As Maya Angelou once said, “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. It’s one of Sarah Davidson’s favourite quotes and, after our interview today, is definitely something she lives by. I’ve done lots of interviews over the last twelve months, and the hour I spent with Seize the Yay’s Sarah Davidson, was one of the highlights. Sarah absolutely brought the YAY into my life, and I couldn’t be more grateful.
Sarah wears lots of hats. Once best known for starting Matcha Maiden and Matcha Mylkbar with her hubby Nic, over the last few years she’s been branching out. She’s added a wildly successful podcast Seize The Yay, and her feel-good blog Spoonful of Sarah, highlighting her entrepreneurial journey, to her portfolio. A “serial rambler”, Sarah loves nothing more than a good pun, a cracking motivational quote, crime novels and Sloth-Sundays (a concept I’m now embracing – thanks Sar!). So, I have to ask Sarah, how do you go from being a risk-averse lawyer to someone who thrives in the entrepreneurial space embracing the philosophy “Seize the Yay”.
“In hindsight, I actually think it was better for me to not know where the Matcha Maiden journey would lead. That naivety, allowed me to downplay the risk and downplay how big the step was when moving into that entrepreneurial space”, says Sarah. “When you’re trying to decide, you’re constantly battling with your brain, just going to the worst-case scenario. For me, it was better to think it was just a hobby. Think, I’m going to sell one bag of Matcha like it’s totally nothing. That allowed me to take the first step. I speak about the concept in the book – dream big but plan small. I didn’t realise I’d been applying it, but that now it’s such a big thing to me when I do anything new.
“”Going into the entrepreneurial space, there was also a lot of unlearning”, continues Sarah. “We started the business as just a hobby and not with any big financial risk, and not at the expense of my legal career. It allowed me the time to grow into it. Often, once we make a decision about something we rush, we’re all about instant gratuity. It’s I want to leave my job. I’ve found my passion. I want to leave straight away. But I waited six to eight months doing both jobs to allow myself time to actually change my mindset and decide. Am I better suited to this more dynamic, fast-paced, exciting, uncertain world, or do I prefer some certainty and structure?”
Embracing your Yay!
The concept of Seize the Yay is centred around “busy and happy are not the same thing”, and that “your pathway doesn’t have to look like someone else’s”. So, I’m curious to know how Sarah came up with the STY concept and why it resonates so deeply with her.
“Your Yay is simply about living a life that’s fulfilling, and that’s exciting for you”, says Sarah. “It meets all your needs for challenge and growth, and it’s composed of certain ingredients. As you grow, you might notice that it’s starting to miss certain ingredients. So as Matcha Maiden grew, for example, the bigger the business got, the further away I got from the customer. I was starting to really miss that human interaction. That’s what I want 90% of my day, not 10% of my day. Finding a life that you love is actually almost like a research project on yourself. Most of us honestly can’t answer what our passions are and what we’re interested. We’re so distracted by the busy-ness and the productivity hamster wheel we don’t know what we enjoy.
“There’s something in pushing aside what is objectively successful, what other people think is great, and moving more towards joy and fulfilment and what lights you up. Getting in that flow state when you forget what time it is. One day I woke up and I was like, I’ve done it. I’ve gone from seizing the day, but a directionless day, because I was seizing all the opportunities, whether or not I wanted them, to seizing the yay. I started pursuing a different metric for life, and it led to this beautiful, fulfilling existence”.
And Sarah’s tip to finding your Yay? “You just take small steps”, she says. “You’re not going to wake up one day and go, I know what my purpose is. It’s evolving the whole time, but you need to explore outside of what you’re currently doing to know what you like and what you don’t”.
Learning on the fly.
Sarah definitely has a passion for learning on the fly. From Googling “how to start a tea business” to “how to start a podcast”, it’s something she wholeheartedly embraces and advocates. “Taking that leap of faith and then working it out as you go along is so crucial”, says Sarah. “I went from someone who needed to study for seven years before I felt equipped to do something, to starting something that I had no background in whatsoever. In this day and age, you’re not expected to have a degree in everything that you start. Business and influence and good ideas have really been democratised by the digital age. You don’t need to make your bones in something before you start.
“So much of Seize the Yay for me has been learning to hack my own thought process. My thoughts immediately go to perfectionism, but I learned to hack them. For example, with the podcast, I thought, if I rip the bandaid off and buy the equipment, then I’ll force myself to actually use that equipment and figure out how to do it. Sometimes you’ve just got to take a leap before you get scared before you have a chance to talk yourself out of it. With Matcha, it was the same thing. We bought all the stock. We’d made the investment, and that forced us to get all our other ducks in a row”.
Building a village
Part of being a success in business is having the right support network, and Sarah is an advocate for building the right village around you. In Seize The Yay she says “you can’t live a positive life with a negative mind and you can’t live a positive life in a negative environment”.
Sarah says that having the support of her now-husband Nic has been incredible. A life-long entrepreneur, he’s part of the reason she’s been happy to step into her power and take some of the business risks she’s taken over the last few years. While she’s always self-teaching, upskilling and learning on the fly, Sarah believes that you can’t underestimate the influence of good friends and business partners. “They’ve been pivotal in reaffirming to me that if you wait too long for the right model, you’ll miss the moment. The quicker you can get a minimum viable product out there, the quicker you’ll get real-time feedback. It’s only then you’ll be able to start the process of refining and tweaking your offering”.
Like a lot of us, Sarah has also struggled with her self-doubt. “I spent a really long time expecting that the self-doubt would go”, she says. “The negative self-talk would disappear as we got more successful and hit more milestones. But what I’ve realised is if it ever went away, I would worry that I was complacent. It’s actually not meant to disappear. It’s intended to be a natural human response and coping mechanism to novelty and discomfort. If anything, you need to learn to interpret it as a good sign that you’re not just resting in the comfort zone. It’s a sign that you’re doing something worthy, challenging, and exciting.
“I now realise that it’s a self-defence mechanism. It’s going to come every time I do something new and scary, but I don’t have to listen to it. It’s just a reflex, and it’s a good sign. It means I care. It means I’m invested in doing a good job. But it doesn’t mean I’m crap, and it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be here. It just means it’s new for me and move on.
“Learning that the power for us to interpret and either accept or reject certain emotions has been enormously impactful for me. I used to just think, I am my emotions, and I get pulled in all directions. I had no resilience because I couldn’t resist bad thoughts, and I couldn’t resist good thoughts either. I just lived without any perspective of the fact that some thoughts are productive and some aren’t, some are accurate, some aren’t. The negative self-chatter is where you get your humility, and that’s where you get your growth”.
Choosing the next idea or finding your purpose
Sarah is a tour-de-force, there’s no denying it. I’ve heard her say that she has “way too many ideas for the hours and the energy”, so I’m interested to know how she chooses what she wants to do next.
“That’s a work in progress. I can tell you” she laughs. “I think at a certain point in your life, you realise that you can’t ignore the signals that your body is giving you that you have limits. And obviously, for me, adrenal fatigue being the first happy accident that led to Matcha Maiden, was the first rude awakening that I can’t do everything. So, the last couple of years has been a real exercise in pushing gently on the boundaries, pulling them back and learning to be more selective with which ideas I pursue and which I don’t.
“When I was mid writing the book, I was like, you actually don’t have any more brain space for anything else. But that’s the other thing I think there’s a fine line between done is better than perfect. There’s really no rush”.
Learning to stop…without the guilt
With so many ideas on the boil, I wonder how Sarah finds the time for self-care. Does she ever just stop and smell the roses? “I think a lot more of us struggle with energy levels and wellness than we let on. I’ve had adrenal fatigue a couple of times, it progressed to chronic fatigue, and that stays with you forever. I have quite severe anxiety at times which to manage. Both those things have forced me from very early on, and only by pushing the boundaries and actually crashing a couple of times, to notice that I have limits. I’ve got to respect those limits, or I wipe myself out for months and months.
“It’s made me realise that I absolutely have to take minimum one day off, that’s one entire day off, per week. I can fit in whatever I want from Monday to Friday and push myself as hard as I want if I take all of Sunday and most of Saturday off. You really do have to try different structures and see what works.
“I now have Sloth Sunday. In my mind, I try to be as lazy as a sloth. It makes me remember that that’s what I need to do. I’m not allowed to go on my devices or do work. I sleep in and have no alarm. I do crossword puzzles. I read crime books, you know, it’s a whole day off”.
Transitioning – your side hustle
With so many women now thinking about what’s next in their lives, I ask Sarah’s advice for anyone considering starting a side-hustle or taking the leap into a new business. “Anyone can be a business owner. There’s no expectation. The digital age has made it incredibly accessible to start a business without much capital. There’s no better time to take a risk on yourself and just go with an idea. The worst thing that might happen is that you try and then it doesn’t really work. And then you go back to where you were before. We worry too much about looking like a failure rather than failing. Don’t do that. Just start”.
So, what’s some killer business advice that Sarah can leave me with? “You don’t have to see the whole staircase to take the first step. You don’t have to have it all mapped out. You’re not supposed to. If you’re not enjoying the chapter you’re in right now, that doesn’t mean it’s not the exact right chapter. That’s meant to be and, it’s going to teach you something for the next one. If you see your whole journey as a staircase, it makes it a lot easier to not worry that you don’t know what comes next. You’re not supposed to know. If you stay open-minded to the fact that anything could come next, then anything is possible.
“That’s why I love this quote, particularly in this whole Covid situation – ‘when nothing is certain, everything is possible’. I believe that if you don’t rule out any possibility for the next step in your staircase, then anything could come and arrive on your doorstep and be your next chapter”.
Sarah’s new book Seize the Yay is a must-buy for anyone in business, a side-hustle or who has a career and wants to find happiness and fulfilment in the process. It’s all about changing the way you think and finally realizing that your happiness is not necessarily a by-product of a busy life. Sometimes it’s about stopping, giving yourself a break, and being open to the possibilities.