What in your life has motivated you to be better?
A parent? A spouse, partner, or friend? A professional athlete?
For me, it was pole dancing.
I began pole dancing around the same time I started my business, and the outcome surprised me. (If you’d like to understand more about what pole dancing actually is, download a copy of this presentation I created here.)
I will share my story below, but feel free to jump down to the “How Pole Dancing Made Me a Better Entrepreneur” section for some tips and tricks on how you can develop your own healthy habits for a more fulfilling life.
Let’s journey back to 2012.
I was miserable.
I was unhealthy.
I was depressed.
I had awful self-esteem.
…And I was 30 pounds heavier.
If you told old 2012 me that I would one day become a semi-professional pole dancer, I would have laughed in your face.
But like any journey worth writing about, it wasn’t always easy or fun.
In 2012, my life completed changed—in every way possible. I left an abusive marriage, bought my first house, received a promotion, paid off my debt, returned to school to earn my Master’s, started my business, improved my diet, and got into shape.
If you are reading this and thinking, “Wow, you must be lucky!” you would be wrong.
Luck only contributed to about 4% of my success.
It was me who drove the other 96%.
Rather than blame everyone and everything else for my problems, failures, mistakes, and poor decisions, I was the one who took responsibility and held myself accountable and took initiative to change my life, punching fear in the face along the way.
The Day My Entire Life Changed
One day after work in July 2012, I stepped off the commuter train and walked to my car in the parking lot. As I opened the driver’s side door, I noticed a neon-green flyer fastened under the wipers on my windshield. Before getting in the car and starting the engine, I grabbed it. The flyer was an advertisement for a new pole fitness studio opening a quarter of a mile up the road.
That’s precisely the moment in time when my entire life changed.
Fresh from separating from a seven-year relationship with a verbally abusive husband, my self-esteem and confidence levels were nearly non-existent. Sure, I could have blamed the world for my problems, but I knew it was up to me, and only me to rebuild. I didn’t know it at the time, but pole dancing was the first step.
For someone with 0 experience in dance or gymnastics—or any real athletic ability, for that matter—I was nervous as hell and wasn’t sure what to expect. Sure, I did cheerleading in high school, but that was a joke compared to what I was about to experience. However, fear, nerves, and anxiety washed away and were replaced with excitement, encouragement, and surprise.
Despite the nerves and fear, my first pole class turned into a regular, consistent weekly routine. And one class per week turned into two, then three, then four. I slowly learned how to position my body, move around the pole, and perform basic spins and floor movements.
The Transformation: From Anxiety to Amazement
Like any intense physical sport, pole fitness requires mental and physical discipline. It required me to make a serious lifestyle change, not only to accommodate late-night classes and training sessions but also to change my diet, my sleep schedule, and take better care of my body.
I did pole dancing consistently, every single week, at a minimum, for 8 solid years. By year 4, I was performing in annual student showcases, shows, and competitions. I even started teaching pole dance choreography and chair dance workshops.
The Fall and the Rebuild
In March 2020, everything changed. Again.
COVID-19 shut the world down, which forced our studio to close. While the rest of the world was worried about getting COVID, I was worried about another problem…
In June 2020, I had surgery on my right kidney to remove a large mass of substantially-sized kidney stones. Needless to say, pole dancing was out of the question for at least several months.
After taking nearly two months to recover and heal, in August 2020, I received clearance from my doctor to return to my regular pole training classes. I was so excited to be able to get back into it, however, in just that short time, my progress had fallen drastically behind the other students in my regular classes. I became discouraged, not just because my body was still in pain, but because I felt mentally and emotionally discouraged. I was embarrassed and extremely frustrated that I had lost so much strength and could no longer do the advanced moves I once used to.
In November 2020, my father became ill, and I moved out of Massachusetts, where I called “home” for 35 years, to a small town in New Hampshire—a place I had never heard of or been to so that I could be closer to my parents.
In March 2021, I finally re-established my life, and that included finding a new pole studio. At this point, I had been away from consistent, advanced pole training and instruction for nearly a year. All the nerves and anxiety that I once experienced minutes before taking my first pole class came rushing back. But I forced and promised myself to start slow with only a few flexibility and conditioning classes several times per week. The confidence, power, strength, and discipline I had built up in myself over the years would get me through. If I did this once, I can do it again.
In the last 12 months, I’ve been going to class an average of three times per week, focusing on conditioning, flexibility, basic choreography, and some advanced tricks. During that time, I frequently battled anxiety and fear. Some days, as I approached the studio for class time, I would catch myself tightly gripping the steering wheel and found it difficult to swallow.
I ask myself, you’ve been doing pole for 10 years… What are you so worried about? Falling? Everyone laughing at you?
However, in the last six months, I realized that my mindset has suffered more than my physical strength and ability. I still have the strength to do many advanced moves and tricks, and I still have the stamina to keep up with advanced choreographical routines.
By March 2022, I returned to intermediate and advanced pole classes, and the fear and anxiety has almost completely dissipated. At the time of this writing, I am approximately 6 to 9 months away from the level I was before my life crashed.
Is the journey over? Far from it.
How Pole Dancing Made Me a Better Entrepreneur
I know what you’re thinking… “Julie, what does this have to do with being an entrepreneur”?
I’m glad you asked.
Through my ongoing, rise-and-fall journey of pole dancing, I learned the importance of…
- Personal care
- Learning to say NO
Pole dancing requires determination, discipline, and momentum. And then there are the physical aspects — hours and hours of training, bruises, extreme muscle soreness, cramps, and, quite literally, blood, sweat, and tears.
That sounds a lot like being an entrepreneur.
Owning and operating a business requires extreme strength, determination, courage, discipline, and sacrifice.
In my coaching program, I educate and advise other entrepreneurs, who are all at different phases of growth in their businesses, about the importance of having both personal and professional goals.
If you achieve a personal goal, then you boost your confidence. That sense of fulfillment spills over into other areas of your life — like your work, your career, and your business. And vice versa.
The Importance of Exercise
A healthy body is a healthy mind.
The body and mind are connected. When we feel stressed, worried, sad, anxious, or angry, we experience physical effects, such as headaches, nausea, trembling, cold sweats, and so on. When we feel good emotionally and mentally, we feel good physically.
It can be overwhelming to figure out how to fit exercise into your already-busy routine. However, like any major priority in life, you need to make time for it. And here are some tips on how to do that:
1. Find an activity that you enjoy.
You will feel more motivated to exercise regularly when you find an activity that you enjoy.
2. Develop a routine.
Next, develop a routine. If your activity involves taking classes or personal training sessions at a gym, then work those into your daily or weekly schedule.
If you prefer to exercise on your own, then block off time in your schedule to do it. If you schedule time in for exercise, then you are more likely to stick with it.
3. Start small.
Set small exercise goals to begin with. Maybe it’s going for a walk for 15 minutes three days per week, or going to the gym three days per week. It takes time to develop a habit, so begin by starting small and slowly increase your frequency over time.
4. Track your progress.
Keep a journal, fitness app, or another tool or system to track your activities and your progress. Once you begin to see desired results, not only will this boost your confidence, but you will also feel more motivated to keep up with your routine.
The Importance of Mindset
If you have been reading my blogs, then you know how much I talk about the importance of mindset. Mindset really is at the core of our successes and failures. If we have the mindset that we will succeed, then we will. If we don’t, then we will find it more difficult to stay motivated or see our goals through. They say you can do anything you put your mind to, and it’s true.
We have the power to CHOOSE what we think about.
My fear and my inner voice telling me “you can’t do that anymore” is what sets me back. Since I have been attending and participating in advanced pole classes on a weekly basis again, I have surprised myself at what I can do, the progress I’ve made in a short time, and how my mindset has changed, and how that mindset and rediscovered confidence influence other areas of my life.
“I can do hard things!”
To use myself as an example, my fear and my inner voice often tells me “you can’t do that anymore”, and this sets me back and keeps me from enjoying my pole classes. However, more often than not, I surprise myself with my own strength and abilities. I am confident with the progress I’ve made in a short time.
All this comes down to changing my own mindset. This has allowed me to rediscover my confidence, which has also influenced other areas of my life. This mindset also carries into my business and my professional life and relationships. Now, on a daily basis, I wake up and tell myself, “I can do hard things!”
Even when I face the most complicated and challenging problems, whether it’s learning a new pole move and thinking, “If I try to do that, I’m going to die…” or solving a huge problem for a client, I constantly remind myself, “I can do hard things!” and I am instantly renewed with confidence, which reminds me that I do have the ability, strength, and knowledge to do it.
Sure, my experience and intelligence play a huge role in my ability to approach and find solutions to problems, but my mindset is what allows me to approach them in the first place.
Sure, there is an element of fear to doing pole, especially as the tricks become more advanced — and dangerous.
The same goes for business. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t fear failure. However, I didn’t realize how crippling that was to me until recently. When I journal each morning, I realized how often the thoughts and feelings I write down are related to fear.
Now that I am more aware of this, I changed my journaling approach to write down my fears, and then cancel them out with positive affirmations and opportunities to turn negative negative thoughts and fears into positives.
Failure is a choice. The only way you truly fail is if you give up. The fear of failure should not control you.
The Importance of Confidence
Being confident in one area of your life can spill into others. For example, pole made me feel like I could do anything. I lost weight, became stronger, and started doing things I NEVER thought I would be able to do. This boosted confidence levels, not only in my personal life but also in my business. I became more focused at work and improved my demeanor, my creative problem-solving abilities, and my decision-making process.
As I became more confident in myself, I became more confident in my decisions, standing up for myself, and saying “no”. This allowed me to realize that we reached a maturity level in our business where we learned which clients are the best fits for us, and which aren’t. It allowed me to recognize our value, and therefore our pricing. In the last three years alone, we have tripled our business, grew our team, and the knowledge and experience I have gained by working with different types of clients and navigating their challenges is like nothing I could have imagined.
Taking (Back) Control
As an independent woman and a business owner, I can be a control freak. And when I don’t feel like I’m in control, I lose confidence, I feel like I’m losing my sense of self, and fear creeps back in.
Boosting confidence and combating fear are interrelated. When you combat fear, it boosts confidence, and when you boost confidence, you combat fear. And by adopting healthy habits that boost confidence—like exercise, eating well, and positive affirmations—you are not only doing wonders for your body and your mind, but also your mindset, and that positively impacts other areas of your life.
Living—and Working—By Principles
Everyone should have principles they live and work by. Principles should stem from your individual ethics, values, and spiritual beliefs. You don’t have to have a specific number of principles to follow and guide you, but it’s up to you to define them. Your principles should guide you in your thoughts, behaviors, and decision-making. And it takes confidence to not only set those principles but live and work by them, no matter who or what challenges you.
Goal-setting and Goal-achieving
Like any sport, hobby, or business venture, you usually aren’t an expert on Day 1. Sure, you might have innate talent, but it still requires time to learn, practice, and improve. This begins with goals.
Regardless of whether you’ve been in business for 20 years or 20 minutes, you should have goals. However, saying you are going to do something and then having a plan to do it are two different things. Think about that New Year’s Resolution you made on January 1st that faded into a distant memory by February 15th.
Owning and operating a business taught me about the importance of having goals, but it was my pole journey that really drove it home. By learning pole, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the different moves and tricks and to compare yourself with other students. However, like any goal, taking baby steps and developing micro-habits to get there is what will pave your way to success.
Make Time for Focus Work
Exercise and focus work go hand in hand. How?
Exercise helps clear the mind, and this is backed by science. Exercise produces endorphins in the brain, which is our “happy chemical”. Not only does this boost cognitive functions, but it also naturally gives us energy and makes us feel good.
Experiment with this yourself. If you are experiencing a day where you are stressed, overwhelmed, or dealing with a “busy” or racing mind, did you or did you not exercise?
On the days when you do exercise, the mind is clearer, calmer, and focused and you are more productive.
Using Entrepreneurial Thinking and Decision-making in Everyday Life
Entrepreneurial thinking is the ability to see things differently than the rest of the world. However, this is arguably not an innate trait; but rather one you develop over time and through experience. Applying entrepreneurial thinking to your everyday life means adopting the right mindset first. This means opening your mind to new ideas, new learning opportunities, and new ways of thinking. By applying a healthy daily routine—yes, such as exercise—you improve your state of mind, which allows you to do just this.