Hey rebels, I'm excited to share today's episode with you. My guest is Ash Ambirge, and she's one of the first people that I followed when I started my business eight years ago. I connected with so much that she was saying, because it's went waaaay against the status quo, so of course her work is directly aligned with Rebel Rising.
Her book, The Middle Finger Project, trash your imposter syndrome and live the unfuckwithable life you deserve, is one that every online business owner needs to own.
One of the first things we talk about in relation to her book is promoting yourself during this sensitive time, and how we actually need to ditch the word “promotion” all together and replace it with help.
Plus, in the same vein, we talk about why we need to get a lot more comfortable with making money and charging prices that are fair.
Other rebel things we cover are:
- Why and how Ash is rebelling against the construct of authority
- What Ash has learned from separating herself from her business
- The change that would happen in the world if everyone, especially women, gave the middle finger to authority
- How we can create value and control the economy.
This episode has a lot packed in that you definitely don't want to miss!
Listen in or read through the transcript below
Resources mentioned in this episode
Michelle: Ash, welcome to the Rebel Rising podcast. I am so glad you're here.
Ash: Michelle. How do we not know each other in real life yet? How?
Michelle: I know. I've been following you for years. You were literally one of the first people I discovered when I started my business eight years ago.
Ash: Oh my God. Has it been that long?
Michelle: Yes, it's been that long.
Ash: Wow. And your business for the record is one of my favorite businesses on the planet and one of the favorite people I've ever talked to about brand messaging as a whole. So I'm so glad you're still here.
Michelle: Me too. Me too. And I'm so excited to talk to you about your book, The Middle Finger Project, trash your imposter syndrome and live the unfuckwithable life you deserve. So congratulations on the book. I know that was a long project, long, hard-fought project.
Ash: Thank you. Congratulations on pronouncing unfuckwithable on first pass.
Michelle: It did take a little practice, I'll say.
Ash: Most people say unfuckable with. That's what they say. Unfuckable with, is what they think it is. Yeah.
Michelle: Oh man. Well, one of the things I wanted to ask you about, especially, it seems so relevant now with the pandemic happening, is promoting yourself. Because in the book you talk about the fact that Brad Pitt still has to promote his movies. So you're always going to have to promote your business.
How do you think we should approach promoting ourselves with the pandemic going on, with a recession most likely happening right now, and do it with some sensitivity?
But I feel like it's still this really necessary thing.
Ash: Yeah. I mean, first of all, if anybody out there knows Brad Pitt, I would rush over there and make out with him really fast before he marries somebody else. That would be my first step.
Michelle: Good call.
Ash: Right? I mean, I've been thinking about this. My second step, I think we need to trash the word promotion. And promoting any kind of iteration of that word. I think we need to throw that one out because I think it carries way too much baggage for it to do us any good-
Ash: Right? That word is just, there's nothing good about that word. Nobody likes that word.
Michelle: You're right.
Ash: Right? Nobody likes to promote and nobody likes to be promoted to. So I think the first step is to actually get rid of that word. And instead, I would really like to encourage all of us to replace it with the word helping, because nobody ever hired anybody to be unhelpful.
So therefore what you are doing when you are P word, promoting is actually just reaching out and saying to someone, "Hey, here's what I do. Do you want my help" And during a pandemic or otherwise, I don't see anything wrong with it. I think it's actually one of the most generous things we can be doing.
Michelle: That is such a great reframe.
Ash: Yeah. Like, "Do you want my help? Do you?" That's all we're all doing with the work that we put out into the world.
Michelle: Yeah. And then it doesn't feel like, "Oh, I'm being selfish by offering what I do to people."
Ash: No. It's a really great thing. And the exchange of financial compensation is a necessary evil because that's kind of what you get out of the deal, but it allows you to free up your time and your resources to reach out and give that person some help.
So whatever it is that you do right now, I think there's a great opportunity to help the people that you serve. You can reach right out to them today and say, "Hey, listen, times are tough. Do you need my help right now? What do you got? I'm on it. Let me know." And come at it from this approach of being earnestly eager to help someone instead of, "Hey, you want to buy my stuff?"
Michelle: And the way I think about it right now is that if you are still able to sell, you should be doing it because it keeps money circulating in our economy. Because there are a lot of people like my hairstylist who can't actually do what she does because she's trapped in her house and the government isn't letting her do what she normally does to make money. And so I feel so privileged that I can still sell and serve and help people and make offers like that. So I just feel like, "Okay, I'm going to do my duty and circulate money in the economy and help the economy grow."
Ash: I love that. Yeah, I love that. And you know what else I think is true is simply that when someone else buys something from you, you know how they get that really initial just surge of hope that courses through their veins, because they feel like they've finally take an action on this really important thing that they haven't been taking action on and now they feel hopeful. Like, "Okay, I'm still doing it. I'm still showing up." I think that that's actually cool too, to be able to produce that in someone else and say, "Look, we're still doing the damn thing, everybody. Let's do it. Let's go."
Michelle: I love that. Yes, let's go. So this is related to the promoting and helping, and these are the 3 Word Rebellion questions.
So I'm going to ask you, what are you rebelling against, Ash?
Ash: When I was reading through your questions, Michelle, I thought about a million things I could say here.
Michelle: I'm sure you did.
Ash: I mean, yeah, little tiny crop tops were at the top of the list for me, first of all. But overall, when I had to really step back and take a look at kind of the bigger thing that I rebel against through my work at The Middle Finger Project is really, it's always been about the misleading construct of authority.
It's always been about authority, whether it's in business or whether it's in your writing, whether it's in your life. I think we really believe everybody else to be more an authority on everything in our lives. Right? From which career you should pursue, which guy you should marry, which outfit you should wear, whether or not you should have kids, the list goes on and on. So that for me has been the cornerstone of my work. Helping people reevaluate the rules that they're deciding to follow.
Michelle: Yeah, and that's really what your book is about.
Ash: It is. It's a giant reframe. It's like, "Have you ever thought to look at it this way?" There's a line in that book that talks about authority only working as long as you trust that someone smarter than you is making the rules.
And I think that that is just so true. Without that, if you don't believe that anymore, if you stop believing that everyone else around you has the answers and you're just kind of grasping for straws, then authority as a construct kind of dissipates. And so what you're left with is yourself. And I think that's one of the coolest things ever.
Michelle: I love that you said that because that's one of the things that I've kind of noticed, especially in the online business world, is that we're always looking for the formula, the blueprint, the guru to tell us what to do with our businesses instead of really relying on what's right for me in this business.
Ash: Yes, yes. Start with that. "What's right for me? What do I want to be doing?" I see so many people opening up one more frigging Facebook group just because they think they have to do that to sell the thing or they think they have to do that because that's what people do. It's just a simple example, but it's a really prevalent one because it's like, "Gosh, you don't actually have to do it." What's the end goal? What do you want your clients and customers to experience and what do you want to experience and how can you engineer that in a way that feels right for both of you?
Michelle: Yeah. Yeah. If you hate Facebook, you probably shouldn't open a Facebook group.
Ash: Right. I mean, it's only for a certain kind of people. You got to be the person can handle having kind of the incoming data all the time of people talking to you and having these conversations and if you have that bandwidth or not. Not everybody has that.
Michelle: No, no, no, no, no, no. Not at all. But it just seems like, "Oh, well this is the way you grow the business."
Michelle: And that's not necessarily true. There's so many different ways to grow your business.
Ash: Yeah. In my own experience I have found usually, and I think you could probably relate to this, usually the things that I do that are the complete opposite of what everyone else is doing are instead construed as being very fresh and original and creative by my own clients and my own customers. So it ends up attracting them more because they're like, "Oh, thank God not another Facebook," or whatever the thing is. Having the courage to say, Here's how I think we should do it."
Michelle: Yeah. "Let's try something a little bit different and see what happens."
Ash: Yeah. That's a great sign of leadership. It's not a sign that you don't know what you're doing.
Michelle: Yes. So you're rebelling against authority, which I kind of love.
Ash: Right? It's it, it's it, yeah.
Michelle: It's so huge and you're probably the only person who's ever given a real succinct one word answer to this question.
Ash: It really is. It's the umbrella of everything, the authority piece. Gosh, if one more person tells me how I should do X, Y, or Z, it's like, "Well, do you, do you actually have any experience doing X, Y, or Z?" The Dream Zappers are the worst.
Michelle: Oh, they are.
So what is the change that you want to create in the world?
Ash: As a function of that, for me, it's always been helping other people trust in their own ideas. It is simple. I want women, especially women, I call them out because usually they are the ones who are the givers and who are the martyrs.
But I want women to start trusting in their own ideas and having conviction in themselves and stop being fixated so much over this notion of success as everyone else defines it, and start being fixated on how it actually feels to live their life every day.
Ash: Yeah. And a big part of that is just simply learning how to be brave enough to cause problems. I think a lot of us are very scared that we don't want to rock the boat. We don't want to change anything. We don't want our spouse to be upset. We worry that maybe it's not going to work out, but we have to be brave enough to cause some problems even if they are our own in order to get to the next step.
Michelle: Can you tell me about a time you were brave enough to cause some problems?
Ash: Oh girl, I'm causing problems out here every day. Yeah. I've caused a lot of problems with my own business in I would say the last few years in particular. Yeah. I mean my business and I, we pick fights with one another. Because as a steward of my business there are certain things that I should do when it comes to looking out for our profitability and having the ultimate responsibility for growing it as much as I can, et cetera, et cetera. But often times those things that I quote "should do" to be the most profitable, are not the things that I want to do.
Ash: So yeah, I always end up pushing back against those things. I really rebel against anything that I'm supposed to do just because if it doesn't feel good, I don't want to do those things.
I don't want to offer 10,000 affiliate bonuses if I don't want to actually be doing them. Even if it means I'm going to sell more, I'm not doing that. So that's probably my biggest thing. It's not really with a person, but it is with my own business. Because sometimes my business looks at me and is like, "Well you know, we could have done X amount this year instead. We didn't because you were over here lollygagging around with your book," or whatever I was doing.
Michelle: I love how you see your business as this separate entity outside of yourself. I think that's A, really healthy and important, because it is this separate thing.
Ash: Yeah. I learned to do that a long time ago when I was first learning how to charge good money for the work that I was doing that I thought I was putting my best effort forth. And it's really helpful sometimes to realize that you are a business owner and you do have this fiscal responsibility to your business. So therefore you, Michelle, or you Jane, or you Jenny, you can't actually be running around willy nilly giving clients all sorts of big discounts and percentages off because you're trying to get the deal. You have to act on the behalf of your client, which is your business. So that's how I started thinking about it like that.
Michelle: Oh, that's so good. "You have to act on the behalf of your client, which is your business." And I think for so many business owners, they don't have that kind of separation in their head.
Ash: Yeah. I mean I'm a weirdo, that's for sure, but I think it's been helpful-
Michelle: No, but think it's so important, especially when we start thinking about charging because, especially with imposter syndrome and women and their worth and it all gets messed up with the money stuff. We don't think about our business as being the client that we're representing.
Ash: Yeah. Yeah. That was a kind of a hangover that I had from my advertising sales days because I started off selling something else. That wasn't me and it wasn't my idea. So I understood it to be this separate entity and it was easy for me to go into the room and say, "Well, here's what it costs. This is just it." Everyone knew I didn't have any authority over that number because it wasn't mine. So that's where I think people get really messed up is because now, we all know that you are the business owner and you do have the authority, but should you have that authority? I think that's a question worth pondering.
Michelle: Or is it your business has that authority and you've had this discussion with your business about what the price should be?
Ash: Yeah, I think if you have a discussion with your business in the beginning about here's what you offer and here's how much it costs, here's your bottom line, here's what it needs to be in order for it to make sense for you to be doing business out there and not taking a loss. I think that that's a great way to approach it. And you kind of have to, if you're drawing up client agreements anyway, it's really helpful for you to know, "Here's what I do, here's what's included, here's exactly how it's going to work and here's how much it costs." Right? Because most of us don't have those conversations.
Michelle: Yes. Yeah. And kind of going back, you have to be brave enough to do that.
Ash: It's really hard. But I think you'll find your clients really respect it when you can come to the table and say with certainty what something does cost because here's the amount of energy that goes into it. And I'm happy to do it. I'm really excited to do it, but here's what I'm going to require in exchange. They get that confidence from you when you are confident about what you're charging.
Michelle: Yeah. And I think that confidence goes into part of being unfuckwithable, right?
Ash: Two for two.
Michelle: I practiced. I told you.
Ash: Yeah man, unfuckwithable. It's the word. Right now with the pandemic, it's breaking my heart to see so many people whose livelihood really has been very much kind of under the thumb of a corporation or a different person who has the authority to say when you are going to get paid and maybe, you know what, tomorrow you're not. And that's so scary for all of us. Being unfuckwithable for me has been about learning how to believe in my own ideas and use them to make my own money.
Michelle: Yes. Well, and I think that's one of the big takeaways of your book for me was that, yeah, believe in your most dangerous idea. Put it out into the world, that our ideas have value and you can be that champion of your idea.
Ash: Yeah. It's so sad when I hear, "Well, who cares what I think?" I hate when I hear that, because it's like, "Oh my gosh. Do you think so little of yourself? We care what you think. Your experience on this earth really does matter."
Michelle: Yes. Oh, yes, yes, yes.
Ash: Yes, totally.
Michelle: Yeah. No, this is one of my very ranty points. It's really funny because I got a one star review of the 3 Word Rebellion on Amazon from this guy who, basically his critique was that the author lives in this Twitter universe where everyone is a thought leader. And I thought about it and I was like, "No, I actually believe that everyone is a thought leader. I honestly believe that. That is my bias in this world, that your thoughts have value and you should lead with them. And there's something rolling around your head that could change somebody's life." (You can read more on that here)
Ash: Totally. I've not lived your life, Michelle. And that means that there are certain things I can never possibly know that you will always know that I do not, and understand at a different level than I do. And if we can contribute to the greater conversation, whatever conversations we're interested in having, there's so much value in that. Without that, what are we doing? We're just walking around all of us with blinders on.
Michelle: Yes, yes, yes, yes. And it's just seeing that our thoughts and our ideas are worthy, and putting them out and not believing the authority figures that told us that they weren't.
Ash: Oh, those authorities. Yeah. There's a few in my book that I talk about and I just ... It's in other people's interest to keep you small because that's how they maintain their power. And that sucks.
Michelle: It does. It really does. So my last question for you is always the biggest question.
So if everyone acted on the change you want to create in the world, what do you think the world would be like?
Ash: Brad Pitt would be very busy.
Michelle: He'd have a lot of people to make out with.
Ash: I think a lot of things would change really. I mean I think first of all, a lot of this chronic boredom and this kind of sense of existential angst that so many of us experience about whether or not you're living up to your potential and what you want to do with your life. I think a lot of that would be minimized because when you're actually taking action, you're trusting in your own ideas and you're just going out there with conviction. You feel like you are working towards something so you cannot possibly be bored, which is lovely.
Ash: I think our economy would be transformed in a lot of ways because the more people who act on their, what I call dangerous ideas, the more businesses get started, the more projects, the more organizations, the more people who are out there helping other people. That can't go wrong, that can't.
Michelle: Love it.
Ash: Yeah. But I think my biggest thing with this is really just that, by trusting in your own ideas and having the courage to cause some problems and actually get out there and try to help and try to be useful to other people and yes, in exchange for money, I think that this as a whole would transform our relationship to money as we know it. And I think that instead of looking at it as this thing that's kind of always just out of our reach, this thing that's bestowed upon us at someone else's whim, it becomes something that we're in control of. It becomes a part of us. It becomes a part of our, I'm going to say the word ecosystem. That's a dumb word right now, but I'm going to say it.
Ash: It becomes way more natural and second skin to you, I think, this idea of money and I think you have a much healthier relationship when you feel like you do have some control over it as opposed to it just being this external thing that someone is dangling over your head like a carrot. And I think there's some power there. Imagine if we all believed that we could have anything we wanted, imagine the kinds of things that we would create out there. Right?
Ash: But instead, we're not, we're not, Oh, we're so scared.
Michelle: And it's scary right now, but we will get through it and we do have the power to create.
Ash: Yeah. It takes a lot of emotional energy. I will say that, but that's more than anything. It doesn't take a resume. It doesn't take 10 years of work experience. It doesn't take someone else giving you the job, but it does take the emotional energy for you to get out there and say, "Okay, here's how I'm going to lead today. Here's what I would like to help you with, the world with, here's how I think I can step up."
And what happens when you do that is that you do find a way to create value. When you create value, other people do want to give you money for it. So that's just kind of how economics work. And it's a great thing if you can actually do it.
Michelle: Exactly. Ash, tell everyone where they can find you, they can find the book and all that good stuff.
Ash: Yeah. Well, we have been rocking over at The Middle Finger Project website since 2009, my friends. So it is there. You can't miss us, if you Google anything related to the middle finger. I'm everywhere. You can go to the website. We're doing some fun new stuff besides the book. Obviously the book is my baby though. If you want to do anything, if you want to read anything that's going to just light a fire right underneath your armpits, definitely go get The Middle Finger Project book and then come hang out with us on the website. Enter your email address because that's where I do all of the coaching and the thinking, via the email inbox.
Michelle: Yes. And I have been on your newsletter list for oh, about a billion years now.
Ash: It has been, I know, I'm super old. I can't even look cool with the young kid hipsters anymore. I look like an old lady.
Michelle: Oh gosh, there's so many great, it's one of the emails that I always open in my inbox because there's always just a little gem in there or something that makes me smile or makes me feel good. So I highly recommend if you're not on Ash's email list already to do that at the very least. And to get her book because it feels like you're having a conversation with her over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. It is an excellent book that I quite enjoyed. So thank you so much, Ash, for being on the podcast. I've loved this conversation.
Ash: Michelle, I love you and I could talk to you for 13 years.
Michelle: Well let's do that sometime.
Ash: When we're all 70 years old and be like, "Remember the days when we had the websites at the beginning?" Yeah.