(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.
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 using 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.
Looking back, I’d have to say it was one of the most interesting periods of my life. For many reasons, but especially because it was a time of huge mental, emotional and spiritual growth, both in terms of challenges and breakthroughs.
Including downloading an entire system of self-fluency in a series of very intense meditations. Which even I thought was kinda nuts.
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 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 names.
Someone will out me eventually, I’m sure. But it’s just too embarrassing 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 a big deal, 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 I fell in love 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. 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 system, it was only the Dance of Shiva workshops (my wacky brain training work) that were paying the rent.
So I set up a series of September workshops, this is 2005 we’re talking about, and planned to promote them with flyers at a big festival.
But what about a website? My ex had just arrived from Israel and needed 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 festival was going to fund my next adventure. Or else!
It had to work. Because otherwise I was spending another winter in east Berlin, tripping over 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 full of loud Turkish teenagers, staring at the computer, completely in shock.
My business name was taken. And not just taken. Taken by pseudo-spiritual, highly branded corporate training bullshit. It looked like something you’d see in Yoga Journal, 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. A terrifying, impossibly impassible roadblock.
I already had flyers and 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 I remembered self-fluency: Bringing quiet loving attention to whatever I’m experiencing, legitimacy to the feelings, being present with worry-doubt-frustration without being impressed by it. Letting myself be pissed off. Reminding myself that I can get quiet again and feel the next step.
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 sweet, generous friends decided to make me new flyers and cards. 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. With 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.
Keren’s German girlfriend is there too, she’s 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. It was bedtime. But first I needed to spend some time in entry. Meeting this exhaustion and anxiety.
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.
I did actually fill all my workshops thanks to those flyers at the festival, and the right people visiting the website. I made a modest chunk of money, and made it to San Francisco.
And along the way it also hit me that I’d have to get good at business fast if I was ever going to spread the stuff I teach, and help people.
There are all sorts of “lessons” someone could take from this, some more relevant than others.
But the thing that sticks out for me from this experience 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? No one has heard from them since. Just saying.
2. The thing you need most is 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 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!
Havi, if your finger hesitates over the publish button, it means one of two things: either you are about to make a terrible mistake and you know better, or, you’re about to do something brave and you’re afraid of the awesome consequences of that.
Guess which one this was?
You know why? Because reading “everything that is against me is an illusion” raised the hairs on the back of my neck and made me tear up (which sucks because I’m at work). You have made a difference in my life with that one little thing, and if nothing else, I hope you feel the post was worth publishing for that.
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My lesson from this: It doesn’t matter what you call it. Don’t get me wrong — The Fluent Self is a GREAT name. But honestly, it did not matter what you called it.
We would have come anyway.
Next time I am stuck (which could be in the next sixty seconds) I am just going to move on, because really, it doesn’t matter so much. I’m never REALLY stuck on the whole heart of the thing, you know?
L’Shana tova to you and Selma!
Annie Binnss last blog post..A Flattering of the Passions
Not sure what this says about me, but of all the wonderful gifts you shared here, this…
“When in doubt, take a nap, I always say.”
…is what makes me feel the impulse to learn what you’ve learned.
I’m in that “last twenty euros” spot myself, only it’s dollars and I’m in Oklahoma. I’m in that must-travel-to-live-elsewhere spot, too, only it’s ’cause my kid lives near Seattle and I haven’t seen her in a long time. I’m also starting a business, learning a new Way, blah blah blah.
So thanks for sharing. You empower when you share.
Justins last blog post..Off Topic
That’s a great story and I’m glad you shared. I love the name, The Fluent Self.
Wow. Definitely worth it, dear heart. And, it makes the story of how our biz name came into being quite boring. So thanks for that. 😉
And, I love Kol ma shenegdi ashlaya. That’s one to remember.
I’ve only recently found your site and started following you on Twitter, and I want to say thanks for sharing about yourself and where you came from to get “here.”
‘Kol ma shenegdi ashlaya’ really struck a chord with me and the timing could not be better.
Shana tova u’metuka, v’gmar chatima tova.
And don’t let Selma eat all the crumbs before you get to toss them 😀
I love this so much, I am doing a happy dance. Plus you made Michael tear up, which is not that easy to do.
But seriously YOU HAVE TO TELL ME THE PERFECT NAME.
I agree with Annie, “we would have come anyway” – seriously, we end up where we are supposed to be…
and add me to the list of people dying to know what the “perfect name” was (snicker)
I’m glad you hit ‘publish’ too. 🙂
Karen JLs last blog post..Where â€˜Igor’ Went Wrong
Great story, hugely worth sharing. Thanks for hitting “send.” And yes, now you have to tell us the “perfect name.”
I don’t need to know “the perfect name”. The one you have is fine. And for where I am with my business right now, hearing that process of how you came to it is helpful. So are the comments that say that in the end the name doesn’t matter that much. Currently I work under my own name. But I don’t have any web presence and I want to reach a slightly different client (well I want to work for certain kinds of people directly rather than through their employers). So maybe a name is going to be necessary. I’ve been wary about the initials thing but maybe that works… Thanks.
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Thank you for your honesty and your transparency and your vulnerability and how that all comes together in a gushing fountain of wisdom. And a great “life on the cliff edge of consciousness” story. And really, really good advice. You are the best!!!! I know that your not a big proponent of recreationally pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, but I know that this post did that for you a little teeny bit. And I admire your courage. And hope that you are being really, really nice and sweet to yourself right now!!!
And yes…. I admit it. I am one of those people who is DYING to know the lost “perfect name.” But that’s OK. I’m a big girl. I’ll get over it. Really.
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What a great story! Now you’ve just made everyone so very curious about that “perfect” name. Pray tell!
Irene | Light Beckonss last blog post..Beverly Takes A Break
Oh, what a delightful story!
I was transported to your cold, smoky night name cramming session with great Amazonian friends and curious ducks. It was awesome. Almost forgot I was in Mesa.
And I am with Sonia and all the rest of us that have no shame begging and pleading for the name.
I just want to laugh along with you uproariously about your sincere feeling at the time that it was a great name, but dagnabit, you are denying me!
I am trying to recall of one of the (many) times I did things that in retrospect I ask “what was I thinking?!?” but all that comes to mind is a jerkazoid ex-boyfriend.
Give me enough time — I’ll come up with a trade.
You are such an awesome storyteller!
Pamela Slims last blog post.."Joyful participation in the sorrows of the world"
Ah, that’s a sweet story, I’m glad you told it.
My best names have just sorta popped up out of nowhere. There were times when I really wanted to have a name show up for something I wanted to give birth to so badly…and later I thought, well, I wasn’t really ready to run with it then – and it showed up when it needed to. Almost like the things we make are children, with their own souls that want to born, and they tell you their name when they are ready for you to conceive them. Or something woo-woo like that. =)
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Three very smart guys named their computer company after a fruit!! And its one of the best known tech companies today.
Moral? The perfect name doesn’t make your ideas popular. Your ideas success make the name popular.
And yes – as Annie says – we would have come anyways.
Ankesh Kotharis last blog post..When Did Noah Build the Ark (And The Benefits of Sacrifice)
Rock on! This is an amazing story – and a really well told one too. Great imagery, even if it must have been sucky to live some of the aspects.
Yes, also massively curious, but not going to add pressure.
Napping rules! I have used this one a few times recently and it’s been great. My results pale in comparison, but I am but a novice 🙂
I’m just a little worried that your plan was wacky and naive – it sounds perfectly good to me. I wonder what ‘lessons’ I am going to have come up as a result…!
Thanks for writing this post, it’s always great to learn a bit more about someone you admire.
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Havi, I really enjoyed reading your story. It’s one that’s going to stick with me and come to me at the most opportune times, I’m confident. Thanks for sharing it.
Thank you for sharing your story. Not only have I enjoyed it, but it turned out to be a very helpful perspective on an otherwise-rough day.
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I typed your web address by hand, just now, and wondered to myself, “I wonder where she came up with the name.” Then checked the blog. Eerie.
Awesome tale – skillfully told, as usual. Missing you at Spa Day today. 🙂
Loved reading about all of this. Especially, how when you were open to it, it all came to you. (The entire Fluent Self system in a series of meditations! Wow. In awe.) And realizing that the being open to it, the asking and probably more importantly, the listening, and maybe most importantly the acting on the stuff, are what separates you from the hacks with a six million alexa ranking.
Thanks for writing something that made you hesitate and for pushing the button anyway.
SO NOT A BIG MISTAKE to push the button.
God, Havi. I can’t believe the inspiration you are to me. It’s making me all verklempt.
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And if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire, I’ll never go any further than my own back yard… Dorothy has got her unconscious metaphors DOWN. Thank you so much for posting this, hovering uncertainty or no! And: “Everything that is against me is an illusion.” When I read that, the universe sat up and took notice of me. And I said, yeah, dude. Yeah.
What a great freaking story.
Great story! It’s fun to hear about a slice of your past, though it’d be even more fun if you divulged the most perfect name in the history of stuff being named…!
Also, I can completely relate to the finger hovering over “Publish”… though I actually quite enjoy telling stories with a personal side on my blog, I get a flutter in my stomach before publishing, not to mention the post-publishing feeling of “Good grief, was that a really dumb move?”
All that to say, I’m very happy you pressed that button!
Havi, I’ve printed out that quote and taped it to my monitor. Thanks for publishing this. You’re awesome. 🙂
Wow, wow, wow.
I am so blown away by everything you guys wrote here. It was hard for me to put up, and mostly hard for me to talk about my system and how it came to me … and I so appreciate all the warm words and good thoughts from all of you.
And loved that you found little bits of helpfulness in it. Because that makes it totally, totally worth it, and now I’m glad that I didn’t back away from the hard this time.
Oh, right. The name.
Sonia weaseled it out of me, sneaky little thing that she is (I love Sonia) by suggesting that it was actually called Soul Womb which was so funny that I spit water all over myself.
It was Conscious Transformation. I know. I know. I don’t want to talk about it.
Anyway, the people who have the site now are not the ones who had it then, so it’s not even relevant. And I love The Fluent Self and losing the old name was so the best roadblock ever. 🙂
I told her SoulWomb.com was available but for some weird reason she didn’t pick it up. Go figure.
So I’m slow and it took me some time to get here. That’s okay too, because after reading this post I was inspired enough to add an “About the name” section to my homepage.
As always Havi, YOU ROCK!!
I’m reading this post a year after you published it–which happens to be EXACTLY WHEN I needed to read it. Thanks, Havi, for telling that bit of your story, and for the reminder about stepping back into myself in order to make room for things to show up.
.-= Tracy´s last blog ..Retrospective: “Now, Again, Poetry, I Grasp For You” =-.
This is a great story, and since I only started reading your blog yesterday and your personality seems more brave and outrageous (in a good way)(plus, you’ve probably grown a lot since 2008), it surprises me you have these moments of being afraid to post something, especially something this wonderful.
I had a similar, though less dramatic, situation of having the perfect name be unavailable, and I finally couldn’t think of anything else other than just adjusting the name a little bit, from Happy Moon to Happy Moonmoon. And I came to love the resulting name better, because 1) Moonmoon became the name of the character that I’ve been drawing for many years that I’d never named that my business is partially based on, and 2) every time I say it to people, they always try to repeat it, “Happy Moon… Moon?” And I’d repeat it and they would get it right and they would REMEMBER it (!) because it’s so unusual.
Anyway, it was a good decision for you to tell your story, and I’m learning to lean toward thinking something is a great idea when I have these “Holy crap, I’m about to do something potentially big or potentially very embarrassing” moments.
.-= Elisa´s last post … Fantasy Gary Becomes Real Life Gary =-.
I really liked this story. Ultimately, anyone can do this as I’m now beginning to learn.
Roadblocks are an illusion, I think, because what keeps people from doing the stuff that they know how to do is often up in their own head.
We all worry about the future and what we’re going to do if something doesn’t turn out like we hope, and should we let it, this worry and fear paralyzes us. No action can sometimes be the comfortable choice, but it’s when we realize that the worry and fear are just something up in our own head, we’ve suddenly let ourselves open up to try the ideas we’ve been wanting to do for a long time.
Good luck on your journey, Havi. I’ll continue to read.
Just came across this post. I love the story, and I particularly love “kol ma shenegdi ashlaya.” I need to remember it and what it means.
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And I love you and your friends, Havi. <3