Swimming Lessons, Belly Flops & Business: where fear & compassion meet

Post by Loran Hills for the Kindness in Business series.

photo by Loran

Swimming Lessons, Belly Flops and Business: where fear and compassion meet

When I was a young child, my mother took me to swimming lessons and dropped me off. I don’t remember if I wanted lessons or not, but after the first lesson, I definitely did not. I was a painfully uncoordinated child, excelling in academics, but always getting C’s in physical education. I remember being scared, getting water up my nose and feeling ashamed that I wasn’t like the other kids. I gave up and never went back.

Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it.


For the better part of my life, I wondered what I would be when I grew up. I have a degree in art history, but never worked in a gallery or a museum. I’ve always wanted to help other people, so my Masters in Counseling came in handy for that. Moving frequently meant changing jobs often, but I never really found my niche. I believed I had found it in my last job. Almost.

In that job, I developed a program from scratch. The services assisted families with children who had special needs, behavioral problems and/or mental health diagnoses. It was a difficult and challenging position, but for the most part I enjoyed it. Over time, I realized that the philosophy of a strengths-based approach wasn’t going to change the system.

Burnout is a real threat in the helping professions. My friend and co-worker, Wendy, partnered with me to facilitate a daylong retreat for our fellow providers. We spent hours planning a playful, relaxed day for everyone, only to be told that our agenda was not an official part of the training curriculum. We felt defeated after we were told we couldn’t make it an enjoyable day for everyone.

After four years in that job, I resigned. I launched my online business one week before my last day of employment. After a lifetime of working for others, everything came together and I started working for myself. During the past year I have been able to blend my skills in a way that feels satisfying. I’ve finally discovered what I want to be now that I am grown up.

In the first rush of energy and enthusiasm, Wendy and I created a one-time joint venture called the Retreat in a Box. We re-designed the ideas for the daylong retreat we had planned for our co-workers. We generated eight self-care exercises and produced a self-guided instruction booklet. We gathered up items to put in a pretty box so that anyone could take a retreat. By using our product, burned out women would have the feeling of going on retreat without spending a lot of money or leaving home. We were sure it would be an instant success.

I had a bit of start-up money and used it to buy the products we had chosen together. Unfortunately, we lived in different cities and I’m not all that crafty when it comes to making gift baskets. I had no clue how to do wholesale buying, assembly and shipping. The final product looked dismal. We were definitely not going to be over-delivering.

Ultimately, we transformed the final product into an affordable PDF called The Retreat Journey. It contains the eight self-care exercises we designed. But, because I lacked marketing skills, it wasn’t what you’d call a big seller. Wendy continued on with her paid position and I went on to create another project.

A few years after the fiasco with swimming lessons, I tried diving off a high dive in front of my sister and my cousins. I hit the water with a massive belly flop that was excruciatingly painful. I sank to the bottom of the pool in shame and humiliation. They all thought it was funny but I never tried again.

When I was in high school my best friend was practicing jack knife dives at the pool. Over and over she dove in, got out and tried again. I was in awe of her persistence.

I may be ignorant but I ain’t stupid.

Loretta Lynn, Coal Miner’s Daughter

Losing hundreds of dollars and many hours experimenting with the Retreat in a Box taught me that I didn’t want to sell material goods. Was this a mistake? A failure? A dud?

When I realized the box was kind of “meh,” I was disappointed, but I was OK. I didn’t beat myself up or call myself names. It was humbling to realize that I had essentially belly flopped, but how else could I learn what I needed to know? I used to think if I couldn’t do something well the very first time I tried that it wasn’t worth doing at all, but thankfully I no longer expect instant perfection.

Throughout my work in social services, there was always a clientele provided to me. I never had to market myself. In an effort to learn online marketing, it’s possible that I might have downloaded everything ever written on the subject. I’ve allowed myself the time to gain the knowledge I need.

As a result, my business has improved. My website is navigable, my sales funnel is upright, and I am becoming more and more clear about my purpose and what I have to offer. I’m not floundering as much as I did in the beginning. There’s less water going up my nose. I expect to make more mistakes along the way but they are another opportunity for growth.

During my first year in college I signed up for swimming lessons. The instructor was patient, kind and encouraging. There were students in the class who were deathly afraid of water. I wasn’t afraid of the water, but I was afraid of failure. With the instructor’s support, I learned to swim laps. Success felt miraculous.

photo by Loran

Kindness is like snow – it beautifies everything it covers.

Kahlil Gibran

Learning to swim took years. Why would learning to build a business be any different? As I continue diving deeper into heart spaces as big as the ocean, I become a stronger, more confident entrepreneur.

If you are struggling with making mistakes, feeling like a failure or wanting to give up, here are a few suggestions.

• Treat yourself with compassion. View yourself and your efforts with tenderness, as you would a child who is learning to swim.

• Maintain a positive attitude. Don’t beat yourself up. Be full of mercy.

• Open yourself up to asking for and receiving support. There are people waiting for you to ask because they want to help you.

• Be willing to go back to the diving board and try again. Maybe you need to start diving from the edge of the pool instead of instantly going off the high dive. Work in manageable increments.

• Encourage and help others. You’ll feel better when you do. Feeling envious of Olympic divers won’t help you become one. They’re successful because they have trained their entire lives non-stop with constant coaching and incredible dedication. People who are successful online have paid their dues too.

• Practice good self-care. Do what you enjoy. Eat healthy foods, drink water, get enough sleep, pamper yourself, surround yourself with beauty, spend time outdoors, and practice gratitude. Celebrate your successes. Don’t forget to play and have fun.

• Don’t try to rush your process. Learn to take things in stride and accept what’s happening the way it happens.

We all make mistakes, become fearful when trying new things, and experience frustration. It’s to be expected. But we don’t have to stay stuck or drown. With a loving attitude we can endure our belly flops and move forward with ease.

Loran is a spiritual coach on the spiral journey of life. Her business, Loran’s Heart, is filled with journaling prompts, nature photographs, and inspirational products for imaginative women who want to dive deeper into creating a more meaningful life. Having suffered emotionally through a large portion of her own life, she is now older, wiser and motivated to help reduce the suffering of others. She enjoys painting rainbow trees and creating an otherwise enchanted existence. Connect with Loran here :: Facebook :: Twitter ::


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