How staying connected to a purpose can help you challenge uncertainty, with CEO XayLi Barclay
XayLi Barclay is the founder and CEO of Start, Shoot Grow Video Academy, an online academy of courses, masterclasses, and challenges that guide entrepreneurs through creating online visual experiences. As a video content coach and consultant, XayLi helps her students navigate the creator industry and how to make a genuine impact in the digital space.
Her career has been a wild ride, built on trust in herself, unique hard work and experiences, and a couple leaps of faith.
Born in Trinidad and Tobago, XayLi first came to New York on an academic scholarship for a school in Brooklyn. While studying business management, she would babysit to cover the cost of her school supplies, textbooks, and living expenses.
“I definitely had to find a way to just survive in New York, it’s a crazy city – it’s my favorite city – but it teaches you another level of hustle and grit.”
Parents of the children she took care of would comment on her work ethic, noting how smart she was and how driven. The impression she made on several of these parents evolved into prominent internship positions – eventually, XayLi found herself working at a well-known PR company in Manhattan. But as she spent time in that industry she started to find her interest gravitated towards the blogging space, rather than PR. She began blogging for herself, taking on social media, visuals, graphic design, and then producing video content.
Even after transitioning from corporate and working in mortgage banking, she continued to create digital content. XayLi had been blogging and building her online presence for a while when she realized that she wanted to switch directions entirely and focus all her energy on her content. So she quit banking and went back to babysitting.
“It was a very real transition because part of me was like, ‘what the heck are you doing? You could climb at JPMorgan Chase and you’re choosing to go back to babysitting?’ Yeah. I did that intentionally. Because I wanted my time.”
XayLi balanced blogging with babysitting for a while before she took the leap and jumped into full-time content creation. Her brand started to gain traction in the beauty and wellness space and then XayLi found her niche: helping people feel confident on camera. She began sharing beauty tips online – which quickly turned into viewers asking about her equipment and lighting, and her on-camera confidence.
Committing herself to new goals, XayLi created online courses and tutorials, founding Start, Shoot, Grow. Now living in Dallas, Texas, XayLi continues to grow her business as a successful entrepreneur and content creator, also producing Youtube and social media material that inspires others to take the leap on starting their own journey.
While Start, Shoot, Grow has now helped thousands of entrepreneurs find their footing online, it’s not something XayLi ever envisioned herself building while she was working her way through school, babysitting, or even quitting her corporate job. XayLi never knew what she would end up doing, but she knew she would do something amazing. By trusting her calling to produce creative content and help others, she managed to navigate self-doubt and always find a way to reconnect with that purpose.
“Leadership is a journey, but that's what I love most about it.”
Throughout her career and building Start, Shoot, Grow, XayLi said she noticed the pressure to be sure she was doing the right thing, taking the right path, moving forward at the right pace. To her, this kind of pressure isn’t helpful – it disrupts critical decision-making and leaves entrepreneurs feeling paralyzed. Her solution? Take the leap. She said the first step to overcoming uncertainty is to understand that you need to make a decision and make the decision work. Whether it’s right or wrong.
Trusting your instincts and that you’re exactly where you need to be is hard, but owning and running a business, there are too many decisions that need to be made. Learning how to not linger in those decisions is what will push you forward. In her words: “just commit to the thing!”
Q: What do you enjoy most about being a leader?
A: The challenges. I think leadership is such a unique journey, especially leading from a place of “this is purpose” – it’s challenging because some days you wake up and you want to march into your purpose and scream at the world to share with everyone. And then some days you're like, “wait, what am I doing?”
But that mindset keeps me grounded because every time I'm challenged, it allows for me to reevaluate my purpose and find a new fresh approach to solving something or sharing something. Leadership is a journey, but that's what I love most about it.
Q: What's the best piece of professional advice you've received so far?
A: I can't remember off the top of my head, but I can share something I heard recently: operate in a way where people are seeing you and hearing you – which means you’ve got to be doing something for yourself.
When you’re really doing and taking action, then you can get other people to buy into the vision you’re creating because you're working at it so diligently. A lot of us are waiting for people to believe in us rather than believing in ourselves and what we're building. But just really committing to what you're doing gets others interested in your life.
Q: Do you attribute your success, thus far, to hard work or luck?
A: I think it's both, and I'll say it's both because I really believe, and have always believed, that somehow I didn't know what I was going to do. But I believed I was going to do something. That belief definitely drove me, kept me focused, kept me grounded, and kept me flowing, even in times when I felt like I couldn’t see where I was going. You know when you don't have your glasses on and you can't see further than what’s right in front of you? Sometimes you feel like that about your business.
And so even in times of feeling like that, I stayed connected to the bigger picture or the bigger purpose. So I would say it's been a combination of purpose and hard work. But staying connected to that purpose, I knew I wanted to be of service – I still think about how lucky I am to serve people.
Q: How do you find work-life balance?
A: I think that for me, balance is hard. Speaking in terms of this year, or how I’m going to craft this year: if it doesn't feel good, like good, then no.
I think a lot of times we’re so nervous about losing opportunities, but we should really only be leaning into what feels good. You might get to a place where you’re burnt out and overwhelmed, but I feel like we go through that to learn that we need to say “no.” Say “no” if it doesn’t feel good or if you just innately feel like you really don’t want to do it – say “no” or ask yourself a simple question.
Q: What's something you do to boost your productivity?
A: Number one is Google Calendar, just making sure that you have a schedule going – ‘ello, if it ain't on the calendar, it ain't real.
And the other thing is, I've been using this app called Rise. It shows my energetic peaks and the peak times of when I'm groggy or tired, when I have an energy dip. I’ll be kind of upset if everyone’s calculation is the same, but the app showed me that my mornings are when I should do the most work, then I have an energy peak again in the evenings. So I was like, okay, what if I honor that? And it's been so helpful – I even took a nap yesterday. I would never do that before but because it's an energetic dip, and I’m trying to honor that, I figured if I'm not going to be doing my best work at that time I might as well.
Q: What's a book or podcast you'd recommend to a colleague?
A: Show Your Work by Austin Kleon is so good – he's also the author of Steal Like An Artist. I'm a creative, and it's very tempting to hide away and create perfection before unleashing it into the world, rather than showing the process and getting people involved. So those books, and then Launch by Jeff Walker, which is the same kind of concept of showing what you're doing and involving your audience before you launch something into the world.
Q: What words of wisdom do you have for an aspiring leader?
A: You will never know if what you're building is the correct thing. When I think about my journey, I think about how being a babysitter taught me to be mindful of time, how to care for others, and tap into empathy. There's so much pressure on knowing that what you’re doing is the right thing, from such a young age. You may not necessarily know if you're doing the right thing, but do it because all of those things are compounding into building you into such a unique individual. And that's what's gonna take you wherever you're going.
That's why we can't doubt our journeys. It's happening for a reason.