An Interview With Lisa Van Ahn

Ellen Fondiler | An Interview With Lisa Van Ahn

Whenever I meet someone who’s got a really cool job, who runs a thriving business, or who has completed an amazing project, I always want to know: “How did you do that?”

I’m always curious to hear the “behind-the-scenes story”—who they emailed, what they said, how they got their first client, how they got their foot in the door—the exact steps that they took to achieve their goal.

HOW DID YOU DO THAT? is an interview series where we get to hear the REAL story behind someone’s success—not the polished, neat and tidy version.

To see a complete list of all the interviews that have been completed to date, head over here.

Ellen Fondiler | An Interview With Lisa Van Ahn

Name: Lisa Van Ahn
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Profession: Kickboxer, fitness trainer, and founder of the I AM Initiative for Girls


You’re currently on the US National Kickboxing team and you’ve fought on an international level. That’s so impressive! How did you become a kickboxing champion? Did you always dream about competing at a pro level? Were you always an athletic kid? Or did you discover kickboxing later in life? Walk us through the sequence of events.

When I was 19 years-old, during a particularly volatile run-in with my boyfriend, I was pushed out of a Bronco and landed on the curb of a kickboxing studio. It sounds surreal, but it’s true. I walked up to the entrance of the studio and decided to go inside and try a class—and it changed the course of my life. That was the day that I decided to stop feeling like a victim and start moving down the path of confidence and self-love.

Up until that point, I’d been involved in a series of unhealthy relationships, and I was holding so much trauma and pain in my body. I started kickboxing to get out my anger, bitterness, and hurt, and to find my strength and confidence again.

After a year or so, I decided I wanted to try fighting in competitions. My first fight was a shock. I won, but I got hit so hard in the head that I thought, “I’m never doing this again.” But then three days later, I had a change of heart. I was soaring from the excitement of that first win, and I decided I wanted to move forward and keep training. I’d never felt so sure of myself and proud of what I could do.

I spent a number of years competing at an amateur level before taking on my first professional fight. After winning my first professional kickboxing match, I moved to Las Vegas. I boxed there for 3 years before moving back to Minneapolis and joining the US kickboxing team. My time fighting on the US team has been incredible. They’ve unlocked opportunities for me to fight all over the world, and it’s been one of the best experiences of my life.

Ellen Fondiler | An Interview With Lisa Van Ahn

You run LVA Fitness in Minneapolis, and you offer personal training, nutrition, and weight loss services for your clients. Take us back to the “early days” of your business. How did it feel to start a completely new business? Did you have clients right away? Or did things feel “quiet” and “empty” and discouraging at first? Describe what those early weeks and months felt like for you. (Also, describe how you got your first 3 or 4 clients, if you can remember.)

In 2003, I moved from Las Vegas, where I’d been boxing professionally, back to Minneapolis. I had no idea what I was going to do, but I knew I was skilled at fitness and athletic performance. Also, years of training camps and cutting weight for fights had given me a great basis of understanding for proper nutrition and fat loss.

The first incarnation of my fitness company was called Santé Fitness. Santé is the French word for health. When I think back on it now, I laugh because I thought choosing a French word sounded so “fancy” and “official.” These days, I believe that simplicity is best, which is why I changed my business name to my initials: LVA.

Back in ’03, I created a website and found a local fitness studio that I could rent by-the-hour to teach classes and work with clients individually. In the beginning, I was bartending part-time and teaching fitness the rest of the time. Working in that studio really helped to build up my confidence. The studio owners introduced me to new clients and I taught some of their bootcamp classes, too. After awhile, I stepped into more of a “partnership” role with the studio, which also helped me further my client reach.

My first long-term client found me through my website. She contacted me on the phone, we chatted, and I invited her to come to one of my bootcamp classes. She was really unhappy with her body. After taking my class, we talked again. She had a lot of weight to lose, and I gave her an achievable plan that promised better fitness, nutrition, and comfort in her body.

Over the course of one year, she lost 75 pounds with me. She also left her marriage and stepped fully into the light of being herself. Working with that client gave me so much confidence in my abilities as a trainer. It also helped me to see, very clearly, that I want to help people truly love their bodies—and that means working on more than just fitness and nutrition. It requires taking a deeper dive into people’s beliefs and stories, and helping people to release the emotional weight of past trauma and pain.

Ellen Fondiler | An Interview With Lisa Van Ahn

In addition to working with grown-up clients, you also run the I AM Initiative for Girls. You work with girls to help them build self-esteem, confidence, and a positive, “I CAN DO ANYTHING!” mindset. What inspired you to start this program?

I was exploited, bullied, and victimized when I was growing up. I didn’t know what it felt like to have confidence and belief in myself. It wasn’t until I was 19 years old and started kickboxing that I was able to start releasing the trauma and false beliefs that had haunted me.

I met two women in the kickboxing community who could see my strength and power, even when I couldn’t see it myself. With their support and encouragement, I was able to grow into a confident young woman. Eventually, I knew I wanted to pay it forward and share that same type of encouragement with the next generation of women.

My mission with the I AM Initiative is to teach girls how to love themselves, believe in themselves, and protect themselves from negative influences—people who want to hurt and take advantage of them, as well as their own inner critics.

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What did it feel like to start the I AM Initiative? Did you have lots of interest and sign-ups right away? Or did it take a lot of effort and patience to get things in motion?

The I AM Initiative is my passion project, and from the moment I first presented the 3 rules of self-protection to a group of forty 10-13 year old girls, I knew it was my purpose on this planet. After that first class, I sat in my car shaking and crying because I knew with such clarity that the reason I went through the trauma I did was so I could teach girls how to navigate their teens with a different result.

It took me a couple years of refining the curriculum, branding the company, and leading events before it started to grow. My first big break was becoming an approved resource for the Girl Scouts of America. Once that happened, I began booking more workshops. I realized I wanted to offer more than a one-off workshop for girls. I teach girls that self-protection is a daily practice, so it became important to me to be a continued voice in their ear, rather than someone who motivates them once and then disappears. I started leading longer retreats and traveling to speak at other retreats.

I also wrote a guidebook and created a superpower card deck for girls. It took me nearly one year after development to launch my Kickstarter campaign for these products. Though the Kickstarter was a success, this portion of my company is taking patience. I have a vision for empowering products that help girls practice confidence and self-protection daily—and programs that leaders can teach to girls in their community—but it takes financial resources to develop these things, and time to organize the business foundation so it will be a successful endeavor. I’ve been telling myself: “Slow and steady wins the race.”

I continue to be motivated by the incredible feedback I get from the girls and their parents. I really believe that doing this work is the reason I’m here on the planet, so giving up isn’t an option.

Ellen Fondiler | An Interview With Lisa Van Ahn

What was one of the scariest or toughest moments of your career, and how did you get through it?

When I was boxing, I had a big match at the Arco Arena in Sacramento. There were thousands of people in attendance, and I was knocked out about 30 seconds into the first round. It was the only knockout of my career, and it was extremely embarrassing. I had to pick myself up and move forward. It took me awhile to decide if my heart was even in fighting anymore. Ultimately I decided to retire from boxing and follow my first passion: kickboxing.

I see stressful times in life as an opportunity to test my dedication and commitment to the path I’m following. I believe that if your heart is fully engaged in the work you’re doing, you can get through any obstacle. If you’re not “all in,” then disappointment and frustration can become overwhelming. I realized that my heart wasn’t in boxing anymore, and I was able to let it go and focus on the things I truly cared about.

Ellen Fondiler | An Interview With Lisa Van Ahn

3 Things

If someone is interested in becoming a fitness trainer like you, what are the first 3 things they should do?

First, it’s important that you’re passionate about fitness and helping others. If that’s the case, and you have a history of being an athlete, you can probably start training clients without getting a Personal Training (PT) certification first. If you don’t have a background in athletics, then it’s usually a good idea to get a PT certificate so that you’ve got a basic understanding of how to train people effectively. Either way, if you’re considering a career as a fitness trainer, I recommend doing the following 3 things:

1. Connect with a trainer in your area that has a successful business and is well respected and skilled at what they do.

They might own a small studio, or teach at a studio, either way works.

2. Take some classes from them and make sure you enjoy their teaching style.

Then ask if you can shadow or intern with them. Study how they run their business and how they work with clients. Soak up as much as you can.

3. Offer your friends and family the opportunity to train with you free of charge.

Build up your confidence and develop your teaching style, and take people’s feedback. Continue to develop your style and stay true to your personality while training others. In the end, your clients will work with you because they like YOU—your personality, your story, your attitude about life—not because you’re really good at teaching squats.


ONE MORE THING…

Do you have “one more quick question” that you’d like to ask Lisa? Email me and tell me what you want to know! I might choose your question for my ONE MORE THING… Podcast (Coming soon!!!)


YOUR #1 CAREER GOAL: ACHIEVED

Do you need some encouragement to help you achieve a big, daunting career goal? Would you like to have a career coach/strategist in your corner—feeding you ideas that you’d never considered before, helping you figure out who to contact, and what to say, and checking in to make sure you don’t procrastinate? If so… click here to find out how we can work together. I’d love to coach you!

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Your Career Forecast: April / May 2017

Ellen Fondiler | Career Forecast: April / May 2017

I work as a career and business strategist. But my secret passion is… astrology!

About once a month,  I post an overview of what’s happening in the cosmos and how it might influence your career. It’s called: Your Career Forecast.

Whether you’re job-hunting, running your own business, or wondering about the ideal time to ask for a raise or take a vacation, each Career Forecast will reveal the important dates and cosmic shifts that you need to know about.

I am joined by my dear friend, Heidi Rose Robbins, a master astrologer who will provide expert insight into what’s going on in the stars.

Let’s dive in!


OVERVIEW

What’s going on this month…

HEIDI: The Sun moves into Taurus on April 19th at 1:26 pm PST. Taurus is an earth sign, one of great manifestation and beauty. Taurus lands us in the middle of spring when everything is blooming and beauty abounds. One of the signs of financial success, Taurus can make us rich on many levels. But money is not the only signature of wealth. Taurus asks us to look for abundance in the realm of beauty. It asks us to be thankful for the light hidden in all things. Taurus deeply appreciates being alive and sees the replenishment available in the natural world. A sunset can restore a sense of hope. A little flower breaking through the crack in a cement sidewalk can instill a new sense of courage.

Taurus is also a sign of tremendous Will. This is a sign that has the WILL to get something done or to stand, immovable and unshakeable, in the name of what is true and good. If you want steady strength, invoke Taurus.

This is a busy month astrologically. Mercury retrogrades into Aries on April 20th. It was in Aries just a short while ago and its return can signify another chance to plant new seeds. If you missed the window of launching new ideas, you have until May 16th to brainstorm and discuss what next wants to be created. It’s a dip back into feisty and fierce creation process.

Mars moves into Gemini April 21st, which ignites the warrior of words. If you have something to say, Mars will give the words a punch. The only danger here is scattering your thoughts and energy. Your choice of words and how you deliver them will be very important for the next couple of months. Be careful of reacting too quickly with too much force. Pause before sending that fiery email.

On April 24th (and again on May 11th) Mercury trines Saturn. This is a great transit for clear, practical thinking. Saturn gives structure to your thought. If you’ve been putting off writing a blog (or a novel) get started now. You have time and structure on your side. It’s also a great time for favorable outcomes when talking to people in positions of authority.

On April 28th, Venus moves into Aries. It has been swimming in the waters of Pisces and now dries off with the fires of Aries. You can fall in love quickly now—with a person or your work. Watch the impulsivity, but use this transit to take a leap into the new.

Mercury will conjunct Uranus (which is another way of saying that the planets will occupy the same degree of the zodiac) on April 28th and again on May 10th. There is a lot going on with Mercury this month. This transit is responsible for brilliant brainstorms and new ways of solving problems. Lightning can strike with the transit or you can just shake up the way you’ve been thinking or talking about things.

Use May 12th, when Mars trines Jupiter, to take bold action. This is generally a time of good fortune and positive movement forward. It is often associated with right timing. This is great for repairing relationships or forging new ones.

Finally on May 16th, Mercury will move into Taurus, which slows us down a bit. We can take a breath and a break and move more methodically. We study things carefully under this transit. We don’t skim what we are reading. We steep in it. Use this time to ruminate, meditate and activate a clear thinking process.

Remember, Taurus is a great sign for providing steadiness while you manifest. You can take clear, rhythmic action forward during this month. Don’t let the sometimes laziness of Taurus win the day. Absolutely have a gorgeous picnic in a field of flowers but then apply yourself. You can achieve much during the Taurus month.

What does all of this mean for your career? Let’s look closer…


JOB-HUNTING?

Here’s what you need to know…

ELLEN: Use May 12th, when Mars trines Jupiter, to take bold action. Not sure what type of “action” you ought to be taking? Here’s a suggestion…

Make a list of 30 people that you know pretty well—including friends, family, colleagues, teachers, classmates, Internet buddies, anybody you can think of.

Then on May 12th, write a personal email to each person—30 emails in total. In each email, say, “Hey! You probably don’t know this, but I’m hunting for a new job right now.” Describe your dream job. Then say, “Please tuck me in the back of your mind. If you happen to hear about a job like that, let me know! Or if there’s anyone you think I should meet, or any companies you think I should check out, please let me know that, too.”

If you email 30 different people on May 12th, that’s a huge step! That’s 30 people who might be able to help you find your dream job. The more people that know about your job hunt, the better! You never know… someone might write back right away to say, “I know the perfect opportunity for you!”

And no, it really doesn’t take much time to fire off 30 emails—especially if you’re saying almost exactly the same thing in each one. You can probably send out 30 emails in less than three hours… while sipping a latte. Buckle down and get it done!


ALREADY HAVE A JOB?

Here’s what you need to know…

ELLEN: Mercury aligns with Uranus on April 28th and again on May 10th. Both of those days are fabulous for brainstorming and creative problem solving. You’ll feel a “shake it up” energy in the air. If you’re having a meeting at work to discuss a recurring challenge, these are great days to wipe the slate clean. Rip up the old blueprint. Erase the chalkboard. Start from square one. Brainstorm together and see if you can come up with a fresh solution that hasn’t been tried before.

April 28th is a double-powerful day, because on that day, Venus moves into Aries. Venus is all about love, warmth, and harmony. Aries is all about new ideas and fiery action. Combine these forces together, and you’ve got a day where you might find yourself falling deeply in love with your work—or falling in love all over again. (Or falling in love with a co-worker, for that matter!)

April 28th is also a fantastic day to start a new project at work—especially a project that that’s driven by your heart and your emotions. Maybe you’re passionate about helping young women build confidence and reach their potential. Why not start a mentoring program at your office so you can work directly with teenage girls, and help them explore exciting career opportunities? Or maybe you’re passionate about mental health. You could collaborate with your company’s HR department to start a “de-stress club” where you get people away from their desks, outside in the fresh air, taking a 20-minute walk—without their phones. What type of project or initiative lights up your heart? Do it! April 28th would be the perfect day to get things started.


SELF-EMPLOYED OR RUNNING YOUR OWN BUSINESS?

Here’s what you need to know…

ELLEN: On April 21st, Mars moves into Gemini. Mars is the planet of fiery, passionate action, and Gemini is expressive, sociable, and chatty. Put these together, and you’ve got a powerful day for communication! If you need to send a newsletter to your customers, make a big product announcement, or send out a press release, this would be a great day to do it.

Just make sure your writing isn’t too hot-headed and aggressive (Mars can have a militant, war-like quality). And make sure you’re not rambling all over the place (Gemini loves to explore both sides of any situation, which can create a scattered feeling). Tap into your emotions, definitely, but stay focused on the main point you’re trying to make. Before you hit “Send,” check in and ask yourself, “What’s my intention with this piece of writing? Is my intention coming through loud and clear?” If so… excellent! Send it out!

On April 24th and May 11th, Mercury trines Saturn. This combination of planetary forces is excellent for entrepreneurs, because it creates clear, focused thinking. Goodbye, brain fog! Use these days to focus on the skeleton of your business. The bones. The foundation. The systems and structures.

Look at your website with fresh eyes. Does the website navigation structure that you set up three years ago still make sense today? Think about your business model. Is it time to retire a few of your products or services, and clear the way for something new? What about that new project you’ve been percolating on? Maybe it’s time to title it, outline it, and create a clear structure and timeline for completion.

Saturn gives structure to your thoughts. Instead of feeling dreamy and starry-eyed, on April 24th and May 11th, you may find yourself feeling extra-focused and authoritative, like an architect determined to create a new building. Put this stone here! That beam goes there! That should be pine, not cedar! Create new structures that will support the next chapter of your business.


THIS IS A GREAT MONTH FOR:

• Brainstorming. Shaking things up. Starting a passion project—something born from your heart. Finding beauty in everyday moments. Writing and communicating with energy and intensity. Planning out the second half of the year.

• MONEY! With the Sun in Taurus, it’s a great time for anything money-related. Ask for that raise with confidence. Launch a new product. Increase your hourly rate. Search for all kinds ways to feel more abundant and prosperous—new bed linens, more free time, a nightly bubble bath instead of a shower, whatever sounds “luxurious” to you.

• However, Mercury is retrograde for a big chunk of this month — April 9th to May 3rd — so be sure to back-up your computer, double-check for typos, and anticipate plenty of unexpected travel delays and other time-consuming hiccups. Take some time to “put your house in order,” literally and emotionally. Tidy and de-clutter. Tie up loose ends. Get back to basics—good eating habits, an energizing morning routine, a full night’s sleep, a gratitude practice. That’s the best way to use the retrograde energy in a productive way!


IMPORTANT DATES TO REMEMBER:

April 19th – Sun moves into Taurus. (Blooming, abundance, wealth, renewed hope.)

April 20th – Mercury retrogrades into Aries. (Today’s theme: “A second chance.”)

April 21st – Mars moves into Gemini. (Be a word warrior. Whatever you need to say, say it now!)

April 24th – Mercury trines Saturn. (Clear, practical thinking. Create sensible new systems and structures.)

April 28th – Venus moves into Aries. (Love is in the air! Fall in love with your work all over again—or fall in love with a new project.)

April 28th – Mercury conjuncts Uranus. (Shake things up! Fresh ideas. New solutions.)

May 10th – Mercury conjuncts Uranus again. (Another opportunity to shake things up!)

May 11th – Mercury trines Saturn. (Another round of Clear, practical thinking.)

May 12th – Mars trine Jupiter. (Take bold action. Get out there. Don’t hide at home watching Netflix.)

May 16th – Mercury moves into Taurus. (Take a deep breath. Take a break. Move a little more slowly and methodically.)


YOUR CAREER MANTRA FOR THIS MONTH:

“It’s a beautiful day. Don’t let it get away.” —Bono

Bono, the lead singer of U2, was born under the sign of Taurus. His song “Beautiful Day” is a perfect example of the Taurus spirit. Work hard, but not too hard. Keep marching forward with your goals, but don’t forget to pause and appreciate the sunrise. Find beauty in ordinary, everyday moments. Earn money, while remembering that there are many types of “wealth.” Enjoy all of life’s basic pleasures—good food, good conversations, and the simple joy of having a home, a bed, and a roof over your head.

Taurus invites us to work steadily but also live fully—don’t let life “get away” from you while you’re bent over a computer screen. Look up occasionally. Breathe. Feel. LIVE.

Whatever you’re working on this month, I’m wishing you great success.

Have an amazing month!

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Learn more about my career & business coaching services here.

Learn more about Heidi and her astrological services here.

An Interview With Anna Guest-Jelley

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Whenever I meet someone who’s got a really cool job, who runs a thriving business, or who has completed an amazing project, I always want to know: “How did you do that?”

I’m always curious to hear the “behind-the-scenes story”—who they emailed, what they said, how they got their first client, how they got their foot in the door—the exact steps that they took to achieve their goal.

HOW DID YOU DO THAT? is an interview series where we get to hear the REAL story behind someone’s success—not the polished, neat and tidy version.

To see a complete list of all the interviews that have been completed to date, head over here.

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Name: Anna Guest-Jelley
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Profession: Founder of Curvy Yoga


There are thousands of certified yoga instructors. But you’re not just an instructor. You created a completely new style of yoga—Curvy Yoga—and now, students can take Curvy Yoga classes in 10 different countries around the world! When you first started Curvy Yoga, did you ever imagine it would become the international movement that it is today? Was that your plan from the very beginning?

I had no idea what Curvy Yoga would become! I honestly didn’t even have a plan at the beginning, much less expect it to become a business.

Initially, Curvy Yoga was born out of my own personal search for a type of yoga that would “work” for me. I have a curvy body. I wanted to find yoga classes and resources designed for people with bigger, curvier bodies—people who looked like me. I searched everywhere, but I couldn’t find anything! Eventually I realized, I need to create “curvy yoga” classes by myself, for myself, because this kind of thing doesn’t exist anywhere. So that’s what I did. I knew I couldn’t be the only person on the face of the earth who wanted this kind of information, so I wanted to share what I’d learned.

I started teaching Curvy Yoga classes a couple times a week here in Nashville—and I started a blog because I like writing and thought it would be fun. I never thought that Curvy Yoga would grow into anything bigger than that. Back in those days, not many people were running “online businesses” or “online classes,” so it never occurred to me that Curvy Yoga could move in that direction.

Curvy Yoga eventually evolved into the business that it is today because of an ongoing conversation between myself and the community. People would ask me for things—like video classes that they could watch at home, for example—and I’d scoff and think I wasn’t the right person to do it. But then eventually, I’d realize that because I believe so deeply in sharing this info, I needed to figure out how to give people what they needed.

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Take us back to your very first month as a yoga teacher. How did you find students? Did people come to your classes right away, or did things feel “empty” and discouraging for a while?

During my very first month as a teacher, I taught different small groups of friends as a way to practice and have fun. I didn’t start teaching in more formal settings for about a year.

When I first started teaching more formally, Curvy Yoga was a new concept, and I was able to get some publicity about the class because of that. I taught a few free classes so people could try it out, and after that, the classes were packed! We were in a huge garage, and there were around 50 people per class. I remember looking around the room and thinking, “What have I done?!” I didn’t feel prepared for that in the slightest!

As a yoga teacher, whether your classes feel “too empty” or “too full,” it can pose challenges either way. And of course, once you start charging money for your classes, it can be difficult to sustain a regular group of students, as well as keep inviting new people in. Growing classes is definitely a challenge for most yoga teachers, myself included. I think the main thing that helps with that is simply knowing that it takes time to “find your tribe” and build a strong, devoted community, and to embrace that, and be patient with the process.

Your company has been mentioned in some amazing publications like The New York Times and The Washington Post. How did those opportunities arise? Did you pitch yourself to those publications to tell them about your work? Or did a journalist approach you? What was the sequence of events?

I have pitched myself over the years, but all of those big name mentions came because a journalist approached me. In those cases, they were doing stories on people who were teaching yoga for curvy bodies—so in their research, they found me.

Sometimes, though, even for those big name mentions, I didn’t even know about it ahead of time. There have been situations where Curvy Yoga was mentioned as a resource, but I wasn’t interviewed, and the only way I found out was when someone said, “Hey, I saw you in The New York Times!”

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You have a new book that just came out! Hooray! It’s called Curvy Yoga: Love Yourself & Your Body A Little More Each Day. How did you get a book deal? Did a publisher approach you and ask if you’d like to write a book? Did you write a book proposal and contact lots of literary agents? How did it happen?

I co-edited an anthology, Yoga and Body Image: 25 Personal Stories About Beauty, Bravery & Loving Your Body, that came out before this new book, so I was familiar with the publishing process.

For Curvy Yoga, I wrote a book proposal and got a recommendation from a friend for a literary agent. I was fortunate that she was interested and we connected, so she agreed to represent me. From there we worked on editing the proposal together, which took a couple months, and then we sent the book out to publishers. We had lots of interest, but it took about four months (and plenty of rejections!) to get an offer.

What was one of the scariest or toughest moments of your career, and how did you get through it?

2014 was a big year for me. I lead two 200-hour yoga teacher trainings, lead two rounds of my online certification for yoga teachers, lead three retreats, had the Yoga and Body Image book come out, and opened a local yoga studio—and that’s just the big stuff! It sounds like this would be the height of happiness and success, but it didn’t turn out that way. I burnt out. Big time. And I wasn’t sure if and how I’d be able to continue.

After some soul searching, I ended up pulling way back in 2015 because I knew if I didn’t make some changes immediately, then Curvy Yoga would soon be no more. So, what was one of the greatest times in my career also turned out to be one of the most challenging and scary.

As I reset my priorities, the ship began to right itself and I’m now in a good place. But for a while there, it was definitely very touch and go!

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3 Things

If someone is interested in becoming a professional yoga instructor like you, what are the first 3 things they should do?

1. Develop your own practice.

By that I don’t mean “work on fancy poses,” though there’s nothing wrong with that. What I do mean is, “make yoga a regular part of your life.” This is important because it helps you see what yoga is teaching you—because creating a regular and sustainable practice is a challenge for pretty much everyone. So as you navigate that process, you learn so much about what yoga means to you and if / how you want to share it with others.

2. Do your research.

There are so many different types of yoga teacher training programs out there today, which is beautiful! You can explore and find one that works for you. Spend some time thinking about what you want to learn, who you might want to teach in the future, and then talk with teacher trainers about what they offer. Choosing the right trainer is so important, because you’re going to be spending a big chunk of time immersed in that person’s perspective! You definitely want to find someone that you “click” with.

3. Trust that you are the “right” teacher for someone.

I hear from so many people who are interested in becoming yoga teachers, but who fear that they’re “too much” of something (too old, too big, etc.) or “not enough” of something else (not flexible enough, not wanting to teach a fast enough practice enough, etc.).

Of course, these fears are totally common and understandable in a culture that privileges one form of embodiment above all others. But the truth is that we need teachers with all different kinds of bodies and teaching styles, not just one body type and one teaching style. There are so many people who want to practice yoga, but who feel like they don’t fit in at certain types of yoga studios, and you can serve those types of students who are searching for something different. While you’ll never be the right teacher for everyone (because no one is!), you’ll definitely be the right teacher for someone!


ONE MORE THING…

Do you have “one more quick question” that you’d like to ask Anna? Email me and tell me what you want to know! I might choose your question for my ONE MORE THING… Podcast (Coming soon!!!)


YOUR #1 CAREER GOAL: ACHIEVED

Do you need some encouragement to help you achieve a big, daunting career goal? Would you like to have a career coach/strategist in your corner—feeding you ideas that you’d never considered before, helping you figure out who to contact, and what to say, and checking in to make sure you don’t procrastinate? If so… click here to find out how we can work together. I’d love to coach you!

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An Interview with Alex Franzen

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Whenever I meet someone who’s got a really cool job, who runs a thriving business, or who has completed an amazing project, I always want to know: “How did you do that?”

I’m always curious to hear the “behind-the-scenes story”—who they emailed, what they said, how they got their first client, how they got their foot in the door—the exact steps that they took to achieve their goal.

HOW DID YOU DO THAT? is an interview series where we get to hear the REAL story behind someone’s success—not the polished, neat and tidy version.

To see a complete list of all the interviews that have been completed to date, head over here.

Ellen Fondiler | How Did You Do That? An Interview with Alex Franzen

Name: Alex Franzen
Location: Portland, Oregon
Profession: Freelance writer, editor, and communication consultant


You’ve been a self-employed writer for a pretty long time—over 7 years. Think back to when you were just getting started. Can you remember how you got your very first client? How did you convince people to hire you, back when nobody knew about you?

A few days after quitting my full-time job in radio broadcasting, I got my laptop, I went to a coffee shop, I drank several shots of espresso, and then I started emailing every single person that I knew.

I emailed my parents, my college professors, friends from high school, former coworkers, anyone I could think of. I wrote a personal email to each person and I said, “Hey! I’m freelancing now, and I’m looking for projects.” I gave a little update on my life, and then I shared some info about the types of writing projects I was interested in doing.

I ended each email by saying, “If you’d like to hire me, or if you happen to meet anyone who’s looking for someone like me, let me know!”

I probably sent out 50 or 60 of those emails over the course of a week. By the end of that week, almost everyone had responded with encouragement and positivity (“Congrats on your new career, that’s so great!”). Several people had ideas for me—people I ought to contact, publications and marketing agencies that might need writers. Plus, 2 or 3 people wanted to hire me.

It wasn’t a huge amount of work—just 2 or 3 small projects—but it was a start! And of course, things snowballed from there. Happy clients wanted to hire me again, or they’d talk about me to their colleagues, and then those people would contact me. One project led to another. After a year or so, my calendar was pretty darn full!

Ellen Fondiler | How Did You Do That? An Interview with Alex Franzen

You’ve had some pretty “fancy” clients over the years—big companies like Hewlett-Packard, for example. How did you get hired to do a writing project for HP?

It’s a really funny story. I booked a cabin for a weekend vacation with my boyfriend. Not a cabin, exactly, more like a “tiny house” by the ocean. I never got to meet the owners of the house in person—we just corresponded via email, and they left the keys for us in a lockbox with a secret code so that we could let ourselves in.

Anyway… it was such a beautiful house, and we had a wonderful, romantic weekend. At the end of the weekend, I wrote a little “thank you” note to say, “We loved your house. It’s so beautiful! Thanks for making our vacation so special!”

I left that note on the kitchen counter. I figured the owners of the house would find it there eventually. And they did.

A little while later, I got an email from one of the owners. She told me that she’d discovered my note. She said it was really touching—nobody writes handwritten notes anymore these days, and that note really made her day. Also, she had Googled me, and she was impressed with my website. She worked at Hewlett-Packard and she wanted to hire me for a project. I was like, “Whoa, seriously?”

And that’s how it happened! You never know how one email—or handwritten note—might change the course of your life!

What’s your favorite thing about your work?

Oh man, so many things! I am very quiet and introverted, so I love the fact that I can work at home, listen to whatever music I want, and that I don’t have to attend a zillion annoying meetings all day long. Or commute to work. Or wear “real” clothes! Haha!

I also love how much diversity I get to enjoy. One day, I’m working with a client on a book manuscript about gluten-free cooking. The next day, I’m working with another client on a podcast script about “what to say if a creepy guy approaches you at the gym,” or product descriptions for a new line of organic candles and scented lip balms. It’s always something different.

As someone with a million different interests, it’s really fun to “bounce around” and dive into so many types of industries and perspectives. I’m always doing the same thing—writing—but the subject matter changes with every project, and I love that.

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What was one of the scariest or most humiliating moments of your career, and how did you get through it?

A couple months after starting my freelance writing business, I got a phone call—at 11pm at night—from a number I didn’t recognize. I answered. The caller introduced herself. I recognized her name, because we had met briefly at a conference awhile back, but I didn’t know much about her, and I had no idea why she might be calling me.

She proceeded to HYSTERICALLY tell me that I was “stealing her business model” and that she would “take legal action” if I didn’t stop. My heart started pounding into my throat. I’m not good in “combative” situations, and I felt totally paralyzed.

I asked her to explain why, exactly, she felt I was “stealing her business model.” She basically told me, “You work with clients on résumé editing projects, but that’s MY thing, and I was doing that first.” I remember thinking to myself, “Um, so you’re saying there can only be ONE résumé editor in the entire world… and that person is you? Huhhh?” Her explanation made no sense.

Afterwards, I called my dad, who happens to be a lawyer. He told me, “You’re not doing anything wrong—she’s being ridiculous.” He helped me put together a firm, sensible email saying, “You’re accusing me of something which isn’t true, and here’s why…” which I sent to this woman. She didn’t bother me again after that.

But OH MY GOD. It was totally stressful. For about 72 hours, my stomach felt like it was full of battery acid. And after that, I took my personal phone number off my website—I didn’t want people calling me out of the blue, especially at random hours of the night!

Ellen Fondiler | How Did You Do That? An Interview with Alex Franzen

3 THINGS

If someone is interested in becoming a professional, self-employed writer like you, what are the first 3 things they should do?

1. Email every single person you know.

In each email, say something like, “This is what I’m doing now… these are the types of writing projects I’d love to do… these are some samples of my work… and I’m available! If you’d like to hire me, or if you know someone who might need someone like me, let me know.” Email as many people as you can. You never know who might want to hire you on the spot, or who might be able to make an introduction for you.

2. Talk about what you’re doing constantly. (Don’t limit yourself to “just email.”)

Meet people for coffee. Send hand-written letters. Schedule a walk to catch up with an old friend. Talk to people about what you’re doing, everywhere you go, all day long. Again, you just never know who might be able to hire you or help you out. The more people that know about what you’re doing, the better.

3. Put a website together!

If you’re trying to get clients to hire you, most likely, the very first they’re going to say is, “Can I see your website?” or “Do you have any writing samples that I can check out?” They want to get a little “taste” of what you can do. So, you’ve got to put together a website. It doesn’t have to be fancy—my first site was just a free WordPress template with a photo of my face that I took with my cell phone while sitting in my car! Seriously!

My first website didn’t look that great—but it was something. It was better than nothing. It got me started. You’ve got to take that first, awkward step and get things into motion. If you don’t take that first step, then nothing happens.


ONE MORE THING…

Do you have “one more quick question” that you’d like to ask Alex? Email me and tell me what you want to know! I might choose your question for my ONE MORE THING… Podcast (Coming soon!!!)


YOUR #1 CAREER GOAL: ACHIEVED

Do you need some encouragement to help you achieve a big, daunting career goal? Would you like to have a career coach/strategist in your corner—feeding you ideas that you’d never considered before, helping you figure out who to contact, and what to say, and checking in to make sure you don’t procrastinate? If so… click here to find out how we can work together. I’d love to coach you!

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UNLOCKED Links: March 2017

Ellen Fondiler | UNLOCKED Links: March 2017

Once a month, I curate the best links on how to find work that you love, be excellent at what you do, and unlock any door that stands in your way. Mostly, I gather articles and podcasts that capture my attention because they make me think or laugh. Here is the link round-up for March 2017!

• If you are about to go to a networking event and you have no idea what to say, this guide is for you!

• This is a podcast world and we are (happily) living in it. Here are 17 of the latest women- hosted podcasts for entrepreneurs!

• The longer I live in San Francisco, the more I discover there is to love. But don’t just take it from me. Check out these 101 reasons to love San Francisco. Wanting more? Here are the city’s best secret spots and hidden gems.

• From Agatha Christie to JK Rowling, Jack Canfield to CS Lewis, publishers have made big mstakes in rejecting these eventual best selling authors. This amazing website gives all aspiring writers a glimmer of hope.

• I love this series of mothers and daughters connecting in the kitchen. Eat, Darling, Eat has it all — history, stories and recipes.

• There are races and there are races. The Itidarod is the queen of them all. Mushers- running with dogs in connection to the land. I love this story by Wendy Battino that highlights the drama, pain and intrigue of this iconic race.

• Do you take photos with your phone? Here are some tools to turn your phone into an even better camera.

• Are you ready to unlock the best writing you have ever done? Check out this new online class by Susan Hyatt and Alex Franzen called Dig Deep. Two of the very best experts showing you the way it’s done!

• Are you a woman entrepreneur building a business that is in need of an injection of funds? BBG Ventures invests in visionary entrepreneurs building the next generation of market-defining consumer products and services. They have a wonderful portfolio and an eye for a great idea!

Bone broth and coffee all wrapped into one! It’s a win-win!

• A Glassdoor for women! Fairy Godboss (great name!!) crowdsources the crucial but sometimes awkward truth about companies.

• Are you wanting to crowdfund your next great idea? Alex Daly just came out with a book about how to kick ass at crowdfunding. Known as the “Crowdsourceress”, she’s raised over $20 million dollars for various companies, artists and ideas.

• The World Economic Forum predicts that women won’t reach global gender equality in the workplace until 2185 ( really??). Claire Wasserman is determined to speed things up. She founded Ladies Get Paid to help women rise up at work. They host town halls to share women’s challenges and workshops to solve them. Since their launch in the summer of 2016, they have over 4,000 members worldwide. Join here!

Happy reading and listening,

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Your Career Forecast: March / April 2017

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I work as a career and business strategist. But my secret passion is… astrology!

About once a month,  I post an overview of what’s happening in the cosmos and how it might influence your career. It’s called: Your Career Forecast.

Whether you’re job-hunting, running your own business, or wondering about the ideal time to ask for a raise or take a vacation, each Career Forecast will reveal the important dates and cosmic shifts that you need to know about.

I am joined by my dear friend, Heidi Rose Robbins, a master astrologer who will provide expert insight into what’s going on in the stars.

Let’s dive in!


OVERVIEW

What’s going on this month…

HEIDI: The Sun moves into Aries on March 20th, 2017. This is the astrological New Year. Aries launches spring and all things new. It inaugurates, initiates and dives in. It does not pause. It acts. With Aries, we slough off any sense of hopelessness and get to work. Use Aries to overcome procrastination. There is no better sign to bust through lethargy.

Mercury is a very important sign for Aries. Both Aries and Mercury are connected with brilliant ideas. On March 26th, Mercury will line up directly with Uranus—the planet of innovation, excitement and change. This is brainstorming and brilliant idea time extraordinaire. Go to your favorite coffee shop, open up a blank book and start scribbling. Or convene a group of allies and see what you can create together.

On March 29th, stabilize those ideas! Mercury is in harmony with Saturn. Saturn makes things happen. It organizes, stabilizes and commits. So, under this transit, we can commit to our new ideas. We can have serious conversations and speak with authority. Talk to your boss. Talk to yourself as your own boss. Commit to just one of your new brilliant ideas and take the first action step.

On March 31st, Mercury moves into Taurus. It’s been working at full capacity in Aries and now slows down to be a bit more methodical. Use Mercury in Taurus to sit still and review what has been created. If there’s a big project and you need to get into the flow, start slowly. Read slowly. Write slowly. Absorb what needs to be absorbed. Take the time to digest the material you need to digest. This is also a good time for eloquence—for communicating with beauty instead of just speed.

Venus moves into Pisces on April 3rd. This entrance also heralds a quieter time. Venus wants to spend lots of time dreaming when in Pisces. She want to put on music, take a bath, listen to a book on tape or watch a movie. She wants to consider ways in which she can turn her compassion into action, because she wants her love to make a difference in the world. This is a wonderful artistic combination. Problem solve through your deepest artistry. Dream your way into answers.

Mercury goes retrograde on April 9th. It will stay retrograde until May 3rd. You know the drill. Generally, it’s best not to launch into any huge new endeavor. Technical issues can abound and travel has a way of supplying interesting, unexpected turns and delays. But it’s a powerful time for reflection and retreat. It’s a time to review. If we could all just go off on a silent meditation retreat for Mercury retrograde, we’d probably come back ready to save the world. In lieu of that, find your own way to create a little more silence and reflection in your days.

Finally, expect the unexpected on April 14th when the Sun shares the exact same zodiacal degree as Uranus in the heavens. This is a day of change, electricity, upheaval or revelation. It shakes things up and wakes things up. It may very well wake us up. Try something out of your usual routine. Experiment. Push beyond your own edges. Stir up your day with something good.

Enjoy the month of Aries. It’s a feisty, potent month!

What does all of this mean for your career?

Let’s look closer…


JOB-HUNTING?

Here’s what you need to know…

ELLEN: As Heidi mentioned, March 20th, 2017 is the astrological New Year. A fresh start! If you’re job hunting, this is an excellent moment to decide what you really want out of your next position. Make a list of 5 qualities that you’re looking for. Do you want a flexible schedule? Would you like to develop a particular skill? Is there a particular salary you’re aiming for? Write down your “fantasy job description.” Set a clear intention for what you want.

Say to yourself, “There are tons of amazing companies out there. I know I can find a job that excites me.” Try not to sink into lethargy and pessimism. Ride the hopeful energy that’s percolating on March 20th. Optimism rules on this day!

If you’re feeling anxious about your job hunt, or feeling stuck and unsure about what type of job would make you happy, don’t isolate yourself. Staying home and flicking through your Facebook feed probably won’t help you get clarity. Instead of being alone, reach out and connect. Invite some friends out for a meal and have a career brainstorming session. March 26th would be an especially good day for this type of get-together—it’s a day that’s filled with innovative, exciting, let’s-figure-it-out energy. Plus, this year, March 26th happens to be a Sunday. Brunch, anyone?

ALREADY HAVE A JOB?

Here’s what you need to know…

ELLEN: As Heidi mentioned, Venus moves into Pisces on April 3rd, which happens to fall on a Monday this year. This is a dreamy, quiet, reflective type of day. You may find yourself wanting to snuggle in bed way past your usual wake-up time. You might feel inspired to “play hooky” and spend some quality time with someone you love.

If you can take this Monday off work—and give yourself a nice, long, 3-day weekend—go for it. If that’s not possible, try to step away from your typical workday grind. Visit a bookstore on your lunch break and let yourself wander. Listen to an inspiring podcast on your commute. Head out to see a concert in the evening. Fill up your inspiration tank, and don’t push yourself too hard. This is not the day to “buckle down,” “grind away,” and “make things happen.” As Heidi puts it, this is a day when you’ll “dream your way into answers.”

Mark your calendar for April 14th, too. This day is all about change and upheaval. Your boss might make a surprising announcement. A friend or co-worker could make a surprising proposition. It’s also a great day to try new things and shake things up. Instead of doing your weekly meeting in the conference room, take your team out to a bowling alley, or a martial arts class, or to the park for an afternoon picnic. Shake up the stagnant energy, get people moving, and new ideas will start flowing, too.


SELF-EMPLOYED OR RUNNING YOUR OWN BUSINESS?

Here’s what you need to know…

ELLEN: Got some big goals right now? (I know you do!) Good news: the stars are aligning to bring tons of motivation and determination. On March 29th, when Mercury harmonizes with Saturn, you’ll feel an urge to organize, organize, organize. Divide big tasks into small steps. Make all those phone calls you’ve been putting off. Boss yourself around!

March 29th is also a terrific day to ask yourself, “What would help me to feel more powerful and authoritative?” Hiring a stylist to help upgrade your wardrobe? Working with a vocal coach to help you develop a rich, resonant speaking voice? Whatever you need in order to feel “like a boss,” go for it.

On March 31st, when Mercury moves into Taurus, stay in boss-mode and keep working persistently on your goals. Taurus is represented by the Bull—slow and steady, strong, plowing forward. Avoid getting distracted by “shiny objects.” This is not the time to spontaneously throw yourself into a new project, or change your entire website on a whim. Stay focused on the important goals you’ve already set, and see things through to the end. Finish what you’ve started. You’ll feel so proud of yourself for being tenacious and getting things done!


IMPORTANT DATES TO REMEMBER:

March 20th – Sun into Aries. (The astrological New Year. A fresh start!)

March 26th – Mercury conjunct Uranus. (Innovation, excitement, and change. A great day for collaboration and brainstorming.)

March 29th – Mercury trine Saturn. (Act like a boss. Get organized and re-commit to your goals.)

March 31st – Mercury into Taurus. (Stay focused on your goals. Make slow, steady, methodical progress.)

April 3rd – Venus into Pisces. (A dreamy, quiet, reflective day. Chill out and let your mind wander.)

April 9th – Mercury goes retrograde. (Try to avoid starting a big new project, if possible. Instead, hunker down and tie up loose ends. Back-up your computer. Organize your workspace. Focus on finishing and tidying, not launching.)

April 14th – Sun conjunct Uranus. (Excitement, upheaval, and surprises! Expect the unexpected today, and shake things up. Experimentation will be rewarded.)


YOUR CAREER MANTRA FOR THIS MONTH:

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” —Lao Tzu

In my work as a career coach, I spend a lot of time working with people who feel stuck and overwhelmed. People typically hire me when their career goals feel “too big.” The journey ahead feels “too long.” Too many steps to take. Too many hurdles to get over. They wonder, “Can I really do this? Will I ever get where I want to be? It feels like it’s never going to happen. I don’t know if I have what it takes.”

I always encourage my clients to stop worrying about “how long” it’s going to take. Instead, focus on the one step you can take today. Make one phone call. Send one email. Schedule one meeting. Research one grad school program. Take one step today, and another step tomorrow, and keep going. One month from now, you’ll be thirty steps closer to achieving your goal.

Ride the energy of Aries—new beginnings, fresh starts, innovation, optimism, and passion—and keep moving in the direction you want to go. Make a pact with yourself. Decide to keep marching forward, no matter what.

Until next time…

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Learn more about my career & business coaching services here.

Learn more about Heidi and her astrological services here.