It took 15 years of teaching, travelling, and consulting overseas, 1 medical evacuation from my posting in the Pacific, and multiple organ failure to make me realise something was going to have to change.
Organ failure, I tell you, it’ll do it to you every time.
If you’re reading this with no inkling as to what your strengths are, what you excel at, and therefore, what you should be doing with in your work life, you’re probably in a similar situation to when I was at my breaking point.
So you can borrow some of the wisdom served to me whilst my body was going through complete physical shutdown, to figure out how you are going to do it differently. #yourewelcome
How are you going to work so it doesn’t feel like work?
Well there’s a tutorial below that you can access which has an interview with a psychologist who specialises in career transition Nikki Smith; in it we discuss what how to find your strengths and what it’s like when you’re working in your zone of genius; the longer version of the story is in the article below so if video and a worksheet is more your style of learning, pop straight down to the bottom of this article!
If reading is more your thing, here’s my story – how I learnt the hard way – and how you don’t have to make the same mistakes I did!
Learn to listen to yourself.
Your body has an advanced warning system that will alert you when things aren’t right. Listen to it.
I’d worked in schools, colleges, for government, private enterprise, and big, small and family businesses and what I thought was the pinnacle of my career – aid and development. I’d spent the majority of my career travelling, learning languages, living in phenomenal cultures and getting paid to do what I loved best – helping people learn.
Although I started off as an English teacher, I decided to upskill so that I could start applying for the type of work I really wanted to be doing. It was then that the teacher training and curriculum development jobs started appearing, and it was there, where I could help others create learning experiences that really worked, that I first got an inkling of what I was meant to be doing.
Why had I run myself into the ground, constantly pushing, working and thinking if I did the singularly most amazing job of all, I’d be happy? Why was I hitting all my career goals and feeling so awful? My body didn’t feel happy. But I was at the pinnacle of my career. Why wasn’t it all coming together?
Why did it take me a medical emergency to reassess what I was doing with my life?
Don’t give up.
Don’t throw away years of experience just because you’re bored in your current job or your first idea isn’t a raging success. Upskill, do the things that light you up and doors will open where you least expect them to.
At that point, I’d worked for every type of organization possible, and travelled for most of my adult life, so I was ready to set up a home and build a community to really settle into. I didn’t want to have to keep saying goodbye on a regular basis anymore. Unfortunately, the job opportunities in Perth didn’t really light me up after the work I’d enjoyed abroad, so I decided to upskill again and learn about small business development.
My first, ragingly brilliant idea was to start a community; a hub, a place for people with skills like mine. This was well before the surge of online recruitment options so I went hard at it and the week that I was due to launch, the most prestigious university in my industry launched their online hub. The model was virtually identical to mine except for one key factor: theirs was basically free, and offered short trainings from leaders in our field all around the globe.
It stung, big time. So much effort had gone into building something I KNEW people would benefit from, but there was really no point in trying to compete with an age old institution who had 100 times the budget, connections and resources that I did. I knew the only sensible option would be to shut the business down and start over.
Then, I was hit with another wakeup call – but this time a much more gentle realization.
I realized that although I’d created a business that was definitely needed in the field, it wasn’t really ME. I was helping people (something I love doing), but I wasn’t really doing what I loved, nor what I was really good at. I wasn’t into HR, PR or sitting at a computer maintaining a database of other people’s information. The concept would still help people, but it wasn’t utilising all those key skills that really light me up. Teaching, training, having a group of people in front of me having AH HA moments. Helping people learn.
There was a fair amount of shame in shutting down something I’d poured my heart and soul into, put 18 months of work and thousands of dollars into, but with that also came relief. Relief that felt slightly disorientating but strangely empowering; that feeling of forcing that square peg into that round hole had finally abated. The slate was clean. I could start over doing what I should have always been doing from the start. Helping people learn.
Follow your gut.
Starting a business that helps other people is very noble and can be very rewarding. Doing what you love, using your specific skill set, will not only light you up, but also everyone who has the good fortune of working with you. Walking away from anything less can be the most uplifting thing you can do for yourself, and the people you’re working with.
The next chapter of the story is a variation on the previous one. You’d think I would have learnt by this point, but no.
I went on the advice of a well-meaning business coach who suggested I create an online e-Course, as that was going to be the fastest way to leverage my time and get the basics of best practice teaching and learning out to the masses. It was all the rage, all the cool kids had one. It sounded like a good idea at the time.
The problem with trying to leverage your time into a passive income product, is that you have to have the reach, the audience, the people salivating at your online door, ready to buy from you, by the time you’re ready to launch.
I knew this, so I dutifully and zealously followed all the launch “rules”. In the development phase of the course I did what all the cool kids were doing – I hung out in all the forums, was uber helpful to anyone who needed teaching and learning advice, I blogged, did webinars, and dabbled with Facebook ads and marketing techniques.
Can you guess how many courses I sold? Well, let’s just say I didn’t even make back 5% of what I’d invested in the website, the membership platform, and all the professionals I’d hired to make sure the job was done correctly.
Insert unhappy face 🙁
Kate Toon has written an awesome article about all the myths surrounding e-Courses. Check it out here if you’re thinking an e-Course is the next thing you’d like to create.
So what did I learn?
Don’t do what everyone tells you to do.
Don’t do what the experts will tell you is the quickest way to make a lot of cash out of the expertise, experience or skills that you have. Think about HOW YOU WANT TO SPEND YOUR TIME EVERY DAY. What actually gets you bounding out of bed in the morning? What brings you joy? What would you do every day if someone would pay you to do it?
I now know that it’s not hanging out in Facebook forums every day. It’s not tweaking and fiddling with ads that aren’t working. It’s not trying to co-ordinate a copywriter, designer and ads expert and pulling your hair out trying to work out why nothing is working the way it’s meant to be working. It’s not listening to the advice that tells you that you have to have an opt-in, a free Challenge, an e-Course, Mastermind option, Facebook group, private Facebook community, a presence on all the social media channels where your target market is hanging out.
I’ve got a new article out now that clarifies all this confusion: how you can leverage your expertise into a number of different products, and what all those products actually require you to do, be and have on a regular basis. Click here to read more and download the short training.
Moral of the story?
What I get out of bed for is creating change. I needed to stick to that.
And just for the record, my e-Course is now being used on a regular basis as part of my client packages, it’s just being sold in a completely different way. It’s having the exact desired effect I always wanted it to – demonstrating the foundations of best practice teaching and learning to other passionate professionals who want to create a quality online learning experience – it just exists without all the intensive hype and energy required to market, sell and facilitate live sessions twice a year anymore – hoorah! (So it wasn’t all wasted after all, silver lining to every cloud and all that jazz!)
And now, the top tip for finding work that doesn’t feel like work is simple:
Do. What. YOU. Love.
Do what you love doing, do it well, do it so well that your clients, and everyone they tell, rave about you and they love it to. And they love that you love it and you love that they love it. Do what you love.
Because, in essence, that’s the best marketing and advertising anyone can have, and it’s something that money simply can’t buy.
Create quality learning experiences, create real change in people’s lives, and you’ll be creating a referrals based business that simply sells itself.
And here’s the fairy-tale ending that somehow began with a medical emergency: I now spend my days doing what I love, working with people who are fiercely passionate about their fields, working on projects that are creating real change in the world. I get to use my systems brain, my cheerleading energy and the 20 years of skills I’ve accumulated, turning good content into learning experiences that have real impact. Yep, you guessed it, I’m finally back doing that thing that will always light me up: I’m helping people learn.
I rarely feel like I’m working, the ‘work’ keeps flowing and there’s really only one word to describe that feeling.
Do you have a little “voice” inside you should be listening to? Perhaps you’re at the end of your rope and ready to give up. Maybe you just don’t know what it is you’re meant to be doing yet.
Ready to find work that lights YOU up?
Awesome! I have two interviews that will help you – one is free, (no sign up required) with Ellen Ercolini – called – One good reason your business hasn’t really taken off yet – check that out here.
The other is with Nikki Smith, a trained psychologist who works with people exclusively to help them operate in their zone of genius. This lesson comes complete with her signature ‘Strength-finder Quiz’ will help you figure out how to create an ideal business for YOU, which is based on your strengths.
The lesson with Nikki Smith is available here.
Click on the above link to be taken directly to the Lesson. If you’re already a member of the Starter Pack, make sure you’re logged in! If you’re not, you’ll be redirected to the page where you can become a member.
This article was featured in Edition 10 of the ROOOAR Magazine, March 2016.