…How important it is to stick to your daily rituals. When you start your own business you are so focused on all the things that need to be set up and achieved, it’s very easy to lose sight of what you need to keep yourself going. I was working crazy hours and completely neglected my daily rituals of self-care. This resulted in near burnout. I had listened to a lot of successful entrepreneurs talk about the 5am club, so after resisting this for 12 months, I decided to go for it and set the alarm for 5am. This was immediately transformational as I now had time for me. My ritual now is yoga, reading, meditation, study and walking before I start my day. This means I start my day in a strong place so I can deliver what my clients need, as I’m looking after my own needs.
Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50’s.
How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?
In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewingJoanna Howes.
Joanna Howes is an award winning international coach, behavioural expert, and No 1 best selling international author, specializing in leadership and team performance coaching within the creative sector. Her focus is to help leaders and teams activate their full potential.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Up until the age of 18 I’d had a very normal upbringing. I was part of a loving family, with one younger brother and a dog called Sally. We were all very close, working together in my dad’s restaurant and (I can’t believe I’m sharing this) we all went to line dancing classes together and got nicknamed ‘The Walton’s!’
At school, I was very shy, I would say I was a bit of a follower. I just wanted to keep my head down and fit in. I never quite felt like I did.
One day, aged 18, I walked into our front room after a day at college and found my dad looking poorly on the sofa. I went over to him, he looked at me and then had a heart attack, which he didn’t survive from. That same night my nan had 3 heart attacks and my poor grandad just didn’t know where to be, with his daughter or his wife.
That night my world and who I was, changed.
Can you please give us your favourite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favourite life lesson quote right now is ‘There is no such thing as failure, it’s feedback’ and if I’m allowed to also share one more, it would be ‘Do something today your future self would be proud of.’
These two quotes helped me become who I am today.
Being able to move through the fear of failure and view it as growth, and to even seek failure has been one of my biggest transformations.
Doing something for my future self takes me out of my head and away from short term and rigid thinking. It frees me to imagine where I see myself in the future to help me make decisions today for the person I want to be.
You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
The top 3 qualities that I believe helped me accomplish so much are:
- Resilience — I get knocked down, but I get back up stronger. One example of this is when I moved to the other side of the world for a dream job and upon arrival it was quickly apparent I had walked into a very toxic culture. Quite a few of the team didn’t want me there and this resulted in a loss of confidence and self-worth. My anxiety, which I’ve suffered with since I was 18, was on fire and I felt completely lost. It was my resilience and drive which lifted me back up and resulted in me retraining to become a coach and starting my own business.
- Drive — I have always had drive. I don’t know where it came from, but I have buckets of it. I’m always looking to better myself, achieve more and find a way. I’m self-motivated and self-reliant, and this is what helped me to climb the ladder quickly in my career. My drive didn’t let me sit still so I would go for as many opportunities as I could. When I saw an opening for the Creative Services Director at an agency I worked at, I immediately put together a presentation to share with the Managing Director as to why I was right for the role and was given the opportunity.
- Compassion — I care a lot about other people. I want to relate to what they are going through and give them a safe space to share how they feel and know they are being heard. I see everyone as an individual. One of my biggest joys is leading a team. Seeing them grow and achieve things they didn’t think they were capable of. When I was building my team, I didn’t hire on skills, I hired on the qualities of the person and their character. By doing this I found some of the most amazing people, who just needed a chance to show what they could do. I was able to teach them the skills, but it was who they were as people that made them so successful. Compassion helped me build a team who trusted and cared about each other, which meant we were able to change and adapt to keep elevating performance.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?
Before my second chapter I worked at several award-winning international advertising agencies expanding 20 years. I started out as a Team Secretary and worked my way up to Executive Operations Director. The journey was incredible. I didn’t go to university, so I landed my first job at 19 and very quickly learnt that by going over and above — making all the team tea and offering to help — would help me learn faster and have people willing to teach me.
I knew I was good at getting stuff done and I was regularly told how organised I was, so going into project management and then operations was a natural path to build on my strengths. I led some of the largest pitches for brands and 5 large organizational transformations.
Working in advertising builds you as a person. The hours are long, the work is challenging and the need to keep ahead and innovate keeps you on your toes. There is also a culture of fun and letting your hair down. It was definitely a work hard, play hard environment.
And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?
My second chapter reinvention happened when I finally chose to listen to the voice in my head and my heart that said there was more in me. I felt I wasn’t fulfilling my potential and there was still something out there for me to achieve.
It all started when my CEO gave all the board a coach. I had never heard of coaching before and after a few sessions I knew this was what I wanted to be. I started my training, but then the opportunity to go to Australia came about so I thought ‘okay one last advertising role’ and then I will do it.
As the job didn’t work out, I found myself on Facebook and an advert to attend a coaching weekend came up. I was at my lowest point, but I thought I have nothing to lose, so let’s check it out. Not only did the weekend help me to take charge of my mind to begin to overcome the toxic position I had found myself in, it also re-ignited the passion I felt to become a coach and help others. Now my passion and drive was even stronger as I was determined that no one should have to go through what I had just experienced. I knew that through coaching I would be able to help individuals be all they can be, and for companies to learn how to put their people first.
So, I joined The Coaching Institute — the Number 1 coaching school in Australia. I signed up for their Professional Coaching Course and dived head-first into all the training. This was it. My heart was alive, and I knew I had found my calling.
6 months later, I returned to the UK and opened my own business, and it has taken off more than I could have ever dreamed possible.
Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?
My specific trigger was turning 40, hitting rock bottom in my confidence and knowing I had to do something for me. I didn’t know at the time I was going to start my own business, I just knew I had to help other people.
It was a moment of now or never.
I had no idea what running a business would involve and it was a shock to the system realizing how many different hats I had to wear in the business, being a one-women band.
What did you do to discover that you had a new skillset inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?
Quite a few people had told me that I have a natural ability with people, to listen and give advice. I just thought everyone was able to do this, until I realized there was a saying in one of the companies I worked for which was ‘Go to Jo’, as she will know how to help.
One of the barriers I had to overcome was self-belief. I had to work through my limiting beliefs of not being good enough and the fear of failure. I also had a fear of putting myself out there as a coach and worrying about what other people would say or think. This did actually stop me being completely visible for about 12 months.
Once I really tapped into ‘why’ I was running my own business, the calling was greater than worrying about the fear of being judged.
I learnt how to build my inner world to back myself rather than seeing myself through the eyes of others. I took charge of my own mind and that was transformational.
How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.
I’m coming up to my 4th year in my business and it has been more than I could ever have dreamed.
In my first year I was very lucky to book a retainer client from my previous career reputation. I learnt very quickly that when you are starting out, word of mouth is so powerful. I was getting regular referrals, and this meant I could use the testimonials to reach people who didn’t know me.
A few of the highlights for me was being asked to speak on stage at Oxford University Bodleian Library, becoming a №1 international best-selling co-author and last year I won the ICG international Coach of Year Award. This was an emotional moment as it was such a milestone to prove that I’d truly arrived and am really doing this.
Don’t get me wrong, it has been A LOT of hard work, with highs and lows. Looking back it has been the lows where I’ve learnt my biggest lessons and seen considerable growth to keep moving forward.
It has helped that I have been fortunate to work with some amazing clients. I’ve had clients transform their lives from being full of shame and anxiety to now thriving. Recently, one of my clients got her dream job after applying with 100+ other people.
These are the moments where I know I have achieved fulfillment and not just business success.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
The person I am most grateful to is my husband, Kevin.
His faith in me has never wavered. He has supported me 100% all the way.
When the opportunity to go to Australia came up, he had a moment of “OMG!”. Then, after 24hrs of it sinking in, he decided he was all in and when the job didn’t work out, he never once made me feel bad. He listened to me, cared for me and kept reassuring me that we would be okay.
When I wanted to invest a lot of money to re-train, especially when I didn’t have any work, he didn’t hesitate with his support. He made sure there was no pressure on me and even told me that if I did the training and decided coaching wasn’t for me then that was also fine.
He is my rock. To have someone that can really see who you are and what you’re capable of has made my transition to my second chapter much easier than if I was doing it on my own.
There is a wonderful quote ‘If you are doing it all on your own, you are doing it wrong’. There is always someone that will help you and I am incredibly grateful that person is my Husband.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
A story I would like to share is one of commitment. As I have previously mentioned, my training took place in Australia and I run my business from the UK. Coaching training isn’t something you complete in a week and that’s it. We are working with human beings, so the learning is a lifelong journey.
In order to take myself and my business to the next level, I had to commit to my studies that were taking place in Australia, meaning my training would take place between 1am and 7am for 2 nights. I got myself fully prepared with naps during the day and purchased some coffee vitamins to keep me going.
It was all quite exciting on the first night when, as the coffee tablets kicked in, I realised that maybe I should have only taken one! I was flying! It kept me going but I knew this wasn’t sustainable (or healthy!). The second night was harder, but I was so proud of myself that I had committed to this even after returning to the UK. The self-belief flooded through me.
There was also a specific training course called Meta III that I wanted to be part of, but to do that it meant flying back to Australia as it was face-to-face only.
My husband and I said we would do it, but there were parts of me wondering if, once we were living back in the UK, would we really? Well, we did! We worked and saved hard so we could go back to Oz for 6 weeks where I completed 3 different training programmes back-to-back to make the most of it. I also received a beautiful bunch of flowers from the school as their student of the week.
Making this commitment to myself is what keeps me going in my business and fuels my resilience, drive and passion for the work I do.
Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?
Yes, I have always had this struggle.
How I overcame it was to realize they were just limiting beliefs. Before I did my coaching training, I wouldn’t have known what a ‘limiting belief’ meant. I just thought this was me, that I wasn’t the smartest in the room and that people didn’t find me interesting enough to hang out with. I thought they were facts.
Discovering these were not facts, but beliefs that I myself had created, was the first part of overcoming them. To learn to let go of what teachers said about me at school. Let go of the ribbing I got for being so shy and for hardly speaking. I learnt that my younger self did those things to survive. I remember being so worried about being bullied that I learnt to try to be invisible to fit in just enough without getting noticed.
When I knew it was my choice what I believed about myself, I spent time raising my standards and giving myself empowering beliefs that would move me towards the life I want.
In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?
My support system, as I mentioned earlier, started with my husband. I then chose to get a coach myself, which made a massive difference. I was also part of the coaching community with TCI which provides regular mentoring and training workshops to help you keep growing your skills. The brilliant thing was they not only teach you how to coach, but they also teach you how to run a business, how to do your marketing etc. They truly give you everything you need to start your own business.
Without those things above I’m not quite sure what I would have done.
I also got myself an accountant, so I made sure I was legally set up properly.
Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?
Every day, I felt like I was needing to go outside my comfort zone and still do now to a degree. It was quite tiring, but I knew it was something I needed to commit to if I was going to make the business work. It became one of my standards to do one new thing every day to grow.
I gave myself the motto of ‘Say yes and work out how’. This opened up so many opportunities for me and, because I had said ‘yes’, it gave me the focus and determination to work out how. Speaking at Oxford University was a prime example of this. I hadn’t spoken on stage in this way before and everything inside me wanted to stay safe and say, ‘Maybe next year when I feel more ready’. Yet I had set my standard and breaking standards was a no-go, so I said yes and it’s the best thing I did.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- How important it is to stick to your daily rituals. When you start your own business you are so focused on all the things that need to be set up and achieved, it’s very easy to lose sight of what you need to keep yourself going. I was working crazy hours and completely neglected my daily rituals of self-care. This resulted in near burnout. I had listened to a lot of successful entrepreneurs talk about the 5am club, so after resisting this for 12 months, I decided to go for it and set the alarm for 5am. This was immediately transformational as I now had time for me. My ritual now is yoga, reading, meditation, study and walking before I start my day. This means I start my day in a strong place so I can deliver what my clients need, as I’m looking after my own needs.
- How important marketing is. I spent a lot of time learning my new skill of coaching and not enough on how to market what I do. There is a chance someone did mention it and my brain chose to delete it as I was already learning so much. However, if they did, I wish I had listened as my email list and marketing would be much further along.
- How many different hats you need to wear when you start out. I wanted to be a coach and to do that I had no idea what it really took to run a business. I learnt the knowledge from TCI, but it was very different when you are in it day-to-day. One minute I was coaching, then doing my accounts, then social media, then writing proposals and trying to create products. It was very overwhelming to begin with. You eventually get a flow going and you work out what you can and can’t do and what is and isn’t important. I now hire people to help me and that took some time for me to let go of control. I’m so glad I did as I risked damaging my relationships and burning out.
- Pricing strategies. I find myself spending so much time on figuring out what to charge for your services. I would have loved more help with this — how to design different packages and different ways to offer services to clients. This has something to do with my ‘money story’, but I find so many people have a strange relationship with money and having clarity would help to navigate this.
- How different it is going from being a full-time employee to running your own business. I had so much certainty in full- time. I knew when I got paid, I had holiday I could take without worrying about the business and I knew each month the kind of work I would be doing. Running your own business in the first few years is full of uncertainty as you navigate what is and isn’t working. You don’t know from one month to the other if there will be a project. You take your laptop on holiday and you weirdly never seem to get sick anymore.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
The movement I want to see happen is for people to be put first in organisations — especially in the large, networked ones. I find it appalling that shareholders and numbers come before people. It is now proven that when people come first, the business takes care of itself, yet this mindset hasn’t changed in many companies. I also want to see people stop being made an exception of just because they are talented. Accepting bad behaviour and mistreatment of people is disgusting just because this person brings in money or they are a great writer.
I’m a strong supporter of Simon Sinex’s work and I want to see more people being able to go to work, feel psychologically safe and be their true selves.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. 🙂
I would love to meet Simon Sinek and Brene Browne. They both inspire me so much. I have read their books, watched all the Ted Talks and was lucky to watch Simon do a live talk. They are the pinnacle of what I want to achieve and the work I want to do.
I would love to talk to them, learn their strategies and understand how they think. For me success is all about how you think, so I have such a curiosity to know how great people in this world think and how they have overcome their fears.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!