When I grew up, I wanted to be a marine biologist.

That was the label I was given when I said, “I want to work with whales and dolphins”. I wanted to save them, protect them, and study their behaviours to better understand them.

It all came about because in my teens I watch a movie about a man, who befriended a whale stuck in the bay of a small fishing village. The villagers wanted to kill her for meat, and the man wanted to save her. The whale, in the end, died. I don’t remember the name of the movie, nor who was in it… yet, I remember the depths of my grief like it was yesterday. I sobbed into my pillows, eventually crying myself to sleep and waking with a desire to make a difference.

I wanted to be the man saving the whale.

For years, it was all I wanted to do. Truthfully, I didn’t want to be an actual scientist, I wanted to be a generalist. I wanted to study their behaviour, understand their relationships, frolick in the water, and advocate for them. I read books, watched documentaries, signed petitions to stop whaling, and learned to scuba dive. Over time, I realised that it was an interest, passion, hobby, not something I wanted to do as a job.

Once I was out of high school, I thought banking might be interesting, but the banks thought differently and said I was “too ambitious”. So, I drifted, waiting for inspiration to hit while enjoying all that I was learning.

Over the years, my career and “what I wanted to be when I grew up” changed and evolved; some of it was intentional while other parts were left to chance.

After moving to Hong Kong I struggled with not knowing what I was going to do or who I was going to be. I was interested in a lot of things – I loved learning about what was possible with the Internet. I loved learning about the spiritual and healing arts. I loved tinkering with web software. I loved reading books on women’s empowerment. I wanted to write.. take photographs… run women’s retreats… teach, facilitate… and help women in business. Oh, the ideas and possibilities were endless, and at the same time confusing… until I read the book, Refuse to Choose! by Barbara Sher.

The book suggests that some people (she calls them Scanners) aren’t meant to follow just one path. The author explains that not everyone is designed to find work or a calling that will occupy years of their lives. Scanners are characterized by “intense curiosity about numerous unrelated subjects”. Scanners love learning, starting new projects and embracing new ideas.

While exploring my next steps, I soon found that being a Virtual Assistant offered me the opportunity to pursue some of my professional interests. It enabled me to work with business owners who needed an assortment of help – each being different, yet similar. I was somewhat becoming a ‘Jill of all Trades’ and conscious that I was a master of none, yet, I was enjoying the work because I have a thirst for learning and a desire to apply new found knowledge.

Why am I sharing this with you?

Today, I celebrate 15 years in business.

Two Glasses of Champagne Celebrating

I started my business as a sole proprietor in 2007 and in 2009 I had made the decision that I didn’t want to work alone, and I wanted the business to be more than me. In 2010 I rebranded to Bauhinia Solutions, which lead me to registering as a limited company in 2012. Initially, I started working with other freelancers to offer a well-rounded service and realised I needed to hire employees to provide a reliable service to my clients. In 2013 I hired my first employee.

While there were some twists and turns to get to where I am today, over the past couple of years I had been struggling internally. Being a business owner is hard and being someone who is interested in different things is even harder.

In 2017, I was burnt out, ready to throw in the towel and hide for a while. It is easy to get caught up in your business, be overwhelmed by all that needs to be done, and feel the weight of being responsible for employees and clients. I was feeling trapped and I wanted to do something else but didn’t want to let go of my business. At the time, I couldn’t articulate what I was feeling or even being to know what to do about it.

That all changed when I met Janine Manning.

When I first met Janine I was in awe of how passionate she was about what she does, and as she described the challenges her clients face and how she supports them, I realised what I was missing.

I had no direction.

So, I paused on all the decisions I was making about my business and hired Janine as my coach. It is the BEST thing I have done!

Let me share why and how working with Janine has helped me understand and articulate this

As my team expanded, I realised I had created a job for myself. {Gasp… I know, you’re probably wondering “what’s wrong with that?”} There is nothing wrong with this, however, for me, some days I felt like I was becoming a wall flower, while other days, I felt like a hamster running on a wheel.

Don’t be mistaken, I genuinely like my team and my clients. I have been intentionally building a business that is not about me, and when meeting clients, I am deliberate about letting my team shine because essentially, our clients are working directly with their Client Manager/Virtual Assistant, and they need to feel that the person they’re working with can support them with their business needs.

In the process of building my team, I became lost within my business.

I’m no longer being utilised for my strengths. I’m either working as a Virtual Assistant, doing what my team does, or supporting my team.

I’m an ideas gal… I’m strategic, think from a marketing perspective, with a business owners hat on, and think 10 steps ahead to find the right solution. Working on tasks, in the moment is something I can do, however, it doesn’t light me up.

I light up when I get to work strategically with a client.

While I continue to learn, I realised that I am not getting the opportunity to apply my new skills and knowledge.

Working with Janine allowed me to identify the direction I want to take. She’s also helped me to formulate a plan for the future that allows me to shine, while continuing to build my business, and spread my wings.

This takes me back to years ago, my first employee Elizabeth, gave me the title ‘Resident Polymath’. Little did I know that the title and these TEDx talks, All Power to the Polymath and Why Some of Us don’t have One True Calling would help me with my own personal branding and direction.

Instead of cringing when I describe myself as a ‘Jill of all Trades’, I’m owning my multiple interests. Instead of hiding behind the scenes, I’m stepping up and being a leader. Instead of being the wall flower, I’m leveraging my curious mind, my passion for learning, and my desire to be supporting clients in a more strategic way.

Hello, I’m Nicole, and I’m an Expert-Generalist.

An Expert-Generalist is someone who has the ability and curiosity to master and collect expertise in many different disciplines, industries, skills, capabilities, countries, and topics., etc. He or she can then, without necessarily even realizing it, but often by design: (1) Draw on that palette of diverse knowledge to recognize patterns and connect the dots across multiple areas and (2) drill deep to focus and perfect the thinking.

It’s great to have you here and thank you for reading my blog.

Nicole x