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"Just be yourself" is the worst advice. Except for all the other advice.

A very ‘myself’ photo of me. Fresh off a 12-hour plane ride from Taipei to L.A. two weeks ago.

A very ‘myself’ photo of me. Fresh off a 12-hour plane ride from Taipei to L.A. two weeks ago.

Do you know that quote that I'm butchering for my own purposes? ... Winston Churchill said that someone else said it:

"No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…"

So it is with the advice to "just be yourself." Not perfect. Not all-wise. But better than the other forms I've tried.

When I started writing for my business, I wanted to talk about what it’s like to have small children and run an online business solo. I wanted to talk about the choices I’d made to prioritize my business and the choices I’d made to prioritize my children.

But I wanted all of the stories of my experiences to resonate with all moms everyone. I wanted stay at home moms to like me, I wanted side hustlers to like me, I wanted corporate working moms, I wanted feminists to like me.

So for years I didn't end up sharing anything. Because I have ZERO stories that are all things to all people.

Then I finally starting sharing these experiences. The response was undeniable. Sharing the truth is undeniably powerful. It’s also undeniably uncomfortable. Some of your readers won't like you. Some will lose respect for you. Some of them will “police” your opinion with comments like, “Stop complaining! It’s not so bad.”

But I'm doing it anyway. Here’s a bit about my process in getting there and the baby steps I started with.

Watch the video.

In the video, I share a story in here about helping one of my group members get more real in her writing.

We had a powerful session that allowed her to write an email with WAY sharper teeth. That group, the Email Marketing Sweet Spot program, helps other online business owners find their sweet spot between sending a boring email newsletter because they're "supposed to" and ramming a crap-ton of email down people's throats (also because they think they're "supposed to.")

Per the post title: You're supposed to do you. I designed the Sweet Spot to help online business owners find your way to show up, get to know your subscribers and let them know you, and sell to them without pissing them off or watching them ignore you. If you want to know more about the Sweet Spot, click the link.

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Ditch the Guilt and Design Your Business

A little over a year ago, to the casual observer, she was a successful, ambitious, and driven professional. But her health was suffering, (she was so tired that she was afraid to drive for fear of falling asleep), and she felt like a bad mom and an exhausted human being. So she did something about it.

When Natalie told me her story, I knew I wanted to interview her and share it with you because I meet so many other moms who are pushing so hard. It never feels easy, and deep down, we feel suspicious of anything that comes naturally or feels easy.

Our kids need us, our partners need us, our communities need us, our parents need us… and we approach business the same way. It’s just another drain; just another entity that needs our energy, and saps us dry. “That’s just the way it is”… right?

Not for Natalie. She got pretty sick of that. So sick that she actually had a diagnosable illness. But it was the way that Natalie stepped back and re-assessed her life that really struck me. She didn’t just turn the lights off and go home.

She shares the exact method she used to assess her life and make changes in our interview.

Find out how she did it:

Natalie’s toolkit is available at natalieanntaylor.com

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I do this a lot.

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Have you ever been facing a decision, known in your gut what choice you were going to make, and then… asked someone else for their advice instead of choosing?

I do this a lot.

I first noticed about 10 years ago, when I found an apartment in New York. I’d been living with Craigslist roommates in Brooklyn for months and I hated living with other people I barely knew. I didn’t know if I could afford a place on my own.

But soon after I started looking, I came across a dumpy studio on 1st Ave and 11th Street. At 180 square feet, it fit a bed, a loveseat, a table, and not much else. There were about 3 feet between the bed and the only window, which looked directly on to the sidewalk. I’m talking eye-level with sidewalk traffic. No setback. The rent was also about $50 a month more than I wanted to spend.

On the other hand, it was on 1st Ave and 11th St. I could walk to work and just about anywhere else I wanted to go. The block was fairly quiet, so there wasn’t all that muchsidewalk traffic. It was a dream I didn’t even know I had to live alone in Manhattan. But then again, it was so small, even by New York standards.

I could say no and keep looking. After all, I’d found this one fairly easily. Or was that a one-in-a-million fluke? …

I didn’t know what to do. (Yes, I did. I’ll get to that.)

So I called my mom and asked her what she would do. She ran through her decision and her reasoning for it.

I remember that conversation 10 years later. Not because of the conversation itself. I don’t even remember whether she said to take it or leave it.

I remember because I had an epiphany after we hung up. That conversation was absurd. PREPOSTEROUS!

HER decision? Not only did she not live in New York, she’d never lived in New York, not as a single woman with no children, not in any other time of her life. And she didn’t know anything about what mattered more to me. Space or location? The chance to live alone or the chance to save money on moving expenses and stay in a new, modern building? She didn’t even know how much I made so she didn’t really know what I could afford.

Only I knew. That meant only I could decide.

Once I realized that, I went with the choice I’d decided on before I picked up the phone, and rented the apartment.

I wish I could tell you this was the last time I faced a decision, knew in my gut what I wanted to do, but agonized for days or weeks because I thought someone else might have some key piece of information and if I only knew it, it might make me see I was walking straight toward the wrong choice.

Someone else, like my mom, who had lots of life experience! She’d rented loads of apartments. (In California. In the ‘70s.)

But still! She loved me and wanted what was best for me.

But she had none of what she would need to make a decision that would make ME happy. As in…. she wasn’t me.

….

What am I saying here? The internet is full of advice.

(Online content:

1. Porn

2. Advice)

You could even see this piece of writing as advice about why you shouldn’t take any advice!

That’s not what it is though. I’m sharing my experience because today I had another aha! similar to that moment I hung up with my mom.

Every day, I face choices about where to spend my time in my own business. Many people have an opinion. Many of them have founded successful online businesses. But they are men. Or they did it 10 years ago. Or they’re childless. Or, or, or…

They’re not me. Only I know. Only I can decide. It was true then, and for me at least, it’s still true today.

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Christy Harrison of "Food Psych" Talks About What It's Like to Go Against the Grain

Thanks so much to Christy Harrison for this chat! I’ve been listening to her podcast, Food Psych, since the beginning. Christy works with people to re-connect with their bodies, heal their relationships with food, and to dismantle #dietculture, which “privileges smaller bodies over larger ones and demonizes some foods while elevating others.”

So yeah, just dismantling an entire system of beliefs that permeates almost every aspect of our culture. NO BIG.

I asked Christy if we could chat because I see so many parallels between her community and our community of moms of young children.

Plus Christy shared a key way she deals with the inevitable feelings of discouragement both as an entrepreneur and as someone who is sharing a message that cuts against the prevailing cultural narrative.

Have a listen to the full interview:

For more, check out the Food Psych podcast: https://christyharrison.com/foodpsych

Christy’s upcoming book is called Anti-Diet: Reclaim your Time, Money, Well-Being, and Happiness Through Intuitive Eating. Get updates by visiting http://christyharrison.com/book



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A HUGE overlooked reason funnels don’t work for most people (and what you can do about it)

I help online business owners earn money with their email lists without being spammy, scammy, or sleazy. 

So many clients and friends have come to me with a great idea - or even a finished product - for an online course they want to sell. They’re smart and special. Their services have changed so many lives for the better. AND they have a unique framework for how they teach what they know. 

But when they’ve tried to sell the course on their own, through some combination of FB ads and email “funnels”, and it’s crickets. No one buys. No one seems to care. Does this mean they should mothball that course and forget about selling online? 

It depends. But there is always another step people miss before they decide whether or not to give up. Wanna know what it is? 

Before you mothball your course, membership, group program, etc, here’s a step you can take: interview. "Yeah, yeah," you say, "interview your clients." 
...
NO! 

Find out what to do instead:



Don’t just interview past clients. Interview people to whom you tried to sell the course, but they didn’t buy. The truth hurts, but these people are a goldmine of truth! If you signed people up to your list through an FB ad , they were compelled enough to go that far. They have the problem your course solves, but they didn’t buy. Why not? Aren’t you curious? 

How do you interview them without making them defensive? First, start with people you’ve met before, which will make the interview slightly less awkward. 
...
Second, don’t tell them the interview is about asking them why they didn’t buy. Tell them you want to know more about how they handle the problem your course solves. 
...
Example: Say you sell a course that helps New Yorkers grow a kitchen garden on their fire escapes. You had a list full of people who said they wished they could do more gardening, so just ask some of those people about how they’re scratching their green-thumb itch. Maybe you thought the problem they were trying to solve was they didn’t think they had enough space for a garden. But maybe you find in your interviews that it turns out the problem was they didn’t have enough time to garden (these are New Yorkers we’re talking about here.) 
....
Presto, next time you sell the course, you can focus on talking about how it solves the time problem. Or you can revamp the course to address the time problem if it really doesn’t focus on saving time right now. 
...

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I’ve avoided writing about this for 4 years

When I started my business almost four years ago, the first place I went for advice was Facebook. In hindsight that sounds like a not-so-great idea, but as a new mom, I knew that Facebook groups facilitate conversations between women. I wanted to eavesdrop.

I spent a lot of time in one particular Facebook group that had tens of thousands of members. It was for moms who were running online businesses. After a while, I started to see the same question pop up over and over -  almost on a daily basis.

The question went like this: “I have 1/2/3 children under 5 and I am their sole caregiver Monday-Friday, 9-5. I also run a business. How do I do both of these things successfully at the same time?”

My first reaction to this question was confusion about the question. How? What about why? As in,

Why am I responsible for figuring out, on my own, how to do both of these things successfully at the same time? Why do I even think that that’s possible?”

I’d learned a lot of lessons in my first year of motherhood. But no lesson has scarred/stayed with me so deeply as this: caregiving IS WORK.

I had never taken care of a human who couldn’t do anything on his own. I found out it’s hard. It’s not something I could do while also trying to do another job.

Have you ever tried to dress another human being who flops around like it’s his job? Work.

Ever fed a person who cannot ask for what he wants to eat or drink? WORK.

Ever carried a person around for hours and strapped him into and out of seats with buckles and harnesses? W.O.R.K.

If you do these things on a good night’s sleep, they are hard. Add exhaustion from waking up multiple times a night, and they are… an accomplishment.

I also struggled with my own feelings of guilt. I had full-time childcare when I started my business. What if turned out there was a way to juggle caregiving and a business, and I was just too lazy to do it? So I wanted to hear other women in the Facebook group respond, “You don’t do these two things successfully at the same time. No one does.”

Instead, the answers were always the same. “Work during naps!” “Get up at 4 a.m.!” “Stay up til 2 a.m.!” “Train your kids to play on their own!” “Find a mythical high school student who has reliable transportation, loves children, is not a total flake, and is willing to take minimum wage!”

In her book Forget Having It All, Amy Westervelt writes, “We expect women to work as if they don't have children and raise children as if they don't work.” This is said of women who work full-time outside the home, but I see it applies to women who start their own businesses while staying home with their kids. Why are women still struggling so valiantly to do everything, when it’s just not sustainable?  

Many times it’s the women themselves who claim that this works for them. “This is just my side hustle; I can still manage it all.” “I don’t want a babysitter. I WANT to be with my kids.” I meet women who are making more than their husbands but who have 10 hours or less of childcare a week. Does that sound like a dream to you? To me it sounds like a recipe for burnout.

Women should do what they want. I am not interested in telling women what to do and that’s why I’ve avoided writing about this topic for so long.

Here’s my issue: childcare is “real work.” It is a job. It’s not something that takes care of itself. When I’m with my kids and naptime comes around, the last thing I want to do is more work. I have been working. I am tired of watching women undervalue the labor they do taking care of their kids.  

As moms, we talk a lot about “self-care.” Most of the time I roll my eyes at the idea. I have so much to do, and now I need to add “self-care” to the never-ending list?

But what if self-care has less to do with meditating or taking a walk or whatever? What if self-care has everything to do with calling bullshit on a system that allows moms to feel responsible for primary caregiving and finding time to assert their own identity and make money for their families all on their own?  What if self-care is calling B.S. on a system that doesn’t even acknowledge that those moms are working two jobs?


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Email Software: a Side-by-Side Comparison

If that headline actually sounds boring as hell to you, answer me this: how come one of the first questions I get from people who are starting to think more seriously about email marketing is “Which email service provider should I use?”

Decisions, decisions.

Decisions, decisions.

This question comes up when people are first digging into email marketing because they hope against hope that choosing the right ESP is the key to making money from email. It’s not. It’s a bit like worrying about whether you should be on Facebook or Instagram, or whether your website should be on WordPress or Squarespace.

It also comes up when people are starting to grow their list or starting to send more emails. Many people start out by using Mailchimp. But they wonder things like:

  • Why is it free when the others aren’t?

  • Am I missing out on some feature that could be making me more money?

  • How hard is it to switch from Mailchimp to a different ESP if I finally figure all this out later?

They see their biz buddies using Convertkit, ActiveCampaign, or Infusionsoft (now Keap). What do those do?

Well, you can view my side-by-side comparison of email service providers here. Here are some important highlights to look out for as you review:

  • Convertkit, ActiveCampaign, Infusionsoft, Drip, Customer.io, and a few others offer Visual Automations. These are drag and drop systems that make it easier to zoom out to see the whole email journey for your customers. You can visualize how they go from sequence to sequence. Mailchimp doesn’t provide visual automation. You can automate but it’s harder to see the big picture.

    • This means that if you’re introducing automated email sequence (like a welcome sequence or an evergreen sequence that sells an online product), you might find it easier to keep track of what you’re doing. Visual Automations are also “drag-and-drop.” You drag your email in, then you drag a “wait a day” icon, then your next email. So they are really easy to understand.

    • Convertkit’s Visual Automations are especially useful because you can see all of them on one screen at the same time, which can help you understand how they relate to each other.

  • Systems like Infusionsoft and Ontraport offer a lot more than email. They have built-in CRMs, which means a customer’s entry can be automatically updated based on where she is in her email journey. This also makes them really complicated to learn how to use on your own.

  • One system in particular, Klayvio, concentrates on tying email to revenue, which is really important for online sellers, particularly e-commerce businesses with loads of products.

  • They all offer different levels of customer service.

*Note: I included Klayvio and Customer.io on this list even though I’ve never used them because I’ve heard special things about them: they have features that the others don’t have. Any time I really couldn’t compare because I hadn’t used that feature, I wrote in “n/a.”

Check out my side-by-side comparison:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/e/2PACX-1vSqMa9UAzk-0xMo5GaBAG9Tkm_Dn5AD-x9v12vjqJQp26kYYtmxv22RrwmPoBP5X3fPptQiAVhRxXGu/pubhtml

If you want to hear more straight forward takes on how to use email that aren’t all tech geek or all web writing geek, join my list. I share tips every week.

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Your Marketing Email = A Sweaty Note Passed in Junior High

This is how a lot of marketing emails look. What’s the problem with this?

This is how a lot of marketing emails look. What’s the problem with this?

Remember 8th grade? It was awkward for me. I would pop in an image of my school picture here but I burned them. ANYWAY, in 8th grade my best friend was Cecilia, we both loved The X-Files and I had a huge crush on David Duchovny. And we wrote each other letters. Long letters—I know some of them were about The X-Files but otherwise I really don’t remember what they were about.  We passed them to each other at lunch and after school. (Even though we sat together at lunch.) 

Did you write letters in junior high? Maybe you wrote long emails to friends in college. Or had long, flirty texts to people you’ve dated. 

What do those communications have in common? They are one-to-one. 

But a marketing email is not one-to-one. It goes out to a list - an audience.

Obviously, you can’t address marketing email to each individual personally. You send to a list. But the person receiving your email is managing an inbox full of emails that are one-to-one messages. If you send something that doesn’t sound like it’s one-to-one, it reads as spam.

So when I write emails to my list, I ask myself, “Does it sound like I wrote it to just one person?”

When you’re emailing your list, you’re managing two seemingly competing interests: crafting a note that feels like it came from you to me vs. creating a piece of marketing that serves a purpose in our business. You can see them as competing or you can merge them together.

Step 1. Start by sending an email that has a purpose for your business, but resist the urge to think that means your email must contain 10 images, loads of !!!! and BOLD ITALICIZED CAPS

Step 2. Here’s how I make my marketing email sound like I wrote it to someone in particular: I… write it to someone in particular.  I always have a particular person in mind when I write an email. Not a particular type of person. It’s an actual person I know. (It’s not always the same person.)

When I do that, that means that some people are not really going to resonate with what I write. I get that. But the benefits of doing this outweigh that negative, (if that even is negative). 

When my clients start working with me, they are writing posters. It’s not font or the images; It’s the headspace they’re in when they write. “This  single piece of writing needs to capture everyone’s attention!” Not only is that not possible, it requires you, the writer, to sacrifice the exact element you need in order to capture attention: SPECIFICITY.

With email, you have the opportunity to make each member of your list feel like I did when Cecilia handed me a carefully folded up letter freshly torn from her 3-ring notebook. Excited! Intrigued. Interested.

I could list so many other reasons why you should keep one person in mind when you write marketing email. But I want to share one important reason that I don’t hear a lot of people talk about: it saves you time. Stop GUESSING at what people want to hear and start asking yourself, “How would I explain this to Cecilia?” 


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Giving Yourself Permission... with Denise Duffield-Thomas

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I was talking with a friend about the wide-ranging 60-minute conversation I had with Denise, and she said, “Maggie, you didn’t ask her a single question about email.”

Well, that’s true. BUT. I did ask her a lot of questions about the things having an email marketing strategy allows mothers who are business owners like her to do, like:

  • Quit juggling everything at once and free up time

  • Exercise your right to get help, say no, and ask for more

  • Build a business that is a separate entity from you, even if you’re the face of it

  • Embrace entrepreneurship to build something that is just for you

But let’s back up. Who is Denise? Denise Duffield-Thomas is an online entrepreneur, author, and mother of 3 in Newcastle, Australia. She helps women create wealth through her mindset courses and practical wisdom on releasing money blocks. She also shares a lot online about how she runs her business, including her $750,000 product launch, and how she earned over $1 million in profit in 2018, (the same year she had her third baby).

I interviewed Denise for my mom entrepreneur interview series (past interviews available here), and she was so generous with her time.

I’d known of Denise as “The Lucky Bitch” for a while, but over the past few months her advice and example, shared on her blog, social media, and through her manifesting course, have offered practical ways for me to get out of my own way. She understands that it’s scary to fail, but it can feel even scarier for some personalities (hello!) to succeed.

She’s been at this online entrepreneurship thing for a while, and she shared so much wisdom! Enjoy these excerpts from our conversation.

Quit overcomplicating. Success without struggling every moment doesn’t mean you’re cheating.

My husband asked me to record an audio of me saying, “2019!” for a voiceover on a video. He was just going to edit that “2019” into an existing audio, and I was just like, “It’s so much easier just to re-record the whole thing than to record snippets and try to splice them in. It’s a 2-minute audio. ... In fact, let’s just not say 2019 so I can use the same audio every year!”

I’m always thinking, “How can we make this one-and-done?” I’m super lazy. It’s tricky working with him because I think sometimes he feels like that’s cheating.

He wants to overcomplicate, almost to prove that we did work. It’s like it’s not OK for us to make money using the same video we used last year. We have to put some effort into it.

That’s kind of the subject of my next book, Chillpreneur. There’s so much story ingrained in our culture around hard work. “You don’t get something for nothing.” “Money doesn’t grow on trees.”

I really struggled with this at the start of my business because I had my e-book for sale for $10. Every time someone bought it, I was like, “Should I call them and read it to them over the phone? I already wrote that—how am I still getting paid for this?”  But it’s OK to make money out of something you already did.


Exercise your right to ask for (and pay for) help

(In November, Denise wrote a post about exactly how much help she has at home so she can run her business smoothly. It went viral. I asked her what she hoped would happen as a result.)

I think simple permission. I know many people can’t afford help. But a lot of people can afford some help, and they don’t get it. I want women to honor their experiences. It’s OK for them to want to be a businesswoman and not take care of the home. And for those who want to take care of the home, that’s totally cool, too.

Here’s an example. In the first episode of that Marie Kondo show on Netflix, it’s a cute couple. But the husband’s really on his wife about the fact that she has someone come to do the laundry. He’s says, ‘but WE should do the laundry. WE should set an example.’ It’s so maddening because in the next sentence he says he’s never home because he works so much. So ‘WE should do the laundry’ means ‘YOU’ should do it. It pissed me off so much. Who cares if someone’s doing her laundry for her? She’s created a job for someone!

That’s the kind of woman that I wanted to read that article. I want her to know it’s OK to want to do her business and not have to come home and do the laundry.

I think the thing that comes up is if not every woman can afford to have it, then nobody can have it. Or people think that hiring someone to clean is exploitative. But sometimes people just need a job, even a cleaning job. There’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve done it myself. I had to clean toilets because I didn’t have money and I didn’t have a degree.

Yes, there are many mums who can’t afford help. So what do mums do who can’t afford it? Focus on your business as much as you can, so then you can afford it. It’s sounds harsh saying that because it sounds like I don’t understand. And I don’t anymore. There are people who teach frugality and who have systems for getting cleaning done faster. I don’t speak for all women in that piece, and I know that. When I wrote the article, I really tried to rein in the impulse to come up with all the different potentialities for every woman in every situation.

Build a business that is a separate entity from you, even if you’re the face of it

My work is its own entity now. Hiro Boga, a business coach, really helped me with this. A couple of years ago I felt, “I can’t do this work anymore because all my own energy is in it.” And she said, No, it’s not, Denise. It’s its own entity. If it’s connected to your veins, it will feel too hard. You’re going to stunt the growth of the business. It’s really draining. You can’t be attached to your business like that.”

So, I’ve improved at thinking to myself, “If people don’t like ‘Lucky Bitch Denise,’ that’s OK because that’s not me. That’s not me, the real person. That’s a construct in a lot of ways.

So sometimes I’ll see a friend, for example, who is not a business person, who will comment on a social media post or something, and I’ll say, “You know that this is my business. This isn’t just me and you talking over lunch!” It’s authentic but it’s also curated.

“So, for the recent post I wrote that went viral, I haven’t read any of the comments. It’s not my job. I gave it to Medium, in a way.”


Embrace entrepreneurship to build something that is just for you

I see a lot of people trying to start their businesses after kids. I don’t have all the answers around that. But I hope they recognize that that’s just really fucking hard, and it’s OK for them to not “do all the things” in this season of life.

I’m always of two minds about it because on the one hand it is a season. But I see people use this “season” as an excuse. They don’t do anything until their kid is 20. Then they have no job skills, no economic power in their relationship. There’s a balance to be struck. Yes, it’s a season. But time marches on, and no one is going to build your business for you. Making your own money is crucial; you need that skill.

My nan got married at 18 because she was pregnant, and they didn’t have a great relationship. My nan would tell me, “I hope your granddad dies this year.” I just think, what she would have done with some economic independence! They would have split up.

So every time I think about fear. I imagine sitting and saying to my nan, “I’ve got all these opportunities in front of me, but I’m really scared someone’s gonna disagree with me on Twitter.” She would just go, “What the fuck? Use the opportunity in front of you and don’t squander it!”

Did you love that? I loved it. If you want to hear more including:

  • the pros and cons of working with your husband on the business

  • what our children learn as they watch build our businesses

  • some stuff about poop. Why do kids produce so much of it?

then you can get the full audio by clicking here:

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2 Ingredients to Write Emails that Don’t Suck: "Proximity and a Reason"

Renee was talking about selling before the Internet. No Facebook ads, no funnels, no Zoom. She told me that she taught her teams that if they wanted to set up a meeting with a potential client, they needed “proximity and a reason to reach out.” So they needed to be in a place where their potential client would be, and they needed a reason to strike up a conversation.

It made me think of The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, which I was reading at the time. The book was written about 100 years ago and it's set in 1890. So like, waaaay before the internet.

A few of the male characters are members of a club. A literal “old boys’ club.” It dawned on me: these clubs existed not just to make their fancy members feel even fancier, but so that a man with something to sell could legit run into another man who might want to buy, and that potential buyer wouldn’t be a total stranger. "We are both members of the same old boy’s club! What a coincidence, my good man!"the chap with something to sell could say.

Proximity and a reason to reach out.

So what does this have to do with email?

These days, many more of us have proximity, which is nice because now you don’t have to be a rich white man to make a living as a businessperson.

But what is our reason to reach out? In the old boys' club, you could reach out because you had something in common—the same club. Renee might focus on the fact that you both grew up in California, or you both have dogs or kids or just came back from vacation.

But when you're emailing your list, you don't know those particular personal details, and anyway you're sending one email to many people. But! You do know one thing about all of them: they joined your list. The question you need to ask yourself (and answer!) is why? What was their reason for joining your list?

And when you send email to them, are you sending a note that has anything to do with their reason for opting in? Their reason for opting in has to inform every email you send. What did they hope to get from you? Do your emails connect to that initial reason? Or are you off the rails and talking to yourself?

Start thinking about sending emails because the people on the other end need this message, and you want to start a conversation.

Don't really know why they joined? I have a couple of tips for you on how to figure it out. If you're interested in finding out more about how to send emails that really matter to the people you want to work with, sign up for my list.

I send all my best tips there every week.


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I'm So Off-Brand Right Now

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What do we think about having a "personal brand"? Have we "basically been seduced into objectifying and dehumanizing ourselves," as my friend Jason put it? 

Yikes.

In 2018, one thing I was really proud of was identifying a mission. I've thought of it as this:

I am a person who is committed to helping women give themselves permission to create space and have an identity that belongs to them and them alone.

Now -- is that my personal brand? If it is my personal brand, then what do I do with days like yesterday?

Yesterday massive guilt consumed me as I carried my 1-year-old in to daycare after a week off. Morgan LOVES to stay at home. He loves napping in his bedroom. He likes the living room and the backyard. He sits next to the dog in the kitchen and gazes up at my husband or me while we cook. Our home is his world. He seems happy enough at daycare, but he is delighted (and delightful) at home.

So, I felt the all-consuming guilt as I took him to daycare. Besides adjusting after a week off, he also switching classrooms and teachers, and I knew there would be crankiness and grumpiness. I leaped to assigning myself the blame for ... everything. Because I have no inclination to stay home with him. Not even for one day a week. Which makes me a bad mom. Right? Doesn't this mean that nannies are raising him?

Yes, I have those thoughts, for real. I had them yesterday. Super-authentic-personal-brand Maggie would never have those thoughts. I thought.

So I joked to another friend, Margo, that my guilt and my doubts were "off-brand."

"HOW IS THIS NOT ON-BRAND?" (She shouts because she cares.) "Your brand is about the collective contradictions women hold in our mind, half from what we genuinely feel, half from those that are societally and culturally imposed on us, and the whole conversation is trying to negotiate the difference between the two."

Oh.

I'm driven to help women give themselves permission. Period. Permission to have their own identity. To do what they want. AND to find a way to doubt themselves without letting the doubt consume their drive.

That's why I started an interview series where I talk to other mothers who are entrepreneurs (although I didn't know that was why I was starting it). I have done a few "Moms Who Are Entrepreneurs Who Hate Being Called Mompreneurs" episodes. I'm doing it because I need to talk to and to showcase other women who have claimed an identity outside of who they take care of.

Check out my latest episode with Susan Boles, founder of ScaleSpark.

Happy New Year. You have my permission :-) to start slow or hit the ground running.

PS: Want to read more posts like this? Sign up for my list to get a mix of tips and support for mothers who are entrepreneurs.

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Talking about your “second shift” doesn’t just make you relatable. It makes you a revolutionary.

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A friend sent me a passage from Dare to Lead by Brené Brown. She quotes Melinda Gates:

“I also started talking a little bit more about my children in these meetings. I’d always shied away from the subject just because it felt so personal. But it’s turned out to resonate with a lot of employees who are also trying to balance work and home life — and who are also living their values every day at the foundation and through their parenting. I feel more connected to the individuals and the collective culture of the foundation because Ive taken steps to let myself be vulnerable”

“This is what you’ve been saying!!” said my friend.

I’d like to take it a step farther. I don’t think you should talk about your kids at work just because it makes you more relatable. Although that’s nice.

One of the stickiest lies that patriarchy has propagated is the idea that the work that we do educating young children is dismissible and should be hidden from site, when it’s actually the most important work on Earth.

The most important work on Earth. That’s not my opinion. It’s verifiable fact. Our children know nothing of the world or the universe when they’re born. They didn’t ask to be born. We completely mold their reality and what they think is possible.

When I say “we,” I mean all adults, but particularly early childhood caregivers — parents and whoever else is caring for our children during the day. Because 0–3 is when you lay the pipes into your brain and encase them in cement. (It’s ironic that that’s the same period of your life when you don’t form long-term memories.) If you want to make a change to the way you relate, to mindset, to your very perception of reality after 3 years old, you have to break through that cement. But before then, the cement is still being poured. Our children don’t know a thing, and that means they can be or do anything.

If we accept all that I’ve written above, then the idea that we shouldn’t talk about our kids in work settings is bonkers. The work we’re doing raising young children is the most important thing that we do collectively, as a society, to create change.

All the evil in the world is passed down through generations.

Here’s an example:

The number of things women are allowed to do has expanded. But the frame is the same. Our society allows women to do and to be certain things and not to do and to be other things.

That’s in Jane Austen. And it’s in our culture today. So how does that frame get passed down over 300 years? Everyone from Jane Austen’s era is dead. Everyone from the next generation, and the generation after that is also dead.

But before they died, they passed it down to very young children, who then grew up and passed it down to very young children… and so on. Until it got to us.

The idea that you’re supposed to hide your home life because it’s domestic, or be embarrassed that you’re being interrupted by your job molding the people who are going to take care of — not just the entire planet, but our view of what reality is and what is possible — is just an idea that was passed down. And it’s ludicrous. Why is that work subordinate to anything else? Why is it silent and hidden?

Stay at home mothers have been saying what I’m saying for a long time. But sometimes — because they live in the paradigm that women are allowed to do certain things and not others and must justify all their actions so that they fit in the “allowed” category — they are insecure about their choice to stay home. So they present this idea in terms of being superior to those women who choose to or have to work. “I recognize that educating your children is the most important thing you can do and therefore I’m better than you because I’ve decided to exert control over what that means by being present for it 24/7.”

That presentation of this idea makes me defensive. But the idea itself is not different.

The question is not, “How can you leave your baby with someone else when taking care of your child is the most important thing you can do?”

The question is, “Why do we live in a society where we present women who stay home with their kids as the ones on one side of this work, and women who don’t stay home with their kids as if they’re on a separate side?

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What I Learned About Entrepreneurship From 'Clipless Pedals'

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What I Learned About Entrepreneurship From 'Clipless Pedals'

Last weekend I taught myself how to ride my bike with clip pedals (or “clipless” pedals… which are clip pedals?)

I have not been so proud of anything I’ve done since I birthed my baby in October. Seriously. I have been active in cycling and triathlon since 2016, and I could never bring myself to go for clipping in It just too scary. But I finally COMMITTED. 

And I realized: achieving a goal is not about trying and getting it right the first time. Or the fifth time. It’s about marshaling all your resources, all your experience, and… leaping. If you’re in business for yourself, this may sound familiar. 

So let me take you through how I went from paralyzed with fear to competent in a weekend.

Saturday I get into my driveway, with all the nerdy cycling gear on—the bib, the fun socks the gloves and of course the clip shoes, and I just FREEZE.  I just panicked. 

Like, I just couldn’t even bring myself to clip in and push off for a solid 5 minutes. Somehow I finally willed myself to ride around the cul de sac and I fell 3 times. And i was like, “Oh,  I can’t do this. I give up. I want my old pedals.” But I just couldn’t bring myself to go back inside because the sitter was there! How embarrassing! So, I finally headed off. 

I was out for 2 hours. It was terrible. Like, every single minute. I alternated between 1 hour cycling. 1 hour not cycling and staring at my bike and flipping the eff out.

But here’s where a glimmer of hope came in: everything I do in my business to will myself to take a risk, I did on this bike ride and it helped me ride for that 1 hour. During one of my freakouts on the sidewalk, I set a SMART goal, lol. I said, “I’m gonna do 5 laps on this street and if I still hate it, I will stop and that will be it for the day.” At lap 3, I really wanted to quit, but I was like, “Maggie, you said 5. How are you going to tell this story later if you don’t complete 5?” 

I did the 5 laps, which was about 12 miles, and then I was like, “Ok, no really. I still hate it.” And I “gave myself grace” as the church folks say, and I stopped. I went to Starbucks. I rode shakily home. I got off the bike and I said, “I don’t know if I’m ever going to do that again.” 

Next day (Sunday) I think about trying again all day long. Finally at 4 pm my husband is like, “Didn’t you say you were gonna prac-” I’m like GET OFF MY BACK YOU MONSTER!!!

And then I put those shoes on and got back out there. I was still shaky at first, but no falling. I rode for just about 30 minutes, (same street, no traffic lights.) and at the end I was said to myself, “I’m doing this. It’s just a mind game now bc my body gets how to clip in and out and I’m not wobbly anymore.” 

So, a little better. Monday I set my alarm for 5:30 because I want to practice again. 5:30 comes and the first thing in my head is 

“NO. NONONONONO. N. O.”

Well I may not have much clip pedal experience but I have plenty of practice getting up early. So I swigged the coffee. I got the shoes on.  

I clipped in the driveway and I just. WENT. No hesitation. I started to visualize my first tri race (hoping to do one in August) and how much better my bike time will be because I’m riding with these pedals.)  I visualized actually keeping up with my husband on a  group ride. And then I thought about how my husband told me the night before how he was proud of me. 

How he told me if it hadn’t been for me taking up triathlon a couple of years ago, he’d never have started cycling in the first place (he now regularly bikes 100 miles a week.) How I used to worry he might have a heart attack in 10 years bc he ate like shit and never exercised, and I don’t worry about his health anymore, and it’s actually because HE was inspired by ME. ME! The person who always got picked last! 

At this point I turn right instead of left and I get on a street with traffic lights, you guys! Traffic lights! And I practiced for half an hour, unclipping and clipping with _relative_ ease. I realized, “this was 3 hours, just THREE TINY HOURS OF MY LIFE devoted to practicing over 3 days total and look how much better I am. OMG I’m so glad I didn’t quit!” 

And here’s what I learned in those three hours about how to overcome my fear and take a risk. This is what worked for me: 

  • I can look at the big picture (I want to do a triathlon in August!) but what really got me there was setting MICROgoals. Saying to myself, 

“I just have to make it to that stop sign.” 

“I just have to make it to that flower bush.” 

“I just have to make it to the end of the street.” 

That’s what kept me going when I wanted to stop. It’s great to keep your eyes on the big prize, but for me, whenever I wasn't sure it was possible, it helped to have microgoals. 

  • It helped to have skin in the game. I spent $150 on the pedals and the shoes and another $60 on the sitter. Yes, I could have quit, but beyond feeling foolish, I would have felt like I had invested that money without really giving it a try. 
  • It is OK to slow way the hell down. To almost stop. As long as I was doing something—ANYTHING—to continue. 
  • I couldn’t force myself to stop telling myself I couldn’t do it or to stop being scared. But I could pepper in positive self-talk, even if it was stilted. Even if I didn’t believe it. 
  • When doing something risky and new, it helped me to draw on all my past experiences of doing crazy, scary new things. I have done more crazy, scary new things in the past 4 years than at any other point in my life and I think it really helped me not to give up. 

So there you have it. Dying to know what you think. Have you tried those "damn clipless clippy pedal things," as my friend David calls them? :D Have you had another experience like this? Brag about it in the comments!

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The Big Time-Management De-Railer (It's Not Procrastination)

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The Big Time-Management De-Railer (It's Not Procrastination)

Here's how I approach time-management on a bad day: 

  1. Write out a detailed schedule for a few days
  2. Stick religiously to the schedule for a few days
  3. Have a day where I don't stick to the schedule 
  4. Beat myself up at the end of the day for not sticking to it. 
  5. Feel overwhelmed. Give up on all schedules forever. Procrastinate.

Does this sound familiar?

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