Business ownership is… tiring. Michael’s got some ideas to keep you motivated and feeling good about what you do.
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Allissa Haines Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Massage Business Blueprint podcast, where we discuss the business side of massage therapy. I am Allissa Haines.
Michael Reynolds And I am Michael Reynolds.
AH And we are delighted that you joined us today for this podcast episode.
Michael, how’s it going?
MR Okay. I’m a grumpy old man today, I got to say. Here’s the backstory. [Laughing]. I have my home office here, which faces the road in our neighborhood. And as you probably know, I’m on the HOA for my neighborhood, which I’m sure you’re shocked to hear that. So — and the speed limit in our neighborhood is 20, and we have a few people in our neighborhood that just fly by doing 40, 45, 50, sometimes even faster, and our neighborhood is full of kids playing outside all the time. And so the HOA board is constantly yelling at people to slow down. And I just saw a bunch of cars go by and speed by, and I’m like the old man on the porch shaking my fist saying, slow down you kids. And so I’m a grumpy old man today. That’s my story.
AH Yeah. We have the same problem on our street.
MR Do you?
MR It drives me crazy. It’s like you’re going to hit somebody.
AH It’s a really — the only people driving back here are the people who live here. It’s not in any way a main road or anything. And I think it’s frustrating, too, because I’ve considered putting out those plastic kids silhouettes in bright green that have the orange flag coming off of them —
AH — to remind drivers. But you know what the most effective thing I ever saw was was when I was in the summer on Martha’s Vineyard and they had a whole campaign with real signs that people put at the edge of their lawn that said, drive like your kid lives here; ours do.
AH And they were really brightly colored, but I noticed that they shifted them around a lot so that they weren’t always in the same place so that you became blind to them after a while.
AH Yeah. I’m just saying maybe you need to make some signs.
MR That’s a good idea. I’ve seen the signs, but I’ve never (indiscernible) —
AH Or just stand out there in a fake cop uniform with a radar gun for a couple days.
MR [Laughing]. We for — we actually have the cops bring in one of those speed signs where it detects your speed and shows you how fast you’re driving. We had one of those for a while. We talked about speed bumps. Like it’s just — it’s driving us crazy, so. Yeah, I like your idea of moving those signs around to avoid banner blindness. That’s a good idea.
AH Yeah. So —
MR I will bring that up. I will be the hero of my HOA board by having a new idea. Thanks, Allissa.
AH I’m glad that we’ve solved your neighborhood problem pre-podcast.
MR Yeah. Well, I’ll report back and let you know how it goes.
AH I’m also really glad that you are taking the topic for today. So Michael, launch us.
MR I would love to. So my topic today — our topic today is achieving mental and emotional resilience as a business owner. So this has been on my mind recently — for a while lately. One reason is I actually had an interview with a friend of mine who does this work, in a different podcast, and it really opened my eyes to some interesting thoughts and some interesting discussion around resilience and specifically, the mental and emotional resilience it takes to be a business owner. And massage practice is no exception. A massage business has its own set of challenges and things to think about when you’re trying to maintain health around your mental and emotional well-being as a business owner and running a successful business, obviously.
And so I’m going to say this at the end as well, but I want to start out by saying my friend Will is actually really great at this. He works with professional athletes, as well as amateur athletes, and helps them with their mental game. The physical game is often what we think about with athletes. It’s, hey, you — you’re performing at a high level; you’re working out; you’re honing your body to perform at the highest level. And what he does is he works with the emotional and mental side of it and the mental game, which is significantly a big part of the big picture in performing well. And so if you want to contact him after you — if you like what you heard today and kind of like some of the thoughts we talked about here today, send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll connect you with him. He’s got a couple different kind of groups he works through, so it’s easier just to connect you directly. So if you want to talk to him, let me know. His name is Will.
But we talked about kind of the — some of the challenges, first, faced by entrepreneurs, and then he gives some practical advice on kind of how to develop higher levels of resilience as a business owner. And so some of the things that we talked about are the common obstacles faced by business owners. So as a massage practice owner, we have a lot of obstacles we face. And honestly, this is talked about more lately, I think, but still I think it could be talked about a lot more in how taxing mentally and emotionally it is to run a business. I mean, people who have not ever run a business before, they often don’t understand what really goes into it.
You’re building something that you — so many things are attached to it emotionally. You’re building something that needs to support you financially. You’re building something that you want to make a difference in the world. You’re building something that you want to serve your clients, and you’re helping your clients feel better, and you want to genuinely improve their quality of life through massage. You’re building something that you have your identity wrapped — we’ve talked about this before in recent episodes. You kind of wrap your identity around your business. It’s your baby. It’s your child. It’s your — it’s something that is so personal to you that when things go wrong in your business — and they will; they inevitably do — it can be absolutely crushing. It can be absolutely devastating. And for me personally, I’ve been there many times, and I’m sure I’ll be there more times in the future. It can send me into depression and deep kind of — just times of depression in my life where it’s like, oh, my goodness, this is very taxing emotionally. Other times, it’s very full of joy, and it’s the most incredible thing in the world to run a business.
So it’s very taxing to run a business. It’s very challenging. And so often some of the challenges are related to your passion about what you do, your passion about the service you deliver. But the actual nuts and bolts of running the business sometimes can really cause frustration. You know, the logistics of administration and marketing and dealing with clients and the money part of it and — those things can be very taxing because as massage therapists we often want to focus 100% on the work we do, which is so important, but the other parts of it can be very taxing.
Many people are underprepared for the stress associated with being a business owner. A lot of our listeners are newer practice owners, and we’re here to support you, but often it’s very eye-opening when you first start a business. You’re like, wow, I had no idea this much stress would come with running a business. And again, we’ve talked about this before, which is the personal identity associated with the work you do and the service you deliver. You know, taking business decisions personally is very common for a lot of us, or business challenges personally. So I myself have experienced this many times where I will experience criticism about something in my business, and if I’m not careful, I take it as a personal attack. And, oh, wow, that person thinks I’m dumb, or that person thinks I’m not worthy to do this, or that person is attacking me personally, or that client is making a statement about who I am as a person. And it’s very easy to do, and that can take a toll on us mentally and emotionally.
And also, just the logistics of trying to do it all ourselves. I mean, a lot of us are solo business owners with no help, no staff, no team members, no administrative support. We’re doing it all ourselves, and that can lead to periods of burnout where you’re just feeling like you just can’t do it anymore. You’re just overwhelmed. And all of these things — I feel like I’m just painting this horrible picture — but all of these things together can really take a toll on you mentally and emotionally as a business owner.
So that being said, there are a few things that I learned through my conversations that can be helpful in dealing with this challenge of the mental and emotional strain of owning a business that I found super helpful and I want to talk about here after halftime. So let’s get to our halftime, and then let’s kind of jump into some of these ideas.
So Allissa, who is our halftime sponsor today?
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MR Man, I hate phone tag.
AH It stinks.
Sponsor message — or email tag or whatever. You can get your special 45-day free offer when you sign up at massagebusinessblueprint.com/acuity.
MR We love Acuity.
AH We do.
MR All right.
AH All right. How do we —
MR How —
AH How do we help ourselves, Michael?
MR Yeah. Before we get there, I just want to see if you had any perspective. Do you experience — or have you experienced the things I talked about before halftime?
AH Yeah. Absolutely. You get, like, too wrapped up in your business, and then when something goes wrong, it destroys you as a human and not just as a business owner. Yeah. Absolutely.
MR Yeah. Yeah. So —
AH I’ve been there.
MR Yeah. We’ve all been there, I think.
So — all right. So how do we develop resilience as a skill? So this was really interesting to me to think about in that often we think — I think some of us, myself included, think that, oh, some people are just born with this skill of being resilient; they can take anything; they’re tough; they’re stoic; they — some people are just built that way. But actually, you can learn mental resilience as a skill. It can be learned. Like most things, we can develop skills around this — or we can develop habits and behaviors around this skill that can help us. And so that was very optimistic for me to feel that way, to have someone kind of say to me, hey, you can get better; you can develop a skill that makes you someone that is able to be more resilient when it comes to business challenges.
So part of that — one thing that is helpful is to really keep — stay focused on your “why” and anchor your efforts to that. So that kind of relates to why is what you’re doing so important? Why is it important to you, and what is the “why” behind it? And it can be more than one why. So many of us in massage therapy, obviously we — our “why” is centered in a business context around helping our clients have a better quality of life. We get a lot of energy around that. The why can also be attached to family or income or other efforts. Maybe — you know, in a previous episode we talked about charitable giving. Maybe your why is attached to you want to not only make a difference for your clients but you want to make enough money in your business that you can give back to your community with — either with financial support or time or volunteering or whatever that might be. Other people might have a why centered also around supporting their family and supporting their future generations. And whatever it might be, if we stay focused on our why and try not to spend too much energy being distracted by the challenges and bumps along the way that distract us from that, it kind of helps keeps us centered.
So that was helpful to me because it’s really easy to just forget the why. You know, I — like many of — many people in business, my why is centered around my family and supporting and being self-sufficient enough that we can give back to the community, support my family, give my family a quality of life that I want to give them as well as serve my clients. And so that helps me — or hearing that helped me to remind myself that it’s important to stay focused on why you’re doing what you do. And maybe for some of us it’s putting a sticky note on your mirror. Maybe for some of us it’s making your computer wallpaper or putting a phrase or personal mission statement somewhere where you can see it every single day. And something simple and sometimes trivial sounding like that can make all the difference. So I’m really bad at that. I’m really bad at putting sticky notes on my mirror to remind myself what I’m focused on because I think, oh, that’s just silly. Sticky — but it actually helps [laughing] sometimes, so I’m encouraging myself to do more of that kind of stuff.
Next, this is really interesting. The next thing is to think about stress as just stress, not inherently good or bad. So when I was talking to Will about this, he kind of mentioned that stress is simply just a fight-or-flight response that is telling our body to take action. Something is about to happen, and we need to take action around it. And so that’s just kind of this primal response we have. And so we often attach a negative label to stress saying, oh, stress is always bad. And stress is often detrimental and it can be harmful sometimes, but generally if we think of stress as just this objective response in our body, then we think about it a little bit differently and we start to attach it to what’s the next thing I need to do to deal with that stress. So instead of stress just kind of breaking us down and saying, oh, I’ve got stress therefore there’s this negative thing happening, we can say, well, stress is actually just this normal biological response and what is it telling me? What is stress trying to teach me?
You know, in the caveman days it was, hey, this big animal is about to eat my family, so okay, let’s take action. In the modern age, stress can be something like, oh, something happened, and this thing happened, and the next logical step is to take some action to deal with that thing. And we can often kind of bypass the baggage that goes with stress and instead go straight to okay, what is the next action? And let’s be a little more objective about it. So that — that’s helpful sometimes to think about.
We’ve talked about this before as well. I think it was maybe many episodes ago when I talked about kind of the cookbook method of goal setting, and this is very related. We want to shift from results focused to process-oriented sometimes. That can often help us to relieve some of the challenges and the emotional toll that can come with being a business owner focused on all these things that we think we need to be focused on. So what that means is there are certain things we can’t control. And the more often we attach our mindset to things we can control and focus on those, the more resilient we become and the more we can overcome challenges in a productive way.
So one example of that is we can’t control how many clients that we see in a week. We just can’t. It’s physically not something we can control. We can’t force people to book online and come to our office and keep their appointments and find us on Google and — we can’t force people to do that. We can’t control that outcome. But what we can control is we can control how many emails we send out, and how many follow-up calls we make, and how many networking events we attend, and how many blog posts we write, and how many social media posts we make, and how many speaking gigs we book. And we can control the specific actions that logically lead to success.
So instead of focusing on, oh, I’ve got to make 20 appointments this week, and I’ve got to get X number of new clients, and I’ve got to get this thing to happen, if we attach our mindset to things we cannot control, we’re always going to be in this state of being stressed and challenged and having difficulty dealing with that. But if we attach our mindset to things we can control, then that gives us a lot more peace around those things, often. This doesn’t work for everybody, but often it can give us a lot more peace around those things.
Okay. This one I love. The next one I really, really am into, and it was super helpful to me, and it’s do a premortem. Or Will calls it “goal sparring.” So a — you’ve often heard of a postmortem. If you do a project or something or something happens, you do a postmortem to kind of figure out what went wrong, right? We kind of know about that. But a premortem is to preemptively visualize what the worst-case scenario is, what could go wrong, and then develop scenarios around that. And often — I am guilty of this — often, we say, well, I — failure is not an option, and I’ve got to just not even think about failure, and that worst-case scenario is not going to happen because I’m just going to make it work. And that may work for some people, but often it can lead to these unrealistic outcomes. And it keeps us ill-prepared for what actually could happen, and it causes more anxiety sometimes because we are going in underprepared.
So a premortem is visualizing the worst-case scenario and developing a plan around those possible outcomes and acknowledging that there is a potential negative outcome and it’s not the bogeyman. It’s not just — it’s not this thing to avoid, it’s to visualize and accept and acknowledge and kind of honor the fact that there is a negative outcome that is a possibility.
You know, whether it’s — if you’re doing a networking event and you’re thinking, oh, I’m going to just — this is going to be a great success, and I’m going to do my ten-minute presentation well, and it’s going to be awesome. Well, no. The negative outcome could be you might flop. You might give a terrible presentation. You might not get any referrals. You might feel terrible about it. Okay. So let’s think about if that happens, what next? How’s that going to feel? How am I going to deal with that? And by picturing that negative outcome, then often that helps you perform even better because you’ve already gone through that negative outcome mentally. So that was really, really helpful to me, that premortem concept.
Something else. This is super simple. We all forget sometimes. Breathe. The breathing exercises that we’ve all probably been taught in various scenarios are super helpful, and I’m really bad at this. So sometimes, if you’re faced with a situation that is triggering you into some sort of unhealthy response or behavior, you’re not — you don’t want to respond with — or it’s breaking down your mindset or sending you into a depression or whatever it might be, breathing can help. Just stopping, clearing your mind, and doing breathing exercises. You know, four in, four out. The kind of breathing exercises where you regulate your breathing in and out, that really does help. And he reminded me that — Will was very good about reminding me, hey, this simple, physical acts of doing breathing exercises really make a difference, but in the moment we often forget those things.
Next, replace positive with effective. So this was eye opening as well in that often we put a lot of — too much burden on ourself to have a positive mindset. And when you’re in a negative mindset — you’ve probably experienced this where — think of a time when you were just feeling down. You were just feeling negative and depressed and not great and someone came along and said, oh, just cheer up and be positive and have a positive outlook and a positive attitude. And you want to punch them in the face, right? That’s just not going to be helpful. [Laughing]. And so we do that to ourselves also. We think of ourselves, oh, I’m not a — I’m not being positive; I’m — I’ve got the wrong attitude; I’ve got a horrible attitude, blah, blah.
So I’m not saying it’s a good thing to just dwell in negativity. That’s not helpful either sometimes. But it’s often more helpful to replace the word “positive” with “effective.” So instead of saying how could I be more positive about this situation, you might say, how could I be more effective about this situation? So instead, you’re detaching this emotional label that you need or think you need from yourself, and you’re putting it onto this objective action, which is how can I be more effective? Or how can I make this a more effective situation? Or how can I be more effective as I take this action? So effective is a much less emotionally charged term, and if we use the word effective in place of positive, we’re detaching the emotional baggage from it, and we’re using a more objective and practical kind of label for things. So that was helpful to me.
Also, improv. I have never done improv. My friend Will did do improv, and he was talking about how it’s a way to kind of roll with things. So in the improv world, apparently — I’ve never done this, but I’ve heard that when you’re in improv, the philosophy is always “yes, and.” So if someone says, oh, I am going to frame this situation and improv and I’m going to say here’s the situation I’m setting up, you don’t want to say, oh, no, that’s a dumb idea, or no, I’m not going to roll with that. You always want to roll with it by saying, “yes, and,” or thinking, “yes, and.” So okay. Here’s a situation. Let’s adapt and let’s roll with it. So apparently taking improv classes can be very helpful to business owners because we have to roll with lots of unpredictable situations. And being able to kind of have this mindset of saying, yes, and what am I going to do about it, and rolling and adapting with situations that come up is very helpful.
So also, just some practical activities that can help are journaling. Keeping a journal of your thoughts is more helpful than I originally thought. I’ve been doing a little bit more of this recently, and just writing down your thoughts and writing down your emotions, both negative and positive around situations in your business and your life, can really be helpful in unloading those things. It’s something else I am terrible at as well and that’s writing down things and making time to journal. But if you write or type out your thoughts and kind of dump them someplace to hold, that’s — that can be really helpful sometimes to unloading some of those emotions.
And of course — I mean, this is an obvious one, but I have to say it. Take care of yourself. Take care — get a massage. Make time in your schedule for things that give you energy and give you life and feed your soul. Whether it’s getting a massage or treating yourself to a pedicure or eating that cupcake or whatever it might be, take care of yourself and remember that if you don’t take care of yourself, you’re sometimes less able to help the people you want to serve. So include yourself in that mission of improving quality of life for your clients and whoever else you are trying to make an impact on. Include yourself in that because you have to take care of yourself in order to be resilient and be effective for other people as well.
So that’s kind of what I got. And it was a — like I said, it was a really interesting discussion I had with Will. And if you want to contact him — and he works with people all over the country, so he’s not local to my area. He does work with athletes as well as business owners. And so if you’d like to talk to him about these things, send me a note, and I’ll be happy to do an email introduction to Will because he’s a great guy. And he really lives these principles and is a really great resource for learning about this stuff.
So that’s what I got. I hope that was helpful. And I want to hear if you have any thoughts also, Allissa.
AH No. I like this approach to being effective rather than thinking you have to be in a certain mood or feel a certain way about something. Simply be effective about it. Like what’s — and I like this because it’s — it kind of follows along with if you’re in a mood, if you’re struggling with something, what’s the next logical step? It’s a pretty good one-step-a-time approach.
AH And I was actually listening to a podcast the other day from the guy who wrote the book on deep work — thinking deeply, working deeply, not getting interrupted — and he said, I never let my mood determine the course of my day; my mood does not dictate what I’m going to get done on any particular day. And it was — I don’t know that that’s possible for all of us. [Laughing]. But —
MR Yeah. That’s hard.
AH It’s really hard. And we should cut ourselves some slack sometimes. But I like that idea of being — worry about being effective more than worrying about feeling positive about something.
AH So yeah. So that’s it. I don’t have anything else to add other than that. I think you were pretty thorough there, Michael.
MR Cool. Thank you.
AH So thank you, everybody, for listening. If you have topics, questions you want us to cover, you can email us at email@example.com. If you find this podcast helpful, please tell a massage friend about it. Show them how to listen to podcasts on their device or on their computer and have them subscribe to our podcast. And if you like us, leave us a review. And even just clicking that little 4-star thing or whatever is really helpful. You don’t have to get all wordy about it, but that’s good too. So thank you. Thanks for listening. And we will see you on the flip side.
MR Thanks, everyone.