It’s the first day of the sixth month of 2021, and I’m laying it down right here so that you bear witness, and I have this blog to remind myself: I am full.
And that’s a really good thing.
And a really hard thing.
Ever since starting my Conscious Leadership executive coaching business eight years ago, I’ve been thrilled to get new, great work in the door. I remember a summer six years ago when a prospect reached out and asked me to do a day of work in August. Things had been tight, and I remember the relief of knowing I could pay my mortgage the next month with that gig.
Since then, I’ve been doing all the things you do to make a one-person (plus amazing collaborators) company work. The social media, the free community talks, the podcast, the live video coaching channel, the leadership camps, the coaching pods, the new business models that sometimes worked and sometimes flopped, the rebrand, the referrals from cherished associates whom I endeavored to make proud (thank you). Even as I write THIS blog on THIS topic, did you see how I carefully linked the term “conscious leadership executive coaching” to my website? SEO! I’ve been doing that too, and, even here, I can’t stop.
In the last two years or so, the hallowed and oft-elusive flywheel started turning. I was growing my existing clients, those clients were referring me to other new people, and random blog posts containing real talk started attracting people I didn’t know who could get a feel for what I was about from how I talk online. “You want someone direct and rebellious?” I would quizzically ask a total stranger on a first call. “Yeah, that’s me, and I can’t believe you figured that out,” I marveled.
Doing all the stuff is paying off.
I started feeling the tension of “full” a few months back. I pushed it away. The people who appear are interesting, the new projects and programs are scintillating.
But today, as I look at my work + play calendar, I realize I’m complete for a while. At least for the summer. I love my work. I also love golf, hiking, and hanging out with friends. Once I took steps to integrate those things more into my calendar -- a calendar that has been pretty bare for 14 months -- I saw that I was out of empty blocks. I could kill the play, I could cut back on sleep, or I could say “no” to adding more work.
This might sound like a humble-brag post. I see that. I feel fortunate and lucky and also really hard-working. I also realize that “full” is subjective, and until I declared it I was going to keep pressuring myself and giving up on things that make my life whole. So my “full” could be slimmer than your full. But I thought highlighting this tension might be of service to you founders out there who, truly, could always do more. Or you big-company, government agency, school teacher, or high-intensity student folks who have struggled mightily to turn it off at all over their lifetimes and especially over these last 14 months.
Here’s how full feels over here. My stomach is tight. I’m finding only a few great options for an in-person executive coaching kickoff with a wonderful new client who is the last I’ll take on for a few months. I feel guilty for being unavailable. I feel a little nauseous when I try to set the next meeting or think about what I can squeeze in during that week that I’ll spend with my family, whom I haven’t seen for two years. I have two stellar EA’s who handle most of my difficult stuff, and I still find myself getting frustrated with the few logistics I need to manage. I numb out for 90 minutes at night watching the dopiest TV series I’ve ever watched. I have the thought multiple times a week: “when and how will this end, Sue? This (life) is not an infinite journey.”
And that’s the word that’s so tough for me. “No.” In my personality type, “more” is always better, as I’ve said before. So even though nausea is setting in around time pressure, nausea also shows up when I put down the calendar and say “yes” to being complete for now.
I imagine every one of my primarily Saas-based clients is rolling their eyes wondering “when are you going to SCALE, Sue.” I’ve thought about it. I see the irony given my push for this as a coach and investor. But it turns out that I don’t want to. What I love is being with people, instigating deep and authentic conversations, and learning together. It’s not scalable beyond a certain audience size, and, at this point, I’m just fine with that.
What will my lusty, growth-focused (“always be selling”) personas do during this time? I’m giving them vacations with clear permission to return in September. If they show up during the summer, their only job is to work on my short game at the Lake Valley Golf Club practice area. There is so much room for growth there.