Why you shouldn’t obsess about finding your passion.
When I was seven years old, my dad asked me what I want to be when I grow up. I didn’t even hesitate; I told him I was going to be a teacher.
He beamed at me. ‘Wow, like a school teacher?’ I shook my head. ‘No, I am going to be a teacher’. I treasure this story because at the time, I had no idea how true that would be. I began my career in branding and advertising, but I gravitated to the world of personal development over time.
At the age of 40, nothing gives me greater joy than to reflect on my life and join the dots of my career that have led me to become a coach, speaker and trainer. When my kids ask me what I do, I tell them, ‘Mommy is a teacher, except I teach grown-ups everything they never learnt at school’.
My career journey definitely hasn't been a straight path, more like a maze. I didn’t always know what being a teacher meant but I trusted my gut and followed the bread crumbs of curiosity to lead me to where I am today.
Here are the lessons I have learnt along the way that have enabled me to internalise what being a teacher really means. I hope this gives you some confidence to follow your path even if you aren’t sure where it is leading you:
Everything changes the moment you believe in yourself.
When I first started as a speaker and trainer in 2011, I would spend hours preparing for every talk. I have never used notes and made sure that I had every nugget memorized at the right places. This preparation gave me confidence but also became a crutch.
This ritual created a false belief. To succeed, I need to spend hours preparing even when I had given the same talk many times. It became a comfort habit and eventually took hours of precious time from me, not to mention draining my mental bandwidth.
I am not sure the moment it happened, but I replaced the habit of over-preparing with innate confidence and inner knowing. My preparation moved from fear of not being perfect or not delivering on expectations to one of excitement and a love of my craft.
The factor that allowed me to let go of this comforting habit was self-belief. I no longer put my self-worth and acceptance into the hands of my audience. I felt enough. This choice has been the turning point in my career. The moment you turn on the self-belief tap, it is infinite and never switches off.
Move the lens from perfection to contribution.
Self-belief is a crucial ingredient to thrive in your work, but there will be days when the self-doubt shouts louder and drowns it out completely.
The solution to most problems comes down to focus. The days I felt overwhelmed, and the fear crept back in was because I was focused on being perfect.
The internal narrative was ‘what if I am not good enough? What if I get judged? What if I make a mistake? These questions feed the inner critic and left me in a state of dread for what lay ahead.
Inevitably I would always return from the event with great reviews. Sometimes it would take me a whole week to read audience surveys for fear of what they said. Inevitably the feedback would be great, and I was still somewhat surprised. It was as if every engagement became an opportunity to prove myself again.
The way to break this destructive pattern was to change my focus with a better question. Instead of asking myself how can I make this perfect, I asked how I can be a contribution?
I had a good pep talk with myself and reminded myself that my role is to add value. To plant a seed that will create a new possibility in someone’s mind. As long as my message was perfect, I didn’t have to be. I still ask myself before every talk and training, ‘what do I want this audience to think, feel and do as a result of listening to me?’.
I can’t control what someone thinks of me, and it’s human nature they will judge me, but my intention is not to please everyone but to make sure I have given the maximum value and contribution.
Chase the feeling, not the money.
My happy place is in front of an audience or a coaching client. Or these days in front of my laptop, speaking to the tiny camera on top of my screen. When I can see a reaction on someone’s face to something I’ve said, like a penny has dropped and they have realized a new possibility, I am in my element.
Or when I can hear the relief in someone’s voice, they understand they are not the only person facing overwhelm, anxiety, and stress.
When I receive emails about someone starting a self-care practice or making time for themselves for something that matters, I know I am on the correct path.
As someone in the personal growth world, I surround myself with like-minded people who visualize and imagine a powerful future. Now, I used to get caught up on the number of clients I should have and how much money I should be earning. This, of course, caused much stress and panic.
As soon as I focused on chasing the feeling of fulfilment that my work brings me, I dropped this internal dialogue of ‘where I should be already’.
I have learned that if you chase the feeling of contentment and contribution, the money is not far behind.
Growth lies on the edges of your comfort zone.
At the end of 2019, I decided I would host a public event. This was a massive leap of faith because I only work with corporate companies, but I put the plan into motion. It was one of the scariest things for me because now I had to start calling clients, selling myself and putting myself out there.
I sold all the seats two weeks before the event was scheduled. I had done it. And then Covid happened, and the event had to be cancelled. This act of courage created so much opportunity for me because what should have been a once-off workshop turned into a long term training solution to help people cope during this pandemic.
Work should be a platform to bring out the best in you and push you to the edges of your comfort zone because, like an elastic band, it can never go back to its original form.
When I had to cancel the event, I didn't mind because I had already achieved my goal. I was grateful that Covid didn't provide an excuse to give up; I had done it. The fact that it was cancelled was out of my control, and I cannot wait for the opportunity to do it again but even bigger.
Work is continuous evolvement.
My ideal coaching client was the version of myself three years ago. The highly anxious person, who suffered from a time scarcity mindset, was fixated on controlling every aspect of my external environment and constantly doing. Oh, and a perfectionist. I am still a recovering perfectionist, but who’s perfect!
To serve at my highest level, I need to keep evolving because my clients will too. I need to grow into a better version of myself to cross the river and return to help others cross it.
That’s how I view my work — it’s saying, ‘Hey, I have been through these experiences. Here is what I learnt from it; let me share my solutions but help you find the best way that works for you’.
What problem do I really solve?
My work is to help people solve the problem they don’t know that they have. You see, every client knows that they are stressed, don’t do enough on the self-care front, numb their tension through external means and feel guilty when they show up in the calendar yet resent everyone in their world when they don’t.
I begin with the problems they know they have to gain trust. What is happening below the surface is to help them with the real issue that they are not aware of. Namely, a lack of self-love and self-acceptance. It’s a little overwhelming to come out with a statement like — you need to love yourself more.
Instead, I help them develop an unconditional friendliness to make decisions in their own best interest. From this place, anything is possible.
What is the dream job?
I have learned that a dream job is anything that provides contentment today. It is enjoying the process of becoming your ideal future self and attaining mastery on the journey.
I am in my dream job. I get to create my own content, share ideas that matter to me and help people make decisions in their own best interest.
I may change the content of what I do or call myself a coach, a writer, a speaker or a trainer. The fact that I can call myself a teacher means I can trust myself to follow the breadcrumbs of curiosity even if I’m not sure where the path will lead me.
Here’s to the next chapter,