What do you do when you get exactly what you asked for, only to discover it wasn’t what you really wanted?

This is the question I found myself asking last year, after I had spent six months, and $100K to create my dream – a showroom called Laguna Green, a place where people could see how gorgeous green could be. It was exactly what I had imagined – A high-end, exclusively green, kitchen and bath showroom, in the crown jewel of Orange County – Laguna Beach, just one block up from the ocean. My mission was to shift the well-being of the planet, through education, inspiration and design.

I opened the showroom on November 23rd, 2008.  It was one of my proudest moments.  There is nothing like seeing your dream become a reality.  I received lots of media attention through the local newspapers, magazines and television. I quickly established myself as an expert in the OC on all things green.   I had tons of people pulling for me and appreciative of the fact that I had brought this kind of green presence to Orange County.  It was also important to me that the showroom serve as a community space, and so it was a space where we held Pilates classes, fundraisers to support local non profit efforts, featured artists and photographers on the walls of the showroom, and taught raw food classes.

Why then, did I close my doors, just 15 months later, in February 2010? What went wrong?  Was this just another business that toppled in the midst of the worst economic crises in recent history?  I don’t blame the failure of my business on the economy.  In fact, I believe there is no such thing as failure, only opportunities to learn.  And that is what I am interested in sharing with you  – the life lessons I learned while making the decision to close my business.

Life Lesson Number 1 – Move beyond the pros and cons, and listen to your longings and discontent.

Pros and cons live in the land of logic.  Longings and discontent live in the land of the soul.  The first inkling I had that something was wrong, was when I noticed that I looked forward to Mondays the most – the day the showroom was closed, because on Mondays I didn’t have to be any particular place at any particular time.  I had created a beautiful space, but I didn’t like being tied to it.  In fact, I noticed that it actually drained energy from me. I noticed I was more energized by educating people about products than I was about selling them.  I noticed that I loved teaching my raw food classes, but I disliked tracking finances and paying sales tax. I realized that my favorite part of having the showroom was actually creating it – doing the remodel, but I didn’t enjoy the day-to-day running of the business.  The bottom line is that I had created a retail business, only to discover that I didn’t like retail.

Sometimes we don’t know these things until we get into them.  There was an Abraham-Hicks Quote that landed in my inbox during this time that I was so grateful for. It goes like this…

“Say yes to whatever it is. Because if you say yes to it, and then you get in the middle of it, and you say, ’Uhoh, that isn’t really turning out the way I wanted it to”, then out of that is born another desire. And as you say yes to that, then it turns out and you say, ‘Well, its still not quite right.’  So you have another desire… and so on and so on. Until eventually you get it exactly right.  You cannot get it wrong.  No creation is ever complete. Jut do it.”

When I paid attention to my longings, I realized that I longed for freedom of time and place – I wanted to be able to work anywhere at anytime.  I wanted work that flowed easily through me, like when I was teaching people about raw foods or eco-friendly products.

I began to share with a few people my concerns, my discontent and my longings, which led to my second life lesson.

Life Lesson Number 2 – Move beyond the peanut gallery, and listen only to your most trusted adviser – your Self – with a capital S.

There were two peanut galleries I had to contend with – the public peanut gallery and my own private one.

The public peanut gallery said things like – “You can’t walk away from it, you have put too much money into it.” “We NEED you here in Orange County.” “This is such a beautiful store, you can’t close it.”  “You haven’t tried hard enough yet.  You haven’t drained your 401K yet, have you?

My personal peanut gallery was the most difficult to deal with.  I didn’t want to disappoint the people who had been so supportive of me.   Before opening the showroom, I invited my spiritual dream team to come to my showroom.  Together we blessed the space, blessed the people who would walk through the door, blessed the conversations that would take place there and the relationships that would be built.  My friends shared with me how inspired they were that I had actually followed my dream and that now my dream was becoming a reality. I had so many people behind me, so many people rooting for me, so many people who believed in me and supported me. I felt embarrassed to close it down.  I didn’t want to be just another example of the one in three businesses that fail in their first three years.  My showroom gave me credibility, an identity.  If I wasn’t the owner of Laguna Green, who was I? I was even profiled in the book Hot, Rich and Green, a book about women who have followed their passion and built successful green businesses.  How could I close my business after that?

During this time, another quote landed in my lap that solidified for me this second life lesson.  It is a quote by Howard Thurman in which he says.

“ Don’t ask what the world needs, ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.  Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.”

When I heard these words, I realized that it wasn’t serving anyone to stay in a business if I didn’t feel alive in it.

But I wasn’t quite ready to give it up yet…

So In the Fall of 2009, I decided to go all in with my business and felt that in doing so, I would surely experience a breakthrough.  I hired a marketing director.  I started working with a business coach. I read Crush It. I became part of a mastermind group studying Jack Canfield’s Success Principles.  And at the same time, I decided to make a bigger commitment to my raw food diet, and went 100% raw.

One of the first exercises we did in the Success Principle mastermind group, was to write our life purpose.  This was a tired exercise for me.  I had been there and done that, I had envisioned my dream and my dream had become a reality. I knew my purpose – I was here to shift the well-being of the planet through education, inspiration, and design – that was the mission of the showroom.

But something inside of me invited me to wipe the slate clean, start fresh and ask myself, “What is the life I would truly love to be living?”

This led me to my third life lesson…

Life Lesson Number 3 – Move beyond the smaller dream, and create a larger vision.

When I asked myself, what is the life I would truly love to be living, these are the answers that came back…

  • I want to inspire people to live with Outrageous Joy.
  • I want to be teaching, speaking, and writing.
  • I want a business that can evolve as I evolve.
  • I want work that feels like play – that energizes and excites me every single day while at the same time transforming the lives of others.
  • I want work that flows easily through me with joy and confidence and ease.
  • I want to teach people about raw foods and share my experience of transformation with them.
  • I want to be able to work from anywhere at any time.
  • I want to wear shorts and flip-flops all day long if I want.

The ah ha moment came when I realized… that the breakthrough I was looking for in my business required actually letting go of my business.  Because only in letting go, would I create space for something new to emerge. And that’s exactly what happened.  When I finally made the decision to close the showroom, it allowed me to create a new business model with a broader reach that satisfied all my longings.

Out of that experience was born pamsterling.com, a teaching, speaking, and coaching business where I get to inspire people every single day to live with outrageous joy and invite them into higher levels of well-being through living raw foods.  Now I am able to teach and coach people all over the world via tele-seminars.  I am able to shift the well-being of the planet in a different and more profound way than ever before.  I am able to create new programs and offerings as I grow and change.  I can work anywhere I want, anytime I want.  I work from home and wear shorts and flip-flops all day most days.  But most importantly, I feel ALIVE.

When I look back on this journey of the past two years, if I ask myself, “Did my business fail?”  technically, the answer is yes. Did I lose a lot of money in the process? Yes.  Do I wish I had done it differently? – Not a chance.  Because what I have gained is priceless… I have become someone who listens and trusts my own longings and discontent, over a list of pros and cons.  I have developed an intimate relationship with my most trusted adviser – my Self, with a capital S.  I have created a vision that is far bigger and more far reaching than any individual dream I had before.  In short, I LOVE the person I have become in the process, and that to me is the true measure of success.


This is a transcript of the speech that was presented by Pam Sterling in Los Angeles on June 12, 2010 at a conference sponsored by the Women of the Green Generation.