Each month I want to shine a spotlight on how business owners incorporate their creativity across all aspects of their life, and give some ‘behind the scenes’ insight into how they started and plan for their business.
This month I’d like to introduce you to The Creative Life of Fay Chan.
Fay runs Budgeting123 as a Financial Readiness and Budgeting Coach. Fay helps individuals and families to plan their household savings and spending goals. The foundation of her work is based on awareness and responsibility – knowing where your money goes and where it doesn’t go!
IMAGE: FAY CHAN
So what has all of this number stuff got to do with creativity? And no, it has nothing to do with creative accounting :-).
I really enjoyed talking to Fay because she links numbers, money and creativity with being spiritual, empowered and on purpose. I was also in awe of the importance that Fay places on being aligned and grounded in relation to her creativity and how she works. Her creative practices may appear simple, but they are consistent with what research is discovering about the creative process*, and are helping Fay achieve consistent and great results for her business and clients.
So please read Fay’s candid and inspiring interview to find out, amongst other things, about:
- the chore that she started in primary school that built the foundations for her current business
- the turning point that made Fay re-evaluate her childhood beliefs and give up her corporate job to take a leap of faith towards where she is now
- how Fay models self-awareness in juggling work and being a Mum to her pre-schooler
- what washing dishes and other mundane chores have to do with fostering Fay’s creativity
What are the different hats you wear in life?
Mum, part-time account manager, business founder and owner, household finance engineer, cleaner, chauffeur, and wife.
How do you express your creativity?
When I asked you this question in the lead up to this interview you sent me this poem in response:
Creativity comes like a lightning bolt to me.
I used to write a lot of poetry, and it’s always in the moment.
The strike of inspiration is instant and the words pour in
If I don’t scribble, I won’t remember it later.
And that’s how I create all my memes for my FB and Instagram posts
Nothing is quite structured, or organised
But the flow of it fits and is perfect for the moment.
And how I write my blog posts, as well as my presentations also follow the same
Law of Inspiration.
My business has organically refined and grown
And I’m loving the ride of this entrepreneurial experience
It was given me a new breadth of living my passion
Into Existence and allowing my message to be spread in a manner
Which concentrates on the facts and then the spiritual message will flow through it.
I love creating my memes. In terms of my work, my creativity strikes me in a lot of my Facebook posts. It’s almost like a thought comes into my head at lightning speed. It makes real sense and I’ve just got to jot it down. Or I have to sit down and start creating a meme for it and it’ll just come. So my creativity is embedded in a lot of my activity in Facebook. I use it as a means to keep me grounded, as a means to have me be familiar and in touch with my work, not necessarily to drive sales or new ‘likes’. It’s more that the product of that has become new ‘likes’ and new enquiries. But the grounding of it has nothing to do with trying to get more work out of it. So I love doing Facebook because it keeps me creative.
A MEME about Understanding where your money goes. IMAGE: FAY CHAN
Other ways that I’m creative: it’s often when I’m washing the dishes or doing something that’s mundane. And again the idea will come to me, and it’ll make sense. The idea’s very logical, very practical. It’s almost like I have to do it straight away. There’s no rest or I can sleep on it. I just have to jot it down and do it straight away.
So not only does the inspiration hit you right away, but also some level of enthusiasm that spurs you on and gives you the momentum to get going?
Correct. I have to be in action about it straight away. It’s usually jotting it down, creating a meme. That’s the immediate action. But then if I do sleep on it then there are other things that fester behind it, as the idea develops itself organically.
I’m also creative at work when I’m coaching people about their finances. Very often again something that I need to say will strike me like a lightning bolt. It usually isn’t a very kosher or politically correct thing to say – almost like a frying pan across that person’s head.
I was talking to a client about her husband’s credit card debt, and I said “Look what is predictable and almost certain is they’re going to come for the credit cards. You can’t repay the credit cards. They’re going to come for the house, or if he’s not divorced to you by then, then he’s going to go bankrupt. You really need to understand that that’s the impact that he has on other people. You may not be the person to tell your husband. It’ll be for me to tell your husband because he needs to hear it from me.”
And she was just dead silent over the phone, because I had hit the nail on the head. This is their second marriage and what didn’t work in the first marriage is repeating itself. I could hear the patterns and when something needs to be said, even though it’s uncomfortable, it needs to be said. And would you call that creativity? Not necessarily, but it’s something that’s almost spiritual and healing. Something needs to be said and I’m the messenger.
You’re tapping into something bigger than you, your intuition, whatever you want to call it.
And that is a part of your creativity.
What three words would you use to describe your business?
Grounding, awareness, clarity.
What three emotions do you want your clients to feel about your work?
Relief, peace of mind, and freedom
How did you get started with your business?
In terms of my grounding in my own finances, it all started with a culture and experience from my grandparents’ generation. So my Mum’s Father ran his own company. He was very entrepreneurial and very successful. That carefulness and rigour with numbers was passed down on to my Mum. As a girl growing up I really learnt from my Mum. I never saw it as Mum training me in personal finance. It was a chore that I did for Mum. She would give me the bill, hand me a credit card, give me the phone and say “Pay this bill.” I would sit there, punch the numbers in on the phone, write down the receipt number and hang up. And that was paying the bill: the electricity bill with the credit card. When the credit card statement came, she’d have the receipts stapled or bundled together and go ‘reconcile this’. So I would pick up the receipt and tick off the item on her credit card bill. And I did that monthly. If something was missing it would be highlighted. I’d show Mum and she’d say “Oh that was…” So everything was balanced and reconciled. Then she’d pay the bill fully without incurring interest. I never saw this as training. I just saw this as helping Mum out with a chore. That was the grounding for why I’m so rigorous with my numbers.
In terms of how I got my business started… I had a coaching background. I was passionate about coaching people in making a difference for themselves in their lives whatever that may be. I did that for a period of years. A lot of people always came up to me and say “Fay, I know that you’re good with your numbers, can you just help me out with something?” “Yes of course!” It was a no brainer for me. When I started working for a national finance company in the area of their budgeting it really married up my coaching and my love or my naturalness for finance. That’s how everything got started. After having my son, I knew that I couldn’t go back to a full-time plus over-time job. He was the impetus for me starting Budgeting123.
And so how old were you when you were doing your bill reconciling for your Mum?
I was in Grade 4 or Grade 5.
Wow! I was thinking teenage years…
I did it through my teens as well. But definitely Grade 4, Grade 5.
What do you love most about your work?
The fulfilment comes when I no longer help my customers in their budgeting – when it becomes for them a self-motivating, inspiring action to go “Well, I can cut corners here, and I can do this. I’m going to save this.” When they’re completely action-oriented and they are the ones that initiate what they want- that’s my fulfilment. It comes with me assisting them at the start, awakening and having them be responsible for themselves. The fulfilment comes when they are sharing all the joys with me and then I know “Great! I’ve done my job.” That’s what’s really rewarding about my work.
Going through a client’s Spend Log. Image: Fay Chan
Coming back to what you really love about your work. You previously talked about what you do on Facebook. How does that make you feel?
Really empowered and on purpose. I know it’s a message I’m meant to impart on to others. Personal finance is a vehicle for that, and Facebook is a medium for that. I’m just a vehicle for the message. But I feel really empowered and on path. It’s like I’m doing the right thing, I’m know I’m doing the right thing and this is what I am put on Earth to do. Every time I put a meme and create a message and send it out to the universe. Great! The people who need to see that will see that.
You’ve touched on this before, but how does your creativity influence your business or other aspects of your life?
It’s about organic growth. I’ve learnt to listen to my gut. There’s different ways that people receive messages. Some people walk into a room and they receive a message from their gut. Some people hear a lightning bolt, like myself. Others might see it as a visual. Or people might feel it naturally, or just know what the future holds and they can predict. I don’t really predict, but it hits me like a lightning bolt. When I hear something in networking meetings or when I’m reading a white paper, and one particular thing comes out of it, I usually go with it. That’s how I create new services; get in touch with other people that can help me grow myself; how I engage in other people’s services that way; and how I engage in my own business.
It doesn’t seem that you make a specific time for your creativity. How do you make that time and space for creativity in your day (or week)?
I’ve come to the point where I’ve accepted that until my son is in primary school that there’ll be no specific time that I can sit down and do things in a very structured, routine, regular way. I’ve had to deal with myself to give that up. And just expect a flow of things. I could be at home doing the dishes, that flows on to calling 3 clients, flows on to doing the vacuuming, and then a thought strikes me so I’ve got to sit down to do a meme. Then I have to go to a networking meeting, and then I have to get back to some clients. There’s a real flow in my work. There’s no structure. But there’s rigour and completeness. I love systems. I love structures. I work really well in a process-oriented role. But I know that I can’t implement that right now because of the capacity that I’ve got as a new mum.
How do you balance being creative or innovative in your work in relation to delivering what the market or your clients want? Is there ever a tension between “I want to express my creativity in this way or I want to do this” but the market and my clients are really asking for something else?
That’s a trial- like test, re-test, test, re-test. That’s how I’ve grown in the last year+. I’ve tested the market, listened to the feedback, then re-test it slightly differently and then listen to the feedback. That’s how I’ve redefined my avatar and the people I want to work with. In my product and service offerings: there’s test and re-test, and organically listening to the feedback and growing that way. And when I’m delivering, be it a coaching session or presentation, it’s very dynamic because I’ll listen and look for cues with my intuition as to whether I should go down the path that I prepared and my speaking content; versus I’m standing there and I know there’s a lot of interest in this topic, so I’ll keep going on point. Sometimes I’ll deal with that and keep going. If I need to delve back into what I had planned, then I do that. There’s a flexibility there in terms of listening and making sure that I’m listening for what’s needed and wanted.
What inspires your creativity?
Having basic workability in people’s lives. Basic workability doesn’t mean that your basic bills are covered in terms of budgeting. It means that your life as a whole works. You could be talking to someone who’s very affluent, that wants to and know they have to (due to social pressure) send their kids to private school, but yet there’s no way they can come up with an additional $30,000 a year. So if they need to deliver the message that their child’s not going to private school and end up impacting their immediate family and community- for them that’s not workable. So it’s really about understanding the impact of who you are, how you do your finances, the relationship to your money, to the community, so that it becomes a level of workability for you. It’s not about getting your bills covered. It’s really about having your life work.
Getting ready for a First Home Buyer’s Seminar presentation. IMAGE: FAY CHAN
Is there anything you do to prepare or get into the zone before you do your work?
Not really. I just sit down. I’ve got a ritual where I cleanse my aura, and that’s about it.
So you’re aligning yourself and grounding yourself like we were talking before.
What do you do to overcome a creative rut or when you’re feeling stuck?
I do something else. So if I’m sitting there trying to bang out a blog and it’s not working I go do the dishes. I know I have to pick something mundane and repetitive that doesn’t require my brain to think, like cleaning the toilet :-). Seriously! That’s why monks are quite creative and in the Zen, because they have to use a toothbrush to wash the floor. It’s the repetition, the mundaness, the open-eye meditation, that gets them back to the Source. So if I’m in a rut, I stop and go wash the dishes, fold clothes, vacuum the floor, really boring stuff that people say “Are you crazy?” But I know it works.
It seems that you intuitively apply the science behind creativity.
It comes quite naturally to me. When I did a spiritual course and I know that there are beings in the world that assist you like angels. Well, that sounds obvious to me. It’s a no brainer, almost like breathing. A friend once said “Fay, you know it’s not natural. People will think you belong in la la land if you speak naturally that way.” It doesn’t occur to them in as normal but it occurs very naturally to me. It’s intrinsic. It’s obvious to me, but I know that it’s not obvious to others.
Has there been a big challenge or mistake that you’ve made in your business? What’s been your biggest learning?
My biggest takeaway is how important my relationship is to my husband. Because he’s really been in this with me, together. He’s the guy that developed the website, the branding direction. He’s a graphic artist by background, so he’s really quite creative. And he’s an empath, so he’s a feeler about things. So it’s really highlighted the importance of who he is as the backing to me. So that I can be at the front doing what I do and he’s at the back making sure that things work.
What do you think was the biggest leap of faith that you’ve made? What helped you?
In life, the turning point was to trust in myself when I left my first real corporate job in an IT consulting company. It paid well. I had great disposable income. It was a hard company to get into. Everyone wanted to get into it. Although knowing that it was the right path for me to be on, there were a lot of people that thought I was crazy for leaving my job. That was the day I jumped off the cliff and trusted that my wings would spread and take me to the right spot. And it has. It’s been a journey since then. But that was the tipping point, the part where I really decided to turn the Titanic around, and it’s been a journey since then.
What helped you make that decision?
I was stuck, unhappy and unfulfilled as a person. I was not passionate about what I did. I remember thinking to myself “I did not go to Uni to sign up for this. This is just not it.” There was a realisation at one point where I knew that I made a decision as a 7 year-old that I must do well in report cards and in school, so that I can achieve the love of my parents. I knew that if I kept going down this track it would just mean staying in this corporate role, climbing the corporate ladder, be the political corporate personality I’m not, and just keep up the game. And I know that as a 7 year-old I made that choice, and at that time as a 28 year-old I knew I could make a different choice and not be governed by my 7year-old decision.
On the business side of things, are you a planner or do you go with the flow?
Go with the flow. Definitely. It’s always been like that. The only times when I plan around things is when I’ve got meetings set in stone.
What’s your big creative dream?
Ultimately I would love to be involved with a company like Apple or Lululemon Athletica because what they do with their staff is very different and very creative. I would love to help them help their staff to make sure that their life works. And I choose companies like that only because I understand that their intrinsic HR policies are about the people, never about the sales. So that’s a big dream of mine to be able to go in and impact their staff members on a broad scale; to create that sort of partnership. I know that although budgeting is important in a lot of people’s lives, I know what’s going to work is synergies and collaborations. That’s where I want to go.
Financial Yoga Workshop on ‘How Budgeting IS JuST Like Yoga’ at lululemon athletica. Image: Fay Chan
On another side of things, I want to write an e-course that’s available and readily accessible at an average price point. So that my message can reach whoever it needs to reach; to contribute to the workability in their lives.
Also, to have a ‘she’ shed, a bit like a man cave or shed. It’s going to have candles, lighting, a kettle, desk and daybed. A space for me and my creation.
Do you have a favourite quote or saying?
“A man is not a plan” by Loral Langemeier
She’s American, like a personal empowerment speaker for women. I know that I’ve always wanted to buy a place with a partner because the risk is spread between two salaries, etc. It didn’t work out for me at that time. So I just bought my own place. It was my thought about how scary it is, but in fact it’s not scary at all. So it’s really about the independence and being self-sustainable.
What would you most like to be remembered for?
I’d like to be remembered with each individual client for that one sentence that I say to them that makes the difference to how they do their finances or how they are in their relationship with their money. I often get that feedback when people do the SpendLog exercise. I know that part of my work is done as soon as they tell me “I didn’t realise how much I spent.” Great! The awareness has begun. And all those little stepping stones. I see an image of a little pebble dropped into the water and then the rings spreading out – that’s the difference that I want to make in their lives.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on my coaching sessions. I understand that there a lot
of people who might not need the full-blown budgeting sessions, but that need someone to speak to about certain concerns or issues that they want to nut out. That is a great stepping stone for them to understand what I do, the backing I provide and for them to carry that forward into their lives, and then create a larger pipeline from there.
Is there anything else you’d like to share or give advice to someone about living a creative life?
Everyone says trust your intuition and trust your gut. I say “Do that and know that it’s going to be hard work”. There’s a saying about “A smooth sea never makes a good sailor”. It’s the rough seas that makes a good sailor. It’s the journey that you’re placed on Earth to do. It’s always going to be rough, with lessons and turns, and corners. It’s not going to be easy. But it’s the enjoyment of the process that will allow you to be creative within yourself and to be fulfilled with that.
*Also, if you’re interested in finding out more about the science behind the creative process click to read the blog on How to Find Creative Inspiration.