Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at“I don’t want to be a crappy hermit, I want to be a happy hermit!”

In 2014 I was one of the speakers in the telesummit ‘Innovative Change for Entrepreneurs – Be the Light’ by Jo Ann Hammond-Meiers.

This is an excerpt from that interview:

Jo Ann: Hi, I’m Jo Ann Hammond-Meiers with ‘Innovative Change for Entrepreneurs -Be the Light’, and today’s guest is Brigitte van Tuijl. Welcome, Brigitte.

Brigitte:  Thank you, Jo Ann.

Jo Ann:  Just going to say a little bit about you for our listeners. You are a coach since 2001, an entrepreneur since 2003, a published author since 2008, and you work globally since 2012. For over a decade, you’ve been coaching clients to successfully monetize their mission in their own way, which is really important. .

You’re also an extremely introverted, strong willed, outspoken, hermit since the day you were born. Now you call yourself The Happy Hermit, and you’re running and growing your business in a way that totally honors your need for lots of alone time. You love people and you love to interact with them, as long as you also have plenty of time to be alone.  This is really encouraging for some of the people that are introverted or maybe even more hermit like. Not everybody has to have the same personality style to be successful in business.

You’ve experienced how difficult it is run and a grow a business on your own terms, especially when your wants, needs, purpose, and personality seem to be completely contradicting each other. That’s a challenge. You’re going to share a bit about that with us today. We haven’t had anybody address that yet.

Brigitte:  Yeah, it was a challenge for me too.

Jo Ann:  Sure, this gives you a deep knowledge and understanding of what really needs to happen to build success on your own terms and being true to who you really are. You’ll give this knowledge to teach other women and men here on our lines, our listeners here today how to accomplish this as well. Thank you, this is an innovative talk from a hermit.

Jo Ann:  We’ll begin with the questions then. Your talk is called “Three Crucial Steps to Boldly Build a Successful Mission Driven Business on Your Own Terms”. The first question I’d like to ask is why is it important to do business on your own terms? Especially for mission driven entrepreneurs?

Brigitte:   I think in general it’s important for everyone to do business on their own terms, because if you don’t it’s so easy to kind of lose yourself in your business, work too hard, and sometimes even burn out. And then you’re successful but at the expense of your lifestyle or your family, your friends, time for yourself. I think the danger of that is even bigger when you’re a mission driven entrepreneur, because you have this drive from your heart and your soul that you want to help people, you want to make a difference, to bring change. So you’re really driven and passionate, and that might trigger you to work too hard, to give too much, and to not take good enough care of yourself.

That’s why I think it’s important to do business on your own terms: to be able to make a difference, to be able to be successful, and to enjoy it as well. If you don’t enjoy it, what’s the point?

Jo Ann:  You are really talking about the lifestyle of health and wealth and successful businesses going together. It’s about how we’re going to be able to be be who we are, and pace ourself in a way that doesn’t burn us out or makes us unhappy, because we’re working too hard. It’s not about being pushed or pushing ourself, it’s about something that aligns with who we are, is that what you’re saying?

Brigitte:  Yes, absolutely. Yes.

Jo Ann:  Great. Great. Why is it complicated for so many women entrepreneurs to do business on their own terms?

Brigitte:  In general, women aren’t used to take a stand for the way they want to do business on their own terms, because what you have to do if you want to create a business on your terms is that you have to put yourself first. You have to put your own needs first, you have to know what they are of course, but you have to put them first. That’s something that most women aren’t very used to doing and they always, — well, not always, I mean I’m exaggerating here, but they always put the needs of everyone else first including the needs and wants and demands their clients make. You have to put yourself first, and that’s quite new and uncomfortable and uneasy for a lot of women and for women entrepreneurs as well.

Jo Ann:  It’s like we have to retrain ourselves in this new way of thinking. Some people even find it difficult to think of being their own best friend.

How has this been effective for you in business and how is it helping you by caring for yourself first?

Brigitte:  Well, basically, I had no choice. As you mentioned at the beginning of our talk, I am very introverted, and for people don’t know what that is, this basically means that social interaction and being around people drains my energy, and I need to be alone to recharge. I’m extremely introverted. It’s why I call myself a hermit, which means I get drained very, very soon. Which is quite an interesting challenge, because I love people and I’m a coach so I work with people.

If I interact with people too much or too long in a row, than I just get so incredibly miserable, totally unhappy, and I’ve been struggling in my business with that well, forever, since the start. It was always like this: I had enough clients to make enough money to pay the bills, but then I’d have too much interaction, and felt tired and unhappy.

And then I shut the door to more clients and appointments, which was very good for my well being but very bad for my bank account. And then I had to get more clients to make more money, and the same thing happened again: I made enough money, but felt miserable again. It went like that for a long time.

It just never occurred to me that being introverted was actually my strength. I saw it as a weird thing that I had to work around, that I had to deal with, and I thought it was an obstacle instead of an asset.

The moment I started seeing it as my talent and my gift, and the moment I embraced it and accepted it myself….. Because I didn’t accept at first. I thought that I just had to adjust. I really, really struggled with that myself, and not everyone listening to this now will be a hermit or even introverted, but I do believe that a lot of people understand or recognize that there is something about your personality or what you dream about or what you want or the way that you are that just seems to not fit in your business or that seems to be contradictory of being an entrepreneur. I see that in my clients as well. Most people have something that they think is not compatible with being an entrepreneur, or making money, and they think they have to adjust too. Most people aren’t sure if they can REALLY be themselves in their business, totally and completely, AND do business on their own terms, AND be successful AND make enough money AND can be happy, all at the same time.

Now, I forgot what your question was so I hope I answered it.

Jo Ann:  You did really great. I was just asking you why — how this applied to your business. How did you get to be happier in your business and your life here?

Which leads into the next question which is why you call yourself a ‘happy hermit.’

Brigitte:  Well, that’s basically because I had a coach back then….. Well, I still have a coach, but this was my previous coach in 2012, and every time I was talking to her about my business plans, marketing strategies, stuff like that, every time I felt what I called my inner hermit, my introverted side, speaking to me: Don’t do that, you’re too busy, slow down. And then I said to my coach: My inner hermit is really shouting at me right now so we have to change something.

At the end of the year, we were talking about my business plan for 2013, and it was just too much. We were looking at that plan, and I said, the hermit’s not happy. My inner hermit is not happy. She feels crappy. I’m not going to do this. I don’t want to be a crappy hermit, I want to be a happy hermit. I don’t know how, but I’m choosing that right now. That’s what I’m going to do, because I’ve been struggling with this for years now, it makes me unhappy, it drains me, no more.

That actually was the first step to find — to figure out what do I really want and to give myself permission to dream about that freely without thinking: that’s not possible, or whoa, that’s weird or get real, woman, you’re a coach, you have to work with people. Go work with people. I gave myself permission to think about what it was I really wanted.

Then when I knew what that looked like, and for me that means amongst other things that I don’t interact for more than four hours per week with my clients, and then the next step was to figure out how to put that into a business model which means leveraging my time, expanding my team, working with groups more, creating products, all of these practical things that allow me to interact with my clients four hours a week and that’s it, and still be able to grow my business and work with a lot of people and have impact.

That’s in a nutshell how I did it. It was a struggle. It took me a couple of months to really make it work and to work it all out, but this in a nutshell, this is how I did it.

Jo Ann: That’s super. I think some of the products you created that you might not have created if you worked long hours with one-on-one coaching. And group coaching can be effective for many and more affordable. It doesn’t just work for you as a business owner, it also works for you strategically to build your business and serve others as well.

Brigitte: Yes, absolutely.

Jo Ann:  What does this have to do with your theme of creating a successful business on your own terms?

Brigitte:  Well, what this experience taught me… because I always did everything in my own way.  I was always strong willed and I always made it work to do things my own way. I was already teaching that to my clients as well, but this final piece around being a hermit and not being able to fit that into my business, that’s where I really struggled and that’s what taught me the exact things that other people struggle with as well.

You not accepting something about yourself, which is the first step, is something you can really struggle with. People think: will others think it’s weird if I do it this way? Will my clients or everybody think that I’m crazy and run away? Maybe they don’t want to work with you anymore. All these fears can be triggered when you really start to think about doing business on your own terms.

Because I struggled so much with that myself, I totally get that. I understand it, and my clients feel safe with me for that reason, because they feel that it’s okay to not know how to do it. They feel that it’s okay to not accept parts of yourself or to not know how to integrate them into your business, and they also see that it’s possible, because I made it happen with my weird hermit-thing, and so they can make it work too.

That I think is why I talk about it. That’s why I call myself a happy hermit, because I want to be a role model for other people so they can see, oh, yeah, even though it may seem impossible for me right now to do business in my own way, it CAN be done! If she can do it, I can do it too! That’s what I want people to know.

Jo Ann: When you did this, it seems to me that you also were talking about the possibilities for them rather than the limitation; to pivot that to a really positive thing. Also, it seems to me that it’s about boundaries, because boundaries aren’t talked about near as much as I think they should, but once you began to have and establish your boundaries, I think that people could see that they could do that as well.

You might have been before the four hour work week, especially when you look at that. I have another question for you. What are those three crucial steps that you have in your title of this that you have to take to create a successful business on your own terms?

Brigitte: I kind of mentioned them, but I will–

Jo Ann:  Could you just say them again, because …I think it’s reiterating the three because sometimes it doesn’t come through as crisp as we want it.

Brigitte:   Absolutely. The first thing is to — it all starts with giving yourself permission to do business on your own terms, to understand that it’s even possible, that it’s okay to do that. Give yourself permission to do that. That’s really the very, very, very first step.

Jo Ann:  It’s the core of self-acceptance and not fighting yourself, because you should fit into some other mold.

Brigitte:  Yes, and you don’t, so give yourself permission to be different, to do things different, to do it in your way, on your terms. Then the second thing is to know what your terms are. What does that look like? Well, maybe you can come up with it in five minutes, I don’t know, but really try to dig into that. For me it took longer than 5 minutes to figure out that I wanted to limit my interaction with clients to four hours a week.

I didn’t immediately know that. I started thinking: what if I limit it to eight hours a week? I imagined what that would be like, and then I could just feel in my stomach that I didn’t want that. I lowered that number to six hours a week, and I imagined again what that felt like. My stomach hurt, really literally hurt. Oh, man, six hours is still way too much. I went down to five, still felt uncomfortable, then I went down to four. Then I felt relief and spaciousness.

If you start thinking about: what do I want my business to look like, how do I want to do business? The really go for it all the way until you feel that spaciousness, until it really feels good, and as long as you feel a little stressed out or think, I don’t know, but I might have to settle for this, you’re not there yet. It’s still not your ideal image. Give yourself permission and really dig deep to create the picture of what you really want, feel inside your body what the right fit for you looks like. You always know, because then you feel relief and spaciousness.

Jo Ann:  If people don’t know how to do this, picture it and feel it in their body, some people don’t. They could contact you and you could help them with that, right?

Brigitte:  Yes, I could. You really don’t have to stay stuck. Once you know what you want your business to look like and what your terms are, then it’s important to figure out which of these terms are your non-negotiables, things you will never ever, ever, ever compromise on, because certain things are very important, but it’s okay if it’s a little bit different or if you have to adjust sometimes or a little bit, but there are — everyone has one or two or three absolute non-negotiables. Figure out what your non-negotiables are.

For me, a non-negotiable is four hours direct client interaction a week, because the moment I even think about planning a fifth appointment in my calendar, again I feel nauseous, I feel blah, and I just want to quit all together. I feel it physically so I know that is a non-negotiable for me. And I hurt my clients too if I do make that fifth appointment, because I can’t be there for them fully. It’s better for all of us.

Figure out what your non-negotiables are. Another term of mine is that I don’t like to make appointments before 10 AM in the morning, but that’s not a non-negotiable. If someone says, okay, 9.30, is that okay? That’s okay. Not every week, not every time, but that’s okay, we can talk about that. That’s no problem, but four hours a week maximum, that’s not negotianable.

Figure out what your non-negotiables are, and make it a rule to really not compromise on it. That has to do with the boundaries you talked about earlier. Very important, this has everything to do with setting boundaries for yourself and for others. Say no to create room to say yes to everything else you want to accomplish.

Jo Ann:  When you start to empower yourself as a woman or a man entrepreneur this way or in business, what do you think you start to notice when you have this aligned and you’re congruent with this message to yourself and your clients?

Brigitte:  Well, first of all, you feel much better and more relaxed yourself, because you are honoring yourself, you are taking care of yourself which is really good. That’s empowering in and of itself. Your energy goes up, your joy goes up, you feel and experience more freedom. This gives you a lot of extra space, you open yourself up to more creativity, to listening to your intuition more. You get better ideas on how to grow your business.

You are aligned, your personality, your purpose, your passion, is aligned with your business, it’s so congruent that your clients — it’s very attractive for your clients, because you are who you are and it’s so clear what you believe in, what you stand for, the kind of person you are, what they can learn from you. It’s congruent. It’s whole so to speak. That’s very attractive to your clients as well.

At first, it may be a bit difficult or hard to create your business on your terms, but please do it, because you benefit, your business benefits from it, and your clients as well. That’s aways true. I really believe that.

Jo Ann:  Even though they might be challenged at first to set the boundaries clearly to themselves, do it, feel it, and what’s not negotiable even that they stick to their guns. They go for it and everybody wins.

Brigitte:   Everybody wins. And this is important as well: it’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to not get it right all at once. Just go easy on yourself. You created the picture, you made the decision and now you go ahead and you start doing things differently and that takes time too. That’s a process, maybe you get it right in a day or in a month or in a year, just allow yourself to grow into it, because it is a challenge or it can be a challenge. It does require you to be different, to feel different, to act different, to think different, and that takes time so give yourself that time.

Jo Ann:  I’m trying to think. Yeah, one of the things that I think with that is that it takes time. Some people might say well, how did you get a team that works for you? How did you get this time for products? How did you survive that transition? Just for people starting out, they might be curious. Could you speak about that?

Brigitte:  Yes, of course. I didn’t start from scratch. I had to create new products, but when I was still working in Dutch, before I went global, I already created products before. I knew how to create products. I didn’t start from scratch with a team. I already had people who were working for me or with me, virtual assistants. I expanded on that.

I did not start from scratch. I just took it one step at a time, building upon what I already had. Maybe someone else who wants to leverage their business more doesn’t have a virtual assistant yet, that’s okay. That’s where you start. You don’t build a team or learn how to delegate in a day or a week or a month. I didn’t learn it in a day or a week or a month, but I just started. I started with what I had and went from there.

It’s the same for everyone. It doesn’t matter where you are, if you already have a team or products or not, just start with what you have today, with what you know now, work from that, and you’ll be fine.

Jo Ann:  I think that’s very encouraging for people. There are people online that maybe have a lot of resources and team work, but it’s a lifestyle thing and the congruence of who you are that you’re really emphasizing.

Brigitte:  Yes, indeed.

Jo Ann:  Okay. Well, thank you so much. It was great having you on. Is there anything you’d like to say to our listeners to day before we stop?

Brigitte:  If any of this resonates with you at all, if you feel hmm, maybe it’s time for me to think about what I want, but I’ll get to it some day, it’s okay if you wait with it that’s your choice, but I really, really, really hope that you will start thinking and feeling it right now. Take action on it right now, because if you don’t do that, it won’t change and it’s just a waste of your time, really. If it resonates with you, take some time this week or maybe even today, and block a half hour or maybe an hour to really think about how happy am I with my business? What would I really, really want? Think about it.

Jo Ann:  Yes, give it some reflection, and if they wanted to get in touch with you, how would they get in touch with you?

Brigitte:   Well, if you go to, that’s a link that directs you to my website and there you can find how to contact with me on that website,

Jo Ann:  Perfect. Thanks so much. You’ve been a real asset to the people listening, and I think the topic even if not everyone is more introverted or a hermit, I think it carried a lot of message for people on a lot of levels. Thank you so much.

Brigitte:  You’re welcome, and thank you for having me. I really enjoyed talking to you, thank you.

Jo Ann: That’s great. Bye now.

Brigitte:  Bye.




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