can you believe it is May now? I’m being reminded to follow my own rhythms and seasons every day at the moment!
Part of that is making space for contractions and grief when it’s needed, which can sometimes include asking if it’s time to give up on a business or an idea. Someone asked how we know when it’s time today and I loved that questions so much that I recorded a whole episode about it.
This is, I hope, a pep-talk to un-shame the act of letting go when something doesn’t feel right anymore while also building resilience to keep going when it’s just a rough patch on the way to softer times.
I hope it helps!
P.S. Here is the Web Design Adventure I mentioned: https://yarrowdigital.com/web-design-adventure-course/
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⋒ Hi, my name is Yarrow and I am your host.
My Embodied Business podcast explores what it means to build a small business with integrity, joy and anti capitalist values. I interview other small business owners and offer solo episodes in which I am answering questions around tech, strategy, more ethical marketing and creative livelihoods.
You can learn more about my web design, tech support, mentoring and community offerings at YarrowDigital.com
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everyone, my name is Yarrow and you’re listening to the embodied business podcast. It’s a rainy Monday afternoon, and it’s made, which totally blows my mind to be honest. And someone in the embody business community asked this morning, when is a time to give up? Or like, How do I know when I should just let it go? And that question touched me so deeply. I’ve been thinking about this all day. And it really surprised me to consider how rarely we ever talk about that. And I consider the inbody business community like a really plays in which people sometimes share quite vulnerably and are really honest with each other, which I so appreciate. And yet, it’s not often that we really kind of pause and say, am I doing the right thing? Or is it time to let this idea go? Or this whole business, go and do something else.
And as you know, I love being a cheerleader for people. I just love throwing encouragement around like confetti, and I, yeah, that’s just a really big an important part of what I’m here to do. But I don’t want to turn away from these more difficult questions. And my hope is also that when we look at them, and really dig deeper, and kind of untangle this a little bit, it maybe becomes less scary. You know, I think sometimes when stuff is difficult in our work, having this question hanging over our heads, is actually harder than really confronting it and saying yes or no to it, or actually sometimes letting go and admitting that something maybe has become too difficult. So yeah, I want to talk about that today. Before I do just one small announcement a week from now, on May 10, we’re starting the web design adventure. And this is a course that’s evergreen, then that means it’s always available for you to take when you’re ready. But on May 10, in addition to that, I’m starting a live round, where we’re meeting every Monday, football for Wolf, four, four weeks, to go through this experience together. And the course really teaches you everything you need to know to create a beautiful WordPress website for your business without the headache and the waste of time of watching dozens of YouTube videos, I’m sharing my screen, I’m showing you everything I know, and hopefully sharing some really valuable tools for work for your website. And also for an enjoyment of tag, that’s really important to me. And so if you want that group accountability can join us still, I’m going to link to that in the show notes. And I would love to have you. Okay, so now more about this question. When is it time to give up in your business? I think the first sub question I want to ask is, why do we think about wanting to give up? Like, what does that mean? I think sometimes for me, there’s been moments where this idea of giving up has actually felt like a relief in my body where things have just been really stressful. And I thought, you know, if I just release and surrender to the fact that this isn’t working right now, I might feel really liberated afterwards. And I’m really happy that I didn’t choose to give up in that moment. And I push through but but my situation is, you know, my own situation. And I think there’s also been moments where I did give up on things, not my business as a whole, but some ideas that I had or projects that just became too tedious to work in. And they did feel really good to let go. So this past year, obviously has been difficult in that in absolutely big questions. And some of those were really illuminating and beautifully clarity given giving, but there wasn’t there, there was not a tonne of stability or a certainty for many of us, and especially economically, I think that has played out in a lot of businesses needing to radically adapt and do things very different, different differently than they had gotten used to doing them. And so yeah, if you’re sitting with this question right now, do you feel like giving up sometimes? What does that mean to you? Does it feel promising in a way? Or does it feel really sad to think that maybe you can’t sustain this business? What comes up as a reason? Is it mostly money? Is it maybe health or maybe overwhelmed with all the questions that you need to decide on every day? Or is it social media that’s weighing you down? Do you need support? Are you maybe not feeling creatively fulfilled? I think it’s really worth taking a moment to dig really deep into that and to ask if that is Something that you can identify here. And if there’s anything that you can put in place for yourself, that would maybe ease that, at least for now. And I think all of these reasons are so valid. And and so often we don’t really talk about them enough, right. And so I just want to say for transparency that the first two years and I’m six years in now has been really financially difficult for me. And I wasn’t talking about that at the time, because I wanted to be seen as a successful entrepreneur. And I wanted to know that my clients felt really confident about working with me. I needed them to know that they needed to pay my invoices at in a timely manner. But I, I wouldn’t have that at the time, I think to really be fully honest about how much I was flying by the seat of my pants, is that T
expression? Is it? I’m not sure now. But anyway, I have this little yellow notebook that I was using at the time. And, yeah, that was, I think that was the first year of my business that I was working with that particular notebook. And it’s just for my business dreaming. So I had a separate journal. And it’s mainly really full of ideas. But it’s also full of all these, like, very detailed calculations of how much money was coming in, and how much was going out. And when I look at these pages, now I see them dripping with anxiety, you know, and it always worked in the end. And that’s, I feel so lucky for that. And there’s particular reasons, I think that I will expand on of why that worked for me. And that have nothing to do about my idea of being better than anyone elses. But anyway, I won’t go ahead of myself. Now, I just wanted to say that I, I know the feeling of deep financial uncertainty. And I know it’s a really tricky place to be creative from. And I just wish for everyone to have the security of knowing that your basic needs will always be mad, I truly believe that all of us could be so much more effective in what we’re trying to do in a world if that was a given. If we had a basic universal income, for example, I think that that investment on a societal level would be so worth it, because it will be a huge waste of so many people’s shoulders, and so much more creativity could come forward if that were the case. So just know that if you are struggling financial anxiety, you’re not alone. And and this is a valid fear to have. And, and it’s tricky to, to Yeah, further business in this way. And there’s lots of other reasons for why sometimes people consider wanting to give up. The next question I want to ask you is what is the story of wanting to give up? And what I mean by that is maybe even sitting down with your journal and ask yourself, what would that look like? Like, what what would you do? If you decided to give up next week? What would you do? Would you take your site down? Would you delete your newsletter list? Would you tell someone or everyone on social media, and then delete your profile? Would you maybe just take your booking link to your calendar down for now and then see how that feels. And if you want to return to things a few months from now, I mean, really just allowing yourself that freedom to imagine that for a moment, maybe that’s helpful. But maybe that’s also just really sad. And you feel a sense of grief of this idea of taking you upside down. And that’s actually really beautiful information, because it tells you that
you still have
so much love for what you do, even if it’s difficult right now. And there’s a big part of you that doesn’t want to let go just now. And that’s really good to know. Right? And I think that’s also not a given because so often when things are stressful, it’s hard to feel connected to our intuition and to really kind of in a very playful and open way to know that we would feel aggrieved about this idea. And then maybe there’s also external stories that we have taken on around what it means to give up. Maybe you’ve been told that you’re a quitter. I know I have I’ve I’ve been in too many so many different schools when I was a teenager. So I went to two different primary schools. And then I was in three different secondary schools. And apart from the change of primary school, that was always my choice that I initiated. So I left schools because I was unhappy and I thought it would be better elsewhere. And my parents were mostly supportive of that choice. So it kind of worked out that way. But I felt like such a loser about it like there was a part of me that knew I wasn’t in the right place. plays and that may be something as will go better for me. And, and then, you know, in a way that did turn out to be true, but I still felt like I was such a quitter for not sticking it out and just putting up with this shit like the bullying and just the staff basically. And I think they can feel true for many of us and actually think that it’s also true that very few of us have had the chance as young people to try different things out and to really get to know ourselves in our work without any pressure. And again, that’s something I really wish for everyone. And I know for myself that sometimes, you know, I started this business when I was 29 or 28, something like that. And an A that’s so young, right? I’m 34 five now, and I just looked back and I was like, I just feel like what I was still in my 20s like what did I expect of myself that I would know all these things without have ever, ever having done them? Like how would I know them. And yet at the time, I already felt late, I felt that I had tried too many different jobs. In my early 20s, I had been an HR manager, I worked in a theatre, I’d been a nanny for more than a decade or a babysitter, I’d been in a pair, I studied different things. I funded it all in it shoestring so I never really had like a super stable lifestyle, I lived in so many different houses and different places. I never really had savings and and it was all kind of cobbled together. But it was also really beautiful. And I really needed all these experiences. And I look back at them now with so much more compassion and understanding for my choices. By the way, I plug here for the net New Relic with with whom I’m I’ve been working on the past few months and who really helped me, ah, gosh, and so many levels, but to let go of some shame and to really understand better who I am and why I made those choices and who I have yet to become. It’s just been so beautiful to work with her. And that relig Reddy, co creative century calm. She’s so great. Anyway. So So all this to say I really get that maybe the possibility of giving up feels like being a failure. And maybe there’s more here that we can untangle about whether that’s really true, because from what I’ve seen, or where I stand now giving up sometimes it’s really just about acknowledging that something isn’t right for us, and that there’s something better out there that will enjoy doing much more and like what could be more beautiful than acknowledging that right? But that isn’t true for all of us. And, and that’s okay, you know, maybe
there’s just a part of your business right now that you really want to change. And maybe it’s just a matter of restructuring your week changing a business model, charging differently, maybe charging more that would make things so much easier for you. And then what are the stories around that that’s so important to know and to ask, and something that I find is really helpful. And I’m shaming with whatever comes up as you ask yourself these things is to say it out loud to someone else. So maybe if you have a friend or someone who knows, you know that that also runs a business that you could maybe talk to speak to them and say, Can we maybe share that really difficult stuff that’s going on in our businesses right now? And can we maybe admit to each other that sometimes we’ve been thinking about giving up, that would be really helpful for me right now. I think that’s great. That’s so beautiful. And the next thing that I want to offer you, if you are on the spot is to go back to an episode that I’ve recorded. Last year, I think, and it’s called where to begin when you’re starting out. Lots of people have said they really loved that one, which and it’s so simple, really. But I will recap very quickly what it is about. It’s essentially about creating the tools to list exercise. And then the first list you would list everything that you need from your business. So for many people, the first thing they need is just financial stability or basic level. But they might also need a sense of freedom of creative expression or flexibility of knowing that their mental health is supported of, of just a feeling doable. I mean, that’s always a good one is that. So you just list all these things, and then you order them per priority. And you just see what is most important to you right now what do you need to feel safe. And then the second list is a list of everything that you could be doing in your business right now. So maybe you could make products, you could make art, you could run group programmes, you could offer one on one sessions. You could create content that people can buy. There’s so many options, but You just kind of throw them all in the page, not overthinking that at all, just a beautiful brainstorm and, and then you look at these two lists, and you ask yourself, which of your ideas, what meet your basic needs, and the easiest way. And those ideas that come up as the to say, top, you know, as the top two or three might not be the most exciting ideas, and that’s alright, but if they meet your needs, right now, that’s a really beautiful thing, and a really great place to start, especially if you’re struggling with overwhelm about your next steps. And if you want to hear more about that, check that episode out. But yeah, the next thing I want to name around is, is that many people make it work in ways that they don’t always talk about. And, and I wish we all talked about that more. And I wish it wasn’t shameful. So you know, if you are feeling shame about being in this place, right now, a feeling like giving up would be a good thing. Remember that there’s people who have husbands that are supportive, or partners, or people who have inherited money, or people who have had more training in are more opportunities to try something or learn something that you had. And that really, that you are in this place right now isn’t a reflection on whether your ideas good enough, or whether you are good enough as a person. And I think we can hold all of this would show so much compassion, we just are all coming from different
places. And that doesn’t necessarily make us better or worse people or business owners, they’re just differences and how easy this is for us. And that’s important to name. I don’t have a partner who supports me, and I haven’t inherited money. But I am a white person, I have worked in many ecommerce companies before I started my own business, I was lucky to be able to access a lot of education. And I have also been lucky to kind of enter a field that was relatively easy to market. And what I mean by that is that I started my business or rather I did a business training online six years ago. And when I signed up, I didn’t really exactly know what I wanted to do. And then in that programme, I saw that many people were struggling to create a WordPress site. And that was something really key that the programme was suggesting we do. And for all kinds of reasons that I’ll go into. In other episodes, I really do believe that WordPress is a great platform for a small business, but it’s a learning curve. And my quiz didn’t exist then. So it does now makes it easier whole. But there weren’t that many courses around back then so many people were really struggling with this. And I found it super easy. I really enjoyed it. And I had been blogging since I was a teenager, so more more than a decade at that point. And I had also built several WordPress sites. So I immediately jumped at this opportunity of teaching myself how WordPress worked. And I developed tech support as well, which I’ve been offering for many years. And that was working so well for me because it solved a problem for people that they were really consciously aware of. And I mean, I’m not an economist, I don’t want to really delve too deeply into these ideas of scarcity and meeting, you know, solving problems for people and all of that. But the reality was that just I was I was surrounded by people who had a budget to pay me. And they knew that I would make their life easier, and that working with me would probably make them more money than they invested in working with me, because they would have ended up having a great website. So it was really kind of easy to Well, not really easy, easy, you know, but it was easier or easy in comparison for me to find my first few clients and make things work that way. And that was definitely stressful at first and I put many, many late nights. But I think I’m all of this to say as then I acknowledge also that some business ideas are trickier to establish than others. And again, that doesn’t make them less worthy, or less exciting or less important to the world. It’s just an invitation to be really creative with how we are sharing our ideas. And I also am excited that the pandemic. As for so many people really shifted our understanding of what’s important, right. I think there’s been a real kind of surge in energy towards supporting small businesses but also supporting ourselves and community resilience and things like gardening and growing staff. and caring for each other and learning new things. And that’s super exciting. So while I’m acknowledging that some businesses are easier to build than, than others, I’m also really holding all this beautiful potential for what is yet to come for us. And I think that will make stuff a lot easier for many of us, which is really exciting. All right, okay, let me look at my notes. I think other things that I want to name that have helped me through these moments of wondering if I should give up is to be really clear on what I’m getting from my business, this really huge sense of freedom and creativity that I get so much joy from, and that I don’t want to miss. And another thing that has had is to choose a very simple life. And I’m saying that from a place of privilege, of course, and but yeah, it has been really helpful for me to think about minimalism, to think about what I really want to need and need to spend money on and, and to to live a fairly lightweight life in the first few years. So up until two years ago, I was living in a tiny house in Brighton, which was the most affordable way for me to live by myself, which I really wanted to do. And then two years ago, I moved to Scotland and I bought a small apartment in a really beautiful town, a small town on the east coast of Scotland, that is pretty underrated, I
think it’s very easy to get to both and burn Glasgow, it’s very easy to get to the beach. There’s blue, beautiful Woodlands around here, but it’s not particularly happy. And so my home is really cheap. Comparatively, it’s a small fraction of anything I’ve ever paid anywhere, even tiny bedrooms in Berlin, back in the naughties, which is a long time ago and time where a billion was much more affordable. Anyway, I’m just really happy about that choice I made. And I acknowledged that it made it so much easier to move through these periods of difficulty and doubt in my business. And it also makes it easier for me to take risks sometimes and to, you know, bring something into being that maybe doesn’t have so much creative. commercial potential. printmaking, for example, last year’s a beautiful idea, I did actually make a good bit of money from selling this first batch of prints that I made. But there was no guarantee it wasn’t something that I had ever done before. I didn’t know how well it would be received. And I think having a fairly simple life allowed me to take that creative leap. And that’s something that really is is very important for me. And having said all that dough, it is of course easier for someone who doesn’t have a family right now to say, Okay, I’m just going to simplify my life or move to a different town that’s much more affordable. That’s not possible for everyone. And that’s okay. But I still think that we can ask ourselves really valuable questions about what we need to feel sustained and where we’re spending our money and energy. And if maybe some of that can be a little bit more simple. I, I also want to talk a little bit about alternatives to giving up on your business or your idea. I’ve seen a lot of people this past year getting a part time online job. And I think I know that can feel discouraging sometimes, because maybe you want to spend all your time and energy on your business. But one thing that makes me feel hopeful around of this around this time is that I’ve seen more and more job offers that said, part time work is much more flexible. And it’s definitely able to work remotely. And of course, the Disability Justice Movement has pushed for this for so long now and has so often been told that this wouldn’t work and people just couldn’t work from home. It wasn’t possible. And now we’ve seen clearly it is possible. And I really hope that many people who are building businesses are becoming artists or building practices in some ways, we’ll have more opportunities to maybe support themselves financially, by this change in work culture, I think it can be really beautiful to do work as a VA to do some editing translation work, to maybe develop one tech school that you can offer to people. And you know, like I said, that is really how it has worked for me. And another piece I think that’s really important as we’re seeking alternatives is to think about boundaries, especially if you’re running programmes or offering things that have a big impact on our time and energy. So what is the challenge for some people’s in times is to come up with an exciting group programme and then mapping out how you know how much time and energy She will take to teach it and then finding that they need a certain number to justify spending that time and energy and then kind of being in that hesitation of knowing that they would need to get this offer in front of quite a big bunch of people to have enough signups. I don’t want to be encouraging him in any way, I think I’m really just sharing that to say, if that’s you right now, you’re definitely not alone. And many people are in this situation, and it has nothing to do with your offer. Of course, there might be ways that it could be improved, you know, but basically, I’m saying, it doesn’t mean that your idea is less worthy of attention, and people investing in it. And I think it’s really important when we’re in situations of considering giving up that we ask ourselves what we really need and what is like our upper and lower boundary here. So maybe that is something like having four people at least in a programme and allow yourself to let it go, at least for now, if you don’t get to have those four people that support you financially. I think it’s just helpful to do think about this. And in terms of numbers, there’s so much to say around you know, our audiences and our newsletter and conversion rates and all that. And I recently recorded an episode called changing the way that we relate to numbers that might be helpful, if this is something that’s on your mind right now. So what are your boundaries, like what would make you feel that you
are ready to release an idea or whole business? For me, it will be something like knowing that I’m not able to meet my basic needs over the long term, or feeling that my mental health was really negatively impacted. Or simply feeling that I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m really giving myself permission to, to just let that be enough as well. And not to make that into a big story around how I’m a quitter, or how I’ve never, you know really stuck something out. Because I’m a snowflake, a millennial snowflake. I think that is Okay, that’s enough just to say that you don’t feel like doing something anymore. And I think also like this permission slip that we can give ourselves of just feeling like, Okay, I’m a bit frustrated with my work right now, it maybe isn’t working the way I had hoped. And I don’t feel this like sense of excitement and creative expression right now. I think sometimes just saying out loud. If I don’t want to do this anymore, it’s okay to let go. We’ll get you through that phase. And maybe allow you to return to a place of feeling really enchanted with your work and really motivated to going on and trying something else. I want to end by touching on the idea of cycles in grief, which has become really important in my business, I think sometimes something that makes us want to give up as well as, just as notice that we’re not always expanding that there are periods where we’re trying something that doesn’t work, and we’re cutting something back. Or we’re releasing something and just to make even more space to accept that that is a really natural part of building a business, being in a creative process being in a relationship with someone being a human at this time and nature. So you know, it’s really not just us who are experiences experiencing these cycles of grief and contraction that is so important to remember, I think. Yeah, I really hope that we can find ways of giving ourselves more headspace and more resources and more having more compassion and remembering that giving up on an idea doesn’t mean that we have to give up on a whole business. I came across a really cool example of this recently on Pinterest, actually where I was researching ideas on simplicity and minimalism. And I came across this person who ran a really popular blog on minimalism and simplicity. And she shared that she initially wanted this business to be her whole thing and then kind of hit a difficult spot and was kind of not feeling so excited about it anymore. So she got a different job that she’s able to do from home, but she continued this blog, and really, you could feel that she’s still putting so much love and energy into it. It’s just not her main focus right now. And I think that can be a really beautiful way of letting an idea breeze until it it’s time is coming to be at at four central stage again. So she’s still offering this little workbook so you can buy them as digital downloads, and she’s still blogging and sharing her pins on Pinterest and it’s actually really big. It has it has a huge audience. But it’s very boundaried I guess and how she works with it on her day to day life. So she writes a new blog post whenever she feels like it. She has an automated process. As around sharing them on Pinterest, and then she has these pre made workbooks that people can download. So it’s really giving her a lot of freedom, a to only work on her business when she feels like it and has an exciting idea, and be also to make money in another way. And I’m just sharing that because I think I want to unshare and shame this, this idea that getting a job is a terrible idea, right? I think sometimes that was early. Sometimes giving yourself permission to let something rest a little bit before you try something new can be really beautiful as well. And I really wish there were more opportunities to to make money in a really easy, steady way that doesn’t take up so much headspace and energy for all of us. All right, I have covered a lot of different things here. And I hope it wasn’t too waffly than that. It just was something that you could listen to as you were going about your day and thinking about the future of your business and the commitments that you’re making and the things that you’re loving about it and the things that are difficult and just to feel a bit less alone in that process. Thank you so much for listening.