Teeny Steps to Big Goals
It's so easy to get, be, and stay overwhelmed when you have big goals, big projects, or big ideas. Or even if you just have small goals, projects or ideas. I think I read somewhere that as humans, we can only concentrate on three things simultaneously. (I'm just mastering one… how the hell do you master three?!) Anyway, if you are overwhelmed, I can help with that!
My to-do list from last week is still pretty big, but because Minette, my business coach, is awesome, she also taught me how to deal with massive to-do lists that don't make me want to crawl under a rock and hide. (Ok, well, most of the time.) Her suggestion is to make a list of six or fewer things that you absolutely commit to doing today, then get just those things done. This is great advice, and you should take it.
But since I'm me, what works best for me is just a little different. What? Do things a little differently? (Yes, my daughter comes by her "option C" tendencies quite naturally.) At the beginning of the week, or when I'm having a mini-meltdown with too much to do and too much to keep track of, I do a complete brain-dump list of what I would like to accomplish. No time frames, no details, just every single little stinking thing. From client-based work and meetings, consulting work, to Freelance Exchange stuff, to household stuff, I dump everything onto that list. This instantly reduces stress levels and frees up my brain to actually work! Then I can categorize the list, or color-code it. (I haven't decided which I like better and from week-to-week I flip-flop.) Then from that list, I make a today-only list of what I commit to getting done today. Crossing stuff off my to-do list is sooooo satisfying!!
If there's something on the list that's been there for a while and isn't getting done, I ask myself, "Why not? What's the freaking hold up?" This is where things get interesting.
Sometimes I can just cross it off as unimportant. Sometimes I have an emotional or mental block that I wasn't even aware of. Asking-for-money-things or posting-video-things fall into this category for me. Then I have to ask if that thing on my list is really something I want to do, or just something I feel obligated to do. If there's fear involved (like posting videos, hello—not-in-my-comfort-zone—what!?), but it moves the needle even just a teeny bit toward my bigger goals, I consciously set aside the fear (remember the giraffe story?) and do it anyway.
So what can you do today that will move the needle just a teeny bit toward your bigger goals?
Do that. Then celebrate that you're that much closer to your goal, and that you didn't give in to fear, and that you accomplished your tasks for the day! Wooohoooo!!!
Thanks for reading. Good juju to you. =)
The word kintsukuroi came up again recently, thanks in part to a post by Sam Harrison (which now I can't find, sorry). Kintsukuroi (also called kintsugi) is the Japanese art of repaired pottery, but it's something more than that. An important something.
These days, would you even consider a broken ceramic bowl worth repairing, let alone consider it more beautiful for having been broken? Probably not. No, of course not.
But slow down a minute. Consider the bowl, made by hand with maleable clay and fired to a couple thousand degrees, forever altering its molecular structure. The bowl's creator strived to create perfection.
A handmade object, like a bowl or cup, is revered for the care it took to make it, its beauty, and its purpose. But broken, the object is demoted and loses its honor, so to speak. Repaired, however, can raise the object to a whole new level of appreciation. Not a common idea in western culture.
Some people, more scholarly and patient than I, attribute the origin of the repaired-ceramics artform to story from the mid-1500s. The story goes like this. A great military leader (with a supposedly hot temper) was given a beautiful bowl for an important tea ceremony. Someone dropped the bowl, which broke into five pieces (a more complete essay can be found in Flickwerk, The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics, available here). One of the guests spoke up with an improvised poem cleverly linking the name of the giver of the bowl, the style of the bowl, and the five broken pieces, making them all laugh and avoiding the wrath of the hot-headed leader. This specific bowl has since become quite famous, and is considered now an "Important Cultural Property."
This essay goes on to say that instead of the break "…diminishing [the bowl's] appeal, a new sense of its vitality and resilience raised appreciation to even greater heights." The bowl has become more beautiful for having been broken. The true life of the bowl "…began the moment it was dropped…"
"So it is not simply any mended object that increases in its appreciation but… the gap between the vanity of pristine appearance and the fractured manifestation of mortal fate which deepens its appeal."
In other words, the proof of its fragility and its resilience is what makes it beautiful. Like you.
Don't strive for perfection, just be you—cracks, lines, chips and all. You being you is what makes you beautiful.
Thanks for reading, and good juju to you! =)
p.s. I first published this post in January of 2013, but people keep finding my old blog (even though it's not linked anywhere) and leaving lovely comments, so I thought I'd let it live again here. The concept of kintsukuroi isn't as foreign now as it was five years ago. Consider Sugru's success—it wouldn't exist without people wanting to fix their stuff.
a lesson from giraffes
I'm so glad I'm not a giraffe (although being the tallest kid in class all throughout grade school, I was called giraffe… I digress. Back to my story about giraffes…). They have a really rough start to life. They’re born while giraffe mommies are standing up — think about that! The first experience they have in life is falling from six feet up, right onto their heads!
From this moment on, they are terrified of falling, unwilling to take any chance they might fall. They won’t walk down an incline of any kind. While giraffes are physically capable of navigating inclines, they’re emotionally crippled with the fear of falling. For this reason, zoos can enclose the giraffe area with a six-foot-deep dry moat. They’re called psychological moats.
For years I was uncomfortable doing just design work. I was more comfortable doing print production since there’s only one way to do it right: so it prints correctly. It started right after college, when I worked designing t-shirts. I would spend weeks on one design, until it was just perfect. I would show my boss who would say (with cheesy finger-guns as I remember it), “Good start — just keep working on it.”
I hated this! In my mind, the work was done, the shirt design was awesome, and I was ready to move on. So then I started designing for what I thought he’d want to see, what I thought he might finally approve of, and not what I knew to be good design. For months this went on until I realized my boss knew very little about design, and this was his standard canned answer.
For years after this, fear of not designing good enough was a psychological moat for me.
Where are your psychological moats? Where have you fallen down—failed so miserably—that you are now unwilling to go there again?
So here's my big question to you: What’s the worst thing that can happen if you try again? You can fall on your head. Well, you already know what that feels like. Not only that — you have already gotten up at least once and kept on going. You’ve already succeeded!
Now, aren't you thankful you're not a giraffe?
Thanks for reading, and good juju to you! =)
It seems the struggle that just keeps popping up for us freelancers is how to find great freelance clients. I've been in your shoes, always hunting for the next project, the next client. It's a big time suck. What if you could find great clients, with regular work, who love working with you, who stick around? Oh yeah!
Let’s figure out exactly who those people are for your business, what it is they need, and where they hang out.
Join me for a free Zoom video conversation this Thursday March 8, 2018 at 1pm CST.
What If They Don't Like It?
You're a creative and have been asked to create a project for a new client. You pour yourself into the project, you do your research. You explore and exhaust all the possibilities you can think of, and then some. You remember that the process is what you love. You can't control the outcome; that's not your decision anyway—it's the client's.
When the time comes (and probably with equal parts butterflies and fireworks in your gut), you present your creation to your client. It's some of your best work. You're proud. It kinda feels like you’re presenting a piece of yourself. You, right there, on paper, for all to see. "Me, me, me."
But what if your client doesn't like it?! Panic creeps in, you think, "Oh jeez, they hate it. They hate me!"?
Stop right there, buddy.
Shift that mindset right now! You are NOT your designs/photos/words/whatever. That thing you just presented, that's just the physical proof that something magical happened in your head. That's the leftovers, the byproduct of your creativity. Not you.
Do NOT take it personally. (And never, NEVER lose your temper or you'll be remembered as the one who sulked!) Because you're smart, you already informed your clients early on that they can tell you straight-up if they don't like it. If so, you get to work through the process again. Hooray! Good thing you love the process and aren't married to the outcome. You’re smart and creative—figure out how you missed the mark and come up with another solution.
Likewise, if the client LOVES your designs/photos/words/whatever, they’re not saying they love you, just your solution. Remember, you are not what you produce. You are so much more than that!
Thanks for reading. Good juju to you. =)
loneliness could be killing us
I've been out and about quite a bit in the last few months. Networking events, hanging out, and just trying to be present. Here's how I think it helped me.
According to an article in Forbes, "loneliness might be a bigger health risk than smoking or obesity." Loneliness and social isolation has a big impact not only on your psychological self, but your physical health! Mind you, most of the research this article points to is centered around geriatrics (hell, I'm almost there myself), but the effects on us as human beings is the same, no matter your age.
"In the last decade alone, physicians and researchers have begun looking deeply into the impact of loneliness and social isolation on health, well being, and mortality, and the data on the subject is overwhelming: a lonely person is significantly more likely to suffer an early death than a non-lonely one."
"And, interestingly, this is true whether the person feels lonely or not."
If it's anything like the other two things, it means that it's a slow, creeping killer, one that you may not notice until it's too late. A meta-analysis of literature on the subject by Brigham Young University and reported on by Time, found that social isolation is pretty much a death knoll—increasing your risk of death by about 30%!
What does this mean to us specifically as freelancers? It means that too much of that part of what we love about freelancing—the doing-our-own-thing part—can be a very bad thing. Just like all wonderful things (ice cream, wine, exercise, pie, vodka… you get my drift), moderation is, of course, the key. We've known this already about food & drink; now we need to schedule in human connection time. If you're not having human contact daily, or at least weekly, something's gotta give.
According to the Time article,
"More Americans are living alone than ever before, and technology like texting and social media has made it easier to avoid forming substantive relationships in the flesh and blood. Yet research shows that relationships can improve health in a variety of ways, by helping us manage stress, improving the functioning of the immune system and giving meaning to people’s lives."
In-person good juju is the key not just to making new connections for growing your business, but to staying alive!
Thanks for reading. Now, set down your device, and go talk face-to-face with another human being. I want you to live!
You're stuck…NOW WHAT?
You made it through school; you've been creating / designing / illustrating / whatever for awhile now; you got into a groove. Great. But now the groove has become too predictable. You find your designs start looking the same. You dread getting out of bed and getting to work. You start your ideas and projects by opening software before you even have a clue what you’re going to do. You go to an old design annual and start from someone else’s idea. You base your color choices on what your client’s favorite colors are! (*cringe*)
Your groove has become too deep—it’s not just a rut, it’s a trench that's now too high to see out of, and it feels like a stinking prison!
Stop and think… What caused you to be here, stuck in such a predicament? Are you afraid of leaving your comfort zone? Do you need a boost of integrity? How about confidence? Are you holding a grudge about something? Or are you just bored?
From here, there are only two directions to go. Either you keep trudging on in your rut, making it deeper by doing what you’ve been doing, getting more of what you have (and you already know what that’s like)—or you stop digging, put down the damned shovel, and get the hell out! It seems like a no-brainer—I mean if you're stuck in a rut, you've got to do something different than what got you there, right? But what?
Try something new, try anything new. Look elsewhere for clients. Start with pencil sketches if you're always jumping on the computer first (be honest, we all do it sometimes). Ask for the kind of work you've always wanted to try, but didn't know how to do (Adobe After Effects, anyone?)—then figure out how to do it! Go talk to the people you've only dreamed of associating with who have the work you want to do.
Look, my point is just start, just do. Don't pause to think or feel, because you can talk yourself out of almost anything that's not comfortable), just do. Once you're in motion, the sky's the limit.
Once you’re free of this rut, you start creating fresh ideas, connecting the dots no one thought of before. You operate with integrity as well as an abundance of confidence. You practically jump out of bed with ideas that you can’t wait to get to work on. You fearlessly try new things. You explore unique ideas with a pencil and paper, or even with mashed potatoes and asparagus, before you ever touch a computer. You trust your color choices and can explain it clearly to your client. Other people start coming to you to help spark their own ideas. You are the powerful, creative force you were meant to be, spreading good juju in everything you do.
What are you waiting for? Let’s get started!
Thanks for reading. Good juju to you!
According to the Freelancers Union's fourth annual Freelancing in America study, 57.3 million Americans are independent workers, and they project independent workers will be a majority of the U.S. workforce in just a decade. I googled the phrase, "finding & keeping clients" and got 124 million results. Yep, confirmation that the subject is top-of-mind for a rapidly growing number of us.
I've been freelancing off and on for more than 25 years, so I can say I've been around the block more than once. Or more than twice. I've had what seems like more than my share of crappy clients. Ones who didn't want to pay what I was worth, wanted projects done literally overnight, or insisted that the design changes they wanted would "make it pop" (insert violent cringe here). I even let one client convince me to create 82 proofs! What was I thinking?!
Since learning the hard way seems to be the only way I learn things, I figured out the hard way how to weed out those crappy clients, find the awesome clients, and how to keep them happy.
Here's my nutshell advice for finding your ideal clients…
Here's my nutshell advice for keeping your ideal clients...
Finding and keep great clients is about solidifying a relationship built on trust. There's no shortcut—it takes time.
But there's more to running a successful freelance business, isn't there? There's just as much internal work as there is getting-dressed-and-doing-stuff work. The internal work takes time, too. We need to get out of our own way, and trust the process. But as creatives, we like to do things our way, by ourselves, and against the grain. I get you—I mean, I am a creative after all. A rebellious one at that.
If you want help growing an awesome freelance business and become your own Freelance CEO, I can help. Just let me know.
That's it for today, thanks for reading. Good juju to you!
Good juju spreader, transformational coach, engaging speaker, seasoned graphic designer. How can I be of service to you today?