Back in 2017 … those pre-covid days of being able to attend conferences with hundreds of other people! … I had spent an incredible weekend at the One Woman Conference.
There were 400+ women at this event and I had the honour of being invited up on the stage as one of the finalists of the Lead The Change awards 2017, voted by the community as someone who most embodied the One of many SoftPower Leadership principles.
Having spoken on many stages, it has to have been one of my most nerve wracking performances. Somehow sharing my personal story and the vulnerabilities I’d faced (and was still facing!) was nerve racking. ,
In the run up to the conference, I reflected on what it took to step in to our potential to make a difference, and what it was about me that represented being a leader.
When you spend time by yourself and unconnected with people outside of your immediate family (and let’s be honest, we’ve all plenty of this opportunity for this over the past 18 months!), it’s easy to feel that whatever journey you are on, that what’s ahead of you is too steep or too rocky or that your goal isn’t clear and is shrouded in mountain cloud.
And this was the big lesson I shared on stage that day.
That there are times, particularly when you are alone, that fear and doubt and worry creep up, sometimes from nowhere, and take hold of us.
My fear and doubt appears as a gentle tight grip on the inside of my throat; almost like a child’s hand trying to silence me.
Your fears and doubts will appear in different places. Perhaps a knot in your stomach or a pain on your left side or a buzzing sensation at the back of your skull.
For the years running up to working with One of many, I had used this feeling in my throat to pull me back, like a bungee cord. I’d come up with an idea, reach for it and then the bungee cord would snap me back so that I’d either give up on the idea or just do a smaller version of it. And this happened a lot in the years I was recovering from my burn out, often very afraid of getting sick again.
My journey with the incredible mentors who make up One Of Many, Joanna Martin, Annie Stoker and Susie Heath, had allowed me to now feel into my uncomfortableness … the feeling of vulnerability … the feeling of shame, guilt and whatever my inner shit threw up at me at the time I want to do bigger things and become a bigger version of myself.
That gentle tight grip on my throat became my sign that it’s the right thing for me to do.
And as I stood up on that stage, I felt it appear … so I knew what I had to share was the right thing for me to have shared that day!
Feeling in to this experience of identifying where in our body we feel emotions is incredible powerful. It slows down our over thinking, and often over catastrophising, of the situation we are faced with; whether that’s a difficult conversation, a challenge at work or a relationship with a friend or family member.
Do you feel into your uncomfortableness of fear, doubt, shame or guilt … whenever it appears … and see it as a power? As a sign that you may need to hear a message of stepping up, to challenge?
I’d love to know if you do this already, perhaps even on a subconscious basis, not realising that you are doing it.
Because I’ve come to now feel these uncomfortable moments not as a bungee cord as I had done the years previously. I’ve learnt to slow down, take a moment and feel into knot or the pain or the grip or the buzz because I know now it’s probably trying to tell me something.
That bungee cord pulling me back to safety is all very well. Because, after all, safe is lovely place to be, particularly on a warm, cosy Sunday afternoon when you want to snuggle up on the sofa with a good book or film.
But if you want to make a bigger impact on this world around us, then safe will only keep you safe. It doesn’t allow us to take risks and stretch us into our potential.
As Brene Brown so eloquently puts it,
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”
So let us get vulnerable and, more importantly, feel vulnerable because I know this has the potential to let out the leader that’s within you, too.
Thank you for reading. Until next time, do less, be more, play bigger.
This time last year, life, as we knew it, changed.
As I sit here and reflect over the past year, and of course acknowledge the trauma that happened to so many, I am also in awe by how many people have shifted and grown their businesses.
Comfort and growth can’t co-exist.
It often takes extreme discomfort for us to make big changes to how we are living and working. And for all the grief and loss that many have encountered, there are many others who have risen up, like a phoenix from the ashes.
I think of all the new experiences that I have bought that I would have never considered before March last year.
Joining fitness classes over zoom is probably something we’ve all done for the first time this past year. But now some fitness professionals are going further and making decisions to staying online; they’ve realised they are now open for a global market (time zones dependant) and have upped their tech skills to have a full TV production suite in their home studios.
This month I booked a magician for my son’s 19th birthday (never too old for a magician, yes!) through an Airbnb experience. An hour’s private show beamed straight to my laptop from a chap over in Japan; it was 4am for him! He told us that his day job was a project manager and in June last year he decided it was time to turn his hobby into his career. He now runs between 3 and 5 shows every few days, to an audience across the world, and is regularly booked for corporate events, as well as families like us.
And last week, I had a virtual photo shoot. Yes … a professional photo shoot through an app that I downloaded on my phone. I was a little sceptical about this but if you are on Instagram, you can see the results on my profile @karenskidmore. I was blown away by the quality of photos and how good Aga was at directing me by only using her voice.
What about me? What new skills and ways of doing business have I adopted?
I’ve always worked predominately online, so working on zoom wasn’t new to me. But I have had to learn how to run my all day workshops virtually, as well as our Mastermind Days for our Momentum Impact members. I’ve decided these work better online – more powerful – and I won’t be travelling into London to run these again, something I would have never considered before last year.
I’m also now working in my Plotting Shed, a new garden office that we built at the end of last year. With my husband now working from home, it became apparent we needed two separate offices. Of course, I volunteered to go outside. And I love it. (Again, you can go see what it looks like on my Insta pics.) It is the most gorgeous space and it makes me smile every time I walk down the garden path to unlock the door each morning.
Would any of these examples that I’ve shared here have happened without the discomfort of the last year?
This past year has pushed many of us to our extreme boundaries. We’ve been forced to step outside of our comfort zones and face, head on, parts (or even everything) about our business that stop working suddenly twelve months ago. You’ve made decisions about where and how to move your business through these last twelve months and, whatever has happened, there’s every chance your business is very different from where it was a year ago.
Acknowledge what you’ve achieved in your business through these uncomfortable months. And know that the potential of what is possible happens because you don’t stay comfortable.
Which leads me to wonder how we can all make sure we take full advantage of a little (or a lot of!) discomfort from time to time so that we can keep moving forward and ensure we are thriving in business.
If you want to discuss what I’ve shared here today and you’re interested in being challenged in what you could achieve, get in touch.
Until next time, do less, be more, play bigger.
You know far more than you give yourself credit for.
However, trusting yourself to know this and using your intuition to help you grow a business is not a natural way for many of us.
If you are like a lot of people who I work with, you have spent much of your professional career thinking your way through challenges and problems. Your default setting has been to seek answers externally (AKA ask other people what they think) and engage your frontal lobe, the part of your brain behind your forehead where you access to process information, analyse, think and plan.
You probably already use phrases such as ‘I knew in my gut that it was the right thing to do’ or ‘I felt the tug on my heart strings’. But using these insights in a business context often get swept away and ignored.
In doing some digging around for some quotes on intuition, I came across this article from Harvard Business Review from way back in 2003.
“The trust in intuition is understandable. People have always sought to put their faith in mystical forces when confronted with earthly confusion. But it’s also dangerous. Intuition has its place in decision making – you should not ignore your instincts any more than you should ignore your conscience – but anyone who thinks that intuition is a substitute for reason is indulging in a risky delusion.”
I’d like to think that using our intuition in business has come a long way since this article was first published, but if you are a Gen X like me, it’s hard to get away from the cultural programming we’ve had.
We have grown up in a culture that favours logic; at school we were programmed into learning, sitting in rows and changing lessons each time the school bell rang, followed by working our up a hierarchical career path that celebrated success measured by numbers and time.
Today, we have access to an endless supply of productivity apps, automation systems and bluetooth devices all designed to send us constant notifications and help us do more in less time. Our smartphones can tell us how well we are eating, sleeping and exercising, which means we don’t have to think for ourselves.
And when it comes to our business and marketing, we look to the algorithms to make decisions on when to launch a new programme or what content to create.
But first, why is your intuition so important to access?
If you allow yourself the space to connect and access your inner wisdom, you often find far simpler and easier answers to your challenges and problems. There’s no need to spend days analysing spreadsheets or writing up lengthy reports.
The answer often comes through as a clear path forward; it just feels right.
The official definition of intuition is:
“the ability to understand something instinctively, without the need for conscious reasoning.”
And if we go back in time to see the origins of the word in mid-15c:
intuicioun, “insight, direct or immediate cognition, spiritual perception,”
“Hang on … instinct? spiritual? Are you going down the woo-woo route and telling me that all we need is to simply burn incense sticks and spend our time meditating on problems?”
No. Spend too much of your time going within, and there’s no doubt you can find yourself ‘away with the fairies’. Very little action happens and if you then find it hard articulate or communicate your business direction with your team or customers, it all becomes very ethereal.
Logic still has a place and can helpfully sanity check ideas, bring concepts to form and create the structure, process and systems to allow you to run your business with ease. But without giving yourself the opportunity to open yourself up to feeling, listening and sensing what your instinct can tell you, you are missing out on some of the simplest and easiest options available to you and your business.
Your intuition will always have your back. It’s giving you feedback and insight into what is right for you, the person you are and what it is you truly want out of life.
So how to go about learning how to access your intuition?
For me, I have had a crazy relationship with my logic head.
I am naturally wired to be ruled by my head, which serves me well when working with clients and working through business infrastructure and systems quickly, and seeing the commercial opportunities linked with a bigger vision. However, when left unchecked, I can power on through and forget to take breaks to conserve my energy.
I crashed and burned when I was in my early 40’s, so I have learnt the hard way. When this happened, I realised I had lost all my connection with myself from the neck down. Burn out can do that to you! I remember being a class teaching pelvic floor exercise and sobbing silently into my yoga mat when I realised I could not engage any muscles in my pelvis area; there were no connections between my brain and core muscles. So was it any surprise that my intuition had very little chance of being heard?
A big part of my recovery journey, and understanding my midlife hormonal changes and menopause shifts, became looking at how to connect with my body. I stopped running and started dance classes instead. Nia Dance has become a regular part of my fitness routine now, connecting me to my hips and allowing me to literally shake away tension in my body.
I tried my hand at meditating but to be honest, it’s not a practice that I find much time for. I know that goes against the trends but I prefer a slow walk through the trees and spending my time watching the sun set, rather than sitting still, trying to calm my mind.
I’ve come to realise that, although every one of us has the ability to connect with our intuition, I have had to work at how to do this. And I know from speaking to many other business owners over the years, that I am not alone.
So here are my four simple steps that got me started.
1) Take the time to know yourself.
There are a tonne of psychometric tests and personality profiles available, often affordable and without the need to attend lengthy programmes. My favourite ones include MBTI Basics, Insights, Talent Dynamics (and also called Wealth Dynamics) and Human Design. Profiling oneself is not about trying to fit in.
Each one of us is unique and we don’t arrive on this planet with an operations manual. So the more we can understand our idiosyncratic quirks and behaviour traits, the less it becomes about what others expect of us and more about what it is that we want and value.
2) Spend more time in your body.
Many of you will exercise for the sake of fitness and health, measuring success by steps or sweat. But because so much business is often solved in our heads, these kinds of exercises can feed the logic brain. Spending time on moving your body consciously can really help you connect with the neural pathways that run around your body.
Movement such as dance – prancing around the kitchen rather than following a structured class – and slower walking focused on your posture – noticing how your feet connect with the ground with each step – can be simple ways of sensing your body and spending time ‘out of your head’.
3) Recognise that fear is different from intuition
… and sometimes it can be good to take the moment to ask the fear what it may be trying to tell you. Is there anything that you can put in place to make your next steps less risky for you? Perhaps you need more time to put your decision into action … maybe you need to hire some help.
If you choose to ignore your fears, you may find that you pull yourself back from taking action. So use your fear to shine a light on anything that you may avoid simply because it feels uncomfortable as this can be helpful in making sure you don’t avoid taking action on your decisions.
4) Create content without an agenda.
So much focus is given to the call to action and making sure whatever content we create in our business has a purpose. This can stifle creativity and stop many of us from exploring our ideas and methodology of our work. I’ve seen clients of mine flourish when I suggest that they blog without agenda; just write for the hell of it and see what comes out. I find writing incredibly cathartic and helps me form my ideas. Journaling can be incredibly powerful for this, too.
But if writing isn’t your thing then tune in to what form feels good for you; it could be that you paint or doodle your ideas. The important thing is that you give yourself permission to create for you … and you alone. This doesn’t have to be published or be made into a marketing campaign; you are simply allowing your creativity to come into a form that allows you to see patterns and recognise the power of who you are and what it is you want to express.
I believe that now, more than ever, is the time for you to place more emphasis on what’s within you and who you are.
Much of the expert space – coaches, consultants, trainers, designers, creatives- is now over-crowded, and the few market leaders rising to the top are simply being copied; their marketing and branding being bastardised.
Rather than looking outward first and choosing how you run your business based on logic success metrics, such as having to have a 6 figure business, give yourself the space to design and grow your business starting from within you and being clear on who you are and what you stand for.
I get that it may be easier to ask other people for answers to your questions about your business, but be aware that for every person you ask, you are going to get different answers.
When you start from within, and learn to trust your instinct, you can design and grow the right business that will support and enable you to show up and realise your full potential. And, in my experience, you’ll have an easier ride, reduce your mental bandwidth and feel less stressed in the process.
Until next time, do less, be more and play bigger.
Earlier this year, at the start of our first lockdown, I wrote about the dangers of blind hope.
A friend introduced me to the Stockdale Paradox, which seemed fitting at the time. We were all in full crisis management, dealing with school closures, businesses shutting down and all future plans going up in smoke.
To rely on hope and optimism wasn’t right (for me) back then. It was time for re-grouping, pivoting and taking action to adjust quickly to our new landscape for living and working.
As the year went on, there’s no doubt every one of us has been on one form of emotional roller coaster or another. We could meet friends and family again. We could go on holiday. And then we couldn’t. The almost weekly changing rules have been exhausting, even for the most adaptable of us.
And, right now, many of you are now facing the harsh ‘stay at home’ restrictions. Except this time, in the depths of Winter, rather than glorious weather and long sunny days that we had back in April and May.
With this backdrop, how do you look to the future?
How do you feel about making plans for 2021?
Writing this on the day after the Winter Solstice and shortest day in the Western Hemisphere, I take great pleasure in knowing that our days are now getting longer. After days and days of rain, I can see blue sky out of the windows of my new office. And despite having our Christmas family plans change, like many in the UK, I can feel myself joyed with the thought of having plenty of down time and living in PJs for the next couple of weeks.
And, as I reflect on the past year, the meaning of hope and optimism has evolved for me.
Hope isn’t wishful thinking.
It’s not wallowing in self-pity or waiting for someone to save you.
And yes, there is still much I agree with in what I wrote about hope in March of this year.
But if we don’t have hope, igniting ourselves to plan for our future is almost impossible.
We need to find a way of managing our hope so that it fuels us, rather than leaves us feeling helpless and crying under our duvets.
We can use our hope in a way that leads us forward into the future, and gives us the courage to make bold and brave plans.
To be able to dance with the idea that life has never been certain or guaranteed.
And that we’ve always had to cancel, change and adapt our plans, just maybe not to the level that we’ve experienced over the past year.
I found these words from Barack Obama about hope.
“Hope is not blind optimism. It’s not ignoring the enormity of the task ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. It’s not sitting on the sidelines or shirking from a fight. Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, and to work for it, and to fight for it. Hope is the belief that destiny will not be written for us, but by us, by the men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is, who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.”
There’s no doubt we need rest and replenishment over the holidays. We need to turn off our newsfeeds, to turn our backs on toxic and shaming conversations that have us pointing blame, and gather who and what we can to feel the gratitude of being alive today.
And through this, we can then let our hope grow and fuel our plans for 2021 and beyond.
To let us talk about the holidays we hope to take. The friends and family we hope to see and hold one day. The experiences, parties, weekends away and events we hope to be at.
Let your hope run free this Christmas season.
For it won’t be long before we have a new year, the snowdrops will be poking through the soil and the birdsong of Spring will be waking us up at the crack of dawn again.
Thank you for subscribing to my musings this year. It’s been one crazy time but having you to write to regularly has meant so much to me and helped me process the (often!) madness to create a way forward for my business, life and leadership.
Happy holidays and see you on the other side!
Until next time, do less, be more and play bigger.
The heat has been vicious here over the past few days. Having been a teenage sun worshipper, I have now become a version of Patsy; floating around the house in my beach kaftan, sighing, “I like it hot, but not this hot.”
To make matters a little hotter, we are having an extension built.
The back out of our house is boarded up, blocking any form of breeze able to drift through. And with both front and back gardens full of cement boards, diggers and skips, there is no chance of finding a shady corner outside, either.
So this weekend, I found myself dragging a chair into our hallway to sit in front of the open front door, and gave myself permission to do nothing but read for two days.
The book I found myself immersed in for the whole weekend was Wintering; a story of how the author, Katherine May, learned to flourish when, as she calls it, life becomes frozen.
And yes, the irony of reading Wintering in the middle of a heatwave was not lost in me.
As it turned out, it was the perfect book to read.
A client recommended it to me after we spent time together working through how she could build a business, without having to jeopardise her health. Our discussion took a deep dive into how important rest was. Together, we worked out how to develop a work rhythm that would allow her to sell enough to meet her money goals while avoiding the need to fight hard to keep up with it.
It seems to be me that rest is something that very few people feel good about taking.
Over the past decade, our society has sped up to allow us to buy anything, chat to anyone, post online anywhere, 24 hours a day. Our patience to wait for things is no longer needed, which has no doubt impacted on the fact that patience with ourselves has been pushed aside, too.
I live in a country that not only has vast changes to our daylight hours throughout the year, from 16 hours in the summer to less than 8 hours in the winter but is also buffetted from our island’s ever-changing weather patterns.
In a matter of days, we can go from clicking on our central heating system in the middle of June to wondering how much it would cost to run air conditioning for the few nights of the year that seem to cook us from the inside out. (Nothing like a slow roast when you are going through the menopause!)
And yet it seems that us Brits do our best to homogenise our work patterns so that we can still go at it hard no matter how many hours of daylight we get in a day; no matter what the season is; no matter how tired we feel or what in life we are dealing with.
We are conditioned to keep working at a pace because going slow would be wrong, yes?
I fought rest for a long time.
I had images of laying on the sofa, watching TV and eating wotsits. What a waste of my time! I couldn’t possibly allow myself to do nothing. That would be so unproductive.
Rest was for sick people; people who were signed off by their doctor and needed to recover from a severe illness. Rest wasn’t for someone like me, who had things to achieve and goals to reach.
But over the years of learning how to slow down and let go of my over-achiever self, I have realised how powerful rest is. So when I got my hands on my Katherine May’s book, Wintering, I couldn’t put it down. I read it from cover to cover.
Not only does she tell her own story of recovery, but she also interlaces it with interviews and research of the power of winter; that point in your year where you shift down a few gears, rest and sleep more.
She writes “Transformation is the business of winter… a cyclical metaphor for life, one in which the energies of spring can arrive again and again and again, nurtured by the deep retreat of winter. We are no longer accustomed to thinking in this way. We are instead in the habit of imagining our lives to be linear; a long march from birth to death in which we mass our powers, only to surrender them again, all while slowly losing our youthful beauty. This is a brutal untruth. Life meanders like a path through the woods. We have seasons when the leaves fall from us, revealing our bare bones. Given time, they grow again.”
Let’s face it. You’ve had your from-hell-and-back moments, haven’t you?
The older and wiser we get, the more travelled our paths become. Whether you’ve lost a parent or a child; recovered from illness or an accident; dealt with bully bosses or redundancy; closed down a business or declared bankruptcy; had a divorce or broken heart; everyone has one, if not several, periods of life where you are put under extreme stress.
And as you grow older and you experience changes in your hormones and body, stress is often harder to deal with. Without real rest and recovery time, it layers upon previous stressful times until you find that you can no longer cope.
And yes, your body has a way of making you stop if it needs you to!
How many of us have allowed us to truly winter?
To believe that resting and taking time out will allow your creativity and impact to form? Because, after all, Wintering doesn’t just happen in the winter season. Resting can happen at any time you need it. And often resting needs to occur BEFORE you think you need it.
In Katherine’s concluding chapter, she writes “To get better at wintering, we need to address our very notion of time. We tend to imagine that our lives are linear, but they are in fact, cyclical. I would not, of course, seek to deny that we grow gradually older, but while doing so, we pass through phases of good health and ill, or optimism and deep doubt, or freedom and constraint.”
This is my hope for us all at this crucial point of 2020.
As I write this, it is the middle of August, traditionally the month of holidays before we gear back up for the back-to-school busy-ness of September. Whether you have school-age children or not, we were all school-age children once upon a time so this energy of a new academic year is often inbuilt into many of us.
But the danger is that we, as a society, haven’t really and truly rested. Yes, we’ve had enforced lockdown and haven’t been allowed to go anywhere for weeks and weeks. But very few people seem to have really and truly found the time and space to process what has happened over the past few months.
And let’s be clear, we have all been through catalytic changes to the way that we live and work. The levels of anxiety bubbling through our communities are running high, with many on alert, waiting for the latest breaking news to ping through on their phones. Not one person has been unaffected by what has happened this year.
It feels to me that the more we can allow ourselves time for a good wintering, the more chance we have to flourish and become our potential, rather than chase a version of ourselves born out of busy-ness.
Rest is not just for people who need to recover from an illness. Rest is a critical stage of our cycle of growth, both for ourselves as people and for our businesses.
Rest doesn’t have to be sitting on a sofa, binge-watching the latest box set (although it could be). It doesn’t have to be sleeping all day (although it could be). Rest doesn’t have to be isolated time to yourself (although it often is).
Rest can be your version of how you shift down your gears and take the time and space to breathe; to review and reflect; to ignore your phone and forget about what time it is.
Rest can be for an hour, for a day, even a whole month or longer.
Rest can be the opportunity to feel into your power; to ground your energy; to connect with who you are, where you can impact and what is it you desire.
Whatever version your rest becomes, one thing I know for sure is that rest has got to happen BEFORE you think you need it.
Who’s up for a bit of wintering in a heatwave?
Until next time, do less, be more and play bigger.
Wintering by Katherine May
How do you feel about planning for the future right now?
As we work our way through this period of ‘you can go to work if you can go to work, but if you can’t then don’t’, it may feel it’s nigh impossible to plan for the future.
There are so many what-ifs, it can be hard to think about what decisions to make.
What if the schools go back in June? What if they don’t open until September?
What if we can’t run any in-person events until 2021? What if it turns out that we can run one earlier?
What if I can’t get a haircut until July? What if I pretend my webcam is broken until then?
The truth is that, when it comes to business planning, there is very little in our control, even in times before lockdown. We’ve been forced to withdraw to our homes and change the way we live and work. And now we are slowly working out how we emerge from this.
We may not know exactly how life and business are going to operate going forward, but did we really have that much control over what happened before all this happened?
There’s a great quote from Eisenhower that I use in my training sessions.
“I have always found plans to be useless, but planning to be indispensable.”
Because you have so little control over what really goes on inside and outside of your business, the plan you create has to evolve as you implement. And sometimes has to change completely to take into account of external factors such as bad health, a piece of tech that breaks or losing a key member of your team, through to the extremes of pandemics and forced lockdowns. All of which happens out of our control.
We may think we are in control.
But we aren’t really.
Life fluidly moves in and around us, sometimes slow, sometimes fast. It’s rare that anything stays the same for any length of time.
So does this mean we simply leave our business to chance and never plan?
I don’t agree with Eisenhower that plans are useless, but I do agree that it is the planning that is indispensable because it forces you to do the thinking needed to grow your business.
Planning forces you to make decisions.
Just think how much mental energy you use when you are feeling indecisive, even about little things such as what to wear and what to have for lunch each day. It can be exhausting!
Planning forces you to be considered; to step up and dig deep into what you stand for and what it is you truly want to accomplish.
Planning forces you to be connected with your current customers, your marketplace and your numbers, which in turn keeps your emotions grounded, particularly in times of uncertainty.
So although many of you may love to create, to be open to opportunities and don’t like being hemmed into targets or strict project management deadlines, don’t let the current uncertainty of our rules and boundaries for how we ‘go back to work’ let you drift from month to month.
Planning can happen, and needs to happen, no matter how much uncertainty we have in our lives.
And I share this with you today because it’s the day our Momentum members will be showing up and doing their 90 Day Plans.
I’m connecting into the energy that I want to deliver for our morning session that will have them coming away with clarity on how to deliver their sales targets and how exactly they are going to implement the projects that will ensure their long term growth.
That’s what I’m feeling into as I prepare for today’s session and it’s what I believe is important for all of us as we emerge from lockdown together with a plan for a future.
Until next time, do less, be more and play bigger.