A few months ago, 35 incredible business owners traveled from across the globe to Make It Work Live, an in-person retreat in Corvallis, Oregon.
What they didn’t know—and what they learned at the start of the retreat—was that the retreat almost didn’t happen… but not for reasons you might think.
You see, I had HUGE fears around running a retreat.
And to make things worse, my fears were not irrational.
It made sense that I was afraid, and I’ll tell you why in just a moment.
But first, you should know that I could have let those fears win (as they have in the past… for too many years). And I could have backed away from my dream.
But I didn’t.
Today you get to hear the story that only the women who attended Make It Work Live heard, inspiring you to follow the secret whispers you hear in your heart, just as it inspired them to do the same.
It all started in Mexico…
Standing in the front of the room at Make It Work live was a moment nearly six years in the making.
Back in September of 2012, I was down in Mexico with a group of incredible women—determined business women just like you.
We were at our last retreat for our nine-month mastermind, a program that required an investment of nearly $25,000.
After our time with our coach was over, many of the masterminders lounged on the beach and talked strategy, told stories, goofed off in the pool, and laughed over meals (and too many drinks).
Most of all, we dreamed BIG.
The dream I nurtured while I was floating in the salt water was the dream of hosting a retreat. Of gathering women—my favorite clients—and helping them in a way no other business program does.
Those days in Mexico gave me room to explore possibilities I had been too afraid to let come to life before, and I left our time in the sun so much more energized than ever before.
Following the inspiration I got in Mexico, I kept nurturing this idea of a retreat.
And then one day….Click to TweetDreaming of hosting a retreat? @jennyshih shares the good, the bad, and the ugly
The stars aligned
Almost two years year later, I launched Make It Work Live, the first Make It Work Online program… and it included a retreat.
It sold out in 6 days with one email. Talk about alignment!
As you can imagine, I was equal parts excited and freaked out.
The program sold out in September, and the retreat wasn’t until late January. So I had a few months to get my act (and confidence!) together.
Though truly, the women who signed up were motivation enough. Their readiness to grow their businesses pulled me forward, and the event exceeded everyone’s expectations—myself and my clients included.
After it was over, I was excited to do another one.
But there was one big problem:
I was really sick.
You see, I held that event at one of my lowest points in my health struggles.
(For those of you not familiar with my story, you can read about it here. For brevity’s sake, I’ll just say that outside of that retreat, my daily routine included sleeping 11 hours each night, keeping my business afloat, and spending the rest of my life in bed on or the couch because I didn’t have energy to even take a walk around the block.)
So even though I was excited to do another retreat, I knew I needed to wait.
But the itch didn’t go away. It actually got stronger.My Personal Recommendation for YouRunning My Business with Lyme Disease: What the Last 4 Years Have Really Been Like
My total failure
About a year and a half later, by the middle of 2015, I thought I had enough energy to host another retreat.
I felt called to go to Mexico, to the same boutique hotel where I dreamed big with my fellow masterminders, and I was excited to do this!
So I took all of the same steps I took to sell the first retreat, and even tried to up my game.
But I didn’t sell a single spot.
Not even one.
Which left me in the hole nearly $5500 to the hotel for not fulfilling my contract. And another $1000 in legal fees because the hotel wanted to overcharge me for backing out.
So $6500 in expenses plus stress, worry, and tons of work lost.
And of course, a HUGE blow to my ego.
All I could think was: SHIT.
Not just because I didn’t sell a single spot for the retreat, but that I lost the money, I hadn’t seen it coming, I thought I had been following inspiration and higher guidance. And… nothing to show for it.
Talk about frustrating!
The internal tension
But here’s the thing: the pull for a retreat didn’t go away.
My desire actually got stronger.
The problem was my fear was also stronger.
You can guess the thoughts that were running through my head:
I don’t want to lose that much money again.
Maybe people don’t want to travel.
There’s no way to make these retreats profitable enough.
People just want things to be virtual, not in person.
Maybe I’m not meant to do this.
And on and on and on.
So here I have massive fear running in the background and also a massive pull to keep doing events.
Can you feel the inner tension?
Despite my failure, I’ve felt a non-stop, inner push-pull to do/not-do events.
Back and forth. Back and forth. Desire and fear.
The pull kept getting stronger, and sadly, the fear was not going away.
Now here’s what I didn’t do: I didn’t fight the pull to do an event, and I didn’t fight the fear. I equally acknowledged both.
I told myself that I’d watch for the moment when the inspiration was stronger than the fear—even if just by a little bit—and I’d go for it.
A flash of inspiration
The moment I was watching for came last fall while preparing for the 2018 Make It Work Online launch.
I heard the whisper:
“Make the retreat a bonus, and set a super low price for other folks to join in. Run it in Corvallis at the new hotel. Organize it all yourself. Don’t overcomplicate it. You’ve got this.”
“Don’t try to make a profit. Just shoot to break even. Set it up for a great time, to change the lives of those who come, and to get past your fears.”
My response, “Challenge accepted.”
I dove right in.
I called the brand-new hotel in Corvallis, booked an appointment to tour the facilities, and signed a contract.
I called a videographer and photographer, and I booked their services.
I made massive purchases for pretty great swag.
And I started taking massive planning action.
Was I still afraid? You betcha!
No one will come to Corvallis!
What if I’m out another $6500?!
What if this means I’m never meant to do live events again?
And that last one is really what stung the most—that failure would mean no one would want to come to my events and I wasn’t meant to host them.My Personal Recommendation for YouI Eff’d Up: The Story Behind How I Failed My Way to Success
Embracing my biggest fears
If no one came, I wasn’t sure my ego could recover from another failure.
Yet still—and this is what’s really important here—I didn’t let fear run the show. I acknowledged it and did the work to prepare for and fill the retreat anyway.
It reminds me of Liz Gilbert’s Open Letter to Fear from her book Big Magic.
Here’s an excerpt:
Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you’ll be joining us because you always do…
There’s plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself at home, but understand this: creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way…
You’re allowed to have a seat, and you’re allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a vote…
But above all else, my dear old familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.
I chose to follow Creativity’s whisper for Make It Work Live.
I heard fear. It spoke up. And I refused it give it power.
I acknowledged the worst that could happen. And even then, I saw the good that could come out of so-called failure.
In fact, I decided to believe the thought:
It would be okay if I fail because… I’d learn from it.
I learned from the last one. (I learned some really nit-picky stuff about contracts and doing business out of country). And I’d absolutely learn from this failure as well.
It would be okay, because losing more money wouldn’t be the end of the world.
It would be okay, because it would give me lots of new self-coaching opportunities.
The more I surrendered to the whisper and the more I detached from fear’s panic, the more things came together.
I acknowledged: I’m terrified to do this event, and it’s okay because I’ll learn something no matter what.Click to TweetI heard fear. It spoke up. And I refused to give it any power.
So what happened?
Oh my goodness, they came!
To Corvallis! (And loved it!)
35 women flew across continents and oceans to be there! It was amazing! And incredible, and OMG!!
There’s so much more to say about the experience itself, and next week my clients will start sharing their big breakthroughs from the retreat, so you can learn from their aha moments.
In the meantime, know that none of this could have happened if I lived in the fear that this deep desire to do another event wouldn’t come true.
And this circles back to you…
What whisper are you hearing about your business?
I’m not talking about your ego or you mind. I’m talking about that purest of whispers. What Liz calls Creativity.
Maybe you call it God or Universe or Spirit or intuition or inner knowing or maybe it’s just a simple pull you’re feeling toward something new or bigger.
What whisper are you hearing? What do you feel pulled to do?
Maybe this year, maybe next, maybe in the future?
Finish these sentences:
I’m feeling pulled to….
I’m afraid because…
It’s okay to be scared because…
Then go do it anyway. You’ve got this.