If you attended Yestival 2016, you might remember me as the girl in the black and white print leggings who was always dancing at the morning silent disco sessions.
If you attended Yestival 2017, you will remember me as the girl who came back to tell the story of how those morning silent disco sessions changed the course of her life for good. They left me in such a contagiously good mood that I decided there needed to be more of them in the world.
After months of work on the side of my job, in June I took the terrifying/crazy/exciting step of quitting my full time, very serious 9-5 job in politics to start an uplifting silent disco company called Nobody's Watching, hoping to inspire people to dance more and take themselves less seriously.
It was with pride and gratitude that I came back to Yestival one year later to run one of my silent disco sessions where it all started!
I’ve taken the concept a step further to include a warm up, which helps get people into the ‘silly zone’ and feel more comfortable dancing (you know, some people might find it awkward to dance with strangers whilst completely sober!). I’d describe it as an immersive musical comedy experience, a combination of random and ridiculous moves and instructions that give people permission to be an absolute goofball for the rest of the event.
Here we are dancing away outside the tents :)
It has been a rollercoaster of a journey. I wanted to share with you the five most important lessons I learnt along the way.
1. Look your fears in the eye - and destroy them one by one
I left Yestival 2016 with a clear goal in mind. I’d been spending the past five years filling notebooks with different business ideas. It was time to say YES to one of them.
By this time next year, I wanted to be freelancing and I wanted to by working on something that I’d created myself. There was only one small problem… I was completely terrified. I didn’t want my fears to stop me, but I didn’t know what to do stop feeling so scared. So I decided to sit down and write every single thing I was afraid of and all the worst case scenarios I could think of.
After about 10 minutes my fears were staring at me in black ink from my notebook. This was the single most important exercise I could have done because I then went back and, with the same pen, destroyed them one by one. Next to each one, I wrote yes, and?
Then I wrote the worst case scenario, and realised that actually, the worst case scenario wasn’t so bad and things were going to be ok. I felt reassured, and ready to start.
2. Say YES to a project you would lose sleep over
Now that I was ready to start… what should I do? I had about four different ideas that I was excited about. How would I know which one I should go ahead with?
I found my answer by speaking to a lot of entrepreneurs and listening to podcasts like the Tim Ferriss show. As I heard stories of entrepreneurs and adventurers, I realised just how hard it was going to be. Some of my ideas were more sensible than others, and seemed like easier and safer options.
What I realised was that there’s no such thing as a ‘safe’ option. Even people with the most solid ideas had stories of sleepless nights and major upheavals.
I was left with one question: which one of these ideas was I ready to lose sleep over? Which one of them was I so excited about that I’d want to keep going when everything went wrong? The answer at the point was easy. It was the one that made me happiest and I was most passionate about: the one that involved dancing. That’s when Nobody’s Watching moved from a ‘maybe this would be nice’ to ‘this is happening’.
3. Surround yourself with positive people who can push you forward, no matter what
Working on a new adventure, which in my case was starting a business, is a very challenging affair. In the early stages, it feels so volatile and the smallest thing can tip you in a different direction and generate self-doubt.
This is the same for anyone working on an idea that your average person would define as ‘crazy’. People start asking a lot of questions and putting doubts in your head, making you feel unqualified, inadequate or unprepared for what you’ve decided to say yes to. And you risk believing them and backtracking if you expose yourself to these conversations too much.
It’s crucial to surround yourself with positive, encouraging people who can push you forward, no matter what. Who help you see solutions where others see problems, and remind you that if they did it, so can you. People who wouldn't let you backtrack. People like the YesTribe, for example.
4. Say YES to one big thing, and no to everything else
Someone said this at Yestival 2016. I noted it in my diary and it’s the most important lesson I learnt that weekend. When I said yes to Nobody’s Watching, I entered a period of sacrifice and focus, which I’m still in now. It takes a lot of energy and effort to create something from scratch.
Initially I was distracted by all my other passions and interests, and was trying to bring all of them forward at the same time. I soon realised that unless I split myself into four different people, there was no way I could do everything at the same time. I had to learn to say no. It wasn’t easy, but I wouldn’t have made all the progress I have made if I hadn’t learnt how to do this.
5. Don't have a plan B - have a plan A1, A2, A3...
Planning is important and I wouldn’t recommend doing something of this scale without putting a lot of thought into it. I left my job at the end of May 2017, but had been saving up and planning my escape since early October 2016. I saved enough money to get by for the summer months without an income, and I planned to get a part time job in September so I could have some regular income whilst building the business.
There were several occasions in which my plan didn’t quite work out. For example, the plan was for my part time job to be English teaching. I didn’t find a teaching job. But I knew that to keep going I needed to work, so I just found another part time job...dull admin and not very well paid, but it was what I needed to keep me going. I was happy to compromise.
What I mean by ‘don’t have a plan B’ is that working towards a big goal is an incredible experience that you shouldn’t move away from at the first, or second, or even fifteenth obstacle. You will get there with patience and perseverance.
What you need to be prepared for is to compromise on how you get there, how long it will take you and what you’ll need to do on the side to keep you going.
By working on your ‘yes’ as a side project and not your main source of income initially, you have less to lose and it will be harder to quit. Have plan Bs for your part time income. Have plan Bs for the different ways in which you develop your wonderful YES project. But don’t let the project itself be a plan B. If you’ve said yes to it, it means you want it. If you really want it, you’ll find a way to make it happen.
Saying yes to the one thing I really wanted ended up bringing an avalanche of positive things into my life. This is because it pushed me out of my comfort zone, to seek experiences that were what I truly wanted. This meant that the people I found there were my kind of people.
I haven’t just started a project. I’ve also made incredible friends and in fact met my boyfriend along the way. Life at the moment is very bumpy and unpredictable, full of ups and downs. But it’s never felt better, because it feels real. Everything that happens is a consequence of something I chose. Even the bad days feel better for some reason. They taste like freedom and make me feel alive.
Cheers to saying yes more!
on Twitter @cloudiercolvin