The One Thing You Need to Start Your Own Business

I quit my full-time, permanent job in mid-August to set up my own business. By the time I had my last day at the end of September (after working my notice period), I had been itching to leave for about 6 months. So, needless to say, when the time came that I could actually begin to tell people ‘I’m setting up my own business’, I was raring to go.

I had been sitting on something that I was so passionate about for what felt like forever; I was making plans and scribbling so many notes and ideas that I was filling up notebooks faster than I could buy them. The great part of all this is that I have a really clear vision of where I want my business to go and how I am going to get there. The downside? I have run out of patience.

I should say that I am not the most patient person by nature anyway. During my PhD studies I was constantly thinking about other things: what I wanted to do afterwards, what skills I should be developing, what else could I do to help myself along. I volunteered with a charity, attended courses for skills I don’t even use today, lectured students, published two papers, did public outreach, had my own blog (before this one), got engaged, planned my wedding, got married, moved house 3 times and got a cat, all during the 3.5 years it took me to successfully finish my PhD (my graduation is this Friday!).

This isn’t to brag; in fact, I know some people would look at all the things I devoted energy to during my PhD as a bad thing. They might think that I didn’t really give one thing my all and spread myself too thin over multiple things. What can I say? That’s just me. I overthink, I multitask, I work fast and (if I am to believe the evidence I’ve seen thus far) I work well. But the problem with being this type of person is that I have no patience. I underestimate how long things will take me; I overestimate what I can get done in a day, a week, a year. I am my own worst enemy and my best cheerleader. If this sounds familiar, keep reading.

One of the things I have realised is that when you are setting up your own business (or trying to reach any goal), patience is key. You have to realise from the outset that things take time, otherwise you will probably go insane. I’ve started to think of my business like a garden. Right now, I am planting seeds. All the things I am doing – marketing, writing blog posts, engaging with other people, networking, training – will not bear fruits immediately. But with attention and dedication, my seeds will start to sprout into shoots and my shoots will eventually grow into fruit.

You can do this, too. Try to see every day as a small step towards a bigger goal; every task you complete is you planting a seed. When you feel overwhelmed (because, if you’re anything like me, I am sure you will every now and again), try to break things down. Looking ahead and seeing the ‘big picture’ is great and really necessary, but it can be scary.

Write down what you can get done this week or this month that will go toward the big picture. Break it down into manageable steps. Plants your seeds and give your garden your whole attention: water it, feed it, weed it every now and again. But remember: the best thing you can give it is time.

Do you have any tips for staying patient when you’re trying to reach a goal? Let me know in the comments!

How To Achieve Your Goals

One of my favorite questions to ask on consultation calls is this:

What would be an amazing outcome for you in a year?

People have great answers. They want to own their own businesses, make partner, find love, make six figures, have great sex, and learn to love themselves.

I bet you have dreams you’ve been thinking about for years but never achieved, too.

Why not? Because you haven’t taken massive action. And that’s the tool I’m going to teach you today.

Massive action means acting consistently until you get what you want, no matter what.

Most of us are willing to take a little action, some minor action, or occasionally some major action. We’re willing to try one thing, or three things, or maybe five things at once.

Often when we think about trying to achieve a goal, we’re already anticipating failure. One of my favorite coaching moments ever was when a client sent me her business plan with the question, “But how do I know when it’s time to give up on this?”

She was entirely serious, and I love the example, because so often that is how we approach our hopes and dreams. We expect they won’t work out, and we plan to fail ahead of time. Even as we try a little bit, we’re assuming we will give-up and trying to figure out when.

Massive action does not allow for the concept of failure. Because you don’t give up. You just keep taking action until you get what you want.

What I love about massive action is that it removes all the pressure of trying to figure out what’s the best thing to do, if you’re doing the right thing, and what you will do if what you try doesn’t work. You don’t ever have to answer those questions, because all you need to do is keep taking one action after another until you have the result.

Massive action removes all doubt and fear. There’s no reason to be afraid, confused, or doubtful. You’re just going to keep taking action until you have what you want.

When you commit to massive action, there’s no room for self-pity. There’s no room for sulking, blaming the universe, feeling sorry for yourself, or bargaining with yourself about how much effort you should have to put forward. The “shoulds” don’t matter. Fair doesn’t matter. What other people do (or don’t do) doesn’t matter.

Do you have what you want? No? Then take more action. That’s all you have to know.

If you commit to this principle, it will change your whole life, no matter what it is you want.

Want a successful business? Massive action.

Want to become an ultra-marathoner? Massive action.

Want to be a Supreme Court Justice? Massive action.

If you want a family, don’t go on five first dates and throw-up your hands. Don’t go on 50 first dates and throw-up your hands. Go on 500 first dates if you must! Massive action.

The beauty of massive action is that it shortcuts all the negotiation and mental drama you have with yourself about whether you have done enough. There’s no point to any of that, because you’re just going to keep taking action until you get what you want. All you must decide is what next action you’re going to take.

When you commit to massive action, keep taking action, and finally create what you want, you’ll feel invincible. It sounds so simple, and yet 99% of people will never do it. Be part of the 1%. I know you can do it, because I did it, and the only difference between you and me is that I took massive action in my self-coaching, my business, and my life.

Kara Loewentheil is a master certified life coach and is behind the hugely popular UnF*ck Your Brain coaching course and podcast. This post was previously featured on her website 

Feeling inspired? Let us know in the comments!

Why Having Big Dreams Can Be A Little Scary

I am sure that most of us have at least one dream or goal. Maybe it’s to get a degree, start a business, make a name for yourself in your chosen career…whatever it is, I bet that at some point it has scared you. Why do our dreams scare us? Why is it that in one moment we can feel crazily excited and motivated, ready to take on the world and do whatever it takes to make the dream a reality, and in another moment feel the doubt creeping in – this probably isn’t going to work, how could I be good enough to to do that? – and see all the hurdles and hoops that you’ll have to get through along the way?

You can picture what it is you want in your mind, you know who you want to be and where you want to go, and you have some idea of how to get there, but sometimes it can feel like you’re standing on the edge of a cliff; you know it’s time to jump but you can’t quite bring yourself to do it.

Fear of failure, fear of not living up to your own (or others’) expectations, fear of ridicule. But what if we stopped focusing on the ‘bad’ possible outcomes and start thinking about the great ones? The amazing possibilities and opportunities that may come your way if you just believe in yourself and take the leap. Yes, maybe it’s a leap of faith – but aren’t most things in life?

So what if you fall down? You’ll get back up and try again.

This is exactly what I have been telling myself for the last few months.

I first had the idea for She on my daily commute to work. Like a lot of women, I have BIG dreams (and possibly a bit of an overactive imagination) which means I am constantly doing whatever I think I need to do to get where I want to be. In this mighty quest, I really derive a lot of inspiration from anecdotal evidence – blog posts, websites, podcasts, interviews – usually by women who seem to be kicking ass and who seem to speak right to my soul. I find that by hearing that other women are going through the same things as I am, having the same doubts and insecurities, it makes me feel like I am not alone.

Another source of inspiration is magazines – or at least they used to be. On a few separate occasions I have found myself in the supermarket staring at the wall of women’s magazines and not one of them had the content that I was looking for. I wanted proper articles I could get my teeth into that talked about the stuff I wanted to hear – how to advance in your career, how to build your reputation, look at this woman’s trajectory and here is how she did it, this woman did it her own way and you can too. I was sick of the endless fluff, the articles about diets and exercise that made me feel like crap and the lack of relatable content. I wanted to know about issues affecting women and what one can do to help, I wanted to feel empowered and proud to be a woman. In short, I wanted more substance. When I need inspiration, I look to Instagram and to the many female bloggers and vloggers I follow who tend to be girls just like me, who I feel I can relate to because we are all going through similar things.

I was on the train and had just finished reading a piece on a well-known website about having the guts to start your own business. But the piece was short, too short to impart any real inspiration or advice, and as I sat there thinking “BUT I WANT MORE“, I thought to myself “why not do it yourself?”. Suddenly, like a lightbulb, I knew that’s what I needed to do. What followed next was a rollercoaster; one minute I was elated, frantically scribbling down ideas and plans, the next I was overcome with a feeling of despair – isn’t this just like what someone else has done? Why would anyone want to get involved? Don’t I need to have loads of money to set something like this up? Why would this even work? What if it doesn’t work?  Everyday I would have this battle in my head – on one shoulder was my optimistic dreamer of a cheerleader, on the other was Negative Nelly.

It would have be so easy for me to listen to Nelly (she’s a bit of a regular) but instead, this time, I didn’t. I fought back and told Nelly where she could go – yes this may not work and I may fail. And in putting myself out there on the Internet and on Instagram I cannot do this anonymously so people will know it’s me failing, but what if it does work? What if I can create a platform for women like me who want ‘more’, who could really benefit from having a community of like-minded women to lean on for advice and inspiration?

So I took the leap and here I am. I really hope you’ll join me.


Millennials and Tech – Are We Really Digital Natives?

Reader, I’m a millennial.

I don’t think I’ve ever come up against a term so useless. But of course, that’s what a millennial would say.

Nevertheless, I am a millennial. Moreover, I’m a millennial with tech issues.

We live in a world which often moves at breakneck speed. We have 24-hour news services sending us breaking news alerts round the clock, on subjects as diverse as mass shootings, political sex scandals and Beyonce’s twins. Communications technology has changed so drastically in the last decade that if you’d told me in 2008 Twitter would a) still exist in 2018 and b) become a major platform for political campaigning and analysis, I would have laughed in your face.

Here’s the problem: things have changed so fast that there are vast number of millennials who, like myself, often cannot keep up. There are two very different halves of my generation.

And women are at a particular disadvantage.

We are hailed as the first generation of true ‘digital natives’. This is a bit of a misconception and, of course, it’s largely a Western reality. Most of us in the West can relate to Dolly Alderton’s frankly exasperating story of going on holiday to France only to sit in the B&B for most of it chatting on MSN. I never really got to take a family holiday overseas when I was young, but I do remember a New Year’s Eve exchanging MSN messages with my best friend until my mum shouted at me at 23:45 to spend some time with her.

Most of us have a good grip on online social media, because, during our adolescence, they were marketed to teenagers as cooler, more private alternatives to using the home phone. Akin to the musical and cultural freedom felt by baby boomers who had portable transistor radios, online services like MSN, MySpace and Facebook gave us our own space to experiment, cultivate and express identities largely away from parental influence.

Yet, in terms of actual digital skills – the kind which help through university and career progression – did we really learn that much?

Our teachers were operating in a system which knew it had to change, and fast, if kids were going to have any hope of functioning in a digital, globalised world. Unfortunately, teachers were often ill-equipped to teach us about coding, content creation and online safety because they were learning along with us. My school did not have a class on coding, and since I was at a relatively well-off state school, I doubt very much that less wealthy schools did either.

There is a divide in the millennial generation, even between those born in the early nineties versus the mid-to-late nineties. When I was leaving school, they were just implementing a student laptop system for junior high schoolers and thinking about more productive digital classes.

I am in that unfortunate group of millennials who missed starting my career when it was not necessary to know more than how to use email, Word, Excel and PowerPoint for most jobs, but arrived too early to make use of the educational opportunities to learn new digital skills. This might have been no big deal in any other era aside from the one we live in. Yet those millennials who began their careers before the 2008 global economic crash had a plethora of opportunities which no longer exist, and they got to take them with only a hint of how much the internet would affect the modern job market. Current job listings comprise a vast number of technologically-focused roles which did not exist before 2010.

This is not to remove agency from women who fit into this group. There are plenty of women who do succeed in tech, although not at the rate we should be. Most of the tech women I know are self-taught, or had to make the effort to seek out opportunities to learn beyond school and university because in many institutions we are not taught the value of digital literacy and coding until halfway through our job search.

Only 20% of tech jobs are held by women. One only needs to look at the deluge of sexist behaviour in Silicon Valley to see that tech is a notorious boys club. In an Observer list of gender problems in tech, it was revealed, amongst other eye-opening statistics, that:

  • Women own only 5% of start ups.
  • They earn only 28% of computer science degrees.
  • Only 7% of partners at Top 100 venture capital firms are women.
  • Women under age 25 in the tech industry earn, on average, 29% less than their male counterparts.
  • Women hold only 11% of executive positions at Silicon Valley companies.
  • In the high tech industry, the quit rate is more than twice as high for women (41%) than it is for men (17%).
  • In 2016, venture capitalists invested just $1.46 billion in women-led companies. Male-led companies earned $58.2 billion in investments.
  • Women receive lower salary offers than men for the same job at the same company 63% of the time.

74% of young girls express interest in STEM fields, so something is clearly going amiss here. The discussion of that subject has been, and will continue to be, the focus of multiple books and articles, so I won’t discuss it too much here. Yet the combination of a technological learning gap during adolescence and the cultural barriers around the tech industry combine dangerously to keep women out of careers. There is overwhelming evidence to suggest that for women of colour, the picture is even worse.

This is not just a Western problem – in fact, in the West we are lucky to now have access to a range of programmes to teach girls how to code, to subsidise digital skills lessons for university students, and to be able to at least know a few people who could teach us the ropes when it comes to coding or other digital skills.

Globally, the divide between the digitally literate and illiterate is finally having an impact on international policy. The UN now has a global framework to measure digital literacy with a list of competencies including the fundamentals of hardware and software, communication, safety, digital content creation and career-related knowledge and skills. While looking at the list, I noticed gaps in my own digital literacy, even in the career space I inhabit as a freelance content creator.

The theme of 2017’s global literacy day was ‘Literacy in the Digital World’. Recent data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) showed that 750 million adults (two-thirds of whom are women), including 102 million young people, cannot read or write a simple sentence. Immediately, this makes the world of digital knowledge and content creation inaccessible to 750 million people. As of July 2017, only 51% of the world’s population has regular access to the internet. Access statistics obviously differ according to geography with African, Middle Eastern, Latin American and Asia-Pacific nations at a disadvantage – and yes, women are still worse off since 12% fewer women use the internet than men worldwide, and this rises to a 25% gap in African nations.

In the West, and in a more acute sense globally, access to careers, economic development and social mobility are at risk due to poverty, generational differences and gender barriers. For women, the next step is to empower ourselves as best as we can to make space in an industry which lacks diversity. Where that cannot be done, national, regional and global government services have a responsibility to ensure that people, particularly women, can start to overcome their disadvantages through widespread computer and internet access.

So, looking to start? Girls Who Code, CodeAcademy and Skillshare provide affordable (mostly free) services to improve your digital skills. To donate to the global effort for an inclusive digital world, check out the Good Things Foundation.

It’s time to tell the tech industry the boys club is over.

Written by Ellen Macpherson

Do you code? Do you want to learn more tech skills? Let us know in the comments!