Read an Excerpt
Clearing the ground
Where you create the space and stretch your time to enable you to see your vision.
Before any garden can be seeded, the ground has to be prepared. The rocks and weeds need clearing, the earth has to be turned and the nutrients introduced.
Starting a business is the same way. You have to clear the clutter from your life, internally and externally. You have to create the right environment to be able to grow your vision.
You're about to make some major decisions that could affect the rest of your life. But until you've created some clean space, pulled those weeds, and removed those rocks, you'll never really find the clarity of mind and focus that you'll need to move forward.
For many of us, space and time are probably two of the hardest qualities to find in our busy twenty-first century lives. That's why we're going to start off our SEED mentoring program in this first chapter with stories and exercises to help you stretch time and clear the necessary physical and mental space in which to develop your ideas.
My own natural state is chaos, with millions of ideas and thoughts racing round my head. That's all very healthy during the creative process. But before I start a new project I find it crucial to clear away as much of the internal and external clutter in my life as I can.
Your Desk Area.
You'll need physical space for your SEED work: a place for a desk, or table, files, bookshelves, and so on. But withso much excess "stuff" in every corner of your living environment, how do you begin to create a peaceful yet stimulating physical space?
Clutter can come in many shapes and forms, and it's amazing how easy it is to accumulate old circulars, last year's Christmas cards, and magazines you've already read. Often "preparing the ground" is simply a matter of dealing with these bits of paper that we put aside because we're sure they are to be important one day. Why not go through all your old files, letters, and junk mail right now and throw away everything that you know you'll never look at again?
Then, organize what's left. Put papers into identifiable files (I always use brightly colored ones, as they encourage me to be organized). Put all your owner's manuals togetherI've lost some important ones in the pastand be ruthless with the magazine and newspaper references you've been collecting for years. Spend an evening going through all those old press cuttings and throw out the ones you've no use for. Carefully file away only those articles that you may actually need as references for your proposed enterprise.
Sort out your financial paperwork, too. Put pending bills in an accessible place, and file away your old check books and bank statements. Now that you're thinking of becoming self-employed, start getting used to organizing your receipts and bills in an orderly way.
I'm sure you're getting the picturestart with a grand sweep of all the paper clutter you'll never need againgiving a thought to the poor trees that are sacrificed to give us this overload of documents and information.
Then start with your books. The shelves they're taking up space on will be needed for your new enterprise, and besides, clearing away obsolete materials is very cleansing for the mind.
But what good does it do to straighten out your files and bookshelves when you have no quiet place to call your own? How can you focus on a vision of your new enterprise when you've got young children or noisy teenagers invading your space?
It's important, however small a home you may have, for your family or housemates to support you in keeping a clear area for yourself.
If you have got a large enough home, dedicate one room to your SEED vision. It's so important to create a living, vital space that reflects your energy. We're like plants. We need good space, light, plenty of water, and fresh air. And if you have a window with a view, make sure you can see out when you're working. We need the appropriate environment where we can grow mentally, physically, and spiritually. More on this later, when we'll talk about the Chinese principle of "feng shui." But first, on to more decluttering.
Your Clothes Closet.
And then, of course, there's that delicate area your wardrobe.
You might ask, "What does cleaning out my closet have to do with starting a new business?" Quite a lot, actually. It's all part of the process of clearing out and getting rid of superfluous "things" you don't need in your life any more. It mentally gives you space to let in all the exciting, new challenges that are coming your way.
Fashion is fashion, and clothes date. Also, if you're planning to leave the corporate world, why do you want to hang on to all those mannish, tailored suits? The new, empowered independent "you" may need to change your image to suit your new lifestyle.
A new hairstyle, natural makeup, and a more relaxed style of dressing can do wonders for your self-esteem. And think how much extra storage space you'll have!
A good spring cleaning, whatever time of the year, is healthy both mentally and physically. Healthy body, healthy mindand you're going to need all your mental faculties to be in top form once you get going. I'm not talking about some drastic diet, but what about cutting out the junk food? Try and get into a routine of eating regularly and healthily.
I cut out wheat a year ago and after controlling my urges to nibble lots of bread during business lunches, I felt so much better. I found out I was allergic to it, like so many these days, and without wheat in my life I lightened up on every level. I lost weight, but mostly I had more energy. I realized that wheatbread and pasta, I'm afraidhad made me feel more sluggish for years.
I also stopped drinking coffee and tea years ago. I try and drink lots of pure water every day or herbal tea and find I'm much clearer. Of course, each body is different, so start taking a note of what you consume each day and try to cut out the things you think may be slowing you down.
The important thing to remember is no excesswhatever your weakness!
Clutter is different in everybody's life, and I got some interesting answers when I started asking friends and colleagues what they consider "clutter."
One said all her clutter is in the trunk of her car. She described it as a "graveyard" of unnecessary material she collects at business meetings and carries around with her until she's going on a trip and needs the space for luggage.
Another friend said her answering machine collects an endless clutter of messages from casual acquaintances calling for free marketing and P.R. advice. She deals with it by calling back when she hopes they're out and leaving a brief message saying she's crazily busy right now and hopes their problems are resolved. Like many I spoke to, and despite her obliging personality, she tries to screen her calls in the evening so she gets some respite.
Laura, my book editor, told me how she throws away all her junk mail directly from her mailbox and doesn't even bring it into her home.
I'm sure all of us have handbags, wallets, and makeup bags that would benefit from a good clear out. I am always pleasantly surprised at the phone numbers, cash, and receipts that I find in the bottom of my bag. I used to have huge handbags but theorized that if I keep the bags small, I won't mislay so many important bits of paper. These days I try and clear out weekly.
Phone numbers on small bits of paper featured in a lot of clutter stories I collected. I tend to transfer mine to an electronic organizer these days, which can be a disaster if accidentally wiped without a backupI learned my lesson the hard way!
Start putting together a database, either on your computer or manually, with all your contact phone numbers and addresses in alphabetic order as well as with a subject reference. For example, Angela goes under A as a friend, but you should also note that she works in a bank and will be a good person to get advice from when you're ready to open a business account.
The earlier you can start putting together a database, the better. It's always been my experience that this is one job, once you get busy, which is inevitably left to some undetermined time in the future.
I also heard lots of clutter stories about junk we tend to hoard on our computer. Dump those old e-mails, letters, and thoughts that you'll never need again in the trash can. Clean up your virtual desktop in the same way that you clean up your physical desk and see how much clearer your head feels.
Feng Shui at Work.
The Chinese principle of feng shui, where your exterior environment reflects the positive energy you wish to attract in the different areas of your life, is used religiously by Asian businesses. I've had my homes and offices feng-shui'd for years, and I've always found it a highly effective way of redirecting the energy I need.
Feng shui practitioners believe that every object that surrounds you is an external metaphor for your life and affects your psyche. It is an art and science of living in harmony with your environment almost like psychic interior design.
By repositioning furniture, hanging crystals and mirrors appropriately to redirect energy, and using fountains and wind chimes, I believe you can really change your home or your office. Combine this with a powerful intention to heal the negative areas of your life and feng shui can have a very dynamic effect.
When L.A.-based feng-shui experts Herb and Elaine Wright came to my office and home loft, they immediately suggested that I get rid of the dead plants and even my dried rose petals.
I hadn't even noticed the plants had died, but they told me that anything dead and dying can affect us on an unconscious level. We need to have vital, living things around us. Of course, it's all perfect common sense when you think about it.
In fact, everything the Wrights told me improved my home office aesthetically as well as energetically. I already had small fountains in my home, knowing that apart from the soothing effect of the sound of the flowing water, the imagery is a potent symbol for your business and life flowing, rather than stagnating.
It even painted the front door bright red instead of the beautiful blue it was before. Elaine Wright insisted it would bring in good financial fortune, and my colleagues said it made the office seem much warmer.
Every object you place on your desk is a powerful metaphor. I have a small fountain with running water made of rocks and slate on my desk, plus some Chinese Lucky bamboo to attract good fortune, a couple of crystals, and pictures of my kids and loved ones. Other than that it's my computer, some files, and my working papers. A mixture of the practical with some more personally significant objects.
A busy desk is always going to be somewhat cluttered, but try and clear away the nonessentials every night. My kitchen table, where I hold my meetings and work when I'm not on the computer, can end up with a variety of piles of documents. (By the way, warn everyone in your household never to touch your piles of paperwhat seems like a mess to anyone trying to clean up usually makes perfect sense to us.)
I do ensure that I clear it up at least twice a day. I also always like to light a candle on the table in the morning as a symbol of positive energy, which I put out when I finish work for the day.
Writer, teacher, and friend Denise Linn has been teaching the importance of what she calls "sacred space" for many years. She told me that it is essential that we create an oasis of sanctuary not only in our homes but in our offices, too. This way we will have the space to hear our inner voice and intuition while we are working in the outside world, and get the most out of all our talents.
Your Inner Space.
Creating a well-balanced workspace is not the only part of the SEED preparation. You need to create a special place where you can go inside, too, an internal space where you can go to hear your intuitive voice give you guidance with no distractions from the outside world.
Whether you prefer to think that you are listening to your inner voice, your higher self, your intuition, or a divine energy, the fact is that you often have the answers to your questions already in your unconscious.
It's just that we are so bombarded with media, information, noise, and distraction from every side, we often find it hard to hear our own internal voices.
Learning to routinely clear away the "noise" in your life is a crucial aspect of preparing the ground for your new venture. The following exercise will help you to create the quiet you need.
Finding quiet time must become an essential part of your daily routine if you want to succeed. Once you've got your altar ready, it's time to go inside for the first SEED meditation. If you haven't meditated before, don't worry that there is some great mystery to it that you won't be able to fathom. I was once told by a wise old Tibetan lama to think of meditation as just the pause between breaths.
EXERCISE: SEED QUIET TIME AND MEDITATION
Find a quiet spot, in your garden or a nearby park, surrounded by plants and flowers. Make this your special SEED silence spot. When the climate or circumstances keep you indoors your place of quiet can be your SEED altar.
Creating your SEED altar can be even more fun than getting your desk organized. Set up a small table against a wall in a quiet space in your home, out of eyesight of your desk. Cover the table with a beautiful piece of cloth and place special objects and pictures representing your dreams and loved ones on it.
Plant some seeds representing your business in a small pot and also place it on your altar. Always have fresh flowers nearby. Nurture the altar, attending to your special objects with care. Have a candle and sweet-smelling incense on it, ready to light. This is your private space. where if you can only spend ten minutes at the beginning and end of the day, your dreams can germinate and start to grow.
Take the time to hear your inner voice, develop your insights, and connect with your true vision. Learn to trust your intuition and strengthen your higher self. Trust it now.
Ask the divine power of the universe to co-create your SEED dream with you and make it real. Imagine you are planting the seeds of your future, and in the silence that you allow yourself, let them gather strength. Leave your mind free and just note the thoughts as they drift through. Trust that your unconscious mind is working at the deepest level to give you the tools you need to bring your garden to life.
Starting an entrepreneurial business is first of all about an idea, a passion that comes from the heart, not the head.
That idea, plus confidence in your own abilities, luck, good judgment, and a lot of hard work, can blossom into a successful enterprise.
But first you have to find the time and space to recognize your needs and your talents, and to learn to hear your own inner wisdom.
Even when you have created the appropriate internal and external space, with the constant intrusion of life's obligations and interruptions, preparing the ground for the business you envision won't be possible unless you find a way to stretch time.
Whether you are single or have a family, are currently working nine-to-five or juggling several part-time jobs, something's got to give if you want to devote some quality time to your venture.
Here are some wise words from different women I asked, who've learned to get more out of every hour, without sacrificing their need for relaxationbecause starting a business the feminine way involves decreasing your level of stress, not adding to it.
I realized that if I made a very simple change in my day-to-day life, I would have the time I needed to begin to realize my dream. I simply set my alarm clock for one hour earlier. I gave myself an hour every dayas a gift. It's the perfect time for me, too. The rest of the world is quiet and I can think about my project with a fresh mind before the onslaught of kids and work and routine.
So-called "vampire" friends who just want to suck my energy have had to go now that I'm working for myself. I love seeing my close friends but I don't want to see complainers and professional "victims." The trouble is they are often attracted to strong people and although I'm sympathetic, I want to conserve my energy.
For me, carving out the time I needed meant, first of all, noticing where all my "free" time was being eaten up; dinners and movies with friends, phone calls, and watching TV. I had rationalized that I needed the R & R time after work to get together with friends or come home and veg out in front of the tube. But not every single night of the week! Now I keep the date with myself to work on my business plan two nights a week.
I make lists of everything I have to do the night before. I write them in an attractive notebook and stretch time by crossing out the jobs that aren't really that importantthe time they would have taken up now belongs to my SEED project.
I talked to lots of high-achievers, some with small children, about how they stretch time and fit everything they need to into their lives. Of course, successful earners rely on a support system of childcare, cleaning help, and so on. However, everyone agreed that it was by keeping some space for themselves, just a few minutes here and there, that helped them to have the clarity and time to do their work. Panicking definitely didn't help anyone.
Walks around the block, regular food and restroom breaks, lots of lists, five minutes' silence now and then, making verbal lists into handheld recorders when stuck in traffic, making your phone calls first thing in the morning, and definitely remembering to breathe seem to work for most.
Of course, in these days of technology we have our mobile phones with us. I rarely give my number out, as I would hate it ringing all the time, but at least I can make the calls I need to when I'm travelling.
MEDITATION: GROUNDING YOURSELF FOR YOUR FUTURE
So now that we have cleared some space for your dreams to grow, it's time to ground yourself in front of your special SEED quiet place or altar. As a fitting end to this first SEED chapter, meditate with our special prayer of gratitude, aloud or silently:
"I give thanks to the gods of my special garden for empowering me with the strength and clarity to nurture my seeds and bring them to full growth. I ask for my higher self to join me in courageously moving into my future."