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This guest post was written by Nerice Gietel, certified Executive Coach, and founder of The Career Lounge, a Founder Institute Hong Kong portfolio company.

As a coach I am no stranger to some of the best advice that is available out there on how to get things done. Examples that come to mind include,

  • Set goals, set priorities, set deadlines (Tony Robbins)
  • Put first things first (Stephen R Covey)
  • Take brave action every day (Katy Kaprino)

But despite all the knowledge I have gathered on this topic, I have been growing increasingly frustrated about my inability to push myself as much as I know that I can. I have felt busy but often unproductive. Reflecting on my days of having to account for every six minutes of work as a legal and advice caseworker for domestic violence charity, I know just how much I can get done if I put my mind to it.

In the autumn of 2019 I finally managed to reach the edges of my productivity again due to three different factors coming together: structure, deadlines and consequences. 

Allow me to explain! 

Two years ago, I launched my coaching practice focusing on coaching women returning to work after a career break. However, since I launched my practice I have also been working with clients who are active in the job market, but struggling to navigate it. Because of this, I decided a while back, that I wanted to rebrand my personal practice to better reflect my client base and what I do for them: namely, to help experienced professionals find direction in their careers and access meaningful job opportunities through coaching and connections.

I - like many of my clients - used a lack of time as an excuse for not doing this. Another challenge I faced was working out which steps I needed to take, and in which order, to rebrand and ultimately start growing my new practice.

One of the things that I always prioritised was going out to meet new people and having coffees with those who I wanted to find out more about (not just people who I necessarily wanted to sell something to). It is perhaps no surprise that it is through one of these ‘coffee’ meetings that I found the solution to my problem.

The Founder Institute Program - structure, deadline and consequences

Jeffrey Broer, Co-Director of FI HK and I met for coffee after we met at another networking event. I got extremely excited when he explained how the program helps idea- or early-stage entrepreneurs to work out, through a 14-week program, whether they have a viable idea for a startup or not.

Participants who do not meet the program standards are given the opportunity to address their shortfall by getting extra ‘special assignments’. Failure to complete these can lead to participants being asked to leave the program with the option of re-enrolling in the next term.

Pushing myself to the limit

I too was the lucky recipient of a ‘special assignment’ because I had failed to convince the panel at the mentor review session that I had a realistic plan for scaling my business. I barely slept that night, anxiously awaiting what the assignment would be. When I received it I seriously considered dropping out. The assignment was to come up with a product, create a landing page, launch a marketing campaign to gather 100 emails of people interested in purchasing it, and submit a 2000 words report about all this. The deadline was 4 days later. I remember feeling very emotional listening to the lyrics ‘you’re giving me a million reasons to walk away but I just need one good reason to stay’ by Lady Gaga. Yes, I know, I take life too seriously sometimes. Anyway, I decided to ‘stay’ and I am so happy I did, because within two months, I designed and launched my first scalable product called The Career Breakthrough online course. 

I can imagine you thinking that as grown-ups we should not need this kind of ‘pushing’ but I clearly did. In less than 3 months, I came up with a new name for my business, built a new website, and had developed and launched an online course. All of these are things that I had been thinking about prior, but being ‘incentivised’ to do them through this program made me realise just how good I had been at coming up with really valid excuses not to them. I discovered when I was creating the online course that doing this simply pushed me too far out of my comfort zone so my brain would just talk me out of it.

The Founder Institute may not necessarily be the appropriate way for everyone to get things done. However, I want to share this experience as I think many of us can put too much pressure on ourselves to get things done when we simply do not have all the tools within us to do this.

Sometimes, it is important for us to think creatively about how we can get things done by signing up for a program, working with a coach, finding a mentor who can guide us or even ‘contracting’ with friends and family members to make ourselves accountable to external consequences for not meeting deadlines. 

As Gary Vaynerchuk says ‘If you want things you have never had you need to do things you have never done’. I am grateful for FI and in particular Leo and Jeffrey for pushing me to do things I probably would never dare to do. 

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Graduates of the Founder Institute are creating some of the world's fastest growing startups, having raised over $1.75BN in funding, and building products people love across over 200 cities worldwide.

See the most recent news from our Grads at, or learn more about their stories at

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