We Are Pioneers You And Me

In this week’s episode of the Unshiny Podcast, I’ll be talking about how we all get to be pioneers. Not only building our business but in shaping the industry and the wider culture around us, simply by doing our businesses, our way.  For years opening and running a business was prohibitively expensive. -Out of reach for most folks, especially women and people of colour. But technology means you can now start a business that makes money with only a phone and a wifi connection.   The means of production are in our hands.  The gatekeepers of business- the bank managers and investors who were ones who could say yes or no, loan the start-up money, grant the permits and so on are no longer the ones in control and the barriers have been removed.    This is exciting because there are so many opportunities in this brave new world, and because the industry is so new we have the opportunity to shape it in any way we choose.  The downside of that is there are no real roadmaps, apart from those being pushed, by the guys who used to be the gatekeepers – hence the bro marketers and the Tony Robbins style machismo of the disgruntled white dude shouting at us from our computer monitors insisting we need their formula or wisdom to be ‘successful’.  So how do we find our own path and avoid the pitfalls?  How do we decide on the direction? And how do we make sure that we’re not bringing familiar toxic practices like overwork and burnout over into our businesses?  I’ll be diving into all this in this episode, including 
  • The origins of the word pioneer. 
  • A bit of a history of barriers to even starting a business for many folks. 
  • The beauty and the drawbacks of being the first on the path. 
  • And how we can use this opportunity to create nourishing, sustainable businesses – not only for ourselves but as a model of possibility that reshapes the culture of work altogether. 

Books Mentioned in this episode:

Burnout by EMILY NAGOSKI, PHD and AMELIA NAGOSKI, DMA Emergent Strategy Shaping Change, Changing Worlds by  ADRIENNE MAREE BROWN

Previous Unshiny Podcast Episodes Mentioned:

Episode 1 – What Is An Unshiny Business Episode 2 – The Co-Delusion Of The Shiny Life

Episode 3 – Coach Your Own Business 


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[00:00:00] Hello, lovely people. This is Jo. Welcome to the unshiny  podcast.  I’ve been thinking about these episodes that we’ve done so far in this season, and they’re very much designed as a kind of a primer for what we mean by an Unshiny business what it is, what it isn’t. And so I’m aware that we’re still in a quite theoretical space. [00:00:23] We are going to be today as well. But this is going to be the last one for a while. I want to talk about owning your right to do it your way. And the idea that you and me we are pioneers in this industry, the online business space is so new and yet there are people in it who obviously have experience in doing certain things in certain ways. [00:00:55] There are people who are trying all kinds of different things in all kinds of different areas. And it’s really exciting because we get to do that too. But there’s a problem because we are,  we, we exist and we’re in this patriarchal capitalist society that is set up in this idea of being quite paternalistic of, of the idea that the only experts, the only people with the right to exert expert influence. [00:01:28] Although those people [00:01:30] who have done certain things and look a certain way, I’m a millionaire. Even though maybe they inherited a huge amount of money and were able to invest in technology and help way before you were ever able to do so. Or I’m a white person who wants to Harvard say out I’m a bestselling author, or there are lots of, of signifiers that we have for, or authority. [00:01:55] And I suppose what the. And the shiny folks are really focused on is expressing their level of authority, why they have the right to be there. And they do that through things like signifying wealth or, you know, how, how literally, how glossy and clear that their skin is or images of them on the beach, or look, here’s my best-selling book that I’ve written. [00:02:24] And I’m not saying that. We automatically dismiss those things. All I am saying is having those things, having the Harvard degree, having the the career working for wherever, it might be something that sounds really impressive. Having written the book doesn’t necessarily mean they have. Any more rights to be doing this work and taking up space in this really young industry than you or me. [00:02:59] What [00:03:00] is wonderful about having the, the technology that we have now is that it has him in many ways. Democratize democratize, democratize. Oh my God. Look, democracy made it more available to many more people than we have before. Many more people than were able to even 20 years ago start their own business. [00:03:33] If you go back 30, 40, 50 years, there were certain people who literally just weren’t able to access things like funding. You had to go to a bank and have a business plan and get a loan because setting up a business usually required a physical premises or equipment or money for traditional investments. [00:03:54] And so there was the huge barriers to entry. With that traditional kind of bricks and mortar businesses needed investment money. And that investment money was literally not available through kind of. To mainstream traditional channels to an awful lot of people women, people of color there were literally laws about this and policies about it. [00:04:23] Having the, the, the time to be able to do that, those things, to be able to have [00:04:30] enough investment to allow you to. Not take earnings from a business for several years. I remember watching called shark tank in the U S but we call it Dragon’s den in the UK and I genuinely can’t stand watching programs where people are. [00:04:49]Mean to each other in that kind of hostility in the Heights of stuff. So I don’t watch it very often, but I remember when it first came out, it was a bit of a novelty. And one of the things I was quite amazed at was the number of business owners who weren’t taking a salary or weren’t taking any money from that, their business. [00:05:06] And that was seen as the norm for most people. And to me at the time, I’m a single parent. So it was like, well, I can’t afford to do that unless somebody is going to invest a huge amount of money for me to be able to do that while I’m building the business up. [00:05:24] Now, the barrier to entry, to running a successful business, earning money. Quickly. Yeah, much more quickly making a profit quickly, having a higher profit margin than, you know, if you had a bricks and mortar store is. It’s so much lower. Literally all you need in some cases is some way of accessing the, the the internet, whether that be a mobile phone or a laptop and a wifi connection or a microphone, [00:06:00] we can start. [00:06:01] Earning money just by, by the, you know, the, these things. And so that means you do have 15 year old girls who are making really great money being influencers or from their YouTube channels. You have. Businesses really bespoke and would be really niche and would, would maybe struggle to supply that products to a wide enough audience, if they would just focused on their lo their locality at the people who end their town, you have them now able to do business with people, literally all over the world. [00:06:41] And you have service-based businesses like us who are able to. Do you work with clients virtually all over the world? Just for the price of. A broadband connection. I don’t know a webcam. Oh, your phone. And that’s amazing. It’s taken away huge amounts of physical and financial barriers. Well, it’s not done though. [00:07:06] Is taken away the. The kind of cultural, psychological barriers that, that some of us are carrying around and some of the people are putting onto us. And so this episode is all about us. Laming all space in the industry and acknowledging the fact that we are pioneers. So not only do we get to. [00:07:30] Cheat our claim, our space, we get to define it. [00:07:35] We get to shape it. And fat’s really exciting that excites me so much because for many of us. What 20 years ago, or maybe even 10 years ago would have been okay. If you’re a woman you come or you you’re from a marginalized group and you are, maybe you have a disability, maybe you have caring responsibilities. [00:08:05] Maybe you didn’t have access to great quality education, or you weren’t. Able to pay the, whatever the fees were or put aside the time to go to college. You are now able to have so many more options than would have been open to you. That would have been open to me. My only option to 15 years ago was,  when I owned my, my son was small and I was a single parent. [00:08:33]And struggling with,  some, some not insignificant mental health challenges was to go work in an office where I was limited in terms of my promotion opportunities, because I had to leave at a certain time because I had childcare responsibilities because yeah. And I’m really lucky that I live in a country where certainly at the time I was able to get supplemental tax credits. [00:08:57] And that was the only way I was able to work. That [00:09:00] was the only way I was able to afford childcare and go to work was because I had those tax credits, those tax credits aren’t available and anything like that, the way that they are now, the work that I did was, you know, I was limited to, there was a limited choice out there. [00:09:17] I worked in learning and development, which I thankfully again, so which privilege I was something I really enjoyed and I was able to find. A role that was quite close to where I lived. It was on your 20 minute commute. I very deliberately went to work for a local authority because I knew that they had flexible working policies, but on an awful lot of organizations still don’t have those. [00:09:41]Even, so it meant working in an open plan office. It meant sometimes working long hours and taking work home to keep up with things. And I was incredibly lucky being able to do that. Now I’m able to do is set up my working environment in a way that that suits my disposition, that suits my, my introversion, that suits my neurodivergence, that suits my, again, tendency towards the anxious. [00:10:08] And so I can have a really calm environment. I can find clients all over the world. I don’t have to be limited to the people that I know locally. And I can do it without having to go to a bank manager or to investors to say, I really believe in this. And I think it will work [00:10:30] and them making the decision as to whether I can have some money from them. [00:10:38] I get to do all of that. And I couldn’t have done that 10, 15 years ago, and we certainly couldn’t have done that. The further apart we go, so all of a sudden, like really, really quickly, so many of us now have. Access to shaping services, shaping conversations to it, claiming space on a cultural place, having influence, being able to share our ideas and our philosophies about things in a way that has never been available to us before. [00:11:13] And yet. We have the, the old school, the burrow marketers, the shiny marketers, still speaking that language of power over, still speaking that language of you need me to tell you what today, which is what we talked about in the last episode. And I really want to give you full permission to. Claim your space as a pioneer shaping this industry, maybe it’s about shaping whichever, kind of a niche or industry that you’re in, whether you want to. [00:11:54] Talk about sustainability within clothing manufacturing, or whether you want to talk [00:12:00] about mental health and burnout within coaching, or whether you want to talk about, I don’t know what ever is. I know so many magical, amazing people who are talking about things that I swear. We weren’t having conversations. [00:12:15] I don’t even five years ago. And that’s amazing. That’s awesome. The problem with being a pioneer though, is we’re often doing it without a map. And also if we go back to the idea of the, the, the, kind of the original definition of the word, awesome. [00:12:45] There a lot of things that also great about the idea of being a pioneer. I think we have that very American idea of  the pioneers of the wild West,  forging ahead and creating a new country. I mean, that, that sounds terribly romantic problematic as how well we realize what that involved to  for indigenous populations. [00:13:08] But actually the, the pioneers, the actual pioneers was the people who traveled ahead of the, the, the explorers. They were the people who. Let’s say past the two set rate with [00:13:30] picks and shovels pioneers were originally foot soldiers who marched ahead of a regiment to dig the trenches, to clear the roads and the terrain would that picks and their shovels so that the rest of the army could have a clearer path. [00:13:55] The idea of that, that kind of colonias does colonist or Sackler, meaning of pioneer really did not exist until the 18 hundreds. So we have this, the, these, these concepts of the idea of pioneer. The foot soldier, the,  the people who cleared the rocks I had to the, the, the infantry had of the, the army and the offices that people who quite often,  died from accidents or because it was incredibly dangerous or just because it was such a hard. [00:14:34] Hard life, if you were traveling ahead of the, the infantry, then very often you were not just the person who was the first to come across the rock that needed clearing, but maybe you were the person who came across the mountain lion that, needed something for its dinner and things like that. [00:14:51]This idea of the pioneer, almost being less important and disposable, they’re going to do the shitty jobs [00:15:00] first. I want you to just hold that in mind, first of all. And then there’s also the idea of the pioneer as being yeah. This colonial settler idea that , well, I’m just taking it’s mine as a matter who else it belongs to. [00:15:17] And so I think we have to talk about both of those ideas of, of being a pioneer to make sure that we’re not falling into those practices through our work. Let’s talk about the, the, the, the colonial idea. First of all, that is. Problems in the, the, the wellness community. There are problems in the online business space. [00:15:44] There are problems in society, around things like people taking what is not theirs people. Whether that be. Taking on practices and not accrediting, not crediting the people who they’ve come from, whether that be taking things for [00:16:08] There are problems with both of those models. I want us to really be aware of those so that when we talk about being a pioneer, when we really own owning the space of being a pioneer, we are very clearly not falling into the idea of that kind of colonialist. Very often white supremacist idea [00:16:30] of, Oh, I’m going to build on other people’s work I’m going to call  it mine, or I’m going to take, what’s not mine. If that means, we have basic principles. Like we credit our teachers.    Being aware that we’re doing as little harm as possible, and also being aware that we’re going to mess it up at times, not intentionally, but we just will, because. Being in dialogue, being in a cultural space, being out, doing this work is going to be messy. [00:17:05] We are going to mess it up. I mess up all of the time we see  some of our teachers, some of our heroes sometimes really messing up. And the,  test for me is not whether somebody messes up because we will mess up. We’re all gonna mess up. It is how we respond to being challenged around that. [00:17:25] And I think some of the problems that have come across with some of our bigger names, certainly in the coaching and the teaching space has been around how unwilling those people have been to accept. That they may have unintentionally done wrong. But  this, the, a lot of white lady tears and a lot of justification that goes on and a lot of  additional drama that is created where we end up doing more harm for [00:18:00] being. [00:18:00] Called out and told that we have done harm and that can be a tricky space to be in, but that’s why we need to be continuing to do our work, to make sure that our values around things like social justice, around things like equity in the space and, and, and being aware of our privilege and using our privilege for good and knowing that when to pull back and knowing that it’s, it’s not okay to mess up in that. Yeah. Oh, it’s fine. I can mess up. But knowing that you will mess up is not the end of the world. It’s by doing the work that we mess up and then we have the opportunity to grow. And I think the important part is, is taking the opportunity to grow. [00:18:56] There’s a great book called emergent strategy by Adrienne Maree Brown. And  she talks about almost like how the messiness, how the fact that cultures shift and change, and we don’t always have this one set path.  We develop our strategies and our approaches over time through patterns of action, not through having this one straight linear path through these. [00:19:26] And I think that is such a key concept [00:19:30] to grasp as pioneers, getting to shape this industry, this online space. You’re not going to have all of the answers. It is going to be messy. You will try a load of stuff that maybe doesn’t go so well. And you will try a load of stuff that goes fantastically, and there’ll be a load of stuff in the middle and all of it is necessary. [00:19:54] And. Valid and important so that we can do these big shifts, both for our own businesses and for us culturally.   [00:20:05] This concept of being, being a pioneer that I want us to really be aware of and, and, and jettison is that we all clearing a path in many ways. And there is a strain of [00:20:22]behavior conditioning that i see, especially  in women. That’s predominantly who I do my work with and the idea that we have to sacrifice ourselves that we buy into the busy to exhaustion culture.  That we don’t prioritize our own health and ability to thrive. That means not paying lip service to self-care and rest, but actually building it into our [00:21:00] businesses and this is a really tricky area for many of us, because we’ve been conditioned to. Put our needs to the bottom of the pile.  [00:21:12] My friend, Lara Heacock calls it being a tightly wound woman . Quite Type A, we are good at getting things done.  If you’re an entrepreneur, if you run your own business, you have to be a self-starter. You have to be good at getting things done. Knowing when to pull back when done is enough when to not get caught up in perfectionism or imposter complex and moving away from that pushing, pushing, pushing takes a long time. [00:21:43] It really is a journey.  [00:21:46]And also we have become very disconnected from knowing when we are, when we are tired, when we have done enough, when we need to rest, we are so good at pushing through so good. It’s endemic There’s this fabulous book called burnout, which I’ve been reading lately and I’ll put the links to it in the show notes, talking about just the amount of rest that we all need and how we are chronically rest deprived. [00:22:15] And running our own business gives us the opportunity to set up our businesses in a way that are nourishing. Not only doing good in the work that we do and not only doing good in the way that we are able to shift and change [00:22:30] conversations and shape this industry that we’re in to impact the lives of others, but also change the culture of work. [00:22:39] We have the ability to do that. However we quite often will struggle with. This is totally new. I am so used to work in eight till six, and then coming home and do my emails. And so it’s very easy to find yourself working long hours, not resting enough. And that is almost going to the, the idea of the pioneer who’s clearing the road for the people. [00:23:07] You do not want to be one of those people. Who’s clearing the way for the people to run there. Wonderful gorgeous life-changing businesses, but you end up burning out yourself because you have pushed and worked yourself so hard. So one of the things I talk to with my clients is about how can we keep coming back to ease? [00:23:29] How can we find the ease at the core of our business? And it’s not always that easy. It is a bit of a journey. But when we can do that, when we can own the fact that we are pioneers, we can let go of the idea that we have to do it a certain way. We can untangle ourselves from this idea that there’s one right way to do it. [00:23:53] The world of work was set up after the industrial revolution. And it was basically [00:24:00] to maximize production in factories. That’s what our modern world of work comes from. It was then refined in the 1940s and fifties in the post-war era about let’s set things up. So that man who’re the predominant workforce because the women were all being encouraged to go back to the kitchen that men could work most efficiently and they didn’t have to worry about  the domestic arrangement, because that mother or the wife would be doing those things That’s the model of work that we’re still working to in the modern workplace. And so we get to change that we get to say, no, I’m not going to do it that way. So if you want to work Saturday mornings and then Tuesday evenings, and then the rest of the time you’re taking off. [00:24:47] Do it, we get to change conversations. We get to change the culture. We get to change our own lives. We get to change the lives of the people that we work with and if we’re making the money. And that’s another thing that we’re going to be talking about in another episode about the unshiny business approach to money. [00:25:06]Very succinctly is that you should be making lots of it because that way we also get to have cultural and political influence because without financial influence, we don’t have that without financial sustainability. We don’t have that. If you’re having to worry about bills and focusing lots and lots of your energy [00:25:30] on. [00:25:31] How am I going to pay the rent this month? How am I going to make the mortgage? The kids need new shoes that that’s really difficult for you to then be having those impactful conversations around how do we change society and  those little things. So you got to set your business up, however you want to, and that’s gorgeous and liberating and scary. [00:25:55] Because if there’s no roadmap, who do you look to? It can feel isolating. It can feel lonely. And so that’s why at the core of your business, you also need fellow travelers around you. You need other people who are on the path, maybe they’re going in slightly different directions. Maybe some are a bit further ahead than you. [00:26:24] Maybe some have been down some dead ends, maybe some of them are going to help  chop down some of the, the foliage . And the things in your paths, maybe they’re going to hold your hand and maybe they’re going to give you some water. Maybe they’re going to sit down and have a good chat around the campfire at night, knowing that you will not on your own. [00:26:50] That you’re actually traveling with a whole crowd of other amazing people who are also pioneers, who [00:27:00] were also shaping the terrain. That’s when it gets to be not lonely. That’s when it gets to be exciting and empowering. And when I talked last week about the different people that you need in your business, whether that be coaching and mentoring that group of fellow travelers,is  just as important. [00:27:24] So that’s it from me, revel in your pioneerness, maybe think about where are some of the ways that you can refocus  and continue to place the idea of ease at the heart of your business and above all else. Enjoy the journey. Enjoy being on this path.   Until next time.

[00:27:46] Thank you so much for listening and I will speak to you soon.