Made U Look Photography

May 7, 2013

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I‘m a regular follower of your blog and whilst I love the amaze-balls photography and reading about real couples kick-ass big days, what I love most is the Green Room, or more specifically the attitude you have to your business, brand and beliefs. Because of that (and I don’t normally do this I swear!) I’m writing to you to ask for some words of wisdom.

I’m at the very beginning of setting up an online business as a virtual assistant/PA but I’m starting to crumble under the weight of everyone else’s opinions already which in turn is making me feel like I should just quit. 

I’m 29 and to date (deep breath) I’ve had 23 jobs… I’ve never been happy in anything I’ve done. I initially started out training to be a primary school teacher and did that for a year after realising it wasn’t for me and since then I’ve been lost. I floated into social work, vets, travel agents, office support, housing associations, youth workers, ambulance 999 call handler – you name it I’ve probably done it. I’m currently working as an office manager at a software company and honestly want to cry most days. My colleagues are lovely and the managers are OK –  I have definitely had worse – but I’m so unfulfilled and I hate to admit it but I feel like a bit of a failure.

Setting up on my own is all I’ve ever wanted to do and I know I have the fire in my belly that will spur me on. Ultimately I want freedom and I do believe I can have that by working for myself. True to form I’ve been through a lot of business ideas up to this point! Everything from running a pancake van to starting a theatre company for kids, but this idea of being a virtual PA is the first I’ve had where the passion to get it going hasn’t gone away quickly. 

My main issue is getting past the negative and ‘helpful’ comments from my friends and family that are actually really sarcastic and really hurtful. Everyone keeps saying that this idea is “just another one of my phases” and “it will pass” or they roll their eyes when I start to talk about my business ideas. My mother even said I have a “self-destruct button”. It makes me feel rotten rotten rotten, drains my self-confidence and makes me feel like maybe I actually don’t have what it takes to get the customers and make this work. I know that my mum is not saying it to be mean or nasty, but in this particular area of my life I really feel like my loved ones don’t understand me at all.

I’m finding it really hard to ignore what they are saying and draw positives from it to give me the strength to continue.  My two sisters (both younger than me) went down the very traditional path of school-university-qualified in something-successful careers-married-children. I am none of those things. I feel like such a failure. 

I’d be eternally grateful for any advice or help you could give me to assist in giving me my focus back! I understand you’re a busy lady, thanks a million squillions and I’ll understand if you can’t reply…

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My heart literally ached when reading your email. I want to reach through my computer screen and give you the biggest hug ever. I’m sorry you feel so low and that your family and friends are being so rubbishly unsupportive right now.

Firstly – and this is the most important thing – you are not a failure. I know this is true because you actually want to make your life better – you just haven’t got there yet. A failure wouldn’t care. They’d be happy doing any old job, or claiming benefits, or not working at all… that isn’t you. Far from it.

My biggest piece of advice to you would be this, and it might be hard to hear, but you have to ignore them. You have to let their snarky words go. Sure, they may be saying these awful things because they think they have your best interests at heart, or to them it’s just a big joke, but they aren’t the ones living your life – you are. You need to take control, with or without their support. Having them believe in you would obviously be preferable, but just because they don’t right now, doesn’t mean success is not in store for you.

Any epic journey that’s worth travelling is going to be difficult. It will be convoluted, winding and there will be a million different directions you could go. This is not the Yellow Brick Road, my friend, and it doesn’t lead directly to the Emerald City. If getting your own business off the ground was easy, everyone would be doing it. Life is never that straight forward.

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Do you think the most successful business people ‘made it’ on their first try? Do you think Richard Branson’s first business idea was the one that made him the multi-zillionaire that he is today? Hell no! Remember Virgin Cola, V-Shop, Virgin Brides or Virgin Cosmetics? He’s had so many businesses under the Virgin banner and while some of them – Virgin Airlines, Virgin Media & Virgin Experiences for example – have been massively successful, there is a huge long list of ventures that never really got off the ground.

Everything you have done up to this point has been valuable in some way and I bet you’ve learnt at least one useful skill from every job. Everything you’ve experienced has helped to mould you into the person you’ve become – and will become in future. Maybe you weren’t meant to run a pancake van, but without going through that process, you probably wouldn’t be where you are now: passionate and driven to make this new idea work. Maybe you wont be a virtual assistant forever, but maybe you will, and how will you know without trying?

By the way, I have two younger sisters too. We all went to University – one of them to do Higher Maths and the other, Theology… I did Film Studies. They both graduated with First Class Honours (both of them at the top of their class!) while I just scraped a 2:1. It’s so easy to compare ourselves to others, but it’s true what they say, comparison is the thief of joy. I could have wallowed in the fact that I didn’t feel as clever as my younger siblings or I could have used the skills I gained by doing a course that was 100% coursework essays to become a writer…

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I know this is a totally different and quite trivial comparison, but I’ve been trying to get into drinking green juice for breakfast every morning (I’ve managed two weeks so far!) But every day since I started Gareth has been like “Oh look at you, trying to be healthy, it won’t last, it’s just a fad… blah blah blah…” Now I know he’s just saying it as a joke and at first I was really frustrated that he wouldn’t believe that I really wanted to do this but, weirdly, it has spurred me on to prove him damn wrong! I actually wonder if I would have managed two whole weeks without his little jibes. If you can, let your family’s comments do the same for you. Go out and prove them wrong!

Finally, if you feel comfortable doing so, why don’t you sit down with your mother and tell her how you feel? Or write her a letter if that’s too awkward? Tell her gently what you told me. I’m sure she, and the rest of your family, do only want what’s best for you. I know they don’t want to hurt you and all they really want is to see you happy. Sometimes people just don’t realise how hurtful their little ‘jokes’ can be.

I hope this is in some way helpful and you have the BIGGEST GOOD LUCK wishes from me. Now go out and virtual assist up a damn storm!