This gorgeous lady with the bright smile is Jessica Larsen.
I met Jessica just a few short months back when she became client of mine through my SEO coaching program. Jess is one of the nicest people I’ve ever had the good fortune to know and to work with.
Jess is a creative genius when it comes to crafting words and creating content. A self-professed word nerd, she’s renegade writer, a scribbler of stories and a teller of truths.
Although Jess is not a believer in living by a label, she has developed a great insight into her own inner workings and is able to live her life and perform to her strengths in a way without squashing her creative tendencies.
Or as Jess puts it “able to live my life in a way that allows these qualities to be expressed and manifested as positives, rather than the awful negative feelings that come when I try to jam my square-shaped self into society’s perpetually round-shaped holes.”
Love it. Now read more of Jess’s words.
1. Can you give us a brief insight into your background. What you were doing before you became an entrepreneur and what led you to this path?
I studied law and creative industries at uni, and wound up as a legislative policy advisor to the government. Although I enjoyed it at first, eventually I could no longer ignore the pull to do creative work – I didn’t want to write 500 page snoozefests; I wanted to focus on writing things that actually meant something to me.
So I left my safe-but-boring job and dived pen-first into the world of online business. Now, I’m a writer, copywriter and creative strategist. In a nutshell, I help people tell their stories, find their voice, and make their ideas happen.
2. What does being an introvert mean to you?
It means that I have to be very conscious of my energy.
It means I have to be proactive and fastidious in setting boundaries.
It means that alone time is as necessary to me as sun and air.
It also means I am intensely empathetic, and very sensitive to other people’s energy and emotions.
3. When did you realise or discover you were an introvert? Was there a particular experience that you made you realise you were or an a-ha moment? How did that happen? What were those a-ha moments?
Growing up, I always thought that being an introvert meant being shy. And I am most definitely not shy! So I spent a lot of time thinking that I was abnormal and that something was wrong with me because I needed so much alone time and I struggled so much with prolonged social interactions.
It was actually in my early twenties, during a random conversation with a family friend, when I first discovered the true definition – that introverts are people who recharge their energy by being alone. And it all clicked into place.
On top of being an introvert, I’m also a HSP (highly sensitive person). I only heard of this concept a few years ago, but it describes me in nutshell – I’m acutely sensitive to noise and smells, I make all decisions from an intensely emotional space, I cry easily… Hell, when I’m feeling particularly sensitive, I can feel my toes touching each other and it freaks me out!
Although I am not a believer in living by a label, figuring these things out has allowed me far greater insight into my own inner workings. I’m able to live my life in a way that allows these qualities to be expressed and manifested as positives, rather than the awful negative feelings that come when I try to jam my square-shaped self into society’s perpetually round-shaped holes.
4. How has being an introvert affected or shaped your life?
There have definitely been instances where being an introvert has shaped my ability to show up in the world.
In my corporate job, we worked in an open plan office, and had meetings all day, every day. It was so draining, and caused me so much stress. But of course, you kind of just have to suck it up. In fact, people who dislike those types of corporate norms are often branded as ‘not being team players’, which is sooo not true. It’s just that our optimal working environment is a little different to the current standard. (Seriously – open plan offices kill me!)
In my relationship, my boyfriend used to get so puzzled with how I’d withdraw (ummmm, or flip out!) when too much social interaction was foisted upon me. He’s an extrovert, and it took a long time for me to be able to articulate to him (and to myself) how I felt, but now he’s so understanding and brilliant in allowing me the time and space I need. He is one of the only people in the world whom I do actually recharge around. (Aaaah, the sign of true introverted love!)
Now, in my business, I have a lot more freedom to optimize my schedule and my environment to match my energy levels. Which, let me tell you, is such an incredible gift. It’s still an ongoing learning process, but I’ve figured out lots of great work hacks to maximize my energy and make sure I feel good. For example, I never schedule back-to-back meetings or phone calls, and I try to fit in an exercise session after every client session (moving my butt is a great way of grounding myself and rebalancing my system).
5. What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned over the years about running a business as an introvert and life in general?
The biggest lesson that I’ve learned (and that I’m still being smacked over the head with!) is that energy is my most precious resource – more so than time, money, anything… Consequently, I need to respect it and nurture it in the same way that I nourish my body through food or my mind through books.
I’m also (still) learning about respecting the natural ebbs of my creativity and productivity. I think this is something that all business owners have to make peace with, yet we continue to fight and rail against it! Nature is all about rhythms and cycles – whether lunar, tidal, circadian, whatever. And there’s no denying that we too are a part of nature, just as much as the crashing waves and the waning moon. Everything about the way we work is therefore going to follow the same cyclical ups and downs of Mama Nature. Being okay with these ebbs is very important.
I’ve also realised that I have to set my boundaries firmly and guard them fiercely. My current mantra to help me do this comes from the amazing Brené Brown: choose discomfort over resentment. It’s much better for me to feel discomfort (at the thought of having an awkward conversation to assert my boundaries), than to avoid the confrontation and feel resentful for weeks – or months – to come.
6. Can you talk a bit about how you approach your work? What are some of the ways you stay grounded and inspired?
I actually approach my writing with very little ritual.
Back when I was working my corporate gig, blogging and writing were things I fit around the rest of my life. I kind of only did them when I felt inspired, which was maybe once a week (and sometimes less). I had to have a candle burning, my stationery all colour-coded, and the perfect playlist humming in the background. I also needed a nice uninterrupted chunk of time spread out before me, and I took a while to really get into my work.
Nowadays, although I would still L.O.V.E. all those things to be in place, I no longer ‘need’ them to start work. I can quite quickly get in the ‘zone’, no matter where I am – a noisy café, a messy bedroom, the construction site we call our ‘house’. I’ve also gotten very good at squeezing the juice out of small windows of time – I’ve grown to love the challenge of only having 20-30 minutes in which to get a chunk of writing done.
Other than that… I like to ease into my work day (a morning person I ain’t!). A clear desk is super-important to how I feel as I write. The answers to all my writing issues appear to me when I’m not at the computer. And I consider my daily walk crucial to my creative performance and overall output.
7. What’s been key for you in building your audience online?
Transparency and authenticity. They are definitely key values for me as a person and in my work.
Transparency means that I try to walk on the edge and be fearless in my writing – I’ll write about fat days, overwhelm, depression, the whole gamut of non-pretty-shiny experiences (as well, of course, as the more uplifting, fun stuff).
And authenticity means that I show up as myself in my work, always. I choose projects that I believe in. I sign off my work emails with kisses. I make almost all of my business decisions from a place of ‘How does this feel?’ (And also: ‘What would Beyoncé do?’ 😉
8. How do you tackle fear, overwhelm, self-doubt, unexpected surprises etc?
It’s taken me a long time, but I have now built enough space into my schedule that I can deal with unexpected surprises with a lot more grace than I used to.
With the other stuff… Well, one of the biggest blessings of running your own business is that there’s only you. And one of the biggest drawbacks is… there’s only you! So when there’s way too much to do and it’s all getting too much for me, I know that there’s literally no one else who can help me climb out of the mess, I have to get it done myself. I’ve gotten pretty good at powering through those times – chunking things down, avoiding distractions, and just wading through it (usually fuelled by a less-than-desirable combination of caffeine and sugar!). Then, when the tough time is over, I try to give myself a window of space to just breathe and recoup – think: books, sunshine, tea, long walks, and the odd massage!
9. What have you been working on? Can you tell us where people can go to find out more?
I have just launched my opt-in, a gorgeously designed ebook called Stop Wishing and Start Working: A love-filled guide for writers, artists and other dreamers. It’s all about maximizing your productivity and creativity in order to get your work done and make your ideas happen. I’m also working on a book about mindful travel, which I’m really excited about.
I feel aligned and energetic when… I’m practicing good self-care – plenty of sleep, exercise, time with Mama Nature, and good quality food.
Also, when I’m being creative – pouring my heart and head onto the page does wonders for how I feel.
And finally, when I lovingly assert my boundaries – whether that’s with clients, friends or family. There’s nothing like an unapologetic, unabashed ‘no’ to make you feel empowered!
I’m inspired by… people who follow their hearts and live their truth, even when it’s hard.
3 big myths about introverts are… 1. That introverts are shy. Some definitely may be, but not all. 2. That introversion is weird or abnormal. Nuh-uh! Research suggests that the number of introverts – or people with introvert-like qualities – could be as high as half the population. 3. That introversion is a ‘negative’ quality that people should ‘fix’. Pffft! We just bring a different set of skills and perspectives to the table.
Thanks Jessica – YOU are an inspiration. What are some take-aways you got from reading Jessica’s interview?