Can I get a redo?
Today, my colleague Stephanie Pollock — who I discovered, when I Skyped with her last year, is every bit as intelligent and kind as she seems in her writing — released the 3rd edition of her digital magazine, Going Pro. I’m one of 14 women entrepreneurs featured in the mag.
Steph’s objective for publishing the mag is this: “to demystify success.”
Because, she says, when we read the perfectly edited blog posts, view the dreamy-filtered Instagrams, and scan the wittily and compassionately curated Tweetstreams of our favorite-to-watch online business owners, “we know we’re only getting the highlight reel.”
Isn’t this the truth?
Each contributor to the magazine wrote an article and completed a Q&A. Reading back through my article today, “3 Things To Cross Off Your To Do List While Going Pro,” I was struck by how hollow and plastic the piece feels. This is no fault of Stephanie’s: I was asked to bring it and to be ‘no holds barred,’ by I didn’t quite get there in this piece.
I do love the Q&A I did, though, because I articulated some thoughts about doing business that I’ve never put in writing before. There’s the jewel box metaphor, a mini treatise on pluck, and what I still struggle madly with in my own business. I’d love for you to read that Q&A, and to check out the contributions of the other 13 women (including Steph herself).
I’ve been thinking lately about the way we present our success to the “public” — whomever that is (that’s YOU, reader). And while I love the art and science of branding and putting a conversational best foot forward, I also believe that we could show up with a little more empathy — not only for the people who are drawn to do business with us, but for ourselves, and for our peers and colleagues in business.
And so I’ve put together a few more thoughts. This is the piece I should’ve submitted to Going Pro.
Here’s why it’s good to demystify success in business (especially as women) and how this helps us all have a better experience as brand creators:
1. BS breeds more BS, and the world does not need more BS.
Transparency is neither my highest Voice Value (it’s right smack in the middle of the 16, for me), and neither is it something entirely comfortable for me in public. In private, in a small group or 1-to-1, when I can look into your eyes and see that you’re trustworthy, I’ll tell you just about anything. Online, my face-to-the-public is a fairly tight-lipped one. But in those moments when I let my hair down (like yesterday, in this Facebook post), I’m always surprised by the overwhelming YES and THANK YOUs that come chorusing in from all around me. What? Other people legit feel this way, too? YES.
Dropping the BS is good for business — especially if you’re a perfectionist.
When we insist on living inside a filmy photo filter where everything looks dreamy and bokeh’d and just right, we perpetuate the notion that business is “easy-peasy” (a phrase that makes my skin crawl) and should be no more complex than tipping back a Mimosa on a sun-dappled balcony somewhere — if you can just figure out how to do it right.
As women in business (I’m calling out women here because that’s the target readership for Going Pro), we owe a modicum of honesty to each other about what it really takes to design our own work in the world, market it to sell, and deliver it excellently and with great love and care.
2. Making it look easy is a feat, not a character strength.
You know what they say about ducks, right? They float along smoothly, skimming the surface of the water while paddling like hell underneath?
Yeah, that’s a lot of women business owners I know, to a greater or lesser degree.
Those who make business look easy, in my view, are people who are wired to make things look easy. (I admit that I fall in to this camp, in some ways.) Chances are, “making it look easy” is actually a stress behavior or a compensatory behavior covering up something else. Not to get all pathological on you, and not to say that we should go on and on about how hard the work of building a business can be and feel (because let’s be honest, building your own business is a lot of effing fun, too!), but to NEVER let anyone break the crust of our self-imposed perfectionism — that’s just tyranny of the soul.
A little reality check for our readers and clients, every once in a while, makes the work we create and deliver all the more human. What a gift and privilege it is to BE someone who gets to create for a living. There’s no shame in showing your hand from time to time, even if that hand has nail-bitten fingers.
3. Your success makes me better, and mine makes you better.
This is one that’s a toughie for many women business owners to embrace, especially because a Competitive stance (in business) runs counter to the Good Girl Regime so many of us were raised, schooled, and indoctrinated under. What I mean is — we were TAUGHT not to compete but to collaborate, compliment/complement, and cooperate, and so learning to embrace our Competitive edges was renegade — a fierce choice for self-centeredness (the good kind).
But now in the highly collaborative world of doing business online, women have to learn new ways to come together as peers and colleagues — not in competition with, but in collaboration with one other, and to do so while holding our powerful center. To collaborate with others goes against my nature to a large degree, and yet, I’ve learned to love it. Growing my business over the last 9 months from Abby Kerr Ink (a one-woman freelance show) to The Voice Bureau (a boutique agency specializing in brand voice, copy and content-writing, and marketing) has been the BEST professional move I’ve yet made. And I know there will be more moves that are wise and rich like this one was. (In my Going Pro Q&A, I share a little bit about how hard letting go of control was for me. Maybe you’ll be able to relate.)
It’s not that as business owners, we’re “called” to help others get better, stronger, faster. Not at all. Not all are called to teach, though we’re each teachers in our own way, even by example or from a distance and especially when we’re most unaware we’re being watched. I don’t think it’s wise or desirable for every business owner to teach others to do as she’s done.
But we are called, I believe, to learn that others’ strengths and successes are not a threat to us. Instead, others’ victories can be assets and resources for us. My success really does make you better, as you learn from watching me and interacting with my brand. And your success makes me better, as I learn from watching and interacting with yours.
So this is the post I should’ve written for Going Pro.
And now I have. Thanks for listening. Here’s to more de-mystification of success.
In the comments, I’d love to hear:
Do you like going behind-the-scenes of other people’s businesses and brands? What do you wish business owners would talk MORE about? Anything you’re sick of hearing about?