Friday, 26 May 2017

An open letter to 4Networking

Dear 4N,

I was sat struggling to think of my latest blog topic when I realised that all my ideas and inspiration were coming to me from people i'd met at 4N or someone i'd seen 4Sight. And that is when it became clear to me what my blog needed to be about...

I've got to be honest. 2016 wasn't the best year for me. The business was doing fine, just ticking along but it was doing fine. I hadn't really been focusing much on what it was doing or what I wanted it to be doing and it was paying the bills so we were all okay.

Thing is I wasn't happy. I was trying to avoid that fact for quite a long time. My son was 2 at the time and still not sleeping at all and I was functioning on around 3 hours sleep a night. And running a family. And a business. Spinning plates. You know the kind of thing.

I could have been forgiven for not looking to drive and focus on the business. I was very tired all the time and I was also suffering from anxiety and panic attacks. I know nobody has it easy and, in comparison to the atrocity which occurred earlier this week, I didn't have much to complain about but my mental health wasn't the best and I was pretty miserable. And lonely. Oh so very lonely.

For over a year some cowboy called Todd (you might know him. He does something with social media I think. Or something) had been telling me I should join this networking group called 4N. He said it was amazing and regularly waxed lyrical about why online. I thought he sounded brain washed and that this 4N thing sounded like a cult.

Thing is I had thought about joining. But then I would have to face up to all the things bothering me in my head. Panic, anxiety, loneliness, no direction for my business. No plan. Why the fuck would I want to do that?! Why would I want to stand up in front of people and talk about my business? Why would I want to stand up and talk at all? I had no plan. I was a sham. I was just tootling along with a website and a name i'd built up. But I wasn't happy.

Fast forward January 2017 and I was nearing the end of my CBT sessions (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for those who may not know) which was helping me deal with my anxiety and depression.

 During a session she said you have to face the thoughts and the fears. Let them into your mind but let them know YOU'RE in charge. Not them. So there and then I Facebook messaged Todd and asked him to book me as a visitor to Leamington Lunch.

I left the doctors and watched the first Claire and Todd on the sofa which talked about Belief and went home to write a blog about Self Belief.

I had a full on panic attack on the drive to my first ever meeting. I fumbled my way through my 40 seconds (why the hell didn't I rehearse?!) and spent half of it hiding in the toilets. Then I had my 1:1s two of which were with a Claire. Claire McTernan and Claire Russell who just made me feel at ease. They explained about 4N and showed me how it could work for me. They treated me like an equal and were really kind.

 I thought I was going to wander into a big clique of people who just networked with each other. Wrong.

I filled my placemat  in and joined there and then.

Since that date 4N has honestly changed my life. I'm not just saying that. I was lost and sad, confused, bewildered, lonely. Did I mention lonely?

I do have friends of course but I worked alone from a home office. A lot. And all the friends I have don't know what it is like to run a business. I love them but we don't have that much in common anymore and nobody understood what my day to day was like. I really wanted some friends!

Fast forward to now and I feel like the people I have met within 4N are real friends. I feel I could call them for advice and they would be there for me. I feel part of a gang over litterally thousands who are all on exactly the same journey as me. Cliquey? Nope. A more helpful network of people you're not likely to find.

I've got myself 7 new clients since January (and I didn't even join for business!) , I've made friends, i've learnt SO much from 4sights and 4N development lives. I've delivered a 4Sight (yep stood up and talked to my peers for 20 minutes with no panic attacks), i've become GL of Leamington Lunch, i've given work to loads of my fellow 4Ners, i've invited visitors and preached about the benefits. I've booked on courses. I've spent time with the amazing Claire McTernan who has helped me to see the wood for the trees and re-focus.

Finally, for the first time in a while, I know where i'm going. And I know why i'm going there. And i'm not lonely now. And i'm off my tablets and standing up in front of people every week. I'm getting out there and I know it's just going to get better.

And i'm happy! Like really happy.

And it's all thanks to 4N and some cowboy hassling me about some shit networking group I just had to go to. Hate to say it but he was right.

So thank you 4N community. Thank You to Brad for not giving up all those years ago. Thanks to Todd and Jo for just being ace. Thanks to Claire for that 1:1 and for Claire for so much support I can't even write it all down and for asking me to be on of your GLs. I'm really honoured to do that.

Thank You x

PS - It doesn't work.