A clever new business book from Melbourne career mentor Iolanthe Gabrie not only is aiming to help people start their own businesses in three months, it’s also geared up around the idea that a good business = freedom. Iolanthe talks to Capsule about the possibly life-changing concept of ‘choose your hard’ and why she’s not interested in joining the metaphorical boys’ club.
Early on in Iolanthe Gabrie’s new book, 100 Days Of Brave: How To Launch A Business You Love In Three Months, there is a passage about the concept of ‘choosing your hard’ that made me sit right up.
“Let’s be real. Life is a mixture of ups and downs, challenges and victories,” Iolanthe writes. “Don’t spend life hiding from the difficulties coming your way – a scary, path-changing event is coming for all of us, sure as birth and death. You can’t avoid the hard stuff. But you can CHOOSE your hard, which makes a fundamental difference in your journey through the gross-out.
Choosing your hard doesn’t remove life’s stressors, nor does it guarantee plain sailing. But what it does guarantee is that you’re in the driving seat of your destiny, moving full-crank into a future that reflects who you are 24-7.”
The idea of ‘choosing your hard’ feels both realistic and empowering, which is exactly what Iolanthe was aiming for with her new business book, aimed to help readers launch a business in 100 days.
“For me, ‘choosing my hard’ is linked directly to what am I willing to exchange for freedom, flexibility and authenticity in my lived experience.”
With a career spent as a senior communications strategist and business mentor, as well as running a social media agency, you might think: why write a print book in 2022? But as Iolanthe explains, there was a glaring gap in the market.
“The conversations in the social space around female entrepreneurship were very limited and infantile,” she says on the phone from her home in Melbourne. “They were all around the idea of ‘dream it, believe it, do it’, which is nice as an adage but it carries as much weight as ‘life, laugh, love,’” she says dryly. “It has nothing to do with the hard work that is required to make sure your business doesn’t go down the gurgler and you’ve wasted whatever time or money you’ve spent on it.”
“I wanted to build a community where women could have difficult, more nuanced conversations about actually growing a business.” Six years ago, Iolanthe started a business group called Serious Women’s Business, and she says the conversations had in that community are about as far away from the ‘#girlboss’ mentality as you can get. So she wanted a book that would reflect that, in providing a clear road map that would help people understand that there’s “nothing magic” about starting a business.
Still, because she’s a women and talks about business from a women-in-leadership perspective, she says it’s still very easy for her book to be seen as “more woo-woo” and “less rigorous.” Be advised: don’t let the pink cover fool you. “My book is the opposite of less than rigorous: it’s a step-by-step guide to not f–king it up.”
Choose Your Hard
In her late 30s, Iolanthe has been a business owner almost her entire career and she can’t pinpoint exactly where she first heard the idea of ‘choose your hard’ but she says it was a concept that always appealed.
“For me, ‘choosing my hard’ is linked directly to what am I willing to exchange for freedom, flexibility and authenticity in my lived experience,” she says. “For me, my ‘hard’ is choosing to bear a risk that some people might find too difficult. Some people might find the idea of being self-employed too difficult: the idea of having to find your own clients, making sure you can pay your tax payments, getting legal advice… some people might find that a burden that psychologically doesn’t suit them. But for me, that’s the hard that I choose that allows me to have to do that relentless, day-in-day-out sameness, or having to fit to a corporate mould that is patently never going to work for me.”
“You don’t have to join their clubs: you can build your own.”
The reality is, most of life’s options involve some element of hard. Running your own business? Hard. Staying in a corporate environment? Hard. Having a baby and going back to the workforce? Hard. Having a baby and staying at home? Hard. Starting over? Hard. Keeping at it? Also, hard. Maybe it’s the ultimate antidote to the idea of ‘the grass is always greener’: all options are hard, but if you’re able to pick your hard, there’s privilege in that.
“Life is a gamut of different experiences – some are joyful and some are less joyful,” Iolanthe says. “You have to traverse through all of them anyway, so you might as well choose the ones you’re going to be faced with.”
In both the book and her website, Iolanthe covers a lot of the personal side of ‘choosing your hard’ as well; like going through a divorce, openly talking about booking therapist appointments during the week, and having a baby while running her own business.
She says it’s an old-fashioned way of thinking to believe that your work self and your home self can’t co-exist happily.
“The content on my blog, in particular, that does the best is the content around motherhood and business, as well as stuff that’s more difficult – like freezing my eggs and getting divorced,” Iolanthe says. “Women want to know! I think a lot of people think that it’s private or they don’t want to connect their life stage or motherhood with business, whereas I can say that after becoming a mother, everything is amplified in the best way possible. Motherhood is the secret sauce, it’s amazing.”
That’s not often a mantra you hear in terms of leadership, but it’s an important one, Iolanthe says. “If you choose to run a feminist business, where you want to meaningfully employ people in so that they can lead rich lives, flexibly, then you have to show them that leadership doesn’t mean being this perfect, hard-ass doll, which is the kind of figurehead that female leaders can be.”
“There are women who have really forged careers in very patriarchal structures and have played an important role in ‘breaking the glass ceiling,’” Iolanthe says. “However, for me personally, I’m not interested in playing that game. I want to empower women to not have to feel like they have to be [beholden] to male structures that don’t understand flexibility and diversity. They should just start their own gig, because other people will use them. You don’t have to join their clubs: you can build your own.”
100 Days Of Brave: How To Launch A Business You Love In Three Months by Iolanthe Gabrie is available now, click here for stockist information