Entrepreneurship

A Founder’s Journey Includes Health, Relationships, and Adventure With Susie deVille

A Founder’s Journey Includes Health, Relationships, and Adventure With Susie deVille

MP chatted with Susie deVille, who is dedicated to helping entrepreneurs build successful businesses by rediscovering their creativity and leveraging the power of their true nature, about her entrepreneurial journey. An author, coach, and entrepreneur who built and sold a highly profitable real estate firm, she has been researching innovation and creativity since 2005. deVille is the founder and CEO of the Innovation & Creativity Institute and trained as a coach with Dr. Martha Beck. Her first book, “Buoyant: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Becoming Wildly Successful, Creative, and Free,” is available wherever books are sold.  

Founder and CEO of the Innovation & Creativity Institute Susie deVille / Photo courtesy of Susie deVille

The Journey

The entrepreneurial journey is one of self-discovery. What have you learned about yourself while building your business?

The first lesson I have learned during my entrepreneurial journey is that the easier path to freedom and success stems from tapping into one’s inspired action and creativity. 

We are often taught a very different message: we will only reach our goals through more work, productivity, and discipline.

I have learned that one cannot overachieve one’s way out of burnout. 

That doing more is a false promise, a lie. 

Those who are wired to work hard (like me) find it almost impossible to believe that getting to the gut of who we are and working in alignment with that truth will ensure we reach our lofty goals.

We tend to want to cling to the world of white-knuckling, clamoring to be heard above the din of noisy competition. 

Once we step into the river of our creativity, we can release perfectionism, overwhelm, and self-doubt.

The entrepreneurial journey is often lonely. Have you experienced loneliness as an entrepreneur? If yes, what was that experience like, and how did you overcome it?

I have had moments, here and there, where I experienced loneliness, but those moments were the exception rather than the rule. 

I am fortunate to enjoy my own company and solitude, plumbing into the depths of myself, what I think, what I value, and what brings me alive.

I grew up in Highlands, NC, a small resort community in the Appalachian Mountains. 

The mountainscape is one of soulful beauty that nurtures and restores. 

I spent hours playing in the woods alone or with my sister as a child. We lived in a never-ending state of imaginative play that filled us with a profound connection to nature and the world. 

This connection gave me confidence and a willingness to trust my ideas and intuition and enjoy working alone as much as in the company of others.

The Psychological Warfare

Entrepreneurs generally sleep less, work more, and let their health slip. This combination, combined with loneliness, often results in insecurity, self-esteem issues, and low self-worth. Have you experienced any of these issues as an entrepreneur?  

Sleeping less, working more, and letting my health slip were precisely what I experienced during my life I refer to my Nuclear Winter period (2008-2013). 

When the financial markets crashed, everything in my life imploded: my finances, marriage, and health. 

I was filled with anxiety, insecurity, self-doubt, and torrents of fear. 

It was one of the darkest periods of my life, and I vowed that if I were to ever extricate myself from the hell I was living, I’d also help others escape. 

By accessing inspired action, I recovered my ability to hear myself think and once again gained access to rivers of ideas and saw solutions to work problems, paths out of mazes that had once led me to dead ends. 

And as I reclaimed my creativity, I reclaimed my sense of self, my authentic identity.

Once reassembled as my true self, I could put aside the world of struggle. 

I no longer had to work against the current, against what was the wrong version of me. 

I crafted enterprises that connected with my ideal clients and achieved escape velocity because my market could now see and hear me.

Newer entrepreneurs often equate their success with the success and value of their business. If their business fails, they are a failure. If their business succeeds, they are a success. Have you experienced this warped perception of reality? 

I most definitely have experienced equating business failure with personal failure. I was filled with unbearable shame and felt frozen in place. Due to crushing guilt and fear, I temporarily lost access to my strategic mind and intuition, which further fueled my panic.

I began with forgiving myself, letting myself off the hook. I then stopped fretting over whether a particular decision was the right one or not and embraced bold action. Getting into motion ignited something inside me that turned the flywheel of momentum 

I now define success by much more than monetary abundance—although that is a success metric. Success also comprises health, loving relationships, adventure, and travel, inspired learning, personal and professional growth, creative expression, doing work that matters and fosters positive change in the world, working from our strengths and delegating the rest, healthy habits and rituals, a peaceful mind and embodied calm, bold living and creating, and being unburdened from limiting beliefs.

In other words, success is not just about hitting business metrics, dialing up cash flow, and fine-tuning the bottom line. 

It’s not feeling slightly better while adhering to the notion that entrepreneurship must be a grind. 

It’s about setting yourself free by taking an ordinary life and business, with all their flaws and limits, and making them both extraordinary and remarkable. 

Completely in alignment with who we want to be and how we want to live and work.

What are your three biggest fears as an entrepreneur? 

My biggest fears as an entrepreneur are as follows:

  1. I will let my healthy habits and rituals slide, separating me from my state of clarity, creative insights, and ability to reach and teach others.
  2. I will cease seeking new frontiers to explore, getting lost on purpose, and stretching myself beyond my comfort zone.
  3. I will hold back my fierce truth due to fear of judgment.

The Mistakes

What are three mistakes you made early on as an entrepreneur, what did you learn from them, and how can others avoid these mistakes? 

1. Not Recognizing My Genius

When I began my adventure as an entrepreneur, I had no idea how I was wired to take action nor what my zones of genius were. 

As a result, I spent hours upon hours doing tasks I loathed that I had no business doing at the expense of staying focused on the areas that were effortless for me and grew my business exponentially.

2. Lacking the Needed Skills To Succeed

Early on, I was not skilled in knowing how to build a team. I wasn’t sure how to take inventory of the skills, temperaments, work experience, etc. 

I needed to bolster my unique talents and cover my blind spots.

3. Inability To Confidently Delegate Tasks

Once I did assemble a strong team, I could not delegate with confidence. 

Honestly, I did not trust the work would get done to my standards. This was demoralizing, of course, to the team and fostered frustration. 

I learned to surrender and turn tasks over because I had no choice, and the team rose to each occasion with excellence.

What are three things you see that are often overlooked by entrepreneurs you encounter, and how can other entrepreneurs be aware of these things from the beginning? 

1. Recognizing That Creativity Is the Missing Link to Our Business Success

Our culture tells us that creativity is for children, people with time to kill or those with special skills—certainly not us! 

Accessing our creativity backchannels powers our business forward with ease, flow, and speed, unlike anything else.

2. Our Connection to Our True Selves Is Born From and Fuels Our Creativity

Both drive connection to our ideal markets and cash. 

That is, no creativity, no connection. 

No connection, no cash.

3. Self-Trust Serves As Our Bridge Across the Chasm of Doubt

We strengthen the musculature of our self-trust by engaging in making something, releasing perfectionism and pessimism in bold doing.

The Successes

What are some seemingly insurmountable obstacles you’ve faced as an entrepreneur, and how have you overcome them? 

During my Nuclear Winter period, I was $250K in debt, 70 pounds overweight, and paralyzed with fear. 

When I re-learned how to see, how to hone my awareness, and how to sink into a deep presence within the moment, letting my intuition come to the fore, I recovered my ability to hear myself think and once again gained access to rivers of ideas and saw solutions to work problems, paths out of mazes that had once led me to dead ends.

I began establishing healthy habits and rituals and gently folded them into my day, little by little until they became routine. 

Confidence was born in making and keeping my promises, and I leveraged that confidence to take more significant steps and risks. 

I focused on small, daily wins, one step at a time.

Once reassembled as my true self, I could put aside the world of struggle. 

I no longer had to work against the current, against what was the wrong version of me. 

I crafted enterprises that connected with my ideal clients and achieved escape velocity because my market could now see and hear me. 

The real me. ‘

Living, working and being from the core of my true self emanated a potent signal, landing on hearts and ears seeking precisely what I offered.

What are three ways you have managed to boost your productivity without causing burnout? 

1. Do Less and Move Forward Confidently

As entrepreneurs, we're constantly pushing our limits. When we feel unmotivated and uninspired, we think more discipline is the answer. 

We push ourselves harder, only to find we're more disconnected than ever. We feel stuck, exhausted, and out of alignment with our passions. 

Burned out!

The path to productivity is paradoxical, doing less, not more. 

When we drop into states of flow and ease, we can discover and articulate our unique voice, move out of stuck, and rocket forward with clarity and confidence.

2. Be Inspired

When we live and work in an inspired state of playful possibility, joy, and curiosity, overdoing no longer holds a hypnotic trance over us. 

We step off the gerbil wheel of pushing ourselves harder and harder and no longer tolerate depriving ourselves of a lightness of being.

3. Tap Into Innate Creativity

By tapping into the goldmine that is our innate creativity, we leap over censoring ourselves without fearing “getting it wrong” or being judged. We take bold action, which connects us most powerfully to states of success that previously eluded us.

The Advice

How can newer entrepreneurs develop a healthy work-life balance even when it seems like an impossible task?

The easiest, most fun way to access a healthy work-life balance is through what I call The 5Ms™:

Meditation

Start with five minutes of simply sitting quietly. 

Even if all kinds of thoughts pop to the surface, just let them come, and notice them. You do not have to stop having thoughts. 

Don’t try to force them away because the more you resist what is going on in your mind, the more your jumpy thoughts will persist.

Morning Pages

The brainchild of author Julia Cameron, Morning Pages are three pages written in longhand each day. As their name suggests, you do them in the morning. They are your private depository of all your crazy-making thoughts, a daily brain dump onto the page. 

This simple practice holds immense magic and is powerfully effective.

Movement

This is an hour of physical exercise for me, typically hiking with my dog, Sophie. If you need to start with thirty minutes, do so. 

Unlike Morning Pages, you can get your movement time in at any point of the day. 

Experiment to see what time works best for you. 

Try to immerse yourself in silence and resist the urge to make this time “productive.”     

Moments of Inspired Learning

These fill us back up after the first three Ms have worked their magic, emptying us. 

We can choose our most precious and quenching Moments of Inspired Learning each day. 

They are cloudbursts of rainwater into the dry wells that live within us when we move for too long in the desert heat of overdoing. 

Let go of the rigid idea that your Moments of Inspired Learning must be time-consuming.

Making Something

This is as straightforward as it sounds. 

Keep some markers, colored pencils, paints, and your journal handy—you might doodle, sketch, color, or paint. 

You may opt to cook something or play around with a puzzle.

On the other side of stuck energy lie flow and freedom. 

On the other side of fear lies creativity. The 5Ms are rocket fuel for inspiration and help us weave threads of success throughout each day by filling our near and far periphery with clarity, calm, jump-started insights, focus, and flow, as well as moments of joy.

What three key pieces of advice would have made your entrepreneurial journey more manageable, and why? 

1. Sacred, Creative Energy

Begin and end with healing and protecting your sacred, creative energy. Fuel it with healthy habits and rituals and protect it with boundaries.

2. Remember

Through doing The 5Ms™, remember what brings you alive and what you love.

3. Forget Perfection and Do

Release the panicky notion you must have it all figured out before you begin. The show is revealed in the doing.

What do you think the most significant difference is between how an entrepreneur sees their career path versus how an employee at a company sees their career path, and why?

Whether in an entrepreneurial entity or a corporation, an agency fosters a clear embodiment of the mission; from there, meaning and motivation to make an impact drive passionate and creative problem-solving. 

What role has intuition played in your success as an entrepreneur, and why do you think this is the case?

Once I regained access to my intuition through tapping into my inspired creativity, I began to surrender more readily to the Unknown. 

Once in this state, I could tolerate uncertainty, make rapid decisions, and take bold action, which magnetized me for attracting opportunities, support, and market share.

Other

Is there anything else you would like to share?

As entrepreneurs, we become a magnet to our ideal markets when we have put ourselves back at the helm of our own lives and fiercely protect our creative energy and boundaries. 

From there, we find the success and freedom we so desperately seek--and are indelible in the minds of our ideal clients.

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