Episode 67: The things I wish I had known at the beginning of 2022

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In the last episode of the year I collected all my reflections and things I wish I had known at the beginning of 2022. I dig deep into what some of the mistakes I made were and what I would have done and how I would have approached things differently. Hope this will give you some inspiration on how to approach 2023 in your teaching business and life.

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Now, it’s time to go get richer, teacher!

Podcast transcription

Hey, my lovely teacher and welcome to the last episode of 2022. Can you believe it? I can’t, really. This year has been very special. It has been monumental, I’m gonna say. So many things have changed, so many things have happened – mainly good things. There were lots of lessons learned. There was lots of things that made me change my perspective, change my business, change my priorities – and I’m grateful for all of that. But I’ve decided to record this episode to talk to you about things that I wish somebody had told me in December 2021, so I could be a bit smarter about what I was doing in 2022, this year. So, I’m hoping that by hearing all of this advice and all my lessons with examples on how that can manifest for you in your teaching life, in your life in general and in your business, and that you are gonna be that much smarter about that in 2023. 

The first and the most important piece of advice, and I’ve even said that to one of my clients recently that I should be charging for this advice because honestly, if I could tell you one thing, it would probably be that: trust yourself. Listen relentlessly, listen to yourself and trust your inner voice because basically it’s not “woo”, it’s not spiritual at all. Your inner voice is a collection of your experiences, a collection of data that you’ve been collecting your whole life. So, there is a reason why it’s there. There is a reason why it’s telling you something. The only caveat here that I’m gonna have for you is to try and differ between… try and realise where the difference is between fear and intuition. Because very often, especially when you are not used to trusting yourself and listening to your gut and always asking for answers or like looking for answers externally, that you might mistake fear for intuition. Your inner voice might be telling you: “Oh, I shouldn’t put out that post because it’s gonna go badly”. If that’s the case, if you often feel like: “Oh, I shouldn’t be doing that because something bad might happen”, that might be one sign of it being a fear. If I could describe to you what trusting yourself and really deeply knowing what’s good for you is, it would feel calm. It would feel like some inner knowing that: “Yep, I’m just gonna do it”. And it’s not something that pops up in your head multiple times, it’s not something that you marinate on. It’s something that usually just comes and is very, very calm and relaxing and you just know: “Yep, that student, I’m gonna work with them” or “That idea that’s the thing I wanna focus on now”, “That’s the course I wanna put out into the world because I just know it needs to be tested”. You will feel like that, that calmness. However, if it’s fear, then you will feel much more frantic, you will feel much more afraid of something, which creates a very physiological reaction in your body as well. It kind of might make you a bit sick. Definitely, when I’m afraid I’m a bit sick or like I have headaches and things like that. So, this is what you can use to see whether you are really trusting yourself, and that’s my biggest piece of advice: just start listening to yourself rather than coming to me, rather than asking your partner, your friend, your sister: “Do you think it’s a good idea?” Ask yourself that question first. Ask yourself and see what the first answer is that comes to mind. There is a reason why people say: “Yeah, listen to that first voice”. Yes, you need to learn how to do it, but it’s such a useful skill, honestly. When you learn how to do it, you much more likely are gonna experiment, are gonna step out of your comfort zone, are gonna be not afraid of the consequences of your actions because you know: whatever you do, everything is gonna end up well. So, trust yourself. 

The next thing: I always say that I’m an anti-perfectionist, but then, on the other hand, I also have to admit that I’m a bit of a workaholic and that I work a lot. But then I see some method in this madness, and what I found out and what I’ve been blaming myself over, is that I’ve always felt kind of guilty that I never saw quality as superior to quantity. I always thought: “Yeah, whatever, it just needs to get done. It doesn’t matter how”. I’ve always been that person, but then I literally realised that no, it’s not about the fact that I don’t care about quality. It’s something that I work on, but in a completely different way because my motto has recently become: quantity leads to quality. So, basically the more of something that you do, the better quality it’ll become. And I think the biggest example of that is my social media. The more I am there, the more I learn what works, what makes people tick, what makes me excited, the better the outcome. So, it’s not about killing yourself in the process and trying to do as much as possible. Absolutely not. It’s about that knowing that the more you do it – it might take time, it might take practice – but just that deeply reassuring thought to realise for you is that the more you do it, the better it will become. And it’s a fantastic thought to have because then you will see that: “Yep, I don’t know how to do it, yet, I have thousands of questions”, but just telling yourself that if I start, if I start even with like literally the worst thing, it will get better, even the 2nd time. Think about the 10th time when you do it – whether it is a social media post, whether it is a conversation with someone, whether it is a sales call with a potential student – whatever it is, you will get better naturally.

The next thing, and this is especially when it comes to business, is I want you… and I would’ve wanted myself, to own the fact – because I knew it, but I don’t think I owned it – the fact that I can set my own rules in a business, being a business owner, let’s say even a freelancer, means – in most cases – that you are the one who is responsible for those rules. And actually owning that means that you are in charge and it’s beautiful. Yes, it can be overwhelming if you don’t know what to do with that power, but when you actually own it, you realise: “Hey, I can work whenever I want. I can work with whoever I want. I can teach whatever I want. I can use materials that I want. I can have an Instagram profile or not. I can have a website or not. I can do whatever I want because it’s my business and my rules. I can also work with a coach or I can figure things out and I can make a plan for the future. I can do literally whatever my heart desires” – because it’s also related to trusting yourself. It’s just that responsibility you take for: “This is the time where there won’t be anybody to tell me how to do it. I have to set it up for myself so that I’m happy, so that it brings me satisfaction, money, students, whatever there is that I want”. For me, the ultimate goal is always joy. I’ve realised – and I’ve been reading a fantastic book about it actually – that joy has been my greatest, greatest goal. Honestly, if I feel joy as a result of an action that I take in my business – whether it is putting out an Instagram story or sending an email or deciding to work with somebody, or deciding not to work with somebody or saying “no” to an online event that I’ve been invited to – I know that if the result is me feeling content and joyful, then that’s it. Because from joy there are so many things that follow: there is the feeling of satisfaction, there is the feeling of: “Yep, I feel like everything is falling into place” and that’s literally the ultimate level of happiness, I would say. 

The other thing I wanted to mention is that when you know, when you finally own that you are there to set the rules, that it’s you who has the power to set the rules, you also need to decide what you want. And I know it’s such a cliche, just so many inspirational quotes on Instagram say: just decide what you want, set your goals. I talk about setting goals all the time, but it’s not easy. You actually have to dig quite deep to realise what you want. So, spend some time deciding what you want, because to be perfectly honest with you, I didn’t know what I wanted last year. It was either too big or too small. I think I threw myself into either being unsatisfied because the goals I set for myself were too small or I was risking being very disappointed because when you set yourself goals that are literally unachievable in your circumstances, then you will naturally blame yourself for not achieving them. So, spend time on thinking what your intentions are. Do you wanna have more time next year, more freedom? Do you wanna carve out time to have Fridays off in your business? Do you wanna create a situation where you’re able to quit your job, so that you can be fully engaged in your business? Is that the goal? Break it down into steps. What will need to happen financially, what will need to happen with your time, so that you can achieve it? See where that will take you. And then what I would say is that one of the biggest mistakes – and that’s one of the things that I think a lot of people do, especially perfectionists – is that they set very high expectations of themselves. They put a lot of pressure on themselves, and they can never learn the lesson, can never see that when you set high expectations of yourself, then it’s not motivating. It’s not really motivating. The “why” that is behind the goal that you might set for yourself might be motivating, but the expectation isn’t. Because if you expect too much of yourself in your life situation and your circumstances, and you don’t achieve something, you are going to beat yourself up for it. So, instead of that, maybe try the opposite approach: set low expectations – have goals, absolutely have ambitious goals – but set low expectations and be pleasantly surprised if more happens, if you are able to achieve more. I think this is, actually, related to neuroscience: if you’re able to achieve a small goal, it will be much more motivating and it will tell your brain: “Hey, let’s try and figure out something bigger. Let’s try and do a little bit more”. So, try that approach. I think I am a bit of a mix between the two: I sometimes set too big of a goal for myself and I blame myself for not achieving it, or I just set too many small goals that don’t actually matter and I’m like: “Oh, I could do something else and something else, something else” and things pile up and I just can never stop – that’s also another trap. 

Another thing – and I’m saying that to myself but I hope that’s some of you can resonate here – honestly, Ola, take more fucking care of yourself! Self-care is not a luxury. Self-care is absolutely essential. I am the golden goose. I am my best, biggest, most important asset in this business and in this life. I am the most important person in my own life. I know… Does it sound selfish? No, because nobody will be ever responsible for you as much as you are. So, you need to take care of your body, your mind, your soul on so many different layers and levels of your humanity, that if you don’t do it, nobody’s gonna do it for you. For me that will mean taking more breaks. That will mean stopping when I’ve said I would stop. That will mean actually moving my body. That will mean eating more healthily because I’ve been eating crap and my brain craves sugar when I work too much with my brain. So, basically I sometimes think: “Oh, but I shouldn’t be tired or I shouldn’t be hungry” but then I realise I do so much thinking, I do so much strategising that my brain then needs sugar and it’s mad, isn’t it? So, you need to start recognizing… also taking care of yourself is developing self-awareness of things that trigger you, of things that don’t serve you. I totally know, now, so many things that I didn’t know a year ago about myself and about what doesn’t serve me, and I’m better able to cater for my own needs. But it does take time and it is sometimes very wobbly and it is sometimes a massive struggle. But I would’ve told myself that nobody is judging me as much as I am. Nobody is watching over my shoulder whether I’ve done this one more thing that I said I wouldn’t do today. It’s just about sometimes admitting that rest is as important as the thing that I’ve got to do, and I’m not letting anybody down. So, let me know if that resonates, by the way, because I would love to hear that I’m not the only one who is putting that much pressure on themselves. 

The other thing is I would want to know that it’s okay, and that it’s actually very human, to feel bad, to feel sad, to feel uncomfortable, and to be afraid. That the goal is not for us to – for whatever it takes – remove those feelings. Because if we try and remove them, we’re gonna try and escape from situations that are trying to teach us something, actually. Whenever I’m afraid, I’m looking for a message there: why am I afraid of this, why are my hands sweaty, why am I having such a physical reaction to something? This is a message from my body that it’s afraid of something, and I always try now to see where that comes from. Does it come from the fact that I don’t know what’s gonna happen? Or does it come from a story that my brain has created around what might happen, which is not necessarily true? What I’ve tried this year – it wasn’t always successful – but to pause and think: OK, so, if I do this, if I raise the price, let’s say, of my service, and if I’m afraid of this, what is it telling me? Is it telling me not to do it because… is my body telling me not to do it because it’s afraid of what’s gonna happen or for some other reason? And more often than not, I realise that very often those fears have no base, literally. They are just fears. So, I’ve learned to be afraid and just do stuff anyway. Honestly, there is no such thing… if somebody ever tells you: “Don’t be afraid, don’t cry, don’t be sad”, tell them to shut up because that’s not the way it’s supposed to be. I’ve stopped telling my son not to cry. I mean, I do sometimes – very much impulsively because that’s how we are wired, we feel uncomfortable with other people’s uncomfortable feelings. But if you can, give yourself space not to tell yourself: “Get a grip, stop being such a crybaby” or “Stop worrying about it”. You are actually probably making this situation worse. Yeah, worry about it. You are a human. You are worried about what people are gonna think about you when you put out this reel. You are worried about what people are gonna think if you raise your price, if they’re gonna leave or not. It’s human, but do it anyway, because otherwise you’re never gonna find out what will happen. And even me: you could ask me for advice, and I could give you all sorts of advice but, to be perfectly honest, I don’t know your audience, I don’t know you, and I honestly cannot predict everything. So, the more you trust that: “Yep, I’m gonna do it anyway and see what happens”, the better for you. 

And once again – and that’s the last piece of advice I wish somebody had given me last year – something that I’ve already said, but I’m gonna say it again, something that would’ve prevented me from asking questions that I actually knew the answers to, that I wasted time marinating on, that I wasted energy while looking the answers for: it’s trusting myself. I literally, 99.99999% of cases, I know the answers to everything that I’m trying to do. I know the answer and very often the answer creates even more uncertainty. For example, something is telling me: “Yep, I’m gonna remove that course. I’m not gonna run it again”. And something inside me is telling me: “Yeah, it’s the right decision”. I don’t know what the outcome will be but the maturity here is not thinking: “Oh, but what if the outcome is so negative?” It’s training yourself not to be afraid of this outcome. Not to be put off by this outcome because whatever happens, it’s trusting that everything will be okay, that everything will fall into place anyway, even if there is some form of failure involved in whatever you do: in your social media presence, in your offers that you put out, in an email that you send. You might be thinking: “I would want to have a website” or “I would want to start an email newsletter”. And so many clients recently have told me: “But I don’t know what to write about”, and I’m like: “I understand that struggle”, I totally understand because it’s not like I always know what to say, but there is the months of practice, so it’s getting easier and easier to figure out what I could talk about – and it’s not always a massive hit by the way. But it always comes down to: “Okay, I don’t know what to write about in my newsletters because I’m afraid that whatever I’m thinking of creating now won’t be good enough”. What if you stopped thinking that anybody is judging it? What if you just tried? What if you just put something out there (whatever it is)? Because I trust… no, I don’t trust: I know as a fact that you’ve got ideas, you are just afraid to put them out there. So, listen to that voice that tells you: “I don’t know what to talk about”. I mean, yeah, I understand that you wanna think that every email that you send changes somebody’s life, but if you’re gonna treat it like that, then it’s gonna be very hard for you. It’s gonna put a lot of pressure on you. What if that wasn’t the goal? What if the goal was: I’m gonna try, so that it can actually become easier and better with time? Hmm? Let me know. 

So, this is it, basically, my lovely teacher. Let me know what you think. Let me know if you would add anything. You can totally email me or message me and let me know if there is anything that you wish somebody had told you a year ago. What are you proud of this year? Because the fact that I wish somebody had told me all this advice doesn’t mean that I’m not proud of myself this year. I’m extremely proud of myself. If I think… I did that little reflection, and I also encourage you to do that, I actually thought about every month of 2022 and I found… my goal was to find at least one positive or impactful thing that happened in every month. And you know what I found out? That there were multiple things in each month and it was quite incredible when I realised how many. So, do that for yourself and see what happens as well.

I hope this has been helpful and what can I say? Thank you so much for being here. I’m rooting for you. I’m always here for you. So, whenever you need a kick of motivation or a little bit of friendly advice, I’m always here. And I’m gonna be here in the new year as well – in a new version, with new things to offer, with new forms of support. There are lots of amazing things happening in the background at the moment in the Ola Kowalska’s headquarters: there is the website service, so we’re gonna be building websites for teachers. By the way, if you’re interested, totally get in touch because that’s gonna roll out in January and I’ve started talking about this a little bit. It might mean that me and my husband will run a family business, which is, honestly, the most amazing thing ever. There will be changes in how I deliver my coaching services. I will be doing much, much less one-to-one work. So, if anybody wanted to work with me, there is a chance to join my mastermind. If you were interested, you can also let me know when we can have a chat at the beginning of the new year and lots of other amazing things, such as The Rocket, which is becoming a digital course now with some live support. So, lots and lots and lots… and I’ve got so many, so many ideas that are gonna help you in so many different aspects of building your teaching businesses, language schools, building teams, building your social media presence. Honestly, I sometimes catch myself not writing it all down, but I need to because there’s just so much goodness that I could still share and I know so many people still need it. It’s also that trust that guys, you will develop when you do it long enough. And let’s be honest, I haven’t been doing it for that long, so a year and a half. And I have deep, deep trust that I’m helping people. So, if there is one thing that you can do, it is try and develop that trust in yourself and in the fact that you are important and that you are helping, and that if you are hiding who you are, what you offer, then somebody there is suffering, literally. So, with that optimistic and motivating, inspiring message I wanted to wish you a wonderful, lovely, holiday season – I’m not gonna say “Christmas” because I dunno if everybody celebrates. I hope you’re gonna have lots of wonderful reflections around this year or about this year, that you’re gonna have some time to relax and rest and unwind and drink hot chocolate. And just notice how amazing it’s been, how amazing you have been. I’m always here for you. Warm wishes, lots of love, and see you in 2023.