I knew what I wanted
On the day I lay on the floor at Lone Mountain College in San Francisco for my first ATM lesson with Moshe Feldenkrais, I knew I wanted to practice what I was going to learn.
I had recently turned down my dad’s offer to learn and eventually take over his successful business -- our family restaurant.
I grew up living in a beautiful home above the restaurant, overlooking a river. I went to college and had a good life growing up -- I still remember trips to Europe, Montreal, New York, Mardi Gras, Bermuda…eight weeks of study in Italy and Greece.
My parents were hard-working children of the Great Depression. Self-employed from when I was only four, the example they set for me -- and what I saw their work provide for our family -- made me unlikely to be a good employee for anyone.
Frankly, it never occurred to me that long-term, I’d do anything other than work for myself.
But by the time my dad and I had “the talk” about learning the business, I’d already learned the other side of it: my dad’s early mornings, late nights, filling in for anyone who didn’t show up -- from dishwasher to bartender. I watched my mom do all the bookkeeping in addition to being the short order cook and doing the long list of jobs every mom does.
I knew the restaurant business was a lot of work, so on the day of that talk, I told my Dad, “No thanks, Dad,” but inside my head I was loudly telling myself “I don’t want to work that hard.”
Little did I know…
That was a defining moment in my life. Over the decades that I’ve told that story, I always thought the punch line was “I don’t want to work that hard.”
But recently, I realized that’s not the end of the story. As I’ve been working with practitioners to help them build their practices, I’ve realized how mistaken I was in 1975… and for forty years after that.
I thought my parents worked hard because they owned a restaurant.
What flew right over my head was that they worked hard because they were self-employed and loved what they did.
Had I realized that in 1975, everything would have been completely different.
When I put in long hours in my own business, I feel like I’m working as hard as my parents did – but not because of my business category. It’s because I love what I do … and I’m self-employed. The problem is that it took me decades to learn how to be successfully self-employed!
Do you want to be self-employed?
Rarely does anyone decide to be self-employed, then hunt for an obscure hands-on modality with an unpronounceable name to make their dream come true.
It’s much more likely that you experienced transformation with the Feldenkrais Method® and at some point you started (or will start) to imagine yourself as a practitioner with clients –maybe even money in the bank.
In that respect, I was different, because as I said, I expected to be my own boss. However, in almost every other respect, I was just like most of the practitioners I know who are struggling:
· I was in love with the work I was learning and wanted to share it above all else.
· I had no idea what “being self-employed” meant or involved, so I was the worst boss I could possibly have.
· I didn’t want a business, so I believed I didn’t have one.
· I didn’t know how to create success, so I became satisfied with what I had.
· I wanted to spend all my time working with clients, so I didn’t learn how to GET clients.
· If I didn’t have a client, I did whatever took my fancy, so it didn’t dawn on me that I had very little time available for working with clients.
· I figured I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t like or didn’t want to do, so once a year, I got upset with the government for ‘making’ me do my bookkeeping.
· I equated “selling my services” with “selling myself.” That meant “prostitution” and gave me an excuse I could live with for not learning how to earn a living.
Clearly, growing up with the expectation of being self-employed didn’t give me any special advantage in building a practice! I couldn’t even think outside the box I was in because I didn’t know I was in it.
What made you decide to take your training?
In my experience, an awful lot of practitioners don’t think about the money it costs to learn “their work” as “an investment.” This is a major difference between taking a holistic training program and buying almost anything else.
If you wanted to install an in-ground swimming pool in your backyard, you’d probably think about whether it would add to the overall value of your house.
If you were thinking about taking a dental hygiene course, you would likely be thinking about wearing those funny scrubs and being paid by a dentist for showing up from 9-5 on most weekdays.
Buying a car? Do you consider how long it’ll last – or how much it’ll cost to drive and maintain?
These are all normal questions.
I can tell you from first-hand knowledge that when people speak to me about learning to build a practice, they do heavy mental work around the investment, the return, the side benefits… they pay attention to testimonials, ask to speak with clients, consider whether they can learn “it” on their own…
So clearly, not all expenditures of money are processed in the same way, because what I’ve found is that most people do not think about their training in this way before they decide to enroll.
Sure, you may realize that you might earn money with it… might even eventually earn a living… but if earning a living was the most important part of making your decision, I’d say you’re in the minority.
Why is it important?
Remember what I said about being self-employed? That describes the vast majority of hands-on practitioners, no matter what modality they use.
And being self-employed is a lot of work.
That doesn’t mean you have to hate every minute that doesn’t include working with a client – quite the contrary. But you can’t figure on doing nothing but working with clients, because it doesn’t work that way.
When you’re self-employed, you get to do all the jobs, including finding your clients. If you decide you aren’t going to do that one, you aren’t going to have a practice.
Think about what you expect or want or need from the investment you’re making in your training
Obviously, if you’re still in your training, you should focus on learning all you can.
At the same time, getting clear now about what you want later will help you get it without the struggle that defines decades of “practice” for too many people.
· Is your training for your own personal benefit, your own transformation, and that’s enough?
· Do you want to offer similar transformation to others?
· Do you want to earn money with it?
· If so, how much of your living do you expect to make from your practice?
In other words, do you need or want something from your training other than the value you derive from it personally?
If you are not concerned about earning back your investment of time, money, and energy, then there is nothing to do but absorb the learning and let everything unfold.
However, if you expect to support yourself with the skills you’re learning, begin considering how you’re going to make that happen. Otherwise, nothing changes with graduation, except that your training is over. You risk losing precious time, missing out on helping people who need you, and watching your confidence fall through the floor if you don’t hit the ground running.
I don’t say this to scare you.
I say it because I have seen that this is what happens to far too many people who want to earn a living, but don’t do anything about developing the skills to make it happen. You wouldn’t think about being a practitioner without learning the requisite skills, and the vast majority of practitioners need similar help to become successfully self-employed.
Take the first step now
Set aside twenty minutes and just let your mind wander over your situation – if you can, do it together with a friend from your training.
Ask yourself these questions, and don’t stop at the first answer you hear. Dig deep and find your own truth:
· What’s your unavowed dream, when it comes to your training? Why is it important to you? What difference will it make to you and to the world for you to realize that dream?
· If you knew you would never earn a living, would you still be taking it? Why or why not?
· If you’re counting on a practice, what do you think you have to do to get it? Are you willing to do that?
· If you hope to transition from a job to self-employment, what is your timeframe? How will you use that time to ensure success?
· What are your questions? What support do you need?
· What will happen if you don’t get that practice?
Understanding your deep reasons for taking the training will help you get more from it and whatever your dream is, you’ll make it come true faster… because knowing what you want is the pre-requisite to getting it.
Next time: Potholes and Pitfalls on the Road to a Successful Practice