“Having a 5 Freedoms Initiation Plan really tones down the fear and helps you envision the possibilities. It creates a stability, a safety net. Having a plan is making a commitment to yourself to create the 5 Freedoms Life you love!”
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Hey there! Thanks for popping into My 5 Freedoms Life. I'm your host, Suzanne Klein, an educator-turned-entrepreneur with a 5 Freedoms Life and teaching you how to have one, too! Welcome back to our Freedom for Educators Virtual Summit, where we talk about going from Dreaming to Doing!
If you've been watching these interviews, you've probably picked up on the fact that I like to ask questions. So much so that, while driving home from an event, my husband will turn to me and say, “So, whose life story have you learned now?” He knows me so well. I'm a listener more than a talker; I enjoy learning about people. I think that's why I enjoy business coaching so much; it’s all about deep listening for what my client really wants, what lights them up.
Well, today the table has turned. Instead of me asking the questions, I'll be answering them. And who better to ask those questions than the business coach who recommended I create the summit in the first place? Hi, Terra. Welcome to My 5 Freedoms Life and the Freedom for Educators Virtual Summit.
Hi Suzanne. I’m so excited to be interviewing you today. I so believe in the work that you are doing, empowering educators to step into their true purpose and pursue their dreams.
Let's just dive in. I'm sure the question on everyone's mind is why did you decide to leave the classroom and start your own business venture?
Thank you, Terra, and thank you for interviewing me. I don't think you know this, but it took me a long time to like school. In fact, it wasn't until I went to university that I finally felt I’d hit my stride in my creative outlet of writing curriculum and then teaching it. I knew I wanted to become the teacher I never had, one who loved it all: the students, the subjects, and the supervisors. But after a while, I didn't love going to the same place, at the same time, day after day. I wasn't fond of the people politics—I'm sure some of our participants can relate. I didn't love the 60-plus hours I worked in the classroom, on the weekends, after school... And I knew, within myself, I was made for something more. I can't explain that; I just knew.
After preparing and presenting my writing lessons at a large Michigan literacy conference, I marked a turning point and left the classroom to become a national presenter for a Professional Development company, the largest one called BER—The Bureau of Education & Research. After that, I had a writing consultancy business, my first company.
And I continued to model the writing lessons I’d created, in over 350 classrooms. I kept hearing teachers say, “You should package these lessons before someone steals them.” I’d reply, “No, I don't know how to do that.” I was playing it small; it took six years of hearing this constantly from teachers all over the US. And then it finally dawned on me; the solution to achieving the 5 Freedoms had been right in front of me since leaving the classroom—it was time to take a leap and package all these lessons.
That is so inspiring, Suzanne. I'm curious to know: what was that experience like, of saying “yes” and taking the leap?
Looking back, it was really overwhelming at the start. I was having doubts, saying to myself, “I didn't go to business school. I don't have an MBA. I don't know how to create a product and sell it to districts.” I had no idea where to start. I remember I’d call up my mom, crying, completely overwhelmed at what I’d gotten myself into. And she would always say, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!” That’s a corny joke, but a great metaphor for it. It really helped.
I locked myself in my office for a whole summer—this was around 2006, 2007—and just wrote. And wrote. Finally, I emerged with 400-plus pages of writing lessons, grammar lessons, and reproducible, each adjusted for grades K-5. That's like 2500 pages!
That sounds like a ton of work!
I know one thing a lot of teachers struggle with is burnout. Were you completely burned out at that point?
Not at all. I never burned out as a teacher; I was never even crispy around the edges, and I sure wasn't with this new venture. It’s said when you really love what you're doing, it doesn't feel like work. I totally get this. Being in the zone is this delicious, immersive, kind of trippy feeling. It's like time collapses, sound ceases...suddenly I look up and it's 4:00 a.m. It happens a lot. When I'm immersed in something, working in my purpose, it's like this tunnel vision phenomenon. Athletes and entrepreneurs talk about it—this hyper-focused, sometimes spiritual, state of mind where anything is possible. That’s when I’m most productive and creative.
Amazing! Let's fast-forward to today. You grew this amazing educational software company, WriteSteps, and it had enormous impact. You sold it ten years later at close to nine million dollars. What was that like and why did you sell?
What was it like owning and running a seven-figure business? It was truly a gift. I feel so incredibly grateful and blessed that I was able to create something from my vision. It was a 10-year journey though, with WriteSteps—WriteStepsWriting.com is still the website. I'm so proud of what we created. We served over 10,000 teachers; more than 300,000 students became better writers because of WriteSteps, and I loved leading a team through the good times. But there were lots of challenges as well, and always room for growth.
Why did I sell WriteSteps? I knew I was ready. The teachers I talk to say, “You know when you know it's time to go.” I love this! That really was me at that moment; I knew it was time. I always use the analogy of birthing: building a business as birthing a child. I birthed WriteSteps from the seed of an idea, nurtured her while she was still in infancy, stayed until she became a teenager and outgrew me. She was ready to spread her wings and find a new home. It was like that.
I love that analogy! And then you went on to start Rewrite Your Future—why?
Why not just sit back, relax, and enjoy? No, that's not me.
And I am deeply troubled by the stories I hear from our teachers. Today's teachers carry increasing workloads, elevated levels of stress. They deal too much with disrespectful students and parents—even administration. Administrators should be removing obstacles; instead, they're putting more obstacles at our educators’ feet. And it shouldn't be that way! Too many teachers feel underappreciated, underpaid, and stretched too thin. When this happens, no one wins. Teachers feel burnt out, stuck, hopeless—and this doesn't help them, the students, parents, or the staff. We continue to hear about these teachers having side hustle businesses to make ends meet. This is crazy. Teaching is hard enough without having to get a second job or a side hustle.
That’s why I jumped back in the ring—I wanted to help, to serve. Teachers need more freedom, in and out of the classroom. They need their lives back.
Suzanne, I love your passion and the sense of mission that you have around this work. It’s deeply inspiring.
We're coming to the end of our time together. I have two more questions before you share with viewers how they can take that next step.
The heart of your work is helping teachers to find more freedom. Can you share how you help these educators find the freedom they desire?
It starts with the educator realizing they can't do it alone—not easily, at least. The first step: I would implore our participants to take my 5 Freedoms Quiz after this interview, if you haven't already. Three minutes for clarity and insight on which Freedoms you're deficient in. I always have my coaching clients take it; it’s a wonderful place to start.
One of my clients discovered her lack of location freedom was what really made her feel deep-down bothered and stuck. She's lived in the same town her whole life, and she longed to explore the world and travel before it was too late. We only have one life, that we know of. She didn't know what to do about it, didn’t have...a container to put her stuck-ness in, you could say. By taking the quiz she was able to zoom in on that.
Then we started to look at her hidden talents and skills. Teachers have a lot of transferable skills; what can you do? And she decided it had to come from her; I just helped. She decided to create an online course business. Now she can travel with her laptop, so she's getting closer to making the leap, making it happen. That's really all there is to it—you just have to know how to create the proper escape plan. Truly, the only way to gain all 5 Freedoms is through entrepreneurship. Full stop. That's it. I've tried every scenario, and nothing else really gives you all 5 Freedoms.
I agree with you 100%, and what you're sharing is super-inspiring and totally doable. I’m so grateful to be an entrepreneur; I know you feel the same way. It’s amazing to be able to travel when I want to. To create my own schedule, have time for the things that matter. I wholeheartedly agree with you.
I want to ask you the question you’ve asked all your amazing guests during the Virtual Summit. What do you think stops teachers from leaving the profession and following their dream? The call for freedom through the path of entrepreneurship?
Such a great question. And all my guests have had a slightly different answer.
The big picture for me boils down to one 4-letter word: fear. It’s one of the first things we tackle when someone signs up to work with me in coaching. We identify their fears and figure out how to shift their mindset to look at fear differently. Fear can be observed and used as a help, rather than a hindrance.
There’s a quote I'm looking at right now: “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” I love this. It’s such a good reminder of the need for this mindset shift, to get over the hurdle. When we think about it, the fears we have about making a change can be put into 3 buckets: lack of time, lack of money, and lack of knowledge. And this is just a start; there's a lot more I could talk about on the specifics of how we realize our fears, if we had time. In coaching we drill down deeper, get to the heart of the client’s individual fears, what’s stopping them between Dream and Do.
I love that! And you are an amazing coach who can really support educators, help them look at those fears and make a plan for transitioning into the entrepreneurial path they want. We spend 90,000 hours of our lives at work; it touches every area of our lives and our relationships. There's a lot of research showing that when we're living our purpose, we have a higher net worth. And we all know what it's like when we're feeling stuck and not sure how to break out.
So, for those participants in this summit saying, “I am ready to stop letting my fears get in the way of me creating my entrepreneurial dream,” what is your next step for helping them get unstuck?
I think it’s important for people to know—because it can feel like, despite all these strategies, you don't know how to put one foot in front of the other, what to do next. For anyone participating who feels stuck or burnt out or has an idea they've dreamed about for years but don’t know where to start—this is where I can help.
During coaching, I help educators create a solid plan—what I call the 5 Freedoms Initiation Plan. A hard-copy plan for family and friends to see. Because what sometimes holds people back is the fear of what others are going to think, or the fear of not having a steady paycheck if they leave their teaching job. With this plan, they can show and say to others, “I'm going to work this plan. I want you to help me with this plan, help me figure out the next chapter in my life.”
Having a 5 Freedoms Initiation Plan really tones down the fear and helps you envision the possibilities. It creates a stability, a safety net. Having a plan is making a commitment to yourself to create the 5 Freedoms Life you love!
So, I invite our participants to download the Rewrite Your Future Map. It's a visual aid to help you assess where you are on your life's path and where you want to be. It looks like a CandyLand map, if you remember that game. It’s an easy-to-fill-out, insightful assessment for determining how to create the life you want.
If you’re participating in this summit and feel like you’re ready to take that next step, I encourage you to take advantage of this offer. And Suzanne, I also want to acknowledge you, because I’ve had the privilege of watching you put your heart and soul into this event. I know from other teaching summits just how much time, energy, and devotion goes into it. It can be all-consuming. I know how much you care about educators; you’re such a gift to them, because you can help them create the business of their dreams. You have done this! You created a 7-figure business, and now what you've put together in this series and the speakers you've had—it’s been amazing!
Do you have any final words for your participants?
Thank you, Terra. That means a lot; I appreciate you acknowledging me. And thank you for agreeing to be the interviewer here. I'm excited to work with you, and with educators who are ready to go From Dreaming to Doing. I'm Suzanne Klein. Remember, you can Rewrite Your Future. Until next time. Stay savvy, my friends.
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