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The whole damn cake

A few years ago, I was in a relationship that – it turned out – didn’t really work for me. In many ways it was fun and exciting and adventurous, but something was amiss. The guy I was with was kind of aloof, and it felt like, no matter what I did, I didn’t get the love or time or affection I really wanted.

My coach at the time, Rachel Cole (whom I adore), is all about living a well-fed life, and she had the perfect food-based metaphor.

She said, “You feel like you’re gathering up the crumbs from under the table, when what you really want is the whole damn cake.”

Well. Rachel put words to something I had been feeling intensely, but hadn’t been able to articulate. I hadn’t even known I was allowed to want anything other than what I had. (This, for the record, is one of the moments that made me fall in love with coaching…)

In fact, it felt like I’d been wanting the whole damn cake my whole damn life: relationships, work, friendships, family, food – everything.

It wasn’t just this one relationship in which I was gathering the crumbs from someone else’s table. The metaphor applied to almost everything.

This was probably the moment I woke up from my frustration in my job, and started wanting to ask for the whole cake in my career (which brought me to starting my own business…).

I share this story because I’ve heard variations from my clients, too. They want the whole damn cake: the support they really need, the success they really deserve.

We can be guilty of making do with just the crumbs in our businesses as well as our love lives, thinking we don’t deserve even a slice.

Or maybe we kind of forget that there even IS a big old cake available, we’re so used to crumbs.

Like me in that relationship, we have to figure out how to ask for more. (And sometimes we have to go someplace else where they sell cakes, because it turns out that this place doesn’t have whole cakes available, or perhaps not the flavour that we really want…)

If you feel like you’ve been gathering crumbs, I invite you to grab a notebook or have a conversation with a friend, and perhaps consider the following questions and ideas, designed to help you ask for, discover, or even bake your own whole damn cake:

What does the cake you want right now look like? If you take the metaphor as far as you can, what do you want from the sponge, the icing, the decorations? What flavour is it? What ingredients does it use? What could these things mean to you?

When you see the cake, take the first bite, enjoy it over a few days – what does that feel like? What would be different if you went from gathering crumbs to having the whole damn cake?

How could you ask for the whole damn cake? Would it be asking for the help you really want, carving out the time to be creative, pricing your products appropriately? Or perhaps something else?

How could you learn to make your own cake? Maybe you’d learn about cultivating your audience and making your marketing really effective so that you get the results you want. Maybe you’d learn about scalable income or wholesaling your products. Maybe you’d learn about adding in strong foundations to your business so that it becomes really enjoyable and satisfying to run (aka eat!).

I share this story and these prompts because we all deserve to have the whole damn cake. We don’t need to scrabble around on the floor for crumbs, left over from someone else’s perfect cake.

My job is to take clients from feeling frustrated, feeling stuck, and feeling overwhelmed to feeling confident, clear, and courageous. Normally this requires heavy doses of defining success on your own terms – making up your OWN recipe, rather than following someone else’s. (You like the darker chocolate for the icing, right? Or the frosted rose petals? Or maybe a perfectly ripe, perfectly organic lemon drizzle…)

The cake, to me, symbolises more joy, more fulfilment, and having business and life in flow.

How about you?

Internal vs external input

There’s a note on my desk that says, “Where’s the helpful external input?”

It’s from my notes about personality types for my upcoming course, Making Better Business Decisions. For introverts who shun external input, or for those of us struggling to use social media as a positive tool, rather than a massive time and energy suck, this question feels important.

And it is important to understand why we sometimes crave external input, and other times run from it. Sometimes we just want someone else to give us the answers, and other times we want everyone to back off.

For me, positive external input includes educating myself and receiving help and encouragement. It might be a book, a podcast, a coaching session, or a pep talk from a friend. Sometimes these things don’t work, but I have a list of the things I know usually help on my noticeboard.

When external stuff gets in the way, it’s usually because it’s triggering comparison or negativity in me. That’s when I need to go inside.

In the world of social media and an internet full of advice, opinions, and a million self-proclaimed experts, it’s really easy to get caught up in what other people think, do and decide. It’s easy to compare yourself, to think you “should” do it the same way other people do it (whatever “it” is).

It’s also easy to get totally distracted by world events, arguments, politics, and despair. Not that these things are always distractions – sometimes they need our urgent and active attention. But when you’re running a business and avoiding your good and necessary work, they can be distraction of the highest order.

So. Where’s the helpful input?

Who are your trusted advisors and guides? Why do you trust them? When do you seek them out?

Which areas of your business require external education or input?

Which areas of your business are 100% your realm?

Do you need to dial up your external input? Or do you need to dial it down?

Not all external guidance is intrinsically bad (hi, I guide people for a living), but when we give all our power away to other people on the internet or in our immediate vicinity, we’re not really living our dreams or building the business we really want.

More soon

To discover more about how you process internal vs external input and other decision-making processes, stay tuned! I’m working on something good for all of us.

Here’s the thing: your sales aren’t shit

First, excuse the language, if it’s not the wording you’d use.

But perhaps you’ve said something like that? “Sales are so bad.” Even if it’s just in your head, if you’ve repeated a phrase similar to this more than three times, we need to talk.

I’ve heard it hundreds – if not thousands – of times from clients who are pretty low on energy, looking for a magic answer or at least some kind of good news. And, truthfully, I’ve been there, too.

I’m not one to sugar-coat things. I don’t like spiritual bypassing or anything similar. (“It’s not that bad! Just look on the bright side!” No, thanks.)

But this is where self-discovery and self-development are incredibly useful. Using awareness of what’s going on in our brains, we can change the story, and change the situation.

Here’s what I mean:

You’ve looked at a number, or several numbers, and something in your brain has said, “Sales are shit.” It’s such a clear and powerful message that you may have questioned it briefly, but it’s basically taken hold.

Then, because it’s not a great feeling, you’ve told someone else. “Sales are kind of shit.” And this person tells you they’re sorry to hear it, or that they’re in a similar position, and you feel not alone. Which feels better than sales-are-shit-and-I’m-all-alone.

So the mantra takes further hold.

And then when you sit down to write a to-do list or you’re thinking about your business, your brain is thinking from this “sales are shit” place. You feel desperate, or uninspired – both sides of the same coin. Maybe you have that frantic energy: you’re getting a lot done, but it’s not really changing sales or changing your mind. Or maybe you just… don’t do very much, because it all feels overwhelming and out of your control.

This story – one that you decided on in the blink of an eye based on something that isn’t the full picture – has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Want to get out of the downward spiral? There are three essential things to do.

Check the numbers you’re looking at.

If you decided sales are shit based on a two-second glance at a dashboard that doesn’t take your entire business into account, you absolutely need to dive a bit deeper.

If sales are down, you’re likely to be looking at turnover, rather than profit. Which is a false success metric, and is definitely going to give you misinformation about your business and your efforts. Track and look at profit as a marker of where you are, rather than assuming turnover is the same – broadly – as profit. (My business is way down on turnover compared to a couple of years ago, but my profit is significantly higher.)

Check the language you use. Clarity is power.

Okay, so as I said, I’m not one to sugar-coat the truth. Telling yourself things are fine when they’re not won’t help you to improve your business or your situation. We need truth. We need clarity.

But there are ways to phrase things that honour the truth without getting stuck in a story.

First, let’s get the facts. If you’ve looked at the numbers, you’ll hopefully be able to say something like, “My turnover is 30% down on last year.” Or, “My profit has dropped.”

Then there’s something to add…

“My profit has dropped, and I’d like to change that.”

“My turnover is 30% down on last year, and my profit is, too. I’m ready to improve my profit.”

Sticking with true statements, we want one that expresses something true about the situation. You’ve got a fact statement about the numbers, and then it’s best to add something that shares what you want to change. In a positive way, of course!

Get a new game plan.

With a more positive mantra, like, “I’m ready to improve my profit,” you can start to put together a more proactive game plan.

The thing about the “sales are shit” mantra is that it keeps you stuck. You can also get stuck with a positive mantra (even if it’s amazing), if there’s no action that relates to it.

So if you truly are ready to change your profit levels or improve your enjoyment levels, it’s time to get creative about how you want to do that.

I’m pretty clear on something: most business women I know can come up with 3-10 great actions to take if they have half an hour and a positive environment to picture possibilities.

Maybe it’s creative ways to reduce your costs and streamline things. Maybe you can create a more efficient way of fulfilling orders. Maybe (and I say this with many years of experience) you need to put your prices up.

You don’t have to change your entire business overnight. But find a starting place. The second part of your new mantra should encapsulate the way you want to feel, say, a year from now.

When you write your next to do list, include something that is linked to how you want to feel.

What do you think? Does this method resonate with you?

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