Women Event 19914 omslag

Those essential not per se friends-colleagues-family people

“ok guys, that’s it, it’s all plain and clear to me now, I exactly know what to focus on coming months, from new hobbies to business ventures, all ready to get it going”

This is how I arrived at a terrace with friends on a warm summer evening last week.

I had been walking around for some weeks with a head full of ideas, plans and inspiration – and now I felt I’d cut to the chase.

So how did that come about?

That day I met with Lianne van Liere at the Dutch sunny beach to prepare the women event, that I’m organizing this time with her.

And the conversation naturally flowed from one topic to the other and – after 7 (!) hours of talking, sun and sand – we discussed about everything that mattered to us and felt light and excited – we exactly knew what to set in motion.

This leads to one of the myths and learnings on entrepreneurship I’m exploring these months…

Myth #1 : As an entrepreneur you need personal brilliance. You need to be able to keep yourself motivated and do it all by yourself.

hmm What else can be true?

One of my own learnings is that

it’s essential for me to have those not per friends-colleagues -family kind of people around like Lianne

people who walk their own path, can listen objectively and stretch me on the right moments (don’t take the bullshit or false excuses)

So instead of wasting my time trying to figure it all out on my own – such a conversation at the beach can make the difference.

I’d love to hear and learn from your experiences too. What kind of people would you like to connect with? How do you make sure you have those regular meet-ups that keep you sharp?

Let me know,


P.S. Since this seems so important – I love creating these connections and experiences for people like you too.

One is the entrepreneurial women retreat this September, the ticket sales opened today.

Please share the invitation with those great women you know, who are about to realize a new idea or start a new practice, so they can sign up in time, and make it all happen in a more easy and fun way. I’d love to meet them. Thank you.

P.P.S If this retreat is not for you right now (or you’re a man) I’d love to offer you a 1-on-1 session, in which I can be that person for you – we’ll cut to the chase and get clear on what ideas, projects you want to give priority and set in motion.
You can book your clarity session here You’ll receive an email with more info after booking it!

inspiration from berlin

Getting real about working location independent…

Don’t you like that idea of working and traveling at the same time? I do. For some reason I’m intrigued by the idea and trying it out lately. Working in multiple places; in my camper van at the beach, at a friends house, in coffee bars in Berlin and so on. It’s kind of fun, but it also makes me question the whole concept of ‘working location independent’ – I’m not convinced yet – how nice is it really? To be honest, it’s often quite a hassle – trying to stay calm and finalise a newsletter in a noisy coffee bar, making sure to be in a quiet place with Wifi for calls. It makes me wonder; is this of service to anything or anyone or is this just a nice mental concept, an ideal? I’m still not sure, but like to share 2 personal take always from my experiences till now, 2 things that I, despite of the hassle, seem to gain from combining travel and work…

-> working in another location, or even while being on the go – helps to let go of control. Loosens up. Ok, you can answer emails, have calls and write if you like – but you have to let go of certain expectations, habits and daily affairs at the home office – and trust that things will turn out – maybe different – but just fine.

-> doing what you normally like to do, but in another city, inspires in unexpected ways. Inspiration can come while wandering in a new neighborhood, while getting some work done in a coffee place in new city by overhearing conversations, reading flyers or seeing new concepts.

I’ll be on the go coming weeks/months and will crack this nut – please let me know what works for you. When does working at other locations really adds value to your work, for the people you work with and yourself? What needs to be in place for that to happen?

P.S. I found the best places to work in a new city via these traveling workers

P.P.S. As a proof for the second point, some unexpected inspiration from my time in Berlin last week, from upper left, clock wise:

  • “ontdecke was Sie wirklich willst” – “nicht fur Feiglings!” = discover what you really want – not for cowards! (love that warning sign)
  • A ‘Kecksbackering’ (a professional cookie maker) who can teach you to also turn your passion into your day job. (yes of course, would actually be totally credible for me)
  • A co-working space called Betahaus, ok with the common nice coffees and Macbooks, but also with design courses, a metal workshop and youngsters knitting together.
  • and Der Coaching Laden ( the coaching shop), just a nice place to walk in whenever you want.

inspiration from berlin

betahaus berlin

Can you think along for a moment…

Hi there, just a short note from my holiday location – because I’d like to get your input on something.

I’m sitting here in a co-working space in Berlin (you know – nice coffees, second hand furniture and macbooks all around) – I’m working on my new writing project in which I like to give you practical insights on some big topics like…

How to turn your ideals into practical business opportunities?

What myths on entrepreneurship hold many of us back from taking true action?

What are todays’ best practices on creating joyful and responsible work?

I don’t want to start a philosophical discussion though, but rather share concrete, actionable insights.

You could definitely help me out here by sharing what’s interesting for you in this – what questions pop up? What challenges are you facing – or what makes you excited? Just send a few sentences on what first comes to mind to mail@elselienepema.com. Thank you.

Liebe Gruesse aus Berlin




Okay, Then Where To Start A New Big Project – Tackle The Wild Unknown

Sometimes your idea or project is quite new or big. You might have the desired end result in mind. And you know you want to do it — you just don’t know how to get there. So you end up endlessly worrying and planning the details.

This is another appearance of the Dragon of Resistance.

When I decided that there had been enough dreaming and talking about the campervan, and that it was time to take action and buy one, I hit a cloud of uncertainty and questions. Where can I buy one? How do I know I won’t make a bad bargain? Where do we park it in winter? What if we don’t use it? …. And so on.

This is the cloud of practical objections that is only there to distract you and lead you away from your path.

This is how I often see entrepreneurs start. They might not yet be clear about what their product will be, and are already worrying about the right name, how to follow imaginary regulations, and who will build their website.

These things don’t matter yet. Those are all the things you’ll figure out along the way. You cross that bridge when you get there.

It’s much better to worry about, eh I mean, focus on what you need to do first.

That’s what I did with the search for a campervan. First, I had to learn to drive reasonably, and then search for campers on the web, ask current campervan owners about their experiences, and plan some test drives. Why worry about all of the steps that would come along after all of those?

Taking one step at a time taught me that you can’t plan every step along the way from the start. Things emerge on the go.

Indeed, after taking these first steps, I was on my way and when I saw my camper van I recognised it right away — no doubt, this was the right camper van, for the right price.

After I bought it, suddenly new possibilities popped up. My family revealed a previously unforeseen available parking place, friends invited us for a trip right away, and soon we had uncovered other beautiful places to go to, as well.

It’s the same for business ventures. I began writing by working with a writing coach and at some point started sharing my blog posts with a small group of people (at first that small group was just one person, my boyfriend). Then one day, unexpectedly, an entrepreneurial organisation let me know that they would love to use some of my posts to provide their members with useful content, and everything took off from there.

Sometimes we want to see the whole path before we want to start. But if we wait for that, we’ll never start. Even if you could plan it all out from the start, you would only end up limiting your view and missing opportunities along the way.

ahead and take your first steps with curiosity, being open to the possibilities that will show up along the way. The truth lies in the middle. Get things organised, get the right support, prepare yourself, and then go

Download the whole booklet on realising ideas in a more natural way here

Think of one of the things you want to get done.
Write it down.
Next, write down the first 3 tiniest turtle steps** you can do to get things moving and see from there what actions to take next.

**Turtle steps are steps (as described by Martha Beck) that feel like “Oooh, I can do this!” She finished her PhD while raising kids by breaking it up into tiny turtle steps of 15 min a day.


Just For Fun And Beauty

Why is there such a big gap between envisioning something, talking about it and …actually doing it? Like Marianne Williamson says

“It’s easier to keep on dreaming about Z, than going from A to B”

According to Steven Pressfield that’s because the so called Dragon of Resistancebreaks free only when you take action upon what you really want. This dragon can show up in all kind of forms and colors, like negative thinking, tiredness, restlessness and so on.

To beat this Dragon of Resistance you need a strong motivation. The right answer to Why do you want it? For the money, to prove you can do it, to serve your vision of how life/mankind ought to be?

Pressfield writes that you’re on the right track…when answering the “why do you want it” question with

just for fun and beauty

Other motivations might seem more important, but know that they won’t bring you far enough.

In my previous blog I wrote about the importance of regularly selecting one of your wishes that pop up, to explore it and put it into practice. In spite of this persistent resistance and objections. And I decided to conduct one of my ideas too.

It’s this…

Already more than a year I felt the urge to organise something to bring entrepreneurial women together. Actually not for any specific reason…just for the fun and beauty of it. And when I realized that this was reason enough. I decided to just organise it. And stop dreaming about Z but take the first small action, break through resistance and go from from A to B.

And here it is, the invitation for the event, all set up and designed, ready to go.

So what’s fun and beautiful about this event?

hmmm, actually quite a lot…like the soulful location, the pure food and connecting with inspiring women.

I invited 2 women to co-host the gathering who are inspiring for me. They created something very unique and doing things in their own way. Not only in business, but also in their way of living and expressing themselves. They seem to do it just for the fun and beauty of it (see!).

Their path might be not always smooth and easy, but they live and work with a certain determination. And of course, when reading this, they would wave it away. They too see how things should and could be even better. Don’t we all? You should actually just meet them. So what about spending a day together, have good conversations, share stories and experience each others way of working?

Imagine how empowering that would be for you.

Imagine how it would help you to find ways for experiencing even more energy, creativity and enjoyment in your own life and business.

It will be a small and intimate gathering, so if you want to be there -> reserve your spot right away.

And…sorry guys… I really like working with you too, we’ll meet another time. But for now, maybe you can take a second to think along with me; Do you know inspiring entrepreneurial women who are walking their own path? Women who would love to take a day off to step away from their daily tasks and explore ways to experience even more energy, creativity and enjoyment in their business and life?

Then send them this invitation so they can sign up in time and get the opportunity to join.

Will be great fun… beautiful


2 Tips to Select The Right Collaborators The Easy Way

Let’s me tell you a story about a friend who found a great person to collaborate with in an easy way, using no more than a beer can and David Hasselhoff.

He met with two guys, both potential collaborators.

First he casually drank a beer with one guy at a gathering along a Utrecht canal; boats floating in the water, music playing and the first bright rays of sunlight announcing spring. All fine, but then the guy casually threw his empty beer can in the water… My friend said, that somewhere deep inside him a big red cross aroused, intuitively he knew, this is not going to work out.

The next day he would meet the other guy. This one emailed him, if it was ok to meet an hour later, since he wanted to take the time for a walk with his neighborhood buddy, and found out that things were scheduled a bit too tight. My friends’ hearth melted and right away knew; this is the spirit he was looking for. And indeed – they worked happily ever after…

So what 2 tips can you take from this story?

Pay attention to the small acts, the at first sight unimportant things. Often we overlook these small things, we see and feel them clearly, but quickly rationalize them “It’s just a small thing, I shouldn’t be so picky, and I should focus on the work”. And sometimes it’s indeed good to give it some more time. But the fact is, you’ve got thousands things to do, so in reality you simply don’t have the luxury to give it more time then necessary.

And this also works the other way around, so
Also show yourself in the small acts right from the start. Here David Hasselhoff enters the story. For my friend replied the email in a for him typical manner. His email only contained the words “perfectly fine!” accompanied by the picture as shown here.

Things like this might seem a risk. But they can help you to attract the people you easily relate with in a playful way and at the same time scare people off that you simply don’t click with.
In this case it putted a big smile on the guys face, and it opened a door for a fruitful collaboration.

So when meeting someone for the first time…gain some ground by sending David Hasselhoffs’ thumps up. Hmmm, no seriously, just pay some attention to the small ‘strange’ acts and follow your own gut feeling.

P.S. this was about having shared values…read here about the other aspects that are essential for a fruitful collaboration, like a shared purpose and complementary talents.

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4 waves to catch and change the course of a cargo ship

Probably you’re an entrepreneur, but you might also be a so called intrapreneur at times. You’re an intrapreneur simply if you want to initiate something new, make some kind of change within an organisation. This can feel like changing the course of a cargo ship. So how do you do that in a more playful way?

Let me take you back to the time I was an intrapreneur, when I felt the excitement and frustrations myself and came to something fulfilling, something that actually worked out quite well. Don’t expect a heroic million-dollar-best-selling-author-story now. It’s all actually quite straightforward. A story with learnings you might easily relate to and use in your own situation.

A few years ago I was involved in the development of a new innovative design curriculum in which I also taught some of the courses myself (still do!). I was hired as an external freelancer, but felt part of the organisation… kind of an intrapreneur, right?

I racked my brain over the question of how to prepare students to become the professionals that could initiate change, self-motivating and responsible… Not by standing in front of the class and telling them what to do, I realised. But what would prepare them?

With this question on my mind I joined the 3-day Art of Hosting training in Karlskrona.

After the first hour, already I knew: this way of learning and collaborating is the solution. I felt inspired and could clearly see how this would work out very positively. But back home, my excitement turned easily into a heavy weight on my shoulders. How to introduce this into the organisation? Where to start? How to make others enthusiastic?

It felt like I tried to change course of a cargo ship, while pedalling in a tiny rubber boat. Hello there, big ship. Can you please go left a bit? Hello?!

Maybe you recognize this somehow? So let me explain the 4 waves you can surf to make this desired change happen more easily, while actually having a good time.

1. Seek advice of independent experts you click with

In this case, a cup of coffee with some experts immediately made a huge difference for me. They easily took the sting out of the situation, showed me how to chunk things down in small easy steps and opened my eyes on how to make it a success. Later on, some of these experts even became collaborators. In this case, these were amongst others Valentine Giraud-Robben and Arjen Bos from the Impact Hub community and Tim Merry (If I didn’t say this already: 1000 x thanks!)

2. Link to what’s truly happening in daily reality

Here I don’t mean the targets and goals in some kind of document in a drawer. But things that are itching and urgent in the daily reality of you and your co-workers. In this situation, there were the introductory days for the soon-arriving students. Simply put, nobody had the time or energy to organise them. With the approaching deadline, this became a true burden. So I took this tension as an opportunity to try something new. I said: “Let me do it!” (secretly thinking &*#%#, now I have to do this crappy thing!). But it turned out to be the perfect start.

3. Setting a vision, a structure and invite people from there.

In a team meeting, I sketched a simple vision of what the introduction days could look like and what it could do for the community of students and teachers. And I explained the overall structure for how to make it happen. Nothing detailed or calculated, just something to inspire my colleagues to start imagining a great introduction for our students. Leaving room for my colleagues to fit in their own ideas meant that, though I took responsibility for the initiation of the project, I created a space to openly invite them to become part of it and co-create it with me. I was lucky to have team members with a shared vision who felt personally called on and signed up with full motivation. But you know that everyone who comes are the right people. Even when there is only one person signing up with you. But – as I explained in step 2 – when you are working around tensions that come from your everyday work experience, you are bound to find someone who feels the same mission to do something about it.

4. Keep hold of the vision and structure, but let go of the outcome.

This was the biggest challenge for me. I imagined the outcome already in full colour, with a super surround sound system. Involving other team members in it meant I had to let go of that image so the project could naturally emerge from the team. It turned out that I almost didn’t have to do anything besides just being there, inviting, giving structure to the process. The outcome was different than I personally imagined, but it seemed the right thing for the organisation at that moment in time.

What was fulfilling about this? I didn’t win any awards with this, right? No, the fulfillment came from seeing that with little effort, while having a good time, we created fun and useful introductory days, which are now the standard way to welcome new students each year. And this is at least one of the things that fosters a safe and fun learning community. They’re essential for educating self-motivated, responsible professionals.

Ok, of course, every situation is different. But look at the 4 waves and see how they apply to your situation – what can you do? Maybe asking support from an expert can make a difference for you. Or is something happening in your daily reality that you can use as a wave? And, aren’t you curious about which co-workers would sign up if you invited them? Can you hold a vision and structure, but honestly let go of your own imagined outcome?

Anyways, step out of your rubber boat, so you can go catch some waves with your surfing board and see where they bring you.

use your feet

Use Your Own Feet To Develop Your Vision

A cruel experiment with cats. It takes a few days before newborn cats open their eyes. For this experiment they tied up 2 newborn cats, one on the back of the other. For each couple the one below was able to move and walk. The one on top would experience the same movements, but couldn’t use its own feet. The outcome of this experiment was that the little cat below, the one that could walk, developed it’s vision. On the contrary, the little cat on the back, stayed blind or barely developed it’s vision.

You can conclude from this experiment that developing vision is not something passive, it actually is an activity, conducted by the body.

Probably you often try to develop your vision and knowledge as the little cat on top. From a lazy chair or at your desk you read inspiring blogsbooks or watch documentaries and lectures. Or you hire a consultant to figure it all out for you. This might give you an instant satisfying feeling. Yes, that’s so true! Now I see things differently, now I know what to do! This makes you feel like you don’t have to move your budd to understand the world. Someone else can do the legs-work for you.

Developing a new vision for your business is something quite complex though. There are so many aspects to take into account. In such a case it’s important to do the legs-work yourself and develop your vision based on what you yourself feel, see, taste and hear.

So what legs-work can you do? Maybe you can visit a few of your clients, work along with your employees or spend some time in the newmarket you’d like to conquer.

The experiment is described in the book, U-Theory, Leading from the Future as it Emerges

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[Download Booklet on] Build A Business That Fits You Like A Glove

Are you about to (re)launch your business or considering to take the leap?

Then read my PDF booklet on what it takes to build a business sustainably. A business that frees you up financially, that you love running, and that feels like the right thing for you to be doing with your time. The booklet motivates you to follow insight up with action, so things can start really moving for you. It’s something to print and read to spark a rainy afternoon.

201312_ Elselien_Epema_PDF_booklet picture


3 habits That Help You To Dance With Change

Do you remember your first day at primary school?

That little familiar world of your parents’ home was all you needed. You never asked for a noisy classroom, with snotty children and piles of toys. Aaah. Maybe you felt some excitement. But you probably even screamed and begged your parents to just take you home again.

As an entrepreneur, you also go through many self-chosen and forced-upon changes that might sometimes make you feel like screaming. While you actually need a quiet and open mind to get lots of work done.

How do schools help children through this change? How do they make children feel at home and safe, so they can open up for learning and creativity? And what can you take from this to handle your big changes better?

Some types of primary schools give children the following instruments, which seem to be quite effective:

  • Fixed rituals. For example a morning routine. Letting the children clean their little table with a cloth. Take care of their tiny plant and put it on their desk. In this way they create their own safe little world.
  • Connection with a buddy. Another older child is assigned as their buddy to keep an eye on them and help them do and learn new things.(And later on they are a buddy for a younger child. Perfect. Teaching and helping someone else improves their skills even more).
  • Space to follow their nature. Most of the time children can decide what to work on. They are not forced to sit still and read for hours in a row, if they actually come alive when chalking in the schoolyard or building castles from Lego.

When changing to high school, these habits will no longer suffice. Walking around with your little plant, or cleaning your desk with a cloth, every single hour… Even if you could get away with this manic behaviour without being made fun of, it’s just not practical.

So over time, you have to find your own way of creating enough safety to get to work and learn. You will need to adjust to the changing situations with most effective ‘instruments’.

Changes will keep on happening.

It was once a big change to become an entrepreneur. Now you might hire your first employees or make a big move to another office building.

But although you tend to like the excitement that comes with change, you are probably not immune for the fear and uncertainty that comes along with it. In some ways you still need to create a certain safe feeling to stay creative and productive.

So how can you create this safety in the midst of this life that’s about moving, shaking things up and transformations?

In the interview series Zen Habits of Entrepreneurs, Leo conducts in-depth interviews with entrepreneurs on this subject.

Watching these made me see their habits are actually quite similar to those instruments of primary schools. They do the following

  • Create fixed daily routines. If running every morning is their thing, they run every morning. They don’t waste their precious time on thinking about “shall I go running today or not?”. No. There are always reasons not to do it, like rain, being too busy or aching knees. They just go, if only for a few minutes.
  • Connect with their buddies. They hang out with people that foster their desired behaviour. These are people that are a bit ahead of them. But also people who are motivated to make the same changes and want to learn from them (…which is one of the reasons the Impact Hub exists.)
  • Follow their nature. For one, it’s starting the day with a team meeting; for another, it’s blocking quiet afternoons for creative work and for again someone else, it’s having a sophisticated planning system. Copying someone else habits can be a start. But doing that blindly won’t be effective. Forcing yourself into someone else’s habits, might even cause you more stress. You’ll have to play and experiment by yourself to find out what habits work for you.

If you are afraid or overwhelmed when thinking about current or upcoming changes. Don’t find the solution in ignoring or fighting change. No, wake up and dance with the waves of change by creating your own habits and structure.

Try out some new habits and take the time to see what works for you.

And if you really don’t know where to start – but only then – OK, you’re allowed to secretly put a little plant on your desk and obsessively take care of it.

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” ~ Alan Watts