How I Elevated My Writing & Creative Output

Building 'Team Julius', Part 1

We are too often led to believe that solopreneur success is a one (wo)man show. For almost all solopreneurs I know, that’s far from the truth. Many of them tend to be visionaries that have a unique feel for their audience, combined with the self awareness and humility that they won't be able to do it all. But, hey, it makes for a great story to put yourself up on the solopreneur pedestal and laud your hustle-culture energy and never-ending deep work sessions. Don’t be fooled: this is a recipe for burnout, and working hard instead of smart will not earn you a medal.

I have been talking and writing about coaching for years. I’ve been talking and writing about team dynamics for years. But I have never shared about my own coaches and how they help make my work possible. So much of what I know about coaches I know from working with my own–and now I want to introduce them to you! How and why did I start working with them? What problems do they help me with? How do we work together? In this series, me and my coaches will share the answers to these questions and more.

I hope this inspires you to find the support that could take your work and life to levels you can’t even describe! Here’s to shining a light on the village it takes to raise a coaching practice, a career coaching program, a book, a family, and an indie music record, all at the same time.

At this moment, I work with five coaches or advisors on a regular basis: these include my writing & creativity coach, my communication coach, two vocal and singing coaches (yes, two of them, because there is a lot of work… squeal), my coaching supervisor and a team of (record) producers. For Career Sovereignty Lab and the accompanying book, I’ve partnered with Laura Lewandowski and her team and recently signed to a book agent.

All of this is being held together by my on-site team Maria and Miriam, and my mind-and-soul-reading wife, love and partner (in the high-performance, uncomfortable, holding-no-punches-because-I-love-you way) Jessie, and my daughter Zoe (who has recently learned to say “Zoe stark! Zoe mutig!”)

Today, I want to explore how I work with my writing coach and editor Rachel Jepsen. Rachel is my longest-standing coach at this point and - being based in Taos, New Mexico - the farthest away!

Rachel and I, having fun while editing this piece.

It was 2021 and I wanted to take writing to the next level. Back then, I had already caught the writing bug and realized it was a powerful vessel for self reflection and engaging with my community. But two years in, I had realized my growth opportunities (aka how my writing sucked): I wanted to weave storytelling into my quite tactical essays. Back then, I would “report” on a variety of founder topics, from relationship issues to financing strategies, but my examples felt like business school case studies. I wanted a more natural flow to my essays!

I learned about Rachel through a coach whose work and writing I respected. At some point in his essays, he mentioned a writing coach. At first, I thought “wow, that’s a luxury to have a writing coach!”, closely followed by “I am intrigued, how would that work for me?”. I scheduled a meeting immediately and learned - to my complete surprise - that writing is a lot of work. Rachel stated with complete conviction that I would need to reserve at least one day per week for writing. Ugh, where would I find the time to invest into writing? At the time, I was stepping back from my startup but my schedule was still frantic. It would take months before I got to that point. 

When we first met over video call, Rachel had a guitar sitting next to her desk. Musician vibes sell… Jokes aside, I realized in the first weeks that working with Rachel would propel my creativity on more levels than just “integrating storytelling into my blog posts”. Very early on, she helped me discover my full creative identity as an author and songwriter. 

At times, I was overwhelmed with the amount of work I had to invest into this partnership but I have always been proud about the outcomes.

Julius: What does the partnership look like today?

As I am writing this in November 2023,  I have over 15 topics on my writing backlog and I have established a consistent three week publishing cadence. My writing practice has become key to my identity as a creative entrepreneur. I am working on a book and recording my first full solo album in a decade – all endeavors I would not have dared to start without Rachel’s support.

Our work turned towards identifying topics that were close to my heart – those where stories would begin to flow naturally. One key element of Rachel’s coaching is to identify topics and stories that truly matter to me and why they resonate so much. I have started to bring very raw and personal topics into our writing sessions and use writing as a tool of structured personal self-reflection. This requires 100% trust in our relationship, which is why I have also provided very open feedback when things don’t feel right for me.

Over time, Rachel got to know my family: our writing sessions take place on Friday at 5PM, a time when I will often be at home already. It’s not uncommon for little Zoe to barge into the office parading around a new toy or simply curious about what I was doing in there (“Papa abeite!”). My wife Jessie has started to take one of my sessions every other month, working on her own writing projects with Rachel... Our writing sessions feel like Friday tea time with the family now. 

This essay would not be complete without Rachel sharing her perspective, so here is how she looks at our work:

Rachel: What we’ve done 

In our first official session together, I asked Julius to define art. Like an entrepreneur he said, “to make something from nothing.” But in the year since we started working together, he has made so much by seeing more of what there already was–like the artist he is. He’s seen deeper into his life experience, his wisdom, his music, his voice, his kindheartedness, and the vision that flows from those places, and created stories and guides and reflections from those living materials. To see their value is to gain tools for building the right things–the things that matter most–and that’s what Julius has done. Our partnership has been, for me, about helping Julius see himself, and his authority as a writer, as an explorer on a long journey, encountering life and ideas, moving through challenges with us the readers, sharing truth before resolution.

Through explorations on the page and in conversation, Julius has worked hard to deconstruct and rewrite stories about himself, his future and past experiences, and the world. Julius’s writing has also reflected, supported, and encouraged change in his coaching practice, as he’s moved toward more personal and transformational work with his clients. Weaving personal story into his writing more, he demonstrates the intimate, vulnerable level of relating that is necessary for real trust. This is the level at which he wants to meet clients, and connect with them. 

I’ve also watched him come to trust his own ideas more. He’s leaning less on other people’s takes and instead sharing his own interpretations, his own frameworks and methods. This hit a turning point in April when we worked on a piece on transitions. He’d started out just explaining some other people’s ideas, but through conversation we determined that those weren’t really quite Julius’s–he had something else to say. The breakthrough in getting him to see that he could tell it his way, that was huge. 

Julius has also embraced his poetic self. I did not teach Julius how to spin beautiful lines or how to come up with great metaphor; I’ve merely tried to highlight and validate these skills in his writing he already possessed, and so they have become a bigger part of his voice and style. I’m often astounded by the way ideas just come out of Julius in conversation as pre-formed gems and jewels. He has an amazing ‘way with words,’ which we’ve determined is in part due to English being his second language–he lacks the fear of ‘rule-breaking’ that many native speakers have to get over. I hope that he’s able to hear this skill in his voice and have more gratitude for this talent than perhaps he did before.

Rachel: Our process

For the last twelve months Julius and I have been meeting weekly to talk about his writing–blocks, challenges, process, drafts–and the creative life. Each hour-long session is spent editing drafts together for voice, talking through options for structuring a piece, uncovering the thesis for a book project, setting goals for a course, or playing around with lyrics. Between meetings, we send drafts back and forth with suggestions, questions, and comments, collecting major discussion points for when we meet.

We’ve also worked on lyrics for Julius’s music! This wasn’t expected, but because we’re both musicians, Julius asked if we could work on some songs and I of course said yes. I put my poetry MFA to use as we discussed rhyme, rhythm, and the message of each number. I loved expanding my own capacities in this experiment!

It should be said that in our weekly sessions, we’re not always alone! I also am lucky enough to work with Julius’s wife Jessie on her own creative journey, and Jessie often pops in to our meetings to say hello with their beautiful daughter Zoe. 

What’s next

In the coming year, we’ll continue our work on Julius’s essays, and songs when we feel like it, and we’ll be giving more time to courses and the book Julius is writing with Laura Lewandowski.

Julius has a lot of ideas. What’s emerging is the way ideas that have been so far discretely held are interrelated and in fact part of a system. There’s some world-building happening and I think the map to it will become very clear next year. 

I think there’s the possibility of Julius’s audience expanding this year, through more speaking that will come out of his writing, his courses, and I think the changing scope of his published work. As he continues to publish more reflective, philosophical, framework-building essays, we’ll continue to discuss who may constitute a growing readership, and how to reach them.

My ultimate goal for Julius is that he understands himself as an artist. We’ve come very far along that path this year, but the path doesn’t have an ending point. The magic is to learn how to live there.

I love working with all kinds of people who want to change their lives through writing. If you’re interested in 1:1 coaching, you can learn more at my site, 2024 workshops will be announced at the end of December. I also write a free weekly newsletter on writing and the writing life called Practice, Process, Craft.