GIRL BOSS INTERVIEW: MEG KISSACK
If you somehow haven't found yourself upon That Hummingbird Life, amazed at the ideas of life and growth that are scattered around her business, you need to get on it ASAP. Girl boss, UK native, blogger, podcaster, and all around inspiration Meg Kissack has been a member of the DOY community for years now, and it's finally time that we learned a little more about her journey in growing her own brand.
DOY: What was it that pushed you to start following the mantra, “own your story, live your story, share your story”?
MK: I like think of our lives as a messy patchwork quilt. They are made up of a myriad of patches - stories and our experiences all sewn together, pretty haphazardly! While we want to have the most beautiful quilt we can have, our lives are messy and that’s okay. There are patches that are sewn a bit wonky, there are glittering patches that we love to look at, there are patches that in hindsight we might not want to be there and there are patches that didn’t get sewed on quite right. But they all come together, frayed around the edges - ready to be added to and form the unique story of our lives that only we have.
Owning your story is about getting to know yourself, your skills, your strengths and your dreams. It’s about the internal reflection, identifying your values, starting to accept the messy parts (we all have them!) and really starting to trust ourselves. It’s about having the courage to hold the pen while you’re still writing your story - messy, complicated and weird bits included.
Living your story is the practical things that help you show up in the world as authentically yourself. It’s about having the courage to become the main protagonist in your story and not sit on the sidelines. Living your story includes recognising that you need to look after yourself along the way, learning how to protect yourself from dreamshitters and keeping your our own light burning.
Sharing your story is about showing up in the world, unapologetically and intentionally. It’s about putting good shit into the world, making the world a brighter place and bringing your whole self to the world. It’s about having the courage to put your story out in the world, even if it doesn’t fit into the mould, it sticks out, or if it doesn’t fit into the status quo. Especially if it doesn’t. It’s about having the courage to find a way to put what only you can in the world, and recognising that the world really does need your story.
Owning living and sharing your story is about living a wholehearted, intentional and unapologetic life where we are proud of the quilt we’re creating. What ultimately pushed me is this idea of becoming the woman whose autobiography you’d love to read.
DOY: Being your own boss, you get to direct and design every project you sit in on. How do you fight the urge to skip out on tedious maintenance tasks, especially when there are so many more thrilling opportunities to be engaged in at times?
MK: Organisation, organisation, organisation. And I’m the first to admit that I can get so bogged down in the planning and organisation stage that it can take a while to get plans off the ground. The truth is that there ARE a lot of tedious tasks, but if they don’t get done, nothing gets done. Things start falling apart and get overwhelming pretty quickly, and it’s never ever worth it. That’s when burnout happens. I try to make the maintenance tasks as fun as possible by blasting music, celebrating every small win and sometimes competing with a timer! Organisation wise, Trello has become one of my best friends, as have Done Lists (you write down what you do as you do it, instead of ticking things off a to-do list) and co-working sessions with friends. It’s a bit like a plant, everyone loves to look at the flowers, but it’s the chunky stem that’s watered regularly that holds everything together.
DOY: If someone were to ask you for three pieces of advice on starting their own self-led career, whether it be a blog or a shop, what would you tell them?MK: Start before you’re ready. There will never be the perfect moment, no matter how hard you try to orchestrate it. There will always be more things to research, there will always be things you don’t know, but you’ll find that’s a good thing. When you’re starting out, you’re like a sponge - you absorb everything, it’s all new and exciting and things do often slot into place in a way you couldn’t have predicted. Get out of your own way and start already. Trust me, you’ll work out the things you need to know on the way and you’ll wonder why you didn’t start sooner!
Get to know your skills and strengths, and always ask for help. When you’re using your skills and strengths, you find the things only you can do. You also find the work that lights you up which in turn makes your work more sustainable and fun! Spend some time getting to know them and identify your gaps as well. Remember you don’t have to be brilliant at everything (no one is!), so ask for help when it comes to your skill and strengths gap. No one can do it all on their own and people will always be more willing to help than you think. Asking for help can feel like weakness, but is actually a form of courage. In fact, the most courageous things we do often don’t feel much like courage.
Be honest and let your values be the centre of everything you do. It’s very easy to get lost in this online world, forget your values and forget where you started in the first place. It’s all too easy to get sidelined by your ego, sacrifice your integrity to get ahead and end up wondering what went wrong. Be open about your values and be honest about your behind-the-scenes. We all like to think everyone has their shit together, but no one has. Lead by example and don’t hold up that illusion for other people. Share your wins as well as your struggles and dare to be human.
DOY: We live in a society of constant comparison, making ourselves feel as though that everyone is doing better than we are. How do you deal with this trap, and remind yourself that your success is valid and valued?
MK: I try not to spend too much time focusing on what other people are doing, especially if I know that I end up comparing myself to them. At some point you have to put blinkers on and really focusing on your work and the difference you want it to make. I think honestly, that comes with time and discipline, and noticing when you’re starting to go down that rabbit hole and just closing the tab or app and doing something else. The thing I find easiest to forget is that everyone has their own unique challenges and set of circumstances they’re working with, so it’s literally pointless to compare yourself to others. I also stopped subscribing to the notion of competition a while ago. No one can do what you do in the way you do it, so there is no competition. I could give a hundred readers the same plot and ask them to write a story and they would ALL be wildly different.
One thing I have found hugely valuable for reminding myself that I’m doing okay, is screenshotting lovely emails and feedback and keeping them in a folder on my desktop. They’re great reminders when the self doubt gremlins raise their heads, because those files are firm evidence that we’re not the fraud or the failure that sometimes our head likes to make us think we are.
DOY: Are there any fellow girl bosses in particular that inspired you to push forward and start your own brand?
MK: I don’t know how they would feel about being called girl bosses, but definitely Barbara Sher, Erika Napoletano, Amanda Palmer and Emilie Wapnick were huge influences when I started out. As time has gone out, the biggest sources of inspiration have come from the people around me - from Couragemakers I interview on my podcast to the wonderful women I’ve got to know through That Hummingbird Life who have become dear friends.
DOY: What were you creating out of your life prior to branching out and starting on your own? What made you realize that you were unhappy in doing that?
MK: Before I started That Hummingbird Life, I was working in the non-profit sector particularly around working to end violence against women. I was a huge feminist activist and my dream was to start my own NGO and change the world that way. I was completely on that path but I got to a point where my life looked great on the outside but felt completely miserable on the inside. A mixture of burnout, disillusionment, a toxic working environment and complete lack of self care led me to having a breakdown in my early twenties, which made me question everything. I started to explore how I could change the world in a way that lit me up as well instead of blowing the candle out. I started to really explore my strengths, my values, what I was good at and what I enjoyed, and starting experimenting to see what they could all look like together. That Hummingbird Life originally started out as a self care blog for women struggling with burnout but has definitely developed and grown with me since then.
DOY: Have you ever second guessed your decision to run That Hummingbird Life?
MK: Yes, but mainly because of financial reasons. I’ve decided to build That Hummingbird Life slow and steady to make it as meaningful and sustainable as possible, with community at the heart of it. I started it first and foremost to encourage and inspire and I can see in hindsight that profitability definitely took a back seat as I wanted to create an organic and authentic community and not be all about making money. This is definitely changing in the sense that I’m now offering products and services as well as free content (the blog, podcast and sunday pep talks), but financial reasons has been the biggest one in making me second guess. In the spirit of honesty, I’m also a graphic designer, so my income doesn’t come solely from THL. I think side hustles and working at the same time seriously take the pressure off - not many people have the epiphany, quit their job and immediately make things work out. It is a lot more complicated, messy and less glamorous that than.
DOY: How do you keep yourself just as excited to work now as you did when you first started?
MK: I honestly am as excited to work now as I did when I first started. I’d say even more so! There are a couple of ways I make that happen and would recommend:
Put your my own strengths and values at the heart of you work. Create work that you love doing - I think that’s a huge part of it. We can really easily be swayed into doing something because we feel we have to. Focus on the platforms, the places and the form that light you up the most and do them using the skills you most enjoy using. By being intentional about making the work you do something you love is the easiest way to keep the motivation flowing. Yes, there are the tedious bits, the boring bits and some of it will make you want to gouge your eyeballs out, but they’re worth it when your business/blog/project is something you a hundred percent stand behind, love the ethos of and love the bulk of the work.
Secondly, I keep myself excited by allowing myself to lean in and pivot when I feel called to. I like to change things up, and as a multi-passionate, explore new things and interests as they happen. Doing that allowed me to follow my curiosity, and led me to starting The Couragemakers Podcast because I wanted to really dive into dream-chasing, creativity, courage and storytelling and move away from the sole focus on self care.
And this is the most counterintuitive one of all - give yourself the option and permission to quit if you want to. Knowing that you don’t have to do it, that it isn’t the only way of making a life for yourself and that you don’t have to see it through, makes all the difference. It doesn’t mean you necessarily will quit - sometimes, like in my case, it means the exact opposite. it means the option is there should you want it, and it seriously takes the pressure off. And we could all do with less pressure, especially from ourselves!