Here’s a little food for thought from a mindset coach for smart, ambitious women who sabotage their own success but aren’t sure why or how to stop it.
This week, I had a wonderful call with one of my awesome clients. We’ve been working together for a few weeks and have already uncovered so much about her underlying, unconscious fears and the self-sabotage patterns she has been using for decades to avoid the discomfort of those fears.
Our call this week turned up something really powerful, and something that I think will likely resonate with many of you.
My client is a super smart woman who has achieved a lot already in her career and life. But it hasn’t come without a lot of difficulty, particularly a lot of mental anguish. The spinning of her mental wheels was what brought her to me in the first place.
It turns out, she’s been making things unnecessarily difficult as a way to deal with her own limiting beliefs about what is and isn’t allowed (and I’m using big air quotes around the word allowed).
Here’s the thing about smart women: We get messages from our earliest days that it’s not acceptable for us to be smart (pretty, sweet, caring? sure. really smart? ambitious? not so much). Just think of some of the insults we see hurled at smart, ambitious women (you don’t have to look further than the last year of politics with Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris. Heck, the very word “ambitious” has been used a a slur against women.
And all of this leads to women diminishing ourselves and our accomplishments at every turn.
A sneaky way this plays out is in many of us making things harder than they need to be. After all, we’ve been conditioned to believe that we can’t easily accomplish something just because we’re smart and talented and awesome.
It doesn’t “count” (air quotes again) unless it involves hard work, twisting ourselves into knots, and feeling miserable. Basically, we have to prove that it was hard to “prove” (air quotes) that we earned it. We have to make those who aren’t as smart and accomplished as us feel better. Women are, after all, conditioned to believe our top job is the role of caretaker. We can’t be happy unless everyone else around us is. And we can’t be smart if it makes anyone around us feel bad.
So our brain does all sorts of things to make things hard, even though we generally don’t consciously aware that’s what we’re doing. We procrastinate until the last minute. We do everything without ever asking for help. We expect ourselves to be perfect or get perfect results because that’s obviously an unattainable goal.
And we certainly can’t just say “oh that was easy for me” even if it was.
By the way, this is also why so many of us can’t take a compliment without adding some form of “it was a team effort” or “I got it on sale.” Just another way we diminish ourselves to meet societal, cultural, familial, and other expectations we’ve internalized.
If this is hitting home for you, then I want to challenge you to consider how you might be making things more difficult than they need to be. How are you tarnishing your shine?
For the next few days, bring mindful awareness to this concept. When things are feeling difficult—when you find yourself procrastinating, ruminating, stressing, overanalyzing, etc.—ask yourself, “how can I allow this to be easy?” And then don’t listen to your brain (remember, it’s trying to make things hard). Listen to your body, your gut, your heart. Take a few deep breaths, close your eyes, and sit with the question to see what you FEEL.
Until a couple of years ago, I did not pay myself a regular, set salary. Far from it, in fact. For the first decade plus of my business, I commingled my personal and business finances. Everything I earned went into my personal bank account. In a month when I earned more, I would spend more money. In a month when I earned less, I would panic about money.
I was in a feast-famine cycle that I didn’t believe I could stop without earning way more money. That belief existed in years when I made $30k and when I made well over $100,000.
The idea of paying myself a salary seemed ridiculous. How could I pay myself a set amount of money each month when my income vacillated so much? Hell, I never even had enough money to pay my business taxes, which were usually a year behind.
I was deeeeeep into my story and really believed it was the truth.
So, if any of that sounds familiar, I see you. And I know it may be hard to receive what I’m about to tell you, because I certainly had my doubts for years. But the truth is, no matter what you are earning and no matter how much your income varies, you can pay yourself a regular salary.
Not only can you, you should. And I HATE shoulds! But in this case, I’m willing to say it because I feel so strongly that it’s important for every business owner to be in control of their money, and paying yourself is part of that process.
And why am I so passionate about this? Well, my life’s mission is to smash the patriarchy. And the best way to do that is to put wealth and power into the hands of women and other marginalized communities. As Ruth Bader Ginsburg says, women belong in all places decisions are being made—and money, and who has it, drives most decisions. Becoming wealthy starts with understanding your money and being a good steward of it.
The patriarchy conditions marginalized folks to believe they are “bad with money” or “bad with numbers.” This leaves so many of us afraid of money or avoiding our finances, and that keeps us from amassing wealth.
So let’s stop that! Reframe money management as an act of rebellion, and building wealth as part of the revolution to dismantle patriarchy!
And let me be clear: I’m not saying you must be rich or motivated by money. Hell no. If that’s not what you want, then that’s okay. But understanding your finances, knowing where your money is coming from and where it’s going, is really important in no longer allowing money or others to control you. It’s a big piece of living a fully empowered life.
Plus, taking charge of your finances will allow you to pay yourself a salary and get off the exhausting and demoralizing feast-famine cycle.
Hopefully I’ve convinced you that paying yourself a salary is possible (even if you remain a bit skeptical), and that it’s important. So, now let’s talk about HOW.
Note: I’m not an accountant, financial planner, bookkeeper, or any other type of financial professional. It’s always a good idea to hire a pro if you need help, and to do your own research to make sure you choose the money management method that works best for you. What I’m going to share here is not the only way to control your finances, but it is the way I do it.
About 2 years ago, I discovered the Profit First method of accounting, which Mike Michalowicz details in his book of the same name—there’s a link to the book with this video. I’ll give you the very simplified high-level explanation of the method, but please read the book before doing it for yourself.
In short, this system has you put all of your revenue into one account, and then divvy it up into several other accounts based on set percentages. The first bucket is profit (hence the name Profit First), then taxes and owner’s draw (meaning your pay), and what’s left goes to operating expenses.
So, how this looks for my business is this:
All of my revenue goes into one of my business bank accounts. Then every two weeks, I add up the total of money collected in my business over the previous two weeks, and transfer percentages of that into my various accounts.
I transfer 10% of total revenue into my profit account, 20% of the total goes into my taxes account (and I use that to pay my quarterly business taxes), 55% goes into owner’s draw (the account from which I pay myself), and 15% goes into my operating expenses account, which is what I use to pay for all of my business expenses.
These are the percentages I use, but they are not set in stone. The book walks you through how to figure the percentages that are best for your business. And it becomes easier to determine how much you need for each the longer you’re in business and the longer you use the method; I’ve adjusted my numbers already since I started using the system 2 years ago.
After I’ve done all of my transfers, I write myself a check for my salary. I get a set amount every two weeks, regardless of how much I earned in that 2-week period. This works because when I have bigger months, more money goes into owner’s draw and that helps offset the months when I make less.
To make all of this work, you must have budgets—one for your household and for your business. This is the only way to determine exactly how much you must pay yourself every two weeks to cover your responsibility for your household finances, and to make sure you have enough in your operating expenses account to cover your business expenses.
Now, the question I always had, and maybe what you’re thinking, too was this: What if I don’t make enough to cover my expenses and taxes? And here’s the hard but true answer: Then you need to cut expenses and/or make more money. Period.
Avoiding your finances because you don’t like what you see doesn’t change what’s happening. In fact, avoiding it only makes it worse. This was how I got behind on my taxes and always felt stressed and broke.
Nothing changed until I faced the facts, took control, and made responsible changes to my spending and earning. This system helped me do that.
In fact, this accounting method was a complete game changer for me and my business. Once I took control of my money, I had more of it—even before I was actually making more of it. That’s because every penny had a job. I knew where each penny was going and had a process for making sure it went there and not elsewhere.
Also, the system is called Profit First for a reason. You put money toward profit no matter what. I don’t skip that step. My budget must reflect that some portion of my revenue (at first it was 5% and now 10% and I hope to grow it to 20%) goes to a profit account. If I can’t afford that, then I need to change my spending or make more money. I no longer borrow from my future to pay for my present overspending.
I’ve had a couple of bookkeepers and accountants scoff at Profit First. They don’t like the idea of “hiding” money from yourself. And to them I say, I’m glad you don’t need to do that. But I do. This is what works from me. This simple, clear, regimented system is what keeps me from avoiding reality, hiding from my money, and allows me to feel a sense of control over my money.
This system is what took me from being a year behind on my taxes 2 years ago to now having more in the bank than I’ll need to pay this year’s taxes. It’s what’s taken me from always feeling and being broke to having thousands of dollars sitting in a profit account, that I can use to grow my business or go on a damn vacation if I want, and it’s what took me from the scary ups and downs of never knowing how much I would make to having a steady, reliable income.
Whether you choose to use Profit First or find another system that works for you, my hope for you is simply that you take control of your financial destiny. Being a better steward of your dollars is practical, but it’s also a way to step into your power.
I earned $15k+ this month. It’s my 2nd 5-figure month this year and the 4th ever.
Most important to me, though, is this is the first time I’ve earned 5 figures in a month only for my coaching work (not my pay-the-bills writing work I’ve been doing as I pivot from freelance writing to coaching).
I’ve taken a little time to reflect, and thought I’d share 5 lessons I’ve learned from reaching this milestone.
Before that, though, I want to say one thing: I didn’t earn this much because I changed my business model, learned some cool new marketing trick, or hired a team.
I earned more because I believed I could. Period.
Believing I could allowed me to raise my rates, speak more confidently about my work, and close more sales.
(To be clear, this was $15k+ gross revenue collected. My operating expenses are about 17%, so my net income for August was about $12,500. What I actually earned this month is unchanged because I pay myself a set salary, but it means more money in my business profits account!)
Okay, back to the lessons I wanted to share…
1. I’m allowed to be ambitious. I’m allowed to dream big. I’m allowed to want. And I’m allowed to do all that publicly without apology. 💪
2. I’m allowed to charge more. It turns out, I actually sell more when I do (huh whaaaa?!). Best of all, charging more attracts other ambitious women who aren’t afraid to invest in themselves and who are my favorite clients because they do the damn work! 💰
3. I’m allowed to enjoy my work. I don’t have to do what I “should” or what “pays the bills” … I get to be paid for what I *love* to do, what I’m *damn good* at doing, and what I’m truly *called* to do. And I get to be paid WELL. 😍
4. I’m allowed to keep learning. As a mindset coach, I can get reluctant to admit I still need mindset help (that’s a bit scary to admit!). I’m finally allowing it for myself … and, no shock, it’s paying off big time. ✍️
5. I’m allowed to have support. I don’t have to go it alone. I don’t have to know it all, do it all, shoulder all the physical and emotional weight. I can surround myself with smart women who push me, cheer me on, hold my hand—and I can receive without fear of judgment. 👩❤️👩
I hope everyone else had a profitable August. But more important, I hope everyone else is opening their minds and hearts to possibility.
Dream big, y’all. Your capacity to live a life you love is only limited by your capacity to believe it’s possible.
Oh and if you need to hear it, your dreams don’t have to be the same as anyone else’s. Your measure of success can be anything (not just money).
I don’t care what you earn, I only want you to begin to believe that the life you want (whatever that looks like) is possible.
“I’m not showing up as a CEO.”
That’s what my client said this morning as we started our first mindset coaching call. I asked what she meant and she said:
- She feels stalled, not landing as many new clients as she’d like and not enough of her ideal clients.
- She feels guilty about charging too much, especially if she’s not working really hard and over-delivering.
- She’s stretched thin with trying to do “all the things,” and isn’t sure how to most effectively use her time and energy.
Any of that feel eerily familiar? Then ponder this question that I asked her:
Who do you need to be to create the business you want?
If you’re like most people, your first response will be about what you need to do. My client, as an example, answered that she should change her messaging to attract the right people.
I let her talk it out and, eventually, she shifted from the external to the internal, from action to belief, from doing to being.
It became clear she needs to be unapologetically authentic, brave, empathetic, and creative.
When she is, things fall into place. When she isn’t, she falls down the rabbit hole of self-doubt and overwhelm.
When we get laser focused on outcomes, we tend to fixate on actions.
This is why so many business owners think the key to next-level success can be found by taking one more course, learning one more strategy, or hiring one more business coach.
They do everything…and seem to get nowhere.
I’m all for action. After all, it’s easier to act your way into believing than it is to believe your way into acting.
But action for action’s sake is far less effective than when doing is aligned with being.
That means knowing your deeper why and understanding your values. It means getting really clear about who you need to be when you begin to do.
How we feel becomes what we exude and create. If we want the external results to change, we need to start with the internal beliefs.
So before you jump into doing mode on your next big goal, take a beat and ask yourself who you need to be to accomplish it.
If you’re not showing up as a CEO, but aren’t sure how to make the shift from employee to boss mindset, check out my new CEO Shoes course. I’ll coach you through the process.
In April of 2020, I hosted the New Normal Summit, a free 4-day event with 45 guest experts.
I had the idea for the event on March 17th and it was live 13 days later … and attracted more than 1,000 attendees. The feedback was incredible, with one woman saying it was like “business school on steroids.”
I co-hosted a virtual summit three years ago, but this was the first time I planned one alone. I handled all logistics and marketing myself, and attended every session live.
Hidden inside of the event were some pretty powerful mindset lessons that also apply more broadly to business and life.
1. Leap before you look If I had really considered all of the work involved in putting together this summit, I probably wouldn’t have done it. There were a ton of moving parts (see #2) and it meant a considerable investment of time and energy.
Boy am I glad I took action without thinking it through. The results were so worth the effort, but I might not have realized that if I’d only been focused on the effort.
Take risks. They usually pay off.
2. You can do more than you think First, I put this thing together in less than two weeks. Initial idea to event kickoff in 13 days.
I found and booked the speakers, made the graphics and wrote the messaging, set up Facebook group, promoted the event, fielded emails from speakers and attendees, watched every presentation, interacted with participants, and more.
I did it all by myself without help. Was it a lot? Sure. But I was a bit surprised by how easy it was to do everything because I was so motivated to do it.
Work feels lighter when it’s fueled by passion.
3. Make big asks It wasn’t long ago that I’d only ask a friend to speak in a summit. Now, I have no problem reaching out to anyone, even women I don’t know.
Of the 45 women who spoke in this summit, I only knew 15 prior to the event. People I didn’t know, inlcuding those with large followings, agreed to participate because I asked and because of #s 4 and 5.
Afraid to make big asks? Sign up for my free Gutsy Ask Challenge and learn how.
4. Community is everything Connection is one of my core values, so I spend a lot of time in various communities. People know that I show up and that I give as much as I take.
Thanks to my strong ties to community, women I knew trusted me enough to recommend me and the summit to women they knew. That opened doors to speakers and brought in many attendees.
“Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much.” Helen Keller
5. Do things with heart… … and people will want to be part of it. One reason people wanted to participate in and attend the summit was because they could tell I truly cared.
The event was fueled by my desire to help others during this difficult time. It wasn’t a list-building effort, there were no sales pitches, and I nor anyone else were paid.
We built this summit out of love and generosity. Anything done with integrity and gratitude is sure to be well received.
Passion is contagious.
6. People are waiting for leaders When COVID-19 reached our country, everyone wanted to do something to help. So, I stepped up and took the lead.
When people learned the summit would help others, they quickly said yes. They wanted to help, and were just waiting for someone to show them how.
This sentiment translates into all areas of business and life. You may be surprised to discover how many people (customers, collaborators, family) are hoping you’ll take the lead.
Someone needs to lead. Why not you?
7. Simplify, simplify, simplify A virtual summit can be an elaborate event with a lengthy sales page, special tech for hosting, loads of graphics.
It can be all of that … or it can be simple. I chose simple. No sales page, Facebook for hosting, just one copy/paste graphic.
We often avoid doing big things because they seem too, well, BIG. But maybe they don’t need to be—if only we can allow ourselves to be okay with good enough (see #8).
Less is more—if doing less allows you to actually get it done.
8. Let go of perfection and expectation If need everything to be perfect before you take action, you’ll never take action. And if you’re tied to an outcome, anything other than your expectation will be a disappointment.
Perfection isn’t possible; it’s just a fancy form of self-sabotage. It’s a form of control, as is clinging to expectations and outcomes.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but let go of control and you’ll accomplish more than you ever thought possible. Even better, you’ll have a heck of a lot more fun doing it.
“Don’t sacrifice the good to chase the perfect.” Emily Ley