Marry Your Whys: The 5 Biggest Lessons I’ve Learned in 4 Years Of Building A Business.
The guilt hit me before bed, as most guilty moments do.
Oh my god. I forgot WANT’s four-year anniversary.
My heart sank as I counted back since WANT’s big day had arrived and departed like nothing. One, two, three, four…ten days. TEN. DAYS.
I felt like a parent who had forgotten to put presents under the Christmas tree and it was way past December 25th. How could I have forgotten? Was I a bad business mom? How could I have been so negligent?
These, of course, were just rhetorical questions to fill space and buy time while I digested the gritty truth:
I’d been so caught up in what I WASN’T doing “right” over the last few months of running a business that I had completely ignored what I WAS.
I’d been pushing-pushing-pushing so hard, in hot pursuit, that I’d ignored the rock-solid foundation I’d already built.
I was telling my friend Angela the other day how I felt like I was struggling, and that nothing was coming to fruition “like it should.” She reminded me that in the span of a year, I’d gotten married, moved neighborhoods, transferred locations at my full-time job, QUIT my full-time job, began my first new job in fitness in eight years…and that was only in a year.
Moving across the country was harder on me than I’d like to admit, and I think moving uptown brought a lot of those unexplored feelings up to the front again. Changing neighborhoods in L.A. was no big deal for me – I did it almost every year! – because it was all so familiar. I knew the basics of Los Angeles by heart, and the newness of a neighborhood was simply thrilling to me.
Here, it’s different. The thrill is there, but there’s also a feeling of starting over I never experienced in Los Angeles. A feeling of starting fresh. New network, new connections, new places to meet up and places to be inspired. I didn’t realize it, but the lack of familiarity had been messing with my ability to move forward.
So, when I sat down to write a post commemorating the four-year WANTiversarry, something felt…off. Something I was doing before just hasn’t been present in the last few months. Something that was there for the first three years.
I always talk about how I believe curiosity will save the world. But I also believe it will save your business.
The biggest, boldest lesson I’ve learned in the last four years is to stay curious. When things aren’t going your way, in work and life, what do you do? Do you vent to your friends, over and over? Do you look and see what other people are doing, and try to keep up? Do you go over everything you could be doing BETTER in your mind, let it spiral, and just grind harder? I usually don’t, but for the last few months – maybe even the last whole year – I’ve been doing all those things and more.
Staying curious is the secret to anything worth doing, and worth doing well. Because venting won’t solve anything, keeping up with others won’t be true to your vision, and grinding harder will just burn you out. Curiosity is like a real-life Where’s Waldo book: you devise a strategy around what to look for (red and white stripes – got it! glasses – yes!), get in your zone, and zoom in on that mothereffer.
And that feeling of accomplishment and discovery is what makes you want to turn another page.
Almost TWELVE years ago, I came up with the idea for WANT based on what I needed most in my own life. And FOUR years ago, I (re-)launched WANT based on what I knew others needed, too. I saw that there needed, NEEDED, to be a space where we could go for tips and tools – along with motivation and inspiration – to shift our self-talk patterns in a real, lasting way. I knew, KNEW, that the business of affirmations and mantras worked for some people, but didn’t work for enough of them in the long run. And I got curious as to why that was.
What I found, through talking to others and scouring every popular self-help site and book I could find, was that people weren’t talking about the darkness as useful. If they were, they’d mention it then skirt the issue. I saw that there was nowhere that not only allowed people to feel their feelings fully, but encouraged them to think their thinks and feel their feels, and UNEARTH feelings they didn’t even know they had, and THINK thinks that they’d been avoiding for so long – and THEN, only THEN, gave them ways to move forward fearlessly through it all. Not around it all or past it all. THROUGH it.
Curiosity was the foundation of WANT. And I know it needs to be the foundation of me, too. Curiosity has led me to realize that I am a writer, speaker, and community builder before anything. I come alive in front of an audience, and I LOVE bringing people together to make shift in tandem. Working solo and working online are amazing, and allow for a lot of freedom…but maybe it’s too much freedom.
That freedom can make you go down a rabbit hole that never was meant to serve you. You’ve got to pay the bills, so you think about monetization and you think about partnerships. You see what’s being done, and how it’s being done, and you decode the game you believe you’ve got to play. And let me clarify: monetization and partnerships are not wrong. I think it’s so cool that we’re able to be in control of who we work with and where our revenue comes from! But it’s worth looking at the kind of work YOU’RE doing and the kind of business YOU aim to build.
Curiosity has helped me realize that lately, I’m not doing a lot of the things that fill me up. Things I used to do super-frequently because I knew they were the right things to do. Think live events/panels, creating and executing on an editorial calendar, partnering with smaller brand with the biggest souls, and feeling the joy I’ve felt the last few years instead of searching for it.
And why haven’t I been doing these things? Simple. Imposter syndrome. The more you don’t do things – and the longer the amount of time that passes in between – the more you start to doubt your ability to do them.
Sure, I have some good excuses. A wedding. Multiple job changes. Moving. All the other regular life stuff that’s par for the course when you’re a Highly Sensitive Person and internalize everything. It would be ridiculously easy to place blame and offload onto those excuses. But I know the only thing that’d been getting in my way…is ME.
The more you don't do things - and the longer the amount of time that passes in between - the more you start to doubt your ability to do them. Click To Tweet
So going into Year Five (omg), I hereby promise you – and myself – the following.
I, Katie Horwitch….
…Will create workshops and panels for you that help you live fearlessly in your own life – and in turn, help me live fearlessly in mine too. We’re in this together. When I’m fearless – when my fear is less than my faith in myself – it empowers you to be fearless, too. And oh-so-vice-versa.
…Will structure my editorial calendar based on what I KNOW is needed, not what I THINK is popular. Not that I’ve been doing this, but it’s a trap I want to avoid at all costs. When you write about subjective things like emotions – vs objective things, like face masks – the formula is harder to decode. SEO is only going to go so far. You’ve got to trust your gut, big-time, and keep your eyes wide open for the solutions people are craving in their lives. And trust me, I love a good face mask write-up.
…Will – THAT BEING SAID – get back to writing some more content that has stuff in it like face masks. Round-ups are fun to read and fun to write! And I know it’s a strength of mine that I’m able to do them well, and from the heart. I love turning this kind of product-heavy content upside down onto its head and crafting a piece that speaks to how you want to feel, not how you think you should look. Or what you should do. Or ANY should, really.
…Will still pursue what’s not yet materialized, but will shift my focus to encompass the pursuit of enhancing what already HAS materialized. Always reaching for the next-best thing is no way to live. Once you get the thing, once you achieve the stuff, where do you go from there? Pursuit can be an addiction, and goal achievement can be a hit. It’s not a *bad* hit to go after…but make sure your livelihood isn’t attached to whether you achieve the goal or not.
You wanna start a business? Get ready for the wildest ride of your life. Starting, and then building a business that’s purpose and passion based is tough work, but it’s the rightest work you’ll do. Curiosity must be your foundation. Here’s what else I’ve learned.
1 – START SMALL, AND START OFTEN. Marie Forleo likes to say that clarity comes from engagement, not thought. I’d like to add that clarity also comes from starting with what you have, not scrounging for what you don’t. Want to start a podcast but overwhelmed by all the equipment you “need”? Guess what: you don’t need it. I began the WANTcast with a Blue Yeti microphone and GarageBand. I knew how to use GarageBand, but if you don’t, you can attend a 101 course at ANY Apple store, for free. You can also use websites like Zencastr that make production super intuitive. I started WANT by building a website off of what I knew how to do and what kind of content supported my greater vision. I did Marie’s B-School because I knew I needed some extra support – and opted for the payment plan because I wasn’t about to go broke for my idea. I sent the site to my entire list of family and friends, and then focused on doing the best writing I could, week after week. It was a schedule I could keep up and it was quality over quantity. Work with what’s available to you, and with what WON’T overwhelm you. Again and again and again.
2 – IT’S OKAY TO HAVE A PASSION. IT’S OKAY TO HAVE A BUSINESS. KNOW WHAT SEPARATES THE TWO (AND WHERE THEY INTERSECT). Someone once told me that if you don’t care about making money, it’s not a business. I didn’t want to believe it at first, but it’s 100% true. Just because you don’t intend to have any sort of financial transaction, though, doesn’t mean you can’t still create impact from it. What separates my passions from my business: the things that don’t fall into the “business” category are things I identify with that I am ALL IN on…except when it comes to the strategy and the industry. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop pursuing my passions. It just means I’m not going to use up all my “strategy energy” for things I don’t want to scale. In the same vein, I don’t believe in the terms Day Job and Side Hustle if you really want to make your passion project into your purpose project. Also read: Down With The Side Hustle, Down With The Day Job,
3 – SUCCESS IS MORE THAN A NUMBERS GAME (AKA: NUMBERS ARE DUMB). We all crave guarantees, clarity, and definition (a reason why extremes are so alluring). Staring at newsletter subscribers, Google Analytics, and Instagram insights can be a welcome validation or a panic-button push, depending on the stats of the day.
In my past life as an editor, part of my job was to be increasingly aware of site and social analytics: how many people showed up to read what you had to say, what kind of “following” competitors had, how much engagement a post got when it went live…stuff like that. It taught me how to look and what to look for. It also taught me to look beyond the numbers: where people were coming from, where they were going to, how they were interacting with one another.
When I launched WANT, it became uber-tempting to define its “success” numerically, because I knew what that game looked like. In order to do X, you must have Y amount of subscribers. If your post/podcast/email gets Z amount of views, that means that A-B-C.
But I started to realize that WANT’s success didn’t work like that. WANT was resonating on a deep level because of the two-way street that was happening: the WANT community was opening their hearts and engaging with not just me, but each other on a personal and vulnerable level. Because of this, podcast guests felt comfortable shining a light into their darkest corners, weekly “posts” morphed into nuanced essays, and together we turned this platform into a movement on a roll.
Some days there are thousands of readers and listeners. Sometimes there are 30. But I’ve realized that while it might matter to people like sponsors or advertisers, those numbers don’t matter to US. They don’t matter to ME. Success is not about calculations, it’s about connection. Also read: Success You Can’t See.Flirt with your WHATS, get married to your WHYS. Click To Tweet
4 – FLIRT WITH YOUR WHATS, GET MARRIED TO YOUR WHYS. There will always be a way to be better at something. But the quest for “better” can eat us alive if that “better”-ness is empty. As an HSP, I get overwhelmed easily – everything from piled-up emails to angry crowds. I also need to watch where and to whom/what I give my energy, because I’m like an empath on ‘roids: I’ll give and give and give until my well is dry, and even then I’ll find some way to empathize and give even when I’m not asked to do so. And the combo of the two? It leaves me with lots of things I tell myself I can be better at.
What’s helped me in these last four years has been committing to a purpose rather than just an action. For example: I receive lots of emails from readers and listeners, sometimes just saying hi, and sometimes asking me very specific questions. The hyper-empath in me wants to answer them all. But not just answer them, give the most groundbreaking answer ever! in my response. What ends up happening? The emails pile up, I get overwhelmed, and inherently feel horrible for what I interpret as letting everyone down. I now know that if I answered everyone’s questions personally and specifically, I would never get anything else done. So I use these questions to inform my writing, my podcast episodes, and the guests I ask to be on. WANT thrives off of your questions – so keep asking. What I’ve learned is that you are far from the only one searching for answers.
In Year Two, I flirted with videos. I ended up producing one and never touching video again. Because it wasn’t something that lit me up. And moreover – it didn’t have a strong WHY attached. Everyone told me how great I am on camera, and how good it would be for WANT’s growth. But it didn’t feel right, and because it didn’t feel right, I couldn’t keep it up. Maybe I will in the future – who knows! If there is a specific service I can offer…if there is a specific problem I can help solve…and video turns out to be a useful way to do it (and it begins to bring me joy), great. Yes, I quoted earlier that “clarity comes from engagement, not thought.” But that engagement has to have at least an inkling of a WHY behind it.
So, WANT, my darling, thank you so much for your patience while I work out some of my own stuff that’s tied to your growth and brilliance. It’s not you, it’s me. I know that sounds like such a line, but it’s true. I’m here for you.
Thank you for being here for me. I vow to reinvest in the JOY of the work, right here, right now.
To curiosity. To whys. To fearlessness. To being the you you know you’re meant to be.
Let’s crush the year ahead.
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