Growth isn't linearJul 05, 2023
Today marks exactly three years since I first clicked publish on my website.
Three years of growth.
Three years of change.
Three years of learning.
I could have never imagined the place I would find myself three years down the track of that scary moment. I still remember the feeling of clicking publish... I was scared that people would judge me, scared that I would make mistakes, scared that it would not be perfect... but I had also already learnt that new things are always scary.
So I clicked publish... then silently panicked and wanted to delete everything. Instead, I reminded myself that the odds of anyone reading anything I published in those early days (with zero understanding of SEO) were pretty slim and I kept going. Each post on my blog began to allow that fear to dissipate bit by bit. And now, three years on from that trepidatious day I am celebrating the journey of the last few years because something I've come to learn with complete certainty is that the journey of growth is anything but linear and that it's important to reflect on both the ups and the downs.
This journey started for me more than three years ago though. I've always been the sort of person who loves to learn new skills and does things a bit differently. So when I struggled to breastfeed my own kids as a GP myself, I knew back then that I could do a better job of supporting my patients if I sought out advanced training in lactation. I pursued education and set up my business in breastfeeding medicine in 2016 before sitting the exams to become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. The first website I built was using the drag and drop website builder Weebly to promote this emerging brand- MORE THAN MILK.
As this work took off, I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed the design and branding part of setting it up. Having been an arts and humanities student at school, it was so exciting to get back to my creative roots and I like to think of this expansion of skills as the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey.
As I built my business in breastfeeding medicine, I branched out into providing home visits to new parents and changed the structure of my medical practice to reflect my evolving values and preferences, focussing more heavily on slow medicine and holistic care. Even back then though, I was already realising how important it was to seek out support any time you are doing something a bit different. I spoke with a couple of other doctors who were doing similar things (there were far fewer of us back then) who gave me the confidence to forge ahead in establishing myself as a doctor working exclusively in the field of breastfeeding medicine. I set about learning about different practice management software and cloud based solutions for my evolving practice. It was new. It was exciting. It was scary. But it was also successful and incredibly rewarding work. As I became busier and busier, I found myself making mistakes that I know many of us make as we start our own businesses, in never saying no and taking it upon myself to try and do and be everything to everyone. So it perhaps wasn't so surprising that in 2019 I found myself so burnt out that I physically collapsed, unable to see a way forward. It was during my recovery from this in 2020 that I decided to start blogging.
Looking back I think I needed to burn out in order to learn a really valuable lesson here...
Growth isn't linear and periods of rest are just as important as periods of expansion.
I can be the most motivated and enthusiastic person on the planet, but if I don't honour the fact that I am as human as anyone else and as such, I need to remind myself to slow down and nurture myself in order to sustain growth, then I will burn out.
So, three years ago I began a different kind of entrepreneurial journey.
One where growth is celebrated, but so is rest.
One where I intentionally cultivate pockets of compassion to buffer to the set backs.
One where I remind myself that two steps forward, one step back- is still one step forward.
Three years ago I started this new part of my journey with blogging. A contemporaneous journal of my slow but ultimately rewarding recovery from burn out. I was still using Weebly to house all my musings as I explored the unbounded potential of the online learning world. I began to learn about Learning Management Systems (LMS) and started creating online courses- my first attempt using the platform Thinkific for my MORE THAN MILK courses for new parents back in 2020. I learnt what Customer Relationship Managers (CRM) were and how to integrate these with my website and LMS. I began to learn more about social media marketing and sales funnels and how important these can be in allowing people to actually see the content you share online. I learnt a lot about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and how just creating a website doesn't actually mean much if it gets lost like a virtual needle in the enormous haystack of the world wide web. But more than anything else, I learnt how much there was that I didn't know.
It had been so easy to become myopic in my pursuit of formal education- a medical degree, speciality fellowship in General Practice and other post graduate qualifications- that I lost sight of the fact that there was more than one way to share this knowledge with the world and that I didn't necessarily have to go back to my office as a GP, seeing one patient at a time in order to help people in the way I knew I wanted to.
This was a huge step forward in my journey and an incredibly liberating realisation in my recovery from burn out.
So three years ago I began to seek out support and training in all the things my 15 years of post high school education didn't teach me. I engaged coaches- from business coaches to social media coaches to branding and PR coaches- some more useful than others, but all ultimately helpful at guiding me in different elements of this journey.
I kept blogging- talking and reflecting on the discomfort of growth.
I migrated my online courses over to Kajabi and continued to build upon them to expand not only my offerings but also the ways in which I reached out to my audience.
I carved out intentional time for my own periods of compassionate self reflection- which for me takes the form of mindfulness and mediation in order to not just be able to move through my many set backs, but also to learn from them.
I allowed my imagination to run wild with possibility- business plans and ideas mounting up in piles on my desk. I've still got a lot of these ideas stored together in a folder that allow me to view with wonder just how my thinking evolved over this period. No idea was off limits and I simply allowed myself to view with curiosity everything that emerged. Yes, I got stuck with some ideas- spending more time and energy than was probably necessary on plans that never came to fruition... but the reason they didn't was because I allowed myself the space to explore them fully and I began to see other paths that made more sense. At the time it did sometimes feel frustrating that I felt like I wasn't moving forward while others around me were, but looking back, I am really grateful for this period of learning without expectation. For many of us, this is that period that occurs while we're still working in our day jobs and simultaneously trying to build new ideas and get new businesses off the ground.
I get it, it's exhausting.
I also happened to be doing this while attempting to home school both my kids who frustratingly both started school during the COVID-19 pandemic where we lived in Melbourne, Australia- the most locked down city in the world. So growth was slow. But in that slowness, I began to look around more, to take in what was going on around me, not just in front of me. And I began to see that thanks to COVID-19, so many of my amazing colleagues in healthcare were burning out at a much more rapid pace than I had all those years ago now. The precursors were there before the pandemic- highly demanding jobs, a highly skilled but also very self critical workforce, overburdened systems and people and something I had realised in my own recovery from burn out... very limited time or energy devoted in our long and arduous training to the development of the so called 'soft skills' of emotional intelligence and self care. It was the perfect storm.
Whole Hearted Medicine was borne out of the awareness that balance was crucially important in sustainable work and growth- for doctors and everyone. I knew that despite everything that was going on in the world, my amazing colleagues needed support and nurturing RIGHT NOW. As we welcomed our first doctors on a well-being retreat in mid 2021, after many months of hard work writing a curriculum and having it approved for Continuing Professional Development by various speciality training colleges I knew that education was the fuel to my fire. I had always loved this part of General Practice and I had brought strings of it through my professional life by teaching medical students since 2016, but to now be embracing this element of myself so wholeheartedly felt amazing. My training as a registered yoga and meditation teacher now front and centre in my life, it has become the foundation from which so many of my pursuits now blossom. In another important lesson for me, I found that the more I leant into these parts of me the more opportunities began to arise in this area organically. More university teaching, educational workshops and speaking, I even launched my own podcast called mind.life.me. in early 2022 and released guided meditations onto Insight Timer. So many different avenues to explore and while still scary, life felt exciting.
With a business re-structuring and some time spent what felt like chasing my tail to catch up with rapid growth, I made it to the end of 2022 invigorated but in all honesty, a bit exhausted. My podcast languished, my blogs (across now three businesses) hung on by a thread and I had the harsh realisation that I had perhaps bitten off more than I could chew... again. Seems like a pattern for me no?
So the first 6 months of 2023 have been spent in gentle reflection. I again pared things back to the most important things I have needed to do in order to maintain my businesses. I put some things on the shelf for a little while- podcasting and some of my blogging, I sought to employ some more staff to help me run these amazing businesses and I practiced what I preached in terms of mindful business development. That growth is important but so is rest, and that growth should never come at the expense of your health and well-being. So to be reflecting now, 3 years on from that exact day I pressed publish on my Dr Emily Amos website and brand, I am grateful for the growth I have seen over the last three years... but I'm also grateful for the setbacks. Because ultimately, the twists and turns of this journey have been what has got me here.
Here are some of those lessons I've found so valuable along the way
Doing something different to everyone else is scary- seek support.
You can't be and do everything- learn how to outsource.
Work out what parts of your work you actually love doing and never outsource them.
Rest is just as important as growth- learn how to recognise the signs in yourself that the balance of each is out of kilter and what you need to do to self correct.
Celebrate all milestones- both the wins and the set backs.
Growth isn't linear- two steps forward, one step back is still one step forward.
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