Short stories, affirmations, blog posts, full blown books…putting my words down for other people to see them is part of who I am.
But even still I have been holding myself back.
When I was a teenager I started writing poetry.
I did it in secret because my poems revealed who I was and I worried my siblings would find them and take the piss out of me.
Occasionally I would submit one for an English or drama class…but it was a side of me that made me feel a bit vulnerable.
When I headed off to uni I had a bit of a resurgence, maybe it was because I was away from home, creating a new identity for myself and missing the diversity of East London a million miles away (or so it seemed) in Winchester.
I started writing poems and posting them in online forums.
I used spoken word in my final year dance project, helping one of my performers to tap into who she was, her cultural identity, in a piece called “Looking In”
Later I would go on to use spoken word with the hundreds of young people I worked with as a drama practitioner, and even though it wasn;t really poetry I would use my writing skills when writing speeches for politicians when I moved briefly into the public sector.
Somewhere along the way spoken word became cool.
The lines between music and poetry became blurred (maybe it always had been with music forms like rap), but bands like The Streets, and even popular music like Lily Allen…spoke to me and my life, and I would use these lyrical pieces in films I made as part of projects I worked on.
And somehow my own writing suffered.
I stopped writing.
Well, writing anything which even remotely resembled poetry.
I can’t even remember the last time I even attempted to sit down and write anything that wasn’t bog standard non fiction, or at a push a slightly ranty almost poetic blog post.
That was until about a month ago.
I had wanted to write a script for a promo film I had an idea for in my business coaching programme Tribe Builder.
And I got serious writers block.
When I did write it sounded poncy and cliched.
I was stuck.
And then I started just writing down phrases, things which frustrated me about the world we lived in…and that’s when I saw it, the flow the rhythm of the words, the way that some words jumped out of the page as if they were begging me to make them rhyme.
But even then I kept looking at the piece thinking
“this is stupid”
“its too rhymy”
“its too ranty”
“its too juvenile”
And then I got brave and read it outloud to a business friend who is the most straight forward person I know…and she said it gave her goose bumps.
So I knew I was onto something.
Sharing my idea with the brilliant Justina Rosu, film maker in her own right was scary. She has a background working for the BBC, and she helps entrepreneurs bring out their brand stories…what if she hated the spoken word idea?
Luckily she didn’t.
She was as excited as I was, and really listened to what I wanted.
The day and a half we spent shooting was simply the best adventure ever…I had so much fun. So OK the words were hard to remember and I struggled to do them in one take…but they flowed, even with hundreds of people around looking at me like,
Who is she?
I can’t tell you how proud of what we have created.
But also its hard to describe how revealing it makes me feel.
It won’t be for everyone…and I can almost see the eye rolling, and hear the sighs of “really, get over yourself love”
But this is me.
Every location in that video was chosen not because of its aesthetic, but because of the meaning behind it. Those market stalls are where I buy fruit, the canals are where I run, that bench is where I sit and watch my daughter play after school.
Authenticity is an over used phrase….but how can I promote it without leading by example and showing people who I really am.
So there you have it.
I am a poet.
And now you know it.
Now I am thinking what next? What else do I want to express through the power of words and imagery in this way?
I’d love to know what you think of it.
Let me know what you think, like it, leave a comment, and share it for other business owners to see.
Oh, and if you are interested in the concept of Tribe Building and finding a different way in Tribe Building, then the cart is currently open for the Summer cohort of my 10-week programme Tribe Builder.
I’ve often found myself feeling like this which is weird.
How can you be lonely as a child when you had 5 siblings, or as a teenager when you were popular and had a wide circle of friends and lots of hobbies.
Or even now when I have great friends and family, and a brilliant network of peers, colleagues and acquaintances.
Maybe it’s not even loneliness it’s about a lack of true connection?
One of my clients left this comment on a thread I posted about this, summing it up so beautifully.
I am married and mother of two. I feel lonely even when I’m very busy with my family. I asked myself why and I found an answer. You feel lonely when the understanding of others is missing. When no one is really caring of how you feel, what you want or what you dream of. You feel lonely when you are overwhelmed with your chores and duties. You feel lonely when you are so tired and you have so many things to do before you can sleep. I asked myself what could help. It’s very easy: People who care. People who do things for you. People who ask you who you are and how you are and what you want. In these times more and more people just care for themselves and don’t think of others. I myself try to do what I want others to do to me even when I feel lonely doing it.
Powerful stuff hey?
I have been creating things to help with my sense of loneliness since I was a child….the semi-public library I set up in my brother’s bedroom aged 8, the kids club I set up in our garden shed aged 11, the community dance company I founded in the year 2000…I just always had this need to draw like-minded people towards me…to be of value, to offer something others might need or want.
I set up Too Fat to Run to give plus size runners a place to connect, to feel less alone, and it has been a lifeline, not only for the thousands of runners I have coached and supported but for me too…I couldn’t have achieved what I have without their reciprocal support.
I am drawn to groups of people striving for the same thing…it’s why I love retreats, both running them and taking part in them. I love the shared experience. The shared memories. The shared shifts…if that is even a thing.
But something has been happening of late which has been making me less happy to commune, particularly in the online world. Where I used to love my little Facebook communities…and I have created and taken part in many…like seriously loads.
I have wanted to retreat…hide away (which is a bit tough when its kinda connected to your livelihood)
But I have become frustrated with the fairness of it all.
Like you build a tribe, a community of 23K women interested in what you have to offer…and then the technology decides to limit your access so you have to pay for the privilege of communicating with them.
Nah…thats not on.
Equally, as a consumer, you sign up to go through some kind of learning experience, with a community aspect and the technology decides that it won’t display the information you need to see in the order you need to see it.
And it mucks up the vibe, big time.
I have always been such an advocate of Facebook and other social media sites, in their ability to bring us together around shared interests and experiences, but I have also seen a shift that says it has become overwhelming and just another thing to manage, navigate and curb in some cases.
But still my desire to connect is there.
My desire to help others connect is even stronger than ever.
But I want to find new ways of doing that…that don’t add to the problem.
And I think I have found it.
Two weeks ago I launched something pretty exciting, a new way of hosting one of my communities…a community which is all about connection, and women understanding and supporting one another.
I was apprehensive about it…because this had been my VIP offering, my higher priced life coaching programme.
But one of my driving values is fairness and equality…and excluding women because of the price felt wrong.
So now instead of it being a 12 week intensive programme, I have launched a mobile phone based membership programme, exploring the same issue of how to live a bigger more fulfilling more purpose-filled life…but with community right at the heart of it.
There are 100 women in there right now, and on the 1st May we start a 31 day visibility challenge. We are still beta testing it to be honest, and the price of $12.99 per month will go up in the future to better represent the value…but its feeling so much better.
Over the long weekend it was wonderful to see women popping in, to give updates, to ask for advice, to connect with each other. I know I for one was more mindful around not wasting my weekend, and staying on top of my feelings.
So if you are a woman who is about building up other women, and forging new and interesting relationships in a safe space online, and you are curious about what your life could look like if you lived it in a bigger more intentional way…then this might be the community for you.
Head on over and take a look.
I’d love to know what you think about the format, and I would love to get to know you. No, like seriously.
Living a Bigger Life is the community for women who are done with playing small. Join us for just $12.99 per month with no minimum monthly contract.
With no distractions, adverts, or negative vibes and the ability to pick and choose what you see, and from whom…this really is the social network you have been dreaming of.
Did I ever tell you about the plus size fitness programme I launched for men a few years ago that was a complete and utter flop?
Or do you recall the time I started selling fabric pens on my website so that people could customise their running tops with inspirational messages?
Why would you?
Those business ideas never took off, they never got any traction and in short, they were just shit business ideas….but it didn’t really matter because I didn’t really lose anything by launching them.
I have a lot of business ideas, and sometimes some of them are genius and sometimes they are just rubbish…the problem is sometimes it’s difficult to know which is which.
Which is why I pilot.
Even when I worked in a proper job, I would always pilot an idea before investing any time or resource into doing it properly, helping people to buy into the concept with little risk and then let the results speak for themselves.
This week 14 of my clients on my new Tribe Builder Programme (which YES I am currently piloting) launched new ventures.
Some of these were extensions of what they already do in business, and some were completely new business ideas. (You can read about them here in an email I sent round to my email list on Monday)
Launching stuff into the world is scary because it plays on those universal fears of being judged and ultimately big embarrassing, soul crushing failure.
But when something doesn’t get the traction I hoped for, when my new fantastic thing gets nothing but tumbleweed responses, and the deadline for signing up comes and goes…I am grateful (well at least I have learned to be) because it tells me this wasn’t quite right.
People vote with their wallets…and if people haven’t rushed to buy my thing it means one of 3 things
The offer was wrong
The timing was wrong
Its not what I should be doing
I used to think it’s because I am shit at business, nobody likes me, and I am not worthy of success (recognise any of those?) but a whole heap of mindset work, and surrounding myself with the right people to talk things through means I don’t have those highs and lows so much anymore.
Piloting things somehow takes the pressure off.
It says, “I don’t know yet”, it says “let’s see”, it enables me to be playful and to involve the end user in shaping it and making it something awesome for the next round.
People are interested in the process, they are interested in the journey, some people are curious about how things evolve…these are the folks that you want in your beta testing teams.
I am testing a few things at the moment, and they are all super exciting.
I had been pondering on a new business model for my Living a Bigger Life Mastermind for a while. I love the work that I do with my clients on that programme but something felt off…in some ways it felt unaligned to my values…especially the one about fairness.
That programme was saying, I care about women living bigger, but only the ones that can afford to pay handsomely for it…and that didn’t feel good, even though it was a VIP type of offer.
So my thinking was, how can I make the same amount of money but make it more accessible, more vibrant, more impactful, and in some ways less work for me?
And so I came up with an idea for piloting this new model.
I put a call out for 100 women to test a new mobile app version of this, a community approach to life coaching and personal development, and guess what?
6 days in and its kinda awesome.
So far I have 72 women all signed up and using this fab new bit of tech, feeding back what works and doesn’t, giving me ideas for features and content.
It is an absolute dream.
Now if I had spent 6 months developing this, looking into all the stuff, asking people if they were interested and all manor of other procrasti branding activities I might never have taken the plunge and just launched it.
Now I am not yet at the stage where I can say confidently this is a resounding success, and this community app is going to revolutionise my life…but it bringing in income, its bringing joy to my working day, and its already having a positive impact on the lives of the women involved.
And I am learning a heap of stuff about apps, and the like
Fear stops us from trying new things
Fear stops us from making mistakes
Fear stops us from learning
Fear stops us from growth
You know that thing you have been wanting to do for like FOREVER? I bet you that you could get something up and out there as a pilot in like 10 days. Especially if you let go of any idea of it being perfect and let go of any need for it to be successful in its first round…and then who knows where it might lead to.
Remember the Wright Brothers? What would have happened if they chose not to keep at it trying new things and learning each time. It’s an overused phrase but there really is no such thing as a failure….so get out there are fail a bit more often…who knows where it might take you.
PS. I won’t be saying that if I completely mess up next weekends London Marathon attempt ha ha
If you are a female who is done with playing small, and would like to get involved in my current Living a Bigger Life pilot, sign up here for $12.99 per month…the price will be going up after the pilot phases…and you get to see me figuring all this stuff out before all the shiny more polished stuff goes live on the 1st May.
If you are interested in joining the next round of my Tribe Builder Programme for speakers, experts and entrepreneurs…which includes a quick and dirty pilot launch then get your name on my wait list…find out more here
Do you ever get stressed about what to wear, or worry about how you look when you know all eyes are going to be on you?
I know those are kind of stupid questions, because so many women I work with talk about this stuff.
I’ve always felt like this.
I have never felt very stylish, I’ve always struggled to feel completely confident in the way I present myself. Sometimes in the past, this has been because of my size, sometimes not having the funds to buy the kind of clothes I like.
It has got better over the years but I still have real moments of panic.
Often when I get invited to speak at things or attend various different events I find that I can’t truly enjoy them because I am worried about what to wear.
I took 8 dresses with me to the conference I closed in OCtober…and I had 4 more at home that I had bought for the occasion…that’s ludicrous!!!
I think it’s because of phrases like “Dress to impress” and “you have to look the part” the part for what?
I remember a few years back when I was unemployed and the job centre put me up for this job and I had nothing to wear, I mean NOTHING…I had been out of the working world for almost a year, I had new baby weight and no money to buy anything.
The job centre sent me to the shops with gift vouchers to choose something appropriate, but of course their idea of appropriate meant a cheap suit from the high street, and there was only the option of two stores, one of which didn’t even stock my size.
I remember going to that interview in my cheap nylon suit thinking they would be mad to employ me, not because I wasn’t employable but because I looked like I was dressed for a funeral and had never worn smart clothes in my life.
Needless to say I didn’t get the job. Just as well really because a month later I turned Too Fat to Run into a business, and I haven’t had to wear a bloody suit since ha ha.
For me clothes are not really about having an outward image, for me, it’s more about feeling comfortable in my own skin. It’s not about being photographed and looking flattering, it’s about not letting how I feel about what I wear detract from the message I want to share with the world.
As an entrepreneur, a speaker…as someone who sometimes goes on the tele or gets photographed for various things there is this pressure to always get it right, to look well put together.
It’s hard not to compare yourself to others in your field, and ask yourself why don’t I look as good as them?
The thing is I don’t want to wear designer dresses and heels, I’m more of a jeans and t-shirt kinda girl, a rebel…I don’t want to have to wear stuff that restricts my movement, or makes me feel vulnerable…and trust me some clothing makes me feel like this.
I want to feel grounded, and authentically me.
2019 for me is a year of really being me, of sticking to my vision for how I want to show up in the world, a year for being led by my values, and for celebrating the things which make me unique.
It’s one of the reasons that I am collaborating with the fabulous Lauren Jobling.
Lauren is a stylist working with big brands and ordinary women like me, she also runs body positivity workshops and has a lot to say about fashion, style and womens issues.
I have been following her on Instagram for about a year and really wanted to collaborate in some way. Yesterday we met for the first time and went on a treasure hunt around the charity shops of London, starting with Barnardos in Brixton.
Oh my days we had so much fun.
I was a little nervous because Lauren always looks so well put together and has great taste in clothes, whereas I can often be found in food stained, unironed stuff…no make up, hair unwashed.
But it was fine.
I realised that I actually know more about the kind of stuff that works for me than I thought. My statement jewellery, my faux leather biker jacket, retro headbands, bright block colours, or bold prints.
Love this dress we found in Banardos…it’s so me!!!
Yeah I have a style.
I just need to make more of an effort to be consistent with it.
You are going to be seeing much more from Lauren and I over the next few months as we work on some things together, and hopefully you will notice an improvement on my sometimes dishevelled look…not because I want to look the part of a global entrepreneur with big plans…but because I don’t have the energy to be stressing any more about what the hell to wear.
First step…clear out my wardrobe of all the shoulda, coulda, woulda clothes that make it hard for me to see what I have, and then step two is book another session with Lauren to sketch out what I am going to wear for a few big things coming up next month.
Super excited to have another epic woman on my team.
Go check out Lauren on Insta, you can see some of the finds we had. Also, note to self Julie…take more photos, I got home last night and realised I didn’t take even one of our time together…I was having far too much fun.
I have been coaching people for as long as I can remember.
Or have I?
In fact maybe I have just been bossing people around, giving my advice (asked for or not) maybe I have been more of a mentor, a confident, a consultant?
And maybe none of these titles even matter.
I took on the title coach by accident a few years back when my business Too Fat to Run started to take off. I was offering, advice, and support and specific running expertise to women new to running.
Sports Coach…that’s a role we kind of understand right?
But then my advice started to fall outside of those parameters, and I started offering more productivity, and mindset and life coaching support. Drawing on tools and techniques I had read or learned about from other coaches….or sharing tools I used to live a bigger life.
Women started asking specifically for programmes that were not just about running, but were applying BIG FAT STUPID GOALS to other areas of their life.
And it wasn’t long before I had a few online programmes in this niche, and some 121 clients and was proudly calling myself a life coach. Apparently you don’t need a coaching qualification to do that…in fact you can buy a course of Udemy for like £10 and say you are qualified.
Although I have always had quite robust insurance (just in case you were wondering)
The thing is I knew I had some natural ability as a coach, as I said I have worked with people in community engagement for more than 20 years. This has involved supporting and advising young people, managing thousands of volunteers, and mentoring people who worked under me.
But I wanted to be able to say I was a life coach, and say so proudly.
So I set about finding out what it would really mean to get qualified, and I remembered a friend/colleague of mine worked for the coaching company Animas…in fact he has just been promoted to CEO (Well done Robert)
I went on one of their open days, and that was it I was hooked.
There was one phrase that the coach said which really struck a chord,
It was something about our clients being whole not broken, and our role as coaches is to help them uncover the answers that are already there.
I loved that.
I guess in part because I always found it a bit uncomfortable thinking I was some kind of guru with all the answers…trust me I have days where I am clueless about my own life.
So for the last 6 months or so I have been on a wonderful journey of discovery since, learning new skills and techniques as a coach as I work towards being accredited by the International Coaching Federation.
The tools I have been learning have made me a better coach on all of my main programmes, and with the 121 clients I now work with, and it is giving me the confidence to grow and expand my own coaching business, developing my own models and techniques.
So anyway, what is coaching?
Animas describe it as
…a conversational approach to moving someone from where they are to where they want to be
Founder of animas Nick Bolton (who has just stepped down as CEO) says of coaching,
It has a rare quality as a pragmatic journey of self exploration
One of the things I know from my groups, but am recognising even more in my 121 work, is that for many women it is simply having time to just think about their own needs for a while, and to have a non judgemental set of ears at the other end of the line.
I have seen some truly spectacular shifts in some of my clients, and it is joyful to see them go on to achieve their goals, or simply going through life feeling better about things.
Who do I work with?
I work primarily with women (I guess I’m open to coaching with men 121, but it does seem to be women who come my way) and the women come from all walks of life.
These women are not “broken” women, without direction or at their wits end with life. They are not looking for therapy. With coaching we look forward, we are future focussed…looking for solutions, and ways through, rather than wallowing in the past.
These are strong, capable, funny, successful women who understand the value in putting themselves first and getting additional support when they need it. We have an absolute blast on the calls, and I always leave energised.
The kind of challenges women come to me with include
Wanting to go for promotion
Wanting to start dating
Wanting to have better boundaries at work and in their personal life
Wanting to work towards big life goals
Dealing with imposter syndrome and self sabotage
Wanting to live healthier more balanced lives
Wanting to explore and find their purpose, and have more impact
This is BIG stuff, and I love that I can help in a small way.
So how can you work with me as your coach?
My next round of Living a Bigger Life which is my signature group programme goes again mid May (there is currently a ridiculous super early bird offer or a pay now in installments feature) Click here for more details
I do in person days called “Stop Playing Small” in Stratford in East London, these are charged at £479 and include a pre-call and some follow up support, email me email@example.com for more info, I can also travel for these subject to logistics.
I currently have space for 5 new 121 clients, to work with me on a 6-session initial basis via Zoom. These 60 minute can be taken weekly, fortnightly or monthly. This package costs £500 again email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
And what about business coaching?
I am no longer offering 121 business coaching at the moment as I am focussing on a new programme called Tribe Builder, which will be open for new people to join at the end of May.
I am 100% using these new skills with my clients, in fact I have developed a whole new planning and goal setting system around one of the coaching models called STAR (or my version “START as you mean to go on”)
But watch this space 121 business coaching may be something I return to in the future.
I am so glad I bit the bullet and embarked on this coaching journey. I have always been a fan of learning, but learning skills and tools which you can use for the rest of your life is just a blessing.
You might not think that coaching is for you, you might be one of those people who think Life Coaching is an industry full of young attractive people with massive Instagram accounts who use it as a cover for their self development habit (cough cough I can assure you this is not the case for me) but how would you know if you don’t give it a go.
If you do have any questions, I am always open to hearing them, it is helpful for me to know what womens concerns might be.
If you want to check out what some of my clients are up to head over to Twitter or Instagram and do a search for #iblamejulie the hashtag a bunch of my clients came up with a few years ago which seems to have taken up a life of its own.