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.
Remember when you was a kid and you desperately wanted to be everyones friend?
Are you still like that now?
Do you crave “being liked” or at the least “not being judged”
I have struggled with this over the years. I like to think I don’t care what people think of me but I do….not as much as I used to, but I still need to remind yourself from time to time that you are never going to be everyones cup of tea, because then you are just a mug.
(Love that joke…but goes down better in person)
So it got me thinking, if not everyone is going to like you how do you rationalise that, how do you use that fact to your advantage both in business and in life?
How can we remind ourselves to stand out and not worry about fitting in, without the fear of judgement or worst still the inevitable conflict that comes with being visible and available to so many more people?
As a business owner, a very visible one at that I have put myself out there for judgement, ridicule, opinion, and scrutiny.
Appearing on TV brings all the crazies out on social media,
“Oh look a fat person telling us to be healthy”
And when I started charging properly for my services, or saying no to freebies,
“Oh your just too big for your boots, who do you think you are”
People lash out, sometimes because they are just dicks, sometimes because what you are doing is triggering them, and often because people just can’t see the value you offer to them…or you have different values than yours.
And that is OK
I think there are 3 main reasons people can’t always be your cup of tea and why you shouldn’t try to be, and here they are…
We all have a set of values. Things which are important to us. Some of these are core values we have had since childhood, the things which drive us, which help us navigate the world, and some which come later in life as our world around us shifts and changes.
Someones core value might be equality, but that will mean something different to me, as what it will to you, because our stories are different. So even if we have similar values, we can express them and understand them differently.
And just because some values are less important to you, it doesn’t mean they are not important at all, or that you can’t appreciate their importance in other people, it just mean we focus our energy in the places which matter to us most.
And a big lesson for me is you can’t force people to care about the stuff you care about, but you can outline why you think the way you do and hope people at least respect your position on things.
We all believe we are wonderful communicators. But often things get lost in translation. We read into what we see according to a range of factors, how we are feeling about ourselves, the influences of others, and sometimes because it serves a purpose to read something in a certain way…because it helps us create evidence for our own views on the world.
Edward De Bono said,
Communication is always understood in the context and experience of the receiver, no matter what was intended
He also said,
Most of the mistakes in thinking are inadequacies of perception rather than mistakes of logic
Which means we have a duty to give people the benefit of the doubt and not make rash decisions around meaning. So much conflict is to be had through misreading of information, and the assumptions about intent.
Things change. Your world view shifts. Your priorities may be different. From year to year, month to month, week to week…what we want, need and expect from the people around us can completely change in an instant, and sometimes it takes a while for the other people to catch up.
But we can’t go around making sure every individual we have a relationship with knows where you are at on everything, we just have to do our best to be authentically ourselves and hope people come along with us if it feels like alignment.
People come into your life for a reason, a season and a lifetime…and you have to make peace with that, because otherwise it can drive you mad.
So my advice is just be yourself, do your thing, shine brightly, try not to piss people off on purpose, say sorry when people need to hear that, give people the benefit of the doubt, and try to live within the integrity and guidelines you set for yourself.
When I was little I used to live in East Ham, and I will never forget the sound of the fruit and veg man shouting at the top of his lungs,
Come and get your juicy pears
And a range of other call outs, rhymes and jokes telling anyone within ear shot just how wonderful his fruit and veg was.
In fact there were more than one fruit and veg men in the small market outside the indoor market on East Ham High Street, each competing for passing trade.
I assumed you just went for the first stall you see, but my Mum told me once,
Not this one, we go to the bloke further along
And I can remember wondering why?
This morning I remembered that story as I walked through the shopping centre near where I live and I saw a guy setting up his stall with his Avon products.
He was busy setting out all the perfumes, make up and other toiletries, oblivious to the hundreds of people walking past him. There was nothing attracting customers, nothing to make me ever consider having a look at what he had on his stall.
It made me wonder how many hours of his life he must spend setting up and then packing up the hundreds of products he sells…and whether he made any money from this stall.
The fact he was missing the morning trade, not making eye contact, not being available if anyone had forgotten their mascara or worse still their deodorant, not making eye contact…or maybe even having some testers…and plus don’t people mainly sell Avon online or via their network these days?
As I walked past the other stalls I wondered about the sales and marketing (or lack of) activities of the other traders.
I walked past the guy who sells the fruit in plastic bowls. Not the best quality fruit (I know it will go off a few days after buying it) but perfect if I fancy something to eat on my way somewhere. It is like 30% cheaper than the other stalls, and I like the guys that sell from there.
The other place I buy fruit from, the bloke always says “alright darlin” whether I am buying that day or not. Plus the fruit is always good quality and service is fast and proffessional.
Each of these serve a different purpose and I am happy to support both businesses….wheras I am indifferent to the 4 or 5 other fruit and veg stalls in the market.
I also realise I get great joy from buying my eggs from the egg stall. Mainly because its an old guy who runs it and he has been there for years, he sells all kinds of eggs (including pickled) and I get a sense of old east end nostalgia…I don’t care if I can get the eggs cheaper in Sainsbury’s, or can get double the number of eggs for the price in the 0.99p shop.
But here are my top lessons which I think are applicable for most small businesses.
Don’t waste too much time and money making everything pretty, it doesn’t need to be perfect to make your first sale. So many entrepreneurs fiddle around with logos, and colour pallets, and think they can’t launch things until everything is perfect. This is a waste of time and energy, especially if you haven’t tested the market yet.
Setting up your stall is important but don’t ignore the early footfall in your business. If there is a need, be ready to go immediately. The rest you can do when there is a break, or gradually while still serving customers.
Think about how you can differentiate yourself from your competitors, can you have quirky slogans, better customer service, a fast turn around, friendly staff. Bring your personality to the front
You don’t have to compete on price, but know that people will always want things at different price points, so be comfortable with what you charge…and even if your products are the cheapest you can always add extra value without it costing you massively. (The cheap greengrocer lets you taste the fruit to check for sweetness)
And finally, my favourite one…Treat your customers, or even your potential customers nice, even if they are not buying from you today…they might tomorrow.
Hope that has given you some food for thought, would love to know how you can implement any of this in your business…or any other business lessons you can learn from business traders?
Every day this week at 12.30pm I am doing a FREE lunch and learn over on my Facebook Page all about growing online businesses.
On Thursday I am offering some FREE clinics where I will give you some ideas for easy ways to attract new clients, and to make more money and more of an impact online. Email me at email@example.com to secure your spot.
If you are a female business owner who would like to find out more about how I help entrepreneurs grow their business by building authentic tribes of followers, customers and partners, then click here to read about my new programme Tribe Builder
Nor a question asked in a team meeting in a care home?
This is the question my boss asked me when I unveiled a crazy plan I had back in 2010 when I came back from an old age pensioners community meeting which hadn’t exactly gone to plan.
It was back when London was getting itself ready to host the greatest show on earth…long before Hugh Jackman and his tribe were on the scene. I was working as an Olympic Development Manager in an outer London borough, Redbridge. My job was to get everyone excited, to bring opportunities into the borough and to help teams across the council understand the impact of those 6 weeks of disruption.
It was a tough job.
Not everyone wanted the games.
I’d been putting off going to the Redbridge Pensioners Forum because I had heard that there was a lot of unhappiness about how little they were being consulted, and how it wasn’t going to impact them in a positive way at all.
But I braved the meeting, I gave my presentation, and then I braced myself for the questons and comments from the floor…and lets just say they didn’t hold back.
I held my own though, I told them my job was to involve EVERYONE, and one way or another I would find a way to get them involved.
And a few hours later while back at my desk it came to me.
“I’m going to get 100 old age pensioners from Redbridge dancing in the opening ceremony”
I said to my collegue
I think was the answer.
But the following month I headed back to the community forum and I revealed my plans. There was a mix of excitement and some skepticism, but I asked them to at least give it a go and see where we got?
I employed a chair based exercise expert, and I utalised my skills from my performing arts degree, and together we choreographed an 11 minute piece which used the Olympics as inspiration….with the Chariots of Fire and Rocky theme tunes, it was an absolute blast.
We went from rehearsals of 10 people, to regular rehursals of 80-110 pensioners. From every corner of the borough, from every ethnicity you could imagine. 50 year olds and 90 year olds…we even had a couple of chaps that were at the 1948 games, who took great pleasure in sharing their stories.
These were folks that never really had a reason to spend time with each other before, and now they had this shared vision of being involved in the Olympics.
They never did get selected to be in the official opening ceremony at the games, but they were involved in every celebration that happened across the borough, and even performed at an event where the Queen visited…the actual QUEEN OF ENGLAND imagine that?
Some of those old people went on to become volunteers at the olympics, some went on to get involved in other arts programmes in the borough, and many will just have been left with lasting memories of that year where they were involved in the 2012 Games.
Let me tell you…The Golden Years Dance Troupe…was not in my job description. My bosses boss I am sure started having real doubts about taking me on when he heard about this scheme, but can I tell you out of all the projects I have ever been involved in…this one was 100% the most satistfying.
My daughter Rose has just started a new dance class at a local arts centre, the same arts centre I took my old people too, to get them performance ready. Seeing them see themselves in the full length mirror in the proper dance studio for the first time was so powerful I thought I might cry, and now every time I take my 6 year old there I remember just how magical that was an experience.
I love bringing people together.
I’m good at it.
I can create something out of nothing (well my mum always did tell me that…as have many of my ex partners, but thats a different matter)
There is something really powerful about allowing yourself to be part of a community, embracing the diversity of a group, helping others to shine, allowing yourself to also.
I am so glad that I have gone back to my roots and started to fully embrace the skills that I have in bringing people together with a shared goal.
Today is the last chance to sign up at the early bird price for my new programme for female entrepreneurs called Tribe Builders, its designed especially for female bloggers, speakers, influencers, experts and coaches…or women who run businesses where they want to grow a loyal customer base.
Sign up before midnight tonight and get in for just £300
The programme is designed to help you understand the power of community not only for doing good, but for driving profits, and creating capacity within your business.
I may not be able to get 100 female entrepreneurs dancing, but I can sure as hell get them smiling, and feeling ready to step up and be visible in the world.