Since the beginning, I’ve been making a point of being completely honest with you about where I’m at on my life journey. There was the time I tried being vegan and those other times I swore off coffee (coming clean immediately…there’s a half-caff with almond milk sitting right next to me as I type this). My point is, I believe in truth. As someone whose spent most of her life attempting to be the person I thought I should be, I know there is a trueness inside each and everyone of us – a compass that guides us to what feels good and right.
So in this spirit of truth, I wanted to share with you the ups and downs and real-talk-realness of my first 6 months of working for myself and being CEO of Becca Piastrelli, LLC (<— it’s official, y’all!). A week ago, I posted on Facebook, Instagram and in my newsletter – calling for your burning questions about what life is like on the other side of the leap and how it’s all going. You asked, and I’m answering.
What is a typical day like for you?
My first few weeks post-corporate job, I was a mess. I was struggling to find my flow and feeling intense internal pressure to hit the mark right out of the gate. This meant not eating breakfast until I was starving around noon, not showering or getting out of my pajamas until the early evening, and working very very late into the night.
It quickly became apparent to me that this kind of lifestyle wasn’t going to work for me or my dreams for my business. So I’ve been honing in on my perfect rhythm each day – one that nourishes my body and yields productivity and creativity.
I set my alarm for 7am, but usually don’t rise until 7:30 as I can’t resist morning cuddles with my two kitties and my man. Plus it’s nice not to jump out of bed immediately at the sound of an alarm – I’ve had just about enough of that.
When I finally leave the bed of intoxicating kitty bellies and sweet husband nuzzles, I head straight to the kitchen and pour myself a cup of warm water and squeeze the juice of half a lemon in it. Sometimes I add in an herbal tincture, depending on my body’s needs. Then I head to my yellow couch, spread out a blanket on the cushion, and get my meditate on — usually for 10-20 minutes.
Next I head back into the kitchen to tackle the previous night’s dishes. I’ve come to really enjoy doing the dishes in the morning – it clears my mind and helps me gear up for what’s to come that day. It’s total meditation in motion, and usually I pop a teaspoon of coconut oil in my mouth beforehand and swish it around while I’m scrubbing.
Once all the dishes are clean, my man is up and out of the shower and it’s time for breakfast. Breakfast usually consists of a green smoothie for me and a big bowl of eggs and greens for him. We sit at our breakfast nook and eat together – sometimes in silence and sometimes with flamenco music playing. Whatever we’re feeling that particular day is what goes.
I then kiss my man goodbye and get ready for my day. I’ll wash my face, brush my teeth, change into a lovely outfit, do my hair and makeup, and even put on some lovely jewelry. I have found that the act of physically transforming myself into a more beautiful-feeling lady helps me transform my mindset to take on the day in the role of CEO.
By now, it’s 9am and I’m ready to get to work. I briefly check email for anything some actionable or urgent (which is rarely the case), then get to my creative work. It could be a photoshoot for an upcoming blog post, doing some writing, or creative strategizing for my next product or course. My brain is definitely more wired for creation in the morning, so I take advantage of that. If I have a lot of work to pump out, I head up the street to my lovely neighborhood coffee shop. The more ambient noise I have to block out, the better my brain can focus and perform. If I find myself checking email or social media a lot, I’ll activate the self control app, which blocks out specified URLs for a certain period of time.
I usually work in 90 minute increments before finding my body needs a break – usually for stretching, instagram-ing (my absolute fave “treat”), or spontaneous dance parties.
I always pause to make or go to lunch. Sometimes I watch a show or check email while I’m eating, which I know isn’t great for mindful eating and optimal digestion. I’m still working on that one.
My energy tends to be lower in the afternoon so, instead of brewing up a pot of coffee which almost always leads to trouble falling asleep that evening, I focus on emails, taking calls, and moving my body. It really just depends on the day.
I stop working by 7/7:30pm (still working on that one too!) when my guy gets home, and then I focus on making dinner. By that time, my computer is shut off for the evening. I usually read a book before bed, unless it’s date night.
Bedtime is 10pm, and I find I’m usually not falling asleep until 10:30 or 11. Ideally I’d like to be out right at 10pm, as I know the brain wakes up right after then. My brain is much more active and less exhausted these days, so bedtime is also a work in progress.
Do you miss your old coworkers?
I definitely miss the people I used to sit next to and interact with every day at my corporate job.
I am a natural extrovert (I derive energy and fuel from interacting with people), so going from being around 80 people on a daily basis to just me and my two cats was a huge shift that I wasn’t anticipating being so difficult. I’ve noticed that, on days that I feel particularly isolated, I find myself going back into bad habits – scouring the cupboards for something to eat even when I’m not hungry, skipping dance class or yoga, and bumming around on facebook/instagram/the net instead of getting to work.
It was my amazing husband who pointed out that, when I’m alone all day, I look to him for interaction. And he’s an introvert so, when he comes home, he needs some quiet time to decompress from the day.
So I’ve made an effort to get out of the house more and be around people to feel their energy and fuel up. Coffee shops help a lot with that too.
Do you miss the collaborative experience of working with a team everyday?
I feel more collaborative than ever, probably because I’m so passionate about all the work I’m doing (it’s my own, after all). Except I’m collaborating with people virtually, instead of in person so it isn’t quite as enlivening as in-person work. I hope to work more with in-person teams in the future because of my extrovert nature.
How do you manage to keep focused instead of making yourself a snack or cleaning the bathroom or browsing Pinterest boards?
As I mentioned above, I’ve been working on noticing my habits and finding ways to feed those tendencies with productive, nourishing activities instead. The self-control app is essential for my *shiny sparkly thing* part of my brain. I’ve also learned about the Do Not Disturb functionality on my iPhone, and implemented the 90 minute work cycle. Those really help.
What also helps is knowing that sometimes my body has intuition that is worth listening to.
If I find myself really wanting to clean the bathroom, I clean the bathroom. Because a clean home space makes me feel way better. I can take a deep breath and get back to work knowing my space feels better. If I’m browsing Pinterest boards obsessively, I allow myself the possibility that I need a break or am feeling creatively under-nourished and browsing can help my brain rest and reset.
What really doesn’t work for me is forcing productivity. I’ve spent so much of my life trying to force things, and have realized that when I surrender to listening to what my body wants and needs, I can get far more done and (more importantly) feel so much better about what I’ve done in a day.
What causes anxiety and how do you avoid these anxiety triggers?
I’ve admitted to you that I’m a recovering perfectionist, but I should tell you that I’m also a recovering anxious wreck. In my previous life, it would be normal to find me checking my work email on my phone at all hours of the night and getting nauseous on Sunday nights in anticipation of the coming week.
And while I’ve done a lot to re-wire my brain for pleasure and ease in my daily life, anxiety can still rear it’s head from time to time. It usually comes out when I find myself channeling my masculine, hustling side and attempt to “do it all.” We can do anything, but we can’t do everything — but that can be a tough pill to swallow, am I right ladies?
I also find anxiety enters my body when I’m doing something new and outside of my comfort zone, which I find myself doing a lot of these days. One of my mantras over the past 6 months has been – if it makes my heart race, I should probably do it. In those scenarios, the anxiety is really my amazing brain telling me that this feels out of the normal zone and warning that danger might be ahead. I make a practice of acknowledging that part, letting the anxiety flow through me, but not letting it stop me in my tracks.
The only to it is through it.
If I’m feeling particularly anxious or fearful, I go to that worse case scenario in my head. It usually looks something like “I’ll have to get a job at Starbucks and stop buying organic eggs and fresh flowers.” By going there, I realize I can survive it and keep moving. Anxiety used to stop me in my tracks, but through the help of my coach and supportive community, I know it doesn’t have to.
“Anxiety is a gas guzzler, not fuel for motivation” – Nisha Moodley
I’ve also found that, in those particularly anxious moments, I return to my breath. A few rounds of deep breathing can completely alter my state, and bring peace of focus back. Here is recording of 2 mins of guided breathing I did for you.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I’m inspired by the world around me, it’s just a matter of how it flows in.
Back when I would find myself trying to force creative inspiration, I would often open up Pinterest and find cool things there or would literally adapt those to make them mine. I’m not super proud of that, but also see the importance in that it was waking me up with my hands and having someone else’s creativity guide mine.
These days, inspiration comes to me when I’m not looking for it or forcing it. When I’m walking outside, driving to the grocery store, or literally hitting me like a bold of lightening during the final pose in yoga class. I keep a note pad on me at all times and make voice notes on my phone so I don’t miss those juicy creative downloads.
What is your long-term vision and how do you keep in touch with that?
My long-term vision is constantly evolving, which is both exciting and a bit unnerving for a recovering perfectionist who likes things to be just so.
Here is what I do know about what I want to bring to the world:
I want women to remember what they love and find passion again – in their work, relationships, body, and life. And it is my belief that, through reconnecting to their inner dabbling child by playing and tinkering, we can remember how to find that joy and spread it to each other in a supportive sisterhood. I want to help set women free so they can help others do the same, just as I was set free myself.
So my vision is to provide products and services that help facilitate that feeling – whether it’s a course on how to create your own natural beauty products in your kitchen or a book on how to use common grocery store ingredients to heal your body.
I’m dreaming big here, and encourage you to do the same with your life. I envision holding retreats in beautiful areas of the world, hosting workshops in every major US city, and working one-on-one with women to help them feel that passion and joy once again.
That’s what fuels me everyday.
I have an awkward-ish question, it’s something that is not so polite to ask. Where does your paycheck come from? How do you fund this life?
I’m really happy someone asked this question, because it’s usually the first thought that comes to my mind. My tactical mind looks at something and immediately goes to “how does that work?”
The honest answer to this question is this: I’m still figuring it out. We’re bootstrapping this business with any profits from my products and what we put aside each month. (I say “we” because my man is a part of this venture with me. I’m not doing this alone).
I knew that, in order to leave my job, I’d have to take a cold hard look at our household finances and figure out a way we could make it work. Cutting a little bit from here and bit more from there, not saving as aggressively for vacation, kissing a down payment for a home goodbye, etc. Once I created a workable plan, I presented it to Tim, we tinkered with it a bit more, and I was off and running.
The beauty of this new life is there is a lot more simplicity in it. Less expensive happy hours, dinners out, and lovely clothes. I definitely miss those things, and hope to bring them back into my life, but the trade-off doesn’t feel like a sacrifice. When I took a real, honest look at what I really truly wanted in my life right now – to create a business of my heart and live a life that nourishes me and my husband (who works 60+ hours a week at a start-up company and is in graduate school), the answer was clear. Cash flow goes up and down, and there have definitely been moments of stress, but I am running on the fuel of my passions and that has been enough to get us through the tough moments and back into the light of the inevitable dawn.
I used to look at people who had taken the leap and thought, “well, they probably have a trust fund or some secret savings account they’ve been adding to since they were 5. They’re the lucky ones.” Mostly, that was my jealousy talking because I desired the courage to do what they had done. So I’m doing it with the resources I’ve been giving (which isn’t a trust fund or secret savings account) and not being told twice.
My business model is much like the message I represent – of dabbling. I’m figuring out what I love to create and what you love to have. I created a gift box this past holiday season, which was a big hit but took a lot out of me. I got really sick the day after I shipped the final box and didn’t leave my bed for 3 days. So I’m not sure I’ll do it again but learned so much for doing it. I put my heart and soul (+ blood, sweat, and tears) into the Natural Beauty Course and will create another course later this year or early next year. I’ve written a book, which I’m super proud of. I’m also starting taking coaching clients for deeper one-on-one work.
This process is me figuring out what works for me and for you and for the world. It’s actually quite luxurious. I’m giving myself the time to figure it out. It doesn’t mean I’ll get there fast, but I’m looking for what feels most true in my heart and gut.
What advice would you give to someone else contemplating making the bold transition from full-time job with benefits to freelancer following their passion?
First, I want to acknowledge the courage it takes to even contemplate this transition. When I was unhappy in my job, it was hard for me to admit it to myself, let alone others. I had such guilt over admitting that my (perfectly lovely) life wasn’t the one I wanted. I would say everything was fine when people would ask me how “things” were. I was afraid of admitting what I knew was true – things weren’t fine.
My advice, don’t go through this alone.
I wasn’t truly able to make the leap until I got the support and love of a community women (virtual and in person) who validated my desires and encouraged me to go for it. Once I felt the support of this community of people behind me, the shift didn’t feel so bold and scary. I felt confident enough to take it on. I invested in a coach and am deeply connected to a community of women who I know I can come to at any time when I am doubting myself or feeling fearful. They always reflect back to me my best self and remind me of the greatness within me and I gather the courage to keep going.
So don’t go through this alone and find people to talk about this – as many times as you need to until you get the clarity you need to make the transition. Write about it in your journal. Go on long walks by yourself – giving yourself the sacred time and space to focus on your needs and how to make them a reality. But most importantly, ask for help. I highly recommend getting a coach or finding a community of women who are in the same position as you and/or have been where you’ve been.
Because ultimately, it’s your life and you want to be living it the way you want to. And no one is going to live it for you. There are no shortcuts (trust me, I’ve looked all over for them). I’m in your corner, sister, and rooting for you!
(Photography by Rosa Delgado Photography)