Every year, I pick a word that represents the theme of what I want my year to feel like.
It becomes the north star of what I base my decisions on, and a way for me to gauge whether the ideas, partnerships, or effort I put in will bring me to the experience I want to feel.
And holy shit, feelings. As a girl who uses her logical brain as her weapon of choice most days to get stuff done, trusting my ‘feels’ was definitely more challenging than I imagined.
Even when I picked my word for 2016, I wasn’t sure if it was ‘strategic’ or clear enough to create my year with. Was it what I even wanted? What about the fucking plans and strategic maps that’s supposed to come with this?
But friends, sometimes what you want isn’t what you truly need. So, I’m glad I committed to feeling through my goals.
So I decided.
For 2016, my word was EXPANSION.
For me, that meant…
Expanding into more of who I can become, and trust my heart to lead the way.
Expanding my work to reach more people, trust that my only job is to show up and do the work, and let the ripple effect of that take me where it may.
Expanding my courage and face more challenges and fears I’ve been avoiding – I needed to trust that what I am learning from my struggles becomes my unique story of how I deliver my body of work.
Expanding to goals bigger than just me, and trust that the purpose of my work in the world deserves support and partnerships.
As you can see, trusting also showed up a lot in my year. Trust was part of the recipe for expansion to be present.
In order to create the feeling of expansion in my life and business, I had to do away with preconceived notions of who I think I have to become to receive success. Which meant that I had to shut out the noise of influences that didn’t make me feel good to get to my version of success.
This meant I had to stop looking at movers and shakers in my industry that did things in ways I didn’t jive with, and stop business pornography-ing all over their stuff, and keep my eyes focused on my own damn path.
It also meant pushing my own boundaries of what I think is possible. To show up even if I didn’t think I was ready, and let fascination take me to ideas to explore without the pressure of always knowing what they have to become.
Needless to say, 2016 was a huge year for me, and also one of the most difficult years because it challenged me to be brave. And to get to bravery, I had to look at some dark shit I had put in the backburner for so long, but absolutely needed to tackle to clear my path to being brave.
As readers of this blog, I know you too, want to be brave. You want to be brave to want the things your little heart wants. You want to be brave to do the things you know will bring you joy. You want to be brave to show why it matters for you to be alive.
“Without bravery, you will never know the world as richly as it longs to be known. Without bravery, your life will remain small – far smaller than you probably wanted your life to be” – Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Big Magic
As we roll into starting another new year with hopes and dreams of different kinds, I would like to share with you the things I’ve learned to get out of my own way, feel good about change, and be brave.
These have been my gifts to learn this year, and I’m honoured to share them with you.
(Read last year’s roll up – Why 2015 was my year of showing up and the 25 Life + Business Actions That Challenged Me to Step Up in 2015).
DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT
Coming from a family of Type-A personalities, perfectionism runs deep in my culture. My mother used to say, “Make sure you do everything 120% or you’ll never be valued”.
This came from the immigrant mentality when my family moved from Malaysia to Canada when I was 8 years old, where LACK was everywhere. Lack of jobs, lack of community, lack of money.
I was raised to think that everything worth having must be difficult. If you cannot PROVE how hard you worked, you didn’t deserve it.
So as you can see, that hard rooted belief can be hard to break. I see my perfectionism everywhere in my business.
Sometimes it’s been a gift, because my clients can see the quality of the work I produce. Sometimes it’s been a nightmare, because I would struggle with putting anything out there until it was ‘good enough’ in my eyes.
This year, my theme of ‘expansion’ required me to get out of my comfort zone and experiment with ideas that I want to do, even when I felt I wasn’t ready to do them.
I had to put things out there quickly to test them, learn to ship now, instead of waiting to get permission from perfectionism to allow people to lay eyes on my ideas.
But waiting until things were perfect is a standard that cannot get you to move towards your success. It is in the imperfections where you will see how you can improve your ideas, and grow as a human.
Putting your ideas out there in small stages of ‘done-ness’ allows you to receive feedback, gauge interest, and lets you feel COMPLETION, without waiting until your big goals are achieved.
You get to see things through. Complete tasks. Feel momentum.
Don’t fall into the trap of tweaking endlessly on your projects and never knowing.
Done is better than perfect.
“I have tried to embrace this motto and let go of unattainable standards. Aiming for perfection causes frustration at best and paralysis at worst.” – Sheryl Sandberg, author of ‘Lean In’ and COO of Facebook
Join my free masterclass – Create & Plan Your 2017 Goals
LET IT BE EASY
With my perfectionism, comes the belief that success needs to feel ‘hard’. Can you relate?
My history of climbing the corporate ladder came with an old story that I needed to sweat blood and tears to get what I want. After all, it was what I had to do to get to my promotions, be recognized, and earn the six-figure paycheck.
However, that old world is what I left. It wasn’t the world I wanted to play in anymore. Deep inside I knew that when I quit my job 4 years ago, those behaviours were not sustainable for my well-being. So why would I choose to play the same game in my new world of independency and freedom?
How would it feel if success can be easy? What if making money can feel good because I’m doing things that feel good? How can ease help me make decisions to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to things that came my way?
A great conversation I had with a coach I hired, Lisa Carpenter (yes, she’s a nutrition coach, but oh, she is so much more than that), was when I started talking about needing more systems and strategies in my business to be ready for 2017.
And she straight up said, “My god woman, no wonder you’re so all over the place right now. Just stop thinking and start feeling into what feels easy for you to want to do”.
She was right.
This simple idea of ‘let it be easy’ was probably the biggest thing that I learned, but not until the last quarter of my year. And to be honest, I was kind of forced into it.
I was travelling on the road facilitating workshops, organizing meetups, and speaking in Bangkok, Vancouver, and London for 2 months. Because of my travel schedule, I was limited for time to work in my business, which meant that I was working less than half the amount of hours I was used to for my business.
So, I had to really pick the right types of tasks to do for 2-3 hours a day that actually made the difference in what was most important to me for that quarter.
This resulted in 3 big things that became very clear to me:
1) Working less, but working best on the right things to stop doing all the things (I had the highest earning quarter of the year and worked the least amount of time).
2) I spent most of my time speaking and meeting people in real life vs. behind a laptop. I remembered thinking, “God this is easy. I can talk ALL day to these people but this isn’t ‘work’, right?” Wrong. The easiest work I was doing was the most impactful, and the more I did the ‘easy work’, the more clients I received.
3) Intimacy cannot be automated. A big value I hold true to my life and business is creating intimacy. I value this in my personal relationships, and also in my work with people. So why the fuck was I trying to spend all my waking moment trying to learn funnels, automation, and digital marketing hacks that the big kahunas in my industry were saying I MUST do?
I finally committed to ‘doing me’, which was to focus on powerful conversations I have with every individual I meet, and simply helping genuinely without the pressure of “Will they buy?”
All this felt EASY.
I didn’t say not challenging, because boy, I do love challenges. But it felt good. I felt like a big weight off my shoulders when it came to my marketing by knowing my version of marketing simply meant connection and conversations.
For now, fuck the funnels.
I am choosing to have better conversations and more powerful connections.
BOUNDARIES AND CONSTRAINTS GIVE ME SPACE TO HAVE MORE
Being a very social person and someone who is a helper at heart, it’s not easy for me to say ‘no’ to people. But selfishly, I have to admit, I also say ‘yes’ because I want to be liked.
But wanting to be liked doesn’t truly allow me to be there genuinely for people. It causes me resentment and frustration when I give away time and energy when I don’t have enough for myself.
Our cup must be full in order for us to give anything to anyone else, or we are just really causing a disservice to ourselves and to others.
Nothing is sustainable without boundaries.
One of my mentors, Todd Herman, the creator of the 90 Day Year, was really the catalyst to help me think about using the power of constraints and boundaries to simplify my life, so that I can create the head-space and time to make room for what I want to have.
You simply cannot keep doing what you’re doing if you want to make significant changes in your life.
Having boundaries does not mean to stop giving. Boundaries can mean that you can still give, but on the terms that feel right for you, without sacrificing your own priorities and wants.
So, instead of helping everyone that came my way, I had to set boundaries of what I knew were pre-requisites for people to work with me. What would I need to know to know that they are ready to be my clients?
If they were ready, I can give them my time. And if they were not ready, I didn’t need to abandon them. I have far more resources, blogs, and videos I can hand over to them to learn from until they were ready. But I definitely didn’t need to spend my working time solving their problems because my time should be reserved for my paying clients.
(By the way, if you need some help on how you can create boundaries in your work with clients without being an asshole, check out my video all about this here).
Boundaries and having constraints for me also meant I was trimming the fat with the tasks I think I have to do vs. things I really want to do. Limiting the number of ways I want to work with people. Focusing on three small goals instead of five big ones.
In my personal life, it was creating boundaries around the types of conversations I have with certain people I love. To be mindful that keeping healthy relationships meant having constraints on things I know they can help with rather than making people show up for me in ways I expect them to. This helped me manage my own expectations and not feeling disappointed about how I want people to be.
And by doing this, no one abandoned me. People learned to respect my time. I learned to respect my time.
You do not have to give everything you have and feel drained in order to be loved.
Think about your life right now.
What healthy boundaries do you need to feel happier?
What conversations do you need to have with certain people in your life, perhaps clients, friends, family, or significant other, where you can find a way to still be loving and giving, but in a way that also feels good for you
LET CURIOSITY AND WONDER LEAD THE WAY
This year, when I was out in the world speaking to burned out corporates and unfulfilled professionals about the first step to find a career they can love, I talked about following their nose of their curiosity instead of following passion.
Passion is too big of a word for most of us. It’s the things that sometimes we associate with the ‘thing’ we have to die with.
The truth is, passion is a feeling. It can be infused in all things we do in our lives.
Curiosity on the other hand, is a flexible feeling. It’s the feeling that tells us, “Oh that intrigues me”, or “I’m not sure why I feel pulled towards this, but it feels good”.
Curiosity is the real instigator, the first flame that sparks the fire of passion.
Trust your feeling of curiosity.
My journey for 2016 was also led by my curiosity. It started with…
The thought of being paid to speak is fascinating. I wonder if I would love speaking in public more often.
I wonder if I can be a published author, I want to hold a real book I wrote in my hand.
I wonder if people can be more inspired with stories other than my own.
I wonder if people would just come wherever I travel to around the world and work with me there, while we have fun in places I selfishly want to visit?
All this wondering came from my curiosities of what is possible. I may not know the ‘how’, but I definitely felt the feeling of my heart lighting up when I thought about these things.
This helped me achieve some of the things I thought I would do years later (when I was ready, remember?).
I spoke around the world, some free, and some paid. It introduced me to a whole market of real people needing my help. I connected with potential partners who I’ll be working with in 2017.
I crowdfunded my first book and pre-sold it to almost 300 people, which resulted in 13 publishers being interested in my book.
I sold out 80% of my spot for my Bali retreat in 30 days without fancy ads or complicated launch strategies.
All I’ve been proud to have achieved in 2016 didn’t start with knowing exactly what I needed to do.
A funny thing happens when you follow curiosity. People, circumstances, and things show up to guide you down that rabbit hole to outcomes that you may not have even imagined.
My eyes were more opened to opportunities. I actively sought out the people to have conversations about these curiosities. I kept the flame alive.
So dear friends, I ask you, what is your wonder?
How can you let your wonder lead you down the rabbit hole of curiosity, to ignite the passion which will then lead you to do your next big thing?
LEARN ONLY FROM PEOPLE YOU CAN SEE YOURSELF TRADING PLACES WITH
One of my biggest turning point moments when I finally decided I didn’t want to keep chasing the money and climb the corporate ladder was when I looked at my boss’ life and said, “I don’t want to be her”.
This truly helped me confidently go towards creating a better life for myself because seeing that version of success helped me realize that it wasn’t my version.
I take this learning into 2016 and beyond, because in the world of business, and especially in online businesses, there are so many people shouting at you on what you should do and shouldn’t do.
And none of them are wrong.
But what is right for YOU, may not be everyone else’s cup of tea. How you want to reach your success may not always mean you want to ‘crush it’ or ‘hustle’ till you hit the big numbers.
Maybe success to you is living comfortably (which may not need to equal six or seven figures). It’s about having more time.
Maybe feeling achievement in your career means working with a handful of people only without digital courses or passive income products.
I believe that my 2016 could not have been as amazing as it has been if I wasn’t learning from the right people who do life and business the way I want to do life and business. It truly helped me BELIEVE that the way I imagine my life and business can come true, because these people were shining examples of it.
These were people I can learn from, because I could see myself trading places with them.
It was a great indicator for me to pick them as my teachers.
Whatever your version of success is, be sure to pick the right mentors and supporters that also believe in that version.
This way, you are a part of conversations that you want to be a part of, and not feeling like you have to listen to everyone’s advice about what is right or wrong in the way you want to do things.
And let me tell you, there are going to be so many people wanting to give you their opinion of what works for them and why you should do it too. And there will be critics.
Or worst, people who constantly criticize, and just make you feel bad about things.
I had one of these experiences when I learned that some close family members were talking behind my back and were extremely perplexed in wondering how I was able to be successful without a big degree under my belt from a place like Harvard or Berkeley.
They thought I must’ve somehow tricked people on the internet to buy things from me.
Most of them think I’m still on ‘holiday’ and don’t have a real job.
And in these circumstances, Brene Brown’s quote comes to mind.
“If you are not in the arena getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback”.
The people that you perk your ears to listen to, or open your mind and heart to receive feedback from, are the people who you can respect.
People who have gotten their hands dirty.
People who show up courageously in the world and put their gifts out there.
People who aren’t afraid to get damn muddy in the face.
People you admire who have gotten to their success in a way that you believe in and share your value systems.
These are the people who deserve your time and listening ears.
Not people who sit in the sidelines and shout out mean spirited criticism that in no way help you along your way.
(PS: you have to check out Brene’s talk on how you can “reserve a seat” for the critics and our own self-doubt – it’s life changing).
So in more own preparation to do even bigger things in 2017, I have decided to hire someone who I know has gotten her ass kicked in the arena, fallen on her face, and keeps building her body of work.
When I connected with the one and only Pamela Slim (author of Escape from Cubicle Nation and Body of Work), I knew she was someone that I could absolutely do a ‘Freaky Friday’ with.
I can see myself trading places with her.
One of the biggest clues?
When she raised her middle finger in front of the camera during our first video Skype chat and said something like, “I’m 50, and I’ve reached the point in my career where I don’t fucking care what you think”.
My next thoughts was, “Pam, just take my money”.
THERE ARE OPPORTUNITIES IN YOUR FEARS
We have been taught for so long to avoid our fears. Who wants to feel pain anyway?
However, when we avoid the fears, especially when in our hearts of hearts, we know that if we didn’t have this fear, we could do everything we want, we never can learn what we are capable of doing.
And isn’t this why we are alive?
I am here to tell you that when you face your fears, you can use this hairy monster as a tool to give you clues to what your ‘next steps’ are.
Your fears hold the clues that are necessary to help you find the doors to your best opportunities.
Think about it. Think about the biggest fear you have right now. Maybe it’s not having enough money if you were to quit your job.
What then is the thing your fear is trying to hint to you that you must learn? What is it pushing you to get comfortable with?
Being self-sustainable and being in control of your earning potential, right?
This gives you direction.
It tells you who you need to get help from, what you have to learn, and what you have to do to get good with this fear so that you can move forward.
It’s telling you, “Yes, I can’t quit my job right now. But I can spend my time focusing on learning how to use my skills to make a living and being responsible for my financial future without depending on someone else”.
Your fears tell you the missing gaps of information, skills, or learning potential that you need to clear the path for you, or better yet, be ON the path.
And that’s all that is. There is a gap of something you must do, learn, and experience to get where you are now to where you want to go.
So what are YOUR fears telling you about these gaps you must fill? How can filing these gaps lead you to what you want?
Know that you can and will have it, because you are always in control of being who you need to become to have what you want in the world.
Who do you want to become in 2017?
A new year comes with new possibilities.
I would love to know what you want to create in 2017.
What sparks your curiosity?
What do you want your life experience to be like next year?
I hope you’ve enjoyed the sharing of my gifts I experienced for 2016, and I would love to hear about the gifts YOU received that is going to take you onto 2017.
Here’s to you stepping boldly and bravely into your new beginnings.