Six months after my daughter passed away, I was still coping with the idea of not needing to plan her birthday party. I needed something to take up the time and energy that I would have dedicated to my newborn, so I enrolled in a graduate school program created to help you launch a business in exactly one year. I’d done three years of background work before, so I was ready to tie all my services and ideas into a business that could become something larger than what I’d done on my own.
What I found, was that I had unknowingly opened a portal into my life of unrelenting negativity, not just from my program but from every “expert,” I consulted. I was a stay-at-home mom, transitioning back into professional life after a 7 year hiatus to raise my beautiful babies. Here’s a sample of the advice I received from local business-startup offices and my grad school:
“No one would ever pay you to coach them. You don’t know anything."
“Creatives wouldn’t pay money for coaching. They are all broke, and if they are successful, they wouldn’t hire someone like you because they don’t need you."
“Your ideas are all great, but you should really just go back to school and become a professional Resume Writer or a Graphic Designer"
“I fail to see why anyone would listen to you as a public speaker. You haven’t done anything."
“You really just need to stick with what you learned in the military. None of the rest of your training has any marketplace value."
“Instead of coaching, which isn’t a real profession, why don’t you try to get into the schools as an assistant to special needs children? I’m sure they could use those skills you say you have."
February was make-or-break month for me because I’d listened to so many sources say that I’d never make it as a coach and speaker that my business had become an unrecognizable mutant. Instead of a coach I was now a Children’s Storytelling, Consultant and Professional Advisor to corporations facing workplace issues with millennials.
My company tag line kept changing, and by the last week of the program I was being re-directed yet again to focus on the non-profit sector. Other business owners who earned their living as professional Storytellers in the school systems told me for months, “Black History Month is coming up. If you, as a black woman can’t get hired by a school during Black History Month, you’re just a bad storyteller.” I contacted hundreds of schools, poured over volumes of story collections and labored in vain to get booked as a storyteller while my books on coaching and public speaking gathered dust.
When February was over I had landed ZERO school performances of the fables and folk tales I was “supposed,” to tell. I DID, however, land numerous back-to-back performances in live storytelling of my own personal stories (despite the fact that I, “don’t know anything,” and “haven’t done anything,”) and booked numerous coaching calls with the EXACT ideal, creative client type that I started graduate school hoping to serve. It seemed my clients weren’t informed that they were either, “too broke,” or “too successful to hire a coach."
But I was STILL working for free and jumping into social media groups talking about every little victory as if all my client calls were PAID work.
I was miserable, felt like a fraud and well . . .for all intents and purposes, I WAS!
The key to breaking this cycle of failure and nay saying has been leaning into what I'm GOOD at - I mean really REALLY good at. I'm not a great writer, but I am fond of social media posts. (guess what this blog post used to be!)
I love being on camera and I love being FUNNY. I finally started to gain some traction when I leaned into what brought me joy, stopped digging for the best label for myself and started calling myself an Entre-Tainer. Not because it adds professional credibility, but because its what I've ALWAYS wanted to be.
At the end of the day - if you can't BE who you want to BE - does it really matter what you DO?