When I created SheChanges nearly 18 years ago, I signed up for a course called New Ventures—a seven-week experience designed to help me take my rough and vague business idea and translate it into a concrete and actionable business plan.
At the time, I was feeling overwhelmed by the idea of leaving my cushy corporate job, and didn’t trust my instincts to deliver the goods. I was getting a lot of advice about what I needed to do and how I needed to do it. I was hungry for structure, accountability and instruction. I wanted someone to tell me how to do it “right”—I wanted to ring the bell and get a gold star from the teacher.
Back then, that was how I defined success.
How do YOU define success?
Have you visited that question in a while—or, like me back then, are you just defaulting to how WE traditionally define success (how much money we make, how busy we are, how many likes/followers we have, how many things we own…)?
It’s worthy of a reverent pause, that question, because holy WOW does mainstream thought highjack our behaviors fast, you know? Especially now when everything feels fast.
18 years ago all that mainstream thinking had me RUNNING FROM the corporate world. Everything about me wanted to be unconventional and disrupt the status quo.
I didn’t want to do it right, I wanted to do it differently.
I didn’t want to play more games, I wanted to Lael more.
I didn’t want to do research, I wanted to make art with my business.
I didn’t want to compare myself, I wanted to trust myself as a means to free myself.
So naturally, when I enlisted in this business plan course I bumped up against the rather traditional instructor, balked at the “how to” materials, and questioned everything at every turn in the road.
I felt like Judd Nelson in The Breakfast Club—all edgy, black leather, and stringy hair—sitting in the back of a class filled with Molly Ringwolds and Anthony Michael Halls. I was difficult, unpopular, and always got “spoken to” after class for disrupting, challenging and not going along to get along.
- I didn’t believe I needed to “steal” marketshare from “my competitors” because there was only so much room at the table.
- I didn’t believe I had to research what others were doing to know what I needed to do to position myself and my business.
- I didn’t believe there was a right way and a wrong way to create and run a business.
Was I being difficult and disrespectful? Was I getting my jollies by being contrary? Was I exerting my power by being disruptive and challenging convention?
Or was I listening to—and honoring—my instincts for the first time in my life?
Back then I didn’t know then what I know now.
That was before I discovered the books Rework, Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant, Attracting Perfect Customers: The Power of Strategic Synchronicity, or Fire Starter Sessions: A Soulful + Practical Guide to Creating Success on Your Own Terms.
That was before I realized that my corporate clients would be leaders that run their organizations like entrepreneurs….and my entrepreneurial clients would be bringing some kicka$$ corporate practices and business acumen to how they ran their companies. Like me.
That was before I wrote a couple of books about reclaiming and harnessing the power of a whole self—in life and in business, leading a different way (and not just the way), and what’s possible for ourselves and our world when businesses are run with unconventional beliefs and practices.
This is what I ran TOWARD when I ran FROM all those years ago.
It’s not that conventional thought or wisdom was bad or wrong—it just wasn’t the WHOLE picture.
There was a treasure trove of alternative thought and wisdom that had yet to be taken for a test spin and applied—and it was deep, wide and exciting as hell. Magically delicious, even, after eating my Wheaties for all those years.
And from where I sit today, I see so many people RUNNING FROM traditional companies and conventional organizations that are refusing to acknowledge this. They are leaving organizations in droves to reimagine their lives, work and business—they’re sick and tired of feeling like heretics and being burned at the stake. They’ know they’re not crazy, even as they’re scared sh*tless.
There is something to be said for rocket fuel that inspires movement…to the contrary.
I see it all the time with my clients—how some of the worst managers are some of the best teachers because you’ll never, ever forget how they made you feel and what you learned by witnessing the carnage in their wake.
You know what I’m talking about, right?
So yeah, 18 years later, I’m happy to report I have a kickass “business plan” that I revise every year…except it’s not called that. I call it “strategic magic”—it’s got conventional threads woven throughout my unconventional fibers, P&L statements mixed with rituals, analytics folded in with emotional mapping, and art blended with science.
I’m actually designing my own course for those entrepreneurs or business leaders hoping to march to the beat of their own drums more efficiently, effectively and strategically.
But for now, I’ll leave you with this: