In spring of 2015 I got an idea. I had been working on a book about using the methods of improvement science, design thinking and action research to help people power their personal improvement. When I shared the idea with my friends, family, and colleagues, they were enthusiastic. “I want to do that!” they said. The notion of people “doing it” as opposed to reading it caused me to wonder.
What if this was a business? I’d love to have more agency in my work. Wouldn’t it be nice to help people? I wonder… could I do that??
I wrote it off as a crazy impulse, but as Andrea Beaty writes in Rosie Revere Engineer, “Questions are tricky and some hold on tight.” This one would not leave me alone.
I’d be eating a sandwich: “Maybe you could!”
Driving my car: “I think you should.”
Grocery shopping: “You totally could.”
Going to sleep: “OK, so we’re doing this.”
I’m always telling everyone I meet that they should give things a shot. “If you want to make your dreams come true,” I say, “do one thing today.” There’s always one thing you can do. So maybe I could do one thing at a time and see if a business comes out of it. It’s worth a shot, right?
As I mentioned, I had written the beginnings of a book about personal improvement. It was making me a little bit crazy– I didn’t know how to proceed and I felt strongly that I needed to share the ideas with people and hear what they thought. When it occurred to me that this could be a business and not just a book, I wondered if I could offer the content as a workshop. As an educator who gives professional development workshop all over the city, this felt like an easy transition, once I found someone to take a chance on me and let me give my workshop in their space.
I am a fan of Julia Cameron, the author of “The Artists Way,” who did her NYC workshops through the Open Center. I decided to dedicate my one thing that day to looking into workshop venues, starting with the Open Center. Maybe it would be a viable venue for me too.
It was not. It looked like a cool place, but I wasn’t sure that my brand of personal improvement was a good fit and the workshops were pretty expensive. I checked out the competition and found a list that mentioned the Brooklyn Brainery, which offered an “accessible, community-driven, crowdsourced education” with classes between $10 and $20. They were looking for teachers to offer courses on what they were excited about.
I was excited about this! Perfect.
I wrote an email to the Brainery offering my course and concluded my one thing for that day. Whatever happened with the Brainery, I felt energized by that small action and went to bed comforted by the knowledge that I was taking myself and my dreams seriously.
The very next day they wrote back offering times to give my workshop. I felt like the universe wanted me to start a business! It’s true what they say: taking a real, concrete step on behalf of your dream is magic.
The magic of commitment and action has been known for a long time.
From The Scottish Himalaya Expedition, 1951 (quoting Goethe from 1749-1832):
Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, the providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:
I’ve done three workshops at the Brainery so far and I’ve learned so much. The content of personal improvement continue to fascinate and I enjoy every conversation I have with people about their hopes and dreams, goals and efforts. It has been amazing.
The process of building a business, however, has been very complicated and much harder than I thought it would be. It certainly hasn’t always been the case that the effort of one day serendipitously drops the resource I need in my lap.
On the contrary, there are times when it is sheer force of will that keeps me doing one thing every day on behalf of my coaching practice.
I knew that for my business to be “real” I had to have a website. I decided to buy the domain through the blog service I was using (wordpress.com) thinking it would be easier to manage multiple blogs from the same site. Once I had the domain, I spent about a week’s worth of one things putting that website together. Finally, it had enough content, just in time for my first workshop at the Brainery. What a relief to be done with website building for a while.
Yeah, not so fast …
On the day after my first workshop, I realized that I didn’t have a way to manage my contact with the people I had met. I also had plans to build a Facebook community and I wanted those people to be able to easily join the list, too. No problem: I had a few hours, I’d set up a list management system.
Thus beginneth my slow-motion fall down the rabbit hole of business websites. Over time, I got my blog moved to the right type of domain, and after much struggle, included a form asking people to join the community. There were setbacks, but I made it past them because I kept doing one thing.
The lesson that I’m learning (one day at a time) is that building a business is really, really hard.
Sometimes I’d just rather NOT.
I’d like to quietly leave the scene and let the whole thing die on the vine, but I don’t.
Every day I begin again and do one thing to support the business. Sometimes I research how things are done. Sometimes I create content. Sometimes I learn about internet marketing. Sometimes I do visioning exercises to re-align my efforts to a larger picture. Whatever feels right.
I try to do one thing every day.
I have yet to be let down. Every time I do my one thing I get a little spark of that magic. I’m taking this seriously. I’m taking ME seriously and that re-invigorates me and gives me enough drive to do it again tomorrow.
What one thing can you do take your dream of a successful private practice seriously? Begin it! I want you to experience that magic, too, and then tell me all about it.
Amanda Crowell, PhD is a cognitive psychologist obsessed with how people make change. She is best known for translating cutting edge research into practical strategies that can be used right away.