The worst business advice I have ever received

Last year around this time, I attended an energy healing session.

This requires some context. I had decided to put renewed effort (and capital) into my business, and I was working with a pricey business coach. Her online business model was smart and succinct, and she was doing incredibly well for herself. So when she provided a free energy healing with the coaching package, I figured I’d give it a try.

Fast forward to me on my couch, a phone to my ear while the energy healer directed me and five other women to “raise your hands to the sky and feel good vibes flowing through you.” Over the course of an hour, she walked us through breathing exercises, told us about our past lives (“Your ancestors are grateful for the career you’ve chosen,” she told me, maybe not realizing I write about anime), and cleansed our “aural grids,” whatever that means. By the time the hour was over, some of the other women were eagerly signing up for follow-up sessions, which run to the tune of $300 an hour. Me? I was vowing to never tell anyone about it.

Honestly, I got nothing out of it, and felt sort of stupid I even attended. And yet, I can’t write it off completely—my business coach, who is wildly more successful than me by every measure, swears by her regular energy cleansing sessions. Maybe focusing on your spiritual outlook first helps other people succeed at business, but not this skeptical atheist.

This may have been the only such session I’ve ever attended, but certainly not the only one I’ve heard about or been invited to. I’m not sure why, but the narrative of business success (for women especially) is tied to the spiritual. Perhaps it’s because women are encouraged to “have it all” and strive at every aspect of their lives in order to feel successful at even one thing, so mental health, “self care,” and fitness are all tied to having a brilliant career.

Now that I’m getting over my embarrassment, I want to say this is some of the worst business advice I’ve ever received. And I feel that even well-meaning, non-superstitious people believe it.

Here’s some more pseudo-psychology advice that hasn’t helped me at all:

“You can leave your work at the office”

At one meeting for local women entrepreneurs, I met a shaman. Her day job is going out to the wealthy suburbs of DC to burn candles and ring a bell to “purify” McMansions. We were talking about taxes until it became clear she was in a much, much higher tax bracket than I was.

By this point, I was almost thinking, “Sign me up!” But there’s no way I wouldn’t erupt into giggles between sutras, because I think this is all bull. Just think of how amazing this woman is, being able to do all this with a straight face. She really believes in her work.

I have no problem parting rich people from their money, but without that devotion, I would just feel like a fraud every day. We spend the majority of our time working. If you go into work that directly opposes your belief structure, you’ll be depressed even after you go home.

“Build it and they will come”

A lot of business and life advice for women centers around “putting an intention out into the universe.” Create a vision board of your dreams. Chant personal mantras. Write your goals on a piece of paper and burn it while meditating into the flames. You get the idea.

Frankly, I don’t think the universe gives a shit about what I “intend” to do. Last month I launched Asuna, my first WordPress theme from scratch, and since then have sold exactly one copy. Time to double down on daily affirmations? Probably I’d be better off, you know, advertising it.

“How you do something is how you do everything”

I heard about a woman who charges thousands to train people to run races in order to increase their earnings, stating the correlation that lots of successful people run races. By that logic, I should be rich—I ran two 10K races and four 5K races last year.

The idea is that if you can put the time, effort, and capital into running races, you’ll discover that you have renewed endurance to put into your business. But I’m not sure there’s a connection. Some of the times I’ve earned the most money in my career have been times when every other aspect of my life was falling apart. I once had a period of emotional stress in which I stopped eating. I didn’t really notice what a wreck I was until I attended a conference for work and the promotional fanny pack (long story) they gave me to wear slipped down to my ankles. And yet, I was doing pretty well as a careerist, getting lots of bylines and recognition for my work.

It is certainly easier for me to work hard when I am happy and healthy. But whether I’m good or bad at other aspects of my life doesn’t transfer to whether I’m good or bad at my career.

“Fake it ’til you make it” 

Haha, I have imposter syndrome. I will not attempt to sell a service or product until I am at least twice as qualified as I need to be.

Different things work for different people, but none of this advice has worked for me. If I had to boil down what has worked for my business is one word: persistence. I go back to my work every day. I try a variety of techniques, including some of the events and programs for women entrepreneurs listed here, which you may also find sort of questionable. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail, and sometimes I try something so dumb I vow not to tell anyone (except only all of my readers, a full year later). I decide if it’s for me or not, and move on.

Photo by Claire on Flickr