(Or: how not to name your business)
I made the somewhat rash promise yesterday that I’d tell you all about how The Fluent Self came to be called The Fluent Self.
This should really be an Ask Havi post but I can’t be bothered to dredge up a hundred emails asking how come I started a business or how come my business is called The Fluent Self.
As far as popular questions go, it’s probably number three, right after “What’s with the duck?” and “Can you fix all my problems?”.
A little background, yes?
We have to go back some years. I was living in Berlin.
And I was a teacher. Leading change-yer-life-ey workshops on how to use yoga concepts and techniques to do things like … quit smoking, or teach yourself foreign languages, or have a healthy relationship to your body.
And then, “on the side”, I taught actual physical yoga. In Hebrew. To a group of fellow expats and some jewish-culture-obsessed Germans. Yes, I know.
Looking back, I’d have to say it was one of the most interesting periods of my life. For all sorts of reasons, but especially because it was a time of huge, awe-inspiring mental, emotional and spiritual growth. And challenges. And breakthroughs.
Including, basically, downloading the entire Fluent Self system (though it wasn’t called that at the time) in a series of very intense meditations. Which even I thought was kinda crazy.
It wasn’t clear to me at all whether I was giving birth to something or receiving something, but there it was:
A complete system of self-learning and self-work that you could pretty much use to solve, heal or work through basically any problem or issue the world could throw at you. Scary stuff!
Of course I had no idea how completely useless this was in terms of actually making a living … but that’s
another story another hilarious “don’t try this at home, kids” disaster learning experience for another day. The point is, my life felt pretty exciting.
Man, it was great. I was learning and processing so much, and the teaching really felt like it was my calling, and for the first time in my life it was like I had a mission. And I was living it. And it had a name.
I’m sorry, it’s just too embarrassing.
So I was teaching this system, and it had a ridiculous name that I thought was just the most perfect thing in the history of stuff being named. Don’t even ask.
Someone will out me eventually, I’m sure. But it’s just too lame to type out loud.
That’s not the point, though. The point is, I was in love with it. And I was about to have business card and flyers and a website launch, all with this perfect, perfect name, all on the same day.
It was an important day, too, because I was poor. Like, “these are my last twenty euros” poor.
And two things were going on.
One, I knew that I couldn’t take another winter in Berlin. Especially not in a semi-abandoned building where the only heat in the cavernous, high-ceilinged rooms came from persnickety, attention-sucking coal-fired furnaces.
Two, I’d had a dream. A series of dreams. And they’d said, very specifically, that I needed to go to San Francisco because that’s where the next step was.
(Which, in case you’re wondering, turned out to be a very good bit of advice, seeing as how I met — and fell madly in love with — the man you know as “my gentleman friend” a couple of days after I landed. Thanks, weird dream people.)
Anyway, I needed money if I was going to be able to buy a plane ticket to San Francisco and start living my mission and all that stuff. And I had a plan. One plan. All my sad, scared eggs in a tiny little basket.
This was my (incredibly naive and stupid) plan:
I’d realized that even though I loved teaching my awesome system, it was only the Dance of Shiva workshops (my wacky brain training work) that were paying my rent.
So I set up a series of workshops for the month of September, and planned to promote them with flyers at the big yoga festival coming up at the end of the summer.
But what about a website? Well, my ex arrived from Israel and just happened to need to turn out a website design super-fast for his graphic design school portfolio. I was the perfect guinea pig.
The website would feature my workshops and the flyers would feature the website, and this weekend yoga festival was going to fund my next adventure. Or else!
It had to work. Because otherwise I was spending another winter in east Berlin, with heroin junkies on my stairs. Plus, it was my mission!
I’d checked out the domain name I wanted and yep, it was available. But then …. thanks to a combination of not-very-good advice and my lack of what I would now call “cashflow”, we waited until the very last minute to grab it.
The name I wanted had been taken. Not available. Gone.
I was sitting in a smoky internet cafe with a bunch of really loud Turkish kids, completely in shock.
The name was taken. And not just taken. Taken by a bunch of sleazy, pseudo-spiritual jerks who were totally working the fancy-pants shiny, branded, logo-ized angle. It looked like something you’d see in Yoga Journal or something. And I don’t mean that as a compliment.
Ugh. I was upset and anxious and terrified. It was — and here’s where things tie into yesterday’s post — a roadblock. One that was completely, terrifyingly and impossibly impassible.
I already had flyers. I already had cards. The website was all designed and had the name — my name, as I thought of it — plastered all over it.
It seemed like the perfect time to pitch a fit and then figure out a way to pay for another winter’s worth of coal.
But then, out of recently-learned habit, I started applying my techniques. Bringing attention to the stuff that was coming up for me. Being with the worry and the doubt without being impressed by it. Letting myself be mad. Reminding myself that I’d find the right out.
And I remembered what my teacher in Israel used to say:
Kol ma shenegdi ashlaya. Everything that is against me is an illusion.
It wasn’t that I necessarily believed her, but I found a measure of bitter-sweet, ironic comfort in the idea that something which seems like a terrible thing is probably not real. Or that I’m just looking at it the wrong way.
And I started to laugh.
Engaging the roadblock.
It was late at night. My ex agreed to rework the site the next day, in time for the festival — and he and my friends decided to make me new flyers and cards. Because they’re the most wonderful, generous people ever. Yay friends!
But first — I needed to come up with a new name. A name even better than what I’d lost, which I was sure was the most perfect name ever. I had fewer than eight hours to do it. And I needed to get some sleep.
For the full effect, let me sketch you a quick picture of this scene:
It’s me and Keren, my best friend from Israel, and we’re sitting at the kitchen table with paper and crayons, brainstorming.
Also Keren’s German girlfriend, who is smart, funny, stunningly beautiful, and six feet tall (not counting the mohawk), and Henry/Antonia, our erratic drag king diva roommate. And Selma, my duck.
A pot of tea for me, and a couple of bottles of wine for everyone else.
We’re scribbling down every single word we can come up with that relates even vaguely to who I am, what I do, what it means and how I do it. And nothing. We’ve got nothing that doesn’t mostly suck.
I’m out of luck. Except I have one last card.
You can always go inside.
When in doubt, take a nap, I always say. It was bedtime. But first I needed to spend some time in meditation. About how exhausted and anxious and worried I was feeling.
I talked to myself. I talked about fear. And love. And the things I wanted to accomplish. And sat with myself quietly for about fifteen minutes.
And then I said, “Hey, deep internal guidance and smartnesses! Help a girl out. I’m going to sleep now. Do me a favor and engage whatever unconscious abilities you have, okay? Because I really need a name by tomorrow morning.”
Next morning, there it was. The Fluent Self.
This is not the point.
Yes, so I did fill all my workshops thanks to those flyers at the festival, and having the right people come to the website. I made a modest chunk of money, and I made it to San Francisco.
And along the way it also hit me that I’d have to get really good at business really fast if I was ever going to spread the stuff I teach, and help the people I care about.
So yeah, there are all sorts of “lessons” someone might take from this. Some of which may be more relevant than others.
But the thing that sticks out for me personally from this experience in terms of the lessons I take from it is not “think positive” or anything boring like that.
Here’s what I get from all of this:
1. Not every roadblock is a roadblock.
Or at least, it helps to keep in mind that sometimes something that seems like a block is actually the best thing that can happen to you.*
* Those people who “took” my “perfect” name? Their Alexa ranking is close to six million. No one’s ever heard of them. Just saying.
2. The thing you need most? It’s inside you.
Or put it this way if you prefer: Spending more time drawing on your internal resources of strength, knowledge and compassion is always a good thing. Always.
3. Help is always out there and available, even when it’s really hard to find.
Maybe it’s inside you. Maybe it’s your wonderful friends pooling their own meager funds to help you out. Maybe it’s in a dream. Maybe it’s in a meditation. Maybe it’s in a story or a blog post. I don’t know — but it’s there.
The better you get at asking for help, the better you get at receiving it.
I told you it was a long story.
Hope you liked it. Or that it’s at least helpful the next time a roadblock shows up.
I’m definitely lingering with my finger over the publish button today, wondering if sharing this story wasn’t actually a horrible idea, but time will tell. What the hell. Enjoy!