The Biggest Mistake of My Life (cost me 4 years of angst & resulted in bankruptcy)

Some of you might think that the biggest mistake of my life was filing bankruptcy. Or perhaps it was getting “married” at Burning Man. Or maybe you would say, as one commenter said in response to this post about my Burning Man wedding, the biggest mistake of my life was going “from respected business woman, to …. I wouldn't even know how to describe you. Do you have any credibility left?”

But, nope, none of those would be it at all. In fact, many of those things were the BEST decisions of my life, thus far.

The WORST decision of my life was letting myself be influenced by the negative things people said and pulling back as a result.2014-04-27 14.57.37

I became convinced by the haters that I didn't have any credibility left, that I would no longer be able to serve lawyers, that I needed to choose between what I came to understand as my Ali self and my Alexis self, and that I better keep THAT a secret because Ali was simply not acceptable in the legal world.

So, I started to shrink.  I stopped all marketing to lawyers. I decreased the investment in my programs for lawyers down to the bare minimum (from $1,500/mo for membership down to as little as $197/mo for membership) and I let my entire team go.

Ultimately, I moved to a farm where I lived a very simple life and considered who I really was, what I really wanted to do and whether I could let go of Alexis Neely forever.

I filed bankruptcy while living there because I simply did not see how I could maintain the Alexis Neely business model and be all of myself.  And, because I had a sense that filing bankruptcy and releasing $500,000 of debt would open up a portal of seeing that wasn't otherwise available to me when I was trying to hold it altogether according to standard personal finance advice. And, it did.

I couldn't go all the way though.  Letting go of Alexis Neely altogether (killing her off, as recommended by David Neagle) simply wasn't in alignment with the truth of who I am.

I am the both/and that is Ali Shanti and Alexis Neely.

ali and alexis 2

I am uniquely suited to serve lawyers to return to the reason they went to law school and dive deep into the heart of relationship with the families and small business owners they serve.  I am also a creative, free-spirit, hippie chick who loves festivals and community and wears feathers in my hair, a rhinestone on my cheek and even has tooth bling.

What I discovered during this deep dive is that no one else has the same combination of right-brain entrepreneurial creativity and left-brain logical lawyer think to serve these lawyers and they are out there dying on the vine.

I couldn't abandon these lawyers who want so much more from life and business and their law degrees to a life unlived when I knew I held the keys to their fulfillment.

So, after the bankruptcy, when I had a fresh start and a totally clear slate from which to decide what was next, I made the choice to return to the world of serving lawyers while figuring out how to be all of me at the same time.

I still thought I had to keep big parts of myself hidden from the lawyers.

Until something big happened.  Two things, actually.

First, my friend Mia and I were hanging out one night recently talking about life, love and happiness.  It turns out that back when I was on the last legs of trying to hold everything together before I walked away from it all, the guy I had brought in as interim CEO of my company had hired her to talk to all of our lawyers (this was around the time of the Burning Man wedding, 4 years ago).

I had never received a report on those phone calls and had assumed that what Mia heard from the lawyers on the other end of the line was that they no longer trusted me (isn't it funny what our minds do?), but it turns out that's NOT what she heard at all.

What she did hear was that people wanted MORE of the story.

They didn't say to her “I don't trust Alexis anymore or want to learn from her again”, they said “I heard Alexis got married at Burning Man. What do you know about that?”

 Wedding2

They were interested. Curious. They wanted to know more. They wanted more of my story.

What a gift for me to find that out now. (Better late than never, right? And, I really do so trust the timing of it all because I really did need to go through the bankruptcy to support the bigger picture work around financial liberation that I am here to offer in the world.)

Then, the second big thing that happened really recently, was when I got a scary email in my inbox.  All I could tell is that it was from a lawyer and the subject line was “eye-opening experience”. I was pretty sure he was writing to tell me he was quitting the program because of some offensive thing I had done. (Isn't it funny where the mind goes?)

But, that's not what he wrote at all!  You can read his whole email here.

The cool thing is that the new business we built to serve the lawyers post-bankruptcy is WAY BETTER than the original business ever was.  It's got a solid foundation, a business model that aligns with my entrepreneurial archetype and we just hired a CEO to replace me so I can do the parts I'm best at without trying to lead the team (which I'm really the worst at).

The best part of is that even though our new CEO is a Mormon (we think), he never says “Alexis, you can't do that. Alexis, you can't say that. Alexis, you can't write that. Alexis, you can't wear that. You'll hurt the business!” as I used to hear all the time from the team that led my first iteration of the lawyer business. Probably because I've fully embraced all of myself and I'm no longer saying those things to myself.

And it has begun to dawn on me, I made a huge error, I didn't need to hide or shrink in the face of the haters at all!  (Except for the fact that it was all perfect and what had to happen, did — it was a mistake that cost me 4 years.  Good news is that what I learned was a huge lesson that we can all benefit from.)  I could have given them more of what they wanted — the juicy story that was unfolding, as it was happening. They would have loved it, I bet.

What's funny though is that there is still a way that I hide Ali Shanti from the lawyers.  Well, not quite hide, but I haven't really formally introduced her to them yet. At times, like with the story I told earlier about the lawyer who stumbled upon Ali, they find this side of me, but otherwise, I tend to keep things separate.

More and more though, the integration is definitely happening.

aanda

I can feel Ali merging into Alexis, and vice versa.  I love both (all — there's actually more) sides of me.  So I'm playing with the what's next of all of this.  I've got a photo shoot coming up that might resolve some of it by at least giving me pictures I can use with the lawyers that integrate the Ali part (I still use my photos from 2008 that are pure Alexis now that I'm marketing to lawyers again).

I promise to keep you posted.

In the meantime, I'd love to hear about the parts of you that you've been hiding (either from yourself or others). Each time I talk about this, people come up to me (or send me messages) telling me all about the parts of themselves that they've never let out of the closet.  So, this is your chance to fully express all of you.  See you in the comments.

[PS: If you liked this, you'll also want to read this about your purpose and how it all fits in. With audios too.]

About Ali Katz

Alexis Katz is a bridge between the generations. She graduated first in her law school class from Georgetown, and today uses her law degree to uplevel the consciousness of the legal field and the value for people being served by lawyers. Alexis serves as a catalyst for new ways of thinking; she is a paradigm-shifter, lawyer, mom, author, and permission giver who is bringing forward radically new and much needed perspectives on how we make decisions about money, time, work, relationships, parenting, and business. She offers her personal experiences with living a new paradigm, ‘road less traveled’ life to serve as a model of what’s possible when we allow all of ourselves to show up fully in family, life, and business.