In this podcast episode, Tania speaks with a passionate entrepreneur and work reinvention strategist, Lydia Lee, about her entrepreneurial journey and how she learned to take intentional imperfect action into entrepreneurship.
Being intentional about taking imperfect action can support you in gaining the clarity you need to become a successful entrepreneur.
Why Lydia started her first entrepreneurial project part-time while working full-time for an employer. (5:11)
How Lydia realized that starting her own business instead of changing jobs or industries was the right decision for her. (9:02)
What the sweet spot for creating meaningful work is and how to start to find yours. (10:57)
Why you shouldn’t ever undervalue your current network and how to think about social equity in an empowering way. (14:45)
A simple mindset shift to overcome fear of taking action. (20:12)
Lydia’s thoughtful advice for first-time entrepreneurs on how to approach loved ones that might have concerns about your decision to be an entrepreneur. (23:21)
How to find the thing to build a business around if you’re unsure of what type of business to start. (28:24)
How to know the difference between experiencing challenges or whether your business type is not a good fit or you. (32:31)
How taking calculated risks can create a sense of safety and lead to meaningful work. (36:58)
What aligned action looks like versus hustle action. (41:30)
How to access Lydia’s free workshop on how to launch a business designed from your strengths, values and personality. (43:12)
How to connect with Lydia. (47:23)
Startup Advantage welcomes voices from many spheres with different perspectives and opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. The show does not endorse, promote, or is in association with guests' business interests.
Lydia free workshop: Learn how to launch a business you love designed from your strengths, values, and personality
Lydia’s 90-Day Launch mentorship program
The University of British Columbia - UBC
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Eps 34 How to Take Intentional Imperfect Action Into Entrepreneurship with Lydia Lee
Please enjoy this transcript of Lydia Lee's interview with Tania on the Startup Advantage Podcast. This transcript is lightly edited for readability.
[00:04:59] Tania De Ridder: Hi, Lydia. Welcome to Startup Advantage. I've been so looking forward to speaking with you. Thank you so much for sharing yourself with us today.
[00:05:08] Lydia Lee: Thank you, Tania. I'm glad to be starting my morning with you.
[00:05:11] Tania De Ridder: Lydia, seven years ago you started your business as a blog while still employed to document what you call your "identity crisis of transitioning from employee to entrepreneur", and you viewed it as an experiment. Today you are a successful entrepreneur, and you support others in finding meaningful work. Can you tell me about what it is that you wanted to experience and feel years ago that led you to starting this experiment into entrepreneurship?
[00:05:39] Lydia Lee: Tania, my story started with a health scare. I wish I could have said that I had a Gandhi moment, you know. I would have loved to live a bigger and better life, but actually, I experienced quite a debilitating burnout in my corporate career. I used to work in international education, something very similar to where you're at the moment in your industry. And I had a burnout that happened to me in the middle of a corporate work trip in Russia in Moscow in winter in 2012 that sort of set the stage for me to make some big changes in my life. And I think when you experience a burnout, where your physical body is telling you that things have gone a little bit misaligned, there's things that are not feeling good about the way that you're earning a living. And at that time, I wasn't quite sure to be honest, what went wrong because on paper everything looked really successful for me. I was the youngest person in the organization that was about to be made partner in the company. I was a business development director and was in a great high position that I worked very hard for. It was a six-figure job. I had just gotten my first mortgage for a house. All the things that you're meant to do as an adult; that checklist. But I was overworking. I was working about 60 hours a week. I spent about six months out of the year on business trips abroad, which sounds really sexy as business trips but you're very alone and you're obviously not with your family and friends and your loved ones. But a lot of it was also to do with, I think my interpretation of what success felt like. And coming from an immigrant family, my family originally came from Malaysia. I immigrated to Canada when I was nine years old. I was taught and it sort of is in my mentality to sweat, blood and tears to get to my success. That's what my parents did to make something of themselves in the Western world. So that was a moment of pause for me, as I took some time off work, to get therapy, to understand what caused the burnout. A huge part of that component was my unfulfillment that I was feeling about my work, even though I was good at it, I was making great money with it. It wasn't something that felt right for, I think what I really, truly wanted to express in terms of who I was in the world. And so through that journey I decided that I think working for myself would give me kind of autonomy and freedom that I was missing a lot in my life. Like when you think about earning money, a lot of the times I wasn't spending even that money, I was making an, a six figure job because I didn't have the time to spend it. The time that I had a burnout, I hadn't even taken a holiday for two years. I just kept getting paid out to pay off all my student loan debts and be a responsible adult. And wasn't even living my life the way that I had interpreted happiness, being the definition of right for my life. So that was a big wake up call for me was that what's the point of earning a great living if I wasn't able to live the life that felt purposeful and fulfilling. So that was what I think instigate it, the first call to doing something different. And then of course, taking the next steps on figuring out what that is which, my first business was actually a transition business. I remained in the international education industry and became a consultant at my own boutique agency in the niche. And then started this blog called, Screw The Cubicle, that documented my identity crisis going from employee to entrepreneur. And a year later started looking into coaching; looking at how I can support other people with career transitions and entrepreneurship and seven years later, this is my full-time gig now.
[00:09:02] Tania De Ridder: I so appreciate how transparent you are and how brave you are to share this story because it's not an easy thing to speak about. At what point did you realize that you wanted to be an entrepreneur specifically instead of just changing jobs or changing industries?
[00:09:17] Lydia Lee: When I looked back at my experience in the corporate field, my resume looked like it was for five different people. Because I had multi passionate interests. I was someone that was a good employee actually, because I could morph into kind of different roles that they gave me all the time. I could adapt very well to different roles, but it was also very confusing being an employee because I never really knew what industry, what sort of area of my specialty I was in. If looked at the track record of my employment stages in my resume, it always looked like every two years, I need it to jump ship and do something different, and I used to be very ashamed about that. And I think sometimes people do feel that way when they have that kind of personality type, and they need that variation of differences. Like they don't want to climb the corporate ladder and do the same thing over and over again and more advanced levels. They sometimes actually want autonomy of their creativity, autonomy over their time and how they work. And that's what I really found was missing for me is the idea of conforming myself to the modus operandi (MO) of the company. And not being able to do things that I felt were right or not being able to express my creative ideas. That just stifled me, I think, as a person creatively. And so once I actually understood that the environment I was in wasn't enhancing my abilities, it wasn't allowing me to grow, not just in my career or skillset, but as a person that was the biggest feeling of dissatisfaction for me. And I think entrepreneurship gives me a platform to evolve as I want to evolve as a human and that permission to do so without needing to go through all the different corporate politics and hierarchy of roles, felt just a lot more freeing for me.
[00:10:56] Tania De Ridder: You often talk about that sweet spot for creating meaningful work. How did you discover your sweet spot for the work you love doing while having so many different interests?
[00:11:07] Lydia Lee: I think the sweet spot of meaningful work is constantly evolving because we evolve as humans all the time. What I did in the beginning of Screw The Cubicle and what was meaningful for me at that point in my life is different than what I share and talk about today. Because I've changed a lot and hopefully I've changed a lot in the last seven years as a human. In my own journey of figuring out what is the right business for me, what is that thing that's going to help me get up in the morning and feel motivated to show up for work that is beyond just a paycheck of clocking in and clocking out, that journey wasn't easy because to be honest, Tania, I looked far and wide for a professional to support me in that particular stage I was in. I even paid $500 at The University of British Columbia UBC) to do a career assessment, one of their most famous career assessments. And I love UBC is a great university. There's lots of things that I did get out of that session. But what it gave me at the end was sort of a top 20 list of best careers for me. And the first one was ESL school teacher. I think there's some truth in that. I do love languages. I do love teaching. I do love different cultures. However, what I discovered going through these sort of traditional career assessments is that it's still putting you in a box, right, it's putting you in a particular definition of a job title that is common in the workplace, right. And so what I was really seeking for was what was my unique skillsets, my unique gifts and combination of my personality, my values and my strengths that sort of created a unique role for myself that I can define what that job title is, not what society says. I had to kind of learn how to define what my version of success was in a career. And also what I call my sweet spot which is sort of my skills, my deep interests and the impact I really want to make in my work. My first business as in that boutique agency in international education that was experiment number one. It fit the box of the skillsets. The deep interest was a little fuzzy because actually, I loved certain programs that I promoted, like the work and travel and work and study programs, but then sometimes in the sort of traditional university programs, I wasn't completely sold myself on that this was the only pathway for successful people, to take. And so I sort of went is traditional education, my deep interest, really? Or is it something else that's, other than that, of a pathway that I'm choosing to represent? And then I also felt that the role I was playing in my first job didn't particularly make the type of impact that I really, really cared about. When I really went into Screw The Cubicle, that was when I started to really be able to define the way that I did my work, and then support others in defining what that sweet spot is, because it is hard to identify from just looking at your resume, we have to also identify what is the next chapter of work with the experience that you've discovered about yourself, but also what is the impact you want to make with your work? And I think a lot of us want to be proud of the work that we're doing. Sometimes it's not always that valuable to just look in the past. It's also great to look for the future or in the future of what's that dent I want to make, so what I've done a lot of work that I may or may not be aligned with anymore. Who am I today? What is the work that I've done brought me to realize that it's important to me today, and what are potentially the sort of red thread that binds, some of my best work experiences together. Cause maybe there is a theme of how you help, how you support, how you create a difference in people's lives that no matter whether or not you had different job titles, there might be some common things you did in those jobs, which is what I realized a lot as well in my resume.
[00:14:45] Tania De Ridder: You have mentioned that very often when we want to make that transition into entrepreneurship, we undervalue our current network. How did you use your social equity at the time when you decided to transition into entrepreneurship?
[00:14:59] Lydia Lee: That's great question and I wish I embraced this a lot more myself in the beginning of time, of going out there to the wild West of the internet or try to prove myself in a particular niche. I think we all tend to forget that we have actually built social equity in the world, with all the experiences that we've had in our corporate career, in the communities we belong to, in the associations, like our places of worship, our meetup groups, even Facebook groups these days. We have actually what I call these low hanging fruit communities. I find that it's an untapped network because we tend to want to go after things that we've never done before or been before when actually we can utilize what we've already built, over time as the first step to get advocates and collaborators, partners and clients, for our work. Because I think with people who have known you for many years, people who have worked with you, maybe past colleagues, old bosses, old clients you worked with from a couple of jobs ago, these are people who have witnessed your strengths. They've seen you in action being, in your integrity, being good at your job, right? Being a people person, whatever your gifts are, they've seen it firsthand, so there's no need to convince these people you're awesome. You just need to actually go back and reconnect with these people to update them of what it is that you're currently doing with your work. If you're transitioning to be an consultant or you're looking for a new role, or you're looking to get connected to a particular niche of an industry. We forget to update the people that care about us, even our friends and family, they barely know what we're doing behind the scenes. Because we're kind of built to think we gotta get it all perfect before we share it with other people, because we're afraid of judgment and we're afraid of rejection, perhaps, right? Like questions are being asked of why you're transitioning your career and so forth. But I think that people are actually willing to help us and support us, but we have to make that request. We have to start telling people and updating people our intention for where we want to take our career before we get it perfectly right. So that we start to welcome support from the get go and not feel so isolated in our career change as well.
[00:17:10] Tania De Ridder: Do you recommend that you should start connecting with your network as soon as you decide that you're going to take this leap into creating your own business? Or should you do it once you've launched?
[00:17:20] Lydia Lee: The 'launch' word can be quite fuzzy for a lot of people. Cause how do you define a launch? Is it when you have a website? Is it when you have a sales page? I find these sorts of launch activities can bog people down a bit sometimes from just taking action. And for a lot of people, whether it's business or consultancy agency or a freelancing gig, ultimately what's most important is that you start to connect with people that best represent the ideal customers you're looking for and also start to actually just start telling people you're open for hire, you know, you're looking for these sort of clients, these are the things that I know how to do. And so broadcasting that in however you network whether it's LinkedIn or in your next meetup or even sending a newsletter or an email to the people that are closest to you for an update All those things are also launch activities if you will, if you just sort of simplify it and go launch means, "I'm just telling people I'm available for work" whether or not you're a business owner or a freelancer or a consultant. However, I should also say that if you're feeling a little fuzzy about what line of work is the work that I'm looking for because the last thing you want to do is to be too big of a generalist where you say, "I can be a project manager for anything you want me to do". That isn't very appealing for employers, clients or partners, to be excited to want to work with you. So if you're unclear about the direction you're going to deploy your skills, the direction that you want to do work, then I would take a necessary pause to figure out what that is first. Right? Take that inventory of your skillsets. Take a look at industries that excite you, take a look at even your scope of work, right? And if we've been in an industry for 10, 20 years, we have a large scope of work that we know how to do. We know how to do a hundred different things, which is not very clear for entrepreneurship because entrepreneurship is about focus and it is about one area that you can specialize in that people can really know you for. So if you have a very general scope of work and that's where you're at at the moment really take some time to ask yourself "where in that journey, in that scope of work, that best interests me, that I can really see myself doing more work on or upskilling myself with or expanding my body of work into, that I can own? That one section of this body of work". And choosing that as the area that you might specialize in. When you're a bit more clearer on that question, then when you start to tell people, here are the people I'm looking for here are the kind of problems I solve, here are the kind of results I can help you get as a contractor or a consultant or a business owner then there's so much more clarity on how people can help you or connect you with clients or potentially even hire you for those specific problems.
[00:20:11] Tania De Ridder: Let's say you have come to that stage where you're clear. You're very specific. You're very focused down and you're just struggling with putting yourself out there or reaching out to connections. What would you recommend to somebody to make that mindset shift to get themselves to take action?
[00:20:27] Lydia Lee: Yeah, imposter syndrome is not something that we can just tell ourselves we don't experience. If you have it and we feel the "fraudy feelings", I call them. People think that they potentially could get found out, right? That they're not that great. That's the underlying fear behind imposter complex and imposter syndrome. But here's the kind of interesting reframe: people who are real imposters, right? The people who are tricking people, manipulating people, doing things that they're not capable to do. By the way, do not ever feel imposter syndrome because it doesn't come with the personality of being an imposter, right? If you are consciously an imposter, if you know you're tricking people you're not even going to think that because you're just gonna put yourself out there That's why we see all sorts of hacky trickery marketing you know all sorts of people that manipulate a lot in marketing out there and they have kind of no shame in doing that for their businesses and their lives. Right. But if you're feeling a sense of imposter, very likely you're not an imposter because you care. The reason why you even have those feelings is that you care a lot about the quality of your work the fact that you do take care of people and that you can offer and contribute value So reframe that as in, "okay, I'm having these fraudy feelings not because I'm a fraud, but because actually I care a lot about the work I put out there". Okay. So that's a very interesting mindset shift, instead of stopping yourself from taking action, the next thought can be, "well, how do I, how do I then contribute value"? How do I then give value generously and authentically so that the imposter complex isn't as present? Because the imposter complex cannot be present if you are contributing value, because you'll see how it supports others. Right? The imposter complex happens when you don't do anything and you have the self fulfilling prophecy by simply not doing anything and "failing by default" as I call it. Because you're not seeing feedback. You're not seeing how your support and help can actually change others' lives. Right? One of the things that I always talk to my clients about, as a way of battling imposter complex is just start taking tiny imperfect actions. Doesn't have to be perfect. It could just be a nugget of something that you know, how to share at the moment. And there are always knowledge and skills that we can share right now, right here. You know, you don't have to market yourself as a guru. You don't have to market yourself as a know it all. You can just simply be generous about knowledge, tips, and insights that you currently have about an industry that you're looking to work in and give away that information very, very generously. And I can guarantee you if you do that more consistently you're going to feel less like a fraud, because you're going to start to see the value of how you impact other people. You're going to get that feedback.
[00:23:21] Tania De Ridder: Lydia that seems like such an obvious truth now that you say it, but I actually never thought of it that way. I think that's going to help many people. We spoke about imposter syndrome, the fear around getting started, getting seen and sometimes cultural norms and societal expectations play a role depending on what your background is. And I know that's something that you've had to work through. Do you have any advice for first time entrepreneurs about how they can approach or connect with their family or loved ones in a way so that it will be easier for them to accept or adjust with them?
[00:23:57] Lydia Lee: Absolutely. I think this is an important conversation because we all come from different backgrounds, histories, religious backgrounds, different cultural norms that are exactly the Western norm, that we sometimes don't talk about as much in the business world. And I certainly experienced a lot of this push and pull feeling when I started being an entrepreneur because my mother was a very traditional person and there is a sense of even though I grew up in a very different generation. I grew up mainly, my core life in Canada, where she grew up in Malaysia. There was a lot of unconscious like guilt tripping, and shaming that can come from her responses to my decisions that wasn't meant to be disruptive to my growth, but what I call her language of love. My mother's language of love is to warn me about all the horrible things that can happen to me. I used to fight that a lot where I would say, "mom, you're rating on my parade. Why are you trying to discourage me? Or scare me?" And she'll always say, "Lydia, I love you. That's why I tell you these things". And we would constantly butt heads, right? Until I realized, okay, wait a second. Whenever I told my mother that she didn't love me it was the exact opposite of what she felt she was doing. So it was a really interesting thing of understanding how our parental figures and people we love at times show their love that may not be what we might require, but we could at least understand that that is their intention. And then we have less of a personal trigger if you will by the naysayers and people that quote unquote rain on our parade. But what I would also suggest when you're going through the stages of doing anything different with your life, right? Whether you're going through a career change or you're launching a business for the first time, or just doing something different with your personal life, this is a stage where things are shaky. You're experimenting, you're dealing with all the emotions that comes with change. You're in a vulnerable position. And that's the truth. No matter how much people say you should just be courageous it's not something that happens overnight. Like to me, courage and confidence, we ease ourselves into it through tiny action. We just can't expect that to happen right away. But what we can control to help our confidence is to heavily curate the people, the conversations and the exposure of the right information that we need currently at where we're at. That's the one thing we can control. And one of those curations are the conversations and who you're having them with in your life at the moment. And so it's very natural for us to gravitate towards people closest to us, right? Our parents, our siblings, our best friends, our closest inner circle community to talk about our new life, to talk about what we're doing at the moment. And sometimes that feedback can actually not be the feedback you want because when you start to do something unconventional, when you do something outside of the traditional trajectory is that when you start sharing that with certain people, they will end up projecting and being triggered by also their own choices. So for example, when I left to my six-figure job, I left it during a time in Canada, where there was an economic crisis where my friends were being laid off and not being able to find jobs. And here I was giving up an absolutely stable six-figure job with a medical plan and a pension plan. They didn't want to talk to me about my dreams because they were like, "hello, I'm trying to find a job and you're just giving yours up. I don't want to talk about this because this makes me feel bad". And that's totally understandable, you know, that certain people at different decision-making crossroads in their life, isn't at the same pathway that we're going. So we can expect those people to be our best support systems because that's not their role. And so what we can control and be accountable to is choosing the right people to tell our dreams to at this very moment. And that might require that you find new communities, new tribes of people that might be also at the same line of thinking. Maybe entrepreneurs maybe freelancers. Maybe other people doing something a little bit different than the nine to five, if that's where you're heading towards, so that when you talk about the decisions you're making, they totally understand. And they can even give advice about where they've been, you know, you're inlined with the values that you're heading towards in your life. And then be cautious I think about sharing everything with your parents, your family, even your loved ones because until you get a bit more confident sometimes in what you're doing and where you're going, it might be discouraging when we hear naysayers.
[00:28:24] Tania De Ridder: Yes, because we're still feeling vulnerable. We're just trying to start out. I love that: set expectations for yourself about what your environment and your support system can do for you and can't, and then find people that are like-minded or doing the same thing that can support you. You believe meaningful work is found at that intersection of our strengths, deep interests, and in the impact that you spoke about earlier, but how do we find our thing to build a business around if we're unsure of what type of business to start?
[00:28:58] Lydia Lee: It's a very common question I get is, "What business should I start"? And a lot of times I think this question is also field by a lot of anxiety because people feel that the business they start today is a business they die with. And that can feel so daunting. So permanent. Like I need to make sure this is a hundred percent of who I am and where I'll be and that is a very unrealistic expectation of ourselves and no wonder, so many of us feel stuck in making any decision at all. How I like to reframe that question instead of "What business should I start"? is "What is the right for right now business for me, what is the right for right now business for me?", and so when we take a look at the concept of right, for right now, that can translate to, "What are the skill sets that I'm most capable to offer in my highest contribution that people are actively seeking for today, not 10 years from now, but right now?" What are sort of the problems that I feel called or passionate, or have a drive or motivation to solve for others with these particular skillsets, which pertain to your deep interest. And if I was to really just look at the niche of the industry, I'm potentially deploying my skillset. What are some of the things that I hope would change in the industry? So for example, in education, I had a lot of experience in traditional education and higher education. There are things that I love about it and there's things that I don't love about it. I used to think to myself when I was promoting these high school programs, university transferrable programs in my agency back in the day, I just wish that we could give kids more human experiences, teach them how to think for themselves, teach them emotional intelligence, teach them how to manage money, teach them how to deal with failure, all the human behavior that I wish I got to do in high school, rather than home economics or how to do claymation. Great fun stuff but I just wish I had more training on how to deal with life. That is an impact I could make if I remained in the education sector, right. I could have chosen, for example, to partner up with certain unconventional schools and education institutions that promote that way of learning, right. That sort of life skill learning for young adults so that they could be equipped to handle all of the different things in life and built resilience for real life stuff. So that's an example of looking at the industry that you might have belonged to in the past and going, what can change? What am I hoping to improve? And based on my experience witnessing how things have been done in the last five, 10, 20 years, what would I do differently? And how could I contribute to that difference? So if we think about it that way in sort of much more holistic, meaningful, deeper ways of understanding how our work impacts, then I think we can have a little bit more clarity on, okay, well, what would I create? What would I offer? How could I partner up with certain types of organizations to give these sorts of solutions in the marketplace? And I'm going to start with that today, because that's what I know. And I also embrace that my work and my body of work will evolve maybe a year from now two years, three years from now, I will maybe offer something different, but if I don't get started in what I know for right now, I'll never get started. So I think we need to take imperfect action. We need to trust what we know with what we have as assets and knowledge at the moment, and give ourselves permission to evolve that body of work and not embrace such permanence to our decisions in business.
[00:32:31] Tania De Ridder: I love that you brought that up, that what you start with now is not the way it's going to stay. It is going to evolve. What would you say to somebody who's started a business, but they're experiencing challenges which is very normal for entrepreneurs, but they don't know whether it's the business that's a wrong fit for them or that whether they should just push through the challenges that they're experiencing, because it's going to evolve. How do you know what the differences is between a good fit business and a bad fit business for you?
[00:32:59] Lydia Lee: I definitely had to grapple with these questions when I had a massive burnout in year three of my business, which was ironically the highest, most successful revenue year of my business at the time; best success, biggest burnout, how interesting. I too, had to take a pause and go what happened? I'm supposed to be celebrating and so I had to kind of go, well, what, what did go wrong? And that is a great place to start. What doesn't feel good. We have to trust our feelings. What doesn't feel good, even though on my spreadsheet and my financial forecast, all the numbers look good. What doesn't feel good? What am I experiencing in my business that I may not know why it doesn't feel good, but I can at least just pinpoint that something that made me have some interesting feelings that didn't give me that satisfaction, fulfillment, or a feeling of being proud of the way that I'm doing my work. Right. So that deep analysis can come from even just taking inventory of, where are you spending your time, your energy in your business right now? When I took that stock for myself, what I found out was that was bringing me a lot of not nice feelings is that I felt that my business, because it grew so big, I was spending more of my energy being a marketer than I was being a coach. Somehow all of a sudden I spent so much time training myself on automation, trading myself on the technology that's behind my business rather than doing what it is that I was passionate about, which was coaching. And that was a key, key, key piece that was bringing me misery. And so that assessment was important because that helped me to go, well, how do I simplify marketing then? How do I not make marketing such a horrible task? How do I take a look at the way that I am spreading my vision of my business, that is more aligned with the way that I want to coach and how I want to teach rather than waste my time, learning Facebook ads or automation when it may not actually be helping my business at all. And also I took a look at sort of my exhaustion because at that moment of my success, I was about launching five to six different products a year I had retreats I had online offers I had coaching offers people loved, but I was feeling spread too thin as a business owner to show up presently for my students and where my best work was being done was when things were intimate. I loved smaller groups but yet I was marketing sort of bigger programs. So I can start to see the misalignment that was happening. With what was actually happening in my business and whether or not it was aligned with my values, my personality type and my strengths . And so taking that pause is necessary. So I think if anyone's experiencing that misalignment or that feeling of something's gone wrong is to just actually stop working on the business for a week or so and just start taking that time to take stock of where your time and energy is being spent. What activities are you doing that isn't bringing you joy? And where have you sort of lost the plot? And then where did you end up going instead because of the pressure of business and success? I think if we give ourselves permission to rebuild the foundations of our business and be okay with that, that sometimes we just have to actually start from scratch again and go, okay, what did I learn about what I want? And what values are important to me? I think our business is almost a little bit like a relationship; is a bit of a marriage and so we have to kind of understand what's gone wrong Is it that I've launched the wrong business or are there some room for some changes and shifts, right, where I don't have to break up with my business, but you know, I need to do things a little bit differently so that I can show up more as myself or show up more in the way that I want to.
[00:36:40] Tania De Ridder: Yes. Thank you so much for sharing that. I love the example. Because it is a real relationship that you're having with your business. And as entrepreneurs, we love what we do. We want to make an impact. And so often we can trap ourselves in forgetting that we're doing too much, we're feeling like we need to do more.
[00:36:56] Lydia Lee: Yes. Yes.
[00:36:58] Tania De Ridder: You've said that you believe we need to feel safe in order to create a business that is meaningful to us. How do you define the conditions of safety and how can we create this safety for ourselves?
[00:37:11] Lydia Lee: That's great question. I think safety is an important psychological piece for most humans. I think people that are listening to this are built like me where we don't want to jump off a cliff and hope the parachute opens, right? Like just cross our fingers. We need calculated risks. We can parent ourselves in taking the next steps without doing it in a way that jeopardizes our security. I do think that, especially when you're working a full-time job and you're thinking about making a transition, this is usually the best time to start exploring and experimenting with particular versions of work that could be turned into a potential business. So instead of waiting until the right business idea comes to you is actually, while you're still working full time, you have a security of a paycheck. You don't worry so much about money at the moment. It's just give yourself a bit of time, whether it's once a week or a couple hours a week do some of those exploratory exercises or to start, just pitching your services if you're a freelancer or a consultant to a few people that might be able to take you on for a short term service. That's the best way to explore how you want to work, what kind of clients you're looking for and just even get into the mode of working for yourself, a little taste of what that feels like goes a long way. So the side hustle approach, I think, is a really important and valuable experience without just throwing the baby out of the bath water, and just giving up every sense of security, because that's not helpful for us whenever we go into changing our lives. We need to feel safe in order to test different things out. The secondary thing is I'm a big believer in what I call beta test stage. And a lot of people skip this. They go from being an employee to launching a business, and that can feel really daunting of going to that big step. And so one of the stages that I find a lot of people skip out on is what I call this self-made internship or a beta test stage. Right. You know, like when in university, I mean, we didn't balk at all in internships. We were like, sure, I'll do an internship because we understood the value of internships. Which is to explore where do I want to be in this industry I've just graduated from? Now as adults. I feel that we've lost the art of internship because we'd been told that as adults, we're just supposed to know what we're supposed to do with our lives. And we don't know, we are sometimes as lost as we were when we were 21, and that's okay. I think we have to embrace that at different stages of our life we will reach the next chapter every time. This is a non-negotiable probably for anybody that wants to live a meaningful life is to expect that you will reach different stages of developmental tasks in your life, and then you'll have to discover what is that next thing for me, and it's okay. And so as adults, we don't do that as often, which is giving ourself time to have exploratory activities to start something and not go through with it if we don't want to. To take on a project or start a project just for the intention to be playful, to explore, to be somewhat curious about a particular area, we may or may not want to create work around. So a beta test internship stage could just as simple as possible look like, for example, if you're like, I've been really curious about copywriting, I've been really curious about writing for people. I think I'm a good storyteller, but I'm not sure if it is something people could value and buy. What I encourage a lot of my clients to do is, go and find three people That maybe represent the business owner or the client you want to help A coach, a business mentor whoever right that you know and give away that service write their about page, help them write their pitch deck, help them write their sales page, whatever is the interest you've got and just be in the vicinity of that project that you're looking to charge for. And then see how you progress. See what comes for you as your process of how you write, how you extract stories from other people, start to get feedback from your client of like, what is your special sauce? What are some of the things that you did in the process of writing that page for them, that they felt was really valuable to them as well as your client. And that process is so much more valuable than trying to decide whether or not you're confident enough to launch a business.
[00:41:29] Tania De Ridder: I want to ask you about something I saw in one of your newsletters. You said that "aligned action is so much better than chaotic hustle action". Can you explain this to me a bit more? What does that aligned action look like versus the hustle action?
[00:41:44] Lydia Lee: The hustle action looks like what I did in the beginning of launching a business is absorbing so much learning so much information and believing that I have to do all the things to be a successful business owner. Aligned action is still learning and you can still absorb information, but taking a pause and choosing which of these concepts, which of these strategies, which of these things that someone has told me about business is something that feels right for me to do and so it's that pause that's really makes a difference in the choice that we make rather than blindly following what a digital marketer out there have told you about being visible or about getting clients on the internet. Like your way might be more authentic. And so aligned action could also be really considering, again, a lot of what we talked about today, like your personality type, your values, how do you want to approach getting clients? Are you more of a partnership and a collaborator kind of an entrepreneur? How do you want to share the vision of your work? If you understand those details, then you're going to be more aligned in knowing what to offer, what clients are best suited for you. What scope of work is more of what you want to do than what you think you have to do to make more money.
[00:43:00] Tania De Ridder: Yeah. I think many people miss that. Which strategy, habit or mindset have you personally found to have helped you the most to achieve your success that you think others can learn from?
[00:43:12] Lydia Lee: I think one of the biggest strategies and habits that I've embraced a lot over the last few years that I wish I did more of in the beginning of my business is taking imperfect action, taking tinier actions rather than big indigestible goals. It's actually reverse engineering those goals and making things smaller and chunk down, which is going to be a lot more motivating to achieve. Imperfect action is what I've really discovered that when I do take them, even though not every imperfect action worked out to a success or to the right thing, what it has always done for me is it has provided a lot more clarity about what I wanted to do or what I didn't want to do by taking that imperfect action, because that's the only way clarity is going to come is if we take any kind of action to give ourselves a place to explore what that feels like. It's that kind of trying on a coat, and just see if it fits and if it doesn't fit it's okay, take off the coat and try a new one. You can always learn more about who you are and what you want, but if you didn't try on that coat, then you'll never know, and you'll always be stuck on perfectionism and always going to be stuck feeling like an imposter. And then the secondary thing is, as we take imperfect action is to try to override that sort of monkey brain that tells us that everything is permanent and you're going to die if you get rejected and judged, and so what I find has been really helpful and give me the spaciousness to take imperfect action is allowing myself to do little experiments for a week or 30 days. And then knowing that I can go full heartedly into that experiment and check in with myself at the end of seven days or at the end of 30 days and see if I want to continue doing that thing or do I want to pivot my choice? Did I learn something that I want to put to bed and do something else? Or did I learn something actually really surprising that encourages me to keep pursuing that thing I started. So having a sort of deadline or like a a boundary of time I think is really helpful so that it trains our sort of reptilian brain to not think everything we make is if it failed, it would be detrimental to us. And thinking more short-term thinking more experimental boundaries of time and that you can always change your mind if something doesn't work out.
[00:45:24] Tania De Ridder: You're offering a free workshop that helps people learn how to launch a business designed from your strengths, your values, your personality. I did the free workshop and I strongly recommend it. You are very thoughtful, very intentional. I especially loved that you even created a playlist with music that people can listen to when they're doing the self-reflection parts.
[00:45:46] Lydia Lee: Yeah, this workshop is a deep dive with me and you'll get to know a bit of the way that I coach my clients on how to turn a fuzzy idea of what I think I want to do for a business to a much more meaningful business plan. And so what I go through in that workshop is actually giving you a little bit of horse blinders to not be distracted by all the shiny things of what you think you'll have to do in a business to be successful and get back to the foundations of what really makes a business successful, which is you being good at what you do. Talking a lot about how to do market research, how to do these self internship stages we talked about today and how to do that in a simple, an uncomplicated way so that you can launch your business in a much more aligned and purposeful way than complicating it, and not doing it at all. So that's what the workshop is about. It's giving you that foundational building blocks of what makes a business right for you and what's going to make a business successful in the launch stage of a business. And then that brings us to the concepts a lot in the philosophies of what I teach in my program called 90-Day Launch which is really a step-by-step roadmap on how I'm going to help you personally with mentorship and community and a framework on how to take your idea to income where you are going to start to build things like knowing your niche, knowing what's the right for right now business for you. Learning how to craft your offer with your unique value in mind. You're also going to learn how to beta test that offer with real human case studies and I'm going to teach you a lot about the human-focused way of launching a business that you don't fall into the trickery hacks and the shiny things of marketing a business and just keeping it real.
[00:47:22] Tania De Ridder: How can people connect with you if they want to reach out to you?
[00:47:26] Lydia Lee: The first place that you can find everything that I offer for free and has helpful content for you as well is screw-the-cubicle-dot-com. Right on my homepage, there a big yellow start here button. There's a really great sort of start here page where you can choose your adventure, choose your journey of how you want to learn with me. And we always start off with something that is a gift from me to you. So I have other workshops called "Reinvent Yourself". If you're thinking about what should I do in the next chapter of life and work, that might be a great workshop to start in. If you're in the entrepreneurship pathway, the 'How to launch your business, you love" is a great one. And then I host a monthly YouTube show called "Screw The Cubicle TV", where I do interviews with corporate escapees that have done unconventional ways to leave their careers. And you can also sign up for my newsletter right on my website as well.
[00:48:12] Tania De Ridder: Thank you, Lydia. I'll be sure to include all those links in the show notes for this episode.
[00:48:17] Lydia Lee: You're very welcome. Thank you so much for having me.
Tania De Ridder owns the copyright of content in and transcripts of the Startup Advantage Podcast, all rights reserved.
Work Reinvention Strategist & Coach
Lydia Lee is the Work Reinvention Coach and Freedom Instigator at Screw The Cubicle. Since 2013, she's helped hundreds of people transition out of the golden corporate handcuffs and build meaningful businesses that support them in living the life they want.
She believes in intentionally creating purposeful work with our strengths, values, and personality in mind, so that we’re building a business we love, and want to keep for years to come.