Updated: January 2018.
I first wrote this post in 2015 when my business turned seven. I am now updating it to celebrate the life lessons I've learnt in the ten years in business, now with a husband, baby, staff, and loads more responsibility than when I started this little shenanigan back in 2008.
Since I started my business in 2008, I have taught thousands of students in over 50 countries. I've written two best-selling, award winning books and toured Canada and the US promoting them. I have done hundreds of live classes and events, and had my fun appearing on TV and in national radio, media and loads of awesome online features. In 2016 I was featured in Forbes and named one of Canada's top 100 female entrepreneurs by PROFIT magazine. I am part of the ever elusive 2% of women-owned businesses that have earned more than seven figures in revenue.
I still wake up every morning hoping that what I'm doing is going to work. I still have a deep fear that my next project, next book, or next run of the Culinary Nutrition Expert Program may flop. Or worse, that the last time I did any of those things, was just that, my last. With every single public event I do, I fear no one will show up.
I have had these same fears for ten years, since I taught my very first cooking class to six people, mostly friends, there to make the class look full for the two paying guests. Still, I do the work anyway. Now it's not just about me. I have a staff of people that mean the world to me, and who rely on this business for their livelihood. I now also have a family.
Despite that ever present fear, that feeling that I may be at the top of the roller coaster and it is about to stop its climb and start a fast and furious descent, I continue. Perhaps more accurately I should say, that it is that ever present fear that continues to keep my spark ignited. I never get too comfortable, and as such, I continue striving to evolve, grow, and create new things with new technologies in response to what my continually-evolving community wants and needs.
It's easy for of us to look at those we deem successful, see what they're doing today, and fail to consider what it likely took for them to land where they are. And what did it take? Most likely a lot of work, a lot of really big mistakes, a few risks, some sleepless nights, and just enough success to add up to awesome.
Ten years ago I had absolutely no clue what I was doing, where I was going, or how I would get to where I thought I wanted to be. The one thing for me that has remained constant and completely unchanged is my mission.
I wrote the following on my very first blog post ten years ago:
I have, what I consider, the greatest job in the whole wide world. I get to help people feel their greatest, their happiest and, of course, their healthiest. After all, looking like hot stuff in a wicked outfit means little if we feel like poop. Health is the most important thing and I am hoping this site will help you bring a little more into your life... [My work is] about creating, healing and nourishing all aspects of life from the physical to the spiritual. You don't need a meditation guru, a yoga master, or even a life coach. All of this can be done simply and lovingly in the kitchen... Through my videos, my extra super special recipes, and other lifestyle advice and commentary, I hope this site becomes your 'go to' for a little pick-me up of healthful goodness.
And so, as I celebrate ten years of slowly and steadily growing this business and my sense of what exactly I'm doing, I am reminded of the things I didn't know, but learned, and the realities of what I was faced with when I started out.
These lessons apply when we are starting out in anything at life - whether it be a new job, a new business, a new relationship, or a new lifestyle. It's all the same.
Ten Life Lessons From Ten Years In Business
1. Let Go Of The Outcome
You have no idea what will happen. No one does - ever. You can guess, but it's been my experience that when I guess or expect an outcome I am either:
- A little broken-hearted that no one else wanted to pick up what I was throwing down with all my might. (But I learned I could just hit delete and you'd forget it ever happened, even if I didn't.)
- Totally over the moon excited that you were happily picking up what I was throwing down with all my might and then expect the exact same outcome next time. But that usually didn't happen.
The way I have come to see it, the first few years of running a business, or embarking on any big mission, is a bit like throwing a boomerang when you have no clue how to throw a boomerang. Sometimes it may get lost in the forest and sometimes, often when you least expect it, it comes flying back at you with a trail of unicorns, horns blaring, fireworks and flowered bicycle parades.
Having goals is important, but never be too attached to the outcome. The process is your outcome, and you are guaranteed to learn something truly valuable each and every time you create, launch, try, invent, send, sell, write, buy, engage or simply get up off that chair and stretch. Really. Stretching helps your brain work better. Your goals will guide your everyday tasks and your monthly projects, but let the outcome be what it is, which will also invite you to change course when that is really what is needed. Don't worry so much. Just go with it, pay attention, and learn along the way.
2. Slow And Steady May Not Win The Race, But This Isn't A Race. This Is Your Life.
Running a business is ideally something you are doing because you love it. You love the freedom (or at least the sense of not answering to anyone but yourself. Freedom is questionable when you're on holidays and trying to fix a crashed website). The freedom is in loving the work you're doing and how you get to spend most of your time. You might also chose to love the people you work with (because most often, you're the one choosing them). And unless your plan is to be the next lottery winner (aka - the person who invents that app that we didn't know we needed and then sell it for a gabillion dollars), you are in your business for the long and successful run of it. And so - take it easy. Slow down and pay attention. Love is always in the details, and if you spend too much energy rushing to your imagined finish line you'll likely arrive totally nauseated from over-exertion and miss out on the important details (which also includes enjoying your life outside of your biz).
There are going to be times when things move quickly, and there will be times when things trudge along. But there is no finish line - no race to win. Your goal should simply be to do your best work as often as possible, put that work out in the world, and then do it again tomorrow, and the next day until you decide it's time to hit the beach (or the slopes, or the forest, as the case may be).
3. Know Your Voice And How To Use It
It takes time as a human, let alone as a business, to know who you are in your world. The best, best, best way to know your voice is to just be who you are. Know what makes you awesome and celebrate that. You will always be the best version of yourself when you are being yourself. So tune into that most of all. Be true to that. And once in a while, you have to be quiet and not use your outside voice, so that you can tune into that inner voice. That's the wisest voice of all.
4. Comparing Yourself to Others Is The Soul Vacuum
You've got a business to run! What are you doing comparing yourself to everyone and their dog? If your business revolves around a social media popularity contest, then throw a couple thousand dollars at Facebook and get those likes up and we'll have a winner - but if it's not part of your plan, that's okay too. The more time you spend focusing on (read: worrying/stressing/hating/loving) what other people are creating, the less time you're focusing on your own greatness.
As they say in school "keep your eyes on your own paper". And as they say in yoga "keep your eyes on your own mat". See that six-foot tall supermodel in a back-bend with her leg wrapped around her torso and right hand carefully outstretched balancing her latte? That's awesome... for her. And has nothing to do with you. Your focus should be on the awesomeness you are creating, the awesomeness you want to create next, and the awesomeness your steadily growing community wants you to create for them. There's too much to do in a day than let your soul and energy be vacuumed out by comparing and competing. That's a game you will never win.
5. Know When To Zip That Lip
You know that I will always love you - but I can't speak for everyone.
And what do I do? Most often, nothing. It took me some time to be able to delete and forgive, but that's mostly what I do now. There are two assets I value above all else: my time and my energy. Attempting to defend myself against people who just want to be hateful is a dire and irreversible waste of both of my prized assets.
There's nothing wrong with some healthy, intelligent debate, but most of the nasty letters and comments I've received over the years have been far from healthy or intelligent. (My favourite were the long rants from Soylent lovers who called me all kinds of names while claiming to have no time to prepare real food - failing to notice that in the time they composed their rant, they totally could have made themselves a sandwich).
As Mr. Eckhart Tolle says "defence is the first act of war" and I can't stomach war of any kind, so I've learned to zip the lip, delete and forgive. I prefer peace and peas.
6. You Won't Win Every Time
That saying "You win some, you lose some". I know it well. In business, I've had unexpected successes and equally unexpected fails. Calling them a 'fail' though has never been quite part of the vocabulary around here. Sure we had a "Tweet Chat" that only our sponsor showed up for and no one else. We speak fondly of this event as the last time we ever take on a sponsor for such a thing, or even do such a thing. I've launched courses that no one signed up for, and then launched a similar variation five years later and had nearly 1,000 people join the party.
Though after a decade, I have some very real formulas that work every time, and still some surprise hits. And of course, there are always the ideas I personally think are brilliant, and when I share them with the team, they look at me like I've lost the plot. So yes, I will proudly say that I win some and lose some. If I won every single time, than 1) I'd likely get bored as the challenge would be gone, and 2) there would be a good chance I was playing it way too safe and so also becoming bored by a different mechanism. The important part is that I continue to win, more than I lose and that is why I am still doing this ten years later.
Don't ever get too attached to your wins. Likewise, learn from the losses and keep innovating. It is the only way to keep moving forward.
7. This Is Really, Really, Really Hard Work. And That's Not A Bad Thing.
You know this, right? The people you see around you, rocking the socks off life are also working their tails off at rocking the socks off life (that's what The Awesome Life Detox is all about!). That goes for the biz rockers, the fitness enthusiasts, the healthy eaters, the happily married, the child raisers - everyone is working hard. I've never been a fitness enthusiast and as I write this I am only in the early stages of raising a child, but I've rocked and reared a business, two of them in fact, if we count The Academy of Culinary Nutrition.
And I work really, really hard. The girls around here can attest to that. Like when I took "maternity leave" and just kept working. I work hard because I care. I want this to succeed. I love it a lot (most of the time). I have ideas that I want to do right away. Most of all, I am passionate about what I am building and because of that, I work really hard and if I could work even more -like if there were actually more hours in the day - I probably would.
There is nothing wrong or bad about working hard. It teaches us stuff. It teaches us about what we're truly capable of. It teaches us the value of what we create and put out in the world. It teaches us about what matters and what doesn't. Working hard invites us to fulfill on our greatest potential and I'm all for that. My life/work balance works for me. I work a lot. I play a lot and at the end of each day, if I'm happy about how the day went, than I'm good. If I'm not happy about it, than that's okay too. I can just strive to be more awesome tomorrow.
8. When Life Happens, Be Open To Changing Course
I have never been one for five or ten year plans. Ten years ago, my goal was to have a cooking school, something of a community centre that brought people together to cook and eat and learn from each other. Ten years ago, the technology to run the Academy of Culinary Nutrition didn't yet exist. I had no idea this is where things would land.
As my boyfriend became my husband, and then together we became parents, I allowed for changes to flow as they needed to ensure the continued growth of my business, and also creating time to nourish my family. This meant that some of the big ideas on my to-do list needed to take a back seat so that I could find some calm in the chaos. Yes, this means some of my plans got crossed out, and others remain pending on my to-do list. What I have come to learn however is that all things come to life in their own good time and forcing anything is the surest way to inspire stress and confusion.
There's a plus side too. Over time I have also come to learn that ideas can easily come into their own when given the time and space to linger, evolve and grow. Kind of like humans. It has been my absolute experience that though I may wish for an idea to have come to me a year earlier and to have been executed before I even shared the plan, the reality is that ideas, development and evolution happen when the time is right. This doesn't mean waiting and waiting for the perfect time, but knowing that there is always the right time for the right thing.
9. Happily Creating Every Day Is What Matters the Most.
Ten years ago, I lived in a tiny corner of my loft - the same loft where I first started my cooking classes, where all of my videos have been shot, where I'd come on the weekends to write and edit both of my books. Ten years ago I wanted to create a big cooking school. I wanted to be a Shooter McG travelling hither and tither. I wanted to help people on a big and wide scale. My plan was to change my world, and hopefully, as a result, influence those in it and beyond.
Today, ten years later I do get to travel - but unless it's travel for months at a time in far off lands, I like staying home. I have a great big cooking school, but I never would have guessed it would be 100% online and have students in over 50 countries. I didn't know this is how I would create it in order to keep loving it. I wanted to have influence, but I thought it would be one person at a time, through private consults and 6-person cooking classes. I couldn't have dreamed that there would be books, television, social media, corporate clients, keynotes, and all the other bells and whistles that make this such a fun and unexpected adventure.
10. Everything is possible.
I am living a life that was created through my imagination. I had an idea and I did it. Step-by-step, became day-by-day and then year-by-year. I was told more times than I can count that what I was doing, or wanted to create, was unrealistic. That's how I knew I was on to something real and meaningful. The result for me is that I now know with absolute confidence that everything is possible. And if that fear that I am at the top of the roller coaster, about to begin my descent isn't in fact a fear but the reality, I also know that there will be another big uphill ascent in my future.
Ten years ago, most of my time was spent alone, in my loft, trying to figure out a way to make a living by inspiring you to live a most awesome life through this blog. And ten years later, today, I have figured that out. I built a business. I love and am grateful for all the opportunities, successes and learning experiences that have come with it. And still I feel like I am only getting started.