The other day, I woke up to a slew of messages on LinkedIn.
Congratulations! the messages said. You’ve been in business ten years!
What? I’d forgotten!
This is why it’s so important to celebrate, daily. Even the tiniest steps you take. Let alone the big milestones. Because you are building a solid foundation of faith for the inevitable up-and-down cycles of entrepreneurship.
The human brain is wired to think negatively.
It takes discipline and practice to think positively. To celebrate the wins, and to remember the milestones.
Why is this important? So you don’t stop three feet from the gold! Even if you’re in a summer slump. Or going through a business transition. Or simply swimming in some doubt.
I have an important message for you today.
Are you struggling to pay your bills? Do you owe some vendors? Did you lose some clients unexpectedly? Did you run a launch that didn’t work? Invest in a coach or conference with no ROI?
Maybe you’re at a low point. Maybe you’re sick and tired and all you want to do is give up.
You’re being tested.
This is your chance to keep your dream alive. You’ve got to want it, bad. You’ve got to declare your dream and your drive to see it through. You’ve got to plan and you’ve got to execute that plan.
I say this because I’ve been there, too.
Let’s roll back a few years, to a low point that felt like the business apocalypse. I felt exposed. Like my attempts to succeed were doomed. Who did I think I was? Of course things flopped and failed. What did I expect?
This thinking was soul-sucking mud. Psychic quicksand.
I couldn’t stand how I felt. Quit, said my mind. Go ahead and stop. You know you’ve gone as far as you can go. Don’t fool yourself.
Dangerous default mind, for some of us. Especially those of us who grew up with parents who gave up. Who quit. Who failed.
So I reached out to my business coach. My mentor. Left to my own devices and ‘stinking thinking,’ I would’ve sunk.
“Don’t quit,” said my business coach. “Keep taking actions. Stick to your plan.”
“But I don’t have any assets,” I said. “How can I keep taking actions when I don’t know if they’ll pay off? I don’t have a house, or husband, or some hidden family trust fund — or even any savings. I’ve lived most of my life like a starving artist. This is too risky.”
What I didn’t say was that I was scared shitless. I’d made more money and lost more money in the last few months of these early stages of business than in my whole life.
Then my coach said something that cut through all my whingeing and whining.
“You do have assets. Are you kidding? You have assets that so many people would love to have.”
He paused. I held my breath, completely baffled about what he meant. Did he see some bunker filled with gold bars I didn’t see? Was there a rich uncle I didn’t know about? A secret angel?
“You have creativity!”
For the first time in weeks of stress, I breathed.
I did know I was creative. But I had never thought of it as an asset. Especially not one that could help fuel a business and inspire cash flow. Or at least not in a sustainable way.
In the past it was always feast or famine. And in the end, the money was always gone.
“Listen. You have more creativity than almost anyone I know. Don’t you get it? That’s a renewable resource. That’s a major asset. No matter how low you go — you can always rebuild success. As long as you believe.”
So even though I’ve gone through incredible highs and lows since starting my business ten years ago, even though I’ve reinvented the whole business and shifted the target market completely — I didn’t see the forest through the trees. I didn’t see the big picture.
I didn’t realize I was sitting on a gold mine the whole time.
The anniversary of Writers On Fire reminded me of some facts:
1. I haven’t had a job in ten years.
2. Somehow, I’ve run a business that’s supported me and served a community for a decade.
3. I created my own economy, using my wits. My experience. My passionate love of helping to draw forth the authentic voice and deepest story out of you.
I feast on story. I thrive on unlocking other people’s light.
As a kid who watched her mother get handouts from her family, then go on welfare; as a kid who had to take food stamps to the local cash market to get groceries, I know from being stressed and strapped for cash.
I saw my mother — a gifted photographer and creative free spirit who suffered from chemical imbalance before there were good treatments for mental illness — locked into a victim story, one that could only end in poverty, powerlessness and tragedy.
It wasn’t until I took it upon myself to learn business that I connected creativity to cash flow. I was hellbent on rewriting the story, the one I was given. I knew it was up to me to break the tragic pattern.
Before that, I was stuck in a Starving Artist narrative. Creativity, imagination — that was something to clap for, admire, soak in. But not value seriously. People loved it, but they would rarely pay for it.
Now, storytelling is all the rage. Every business knows they need to master storytelling so they can cut through the noise.
It’s a golden age for creatives.
It’s our time.
It’s your time.
Ink runs through my veins.
When I hurt, I bleed on the page.
Every day, I pay attention to what breaks my heart.
What captures my attention.
What makes me laugh.
What makes me rage.
What makes me cry.
There’s always one thing that leaps out.
That’s what I write about and share with you.
So when I recently cooked up a new program for this fall, I named it The Ink 500 Club.
“Where creative writing fire and cash flow meet.”
It is a celebration of creativity and community. An incubator for the budding creative entrepreneur or the seasoned author, speaker, coach or entrepreneur who wants to deepen their creative mindset practice and improve their writing while bringing home the bacon.
Sure, it’s a play on Inc. 500.
Instead of Incorporated, Ink points to something more visceral, more powerful.
Something we can all tap. Regardless of our backgrounds, our privelege or our handicaps.
So don’t quit.
Don’t lose heart.
Let your creativity lead you to the gold.
Ten year anniversaries traditionally involve gifts of tin or aluminum.
The modern version of the gift is diamond jewelry.
Here’s my version of the gift, using creative license.
I hereby declare the gift of my decade in business a beacon to all of you.
Know that so much more is possible than you have even dreamed.
When you understand that you stand in acres of diamonds, that your own creativity and imagination are boundless, then you will keep on keeping on.
That is my gift to you.
Let the ink flow.
Yrs in truth,