Do you feel like you know “too much?”
Have you ever felt like your knowledge and experience are a curse rather than a blessing?
That was me in 2015. I had recovered from hepatitis I was also feeling a bit lost, like I was just drifting. At that point, I had written 12 books, and had been invited to give talks all over the world. I knew I was a good coach and had accrued so many insights from my coaching conversations.
But who was I and where was I going at this point in life and in my mid 50’s?Instead of feeling inspired by my accumulated wisdom, I actually felt quite overwhelmed by what I knew. I knew I could write and speak and coach about so much. I couldn’t see what was at the heart of all this knowledge. And because I wasn’t really clear, my business was ticking over but I wasn’t doing brilliantly. I needed some new clarity and focus.
Today in 2018, I have that clarity and focus and I had four particularly pivotal moments that helped me get clear and eventually get to this new focus and clarity. This wasn’t just a business journey, it was a journey of my personal growth and development.
I describe them here:
My four pivotal moments
Pivotal moment number 1. In 2015 I had a meeting with Hay House in London
I was invited to have lunch with the MD and marketing manager of Hay House publishers in London. I enjoyed the lunch and knew them both already. As they talked about what they were looking for, I realised that it wasn’t just more content that I needed. I also needed a high-level message and focus for my content and ideas, something that wove it all together. I needed to be more of a “Brand” that they could get behind.
All writers and bloggers create content, often really good content. Hay House took great content as a “given.” They simply assumed that any author they commissioned was going to create great content. What they were seeking was a “big idea” that they could get behind and consistently market. They were looking for authors who had already proved their own big idea and had already created a following for their idea. They were looking for an existing brand, that stood for something in the world.
I craved that big idea, a coherence for me and my work. The Work We Were Born To Do had been my big idea, but that had been out in the world for sixteen years at that point, and no longer had the traction it did have in the early days. And it dawned on me that I didn’t really have a current idea, even though I had a profile and a following. What I had was OK, but I felt it was more to do with where I had come from, rather than what I inspired about now and where I might be going.
So I left the lunch feeling a combination of disheartened and a little encouraged – because at least I had an idea of the target I needed to hit, even though I didn’t know how I was going to hit that target, or to be honest, whether I wanted to hit that target now.
Pivotal moment number 2. Coaching with Eddie
Eddie had been working for YouTube, but it was time for him to graduate. He was thinking about hiring me to coach him, and in the end, he left YouTube without a new position, so we “co-coached” each other for a while. When he coached me, he kept speaking about “What next?”
It suddenly dawned on me that what Eddie was encouraging me to think about creating a more “joined-up” business – always thinking about what’s next, what the next “Call to action” would be, and being a little more strategic than I had been. I realised that what I had done was to create a lot of “discrete” content, but it lacked an overall coherence. It didn’t really all join up in obvious way. There was no clear big idea to coalesce around.
I feared that maybe I didn’t have another big idea in me. Maybe I had already had my 15 minutes of “fame” with The Work We Were Born To Do and now it was time to step aside and let younger people have their go in the spotlight. Maybe I was just a has been and needed to accept that at the age of 58, it was over for me, I wasn’t wanted like I had been, and I just needed to do my best to trade on past glories.
Pivotal moment number 3. A new sense of my identity
Another aspect that I wasn’t clear about was my sense of identity. I was a writer, a speaker, a host of other speakers, an author, content creator, YouTube Creator, a blogger, a coach, a mentor, an interviewer, an interviewee. Which one was I really? When was I going to make up my mind?
Then another piece of the jigsaw started to fall into place.
I clear that the areas I had been most drawn to were inspiration and its anatomy, and to leadership. These two areas still inspired me, and I find them endlessly fascinating.
I was no longer so comfortable thinking of myself as an expert, I was more of a pioneer. Experts know the existing territory and what has worked so far. But I became more comfortable in thinking of myself as a pioneer and a thought leader – offering new and more human ways of thinking about work, business, success and power, and now leadership. So, I saw that I needed to blossom in to being more of a thought leader than simply a content creator. I liked the idea of being a thought leader who writes, speaks, coaches, mentors, broadcasts and create products and programmes. That felt more coherent.
But what was my area of thought leadership? I always loved the idea that each of us has a niche that is an inch wide but a mile deep. Whilst I loved the idea, I still didn’t know what my inch-wide niche was.
But to eb honest, I think I did know what it was. I was just scared to acknowledge and own it. I knew in my heart what it was for a while, but my inner critic was still harsh, and criticising me for my own audacity and boldness. I knew my area of thought leadership was actually Inspirational Leadership, helping leaders be more inspired and inspiring. But it seemed too big, too scary, too grown-up for me to actually inhabit. Surely there were better and more qualified thought leaders on this subject than me. But the reality was, I couldn’t find them, they didn’t seem to be there. So maybe it was my niche to inhabit and show up with.
I was a regular visitor to the territory of inspirational leadership, but I hadn’t taken up residence there. I met and was completely inspired by meeting and listening to Desmond Tutu in London. I regularly hung out with my friend Liz Trubridge who was the Executive Producer all six series of Downton Abbey and the upcoming film. We even created a Masterclass together. And I coached a few MD’s and CEO’s of medium size companies.
But still, I told myself, “You are the grown-up leaders, not me!”
So it was certainly a place I had visited, and I had enjoyed it and seemed good at doing it. But then my inner critic would tell me, “You don’t belong here. It was nice to visit, but now get back to where you belong, loser!”
I was a still living some of what I call my shadow life. I had come out of the shadows a lot, but there were still places I was denying my power and putting myself down. My inner critic rather than my inner champion still had his hands on my steering wheel more of the time than I wanted.
Eventually, in August 2018, I decided to be bold and audacious myself, just as ai coach others to be, and to move! Instead of simply being a regular visitor to inspirational leadership, but feeling I belonged somewhere else, I decided to move there. I chose to belong in this area at last. I started to tell people I had moved, and this is where they could find me now.
Pivotal moment number 4. Accepting that I wanted to run a boutique business
I had always dreamed I would create a mass market business with a big world changing idea. I had felt an internal pressure in me to create a mass market, world changing, business. In my younger days I had tried to do just that, and through co-leading Alternatives, and with some success. I set up my previous business, Inspired Entrepreneur, with Niki Hignett, and we were trying to create a mass market business. But it wore me out! It was hard work needing to get lots of people to come to events every week and every month.
As I approached being 60, I realised I really didn’t want to do that again, so I gave myself permission to slow down and serve fewer people. And charge more money!
Also, it led me to recognise and deal with my remaining feelings of being worthless. I saw that I was more comfortable charging lots of people small amounts of money. In the past, it hadn’t felt possible for me to ask a smaller number of people to pay me higher fees. I think I also felt an inner compulsion to try to help everyone I could, rather than acknowledge that I can’t help everyone, and neither did I want to try to anymore.
But then I realised that actually I did want to create more of what I would call a “boutique business,” simply working a few people at greater depth. It also dawned on me that I really enjoyed caring for and about people and their leadership blossoming and spiritual growth, and I only had so much bandwidth, so could only realistically coach and support a small number of people without getting worn out myself.
Inhabiting this new place and belonging here
Eventually in the summer of 2018, at the age of 60, I have made some new decisions – I have evolved enough and shrunk my own inner critic enough to decide to “inhabit” this new place of Inspirational Leadership. My inner champion is in the driving seat more than my inner critic. I now own it as “where I live.”
My clients are now mainly leaders of their own businesses or projects. They are often pioneers themselves, the territory I know well. I see my myself as a pioneer who coaches pioneers, a leader who coaches leaders. I help them identify and unwrap the next chapter of their leadership.
I now tell people this is who I am and what I do. I am now proactively positioning myself as a thought on this subject, as a leading voice. It is the coherence to all the content I now produce and the ways I deliver my thought leadership.
Nick Williams is the best-selling author of 15 books include the ground-breaking The Work We Were Born to Do., has given key-note talks in seventeen countries, and a leading voice on inspirational leadership and thought leadership. He helps leaders be inspired and inspiring, and to cultivate their most powerful relationship with inspiration. He works with people for whom leadership is a calling of their heart. He coaches leaders around the globe to move beyond their fear and sense of limitation, and to pioneer in their lives and in the world.
If you would like to have an initial conversation with Nick on unwrapping the next chapter of your inspirational leadership, e mail him on firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange this.