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The Big Happiness Interview: How we hold ourselves back from making money

‘I briefly considered throwing the book I was reading across the room. I may even have sworn at it,’ says Denise Duffield-Thomas, self-made multi-millionaire, best-selling author of Lucky Bitch, Get Rich and the money mindset coach who is explaining to me how she got the inspiration for her new book Chillpreneur: The New Rules for Creating Success, Freedom and Abundance on Your Own Terms (Hay House, £12.99).

She was reading a business book about an (male) entrepreneur who got up every day at 4.30am, then headed to the gym, then to the office where he worked ‘til 6.30pm.

‘Afterwards, he went home and had dinner with his wife and child and then worked again from 9pm ‘til 1am,’ Denise remembers. ‘I actually wrote WTF in the margin. My first thought was, He has a kid? And a wife?

‘My second thought was, Wait. This is success?

‘The book was full of talk of “crushing your goals” and “killing your competition”. It was the old, patriarchal nonsense that still permeates entrepreneurial culture.’

And bang, the idea new book Chillpreneur was born.

‘The truth is we start our businesses for the freedom and flexibility it gives us, not to replicate our old jobs,’ Denise says. ‘I wanted a business that helped others, was wildly profitable but didn’t leave me a husk of a person attached to my computer screen.

‘It was time for a new breed of entrepreneur. It was the time for the Chillpreneur!

‘I know it sounds a bit cheesy but at the heart of it, it’s about finding a new way of doing business: one that works for your bank account and supports your wellbeing; one that works for you and the planet; and one that follows the path of least resistance.’

Here Denise talks to us about how to start a business you love, make money and be happy.

What is the connection between money and happiness?

Money itself doesn’t create a perfect, happy life. But we know that it helps. Money can help you solve problems.

What’s your secret of success?

Mindset! Constantly working on your mindset is honestly the most important – if not the only – thing you have to master. Everything else you can just Google. Really.

Business isn’t that complicated. I have created a multi-million-dollar business without taking outside investment or working my guts out (while raising young kids) and I believe it’s all about my mindset.

When I was a kid, I grew up on welfare and my family dreamed about winning the lottery, but I remember saying to myself: I am my own lottery ticket.

A lot of people don’t think they can start a business. How do you build self-belief?

Join communities or read books or watch TV where you see other people like you creating successful businesses. Immerse yourself in those spaces. Listen to podcasts, follow people on social media and read books by people who are doing the things you want to do.

It’s really important to find people who are like you – don’t just look at the straight, white guys (unless you are one), find your people. Because that will help you believe that it’s possible for you and people who look and sound like you to be successful too.

How do you build self-belief?

I love mirror work. Write on your mirror with marker pen: ‘this is what a wealthy person looks like’. It’s an exercise in building yourself up so you have the courage to see opportunities, to say yes to them, to pitch, to press publish on a blog post or whatever.

Learning how to make your own website, payment systems and all that stuff is easy, the hard bit is the inner work. It’s challenging those old beliefs: ‘I’m not smart enough. I’m not good enough. I don’t come from the right background. My accent isn’t right’.

Find five people to follow who are your age or demographic. Prove to yourself it is possible. Challenge your money blocks.

Working on your mindset is honestly the most important – if not the only – thing you have to master. Everything else you can just Google.

Money blocks?

Money blocks are our beliefs about money which stop us from earning what we want.

The most popular one is that you have to work hard to make money. This is a ridiculous thing to say in so many ways, because we know people in our society who work really hard but don’t necessarily make the most amount of money.

For those of us who grew up in a world pre-internet, we have a very particular view of what work can be. You go to a job, you put in your hours and you get paid for those hours.

But post internet, we have lots of different ways that people can earn money, but our minds still haven’t quite caught up with that. I see people who make money from being able to self-publish books or create their own courses or have become a social media influencer and it breaks our brain a little bit to think that you can make money out of doing something that you love.

What are the other things that get in the way of us of starting a business?

I was talking with some British clients recently about different beliefs about money in different countries. Someone said that in the UK you always create an orderly queue and we discussed how that feeling of ‘having to wait your turn’ might show up in your business. Maybe that means in the UK you are waiting for someone to give you permission, to deem you ready or for someone to validate your ticket versus you deciding that for yourself?

Yes, that’s so true.

The other money block I hear a lot is that ‘it’s impolite to talk about money’.

If you’ve grown up with that, it’s going to be really hard to ask for pay increase, set prices for your business, send out invoices, chase up invoices, have awkward money conversations with anybody. Because every fibre of your being is being told it’s really impolite to talk about money.

I come from Newcastle, a working-class town in Australia and one of my money blocks was that by becoming rich and successful, I was becoming ‘too big for my boots’.

If you had advice for your younger self, what would you say?

I would tell her ‘you are enough’. When I was young, I felt so insecure. I thought it was never going to be my time.

I started my business in 2009 when I lived in London and I would read the Metro on the way to work in London and would always read the stories about women being successful but then think ‘I’m not good enough to do that’.

I didn’t need to learn the logistics of business, I needed to believe that I am enough, that it was my time and to keep going.

I encourage my clients to do a meditation called Future You. We go and visit their future self and say: What advice have you got for me? And most people say: ‘just be kind to yourself or keep going’. That’s what we need to hear, especially if we don’t have people in our lives to tell us that. We need to encourage ourselves, to say you’re enough, you are enough. And just repeat that again and again.

People often ask me what I’m teaching my kids about money. And I’m honestly teaching them mostly self-love and acceptance because that’s what I really struggled with for a long time.

We need to encourage ourselves, to say you’re enough, you are enough.

You’re not alone!

Yes. So many of us women have been trained to be the good, nice girl who gives but does not receive. But it’s about challenging that and making incremental changes and asking yourself – why not me?

We’re just so used to making do and putting up with things. Self-worth starts with thinking that ‘maybe I deserve something better’ and acting as if that was true.

You know where I started? Giving myself a fresh tea bag instead of reusing it three times.

But what do you do when impostor syndrome strikes?

I still have impostor syndrome. Most people do. But don’t let that stop you.

Absence of fear is not your goal. If you’re waiting for all the fear to go away until you take action, you will wait forever.

Believe that you’re good enough just as you are. Right now is the time to move forward. Don’t wait until you’re thinner, better, smarter. Start today.

Five ways to know you’re a ‘chillpreneur’

You have an abundance mindset

As a Chillpreneur, you embrace an abundant mindset and accept that there’s enough for everyone, including money, clients and opportunities. You know you’re just as deserving as anyone else, and that your gain isn’t someone else’s loss.

You’re optimistic

You practice optimism and see the silver lining in everything.

Failed launch? ‘We can learn so much from this for next time!’

Tech screw up in the middle of a webinar? Juicy chapter for my next book.

Everything is useful, nothing is wasted. In fact, failures are great fodder for podcasts, blog posts and future Oprah interviews.

You care but you keep things light

You care but are detached from the outcome. You know a client’s ‘no’ doesn’t mean you’re terrible at your business. Setbacks just mean you need to try again.

You genuinely and passionately care about your work, but you still hold it lightly, including your reaction to sales numbers, client results and feedback from others.

You practice self-acceptance rather than being buffeted by others’ changing opinions.

You want to do good in the world

Chillpreneurs strive for mutual success. You don’t believe that making money is evil because you know it enables you to do tremendous good in the world.

You keep it simple

You follow the path of least resistance. You don’t overcomplicate things for the sake of complexity. You try to find the most comfortable path.

Chillpreneur: The New Rules for Creating Success, Freedom and Abundance on Your Own Terms (Hay House, £12.99).

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