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Don’t Get Good At Things You Hate

masks-1548494-639x426A recent episode of This American Life (#598: “My Undesirable Talent”) told the stories of people who had become really good at things they regretted.

One of them was a guy named Zora, born to Ugandan parents and raised in Fresno, who went off to college and pretended to be an African exchange student. He did a whole Coming to America Eddie Murphy impression, first as a joke, and then, because so many people fell for it–and him–he had to sustain it for months.

He had fun with it at first–mainly because playing the extroverted, fun, upbeat kid from Uganda, he found, earned him far more friends and attention than he’d ever earned as the sole black kid in Fresno. He liked this newfound personality and character, and so did everyone else. He was beloved.

But, as you can imagine, he cracked under the pressure.

Forming real relationships under the guise of being someone else (in effect, mocking everyone you now call a friend) is, I imagine, a terrific source of stress. Especially when one of them was a girl he really liked.

When he finally broke character, his friends were thrown, but most recovered…except for the girl, who understandably felt mocked and betrayed. She was disappointed because he turned out to be, well, like every other dude. They were both hurt.

The whole thing kind of reminded me of Mrs. Doubtfire. And Tootsie. Anyway.

My point is this: How often do we get good at a thing because of what other people seem to want or need from us—and how long can and do we keep it up?

Fine, Zora is an extreme example. But think about it: How often or for how long have you been doing a thing you’re good at, that you don’t even want to do?

Because of the work I do in the brand space (ew did I really just say that) I know that there’s this level of weirdness that happens when someone fears they’re “pretending at” being someone or something else. There’s this whole panicky thing that happens. I’ve seen it. They worry that they won’t get “past” who they were or they don’t know who they are now.

Your brand shouldn’t be some other fake, glossy version of you. It should be, well, you.

Who you are now. And that that does change over time. It evolves. Like any organic thing.

The less of a gap between who you are and what you represent, the less confused you will feel and the more powerful your positioning. I always say this about brand: It’s a blend of your promise, your presence, and your practice—in other words, what expectations you set, what you’re like to be around, or what vibe you give off, and what you do over and over again.

So my warning is this: Don’t work hard at being a thing you don’t want to deliver on. Seems like a no-duh. But really think about it. Are you doing that?

This is of particular concern for one-man shops, freelancers, solos, business owners who are looking to grow and shift away perhaps from what they’ve been doing, to what they want to do.

Be wary of doing the things you can do, especially if you don’t want to do them.

Whether that’s certain services or offerings, or even being the person people come to for “x” when you don’t want to do “x” anymore.

The reason you may be afraid of doing this is because, like anyone, you’re afraid of turning business away. You think people are coming to you because of this one thing you do, even if you loathe doing it.

It requires an act of bravery to come out as you, to do what will serve you, even if it’s not what everyone else expects.

But what’s the alternative? Faking an accent so long you forget what you actually sound like? Bad idea.

Stop Trying to Get Paid What You’re Worth

You and I have fallen under the sway of a misled idea: that in order to advance our careers, we must persuade people to recognize our worth and then convince them to pay it. When negotiating salary or figuring out what to charge for a service, the first question we often ask ourselves is: What am I worth?

But that question disempowers you.

It calls into question something personal that goes beyond the actual value of your skill or service. There’s also a dangerous connotation — particularly for women — that links price with love or acceptance. (“If you like me, you’ll pay what I’m asking. If you don’t, you must not like me because I’m not good enough.”) It’s a slippery slope and ineffective.

Instead of asking “what am I worth” or “am I getting paid for what I’m worth,” the question to ask is: “What are my products or services worth to this person right now?” In other words, what will the market bear?

For years I struggled to reconcile what I thought I was worth with what I was getting paid. At one point, all I wanted was $40K. I believed that was where I needed to be and that I was worth it (damn it). It killed me when the company told me they couldn’t do it. I went down the rabbit hole: Am I not worth that?

The magazine was in the red! They couldn’t pay the bills! It had nothing to do with me. And I needlessly made it harder on myself.

The turning point for me was a recent episode of my show Solopreneur. I interviewed Ilise Benun, founder of Marketing Mentor, who has been helping creative professionals go into business for themselves for more than two decades. “My clients always ask me, ‘Why can’t I convince people to pay me what I’m worth?’” says Benun. “This is the wrong question, because it sets this up as a pricing problem, which it isn’t. It’s a marketing problem, and it has a marketing solution.”

The key, says Benun is to separate what you do for other people from what it means about you. In other words, take your ego out of it. This blew my mind, and the doors off everything I used to think about rates and salary.

It was also a huge relief because I’ve spent too much time worrying that either I wasn’t worth much, or I was so good no one could afford me. “The conflation of personal worth with professional acumen is also very childish,” adds Benun. The “love me daddy” approach to winning business infantilizes you — it treats the proposal (or salary or raise) like an allowance, one that you “deserve” because you were a good girl. Ick.

Don’t use worth as a determiner of value or price. Your true worth doesn’t have a price, so stop wasting time trying to appraise it.

Want more? Watch this episode of #PowerLunch, my weekly webinar for entrepreneurs with an appetite, where I talk about when and how to work for free (and get something great out of it).

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Stop Searching for Your Passion (Do This Instead)

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There’s tremendous pressure to “find your passion” lately. Too much pressure, if you ask me. It’s also misleading: If I tell you to “find your passion,” we must presume that it’s been lost, like a set of keys or that coupon for a free burrito at Chipotle.

Not only is it lost, it’s now a job requirement: Unhappy in your work? Well, are you not living in or aligned with your passion? Are you not doing the work of your dreams? If you’re not absolutely compelled and swooning over our work, we’re told, you’re doing something wrong. We use passion as the barometer and measure of everything. And it’s a mistake.

Go ahead—call up any life-slash-business coach for an initial consult (I’ll wait), and in that first conversation, I guarantee you’ll be asked, “What are you passionate about?”

The pressure so many of us feel to “find your passion” is the pits. It can become little more than a self-indulgent navel gaze, and until you put rubber to road, it doesn’t amount to much. It also presumes you’re supposed to know something you don’t. I can’t tell you how many people, including myself, have thought, “Jesus. I don’t know what I’m passionate about. Why don’t I know? It must be because I’m devoid of drive and substance, and a complete waste of space.” This is not the kind of thinking that fuels great success.

I’m passionate about lots of things. But this notion that you must have some secret, singular passion does you and your work a disservice.

(WATCH: My two-minute talk on why passion isn’t the answer to everything.)

 

“I want to help people!”

You know what everyone tells me their passion is? Helping people. Yawn.

That’s not a passion; that’s a prosocial instinct that we’re born with to keep us from (completely) annihilating each other and isolating ourselves. It makes you human and not a monster. Saying your passion is helping people is no different than saying you’re busy. Everyone is. And to say either thing as a way of distinguishing yourself is to assume the other person isn’t, and it just never lands right. (I’m busy AND passionate, too, thank you very much!)

Passion is an emotion, and emotions are fickle and transient and will trip you up every chance they get. You push beyond them by doing, acting, responding, and using the tools and talents you have to create, make, or offer a thing that’s useful and valuable to other people. And if it’s not useful, than tweaking it and trying again.

That’s why I want to move the conversation past what your True Passion. Because who cares, really? My motto is that it’s one thing to have passion; it’s another to be compelling. And no one will buy your yogurt or hire you to do their taxes or donate to your cause just because YOU happen to be passionate about doing it. You have to do it very well, and you have to make what you do compelling to me. That’s the job.

 

Passion Follows Success

One of my favorite columns ever is this piece by Dilbert creator Scott Adams that ran in the Wall Street Journal years ago. In it, he argues that passion isn’t all it’s cracked up to be: “It’s easy to be passionate about things that are working out, and that distorts our impression of the importance of passion,” he writes. But when things go down the drain, the passion can drain, too.

“In hindsight, it looks as if the projects that I was most passionate about were also the ones that worked,” he writes. “But objectively, my passion level moved with my success. Success caused passion more than passion caused success.”

I’ll tell you how I’ve been able to grow my own business, and it’s not by waxing poetic about my passion, but by doing—coaching, writing, speaking, connecting. Doing it, sometimes well, sometimes not well, every day. That’s how my real sweet spot emerged: I have knack and  honed skill for getting people to bust through their hangups, biases, and blind spots so they can see what they do in a whole new way.

This is particularly relevant as I gear up to run a half-day workshop on Friday, July 10th  in New York City for entrepreneurs, visionaries, brand managers, and freelancers who are having trouble finding their sweet spot (wanna come? Seats are still available!) They feel stuck and aren’t sure why. They’re wondering where passion has failed them. They question who they are and how to communicate what they do in ways that compel other people. And on July 10th, we’re going to bust through all of that together.

(Register now and receive a free 30-min coaching session with me.)

When you have a clearer, crisper sense of what you DO, not just what you’re “passionate about,” the wheels click into gear, and start to turn. You gain momentum. It feels amazing.

It feels….well, like passion.
(The event, btw, is called “Nail Your Brand & Revitalize Your Business” and it’s happening FRI 7/10 from 9am – 12pm at Wix Lounge in Manhattan—space is limited. If you register before July 4th, you’ll also get a free 30-min coaching session with me, and I promise not to ask you what your passion is.)

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Work Smarter, Not Harder: Overcome Busyness with Carson Tate, founder of Work Simply

Carson Tate, productivity coach and author of Work Simply: Embracing Your Personal Productivity Style

Carson Tate, productivity coach and author of Work Simply: Embracing Your Personal Productivity Style

Carson Tate was working in sales when she realized there was a direct correlation between how organized she was and how much revenue she brought in. When her colleagues adopted her system and started earning more, she knew she was onto something.

Carson saw that as her cue: She left her full-time job and launched her business, Work Simply, Live Fully, which helps professionals of all stripes to take back their time and grow their bottom line. Today, she is a dynamic teacher and coach known for personal transformation and simple, powerful, actionable content. A nationally renowned expert on productivity, Carson has been featured in Bloomberg Businessweek, Forbes, Fast Company, The New York Times, Working Mother and more. And she’s just published her first book, Work Simply: Embracing Your Personal Productivity Style, with Penguin Group (2015).

I recently had Carson on my show, where she shared some no-BS insight on how and why to stop wasting time on things you think are productive (but aren’t), and a way to think about time in terms of investment, not just tasks, by keeping your activities and revenue aligned, and maximizing unexpected free time. Here’s more from Carson on the biggest lessons she’s learned throughout her career on how to conserve time and energy, everyone’s greatest assets.

How did you make the decision to leave your last job and go out on your own? What was that job, and how did you know it was time?

I was working in outside sales and had been asked continually over the years by my colleagues how I got my work done so efficiently and stayed so organized. I developed a process to help myself manage a new facet of our compensation system and when it went viral in my organization I knew that there was an opportunity to serve others and it was time to leave my job.

What did you think you were going to be when you grew up?

A doctor 🙂

Click here to watch the episode.

Click here to watch the episode and take back your time.

When did you realize this was (or wasn’t) going to happen?

In my freshman year of college when I was taking chemistry 101. This was only the beginning of my science journey and none of the concepts made any sense. There was no way I was going to make it through organic chemistry. I quickly moved down the hall to the psychology department.

What is it about your life now that you can’t believe you do, and wouldn’t have believed if someone told you 5-10 years ago?

That I would be serving others through my writing, coaching and teaching.

Where do you think most of us waste our time? What do you recommend doing to change it?

Meetings. Before you automatically accept that next meeting request, ask yourself if this meeting will produce a significant return on time investment for you. If not, consider declining the meeting.

What’s the worst advice you’ve ever been given (and did you take it)?

Just stick with it. I have learned that the goal as the entrepreneur is to fail and fail fast. Don’t stick with it. If it is not working, let it go and learn from the experience and then go try again.

What advice would you give yourself if you could go back in time 10 years?

Focus on today and the rest will take care of itself.

What lesson(s) did you learn the hard way (could be your career, or life in general)?

Sticking with things that are clearly not working is a significant waste of time and energy. Let go. Learn and move forward.

Any other advice you want solopreneurs/entrepreneurs to know? 

Every time you say yes to something, you are saying no to something else. Time is your greatest asset and liability. Invest it for the highest return in your life.

For more about Carson and how to manage your time in a way that gets creativity and inspiration flowing, visit www.carsontate.com and @thecarsontate on Twitter, and pick up her book, Work Simply: Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style.

Watch a new episode of Solopreneur every Tuesday at 4pm ET!

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The Business of Friendship: Meet Shasta Nelson, author of Friendships Don’t Just Happen

The lovely Shasta Nelson, author of Friendships Don’t Just Happen and CEO of the female friendship-matching site GirlFriendCircles.com The lovely Shasta Nelson, author of Friendships Don’t Just Happen and CEO of the female friendship-matching site GirlFriendCircles.com

The lovely Shasta Nelson, author of Friendships Don’t Just Happen and CEO of the female friendship-matching site GirlFriendCircles.com 

Shasta Nelson is a relationship expert and the author of Friendships Don’t Just Happen. She is also the CEO of a female friendship-matching site called GirlFriendCircles.com, which she created after recognizing that many of her life coaching clients were having a hard time finding meaningful relationships with other women. I recently had Shasta on my show, Solopreneur on the Whatever It Takes network, to talk about the importance of fostering deep connections and why they’re crucial to health and productivity.

In this episode, Shasta explains that while we live in a world that seems more connected than ever, most of us report not having the connection we want. She shares startling research about loneliness—it’s as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and twice as harmful to our bodies as obesity!

She also explains why it’s especially important for solopreneurs, many of whom are no longer surrounded by colleagues during the workday, to regularly take time out to interact with friends and contacts (it’ll not only boost your well-being, she says—it’ll also help your business).

Here’s some more about Shasta, why she thinks the fear of rejection holds us back from intimacy, and how she knew she was meant to connect people.

Do you have a day job?

I’ve been doing this for over 6 years but am constantly creating new “side jobs” under the umbrella of friendship such as coaching programs, international trips, retreats, and e-books.

What did you think you were going to be when you grew up?

A war correspondent on the news.  Then in college I decided I’d much rather be someone working to make the world a better place (preventing wars!) than covering them!

When did you realize this was (or wasn’t) going to happen?

In college when I felt excitement about possibly becoming a pastor.

What is it about your life now that you can’t believe you do, and wouldn’t believed if someone told you 5-10 years ago?

That I am in the middle of writing my 2nd book for a publishing house.  It was always a dream, but now to not only have done it once but to have the opportunity to do it again?  Awesome!

Where do you think most of us waste our time? What do you recommend doing to change it?

In the world of friendships, we waste a lot of time worrying about people not liking us instead of initiating and adding value to people’s lives in ways that build strong friendships. By fearing rejecting or taking everything personally, we miss out on the intimacy we most want!

What’s the worst advice you’ve ever been given (and did you take it)?

Anytime someone has cautioned me to stay the “same” out of their fear of what the “new” might hold for me. I’m sure I have heeded their fears at times but I’d like to think that for the most part, I have continued to take risks for the people, causes, and opportunities that I believe in.

What advice would you give yourself if you could go back in time 10 years?

Sign up for every workshop that will tell you more about yourself and take every inventory that will tell you how you’re wired so that you can benefit from this wisdom in as many ways as possible!

What lesson(s) did you learn the hard way (could be your career, or life in general)? 

That just having a good idea isn’t enough. I went into my business hoping that if people heard about my website that they’d sign up. Ha! It’s often a bit disillusioning to all of us that the process of growing a business often takes longer than any of us wish it did. Healthy expectations are crucial!

Any other advice you want solopreneurs/entrepreneurs to know? Resources you recommend or folks you like? 

Take the StrengthsFinder 2.0 inventory. And hire a coach who can really help you understand what that means for how you’re wired, identify your sweet spot, manage your weaknesses, and know where you most need help from others. If you don’t know any strengths coaches, my husband Gregory Nelson is one of the best! Secondly, figure out your Enneagram type. My favorite book on it is The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

 

For more about Shasta and her tips on how to nurture your existing friendships and jumpstart new ones, visit her website, follow her on Twitter at @girlfrndcircles, and pick up her new book, Friendships Don’t Just Happen!: The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of GirlFriends.

Watch a new episode of Solopreneur every Tuesday at 4pm ET!