Last week was the 6 year anniversary of the launch of my online business
(which started as a fitness brand) and I started reminiscing about the beginning of it all.
Specifically, I’ve been thinking about the giant leap of faith I made when I moved out of NYC, giving up my lucrative personal training career and trusting in myself and the universe that Remodel Fitness (my original brand) would… work.
As thrilled as I was to be following my passion, those first few years were fucking hard. For a while I stayed on friend’s couches, visited family, and lived on a tight budget so I wouldn’t burn through my savings before I could get my business off the ground.
The thing I remember most about those first tough months was that I suddenly became aware of one fact: I did not know how to run an online business.
I don’t just mean that I didn’t know how to run a business, although that’s some damn truth. I didn’t know anything about marketing, branding, funnels, or online programs.
But more than that, I also didn’t know how to like… stare at a computer, organize my brain, and make things happen.
Until then, I had spend four to seven hours a day actively on my feet with one person in front of me, cuing lifts, racking weights, and talking about fitness programming and healthy habits. I had no idea how to sit still and create internet content every day.
All the sitting still had me crawling out of my skin, and I was constantly distracted, struggling to organize my thoughts and to-do lists.
The worst part was how taking clients exhausted me.
I loved being able to talk to people about confidence, identity, self-worth, and body image, but holding so much space for another person was still a new skill, and I felt completely drained by the end of my sessions. That shit could get so heavy, and I didn’t have personal boundaries or practices in place yet to help me shake it off and not absorb the intense heaviness of someone else’s story.
Not to mention the fact that after living on 5-6 hours of sleep per night for years in NYC, I felt a kind of backlogged exhaustion that I finally had the time to give into… and so I did. I slept 10-12 hours a night for a long time. I took naps. I rested. Not in a “ahhhh so satisfying” kind of way, but instead in a “I’m losing another round to this Epic Tidal Wave of Exhaustion” way.
Looking back I can say I was dealing with the backlash of burnout, while also dealing with a major transition to my daily life and work, and under a lot of pressure not to fail because I had no backup plan.
All of this led to the formation of a very scary thought:
Maybe I’m just not the “right kind of person” to run an online business.
Maybe I’m too lazy. Maybe I’m not focused or smart enough to create content and figure out funnels. Maybe I’m too sensitive and emotional to handle a bigger client load. Maybe I’m not “business-minded” enough to think big picture when it comes to growing my income.
Maybe I’m just not the right kind of person for this.
Plus– and this is a big one– the only people I saw succeeding at internet marketing at the time were white dudes who used super manipulative tactics to makes sales and mobilize their audience.
For example, a guy who I now know to have been an abusive scumbag was at the top of everyone’s list for “most brilliant genius at online fitness business” at the time, and a lot of folks (myself included) felt like we had to copy his smoke-and-mirrors business model in order to succeed.
Unfortunately, his thing was all about disempowering the audience, and alpha-male-ing them in to buying something to make their pathetic weak bodies and sad lives MORE FUCKING AWESOME LIKE ME BRO. But he wasn’t alone– all the business and marketing books (also written by white dudes) basically came up with ways to make lying and manipulating sound fresh, moral, and intellectual.
As you can imagine, this did not sit well with me.
Not only did this kind of marketing feel inaccessible and off-brand for me, it also made me sick to my stomach. I saw gaslighting, belittling, lying, shaming, fear-mongering, and disempowering as the standard fare for running an online businesses, and felt despair.
I will never do that to my audience, I thought. Never. I will not shame them, scare them, or bully them into working with me. I will not lie to them– not about the problem, not about the process, and not about the results.
These were my ethical lines:
I will not exploit my audience’s insecurities.
I will not present myself as perfect or aspirational in order to subtly shame/inspire them.
I will not objectify or sexualize myself to increase my social status and popularity.
I will not dumb down the process to make it sound fast and easy when it’s not.
I will not say that having the right body, life, or even attitude is the key to happiness and confidence, or imply that there is ever a destination to which you “arrive” in this work.
I spoke to many business coaches over those first few years who told me I was being naive, and that I couldn’t make money if I wasn’t willing to play the game.
But as a highly sensitive and emotional person who had been in an emotionally abusive relationship, manipulation was just too big a trigger for me. I couldn’t bear the thought of doing anything to strip people of their autonomy and agency in my marketing because my whole thing was helping women reclaim their own autonomy and agency from a world that was constantly teaching them to give their power away.
Soooo… yeah. If that’s what’s required to run an online business, then I decided it just wouldn’t be for me. This is why I created the #transparenttuesday email in the first place, because I was determined to succeed within the bounds of my moral compass.
Looking back I am so grateful that I did, because I now know I am exactly the right kind of person to run a business– not just because the world needs business owners who have hobbies, take naps, and prioritize mental health, but also because the world needs business owners who put their heart and soul in the driver’s seat of their business, instead of their egos.
If we don’t all win, then I didn’t win.
I will not step on you to get higher.
The truth is that while I’ve accepted my business’s growth will be slower and more niche because of this, I fucking love the business part of my life now. I get lit up by the creative problem solving, the brainstorming, the roller coaster of trying and failing and learning and improving.
I used to wish that I could hire someone else to do all my marketing and business shit for me, but not anymore.
Being in charge just means I get to pay close attention to intersection between my heart and your pulse. It is, truly, an honor. Sometimes I cry thinking about the sacred connection the internet allows me to make with the exact people who need me, and how amazingly strong and brave and tender those people are to trust me (and themselves) with the healing of deep wounds.
I am the right kind of person to run an online business.
Despite all evidence to the contrary (and there was a ton), this has proved to be true year after year. We do not need to do things how they have always been done, and our authentic truths can be our guides.
All of this is to say that you are the right kind of person to do whatever the fuck it is you most want to do, too.
You don’t need to be smarter, stronger, more outgoing, or more experienced. You don’t need to be a different kind of person. You don’t need to wait until you lose the weight, get the job, find the partner, make the money, kick the anxiety, have the baby, or anything else.
You, right now, are exactly the right kind of person to follow your own dreams. And odds are pretty good that the world actually needs exactly you to do exactly that.
So much love,