6 things I'd Tell Myself 6 Years Ago, When I Started (Part 2)
Your Biggest Vision
Season 3, Ep. 67

It’s the 6 year anniversary of buying my first domain name: urban20something.com. If I could go back, I would give that scared, brave girl a hug as she clicked “purchase” because she is the reason I am where I am today. Taking one small (but also momentous) action that rippled out into my now 7-figure business.

This is part two of the 6 things I’d tell myself back then to help me think bigger than just earning $400 extra a month, move out of living paycheck to paycheck faster, and encourage her as she took big risks to make this dream life possible.

Tune in to hear:

  • my biggest fears when starting out vs. my fears that came true

  • how much debt I went into to start my business

  • how to push past the inevitable obstacles and doubt by pairing mindset work with tangible action

My signature program Scale Your Side Hustle® is now enrolling! If you want to bring something to life that’s been in the back of your head for years, or finally see results from an IG account you’ve been running for months, or get out of your 9-5 once and for all, this program is for you. Join the waitlist here!

(Click here to tune in!)

Tune in to hear my biggest fears when starting out vs. my fears that came true how much debt I went into to start my business, and more!

Hear the Episode

Episode Transcription

Leah Gervais:

Hello everyone. Welcome back to the podcast. Thank you for those of you that are listening here on Instagram live. I am Leah and this week is part two of a two part series I’m doing in honor of my six year anniversary. Since I bought the domain urban 20 something.com, which was my original blog name that has morphed into the business that I now have and love so much. There are so many things I would go back and tell that girl.

And I also would give her a big hug because she was so scared. And I also would like to buy her dinner because I really have her to thank for basically everything in my life right now. And before we dive in, I also wanna make sure everyone knows that it is scarier side hustles season. So if you have been following me, you probably know about my signature program, scale, your side hustle.

We have run this. I think this is the 10th time or something like that. Several times we have so many success stories. We have helped over 100 people start and scale their side hustles and watching people bring something to life that they’ve had in their, in the back of their head for years, or finally actually see results on an Instagram account.

They’ve been like half running for like six months or get out of their nine to five job is so incredible time and time again. So this is for you. If you either want to start a side hustle or you’ve already started it, but you’re not making the money that you want with it. If you already are a full-time entrepreneur and you’re looking for support with me and your income to, uh, you know, half a million, seven figures, please reach out to us.

We have a few other programs, but this is for my side hustlers. So if you have not taken scale your side hustle yet, then go to my website, Leah dravet.com. You can get on the wait lists. Um, oops. Hopefully. Okay. Yeah, you can get on the wait lists. Uh, you can read about the program. You can be the first to know when it opens, we’re gonna cap it. So don’t delay.If this is at all, something that will serve you, it’s going to be incredible. It is the first one of 2022. Um, I think we’re only gonna open it once more this year, so there’s really no time like the present to join and get in on this. Okay. With that, I wanna talk a little bit about my early side hustle days. So six years ago, just for a little bit of context, I was working as a paralegal.

I was making $45,000 a year living in Manhattan. One of the most expensive cities in the world. I lived in a one bedroom and there were three of us and it’s not that I was in this horrible situation. And I really, you know, try to emphasize that. I don’t think you have to have this like rags to riches story to really have kind of your own heroes journey.

And so I wasn’t in this like dangerous situation, but every dollar counted, every dollar I would track. I even remember going to the grocery store and compare different prices of cans of tuna. like the nicer cans of tuna with the less nice, because I had to make those decisions in order to be able to pay my rent. So that was just kind of where I was at. I was paying around $700 a month in student loans, which was so expensive.

I was paying my rent and every dollar after that was something I had to account for very, very different reality than what I have now, which I’m very grateful for. Nonetheless, that was when I decided I obviously needed to start a side hustle, I couldn’t live off my paralegal salary alone. And I was realizing I didn’t wanna go to law school.

And there were just a lot of different things coming together that were encouraging me to start something for myself and, and by myself and, and see what I could make of it. So that girl six years ago was living beyond paycheck to paycheck, like dollar $2. Um, really had to save up for a few weeks in order to have $50 to spend on my initial website. And I remember getting up early in the morning to create it and really didn’t have the direction or vision to have a seven figure business like I do.

Now. I remember hoping to make 400 extra dollars a month that would’ve been life changing to me because at the time I was making like $2,000 a month after New York city taxes. So that was my goal. And it took me a lot longer to get there, but obviously I did not give up the most important part of my story is I have continued to work toward this every day and continue to push myself to do something bigger as I go, not to stay in the same place.

Even now I’m thinking of what, what bigger things I can do. And, and I’ve achieved things at this point that I never thought I would in my life. But the point is I have a lot of compassion for that girl. And here are the follow up three things. So last week I did three things I would tell her, here are the three other to make a total of six things I would tell her.

The first thing is a big one. This is about fears. If I could go back and tell myself anything, it would be to realize that all the fears I had about starting my own business and starting a blog, were actually going to come true. And I think I wanna point this out because at the time, what I would’ve wanted someone to tell me is that my fears were not going to come true.

So my fears at the time, six years ago looked like this. What if I quit my job and I don’t have enough money to pay my rent? What would I do? or what if I start an Instagram account and people from high school follow me and laugh at me and I’m, and I fail. And I’m this laughing stock. How embarrassing would that be? I even followed other bloggers that never really picked up.

Believe it or not, like I actually sought out blogs that never really picked up steam, not because I was trying to be mean, but just because I, excuse me, wanted to a realistic with myself, I felt like it was so easy to watch the people that had succeeded. And I thought, well, how many people are trying, but not succeeding. And so I thought, what if I ended up like that? What if I ended up doing everything they’re doing, they’re posting, they’re consistent. They show up, they’re trying. And what if I still never really get off the ground?

And then this was all for nothing. What if I go into debt and then I am not able to pay it back. And then I end up on CNN laughed at because I kind of decided I wanted to start my own business, but I didn’t really have any direction.

And I listened to people on the internet and I took out $10,000 on my credit card and I never was able to pay it back. So there were layers and layers and layers of fear, fear of judgment, fear of failure, fear of success, fear of debt, fear of visibility, fear of, um, fear of not, you know, not trusting myself is what I came down to fear of not being able to make money back fear of going broke.

Fear of being further back in the journey that I was trying to embark on than I was at the time. Fear of opportunity costs so many fears on fears on fears. And all I wanted at the time was for someone future Leah to come to her, to come to me and say, it’s gonna be okay. You are going to succeed. Your business is going to make it.

Um, no one, like people are gonna follow you and respect you. They’re not going to laugh at you. You’re going to make money. You’re going to be able to pay off your debt. Everything’s gonna be okay. That’s what I wanted to hear. And in a sense, a lot of my fears just didn’t come true. I think we all know this. A lot of our fears are unrealistic.

I never ended up on CNN because I went into too much debt. I really heard about people gossiping about me. Actually. That’s not true. I have heard about people gossiping about me, but I never overly felt judged. Um, I didn’t fail. Right? My, my business is my, is a seven figure business and is my full-time business. I never had to go back to a nine to five job. I’ve never not been able to pay my rent.

I’ve never not been able to pay my team. um, I was able to pay all my debt back. Like a lot of those things just didn’t happen, but really a lot of things did. A lot of my fears came true. I did go into debt and I didn’t pay it off for a while and I lost sleep. And I was up at 3:00 AM and I was embarrassed to talk to my now husband about it. We weren’t married at the time.

And so, you know, it’s different at the time. We weren’t like sharing finances. And so I was scared of what he would think, knowing that I like went into all this debt to start a business that really didn’t have any promise of succeeding other than my grit. I, so that happened. I, uh, I, I have had people laugh at me. I’ve had people write mean comments on my post.

I’ve had people message me mean things. I’ve had people tell me what other people have said behind my back or to my face or whatever. I’ve had mean email sent to me. I’ve had people wanting to sue me because they have so many problems with me. Those things have happened. Um, I’ve had fear of judgment, even though my business hasn’t failed. I’ve had failed launches.

I’ve had launches where I try something and no one, no one, I’m not sharing this to throw myself a pity party. I’m sharing this because the power isn’t that my fears didn’t come true. The power is that they did come true and they didn’t, it didn’t matter. And I still hit seven figures and I still am able to pay my rent every month and pay my team and pay and save money and do all the other things. I really wanted money for so many years ago.

And I’m able to help my clients in a massively transformative way. And I get to watch them change their lives every day. And I’m really proud of the stuff we put out there and our programs are life changing. So all the things that I initially set out for still have come true. My fears, yes, have come true, but they didn’t stop me. And that right there is the power, because that’s when you realize that you don’t need to be afraid of what can get thrown your way.

You will have challenges. Some of them you can anticipate hate and be afraid of some of them will completely blindside you and will be things you didn’t ever anticipate. And in either situation, you can handle it. And when you have that element of self trust, you move so much faster. Your fears become so much less significant because all the obstacles are the quivers that keep you from making quick decisions no longer feel like they’re a threat to your potential because you know you can handle them.

I no longer fear putting out something, because what if, what if I’m laughed at I no longer fear launching, because what if it fails? Because I know that if those things happen, I can think quickly I can get resourceful. I can tap into my mindset. That’s, you know, my kind of secret weapon and I can figure it out. And I know that, and I trust myself. I trust that within myself.

I wish I could go back and tell that girl, you are so much stronger than you think you are. And these people that are gonna judge you and these people that are gonna write me in comments and those launches that fail, like who cares, screw them for lack of a better word. I’m reading Ryan Serhant’s autobiography right now. I’m a big real estate fan. So I’ve been watching million dollar listing and I’m getting his autobiography.

I think he’s funny. And he is definitely a hustler. So you can learn a thing or two from him. And he, he talks about how his motto is FTG. F*ck that guy. And just when he needs to just like, totally let something roll off his back. That’s what he does. I don’t think I would say that about people quite that directly. I like the essence.

Like at some point you can just say, if someone’s being mean to me, if someone’s writing a mean comment, if someone’s judging me, who cares, that’s more on them than me. So what I’ve learned from that and what I wish I could really help everyone. See, I think in the beginning of business, it’s easy to not realize that your fears are fears. You think that they are signs or you’re being responsible. Well, I shouldn’t go into debt because what if I don’t pay it off?

That’s a very responsible thing to think. But when is it just a fear telling you don’t do this because you don’t trust yourself to make it back. That’s when we wanna really recognize how fears are very sneaky and disguise themselves and, and do hold us back. And even if our fears come true and they will not all of them, but some of them will. And some of them that you can’t even anticipate will you can handle it.

The second thing to that point that I would go back and tell myself is to not be afraid of debt. So this is a very personal one. And I’m always a little hesitant to talk about my financial journey, because I don’t wanna come off as getting financial advice, but it is like the thing I really needed permission with all those years ago. And it would’ve saved me so much fear and heartache. If I could have just understood what I now know to be true. Debt is a neutral experience. It is a neutral circumstance. The reason that there’s such a negative connotation with it in our society

Is because so many people don’t have a good relationship with it and get into it unintentionally. They get into it because they can’t afford things. They don’t know how to make money. They don’t have that. An understanding of how your mindset can really be the biggest thing making you money. And so it ends up being a neutral circumstance that came out of a negative circumstance.

You either were financially illiterate. You didn’t know how to budget correctly. Um, you just simply didn’t have enough money and a surprise bill got thrown your way. None of these things really feel like they’re empowered choices or do they feel like they are positive scenarios in which people wanna be in? So that was my situation. I felt like debt was a bad thing. And I had an accountant as a father. My dad, my dad has passed away and he passed away.

Right? As I started going into debt, which was super sticky mentally because he did always tell me, consumer debt is a bad thing. Debt is a bad thing. Don’t go into debt. Don’t pay off your credit card in full every month. That’s really what he hammered into my financial reality. So the decision that I, when I eventually realized, Hey, I, I can’t do this on my own. This isn’t working. I have to, I have to change something.

My going into credit card debt was really my only option unless I went to a bank and got a loan, which I didn’t feel like I could do, because I didn’t feel like I had a provable business model that was really hard and really emotional for me because I felt like I was going against, my dad had always told me to do, but I now can see clearly in what I wish I could have told that girl, because this kept her up at night.

This was a really stressful decision that I was using it as a tool. I was choosing to do it and I could make it a positive circumstance. I could decide that this was going to be the best financial decision I ever made because it was going to get me out of my $45,000 a year salary.

At that time, I had no idea I could turn it into a seven figure business, but I did at least think that I could make at least some extra money around my nine to five job. Um, hopefully quit it and work for myself and then have a limitless income. So I decided I have the power to put myself in this situation rather than end up in it. And what do I want this situation to be? I wanna leverage this. I want to use it to my benefit.

I want to create something. I wanna have a limitless income. I want to create something better for myself, bigger for myself, something that gets me out of this situation. And that’s what I did. Thanks to the debt that I went into. I paid off my student loan, like five years ahead of schedule in full, like I just paid ’em in cash and call it a day. Thanks to my, the debt that I was in.

I have a million dollar business and I’ve made a million dollars in sales. If I continued on the paralegal trajectory and I would have gone to, uh, law school. Then right now in 2022, I would have been, let’s see, I would’ve been in the class of 2016, so I would’ve been around two years out of law school. Um, probably in debt up to my eyes because I would’ve gone into six figures of debt to go to law school, six figures.

Okay. Before all in all I would say with my business, I probably ended up having, I don’t know, something like $20,000, maybe $30,000 of debt before I hit six figures and, you know, completely was able to, to pay it off. Um, I initially spent five do $5,000 on that I was in debt for, and then I like kind of paid it off, but then I would spend more.

And I really just aggressively spent in the first few years cuz I wanted my business to go up a lot. So anyway, back to my example, if I would’ve gone to law school and I was a lawyer at this point, if, if best case scenario, I would’ve gotten a job at a corporate law firm here in New York. Yes, I’d be making like 150, maybe $200,000 a year. Um, so that would be a comfortable salary note that that is less than I make now.

That is less than my business makes now. But even if it wasn’t just still follow with me, even if I was making that salary, that’s assuming I would’ve gotten that kind of job and that’s then I would still be paying off my, my law school debt. And I would have a hell of a lot more debt than I ever went into for my business. Yes.

There’s I guess a difference between educational debt and consumer debt in the sense that there’s a lower interest rate, but in terms of like the intention of it and that’s really all debt is about is like, what are you using it for? It’s the same. It was money that I paid for that I didn’t have in order to further my career, that would’ve been the same and it would’ve been so much more expensive in law school. It would’ve taken me way longer to payoff and I would’ve been a lot less happy and plus opportunity costs.

You know what, I’m a, the age that I am now making what I am now versus what I would’ve been then, um, in the other scenario, if I would’ve stayed at the nonprofit that I worked at for a while, and I wouldn’t have gone to grad school, I’d probably, I’d be lucky if I was making $80,000 a year right now, maybe six figures, but pro probably not.

Debt was the best financial decision I ever made. And I, I could have gone a route of going to a prestigious law school and it still would’ve been. I also could have gone the route. Continuing to work at a nonprofit and not going to graduate school, but working at a nine to five job. And it also would’ve been, so that’s such a realization for me and that’s why I wanna talk so openly about it.

And also now that I’ve, you know, my business has made it to this amount of money. One of the things we recently did this year, that was like a big goal of mine for a long time, was buying investment property. I’ve always wanted, I love real estate, obviously. That’s why I’m watching million dollar listing and I’ve always wanted to own one and rent it out.

And I chose to take out a mortgage on that. Not cuz I have the cash, but because I would rather have the cash flow in my life and I’m not anti debt anymore. I understand that it’s a tool I’m choosing how to use it. It’s not a big deal. It’s like money that I pay every month. I don’t think twice about it. It has no impact on my life. And it’s actually building me up for my future, which is what your business debt can do.

So that is a long-winded way of saying that if you know that if you could invest in your business or invest in a program or invest in a coach or do whatever, spend some type of money that would put you in a better situation, but you are so tightly clinging onto it because you’re so terrified of debt. You need to really look at the reality of your situation and ask yourself if that belief is serving you still.

And if that’s even your circumstances, are you going into it because you can’t afford your life or are you going into it because you’re investing in your future. Another excerpt from Ryan Serhant’s book, he talks about how like when he got his first million dollar client, the first client that wanted to buy a seven figure apartment in New York, like up until then he was dealing with like 24 year olds who just got jobs as analysts on wall street and wanted to spend like $2,500 a month living in Murray hill, which if you’re in New York, you know how fraty, that is like that’s who he was a broker for.

And when he got his first client that was ready to spend a million dollars, he went to Macy’s and bought a credit. He bought a, uh, a tux from Macy’s, not a tux, but a suit for Macy’s that he couldn’t afford. And he put it on a credit card. He rented a town car for the day that he couldn’t afford and he put it on a credit card. And then he went down to Chinatown and bought a fake Rolex watch that he like also put on a credit card.

He went into debt and that wasn’t even like for a business, but this opportunity that was for clothes that he wanted to impress a client with. But it actually was a business building opportunity because he then got that sale that completely transformed his career. It boosted his com, he got a really good commission and he kind of went up from there.

So that was a great financial decision. How often do we think, oh, don’t go into debt for clothes. Right? That sounds so frivolous. That sounds so irresponsible. But it’s all what you’re telling yourself. It’s all what you’re allowing yourself to make of this situation. And in his situation, that was the, that was the right decision. It was able to help him land a more high tier client. It was able to help change what he was able to do as a real estate broker.

And he only went up from there and his commission went up and he was able to pay off his debt, like from that sales alone easily. Okay. So to, uh, conclude that one, the second tip of today is don’t be afraid of debt. That’s what I would go back and tell and explain to myself, debt can be an incredible tool if you use it strategically and intentionally, it was the best financial decision I ever made.

I was able to quit my nine to five job. I’m able to employ a, my sister is my full-time employee. I pay her almost six figures. I’m really proud of that. And we have six other women, all women on the team. I was able to pay off my student loans faster and I’m able to afford the life that I have all because I went into debt crazy as it is.

The sixth thing that I wanna share in this series, the third point of today is that you can’t even imagine how good your life is going to get. If I could go back and tell myself six years ago, that Leah that was getting up at 4:30 in the morning, playing the piano guys, Pandora station. So I could concentrate and trying to learn what WordPress was trying to learn. What SEO was trying to hack, affiliate links, trying to make 20 bucks here and there and, and grinding for something she didn’t even really know.

She could have. I would tell her, not only are you gonna be able to make three or $400 around your nine to five, not only are you going to be able to, um, you know, create something that’s your own. Those were really my only first intentions. You’re going to be able to work for yourself. You’re going to be able to work from anywhere in the world. You’re going to be able to host retreats in places like Los Angeles.

You’re going to be able to work in places like the coast of Italy or Israel. Um, you’re going to work from your laptop. You’re going to get married and be able to pay for your vera wang gown because of the $50 you spent on this WordPress, you’re going to be able to become a mother and stay home with him and breastfeed him every three hours because of this business that you’re starting, you’re going to be able to live in New York city and a life beyond what you could have dreamed of your dreams are about to come true.

And this might just sound like one big brag Fest, but I’m proud of it, to be honest. And I hope that you brag about that. You accomplished that you have as well. No, one’s gonna do it for you and that you in the past is so proud of the things you’ve accomplished now. And to that point, think of what you six years from now wants to tell yourself what decisions are you making today that maybe six years from now you’ll make a podcast about and think yourself, what risk are you taking?

Where are you betting on yourself? Where are you pushing yourself to go further? Where are you imagining something bigger from yourself? Where are you deciding to stop, play it, safe, playing it safe. Where are you rethinking? What your career, what your money, what your lifestyle could look like? Where are you leveling up?

Where are you putting yourself out there? Even when you’re vulnerable and don’t know what people are and don’t even know what the hell you’re talking about some of the time , I don’t really feel like I don’t know what I’m talking about anymore, but back in the day, I sure did. And I’m still very, you know, I work all the time on, on fear of what people think about me. When I, when I, when I do these lies, when I do these podcast episodes, when I do really anything. And I know that there are things that mean in the future are thanking myself for you, have no idea how incredible your life can get.

There is a whole world out there waiting for you. There is a world of ease and effortless and flow and self-employment and being your own boss and working from home, working from hotel rooms, working from the plain seat of a first class seat, working from the nursery while you have your baby, if that’s what you decide to do, not working, not working in the middle of certain days because you don’t wanna because you wanna go shopping, cuz you wanna go to lunch because you wanna hang out with your family because you wanna travel.

All of that is available for you. It is up to your mindset and your action to get you there. But you can get there. You’ve gotta stick with it. You’ve gotta be persistent. You can’t let anything tell you that your vision isn’t achievable or that it isn’t something that is meant for you and that you can’t go for. And you cannot cannot let the obstacles that will stand in your way and they will make no mistake.

You will have times when you fail, you will have times when you’re laughed at. You will have times when you’re judged. You will have times when you’re stressed about money. You will have times when you don’t know if you made the right decision and the difference between those who overcome those obstacles and those who succumb to them is just that. Are you gonna continue moving forward? Or are you going to allow yourself to play the victim and think, well, this just didn’t work.

This didn’t work for me, worked for someone else. I heard Leah on a podcast, it worked for her. Didn’t work for me. It works for you because you choose it to work for you. It’s all in your mind, all in your mindset, what you think informs what you believe. And that informs the actions. Mindset work isn’t enough. Neither is action. But the two together can really help you transform every part of your life. And that is what’s waiting for you.

I hope you guys found this helpful, no matter where you are in your journey, think about where you wanna be in five years from now. And if that girl, that woman, that man, whatever you identify as listening to this could write back to you now. And thank you and tell you a few different things about what you then know, what would it be and how would you take different actions today?

I know if I knew all the things that I just shared with you guys, I would’ve moved a lot. I would’ve had a lot less self-doubt. I would’ve played a bigger game sooner and I don’t regret anything. You know, everything kind of led me now to where I am and, and taught me what I needed to know so that I could teach it to others and learn from my mistakes. It doesn’t have to be that hard. It doesn’t have to be that dramatic.

The flaws, the failures, the stumbles will happen and you are strong enough to get through them. And there’s so much waiting for you on the other side. All right, everyone. Thank you so much for tuning in. Remember the doors to scaler side hustle are about to open. If you wanna get in and be the first to know when they do and get on the wait lists and get, uh, a discount. Get on the waitlist, go Leah dravet.com and sign up right there. You can always message me if you have questions and I will see you guys soon. Thank you so much. Have a great week.

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