I saw a post on #LinkedIn a few days ago asking about the two most important business lessons you’ve learned. I have my answer. The two most important things I have learned in business AND life, love, relationships, and parenting are:

  1. BOTH
  2. AND

I’ve learned that it IS possible to hold two seemingly contradictory ideas at the same time and both of them are true. It IS possible to feel two competing emotions at the same time and both of them are equally real. These ideas run counter to our current culture of fierce alliances and bold lines drawn in the cement (not sand). I’m learning that I’ve always been counter-cultural and I’m cool with it now. For years, I beat myself up because I thought my 30s and 40s would be a time of great awakening to ANSWERS. I would figure it out and feel….settled. Complete. Whole. Secure.

I am 43 and I do finally feel complete, whole, and secure, but it’s not because things got wrapped up in a bow and I’ve arrived. As my husband and I remind each other, there’s no Hollywood ending. I am complete, whole, and secure, because I’ve finally embraced my incompleteness, my brokenness, and my insecurity.

(I think of it as trying to unknot a tangled necklace. It’s tight and jumbled and just when you’re about to give up and toss it, you find the knot that’s binding all the others and it comes undone. I was going to write about this, but then Brene Brown did and she’s amazing, and it was like I was listening to myself, so read her post on unraveling instead.)

Leaning in and softening are easier than hardening and bristling. Here are some of the both/ands in my life that I’m learning to love.

  1. I am both proud and embarrassed to be an American right now.
  2. I am both encouraged by protest marches and discouraged that they’re necessary.
  3. I both miss my home state (NJ) and know that living there permanently would not be good for me mentally.
  4. I both love my home in Michigan and wish it were closer to old friends and family.
  5. I am both relieved that my son survived cancer and pissed that he was ever diagnosed.
  6. I am both a survivor and perpetrator of gossip in the workplace.
  7. I am both grateful that I had the courage to step out on my own and frustrated that I needed to.
  8. I am both excited and terrified by every call I have with a potential client.
  9. I am both a devoted mother and a slacker mother.
  10. I am both a sinner and loved.

I’m struggling with how to end this post. I would love a bow to stick on it. But, that’s eluding me for now. So….Thanks for reading. Off to do more both/and-ing.

More than a tagline

One of the stories I tell about my business (Sheldrake Consulting) is: “After 18 years, I quit my stable job in higher ed and took my business full-time.” Technically, this is true. But it’s not the whole story. It took me five years to build my business and muster the courage (kick in the behind, really) to give it a go. Five. years.

I started writing resumes in 2012. Students were advising themselves on all things career- not a good idea. I saw a gap and I volunteered to fill it. I started helping them write their resumes and cover letters. I did this- for free- eek! for almost a year. Finally, I started asking for LinkedIn recommendations in exchange for my time and expertise. About a year after that I charged non-student clients a very small fee. Very small.

In 2015, I finally chose a name for my company and became an LLC. I increased my fee. Then, I increased it again.

My former “career” started to unravel in 2016. I was being bullied and abused by upper management and it became clear that there was no future in that role. Then, in 2017, “after 18 years, I quit my stable job in higher ed and took my business full-time.” In June I will celebrate one full year as an n of 1. While terrifying (it still is), it wasn’t that big of a stretch to go full-time. I had been doing it for years. I had practice. I was getting referrals. I had saved enough money to hire a graphic designer to create a real logo. And my business is what I have always done- helping others be better versions of themselves.

Don’t be wooed by “overnight success stories.” There’s no such thing. Starting a business is more than a tagline. You have to want it and you have to work for it. Entrepreneurs, solo-preneurs, side-hustlers, small business owners got where we are because we put in the time, money, blood, sweat, tears, self-doubt, and sleepless nights to make our ideas reality. You can, too! I believe that. Everyone has something to offer. If your next adventure involves setting out on your own- go for it! The self-employed/small business community is awesome and supportive. Be smart and strategic. Keep doing the next right thing. Take small steps each day and that will take you all the way home. Good luck!


Who am I NOT to?

I write amazing blog posts.

In my head. While I am in the shower. The words and water flow with equal force and cleansing power. I am profound, smart, funny. I am fired up and ready to break the writing slump.

Then I sit here and…doubt. Insecurity. Fear. Creep in. Actually, not creep. More like trample me. They pummel me until I give in and the blinking cursor becomes too much and I distract myself with Facebook and Instagram. And if it were not Lent, also red wine.

Social media is the worst place to be when spiraling in impostor syndrome. Except today. While scrolling a writer I admire and respect posted this link to an article about the real meaning of self-care.

It often means looking your failures and disappointments square in the eye and re-strategizing. It is not satiating your immediate desires. It is letting go. It is choosing new. It is disappointing some people. It is making sacrifices for others. It is living a way that other people won’t, so maybe you can live in a way that other people can’t.

Looking failures in the eye. Letting go. Choosing new. Oof. I am not particularly strong in any of these things. I’ve stopped myself from a lot, mostly writing, because I doubt the universality or applicability of my experience. If it doesn’t resonate with everyone, then it’s not worthwhile.

This afternoon my ten year old son participated in a student-led parent teacher conference. Twenty Google slides and 10 minutes of talking about himself and school. Friends, favorite subjects, what he excels in, where he needs development. It was totally awesome (Yeah public schools and tax dollars at work!) and inspiring. He was terrified. He did it anyway. He was awesome and inspiring.

Brene Brown says that we need to stop looking for proof of our un-belonging, because we will always find it. If this is true, which I believe it is, then, the opposite is also true. If we look for evidence of belonging, then will also find that.

I found validation in a quote on Facebook. I found courage in the hazel eyes, messy hair, and shaky voice of my ten year old son. I re-found my voice and went back to the notes I had hastily scribbled after I got out of the shower this morning.

Questioning the value of my story is a huge disservice to the work it took me to get here.

Who am I to write about myself, life, parenting, writing, coaching, friendship, love, family, faith?

I am the expert on my own life. Who am I not to?

Who am I not to blog post idea