Here's the thing: why I don't give advice (or write click-bait blog titles)

Hey friends. How are things in your part of the world? How’s September feeling so far? I would truly love to hear how things are for you – isn’t that why we’re here? For connection and support?

I’ve been a business mentor and coach for over three years. I started off using “mentor” because it seemed to fit the blend of professional consulting and the encouragement I offer. More recently, I’ve been describing myself as a coach, because coaching skills have become a bigger part of my repertoire.

Two years ago, I completed Tara Mohr’s excellent Playing Big Facilitator Training, and I’m about to embark on some more coaching training with the wonderful Randi Buckley.

Now, there are plenty of coaches out there for all sorts of different areas. Health, life, creativity – you name it, and you can probably find a coach for it.

The thing I love most about coaching, and why I’ve adopted it to describe my work, is because I am totally committed to the idea that I’m here to empower my clients, not tell them what to do. It’s the belief that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to the majority of business challenges – at least not one that addresses our own unique situations.

Coaching is not advice-giving. 

In fact, I’m slightly allergic to advice. One my most hated things to see or receive? Unsolicited advice. It sparks all kinds of sarcasm in me! Because not only is this all about you, you’re not even thinking about me or what I really need.

Advice is what we (as the would-be advice giver) think is best. Even with the highest levels of empathy, advice is filtered through our unique and limited life experience. It doesn’t take into account all the things we don’t know about the situation, person or possibilities.

Often, advice also has the potential to be laden with “shoulds” and the expectation that someone trying to help now deserves us to follow through on their golden nuggets of advice. “Well, Sally told me to do that. She’ll be offended if I don’t at least try it.” Not helpful. Not empowering. (NB Sally isn’t a real person here.)

So I don’t give advice. I ask questions. I allow space to explore the situation. I offer support.

And I share experiences. This is subtly different to advice – and when I lead retreats and groups, it’s one I have to watch carefully. In business support circles, sharing experiences can be so valuable. “When I tried this, here’s what happened.” Positioning your experience like this makes it a piece of helpful information, but leaves the other person in total autonomy to make their own decision.

Sharing experience keeps it as your experience, not universal and unequivocal truth – which is often how advice is offered. You keep the other person free to choose the best decision for them.

It’s so easy to offer other people advice! Our care-giving nature wants to help.  Of course we do! Especially if we feel like we’ve really nailed a particular challenge. And I don’t want anyone to feel their experience isn’t valuable: it is so incredible helpful and supportive to hear others’ stories that shine the light ahead – people who’ve overcome problems similar to ours or are further ahead.

But let’s keep them as stories, not as foolproof blueprints for how others should run their businesses or lives.

Our culture is so prone to giving advice. And right now there’s a whole industry of bloggers offering tips and suggestions to help others – and the intention behind that is wonderful. But in my own online experience, I find it essential to have a high awareness for click-bait blog titles promising neat and tidy advice that’ll solve all my problems. Because honestly? There’s no possibility that they can dive into the subtleties of my experience. And so many posts I see use fear or scarcity to encourage readers to click through. There’s nothing like someone trying to convince me I have a problem I didn’t know about!

A recent example: “7 ways to have more boundaries between work and life.” Now, this is a topic I care about a lot. But there’s no way that there are only seven ways to develop healthy boundaries. And boundaries are so powerful and complex – in my experience – that a quick-fix list isn’t going to tackle the values, energy, practice, and self-worth it takes to tend to them.

Yes, these kinds of posts can be taken as inspiration. For sure! But I have to practice awareness when I come across them so that I’m not sucked into believing that the list (and advice) is comprehensive or appropriate for me.

Here’s my critical awareness checklist:

  • Does this post resonate with my experience?
  • Do the stories shared help me to understand my situation (or the situation of those I care about)?
  • Do I actually want the results this post is hoping to address?
  • What positive inspiration can I take from this?
  • Is there any fear, scarcity, manipulation or irrelevance I need to leave behind?

Here’s the thing: self-care around advice and online content

If you made it this far through the post, thank you! Thank you for listening and for giving your time to this post. I really appreciate it!

So what are the benefits to you? Well, I really want to share this idea that advice and feedback often tell us more about the person giving it than the person receiving it. In fact, Tara Mohr goes as far as to say that it only tells us about the person giving it. It’s always our choice whether we want to buy into their opinion.

(Meta moment: even as you read this post, you’re welcome to disagree with it or dismiss it if it doesn’t resonate with you!)

There is so much wisdom in the world, and the internet makes it more accessible. Hooray! But volume isn’t always the most helpful. Just because someone wrote a thing doesn’t mean it’s for me or going to help me. (And, most of the time, if there’s a click-bait, scarcity or fear based title, it’s already in the “nope” category for me.)

I’m learning to be more discerning about what I consume online so that I’m not feeding the depression or anxiety. It’s a practice – I have to remind myself every day. But today I offer this experience, and my opinion, to you too.

With love and much care

Jenny x

PS I’m planning to teach resilience and self-care around social media for business owners this October. There’s a teeny tiny bit of info here if you’re interested.

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


The Big New Idea: creative hibernation

Creative hibernationThis time last week, it finally hit home after weeks of anguish and confusion: I need to actively put myself in creative hibernation.

I’d kind of told myself that I wouldn’t be taking on new clients or actively promoting my mentoring services while I set up my content studio here in Cambridge. Well, somehow I still managed to have new clients to call, pieces of work to do, and plenty of non-studio stuff to do. I had told myself this, but I hadn’t really put anything in place to enable me to carry it out.

Then, I was in a spin, because a couple of mentoring clients, for their own different reasons, have paused or reduced their mentoring time with me. A coincidence, and something I know is all about them (because I know them and their businesses well), and yet, because I was relying on income from my current mentoring clients to sustain me during these building months, it hit me hard.

Here’s my thought process: Do I change course and start advertising my mentoring services? I’m pretty sure I need the cash, and I can probably handle the additional hours. [Insert breakdown here.]

Even the thought of taking on more work, investing in new clients, and thinking about quick-win money making threw me into some dark, deep layers. Because it would break me, and I’d feel badly about launching something new that didn’t have my careful thought behind it.

Just adding more workload is something I’ve inherited from other people – it’s not my natural way of working, and I know it doesn’t cultivate my best work. But the messages are so pervasive in the work culture. We compete with busy-ness. We hold our worth by how tired we are. Well, it really doesn’t work for me.

Adding more work would also be self-sabotage, which my fear of success is really invested in! The truth is that I’d delay setting up something new because I needed to make money now, and I’d keep doing that for 70 years, probably.

Here’s what has really helped me to stay committed to the content studio: accountability to other people (our trial photoshoot is booked for this weekend) and investing in the branding. I don’t want to lose the money or time or goodwill I’ve already invested in those two things, and I know that if I pulled out of either now, I would lose momentum, which would be twice as hard to get back later.

After some serious(ly helpful) conversations with my coach and others, it became obvious that I had to re-commit myself. Let me be clear: NOT EASY! I am still reining in the negative voices and the fears. I’m giving them a little space to be heard, but mostly trying to turn the volume down. That allows my true values to show through. The ones that believe in quality, thoughtfulness, creativity and courage.

Thinking about who I really am, how I like to work, and how this is a temporary situation helped me to decide to put myself in creative hibernation.

So what does creative hibernation look like?

  • An out-of-office on my emails, telling people I’m not available for new clients or projects until August
  • Proactive emails to people telling them I can’t work on certain things
  • Making a list of the things / people I am available for
  • Actively pursuing all things content studio as my main activity
  • Allowing myself to dive into the work, for extended periods of time
  • Giving myself a stricter bedtime (10pm) so that I don’t get exhausted

Giving this period of setting something up a name has really helped. I find it easier to tell people, “I’m in creative hibernation right now.” And let that do the talking. There’s no decision about whether to do a piece of work or not – I’ve already decided what I’m doing and not doing.

And I continue to develop my ability to trust. Trusting that this period of creative hibernation (aka struggle, blind faith, deep commitment and investment) will pay off. That clients won’t forget that I offer mentoring, and that I’m really good at it. That this is temporary.

It feels so much better to be able to turn my attention to writing the stuff that needs writing, organise the stuff that needs to happen, and developing relationships with the people who are going to help.

Oh, and photoshoot this weekend! I mean, that’s going to be fun to share…


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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.