Hi everyone! Today I thought I’d do something different and share some of the challenges I’ve been facing in my business. I just want to share some of the things that have been weighing me down, and why I haven’t been sharing as much on the blog in the recent years.
In this episode, I cover
- Key challenges that I’ve been facing [1:01]
- My solutions to tackle them [15:37]
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Challenges that I’m Facing Today [Transcript]
Celestine Chua: You’re listening to The Personal Excellence Podcast, the show that’s all about helping you be your best self and live your best life. I’m Celestine Chua, your host and founder of PersonalExcellence.co. Let’s get started!
Hey everybody! Welcome back to The Personal Excellence Podcast. So today I thought I would do a different type of topic. Usually, I cover a topic on personal growth and I share tips on that. Today I thought I would do some personal sharing, and I’d like to talk about some of the challenges I’ve been facing in my business. I thought it would be good to share some of the things that have been weighing me down.
I did feel that I haven’t been able to do deep personal sharing on my site for maybe at least the past couple of years. As you listen, perhaps you may understand why.
Challenges I’ve Been Facing
#1. Feeling that my work doesn’t matter
The first challenge that I’ve been facing, and I think some of you guys may have noticed this, is that the web is so cluttered today. There are just so many, you know, businesses? It’s cluttered in a very commercial way, and I guess this is what happens when the main driving point of a society, the main agent that people need to work towards, is money.
I’m not trying to build any negativity around money because I think money is important and it is a good neutral tool for us to objectify value. I’m not of the camp of people who go, “Money is evil,” but I also don’t see money as the “end all and be all” of life, or that it accurately indicates the value that people are giving to the world. Money as a tool definitely has its issues.
So when the main agent that people work for in the world is money, naturally when you have a clean starting ground (such as the internet in the 1990s), it will get dominated by very commercialized activities after some time. And oftentimes it reaches a tipping point, and beyond that point, you get diminishing returns.
So I started PE in 2008, and way before that I started my first website in 1998. The Web was in its infancy with very very few people online. I’ve seen the internet and how it has evolved in the past two decades. Today, the internet is hugely commercialized — almost everything is linked to paying or buying or money. Advertisements are everywhere.
While everything has its role and its place, I do feel that the internet today is extremely cluttered with businesses for every single thing, along with “me-too” businesses. It’s gotten to the point where there are so many life coaches and coaches online now, that sometimes I do wonder, Oh okay. Err. So where do I fit in? And how does my work matter?
When I started PE in 2008, the reason I started it in the form of a life coaching business online was because there wasn’t necessarily something like this. At that point, yes, the industry was already competitive. There were many personal development blogs. But I felt there was space for me to add unique value after assessing the landscape.
Now it’s 2018. If I were to start everything from scratch with no legacy of my work in the past 10 years, based on how the landscape is today, I would do things differently. Maybe I would start a multi-coach platform, like a platform that gathers coaches from all around the world or that consolidates the best minds to help others grow. This is just something I’m making up; it’s not something I’ve been thinking about. What I’m trying to say is, if I were to start something from scratch, I’d think, What is the most unique value I can give? And the biggest change I make in the world?
So for me, over the years what made the most sense is for me to keep building my legacy and make changes in people’s lives through my platform, articles, etc. And I’m very satisfied by that. But right now, I’m seeing like a gazillion of coaching businesses and life coaches. They’re just everywhere and I’m sure everyone is adding their unique value. But it does make me feel like my work doesn’t really matter anymore. Like, Why am I doing this? And can my energy be better used elsewhere instead?
So this is just something that comes to my mind every now and then. Because of how cluttered the Internet is today, and because I feel a lot of the “make money online” or “start your online business” businesses negatively encourage mass numbers of people to just jump into the industry without really having the motivation to truly help people at the core, if it makes sense to you.
#2. Lack of privacy
The second challenge that I’ve been facing would be privacy. I don’t know if you guys know, but I’m actually a very private person. I share all my personal stories on PE because I see that as a necessity. It’s not because I like to talk about these personal things. If there wasn’t this driving force to help others, I wouldn’t even talk about any of those things at all because I value my privacy a lot.
So when I started in 2008, obviously nobody knew me. I was just a random person. Over the years, as my blog grew bigger, as I developed clientele, etc., I did feel that I lost quite a lot of my privacy.
… And… this sounds depressing but it’s not. It’s not that depressing, okay? But I did definitely feel like I lost a lot of my privacy. And it’s like the world is blending together.
Imagine you have different friends, like friend A, friend B, friend C, friend D. So maybe you will say certain things to a friend because that’s your special relationship with friend A. And then you say certain things to friend B that you may not tell friend A. Because that’s your special relationship with friend B.
So I have PE, and PE is no longer just a medium that I share stuff with people to help them grow. It’s no longer just that because there are just so many people reading today. And I actually don’t know… I mean I don’t know most people who are reading PE. And that would include people who may know me but I don’t know that they are reading. Or people who know me but I just don’t know them. It also includes my relatives. You get the idea.
I think this is a unique position because unless you have a large front-facing public platform where you share a huge, unprecedented part of yourself and your life to the world, typically a person wouldn’t be in this position. For the same reason, I found it hard for me to share about this with anybody (except for Ken). Because nobody could relate to what I was going through. And this is such a unique situation and problem.
But it was at the same time very taxing, and very much something that had been weighing me down. Along with this issue, is the lack of privacy in terms of my personal space and my personal life, because as more and more people knew about me, I felt like I needed to create this personal alcove that I could hide in and be safe from the prying eyes of the world or from the attention of people.
For a while, this was true in terms of communication channels too, because a lot of the communication channels today are created with the objective of making it easy for people to communicate — to the point of not respecting the individual’s privacy. For example with WhatsApp, people can just add you and message you as long as they have your number. You don’t need to get authorization. Or let’s say for Facebook — anybody can see and search people by their name. You can’t hide your profile from Facebook search. This is just how these conglomerates have decided to design their services.
That works, I think, for the majority population. But for myself, it became quite a challenge, especially in the past years, to find a way to use these tools. A way that would benefit me and serve me in my personal life, while not alienating myself from my own inner social circles? So there was this pretty tough balance that I had to find.
Another problem, along with the growing presence of my site and just generally people reading it, was that I needed to be significantly careful about the privacy of the people that I’m with, or the people around me. So as opposed to guessing or wondering, Is it okay to write about this or that? I would often err on the side of caution and not write it at all. Because so many of the things that I write, and what really helps me connect and support all of you guys in your growth, is me sharing my personal stories and my personal life, and I felt like I couldn’t write any of that anymore.
So I felt like I was reaching a stalemate or this juncture where I couldn’t write anything. With that came a pause in my writing, because if I had so many restrictions on what I could write and couldn’t write, then I might as well not write. This made me focus on the other aspects of my business because this was such a challenging issue to work with.
#3. Not drawing boundaries
The third challenge that I’ve been facing is… when I started PE, it was in my 20s? I didn’t draw any boundaries. PE was this core goal in my life and it still is.
But because I didn’t draw boundaries and because of how the Internet sort of just exploded, with all kinds of people using it and things changing all the time every single year, there were constant changes, new things, new developments, needs, people’s needs. It’s like you’re in this gel or this sea, and there’s nothing separating anything. And when you don’t draw the boundaries or when you start off not drawing the boundaries, it just consumes you and it did that to me for a while. When I started the business it was fine. And I think I’m an organized and a very structured person, with a very high tolerance for punishment as well as stress. So all these were not issues. But when the business became so big and I was dealing with so many different people and everybody has their own unique needs, in the later years, it just consumed me.
So I could be dealing with people with all kinds of needs. It could be, say, with Person A who signed up for coaching before and then maybe they thought they would get unlimited (free) followup after the sessions, even when the sessions are over. Or it could be, say, with Person B who bought a product in 2009, and it has already been 10 years and then every year they would keep asking to redownload the materials because they lost the files or they didn’t bother to back up the materials.
A lot of this treads on a very thin line, because with each person you obviously want to go the extra mile and help them, because you just want to do that.
But when you’re dealing with thousands and thousands of people, that’s when not drawing boundaries becomes really tricky, and it’s something that quickly creates burnout and a lot of pain. Or exhaustion later on, especially when you’re going above and beyond. On top of this, people expect you to go even above what you’re giving. So it became a give-and-give-and-give situation and that quickly drained my fuel tank. I was running on empty in the later years of my business.
#4. More sophisticated internet landscape
The fourth challenge is that as the Web became more sophisticated, I’m now working with a huge audience with different needs. Maybe I’ll write an article and share it via the newsletter. Maybe 60 percent of the people would resonate with it and 40 percent wouldn’t. And for the 40 percent, because they see that this material doesn’t resonate with them. Some people will stay on because they are long-time readers. Some people will be more impatient and they will leave, and I’ll lose that chance to support and help them.
So there’s this constant struggle like, What is the best thing that I can write, that would help me reach out and help as many people as possible? The system that used to work in earlier years of the business doesn’t work as well anymore. Because the internet is so sophisticated now — everybody has different needs and people expect things quickly and to get answers right away. If they don’t, then they become impatient and leave.
And also, as the web is now so sophisticated, everything is very specialized. You have all kinds of services for a lot of things and each service now requires a recurring business expense. So expenses have definitely gone up. Which is fine if you are using things that adding value, but you have to iterate really quickly as a business owner.
So these are just some of the challenges that I’ve been facing in my business and I think these challenges are partly due to several factors. Firstly, the web landscape changing so much over the years. Another reason would be the maturity of my business. Part of it came from PE as a business/company growing to the size that it is today.
Solutions to Tackle the Challenges
Now with every challenge in life, there is always a way we can solve them. It’s the same here — finding solutions to solve the challenges or at the very least, mitigate them until we find better long-term solutions.
So here are the things I’ve been doing to manage these issues.
#1. Draw boundaries
The first one is a big thing, which is learning to draw boundaries. I’ve been doing this since late last year. This is so important for me. Drawing boundaries in terms of e-mail — having separate inboxes for my personal mail and my work mail. Believe it or not, when I started (and I think this is true for most entrepreneurs), I used my personal inbox for my work mail as well. Since then, I’ve learned to have separate inboxes for my work mail while my personal mail is purely for my personal stuff and exchanges with my family.
Then work mail, to check the mail during work hours, and maybe sometimes a little bit after. But not checking it or feeling like I need a reply every single hour of the day, because then that will quickly bleed into my own personal life and my personal space, and that’s just a recipe for burnout.
Drawing boundaries in terms of my communication channels. I feel that Facebook had a big role in my struggles with communication channels — and this requires a totally different podcast episode, on my issues of Facebook. But I feel like with communication channels or social media channels today, they are pretty hard to draw boundaries in terms of your own life and how you want to manage communication. But I feel like I’ve found a good intersection or a good middle way in how to manage my communication channels.
#2. Objectify my work
The second thing is learning to objectify my work. So this is challenging because PE started out as an extension of my passion, my purpose, and as a deeply personal part my life. It still is and forever will be.
But I’ve learned to not take things personally. So be it when there are really oddball situations at work, and you’re wondering, Why do people behave this way, or How can people abuse my goodwill? Learning not to take these things personally and to just to move on and focus on the positive stuff. Because there are all kinds of weird stuff in the world. There are also weird situations and weird people, and it’s really not worth it to focus on these 0.01 percent oddball situations or people who don’t appreciate or value your work. But learn to focus on the rest of the 99 percent or 99.99 percent of people who do.
#3. Focus on unique ways for me to add value
The third thing that I’m doing would be to focus on the unique ways that I can add value. So as you guys know, I have never believed in writing repetitive material. I think that there’s a place for this and that’s why there are quite a few websites that specialize in rehashing a lot of tips and they do well. They do well, they grow big, and they have a huge audience.
But I just don’t think that is the kind of value I want to add to the world? Especially because I feel like even though some of this may add incremental value to someone’s life, it is adding a lot of noise too. And I just want to focus on really sharing things that I feel has the biggest impact, the biggest value, as opposed to churning a lot of content, churning a lot of stuff for the sake of it, which I feel may benefit me marginally but is just adding noise with regards to the whole ecosystem or the community on the Internet. I don’t believe in that.
So focusing on high value-content content that really makes a difference. And courses as well. This is something that I’ve been working on and you guys will hear more about that in time to come.
#4. Hiring help where needed
The next fourth thing that I’m doing is hiring help when needed. Hiring help can be in terms of hiring assistants, outsourcing, and help doesn’t have to be work-related. It can be in terms of personal life. Personal life, like, get a helper or people to help me with personal things so I can focus more of my energy on the bigger areas of my business. Help can also come in terms of getting the products or services that value to a business. Help doesn’t necessarily have to be hiring someone, but about engaging services or getting products that can help to cut down a learning curve or help you to speed ahead or solve this burning problem area.
This is something that a lot of my clients do when they engage me for coaching, to discuss with me or have me help them in certain blockages or a problem that they’re facing. And that helps them speed ahead and just cut so much of the learning curve, and the hours and the time that they would have spent running around in circles.
#5. Focus on what I can share
The fifth and last thing that I’m working on is with regards to what I mentioned on privacy. Focus on sharing what I can do. The issue of privacy and feeling like there’s a certain filter or that I’m under some kind of censorship, I think it’s part and parcel of having a platform that’s now bigger than what it was when I first started. Also recognizing that everybody has their own privacy and personal space. It’s about learning to manage all of these. Finding that fine line between managing everyone’s personal space and respecting each other’s privacy, and doing it in a way that can add value to people’s lives and help change and forward them. So I think being clear on, okay, there are certain things that I just won’t talk or share because they are just out of bounds. But I can share other things. And these other things that I focus on sharing. I can also share by proxy as well, such as using certain examples or giving case studies by proxy. And these are all different ways that I can help others.
So no longer feeling, Oh because I can’t share certain things, I can’t help people in the best possible way. That may not be true, because I can just do things in a different way to achieve that objective which is to help others grow. Connecting with you guys and supporting you guys in your growth.
That’s it for today’s episode. I hope you guys have found it useful in some way. I definitely am planning to record more podcast episodes. If you like the podcasts and you would like to hear more, I’d really appreciate it if you can post a review on iTunes.
Now if you have a question for me, you can send it to the podcast page on PersonalExcellence.co. There’s a link for you to post a question there. So thank you so much for listening and I’ll speak to you guys soon. Bye guys!
Endnote: Thanks for listening to The Personal Excellence Podcast. If you have found today’s podcast helpful, I would really appreciate it if you can leave a review on iTunes at personalexcellence.co/itunes/. Every review goes a long way to letting others know about the show and spreading the content further. For more tips and articles on how to live your best life, visit www.personalexcellence.co. Be sure to stay in the loop of my free content and updates by subscribing to my free newsletter at personalexcellence.co/newsletter/.