There’s a pretty pervasive myth out there that says in order to be successful online, you need to be peppy, extroverted, beautiful, outspoken, lively, and endlessly energetic.
It sets up a horrible feeling of an uphill battle for everyone who doesn’t feel like a million bucks every day of the week. It makes the feeling even worse if you’re trying to build a business while you work a job, raise children, face health or other family challenges, or cope with a chronic condition.
So it’s a good thing that it’s just a myth that peppy, extroverted, beautiful, outspoken, lively, and endlessly energetic aren’t actual requirements for success.
Because I’m far from all of those things even on my best days.
In fact, for the past four years, I’ve been the I sickest, most tired, and most unpeppy that I’ve been in a long time (perhaps in my whole life)… yet also my most successful.
Today I have a deeply personal story to share about what life has really been like for me over the past several years, including the personal struggles I’ve been dealing with, how I turned them around, and why my business has been successful in spite of it all.
Most of what I’m going to share with you I’ve never shared before, and to be honest, it terrifies me (but I’m doing it anyway).
It All Began When I Started My Business
Without boring you with the whole backstory of my life, I’ll simply say this: I’m no stranger to challenging times, deep depression, or overwhelming self-doubt and rampant insecurities.
But even during my darkest times, I’ve always had my health. I always had energy to DO things, accomplish things, and keep going, even if my outlook on life was shitty.
So in 2009, when I quit my job to start my own business, my sudden need to sleep 12 hours a night was alarming.
Since I’m a firm believer in the power of a well-rested mind and body, I let myself sleep as much as I needed. I assumed I was detoxing from my time in corporate and that the hours would eventually decrease to my usual eight.
Instead, within one year of quitting my job, I started feeling worse. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what was wrong. Besides needing a lot of sleep, there was just a sense that something was not right.
I made an appointment with my primary care physician to see what might be going on. A few tests and a follow-up appointment later, I was told, “You’re just expecting too much from your body.”
When the doctor brushed off my feelings as insignificant, I felt deeply ashamed… a feeling that lingered for two more years.
I Kept Getting Worse
As months passed, nothing changed. I still had that feeling that something was “off.” At the same time, I could hear my doctor’s words and see her face as she told me that something was wrong in my head, not my body.
So I’d shove down the feelings and the signs I should have listened to.
I did my best to ignore my increasing need for sleep, my body aches, my digestive problems, and my overall malaise.
I ignored them so well that my husband and I decided to train for and run a marathon. After every training run, I’d have to take a three-hour nap and take the entire next day off from life in order to recover.
I knew that wasn’t how it was supposed to be, but maybe I was just overly sensitive. (An old “story” too familiar from my childhood.)
After we completed the marathon, I decided I should take a break from running. Actually, a break from exercise. As someone who has been very active her entire life, this was an extremely difficult decision to make.
Yet even stopping exercise didn’t stop my overall decline. I continued to feel more tired, depressed, and unwell.
After persistent, loving encouragement from a friend in mid-2012, I went to see another doctor to figure out what was really wrong with me. (Yes, two years after the initial feeling that something was off. Sadly, I had to get really sick to risk being told it was “all in my head” again.)
After nine months of tests, and various diagnoses, I finally learned why I had been feeling so terrible. I had Lyme disease.
Getting Worse to Get Better
I immediately began taking hardcore antibiotics, the standard treatment for Lyme. Although the drugs would wreak havoc on my entire body, I knew they also did a number on Lyme. My body was on board with this decision (and I was much better about listening to it).
You might think that once I started taking drugs I’d feel better, but with killing Lyme, it’s the opposite. It takes all of the Lyme symptoms and magnifies them tenfold—at least.
Instead of sleeping 12 hours a night, I often needed more. Instead of hearing occasional ringing in my ears, I heard it almost constantly. Instead of having an occasional, slightly foggy brain, mine was thick with fog almost all the time. Instead of intermittent aches and pains, my entire body hurt everywhere constantly. My emotions were a roller coaster, and doing just about anything felt like a challenge.
By the end of 2013, I was in really bad shape. By mid-2014, I was the sickest I’d ever been in my life.
I couldn’t go for a ten minute walk without needing to take a nap. In fact, most days I did need a nap.
I spent several hours each day in front of the TV devouring episode after episode on Netflix. When my eyes got tired from looking at the television, I’d listen to audiobooks.
Without the energy to socialize, I lost friends, the house went unmaintained, and everything started falling apart. Really, everything.
This was my new low.
The Impact on My Business
Here’s the thing that might surprise you the most:
Throughout this whole time, my business did amazingly well.
Quitting, giving up on, or massively stepping back from my business wasn’t an option. I have almost always been our household’s main breadwinner, so I couldn’t just stop working because I felt awful.
From 2009 through 2013, my business revenue roughly tripled every year. During my worst years, from 2013 through 2015, revenue remained constant, at multi-six figures with a comfortable salary for myself.
As my health declined, my focus needed to sharpen.
Every day, I prioritized whatever energy I had to first serving my clients in my usual, uncompromising fashion. They trusted me with their businesses, and so I’d match their focus, energy, and commitment every day, even if that meant spending the afternoon or the entire next day napping.
I also made sure to keep the business running, putting out a weekly blog post (occasionally recycling an old one or going easy on myself by publishing a sixty-second challenge), having a light presence on social media, and… that’s it.
This means that my list didn’t grow, my fans and followers didn’t increase in numbers, I turned down all interview requests, and I wasn’t able to be of service in Facebook groups like I had been for the previous years.
I became more efficient, focused, and deliberate than I’d ever been, and it was working. My clients were getting incredible results, money was coming in to pay the bills, and I had the time I needed to rest.
How I Kept Going in the Face of Adversity
You may be facing your own big challenge, one that makes you doubt if you can really make your business work, especially if you don’t have all the of time, energy, or money you think you need to make it happen.
It’s easy to allow our circumstances or the voices in our heads to convince us that we’ll be stuck with this challenge forever. But doing that means we will be stuck forever! So we have to find a way to keep going.
Here’s how, even at my sickest, I did exactly that.
First, employ tenacious determination and steadfast belief.
I believe the number one reason I got better is because not feeling better wasn’t an option. I was unwilling to feel crappy for the next 70+ years of my life, because it wouldn’t be the right life for me. I was determined to get better. I was determined to not be sick forever. I wasn’t willing—and still am not willing—to compromise this.
Note: If you’ve read anything about Lyme disease, you might know (1) there’s a lot of controversy in the medical community about what Lyme is and isn’t, how to cure it, and if it’s even curable at all, and (2) there are a lot of people who seem to never truly recover from their sickest states, remaining in a perpetual state of fatigue, brain fog, depression, body aches, etc.
So there’s a lot of doom and gloom I could have easily bought into. I simply chose not to.
Determined as I was, I didn’t know how or when I would get better. I didn’t know what would make my muscles stop aching or my ears stop ringing. I didn’t know how to clear my constant brain fog. I didn’t know what would give me my energy back or even when I’d get an ounce more than the meager bits I’d been surviving on.
I simply knew that I would get better because I wasn’t willing to accept anything else.
With such strong convictions, almost anything becomes possible — and not just healing from Lyme disease.
We become willing to try new (and sometimes crazy) things to get the results we want. We become more open-minded, willing to change, and voraciously curious about potential options.
We take massive action. We don’t settle for the status quo, for ultimate failure, or for zero results. We know that, by golly, we will get what we want.
At the same time, we can’t control the timeline. We can’t dictate when we’ll feel better, even if we make “energy” or “vitality” our word of the year. We just can’t know what magic combination of people, places, and things will make it all click into place.
Second, have extreme patience.
As much as we practice determination, we must practice patience. When we try new things, we have to be open to them not working — while also being hopeful that they will.
We have to test, try, tweak, and fail over and over and over until we see a shift,all without knowing if, when, or how that shift will show up (or if it will even be the shift we want!).
We have to carry patience and determination side-by-side, in lock step, every single day. Together.
Patience alone isn’t enough; we’d remain stagnant. Determination alone isn’t enough; we’d get angry, resentful, and exhausted. The two together make magic.
Third, ignore everyone.
Even when you’re firm in your convictions and patient with yourself, it doesn’t mean others will support you, understand you, or think you’re of your right mind!
Here’s what I mean.
If you’ve been reading my blog, receiving my newsletter, or watching me on social media at all for the last several years, it might surprise you to now hear how sick I was. You may not have realized that I was ill, spending a lot of time on the couch, and doing nothing but sleeping and serving clients. Instead, you probably assumed that things were going great and I was well overall. And you wouldn’t be alone in thinking this.
Sure, I hinted that I needed to take a break now and then, and I referenced Lyme in my posts. But I never dove into the personal specifics like I have today because, first, I don’t believe in sharing unprocessed, dirty laundry (and mine was dirty!), and second, my instincts said it wasn’t time to share until now.
Since the truth of my illness wasn’t openly public (though if you would’ve asked, I would’ve told you the whole story), most people thought I was fine.
This meant that other business owners got angry when I turned down interview requests. Friends who read my blog didn’t understand why I wasn’t showing up for them like I had before. And colleagues criticized me for prioritizing rest over work.
That’s why the third thing I had to do was ignore everyone.
People will assume what they want to assume about you and why you do or don’t do what you do or don’t do. That’s what people do!
So don’t feel like you have to explain yourself or justify your actions. Sometimes the easiest thing is to just let it go.
Fourth, become a different person.
In many ways, I am a very different person than who I was before I got sick. I couldn’t fret about everyone’s opinions of me, and I couldn’t remain the same mildly panicked, overachiever, endless do-er and still get better.
I had to change my thinking, my energy, my emotional state, what I eat, how I move my body, and how I am as a business woman, friend, wife, sister, daughter, neighbor, and citizen. I had to change my priorities, my values, my focus, my attitude, and my actions.
We simply can not stay who we are and also change our reality. For one to change, the other must also change.
Fifth, leave no stone unturned.
To make such a radical shift in our circumstances, the path is hardly ever direct or easy. And it usually requires try after try, failure after failure, and a small win here and there.
That’s what I meant earlier when I said that we have to become willing to try anything—even things we may thing are crazy—to get what we want.
To give you an idea of what “leave no stone unturned” means, here are just some of no less than 100 different things I’ve done in this last four years in an attempt to get better.
- Countless different doctors, acupuncturists, chiropractors, massage therapists, body workers, energy workers, therapists, coaches, and healers.
- Drugs, organic herbs, Chinese herbs, Ayurvedic herbs, homeopathic remedies, flower remedies, nutritional supplements, vitamins, minerals, tinctures, shots, essential oils, and teas.
- Many different diets, including resuming eating meat after being a vegetarian for 17 years. (Talk about becoming a different person!)
- And a myriad of other things including oxygen therapy, infrared saunas, dry saunas, hot tubs, steam rooms, epsom salt baths, colon hydrotherapy, and energy mats.
Did they all work for me? No way.
But when you want something as badly as I wanted to get well, you become willing to try anything and everything, spend every penny you have, and travel to the ends of the earth to make it happen. (Fortunately, I haven’t had to do that last one… yet.)
Remember, not feeling well wasn’t an option I was willing to entertain, so I would keep searching and trying until things started to get better. And once my health would plateau, as it inevitably would do, I’d be right out there searching once more.
You Can Get What You Ultimately Want
Today, I feel better than I have in at least four years.
I knew I turned a corner permanently just last week when I woke up with an urge to go for a run. It even caught me by surprise!
I went on a little one-mile jaunt to see how it would feel.
To be honest: painful and amazing.
I waited for tears of relief or grief or joy (or something!) when I was done, but instead I was in a silent stupor for a few hours. The next day, I joined a gym.
I’m not all the way better, but I don’t need a nap to get through the afternoon. I can work all day if I need to. My brain isn’t foggy. I can go on a hike or a long walk and not feel exhausted.
Symptoms still linger, and I’m far from running a marathon again. I still need at least 9 hours of sleep each night, my digestive system hasn’t fully recovered from the antibiotics, and my body still hurts every day, all day… but none of these things are as bad as they once were.
I’m still not 100% better. Maybe 80% on most days. But that’s pretty damn good!
And here’s what I know: I will get ALL THE WAY better.
I will be back to my former strong, energetic, healthy self again. I will mountain bike, long-distance cycle, run more than one mile, and have the stamina for a backpacking trip.
The other symptoms that still linger will get better, too.
Why? Because I’m not willing to not get better.
My story of healing from Lyme while still maintaining a successful business is a story of success without sacrifice.
Now you might be thinking: “But, Jenny, you just told me that you were sick, unhappy, miserable, and losing friends. That certainly sounds like sacrifice to me.”
And on the surface I’d agree with you, but that’s not what success without sacrifice is about.
Success without sacrifice is about knowing what’s most important to you and refusing to sacrifice that.
You can’t have everything all the time, but when you’re laser focused on what matters most, you absolutely can have that.
My priorities were clear: (1) get better and (2) serve clients to keep a roof over my head. Everything else was secondary, and I had to let them go in order to focus on my two priorities.
Resuming Business Growth
Having more energy than I’ve had in over four years, I’m excited to work on my business in new ways, resuming my previous trend of business growth.
Earlier this year I had my biggest launch ever, trying a dozen new ideas, strategies, and tactics, because I could!
Make It Work Online got a massive upgrade and the program is better than ever (and my clients are kicking ass and taking names!).
My new website will be out soon.
I have a new program to help more experienced business owners make their first six figures (email me if you want to learn more).
Get Your First 1000 Subscribers is just about done with it’s long-time-coming upgrade and will be released later this spring.
Plus I’m now saying YES to most interview requests (email me!), yes to social media, yes to new opportunities, and yes to new life adventures.
And it will all be done without sacrifice.
Because at the end of the day, I’m clear on what’s most important to me: (1) maintaining and continuing to improve my health and (2) serving my clients in my uncompromising way.
And when you’re that clear, determined, patient, focused, and insistent, you almost always get what you want.