From my journal. About three weeks ago — shortly before the Rally (Rally!).
This was right when I was getting ready to write the HAT (Havi Announces a Thing) page for my Week of Biggification program this November.
And I knew I needed some mental and emotional preparation for this. So I decided to a) claim sanctuary in a blanket fort and b) talk to the person who knows how to write the copy, and also to the person who doesn’t want me to write it.*
* Yes, both of those people are me.
Anyway, it’s somewhat bizarre. No big surpise there. But useful.
And we begin.
It’s me from now. And the me who has issues and is scared, carrying all sorts of stuff from the past. She is … still in the past somehow. Past me.
I look around. We’re in a cave.
It is mostly round, with a remarkably high ceiling and four small shafts or openings in it that allow for light. The air is cool.
The ground is covered in thick layers of woven rugs that seem to have been casually thrown on top of one another but make for a floor that’s comfortable and stable.
There are candles. And a fat fireplace in a rounded corner, like a New Mexico adobe.
We have messengers. Apparently.
They’re kind of like royal assistants.
One brings us each glasses filled with mint leaves and a pitcher of hot water to pour over them. Another brings us plates of dates and figs.
Somehow we’ve moved from New Mexico seamlessly to the middle east, and I am equally happy in both. Edge of desert to edge of desert. I like the edge of the desert.
Me from then needs reassurances.
Me: It looks like you’re hurting. Tell us what you need.
Past Me: Need?
Me: I don’t know. What would give you comfort?
Past Me: I am so worried. So many worries! You can’t possibly want to hear them.
Me: Oh, sweetie. Of course I do. Anything that concerns you concerns me.
Past Me: But I need to know that my worries are legitimate. And they’re so tangled and intertwined I can’t keep track of them, it’s a neverending litany. And I’m so afraid you won’t like me anymore.
Me: Honestly? No one is judging you for having worries. You have lots of experience with things that give reason for worry. It is perfectly acceptable that you would have worrries based on that experience.
I don’t promise to take on your worries, but I respect your your experience, and appreciate you for being you. I mean, for being me.
The litany of worries. Here it is.
Past Me: So far you haven’t really made money at any of your live events and at most of them you’ve lost money, and you’ve spent crazy amounts of time working on them and planning and recovering from them, and that’s not even factored into the losses.
So it’s really like you’re not just losing money but losing everything.
But you can’t charge more because it’s already too much, and [A-lister friend] said she’d never charge more than what she does for X, even though she also makes no money on that event.
And by the time you factor in travel + car rental + hotel + staff time + reading applications + email back and forth + copying flyers + itinerary + creating the schedule and so on and so forth, you aren’t getting paid for the content or the actual time teaching.
But there’s pressure to fill the event, and pay the Inn. So many ways you can lose money on this! I don’t even know why you’d want this headache and heartache again.
Me: You’ve experienced a lot of headache and heartache, and you want to prevent a situation where that happens to me too.
Past Me: Yes!
Past me gets to help and give advice.
Me: I appreciate that. Thank you. You are very sweet. I also want to avoid headache and heartache. If you can help me plan effectively to avoid those, I would appreciate any advice you can give.
Past Me: Okay!
Me: You sound really cheerful.
Past Me: I didn’t think you were going to ask for my help. But now I have lots of ideas! If I’d known it would HELP you, I wouldn’t have minded all that pain so much. Helping!
Me: Alright. How can we avoid headache and heartache? Give me advice.
Her first piece of advice: everyone needs to pay in advance.
Past Me: At the Destuckification retreat, someone decided not to come. And didn’t even tell you she was canceling until it started. So you’d already paid for her room and food, and then you had to negotiate with her. Unpleasant.
It’s August now. People come in November. Three months. You need a higher deposit so you can pay the Inn from the participants tuition.
Otherwise it’s not a healthy, sustainable supportive way to run things, and it doesn’t help you do your best work.
Me: Got it.
Her second piece of advice. Calculate in EVERYTHING.
Past Me: Including your time. And the time of everyone who works for you. And the time you have spent so far finding the place and negotiating, which is close to 30 hours.
Not to mention the cost to your business of not working for a week, plus recovery time. You lose three weeks to each big event.
Obviously it ends up being like seven million dollars per person and you won’t actually charge that, but at least you’ll know what they’re getting and the copy can reflect that.
This may take time but it doesn’t matter. Everything!
Not just food, lodging and renting the space. Tissues! Gifts and swag! Photocopies! Worksheets. Staff tips. Whatever the center charges for serving water and whiteboard rental. Hiring consultants.
And write a blog post about how you calculate it and how you sit with the price until you get resonance. So they know what they’re paying is in a sense a symbolic price.
Her third piece of advice. Minimal payment options = less agony.
Past Me: Either your people pay everything at once (by paypal or check and get a bonus something) or they can do three monthly payments. Do not end up with fifteen options.
Last time your staff spent months negotiating payment options and invoices with a different set-up for every participant. Stressful!
Remind people to note which credit card they use because that’s the one that gets charged. And triple-check the email reminder system because last time it didn’t work and they (totally understandably) were upset. We can’t have screw-ups like that.
Her fourth piece of advice. The rooms.
Past Me: We went over the arrangement 700 times last time and it still came out wrong. This needs to get an entire dedicated Drunk Pirate Council.
And a chart for the office wall. So we can be extra clear. And not pay penalties.
Trash the application process. You don’t need it. Do something fun. With pickles!
Me: Okay. These are all really good. What other things do I need to look out for?
Past Me: I can’t remember. I’m getting a headache. Can I lie down?
Me: Of course, sweetie.
And then past me got to go on retreat.
Me: Can I say something else? Even though I am soliciting advice from you and I hugely appreciate everything you’re telling me, you do not have to run this program.
Pirate Queen me is going to run it with, along with many capable helper mice and with many forms of support, both visible and invisible.
You don’t have to do anything. Your hard, scary, stressful time is over. You get to retire.
Past Me: I do? Yay! What is retirement like?
Me: I don’t know, honey. What would you like it to be like?
Past Me: I want to be at the Week of Biggification! But not to participate.
I want to stay at the beautiful Inn and sleep in the soft bed and look at the mountain.
And I want to take the elevator down to the room and up to the lobby. I want to sit in the underground spa pools all day. And eat that one really good sandwich.
And drink cold beer and watch the sunset. Yes yes yes.
But she still might have a consulting gig.
Me: Go for it. We’ll get you a room.
Past Me: But I can still give you advice now? Like a consultant? And if I remember something else later?
Me: Absolutely. Not a problem.
And then she took off. And I realized it made sense that I’d been avoiding the copy. And remembered that avoidance is normal. Again.
Then I had an absurd conversation with the me who had already written the HAT, and promptly wrote up five pages of notes. Awesome.
Thank you, Past Me. Beer and sandwiches and sparklepoints for you!
And comment zen for today.
The thing is, talking to past versions of us can be … challenging. And even intimidating. It’s definitely one of those things that takes practice.
Some of the principles I’m trying to keep in mind while this is happening:
I want to acknowledge her experience, and the legitimacy of her pain/worry/fear without taking it on, or having it be true for me.
This lets me access potentially useful information without having to adopt any of her stuff — she can have her insecurities and I can know that these aren’t true for me.
Anyway, it’s a practice. Like everything.
We all have our stuff. We’re all working on our stuff. We let everyone have their own experience, which means not giving advice (unless someone asks for it).
p.s. You can totally share disastrous planning stories of your own or anything else you’re working on. Kisses.