What’s Next? The 7 Steps to Discover Your Big Idea and Create a Wildly Successful Business
Copyright © 2013 Joy Chudacoff. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or retransmitted in any form or by any means without the written permission of the publisher.
The Rearview Mirror
We’re at a point in history where the women’s movement has made it possible for us, as contemporary women, to have it all—career, family, you name it—but now, the difficulty becomes figuring out how to make it all work. We’re free to be anything—under incredible pressure to be everything. Life can seem overwhelming at times. We try to balance work, family, relationships, and squeeze in a little time for ourselves, but fitting all this in seems impossible. Somewhere in the midst of this struggle, we begin to feel a shift, restlessness, a change of some sort going on inside ourselves.
If you are between the ages of thirty-eight and fifty-five, you probably know what I’m talking about. Why this age range? In many cases, women spend their twenties and thirties focused either on (a) making their mark through careers, (b) building a family and providing a nurturing environment for their children, or (c) juggling a career and family. I remember looking up one day into the clouds at the age of thirty-eight and asking myself the question: “Is this it? Is this all there is?” I could see the first half of my life in the rearview mirror, and I began to wonder about the journey ahead.
The way I felt led me to what I can only describe as a “calling.” What the heck is a calling? For me, it began as a small voice inside, like a GPS telling me repeatedly that I was heading in the wrong direction. If someone had shared this idea with me back then, I would have looked at them as if they had two heads. All I knew at that time was that I felt miserable every day. I had to drag myself out of bed to go to a business that no longer motivated or inspired me. I was going through the motions during the day, and then at night, I lay on my sofa and watched reruns of Law & Order over and over again (even though I knew who had committed the crime). What I learned was that this calling was to do something different in my life—something more meaningful. I was longing for a new direction. I wanted to be energized about something that would fill me up inside instead of leaving an emptiness at the end of the day.
For every woman, that “something” that will fill you up inside is different. There is no one size fits all. For example, a calling could be to start a business doing something you’re passionate about, or leaving a job that no longer inspires you. It could mean possibly going back to school to learn a new skill, or leaving your professional life to focus on raising a family. The challenge for most women is twofold: discovering what their unique, individual calling is, and then embracing this calling and turning it into a reality—something concrete that can become a living, breathing part of their life.
In coaching thousands of women over the years, I’ve come to realize that throughout our adult lives, we women cycle through two phases over and over again: we are either in a Life Chapter or a Life Transition. A Life Chapter is a phase where you are accomplishing goals and experiencing a period of contentment. Examples of a Life Chapter include starting a new career or business, getting married. Here you are at the beginning of a new journey, ready to greet the road ahead with energy and excitement. Conversely, a Life Transition is a phase where you become restless and reflective. For example, you may begin to question the direction of your life, your relationships, and your career. There may or may not be a significant event that opens the door to transition. Everything may look normal to others on the outside; however, on the inside, you know that change is on the horizon.
No matter which phase you find yourself in right now, this book will support you. This book you hold in your hands will help you listen to that small voice inside you that is craving change. It will help you turn up the volume on that voice, and understand the message.
Then, this book will help you to create a wildly successful personal plan that will serve your present needs and future goals.
Are You like Me?
When I was twenty-eight years old, I was living in Los Angeles, unmarried, and with no children. I had a roommate at the time, because I couldn’t afford to live on my own in the upscale, trendy section of LA where every single person wanted to live. I desperately wanted that apartment all to myself. At that point in my life, I wanted to spread my wings and feel completely independent. But I had a problem. My roommate covered five hundred dollars of the rent each month, and I didn’t have the extra money to cover it myself. Month after month, my desire to live alone became stronger. After much soul-searching and exploration, I took a risk and against all odds started a medical equipment business.
In order to realize my dream of becoming an independent woman, throughout my late twenties and thirties, I worked at what I once called “eight to faint.” The part-time business I had started as a way to earn an additional five hundred dollars per month grew over ten years to be an international company with annual sales approaching two million dollars. But during that same time period, there was more going on in my life besides growing a business, not all of it planned.
When I was thirty-seven, shortly after I’d gotten married, my husband, Greg, had to undergo a kidney transplant. He was seriously ill for several years. Running a million-dollar company while doing my best to care for my husband proved to be challenging and exhausting. When his health finally improved, I felt drained, burned out, and no longer passionate about my work. I had lost my spark. To add to the mix, I now wanted to start a family. Still, for the next few years, I tried to recharge my entrepreneurial spirit for my business. But that was not to be.
When I was forty years old, I became pregnant with our son, Jack, and soon after he was born, we had our daughter, Jenna. After much soul-searching, I decided to stay at home full-time and focus on my children. While I enjoyed being at home with my children, I realized something about myself during this transitional time. I missed being an entrepreneur. I actually enjoyed owning a business and managing all the moving parts that go along with entrepreneurship.
I mentioned earlier that somewhere between the ages of thirty-eight and fifty-five, we often begin to hear a voice inside telling us that change is coming. We get the feeling that something new and different is on the horizon. I was certainly beginning to feel this way. Everything looked great on the outside—healthy husband, healthy children, and a nice standard of living. But on the inside, I was falling apart. I went through the day feeling like something was missing from my life, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. Some days, I felt like my life had turned into a mystery novel, and I couldn’t wait to get to the ending to find out what happened. At the same time, I felt guilty for having these feelings and emotions. I told myself every day how happy I should be, how fortunate I was to have this beautiful life—and yet, this persistent feeling of being unfulfilled chipped away at me. Many days I felt like a ship without a rudder, adrift with no purpose or direction. That inner voice inside encouraging me to do something else with my life was becoming stronger and more vocal every day. I had landed in a Life Transition. I was feeling restless and reflective. I began to question the direction of certain parts of my life. I was happy as a wife and mother to my two young children, but I intuitively knew that change was on the way.
Over the next few years, I went through a complete transformation. I began by reaching out to other women who were like-minded, who were familiar with the tug of transition in their lives. I spent dedicated time reflecting on what might be next for me. I realized that I was passionate about working with women to help them move their lives forward and discover what’s next. At the time, I had no idea “coaching” existed outside of sports and athletics. Imagine my excitement! I hired a coach and joined a women’s group for support. There was actually a name for what I wanted to do! Eventually, I went back to school to get my coaching certification. I launched Smart Women Smart Solutions®, a business that offers proven, time-tested solutions for women who are looking at their lives in the rearview mirror and wondering about the road ahead.
I started Smart Women Smart Solutions to help women do what I had done—to use the transitions in their lives as an opportunity to realize their dreams and create businesses fueled by passion. As I built the business, I also made sure that I would have enough flexibility to raise my two children the way I wanted. Back when I started, Smart Women Smart Solutions was a part-time business, which I used to serve women locally through my “Creating the Spark®” Success Circles a few hours a month. Today, it has morphed into a much larger company with a powerful vision for women all over the world, with programs designed to take you by the hand and guide you step-by-step from transition to takeoff with your Big Ideas, dreams, and goals.
Even with the significant strides Smart Women Smart Solutions has made, I still have a desire for more. I have a dream of women being able to access this material no matter where they live in the world, no matter their education or economic circumstances. I wrote this book to fulfill that dream.
What Makes This Book Unique?
This is not just a “how-to” book that you read once and stick on your bookshelf, but an interactive process. I wanted to create a process that would not only help you move through your own Life Transition, but also into an energized Life Chapter! I want this book to help you discover what’s next for you and assist you in making your Big Ideas, dreams, and goals become a reality. Another way this book is unique is that it is full of case studies of real women from all walks of life who have experienced some of the same challenges you face. The case studies describe how these women used the ideas contained in this book to transform their lives.
How to Use This Book
Chapters 1–4 will help you explore and discover what’s next. Chapters 5–7 will help you create your own personal plan of action to guarantee success. Whether you’re someone who is just starting to realize that you’re not entirely satisfied with where you are in your life, or someone who knows what’s next but doesn’t quite know how to get there, this book can help. The beauty of this book you hold in your hands is that you can use this process over and over again. I’ve also created a companion workbook with exercises and resources to provide even more support to you. As you reach certain sections of this book, you will be referred to an exercise in the workbook to help you explore the topic more deeply.