I started a business the same year I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. How I made it work.
It’s really the worst that could happen, isn’t it?
You start the dream business and then get bedridden sick.
Yes, you read that right. And maybe I am crazy. Or, maybeeeeee...... you’re gonna think you might actually be the one who’s crazy - for not thinking this way too - once you read why I continued building my business while I had this illness! (ha!)
This is the story of how I transitioned from a full time career to having my own business, after being diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome only a few months after quitting my job and going “all in”.
It was 2008. I was 22.
I was off the back of the biggest year of my life - 2007 - the year I won my first double world title (Broke a world record too, thankyou! I was the first woman to ever win a double world title. I am still the only woman to hold that record!) The same year I started a new relationship, moved out of home and found out the guy I was in love with had terminal cancer - and it was a secret.
Yep - it was a big one.
After my experience in 2007, my life completely flipped on it’s head and got crazy amazing (and crazy in general, for obvious reasons), I started to feel ready to take a huge new leap and make a change.
There were two driving factors:
Firstly, because I had just done what I thought was impossible.
Before travelling to England and winning those titles the year before, I had dislocated my shoulder and was told I’d never be able to compete in martial arts again, and needed a complete reconstruction. I had no money to go to England and compete, I was unhappy, hurting over an ex boyfriend and letting him treat me like garbage, living at home, stressed out from my job, and trying to finish a university degree that dragged on forever, and I felt like I was trudging through sludge every. single. day.
I was invited to attend a seminar where I learned about the power of NLP and I set some new goals, and cleared some of my unconscious crap… and decided I was gonna go for… everything. I set a new goal to not only compete, but to break a new record.
Long story short, 6 weeks later I was hanging out in Mykonos with my new man, making plans and celebrating 2 massive wins. The money, the love, the new home, the success all came in one big hit for me — and I knew it had everything to do with the mindset shifts I had experienced at that seminar.
I was hungry for more, insatiably curious about what the hell had just happened, and how I could replicate it. Also, once you achieve the impossible, even if it’s something little you didn’t think existed before, I tell you… you start to wonder what’s not impossible.. you start to wonder what else is possible for you.. and you start to dream bigger and give yourself permission to take more risks.
But secondly, and more pressingly...
I had now found myself in a situation where I knew, at some indefinite time in the future, I was going to have to give up everything and become the primary carer for my then boyfriend. Probably sooner rather than later.
His cancer was terminal. My stomach still gets into knots just writing these words.
I was only 22 years old, and it was also a secret. He didn’t want anyone to know he was sick, which I respected. So I felt like there was a huge responsibility on me at that time, to make sure I could do the job properly, and prepare myself as much as I could. I didn’t want it to be more awful than it already was. I didn’t want to have to rely on others, or the government for money. I wanted to ensure that whatever time we had left together was going to be awesome. So, I started looking for alternative ways to have freedom, and security. There was no way I could be the kind of partner I wanted to be, and have those precious experiences that make life wonderful, if I was tied to a desk job 5 days a week.
(You know, on a side note, seriously, I look back at little 22 year old me, and I think, “Wow. Go girl. That was seriously f*cking brave. How did you even… but I digress)
I had already been excited and curious about what this newfound, insatiable curiosity for coaching could bring me if I were to transition from being an interior architect to being someone who helped people do what I had just done, for a living.. and now I had a great (scary) reason not to wait.
I saw this as… not a hindrance, bit a great, big, fat, sign. To start my own business, doing what I loved, and make it work around the lifestyle I had already decided I wanted.
So 2008 was the year I quit my job.
I told my boss I was going to become a life-coach.
She literally laughed, down at me, and said “Who is going to take advice from you?”, and I made a promise to myself in that moment, to add some more good to the world, and to make it work. I just wanted to be happy, and I wasn’t. I was suffocating. It was such an awkward moment.
I didn’t go straight to coaching. I didn’t have a certification yet.
It wasn’t for another 4 months I was even starting, but I felt every day like I was dying in that job. I couldn’t stay there a minute longer, so I quit without a plan. I winged it - totally, (and it felt damn good). I got a job doing full-time karate, and door-to-door sales, selling karate memberships, for one of the local instructors at my club. (Hey, they weren’t gonna say no to the world champion selling memberships were they!)
Four months into the job, and we (my then partner and I) were right back into the swing of training, for the next world titles the following year. (I should mention here that despite his cancer being labelled terminal… he was super fit, and strong, and he is still fit and strong and a menace to the medical world. They can’t figure out what’s up, because he just keeps going. But again, I digress…)
This is where it all started falling apart.
I was ignoring the signs of fatigue that had been plaguing me for a very long time. I had been keeping this “secret” for almost a year, when my family found out, and were devastated for me. I was out training every night, working every day, and not taking sufficient time to reset… because I felt guilty for even thinking about slowing down when there was so much to be done. (hello, superwoman syndrome)… but it was probably a lot to do with the fear of being alone with my thoughts at that time too. I was really afraid of what the future held.
One night, out at training at the local park, practising drills with my partner and our friend Mitch, an instructor from England who was staying with us for the month… I simply said, “I’m going home.” and off I went to bed. The next morning, I said “I’m not going to work”, and went back to sleep. I remember feeling so bad about myself because we had someone staying in our home for that month… and I felt like I should be upbeat, and entertaining.. but I had absolutely nothing left.
I stayed in bed for the next three months, and in that time, had various breakdowns, meltdowns, and doctors appointments.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
“Well done” said the doctor. “At 22, you’ve managed to give yourself the kind of burnout I only see in 40-50 year old executives. That takes some real effort!”
Unfortunately, he then went on to inform me that there is no accurate understanding of where Chronic Fatigue comes from, or, any cure. I’d have to sit out of most of my activities from here on in. Once again, no competing no training, and certified medically, unfit for work.
Feckity feck feck feckn’ shoot-balls.
Oh yeah, and did I mention my boyfriend had the big C? Yeah, I did. There was that too. Good times.
So I basically had the best excuse ever, to hide under a rock and feel sorry for myself, and give up on my dreams, or rather, put them off until a later date…
I did. I really did. I can say that now with my whole heart. I felt completely broken. I felt like I had nothing, and I felt like it was only going to get worse - because I no longer had control, and I couldn’t do my job of working my ass off to make sure I’d be able to take care of my partner someday. I had to give in to my illness.
I’ll say it right here, this was one of those life-changing moments.
For a myriad of reasons, which I’ll go into another time I promise, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome was the best thing that ever happened to me. My life changed for the better through the process of healing from that. But this post is about my excuses.
I don’t really remember much about the first few months except a lot of crying. Crying with my family when they were talking about my partners cancer, crying at the doctors when they were looking at me and giving me news, crying whenever I went to any form of healing for the pure overwhelm at it all, and crying because… I felt helpless quite frankly.
Most of that time is fuzzy. Because even when I was awake, I wasn’t really awake. I called people by the wrong name all the time, and I could never tell if the memories of conversations I had had were memories of actual experiences, or memories of dreams I had had.
I had been determined to get over it in 6 months or less, but the reality of what I had done to my body, and that attitude that got me there, started to sink in, and I was a mixture of shock, overwhelm, depression and lost.
My biggest excuse could have gotten in the way in that moment, but I wasn’t really even thinking. I was half alive.
It’s a few months later that year, and I’m with my Dad, taking an NLP Level 1 training. The training I probably should have waited until after I completed, before quitting my job - if I were a sensible adult, of which I am not. My Dad convinced me to go, even though I didn’t know how I’d cope being upright for that long. But he assured me we could leave if we needed to, and it’d be good for me. Bless that man. It was good for me.
And something magic happened in that training. For the first time in months, I was alert. I lasted the full week. I only needed to take naps during lunch in the car, but I sat in that room and eagerly absorbed every morsel of content delivered as though my life depended on it. Actually, I think my life did depend on it.
I slept for 3 weeks straight after that program, but I knew afterwards, that if I could be energised in that room for a week, I could access whatever state of consciousness I was accessing in there, again somehow.
Fast forward again. A couple more months.
I compete level 2. Again, I’ve been in bed, severely damaged by serotonin toxicity from a bad dosage of antidepressants and herbal remedies to get me OFF the anti-depressantants. But again, I’m energised in that room. What the heck.
I decide to set a huge goal. I will compete in 2009 World Championships and win.
I decide to start practising my coaching. I tell 5 friends who I know have good contacts, that I’ll coach them for free in exchange for referrals. My friends agree. I sleep all the time, between small spurts of activity. A walk here, a nap at the end of the street, a social outing there. I coached, I got some referrals, and I coached those people. Then, I slept for 2 weeks after each session. (It was a slow process).
At this time in my life, my partner had a job. We had really cheap rent, which he paid, and my parents were giving me $120 a month so I didn’t have to fully rely on my partner. I spent $110 of that on my monthly phone bill. I barely did anything but sleep.
I keep practising my coaching, and slowly, more referrals start coming in. I space them out to give myself enough time to sleep and recover after doing a session, but again, it energises me when I’m there, and then I seep for 2 weeks. That was my life. And as soon as I could, I started paying my way again, with the money I was making from my coaching.
I didn’t make it to the 2009 world cup. I was still too sick.
Make Your Reasons Your Resources.
It all sounds kinda depressing, huh? Well, that’s because it was.
There’s a beautiful part to this story though, I promise.
For whatever uncanny, freaky fatituous reason, little awesome 23 year old me, (as I shall now refer to her) did not let this giant clusterfuck of events mean that I was destined to fail. Quite the opposite.
These reasons I should not succeed, became my resources and reasons I would. They became my will.
No energy, became the reason I had to make it work. I didn’t have the energy to go back to a regular job.
No time became the reason I had to make it work. I needed to find a way to make the best kind of business. One that meant I didn’t have the be there around the clock to make money. Leveraged income.
My partners diagnosis became the reason I had to make it work. It was a way for us to live with freedom.
No money became the reason I had to make it work. This was a way for me to create my own uncapped income.
My excuses were my motivators.
Do you see where I’m going here?
Sometimes life drops a bomb.
The normal way is to do one of two things:
- Give Up
- Fight against it.
The latter choice renders someone able to say, “I succeeded in spite of these challenges”.
And while yes, that may be true, I’m asking you to do NEITHER of these things. They both suck and they aren’t sustainable.
I’m asking you to go with it. More than you’ve ever “gone with it” before.
Succeed BECAUSE of your challenges. Not in spite of them.
No money? You can’t afford NOT to. That money is going to get spent on something anyway, it’s the law of vacuum. Invest it in something that will change your life, instead of spending it on what will keep your life the same.
No time? You can’t afford NOT to. When you’re in flow, time becomes relative. And we all have the same amount of time. The only way to get more time, is to create it.
Not ready? You will never feel ready. I promise you this. If there's something stopping you now, there will be something else next time. It is simply not true. You can do it now.
If you have the same excuses, you will succeed not in spite of your reasons but because of them - if you let yourself be open to the opportunity to see all of life’s challenges, as opportunities for new, unexpected solutions. New perspectives. Miracles, if you will.
So, what’ll it be?
What are your fears / excuses / fabulous reasons to wait? How can you turn them into your biggest resources for making it work?
Leave me comment below, and let me know!