Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should
In 2010, I spoke my big dream: “I want to volunteer full time in Africa while
earning an online income.”
Without any idea how to get there, I quit my corporate job and started a dog
training business. That began a 4-year adventure where I became a veterinary
technician in New Jersey, taught English in Spain, and traveled the world.
It culminated in me moving to Kenya in 2013 where I volunteered full time
while earning an online income as a consultant.
I had achieved my dream. “Holy crap…now what?” was all I could think.
So I created another big dream to go after: start a global non-profit to mentor
youth, earning my income through my own online business.
Here’s where I made a mistake. When deciding what kind of business I would
start, I looked at the opportunities around me and decided to take a friend’s
SEO writing course. I knew I was a good writer and could make money that
way but ignored the fact that I didn’t truly love writing.
And when times got tough, I didn’t have the passion or motivation to push
I spent 2 years building up debt as I was earning inconsistent income while
trying to grow the business. Soon I’d cashed out my 401K, dwindled it to
nothing, and had $30K in debt. I decided to expand my services to become
a marketing agency because that’s it seemed what people needed and would
pay for. It would also allow me to step out of the writing role and into a
leadership role as I started to build a team.
I got really excited, selling the services before I even had the team together.
And people bought them! Good people with good missions…the kind of
missions I truly wanted to market. I was excited, with dreams of starting a
But when it came time to deliver results to my new clients, my passion wasn’t
there. I had once again ignored the fact that I simply didn’t like marketing.
In fact, I liked it less than writing. And, when times got tough and my team
needed more support than I thought they would, I didn’t have the passion or
knowledge to do all that needed to be done.
My business came crashing down as I couldn’t deliver on the results I
I had to give refunds. Contracts were cancelled. And I let my team and clients
down. It was not fun.
The lesson I learned: just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
I was able to make money through writing. I was able to sell marketing
services that were still being created. And I was able to build a team. But I
shouldn’t have done any of those things. They weren’t in line with what I
I was so focused on making money the “easy” way (by selling something I
knew people wanted), that I forgot a key ingredient to any successful business:
Take a moment to be really honest with yourself and ask these questions:
“Am I building myself a job I’ll hate in the name of ‘financial or location
“Am I following a model I know works for other people even if it doesn’t work
“Am I doing something I’m good at even though, deep down, I know I don’t
If the answer is “yes” to any of them, it’s time to dust off the childlike wonder, get out your infinite curiosity, and realize you are worthy of creating a business in the unique way that fires you up and lets you get paid for your unique gifts.
Let’s look back at my 2010–2014 journey to Kenya to better understand how
to create that kind of business.
During that journey, I had no idea how I could get to Kenya, volunteer full
time, and support myself with an online income. But I believed I could. I
started taking small seemingly-unrelated steps that made me happy (like
becoming a dog trainer) and trusted I would figure out how to get to Kenya
along the way. I stayed curious. I kept exploring. I continued asking questions
and sharing my dream, open to what anybody had to say.
And, once I stopped worrying about the “how,” every day became a fun
adventure. By focusing on doing things I loved, e.g. dog training, the path to
Kenya did unfold. In fact, my dog training mentor is the one who introduced
me to a book that motivated me to move to Spain. In Spain, I was hired as
an online consultant. And that job allowed me to move to Kenya where I
volunteered full time.
Becoming a dog trainer opened me up to a world of people I didn’t have access
to before. And this is key.
When you’re thinking about starting a business that suits YOU, remember that
you don’t need to know how to do it. You just need to stay curious about how to do
it. Put yourself into situations where you’ll meet more people like you, with similar
interests and passions. Then, share your dream with them. The path—the how—
will unfold naturally.
When you’re passionate, people will want to help. They’ll connect you with
influential people in your industry. They’ll let you borrow books. They’ll
recommend organizations you should visit.
The how will become clear as you explore the connections that come out of
your sharing. Life is the only course you need and your instructors are all
Just because you can start a business doesn’t mean you should. Choose to start a business that fits you. Ignore advice that works for others but doesn’t
Let go of the business you know you can build so you can build the business
you should build…the business that pays you for what you want to be doing.
Before you know it, you’ll look back, and wonder, “Holy crap, I did it….now