When you’re running your business, it’s important to be good at what you do, but there are other skills that come into play that people don’t always think about. For me, one of those biggest ones is my ability to trust my instincts. I credit my instincts for pretty much every great thing that has ever happened in my life.
I can be a compulsive overthinker. This happens to me a lot. I will research, and analyze, and use all my logical skills to the furthest extent possible, which really gets me nowhere. But, in the instances where I have that strong gut instinct, that feeling that says, “this is what you need to do,” I listen to it always, without question, even if it doesn’t make perfect sense at the time. This has done really well for me.
Every business runs differently, and you’re really the only person who knows what’s right for yours – and what’s right for you and your life in general.
People love to give advice – sometimes when you ask for it, other times they just offer it freely. And I think it’s important to listen to the input from others, to think about what people have to say, to see if it’s in alignment with what you think. But what it really comes down to is… what do you think? It’s your business and you know what’s right for you, and if it feels right, it probably is right. But if there’s a nagging feeling that’s telling you “no, don’t do that,” listen to it! Don’t do it.
And one of the important things, too, is to know that sometimes your gut instinct is going to change. It’s going to shift. And it’s okay to change your mind. It doesn’t mean you’ve wasted time. It doesn’t mean that you’ve failed at anything. Sometimes something is right in one moment, and it just isn’t the next. So you kind of have to go with it and stay open to what your inner self is telling you is right for you.
Some of the biggest life decisions I’ve made have been based solely on gut instinct decisions. When I moved to LA when I was 21 without having a job lined up, people thought I was crazy. “You’ve had a full-time job since you were 16. What are you going to do without income?” Well, I’m going to figure it out. It’s what I do. I figure things out. I did move to LA. I found a job. I didn’t like LA, so I came back. I didn’t think of that as a failure. I just thought, well, at least I did it. I tried it. I figured out it wasn’t for me, so now I know.
And then when I decided it was time for me to leave the corporate world, I got a lot of input. And I asked for a lot of it. Some people said, “No, don’t do it. You like security. You like stability. You’re better off with a job job.” And other people said, “Yeah. Do it. Take off. Go do your own thing. You’re going to love it. You’ll never look back.” I tended to believe the people who said that I would never look back, and they were right. It was probably the best decision I ever made, to start working for myself.
But even when I was doing that, and I was figuring out my game plan, a lot of people told me, “You gotta pick one thing. You’re trying to do too many things. You can’t do production and business consulting. Those things don’t go together. You have to pick one.” And I heard this so many times, and I started to wonder. Well, maybe they’re right. Do I need to “niche down,” as they say? But, I like to do all of these things. I’m good at all these things. So I’m going to pursue the things that make me happy.
And I’m really glad that I stuck with my gut instinct on that one, and decided to go with what felt right to me. Because what happened is, by offering this variety of services, it didn’t alienate me from people who didn’t quite understand what I did. It actually made me a little bit more intriguing. So I was able to expand the different industries that I worked in. Where my career had mostly been in video production, I was able to move more into live events and work with different people that way. I t opened me up to a whole different world, and different clients, and that just expanded my business pretty quickly.
I also wanted to grow the coaching side of my business because I really want to help people. There’s so much I learned from all those years of running other people’s businesses, and then even more I got to learn when I started running my own. And I wanted to use all of that information and experience to help others. Because helping others is actually a huge motivation in a lot of what I do.
And that goes back to that instinct thing, too, because sometimes I make decisions that seem counterintuitive to what the “normal” reaction might be. I don’t always have normal reactions to anything. I’m just a little bit different, and that’s okay. But, for example, when COVID hit, the first instinct I had was to offer free services for people. And that was a little bit weird, because my industry had just shut down overnight, and I knew I was going to be without work for a while. So there was that part that thought, well, I need to figure out some way to keep the income coming in. But at the same time, that desire to help people was bigger than the need for income.
And so I posted publicly that I would offer free business coaching services to anyone who needed it. And, fortunately, people took me up on that offer. And that, even though I was giving advice for free, and I was helping people for free, there was a different kind of compensation for that. A) It made me feel good, which is always a good thing. But it also introduced me to different people that I might not have been able to work with before. So as things begin to return to “normal”-ish, I have new relationships, and I might have other opportunities to work with different people.
So again, it’s just that instinct thing. And what’s right for me isn’t always right for other people. Some people really started pushing their online products and different things. That was right for them in that moment, too.
I also think it’s important to make decisions that feel right to you, that are in alignment with the values that you stand for, and you want your business to showcase to the world. And this is another case where my instincts go against common advice, and that’s when it comes to marketing. Now, I finally succumbed to doing video, so here I am trying this whole thing. But, when it comes to marketing, especially email marketing, there’s a proven, traditional way of doing things, that just doesn’t feel right to me. And so I won’t do it. And it’s not to say that I have some miraculous, better way. I just know that that way, the way that I see so much out there, it doesn’t feel right to me, and I can’t do it because it would not feel authentic to who I am.
The process usually starts by offering some bit of content with helpful information in exchange for an email address. That way you get to grow your list of people you can market your products and services to, and they get some piece of value from your knowledge base, whether it’s a checklist, or an e-book, or something like that. They call those “opt-ins” or “freebies.” There are a lot of different names for it.
But then the automation starts. And usually that means you’re going to be hit with an email per day, sometimes more, for at least seven days. Now, if you’re anything like me, you already get too many emails and those just go into your junk mail folder, or you unsubscribe right away because it’s just too much. I just signed up for this thing, I don’t need your whole life story. And I also know that at the end of this chain of events, this chain of emails, you’re going to try to sell me a product, you’re going to say it’s a value of this much but you’re offering a special, limited discount where I can get it for only this amount, and what a huge savings, and what a big deal it is.
I understand it’s a proven method. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it. I just know that I don’t want to email somebody every single day, even if it’s automated and I’m not the one having to do that work. I think it’s intrusive. I don’t like it when people do that to me. I like to do my own research, in my time, when I’m comfortable with it. I do understand that you want to get people to buy right away, so you’re helping warm them up, help them get to know you, and then you’re going to sell them a product at the end, and you’re probably going to offer a discount. Nothing wrong with any of that. But again, it just doesn’t resonate with me. And I might be going against the proven way, but I have to do what’s right for me. I have to do what I feel is right. And if that works for me, that’s great. And if it doesn’t, I can pivot. But I probably won’t pivot towards that direction.
I don’t want to infiltrate your inbox. I just don’t want to. I know that my potential clients are people who don’t have a lot of time, and don’t want to read a bunch of lengthy emails. If they want to know more about me, they’re going to do their own research, just like I do. Not to say that it’s a bad thing to offer products via email, and I will send out a newsletter every once in a while with updates, when I do have a new product or service, or a new podcast to promote. I will send out emails, but I try to keep them short and to the point, and offer places where they can get more information if they want it. So for me, I can’t do a one email a day for seven days, because I don’t like it when people do that to me, and so that would go against the authenticity of my own business.
How do you know when your instincts are telling you to do something? A lot of that comes down to quieting all that external noise. So all that research that you’ve done, all the advice you’ve been given, you need to take it in, and then kind of put it aside and listen to what your inner voice is telling you. Or if you’re one of those people who doesn’t have an inner voice, however your abstract thoughts are formed, listen to that. Or feel that, or… I still don’t quite get how that works. But, there’s something inside that will tell you. And sometimes that comes down to if you have a nagging feeling that keeps telling you to do something, like I really need to do that. Or you start to see signs out there, if that’s your thing. But sometimes you just have to go inside and figure out what it is that you really want, and what feels right to you.
And on the other side of that, if something just doesn’t feel right, or you’re always putting it off, or you never really want to do it, that could also be an instinct saying that’s not the right thing for you. Now, be honest with yourself and ask if you’re making excuses for not doing that because you’re scared to take the leap. Or, is it maybe something that you think you’re supposed to do, you think you should be doing, but doesn’t feel right to you? And if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it!
A lot of times we go to these external sources because we’re not quite sure how we feel about things, or we want some kind of validation that we don’t need.
You don’t want to get stuck overthinking things so much that you don’t make any progress. I’ve been there plenty of times. I am a massive overthinker. But, when I get that gut instinct, I listen to it every time because, somewhere inside, even if I’m not conscious of it, I trust that my instincts know what’s best for me. And that’s what you should do for yourself, too. Because it’s your life, it’s your business, and whatever you do, it has to feel right for you.