What I Learned When my Franchise Burned Down
It was 4:30 pm on a Friday, and I decided to pack up and leave my team to run the show at my personal training franchise. It had been another long week of waking up at 4 am and going to bed at 11 pm, so I felt I deserved an early night to crash on the couch and watch mindless TV. I'd just got myself settled in when I had a call from my head trainer to tell me, "There's been a big bang, and there's some smoke". Not really knowing what he was going on about I headed back to the studio, a little disgruntled as it had disturbed my precious chilling out time. On the way there, I received a text message from the alarm company saying 'Overload', and as I drew closer, I could smell smoke and hear sirens. "Oh, dear", I thought.
As I pulled up, I could see smoke streaming out the back of the studio, and over the next few hours, we watched as the roof collapsed and the building fell into the street. That franchise was like my baby – I'd raised it from a failing video store into a fully fitted out boutique gym with a solid team, strong culture, and consistently growing client base. I'd given it everything I had – physically, emotionally, mentally and financially – and just like that it was all gone.
Or was it? I wasn’t going out without a fight. I’d worked too hard for too long, and I’d made a commitment to my team and clients that I wasn’t prepared to go back on. So the next day I ran a boxing class in the park. Monday morning, we conducted the personal training sessions on the beach. And by Monday afternoon I'd relocated us to new premises with a fully equipped gym, 25-metre swimming pool, steam room and views over the ocean! Not a bad result!
I continued in aggressive fight mode for a while. I thought I was killing it, but actually, I was just running on adrenaline, and underneath I was quietly falling apart. I was constantly worrying about all the clients, trainers, people at the new gym and everyone in the franchise network. I felt like it was my fault and I had personally inconvenienced them, so I focused all my energy on trying to make up for that and show them how driven and determined I was to make it work.
Eventually, however, I hit rock bottom. I realise now that I'd been burning out for a long time before the fire, but this finished me off. I had adrenal fatigue, unexplained weight gain, extreme bloating and digestive issues, hormonal imbalances, erratic moods, clouded thinking and periods of anxiety. To the rest of the world, I was a 'phoenix rising from the flames', but behind closed doors, I was a broken woman.
I couldn't carry on. I exited the franchise and started on my path to recovery – a path that led me to understand the power of the mind intimately, and how this is the determining factor of success – in all areas of life. I learned that the main factor holding my franchise, health and happiness back was my inability to show up as myself. I subconsciously lived in fear that I wasn't good enough or I wouldn't be liked. So, as a result, I was constantly trying to prove myself by working ridiculous hours, setting goals that were too high to be achieved and then beating myself up for failing. I was at the mercy of my perfectionism and needed to be the best, and regularly engaging in self-sabotaging behaviours. I was living in fight or flight mode, and it was wreaking havoc in my body, business and life.
I don't want anyone else to have to go as low as I did – it sucks down there. So I’ve picked out a few of the key learnings I’ve taken from my experience and now teach to others, to help you get (or stay) on the right path towards success – and most importantly, enjoy the process.
- Know who you are and what drives you
To show up as yourself 100 per cent you first have to know exactly who you are. Often we get stuck in a cycle of doing what we think we "should" do and being who we "should" be, as a result of these common fears of not being good enough and not being liked. We subconsciously compare ourselves to what's going on around us and try to adapt to "fit in" and avoid being rejected. This can be particularly pertinent within a franchise, as you're surrounded by a lot of other people doing the same thing as you, so constant comparisons are inevitable.
Consequently, you don't feel fulfilled because you're not working on the things that matter to you, and you feel like life is just taking you along for the ride rather than you being in the driver's seat. So you try to fill the void by working harder for longer and seeking external gratification. Of course, this then pushes you further into the stress cycle until eventually, something has to give – your franchise, health, relationships and even sometimes your life.
However, when you're living according to your core values and consistently taking action towards what you want, that's when you show up as your real self, and operate at your optimum and achieve true balance – because your external behaviours are in alignment with your internal drivers.
- Understand and respect the connection between the mind and body
When you're always busy, worrying and never switching off, your brain thinks you're in danger and activates your sympathetic nervous system (your fight or flight mode). So consistently communicating to your mind that you're safe is critical when it comes to your wellbeing, as it triggers the parasympathetic nervous system (our rest and digest mode) and counteracts this stress response.
So doing anything that creates a feeling of calm and contentment right at your core is the aim of the game, as this will cause the brain to naturally assume that danger is not present and therefore fight or flight mode is not necessary. As well as the obvious strategies like breathing and meditation, doing things you love and exploring your creativity are very powerful ways to trigger the parasympathetic nervous system. Your core values provide the perfect guide for what to do here.
- Master the way you communicate with yourself
You are absolutely what you think. The brain wants your internal and external worlds to be aligned. So it will organise all the information you absorb to determine how you interpret and experience the external world, based on what's going on internally inside your mind – your thoughts, experiences, beliefs, values, memories and attitudes.
If you can identify and focus on those elements of the mind that align most with who you are and what you want, and change those that don't, you can take control of how you interpret the world and therefore take control of how you respond. Which means less time in fight or flight mode because the brain is not misinterpreting situations as "dangerous", so less stress response activation and therefore more optimal functioning of the body and mind.
Ultimately giving you more energy, clarity, confidence, motivation and satisfaction to drive your franchise forward and build the life you deserve.
Laura Piccardi is an International Stress Management Expert, Performance Coach and Author of the bestselling book, Unfaked. Her mission is to make a massive dent in the statistics of lifestyle related disease and levels of distress, that is rapidly increasing as a result of our highly pressured and busy lifestyles. Her incredible story of transforming her life is the inspiration behind her mission.
What does Uppy mean, I hear you ask? Uppy is you, the real you and nothing but the real you. Through her own experiences and those of her clients, Laura realised that the key to having the health and life you want is to just be yourself 100 per cent without restrictions. This ultimately allows you to take control of the way you think and behave, and therefore take control of the way you feel, and therefore take control of the way you experience life. Everything Laura teaches is focused on helping people to get there Uppy out, and keep it out!