Most of the people whom I work with are driven by something greater than themselves. They feel a call deep inside to make a difference in the world. I am like this myself.
One thing that I have noticed in myself is that there are two parts to this drive that benefit from being seen as distinct: my personal/egoic need to be something as a result of life influences (often because of damage) and my deeper soul’s calling to my true mission. Very often when I go to create something in the world, it is inspired by my deeper Self but driven by my injury. This very often leads to experiences that I see often in other people’s lives as well: varying results, frustration, being overwhelmed, and even burnout.
As a result of these experiences, it is easy to ask the question, “Am I even on the right track?” And then, “What is Truth, and what is fantasy?” For some people, this is followed by, “Should I give up my dreams and do something ‘reasonable’?”—“reasonable” meaning whatever we have been told is the correct way to live our life. I have come to see this process—for those of us who are unlocking our true gifts and rising to our calling—as refinement. I have come to see this process as that of an old soul who knows better than to set up their life in a way that can get too far off track and who instead orchestrates things to play out so that the ego is thinned and the deeper self can truly shine through.
And so I have learned to be grateful for the frustrations that show me exactly where I am aligned with the lesser aspects of myself. I choose more and more to see this and make the necessary shifts, rather than seeing the obstacles as a sign of my lack or inability and then judging the worthiness or potentiality of my mission. The answer for me is in letting go of the idea that my mission is an outcome and seeing it instead as a process—a beautifully unfolding evolution of a way of being that I cannot fully understand and of which I will never entirely know the impact.
Last week, my husband and I went to an Aimee Mann show. We’ve seen her perform before, and she was as wonderful as ever.
During that show, I had an epiphany about myself, my sacred work, and my business that I wanted to share with you because the questions it raised and answered are truly VITAL to any business owner out there.
If you aren’t familiar with Aimee Mann, she is a musician who has been around for over 20 years now with a successful and long-term career. Her music is deep and soulful and really full of rich content, melodies, and ideas. She has had a few “bigger” hits, but for the most part her work has received a ton of critical acclaim and a consistent following of loyal fans, without making it to the Top 10 on the charts.
At the show, for whatever reason, I started comparing it to what I imagine a Lady Gaga show would be like:
Aimee wasn’t playing in an arena with thousands of seats. Instead, the theatre held about 500 filled seats and I know she sells out to crowds of about 500 every night of her tour. There weren’t flashy light shows, but instead gorgeous stained-glass windows that were lit up in the theatre. Aimee didn’t have back-up singers or dancers or change outfits 10 times throughout the show. She spoke directly to her audience and told pertinent stories about her life. She joked around with her audience. She put on no pretenses and even came out on stage to play a few songs with her opening act before her set, not worrying that this was some kind of showman’s faux pas.
And then I paused. And I looked around the theatre at the fans that were in a trance with the beauty and power of the show. And I realized something so obvious, yet so important:
Aimee Mann isn’t Lady Gaga, and probably doesn’t want to be.
Meaning: her music simply wouldn’t make sense in a huge arena. It would get lost in there. In this more intimate setting, it was much more powerful. And, it didn’t seem Aimee needed to be in front of more folks or having thousands upon thousands of audience members present. It appeared that everyone at that show was there because they absolutely loved her – they were loyal, devoted fans, not passing audience members momentarily getting sucked into big name hits. It was clear she was delivering so much value in that evening, and she loved doing it.
And that realization brought me to an even deeper one: When it comes to my own business, I have a choice about what I want. My choice is to be more like Aimee Mann than Lady Gaga.
My work is deep and powerful and intimate, and right now it fits better in a “theatre” than in a “stadium”. I’m not interested in droves of strangers unfamiliar with me and my work being in the room. I prefer a loyal following of engaged women who really want to do the work and really resonate with my message. I’m interested in long-term relationships with my clients instead of temporary fans, and I am committed to being myself and showing up authentically, without any pretenses, no matter what.
I admit, it’s sometimes easy to get lured into the image of being a larger-than-life superstar, to think I want a flashy business with a million followers. But when I really connect in to my heart and soul and what I want for myself, my work and my personal life, it’s so clear to me that being a “larger-than-life” super-coach guru isn’t my calling. At least not for right now. ☺
That doesn’t mean that I don’t strive to create more or more visibility. Of course I do. But I do it knowing where I fit best, how I serve best, and being in control of how I want my business & life to look instead of an empty longing for a stardom that doesn’t really suit me.
Now, I’m not saying that Aimee Mann is better than Lady Gaga. Not by a long shot.
What I’m saying is that it is so valuable to get clear on who you are and who you want to be, and live by that. If you reach into your heart and find that you truly are a Lady Gaga, then YAY! Strive for that and go for it.
But if you reach into your heart and find that you’re an Aimee Mann or a Madeleine Peyroux or a street performer or anything else – EMBRACE it. Love it. Take joy and pleasure in knowing that you know who you are and set goals that reflect it. Don’t blindly yearn or strive for the biggest or grandest business ever just because you’ve been told that’s what’s best.
Know yourself. Be yourself. Appreciate all the diversity and paths that are available. And take pleasure in who you are.
Joanna Lindenbaum is the founder of Soulful Coaching for busy women. She believes with every fiber in my being that women have the power to transform the world. Because of this, she coaches busy women who are looking to nourish their creativity and take their lives to the next level.
When I met Larry Winget for the first time he was telling the story of how after working his tail off to become a professional public speaker he basically woke up one day and realized he hated his life. I listened and thought to myself, “Wow, how does that happen?”
I have always been so staunchly focused on creating the life that I want for myself, I didnt think that I would ever have that kind of experience…
I don’t think I got to the place that Larry Winget got too. I didn’t feel like it was all wrong BUT I definitely felt all the places in my life where I was not doing it my way and I was not as happy as I could be.
Afterall, isn’t my work about fulfillment?
I Did It My Way
“For what is a man, what has he got? If not himself, then he has naught. To say the things he truly feels; And not the words of one who kneels. The record shows I took the blows – And did it my way!”
It is true, as Sinatra says, that if we don’t have ourselves we have nothing and also true is that we are made the way we are made because we have something very special to offer. When we realize this, we have something fabulous –we have the recipe for success and fulfillment.
Why do I need to say this?
Well in situation after situation, home, school, jobs…we are told that we need to make ourselves fit the mold. We are told this so much that even if we feel that we are staunchly devoted to doing it our way, we can still get worn down little by little.
Sometimes this process helps us see even more of yourself and sometimes it obscures it.
Time will let us know… And our own level of happiness.
So my words of wisdom for the day are: If you find yourself leaving parts of you behind that truly made you happy, go back and get them! What is back there will definitely make you happier and may be the key to your success. It has been for Larry and I.
I don’t know who you wound up hanging out with in high school, but it seemed to me that the Artists were heavy on imagination, vision, and dreaminess while the Jocks were about results, goals, and action. As I look at the people I work with now, I can see this classic high-school saga play out — the vast majority of either group rolling their eyes at the other. The Artists are weird. The Jocks are stupid.
Truth be told, I work with more artists than jocks. Artists tend to dream big and forget to wake up, get a cup of coffee, and take some action. Quite honestly, some artists get lost on the way to the coffee pot, never to be heard from again. When I start to talk goals or plans with them, all of a sudden they look at me like I’m in an athletic uniform on the other side of that cafeteria — like I just don’t get them or I am not one of them. In their mind, Artists do not work that way.
Jocks, on the other hand, might be very successful in their lives, but they feel empty on the inside. They got the job done, they scored the goal, and their team is giving them praise, but it just isn’t giving them the same thrill it used to. When I start talking about vision, dreams and life purpose with them, they start noticing that I am dressed a bit funny and think that maybe I am a little too flaky to help them out.
However, what rarely happened in high school needs to happen in our lives. The Artists and Jocks need to hang out together — and even enjoy hanging out together. This needs to happen or we are not going to be able to bring our dreams into reality. If we have vision and no action, we eventually have frustration. If we have action with no vision, we also get frustration. When the Jock and the Artist figure out that they really make a great pair, we have some of our favorite high school movies — satisfaction.