiastic. I had to share this messiness, in order to be as authentic as I believe myself to be.

Since I last wrote (over a month ago), here’s what’s happened:

  • Copper Boom became a limited company (yay!)
  • I got a loan to grow the business by moving into premises and adding people to the business (yay!)
  • The process of commercial lease and lawyer and long waits began (yay, and also bleurgh)

I’ve been, in turn, wildly excited and amazed at what I’m building, and then completely overwhelmed by what I need to achieve.

There have been tears, and moments when I’ve said, “I just can’t,” and, “I don’t know what to do” over and over again. I’ve shouted at my partner, as he tries to help me figure out what to do next, “Everything is important. There’s nothing that I can de-prioritise.” Yep. Glamorous moments.

These moments are when I ask (myself? some mysterious higher power?) for courage and clarity. For glimmers of hope, and for the way ahead. Because sometimes that’s all I can do. The weird thing is, once I sit and ask for clarity on something, it usually comes. Not because I sit there puzzling over it like a Sudoku, but because I stop thinking about it and follow my instincts instead.

After the “everything is important” conversation, I stomped out, walked around, had tea, and then realised that Ryan was right. In fact, he had given me the key to my mountain of work, my paralysis. He had used the phrase “Mission Critical”.

So I wrote up another version of my epic list. I labelled things Mission Critical, Very Important, Important and Less Important. (Because everything’s still important, y’know?)

It helped. It helped me see that having everything on the first day we move into our new premises (and I don’t yet know exactly when that will be) isn’t actually essential. We can survive without all the furniture for a week or so. We can borrow a vacuum cleaner from home if we need to, at the beginning. This clarity helps. Let’s keep it to absolute essentials: sign the lease, have a limited bank account, make a box of kitchen / bathroom essentials. Do the rest later. Keep the short term truly short term.

And, as we’re not even sure when the lease will be signed just yet, there’s no point buying furniture and booking it to be delivered. I can move quickly on that tomorrow or next week, when I have more information.

Which reminds me of something my mum says: “Where you have clarity, make decisions.”

Even today, this Tuesday, I have said I’m struggling. I have hoped, out loud, for some good news, because there are so many requests and questions. I have questioned whether this studio, this business is something I really want to do. Please understand. I am doing this. It is happening. But I want to show you that I, too, like all of us, question things even when I know that they’re good and will be worthwhile. It is always messy. There is always doubt. Even the best business plans require change and adapting to fit the reality. Because no one in the history of the world has followed an exact business plan. Predicting the future is still elusive.

This is courage. To continue, even when I’m not sure of every step on my path. To pivot in a direction I didn’t expect to take, knowing that it’s essential to do so, not a problem.

Do I feel like I’m failing? Yes. Am I actually failing? No.

I actually feel like I’m developing experience, resilience, and empathy that’s going to help me mentor clients and support others in the future. It’s already helping. My existing clients (who have had more patience and understanding for me than I could ever have expected) have already said that they know I get it, because I’m going through it. (“It” being the challenge of business, of decision making, of juggling conflicting priorities all the live long day, of desperately wanting a conversation that isn’t about money.)

So I have hope that this is the essential middle. That this is part of the purpose of Copper Boom – to teach me how to get through this building phase.

Two phrases spring to mind:

This too shall pass


The only way out is through

I will keep going. I don’t yet know what I’m going to do once I post this, but I know that one small step after another will get me through.

Before I sign off, it feels important to say, if I’ve let you down recently, I’m truly sorry. If you’re waiting for me to get back to you about something, please accept my sincere apologies, and nudge me if I can still help. I will, at the very least, let you know when I’ll be able to respond properly.

Courage and clarity, my friends, courage and clarity.

Until soon

Jenny x


Here's the thing: in favour of the truth

In favour of the truth: be honest about how you feel for the benefit of your businessRecently, I popped a new logo up on my website. I really love it! And it got me thinking about the three words I’ve chosen to appear below my name: mentor, writer, and advocate.

I have so much to say about each one, but the one I’ve been pondering on in relation to this post is advocate.

I advocate for small businesses. I believe in them. I believe small is beautiful, and that small business has a unique opportunity to make a difference in the world. Don’t believe me? Note the unrest at Etsy about the pending Handmade at Amazon. Big corporates are now fighting over small business. Because they know they can’t replicate it.

So advocating for small businesses is cool, but I realised recently that I advocate for something more specific than that. I’m really an advocate for the emotional, mental and physical health of small businesses. I want to bust open myths of needing to be super productive, super organised, good at everything and otherwise perfect.

I want to encourage and allow you to be all that you are – and know that that is enough.

I want to be a beacon of light, letting you know that you’re not alone.

As a mentor, working one-on-one with talented entrepreneurs and designers and makers and plenty of people who don’t know how to describe themselves, I hear the truth. I don’t always hear all of the truth, because we all struggle with it. But I hear more of the truth then others do.

I hear the stories of struggle. I hear the cash flow challenges, the staff issues, the crises of confidence. I hear about the family health issues and personality clashes that take over working days. I hear the stories of day jobs that are soul-sucking.

I’ve heard so many of these stories that I can tell you everyone has them. No one is walking a smooth road, at least not in every aspect of their lives. That’s not what we’re here to do! We’re here to struggle and learn and get better.

And what I’m interested in at the moment is talking about the struggles.

We don’t openly talk about every struggle we go through, certainly not publicly, and that’s right. But while we’re worrying about coming across as negative, we’re bottling up a whole load of feelings and experiences that are affecting us. The longer we bottle them up, the more likely they are to come out in a big long stream of negativity.

I don’t want to encourage wallowing in negativity – far from it. I know there are plenty of negativity-breeding forums and places on the internet that aren’t productive.

But here’s the thing:

Acknowledging your feelings is productive.

Acknowledging that you’re struggling or worrying or feeling alone is vital. And it usually includes telling someone in order to fully acknowledge it.

It doesn’t have to be your business Facebook page. It doesn’t have to be a lot of people. I recommend that it’s not anyone you don’t trust.

Share your feelings with a person or small group who will:

  • see your struggles for what they are
  • acknowledge your feelings and sit with you in them
  • avoid trying to “fix” the problem immediately
  • keep it confidential
  • maintain trust with you, now and in the future

I know people, personally and professionally, who have a lot of struggle, but who shy away from sharing it because they don’t want to come across as negative or needy or failures.

And the thing is, they’re robbing themselves of getting the help and support they need. They’re shying away from admitting there’s a problem that needs attention. They’re keeping themselves small.

Women too often get labelled as “dramatic” or “needy” or “whiny” – which isn’t the case at all! And god forbid a man shows feelings that might be construed as weak or not having it all together.

Having feelings is not dramatic or weak. Bottling them up for too long so they come out as a huge long stream of unsolvable problems is unproductive and, in my opinion, unprofessional. When we dismiss feelings, shrug them off, try to pretend there isn’t a problem, we’re letting them take over. Which isn’t a great way to run a business or live a life.

Rather than trying to squash them, share them with people you trust. Rather than try to fix it with wine or chocolate or a bath, write down how you’re feeling. Get curious about what you’re feeling. Get down to the crux of it. Don’t censor yourself while you’re letting it out. Just let it be.

This is the step so many of us skip, for fear of being crazy or dramatic or weak. This is the step that allows us to actually process feelings, so that we can move past them. This is the part that makes us feel alone.

Please allow your feelings.

Please share them.

You know where I am if you don’t have another trusting place to share them.


PS My Small Creative Business Retreat 2016 is now open for booking! Now there’s a place you can be yourself…

Here's the thing: defining enough

HOW DO YOU DEFINE 'ENOUGH'When you’re working by yourself, in charge of everything, it can be really hard to decide when to stop working, when to finish a product, when to say ‘I’ve done enough today/this week/for now’.

This has become a theme in recent conversations with clients, and having also made some headway myself on this, I thought I’d share some guidance on how to define ‘enough’ for yourself.

And I want to caveat this post by saying that I, too, am walking the line a lot of the time. I don’t do this perfectly. It’s a practice. I’m working on it.

And let’s work from a place where we all know that cultivating the belief that we are enough – good enough, wonderful enough, worthy of love and belonging – is vitally important to our wellbeing as human beings. Practicing doing enough won’t get you there all by itself – you also need to work on the fundamental belief – but it will help.

So. Let’s dig in.

Contrary to popular opinion, I don’t believe that enough is defined by an external measurement. Or at least, that’s the way to madness. If someone else gets to decide when you’ve done enough, or when you’re a worthy person/business, you’re going to spend your entire life hustling for someone else’s approval. And, seriously, that’s never going to bring you happiness.

Defining enough by other people’s standards or approval might look like:

  • Being ‘enough’ when you force yourself to work 9 to 5 (or beyond) because you ‘have to’
  • Being ‘enough’ when you achieve a certain number of sales per week, month or year (that rapidly increases when you get there)
  • Being ‘enough’ when they like you
  • Being ‘enough’ when you’re featured as much as other people
  • Being ‘enough’ when you can say yes to every single opportunity that comes your way without struggling

These are just some examples. I think it’s important to note that defining yourself by a sales target is troublesome for me, because you’re ultimately relying on other people (customers, clients) to ‘approve’ of you, like your products, take an action that you can’t control.

And this is about defining ‘enough’ for you, within the realms that you can control, or at least significantly influence.

Last week, I announced on Facebook that I won’t be taking on any more clients until at least July. That decision was scary. I’d been thinking about it for about a month before I finally made the call. Yes, I was still scared when I put it out there. It’s brave. But ultimately it’s a decision that came with a whole bucket of relief, and has allowed me to feel like I’ve done enough each day since.

I knew that I was taking on too much work – way more than I could complete to my high standards. It felt like I was never at the end of the to-do list, that I’d never done enough at the end of each day.

So, I asked, what would be enough for me to do each day?

I’ve asked myself this before, when I started my business. But that was nearly a year ago. Some of the things I put in place still ring true, but my daily and weekly routines are much better defined now.

My daily enough has themes, but it changes from day to day. For example, on Wednesdays, I have three client calls, which is a lot for me. I have allowed myself to make those calls the minimum to reach ‘enough’ for that day. I don’t have to do anything else to have done enough. Sure, I often complete my notes as well, or get through some project work, or emails. But I don’t pile on the pressure to do any more than show up for those calls.

You might decide that enough is getting out orders for the day. Anything else is a bonus. Of course, you might get 50 more orders a day, and you can’t control that, so you might decide to define a number for yourself.

Here’s the thing…

How to define enough for yourself:

  • Set the bar low. If you expect yourself to achieve too much within a given timeframe, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
  • Focus only on the things you can directly control. I can’t control how a client is going to feel after a call. I can’t make it a success, or guarantee I’ll give them exactly what they need. All I can do is show up, without distractions, with an open mind and heart, with all my experience, and without judgement or agenda.
  • Do not compare yourself to others. Their enough is not your enough. You cannot see the resources they have available, as much as you might like to think so.
  • Start by defining enough for each day as it comes. Then collect the themes together. Sometimes each day or week requires its very own enough, rather than trying to cookie-cutter your enough definition amidst shifting circumstances.

Some additional questions to ask yourself:

  • How many hours would be enough today? I typically don’t force myself to start ‘work’ – emails, phone calls, projects – until 10am. I spend a huge chunk of the morning reflecting, setting up my day, so that I’m settled and fully present. Low bar.
  • What’s really, truly essential? Don’t let anyone else define, for you, what’s important to do today. Just because someone expects an immediate response to an email doesn’t mean you have to give it, especially if it’s not a priority for you.
  • How will you respond to the unexpected? If your child is sick and you suddenly have to drop everything to take care of them, can you shift your ‘enough’ definition? Because you won’t be able to do what you usually do. And you’ll still have done enough, you’ll still be enough.

These are really just starting points on how to define enough. I think it is an ongoing practice, and inevitable is a personal practice, too.

My hope is that you’ll start to think differently about what you hold yourself accountable to. Feeling enough is something we all struggle with, and some of us it’s a daily struggle, especially when we’re caught up in society’s standards of perfection and a very specific picture of what it means to be ‘good at your job’, or even acceptable.

Please start to shake off those definitions created by other people who have no idea what your dreams are, what your challenges are, what you’re capable of.

Imagine defining enough as something achievable every day, and being able to end each day feel like you’ve done it all. You wouldn’t have to worry about the things you haven’t done, spending precious energy on something you can’t control. Imagine all the energy you’d have to slowly, consciously, carefully, do the things that really matter to you.

For me, it’s about making a significant difference in the lives of my clients. If I’m too tired to listen properly, or too overwhelmed to remember what we talked about last week, I’m not meeting my side of the bargain.

What do you define as ‘enough’? I’d love to hear!



Enter The Forge

Life's too damn short to chase someone else's definition of success. I'm here to give you the courage and tools to forge your own path.