Changing the story - the windy road that led me to start my business
Updated: 6 days ago
Today, it's sunnier than anywhere in the UK has a right to be.
I could work outside in the sun but my computer set up is a little bit like driving (foot-mouse, eye tracker, dictation), so despite being a woman who enjoys a flexible working life, I'm not that portable.
I'm a forward-thinking person, but sometimes it does you so much good to look back and see how far you've come. Like when a traffic jam finally starts moving, you check and realise you've crept forward a good few miles, but it feels like you haven't moved at all. We move all the time. We change our minds, our thoughts and our behaviours. But if you never check in you may not notice.
Today, I thought I’d share what led me to money mindset coaching, and it has a lot to do with that weird, non-portable computer setup I've got going on.
Losing my mojo
In my early to mid-twenties, work became a bit fraught. For seemingly no reason I started to have chronic pain in my shoulders and upper back when using my hands and arms, which meant I had to give up a few things at a time when I should have been ramping up my awesomeness.
I first noticed it when I was playing guitar at rehearsal one night. My identity was always tied to being a musician and songwriter, and overnight it seemed, playing the guitar with my band was just too painful. I didn’t know what to do with my evenings anymore as I use to while away hours every night working on at songs. I struggled my way through a work day at the estate agents where I worked, because typing and handwriting was now a nightmare. It had me trapped in a job that was supposed to be a temporary day job after uni, while I figured out what to do next.
Finding any understanding in my colleagues and boss was really tricky too, even amongst friends. Hidden illnesses are this way – when no one can see something is up they assume you're fine, or at least that it's not that bad. And they forget.
It’s also a challenge when you don’t know what’s wrong with you beyond a vague 'RSI' – or repetitive strain injury diagnosis, which isn’t quite enough information for anyone. I mean, why doesn’t every musician or person with a computer have it? I’m pretty sure Steve Jobs got by without having to say, ‘I’m sorry, I just can’t type that email today.’
I was angry, sore and fed up. It was ridiculous. A stupid, limiting, surprise problem to have in your twenties, when you have enough decisions to make about life. Like whether to get married (I did) or whether to quit it all and become a writer (I didn’t, thank goodness, I was nowhere near ready).
During my art degree I’d started writing a novel but couldn't finish it because the most ridiculous problem of all was the typing and handwriting one. Writing phone messages for my colleagues some days was beyond me.
The world hasn't missed out on the novel, it was objectively terrible, but still. I would have liked to know how it ended.
It sounds so cliché, but my identity was in trouble. I didn’t know who I was any more. I continued working at the estate agents, and spending my evenings stretching out the pain or sitting in the bath, as though I'd run a marathon.
Computer says yes
It seems like an understatement now to say technology was life changing. Things looked up when I discovered voice dictation (Dragon dictate is the best) and a foot mouse (from a solitary supplier in LA, now closed down and non-existent) that meant I could carry on working. Without these things I would have been at home on benefits. With the tech, I was a useful member of society, helping people, being needed, working. It was that dramatic.
Dictation was far from perfect - everyone could hear what I was typing, which was awkward with a capital AWK, and it often didn't type the right thing because, you know, open plan offices. But it meant I could carry on working and that was everything. Stepping out of society because of a random pain no one could explain was not an option.
I was there for a few years, and it was more or less manageable, as long as I ignored the fact symptoms were getting worse. But then I was made redundant from the estate agents in the adorably-named 'credit crunch', the precursor to the not-so-nicely-named recession in 2008.
The jobs I knew how to do, where I could make relatively easy money, were office jobs; customer service combined with talking to a computer. Because of my ‘lucky fin’, a cute name I called my right arm after Finding Nemo to try to feel more positive about it, I couldn’t do physical jobs of the type you can usually pick up pretty quickly in your twenties. I had worked in bars but pulling pints and working the till hurt. I worked in a bookshop (Waterstones – bizarrely great source material for short stories) but the till and the action of putting books into bags seemed enough to trigger my lucky fin too. Big eyerolls all round from all involved.
But in an office I could sit on my hands if I wanted to, despite the fact that finding a new desk job was a little tricky due to job agencies being less than understanding. In one instance, I was sent away by one of them and taken off the books because I wouldn’t take a typing test, despite the fact I told them dictating is usually faster than typing. It was a different time.
But one of then found me something – at a packaging manufacturer is an account manager. We made clothing labels. Yes, just the labels. Yes, there is a big company that does just that. I was working in the Burberry and Arcadia accounts, on the farthest reaches of the fringes of the fashion industry. Like, so far-reaching you probably can’t reach it.
My most depressing day was filling out the wastage sheet for the environmental laws, and putting down 100% wastage for price tags we were making. The realisation dropped that I was involved in making the bit that consumers threw away the moment they get the item home.
We were making garbage with a nice font.
I was there for 5 years, and I felt stuck again. I couldn’t leave because who else would have me? I couldn’t do my job well because I can work the hours that others did, or fiddle with the mouse to create a shit-hot spreadsheet like the others could. And by God, did they love a spreadsheet.
During 5 years I learned:
· To tell the difference between Korean, Chinese and Japanese writing and how to write 100% cotton in each language.
· That if you start to organise bake sales in an open plan office of 100 women you become the one to know. (I had to do something to keep life interesting) · That clocking in machines in offices are alive and well - and that reducing someone’s work day to the minutes they stay inside the door doesn’t get the best out of people.
Eventually, after a debacle with the Burberry account over a spreadsheet I’d had enough. There had to be more to life. By handing in my notice without a job to go to, I gave myself a self-imposed and very real deadline to change this crappy story for myself.
I went to work for a software start-up company, which was incredibly cool, and at that time I was now so confident on my dictation that I was writing again in my spare time. The weirdness I had about dictating fiction writing aloud for the first few years of using it, had gone.
I signed up for a creative writing masters degree part-time, and to make things extra-interesting I also started a band – playing through the pain to write a set of songs, allin the same month that I started this new job.
Those first couple of years in the job, and doing my MA was the most creatively productive I've ever been, but I had the least amount of sleep and was working all the time on something or other, no doubt making my symptoms worse. No matter, I was happy. I’d deal with my health later. My mindset when it came to my health was avoidance. I went through little spates of trying to figure out my body. And long phases of ignoring it.
Over the last 20 years, doctors and specialists have not known what was wrong, or what to do with me, but they did give me some pills, which helped, plus two different, incorrect diagnoses which didn't.
I was stuck with it.
My mindset was all over the place. Work was something I had to do for money, it wasn't supposed to be enjoyed, and I bent over backwards to do the creative stuff I loved in my spare time. I was convinced I would have to do something creative for a living because I enjoy it – isn’t that how it works when people enjoy their lives? But I couldn’t think of a way to do this without burning out.
So I stayed on the wheel – trying to do everything, and achieving lots but so far away from a career I was happy with, or that felt good for my health.
Skip to the end
Eventually I got a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, which, if you know about this disease is still pretty vague and not everyone even believes in it. Still, it was a label I could give people when they asked why using my computer looks like driving a train.
Fibromyalgia explained all my symptoms, and some of the new ones that pop up occasionally.
Fast forward to my recovery from some personal difficulty I was going through which include life coaching. I was blown away.
Like, wait a minute, this works. Is this something I can actually do? And could I do it without working in a company? Without working 9 to 5:30 p.m. just because those are your hours?
Turns out – although it took a few years to realise the dream – it was. Plus, setting my own business up was the absolute answer to being stuck in a job I felt I could never shine at, because of daft, invisible, physical limitations, plus the glaring fact I didn't enjoy my job any more.
And here’s what's interesting thinking back. To get myself out of the feeling of frustration and often low worth I’d experienced over the years, I had to employ a lot of the techniques I was learning to be a life coach on myself. And so much became down to money mindset.
To really make my new glossy business work I had to let go of a bunch mindset things and get out of my own flippin' way. Or ‘leave the shitty baggage at the door’ as a much loved College drama teacher used to say to our class.
Here’s what I had to drop –
Making money means hard, often painful work
You can't make money doing something you enjoy
It’s better to be happy than have money (who knew you can have both)
And a ton of other stuff that I routinely come across whenever I hit a new level that scares me. Mindset work is an ongoing thing, and it never ends, but the gorgeous thing about it is that once you start noticing and changing how you think about the things you’ve always done, and the way you always reacted to things, you're on the way to changing everything.
We call it mindset 'work' but really it’s just discovery. What’s better than discovering more about yourself? To feel better, more worthy, more capable and open to truly amazing things happening. Or open to you creating your own amazing thing. Like a business. Like an understanding, wonderful relationship. Like living in my dream house and getting to choose when I work and when I look after myself. Like confidence in my ability to help and faith in oh-so-much possibility. That's not 'work', is it?
So I'm ok. I'm good! This isn’t the end of this odd journey for me it still feels so much like a beginning. I have the best job in the world because I get to share all of this with others, and help them feel the same. For a living (so cool!).
Our stories matter. We are all made of stories. What will yours be? 💚
PS - Download my free guide to get in the right mindset so you can happily raise your worth - 3 Steps to Confidently Raising your Prices
PPS - And, if you think your money beliefs are holding you back and you're ready to uncover and release them for yourself, book a free 30 Minute Breakthrough Chat with me.