When life is hard, growing a business feels harder, doesn’t it?
How do we keep up with our business when life’s challenges interrupt our plans?
2021 was a dark year for me, and in this episode, I share some of the personal struggles I faced this year and the five lessons I learned from them, in hopes that these lessons will help you avoid some of the mistakes I’ve made and learn how to better navigate and overcome adversity in life and business.
By the time you finish listening to this episode, my hope is that you'll choose one of these five lessons to take with you into the future of your own business. Pick the one that resonates the most with you. Sit with it. Be with it. Embrace it, and allow it to embrace you.
If this episode inspires you, it’d mean the most to me when you leave a review and share your biggest takeaway from this episode. And while you've got your phone out, make sure to follow me on Instagram @thecourtneyelmer for more quick tips on how to streamline your business systems and spend more time in your zone of genius.
Book discussed in this episode: The Next Right Thing by best-selling author, Emily Freeman
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© Copyright 2022 | The EffortLESS Life®
Courtney Elmer 0:00
Welcome back to the Systems Made Simple™ Podcast. This is episode 100. Oh boy, do I have something special in store for you today to commemorate our 100th episode, this is something you got to hear. So stay tuned.
Courtney Elmer 1:26
Apparently, I had a lot of up leveling to do this year. And as I sit here today with you, looking back on the last 12 most chaotic months of my life, I can see why it had to happen the way it happened. I believe part of the reason is because I'm meant to share these lessons and insights with you.
Courtney Elmer 2:44
So let me take you back in time to March of 2021. I was in a place of total confusion, lacking clarity. I was very busy in my business, but I didn't feel like I was making any real progress. My attention was divided. I was spread so thin between all of the things within my business that I felt passionate about that I loved that I enjoyed. But for some reason, those things weren't lighting me up in the way that they used to.
Courtney Elmer 3:21
If you know me, you've heard me share this before on the show, I'm an Enneagram one. I am a manifesting generator, and I'm an Aries. Now, I don't put a whole lot of stock into any of those things. But I do find it interesting that whenever we discover more about ourselves and the way we're wired, we learn how we're wired to work. It's in our makeup. And I do find that fascinating. So as an Enneagram one, that type is nicknamed the perfectionist. I have a really hard time making decisions because I'm always worried that either a) gonna make the wrong decision, or b) there's a better decision out there to make and I want to make the best one.
Courtney Elmer 4:13
So picture me on my couch in March of 2021. The house was quiet. Alan had gone to work for the day my son was at school. I'm sitting there journaling, and I was processing something that I had experienced the day before that I can only call a divine download. Now that may sound all woowoo and crazy. But that is the only way that I can describe this because I believe that I received this message directly from God. The message was this: I am meant to be a healer — that I am a healer.
Courtney Elmer 4:55
So I was sitting with this and I was processing this because I didn't understand it. I didn't know what that meant. But it was so clear to me the words were right there on the page, "I have healed you, so that you can heal others."
Courtney Elmer 5:14
If you've heard me share any parts of my story before, then you know that at 19, I overcame a very severe eating disorder that I shouldn't have survived. At 25, I overcame cancer that I had been diagnosed with two days after getting home from my honeymoon. I've lived through two major natural disasters, a traumatic birth experience, and many other unthinkable difficulties, as you may very well have lived through, too. We all have those challenges. They're different for all of us, but they are challenging, nonetheless. So in that moment, I felt deep within my heart, that even though I was doing the work that I was doing in the world, and doing it well, that I was meant for more, or maybe that I was just meant to be doing what I do but on a deeper level. So as I was sitting there, I had this vision revealed to me of the future of the EffortLESS Life® brand. I know I sound like a nutcase sharing this all here with you. But this is how my visionary leadership unfolds, I see things, I feel things, I notice things, I process things, and I take action on things. This is just kind of my way of doing life, my way of doing business. The vision for the future of this brand was so much bigger than just teaching systems. It's so much bigger than just teaching podcasting. I knew that systems and podcasting is where I started because that's where I had gifts and talents that could be put to use to help others. And I also caught a glimpse of where this brand is going to be 10 years from now, 15 years from now, 20 years from now... and it terrified me.
Courtney Elmer 7:18
Because I didn't know how on earth, I was going to bring that to life. What I saw in this glimpse of the future, if you will, was a brand that helps people navigate adversity, that helps people overcome adversity in their life, and in their business. And not just people — entrepreneurs specifically. Because you, my friend, as a business owner, already know, so well, that running a business, and living life alongside it is hard. It's more than hard.
Courtney Elmer 8:06
It is one of the most challenging things I have ever done. And so as I sat here, begin thinking about all of the gifts, all of these skills, all of the things that I have learned through my own navigation along the way through overcoming these challenges in my life, I thought of how I could be putting those to use to help other people: both in mind, in body, and soul, and in business. It terrified me because I didn't know how that was going to be possible. It felt so big, it still feels so big. I'm sitting here sharing this with you scratching my head. First of all, I can't believe I'm sharing this with you because I haven't shared this with anybody yet. I don't know how this is all going to come to fruition. But the next message that came to me was to simply trust that it would be revealed in time and that I simply needed to keep doing what I was doing while trusting that it would be revealed in time.
Courtney Elmer 9:18
But oh my gosh, that's the hardest thing ever to do, especially for someone like me who is an action taker, who is an Enneagram one and who has to have it all planned out, who has to have all the systems and processes in place to make it all flow — that is going against my very nature as a woman, as a human being, to "sit and trust."
Courtney Elmer 9:40
But I knew that that was what I was being called to do in this season in my life. I was being called to slow down and to listen and to trust. But that's not what I did.
Courtney Elmer 9:54
I got up off of the couch and I went back to my life and I ran myself into the ground. I was in denial that I was in a place of burnout. I was moving at such a fast pace, and it was unbelievable the adversity that I faced in business during that time.
Courtney Elmer 10:26
And so it felt like all I could do to keep up. That vision had to go back on the shelf because I didn't have the energy to focus on that.
Courtney Elmer 10:40
Then, just as I was wrapping up one of the biggest seasons in my business, my husband came home early one day. I'm sitting at my desk, and he looks at me and says, "Well, I just tested positive for COVID."
Courtney Elmer 11:11
I think my jaw hit the floor. I don't think I ever picked it up for about two months after that. I was in total and complete shock. All of a sudden, all of my plans were gone. I call this season in my life this year, "the forced slowing", because I had to stop. I had no other choice. We were in lockdown. And eventually, it went through the family, we all got it.
Courtney Elmer 11:48
And I was blessed with the diagnosis of the long haul symptoms, which I'm still experiencing to this day, making it very difficult to focus for long periods of time, very difficult to concentrate, and sometimes very difficult to even form sentences and coherent thoughts. This was a moment in my journey, when the first lesson began to emerge. Later in retrospect, the lesson became very clear: I had to heal myself before I could heal others. Now, of course, I'm talking physically because I had COVID. And because I had to figure out how to live after that. Because everything that I knew prior, the way that I thought, the way that I acted, the way that I was able to run my business, the way that I was able to interact with my family and my coworkers and colleagues and team members and anyone that I interact with on a daily basis all changed. No longer could I sit there and do intense deep coaching work. That was a very difficult place to be because that is the kind of work that my business depends on.
Courtney Elmer 13:36
So that was the first lesson that emerged. And I should have learned this lesson already. I've been healing myself my whole life. It feels like sometimes when I look back and I'm like, Oh my gosh, of all the things. But I've also learned that healing is a perpetual process. And the beauty is it's a compounding process to the more you heal, the more you heal.
Courtney Elmer 14:07
So, fast forward a couple of months, I was in a really dark place. I could hardly get out of bed, and I blamed it on COVID and I made excuses in my business that we were still recovering, which was true to some degree. But I was also hopeless. Everything felt dark.I had no idea why I was doing what I was doing anymore.
Courtney Elmer 14:42
I came very close to closing the doors of my business because I didn't want to deal with the heaviness of it. What felt easier at that moment was to throw in the towel and say, I'm out.
Courtney Elmer 15:00
Fortunately, I knew that having been in these dark places in my life before, that this wasn't the best option, even though it felt like the easiest option. So I waited it out, and called my therapist who I've worked with for the past 14 years now, and did some deep, deep work with her. And after processing all of that, the second lesson began to emerge. And that lesson was this: that in order for others to value you, and the work that you do, you must first value yourself.
Courtney Elmer 15:54
Since then, self acceptance has been a huge personal theme that has come up over and over and over again these past several months. I'm proud of the progress I've made in that area of my life, and I still have a long way to go.
Courtney Elmer 16:14
I recognize that and I call this season in my life, "the freeing" because after that deep work I did with my therapist, and allowing that to integrate and process, I realized the ways in which I was being manipulated by the voices in my life, voices that weren't mine.
Courtney Elmer 16:33
I didn't accept myself. I didn't accept that the work that I did was good enough. I didn't accept my own value and my own worth because of the voices that were getting in the way.
Courtney Elmer 16:46
So first, I had to free myself from those voices and begin to recognize, and accept, and embrace, and allow my value. AIt was a very beautiful process, very difficult to experience, and also very needed for me.
Courtney Elmer 17:15
So shortly after, and by shortly after, I mean about two weeks later, I walked out of the bedroom at 5:15 in the morning, it's dark. My son's still asleep. My husband's up on the couch, he's sitting there with the television on and he goes, "Do you want to leave?" And I looked at him and I said, "You want to leave?" And he said, "Yes, let's go." He looked up an Airbnb, booked it, and within an hour, we had packed up our home, our fridge, clothes, our dog, our son, everything we could think to take with us, and we left New Orleans, about two and a half hours ahead of Hurricane Ida: the second most major natural disaster that I have ever experienced in my life, the first being Hurricane Katrina.
Courtney Elmer 18:08
Having lived through a prior hurricane, I knew what to expect with this one. But, we'd never left for a hurricane before, but something shifted that day. So we left, and weren't able to get back home for over two weeks. Of course, schools were closed, electricity was out, we couldn't get water, all of those things. We were just glad that we had finally heard from all of our family members who had decided to stay, they were all safe. We found out that our properties were safe, minor damage, but nothing compared to what some people had experienced.
Courtney Elmer 19:03
And at that point, I was angry. I call this season in my life "the reckoning," because just when I thought that I was getting back on track and things were starting to move in a better direction, it suddenly wasn't.
Courtney Elmer 19:52
This is when the third lesson emerged. I began to recognize that progress doesn't have to be visible. I realized that on the outside looking in, it probably looked like Courtney was AWOL. I was not on social media, I wasn't anywhere to be seen. I wasn't emailing my email list. I wasn't marketing, I wasn't doing sales calls, I wasn't doing anything, because I couldn't because I had other immediate urgent needs that needed to be taken care of — our survival. We were in survival mode.
Courtney Elmer 20:54
But you know, as the saying goes, hindsight, is 2020. And in looking back, I see so clearly now that I was making great strides. I was doing the kind of work that needed to be done. But it's not the work that anybody is ever going to know about. I was doing the inner work. I was fighting inner battles, and winning.
Courtney Elmer 21:22
So when you're in a season in your life that feels dark and chaotic, and stressful and overwhelming, and when you feel like you're going through the motions and you're not really getting anywhere, just know that sometimes the progress isn't visible, nor does it have to be.
Courtney Elmer 21:43
So once the dust settled from all of that, I met with one of my very close mentors, a spiritual advisor of mine, who looked me in the eye and told me, "Courtney, you have a lot of big decisions on your plate to make. I hear you. You're deciding whether to go this direction or that direction, or to focus on this area of your business or that area, or to spend more time here or spend less time there." She said, "But, before you can decide anything — you need to focus on healing yourself. Pump the brakes."
Courtney Elmer 22:27
I think I rolled my eyes in that conversation thinking to myself, are you kidding me? Because I felt like that's all I had been doing was healing myself, pumping the brakes, healing myself, pumping the brakes. I just wanted answers. I just wanted clarity. I just wanted to feel like I was moving in a direction. I didn't care what that direction was, I just wanted a direction to move in.
Courtney Elmer 22:50
As I sit here and share that with you, I laugh because that was the fourth lesson that I needed to learn which was that "slow is good." And in order to scale forward, sometimes we have to first scale back.
Courtney Elmer 23:09
That's a concept I would love to dig in with you on a future episode because this idea of scaling back goes completely against the grain of what our culture teaches us. But there are going to be those seasons in your life and in your business where you have to go slow. And I want you to remember next time you find yourself there, slow is good.
Courtney Elmer 23:50
And remind yourself that sometimes in order to scale forward, you first have to scale back. I call this season here at the tail end of this year-long saga, "the unfolding." Because doors were opening, doors were closing. Things were coming across my plate that seemed too coincidental — I could not have orchestrated some of these things myself.
Courtney Elmer 24:33
I read a book during this time called The Next Right Thing by Emily Freeman, which I highly recommend, we can link to that in the show notes. If you're at a place where you're lacking clarity right now, do yourself a favor and get this book.
Courtney Elmer 24:51
In the book she talks about when we're in a season where we don't have answers, that's all we tend to look for, because we want the answer so badly, we want the clarity. We just want a direction to move.
Courtney Elmer 25:09
But she says, instead of looking for answers, you need to look for arrows. Look for the things that are happening in your life, that you couldn't have orchestrated yourself. Notice those arrows and track them, write them down, and pay attention to the direction that they are pointing you. And that is the fifth and final lesson that I will share with you here today is to look for the arrows.
Courtney Elmer 25:41
I have to tell you, it's been a very fun process to look for the arrows instead of for the answers. I still don't have answers, I still don't know how I'm going to bring this big picture vision to life. I still don't know how I am going to juggle my responsibilities as a wife and as a mom and as a business owner. I still don't know what the future of my business looks like over the next 90 days or over the next six months.
Courtney Elmer 26:13
I can make all the plans in the world, but I know that even the best made plans could all vanish at the snap of a finger.
Courtney Elmer 26:28
My goal has always been from day one of my business to facilitate transformation in my clients and in my students whom I have the privilege of working with. Yes, my business has evolved. Right now we focus on teaching systems, and we focus on teaching podcasting to those who want to start podcasts.
Courtney Elmer 26:49
But what I teach ultimately goes much deeper than that, because I'm teaching people how to be visionary leaders. And visionary leadership requires painful growth. And painful growth requires learning how to navigate and overcome adversity. Which is why I know I'm destined for this work because adversity is something I have had plenty of in my lifetime.
Courtney Elmer 27:26
But this year, I haven't been walking my talk, not in the way that I wanted to. And not because I didn't want to, or chose not to, but because I couldn't. It was because there was some deep work in me that needed to be done first, before I could embody and embrace my own role as a visionary leader.
Courtney Elmer 27:53
Evolving can be so scary, and it can be so painful because the growing pains hurt. Sometimes there is no light at the end of the tunnel, and we can't see the forest through the trees. Healing is not for the faint of heart. If you have done any deep work — which I know you listening, you have. You have been on a healing journey. What I can tell you is that here one year later, from when this greater vision was revealed to me, I'm now in a better position to take on the responsibility of bringing it to life.
Courtney Elmer 28:30
Initially, I wasn't ready. But I am now. So I'm very excited to see how this will continue to unfold and to manifest in my business. And I want to leave you with these five lessons today:
First, you must heal yourself before you can begin to heal others.
Second, that for others to value you and your work, you must first value yourself.
Third, that your progress doesn't always have to be visible.
Fourth, Slow is good, and sometimes in order to scale forward, you'll have to scale back.
Finally, always be looking for the arrows.
Courtney Elmer 29:27
One of the things that I didn't mention today, but that was another divine download I had very early on in my business was just two words: speak and write. So I started a podcast and I started writing.
Courtney Elmer 29:45
That's a whole nother story for another day — at one point I had a literary agent. I had a book proposal. Everything was moving forward in the direction of this book that I thought was about to come to life, until it didn't.
Courtney Elmer 29:59
So this book is It's been years in the making. I'm now working on it. But it's a totally different book than it was before. And again, sometimes we have to scale back to scale forward. And I keep getting the sense that now is finally the time to bring this to life. So I'm going to be using my personal Instagram as part of my writing process, which is messy, and which is in no way systematized, because sometimes the most creative processes in our business do not follow a linear fashion. They do not follow a perfect timeline or a perfect plan or a perfect outline.
Courtney Elmer 30:45
So I'm going to be using my personal IG to share nuggets of my writing with you. And if you want to see behind the scenes of that process, if you want to see the system's girl, non systematized, and if you want to just see the raw, real creation, and what that looks like, and if learning how to navigate and overcome adversity in your life in business is important to you, then you'll love what I have to share there.
Courtney Elmer 31:12
So make sure you're following me I'm @theeffortlesslife.co. I would love to have your feedback and input there in the comments in my DMs as I begin to reveal and share pieces of this book that is in the process of coming to life.
Courtney Elmer 31:29
My hope today for you as we wrap up this episode, and at the time of this recording, as we wrap up this year, is that you take these five lessons with you into the future of your own business. Maybe not all five, maybe just pick one that resonates the most with you and sit with it, and be with it, and embrace it, and allow it to embrace you.
Courtney Elmer 31:57
And make sure you join me back here next week because we are going to be kicking off a new season of the podcast geared toward helping you get more visible in your business. So if you remember, back in the Episode, I think it was 70 or 71. We talked about the four systems that every business owner needs to be successful. And the four systems are visibility, sales, deliverability, and operations. So this next season of the podcast is dedicated towards helping you get more visible and my special guest next week is joining me to show you how to increase engagement with your audience overnight with the power of your story. And yes, that goes for even you listening who thinks your life isn't exciting. He's going to help you find the parts of your life story that will have the most impact on your audience so that you can connect with them on a much, much deeper level. That is all coming up next week. So I'll see you back here next time. Until then, go live your EffortLESS Life.®