The Siren’s Song of being your own boss is irresistibly enchanting. It’s so alluring that many professionals will leave behind perfectly stable, lucrative careers and go for gusto on their entrepreneurial dream.
But it’s the road less traveled for a good reason: It’s long, hard, and poorly landscaped. Regular paychecks become a thing of the past, 40-hour weeks are actually closer to 60, and family obligations remain the same, or (gasp) increase because, “Hey, since you’re already home anyway.”
Then, Buyer’s Remorse kicks in, as you lament on what you forfeited by taking the plunge. Believe me, I’ve been there… Both in what I walked away from and what I’ve had to walk through to get my location-independent business to where it is today.
This week, I spill the beans on my own bumpy entrepreneurial journey, expose the unglamorous side of SundaeBean.com, and share some lessons I’ve learned along my way.
(Yes, you can always go back; no, you won’t want to; yes, it’s absolutely worth it.)
What You’ll Learn in this Episode:
- Eyeballs on your own pin
- Get it while the getting’s good
- Making peace with your new normal
- Guarding & replenishing your energy
- The gift of transferable skills
Listen to the Full Episode:
Featured on the Show:
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Full Episode Transcript:
Hello, it is 6:00 am in New York, 1:00 pm in Johannesburg and 6:00 pm in Bangkok. Welcome to the Expat Happy Hour. This is Sundae Schneider-Bean from www.sundaebean.com. I’m a solution oriented coach and intercultural strategist for individuals and organizations and I am on a mission to help you adapt and succeed when living abroad and get you through any life transition.
There’s one thing my mama always told me and it was “Sundae get it while the getting’s good.” And this advice is so applicable to you if you are trying to do anything abroad like get your kids to school on time, start a new job, run a business, adapt your family in a new location.
Whatever it is that you’re trying to accomplish right now my mom’s advice of “Get it while the getting’s good,” can be helpful.
In this episode of Expat Happy Hour I’m gonna do something a little bit different and share a glimpse of some real life things that have gone on behind the curtain of Expat Happy Hour and my business so you can see that there’s more to making things happen in your life abroad then the glossy view that you might see on a webpage or social media or in a polished podcast.
Okay, so there might be a little bit of a few overshares this episode. I’m gonna try to share but not overshare. It’s going to be a hard balance to hit because some of these stories have some interesting details in them. And the whole point of why I’m doing this with you today is, we’re all doing our best, we’re all out there trying to be good parents, run decent houses, run our businesses or keep a job or do something with purpose and meaning, be good people in our community or to our friends.
And it’s so easy to look left right or center and think that what you’re doing isn’t good enough. Or you’re the only one who’s feeling challenged by what’s going on.
And just last week I remember I went to the gym. I’ve started this new thing for my year of fresh. I go see a personal trainer every Wednesday and I’m not a “gym gal,” I’m like, “put my running shoes on and run” type of gal. And now I go to the gym every Wednesday with my husband.
And last Wednesday, I remember my personal trainer told me to get on this machine. It kind of looks like a space mobile thing and I have to put my arms out a little bit like a butterfly and then squish my elbows almost together. And I got these untrained kind of ballet arms. This is not something that I’m gonna thrive at right away. And I remember sitting down and as I sat down to start this exercise, he grabbed the pin from the weights at the bottom and moved it all the way up to the top. So, whoever was there before took on like ten times more weight than I did. And I looked at him, I’m like, that’s not motivating to watch the gap between where this other person was and where I am.
And don’t look at the pin is probably the first piece of advice I want to start out with in today’s episode. We’re looking at our lives and businesses abroad, don’t pay attention where someone else’s pin is because you don’t know how much effort they put in. You don’t know what if the how their body is different from yours, how many years they’ve been doing that, what they’ve sacrificed to get there. Keep your eyeballs on your own pin where it is in the weights for your level.
And so what I’m doing today, you might have this impression that the where my pin is is different from yours, but what you don’t see is all this stuff that has taken its toll or which is made an impact and I had to work around along the way. Because you see the end result. You don’t see behind the curtain.
So this is going to be an interesting episode. Here’s how I prepared for it. All I did was write down a few things that were challenging that stick out in my memory to share with you so you can kind of feel better about yourselves and go, “Oh okay, I’m not the only one who’s gone through that.” Or “If she can do what she does under her circumstances, maybe I can do it under mine.”
So that’s kind of the risk I’m taking today, but I’m doing it out of love for you. And then a few thoughts on what I’ve learned over the years that really helped me to keep going forward and motivate me. And these are some of the things that I also share with my coaches in the program Expat Coach Coalition. Because they are at an earlier phase of their journeys of working with individuals who are in the global mobility space. So I wanted to make sure that you got some of that benefit as well.
So let’s get started. Here it goes. A glimpse of my real life and behind Sundaebean.com. All of these things going on in the background and you might not have had any idea.
So number one. When I started my location independent company in 2013 I actually had to give a life up, a lifelong position as a head of intercultural management at the second biggest company in Switzerland. So I was working at a job level that I never even imagined was possible for me. Coaching in German, CEOs of 9 billion dollar companies. And I really had an even better than I could have thought. And I gave that up so that we as a family could move abroad. And that’s when I started my location independent company.
You don’t think that I didn’t experience self-doubt in that moment of, “Wait a minute, is it going to be okay? Is it really worth giving up everything I’ve built over the years in Switzerland to do this thing on my own? Am I ever going to be able to create a business that is even on par with the corporate salary that I was used to having?”
So if you have ever been in that position where you had to give everything up and restart with feeling self-doubt. Hey, I’ve been there. I was there in 2013. Until one of my girlfriends said to me, “Sundae, you’re not giving everything up and starting from zero, you’re taking your skills and competencies along with you.” And that was the motivation to help me say “yes” with my whole heart and go for it. And I’m really grateful that I did.
However, at the time I didn’t realize that Burkina Faso was listed as number one on the planet for the worst internet. I didn’t realize just how bad the internet was in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso until I got there and started trying to find solutions. So very basic, you know power would go out regularly. And thankfully we were able to have a generator. And to get around this, for those of you who live in developing countries or places where you need generators, there’s always like this two to three second delay until the generator kicks on, your power is off.
So what I did is I said, “Hey you get to have a coach who understands life abroad in places like Burkina Faso. And so that we can do this you need to just pause for three seconds until the power comes back on.” Basically, training my clients then that this was the new normal when working with me. And then if we did get dropped on a call, we didn’t talk about the drop. You know, how you have Skype calls, you’re like “Oh what happened? Is it mine or yours it yours?” We just said “No, we’re just going to keep talking.” So that is what was hard.
So for those of you who are also working in locations where the internet isn’t great: I get it. I’ve had to do the same thing myself, you know for me the internet was so bad, we wouldn’t use video we’d have to use audio. And then when my internet was so slow. I would use what was called a dongle like as an extra USB 3G. And when that didn’t work, I would use the phone. And I had this toll-free number, it sounds kinky but it’s really not. This toll-free number that my clients could call for us to be connected and wouldn’t cost them anything during the coaching calls when my internet went bad.
So I had plan A, plan B, plan C and plan D right until the day where the copper was stolen out of our phone cables. So now that didn’t even work. And instead of saying “You know what this is too hard. I can’t do my job.” I said, “Okay, what’s another way?” And I was able to find someone within my expat community who had reliable internet and the cables were not stolen and she agreed to open up her living room to me during the working hours while they were away at work so I could do my coaching calls.
So the whole reason I’m sharing that with you is if you were a listener back in 2013, 14, 15, 16 all of this was going on in the background and you may or may not have known it but it was a reality that I was working with. And if you’re in a location like even South Africa with the power outages, with the energy crisis with Eskom, this is an everyday reality in many places even really developed areas.
So my advice to you is instead of saying, “Can I do it?” Ask yourself, “How can I make it work?” And that’s what got me through the first three years in Burkina Faso. Plus we were doing things like taking some time away during the political uprising until we waited it out to see if it was safe. Homeschooling virtually my kids in Switzerland back in Burkina Faso, rearranging my clients until I had time or someone could look after my kids and I could be with my clients. I had times where we were sheltering in place during an attempted coups. Crazy stuff happened and I was able to find a way. And if I can find a way I know that you can find a way.
When we did leave Burkina. I solo parented from Switzerland. And I mean that’s not easy, solo parenting when your partner is flying in and flying out. Or you didn’t expect to have an abrupt transition: I get that. The whole time that was going in 2016 I continued on with my business. And there were days, and if I’m really honest were days where one son would be coughing through the night and sick and the other one would be sleeping. And then how was I going to get one healthy kid to school and then the young one keep them at home. I had to take my little guy, throw him on my shoulder while he was still sleeping, walk to the tram with this heavy sack of potatoes, with my healthy son, drive to school with him on my shoulder, get my older son to school and take my sick son back because there was no one else to help me. Not easy, not glamorous.
So if you’re a person who is working hard to solo parent. ?Your partner is doing fly in fly out or you don’t have a partner to support you. You’re feeling stuck between the needs of your children and your work. I get it. It can be really challenging. And that experience for me was such a great learning opportunity to get crystal clear on what were my top priorities and how do I organize my time and energy so that I can just do the basics? Keep clean underwear for my kids, food in the house, my clients served and I get enough sleep and enough exercise so I can stay relatively patient as a parent.
So if you’re in that right now, I see you. I see you doing laundry at 10:00 at night. I see you sitting on the floor folding laundry and seeing that as a break in your day. I see that glass of wine next to the laundry basket by the way. That’s okay, as long as it doesn’t become a habit. I’ve been there and it’s hard. But this is the reality of the people that you see at pick up and drop off. That they say, “Oh your husband’s away for the fifth week.” That’s what they’re doing and they might not share it with you. I know that that goes on behind the scenes. I know that goes on for people who are trying to launch their business and take care of their kids at the same time.
And I want you to know that I’ve been there too. I’ve even been on a, I would call it at workation. I was on a vacation in Thailand with my family but had to get a few things done for work. And of course, of course, of course, of course it was the one night when my husband was gone and I was alone on the island with my two kids that everybody got really sick. And I mean really sick. If you’ve ever had the rotavirus let me tell you it’s not pretty. The details I will not share with you. But I had an interview with Megan Norton for episode 58 at like 7:00 in the morning Thai time. And I don’t know, Megan if you’re listening to this, she might remember I sent her a text message and said “Listen my family is sick. I’m also sick. So if I have to get off of the podcast suddenly while we’re recording just know that’s why.” And maybe you can even hear it in my voice in episode 58, How to Help Your TCK Form a Sense of Identity and Belonging before Adulthood. My energy was probably not at its top, but I was grateful that I made it through the whole episode. I was grateful that we didn’t have any embarrassing incidents that were recorded. And I kept going.
And it would have been okay to cancel. Sure, it would have been okay. Meghan would have understood. It would have made sense. But I wanted to honor my commitment and get that podcast out for the next week. Because if I didn’t do it then when would I do it later? It would go into my family time. So we made it happen.
Other things that have gone on that I think are important for people to know if you do follow something over years. Any sort of business person, any sort of entrepreneur, any sort of content producer. All of these things are going on the background of their lives and you have no idea. There’s a period of time we were just consistently experiencing loss. They were happening like in pairs of two. We had two people that were in their late 30s early 40s that passed away. And then shortly thereafter another two people that passed away. And then another good friend that passed away. Five losses in a period of like 18 months. Four of the five being loved ones in their 30s and early 40s.
These are things that happen when we’re living abroad and we’re trying to run our families and businesses. And you keep going, you keep going, you take time to regain your energy and dig deep into your support community to gain strength and and keep moving on. And I share that to sort of give you a more complex picture of what you might have than what you listen to every day. I don’t always share the yucky or side of things and this is part of it. The loss is part of it.
Even this morning when I got up. I was still feeling a heavy heart from the loss of someone in our community that served the Families In Global Transition. Someone I didn’t know well at all. Just an inspiring individual in the community passed away. And it felt like a loss of someone who was on our team. Someone who was all about living on purpose and using his life to serve others and to inspire others. And that somehow when someone on this planet that lives in that way passes away, it feels like a loss for everybody. But I’m behind the mic today. Even there’s a little heavy heart speaking to you because this is how we keep moving on. By going forward and honoring how you’re feeling and acknowledging that.
How about those of you who are like me and your kids go on summer break for 10, 11, 12 weeks. That’s what happens to me every summer. I’ve been doing that for seven years. Every summer around June my location independent business really becomes location independent. I pick up my kids and our passports and we spend time on three continents and multiple time zones seeing loved ones that are so precious that we only get to see them once a year. We don’t want to miss a moment. And at the same time I have my responsibilities to keep my company running, to meet my clients’ needs, to keep Expat Happy Hour coming out consistently every single week.
And what does that mean? That means that in summer when I’m sleeping in an air mattress in my old childhood bedroom — AKA now my dad’s office. Which by the way still has a really brown 1982 carpet and curtains. I wake up in the morning, the sun starts peeking through the Horizon. And I grab a coffee and I’m coaching by 5:00 a.m. And why do I do that? Because I want to work while my kids are sleeping and I want to get as much done as I can. So that by the time they’re done eating Lucky Charms, which are forbidden at my home but okay at Grandma’s. And by the time they’ve watched SpongeBob SquarePants. That I can take them outside and play in the park.
But the other reality is that by eight o’clock at night I’m so tired. So I send them downstairs to watch America’s Got Talent with Grandma and Grandpa and I take a nap from 8 p.m. Until 10 p.m. And then I get up and I put them to bed and have those last precious moments before they fall asleep. And then me too.
Those are the raw edges that are happening behind the scenes in my life. And I wanted to share them with you because maybe you see more of the polished side. You get to see Expat Happy Hour after it’s been to the producer and an image has been selected and it’s out there. But this is the real life stuff that I deal with all the time. And I know you do too. Whether you’re running a location independent business abroad like me. Or whether you’re just a parent or an entrepreneur. Or you’re trying to just manage your global life between continents and people that you love. Things don’t always go as planned.
And I share that for a few reasons. And the first one is, when we take in everything that I’ve shared with you. I’m really curious if any of this surprises you. What’s going on for you? Are you like, “Of course Sundae, duh. I know that you go through this because you’re just like everybody else and my life looks just like that.” Or was it like, “Huh? Oh, I thought that you probably had it a lot easier.” What was going on for you? You know in hindsight everybody knows that we all go through junk like this. Of course, our kids get sick as soon as our partners fly away for their business trip. That pretty much is a guarantee for everybody. But I want you to know that. Because of a few reasons.
One. That you’re not alone. If things are hard for you and it feels like you’re stumbling. Guess what? It happens for everybody else.
So I have four specific things I want you to take away from my overshare. Believe me, there was a lot grosser detail I could share with you but I just wanted to save you today.
So a little aside about this whole rotavirus thing. I wanted to spare you from some of the gross details because it was really really disgusting. But one thing I think is kind of funny that I wanted to share is. When we were in Thailand, we were in Phuket and we were actually away from the city in this kind of remote quiet area. But because my son was so sick we had to go into the main area in Phuket. And what does that mean like Friday night at 10 o’clock. We have to go to Phuket. And we’re walking in this crowd. And we’re walking by bars. Because there’s a clinic in the city center and there are women in nurses outfits and poles and all kinds of things.
And one of my sons goes, “I know what they’re doing.” And I’m like “What?” And he goes “Yeah, I know what they’re doing. They’re flirting.” And I’m like, “Yes. Yes, that’s exactly what’s happening.” So something like an unexpected sickness exposed my kids to something I had not expected them to be part of. But at least they came away with it with an innocent view of the situation. I have a hunch when they get older they’re going to go, ding, “Oh that was different than I thought.”
Okay, so now let’s get to the four tips that I have for you. Now that I’ve shared some of the uglier sides, the harder sides of my life running this business and doing the podcast and serving my clients. I want to share four things with you to help you move forward in your own life and business abroad.
So the first one is to take my mom’s advice, get it while the gettin’s good. So keeping in mind that everything I talked about is normal for expat life. For raising a family. For living in an uncertain context. Whatever it is. Whatever kind of Olympic level life, you’re living. Things get interrupted. They don’t go as planned. So when there isn’t a coup. When your kids are not violently ill. When you do have power. Get it while the gettin’s good.
I mean it. When things are stable, this is the time to have first-class self-care, excellent routines and manage your energy through sleeping right, eating well and exercising. For real. Because all this other stuff is going to happen at some point in even wilder ways. So you might as well get it while the getting’s good so that you have a buffer in your plans because of all the progress you’ve made when it was possible.
Second thing I want to remind you of is, please, done is better than perfect. If I had waited today to feel good to do this podcast I wouldn’t have done it or would have done it in a week. And you know what, you wouldn’t have had a weekly podcast if I left it to when I felt ready and prepared and high energy every single time. You’d probably only get 1/4 of the podcasts. Done is better than perfect. And as an entrepreneur that is such important advice. I know it’s a cliche but I’m saying it again today to help encourage you to get that thing done that you have on your mind. Because perfect will never come. And when it does you’ve missed eight other opportunities to make progress.
So number one, get it while the gettin’s good to done is better than perfect.
Three. I’ve already alluded to you the key, the absolute key to your business success, even if you’re not running a business, let’s say you’re running a family. Is your energy. The absolute trick, I do not care if you have a toggle and look at how much time you spend on tasks. Or you do the Pomodoro method and you set a timer and work for 25 minutes. I don’t care if you use the fanciest pants time management technique. If you don’t have energy all of that is worth nothing.
So I’ve had Graham Alcott on Expat Happy Hour talking about the Productivity Ninja. And his advice and his whole book is about managing your energy and attention. Not your time. So take first-class care of yourself. Get your needs met and ask for help that will help you thrive abroad. Whether it’s in your business or your family. Do not read a time management book. Go to bed.
Do what you gotta do to take care of your energy. It’s like the fuel that runs the car.
Number four that I’ve learned even more this year. Is that problems are normal, not a shortcoming. So let me tell you how I got to that. I’m in a mastermind with other really amazing female entrepreneurs, super successful, like really amazing women. And every three weeks or so we would come together and I would hear about some of the problems they were facing. And I can’t tell you how good it felt to listen to the fact that the problems they’re having, even though they’re like making half a million dollars in their business, a million dollars in their business, that those problems keep happening. And it’s just normal. It’s not a shortcoming.
So if you’re dealing with the unexpected. If something is happening to you that you didn’t plan. Problems come up in business. But it’s how you respond to them energetically.
So, for example, I remember the first year I did Year of Transformation. I put out an email to everybody. A big sales announcement. I was really excited and the link didn’t work. I was like, “Oh my God the link doesn’t work and I am going to look so bad and what am I gonna do resend the email?” All that energy wasted actually. So it happened again a couple years later and I’m like, “Ah crap the link doesn’t work. Okay, let’s reset.”
How we respond to those problems makes an impact. It loops back to number 3 about the key to our success is with our energy.
And my encouragement to you is just really focus on solving problems rather than shaming yourself for having problems. I think if you’re pushing yourself in your business. If you are pushing yourself in your parenting. Whatever it is that you’re doing as a leader in your organization or in your own relationship with your partner. If you’re pushing yourself into new territory. If you’re out of your comfort zone. Just expect problems. Expect the unexpected. And then think “Okay, how am I going to solve this?” Because that’s normal.
So those are the things I want you to take away.
- Get it while the getting’s good.
- Done is better than perfect.
- The key to your success is your energy.
- Problems are normal not a shortcoming.
You know this already. You know this but are you living it? Are you integrating it in your body and into how you spend your time and energy? None of this is rocket science. But it’s important to keep you moving forward with joy instead of frustration and disappointment in yourself that things aren’t going as smoothly as you’d like.
So I hope that sharing the bumpy parts of my business journey and my life abroad. That behind the curtain view has given you a little hope. That what you’re doing is pretty on track and you’ve got a few things to adjust but you too can get there.
So if you’ve got some s.h.i..t show going on behind the curtain. I mean literally sometimes if you have young kids. Know that you’re not alone. And we’re in this together. And if you keep that sort of problem solving mindset and humor. You could actually enjoy yourself along the way.
So today. I’ve shared some of this with you because I wanted you to be part of some of what is going on in my program Expat Coach Coalition inside. I am sharing truth bombs and success strategies that have happened along the way as I’ve run my business at serving expats. And how I’m helping them to get it while the gettin’s good. And I didn’t want you to be excluded from some of that learning.
So if you’re interested, if you are someone who serves expats like a coach and you’re interested in really growing your business financially and expanding how you serve your community and learning tested methods to help expats abroad, then I really encourage you to get on the waiting list.
You’ll find it in the show notes. The round two of Expat Coach Coalition starts in April. And I would love to meet you and find out more about you and have you be part of it.
And if you’re not a coach but you’re thinking of running a business while living abroad or you already have one. I’m excited too because I want you to stay tuned to the next four weeks where I’m going to share more of my learnings and strategies I’ve developed over the last seven years to run a location independent business successfully and still have balance in your life. Still feel like you can make time for your friends, for your energy, your exercise, for community and more.
So we’re just getting started. Today was just a taste. I will be doing my next episode of Expat Happy Hour from Doha Qatar. So when you’re listening to this today, I will actually be in Doha. And it’s just another example of how we can take problems that come up and find creative solutions. Instead of being at a conference in Bangkok Thailand I decided to turn a disappointment into a new adventure and I’m landing myself in Doha for 10 days. I’ll tell you more about it in the next episode of Expat Happy Hour.
You’ve been listening to Expat Happy Hour with Sundae Bean. Thank you for being here.
I will leave you with the words of James N. Watkins “A river cuts through rock not because of its power but because of its persistence.”
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