Lisa Robbin Young

When you're in the early stages of building a stand-out business, there are lots of moving parts and pieces to keep things running smoothly. There are also a lot of things that seem important, but are just distractions.

So where do you need to focus right from the start?

The things that will move the needle the most.

Easier said than done, right? Because those things can look different for each business. But let's look at the most common things you need to be thinking about right from the start to ensure you're on the path to success.

Pic Credit - CCO License

A Strong Brand

Your brand is the heart and soul of your business, and it's what sets you apart from the crowd. So, take the time to craft a brand that reflects your unique personality and style. Remember, a strong brand will attract the right customers and help you stand out in the marketplace.

A strong brand isn't about flashy websites or spending a lot of dough to "look good". Your brand is your business's identity and how you want to be perceived by the world. It's the story that lives in the hearts of your Raving Fans when you're not actively marketing to them. Take the time to think about how you want your business to come across and create messaging and marketing that reflects that. The stronger your brand is, the better your chances of success.

With a strong brand, your business becomes memorable - even when you're NOT marketing!

Good Advice

Next, seek out good advice. As a creative entrepreneur, you might feel like you can do everything on your own, but the truth is, everyone needs help. Surround yourself with people who have been there and done that, and learn from their experience. Trust me, it'll save you time and energy in the long run.

The right people - including legal experts, consultants, and those who are experts in your specific industry can be invaluable sources of support, encouragement, and insight. And they don't need to be on call 24/7 to be good for you. Expert guidance, that's focused on helping you reach your goals and dreams, will help you have a much higher chance of success and shorten your learning curve..

Building a business can be overwhelming, and you don't have to do it all alone. Seek out mentors, coaches, and experts who can guide you along the way.

When you look at the successes and failures of previous business owners, so much of it comes down to the people they had access to when they started out. In essence, you are in a much better position, with a much higher chance of success, if you are able to get in touch with the right people at the start. Consult legal experts (like Manfred Sternberg & Associates, or other legal consultants) and those who are experts in the needs of your specific industry.

Secure Funding

Of course, we can't forget about the moolah! Cash flow is the lifeblood of your business. If you're self-funding everything, that means you carry all the risk and financial burden. That may or may not be a problem for you, but it's important to know what you're really dealing with when it comes to the "money stuff" in your business.

Look for sources of funding that align with your values and goals. Maybe that's crowd sourcing or finding a lender through Kiva. Or maybe it's your own credit card. Been there. Done that! The key is to have a secure source of funding that will give you the financial stability you need to grow and thrive.

Seek funding you can rely on before you think you'll need it. Because often, when you finally need it, you may have a hard time getting it!

Pic Credit - CCO License

The Best Team

Last but certainly not least, you need to build the best damn team ever! If cash flow is the lifeblood, then your team is the backbone of your business. Who you surround yourself with is arguably the most important factor of all. When you have a team you love (that loves you right back), you'll have a much better chance of success.

Take your time to find the right people for your team. Be willing to let people go that don't fit your team culture (and do it FAST!). This includes contractors, part timers, and anyone else supporting you and your business. The people you surround yourself with are crucial to your business's success. That means your advisors AND your team support! Develop a rock-solid recruitment process that helps you find the right people who share your vision and passion. With a strong team, you can tackle anything that comes your way.

So, there you have it - the four things you need at the start of your business: a strong brand, good advice, secure funding, and the best team you can afford. Remember, building a successful business takes time. It can be challenging, requires effort, and dedication, but with these four elements in place, you'll be on your way to creating a thriving business.

At the end of March, I had the honor of speaking at the TEDxBloomington Salon and it was amazing.

Salons are generally smaller scale TED-style events that are locally curated, like any TEDx event. Unlike a larger, full-day event where the talks can range pretty widely, Salons are generally on a more focused topic. Our topic was (sustain)ABILITY.

The theme still lends itself to some pretty wide-ranging topics, including a sonnet on sustainability, the importance of preserving indigenous language for future generations (and the tech to make it accessible to everyone), how kindness and generosity can sustain us, the 3 steps to find healing in business, and more. I look forward to sharing the talks once they're all uploaded, but for now, I can share my talk on How the Marginalization Tax impacts finding Enoughness for micro businesses. You can also access the bonus resources for my TEDx talk here.

My life is a paradox. As a business coach and entrepreneur, I rely on Capitalism to keep food on the table. And I help my clients to do the same. But as a human being, I also rail against what it seems like Capitalism has become: a money-grubbing, soul-crushing free-for-all for the wealthy elite that would rather leave our big blue marble than invest in healing, protecting, and sustaining it.

About 40% of my clients are multiply marginalized, many with a chronic illness, disability, or other capacity-limiting constraints that have essentially forced them to leave traditional employment and go out on their own because it works for how they're built. Forced, because capitalism asks more of us than we can consistently give, and no one feels this quite as much as the marginalized people of the world.

Entrepreneurship then, becomes a way for them to "leverage" the capacity they DO have - but not everyone is equipped to meet the challenges of entrepreneurship.

The incessant invitation to grow for growth's sake is a siren's song that hypnotizes entrepreneurs into the trap of adding one more zero to our revenue… and then another… and then another. But that "MORE" doesn't include room for things like more rest, more play, more ease - unless you hustle your face off first. There's this persistent myth that if you just work hard enough long enough and do your best, you'll make it to that "some day" where you can retire in style.

But Capitalism asks for more than many of us can give. And it has a bad habit of moving the goal posts on us.

With so many companies shooting for the moon - both literally and figuratively, this incessant drive for "More" isn't a sustainable path. How do we find the sustainable path in business? We strive for Enoughness instead.

When we look to nature, a cactus can thrive on very little water and a lot of sun. That is Enoughness for the cactus. If you flood the desert, the cactus rots. If you take away the sun, the cactus starves.

So Enoughness looks different in different situations.

For the folks that I work with, Enoughness is a result of building a business that works for their unique situation.

They are not corporate behemoths. They are parents, artists, travelers, authors, healers, activists, and more. They want a living wage that allows them to retire a spouse or provide for their families, and be able to enjoy the fruits of their labors - even when Capitalism tries to ask more of them than they can give on their own.

For years, I've taught what I call your Enoughness Number. It's essentially the revenue your business needs to bring in on an annual basis in order to have an experience of Enoughness. Not excessive, but appropriate. Not just subsisting, like so many marginalized folks do, but thriving.

But then one of my non-normative clients pointed out that I had not taken into account the additional resources required to navigate a world that asks more of you than you can give. We dubbed this added cost The Marginalization Tax.

At that time I was still under the spell of meritocracy. Just work harder. Keep working, and eventually you'll get there…. however long THAT is. I had always been able to keep working… until the day I needed back surgery. For eleven days I was unable to walk, stand, or otherwise move my body without substantial pain and significant help.

I was lucky I had help at home and owned my own business. If I'd been in a traditional job, I probably would have been fired or forced to use all my time off. And then where would I be for the rest of the year?

This tax is a spectrum of disadvantage based on a number of things like skin color, religion, gender expression, geography, age, body shape, economic status, social status, and basically any circumstance where there's a power imbalance that puts one group of people at an advantage to the detriment of others.

For example (and this isn't exhaustive, but you'll get the idea): I'm a cis, straight, neurodivergent, mixed-race, black woman that presents as white and able-bodied. I'm almost 50 and my body shape is not the socially accepted norm. I have a mix of privilege and disadvantage that impacts the resources I need. The more resources I need, the greater the marginalization tax I pay to participate in this world.

So let's look at what Enoughness looks like both with and without the Marginalization Tax applied so you can see how this works.

First, what are your total living expenses? Let's say $60k

Now add to that your growth. Maybe you've got a nice-to-have or a want that you'd like to see happen in the next year. That's your take-home pay requirement.

If you're a business owner, on top of your take home pay, what are the other "living expenses" of your business?

Then add your business growth to that. Maybe you want to launch a new offer and need to invest in infrastructure or support. Put it in your total.

Now add all that up and add a 10% cushion for unplanned surprises. They happen.

That's already a large number for a small business.

But, now we add the Marginalization Tax.

Based on where you fall on the spectrum, this could be anywhere from zero to as much as 50% of the total. Think that's steep? According to a 2021 report from the national women's law center, black women make a million dollars less over their career than white men. That's 37% less. That is the Marginalization Tax in action.

So we total this all up and there it is - one Enoughness Number that's drastically different than it would be if you didn't have to pay this tax.

Unlike the taxes you pay to your government each year, the bill for the Marginalization Tax comes due each day. This weekend my husband bought some cookies for $4. But I can't eat those cookies because some of the ingredients will hurt me. If I wanted to have a comparable amount of cookies that I can eat, I'd have to pay nearly 3 times as much - or I could spend just a few dollars more for all the ingredients and make them myself. Which would take an additional 45 minutes out of my day.

He can just open a package of cookies and go to town! The Marginalization Tax means I pay significantly more either in time or money - resources I may or may not have - just to enjoy a cookie.

Now you might say, "But Lisa, that's a cookie. A treat. You don't NEED a cookie. You can live without a cookie."

Yes, but why should I have to settle for less just because my body is built differently than yours?

But, let's say you're right and look at another case: One of my clients applied for medical disability long before we started working together. She had a profitable business that she'd built around her chronic illness which was so severe and variable that she never knew what her capacity to work would be like from one day to the next. Once she got approved for disability, she shut it all down. She said to me, "I can't jeopardize my disability payments. What if I go off disability and then my business has a down year? I'll have to re-apply and go through all of this all over again - and I might not survive!"

I don't blame her for wanting to protect herself and know that she can survive in a world that makes it hard for her to just exist. I blame the system where the deck is stacked against some of us and not others. That is the impact of the Marginalization Tax.

Everyone should be able to experience enoughness - a fully belly, a warm bed, and the safety of knowing they have what they need to thrive. There's certainly plenty on this planet to make it possible. But the playing field isn't level. What's worse, Capitalism keeps moving the goal posts.

But I believe that the best way to change a system is from the inside. That's why I'm a business owner. That's why I help other business owners - who aren't trying to hustle their face off to be a squijillionaire. They just want to find the balance that allows them to be paid well, within their capacity constraints, and have the time and energy to enjoy the fruits of their labors.

We don't need more rockets into space. We need more business owners striving for Enoughness for everyone.

When we have Enoughness it's… well, it's enough.

Like I said, it's a paradox.

Can I be blunt for a moment?

I can't STAND the phrase "take your business to the next level". I think it's overused and too generic to have any real meaning.

And that's EXACTLY why so many business coaches - especially in the online world - use it. Yes. I use it too... which is part of what bugs me about it!

It's a blanket, "catch-all" phrase that allows them to paint a huge picture without really saying anything at all. You're left to use your imagination to figure out what "next level" really means.

I mean, I get it. It's a phrase that resonates for folks because it suggests progress and growth. Going up the elevator from the ground floor to the penthouse. That idea of "started from the bottom, now we're here."

But it's so generic! Taking your business to the next level could mean increasing your revenue, expanding your customer base, or improving your marketing strategies. By using a broad and flexible phrase like "take your business to the next level," a coach can appeal to a wide range of potential clients and highlight the various benefits they offer.

Which is great for the coach, but not necessarily great for you.

What does a "Next Level" business even look like?

You don't want generic outcomes, you want specific help tailored to your situation. That's why you hire a coach in the first place! And the kind of "next-level" lift you need may not actually be what that coach is offering.

What if you need help through an audience pivot? I did. I needed specific help from someone who understands how to do an audience pivot. The idea of "taking my business to the next level" meant reaching more of those new, perfect-fit audience members. So, I put out a call to find a new coach, and what I got back was very telling.

I was specific in my request. Dozens of folks raised their hands and when I went to their websites to vet them more than HALF of them were talking about "next level" results.

Gag me.

Most of the coaches I talked to couldn't help me until I was already pivoted. But not with help finding these folks. Which, you know, needs to happen before I can market my offers to them!

So why raise your hand in the first place?

I ended up wasting a LOT of time talking to people who were good at things that I didn't even ask for! All because they wouldn't be specific enough in their marketing and messaging to help me understand what they offer and how they could REALLY help me... or if they understood my problem at all!

"Next Level" is a shorthand leaves a lot of room for interpretation

Using a common phrase like "take your business to the next level" can be a helpful shorthand for communicating the overall goal of their coaching services. It's a quick and catchy way to get potential clients interested in what they have to offer, and cast a wide net, but when you need specific help, this phrase is mostly worthless.

If "take your business to the next level" can mean different things for different people, depending on their goals and aspirations, then you have no real clarity. It could mean pushing past your current limits, reaching new heights, and tapping into your full potential as a business owner and as an individual, just as easily as it could mean expanding your customer base, increasing your revenue, improving your products or services, and creating more value for your customers.

That's a painting with a VERY broad brush!

No wonder potential clients get confused, throw their hands up, and walk away!

Specificity is clarity. Clarity builds confidence, which feeds your ability to take courageous actions (like saying YES and hiring a new coach!)

Define "Next Level" for yourself BEFORE you look for a coach

To make the term "take your business to the next level" meaningful, have in mind specific examples of what that might look or feel like for you.

For instance, taking your business to the next level could mean achieving a certain revenue target, expanding your customer base, launching a new product or service, or simply improving your overall brand image and reputation. It could also mean feeling more fulfilled and passionate about the work you do, having more freedom and flexibility in your schedule, and feeling more confident and empowered in your ability to make a difference in your industry.

If you're not clear about what you want or need from a coaching experience, you're more likely to be lured into "next level" language that doesn't get you where you really want to go.

Sadly, most coaches aren't providing specific examples so potential clients can better understand the value of choosing them. Instead, they're relying on lazy "next level" language that isn't helping you at ALL.

But you can make smart decisions by being clear and upfront with what you want or need from a coach. Don't equivocate. Ask them directly: how can you help me achieve x?

Don't let "next level" jargon hypnotize you into saying yes if you're not clear the coach can help.

And if you're ready to get real support to build a business that works for how you're wired to work, let's talk! A few seats are still available for this month's Cashflow Creator business model workshop series. Together, we'll design (or redesign) your business to be in alignment and integrity with what matters most to you and how you're uniquely wired to work.

For years, I've held connection calls where I hop on zoom for 20-30 minutes to get to know a new networking connection. Invariably, a business question pops up and most of the time I can spot a solution to their issue before the end of the call.

In many of these cases, I was able to help them see a way to open up a new income stream, refine a system or process, or just make their business easier in a matter of minutes. Not long ago, I was talking with a guy and by the end of the call we'd mapped out a new approach to one of his existing offers.

That new approach landed him a $15,000 deal later that same day.

I know that might sound a bit unbelievable, but I have receipts. This was both a blessing and a curse for me. A blessing, because I've been able to help hundreds of people over the years. A curse because, for years, I didn't really know how I was doing it.

So, I finally sat down and spent time examining how my brain works... the questions I was asking in order to get those kinds of results for total strangers.

That's how the Creative Freedom Business Model Equation was born! Once I had it worked out, I tested it with a few of my clients before rolling it out in last year's CashFlow Creator Workshop.

I'm excited to announce that we've re-opened the doors to this popular workshop and I'll be hosting it again this month!

The Cashflow Creator Workshop is designed for entrepreneurs and business owners who want to create a business that reflects their personality, voice, and style and connects with more of their ideal clients and customers with greater ease. More money, more time to enjoy it. A business that works for how you're wired to work.

Whether you're just starting out or looking to rebrand and redesign your business, this workshop will provide you with the guidance and support you need to succeed. By the end of the workshop series, you'll have a personalized roadmap for building or refining your business, based on your unique lifestyle and goals.

What can you expect from the workshop series?

This 5-day workshop series, running from April 17-21, will provide you with the tools and guidance you need to design a business model that works for how you're wired to work. Each day, we'll focus on one part of the Creative Freedom Business Model Equation. By the end of the workshop, you'll have a comprehensive understanding of what is and isn't working in your business and how to fix it.

You

Day one of the workshop will focus on the first part of the Equation: You. We'll dive deep into what really matters for you, including your values, personal context, and the mission/vision for your business. We'll look at how those things play together and what your non-negotiables are to actually feel successful. At the end of the day, you'll be able to communicate clearly the strengths that you bring to the table through your company, and what's most important for you - both personally and professionally - so that you can have a business that supports you to have more of what you want and less of what you don't!

Why

On Day 2, we'll dive deep into the "why" of your business. Not YOUR personal "why" - although that's important, too. Instead, we'll explore why you're in this line of work, what motivates and inspires you, and what makes you uniquely qualified to do what you do. We'll also examine the core purpose of your business, the change you want to see in the world, and the impact you want to have on your customers or clients. By the end of the day, you'll have a clear understanding of the driving force behind your business, which will help you create a brand message that resonates with your ideal audience and sets you apart from the competition.

Who

On Day 3, we'll dive into the "who" of your business model equation. We'll take a deep dive into your ideal clients from a different angle - those who already resonate with your "you" and "why" elements. Instead of trying to conjure up some niche market out of thin air, we want to connect more deeply with people who already resonate with who you are and why you do what you do. We'll explore who your ideal customers are, where they hang out, what they want and need, and how your business can best serve them. By the end of the day, you'll have a clear picture of who your business is for, and how to speak directly to their needs and desires.

What

On day four, we'll dive into the "what" element of your business model. We'll explore the transformation your offer provides for your clients or customers and identify any gaps or areas for improvement in your current offers. This day is all about fine-tuning your offers so they are aligned with your unique value proposition and the needs of your ideal clients or customers.

How

Day five will be dedicated to the "how" of your business model. You can deliver the same "what" in different ways - different "how's". A book, a course, and a video, for example are different ways to delivery the same "what". We'll examine the delivery and pricing of your offers, as well as your marketing strategy. By the end of this day, you'll have a solid understanding of how to package and promote your offers in a way that resonates with your ideal clients or customers, and generates the cash flow you need to sustain and grow your business.

What others have said

This is one of my favorite testimonials from our workshop last year:

photo of Teresa Romain

"This workshop is POWERFUL! And Lisa Robbin Young is a MASTER at the concepts and practices she teaches - not to mention a great coach. I got a level of clarity of purpose and strategy for going forward that had been missing for me. And it's a strategy that EXCITES me and had me saying 'YES! That's ME! I can do that!' Thanks Lisa!"

Teresa Romain - Founder of Access Abundance

Other attendees said they also experienced:

  • A better understanding of their unique strengths, skills, and values, and how to leverage them to create a profitable and sustainable business.
  • Increased confidence and motivation to take action and make positive changes in their business.
  • Clarity on their ideal client and how to best serve them with their offers and pricing.
  • A new direction for their business that feels fresh and meaningful
  • New offer ideas to roll out and make (a LOT) more money with greater ease

So if you're serious about having a business that works for how you're wider to work, get your buns over to my info page and register for the CashFlow Creator Workshop series and take the first step towards a fulfilling and sustainable business.

I'm capping registration at 20 people. If financial accessibility is an issue for you, please reach out. Partial scholarships or grants may be available.

My husband and I were talking about the movie Grease the other day. While I was conjuring up lyrics from "You're The One That I Want", Jim piped up and said, "The moral of that story is that you've got to change yourself if you want a man."

I was not seeing it. I mean, he's right that you shouldn't have to change yourself in order to be with someone you care about, but was that really what was going on with Sandy? Or was she finally letting herself be more of the person she wanted to be?

Throughout the movie, Sandy was this buttoned up bobby sockser - watching everyone around her living their lives out loud, while clutching her pearls and saying "I couldn't possibly!" at everything going on. Rizzo and the other Pink Ladies tried to get her "Sandra Dee" to loosen up, but she was too scared and possibly ashamed to do anything about it. Until that drag race showed her what she was missing out on by staying buttoned up.

Buttoned-up or Badass?

Let me be clear: there's nothing wrong with being a "Sandra Dee" type - if that's who you really want to be. But you could tell, at the dance, that there was more to Sandy than the buttoned-up persona she had been sharing with the world. She liked being in the spotlight and was miffed when Cha-Cha pulled Danny away from her and won the competition.

Once she got over herself, her next evolution was a more confident, fun-loving person. Yes, she stepped awkwardly at first, but it was someone she WANTED to be. Not something she HAD to do. Sandy chose a path that worked for her and finally let the rest of the world see more of who she really was.

If you ever feel like your brand isn't doing a good job of telling the world who you are - or that you're being ignored by your ideal clients and customers, you might still be trying to show the world your "Sandra Dee" self, when you've actually evolved into a stronger, more charismatic leader. It's time to step out and shine!

How Brand Resonance Works

Your brand is more than just a logo or a tagline. Your brand is the total experience that your customers have with your business, from the way you communicate to the quality of your products or services. It's the emotional connection that you build with your audience, and it's what sets you apart from your competitors.

So, if you're talking one way when you show up in person and your visual brand or marketing copy doesn't match, there's a disconnect that your right audience won't take the time to figure out. They'll just shrug their shoulders and move on. A confused mind says "no" - or at least, that's what I was taught decades ago when I started my online marketing journey. If your brand isn't feeling like you anymore (or maybe it never really did), then it's time for a tune up!

How do you go about building a brand that truly reflects your personality, voice, and style, and connects with your ideal clients and customers?

Clients hire me when things get out of alignment. The first place I look is their business model. You've heard me talk before about the Creative Freedom Business Model Equation: (You + Why + Who) + What + How. Every business needs a model that works, which is why I love this Equation so much. It's flexible and adaptable to any situation.

But how do you put this into practice?

Dolly Does Branding

Take a cue from Dolly Parton, another famous blonde from musical history. She's a true master of her brand and an undisputed celebrity in her niche. Dolly has built a brand and a business empire that reflects her personality, voice, and style, and has connected deeply with her fans for decades. Her music, fashion, philanthropy, and overall persona have all contributed to her success and enduring popularity. Dolly's unique style and personality have made her a beloved icon for decades. But beyond her music and fashion, what makes her so successful?

Using the Creative Freedom Business Model Equation, let's analyze Dolly's business model!

Know Yourself

The Equation begins with the importance of knowing yourself in order to connect with your ideal customers.

Dolly knows herself. She has a strong sense of self. She embraces her roots and values, and incorporates them into everything she does. She has never been afraid to embrace her unique style and persona. From her flamboyant stage outfits to her signature blonde hair and southern drawl, Dolly has created a persona that is instantly recognizable and beloved by her fans.

Understand Why You Do What You Do

Dolly's "why" is to spread joy and uplift others, which she does through her music, books, and philanthropic work. She's no Pollyanna. She's not afraid to talk about painful things, but she's also quick to look to the sunny side. Dolly has a deep connection and commitment to her audience. She's been open and honest with her fans, sharing personal stories and experiences that resonate with people on a deeply emotional level. Dolly makes it clear that she cares deeply about her fans and wants to make a positive impact on the world.

Your brand should be a reflection of who you are as a person and what you stand for. Don't try to be something you're not just because you think it will be more marketable or popular. Authenticity is key, and your audience will be able to sense if you're not being genuine.

You need to know what you stand for. Take some time to define your brand values – the principles and beliefs that guide everything you do. Then, SHARE them with your audience! These values are the foundation of your brand and can help you stay true to your authentic self.

Who Needs You Most?

To create a brand that resonates with your ideal clients and customers, you need to know who they are. What are their needs, desires, and pain points? What do they value? What motivates them? What kind of language and tone do they respond to? Once you have a clear understanding of your audience, you can tailor your brand messaging and marketing materials to speak directly to them.

Dolly understands that her fans value her sincerity, so she speaks from the heart - and isn't afraid to share hardship and poke fun at herself! She also knows how to adapt and stay relevant without compromising her values, such as when she collaborated with EDM artist Galantis on a remix of her hit song "Faith."

Your brand should tell a story – the story of who you are, what you stand for, and how you can help your audience. Use your brand messaging and marketing materials to share your personal journey and connect with your audience on an emotional level.

What Are You Selling? How do you deliver it?

This isn't just about your product, but the deeper benefits your audience gets from experiencing your work. Dolly is a singer and songwriter, so she's selling stories - in musical or written form. But what Dolly actually sells (the deeper benefit) is joy, connection, belonging, and hope. Whether it's music, Dollywood, OR any of the other "offers" that Dolly has for sale, the ultimate goal is the same - to put a smile in your heart and make the world a better place.

Dolly knows how to deliver her message to her audience. Her infectious personality and magnetic charisma make her a natural performer, and her business savvy has helped her build an empire that includes Dollywood theme park and her own record label, and numerous projects for film and television. Dolly has created a brand that has wide reach. And while she delivers it to you in a variety of ways, the "what" that Dolly delivers is the same every time.

Don't be afraid to let your personality shine through in your brand. Embrace your quirks and unique traits – they're what make you stand out from the crowd. Whether it's a love of 80's musicals, country music, a passion for hiking, or a quirky sense of humor, incorporating your personal interests and hobbies into your brand can help you connect with your audience on a deeper level.

Consistency is key when it comes to building a strong, authentic brand. Your messaging, visuals, and overall tone should be consistent across all your marketing channels, from your website to your social media accounts. Use the same color scheme, fonts, and tone of voice to create a cohesive brand identity that's instantly recognizable. Make sure they reflect the current you - not who you were 10 years ago! If it's time for an upgrade or update, talk to a brand design professional who can help your materials better reflect your awesomeness.

Building a successful business isn't just about branding - it's about having a solid business model that supports your unique strengths and skills. That's why we invite you to join us at our Cashflow Creator Workshop, where we'll dive deeper into the Creative Freedom Business Model Equation and help you create a business model that works for how you're wired to work. Register now to secure your spot and take the next step towards building a business that aligns with your values and goals!

Remember, building a brand takes time and effort. But with the right Equation - and a little inspiration from Sandy and Dolly - you can create a brand that has your fans singing "You're the one that I want!"

Once upon a time, Emily was on her way to meet up with some friends at a local rock bar. As she walked down the street, the sound of guitars and drums beckoned her closer.

She walked in and was immediately transported back in time: a dim room, neon glow, and the smell of leather and hairspray filling her nostrils. The band was playing "Walk This Way" and a full slate of classic 80's rock. As the band played on, Emily let herself fantasize about being on stage, playing her heart out to a crowd of adoring fans. She'd played guitar all her life, but never really did anything with it.

"Maybe it's time." She thought to herself.

Emily began working to launch her rock music career. Hair teased to the sky, the leather pants, and blazing guitar skills that would put Eddie Van Halen to shame. She was a little rusty, but it all came back quickly. She went to open mics, talent showcases, and started connecting with other musicians. Still, despite her passion and dedication, launching wasn't as easy as she'd hoped. She sounded like every other 80's rocker and - let's face it - there's not as much demand as there once was for 80's rockers (sad face)!

After one showcase, one of the featured artists shared with Emily the secret to her success: "It's not just about the music, kid," she says. "It's about your values and your vision. It's about who you are, why you do what you do, and your audience. And of course, it's about having a killer sound that sets you apart from the rest."

Emily takes this advice to heart and re-evaluates her approach to building her band. She starts by looking inward and examining her own values and vision for her music. Who is she as an artist? Why does she want to create this type of music? Who does she want to connect with through her music? With a clear sense of purpose and direction, Emily is able to attract other like-minded musicians who share her values and vision.

Together, they work on developing a sound that's fresh and unique, but still true to their roots. They experiment with different instruments, lyrics, and melodies until they land on something that feels right. And with each rehearsal and performance, they continue to refine their sound and their message.

Eventually, Emily's band catches the attention of a record label, and they're offered a contract to record their first album. But even with this newfound success, Emily never loses sight of her values and vision. She remains true to herself and her music, and continues to connect with fans who share her passion and love for 80's rock.

While Emily might be a fictional character, the lesson still holds: building a successful business is about more than just the product or service you offer. It's about understanding your values and vision, identifying your target audience, and creating a unique and compelling message that sets you apart from the competition.

THAT is what makes up your business model. I know. Saying that might just make your eyes glaze over, but hear me out. If you're tired of feeling like your business doesn't align with your unique values and vision, the problem is likely your business model. If you feel like your business doesn't truly reflect who you are and what you stand for, the answer probably lies in your business model.

In short, if you don't have the time, the income, the freedom, the reach, the alignment, or ease that you thought you'd get from your business... then chances are good there's something amiss in your business model!

Like it or not, if you're bringing in any revenue at all, you already have a business model. It may or may not be profitable. It may or may not be sustainable. Being intentional about your business model allows you to have a business that works with your natural abilities instead of against them. And I believe everyone can have a business that works for how you're wired to work.

The way we do that here at Creative Freedom HQ is through the Creative Freedom Business Model Equation.

Business Models For Creative Entrepreneurs

You Linear Creatives are already salivating, I know. But, this isn't a traditional mathematical equation. It's part art and part science, so Chaotics and Fusions can have some fun, too! The Creative Freedom Business Model Equation helps you define the various elements of your business model based on a few factors - including your unique values and vision.

The equation is simple: (You + Why + Who) + What + How

Let's break it down.

The Creative Freedom Business Model Equation is a set of flexible "pieces" that tell the story of how your business creates value in the world. There are plenty of tools to help you design business models in the world, but most of them are unwieldy and complicated. Based on the Strategyzer business model canvas, our business model equation is a straightforward, easy to understand way for micro-business owners to approach business model design.

The Creative Freedom Business Model Equation Explained

You probably noticed that the first part of the equation is in parentheses. That indicates the "internal" part of the business model. The part of doing business that is most directly impacted by your values and beliefs - much of which is internal to your company and not on public display. The second part of the equation is your offer. That's the part that the public gets to see and interact with regularly. You offer is both the "what" you're selling and "how" you're delivering it.

Now, let's take a closer look at each piece of the equation.

You

Who are you, really? What matters to you as a person? It's important to understand your context and constraints in order to design a business that works for how you're uniquely wired. We take a 360-degree view of the entrepreneur to truly understand what you're all about and what you can realistically bring to the table, considering your circumstances. Ask yourself things like:

  • What do I value most in life?
  • What impact do I want to personally have?
  • What's going on for me that could limit my ability to work?
  • What does success really look like for me?

This is often the hardest part, because you have to unpack the layers of stuff that come from "shoulding" on yourself, and get to what's really true. It's important to take the time to deeply reflect on these questions and come up with genuine answers that align with what's true for you. Once you have a clear understanding of your values and vision, you can move on to the next step.

Why

This is about your motivations and your vision for the future. If you've read Simon Sinek's book, Start With Why, this may feel familiar. Simon's position is that people "don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it." This is all about purpose and mission. Understanding your "why" and communicating it helps the right people connect. By creating resonance with your audience, you'll attract more of the right people with greater ease. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Why did you choose this line of entrepreneurship?
  • What makes you qualified to do it?
  • Why does the world need what you offer?
  • What change do you want to see in the world?

Who

This is about your audience - or primary audience, if you serve multiple audiences. Who are you here to serve? By identifying your core audience, your messaging can speak directly to those folks. There's nothing for sale in this world that's meant for everyone. And that's the way it's supposed to be. There are people already primed and ready - excited even - to experience the that thing that you offer. Why waste your energy chasing everyone when your right audience is "already ready already"? Ask yourself questions like:

  • What kind of people are already on board with what you're about?
  • What do my best clients have in common?
  • Who gets the best results from what I offer?
  • Who do I ADORE working with?
  • Who makes it easy for me?
  • Who do I make it easy for?

What

Your offer is made up of both the "What" and the "How" - which we'll talk more about in a minute. The "What" is all about what you're selling. This is the transformation, not just the object. It's not just a pair of socks, it's warm feet. It's more than a song, it's a sense of belonging. It's the thing, but it's also the end result of experiencing that thing.

As a business coach, I sell tools for business growth. But at a deeper level, what I really sell are things like self-worth, confidence, peace of mind, and clarity. Because when your business is growing in ways that work for how you're wired to work, you feel more confident, you've got clarity on what to do, and peace of mind that things are working. That all contributes to your sense of self-worth.

As you're thinking about what you sell, ask yourself:

  • What is the end result my clients get from my work?
  • What is the change they hope to see from my offer?
  • How do I make my client's life better?

How

The second part of your offer is the the "How" - the delivery mechanism. You can offer the same "What" in different ways. When I wrote my book, Creative Freedom, we made it available as an audiobook, a digital book, and a physical edition. I've also extracted parts of the book for some of the training I do. Same "What" - the knowledge and information - delivered with a different "How".

Different delivery methods may come with different pricing, so we put that inside the "How" as well. Consider different delivery methods and pricing models to find the best fit for your business and your audience. As you're looking at this final piece of the Equation, ask yourself questions like this:

  • How are you delivering your offer?
  • What's the pricing?
  • What are you asking for in return for the delivery of this offer?
  • What are the different possible ways I can combine these elements - that will also work for me and my best audience?

When you put it all together, the Creative Freedom Business Model Equation is flexible and only limited by your answers. By aligning your business with your unique values and vision, you'll create a business that truly reflects who you are and what you stand for.

Aligning Your Business Model with Your Values and Vision

With a clear understanding of your unique values and vision, and a defined business model based on the Equation, you can now operate and make choices from a more aligned starting point. Look for areas where things can be re-aligned with your business model to create a more authentic and fulfilling experience for both you and your customers.

For example, if one of your values is sustainability, you might look for ways to incorporate eco-friendly practices into your business model, such as using recycled materials or reducing your carbon footprint. Or, if your ultimate vision is to create a positive impact on your community, you might explore ways to give back or donate a portion of your profits to a local charity.

Testing and Refining Your Business Model

Once you have things in alignment, it's important to test it out and see how it works in the real world. You will evolve over time, so it's important to go back and review your business model from time to time, to make sure everything is working effectively, profitably, and sustainably for you. If it's not, it's time for a review!

In April, I'm leading a business model workshop to help you work through the Creative Freedom Business Model Equation and apply it to your business. I call it the Cashflow Creator Workshop because I know that only Linears get excited about business models - but everyone wants better cashflow! Seats are limited, so if you're ready to take the first step towards creating a business that truly resonates with you and your audience, join us! Can't wait to see you there!

[Author's Note: Before you ask, this is NOT about the book "Choose Yourself" by James Altucher. I haven't read it yet. It's on my list. Pinky swear.]

A colleague (let's call her Gina) confided to me that despite being a six-figure entrepreneur (with real profits), despite having retired her husband, and despite being able to travel the world, she still grapples with her inner belief that she's just not good enough.

From the outside, it seems like Gina's got it all figured out. But secretly she worries that every success she's had is just a fluke... and that at any moment, everything she's worked so hard to build will come crashing down.

No matter how many wins she racks up, no matter how many clients she helps, Gina's inner critic keeps pointing back to that insecure, misunderstood, neurodiverse teenager she used to be.

Disobedient. Space cadet. Disorganized. No one thought she'd amount to anything mostly because no one took the time to accurately diagnose her neruodivergence.

And even though she can see herself more clearly now - even though she's killing it in her life and career - Gina still grapples with owning her awesomeness.

Impostor syndrome? Maybe. Gina's really good at what she does, and she knows it. She talks about the results she gets for her clients, so I don't think it's that so much as the programming that's keeping her from confidently choosing herself.

Why is choosing yourself so hard?

Maybe (as a survival skill or coping mechanism) you were conditioned to seek external validation and approval or learned to prioritize the expectations and desires of others over your own. Not that I speak from experience or anything! This often creates feelings of guilt or shame when you start to prioritize your own needs and desires.

That's a hard knot to untangle!

While it might be easy for some people to step forward confidently and say "pick me", choosing yourself is not always as simple as deciding to take ownership of your own success or creating your own opportunities. If that were the case, we'd all do it with ease! Sometimes there's more at play than you might realize. It's also about dealing with the inner demons that tell you that you're not good enough, that you don't deserve success, that you're an imposter, and that you're one mistake away from failure.

Additionally, choosing oneself often requires stepping outside of one's comfort zone and taking risks. When you choose yourself, you're putting yourself out there, taking risks, and exposing yourself to criticism and rejection. Fear of failure, rejection, or judgment from others can be powerful barriers to making choices that are truly aligned with our own values and goals. It's not easy to do, especially if you're a marginalized person or if you've been conditioned to seek external validation or play it safe.

"Suck it up, buttercup, and put on your big-girl panties" becomes a problematic platitude that just serves to frustrate and enrage rather than inspire action.

Choosing yourself also requires a certain level of self-awareness and self-confidence. You need to know who you are, what you stand for, and what you want to achieve - and vocalize it. So often that truth gets buried under the well-meaning "shoulds" of others. That makes it harder to believe in yourself and your abilities when others don't.

After my first marriage ended, I had a LOT of unpacking to do. So many stories of unworthiness were programmed into me from the years I was hitched to a well-intentioned someone telling me over and over that I was never going to achieve my dreams.

No, really! I do believe he thought he was being helpful by trying to encourage me to "just be happy with what you have" or that I'd be better off if I would just "get a 'real' job."

After you hear those messages for a while, you start to believe them. That's how brainwashing works. It took years of self-examination and staring down those old stories to remind me of who I really am. I didn't do it alone. I had friends, family, therapy, and now I have a husband who adores and fully believes in my magic.

Choosing yourself means being willing to go against the grain and chart your own course, even if it means going against the norms and expectations of your family, friends, or society. That's not always an easy (or safe) thing to do.

When we choose ourselves, we take control of our own destiny. We no longer wait for someone else to tell us what to do or how to do it. We become the driver of our own life, charting our own course and creating the success we crave. By taking ownership of our success, we also take responsibility for our failures. We learn from our mistakes, adjust our course, and continue to move forward.

But choosing yourself isn't always easy. It requires you to step outside of your comfort zone, to embrace your strengths, and to be vulnerable. It means taking risks and being willing to fail. It means letting go of the expectations of others and trusting in yourself. That's scary stuff, right there!

How can you get over the fear and self-doubt that hold you back from choosing yourself?

The power to choose yourself lies within you. You really do have the ability to create your own opportunities, to design a business that aligns with your values and strengths, and to pursue a life that's more in alignment with who you are and what you want to be about in the world. It means identifying your strengths, your values, and your vision for the future. It means being intentional about the work you do and the clients you serve.

Start by reflecting on your values and priorities. What is truly important to you? What do you want to achieve in your life and business? Once you have a clear understanding of your own values and goals, it can be easier to make choices that align with them, even if they may be uncomfortable or uncertain.

Then, recognize and celebrate your worth and value. It may seem awkward (and you might need some help), but YOU need to recognize that you are valuable, and that you have something to offer the world. Instead of trying to be someone you're not, embrace your strengths and use them to your advantage.

Redesign your business to be more in alignment with who you are and what you want to be about in the world. So long as it's legal, it's YOUR business. It's okay to do it your way! Instead of comparing yourself to others, focus on your unique strengths and talents. Write them down! Sing your own praises and remind yourself of them often.

Don't wait for someone else to give you permission to pursue your goals, take ownership of your success. Create your own opportunities and don't be afraid to take risks. Don't be afraid to fail, because failure is just a stepping stone to success.

Speaking of which, learn to reframe failure as feedback. Instead of seeing failure as a sign that you're not good enough, see it as an opportunity to learn and grow. While sometimes failing is a good indicator that it's time to quit, don't just assume that's the case. Ask yourself what you can do differently next time and how you can use the experience to improve.

Practice a little self-compassion and recognize that choosing yourself is not selfish, but rather a necessary step towards personal fulfillment and success. It's natural to feel fear, self-doubt, and other negative emotions when you're stepping outside of your comfort zone. Be kind to yourself and don't beat yourself up for feeling that way. Instead, acknowledge what you're going through and remind yourself that your feelings don't get to drive the bus. Make time for self-care activities to help you feel more centered and confident.

Surrounding yourself with a supportive community of like-minded folks can provide motivation to stay on track or encouragement when you're trying to prioritize your own wants and needs. It may be slow-going at first, but stay the course! Choose people who uplift you, support you, and believe in you. Avoid people who bring you down, criticize you, or undermine your confidence. In Gina's case, she found that her mastermind community was invaluable for overcoming her inner critic and staying on track.

Seeking out resources such as workshops, coaching, or mentorship can provide valuable guidance and support on the journey towards choosing oneself in business and life. As a coach, my job is intimately connected to helping people see the value they bring to the table and how to use that power for good in their lives.

Take courageous action. Not "massive action". Courageous action. The best way to overcome fear and self-doubt is to do something. Start small if you must, but take a step that moves you closer to your goals. As you take action and see progress, your confidence will grow, and you'll be more motivated to keep going.

If you're struggling to choose yourself, know that you're not alone. It can be hard to break free from the expectations of others and build a life and business that really works for who you are. But your world is waiting for you, and every minute you stall, everyone loses.

That's why do what I do! In April, I'm hosting my popular Cashflow Creator Workshop. This workshop is designed to help you create a business that aligns with who you are and works for how you're wired to work. It's time to stop hiding and start embracing your power to choose yourself. Registration is now open, so sign up and take the next step towards the life and business you truly desire.

On Saturday, March 24, 1984, five students at Shermer High School report at 7:00 a.m. for an all-day detention: "a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal".

That's where the movie, "The Breakfast Club" begins. Throughout the film, each student will struggle with coming to terms with who they really are (warts, sparkles, and all). One character in particular, Allison Reynolds, deserves some special attention.

See, Allison is a classic undervalued Unicorn. She didn't even earn detention - which, I mean, "earn" isn't a great way to describe it, is it? She went because she had nothing better to do. She's not there for behavior problems, skipping school, or bad grades. From what we can tell, she's smart, thoughtful, kind, and quirky.

On one level she's chosen to "punish herself". On another, she probably doesn't even think of it as punishment. Not unlike some of my clients!

Allison sits alone, ignored by the others. She's quiet and withdrawn, and she's constantly hiding behind her hair and a heavy coat. Allison doesn't say a word until more than 20 minutes into the film, but when she does, she speaks with thoughtfulness and candor. She's clever. She's smart... even if everyone else chooses to write her off and miss her brilliance because of it.

As the day goes on, she takes off her coat, both figuratively and literally, revealing the unique and colorful person underneath. She stops hiding behind her hair and pulls it back so we can see her face! By the end of the movie, she's no longer hiding and connects with the other students (especially Andrew) on a deeper level.

Was it easy? Well, yes and no. Allison asserts her stance while Claire goes to work: "I like that black shit." She's clinging to the benefits of hiding herself. But Allison soon realizes that when you let people help you, it can be safe to be seen for who you really are.

When she walks back into the library, she's uncertain how she'll be received, and quick to "blame" Claire for her appearance.

"What happened to you?" Andrew asks.

"Why? Claire did it!" She snaps. Then, with an air of uncertainty, she says, "What's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong. You're just so different. I can see your face."

"Is that good or bad?"

Regardless of Andrew's answer ("It's good!"), the uncertainty is still there. It's starting to melt and Allison's gaining confidence in being seen for who she really is, but she's still not there. It's only after Andrew gives her that external validation that she smiles and lifts her head with confidence.

But what if Allison didn't need Andrew's validation? What if she just strode into the room happy with her new look, confident from within?

That might feel like a stretch for an undervalued Unicorn. I mean, Allison trusted that Claire wouldn't steer her wrong when she let her apply eyeliner in the first place. And Claire had already given her validation before she walked back into the library.

But that still wasn't enough? How much validation do you need in order to be confident? What (or in her case, who) was she waiting for!?!

The problem with external validation

Waiting for someone else to fill your cup is problematic at best, and dangerous at worst. It can quickly devolve into something like an addiction - craving attention, being manipulated by the whims of others who dangle their approval like a carrot in front of your face.

Um, no thanks!

I mean, I grew up with it, so I know it well. And it's not healthy. Sure, it's nice to get applause and validation from others. But needing it and appreciating it are two different things.

The fear at the root of this "need" is one of three flavors: fear of failure, fear of judgement, or fear of abandonment. Sometimes, it's a slippery slope of all three. What if I take a risk and I fail? What if I'm not good enough? What will people think? Will they leave me and never return?

You might be thinking that if you wait long enough, the right opportunity will present itself, and you won't have to risk anything. Perhaps, but you might also be waiting a long-ass time for that magic moment to appear. Plus, I don't believe opportunity only knocks once. In my experience, opportunity likes to play ring and run. It keeps coming back, over and over, but you've got to be at the door to catch it. If you're waiting on the couch, you'll never get there.

This creates a feedback loop of low confidence. You're waiting for someone else to give you the credential, the recognition, the opportunity, instead of stepping into the leadership role that's custom-made for you. You think that if someone else sees your potential, they'll give you the invitation to play at their party.

That's not always the case. Sometimes you have to create your own opportunities.

Give yourself permission to be who you really are. Even if that's dangerous or scary. Don't wait for someone else to validate your or tell you that you're good enough. You're already magnificent! Find someone that helps you believe in yourself and won't let you buy into the bullshit lies the rest of the world wants to pile on. Then, take action toward your dreams. Even when it seems like no one is looking. If you're only working when everyone else can see and applaud it, you're not going to make much progress.

Take a page out of Allison's book. Take off your coat, engage, and let the world see who you really are. If that feels scary on your own, get help. Find a supportive community, a friend, or a coach to help hold space for the shining star you're becoming. Take small steps, a few at a time. Do what you can as you are able.

You don't need permission to pursue your passions and be yourself - because you already have it! Don't wait for someone else to tell you that it's okay. IT IS OKAY! Take a few small, calculated risks, build your confidence, and don't be afraid to fail. That's how you learn!

You have the power to choose yourself and create your own opportunities. Don't wait for someone else to recognize your worth - show them what you're capable of. Stop hiding, start shining like the star you are and OWN your dreams. Choose yourself and see who shows up to cheer you on.

Have you ever felt like you're not good enough, even though you know you're talented? Are you feeling like you're the only one who hasn't quite figured out this whole "success" thing despite your years of experience and talent? Like you should "be there" by now - wherever that is. Or worse you keep getting overlooked and passed over for other people in your industry who aren't as skilled, qualified, or don't have the same depth of experience as you?

Well, my friend, you might just be an Undervalued Unicorn!

What is an "Undervalued Unicorn"?

You're probably wondering what the heck an Undervalued Unicorn even is. This is the best way I know how to describe the kind of clients I just adore! An Undervalued Unicorn is someone who is an absolute badass at what they do. They've got years of experience, a list of credentials as long as their arm, and a small army of raving fans that sing their praises. But they haven't gotten the recognition, the rewards, or the respect that they deserve for their genius.

Undervalued Unicorns sometimes fight with Impostor Syndrome, but usually Unicorns know that they are Unicorns - they know how good they are at what they do. It's usually less about feeling like an impostor and more like the sense of impatience and frustration that rise out of the Passed Over Paradox - being overlooked or undervalued by influencers in their field.

Undervalued Unicorns are some of the most innovative, risk-taking, and badass people out there. Because of your unique take on things, it's easy to feel misunderstood or like you're on the outside, looking in. You might feel like the underdog, the misfit, or the black sheep of your industry.

You have an advantage that others don't: you see the world in a different way, and that means you can create things that other people can't even imagine. Maybe it's a new business model, a new product, or a new way of doing things. Whatever it is, you have the power to bring your vision to life!

One of my clients is a perfect example of this. Jamie (not their real name) is a professional with more than ten years of experience in their field - and all the credentials that go with it. They envisioned a future where they would be on television, writing books, and being seen by the world for the expertise that they'd developed in their chosen field.

Jamie was definitely a Unicorn - a remarkable standout in their field - in an almost magical, mythical way. But what made Jamie an undervalued Unicorn was that they were grossly undercharging for their work. They mistakenly believed that they were charging the "going rate" for where they live and couldn't possibly charge more. But that rate wasn't sustainable. Jamie was compromising so much about themselves and the quality of their client experience just to keep that lower rate. Jamie could barely make ends meet when we met, and was ready to flip the tables and quit the career they'd worked so hard to build because they just didn't know how to break through.

Then, Jamie saw a newbie to their field charging nearly double what Jamie was charging - and getting it!

That's when a switch flipped.

Jamie finally realized they were ready to shift their thinking and open their eyes to how those false stories had been holding them back!

Jamie raised their rates and started showing up more visibly in the market. And guess what? The people who already loved Jamie loved this new way of showing up more powerfully. Most were even happy to pay higher rates to keep working with them. Those higher rates also meant that Jamie could afford to be more generous. Jamie created new offers that were financially accessible to people who might not otherwise be able to afford their new rates.

As Jamie's visibility grew, they got getting stopped on the street! Media outlets started seeking Jamie out for interviews. Jamie wrote a book and is now considered one of the foremost authorities in the world on their subject.

After years of working with these undervalued Unicorns, I can tell you that one of the biggest things you need to do is choose yourself. To stop waiting for someone else to pick you and create your own stages and your own opportunities. I know it can be easy to feel like you're not good enough, or just an impostor trying to fake your way to the top, but that's not true. Here's why:

Unicorns Are Innovators

First, Undervalued Unicorns are natural innovators. You don't just accept the status quo - you're frequently looking for ways to improve, to do things differently, maybe even stand out from the crowd in the process.

Unicorns don't fit neatly into any particular box. You're pushing boundaries and exploring new territory. Think about Prince - he was always breaking the rules and doing things his own way, whether it was his name, his fashion choices, or the way he approached music. He didn't care what anyone else was doing, he just did what felt right to him. And that's what makes Undervalued Unicorns so valuable - they're always pushing the envelope and bringing new ideas to the table.

You have a knack for thinking outside the box and coming up with ideas that nobody else has thought of. That's a gift that make a big difference!

Unicorns Are Mavericks

Undervalued Unicorns are the mavericks of their industries. They are the rule-breakers, the game-changers, the ones who refuse to conform to traditional norms and instead pave their own path to success. That's not always an easy path, but it sure is rewarding when you can stay the course.

Unicorns aren't afraid to put themselves out there and try something new. Sure, it can be scary as hell, but that's what makes it so thrilling.

When Lady Gaga broke out in the late 2000s, she was unlike anything in pop music at the time. With her wild costumes, theatrical performances, and unapologetic attitude, she quickly became a household name. But Lady Gaga fought tooth and nail to get there.

Yes, her dad offered to pay her rent for a year, but she still had to show up and do the work - or give up on her dream and go back to school. In her own words, “I left my entire family, got the cheapest apartment I could find, and ate shit until somebody would listen.”

About a week before it was time to call it quits, a door opened... then a label signed her. Then they dropped her. But she just kept going. As a songwriter, a background vocalist, whatever it took to keep the lights on and play for one more day. Then, she got picked up by another label and they got her. The label invested in her development and the rest, as they say is history.

Lady Gaga's story is a prime example of the Undervalued Unicorn mentality. She refused to let the industry dictate her success, instead carving out her own path and using her creativity and innovation to get noticed. And it paid off in a big way - today, Lady Gaga is one of the biggest names in music, with a loyal fanbase and a string of hits to her name.

That kind of fearless attitude and out-of-the-box thinking is what sets you apart - and is essential for your success.

Unicorns Are Trailblazers

And the piece that is often the most difficult for Undervalued Unicorns to embrace is that you create your own path to success. You can't wait around for someone else to hand you an opportunity. Make your own.

I've lost count of the number of times well meaning people have said I couldn't make a living as a creative entrepreneur, or that I should have a "real job" as some kind of "back-up plan". The career I've built for myself is a real job.

Undervalued Unicorns that wait for someone to give them permission or validation are usually frustrated and resentful. It's a harder path, sure, but creating your own path to success is a major advantage in today's crowded marketplace. But having that much autonomy can also feel like a lot of pressure:

"What if I fail? What if it doesn't work?"

Oh, but sweetie... what if you succeed beyond your wildest dreams? What if it does work??

That can be just as scary sometimes.

It's not always easy to be on the front lines, but that's where you need to be if you want the success that seems to be passing you by. Own your badassery. Sure, you may feel like an impostor sometimes - or like nobody sees how hard you're working, but that's not reality. The truth is that you are powerful, talented, and freaking amazing! Take a risk this week and try something new. Show up more YOU than you ever have before - out loud and on purpose!

Believe in yourself. Choose yourself. Because if you don't, why should anyone else?

If you've ever read my book The Secret Watch, then you probably also know that the story was inspired by my own encounter with a woman on a plane. She told me that I'd write a book about a magic watch that revealed special secrets and it would become a best seller.

I did... and it did!

As I wrote the book, I imagined how my life might be different if magic watches were real. If I could just pop open a pocket watch and be inspired by a new inscription every day, would I be able to make the most of it like my character, Tina, did? That's actually how our virtual coaching card deck came to be!

While I have yet to find a real secret watch (unfortunately), I'm lucky that I don't have to wait around to find inspiration. I create my own inspiration every year with my annual goals.

Not *another* goals "accountability" post!

Yeah. I hear you. They're often overdone at the beginning of the year. But by February, according to a 2020 survey, about 30% of folks see their well-intended goals fall by the wayside. Since I gave you my Annual Review rundown earlier in the month, I thought it might also be valuable for you to see what I'm driving toward this year.

You know, besides more ease.

To be clear, this isn't about having you hold me accountable. My past experience has shown that sharing my goals with you will not help me stay accountable. That's not how I'm wired.

There have been too many times in my non-normative life where that kind of "accountability" put too much pressure on me to perform - and then, I'd either choke, end up stressing myself out, or resent the entire thing. Sometimes all three.

Like when all those internet marketing gurus were trying to convince you to sell something before you built it - and then you just "build the plane as you fly it." It might work for some folks, but not me.

There have been too many times in my non-normative life where that kind of "accountability" put too much pressure on me to perform - and then, I'd either choke, end up stressing myself out, or resent the entire thing. Sometimes all three. Plus, people often have their own thoughts and opinions about my goals.

Frankly, ain't nobody got time for that!

But I do believe in being transparent. Whether or not I hit my goals is up to me, not you. But transparency is a way to model for you - to see what I am doing and see how you can apply my approach to your own situation. As a business coach, I help my clients set and achieve goals for themselves. To be in integrity and "walk my talk", I think it's only fair to share my goals with you. I've used the Dreamblazing tool to define what success looks like for me for almost 15 years now. Some years, I hit them all, and most years I fall short in at least one, but that's how I expect things to go because I aim pretty high.

Your mileage may vary, but by seeing my thought process, it might spark something for you. THAT is the reason I'm sharing my goals with you.

So, based on the 5 key areas of success, here are my 2023 goals, in priority order:

Goal 1: I experience ease in every way throughout the year (Freedom)

My Freedom Goal is my number one priority. I am a hard worker. I was raised with a strong work ethic and a deep programming that the only way for me to break out of the poverty I was born into was to work. like. hell.

So I know what hard work looks like and I know how to do it. I don't need anymore practice.

That's not to say that there won't be times when I need to hustle a little. But that's what I call compassionate hustle. I can't live and work on the hamster wheel.

What's more, I don't want to.

So that means finding ease. Not working for it, figuring it out, or struggling/striving/stressing about it.

That is not the way of ease.

It looks like asking myself "What's the easier path?" and honoring that awareness.

But what's the easier path? To struggle and fight and strain and stress, or to enjoy where I'm at right now and see where the road takes me?

Goal 2: I enjoy and take pride in my body, no matter my shape or size (Fitness)

In Dreamblazing, you set two goals for the Key Area of Fitness: one for your physical container and one for what's contained within it. This is my inside the container goal.

My personal history has been more body shame than body confidence. I've had major surgeries 2 years in a row and that really knocked me on my heels and had me feeling like my body was betraying me - as if that could even be a thing! I knew that I needed to adjust my attitude and rekindle an appreciation for who I am inside and out.

I'm lucky as hell that my current husband makes a point of telling me he loves how I look. I didn't get that much in my first marriage. It's been a growth edge for me to really hear, receive, and believe that feedback. I'm still working on it.

But what's the easier path? To struggle and fight and strain and stress, or to enjoy where I'm at right now and see where the road takes me?

Right. So, I'm all about enjoying the journey this year... wherever it takes me.

If I had listened to them, I never would have written 2 best sellers or recorded 3 albums - or any of a number of other things I wanted to do with my life that I was told was "too much" for a kid who was born in the ghetto.

Goal 3: I'm cultivating a supportive community that sees and believes in me (Family)

Chosen family is a big part of how I manage to keep my shit together. I love my birth family, but they are distant, and most of them rarely ever talk to me. That road runs both ways. I rarely ever talk to them. Growing up, I didn't feel like I had much support from them - they didn't understand my goals or dreams, and thought I was aiming too high.

If I had listened to them, I never would have written 2 best sellers or recorded 3 albums - or any of a number of other things I wanted to do with my life that I was told was "too much" for a kid who was born in the ghetto.

This year is about deepening connections and cultivating a community of folks who get me. Surrounding myself with encouragers who believe in who I am and what I'm up to in the world - who want to see me succeed and want to be part of making that happen in some way.

I've been part of an international women's networking group for several years, and have been lax about connecting with members. Although I have a few friends in that community, I've not been great about maintaining connections. That needs to change, if for no other reason than there are some pretty amazing people there and it would be cool to have more friendships with people like that.

Jane Fonda said in a recent interview that "you have to pursue people that you want to be friends with." I've never been a pursuer. More like "if you build it, they will come." Which is hysterical when you realize the irony. So, like Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane, I'mma be in hot pursuit this year.

Goal 4: SHINE like the STAR that I am (Faith)

This is both an invitation for me to follow my own success path and to come out of hiding. That's another reason why I'm sharing these goals with you: coming out of hiding.

I've done a lot of hiding since I moved to Mississippi. It's easy to cocoon when you're in a rural town where nobody knows your name and there's nothing doing because a global pandemic has shut nearly everything down. Then there was a wedding, surgery, a move (we bought a house), another move (back to Nashville), more surgery, and yet another move last year to Bloomington, Indiana.

All that movement made it easy to lose myself in the details of those moments. To start to identify myself by those moments (or the results of those moments), instead of being intentional about the life and body of work I want to have/create for myself.

When you shine, it's either because you're emitting or reflecting light. I realized that I wasn't really doing either - and I want to do both.

To shine my own light through my body of work but, also, to share the light of others in my world. My clients are mystical, magical Unicorns. They are smart and brilliantly gifted. I want more people in the world to know about them!

When you shine, it's either because you're emitting or reflecting light. I realized that I wasn't really doing either - and I want to do both.

That means more video, another live event, and monthly live workshops for my clients. I'm also going back to doing more video and having more guests on the show. That was a hard step for me to take because I am so leery about who I share with my audience. A lot of people look good on paper, and then they open their mouth and it's trash. I care about my audience too much... and my reputation. So adding guests will be slow going, and mostly from people I've either already worked with (like my interview with Dr. Mazur), or folks I know and trust in other ways. All the more reason I need to connect to more people!

Goal 5: Rebuild my body for optimal health (Fitness)

This is the goal related to my physical container. I've had major surgery two years in a row that stem from life-long health issues. My doctors and physical therapists have given me specific instructions that I intend on following. Some of them are easier than others. The hardest one is being up and moving 15 minutes for every hour that I'm awake - that's 2-4 hours of movement every day. That's not necessarily exercise, but it is getting up and moving around. Thankfully, walking around the house, putting away dishes, and doing laundry all count toward that activity goal.

But it's still a huge adjustment to my daily routine. It gives me about 5 hours of useful worktime, and I can't sit for more than a couple of hours at a time. Really, 45 minutes is best, but some of my appointments don't lend themselves to that possibility.

I have no illusions of getting my "20-year-old-me" body back. That's not optimal health for me... making sure I'm doing what I can, as I'm able, to rehab my body to the best is can be right now is.

But my body needs to heal. I just had my 1 year follow-up ultrasound from the first surgery. I'm waiting on the results, but I'm hopeful that what I've been doing is working. In the meantime, I've adjusted my coaching calendar and I have a standing desk. So if we're in a long workshop, you may see me stand up and pace around at my desk in order to get my movement in.

I have no illusions of getting my "20-year-old-me" body back. That's not optimal health for me at almost 50. Making sure I'm doing what I can, as I'm able, to rehab my body to the best it can be right now is.

Goal 6: be a wealthy, generous entrepreneur (Fortune)

I was intentional about the wording for this goal because those words carry a variety of meanings, depending on your audience.

Wealth, as I'm defining it, is about total well-being, not just my bank balance. Yes, income is important - a girl's gotta eat! But so is showing up happy, healthy, and in the right frame of mind for whatever comes my way.

If you were in our Customer Journey workshop last month, you saw how our offer stack is changing in the coming months. We're also right-sizing our pricing and rolling out some new, free workshops over the course of the year. Last month, it was the Customer Journey workshop. In March, it's a content creation sprint, and May we're hosting a brand new workshop about Enoughness, based on the TEDx talk I'm doing at the end of March.

Generosity takes many forms... including generosity to myself as well as others. Putting my oxygen mask on first is not being generous. That's a bare minimum that hasn't always happened. I want to move beyond that and really enjoy being exceptionally good to myself. Sharing the spotlight with my clients, as I mentioned earlier, is also rooted here. So is improving our client experience. We're moving our community off facebook this quarter. We're also migrating our Rising Tide learning library and all our courseware to a new platform as we prepare for a website redesign in the next year. I wanted a stable, easy to use place for everything to live, so that we can create a better customer experience. So that I can afford to be more generous to everyone in our circle.

Generosity takes many forms... including generosity to myself as well as others.

Being an entrepreneur signals my desire to keep getting paid (and paid well) doing work I love. Being an employee is challenging for non-normative people. Ageism and racism are real; so is fat phobia. The easier path for me has almost always been entrepreneurship - even when owning my own business has been hard.

I hope my transparency inspires you. Above all, define what success looks like for you this year, then go for it! Whether you need support to help you stay accountable or not, whether you hit all your goals or fall short, what matters most is that you are moving in the direction of your dreams.