If you are worried about starting something new, read this.
A few months ago, when I felt stuck after a long time not creating, my neurodivergent coach reminded me that sometimes we do not know what’s right until we try it. She asked me what would excite me. I said that I wanted to teach a course about drumming for birth.
I had fears around the fact that it was so niche that nobody would want it. I ran a free webinar. It had a 100 people signup, and was attended by 60 people so I thought, let’s try.
I nearly cancelled the course because a week or two before I was due to start I only had 3 or 4 students. Then I decided to run it anyway, as a small early adopter group, knowing it would be special to do this, even if it didn’t make sense financially, and I also knew that, inside the container of creating this course, new things would be born. I thrive when I provide knowledge and support to others.
In the end 10 women signed up, from 6 different countries, and the live sessions on zoom I held over the summer were beautiful and intimate. I loved them. My students had powerful transformative experiences. I get exciting messages from them telling me they’ve drummed at a birth in the hospital. They got tremendous personal growth by doing the course too.
And now, 4 months on, I have 17 students from 9 different countries. I’ve published an article in a scientific journal about drumming and birth. I’ve started writing a book about drumming, birth, and women’s life transitions. I got the book project accepted by a publisher I’m really excited to work with. I started a podcast. I’m giving a talk about the science of drumming at the convention of women drummers next week, and I’ve been invited to 2 other conferences next year. I’m teaching an in person course in January. I’ve also had my request to write about it in a parenting magazine accepted.
Don’t give up on trying something new just because you are the first person to do it.
The pioneer’s energy
Until recently I couldn’t see my gifts. I didn’t think that being able to do things that came easily to me was a big deal. The crisis I experienced over the last few years, working with various coaches and therapists, getting diagnosed with ADHD, and generally becoming a lot kinder to myself, has helped me understand and acknowledge my gifts. I can see what I’m really good at now.
I should trust this pioneering energy, because it’s been there in my life. It was there when I was 8 years old and I already knew I would become a scientist. It was there to hold my path steady when I was told, aged 16, that I shouldn’t pursue a career in science because I wasn’t good enough in maths.
It was there when I was a biology student, and I refused to study molecular biology despite everyone else studying it. I wanted to study physiology. I was told it was old fashioned. I pursued it anyway and it made me a very desirable employee later on as molecular biologists where two a penny and very few people had the “old fashioned” knowledge I had. It was there during my PhD and 2 postdocs when I questioned everything I was told by my supervisor and did things my way.
It was there when both my 2 postdocs and my first biotech start-up job led each of my bosses and collaborators to publish articles in a higher impact journal than they had even done before. When I shared ideas that more senior people hadn’t thought about. It was there when the biggest medical journal in the world, The New England Journal of Medicine, made an editorial decision to include animal data for the first time in the journal (that normally only published human data) because the story we had was so compelling (a gene without which there was no puberty).
It was there whenever I changed jobs or career as within a few years I became a name in my field. It was there when I left science to focus on supporting expectant and new parents. When I flew instructors from Germany I wanted to train as a babywearing consultant because there was no training in the UK. It was there in my obsessive learning, in my desire to understand everything about so many subjects, reading, talking to people and attending countless study days.
It was there in my ability to metathink, in my looking at topics from a bird’s eye view and seeing links across far reaching topics (something I now understand to be one of the gifts of my ADHD).
It was there when I started integrating osteopathic knowledge with rebozo techniques, when I created a new postnatal massage course with an osteopath, when I taught antenatal courses and used my drum to do practise contractions, when I created workshops and online courses about topics that didn’t exist before. It was there when I fought and succeeded to get insurance companies to insure babywearing, closing the bones and rebozo techniques.
It was there when I wrote my first book, Why Postnatal Recovery Matters.
Stop wasting your energy with the laggards.
Roger’s adoption curve shows how a new product, technology or innovation spreads through a population over time. It looks at the rate of adoption and plots the cumulative number or percentage of adopters on a chart over time.
The adoption curve shows how early adopters first start using the new innovation, followed by the majority, until a saturation point is reached where most potential adopters have adopted the innovation.
Key phases of the adoption curve include:
- Innovators – the first few risk-takers who adopt very early (the pioneers)
- Early adopters – next group who embrace new innovations, influential in spreading the word (the people you need to reach with your new idea)
- Early majority – big wave of adoption, pragmatists who require proof and recommendations
- Late majority – only adopt after the average person, sceptical, need pressure from peers.
- Laggards – last to adopt, very conservative, only accept once innovation is commonplace (the kind of people who would only stop using a rotary phone once it’s no longer available).
You do not need to worry about the last 3 categories, because they will only adopt your idea after each of the previous categories has done so. You only need to focus on the early adopters. See how much easier it makes it? You only need to worry about reaching 13.5% of your potential audience. And how liberating it is to notice that you do not need to speak to the laggards.
This workshop was a defining moment for me, because I finally understood that my inability to affect change within the local maternity care system wasn’t due to my not trying hard enough (I used to beat myself up about this), but rather to the fact that I was talking to the wrong group.
I completely stopped wasting my energy in maternity care meetings after that, and focused on finding early adopters and champions where I wanted to make change happen. This is how I ended up training all the local NICU nurses in using slings to support parents.
Now thankfully I recognise the signs. I look for the early adopters. I cast my net wide to connect with like minded people. I trust that the right people will find me.
I no longer feel the need to justify my offerings. I share my stuff from a place of authenticity, warts and all, knowing that it will resonate with the right people, and that, if it puts people off, these aren’t the people I want to work with. I no longer waste energy in trying to explain things to people who approach me from a place of judgement instead of curiosity. I do a lot of blocking and deleting on social media.
I find this really helpful when starting something new in taming my inner impostor. Its voice is quite small these days.
It doesn’t mean that it isn’t scary and that I don’t worry that nobody will want what I’m offering and that I don’t doubt myself. But I recognise the pioneer’s process, and feel a deep sense of excitement, especially when I realise that nobody else has been where I’m going. I thrive on it.
Do you worry that you are doing something so new that nobody will want it? Does it feel scary or exciting or both? I’d love to hear your stories. Just comment below this blog, or message me.