When I started researching topics for this week’s post, all about how to build an online community. I stumbled upon my long-lost best friend. The one that I didn't know I needed. We could've talked for hours. I am so thrilled to bring Natalie Franke, an author, a public speaker, and a doer of all things into our CEO Teacher® community.
Natalie Franke is a photographer by trade who built a community of other creative entrepreneurs and independent business owners called the Rising Tides Society. She is also the chief evangelist at HoneyBook, where they empower independence to build a life of passion and purpose. Plus they show entrepreneurs how to run their business on the platform. Natalie was fired up about all things entrepreneurship because she believes that when we have the ability to build a business, it gives us this opportunity, not only to build the life that we want to build and make the impact that we desire to make in the world but actually to help others rise as well.
And that's what community over competition is all about. It's what her book Built to Belong is all about. She was excited to share how to build these meaningful connections with others. Empower one another to thrive and set out to do the independent thing. She encourages us all to set out to do the path less traveled in our own unique way.
Originally she started her business as a way to help pay for school. After graduation she said you know what, mom, I know I just got the degree, but I want to bet on me. I want to see if I can do this thing. I want to see if I can take this business and I can truly make it something.
She wrote about that conversation a little. It was a mindset shift that opened the understanding that when we set out just to focus on ourselves, to be uniquely our best we actually flourish. As teachers, you see this in the students that you teach, it's not about being number one in your class. It's about each individual, right? Finding their unique strengths and leaning into what makes them special and what they love and what they get fired up about and passionate about and becoming better than the student they were yesterday. Becoming a better version of ourselves in the same respect.
When we're not vying for number one, as the only definition of success, we start seeing this multitude of opportunities all around us. We started to think, okay, well, if there's room for her to win and him to win and them to win, we've got to lean into what makes us unique and aim for differentiation, not just superiority. And so that is really where community over competition started to come into play.
We are a part of the same ecosystem, the same community that we have the ability to come together to, to raise standards, to raise the tide, to work alongside one another instead of at each other's throats. When she wins it doesn’t mean that I'm falling short or I'm falling behind or I'm not measuring up. I am bringing my uniqueness to the table and that creates space for me to succeed. And so it seems so simple, when you say community over competition, people say it and they think they know what it means. When we get down to the brass tacks of what that means, it is hard and it requires you to get uncomfortable. It requires you to trust and have faith that in sharing and supporting and cheering for others, it's not going to lead to your demise because so much about our culture tells us otherwise from the time we are very young. Create a winning strategy for the heart, the soul and for the bottom line and for getting into the green and for running a profitable, sustainable business.
I first heard about this whole mindset thing from Dr. Stephen Covey, when I was forced to read the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and he chats win-win. He also has a school program called the Leader in Me and they teach win-win. And you know, we teach that to our CEO Teacher® students. We teach this to children, but as adults, especially like Natalie said, in the online space, it seems that we've gotten so far away from that.
It feels like it's almost not acceptable to cheer them on because we are just really starting to see what this might look like, what the future of education must be like. It’s an infinite game, this idea is not going anywhere. I think people didn't see this as something that was sustainable or that education would actually move in this direction. We talked a little bit about why teachers might have a mindset of if she wins, I lose, and how we can really push past that.
We are yet again emerging. We use that word with a lot of optimism emerging from a season of great pain in our world. We are coming out on two years of enduring changes and pivots on top of pivots and stress in our families and in our schools and in our workplaces. And so what we look at on the horizon could be through a lens of pessimism and saying, everything's breaking down. We're heading into this recession and it's going to be a difficult time and there's not going to be enough for everybody. The past few years have taught us that certain people see certain industries as disposable. There's not as much respect as there should be. For example, with teachers, there should be so much respect.
It should be a profession we bow down to and yet it feels like society gives teachers the short end of the stick over and over and over again. And it's appalling. We believe not only in all seasons that abundance is possible, but especially looking forward into the future where we're looking at this moment of post-pandemic psychology again. We also have to take into account that over the last two years, we've had a technological change at unprecedented levels.
Natalie jokingly says her grandfather who's 90 can now FaceTime. We must be paying attention to that. Additionally, younger generations are increasingly entrepreneurial, almost 50%. Plus we learned that 53% of Gen Z intend on starting a business in the next 10 years. For those in Z that are already in the workforce. That number jumps to 65%. What does that tell us? The future of work is going to be more independent. It's going to be more entrepreneurial. And it means that the education space especially has to outpace the existing education.
Natalie realized she needed her education desperately. But she needs it in a field she never could have imagined she would need it in. And, tomorrow something new is going to happen and guess what? She’ll still need education. But the way that we are receiving that education needs to change, it needs to be faster. It needs to be digital. It needs to be from multiple voices and perspectives. And what works for someone with ADHD and who has two kids who have a busy job might not work for somebody else with a different way of learning or a different home environment or a different dream and career path.
We need to take a look and say, the tides are turning and they've been turning, but now the accelerator's been hit and these past two years have shifted the way that human beings fundamentally think about their lives and the way that they work. And that also means they're fundamentally changing the way they think about learning. It's no longer something reserved for a certain period of your life because when everything starts changing and we have different interests and new ideas.
This is truly your Renaissance moment. Never in our lifetimes have there been more opportunities for educators with the desire to step into an independent business, to become the CEO Teacher® of your own destiny and your own career. There are more students than ever before because it's not limited to an age group. It's not limited even to a subject because everybody has this desire to change and grow and learn. And I don't need to tell you this. We all learn differently. And so there is such an opportunity as coming forward and saying, this is my unique way of teaching. This is how my voice is my voice. This is my style. This is how I think it's outside the box. Or, I'm neurodivergent too. And this is how I think about the framework for understanding this concept. The point is the world needs what you've got, period. The world needs what you've got, it needs what you have to say. It also needs to what she has to say and what he has to say. It needs what they have to say, and it needs you.
We should be saying when she wins, she's showing me a path to success. When she wins she's chipping away at that glass ceiling and heck if she didn't bust through it and now it makes it easier for me. It makes it easier for somebody else to come behind me. Seeing the world in this lens of I can't trust, I can't open my heart and my arms and my dreams to doing life with others, because they're going to take something away from me. It assumes what's meant for you. Isn't meant for you. It assumes that somehow, you know, you're not worthy of the very gifts that are waiting for you, right? You're, you're counting yourself out, friend. You're already saying you've lost because we believe fiercely that what's meant for you is meant for you, whether she wins or not. It's still meant for you.
Think of a big box sitting in front of you. This big, beautiful box. We’re talking wrapped in the most beautiful on-brand wrapping paper you've ever seen. It is this massive gift sitting right in front of you. And the challenge with this metaphor is that there are two ways that we approach a gift.
People are either sitting and looking at the gift and going, gosh, isn't it beautiful? Life is such a gift. Look at this beautiful thing. And they sit there and they stare at it and they wait to wonder what's inside. And when is it going to open? And I guess someone should tell me when can I go open it? I'm just going to sit here. I'm going to keep looking at it because isn't it beautiful? And they stare at that gift until their time clock runs out and they never opened the darn thing.
And then there's another option where instead of looking at life, just as the gift, as the thing to stare at and appreciate, and value that we run right up to it and we rip the paper right off and we start flailing ribbons and bows and opening the darn thing. We don't wait for permission. We don't wait for someone to tell us we're worthy of that gift. We don't wait for someone to say, oh no, no, no. Sorry that that one was not meant for, you know, we opened that gift that is life because we are worthy and we are deserving. And what is enough, it is meant for us to see and experience. And we're never gonna know unless we open the darn box.
We're never going to know unless we go into it with the mindset of not just staring at something and appreciating it from a distance, but getting into the weeds and the mud and the mess and the muck and realizing that the beautiful box was never the point success. The point was the muddy journey and the surprise for good or for worse. Going all in with your heart and just shredding it to ribbons and opening the box and finding what's inside. Knowing that it was meant for you all along instead of sitting there and twiddling your thumbs and just wondering, or wishing, or appreciating without action.
Don't look back when you’re 80 years old and look through the lens of this exact moment and say, I wish for one minute, I had just taken that chance. I wish for just one minute, I had grabbed coffee with that one person who could've ended up becoming a new friend for the rest of my life, or I wish I could have started that business and take that leap instead of sitting back and waiting for someone to give me permission, waiting for someone to deem me worthy of the very thing that had been placed on my heart all along.
It's the 80-year-old lens that sometimes we have to adopt, but it's not about staring at your life as if it's like something you can't touch and you can't get in the muck and the mess of, and change where you can't make an impact with, or you can't, you know, shift in any direction. You're one decision away. I don't know who said this, but gosh, I love it. You're one decision away from an entirely different life.
And that could be choosing to believe in abundance. Choosing to believe that other people are rooting for you and cheering for you. Not trying to tear you down. You flip that confirmation bias in your own favor, you know, for once tell your brain to do the work for you. Walk in and confidently exclaim:
How would you like to change somebody's life today? Let's do it! Instead of wondering do I really know what I'm talking about? Are they going to judge me? Am I qualified to even have this conversation? Instead of why not me? It's just that mindset shift.
The inspiration for the Rising Tide Society is from the old quote, a rising tide lifts all boats. And the idea that in if you can truly improve an economy, it lifts everybody up. It raises everybody. And for Natalie, it was this visual of we're all different boats, unique businesses, unique circumstances, unique challenges, and opportunities, but we're part of the same motion. And so in one respect, it means when the tide raises, it impacts all of us when it goes down and impacts all of us, like whatever happens in that ocean, that, that community, that ecosystem we're all affected by it.
But it also gives us this opportunity, you know, to anchor together and, to go on this journey together and to be a part of something greater. And so it stemmed from that vision and that concept and you know, more tactically speaking. Rising Tide is a community of over 70,000 small and independent business owners from all different industries that gathered together in this spirit of community over competition that share resources, knowledge, and support. Both digitally across a global sphere, but also locally in different geographic regions. They have hundreds of local chapters that are now officially meeting back in person. It's been a long two years without the meetups, but they're coming back. They meet up once a month. It's very casual folks just grab a coffee or they’ve had chapters do all sorts of things from speakers to panels, to coworking dates to photo shoots.
The local Annapolis chapter did a headshot day where photographers are like, Hey, business owners just come in, we'll take new content photos for you. And it's all free. Everything is free. It's led by volunteers. It's truly like a community-led effort where someone can raise their hand and say, I want this group in my hometown. I'm going to lead it. I'm going to organize it every month, we'll get together. And so it decreases the barrier for education to help people get access, to learning how to run a small business and just being surrounded by other business owners that are going through similar challenges.
We can either learn how to do these things the hard way, or we can have one conversation with one other person that's been there. And in 30 seconds they can share the wisdom that will save us, you know, two years of going in the wrong direction or friction we didn't have to experience. And so what we hope to do is cultivate those spaces where you feel safe and creative and brave to enter and just be surrounded by people who truly want to see you win and who is going to have your back, even if they're competing against you. Cause we say, when you walk through the door, you leave that competition outside. Like when you come into a Rising Tide meetup, it is truly about what can I do to serve today. What can I do to help somebody else out? It is not a networking event. It is not, what can I get from you?
When you flip that mindset, and come at it from a thought of who I serve and how can I help. It will not only lead to the success of other people and the relationships that are going to cultivate. It will put you on the fast track to your own success because you will become the person in that room that everybody knows they can go to. They host monthly meetups. Put out amazing guides and resources. Everything that they do is free and that has just been a really incredible journey over the last couple of years to see how the community has grown and changed and continued to flourish..
The connection actually between HoneyBook and Rising Tide is a good one to explain. So when they first created Rising Tide Natalie was a photographer. They built it because they were lonely. Sick and tired of being lonely, sick, and tired of doing this thing by themselves and the competitive environment, which is terrible for business owners. What ended up happening from starting the Rising Tide Society and having those weekly and monthly meet-ups around the US led to a collaborative meeting with HoneyBook. Then they completely aligned the vision of the future and what they wanted for these independent businesses.
Honeybook streamlines the process for small businesses. Instead of having to use 15 different tools, one for scheduling, one for contracts, one for payments, etc. And creating the psychological overload of trying to remember all of these component pieces. Honeybook has everything already built for you and your specific niche. Looking for a set of templates specific to building a coaching business, tutoring business, or even physical products, yep they have all that!
It's all about discovering the power of community over competition. Living it out is incredibly difficult. Living from a mindset of truly wanting the best for others, even in seasons when you are waiting or when you are losing, or when you are struggling. So in Built To Belong, Natalie talks about that. She talks about going through infertility and how she had built this movement and this concept. And then was challenged on it. Where there was a season when she had to lean into fertility treatments to get her beautiful family.
But there were years and years and years where she was the one watching other people when she was the one who wanted nothing more than a child. Watching friend after friend after friend gets pregnant. And that was the moment that truly challenged her to say, okay, is there space in our hard seasons to really root for other people that have the very thing we yearn for more than anything in the world? What she learned was that, although each of us adapts and, and kind of comes through those challenges uniquely and in different seasons, we may not have the capacity to cheer loudly or publicly. The mindset itself is transformational.
The mindset of understanding that when someone else wins didn't mean that a miracle wasn't waiting for her.
That infertility led her to build the business, which led her to create the community because she built a different baby. When we believe in community over competition, we believe that we can spread the challenges across the shoulders that surround us to carry us through our heart seasons, such that we don't go through it alone. When we believe in this mindset, it also means that we can still acknowledge competition. We can acknowledge and market. It's very real. It's not saying we don't believe in competition. It's just saying we believe in healthy competition. And there's a difference.
We see this within teachers too, where it's like, if you're struggling with figuring out what you're going to do, I've got your back. Let me tell you what I'm doing. Let me show you how I'm going to help my students. It became less about, I need to be the best and yet again, I just need to be my best. And some days that means surviving and other days that means making sure that she can be her best too. And I could carry her in a tough season. I can support him when it gets hard that we're not in this alone.
Your uniqueness is what will lead to your success. If you can hone in on what makes you different, what it is about you, that, you know, whether it's something you love about, like, I love teaching this and I'm fired up about it. And I just could go on for days about the subject, or this is my lived experience and it's shaped how I view X, Y, Z. When you start to hone in on what makes you different, it then sets you apart in a saturated market. And it also adds more benefit to the people that you're serving, because then you can speak to that in your brand and how you market yourself and how you communicate your value. You're going to bring more of the right people in. And we talked about this also in Built to Belong, it's not about getting everybody, it's not about all the clients, it's about the right clients or the right students. So the right people need to hear what you have to say. So first I'd say lean into your uniqueness.
Find a group of people that want to see you win, and surround yourself with supportive, inspiring, encouraging, and empowering people. The minute you do that, you know, it shifts the narrative away from petty gossip. And did you see what she did and oh, the judgment here and there? And that becomes your internal narrative. When that becomes your soundtrack. You're not going anywhere, but when you're in a room full of people that are sharing ideas, they're talking about changing things and making an impact and supporting each other, it will push you further. It will start to shift that internal dialogue and the minute that internal dialogue shifts your actions start to change. When your actions start to change, your trajectory starts to change. So be really intentional about who you surround yourself with. And dare I say if you're a people pleaser and I've been actually booked to is a lot on people pleasing and my battle against it. You're a people pleaser in the sheer thought of me saying, cut out, cut out the voices in your life that are leading you astray into that zone of I'm not enough.
Believe in yourself 110%. And just let that competence flow through you to a degree that's almost unhealthy because it will catch on with other people.
Natalie, says, shoot her a DM and start a conversation. Get in the comments and tell her how you're feeling. That's what she wants. She wants community. And conversations.
And if you want to get plugged into the community, Natalie highly recommends honeybook.com/risingtide.
Find a local group of the Rising Tide Society, show up, and introduce yourself. You know, you could literally meet your next business partner at that meetup. You could make a brand new friend. You could learn something that changes your business and your life.
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