Here's truthfully how I feel about product launches... they're not my favorite. I know, I know, it's a little crazy to say because I launched something yesterday (and thank you again for the support!), but it's simply the truth. While launches are exciting and (oftentimes) a bit of relief, I've never loved the feeling of pressure that comes with staking so much on just one EVENT. I'm not really into the whole flash in the pan, one and done, put-all-my-eggs-in-this-one-basket nature of launching something.
Instead, my favorite part is always what comes NEXT. What happens when things quiet down and I'm able to settle back to MAKING. How can I take the energy and excitement of launch day and extend that out well beyond (minus the whole "all eyes on me" feeling?) So lately I've been sinking into this word SUSTAINABLE. How can I run my business in a way that doesn't rely on momentary, sporadic EVENTS, but instead is fueled by a strong foundation that's ongoing? Don't get me wrong, yesterday was an amazing feeling and I'm so grateful for all of you that signed up for #MVColorYourSoul, but what I'm saying is I'm more excited for all the days yet to come. And that doesn't just go for business, I think it's true for health, love, daily satisfaction...so many things. If we're lucky enough, this whole life journey thing is quite the long haul so I say I want to set my sights on something that LASTS. What about you?
9/1/16: Free 2
I chose the very first monthly theme of #MVcoloryoursoul to be FREEDOM, because if I’ve discovered anything over the past few years for myself, it’s that my daily level of happiness is closely correlated with how free I feel in every area of my life. What I mean by that is my ability to be myself — fully, truly, authentically — without the constraints of what I think the world or anyone else wants me to be.
It’s Launch Day’s Eve over here and I admit I can feel those familiar jitters bubbling up to the surface. The fears, the doubts… everything I’ve managed to push past in order to create #MVcoloryoursoul — they’re all showing up close to the season finale here and I can already feel my mindset shifting from the joy and presence of the process to the worrisome anticipation of the outcome.
To quell those fears, this has been my mantra for today: you've already won. I already did THE THING that matters by overcoming my own resistance and creating something. By pouring my heart into something. By ignoring what everyone else was doing and by making the thing that I wanted to make. And that is all I can control. That's my part.
So when I feel my attention turning to those questions like “Will anyone like this?” or “What will people think?”, I’m able to respectfully shift it right back to things that actually matter to me. Not the outcome, but the process.
So the next time you too find yourself in the depths of those worries, being pulled toward the outcome of your creative endeavor, practice saying this to yourself because it will remind you that the only metric you should be concerned with is the one that says YOU MADE SOMETHING. You did what you set out to do. You took a vision that was in your head and you actually created something with it, which is more than a lot of people can say. You already won the greatest battle there is and that’s the battle over our own fear, our own resistance, and to keep making in spite of it all.
To me, THIS is the ultimate guiding question.
When I’m stuck at a fork and I’m not sure which path leads to something I think I SHOULD do and which leads to something my true heart wants (“the crossroads of should and must as @elleluna beautifully calls it), I ask myself this question. Because though it may be hard to define, we all know what it feels like when we feel most ALIVE. Or, if we can’t quite pin that down, we most certainly know what the opposite feels like.
I’ve spent the better part of the past five years memorizing the difference between alive and not alive and it is abiding my this simple litmus test that has led me to a life richer than I could have even imagined. So, let me ask you: What makes you come alive? And what will you do today and this week and next month to bring more of that into your daily path?
Today I really thought I'd be frantic. We're closing in on just a few days until the #MVcoloryoursoul launch and while all the major things have been completed, I'm still buttoning up all the tiny loose ends I have flying around. I thought I'd feel anxious, like I was in a race against the clock to get it all done. So today when instead I found myself eerily calm, relaxed, almost like any other Monday, I actually had the thought to myself: "Am I missing something?"
Feeling so collected actually felt wrong.
And then I thought to myself, wait, this is actually what joyful making feels like. And I'm ALLOWED to enjoy it.
I think we're programmed to believe that all good things have to feel hard. All mountains worth climbing are supposed to be arduous. But I just don't think that's true. Sometimes it really can be fun and joyful and CALM, and that still means it's valuable.
Don't fight the good feelings. You're ALLOWED to enjoy what you're doing. In fact... I'd say that it's strongly encouraged.
Today I spent a lot of time trying to anticipate things for Thursday's launch. Testing this and that workflow, on multiple browsers, using different devices… making sure every scenario I could think of was accounted for. Honestly it’s enough to make anyone's brain turn to mush!
Just when I felt like I had tested EVERYTHING, Jason tried going through the workflow and encountered one more scenario I hadn’t thought of. For a moment I got frustrated but then I took a deep breath and reminded myself:
You simply can’t anticipate EVERYTHING.
You do your best, you think it through, but then you let the rest go, knowing that the only way to tweak things and make them seamless is by launching whatever you're making and getting REAL people to test it.
In life we spend a lot of time worrying about things, trying to anticipate every scenario, when in fact our time might be better spent not anticipating but actually LIVING, and then responding to what happens instead.
Closing in on the last few days before the website redesign and #MVcoloryoursoul launches and, like all projects, I’m at that point where I have to get really choosy when it comes to my to-do list. Sure, I’d love it if every tiny thing on my list got done — all the bells and whistles down to the last detail. But I’ve launched enough projects by now to know that when you pull your hair out over every last detail, you end up stealing a lot of joy from the making process.
So this week I’m asking myself… What can wait? What are things on my list that I still want to do, but they don’t HAVE to be done by Thursday. And that doesn’t just go for things on a list, it applies to anything that we mistakenly start to feel is urgent. Do we NEED to take that phone call at dinner? Or respond to that text in the car with our friends? Do we need to answer that email this moment or finish that blog post, or can we take an hour to hang out with our partner?
Getting really critical about what IS urgent/important and what FEELS urgent/important is a key part to cultivating balance.
8/26/16: Fun 2
In between long stretches of focus to get the final #MVcoloryoursoul to-dos taken care of I've been rewarding myself with tiny YouTube breaks. I'll watch a few videos just to give my brain a tiny rest, and today I got WAY into the catacombs of my official new favorite YouTuber, @mrkatedotcom.
Mr. Kate and her team produce high-quality content around DIY, interior design and style, but it's not necessarily WHAT they talk about in their videos that inspires me... it's HOW they talk about it. I was watching their series #OfficeGoals where they makeover different rooms in their new office and I was literally LOLing because their entire team has so much fun together. They clearly have a growing business that is LEGIT, but they don't let that growth rob them of their authenticity. They make ridiculous jokes, tease each other and turn work into something FUN, which was just such a welcomed lesson for me today as I enter crunch mode before next week's launch.
Business can be fun just like ANYTHING can be fun with a little imagination and a light-hearted attitude.
I had another awesome chat with my friend @stephaniehalligan earlier today about the rules that we often write for ourselves as creatives. Sometimes we get so close to our own work or we get so far into a groove that we forget who made up the rules in the first place (umm… we did!) As humans it’s natural to want to put a tidy frame around things. To line them up and box them in. We take comfort in well-defined edges and constraints. But there comes a time when those edges can start to hold us back from a world of possibility BEYOND the frame.
Whether it’s rules like “I have to post something every day” or “I can only write about X” or “my business has to make money doing only Y” — take a moment to ask yourself WHY it has to be that way.
Whatever frame you’ve placed around yourself, a situation, or your creative work… consider what might happen if you shatter it.
Consider what might be possible if you broke your own rules, shifted your perspective and SHAKED things up a bit. It might just be the best thing for your creativity!
Every single night this week I’ve gone to bed like a kid on Christmas, SO EXCITED to wake up in the morning and continue working on #MVColorYourSoul to get it ready for you guys next week. This feeling is completely different from every other project I’ve launched because the excitement isn’t coming from an anxious I-wish-there-were-more-hours-in-the-day, how-will-I-get-this-all-done place. Instead, I’m genuinely joyful seeing the finishing touches come together, and that is a very new feeling for me with a project that is this intensive.
I realized tonight that I need to do everything in my power to hold on to that feeling and memorize it in my bones because THIS IS WHAT IT SHOULD FEEL LIKE. This is what happens when you’re able to blend life and work, art and business, idea and execution. It should feel like a celebration, not a crushing chore.
Maybe that feeling for you isn’t making stuff. Maybe it’s that pure joy of holding your kids or that peace of sitting in silence with your partner or that warmth of an amazing meal with friends… whatever that feeling is that you want more of in your life, MEMORIZE it. Hold on to it. Let it sink into your being so that when you notice its absence, you’ll be able to navigate your way back to it.
I don't know how you other creative business owners out there feel, but sometimes when you make a living through your art, it can be easy to get caught up in the business side of things.
What's the best strategic move? Am I promoting this enough? Am I doing everything I can to grow? Do I even want to grow?
As my own big project launch draws near, I find that these questions start popping up more and more. I find myself feeling guilty that I'm not tweeting every five seconds to prepare for the launch or perfecting my launch email or coming up with complex email sequences... and then I pull myself back out and I realize that it's okay because nothing is more important to me than the MAKING.
That is where my heart is and that is what I ultimately care about the most. That I had an idea in my head and I made the thing.
When it comes to running a creative business, there will always be more things to think about -- revenue streams and beta testing and customer feedback loops and the rest.
But try not to lose sight of THE MAKING. That's where the soul is and everything else can get in line.
I know I’m probably sounding like a broken record by now (and will continue to be until Sept 1st!) but things are getting down to the wire preparing for the launch of the new website and of #MVColorYourSoul.
I’m putting the finishing touches on a video I created explaining exactly what Color Your Soul is, and I spent the majority of my day storyboarding, shooting, rewriting my script, recording audio, creating hand-lettered screens to incorporate, and of course, editing. (PHEW, I’m doubly exhausted just typing that!) It has taken SO much focus and discipline to get everything done, but as I was going on my third hour of video editing today (eyes beginning to glaze over and everything) I wasn’t thinking about how hard it was. Instead I was trying to contain my excitement thinking about the finished product. Why? Because I LOVE what I do. I love the amazing (and terrifying) creative journey of bringing an idea to life AND I love the ever-changing challenge of being an online business owner. Always learning, always evolving, always adapting.
Work is work is work. It’s hard to make something from nothing. It’s tough feeling the pressure of a deadline. It’s difficult to be disciplined. But boy oh boy does it help if you love what you do.
It doesn’t mean it’s any easier, it just means it’s a heck of a lot more FUN.
8/21/16: Work 2
Closing in on just about 10 days left until this whole summer project of mine is released, and I'm equal parts excited and frazzled as I look at this to-do list about a mile long.
But, on days like today when my Resistance is kicking into overdrive, I know it's just the fear and the overwhelm talking. I look at all there is to do, remind myself of how amazing it will feel when my vision for this project is finally realized, and then I just tell myself that the only thing standing in my way is DOING THE WORK.
Even when we LOVE the work, even when we know we want what's on the other side of the work, our fears can still be a very powerful force prodding us to do anything but the work. Acknowledging that Resistance is at play is the best way to move through it and there is no secret to getting it done than, well, getting it done. :) So that's what I plan to do this week! Sit down and do the work. And I can't WAIT to share with you guys what is waiting for me on the other side.
If I could some up my approach to pretty much EVERYTHING in my life -- whether it's business or art or just growing up -- it's this.
Today I was working on putting together a launch video for #MVColorYourSoul and I had a moment where I realized how absurd it seemed that I was, in a way, directing my own little mini-movie. Choosing shots, writing a script, figuring out what visuals to include and with what music... I had no idea what I was doing but I was LOVING the challenge of figuring it out.
Sometimes we want to just be good at something right out of the gate. We want to feel capable and know exactly what we're trying to accomplish. But, the truth is, that kind of takes the fun out of it.
Allow yourself to learn by DOING. Dive in, get started, let your curiosity lead you and let yourself figure it all out as you go.
Closing in on just a few short weeks until #MVColorYourSoul launches on Sept 1st and I'm starting to feel the time crunch a bit. This is one area that I have focused on evolving A LOT over the past few years -- staying calm under the pressure of a deadline. I have a tendency to send all my self-care practices and centering values out the window REAL QUICK when I feel under the gun to make a project happen.
But, all I've been doing is repeating this short mantra in my head as many times as I need to hear it. DON'T PANIC.
There is time. Stay focused. Prioritize. Think it through. When we panic, we start making short-term judgment calls in spite of what we know our long-game is. So, if you're under pressure or under stress, take a breath and narrow in on what you know your values are. They'll lead you in the right direction.
We’re back home now from our road trip, and I’m just starting to fully soak in all the things we did and saw. My biggest takeaway right now? That there is so much MORE than we think there is.
More unique places to explore, more unique people to meet, more feelings to experience, more opportunities to feel wonder and awe and the expansive gifts our world has to offer.
That’s what I love about road trips. The openness of the road and the surprising adventures you have along the way — it all reminds me of just how BIG this world really is and just how much MORE there is beyond the boundaries of our reality.
So often we train our minds to see nothing but scarcity — we focus on how much money we don’t have, how many possibilities don’t exist, how few opportunities we may encounter to get what we want. But trips like this snap me back into the abundance that’s all around us if we’re just willing to open our eyes, explore the unknown and find it.
ps. Thank you SO much to everyone who wished me a happy birthday on our trip -- it was definitely one to remember!!
A few years ago I was reading “Fire Starter Sessions” by @daniellelaporte and I remember a part in the book where she talked about allowing yourself to fully express your enthusiasm for something. So often our inner voice tells us to “play it cool” or calm down when we’re feeling over the moon about something. But that part in the book has always stuck with me, and I remember that every time my heart truly jumps for joy at something. There’s usually a person or artist or thing on the other end of that enthusiasm that deserves to see how their work has delighted another human.
Throughout this trip, there have been SO many things that had me totally GEEKING OUT. Whether it was a super cool hotel, amazing wine tour, magnificent Redwood trees or just a gorgeous view of the California coastline, and with each of these new things that has captured my heart, I’ve tried to let my enthusiasm show. My geeky, fangirl-y, next-level enthusiasm. Because sometimes, life’s just too short to play it cool.
We only get one shot at this life. One chance to live each day the way we choose, according to who we really are.
This isn't meant to be some pressure-inducing, sobering fact; instead it's supposed to be an empowering reminder of why it's so important to claim the life we ACTUALLY want (not the one other people want for us.)
Today I turn 28. One more year around the sun, one more year spent trying to live the best way I know how. For now I'm happy with the choices I've made, because I've made them knowing that this is my one precious, tenuous shot at a life that brings my spirit FULLY alive.
My hope for my 28-year-old self (and for each self thereafter) is that I never forget this fact and that I continue to live with an urgency worthy of the delicate human condition. I hope I keep maximizing joy and delight and expression and contentment and freedom and love, and I hope keep minimizing guilt and expectations and doubt and fear and greed.
This is my one shot and this is your one shot too. Let's act like it, okay?
Today was an unforgettable day. @jasondoesstuff and I definitely took yesterday's message to heart and we decided to "embrace the adventure" when part of the PCH by Big Sur was closed due to a brush fire. A short diversion put us right at a trailhead to a hidden waterfall which was like stepping into a movie. That, coupled with an unexpected lunch stop at a gorgeous winery we passed on our way and driving over the Golden Gate bridge with the fog towering over me, and I pretty much can't believe that days like today are even real.
BUT it wasn't always this good. In today's newsletter I shared some of the moments not so long ago when things were much more tough than they are now. Early days of getting the business off the ground, of wondering if I was doing the right thing, of paying off our debt. But looking back, those hard days make these wonderful days THAT much sweeter.
Realizing that adversity brings context to triumph is how you learn to love the chapter you're in, whether it's one of the rough patches or one of the bright spots. Either way, if you can learn to see each phase as one part of a bigger whole, you can find a way to appreciate each one for the rich texture it adds to the whole story.
Jason and I planned to go on a road trip this week to celebrate my birthday (Tuesday) when the first hotel stop of our trip in Big Sur called to cancel our reservation due to brush fires. This was probably the place I was looking forward to staying the most, it being named one of the most gorgeous locations in the country. But, if I’ve learned anything from our years of traveling together, it’s that changes in our plan like this are much more pleasant if you learn to view them as exciting plot twists rather than annoying inconveniences.
So we opted to embrace the adventure. We rerouted the first part of our trip to one of our favorite cities, San Luis Obispo, and ended up getting a reservation at this amazing Vaudeville-style old-world-meets-modern hotel, something we never would have known existed had this little wrinkle in our itinerary not happened.
I love how traveling to new places reminds you to go with the flow, roll with the punches and embrace every new adventure that comes your way.
I’ll be sharing bits and pieces of our trip over on my Insta Story so I hope you’ll follow along!
This is my social media strategy.
I had someone email me yesterday saying their biggest struggle in running their online business is staying on top of their social media presence on every platform, especially when the number of important platforms seems to be ever-expanding with updates (I’m looking at you, Instagram Stories.) And I get it. I feel the pressure too. Should I be doing more? Should I have captured that on camera? Could I be turning this [excursion, art project, business hack, thought I’m having] into a post?
The only way I’ve been able to stay sane with it all is two-fold: 1) Remembering that staying PRESENT in my life in a value I hold dear and 2) Making peace with the fact that if I’m being fully present, some moments may go UN-publicized and that’s okay.
My mantra to remind myself of this has become “living takes priority over posting.” For me that doesn’t necessarily mean that I won’t post something or won’t pause to share moments of my life (I honestly love that!) but the second I start to feel like I’m trying to bend my life around posting content, I gently nudge myself to return back to my priority: living.
This means avoiding things like: pulling myself out of my art flow just to document the process; dipping out of quality time with Jason to share what we’re doing; feeling guilty if I go dark for a few days.
I think navigating the waters of social media is different for every person, but at least for me, less posting oftentimes means more living and more creating. 😃
8/12/16: Only 2
Sometimes I get distracted when I see other people out there doing something similar to me. I see an art piece or a product offering or a blog post and I think to myself, “look, someone else already beat me to the punch.” But whenever I start thinking that way, I have to take a step back and remind myself: as long as I stay true to MY voice, MY vision, MY creative perspective, then no one else has the ability to arrive at the same destination as me. As long as I create the thing that only I can create, and I stay focused on my own creative journey, then there is room at the table for us all to share our work, even if it appears at first glance to be in the same vein. We each bring a unique lens to our work and that means it will resonate differently with others.
And the same goes for you.
There may be other people out there that seem to be doing the same thing that you’re doing, but I promise you they aren’t doing it with YOUR unique talents and experiences and style. Stay focused on the work you want to put out into the world, try as best you can to let your creative voice rise above the outside influences and your work will reach those that are meant to find it.
Months ago I had this vision for what the future of Made Vibrant would look like. It was rough and uncertain and hazy at best, but it kept calling to me, coming together bit by bit. Today I finally finished a HUGE part of that vision, #MVColorYourSoul which is a monthly subscription offering I’ll be releasing on Sept 1st, along with a new design for the website. There have been SO many days when I wondered how in the world this fragmented vision would come together. How could I create something from my imagination when I couldn’t even picture what I wanted it to look like yet?
I found the answer in the flow of things. Instead of trying to FIND the inspiration, I simply practiced releasing the hold I had on my own mind and I let it POUR out of me instead. This meant letting it come together in the strangest of ways, one piece here, another there, with no rhyme or reason at times… just TRUST.
Trust in my own intuition, my own creativity, and in the infinite universe of inspiration that would flow to me when I was ready to receive it.
Sometimes if we’d just kindly step out of the way and stop trying to control everything, we might open ourselves up for something truly wonderful to happen.
I can’t believe I’m going to keep this all to myself for another 20 days, but I can’t wait to introduce you guys to this labor of love.
Here’s the truth today guys: I’ve got my family in town, a baby headache I’m trying to kick before dinner so I can hang, and I’m just not feeling particularly inspired at the moment. It happens. 😁
The beauty of committing to daily creativity is that even on days when I'm not feeling it, I know I'll still be back at it tomorrow with a fresh perspective to see if that rascal of a lady called Inspiration wants to show up and visit with me. So, though I may not have a particularly wise lesson to share with you from today, I guess even that is a lesson in itself: Don’t force it. 😃 .
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to life advice. Even I forget sometimes that what works for one person is not necessarily what will work for another. What one person needs to hear in one moment could be the actual opposite of what the person next to them needs to hear.
And I think is a very important thing to take note of every now and again. All day long we have messages being thrown at us (these daily art posts being a great example!) but it’s up to all of us as individuals to critically examine where those messages are coming from and decide what to do with them.
Take politics, for example (“I wish you wouldn’t,” they said, in unison 😉🙊.) It occurred to me recently that one reason so many discussions on politics become heated is because people often forget to include the most important phrase of all when stating their stances: “I BELIEVE THAT…” Not “I know to be true…” Not “here’s how it works…” Not “here’s what we need…” Those phrases presume OBJECTIVITY. They presume fact, not opinion. And it’s impossible to have any sort of meaningful and nuanced conversation when two people are arguing over statements they each are treating as fact rather than opinion, as truths rather than beliefs.
It’s important to remember that each of us moves through this world with our own library of experiences and thoughts and predispositions and prejudices, and all of that forms our completely unique worldview. Once we acknowledge to ourselves and others when our statements are subjective, that they are based on our complex (and VALID) sum of experiences — then we can start to have an enlightening exchange of ideas where we all become richer for seeing the world through another person’s eyes.
It is with politics as it is with personal growth — YOU get to decide what you believe and you get to decide what advice is right for you. Remember, it’s all subjective anyway. 😉
The majority of my day was spent on one task: revamping the monthly #BetterLetteringCourse challenges! When the new site goes live on Sept. 1st, the monthly challenges will be back too with a WHOLE new spin — and they won’t just be for lettering students! They’ll be fun for anyone who wants to fold more creativity and intention into their day.
For weeks now I’ve wondered how these challenges would fit into the new big picture for Made Vibrant. After hosting them for about 15 months straight, honestly they were starting to become like autopilot for me and I didn’t like that feeling. I wanted the whole thing to feel new and exciting like it did when I first started them in March of 2015. After avoiding this big to-do list on my calendar, it finally occurred to me that to get excited about it, I would have to somehow make it new again. I’d have to approach it with a completely new vantage point with fresh eyes.
Once I stopped seeing it as this tired thing that I’d been doing for months and instead started seeing it as a new incarnation entirely, that’s when I couldn’t WAIT to work on it. The ideas started flying! So if there’s something you’ve bene putting off or a project that feels tired… find a way to make it new again.
Can’t wait for Sept 1st so you guys can follow along with the challenge! .
Since I started this daily art project on January 1st of this year, I’ve had a dream about how I wanted it to end. I envisioned a way to encapsulate all the pieces throughout this artistic journey and to share the lessons I’ve learned along the way about creativity, consistency, and forming a body of work.
And then last week it hit me that I didn’t want that dream anymore -- at least not the way I had pictured it. I wanted a new one. My vision changed into something else, and now I see the project being documented in an entirely different way.
Has this ever happened to you? You see some goal so incredibly clearly until suddenly it morphs into something entirely new? I think that’s a good thing and it’s something we ought to give ourselves a little more flexibility on.
Dreams can change. Something we want so adamantly at one point in our lives could be something we barely think about just six months later. The key is giving ourselves the space and the grace to let those desires evolve and unfold naturally.
Who knows, maybe my idea will change five more times before this project is over, but either way I look forward to what it will finally turn into!
This has been my mantra all day as I continue to work on the new website. Now that it’s August, it hit me today that I have all the time I need to have the new site & #MVColorYourSoul ready by September 1st IF I start making some real final decisions on the design. Until now I’ve kept things flexible, debating this tiny design element vs. that one, this font vs. that, this layout vs. that, and I’ve really enjoyed the creative freedom of tweaking things as I go.
But there comes a time in any project when you can no longer second guess yourself. You have to trust your instincts, move forward with what you think is best and take things out of “pencil mode” and put them down in ink.
Sometimes in life we fear decisions because they feel so permanent. We’re afraid of choosing the “wrong” option or missing out on the optimal path. But the truth is, by putting off decisions we often miss out on the benefits that come with confidently making a choice and experiencing forward progress. So, whether you feel ready or not, if there’s a decision you’ve been putting off because you’re afraid, maybe it’s time to choose. To make a decision, to take that step forward and to adapt to whatever is on the other side.
Originally I had a list of a few “work things” I wanted to get done today while my parents are in town. I planned to sneak away for an hour or two to catch up on emails and get some more website work done in between our Friday activities. But this morning, as we were laughing at old stories together over breakfast, I realized that being only “half present” isn’t really a thing — at least not for me. To fully appreciate and soak in the quality family time with them, I didn’t want to have any part of my mind wandering off to my to-dos, so I scrapped the list and decided to “be all there” with them today. Aside from this art piece, I’m taking the rest of the day off to hang out with them and cherish what little time we do have during this trip.
Wherever you are and whomever you’re with… be all there. Give yourself fully to that moment and do your best fully detach from the tasks and to-do's beckoning your attention so that you can immerse yourself in the experience before you.
I’m so excited to have my mom and stepdad visiting from Florida for the week! I haven’t seen them since Christmas, and it has me reminiscing about all sorts of memories from my childhood.
Time with family always has me thinking about the way I was raised, the values they instilled in me, the experiences that molded me into the person I’ve become. Reflecting on those years always gives me a renewed sense of perspective on my own identity.
While I know not everyone had a great childhood, I do think that there are valuable lessons that can be learned by investigating our roots in ANY sense of the word.
What are the events that have led you to where you are? What are the people that contributed to who you are? What are the places that molded you?
I love thinking about all of these fascinating ingredients that have come together to form the final recipe that is who we are.
Why is it that we seem to whisper about the things that are going right in our lives and shout about the things that are going wrong?
I must be on some sort of positivity kick lately, but I seem overly primed to just how much negativity and criticism there is in this digital realm that we humans have created.
There’s cynicism and judgment and snark and complaints and it’s honestly enough to just make a person go mad.
I don’t know, a part of me thinks that collectively we use negativity as a means of connection. Sharing our miseries and our discomforts feels a lot more socially acceptable sometimes than sharing our big wins or our happy moments. Maybe it’s that we fear in sharing the good stuff that we’ll appear arrogant, or naive, or — in the glossy, filtered, selfie-laden time we live in — we’re afraid the good stuff will come off as fake. I know I feel that way sometimes.
BUT, I really wish we’d start giving more of a voice to the positivity in the world and in our own lives. I’d love to get to a place where I don’t feel WEIRD about saying I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. That I truly do enjoy 95% of my days. I’m painfully aware even as I type this that that kind of positive remark is viewed incredulously. And I wish that weren’t the case. So I think it’s time we get loud about what is GOOD too. I say we flood social media with gratitude and love and joy found in every mundane moment — because lord knows we’re good at finding something to complain about in every mundane moment — and I can’t wait for the day that this notion doesn’t seem strange or idealistic or annoyingly optimistic.
Tonight I’d love to invite you guys to leave a comment with one thing that is going REALLY WELL in your life right now and I give you my solemn promise to receive your comments without judgment or cynicism, only pure delight for you. (I hope everyone else will do the same.)
The only way we start to shift the conversation around positivity & change the perception that it’s all doom and gloom is by retraining ourselves that positivity can be an equally powerful grounds for human connection.
Yesterday I was working on the new MV website when a major glitch starting undoing a lot of the hours and hours of hard work that Laura and I had already put in. I couldn’t figure out what was going wrong and for a moment I found myself beyond frustrated at the notion of spending countless additional hours fixing it (which basically meant rebuilding the site from the ground up to avoid the phantom glitch.) But, if I’ve learned anything from past roadblocks like this, it’s that focusing on the problem -- how much it sucks, how inconvenient it is, how unfortunate the circumstances are -- does not CHANGE the problem, it only prolongs it.
What does change the problem, however, is getting to work on a solution.
Yes, the idea of having to basically redo hours of work was a frustrating notion, but whining about it wasn’t going to get it complete any sooner.
The side effect of my shift in attention was that I did in fact discover a way to salvage at least some of our work, and I managed not to lose my mind in the process.
So next time you hit one of those annoying roadblocks, take one deep breath to feel the disappointment and then shift your focus to the solution and remind yourself every moment thereafter is taking you one step closer to solving your problem.
I started out with big plans for this Monday. It was #bandoagendaday 🎉, I had my colorful to-do’s all listed out, and then it all got derailed in an instant by one inconvenience. The print mailers I ordered online last week were “unable to be delivered” by UPS and about to be returned to the online retailer if I didn’t drive a half hour to pick them up by the end of the day, something a robotic phone representative kindly alerted me to after calling their 800 number.
It sounds silly, but I was really bummed out. My caffeine had just started to kick in, I was feeling on top of my Monday, and then I found myself headed out the door for an hour detour that I hadn’t expected.
Thankfully though, these are the moments when I’m thankful I chose the unshakable @jasondoesstuff as my teammate because he has a way of pulling me out of a tailspin like nobody else. “It’s okay. Let’s pick a new lunch place by the UPS warehouse and we’ll make an adventure out of it.”
With one simple suggestion a frustrating inconvenience became and unexpected twist on a run-of-the-mill Monday.
We found a delicious restaurant we NEVER would have found and even indulged by splitting “the best burger in Vista” at the suggestion of our waiter. Then, just to REALLY make the trip worth it, Jas suggested we stop by Michael’s on the way back (basically like a parent promising to swing by the toy store on the way home from errands.)
The point is, inconveniences pop up in our lives all the time. Our days get side-tracked, our plans unravel, and our to-do lists get commandeered. BUT, if we look hard enough, there’s always an opportunity for joy to be found. Plans are great, but the unplanned can end up being pretty special too.
7/31/16: Consume 2
Last week I read a really great long-form article about the media and how, especially during this election, we’ve painted the current world we live in as the most unsafe, most divisive, most downtrodden we’ve ever encountered. The article went on to bring light to the fact that in our social media-dominated, hyperconnected times, headlines that grab attention are the ones that are rewarded with ad dollars and as such they are the ones that keep getting written.
The article made me think about consumption in a new way.
The things we consume — read, buy, click on, endorse, talk about, etc. — are the things we are essentially saying we want MORE of in our world because by rewarding them with our dollars, our time, or our attention, the people who make those things will make more of them to meet our demands.
Take a second to think about that.
What we give our attention to MATTERS. That link we get baited into clicking? That’s a vote for three more articles like it. That knock-off artist’s pin that we buy from that big-box retailer? That’s a vote that says it’s OKAY to take intellectual property.
Listen, I don’t have it all figured out yet. I know that when I take a hard look at everything I buy or wear or read, not all of it is contributing to the world I want to live in. But acknowledging that is the first step to rectifying it.
I’ll think twice next time I feel compelled to buy a gossip magazine in an airport. Think twice before I give my impressions to that divisive article on a questionable news site. And think twice before I save a few bucks on a cheaply made garment at the expense of the worker that made it.
What kind of world do you want to live in? Consume the things that you want to see more of and maybe we can create it together. .
About a year ago, I had this overwhelming feeling that I was TIRED of seeing the same type of content and courses online. Promises to make you rich overnight, ways to maximize your sales funnels, so much emphasis on money and “success” and endless growth for growth’s sake. So I asked myself: If I could create an offering that was helpful and, more importantly, HEARTFUL… what would that look like?
My answer was #MVColorYourSoul. I wanted to create the digital equivalent of a subscription box service where once a month you could dive in to a treasure trove of thought-provoking art, insightful articles and visual inspiration. SO, I’ve been working on it for months (and especially all day today) only I’ve been struggling a bit with effectively communicating what exactly “IT” is. I realized this is because there’s nothing else quite like it that I’ve seen, and that makes it hard, almost frustrating, to describe.
BUT I realized that if anything, this is a beautiful clue that I’m on the right track. If it’s hard to define because it’s the first of its kind, that means I’m hot on the trail of something that’s new, something that is being born out of a deep vision I have in my heart and not of something that I’ve seen work for someone else in the past.
So… is it terrifying? Yes.
But is it ridiculously exciting too? HECK yes. Remember, if there’s something that you have in your head or your heart and it doesn’t exist yet out in the world, THAT is a perfect opportunity for you to CREATE it. ;)
Jas and I have been trying to get back into a fitness routine so we decided to try out a month at our local Oceanside gym. This morning, while trying out a new exercise, I got REALLY frustrated because my muscles kept failing me despite what looked like a very doable move. Getting curious about why this made me so mad, I realized that in every other area of my life, all I need to do to accomplish a goal is set my mind to it and put forth effort to make it happen. But unlike in mental endeavors, PHYSICAL endeavors have limitations that are VERY based in reality, limitations that unfortunately we sometimes can't overcome no matter how hard we try. (For instance, it's simply not possible for me to do 100 pull-ups in a row. It's physically beyond my body's capability.) I realized my frustration was stemming from the fact that my effort wasn't guaranteed to get a result.
Then I stopped and thought about it a moment longer. I realized my effort wasn't guaranteed to get MY result -- the one I wanted -- but effort ALWAYS produces A result. It always pays off. I may not have been able to complete the rep I wanted to, but even trying to will make me stronger. Even showing up in the gym at all will mentally give me momentum.
In the gym, in business, in relationships -- though it may not produce the outcome we want, effort is always worth it.
We always learn, we always grow, we always get better.
Today's piece is obviously outside my normal style, but I found myself itching to experiment with some new digital techniques. When I stumbled upon this "glow-in-the-dark" vibe I said to myself: That looks CRAZY.
And then I paused to think about that word: crazy. There's the negative context -- we've all likely encountered that "crazy" friend (or that EX boy/girlfriend), maybe someone whose behavior is irrational or their presence is toxic. And there are certainly more than a few things I could get into in the news now that have me thinking the word "crazy" on a regular basis, wondering how all the screws got loose in our collective consciousness.
But more often than not, "crazy" is a word that is simply used to describe "that which we cannot comprehend." Something that is outside the norm, that challenges the status quo, that asks us to consider what's possible. Certainly there was a time in our history when the notion of having a female president would have unilaterally been branded as CRAZY. Politics aside, reality suggests that notion is now a very real possibility.
So I think it's all about maintaining just the RIGHT amount of crazy. Not necessarily endorsing the irrational or the toxic, but of leaving room for the unthinkable, the seemingly impossible.
As Apple's iconic "Think different" campaign famously said: "Here's to the crazy ones...Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do." Let today's piece be a reminder to entertain just the right amount of crazy in your own life!
Is there anything you REALLY need to do but have been putting off? I have a list of things probably two pages long that I’ve avoided either because I don’t like doing them OR it’s gone so long that I’m embarrassed to confront them OR (the deeper, more honest reason) tackling them highlights a judgment I have about myself that I’m just not prepared to acknowledge. WHOA, procrastination is deep stuff, y'all. What I realized today was… they’re not going anywhere. These things that we put off because they’re difficult or uncomfortable or just plain mundane become a lot more dangerous the longer they fester. They become guilt or self-loathing or stress and all of those things are toxic to living a vibrant life.
So this morning, I made a “Toxic Procrastination” list, I set the timer for one hour and I tackled each item one by one. Did I make it through every one? No. BUT I feel so much lighter just for finally lifting some of that weight off my conscience.
Maybe today’s the day you make your own Toxic Procrastination list! Stop putting it off and make it happen. You will feel all the more brighter for it!
Have you ever promised yourself you’d stick with a commitment only to slip up once and then convince yourself the WHOLE commitment was ruined? Like a 30-day challenge where you miss one day or two days and then suddenly it’s like the 15 days you put in before that were totally worthless?
I know I’m guilty of this in the past, namely with any kind of workout or fitness routine. If I fall off the wagon, I run as far away from the wagon as possible and chalk it up to a failed attempt at consistency. But the truth is, it’s NOT too late to pick it back up. Whether it’s a workout routine you abandoned two months ago or a blog you haven’t updated since 2015 or that unfinished project that’s been collecting dust because you lost momentum… the work you’ve already put in counts for something.
If I’ve learned anything about consistency it’s that while a break in the chain can be disheartening, it can’t erase the positive impact of every link that came before AND, more importantly, every link that will come after.
So, whatever it is, pick it back up, dust it off, and start again. The past is the past but it’s a new day and a new chance to commit.
I’ve decided to make this my new primary mantra for the time being. I’ve laid out some big goals for the second half of this year, and if I think about them long enough, I start to get overwhelmed by all I need to do in order to make them happen.
But instead, once my vision is set, if I can focus less on the goal itself and more on simply putting “one foot in front of the other” then it all seems a lot less daunting.
When we focus too much on the destination, the result, the end goal, not only do we run the risk of paralyzing ourselves with overwhelm but we also risk setting ourselves up for disappointment and self-criticism if our plans change and we miss the mark. Instead, by making the new benchmark simply FORWARD MOTION, then we can feel good about logging one more tally in grand pursuit of our dreams. (This always brings me back to @elisejoy’s #gettoworkbook motto: “Big things happen one day at a time.”)
So, my question for you today is: did you take one step forward? Did you do make one tiny dent in your bigger picture? Then you, my friend, should reward yourself with a gold star.
Keep moving forward. Keep chipping away.
Thanks to a little boost from the 2016 Crossfit Games, which Jason and I have been watching all weekend, I’ve discovered some newfound motivation to start making fitness a priority again. (I tend to go through stages of complete commitment and then just a stage that I refer to as “wine & cheese.”)
I was trying to dissect what exactly it was that I found so motivating about seeing these athletes lifting weights and doing upside down hand-stands so that I could hold on to that feeling and maybe let it sustain me for more than a week at a time. I decided that it was actually something pretty simple: the notion that if you do the work, you get results.
Yes, we all know that statement to be true, but for some reason at this moment in time I was ready to actually HEAR it. I think until now I’ve been secretly waiting for a day where I wake up and see the muscle definition I want, the tighter tummy, the stronger legs... but I haven’t been willing to actually put in the WORK to get there.
How many times in our lives do we unconsciously wait around, hoping that our dreams will just magically come true? That someone will call our number, pick us out of a crowd, that the tides will turn in our favor? But the hard (and EMPOWERING) truth is that it’s just not going to happen that way for 99% of us. No one is going to hand us the life -- the results -- that we want. Instead, we have to commit (and continue to commit) inch by inch, day by day.
Who knows if this time the fitness kick will stick, but now at least I have a mantra to come back to when I need a reminder that there is no magic solution to the health and body I want. There is only work. (And for those curious, Crossfit is not my workout of choice, but I have a huge amount of respect for it!)
Jas and I have been on a Netflix documentary tear this weekend, which started with us watching “Fittest On Earth” (the Crossfit doc) last night. That, followed by “Top Spin” and “Somm: Into The Bottle” and I’ve basically spent my weekend thus far watching movies about people obsessed with stuff.
Whether it’s fitness or table tennis or wine… all of these films are fascinating to me because it’s hard for me to fathom the level of commitment and enthusiasm for mastering just one single subject. The only thing I can think of that comes close to that kind of commitment is my own commitment to creativity, trying to create something every single day for years now.
But what I learned from watching these people (and from my own experience) is that there’s a payoff that comes from committing fully to something, because the longer you show up, the deeper you dive, the harder you try… the more layers you’re able to discover hidden within that subject AND within yourself.
While I don’t plan on becoming obsessed with any one skill or subject or topic any time soon (I prefer my jack of all trades sensibilities), it DOES make me wonder what I could discover if I would commit just a little more to certain aspects of my life. Could I discover new limits of strength if I worked out more diligently? Could I build software if I committed to upping my coding game? Could I write a book if I committed to writing every day?
The answer of course is YES but it’s always good to remind ourselves of what we’re capable of with a little intentional effort.
My question to you today is: what in your life could use a little more commitment? And what could you discover as a result?
Some people say the word balance is a crock. They declare war on the phrase “work/life balance” saying it doesn’t exist, that it’s a false notion that we obsess over.
And to that I say… I get it. I agree it’s impossible to maintain some ideal equilibrium point into eternity between two opposing forces, not just work and life (and for many of us, those lines are blurred anyway.) But I’ve never been able to dismiss the term balance out of hand because with every single day of my life, and in almost every aspect of my life, balance provides me with a guiding force that keeps me on track. Nearly every single challenge I encounter can’t simply be solved with some binary, black or white response. It’s all gray. A situation might require a bit of strength and a bit of vulnerability. Another will require me to be open and also convicted. A little this, a little that. Throttle up, throttle down. Buckle down, lighten up.
Life is really just a series of these juxtaposed forces and the idea of balance asks us to find what ratio of these diametric ideas to hold at any given time. The equilibrium point is different for every person and changes from moment to moment, but personally it gives me some kind of metric to aim for, some kind of construct that allows me to constantly hold two different helpful things in my psyche at one time.
So I, for one, am a fan of balance. Knowing that it will never be a final destination but that it can be an incredibly helpful target to aim for.
I’ve been working almost daily on wrapping up the new branding for Made Vibrant, but for the past few days I just couldn’t shake this nagging feeling that something was missing, that it wasn’t quite complete yet.
So I kept searching, kept pushing, kept exploring, not quite certain of what I was looking for, but knowing for sure that it just wasn’t there yet. Then today, the final piece came to me, the missing part of the puzzle that suddenly made everything else make sense. I was so grateful to myself that I listened to my gut and kept searching until I found what I was looking for.
Over the past few years, I’ve learned that life is a delicate, constant balance between striving forward and appreciating what’s right in front of you. There are moments when we need to press on, and moments when we need to say “that’s enough.” I know this.
BUT, I also know that we get in life what we’re willing to settle for. We receive what we’re willing to go out and get. So if there’s one area of you’re life that is calling to you, one thing that feels out of place, not just right quite yet (that job, that house, that relationship), well then keep on keepin’ on, my dear friend. Keep searching, keep striving, and don’t stop until you arrive at what you’re looking for. It’s not about perfection — we all know there is no such thing as a perfect ANYTHING — but it IS about claiming ownership of the reality you want to create.
You are the designer of your own life and you get to say when it’s time to stop and when it’s time to keep going.
Today I completely flipped out over something embarrassingly small. I was helping Jason out with something that should have been a fun break from my workday, but I turned it into something that was beyond stressful and something that caused me to get unduly irritated.
After I lost my cool, I noticed I was mentally beating myself up a bit for it. I was self-criticizing for not being more patient, more relaxed, more centered. But, recognizing these critical thoughts, I did something that my internet bud @heyamberrae talks about, as well as the insightful @brenebrown... I got CURIOUS. Why did this bug me so much? What was striking a chord that was inciting such a strong emotional response in me?
After some digging, I realized that I simply hadn't been able to sit down for more than two hours of uninterrupted work since I returned from San Francisco last week. I'm someone who needs time to sink into a more flow-like state and punctuated short-term bursts of work just won't cut it for me. So what seemed like a tiny task today actually turned into a much bigger annoyance, pulling me away from what I needed to feel productive. Once I was able to find the root of my frustration, it also illuminated an important value for me: control over my day and work schedule.
See, irritations and emotional responses and mini-meltdowns can actually be AMAZING learning tools because they often are a response to one of our highly held values being threatened. Get curious enough to investigate and you're one step closer to really understanding what's important to you.
So next time you think about getting critical with yourself over flipping out, get curious instead and see what you discover!
Jason and I have been having a lot of “future” conversations lately. I think this usually happens halfway through the year when we start itching to put our adventure pants on and ask ourselves: Where do we want to travel? What do we want our lives to look like in a year? What about our businesses?
I try to spend a majority of my time focused on the present, but taking a moment to steer the ship to the future (and adjust the sails, if necessary) can be valuable too.
I find that our best conversations about plans tend to begin with this simple phrase: “WHAT IF WE COULD…” What if we could spend three months at a time living in a different European city?
What if we could start a business together that incorporates our strengths?
What if we could do this or build that or travel there? What if?
The truth is, as humans we vastly underestimate the power of our imaginations. Our imaginations lead us to destinations we didn’t even know were possible. At times we can become so blinded by our reality, that we forget to look beyond what’s right in front of us and reach for possibilities we had never entertained before.
So whatever your dream for your life is right now, I challenge you to stretch your imagination and see what’s just beyond. Finish the sentence “What if you could…” because by asking the question, you’re one step closer to discovering the answer.
I put in a few good hours on the MV brand update/new site design today, and this is the lesson that I inevitably have to teach myself time and time again.
Any time I work on designing my own site, I start with one thing in mind, one clear direction that I want to steer my ship in. Then, without realizing it, I accidentally take a peek around at what everyone else is doing, and suddenly I start doubting myself.
Subconsciously I think we all have this fear of sticking out like a sore thumb. Of being the odd man out. So we mold our look and our feel and our brand to fit in with what we see around us. The same layouts and design treatments. The same blog post images. Why mess with it if it works for everyone else, right?
The only problem with that is… when it comes to marketing, it’s actually a GOOD thing to stick out like a sore thumb. Not only does it make you memorable, but chances are it also means you’re creating something that reflects YOUR unique vision, not a conglomeration of other people’s visions you see on Pinterest.
So… today I cut myself off from looking at what other people are doing until I arrive at my final design and relaunch the site September 1st. From here on out, I’m promising myself to embrace my instincts and not fear creating something that is too “loud” or “busy” or “different.” I will trust my eye and I will remind myself that standing out is actually the whole point! I encourage you to do the same!
I didn't grow up in a family with a lot of money. There was always love -- so much love -- and my parents certainly gave me everything I needed, but my mom definitely taught me what it meant to be frugal. Still, she always found ways to sneak in little indulgences when she could. A surprise Haagen-Dazs ice cream bar from the store (a luxury that rarely made the weekly grocery budget) or a nice dinner at our favorite Italian restaurant to celebrate a special occasion.
I didn't fully appreciate it then, but I'm so grateful she taught me the beauty and value in the occasional indulgence.
I was reminded of this today when Jason and I decided to have a spa day for no reason at all. We ate lunch at the gorgeous Omni La Costa, sipped cocktails, lounged by the pool and booked a massage. When the attendant asked us what we were celebrating, I smiled and simply replied: "LIFE." The reason I think indulging every once in a while is good for the soul is that it reminds us that not everything in life has to be born out of utility or efficiency or necessity. Frivolity has its place too because it teaches us to cherish JOY and joy alone.
Whether it's the GOOD ice cream sandwich or a luxurious bubble bath or 20 minutes of that juicy fiction novel while the kids nap... find out what feels indulgent to you and carve out a little bit of time for it. It's good for the soul.
I’ve been trying out this new style of painting with wax paper, layering on areas of color and texture just to switch up my process and keep it interesting for myself. Normally I do my very best to use each new painting as an opportunity to explore and create without judgment, caring more about the unfolding of the process itself rather than the final product.
But today I caught myself thinking, “This painting is just a series of color splotches and patterns. ANYONE could do it. It’s isn’t ENOUGH.” Somehow in my head I planted the seed that just because it was different from the way I had always done it (or the idea I had of what a painting SHOULD be), that it wasn’t good enough. That it didn’t take any artistic talent to create and it wasn’t worthy of sharing.
Then I reminded myself… wait a second here. I have been painting every day for nearly a year. I’ve logged hours and hours learning what color combinations I like, what brings balance and visual harmony to a piece, and establishing my unique artistic voice. Why then was I so determined to rob myself of the joy of creating what I want to create? (And who cares what is considered “art” anyway - it’s completely subjective.) Instead, I took a step back, looked at how far I’ve come in my own artistic journey, and I gave myself permission to be proud of what I created.
The truth is, we could all stand to give ourselves a little more credit from time to time. We need to fight the urge to explain away our gifts or brush off our hard work and discover the confidence that comes with owning our awesome.
The next time you find yourself in a moment of pride and your instinct is to brush off your accomplishments or diminish your gifts or attribute your success to luck, try giving yourself a little more credit.
Sometimes it can feel like the whole world is stacked against you. Like the burden is so great that you can't possibly bear it.
Or... (perhaps less dramatically) sometimes it can simply feel like you're out of your depth. Like you're not strong enough, smart enough, experienced enough, WHATEVER enough to handle a responsibility placed on you.
In those moments, repeat to yourself that you CAN handle it. You ARE capable. And you are stronger than you know.
We all have moments of doubt and of weakness but we also have the power to reassure ourselves if we stay mindful.
Whatever it is... you CAN handle it.
Today was such an amazing day! The shoot went so well - better than I could have hoped -- and it made me think about how often I've doubted myself when it comes to something only to be surprised. Doubt, it turns out, only distracts you from being awesome. It causes you to focus on what you CAN'T do, rather than what you CAN do.
When I got to the studio this morning, I was nervous about my ability to talk through each slide of the course clearly. That is until I realized that being too in my head was actually distracting me from being myself. Instead, I promised myself I'd let go of that doubt and allow myself to believe in my own abilities, which actually made me feel more capable!
Next time you find yourself going to a place of self-doubt, remember your AWESOMENESS instead!
About to take off for San Fran and just reflecting on how excited I am for the opportunity to work with a company I’ve admired since BEFORE I started my own business. I’m thinking about what that girl — the girl who started her biz with ZERO idea of what she was doing back in 2013 — would say to this girl just a couple short years later.
If I could go back, I would reassure that girl that her instincts to be AUTHENTIC, transparent, and uniquely HER were correct. Why? Because authenticity is a magnet for opportunity. When you show up confidently and unapologetically for who you really are, people pay attention. It will take time, it will take hard work, but people will always respect and respond to realness.
SO, if you feel like you’re at square one right now OR if you’ve been pursuing your dreams for years… the advice is the same: be yourself. Be yourself radically, authentically, radiantly, and good things will come. I just know it.
I’m just about packed up and ready to jet off to San Francisco tomorrow to film my online class collaboration with the folks at @britandco! I’m SO pumped about the content we’ve worked together to create and I’m thrilled to be teaching it, but in the interest of full transparency, I’ll admit there are some nerves!
It’s an opportunity to work with a company I’ve admired from afar for so long, so I think it’s natural to want to do my best. Whenever I feel those nerves bubble up, whether it’s because of an opportunity like this or a speaking gig or even a client project — any time when I can feel that pressure to not let someone down — that’s when my kind inner mentor whispers to me: “You were chosen for a reason. THEY believe in you, so now you just have to remember to believe in yourself.”
Don’t you wish sometimes we could see ourselves through someone else’s eyes? Maybe our parents, our partners, our best friends, the people we serve — what would THEY say about us? The honest truth is, I bet they’d say better things than we say to ourselves because we can often be our own worst critics.
So the next time you too feel those nerves or you find yourself in a moment of doubt, try to see yourself through the eyes of someone that loves you or respects you. They believe in you — now all you have to do is believe in you too.
Turns out there’s a reason they say “distance makes the heart grow fonder.” Today I resumed my Monday morning newsletter after a five-week break, and I don’t think I quite realized just how much I missed writing long-form content on a regular basis. Week after week, I think I became so accustomed to writing that I took it for granted a bit. The break away — the distance — allowed me to appreciate my audience and how far my writing has come in a completely new way.
Sometimes distance can actually be a doorway to gratitude. So… what are you so close to that you might be taking it for granted in your own life? Could time or distance or separation give you the perspective you need to approach it with a renewed appreciation?
Today’s message is less a universal directive than it is a personal directive. I don’t necessarily think that all creativity has to have any meaning at all - I think there is meaning enough to be found in the very ACT of creating. However, over the past few months I’ve had this feeling bubbling up, a feeling that I want to recommit to the idea of making art that matters. Of creating content that SAYS something, that MEANS something. While that’s certainly always the aim with these daily art pieces, I have to admit it hasn’t always been the case with everything I’ve created.
Looking back, there are times when I’ve created things because they seemed like a convenient opportunity to make money — not that my heart wasn’t in them (I always find a way to mold my work to feel purposeful) BUT it’s not like they were touching on any deeper, soulful subjects either. What I’m saying is… they may have been HELPFUL but they weren’t always HEART-FULL.
These past few weeks of slowing down in my business and giving myself space to breathe have reminded me to follow my instincts toward creating projects and work that always have a deeper, more meaningful thread.
So today’s piece is a declaration to myself and to any other SOULFUL creative that needs to be reminded — try making something that means something. Let’s stop choosing the work that feels convenient and commercial and start following our hearts toward what feels scarier but more rewarding — the vulnerable and messy and heart-full work that calls to us.
Something I’ve promised myself to work on lately is this notion of keeping score. Whether we realize it or not, I think it’s often our our instinct to keep a mental tally of all our moments of sacrifice and bigger-person-hood — especially in relationships. You know the tally I’m talking about, right? “Well *I* washed the dishes last night AND the night before.” “*I’ve* been making more of an effort than you.” “This is the third time so-and-so has asked me for a ride.” It could be our partners, our friends, our family members, or even larger groups like our communities.
What I’ve realized is that keeping score rarely ends in any kind of victory. Instead it conditions us for disappointment, resentment, and passive-aggressiveness, none of which are feelings or qualities I want to possess. So, instead of racking up that mental tally, I challenge myself (and you) to give generously without expectation. To be the bigger person with no hidden agenda or need for reciprocity, because when we give graciously we inspire others to do the same and THAT is when everyone truly wins.
My heart has been so, so very heavy lately — though I have to acknowledge it is nowhere near as heavy as those who woke up today to the painful reminder that they have lost a father, a friend, a colleague these past few tragic days.
I, like most, have been racking my brain for answers and solutions to this senseless (and seemingly escalating) violence. There are moments when I can’t help but tumble forward into a cynical and fearful conclusion that our world is too broken to be fixed. I get mad at the ignorance of those who continue to stay close-minded and divisive, and I feel frustrated at the lack of any real action being taken to remedy injustices. Though I don’t like to admit it, it's in those moments that I start to feel the toxic seeds of hate being planted — "I hate that we are using guns to fight violence with violence. I hate that we fear each other because we look different. I hate that we argue more than we listen..." And then I STOP.
Because HATE is what got us into this mess. HATE is what continues to feed the monsters of misunderstanding and division.
And so, instead, I cast out those seeds of hate and I arm myself instead with HOPE.
During days and months like these, it can feel like the world is too broken to heal, but I have to believe that in seeking hope, humanity can find it.
In choosing to believe that a future world exists where we are no longer killing each other, humanity can CREATE it. And so today, and every day, I will remind myself to choose HOPE not hate.
Maybe it’s the break away from being in my studio, but as I took a look at my blank paper yesterday I realized that I was itching to switch up my process and explore a new evolution of my work. This resulted in me pulling out the wax paper from our kitchen (for reasons I do not know) and experimenting with how to incorporate it as a foreign material into my work. The first few tries were kind of disastrous and I tried new ways of applying paint and medium and water to see how they behaved. But, after a few failed experiments, I stumbled upon something I KIND OF liked. Then, without thinking, I started to add more layers with no idea of what look or process I was trying to achieve. Instead I just let my instincts lead the way. I FEEL like maybe I could press the paper here. I FEEL like I want to see what happens when I do this. And this. And this.
The final result is something that looks completely different from anything I’ve done and yet feels like it fits my aesthetic. I love the texture and depth of it, like there’s more to discover with each layer you see.
Sometimes, rather than thinking it through or second-guessing, you just have to let your instincts lead you and trust that you’ll arrive at something interesting.
Whenever I go on any sort of extended trip, when I get back I inevitably feel a little out of my GROOVE. Not in a bad way necessarily, but it’s like the time away has stretched me just a little bit somehow and the shape of my puzzle piece no longer fits perfectly into the hole it popped out of. Time away shakes things up, it loosens the dust that settles over our everyday lives.
So I find myself thinking bigger questions like: What did this experience teach me? How did it affect my values and perspectives? What do I want to do more of or less of? Do I care about X as much as I did before I left?
It sounds silly to think that you could actually change so much on a five-day vacation, but I’m a big believer in the fact that new experiences beyond your everyday routine act as catalysts to propel your growth forward. At least for me, they always seem to reveal interesting things that either I didn’t know about myself or that I had maybe lost sight of in the comfort of habits and routines.
So now I’ve learned that it’s important to take time after a trip or a new experience (or hey, even on a monthly basis in general) to recalibrate my various settings and circuits. To shuffle things around in my schedule, to revisit my values, to check in with my body and mind and spirit.
To recalibrate today, I’m working from bed, easing back into the flow of my normal work day, and taking a few moments to write down what parts of myself feel different so that I can move forward reshaping my life to become the perfectly molded spot that can accommodate my ever-expanding puzzle piece. :)
Man oh man, this weekend has been amazing! It’s rare that I take off enough time that I actually find myself fully disconnecting, but this weekend I allowed myself to do just that (with the exception of a few selective snaps!😜).
I used to travel without actually breaking completely free of technology — I’d check my email periodically or sneak away to put in a half hour of work here or there. But I eventually realized that in order to reap the full benefits of taking time off, I might actually have to take time OFF.
It’s all a part of a practice I want to cultivate of living well AWAY from technology. Making memories with friends without the crutch of a handheld computer to fill the silences; practicing boundary-setting when it comes to my inbox; learning how NOT to feel anxious if I’m not up-to-date on the latest news or instant gratification. I think finding ways to counter-balance our real-time consumption with these “detox” periods can be really helpful.
So, I’m hoping you too were able to spend some time away from your computer or phone this weekend, but even if not, consider ways that you might be able to experience this disconnection regularly in your life. You might be surprised what you learn in the process!
Today is a day of celebration for independence! I love this holiday because it helps me meditate on the idea of freedom, not just in a cultural sense, but in a personal sense too. This idea of freedom has become one of the most important forces in my life because I believe freedom is the conduit to authenticity. The more you allow yourself to break free from what other people think, or what other people want from you, or what you think you SHOULD be or do, the more authentically you’re able to live your life.
The truth is, we’re all trying to break free of something. Whether it’s perceptions people have about us, or stories we’re telling ourselves, or challenges we’ve had to face — all of these things can become heavy veils hiding our true selves from the world. But today I’m reminded to continue lifting those veils and challenges those self-imposed restraints in order to more FREELY be myself.
Happy Fourth of July!
The Fourth of July might be one of my favorite holidays! Maybe it’s just that ever since I was little I equate the holiday with the epitome of summer — sun kissed cheeks, family trips to the beach or the lake house, grilled hamburgers… the whole thing carries this carefree summer celebration that brings back such good memories for me.
The older you get though, the easier it is to let those memories fade. What used to be a fun long weekend to spend with family can feel like any other weekend with an extra day attached, and sometimes it can be easy to feel like it’s more trouble than it’s worth.
But that’s why I love turning this holiday weekend into something that feels special, like a girls weekend. Every moment can carry a hidden celebratory reason for no purpose other than it’s FUN. By setting the date, everyone flying in town, making plans… it all suddenly becomes a special occasion.
And the truth is, it’s a welcome reminder that you can turn ANYTHING into something special if you want to, not just a holiday. All it takes is a decision and a little effort, and that tiny bit of effort can actually breed memories that last a lifetime.
I hope you all have a delightful Fourth of July tomorrow, and whatever you do, I hope it feels special.
I think my favorite part about having a girls weekend is the lack of self-consciousness you find in numbers. When you’re with a group of your friends, you don’t care how loud you are, how silly you sound, how dumb your dance moves are… you just get to have fun without caring what “they” think, whoever “they” might be.
It’s a great reminder for me as someone who’s been working on her recovery from “caring way too much what other people think of me” syndrome for several years now.
When you have a true love for yourself and you experience true freedom to be 100% fully yourself, that’s when you realize… who cares what they think? You get to experience joy and silliness and fun and celebration, no matter what anyone else thinks or says.
If there’s one thing I think 2016 has taught me thus far it’s this: it’s okay to slow down. Early on in my business I felt like everything was rushed, like it all had to be done yesterday. And to be fair, it kind of had to be. I had only a certain amount of runway in my savings and I needed my business to reach some sort of sustainability point if I was going to make it. Thankfully, I did.
But the problem is that my brain has still been in that Go Go Go mode ever since. At the beginning of this year, I could feel that a big lesson I needed to learn was how to downshift a bit and to create a more sustainable lifestyle for myself, one that didn’t include working 12 hour days and weekends too. I have a hard time remembering sometimes that I’m the boss, and that I control the pace of my work.
This “summer sabbatical” as I’ve been calling it has been integral in teaching me the value in a slower pace. What I’ve found is that slowing things down give you space and time to PAY ATTENTION. To let things simmer. To let ideas simmer and mingle and cross-pollinate. I just didn’t give myself that same time before. But I’m realizing there is so much value in that.
Whenever possible, see if you can slow it down. It really will be okay if you do. Amazing things will happen if you only give yourself the space to let it.
As I was editing the Abstract Explorations online class videos the other day, I realized that I had this original dream of having THIS B-roll shot and THAT cool shot of me mixing paint, and I had all these big dreams of what I thought the production value would be when I started the course. Then I took a second and realized I’d already had THREE days of shooting, plenty of b-roll footage, and way more than enough great footage to make the video quality great. I challenged myself to edit the videos with the ample amount of footage I had, and what I realized is that by working within the footage I had, it actually spurred on some creative ideas about how to bridge some clips together and inspired ideas I never would have had for the shoot.
The truth is, sometimes with a project you want to see it through to your perfect vision, but you reach a point where you realize: this is what I got and I’m going to make it happen with that. You recognize what the constraints are and you see your vision through as much as possible with what you have in front of you. Those kind of constraints are actually what pushes the whole thing forward to something you had no idea it could be.
Next time you are waist deep in a project, ask yourself how much you’ve put in and then consider whether you might actually be able to work with what you got. You have enough. Make it happen.
I was chatting with a friend the other day and she was telling me about an exciting creative project she’s working on. She told me she was under a deadline of sorts to have this project complete by a certain event, so she said she was aiming to get 50 pages of this thing done by Friday. Knowing how I start to feel when I give myself deadlines, I asked her: “Is there any reason it HAS to be 50 pages?” She paused. “No, I guess not.”
This conversation fresh in my head, I was experiencing my own version of “crunch time” as I looked at my massive to-do list for all the exciting changes I had planned for to reveal on August 1st. Suddenly I heard my voice again: “Is there any reason is HAS to be August?” “Um… no, I guess not.”
As driven, passionate creatives, we sometimes create these self-imposed deadlines and restrictions on ourselves, which can be extremely helpful in giving us a narrow vision to work towards. But, in my experience, sometimes we get so wrapped up in those helpful guidelines that we actually forget the most important thing about them: they’re self-imposed. If we can make the rules, then we can certainly break the rules.
So the next time you find yourself in a pressure cooker of your own making, try finishing this sentence: “What if it doesn’t HAVE to be _________”
What if it doesn’t have to be 50 pages. Or launched on August 1st. Or a money-making project. Or open to the public. What if it doesn’t have to be in an auditorium. What if it doesn’t have to be online. There are a million different ways to finish that sentence and they all end in you shattering some sort of barrier you’ve created and discovering an alternate route.
I just started the book “When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi and I’m already enthralled with Paul’s beautiful curiosity for life’s biggest philosophical questions. The book has me focused lately on this idea of “meaning,” and — to be quite meta with it — the meaning of meaning itself. I don’t know what conclusions he comes to about life and death and time and love (I’m only about a quarter of the way through), but I do know that I believe we, as individuals, get to decide what has meaning to us and what does not.
For instance, the act of getting married carries deep meaning for some, but not for others.
Legacy matters to some, while making the most of what we have while we’re here, for however long we’re here, carries meaning for others.
For some people, making an impact on a global scale brings meaning to their life. For others, it’s making an impact in the tiniest interactions with the humans directly around them that means the most.
I guess my point here is that each of us gets to decide one way or another. There is no objective truth when it comes to the meaning of our lives, at least not in my eyes.
If we’re intent on searching for meaning, whatever that is to us, I think we serve ourselves best by understanding that it can’t be found by holding ourselves up to any standard that exists beyond our own. We find it when we choose it, when we feel it.
And sometimes we actually find it simply in the act of searching for it. I don’t find meaning in how many countries I’ve visited or how many people visit my website or if I ever manage to master any particular skill (though I can certainly see why someone else might find meaning in those things.) I find meaning whenever I experience the bliss of feeling 100% my truest self (which is easier said than done.) I find it when I share my ideas and perspectives with the world. I find it when I feel the layers of love deepening in my relationships.
So now my only question for today is: What does meaning mean to you?
6/27/16: Enough 2
@jasondoesstuff and I have been talking about the idea of “enough” for months now. This morning he published a post to his blog that I highly recommend (jasondoesstuff.com/enough) and I love these lines in particular:
“I’ve dug deep to figure out what I really value in life and how not to get caught up in what society tells me I should value. I’ve had recent conversations with fellow entrepreneurs who go silent when I tell them, ‘I’ve made it’—both because I think they’re shocked to hear me actually say it, and because their version of enough is measured by more, which has no end in sight.”
These conversations were spurred largely by a passing conversation we had just a few weeks into moving here, when we were both in the midst of planning out the trajectory of our businesses this year and next. We both agreed that we wanted ENOUGH money to be in a place financially where we were comfortable and didn’t have to worry about bills. But that begged this VERY important question: “How much will be enough?”
Because we know how this story goes, right? We want X and then we get it and we raise the bar to Y.
But Jason and I have been on a journey lately to define exactly what enough ACTUALLY means to us. How much money is enough? How many customers? How much travel? How many things? How many projects?
Enough is about bringing your consciousness out of its automatic and endless consumption so you can intentionally set your sights on something that’s actually attainable AND satisfying. (Not the slippery slope that is the hedonic treadmill.)
So my question for you this evening is: How much is enough for you? I’d encourage you to define that as specifically as possible so that you stop chasing the horizon of more “which has no end in sight.” When we stop searching for MORE, we’re able to find true satisfaction in what it is that we have.
Spent some gloriously lazy time this weekend watching the newest season of Orange Is The New Black, and I think my favorite thing about the show is the way every episode reveals a backstory of a different character. You see them all interacting in this imprisoned state, after they’ve made a bad decision or gone down the wrong path, and you ASSUME things about them — this character’s cold-hearted, this one is crazy, this one is weak…
But then you get a glimpse of the pivotal moments in their lives that made them who they are. Maybe it was how they were raised, or a hardship they had to endure, or ways that they learned to protect themselves, but you begin to get a much more textured and nuanced understanding of who they are and what motivates them.
Watching it today reminded me that EVERYONE has their story, the pivotal moments that contributed to the unique way they view the world. We have a tendency to think that everyone else walking around should see things from OUR perspective, and that can lead to a lack of empathy and understanding for our fellow humans. But when we acknowledge that others have a personal history, and, even better, when we ASK and dig deeper to uncover that personal history, that’s when we have a real capability of connecting with people and seeing the world through their eyes.
Yesterday, as Jason and I were driving home from our favorite coffee shop, the windows were down, a bouncy & happy summer song was playing on Spotify, and the sun was hitting my cheeks so delightfully that I closed my eyes to take it all in. There was a moment where my heart felt warm, my body felt relaxed and my mind felt satisfied. Without thinking, I blurted out the window (my eyes still closed) “This is the BEST DAY!!!”
You’d be surprised how often I do this, and thankfully @jasondoesstuff has gotten used to my weird outbursts by now, but sometimes I just can’t help myself. When I feel that rare, transcendent moment of pure bliss and gratitude, I think it’s so important to mark the occasion and to take a mental snapshot so that I can sear that sensation into my memory.
It may sound silly, but this practice has served me well because after years of paying attention to these feelings and acknowledging them, I’ve taught myself what joy feels like. With every acknowledgement, every mental snapshot of happiness, this weird nebulous feeling of JOY comes more and more into focus and it makes it that much easier to let it in the next time.
More than ever I’m convinced that our lives only FEEL more filled with stress than joy because stress is easier to spot for us. So do yourself a favor, next time you feel that moment of sheer happiness and contentment and warmth, mark the occasion and take a mental snapshot. TEACH YOURSELF what joy feels like and you’ll make sure you don’t miss it the next time it arrives.
Every single person on this earth is a creative being because the act of living itself is an act of creating. It’s about making something out of the gifts and sprit and time we’re given. About making decisions based on our gut. About expressing what’s inside us with every move that we make. And in that way, it’s no different than my process for creating a painting.
Never forget that we are the artists, time is our canvas, and what we make of it… that’s our masterpiece.
The days that I feel most capable and productive are the days where I feel like I am the one owning my day and not when I feel like my day is owning me. Maybe that’s why I’m into this meditation thing right now — it allows me to start my day feeling like I’m in control of how I spend my time, in control of how I steer my thoughts, and not simply at the mercy of my to-do list or emails or obligations (a feeling I’m well accustomed to as an entrepreneur and citizen of the 21st century.)
I don’t particularly love the word “control” because it feels so domineering — as if we could truly control anything in life — but I do love the word POWER as it relates to our personal source of ownership and strength. It’s a reminder that:
We have the power to make time for what we care about.
We have the power to put the phone down.
We have the power to apologize first.
We have the power to choose joy over stress.
There are SO many more opportunities in our daily lives to exert our power in a positive way, and in moments when I feel myself drifting away with the tide of my circumstances, I bring myself back to recognizing that power.
For about a week now I’ve been trying to develop a meditation practice (I say “trying” because I’ve got about a 75% follow-through rate right now! 😁)
What I love about it is that I’m able to prioritize 10 minutes in my morning to take control of my day, take inventory with my thoughts and emotions, as well make time to breathe in the ocean air (my spot is out on our deck) which I feel like is good for the body AND for the spirit.
Today’s guided meditation was all about doing a “body scan” where you basically bring your attention to different parts of your body and notice the sensations, allowing you to ease the tension one step at a time. During this process, there was a really interesting phrase that my disembodied-meditation-app-narrator lady used that I loved (one that I had to mentally note then promptly ignore so I could get back to my body scan! 😉) She said as you go through the parts of your body, if you notice any areas of strain or tension, not to focus too much on them but to “observe what’s there and let it soften.”
This phrase was pleasant as soon as I heard it, but it wasn’t until later in my day when it came hurling back at me that I really understood the significance of it. I was taking a break to make myself a smoothie, and in a span of 30 seconds I managed to successfully spill smoothie on myself, our counter, and possibly even our dog in 4 different clumsy moves. I was so frustrated with myself that I felt like I might honestly scream. Then this key phrase flashed in my head, I recognized the frustration, and then I just let it soften. I didn’t judge myself for getting overly upset or stew in my frustration, I just said hello to the uncomfortable feeling and slowly let it dissipate.
I have a bad habit of exhibiting bad behaviors and then beating myself up over exhibiting bad behaviors (which I also a consider a bad behavior) so this new method helps me address those feelings I want to shift in a super practical way! Who knows if I’ll be able to keep up with this meditation thing, but for now I’m loving what it’s doing for my physical, emotional & spiritual health!
If you could divide your thoughts into two categories, what percentage of your self-image is spent focusing on all the things you’re NOT versus all the things you ARE?
Not as skilled, not as charismatic, not disciplined enough. Not a poet, not an athlete, not spontaneous. Not a million other things I’ve thought at one time or another. This is where those comparison thoughts creep in, right? We see what others are and it makes us feel lacking.
But today I wondered why we don’t spend more of our time acknowledging what we ARE. This is not just for the sake of a positive self-image, but also for its sheer practicality: by paying attention to all the things we naturally excel in — our strengths, personality traits, predispositions — we can actually further cultivate things that we already have a leg up in thanks to genetics and experience.
Every moment spent feeling like we’re missing something, is a moment that could be spent realizing the abundant gifts we’ve all been given.
My new goal is to catch myself the next time I’m thinking about something I’m NOT and instead take that second to acknowledge something I am. I hope you’ll do the same.
To wander, by definition, means to travel aimlessly.
Yesterday I took time out of my day to sit on our deck, to watch the waves roll in, and to simply think. (And of course I say “think,” but for me thinking is really just FEELING in a language my mind can comprehend.) So I sat there, thinking and feeling, with no intention of accomplishing anything at all, and the most magical things started to dance in my head.
Daydreams, ideas, imaginary landscapes, colors, tiny poems, the occasional to-do item…
The longer I sat, the longer I let myself just BE without aim, the louder and louder my heart’s song started to play in my head.
When we’re so engaged in the PURSUIT (which is about 99% of the time for us humans), when we’re so locked in on the big and tiny missions we undergo each day, we lose out on the true magic that bubbles up from not having any aim at all.
So, my hope for you this Monday is that you take a half hour in all the DOING and the accomplishing and the pursuing, and you just give your heart some space to wander.
AIMLESSNESS can be a virtue. It’s the cousin of freedom.
I’ve had a bad case of the second-guessing’s this past week. Every time I found myself moving forward with a decision or idea, inevitably I’d find myself shortly thereafter wondering “Is it too _____?” or “Should I do it more like so-and-so?” or “Well how come no one else does it that way? Am I missing something?”
But after navigating these mental gymnastics for a few days, I realized how silly I was being. Second-guessing is almost ALWAYS a result of comparison. When you second guess yourself and you question something you KNOW in your gut, it’s usually because you’re just trying to mold yourself to fit a box of someone else’s creation. It’s natural to feel scared or insecure when you’re doing something completely YOUR way because it likely hasn’t been done before. Blazing a new path can feel scary and vulnerable, but it’s ultimately the best feeling because it’s 100% true to you.
So trust your gut, blaze that trail, follow your instincts and quit second guessing yourself!
Today I did something pretty rare for me… I went shopping!
I discovered the concept of a “capsule wardrobe” back in 2014, and after selling about 80% of my clothing I moved to a much more minimal wardrobe. Still, the only problem with wearing a few select pieces of clothing is that you do wear through things quite a bit, so today I decided it was finally time to do another closet purge and develop a strong capsule to last me through the summer/fall.
For the first time I went shopping with a PLAN and I have to say.. I had so much fun! (If you follow me over on snapchat 👻snapmadevibrant, then you saw my super nerdy wardrobe planning Keynote presentation!)
After my marathon day (where I found everything I planned for 🎉!), then came the REALLY fun part - going home & pairing up all the ENDLESS combinations of my basic pieces.
As I was playing dress-up, though, I noticed myself second-guessing: “Can I really pull this off?” “What if it looks like I’m trying too hard…” (Am I the only one that has wondered these things when trying on clothes? Please say no!)
Despite feeling like I had found the perfect pieces for me, things that really felt like they captured my personal sense of style, I was letting fear of what other people might think rob me of the joy of the new beautiful style staples I loved.
In those moments, the voice of my best friend and personal style icon @leahloustyle plays in my head and she reminds me to “just OWN it.” What makes fashion and style fun is that YOU get to decide what you want to wear and how you want to feel. You don’t have to play by anyone else’s rules but your own.
And that is a lesson that I took away not just from my shopping trip but from SO many things in my life — building a business, making decisions in life, creating art…
Before anyone else buys in, you have to buy in first. YOU have to remind yourself that if it’s something YOU want (to wear, to make, to do, to say)… well then, just own it. Live it out with confidence and grace and who cares what anybody else thinks!
I’m about 2/3 of the way done with the upcoming redesign of my site, and this process has been so different from any other website undertaking I’ve done, mainly because of the extended timeframe. Normally my instinct is to make a decision and rush to get it finished (mainly because of my own impatience.) Thanks to some wise words from @jasondoesstuff, I gave myself WAY more time on this go-round (about three months worth vs. three weeks worth!) and it has made all the difference. This time around I have the luxury of trying something and then giving myself the space to SIT WITH IT. Time to try it on, see how it feels, take it for a spin around the block. It sounds so silly but it really does make such a big difference when it comes to making decisions. You give your brain and heart the necessary time and space to REALLY understand the impact.
And that doesn’t just go for design decisions, that’s for anything in life from a dress you fall in love with, to a PERSON you fall in love with, to a job you fall in love with. If at all possible, find a way to take your decisions for a test-drive and then to SIT with that decision and see what the impact is. You might be surprised by what you’re able to find out!
It was over two years ago when @jasondoesstuff and I finally sat down and really decided to do something about our debt. I had student loans. He had business debt. We both had maxed out credit cards. Together we had let ourselves get buried under a boulder that never felt like it would go away.
Despite what felt like an insurmountable challenge, we both agreed to make some drastic reductions to the money going out and some massive goals for the money coming in.
Two years later and this week we paid off our LAST credit card taking us to over $124,000 in total debt eliminated. Though it feels amazing, I have to admit that looking back, the more pivotal moment was actually the one way back in the beginning. The moment when we finally decided that TODAY was the day we were finally going to DO SOMETHING about this problem hanging over our heads. My today self is so grateful to my former self for realizing that.
For any of you out there facing a dilemma, whether debt or something else, something that feels equally insurmountable… make one tiny decision today that your two-years-from-now self will thank you for. Sometimes all it takes is one INTENTIONAL tap in the right direction and that burdensome boulder will begin to budge.
Today, people. TODAY!
I’ve got a lot on my plate this summer. I mean, I’m not complaining, it’s all really exciting stuff that I WANT to be working on, but sometimes when you take on a project so big, every day feels like just a drop in a bucket towards your greater vision.
Still, whether it’s a drop or it’s a downpour, progress is progress nonetheless, right? I may be inching toward my grand finale but as long as I’m moving forward, that’s progress I can be proud of.
Keep on keeping on, friends. Every step counts.
This morning was day 2 of my attempt at starting a meditation practice. I don’t know why it took me this long honestly. It’s something I KNOW is beneficial, something I’ve wanted to get in the habit of for so long but I’ve resisted. Maybe the reason is hidden right there in that sentence… it’s that pesky word: HABIT. There’s something about that word that sounds so final, so definite, so irreversible. When I think of something that’s a habit, I think of something I do without even thinking. But in order to turn something INTO a habit, it just sounds like so much work, you know?
But this morning I was reminded of this glorious other word: PRACTICE. A meditation practice, a yoga practice, a creative practice. Something about this word sounds so much warmer and more forgiving to me. A practice is deliberate and intentional, but it’s also innocuous. You wake up each day and you can choose to deepen your practice, to strengthen the consistency you’ve put forth. And if you don’t, well then you don’t have to wipe it all off the board and start again (which is how my brain thinks about forming a habit.) Nope, instead you just wake up the next day and you choose to practice again.
All great things that have made a lasting change in my life have come from some sort of regular practice. So if there’s something you want to fold into your life, consider swapping the word habit for PRACTICE.
I’ve been helping a friend through a bit of a hard time lately, and over the past few days we’ve had all kinds of conversations to talk through some of the complicated emotions that are bubbling up for her. My role in those conversations was of course to offer counsel where I felt I could, but ultimately it was my job as her friend to just listen. I was amazed at the transformation that occurred in just a handful of days through revelations that kept revealing themselves with each layer she was able to peel back.
It reminded me just how powerful it can be to give our emotions a voice.
I tend to process things internally, keeping everything up in my end when I’m trying to work through it. But going through this with her has made me realize I want to make more of an effort to seek out friends in my own life when I need to work through certain uncertainties or emotional blocks. It’s so helpful to have someone there to guide you when needed, dig deeper when needed, and ultimately just to hold space so that you can hear your own thoughts outside yourself.
Basically, my new mantra is: When in doubt, talk it out.
I’ve spent the day in deep thought about the tragic and terrible events in Orlando, as well as the tragic and terrible events that have sadly become an almost habitual part of our cultural experience.
All I keep coming back to is the senseless hate that continues to cycle between us all stemming from this manufactured, invisible notion of SEPARATENESS. Whether it’s motivated by race or religion or sexual orientation or gender or political differences, it saddens me that these acts of violence show no signs of the fundamental truth that we are all HUMAN. We are all souls that arrived here miraculously, souls that long to love and be loved, to belong, to have purpose.
These are the hardest days. Days where there are no answers, no reasons, no explanations for why there has to be so much suffering.
It can be natural and instinctual to feel small on these days, to feel like none of us is powerful enough to reverse or combat the hate that we see in the world.
But on days like these, the hardest days, when I feel weak and small and scared, I look around and I take notice of how many others feel so weak and small and scared, how many others are just as heart-broken as I am, in utter disbelief like I am, and I choose to believe that there is still SO much more good in this world than there is evil. In those moments, I no longer feel small, but I feel CONNECTED to our common humanity — our very UN-separateness — and that gives me an overwhelming sense of strength and power.
I don’t know what the answer is to all this senseless violence, but on these days I can only resolve to try to find my way back to this feeling of connectedness every day and to do my part to ease the invisible lines that divide us with LOVE.
Because whether it’s sexual orientation, race, religion, gender, or beliefs... we are not separate. We are all human, and I choose to believe in a future world, a better world, where we recognize each other for our shared humanity, not the hate that is caused by our artificial divisions.
Made some great progress on the new redesign of the Made Vibrant website today and I can’t wait to see how the final product turns out when it relaunches in the fall. My own redesign process is different from my old client process — it usually involves many many weeks of slow but steady building toward a final product. Swapping a font here, a color there, a layout here, a photo there, until I arrive at something that feels unique and that fits my vision. But there’s always a point in the process where for a moment I wonder if it will ever feel RIGHT, if the pieces will ever fit together.
Those are the moments I have to remind myself that if I keep tweaking, keep trying, it WILL eventually come together.
And the same is true in life. It’s not always easy to see how the pieces will fit together in the long run. It’s tempting to want to know just how everything will end, how it will all come together. But that’s impossible to know. Sometimes you just have to start writing the story, trusting that the right ending will reveal itself in the process.
6/10/16: Teach 2
There is ALWAYS a lesson.
In every moment (of joy and impatience), in every person (friend or foe), in every season (abundance and famine)...there is a tiny nugget of wisdom just waiting to be found.
That’s actually what I love most about creating these daily art pieces. It forces me to mine every interaction and experience I have and to ask myself: What lesson is this ________ here to teach me?
Lately I’ve found myself with friends who are encountering tough transitions or hurdles in their businesses or even walls I’ve hit with my own creativity, and as frustrating as those times can be, the solace that I can always offer to them and to myself is that somewhere deep in the cracks and crevices of every challenge and transition is something that we can all carry forward. A deeper knowing of what we want or don’t want. Of what we value or don’t value. Of what we’re willing to overcome or we’re not.
There is always a lesson, and I think the most vibrant humans are the ones willing not only to look for the lesson, but to learn from the lesson too.
When you have new ideas, BIG ideas, that are different from anything you’ve ever done before, you might find that the people close to you are actually apprehensive about it. That apprehension might come across at first glance as criticism.
This happened to me recently and my first reaction was to feel hurt. Doesn’t this person believe in me? Don’t they see how passionate I am? How clear my vision is?
The truth is... they probably do. But they ALSO see the things that can go wrong. The ways you could get hurt. And THAT is their fear talking, the fear that is coming through as criticism.
Once I realized that and was able to think about it more critically I started to see that FEAR is actually just LOVE in disguise. Often it’s our friends and families that care about us so much, that LOVE us so much, that they fear seeing us hurt.
So next time your mom or your partner or your manager presents you with all the reasons your idea won’t work, try to remember that they’re criticism might just be coming from a place of LOVE.
Pushing yourself to dream bigger, do better, and work harder can be a really good thing. But if it’s coming courtesy of a chip on your shoulder… well that’s a recipe for burnout if left unchecked.
Today I realized I was making something WAY harder than it needed to be. I had this idea and it just kept growing and expanding in my head. I wanted desperately to believe I could rise to the occasion so I kept pushing until I just hit a WALL.
That’s when I stepped back and was able to ask myself: What are you trying to prove?
I was placing hurdles in my own way just to prove to myself (and, presumably, others) that I could pull it off.
Whenever I notice myself pushing harder from a place of PROVING something rather than a place of LEARNING something, I know I need to take a second and hit reset. Remember: life’s hard enough without creating more adversity for yourself, so don’t make it harder than it has to be.
So many pieces of the puzzle that were once fuzzy and distant are now coming into focus and snapping together.
An idea I picked up a year ago, a tiny nugget of wisdom from a friend, a phrase I scribbled down in my notebook months back… at one time they were all just haphazard bits of information. That is until TIME gave them the space and magic they needed to begin forming bridges to one another.
See when ideas have time, they’re allowed to MARINATE. They remain open, ready to absorb other fragments of info floating around in our minds. Dots are connected, information is synthesized, and the resulting clarity and wisdom that comes from that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Whether it’s a business idea or a decision you’re unsure about or a new change in your life you’ve yet to fully take in… give it time to marinate!
Today’s message comes courtesy of a confession that might be a little embarrassing but I’m sharing it anyway!
For months now I’ve struggled to make fitness a priority. I’ve been so focused on my work (because I LOVE it) that it always seems to take priority over working out (and, let’s be honest, it’s an easy scape goat to justify not making time to exercise.)
Knowing that I needed some sort of mental shift to get back into the swing of things (and knowing I needed to start small), I committed to making time for a dance workout once a day for 30 days. Since dancing is fun for me and thanks to YouTube I have a literally ENDLESS supply of video content to choose from, I figured I'd have NO excuses.
Today was Day 2 of my personal challenge and at the last minute I decided to do my workout in only a sports bra (hey, my YouTube dance teacher doesn't judge 😜) but in doing so, I was confronted in the mirror for the entire 20 minutes with my #1 problem area -- my midsection, which, let’s just say, has become increasingly... soft.
Finally having my months of fitness neglect staring me in the face wasn't about making me feel ashamed (I make it a point to be extra kind to myself about my body); instead it helped me take a HUGE step toward paying attention to my health again.
Why? Because finally SEEING it made it impossible to ignore.
Whether it’s our fitness, or it’s those bills we don’t want to confront, or that manuscript we haven’t finished, or those poor relationship choices we keep making... if it’s something we want to change, we have to find a way to keep it VISIBLE.
When we shut it in a drawer or we turn a blind eye, it’s quite simply out of sight, out of mind.
That’s why I love checklists and prints that hang by my desk, because they serve as focal points for what I want to stay mindful of. When we see it every day, it becomes that tiny bit easier to actually DO something about it.
A few weeks ago for #theimperfectboss campaign, I shared the fact that I avoid posting selfies on this account partially because sometimes I feel more confident in my work than I do in my appearance. It’s not that I don’t see the beauty in myself, it’s just that our society tells a very definitive story about what is beautiful and what isn’t, and it feels risky somehow to put myself out there.
But today, as I was editing videos for the upcoming acrylics class (the MAJORITY of which feature just me on screen talking) I realized just how far I’ve come in this regard. While I still may think twice before posting a selfie, a year ago I NEVER would have considered filming a whole class with myself on camera. I would have cringed watching myself back, watching me make silly faces and flub some of my lines.
But not now. Sitting behind the camera or behind the computer screen might be more comfortable to me, but there simply is no substitute for allowing your full personality to shine through. For letting yourself be fully seen.
And that’s where I feel like this new chapter is heading, for myself AND for Made Vibrant: toward becoming more comfortable in my own skin and letting myself be seen. Like... actually SEEN. :)
So, if you too have felt this way and have found yourself hiding in any capacity -- hiding behind your work, hiding parts of you in your relationship, hiding your flaws for fear of criticism -- I challenge you to take one step toward letting yourself become visible too. It might turn out to be a whole lot less scary than you thought.
6/4/16: Time 2
In an effort to push my online class skills further, I’ve committed myself to boosting my filming AND editing skills this summer.
The acrylic painting class I’m currently filming is actually the first class ever that I’m not rushing to finish (thanks to my “summer sabbatical”) and today I found myself actually finally ENJOYING the editing process. I was sitting in bed, with Saturday morning light filling my bedroom, my coffee nearby, and there I was organizing clips and formulating what cuts I wanted to make to improve the quality of my video. It sounds silly but it was a PERFECT way to spend part of my Saturday. I found myself completely immersed in curiosity for this new creative skill I’m developing.
And then I thought: Why does this feel so different from all the other times I've edited videos or classes?
Ah yes... I wasn’t RUSHING.
I finally gave myself the time I needed to actually ENJOY what I was doing.
I intentionally created the white space in this project that I needed to keep diving deeper, learning more, and experiencing the joy of learning a new craft.
Whenever you instinctively feel inclined to only give yourself X amount of time to do something, I suggest taking a beat, thinking it over, and then stretching it out just a bit longer to bake in the space you need to actually enjoy the process.
I'm learning that there is so much we miss out on just because we try to shrink our timelines and squeeze out every last inch of productivity.
I was listening to an old episode of The @timferriss Show today with guest Maria Popova (@brainpicker) and this topic came up several times. Maria mentioned that although her site has grown to millions of people every month, ultimately she still writes for an audience of ONE (herself). She chose not to have advertising on her blog (just a donate model) because she said if SHE was reading her own site, she wouldn’t want to see ads.
This is the lens with which she sees everything -- "I’m going to write what I would want to read. I’m going to mold my site based on a blog that I would want to come back to."
So often it’s easy for us to get caught up in what OTHER people want. What does our audience want or need? What will they like or dislike? What will they buy or what won’t they buy?
But oftentimes, these complex decisions can be boiled down to one simple question: what would I want to consume?
Would I love a blog with an annoying pop up that triggers two seconds after visiting a site? (Probably not.) Would I be delighted by the clickbait headline that reels me in only to up-sell me on some product? (Probably not.)
Would I appreciate valuable, meaningful, heartfelt content that is shared honestly and authentically. Always.
It’s plain to see that I’ve hit another one of my “switch-ups” during my art process!
Today I kicked off filming for my first ever on-camera e-course, a class on acrylic painting that I’m SO excited to release later this fall along with a redesign of Made Vibrant. I must’ve taken a big swig of my own Koolaid because after a few hours of talking about giving yourself the freedom to explore new ways to create...I felt the itch to switch up my process to see what would happen. The result is this cool little incarnation which ironically reminds me in a way of my earlier pieces, but is decidedly a departure from the structured, angular compositions I’ve been cranking out the past two weeks.
It got me thinking... how many times in our lives are we just on the cusp of something so delightful, so interesting, so imaginative, but we never grasp it because we’re clinging to what’s familiar?
This doesn’t just go for art, it applies to so many things: cities we stay put in because they feel comfortable, trips we miss out on, opportunities we’re never offered, life changes we never consider...
Familiarity is a warm blanket -- it feels comfortable and soft and safe. But sometimes we have to shed that blanket in order to go beyond what we know and discover what else is POSSIBLE.
Excited to begin another mini-body-of-work within this project and see what’s on the other side of what’s familiar for me personally. I hope you’ll consider doing the same!
I believe so much of what we do with our lives first begins with how strong our conviction is that we are meant for great things.
It’s not always easy, of course, carrying this conviction. There are DAILY moments when doubts and fears creep in. When years of self-talk habits convince us we’re ordinary.
But those are the times I do whatever I can to bring my awareness back to what makes me unique, what my superpowers are, and to TRUST the talent that I have. And I don’t just mean talent like skills or a specific aptitude. That’s what we tell ourselves sometimes because it feels safer to believe we don’t have talents to cultivate.
Here’s what I believe in my bones: EVERYONE has a talent. Whether it’s being a good listener or connecting people with each other or organizing things or taking care of kids… we all excel in SOMETHING.
The trick is that we have to listen closely to our inner voice and TRUST those talents. We have to take action to harness them to get us closer to our dreams.
You know what definitely DOESN’T get you closer to your dreams? Standing still. Doubting yourself. Criticizing yourself or convincing yourself you’re not special.
You ARE special because, ironically enough, we’re all special in one way or another. Figure our what your talent is and then TRUST that if you let it, it will lead you where you want to go.
Today was one of those days where a lot of fears suddenly came into focus for me. It was the first of my five-week hiatus from the Self-Made Society newsletter, which had me feeling all sorts of insecure (“The beginning of the week with no email to the community?! This feels weird!”) I’m also hard at work on a big update I’ve envisioned for the site come fall, and I could feel myself letting those doubts creep in a bit.
But in those moments, I’m reminded of one wise message @elizabeth_gilbert_writer talked about in #BigMagic, one I had the great fortune of hearing her talk about live when she visited San Diego, and that is the notion that CREATIVITY and FEAR are like Siamese twins, forever joined at the hip. They go hand in hand, and we must accept that Fear will always be a passenger along for the ride as we realize our ideas and bring our visions into being.
The trick, however, is to accept Fear as a passenger but NEVER as a driver. We can’t allow Fear to steer us, make our decisions, cause us to course correct ourselves into living smaller than we were meant to live.
So today I’d like to say to my Fear: I hear you, I see you, and now if you’ll kindly cozy up to a movie on the iPad in the backseat, Creativity and I are going to crank up the tunes and get back to where we’re headed.
Sometimes you work on something and you have no clue about the kind of adversity you’ll encounter to get to your goal.
Sometimes -- quite the opposite -- you’re WELL aware of the hurdles that you’ll have to overcome to bring your vision into reality.
You’ll go through, bullet by bullet in your head, all the reasons you SHOULDN’T move forward with a project or head down a path.
It will take time. It will take money. It will require new skills. The outcome is uncertain.
You’ll find reason after reason why you should shift your focus to something easier, something less risky.
But sometimes when that happens, you’ll hear a little voice inside you saying DO IT ANYWAY.
So what if it’s hard? So what if you don’t have the skills you’ll need RIGHT NOW? So what if the payoff isn’t immediate?
If you have that vision and you can’t get it out of your head, if you know you’ll regret never having explored that idea or that project, then simply buckle up, start your engines, and DO IT ANYWAY.
Just because you can SEE the challenges that await you, doesn’t mean you’re any less prudent byboldly pursuing your vision.
Though it be tough, though it be long, though it be uncertain, if you feel it calling from in your bones, DO IT ANYWAY.
These are the weekends that are especially hard to stick to this daily project of mine, not because I don’t want to, but because when family is near, you want to spend all your time hanging out with them, not necessarily thinking about what your daily art piece is going to be.
Today, for example, we had a full day planned with Jason and his family, and I had to excuse myself a few times to sneak in time to put together today’s piece. It was tough because in those moments, it can start to feel like an “obligation.”
BUT, in moments like that, as “inconvenient” as it may be to stick to this promise I’ve made to myself, I’m also reminded that great commitments are rarely convenient. In fact, some might say that one way you KNOW your heart is all in on something, is if you’re willing to follow through on it even when it’s not convenient.
So, even though I had to spend a few moments away today, I keep pressing forward as a gesture of commitment and loyalty to my creativity. What project or passion is waiting for you to commit to it? What habit only needs your follow-through before it can truly become something? And what would you STILL promise to do, even if you knew it wouldn’t be convenient?
Jason’s family is in town for the weekend and we’ve been watching #ChefsTable on Netflix as a family activity, one of my all-time favorite shows.
What I find particularly inspiring about the series is this theme that seems to come up again and again throughout each of the individual episodes.
Each of the chefs highlighted has expressed that at some point in their career, they felt confined by the expectations of the “conventional” cuisine of their cultural heritage. There were expectations around what things *should* taste like, *should* look like, *should* be like because of the way it had always been done.
But just because it’s always been done that way doesn’t mean it has to continue that way.
Each of these chefs has found a way to honor and respect the traditions of the cuisine they grew up with, but ultimately they have found their own way to break free from it. To push that cuisine forward. To imagine and reimagine conventional dishes in completely revelatory ways.
The message I take away from that kind of creativity is the simple reminder to always question convention, and to never sacrifice a vision you have just because it’s not the traditional way things have been done. Without someone there to rethink convention, we would never have innovation and we’d never experience anything new.
The past few days I’ve been teaching myself this awesome software program called Screenflow so I can produce more high-quality tutorial videos for you guys. It has been so FUN and so tedious at the same time to learn a completely new tool from scratch.
But, the more time I spend in the trenches, diving in with both feet, the more I can feel myself gaining fluency in the program. Just like learning a new language, it can often feel clumsy and slow at first, but once you finally immerse yourself and put yourself in a situation where you have to use what you’ve learned... there’s no better way to accelerate your understanding
Approaching this new skill has reminded me that there simply is no substitute for DOING. We can Google search and learn and watch videos all we want -- those things can provide a great foundation -- but the real understanding of a new skill comes when we have to put it to the test.
Whatever it is that you’re focused on learning right now, find a way to actually dive in and APPLY what you learn. You’ll be surprised at how quickly things start to pick up once you’re actually using your new skill in a practical way. Hope your weekend is filled with curiosity and creativity!
There was a time during my first year of business that I struggled a LOT with anxiety. I don’t talk about it much (thankfully it’s not a major part of my life anymore), but I got to a point back then where my anxiety presented itself in all sorts of rogue ways: mysterious skin rashes, stomach problems, and, finally, chest pains, tension headaches and a perpetual lump in my throat. Basically my body was SCREAMING to alert me to a deeper emotional struggle that was begging to be paid attention too.
When things were at their worst, I remember nights spent in tears because I couldn’t get my mind to quiet down, my heart to stop racing, the tightness in my chest to release. And in those moments my mind would go to an incredibly helpless place: “Will I feel like this forever?” “Will I ever feel normal again?” Those kind of thoughts went on for weeks until I made the simple but powerful decision to start BELIEVING that things WOULD get better. Every time my mind wanted to tell me this was my new normal, I would acknowledge that thought but calmly say to myself, “I know you’re scared, but you’re wrong. It’s just not true.”
That daily belief coupled with some great therapy and intentional work on letting go of my need to please everyone really turned things around for me.
Last night, as I was in bed ready to fall asleep, that familiar feeling arrived. My chest tightened, my heart picked up speed, and I started to PANIC. This only happens now once every few months, but luckily I’m armed with my powerful friend: BELIEF. When I acknowledge that my panic is temporary, that it WILL pass, that’s when the claws of anxiety release their grip and ease drifts slowly but surely back in.
May is #mentalhealthawarenessmonth and I believe mental & emotional wellness is one of the most important parts of leading a vibrant and thriving life. The more we can share our stories of struggle and hope, the more we can remind our fellow humans that we’re never alone! 💪 😀
When I started this daily art project on January 1st, I had two versions of how the project would go in my head. In version one, all my pieces throughout the entire year would be beautifully consistent, like they were all part of one carefully curated art collection, and I would love all of them equally. In version two, the “reality” version, I knew that the aesthetic of the pieces would vary widely over the course of the year and I knew that some I would love and some I would hate and some I would love and THEN two months later I would hate.
Thankfully, despite having the ideal #1 in my head at the get go, I had the good sense to know that version #2 was the closest to reality. And so when I started creating, I gave myself the space to MESS UP. To create things that weren’t perfect. To try new things. To experiment. I let go of the perfect vision I had in my head for what the entire collection had to be.
And today I was reminded of that lesson again as I taped up a big backdrop to paint a mural-sized piece of art. Making that first stroke should have felt nerve-wracking. What if I mess up?!.. that’s what I should have been thinking. But I wasn’t.
Because finally I’ve arrived at a place where I’m no longer afraid to “mess up.” I love the freedom and exploration more than I love doing it “right” from the get go, and plus I know that some of my favorite pieces have been born out of a mark or a color palette that went rogue on me.
If you want to experience the beauty and freedom and release of fully expressing your creativity, you can’t be afraid to mess up! That’s what I’ve learned after almost 150 days of this project!This one inspired by your comment @nelizadrew!
Tomorrow I’m wrapping up pre-production on a class coming out later this fall (“pre-production”… that’s the fancy word I use for “planning” because it sounds ways cooler…😉) and as I was going over all that I wanted to include in the lessons, I realized I had WAY more to say on the subject that I originally thought.
But we always do that, don’t we? We think we don’t quite have everything we need to make something or to teach something so we go on the quest for that final 10% thinking we’ll find it in research or through some high-level Google searching.
The truth is, we know WAY more than we give ourselves credit for. We have our unique experiences and all those tiny lessons we’ve learned along the way. That’s knowledge that someone can get value from, and it shouldn’t be underestimated.
Can’t wait to share more about the class, but for now I’ll give you a hint… it definitely has a little something to do with everything I’ve learned in this daily art project of mine! 😁🎨
Over the weekend I was going back through all 65 of my past newsletters assembling them into an e-book, and it was so fun to see how my writing has changed (and also how it hasn’t changed!) over the course of an entire year.
In that same vein, I scroll back through my Instagram posts since beginning this daily art project, and it’s so fun for me to see what has changed and what has stayed the same. It seems every two weeks or so the look and feel of it evolves just another half-step forward, a change that might not be that noticeable to some, but one that’s so fun for me to see looking back over this body of work I’m building.
It made me think about ALL the tiny ways we learn and hone our craft and add to our own body of work each day, week, month and year. All the tidbits and how-to’s we pick up. All the hours of practice we log. All the times we say: You got this. Keep going.
And what I know for SURE is: It all adds up. Every bit of it. The tiny baby steps of baby steps stack high on top of one another and they add up to one very big evolutionary gain.
So whether it’s something you can commit to doing every day or it’s just a half hour every week… keep going. You got this. Keep learning and practicing and doing and making, bit by bit, moment by moment, because it all. adds. up.
Today I was just finishing up the formatting of my e-book, A Year Made Vibrant, Volume II which has 65 weekly newsletters spanning from January 2015 to May 2016. It was so fun to read back over these weekly journal entries that tell the story of my business (and personal evolution.)
I couldn’t help but chuckle over certain lessons that magically appeared over and over again — lessons about self-compassion, becoming okay with REST, allow myself the space to evolve, and reminding myself that I get to write the rules of my own life.
I use to worry I was repeating myself. That maybe it was boring to hear these same themes showing up again and again in my work. but ultimately I decided that some lessons beg repeating. We’re only human and inevitably we fall into what feels comfortable. There are always going to be things we have to hear over and over until they really start to sink in.
So that’s what today’s piece is about. Whether it’s that book you need to pick up AGAIN, that inspiring video you should watch again or that same conversation you have to have with you’re therapist AGAIN… go ahead and re-learn those lessons. Some insights are worth the review. :)
Among my Saturday lazying around, I squeezed in some work time today (okay, fine, a LOT of work time) on some of the updates coming to Made Vibrant in the fall.
As much as I’m trying not to bite off more than I can chew, I can’t help but be excited for the vision I have in my head. Usually, when that vision starts to really get me fired up, that’s about when the doubts start creeping in too: What if this is more than I can handle? What if I change my mind and will feel differently about this in three months? What if I’m just not good enough to pull off what I want to accomplish? What if no one cares? You guys know those familiar doubts, right?
Whenever I recognize those voices, I remind myself that I’m no fortune teller and that the ONLY way to know for sure is just to TRY. To give it a whirl and see what happens.
Who knows how it will all turn out, but that’s part of the excitement, isn’t it? Life is just an experiment and we only get to know for sure that which we’re willing to try.
Today I was reminded of what made me start my very first personal blog back in 2011. Up until then I had never really practiced writing except for the occasional college paper (that I’d inevitably procrastinate.) I never journaled, never scribbled thoughts in my notebook. I barely emailed.
But when I discovered the world of blogging in 2010, I would read the thoughts and insights of other people and think to myself: I have something to say. That little voice just became louder and louder and louder, until one day I honestly couldn’t stand it anymore. I HAD to write. I HAD to share.
It’s five years later now, and I write at least 5,000 words every week. Words are my art. Despite how much visual art I share, I consider words my primary tool. They feed my soul. They provide a conduit from my mind and my heart to the rest of the world.
And sometimes I wonder…WHAT IF I had never gotten the courage to hit publish on that first post? Would I have just gone on the rest of my life never knowing the amazing joy I get from sharing my thoughts in written form? Would all that potential just have stayed inside, never to become realized?
I think about that, and then I think about how many people there are on this planet with that kind of dormant potential rattling around in them. Songs that are waiting to be written. Talents begging to be discovered. Stories itching to be told. Maybe in YOU.
Whatever that potential is, whatever that inkling is in your gut whispering “I have something to say”, I challenge you to take one small step to letting it out this weekend. Because five years later, you never know where it will lead. 😉
I wouldn’t necessarily say that “planning” is my strong suit. Especially when it comes to my business, I’ve pretty much been flying by the seat of my pants since it all started in 2014. That approach served me well in the early days when things were changing so quickly and when it was more important to just make stuff and put it out there to see what would happen.
But now I can feel a shift happening. I can sense myself ready to put on my big girl planning pants a bit more. I have deep, exciting dreams for what I want the next evolution of Made Vibrant to be, and my natural instinct is to just dive off the edge of the cliff, knitting my parachute on the way down.
And as fun as that can be, I think I’m ready to take a step back and give a little more thought to it all. Even in the past two weeks as a loose plan has started to form, I can sense myself much more at ease then I normally am with projects. Why? Not only because I’m putting a bigger emphasis on planning but because I’m making PEACE a very intentional part of the plan from the beginning. I’m budgeting almost twice as much time as I normally would to complete this project. I’m mindful of spacing the workload out. Of giving myself days to do entirely nothing but rest.
In other words, I’m building peace INTO the plan.
And even though this whole thing feels way more structured than I’m used to, I’m finding at this particular point in time that the structure is allowing me to organize my thoughts and manage all the ideas I have. Who knows, I just may be turning into a planner yet. :)
The moment we let down our guard and share our truth — truth that most often feels scary to admit for fear of being rejected — that’s the moment we become most capable of true human connection.
Reading over #theimperfectboss tag feed today, I was overcome with how beautiful it is to see so much honesty, so much scary vulnerability, all for the shared purpose of saying to somebody somewhere who needs it: “Me too. I have fears and flaws and failures too.”
Sharing the whole of who we are feels risky because deep down we all fear being alone, being rejected, being isolated. But the truth is that none of us is truly alone. We all share common ground in one way or another and when we open our true selves up to being seen, that’s when we invite others to find that common ground with us.
Today was an amazing day for vulnerability, connection and TRUTH. I can only hope to continue the conversation by sharing not just the glossy bits of our lives, but the fears, the flaws, the failures too.
We are imperfect AND we are whole.
In Monday’s newsletter, I shared about my recent experience with feeling the need to stretch and expand forward into a new season of life and business. As creatives, I think it’s natural to have an ever-shifting vision. It’s familiar to find ourselves in these “chapters between” — where things feel both exciting in their mystery and scary in their uncertainty.
I got an email response back from a reader who said: “I have been wondering what to name the stage I'm in and how you shared yours has helped me see I'm not alone and that this is all part of the process of refining, growing, and pruning. Sometimes evolving is scary, but worth it.” Ain’t that the truth. Evolving IS scary, but I think it’s also an inescapable part of the creative condition. We’re always going to be changing our vision, changing our process, maybe even shifting our values. Heck, that’s not just the creative condition; that’s the HUMAN condition. And so if it’s inevitable, why don’t we learn to ENJOY it. To ride the unsteady waves and find exhilaration in the surprise of what new chapter is waiting for us just around the corner.
Today’s piece represents a departure and an evolution in my own artistic style throughout this year-long art project, and I’m learning so much from the tiny iterations that emerge day after day. Let’s do our best to look at our own changes in a similar light — it’s okay if your vision moves or your goals change, it’s all a part of the ever-evolving journey.
Have you guys seen Chase Jarvis’ video series “30 days of genius” for @CreativeLive this month? He’s been interviewing a lot of my favorite online mentors and I’ve loved watching the videos each morning hoping to glean just one new insight to apply to my own life.
Today’s came courtesy of @ramit, and it’s a simple but powerful reminder that for whatever reason I really needed to hear at this moment in time: you don’t have to do it all at once.
He was referring to the fact that when we start businesses, we often want to go all in and do everything we can right out of the gate. Be on every platform. Add the bells and whistles to the website. Have the TV show AND the book AND the course AND the community.
I don’t know about you, but as a creative I definitely suffer from this mentality. It’s natural to want to see every extension and possible execution of an idea you have or a mission you believe in.
BUT the truth is that you can build something of much higher quality with much less overwhelm if you lay a foundation first. If you focus on doing one thing really well, then adding one thing after another. What is it they say? You can do anything but you can’t do everything.
So… if you’re lumping more and more onto your creative plate, try starting with one thing. Do it well, figure it out, and try not to compel yourself to have every piece perfectly in place from the beginning.
You don’t HAVE to do it all at once.
Today we celebrate Jason’s birthday (🎉) so unsurprisingly he was on my mind a lot today. I couldn’t help but think back to when we met almost six years ago. He was 27, the age I am right now, which is so strange to say because that number felt so far away back then!
When we first met, I thought of love as this one very specific thing. Not that I naively believed it was all white-picket fences and fairytales, but I guess I just had this very narrow definition of what it was supposed to be about in my head. You like him, he likes you, you commit, you hold hands, you spend your time together, you support one another. Yep, that’s love. Obviously.
But the more years we spend together, the more that early definition expands and grows and opens up all kinds of different channels I never considered.
It’s not just flowers and hearts and google eyes — it’s compromise and comfort and laughter and sacrifice and gratitude and simple moments and tough conversations and choosing each other over and over every day. It’s completely boring and wildly mysterious at the same time. It’s practical and tangible one minute, and ethereal and other-worldly the next.
When I created this piece, I almost made it say “LET love expand” but after a second thought I changed it to INVITE because for the love between two people to grow, I don’t think it’s a matter of letting it happen; I think it’s a matter of intentionally welcoming it. Of being open to it. Of acknowledging that the energy between you and your partner will not stay static and that’s okay. Because the more it changes, the more it EXPANDS. The bigger, deeper, truer, greater, lovelier it becomes. If you invite it. ;)
Anyway, just a few rambling thoughts on the beautiful, mystical force of LUUUV. Happy birthday Jasol! I’m grateful to walk through life with you and thank for continuing to invite our love to expand! I’m just so delighted you were born!
Today I was going back through old newsletters from the early days of Made Vibrant. The coolest part about writing a newsletter every week is that I have this massive stack of diary entries documenting my emotional journey to seeing myself as an entrepreneur and an artist.
In those early days, I couldn’t even write the word “artist” in my social media bio, much less say it out loud to anyone else (or even myself.) I told myself that in order to be an “artist” I had to be formally trained. I had to have gone to art school. I had to use fancy paints. I had to know what the heck I was doing.
I didn’t realize then what I know now: that no one has to give you permission to form your identity. You get to choose the way that you see yourself AND the way that you want to show up in the world.
Thankfully I’ve since changed those tapes in my head and I no longer tell myself that I’m not “allowed” to call myself an artist. I create things as an expression of my inner self and so, yes, I’m an artist.
So today my question is this: what story are you telling yourself that is holding you back?
What would happen if you rewrote that script? What would happen if you questioned every limitation you thought you had? What kind of truth would you lead yourself to?
Today started out pretty crappy as Fridays are concerned. Some tax debacle things that needed to be sorted out, followed by a complete de-railing of my to-do list and a project that took a lot longer than I thought. Sometimes I get bummed about how it only takes a few tiny dominos to send me into a full-on funkified state, but then I remember that it’s that same sensitive quality that also makes me a deep, compassionate person, so as they say, you can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater (who made that phrase up, by the way?! So weird!)
Anyway, thankfully I have a hilarious man in my life (@jasondoesstuff) that is willing to invite me into a dance train around the house and do a full 15-minute made up yoga session (complete with a Swedish accent) to pull me out of my funk! Sometimes all it takes is a little bit of PLAY to help you shake it off and get back to feeling like yourself again.
If you too had a funky Friday or had a few setbacks this week, I hope you’ll use this weekend to SHAKE IT OFF and have some fun!
Was hanging out with a friend today who needed some advice on where to take things next with his work. Have you ever found yourself at a crossroads with no idea which direction you want to go? Each path seems viable and enticing, each one has an upside and a drawback… and so the result is you just sit STILL. This particular friend is staring at wide open opportunity, with a number of different options that seem possible.
It’s in those moments when I try to do whatever I can to identify what I know I most certainly DON’T want to do. What kind of clients I DON’T want to take on, what work DOESN’T make me feel good, when I DON’T feel my best, etc.
Sometimes those feelings of hesitation and refusal can be easier to detect than what feels right, and by tapping into that, it’s often the first step to deciphering those softer, more nuanced voices of intuition telling you what you truly do want to do.
Today an email came through with a great opportunity. By “great” I mean a cool project from a nice company with good people and something that would look impressive from the outside looking in. Two years go it might have been an email I begged someone to see in my inbox.
But, one thing I’ve learned on this journey to running an authentic business is this: not every GREAT opportunity is the RIGHT opportunity.
I’m fortunate enough now to get inbound requests like this for partnerships, book cover commissions, speaking engagements, guest post, etc. but I say no to a majority of them. Why? Not because I’m not grateful to be asked or because I feel I’m “too good” for them or because they don’t sound fun — I politely decline because I now have a much clearer understanding of what my values are and I’ve intentionally decided to be vigilant with the most precious resource I have (we all have): my TIME.
As @marieforleo says, if it’s not a HELL YES, it’s a no. If it’s not something you can pour your whole heart into with enthusiasm, it’s not the right fit.
It can be hard to turn down opportunities that feel like they SHOULD be an easy yes, but remember that there is no rulebook that says you have to say yes to things you “should” do. It’s your life, your business, your TIME and saying no to something GREAT so you can say yes to something RIGHT could just be the best decision you ever make.
It’s very rare that I share blog post links on Instagram anymore, but when I do it’s because I want to share a piece of writing with you guys that I care deeply about. Today’s message comes straight from my newsletter to #selfmadesociety that I wrote on Monday, inspired in part by a great post I read by @byreginatv titled “How NOT To Get Caught In The Six Figure Blog Suck-In.” It’s on a topic that I’m incredibly passionate about, one that’s been on my mind a lot over the past year, more specifically, THIS question:
WHY do we feel constantly driven by the pursuit of MORE everything?
More money. More readers. More email subscribers. More fame. More mentions. More followers. More stuff. (Mo' problems?)
In this post, I share my theories on where this desire stems from, but more importantly I share this simple but radical question that is imperative to understanding and unlearning this never-ending quest for more everything: Are you in the pursuit of growing BIGGER or growing TRUER?
If these thoughts and questions pique your interest, I’d love for you to click through to the post link in profile (or head to madevibrnant.com/blog to find it) and let me know your thoughts in the comments.
To be content with less is a daring notion in today’s world, but it’s a notion I want to explore whole-heartedly. If you’ve ever felt LESS THAN because of the pressure to do more, earn more, BE MORE, this one’s for you.
Earlier today I was taking a break to check out a few YouTube videos (my time waster reward of choice these days) and I came across a video that immediately made me think of a friend. I met this friend over a year ago at a conference and we shared a conversation and a memory that goes well beyond the typical surface-level interactions that you have at those kinds of events. The video brought me back to that conversation and it warmed my heart. Normally these kind of cursory thoughts of someone I hadn’t connected with in A YEAR would come and go, but tonight it occurred to me that maybe this person could use an unexpected hello.
As I went to post the video link on their Facebook page with a tiny hello and well wishes, I was shocked to find a post from just one week earlier detailing a rather low point this person was going through and the fact they would be off social media for a while.
Thankfully I was able to still email the link along and I hope my message brings this person joy knowing our interaction was meaningful, but I couldn’t help think of how many other people we let cross our minds on a daily basis that we DON’T reach out to. How many of those people are going through a rough time? How many of them could benefit from a text of gratitude or a funny video link or just a simple “How are you? I’ve been thinking about you?” I’m saying this because I’m bad at it but I want to be better.
When you think of someone, TELL THEM.
When you compliment someone in your head, TELL THEM. When you cherish a friend, TELL THEM. We could all stand to be a little bit more vocal with our love and appreciation of one another. :)
I felt more present and content today than I have in a while, and when I think about why that is, the answer it turns out is quite simple: Today I paid attention to the simple moments. To feel the sun on my skin. To share a laugh with my mom on the phone. To take a relaxing bath. To pick up a book I'd long forgotten. To pet Plaxico.
Some of these things show up in my life on a daily basis, but I realized today that when we're not paying attention, they just float by our consciousness in a blur. They drift passed us and often go unnoticed.
BUT, when we stop and pay attention, we can suddenly SEE all there is to be grateful for around us. We adjust our lens and suddenly all that gratitude comes into focus, sharp and apparently. And that's when we can see more clearly all the beauty and the joy to be found in our daily lives.
That's the purpose of holidays too after all, right? A day like Mother's Day serves to bring all that love and gratitude right into focus where we can see it and feel it and act on it. But every day is an opportunity for us to do the same.
Tomorrow, try it out! Stop for a few moments throughout the day and twist your mental lens until you can see the beauty coming into view.
I spent a few hours today going through old emails yet again, mostly of entrepreneurs, college students, and fellow creatives emailing through my contact form and asking for advice. If I picked up anything from sorting through almost 100 of these kinds of emails, it's this theme: man oh man are we all scared!
We're scared of being wrong, of choosing the wrong thing, of what people will think, of how we might fail, of never trying at all, of not knowing what's to come. And as I wrote response after response of what I hoped to be helpful replies, it quickly became clear to me that I wanted my role to be that of Master Encourager.
While I certainly never want to imply that chasing your dreams and overcoming your fears and choosing work that is deeply satisfying is easy, it also occurred to me as I tried to muster up my best advice that we are all confronted with such cynicism, skepticism and doubt on a daily basis (sometimes even in our own heads!) that I'd like to risk being the small voice in these friends' ears saying "YES, I really think you CAN. And YES, it's okay if you're scared too."
There's a lot of negativity in this world and I'll happily let someone else play Bad-Cop-Reality-Check-Tough-Love Magee so that I can be generous with my encouragement. To others, and to myself.
Today I finally made a substantial dent in my flagged emails, something I’ve been putting off for WEEKS. As I was going through I had to ask myself, WHY is it so hard for me to find the time to clear out these emails? I think about it every day without fail and yet I'm always convinced that I run out of time.
The simple answer is: I don't run out of time, I just don’t MAKE the time.
I don't make it a priority. We often want a certain outcome, we WISH for things to fall in our laps, but the hard truth is that if we want something, we have to find a way to commit to ourselves mentally that it's a priority, and that's when we'll make the time.
Early last week I was starting to feel really stagnant, like I could feel myself evolving inside but things around me were remaining static. Without realizing it, I had gotten STUCK.I think I was overwhelmed with the number of paths I saw laid out before me and unable to feel out which was right for me, I decided to stand still instead.
After unpacking this feeling further, I realized that ultimately I couldn’t tell which path was right because I had lost sight of my purpose a bit. I allowed it to get buried by the mounting list of daily and weekly tasks on repeat. So I took a step back to recalibrate, and finally I can feel my true north with clarity and conviction again. I picked a path, I redefined my purpose and now I have a plan to put it into action. Already I can feel the difference in waking up with that renewed sense of drive and focus I was lacking before.
But here’s the kicker: there’s NO way of knowing if it’s the ‘right’ or ‘best’ path - the purpose that will lead me to where I see the business going. But I’ve realized it doesn’t really matter. Sometimes you just have to PICK SOMETHING, to give yourself any purpose at all that fires you up in order to get unstuck. If you’re feeling lost, pick a purpose and see if it puts that spring back in your step!
I had a kick-off call today for an upcoming project that I’m SO excited about. Thrilled to the point that as I was speaking I spaced out just for a moment to think to myself: “Is this really happening?”
This opportunity came as a result of seeds that were planted months and months ago and it was such a pleasant reminder that while we’re pouring our heart and soul and energy into things, we don’t always know where they will lead. It can be tempting to want to see the fruits of your labor immediately, to know what the direct outcome will be. But more and more I’m learning that indirect outcomes FAR outweighs direct ones.
Whatever heart work you’re doing now, you may not see the outcome in a day or a month or even a year. But down the road you may just find yourself on a phone call asking yourself, “is this really happening?” and you’ll smile knowing that the most delightful wins in life are the ones you never saw coming.
This message kept coming back to me today in everything I did. I’ve been periodically doing some design explorations for an exciting project I hope to release in a few months, and today I hit a creative wall with the project. Everything I tried felt okay, but nothing snapped into place and felt cohesive the way I like it to. Still, I kept working and reworking, exploring new angles and ideas until FINALLY I hit that perfect balance I was missing before. I realized that if I had quit when I hit the wall, if I hadn’t kept pushing past the bad, I may never have arrived at the good.
I also had the pleasure of recording a podcast interview with the AWESOME @gritandglitterco (seriously check out Lauren — she has the sweetest, most authentic energy!) and at the end of our conversation we landed on the topic of evolution. I’ve not only evolved so much as a person the past few years but my business has gone through so many different iterations and evolutions as well. That is what I think business (and life) is all about though. Expanding and growing and changing beyond what we see before us.
Even today’s art piece is a living representation — that layer of white graphite marks was a new style I wanted to try just for the sake of continuing to explore my creativity and push my own boundaries.
Let today be a reminder: If we keep pushing, keep exploring, keep going BEYOND whatever we think our frontiers are so, we might just discover entire worlds we never knew.
Is it possible to actually prevent burnout?
In the past I thought the secret was simple enough: Just take more breaks. I thought this issue could be solved with a walk around the block or a Saturday spent in bed with my favorite book/Netflix binge session. But after mulling it over this weekend, I’ve realized it takes a lot more than that. Preventing burnout requires a complete mindset shift in the way we operate as creatives, and especially as business owners.
Instead of framing work as a sport where we’re one player in an endless sea of other players trying to grab the same prize (success, money, visibility, legacy), we have to think of work as a game with only TWO players: ourselves and our craft.
The ultimate goal of this personal game then should be to make sure that the actions we’re taking are aligned with who we are at the core level and that we’re practicing our craft in whatever way that feels congruent with that core self.
To me, that’s not a recipe for burning out, that’s a recipe for burning BRIGHT.
This mindset shift creates a few very important distinctions that protect us from burnout: It renders comparison futile (if we picture everyone playing a different game with a different set of rules, what’s the point in comparing ourselves to them?); It keeps us in control of our pace (if I think of life and work as a highly individual journey where I’m the only player, it’s no longer a race and there’s no longer a need to feel rushed); and we get to rewrite the rules at any time (if we’re playing our own game then we have the power to re-write our own rules).
If I’ve learned anything about avoiding burnout, it’s that while a morning ritual or vacation days or breaks from technology can help, these things can't solve the underlying problem. We have to retrain ourselves and our minds to see our path as separate from those around us.
I was scrolling my Instagram feed today when I saw an artist whom I admire announce an exciting upcoming project she has in the works. I respect this person a lot so my immediate reaction was complete enthusiasm for her and I thought to myself: “Man, what I dream project it would be to work on that.”
It’s not the first time I’ve thought this or fantasized about some awesome dream opportunity hitting my inbox. But then I thought about it a second more and realized, wait a second, I don’t need someone else to magically appear and hand me my “dream project” — I’m in complete control of creating any project myself that I'd deem ideal.
Whether it’s that book I want to write or that mural I’d like to paint or that author’s book cover I want to design, if I want it badly enough, I only have to focus all my energies on it and go after it.
And that’s what I want to remind you of today.
If you’re waiting for someone to choose you or magically appear or suddenly email you with that perfect idea, STOP. Stop waiting and start DOING. Whether you realize it or not, you have the ability to hire YOURSELF when it comes to your dreams. YOU have the ability to choose yourself.
Jas and I had a super lazy Saturday and it was amazing! As the day wore on, I thought to myself that I should really get to starting today’s Abstract Affirmations piece and I realized that two months ago, that might have stressed me out. I might have worried that I couldn’t come up with a lesson or that I didn’t feel inspired or that writing this caption would’ve felt intimidating. But not today. Why, I thought.
Because I’ve done this ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY ONE TIMES. And doing anything that many times without fail teaches you that you can TRUST yourself. Every day that I create is like one more penny in my own creative confidence bank and somewhere along the line I’ve built up enough of those that the stress of the daily commitment no longer weighs on me.
And then I thought about how many things that applies to. Show up for a friend when they call over and over and they’ll trust you. Prove you can keep a secret time and time again and that’s where trust is built. Deliver value to an audience of customers with reliability and consistency and you will show you can be trusted.
So, my question for today is: how are you building trust? With yourself, with your family, with your creativity, with your kids, with your partner, with your teachers… with anyone. Whoever or whatever you want to build that relationship with, ask yourself: am I bringing enough repetition, enough consistency, to build that bridge of trust?
Sometimes it can be easy to get caught up in the short-sighted sense of urgency when it comes to running your own business. How do I grow NOW? How do I make money NOW? How do I create more things NOW?
But lately I’ve been noticing a few business voices in the ether suggesting the value in a different approach. @garyvee talks about making decisions years in advance and on a podcast episode I listened to, @ramit mentioned he makes business decisions today for the business he hopes to build over the next 15 years. 15 years?! In today’s fast-paced ever-changing online business landscape, that seemed ridiculous to me when I heard it.
But the more I thought about it, the more I started to realize the value in this way of thinking. When you play the long game, you don’t fall prey to trends or hacks or short-term gains. Instead you rely on your values, your strengths and ultimately the bigger mission that you have for your business. That’s the kind of strategy I want to employ more of. I want to make decisions and create things that are an INVESTMENT in the future of Made Vibrant. I’m not completely sure what that will look like yet but what I do know is that simply making this commitment (and sharing it with you guys) is already providing a new sense of clarity.
My question today to you is: are you playing the short game or the long game? Are you making business decisions for short-term gains or long-term legacy? There’s value in both, but I think we in the online business bucket could stand to use just a tad more in the long-term strategy column. ;)
Today was the first day in over a week where I woke up and didn’t immediately feel “sick.” I’m finally on the other side of the mountain and I can remember what being healthy feels like. Isn’t it funny — how when we’re in a valley (whether it be health or sadness or even a creative funk) it’s so hard to remember what “normal” feels like? At least that’s always been the case with me.
It reminds me of 2014 when I found myself suddenly struggling with anxiety, something I had never truly encountered until that time in my life. There were days when my chest was so tight I thought I was having a heart attack. Moments when I’d lay awake in the middle of the night because my mind was racing. And in those first few weeks when I was still coming to terms with that new struggle in my life, the worst moments were when the thought would cross my mind: “Is this what the rest of my life will feel like? Will I ever get back to feeling myself again?”
Now, on the other side, I wish I could go back and tell myself: This won’t last forever.
I wish I could remind myself that the only certain thing about life is that everything is UNCERTAIN. That everything changes. Once I was finally able to let go of that feeling of despair — that feeling that my anxiety would color my experiences FOREVER — that’s when I was able to find hope and actually develop strategies to help me deal with those tendencies. And now I can say that I don’t even think about my anxiety most days.
Whatever your valley is, whether that’s something as innocuous as a cold or something much more debilitating, I think there’s always value in HOPE. Believe that things will change, that a brighter and better day is just around the corner because sometimes that belief in itself is enough to turn it around.
I don’t know about you, but every year when May rolls around, the same feeling hits me. The energy and wide open possibility that the turn of the New Year brings has fully worn off, and now I’m fully in the trenches with whatever goals I’ve made for myself at the start of the year. I start eyeing up December, stacking my progress against my original intentions and wondering if I’m on track to hit whatever milestones I set. This inevitably causes me a good bit of angst. (Am I alone here?) I can feel myself fall into familiar traps of comparison and scarcity — looking at those around me and wishing I could do more, earn more, get SOMEWHERE faster.
Then, just when I can feel all that pressure mounting, I remind myself to look at the big picture. I take a step back and remember this stress is manufactured BY ME and I can choose to make it disappear with a pretty simple tool: gratitude. I look at the grand scheme of how far I’ve come, what I’ve accomplished, all the love and health and ease and joy I have in my life, and the stupid middle-of-the-year crunch seems so pointless.
You might not feel the same way about this time of year but I’m sure you can relate to that feeling of pressure. Next time that happens, remember the big picture. Remember where you are in the grand scheme of life and all you have to be thankful for.
Sometimes the change in perspective is just what you need to approach your life and work with fresh eyes.
Today I gave myself permission to take a sick day. After almost a week of “pushing through” in order to keep things moving forward, I finally put myself first above every other obligation today. And while it definitely wasn’t easy to do (I may have pulled out the laptop more than a few times 😉) I know that it was so necessary in getting my health back where it should be.
Earlier this morning I shared a cool time lapse video of me creating an Abstract Affirmation on my new #iPadPro. I promised myself that as fun as it was to create, I wouldn’t let this new digital medium take the place of the real thing, since being in my studio and feeling paint on my hands every day has become such an integral part of my life this year. But, as I sat in bed, Kleenex and Netflix abounding, wondering where I would get the energy to head into the studio with my aching head and burning lungs, I considered why I wouldn’t just let myself use this new convenient tool to my advantage. Why couldn’t I just give myself a break and show myself the same kindness I would show to any friend I encountered who was under the weather? I realized I was creating barriers and rules for myself where there didn’t need to be any. So, I scrapped my stupid rules. From here on out, I give myself permission to use this digital medium, sick or not sick, whenever I need a less messy, more portable way to create these daily art pieces. Today I was beyond grateful that I was able to stick with my commitment and create something I’m proud of, while still honoring my promise to let myself rest.
Sometimes we create rules for ourselves that actually make our lives harder than they need to be. And in those moments we simply have to ask how we can be more KIND to ourselves.
Today’s message comes straight from my Monday morning newsletter to #selfmadesociety (if you’re not signed up, head to madevibrant.com/newsletter to join!) This cold of mine is still digging its claws in to my immune system, and feeling sick has to be one of my least favorite feelings. When your body isn’t at its best, it feels like a physical representation of weakness. As I described in today’s letter, I grew up with the understanding that weakness is bad and strength is good.
But what if we started to see our weakness not as something bad, but as something inevitable. What if we learned to view vulnerability as one stop of the many different destinations on the spectrum of being human.
One quote that I found particularly beautiful in illustrating this sentiment was from poet and philosopher David Whyte via @brainpicker:
“The only choice we have as we mature is how we inhabit our vulnerability, how we become larger and more courageous and more compassionate through our intimacy with disappearance, our choice is to inhabit vulnerability as generous citizens of loss, robustly and fully, or conversely, as misers and complainers, reluctant and fearful, always at the gates of existence, but never bravely and completely attempting to enter, never wanting to risk ourselves, never walking fully through the door.”
To be vulnerable is to be human. To be FULLY human or whole-heartedly human as @brenebrown would say.
I’m deciding to use my current sickness as a reminder to never feel shame in those weaker moments because why should I be ashamed of being human? Why should any of us?
Today had the great pleasure of sharing the #AbstractAffirmationsDaily painting process for the very first time! My friend and fellow artist @StephanieHalligan was in town and we decided to do a little skill swap! I was able to teach her my process for abstract acrylic art and she was able to share with me her process for creating cartoons. (She has a daily project where she draws a “daily cartoon to remind you of your awesomeness” every day. Check it out at ArtToSelf.com.)
When someone asks me to share my process or my skills, I’m inevitably a little nervous at first. It puts you in the position to question a) whether or not you’ll be able to teach what you know and then b) whether or not what you know is “good enough.” You inevitably find yourself in a position where you could potentially feel like an imposter. You ask yourself “who am I that I have something to teach.”
But here’s what I know: we ALL have something in us that’s worth teaching. Whether it’s something as specific as painting, or something as broad and over-arching like patience or positivity. We all have strengths and experiences that can bring value to other people, and what I’ve found is that when we open ourselves up and share our gifts, the world becomes a more well-rounded, better place.
Never doubt that you have something to offer this world. We all have something to teach.
Appreciate new friends, and never-ending jokes, and sunny days.
Even when you’ve got a cold, appreciate that you’re alive. Appreciate the health you DO have.
Appreciate the freedom, the love. Appreciate the moments that feel joyful and real and easy.
It’s about acknowledgment and recognition of the things that bring you value in each and every moment. And even though I still find myself battling this pesky cold, every bit of today has me discovering gratitude because the people around me remind me how.
Hope you feel the same, and if you don’t, I hope today’s piece serves as a reminder that there’s ALWAYS something you can show appreciation for.
Today was an awesome day — we went to one of our favorite spots in the city, Cabrillo National Monument, with five of our friends, taking in the awesome tide pools and eating lunch at one of our favorite lunch spots. There were so many times I found myself thinking, Wow, what a great day. There was just one problem: as the day went on, I found this cold I’m dealing with getting worse and worse. My head felt groggy and congested, my body felt achey, my nose felt stuffy… from a health perspective I was fading fast.
In the past I think I would have done my best to suck it up and tell myself not to ruin my perfect day (or anyone else’s perfect day) by letting a stupid cold get to me. If someone would have asked how I was feeling, I would have lied and said “I’m fine! Feeling better, thanks for asking!” But I’ve since learned the value in telling the truth about how you really feel. There’s nothing wrong with admitting your body needs rest and, if anything, when you try to expend energy to look like you’re not hurting, you end up stealing valuable energy that your body needs to restore itself.
Now, that doesn’t mean I needed to whine over a little cold or bust up the awesome party today. It just means it’s okay to feel what we feel and to be honest about what we need. After a nap, some vitamins, and a little R&R, I’ll be back at it no time. But until then, I’m telling myself it’s just fine not to be fine.
Welp, the sore throat decided to show up in full force today and I’m telling my body Hey, OKAY, I get the hint!
I think our bodies are our soul’s last ditch effort to communicate with us sometimes. When we know we’ve been working too hard or we’re too stressed or we’re too this or too that but consciously we ignore it, our bodies finally stand up and say PAY ATTENTION.
I always get sick when I don’t take enough time for myself. And I mean REALLY take time for myself. Sure, I take breaks throughout the day and I’ll read a book to try and relax or watch a movie, but mentally I’m always on. I haven’t given myself permission to fully walk away. Which I’m realizing needs to change.
Lately I’ve been wearing consistency like a badge of honor — a newsletter every Monday for 114 weeks, an art project every day, a lettering challenge every month — these things are wonderful and I enjoy them so much, but without realizing it I’ve created a machine that is always on. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean I’m stopping these daily art pieces — it just means I’m LISTENING to what my body is telling me and I’m going to find a way to take a REAL break sometime soon.
The question is: what has your body been trying to tell you lately? And will you listen?
Today I hosted a live branding workshop and I’ll admit it, I was a little nervous. It’s only my 4th or 5th time doing a live stream like that, and only my second time doing it by myself! Despite how much I LOVE teaching, I found myself with butterflies all morning. Part of that nervousness comes from our human predisposition for worry — to think about ALL the things that could go wrong: What if the tech goes haywire? What if something’s wrong with my slides? What if someone asks a question I can’t answer? All that and more ran through my head but about 10 minutes before it occurred to me: What if everything goes RIGHT. Instead of focusing on the uncertainty, I focused on what I knew for certain instead: I know I love to teach; I know the Made Vibrant audience is AWESOME and fun and totally open to my weirdness; I know I believe in the content I had to share. So what was there to be nervous about?
When you find yourself spiraling into a nervous ball of doom, remind yourself to focus instead on what could go RIGHT instead of what could go wrong and you might just find those butterflies fly away!
Thanks to everyone who showed up — I honestly had the BEST time chatting with you guys (and lip syncing to the Spice Girls!) 🌶🎤
Let’s say it’s about this time of year and you’re thinking about going swimming in a cold pool. Essentially there are two ways you can approach it: you can dive in head-first, shocking your system OR you can take your time, easing into it and submerging yourself bit by bit. We’ve all experienced both of those options, right? And we know there are pros and cons to each. Ease into it and the discomfort is stretched out a bit longer but in tinier, more manageable doses; dive in and you’re swimming almost instantly, but that initial impact of hitting the water can be downright unpleasant.
Today I realized that my approach to my day or to a project can be similar to these two options.
When we got back form our marathon day of travel on Sunday night, part of me wanted to dive head-first back into my work come Monday. To pick up right where I left off and start firing on all cylinders again. But I also knew myself well enough to know that going from the disorientation of being on the road to diving right back into GO mode would be just like jumping into a freezing cold pool. The shock isn’t invigorating to me— it puts my system into distress. The change throws me off balance.
So this week I’ve given myself the permission to go the other route and to ease back into things. Much like when I gave myself the space to ease back into the new year after the holidays, I’ve been waking up slowly, transitioning into my work and trying to focus on accomplishing just one big task every day. The funny side effect is: the more slowly I allow myself to go, the more naturally I pick up my pace. It’s like when you finally ease yourself into the shallow end of the pool, acclimate to the water temp and suddenly you can’t wait to be swimming over to the deep end.
So, that’s what I’m learning today. That’s it’s okay to do things gradually, and sometimes it’s the better option. If you’re going through a big transition or even a small transition, get honest with yourself about whether you need to jump into the cold water head-first OR if you might benefit more from allowing yourself to ease into it. To go at a more gradual pace until you get your momentum back.
Today I was getting ready for a workshop I’ll be doing on Wednesday (check the link in my profile to grab your spot!) and the topic was about how to stand out in a “sea of sameness” as a creative biz owner. I wanted to touch on this topic specifically because it’s something that still crosses my mind a lot — when you see a deluge of similar blog post image tiles on Pinterest or the familiar Facebook ads promising “FREE WEBINARS ON HOW I MADE MILLIONS.” That fear-induced question of: Why bother? Is it possible to break through when there are SO many squirrels after the same nut?
Some people encounter this at the beginning of their entrepreneurial journey, and sometimes it prevents them from ever creating anything at all. For me it was the opposite. I started out blissfully unaware of just how many people were trying to do what I wanted to do, and it was because I felt this fire bubbling up inside that was compelling me to create. I felt like I had something to say and I might explode if I didn’t make something with that inspiration. In those early days, I had this deep belief that I wasn’t just a drop in a bucket; I was ME and I had a voice that I intended to use.
After a few years of being in it, the naiveté wore off and the *Why bother* question started to whisper in my ear. Never enough to make me want to give it up, of course, but if you're reading this you know what I mean. It's that quiet voice of doubt that catches you off guard.
Working on my presentation today brought me back to those early days of wide-eyed belief in myself. And if I could do ANYTHING with this post today, it would be to try and transfer some of that belief to you.
*Never forget that you are something extraordinary.* Never doubt that what you have to say MATTERS. That your perspective matters. That your voice matters.
There's nobody like you and the more you embrace your uniqueness, the more true you are to that DNA nobody else in the WORLD has, the more your extraordinary-ness will be seen by others too. But it all has to start with a belief in yourself!
It’s back to the airport for us! We’re on our way back to Oceanside after a fun 48 hours in Florida! This weekend I got to hang out with my best girlfriends from college, relive some awesome college memories and speak almost fluently in inside jokes. I think that’s one of the most joyful feelings in the world — being around people who make you laugh so hard your cheeks hurt and sharing a common history that you’re all so fond of. Being around all of them reminded me how delightfully weird we all are, and how that mutual weirdness is the basis of a bond that has lasted over the course of 10 years.
That’s all friendship really is though, right? Just finding people with your special brand of weirdness?
So that’s what this weekend has taught me. That we all should be on the lookout for our fellow weirdos. And when those weirdos ask us to fly across the country and witness their love & commitment to their partner for life, that we show up and we love them hard.
It feels great to be back on the East Coast! Something about the familiarity of friends and of my home state has me looking at things from a whole new perspective, and it made me realize just how important it is to take a step back from our lives sometimes.
Whether it’s a vacation, a staycation, or even just taking a walk around the block, putting distance between yourself and whatever you’re intensely focused on can be such a game changer. I’ve also found that the more you don’t THINK you have the time to take a step back, the more you actually NEED that space (which is a great rule of thumb for checking back in when you’ve got your head down and your hustle mode switch flipped.)
Shifting your focus to something else for a short period of time helps you put things into perspective and slow down those gears just enough that you can start to breathe again. At least that’s what it’s doing for me this trip! So, if you’re finding yourself stressed or lost or exhausted or overwhelmed, take a step back. Give yourself a breather. And come back to your work or your life with a renewed perspective. You won’t regret it!
Now off to dance the night away and reconnect with old friends! Happy Saturday!
Today Jason and I are flying back to Florida for a dear friend of mine’s wedding. Despite the marathon travel day to get back to the East Coast, honestly this trip couldn’t be better timed. I’ve been in a bit of a frenzy the past two weeks, feeling stretched a little thinner than I’d like to be, but I know the only way to transition out of that state is to give myself the space I need to rest. To focus on something else besides Made Vibrant and the business, even if it’s just for a little while.
That’s the danger in being a driven person who loves what they do — it’s too easy to fall into the trap of wanting to be ON all the time. But I think some of it comes from a fear that if we stop running full speed, if we tap out of the ring to take a breather, that maybe we’ll blink and it will all be gone. But that’s ridiculous, isn’t it?! We didn’t build businesses overnight, and they won’t be erased over night either. It’s OKAY to press pause. To walk away, to reflect, and to have some fun! In fact, often it’s that break which propels us back into a renewed state of creativity and motivation.
So, this weekend, I’m going to do my best to press pause on some things. I’m going to soak up the experience of being near my friends, of laughing like I’m in college again, and of celebrating a friend (and her new husband!) for whom I am very grateful.
Wishing you a weekend of rest and joy too! The world will still be there when we press play again!
Boy oh boy has it been one of those weeks! Been trying to juggle so many things and amidst the re-opening of the #BetterBrandingCourse I found myself feeling unexpectedly vulnerable.
Despite having a very strong vision early on for how I wanted the sell and run the course in MY way, despite what I saw others saying was the "right" way, I still find myself in moments asking if I have the courage to stick to the plan. If I can stay true to MY path despite being presented with alternates that feel easier or more convenient. But, when these questions come up, I'm reminded of what @brenebrown says about integrity. That it's choosing to live out your values instead of just professing them and that its choosing what's right for you over what's comfortable.
The way I silence these doubts that creep up is by reminding myself constantly of what my values are and if I feel I'm living those values then there's nothing left to do but stay the course. To keep going with what feels right and to not get caught up in second guessing myself. If you're in a place where you're doubting yourself but you KNOW your values and your heart are in the right place then I encourage you to take the advice I'm giving myself today: Stay the course.
I got an email yesterday from a Self-Made Society subscriber who told me that their biggest creative struggle right now is finding a mentor. As I started to type my response, I paused and thought about his question for a moment. The first follow-up question that came to mind is: what are you hoping to gain from a mentor that you feel you’re lacking right now?
Mentors can be helpful, of course. You can learn a ton by soaking up the wisdom of someone who’s gone before you. But, it got me thinking: what if you thought of YOURSELF as your own mentor? What if you put as much stock in your own inner wisdom as you would someone else that you look up to?
It reminded me of a podcast episode I heard recently with Tara Mohr where she discussed the idea of your “inner mentor” from her book, #PlayingBig (which I just ordered!)
I LOVED this idea — the notion that the wisdom you’re seeking is already in you. That you only need to remove your fears and doubts and pressures to reveal it.
I think we all have more knowledge and experience and wisdom to offer than we give ourselves credit for. We look outside ourselves for help sometimes because the validation feels good; it feels less scary than trusting ourselves.
But today I want to pose this question to you: what if you considered the idea of being your own mentor? Would it change the way you feel about yourself? About the confidence you have in your own path? What if you stopped looking outside yourself for wisdom and instead tapped into that custom-tailored knowing that only you have?
After all, nobody is you but YOU. Nobody knows what you need or what you desire or what you are capable of like YOU do. I’m not saying you can’t reach out for help and learn from those that have gone before; I’m only asking that you CONSIDER that you might have the answers you’re looking for inside you already. Learn to trust your gut and let your inner mentor guide you.
Slowly but surely I’m emerging from “launch mode” and settling back into a pace that feels a lot more comfortable for me. It’s been a crazy few days of sending emails and finalize purchase flows and a million other behind-the-scenes things. Anyone who has launched something — a website, a course, a project, an art exhibition, anything - will know the sense of relief that comes once the “big day” arrives. I experienced that relief yesterday (yay for buttons not breaking and for people getting into the course without any problems!) but honestly it was short-lived because today all I kept thinking was this: the REAL work comes next. It can be easy to get wrapped up in the whole launch part of the process. I mean, it’s the SEXY part, right? People writing blog posts about six figure launches and funnels and launch plans and the like… we’re used to shining the spotlight on “THE LAUNCH.” But you know what? Now that it’s come and gone, I realized that the spotlight should never be on “the launch.” The spotlight should be on what happens after. SO often we consume ourselves with whatever the shiny “finish line” is before us: the big day, the milestone, the presentation, the deadline. But I think what counts is what you do AFTER you cross that perceived finish line. Do you move on to the next thing, searching for another milestone to reach? Or do you stick around and really give yourself to the people you’ve promised to help? Do you follow-up on the project to see it through? Do you check back in with the client after you land their business? Do you give the job your all once you land the promotion? Do you devote your time and attention to the students in your course… or do you move on to the next idea? I realized today that launch day might be over, but now is when the fun begins. Now I want to put my whole heart into how I can make every person that (virtually) steps inside the course feel supported, encouraged and like their experience matters. Tonight my question for you is: are you focusing on the finish line or are you looking just beyond to see how you can bring your A-game to what happens after you reach that next milestone? Because the real work usually isn’t what happens before the shiny big day. The REAL work is what comes next.
Guys, I’m going to admit something I’m totally not proud of right now: I pulled an all-nighter. The reason I’m not proud of this is because I’m a BIG believer in giving your body and mind the rest it needs and it deserves, and I reject the culture we’ve come to accept now where a lack of sleep is worn like a badge of honor.
But it was a decision I made intentionally in spite of my position on how important sleep is. Why? Because this time I promised myself I was going to follow through.
As a part of the Better Branding Course launch, it was really important to me that I offer some version of the course for under $100. It’s a part of my own brand values to remain an affordable option for self-made, self-taught entrepreneurs and it’s always in the back of my mind when I price anything I make. For this launch I decided I wanted to offer an e-guide version of the course with not only the course in written content but with images and walk-throughs so that if someone had the focus and drive, they could essentially teach themselves this course in the form of a book. Well, little did I know it would turn into the behemoth it did at nearly 400 pages long, and last night I found myself still editing, still adding content, still tweaking design elements to make it digestible and beautiful. There were so many times I thought about cutting content, about saying ‘this is better than good enough’ so I could give myself a break, go to sleep, and get ready for today’s launch. But something in me wouldn’t stop until I saw this thing to completion. Until I made the thing I promised myself I would make. 2am rolled around, then 4, then 7, and I couldn’t believe I had pushed through all night. But the result was a guide I am MORE than proud of. While I do NOT recommend this strategy for anyone, and really I think it’s a personal lesson in my own time management/project management skills, I do think it’s also a lesson in knowing when my inner voice is telling game to keep going. To do what I say I’m going to do. To follow through.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to pass out. 😀 💤 Thanks to everyone who supported the launch of the course today. There will definitely be more fun stuff to come in the following weeks! And as a reminder, you can purchase the course in E-guide only format and you can upgrade to the video course format at any time. Check it out at betterbrandingcourse.com! (And I’m not just saying that because I stayed up all night to make it beautiful for you!) 😉
Sometimes I do this thing when I’m really intensely focused or in a rush where I don’t even realize it but I’m clenching my whole body. My jaw is tight, my shoulders high, my muscles tense, as though flexing myself physically will have some sort of impact on my mental concentration. Then, something will happen and I’ll snap out of it, suddenly becoming aware of this strained state. I’ll release this body contraction and remind myself to find ease again. To settle back into my more natural and relaxed state.
Whenever I’m up against any kind of “deadline,” the battle between these modes of being becomes particularly fierce, and today was no different.
I found myself wanting to use every spare moment making everything perfect for tomorrow’s #BetterBrandingCourse launch and so I found myself in my tense state more times then I’d like to admit.
But the funny thing is, the more tense I got and the more “concentrated” I tried to become, the more my creativity seemed to leave me and nothing seemed to flow. Every to do became like a battle of will. A struggle.
That’s when I reminded myself for the hundredth time to let myself just RELAX. To loosen the grip I was trying to have over everything. Things may not be perfect, but they never are. It will all work out.
When I finally brought myself back to this reality and really allowed myself to internalize it, everything started to flow again.
We all may want to control time or squeeze every moment of productivity out of ourselves, but sometimes what we really need is to loosen up a bit and just let it flow.
When I came up with the idea to do a different art piece every day of 2016, one of the reasons I did it was because I wanted to challenge myself to do something that felt impossible. At the time, it was SO scary to say I’m going to do this for 366 days straight. What if I missed a day? What if I didn’t feel up to it? What if I was traveling? What if it wasn’t convenient? WHAT IF.
But I did it. I committed.
And what I’ve realized over the course of these 100 days is that a commitment like this only boils down to one thing: a promise you make to yourself. A promise to follow through on this one thing no matter the circumstances. If I don’t FEEL creative, if I’m out of ideas, if it’s 7pm and I’m drawing a blank on what to write about, I still show up. I just think about that inner person I made a promise to and I know I can’t let her down.
I wrote once that confidence is nothing more than being able to trust yourself. Knowing that you’re going to come through for yourself when you make the ask. Keeping this promise to myself for 100 days straight has done that for me. It’s boosted my confidence in my art and my ability to stay consistent with something. And on top of that, every day it submerges me further and further into my own intuitive creative process. For that, I’m grateful I stretched myself by committing to something that felt scary.
I know #the100dayproject is coming up from @greatdiscontent and @elleluna and as someone who just finished my own version of a 100-day project, I can’t recommend it enough. Take the challenge. Do the impossible. Keep the promise to yourself.
You’re more capable than you know.
Life can sometimes feel like a walk across a tight rope — lean too far one way you’ll fall. Most days I feel pretty good about the way I’m balancing it all, deflecting whatever distractions or challenges try to knock me off my rope… trying to stay mindful of all the things that help me thrive.
Other times, though? Other times it feels like despite my best efforts I’m one step away from a big fall. Today felt like one of those days. There were SO many things vying for my full attention: friends, family, work, art, health.. the list goes on. This afternoon it felt like it was all coming to a head and I could sense myself starting to get down on myself for not doing a better job of managing it all.
But before I could allow myself to go down that road, my kind inner champion thankfully spoke up to remind myself: You’re doing the best you can.
The truth is, I may not be able to balance all of those different aspects of my life perfectly, but I’m always TRYING. I’m always asking myself how I can show up better next time, form better habits, take a little more from column a and move it to column b. And today I’m giving myself credit for that. An A for EFFORT. Because as we all know, there is no perfect state of balance that we’re able to attain. There is no tight rope walk that exists without the sway from side to side or the occasional fall. But we’re all doing the best we can, and for me, today, that’s enough.
Today began with several lessons in patience.
I completely forgot until yesterday that I had pre-scheduled a hair appointment this morning, smack dab in the middle of crunch-time before #BetterBrandingCourse opens back up. I considered cancelling since there are still so many things to be done, but ultimately I decided to keep the appointment as a challenge to myself to SLOW DOWN and not let myself succumb to the pre-launch craziness, as I’ve done in the past.
I left the house behind schedule so I found myself feeling the need to rush, only to immediately find myself in almost stand-still traffic. I felt myself urging to rush so I could make my appointment on time, only to find myself physically blocked by cars creeping forward. I had to laugh at how perfectly the circumstances mirrored my sense of urgency with the work I had yet to do. I found myself wishing I could fast forward time so I could just be back home, knocking out my to-dos. But instead I took a deep breath and reminded myself: “Patience, Caroline. This is a lesson in patience.”
When I felt myself wanting to speed through traffic.— Patience.
When all I wanted to do was run out of the salon with a wet head of hair to rush home. - Patience. When I finally returned home and found myself scribbling down my to-do’s for the day in a frenzy. - Patience.
What I realized is that, much like yesterday’s piece on focus, patience is a PRACTICE; it’s a discipline. It requires constant attention and recalibration, and in moment’s when we find ourselves rushing ahead or wishing we could manipulate time, it’s a reminder to slow down, stay present and find joy in where we are.
The day may have challenged my own patience but I’m grateful for the reminder. And now, I’m ready to tackle this launch with patience AND with fabulous hair. 😜😉💇
With the exception of working on today’s art piece, I’ve been literally working on the same project all day long. It’s the last big piece of the puzzle for Monday’s launch of the #BetterBrandingCourse, and I really want to get it right. I knew that if I didn’t commit to working on it distraction-free all day so that I could be done with it, that it would stretch on until Sunday night when I’d be stressed and scrambling to finish. SO I gave myself the WHOLE day and I woke up hoping to feel the focus I’d need to efficiently breeze through this one task.
What I realized? Focus is not a feeling. It’s not something to hope for. It’s not a magical gift from the universe, or a mood, or a whim. It’s a DISCIPLINE.
We can trick ourselves into thinking that it’s the right music or the right processes or that special brand of coffee we like, but truthfully all focus is is a ruthless discipline to be aware of when we’re distracted and to reel ourselves back in. It’s having the willpower to say NO when your mind wants to wander over to Chrome and open up a new tab. It’s saying NO when everything in your body just wants to resist and procrastinate and do ANYTHING else but the task at hand. It’s pulling yourself back again and again, as many times as necessary in order to complete your goal.
Let me tell you, I had to reel myself in A LOT today (and I’m still not done.) But I’m proud (and surprised) at how much I was able to accomplish when I finally realized that my focus is nobody’s else’s responsibility but my own. If you find yourself distracted or unable to sit down and put in the work for something you’re hoping for, ask yourself if it’s really focus you need, or whether it’s in fact just discipline. Then buckle down, flex those focus muscles and get ready to reel yourself back in until you meet your goal.
With the exception of working on today’s art piece, I’ve been literally working on the same project all day long. It’s the last big piece of the puzzle for Monday’s launch of the #BetterBrandingCourse, and I really want to get it right. I knew that if I didn’t commit to working on it distraction-free all day so that I could be done with it, that it would stretch on until Sunday night when I’d be stressed and scrambling to finish. SO I gave myself the WHOLE day and I woke up hoping to feel the focus I’d need to efficiently breeze through this one task.
What I realized? Focus is not a feeling. It’s not something to hope for. It’s not a magical gift from the universe, or a mood, or a whim. It’s a DISCIPLINE.
We can trick ourselves into thinking that it’s the right music or the right processes or that special brand of coffee we like, but truthfully all focus is is a ruthless discipline to be aware of when we’re distracted and to reel ourselves back in. It’s having the willpower to say NO when your mind wants to wander over to Chrome and open up a new tab. It’s saying NO when everything in your body just wants to resist and procrastinate and do ANYTHING else but the task at hand. It’s pulling yourself back again and again, as many times as necessary in order to complete your goal.
Let me tell you, I had to reel myself in A LOT today (and I’m still not done.) But I’m proud (and surprised) at how much I was able to accomplish when I finally realized that my focus is nobody’s else’s responsibility but my own. If you find yourself distracted or unable to sit down and put in the work for something you’re hoping for, ask yourself if it’s really focus you need, or whether it’s in fact just discipline. Then buckle down, flex those focus muscles and get ready to reel yourself back in until you meet your goal.
Sometimes I go through phases where my inspiration spark is on overdrive. I’ll wake up in the middle of the night or be mid-way through a podcast episode or out on a walk and ideas feel like they’re flying at me from all directions.
Normally I’d say this is a GREAT thing. I mean, ideas are fun and plenty of people are begging for them to show up elsewhere in the world, so why is this my biggest problem lately? Because inspiration is a master at stealing my attention.
I’ll be working on a painting and deep in my flow state when an idea visits me, tugging gently on my hand and leading me away to a fairy land of imagination. Before I know what’s happening, I’m lost in future-land dreaming of what this idea could become, and I’m no longer there in reality with my painting. That’s my beef with inspiration lately: that it so skillfully robs me of the present.
So today, as I was noticing this, I thought: what’s a new approach I can take to staying focused on the task at hand? To being ALL THERE with the projects I’m currently working on.
That’s when I realized I need to fall in love with the work I’m doing. Whether it’s my 94th painting, or an e-course I’m re-launching, or an illustration project I started two years ago (all really examples), I need to find away to give them that new love glow.
There’s a reason they call it being “blinded by love.” It’s because when you fall in love, you’re ALL in it. You don’t have eyes for anyone or anything else. So today, I actually tried this. I tried to look at each of my projects as if it was new and enticing and miraculous and exhilarating the way that new love is. I tried to remember what it was that made me begin each one in the first place, and go back to that feeling I had when each one arrived to me as one of those sneaky, devilish ideas. To my surprise, it actually worked. It allowed me to stop wishing I was somewhere else, working on anything else, and to instead find warmth and satisfaction in the present state of things.
So that’s the way that I’m trying to approach my work, especially as I continue on with this year of “CURATION” and attempt “less, but better” projects. My mind may drift to children’s book illustrations and desk calendars and painting courses and affirmation card decks, but when I notice my eye wandering off, my new strategy is to pull it back by LOVING on the present.
Do you have that one nagging THING you’ve been meaning to do that you continue to procrastinate about over and over? This past week that was two things for me: finally getting back to the barre (my workout of choice) and really diving in to tackle all that needs to be done before the #BetterBrandingCourse opens back up on April 11th.
I hadn’t worked out for going on two months and I was really starting to feel it. I KNEW I wanted to get back at it, I KNEW that I’d feel more energized and alive once I got back into it, but yet the idea of that first class (at a new studio, nonetheless) felt so overwhelming. It would be hard and new and there was signing up and figuring out where to park and all of these things that, when combined, simply felt like too much.
That’s when I was listening to an episode of #beingbosspodcast and @andkathleen was chatting with @ramit about fitness. They were talking about setting yourself up for success. Treating fitness like a meeting on your calendar or knowing exactly where your workout clothes are. I forget who said it exactly but it was something to the effect of: “Sometimes you just have to lace up your shoes.” It doesn’t have to be about that big scary commitment to get back into working out; it can be about the baby step before that — just committing to put on the dang shoes. I immediately stopped the episode, called the local studio and signed up for my first class (which killed me by the way, but I’m SO SO glad I did it.)
Same with this launch plan for the #BetterBrandingCourse. There was so much to do that I almost felt paralyzed. Until I realized that I hadn’t set aside the time to write ALL my to-dos down to get them out of my head and prioritize them. Once I made the tiny commitment to just write the stupid to-do list, the big undertaking didn’t feel so big anymore.
Whatever it is you’re resisting, whatever you can’t find the motivation to finally do, ask yourself: what’s the baby step you can commit to BEFORE the big step. What’s the low-risk first move you can make to set yourself up for success and get you closer to actually accomplishing your goal?
Commit to the baby step, and trust me, the big step won’t seem quite so big anymore.
The past few days you may have noticed I mentioned I’m experimenting with Snapchat. Now, I’ll be the first one to admit it: the past months (even years!) I’ve been HIGHLY skeptical of Snapchat, and especially more recently as it’s crept into the creative online biz space. I found myself thinking “Here we go again. Another social network that’s ‘taking the world by storm.’ Another distraction. Another digital place to pull us away from real life.” It was easy to write off at first because I’ve always been a “do what works for YOU not what you see other people doing” kind of gal.
But then I stopped to question these thoughts I was having.
Did I actually KNOW that Snapchat had no value to offer my life or my business? Did I even know what it was about? I’d opened the app like twice two years ago and I had no idea what the experience was now. When I was really honest with myself, I realized my flippant attitude was actually coming from one place: FEAR. I was afraid of the stupid app. Afraid of doing it “wrong.” Afraid of feeling old. Afraid of looking like I was hopping on the bandwagon. Afraid of it stealing my precious time.
Ultimately I decided it was silly to have such a strong judgment against something I had no experience with. SO, I decided to launch an experiment. I’m giving myself three weeks to learn the ropes. If it brings me value, I’ll keep going. And if it doesn’t, then I’ll cut it out. So far it’s actually been a fun and low-stakes way to share my process and my daily life, which I’m really digging. On the downside, it is one more reason for me to feel attached to my phone, which I don’t like. Jury’s still out on ultimately what I’ll do but I’m glad I decided to give it a try.
Let me be SUPER clear here: I am NOT saying everyone should hop on Snapchat. What I AM saying is that for me, before I completely write this app off as silly or juvenile or a fleeting trend, I want to give myself the opportunity to first UNDERSTAND it from the inside out, and then I can decide if it aligns with my values or is worth my time.
And I think this approach applies to MUCH more than new social media platforms. I think it applies to new people, new places, new anything.
Let’s stop judging things at face value and instead investigate new ideas until we have a real, factual basis for eliminating them from our lives.
If you want to follow along in my experiment, you can find me there by searching snapmadevibrant 👻.
I finally managed to carve out time today to dig into some delinquent emails, and there was one surprising theme that came up in a few different replies. The theme was around this notion of it being too LATE. Too late to start a podcast. (Because that “everyone’s doing it and that ship has sailed.”) Too late to start a newsletter. (Because “it’s been months of radio silence.”) Too late to start an art business. (Because I’m “too old to learn all the skills it requires.”) Too late to change directions in business. (“All my hard work will be for nothing.”)
Who baked the bad batch of cookies?! Guys… it’s totally NOT TOO LATE!!
BUT, I do remember this feeling pretty well. It reminds me of when I started my first blog back in 2011. At that time it felt like “EVERYBODY was blogging.” (Little did I know “everybody” was about to get a whole lot bigger.) I would look around and see DIY bloggers and design bloggers and lifestyle bloggers and fashion bloggers that had amassed these HUGE followings. Their posts would get hundreds of comments and their archives had years’ worth of posts. Starting from scratch felt like an enormous uphill battle that I would never win.
But… I started anyway. I started because ultimately I had things to say and I couldn’t bare to wait around any longer NOT saying them. And it at first, growth was slow. Friends and family would share my posts, and then eventually strangers started commenting, and then later on after that, the blog turned into Made Vibrant, and the newsletter started (with 2 subscribers.) But 2 turned into 20 subscribers which turned into 50 which became 500 and then 5,000.
My point is: there is no such thing as too late to start.
Everyone and everything does not operate on a parallel track. We’re all doing our own thing at our own pace in our own way. And when you think of it like that, it’s impossible for anybody to lap you. What I do know is that building ANYTHING that is high-quality and positioned for long-term growth takes TIME. And because that’s the case, the longer you wait to begin, the longer it’ll be until you reach that dream in your head. So… just START. Start now. Start today. Start small. Start with something. But just start. START because “too late” doesn’t exist but “NEVER” sure does, and your dreams deserve better than never.
Welp, I screwed up today.
Around noon Jason and I were headed out the door for a quick grocery trip and I accidentally shut the door behind me without grabbing either set of our keys. Our door locks automatically so you can see how this was a bit problematic.
The second I did it Jason and I both closed our eyes for an uncomfortable amount of time, as if that act alone might magically reverse time. (Hint: it did not work.) I’ll admit, for the first three minutes or so I was furious at myself. I was using this one incident to instigate all kinds of negative self-talk about myself (“This is classic YOU. / Why don’t you pay more attention to what you’re doing / etc.”) But, thankfully, I recognized those thoughts for what they were as soon as they showed up AND thanks to some mature communication about situations like this in the past, @jasondoesstuff was mindful not to rub salt in my wounds (even though he totally could have because I’m sure it was super annoying.)
To get a spare key, we had to drive 45 minutes away to our landlord’s office, which could have been really frustrating. BUT, realizing that we had no control over changing the situation, we both decided to make the most of it. So… we made an adventure out of it. We turned my inconvenient mistake into a lunch date downtown and a visit to our favorite coffee shop. Did it derail all the plans I had for my day? Sure. But it happened and I couldn’t change it so why make a crappy situation even crappier with a bad attitude? The moment I DECIDED to let go of my frustration, I was able to actually enjoy our detour.
Remember, you may not be able to change it when something inconvenient happens, but you can always choose how you respond to it. I don’t always succeed in keeping my cool, but I have to say it turned what could have been an annoying day into a mini adventure!
Earlier today I shared a post of a #BetterLetteringCourse student who has been participating in the monthly lettering challenges for a year. The post was showing her lettering a year ago compared to today, and it was SO cool to see her progress represented in such a visual way.
Which got me thinking, how many other things are we getting better at one day at a time that we don’t even realize? (My guess is EVERYTHING.)
So often we’re improving in such tiny, microscopic increments. We’re getting better inch by inch by inch, and those improvements are so small that it can often feel like we’re standing still. Until we finally take a moment to stop, look back, and take a look at all those inches stacked end to end. What leaps and bounds that can become.
Just this weekend I was working on my massive to-do list for the upcoming Better Branding Course re-launch (April 11th 😉) and I found myself moving with ease through all sorts of things I didn’t know how to do just a few short years ago: editing CSS to customize the landing page, setting up an automated fulfillment process so people immediately have access to the bonus files they purchase, connecting email sequences that trigger upon purchase… there are a million tiny things that go into the big machine that is an online business, and I don’t take enough time to acknowledge just how far I’ve come in learning all those things day by day by day.
Whatever that thing is that you want to get better at but that you’re still not where you want to be, take a second today to look back at how far you’ve come and acknowledge your progress. You’ve come a long way, baby. 😉
Today I came across a blog post that made my heart sink. The post was teaching a concept that I had coined a few years ago, one that I teach exclusively inside the Better Branding Course, and it was written by a student who had been through the course, outlining the exact steps I go through in two of my course lessons.
I spent a crazy amount of time and care in constructing the course curriculum to make it clear and to put my unique spin on the process of branding, so I’ll be honest, to see the idea being taught on another person’s blog for free sent me into a mini tail-spin filled with all sorts of emotions. First the sting, of course. The bruised ego saying “That is MINE.” Then the “I have to get to the bottom of this” mentality of wanting to assign blame. Then the pain of feeling like this thing I was so proud of, this concept I (naively) felt was somehow truly original, had been taken from me. And then this final realization: NOTHING is truly original. We’re all cross-pollinating and remixing and putting our own spin on things — that’s the nature of the idea economy. So then, why did it hurt so much?
My conclusion: My feelings of hurt were coming from a place of SCARCITY. The hurt that accompanies “someone stole this” is predicated on the false fear that my knowledge or my expertise or my creativity is FINITE. That I’ll somehow run out or something, so it feels scary to have an idea taken away. But if I’ve proven anything to myself over the years it’s that there are always more ideas waiting to be born, and I know deep in my heart that WHAT you say is only a small piece of the pie; the more important parts are HOW you say it and WHY you say it.
For the record, I don’t think this person shared my ideas in a malicious way. I think they learned something that helped them and they wanted to share it with others. But the lesson I want to share today is less about the ownership of ideas and more about the FEAR I felt the moment I saw one slipping away from me.
Today I’m reminding myself (and YOU!) that our ideas and creativity are not finite. I’m emerging from my mini tail-spin with this one simple mantra when I feel myself believing in the false scarcity of ideas: there’s PLENTY more where that came from.
**As an aside, let me be clear: taking someone’s work and sharing it as your own without putting your spin on it or sharing anything additional to it is just not okay and I’m asking anyone out there to please think twice before ever going down this road. It doesn’t matter if you tweak the wording — if it’s the same exact concept with no additional synthesis or analysis or perspective on it, it’s just simply not right. It’s a slippery slope with information abounding out there, but that isn’t an excuse not to stand up for ourselves as content creators and, ultimately, as teachers.
Today’s Monday was a very different Monday than last week’s. Due to my killer migraine last night, the time I would have spent preparing for my week and making space for rest was instead spent trying to kick my headache just enough to fall asleep, which made for a bit of a shaky and overwhelming re-entry into the work week this morning. This ain't my first rodeo though — I’ve learned that every week can’t begin with a picture perfect you-got-this Monday and when that happens, I just have to roll with it. I’ve learned to be honest with myself about what I need and to be kind enough to myself to give it.
My answer for today? I needed a Sunday DO-OVER.
I needed rest and space and hours of my day without a splitting headache. The only problem was that I had one mandatory: to write my Monday morning newsletter. It was the only work thing that I wouldn’t let slide to tomorrow because it’s a promise I make to my readers and I take it seriously. Let me tell you, it may have taken me like FOUR hours to put together something I was proud to hit send on, BUT I DID IT. And then I let myself lay in bed, rent “Brooklyn” on iTunes and have my Sunday do-over.
Even though every part of my being was saying “Do more! Get caught up! Prepare for the week!” instead I gave myself one simple task and I completed it. And that, I’ve decided, is worth celebrating. Sometimes we get so caught up trying to conquer the world that we forget to take pride in the small victories: following through on the one thing we promised we’d do; listening to our bodies when they tell us to rest; making space for ourselves to practice what we preach. Today, on my RE-Sunday, I’m celebrating it all. 🎉
Decided to take the GIANT hint my body is trying to send me in the form of a raging migraine and keeping it super short tonight. Sometimes you just have to listen to what your heart is telling you that you need and give yourself a break. Clearly spent last week with too much intense focus and not enough rest. I hear ya, body! We’ll do better this time around!
Hope that all of you celebrating Easter had a beautiful day spent with family and friends! Here’s to a better tomorrow!
There are SO many lessons that this daily art project has already taught me (can you believe it’s been almost 100 days already?!) but this one especially has been on my mind lately.
The thing about waking up every day and being forced to focus on a new piece and a new message is that you simply don’t have TIME to look backward. To dwell on what art was created yesterday or last week. To worry about whether what you made before was “good enough.”
There is only today, only what you have to accomplish now, only what you are INSPIRED to create now. And I think that same lesson applies to life. It can be tempting sometimes to look backward and wonder: Did I make the right decision? What would have happened if I had chosen x instead of y… etc.
But the truth is that for the most part it’s a waste of time. The past is gone and all we have is now.
It’s not that there isn’t value to be gained from understanding the past. There certainly is. But there’s a big difference between *learning* from your past and *living* in your past. In fact, that’s not really living at all. Trying to play Monday morning quarterback won’t change the outcome, it will only steal your attention and your satisfaction.
If this project has taught me anything it’s this: keep your eyes fixed on what is here and now, the task at hand, the challenge unfolding, the beauty of this very moment. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is uncertain, but today is here and it is REAL and it is begging to dance with us.
There are SO many lessons that this daily art project has already taught me (can you believe it’s been almost 100 days already?!) but this one especially has been on my mind lately.
The thing about waking up every day and being forced to focus on a new piece and a new message is that you simply don’t have TIME to look backward. To dwell on what art was created yesterday or last week. To worry about whether what you made before was “good enough.”
There is only today, only what you have to accomplish now, only what you are INSPIRED to create now. And I think that same lesson applies to life. It can be tempting sometimes to look backward and wonder: Did I make the right decision? What would have happened if I had chosen x instead of y… etc.
But the truth is that for the most part it’s a waste of time. The past is gone and all we have is now.
It’s not that there isn’t value to be gained from understanding the past. There certainly is. But there’s a big difference between *learning* from your past and *living* in your past. In fact, that’s not really living at all. Trying to play Monday morning quarterback won’t change the outcome, it will only steal your attention and your satisfaction.
If this project has taught me anything it’s this: keep your eyes fixed on what is here and now, the task at hand, the challenge unfolding, the beauty of this very moment. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is uncertain, but today is here and it is REAL and it is begging to dance with us.
In today’s #MVArtShop email update (💌sign up at madevibrant.com/daily) I talked about several things that “went wrong” with the shop last week.
Our printer went on vacation and didn’t tell us; we accidentally ran out of some of our shipping collateral; and Amazon shipped us the wrong cello sleeves (despite reordering the exact ones we settled on three weeks prior.)
Now, Laura and I were able to face each of those tiny mistakes head on, come up with quick solutions and put processes in place to make sure they didn’t happen again so it all turned out fine. But the more important thing that I want to share regarding all of those little snags is this — the whole world did not end. The sky didn’t fall. Customers didn’t jump ship. If anything, it actually made the whole process more interesting because we got to learn a ton about how to set up the shop in a more efficient way.
But I didn’t decide to share all the behind the scenes of the shop (ups AND downs) because it’s fun to relive the frustration; I decided to share it because it’s REAL. And I want anyone out there who has been dreaming of a creative project or opening their own art shop to know: you will never be able to LEARN unless you BEGIN. You’re totally allowed to simply start and LEARN as you go. All entrepreneurs do this, whether they’re opening a tiny art shop or whether they’re creating the next billion dollar startup. We’re all just trying things and making stuff and going with our gut to see what happens and figuring it out as we go along.
So, whatever it is that you’ve been waiting to start because you want to avoid these kinds of tiny mistakes, please, take it from me, it’s time to stop waiting and start LEARNING.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like my whole life simply boils down to a series of experiments to discover what lights me up and what dims me down. My only job then becomes figuring out how to do more of the stuff that lights me up and less of the stuff that doesn’t.
For instance, through trial and error I’ve learned that starting my morning off with something calming but inspiring helps me ease into the day. I’ve learned that I need breaks throughout my day to keep my energy tank full. I know that giving myself time and space to play or experiment helps. I know I need to eat well most of the time so my body feels healthy and strong, and I know I need to have some interaction with nature to feel connected and centered. All of these tiny things fuel my creative flame — they’re like adding gasoline to my own happy, thriving spark.
On the other hand, I’ve learned that placing self-imposed restrictions and deadlines on myself does the opposite. I know that trying to juggle too many things or over-commit to social things overwhelms and drains me. I know that just “pushing through” when I’m tired doesn’t work. These things are like throwing sand on my flame.
Designing a life that allows you to be the brightest version of yourself is all about uncovering out what FUELS your fire and what snuffs it out, and then making decisions accordingly. My advice to any creative out there is figure out what kicks your creative flame into a higher gear and simply do MORE of that. If you want your light to shine, you have to add fuel to the flame. 🔥
I had big plans for today, but today turned out to have different plans for ME. Unfortunately I woke up this morning with a sore throat and I took that as a sign I needed to take it easy. That I need to slow my roll and listen to what my body was telling me.
But it’s not always easy to do that is it? Sometimes it’s tempting to ignore whatever our bodies are telling us, or whatever energy a situation is feeding us or whatever our environment is giving us in order to push our own agenda. In my experience though, that can lead to a lot of conflict and a lot more stress than necessary.
Today’s piece was inspired by the ocean that I’m growing so used to looking out over each day. I see the every-present current and I’m reminded that life is the same way. There’s a flow to it, an energy running through everything. And we can choose to swim with the current or fight against it. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s always going the direction we want to head in, but I think there is wisdom in learning to dance with it, to use the flow to our advantage.
Feeling hyped up? There’s a reason. Use that energy to get excited about your work. Feeling burned out? There’s a reason. Use that energy as a reminder to calm down and recalibrate.
The point is: pay attention and work WITH the current of things, not against it. My way of taking my own advice today has been to allow myself to work from bed, soak up a little more R&R and slow down a bit.
Today’s message is inspired by a personal story that I haven’t shared before. Last year, the biggest personal challenge I encountered was around boundaries. I carried a lot of guilt about friendships I was growing out of, new friendships I was learning to navigate, and how to evolve my interpersonal skills as I fully accepted this “sensitive” part of myself that I’d tried to downplay for so many years. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the central struggle was between wanting to give myself to every relationship in my life, but also needing to protect my energy and carve out the me-time I needed in order to thrive. Whenever I chose the latter, I felt guilty and selfish.
To work through these feelings, I sought out an awesome therapist here in San Diego, and during one session, she asked if I’d be willing to try a guided meditation exercise. Though it was something I’d never done before, I trusted her enough to give it a shot, even if it felt out of my comfort zone at first. I’ll never forget the experience of the exercise.
I began somewhat skeptical, but over the course of a few minutes she led me through an exercise that allowed me to use my imagination to dispense wisdom to myself. I won’t share the whole thing because there are parts of it I really want to keep for myself, but I was asked to visualize my subconscious as my own confidant, my own friend beside me offering guidance. Finally I was prompted with this question: “Now what do you hear her saying to you?” Without a beat, these words came to me: *You’re too special not to protect.*
It surprised me so much I started to cry. It was just what I needed to hear. It’s not about saying I’m so great and special — it’s about reminding myself of my worth, of acknowledging that I have something unique to bring to the world and, most importantly, it’s about giving myself PERMISSION to set those honest boundaries when I need them.
I wanted to share this mantra today in case any of you out there struggle with this same guilt around setting boundaries. Remember: you’re too special not to protect.
One very important lesson that 2015 gave me was the realization that, as a highly sensitive person, I have a tendency to absorb the energy of the people around me.
Sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously, but either way I internalize it. I’m affected by it.
Now, there are moments when this sensitivity is awesome — it’s this same trait that allows me to be compassionate and to empathize with people, to connect. But, on the other hand, in moments of everyday social situations, it can be trap for all kinds of anxiety. Feeling acutely aware of whatever undercurrent of awkwardness, discomfort, and conflict that’s floating beneath the surface can be really draining. And, what can often make things even worse, is the compulsion that often follows these feelings which is my immediate need to FIX everything. To play peacekeeper or nurturer or therapist or whatever the people around me need me to be.
The only problem with this of course is that ultimately we are not responsible for the emotional well-being of other people; we are in charge of ourselves. And the moment we take on that responsibility, we put ourselves in a position to become depleted by something we have no control other.
Discovering all of this, I knew I needed to develop a mantra that would remind me to keep my emotional responsibility to myself. Not to reduce my capacity for compassion; to actually PROTECT it.
This is that mantra: stay in your circle.
Now when the energy around me becomes even slightly toxic and I feel the pull within me to fix it, I quietly say this phrase to myself and I’m reminded that it’s okay to let things unfold without me intervening. That I have a right to guard my heart and my sensitivity as I see fit. It doesn’t give me a license to be a jerk; it just gives me permission to stay focused on the things I can control and to let the rest go.
As my friend @margaretannk once told me: “It’s a real skill to become comfortable with other people being uncomfortable.” It takes practice, but remember: their drama doesn’t have to be YOUR drama.
I was just thinking the other day how amazing it is that the solution to so many tech problems is still “Turn it off and turn it back on.” It almost makes me laugh to think of how many times I’ve used this tried and true technique over the years: with our old school Nintendo, with our first desktop computer, and now, even these days with countless other modern devices. Routers, iPhones, laptops, et al.
What cracks me up about this simple cure-all is that it’s really pretty similar to what humans need. Just today I was lazing around, not feeling particularly inspired, and wondering what exactly I wanted to say for today’s piece. I felt like I had too many things on my mind and so nothing was rising to the top. When that happens, my go-to method for reseting my creativity is to take a shower. It sounds silly but the time to myself plus the refreshing feeling just leave me feeling like I powered myself down and right back up again. I was able to reign in my thoughts, cool down whatever circuit boards in my brain were working overtime, and inject some much needed pep back into my step.
I think this go-to reset button is different for everyone. Could be a hot shower, could be a 15-minute walk, could be a whole day away from technology that helps you power back up with new energy. Whatever that is for you, remember it the next time you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed or about to crash. Take a note out of our highly sophisticated technology hacks that have stood the test of time😉, and just hit reset!
A new book I ordered arrived this morning: “Bad Feminist” by Roxane Gay. The title intrigued me when my bff @leahloustyle recommended it because for years I’ve steered clear of anything labeled “feminist” for exactly the reasons that @roxanegay74 outlines in the first essay of the book. That she doesn’t live up to the often strict standards that a quote “Professional Feminist” should. She writes: “I embrace the label of *bad feminist* because I am human. I am messy.”
As I dove in further with my morning coffee, what struck me from the first few pages was exactly what I shared with you guys yesterday. That we — as women and, more broadly, as humans — are full of contradictions. We are not ALL this or COMPLETELY that. We’re principled AND we’re flawed.
It reminded me of a great interview I watched the other day with @garyvee. One of the most interesting parts to me was when he talked about his “always on” relationship with social media. Talking about the dichotomy between his love of constant stimulation and but also his disregard for what people think of him, he said “I need it, but I don’t NEED it.” The paradox of this statement might be frustrating to some, but to me it was the most human thing he said. Gary’s full of all sorts of contradictions and the more I see them, the more I can look past my reflexive dismissal of his “hustle culture” and see him for the nuanced human that he is. This idea of delighting in contradictions has never been more beautifully stated than by my favorite @elizabeth_gilbert_writer in #BigMagic here:
“Creativity is sacred, and it is not sacred. What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all. We toil alone, and we are accompanied by spirits. We are terrified, and we are brave. Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege. Only when we are at our most playful can divinity finally get serious with us. Make space for all these paradoxes to be equally true inside your soul, and I promise—you can make anything.” Revel in your contradictions and embrace them. They make YOU and the world more interesting.
This morning I sat down to devour my Spring issue of @Darling magazine and I was so pleased to find that this issue’s theme was all about FIERCENESS. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from editor-in-chief @ladydubbs: “There are too many things in the world that need the touch of women — those that only our psyche can solve, that only her touch can heal, that only her intuition can decipher … may we open our eyes wider, not letting ourselves nod off to sleep, because honestly, we all must keep one another awake to the full if we are going to really leave impressions in the ground where we’ve walked.”
I was only a few pages in when I found myself completely inspired by this idea of fierce femininity. At first glance these two qualities can seem opposing: The female persona is historically perceived as soft, agreeable, even delicate. And yet the idea of being fierce — of waking up to our own power, of boldly declaring what we believe in — this is now slowly becoming a recognized part of the female identity. And it got me thinking about the other infinite dimensions that we can discover within ourselves.
I created today’s piece as a reminder:
You are sensitive AND you are strong.
You are open-minded AND you are strong-willed.
You are a mother AND you are an individual.
You are kind AND you are powerful.
You are creative AND analytical AND soft-spoken AND enthusiastic AND the list goes on.
You are a multi-faceted person who cannot be put in just one box. Allow yourself to hold all of these complex, nuanced, sometimes even contradictory parts of yourself, and learn to see them as the beautiful tapestry that they are.
You are complicated, and that is something to be celebrated.
A lot of the emails I get from Self-Made Society subscribers are around the biggest struggles people have as creatives, and one theme I hear over and over again is this feeling overwhelm. “I want to sell my art online but where do I start?” / “I want to write a book but the thought of it is so overwhelming.” / “I have a clear vision for the business I want to build but I feel like there are so many pieces to the puzzle."
In my experience, that feeling of not knowing where or how to begin something never really goes away. I encounter it daily. When I sit down to write an email newsletter or paint an art piece or type out one of these daily captions, I get the same exact momentary panic staring at a blank page. BUT, over time I’ve adopted a tactic that has allowed me to get over that initial hump of overwhelm and aimlessness, and it is this simple idea: start with SOMETHING.
The thing that makes beginning something so overwhelming is the complete lack of anything to attach yourself to. It’s like trying to rock climb the face of a perfectly smooth mountains. What do you grab on to? How do you propel yourself upward?
When it comes to our creativity, if we would just create those nooks and crannies to grab onto for ourselves, creating wouldn’t seem so daunting. And the great part is, it doesn’t matter how “bad” those first few attempts are. A lot of times in order to get to the good you have to go through the bad. And that’s what starting with something is all about. It’s about giving yourself that first initial push so that you can get going, pick up momentum and then create the work you’re actually proud of.
No longer do I put pressure on myself to write my BEST work from the moment I start typing the first word. I allow myself to begin with a rough (ROUGH) draft and then I can take my time, finessing my thoughts and molding that first okay something into a better something. When you’re stuck, just start with SOMETHING and it will give you the momentum you need to get to the work you really want to create.
Since moving into our new place I’ve been trying to get back into a rhythm with creating. For me, new environments can be so great for bringing a refreshing energy to my creativity, but on the other hand they can also cause a bit of a stall until I find my groove again in a completely new surrounding.
Today I found myself staring at a blank page and not knowing where to even begin. I was overthinking everything because I was essentially creating a new routine, a new process from the ground up in my new studio. In those moments, when I find myself judging my work before it even gets created, I know there’s only one solution (and it’s a REALLY simple one…)
What’s the secret to quieting your creativity’s inner critic? Just MAKE MORE STUFF.
The more you make, the less any one thing feels like it defines your work OR your worth. So, rather than just standing there with a blank page in front of me, I put up FOUR blank pages. While you’d think this only served to multiply my “creator’s block” it actually did the exact opposite. It took the pressure off. I tricked my inner muse into thinking, “Hey, instead of just one chance to make something you like, now you’ve got four!” And wouldn’t you know it… I ended up loving all four of them anyway.
I know that many artists or writers or creators in general struggle with the fear that their work isn’t any good. We all do. But the only way to start to let go of that fear is to keep making at all costs. Keep creating work until you realize that you are not defined by any one piece or one thing you make; you are defined by the fact that you continue to make in spite of your fear. When in doubt, just make more stuff.
As Jason I were in the car last night headed downtown to dinner with friends, I was looking out the window across the ocean with the sun setting and before I knew it I said out loud: “This is it.” “This is what?” Jason said. “IT… this is what we’ve been working for.”
For years we’ve been working on our businesses but more importantly we’ve been working on ourselves. Defining our values, experimenting, adventuring, recalibrating, finding balance, losing balance and relentlessly pursuing lives that feel authentic to who we are. In that sun-drenched moment, I realized we’d arrived at a place that felt right and I wanted to really breathe it in.
See, I think as humans we have this innate tendency to always want more, to want better, to keep striving. And don’t get me wrong, striving is great. Having a purpose is great. But so often we have our heads down reaching for our goals that we forget to take the time in those mini milestone moments to say… I’m here, I did it. To really SOAK IN those moments in as much as possible. To slow down and let it permeate our consciousness. And that I think is the key to cultivating contentment — it’s about taking intentional time to ACKNOWLEDGE what’s going well, to really commit to memory what happiness feels like.
I know a lot of these posts might seem like a whole lot of “things are going well right now!” and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before life throws some new challenge at us, but until then, I want to keep acknowledging the happiness I’m finding myself surrounded by because I think soaking it up and sinking into joy keeps us from living a life where we’re never satisfied. Right now, right here… I’m satisfied. :)
I took my own advice yesterday to chill out and it made for a much more pleasant day today. I was able to wake up slowly, finish putting things away and really soak up my new surroundings. As I stared out over the ocean and pinched myself for the twelve hundredth time, this thought came to me: my life feels like a vacation. Actually, it feels even BETTER than vacation because I have all my favorite comforts of home around me. It’s a strange feeling realizing my everyday environment is so close to my ideal. And I caught myself more than a few times saying to myself, “I feel so lucky.” Jason and I have an agreement that when that thought compulsively crosses our mind, we rewrite it to remove the word lucky. Luck suggests a lack of control and it pays no mind to the daily intentional decisions we’ve made to arrive here. This did NOT happen by accident; this happened BY DESIGN.
Jason and I didn’t magically happen to discover a modern home with a stunning view and a dedicated art studio in our price range… we HUNTED for it. We defined our values and we didn’t settle for less than what aligned with those values, with that dream that we set for ourselves. And that’s why we’re here living this dream.
That’s not to say that we don’t have certain privileges that improve our lot in life, I know we do. But my point is that we created this life around us with intentional, values-based choices. And what I want to offer to anyone out there reading this is this empowering notion: you don’t have to win some long-shot lottery to experience the home or life or relationship or career you’re dreaming of. You can give yourself a 100% guarantee of any one of those things by simply 1) defining what that is to you, 2) working hard for it, and 3) not settling for anything less until you get there.
Gamblers accept a life of luck. Doers create a life by design.
Remember yesterday when I pretty much said this whole moving things has been easier than I thought? Apparently I spoke too soon. Today started out well enough, waking up to the sound of the ocean in our new place, looking forward to our first lazy Saturday by the beach and settling in to our new digs. Somewhere along the line though, the mixture of sleep deprivation, aching muscles from yesterday’s unboxing saga and the millionth decision I had to make about where X should go… I kind of snapped. Snapped as in lost my absolute mind over a tiny IKEA bed frame screw that just WOULD NOT TURN ANY FURTHER. Guys, I cannot even express to you the level of irrational frustration that I had toward this one screw. I totally lost my cool and almost just melted into a puddle over sleepy, achy, IKEA-hating tears.
And then, thankfully, my wiser (and more well-rested) self gave me a reality check and simply reminded me to CHILL. OUT.
That’s honestly what I needed to hear in that moment. I needed to take a step back, to take a breath, and stop trying to force things. I needed to remember it’s okay to rest, okay to actually enjoy my Saturday and that everything will eventually find its designated place — it doesn’t all have to get done in one day.
So, even if you aren’t moving, whatever big undertaking is on your mind, whatever IKEA screw you’re tempted to lose your own mind over, just stop trying to force it. Take three big deep breaths, let it go, and chill out a little. After all, that’s what Saturdays are for. 😎
Holy cow has it been a week! Today finally punctuates one of those crazy time periods when so many projects and big moments happened to intersect at once: the @stillmot film crew setting up shop for a few days to shoot a documentary, the #MVartshop moving to a daily inventory schedule and finally being open full time, and packing up our house to move to Oceanside. To say the last few days have been packed to the brim would be an understatement.
The days leading up to this chaotic week were filled with apprehension. The very notion of thinking about all that had to be done and how it would come together left me feeling a bit overwhelmed. But then it all arrived. And rather than fight the chaos, rather than resist it and wish I had more room to breathe, I let it wash over me like a wave and I embraced it. I was able to surf the uncertainty of every moment, never pausing too long to hesitate or overthink it, just tackling every new situation as it was presented to me.
While the week has left me physically exhausted, I have to admit I don’t feel all that mentally exhausted. Sometimes, in moments of overwhelm, the best thing to do is to embrace the chaos. To ride it like a wave. And to find ways to enjoy it rather than resist it.
Here’s to our very first night in our new home! Can’t wait to see what’s ahead in this new chapter!
I can hardly believe it but moving day is finally upon us! We’ve been packing all day today and tomorrow morning we’ll load up the U-Haul, head to Oceanside and start the next chapter in our new home. I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks since we signed our lease agreement.
Still, as much as I feel like a kid on the night before Christmas, wanting to just hit fast forward on my life so it can be tomorrow, I’m reminding myself to slow down and STAY PRESENT. To not be in so much of a hurry to get to the next phase that I trade today in for tomorrow. Because the truth is, cheesy as it sounds, all we have is today. All we have is now. And so when my brain goes drifting off to daydreams of decorating our new living room or momentary freak out moments of “don’t forget that!”… I pull my attention back to where I am in this moment, appreciating all it has to offer me. Soaking in the sound of the birds on our back porch and the way the light pours into the kitchen and how good it feels to go through my things and let go of what’s no longer serving me.
Excitement is a great thing. Anticipation and welcoming the future with open arms are great things. But let’s not allow our desire for the future to create a shadow on the present. It’s here, it’s now, it’s real.
The Stillmotion crew is still here filming a documentary on @jasondoesstuff, and with their presence, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about stories. Not necessarily the ones other people tell about us, but the ones we tell to ourselves.
Have any of you read @brenebrown’s book #RisingStrong? There are so many fantastic nuggets in it but the one that I’ve used in my everyday life the most is this phrase: “The story I’m making up is…” In the book, Brené talks about the mental gymnastics we often do to connect the dots when something makes us feel hurt or slighted. When we feel pain, our human brains try to make up a story to make sense of the emotional chaos. Trouble is, these stories aren’t necessarily true and yet in those moments, we deeply believe them to be true. It can cause us to make decisions based on all sorts of things we’re telling ourselves: He didn’t call back because I’m not pretty enough / They didn’t buy my art because they can see I’m a fraud / My daughter’s teacher didn’t ask me to chaperone because she thinks I’m an irresponsible mother / And so on into a downward spiral of self-doubt and shame.
Just two nights ago I used this phrase with Jason and it was such a powerful tool for communication. Instead of getting overly defensive in response to him asking about the forgotten laundry in the dryer, I said: “The story I’m making up is that you don’t think I contribute enough around the house. That I’m not an equal partner to you.” That phrase allowed me to diffuse my defense mechanism and just be honest about what I was feeling. #RisingStrong teaches that to unravel these stories we need to CHALLENGE them. To get curious about why we’re connecting the dots in such a way. To “reckon” with our emotions.
Stories our powerful, but the MOST powerful (and sometimes most destructive) ones are the ones we tell ourselves. Make sure yours are rooted in truth by challenging them.
It’s #InternationalWomensDay and given the response from yesterday’s #LetterYourGrowthMarch post, it feels timely to make today’s piece about the idea of *worthiness*. As a woman who struggled a lot in the early part of my life with the constant quest for meeting other people’s expectations, I can speak personally to the feeling I know many of us women have that we are not enough.
That feeling of…if I can just be smart enough or talented enough or kind enough or charming enough — that if I can just check ALL THE BOXES — that THEN I’ll be worthy. THEN my parents will be proud. THEN I’ll be worthy of friendship or love or happiness.
But the past seven years for me have been about uncovering the lie that is that thinking. When we come from a place of not enough, we perpetually find ourselves in a state of desperation, making decisions based what other people want for us and not what we KNOW our spirit wants for us.
These past few years have been about rejecting that lie and replacing it with this truth: I AM ALIVE AND THEREFORE I’M ENOUGH. I am here and so I am worthy. I am ME, and that is better than enough.
If you, like me, need this reminder to keep believing that you don’t have to do or say or BE anything more than what you already are in order to be worthy, then this one’s for you!
One benefit I’ve uncovered from doing this #LetterYourGrowthMarch monthly challenge is that it calls my attention to just how much I’ve changed and evolved over the years. I feel that I’ve finally reached a point in my life where I not only allow myself to evolve but I now EXPECT myself to.
I used to think that in order to start something, I had to have everything all figured out from Day 1. That I had to formulate a plan and stick to it no matter what. That is until I realized that being flexible and adapting to the conditions around me was an important part of making sure that the life I was cultivating still aligned with my ever-evolving heart. Now I KNOW that everything is bound to change and I actually enjoy that.
For example, Made Vibrant started out primarily as a design studio, then a blog about personal growth and business, and now more than anything it’s an art + creativity community. It’s has grown just as I have continued to grow. The trick with evolving is allowing yourself to let go of the beliefs, habits, lifestyles, and even sometimes people that no longer support who you want to be, and to give yourself permission to welcome new versions of all those things into your life.
As our first year living in California comes to a close, it feels like this amazing new chapter in my own evolution is still just beginning. I feel like a better version of the person I was just a year ago, and part of that is because I was able to welcome those tiny changes as they came and not stick to some rigid script for what I thought my life had to look life.
Let yourself grow, let yourself learn, let yourself evolve.
I can’t believe it but moving week is finally here! @Jasondoesstuff and I officially get the keys to our new place on Wednesday and we’ll be moving everything over to the Oceanside condo by Friday.
Did you know moving is supposed to take years off your life? Apparently it stresses people out so much that it actually takes a physical toll on your health. I read that somewhere online last year as we sold basically all of our possessions and moved away from Florida to California.
Through that process, I was waiting for the stress of it all to hit us - the logistics, the “we forgot this” moments, the anxiety of leaving behind what was comfortable. But it never came. We packed, we let go, and we moved.
This time around has been relatively the same story. Even when it was getting down to the wire last month and we hadn’t found our new place yet, it’s like we both had this understanding that it would all work out.
So last night, while Jas and I were going over the moving play-by-play one more time, I did what any normal person would do when everything is smoothly going their way: I picked a fight.
I picked a fight about WARDROBE BOXES. Two of them, to be exact. I dug my heels in and I told Jason I wanted two wardrobe boxes to fit what little hang up clothes I had instead of our original plan of laying them flat in the backseat of our car.
It was so stupid, and I knew it almost as soon as I made my whole stink about it, but I couldn’t help myself. I think when things feel TOO easy, we humans tend to get suspicious. It’s like my subconscious was saying: “This is supposed to be stressful and hard! We’re not doing it right!”
Well, let me tell you, not everything has to be hard. Sometimes you can feel the ease and you can choose to trust it rather than get suspicious. I’ve come to accept that Jason and I are good at moving and it really can be as simple as that. No need to make it harder than it has to be. 😀
It’s been over two months now since I started this daily art journey, and already there have been all kinds of interesting twists and turns my daily practice has taken.
One big part of that has been the interesting shifts of my process and the #AbstractAffirmationsDaily “style,” which I’ve come to see transform in tiny blocks of time like seasons of the year. I’ll find myself painting in one specific look and feel which starts out so new and refreshing.
Over time (and with repetition) this relationship with a particular style deepens into a warm, comfortable routine, like when you finally settle into your favorite season and you can appreciate all it has to offer. Then, one day I’ll wake up and sense that I need a new season to begin again — I need a fresh perspective, a new process to inject my work with energy and intrigue.
That, of course, is when the fear comes knocking. The fear of the unknown, the fear of the uncomfortable. But with the fear comes the excitement and the possibility. I have a new fire to experiment, to work with different materials, to try untapped combinations.
That’s where this new evolution of work has come from. The layered style with its scrapes of color and rich textures of soft pastels and delicate but imperfect geometric webs drawn with ink… I’m in love with my work again. I have a whole new excitement to create.
But this would have never happened if I didn’t allow myself to create beyond what was comfortable. I would have never stumbled upon it if I’d stayed in the warm embrace of the season I was in, begging it never to end. I know my style is going to shift and flow many, many more times before this year of making is over and I absolutely cannot wait to look back at all the different variations my work will take on. It’s an evolution happening before my very eyes (and yours!)
SO my question to you tonight is: are you ready for a new season? And if so, how can you push just a little bit beyond what you know so well in order to expand? In order to evolve forward?
In love, in your work, in your home, in your life… in ALL of these, I truly believe that it is within our power to receive EXACTLY what it is we dream of if.
All we have to do is simply not settle for less. I have lived my life by this phrase, and it has brought me to more than a few painful impasses: ending relationships, quitting jobs, turning down clients and seemingly good opportunities.
WHY? Because a few years ago I decided I had a clear vision for what I wanted my life to look like: a loving, supportive partner who makes me laugh; a flexible schedule dictated only by me; a job where I get to use my creativity and help people at the same time; a home that brings me peace and contentment.
When I list these things out it seems so audacious, so improbable that one person should have so much good fortune. But I’ve proven to myself that it has nothing to do with good fortune and everything to do with working toward those ideals with my whole heart until I found them.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t times when we choose what’s less than ideal in order to make space or time or financial wiggle room for ourselves. And that’s perfectly okay.
But remember, your dream life IS out there waiting for you; you just have to decide that you’re willing to forgo what’s easy or comfortable or convenient in order to get it.
You get what you settle for, so don’t you dare settle for less than what you want out of life.
Today I was interviewed as a part of an exciting upcoming project featuring @jasondoesstuff. A producer was asking me questions about my past and what led me to where I am.
I’ve written quite a bit about my college and early adult years, which were full of realizations that ultimately led me to abandon the facade of my former “overachiever” identity in favor of a truer, more vibrant, CREATIVE self, but as I was recounting these stories to her, I realized that it’s been a while since I revisited some of those big moments in my journey out loud to someone else. The process of doing so transported me back to those few pivotal crossroads when I felt faced with a tough decision — a decision that asked me to choose a path that I knew might let some people down but that would ultimately be the best for me (quitting a job I hated, ending a relationship that wasn’t right, moving in with a crazy t-shirt wearing entrepreneur guy named Jason, etc.) As I spoke about these decisions though, it occurred to me that even when those choices felt scary and hard, they really weren’t tough decisions at all: I always already knew what I HAD to do.
In the midst of contemplating this, I popped over to @elizabeth_gilbert_writer’s FB page (which is how I get my fix in between her books) and saw this beautiful post from a few days ago with the big bold title: DO YOU ALREADY KNOW WHAT YOU NEED TO DO? Serendipity at its finest, folks! Liz explained (more eloquently than I can muster tonight) that: “I do believe that every single time in my life I have ever said in desperation, ‘I don't know what I should do!’ — in fact, I DID know what I needed to do. I was just too afraid to do it.” The same is true for me, and maybe it is for you to. If we listen hard enough, if we get honest enough, if we quiet our fear long enough, we can recognize that the answer is always within us, calling softly but fiercely for us to be brave enough to act on it.
This phrase has become a kind of unofficial mantra for @jasondoesstuff and myself when we talk about our beliefs around our work and our lives. With every day that goes by, I feel this statement seeping into my core more and more. Here’s what it means to me:
While hard work should never be underestimated, I think HEART work should be valued even more so. Heart Work to me is defined as the work you do because it calls to you from the deepest parts of your being. The work that lights you up, that comes from a place of MUST not Should, that radiates joy. It’s the work you put your whole self into. The thing you do that feels like you were put on this earth to do it. And when you invest in that, when you make the commitment to bravely follow THAT, when you refuse to get distracted by anything extending beyond that, AMAZING things can happen.
You can change lives. You can impact people. You can grow into a version of yourself that you never thought could exist, a happiness you never thought could exist. I started my business from scratch. No followers, no readers, no nothing. But I was SO clear on my WHY. I knew what it felt like to go from living a black and white version of my existence to a technicolor one, and I knew I wanted to help other people do the same. That’s my heart work, and let me tell you, it pays off every time I get an email from a mom who has rediscovered her creativity. Or a woman who gets the courage to end a relationship that was dimming her spirit. Or a person who finally decides to stop telling themselves they’re not good enough.
I’ve said it many, many times but I will say it again: there is no match for the unbeatable combo that is AUTHENTICITY and CONSISTENCY. If you have both of those — if you’re putting your true heart forth and doing it with persistence — then it is only a matter of time before you get to your dreams. Seriously. This mantra is about embodying both of those elements perfectly and reminding yourself: do it with heart, do it with grit and you’ll find yourself on a custom-tailored path on the way to contentment.
Sorry the post is so late tonight! @jasondoesstuff and I had a Skype double date that ran long with our buds @stephaniehalligan and @mattgiovanisci (okay fine, Jason and Matt were “working” and Steph and I crashed the party, whatever.) We had so much fun laughing and chatting that I almost feel more energized at 11pm than I have all day. It reminded me just how important it is to make time for like-minded people who energize you. You have to first *recognize* when that magic is happening, and then you have to be willing to follow it. To investigate it. To invest in it.
Which then got me thinking about another convo I had today about ideas. You know that feeling when an idea hits you and it’s all you can think about? It lights you up, it KEEPS you up. That’s the same spark of a different color. It’s our job as humans to pay attention when that feeling of excitement and vitality and ALIVE-ness strikes and then to TRUST ourselves to follow it. Because in my experience, that’s where all the best stuff in life exists — at the end of that spark. As an answer to that question of curiosity and delight.
So my question to you is:
What lights you up? WHO lights you up?
What makes you lose track of time?
What excites you so much that you see it in your dreams?
Ask yourself and then PAY ATTENTION. Learn how to listen when your heart is trying to speak to you. When you feel the spark? Follow it.
The past week or so I’ve gotten in the habit of starting my daily piece pretty late, around 5pm or later. While part of me likes this ‘after dark’ schedule because I’m able to take the experiences from the day and pour them into the piece, the other part of me decidedly does not like the pressure that comes along with waiting until the day is done still with a blank canvas on my hands. There’s a sense of strain that accompanies that tight timeline — it’s that thought of “I have to get this done today.” While I know that’s a natural part of a daily project like this and sticking to any commitment, I don’t like how the compressed timeline affects the way I view my art, as if it’s something to “get done.”
So today I tried switching it up. Today I gave myself SPACE.
I started this piece when I woke up this morning and I was able to come back to it several times throughout the day. Instead of waiting for the day to happen and then pouring its essence into a piece all at once, it’s like each individual layer throughout the day was a different memory, a different feeling to document, a different ingredient to add to the final recipe. As I expected, stretching this process out a bit led to a completely different perspective that I felt I’d been missing for a week or so. That feeling of breathing room, of having emptiness to explore and to wander.
It brought me back to the immense value of SPACE and, frankly, I don’t think we give ourselves enough of it. We keep trying to cram more and more into our days until every part of our lives is on this hyper-condensed scale where we’re just trying to “get it done.” But, if we’re able to slow down and stretch out, to leave nooks and crannies for discovery and play and rest, that’s when we’re able to truly savor all the moments and goodness our day has to offer.
So that’s my advice today! Slow down, stretch out, MAKE SPACE.
Since starting this daily art project, in the back of my mind there’s been this nagging thought:
“Okay, so I’m ready to call myself an artist. NOW WHAT?”
To fully embody this part of my identity that I can feel myself stepping into (and *have* been stepping into my entire life), I find myself searching for clarity on what exactly I’m trying to SAY with this work.
Part of it is a question raised in response to fellow artists that I love and admire. I see their names followed by the title “Fine Artist” and it makes me wonder: What is “fine art?” Does what I do fall into that category? Or is that a term reserved for those that meticulously plan their pieces & contemplate every stroke & only use the finest materials? Does it make my work less valuable because I create a piece every day or that I audaciously call them ‘complete’ whether I’m satisfied with them or not (a requisite for a daily project.) Is it still fine art if I simply let my heart flow (even if it results in something imperfect?)
So many questions, but thanks to an email from an MV reader today, I realized something: all those questions are examples of me letting other people’s rules govern how I think about my art. And I won’t have it.
What I’ve come to is this: I won’t limit the definition of my art to the final product that I create. Instead, I believe my art is in the UNFOLDING of myself (as @elizabeth_gilbert_writer would put it) as I create. It’s not WHAT I make, but it’s what the very process of creating is MAKING OF ME. That’s what I want to stand for as an artist.
Do I think it’s wonderful that sometimes people appreciate the end product that results from that process? Absolutely. But by my definition, it is not just the piece itself that holds the inspiration, it’s the model of the way in which it was created: with freedom, and love, and heart, and intuition and pure commitment to that inner authentic creativity that we ALL possess.
I’m done asking questions about fine art because ‘fine’ or not, at least for me, the ART is in the unfolding.
Boy oh boy are my hands tired. Today @jasondoesstuff and I spent our Saturday tackling two creative DIY projects for our new condo: repurposing our succulent wall and building me a new art supply organizer (which I can’t wait to reveal tomorrow!) It was hours of designing, measuring, wrapping, nailing, painting, assembling, and… MAKING.
Spending hours wrapping rope around the rungs of a fence (yes, fence) will give a girl plenty of time to think, and that’s all that kept popping into my head. “I’m MAKING this,” I’d say to myself.
This thing that started as an idea in my head, then a conversation Jason and I had before bed, then a plan in the aisles of Home Depot and now here it is and… “Holy cow I’m making it! With my hands!”
Today reminded me that there’s something so very gratifying about using your hands to create something new in the world. It also showed me the inevitable connection between our hands and our hearts. When you touch something made by hand, it’s like you feel the person’s heart that made it. You can feel the care and time and consideration that went into it. I think that’s beautiful, and I think we could all use a little more of that in today’s digital world.
So…build it, crochet it, paint it, knead it, sew it, hot glue it, weave it, assemble it….whatever you do, just use those hands. Use them to make something that didn’t exist before. You may not realize it at first, but when it’s done, you’ll look back and realize: it wasn’t just your hands that made it, it was your heart that made it too. 💗
I’m notoriously bad at returning messages. Every single one of my friends and family members can confirm this. I think it’s some combination of the fact that, as an introvert, I easily get absorbed into whatever I’m focused on at the moment and also the fact that I put off responding because I always want my replies to be thoughtful and thorough.
The same goes for email — I’m terrible at it! Today I had a huge chunk of my calendar blocked off to catch up my responses, but inevitably when I’m forced to prioritize work tasks, that’s the one thing that never gets top priority. Not to mention once I DO get through those important work tasks, the next thing I want to do is go outside and live or explore or rest, not stay strapped to my computer typing away.
I often find myself feeling really guilty about this lack of responsiveness, but what I realized today was that what I *actually* feel guilty about is not necessarily my lack of reply (I won’t apologize for choosing an afternoon hike over an afternoon answering emails!) but actually my lack of setting expectations. I don’t spend enough time telling friends, “Here’s why I’m slow to return your texts, it has nothing to do with how much I love you!” or letting the Made Vibrant community know “If you don’t hear from me for a week, it’s not because I don’t value your email or want to chat with you, I just need a reminder sometimes!” This idea, of course, goes way beyond emails and text messages. Setting clear expectations is an important part of building any relationship. I’ve spent a lot of time feeling guilty about this but my new approach is going to be to figure out ways that I can simply set better expectations and communicate those to the people I love!
While we’re on the subject — to any of you that have commented in the past with no reply, please know that even if I don’t see every comment or reply to each one that I so value the fact that you choose to share your time and attention with me! It’s something I’m working on! 💗
Today I felt like a complete NEWB. Laura (@westellamee) came over to help ship out the pre-orders for Collection I prints in the #MVartshop (🎉) and there were so many things we had to navigate together for the first time that it bordered on comical. Figuring out our shipping software, printing labels, bulk editing customs forms, coming up with a system for packing mailers… it was all so foreign and it took us more than a little while to really think through each step.
Once we had the first batch of labels under our belts, though, the next batch went faster and more smoothly, and the next one after that even better than the last. The entire process got me thinking a lot about how it feels to be a beginner.
We all know that feeling of starting ANYTHING for the first time — inevitably you feel slow and dense and lost. There’s no established process or path, just doing your best to navigate in the dark. BUT… the next time you step up to the plate, you don’t feel quite so green. You’re a little wiser, a little more skilled, and before long you’re flying through things that used to take an eternity.
Here’s what we forget when we’re in those early stages: everyone is a beginner at some point. We all have to start at square one no matter what the task is, and we have to remember that it’s only a matter of time before we start rocking and rolling. We see people who have it all together and we assume that was always the case. Not so!
We all have to begin somewhere and if we ever want to get past the awkward I’m-new-to-this-and-have-no-idea-what-I’m-doing stage, we must press on! When you notice yourself in those slow and careful early days, simply remind yourself to keep going. Show up enough and before you know it, what was once foreign becomes second nature! 😉
Today was one of those ideal kind of days. The ones where you feel capable and creative and light and free. I woke up and went to this quaint hidden winery by our house to have a piece of quiche for breakfast and start writing tomorrow’s art update email. On the way home I swung by a local coffee roaster to grab my favorite cold brew of all time, a concoction they call “One Bra-zillion Coconuts” (it’s so delicious I don’t add a thing to it and usually I have to dump a stevia packet into my coffee to even consider drinking it.) After that it was a work day full of alternating between writing, painting and preparing shop packages for our shipping party tomorrow. To take a break from the intense focus, Jason and I took a hike in the afternoon and then it was back to it once we got home. Sprinkled in between there were warm emails from MV newsletter subscribers, texts from friends, and the occasional YouTube video for kicks. When I look back on today, I can’t help but think: Why can’t every day feel this good?!
Now let me be clear… every day is NOT this picturesque. There are days I’m stressed or moody or overwhelmed. Days when things go wrong. Days when I have no energy or I feel like I’m being swallowed whole by my email. But today was a pleasant reminder of something to AIM for, and that’s why identifying your ideal anything is valuable.
Think about what a GREAT day would look like for you. What would you be doing? How would you be feeling? Where would you go? What things would you want to work on? Who would you want to talk to? By setting the bar for how we want each day to be, we’re able to recognize when we’re NOT having that ideal day and take actionable steps toward closing the gap between the ideal and the real.
Who knows, tomorrow may be a different story but all I know is that I’m so very grateful for today!
Today @jasondoesstuff and I had a tough conversation. It doesn’t happen often, but every once in a while we find ourselves in a bit of a conundrum, a decision that truly feels like a stalemate — one of us wants one thing, one of us wants another, and the resulting conversation unfolds with both of us trying to communicate our perspective as best we can.
These are the types of conversations that are never fun to have in the moment, but I’m ALWAYS grateful that they happen because that’s when we get to dig in and demonstrate our love in the way that we act. I mean, it’s one thing to talk about communicating effectively in practice, but can you actually call upon those lessons when you’re in the game and it matters? Can you really try to HEAR the person you love instead of jumping to defend yourself? Are you willing to speak from a place of generosity not wounded pride? Can you choose your words carefully and share honesty in a way that’s kind?
It’s not easy, but I think it’s in those conversations that every strong relationship is fortified. If you’re able to hang there, keep your cool, and make sure every word is laced with love, then ultimately when you come to a resolution, you’re stronger for it.
This also reminded me of a great podcast episode from @jessclively and @brenebrown that I finished yesterday on boundaries. Woven throughout their conversation, Brené talked again and again about how establishing boundaries is actually a way of showing love and how setting those boundaries or being honest with the people you love will often lead to hard conversations. I couldn’t agree more.
Remember, hard conversations are usually hard because there is TRUTH being spoken. And on the other side of truth and vulnerability is deep, meaningful connection.
So have the hard conversations. Find a way to connect even if it feels uncomfortable or exhausting or risky. Do it carefully, do it with love, and your relationships will be stronger for it.
Today was just one of those days when a thousand things came together at once: prep for the week, writing my weekly newsletter, paperwork for our new digs, contract for an upcoming collaboration, the list just seemed to go on and on. I’ve been trying to practice this idea of one thing at a time this year where I focus on one single thing that has to get done every day (for instance, today’s was supposed to be the newsletter.) But what happens when you encounter a scenario where a lot of things really do become urgent? Where you have to juggle lots of things at one time? A few years ago, I think I would have had a total meltdown. I would have snapped at Jason, there may have been tears involved, almost certainly a migraine. But today? Today I was able to apply my same mantra, the one where I was to focus on one thing every day, and use that same blinding focus mentality with my to-do list. I kept repeating to myself, “I got this. One things at a time.” There are always going to be times in our lives where we find ourselves staring down the barrel of a loaded to-do list. Where we feel pulled in a million different directions. The key is staying calm and realizing that the only way things will get accomplished is if you put your head down and tackle them one thing at a time.
Keeping it shorter tonight because truth be told I’ve got a raging headache and heavy eyes!
I had big plans for the weekend: catch up on delinquent emails (sorry if you haven’t heard back from me), get a jump start on the week, and spend the time in between curled up in bed recharging my batteries post-launch. Guess what though? None of that happened. Instead there was house-hunting, daytime road-tripping, and brunching with friends.
A year ago this might have stressed me out beyond belief. I would have been itching to get home to return to my work (I actually really love working on the weekends.) I would have said to myself, “There’s more work to be done.”
But you know what I realized today? There may be more work to be done, but there’s also more LIFE to be LIVED.
There is more world to be seen, more laughs to be had, more moments to soak in. And if you spend every day absorbed in your work, even if you love it as much as I do, you’ll become beholden to it, I state that I never want to be in.
My weekend may not have gone according to plan, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t go better than planned. Sometimes we just have to put the to-do list aside and get out there and LIVE.
Today’s message comes courtesy of my new friend Steph Halligan, creator of ArtToSelf.com. (If you haven’t checked out Steph’s daily motivational cartoons and new book, I highly recommend following her on Twitter (@stephhalligan)! She creates daily affirmations in the form of encouraging, clever and relatable cartoons!)
Steph and I were chatting last week, talking about your inevitable creative-solopreneur-related topics like fear, paralysis and indecision, when she said something that total resonated with me, something to the effect of: “It’s not about knowing the right thing to do, it’s just about choosing it hard.” Basically, it’s about GOING for it no matter the outcome. It’s about committing to a decision and moving forward with confidence.
This advice couldn’t have been more well-times when today Jason and I found ourselves in a bit of a pickle between two potential new places to live that we liked. Each one was so different from the other, each one had its own lists of pros and cons, and as we drove back to look at one of them a second time, I asked Jas: “If it comes down to it, how will we know the right one to pick?” Thankfully I’d shared Steph’s wisdom with him and he was able to remind me: “We don’t, we just choose one hard.” I smiled.
Without knowing it, I’ve been employing this advice with every hard decision in my life for years now. It can be incredibly comforting when you reach a crossroads in your life, or even on a smaller scale, when you feel afraid to move forward for fear of not making the optimal choice. If you just commit, if you just CHOOSE HARD, there really can be no wrong choice. You take a step and you don’t look back.
Thanks for the great advice, Steph! (Now go check out her book! 😀) ps. We did in fact choose one of our faves and we’re crossing our fingers we get to rent the place. Updates on that coming soon!
This morning @jasondoesstuff and I started off our day with a morning hike around the lake by our house. We were about a third of the way through the hike, not exerting ourselves too much but just enough to break a sweat and breathe a little heavily. On one particularly rigorous incline, I noticed myself holding on to the straps of my pack, staring at my shoes as I labored each step up to the top. I remember putting all of my focus into the climb to the top, sliding into an almost auto-pilot mode that had become familiar to me over the course of our previous hikes.
And then, about halfway up the hill, I lifted my gaze from my shoes, looked to my right and suddenly realized I surrounded by a gorgeous canyon and sprawling hilltops that seemed to go on for miles. Right there in the middle of the incline, I just stopped. I wanted to stare at the beauty, really taking it in.
Jason, noticing I had stopped moving, circled back to meet me and said, “Whatcha doin?” To which I replied, “This hike has become so habitual that I just forgot to pay attention.”
See, we’ve done that same hike over 25 times since moving here last April. While it’s always delightful to get outside and take in the scenery, I had begun to memorize every turn and every incline. Every moment of exertion and every moment of relief. The novelty of the experience had finally worn off to the point where I honestly forgot to take in the view with the gratitude it deserved.
But how often in life do we do this? We concentrate in on whatever’s right in front of us, whatever goal we’re tackling at the moment, and we simply forget to look up.
I think we can all agree that Ferris Bueller said it best: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.”
Take a moment this weekend to pay attention to what’s going on around you. To pick your head up long enough to appreciate every nuance of the truly miraculous things that might be passing you by. You won’t regret it.
Today I was moderating an online workshop @jasondoesstuff was co-hosting and someone in the chat posed this question: how do you keep coming up with new, valuable content to share in order to build your audience? This attendee clearly knows, as I know, that the key to building an audience or a following for your business is to attract a group of engaged people by delivering value to them on a consistent basis. But so much of the advice I see around this topic of producing content/audience building is that this value needs to come from a place of expertise. That the value comes from the knowledge or “proven methods” that you’re able to dispense, which no doubt can be daunting (as this workshop attendee’s question suggests.)
Positioning yourself as an expert or positioning the value you provide around your know-how can be great and it certainly works; it’s just not how I ever knew I would run my business. I’m a jack of all trades through and through. A perpetual novice always learning new things. I knew that building an expertise in one subject area would not only be a long-shot for me, the notion of it bored me to death.
So instead I decided to work with my strengths. I love sharing my experiences, it’s something that comes naturally to me. From the beginning of my business, all I’ve done is continued to teach myself new things and write about them to my audience. What I’ve learned in the process is this: our experiences are valuable. In some cases I would argue experience is even MORE valuable than knowledge because it’s real and tangible and not theoretical as some “strategies” can be.
I just hit send on a 3,300 word email about how I discovered a printing partner for the #MVartshop. The whole process of selling art as prints is something that there’s a surprisingly little amount about online, so I decided to walk people through the process as I learn about it. And I know there is PLENTY more where that content came from. How do I come up with new ideas? I live. I learn. I experience. And then I report back. Don’t forget there is immense value in your experiences.
Over the past week, I’ve probably done more “promoting” than ever before with the launch of the #MVartshop. This idea used to make me uncomfortable, like I was peddling my wares on a busy street corner. I never wanted to be that person that tried to shove my work or my business in other people’s faces. However, it didn’t take long into the journey of Made Vibrant to realize that if I was ever going to earn a living from my creativity, I was going to have to get over this stigma. That’s when I started to reframe the idea of promotion as another form of sharing. I asked myself, How can I SAHR#E what I’m working on in a way that feels authentic to who I am?
So many things I see online often pit art and commerce against one another: one is pure, the other tainted. One is good, the other bad. But I see it differently. I think being able to make money doing something you love is a beautiful thing. And if you’re doing work that you truly believe in, if you honestly love the things you create, why not give other people the opportunity to be a part of that… if they choose.
That’s why with every post or email directing people to the shop, I kept asking myself: how can I do this in a way that feels in alignment with who I am? How can I frame this as an invitation, not a directive?
I’m now in the habit of using this “lens of authenticity” to view every single aspect of my business. Whether it’s building an email community, hiring a team, collaborating with partners, creating an e-course… whatever challenge or opportunity comes up, I just figure out what feels right to me or what aligns with my values and it allows me to make peace between the art side AND the commerce side.
Whether it’s promotion or business or just a situation in life that makes you uneasy, try seeing it through the lens of your own authenticity. Try letting go of whatever preconceived notions you have and do things in a way that feel aligned with who you are. You just might surprise yourself.
With the launch of the #MVartshop, it feels like I’ve been spending more time than usual in front of my laptop. Last year I made it a point to start introducing more technology-free breaks throughout my day, partly in order to take advantage of the beautiful weather/scenery that my new state California has to offer, but also partly just for my sanity. Still, sometimes I get so focused in on moving my business forward that I forget to take those breaks. I forget to step away and take in all that the world around me has to offer.
So today, after hours of staring at my screen, when I could feel that all too familiar focus-overload headache coming on, I did something radical: I took a walk. @jasondoesstuff and I did a few laps around the neighborhood with the sun on our faces and the fresh air rushing into my lungs. Amazing how simple some remedies can be, isn’t it?
We live in a world now where we’re dependent on these glowing screens of constant information, validation and distraction. Who knows what it’s doing to our brains, but all I know is that every once in a while we have to step away to shake ourselves out of that zombie-like state and back to reality. As you read this, remember that technology, like any other addictive thing around us, should be practiced in moderation. When you’re feeling overwhelmed or over-connected or you start to feel those eyes glaze over, step away from the screen. :)
How do you define success? How do you define work? How do you define beauty? Or peace? Or what it means to be rich? Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how we define things, mainly because our definitions are the basic building blocks upon which our perceptions and values and decisions are manufactured. We define things to clarify them for ourselves and to categorize our world into bits of information we can process.
But what happens to our perception of the world when so many of our definitions get spoon-fed to us by society? Successful = Rich and famous. Work = Something you do when you’re not having fun. Beauty = Flawless skin and a flat tummy. The list goes on and on. Just take one moment to think about all the definitions we accept as objective fact that alter the lens through which we see our lives and ourselves.
Now imagine how things might be different if you got to write your own dictionary and define your world on YOUR TERMS. Successful = Living my values daily without stress. Work = Something fun I do that makes me money. Beauty = The intersection of vulnerability, love, and self-acceptance. Could these new definitions allow you to view your life in terms that feel more abundant? More everything?
When I notice myself feeling less than, it’s usually because I’m working out of someone else’s dictionary. I’m using their definitions to characterize my world. That’s when it’s helpful to remember that each of us gets to define our own reality. We determine what strength looks like, what success looks like and what happiness looks like. Next time you’re feeling less than, simply ask yourself… “How do I define ________?”
I’m not sure who said it first (certainly not me), but when I thought about what message about love was worth sharing on this day, this is what came to me.
Our culture puts so much emphasis on the *feeling* of love. Is he The One? Is she? Do you feel like it’s Love when you’re together? Don’t get me wrong, the feeling of love is a beautiful thing. But it’s kind of nebulous, isn’t it? Feelings are mostly resigned to the rich but ever-intangible world of our inner thoughts and hearts.
What I’m more interested in when it comes to love is less about the *feeling* and more about the ACTION. The verb Love. Because when you love someone (when you VERB love someone) you turn that intangible feeling into something visible, something material, something that can be received and felt and appreciated.
In my experience, most great kinds of love require WORK. It is an active emotion, not a passive one. I’m infinitely grateful to have @jasondoesstuff in my life who is not only my best friend and the person I spend all my time with, but also a true partner. And yet we both acknowledge that if the love between us is going to last a lifetime, we have to work on it. Just as we both evolve as people, the energy created between us must evolve as well. We can’t rely on this feeling of love, we must turn it into an EXPRESSION, one that exists outside ourselves through our actions.
While I’ve had my ups and downs with the idea of Valentine’s Day, there is one huge positive I see from circling a random day on the calendar and declaring it Love Day: it asks us to acknowledge those that we love and do something about it. It asks us to make our feelings seen and heard and felt by the ones we hold dear. And when it’s done free of expectations or ultimatums, I think that is always a good thing.
Love is a verb, so let’s do our best to make the feeling seen and felt by the ones we care about every day of the year.
One look around and it’s hard to miss it: it’s the weekend of love.
Why is it that we’re almost always better at loving others than we are at loving ourselves? If a friend screws up, we forgive. If a family member fails, we help them pick up the pieces. When we see someone else is in a puddle of despair, we are kind and compassionate and we come to their aid.
But when it comes to ourselves? We can be so damn MEAN, can’t we? We can berate ourselves for the 10 lbs we just can’t seem to lose. Or criticize ourselves for not following through on our commitments. Or wonder why we aren’t better by now at x or y or z.
Today I read a Facebook post by my absolute favorite, Elizabeth Gilbert, who discussed this treacherous barrier of self-hatred that holds back so many of us. She went on to explain her recent EXTREME LOVE EXPERIMENT in which she aims to combat these moments of negative self-talk. Today’s piece is inspired by this part in particular:
“I love all these dark parts of myself not because they are wonderful and adorable and perfect and fantastic, but because they are THERE. My dark bits are with me and they will likely always be with me. Just as your dark parts are with you and will likely always be with you. All that is there needs to be loved.” - Liz Gilbert
EVERY part of us needs love, you guys. And we have to love ourselves FIRST, before we can grow or strive or achieve or do, before any of that happens we have to make peace with the WHOLE person we are right now.
We are strange, we are imperfect, but we are always, always worthy of love. The good parts and the dark parts — we are made of all of it, and “all that there is needs to be loved.”
If I think back to just a few short years ago, I remember dreaming about being a full-time artist. Wow, what would it be like to wake up every morning and get to make things as a job? What would it be like to get paid for something that makes me so joyful? I thought about it, I dreamt about it, but I didn’t DO anything about it. Flash forward to today: I realized now that I spend at least an hour (if not several) every single day painting in my studio. That’s a time investment but to me it’s the best kind of investment because I love every second of it. I’ve woven art into the fiber of my everyday, and now I’ve made my artist dream a reality by committing to it on a daily basis.
Here’s what that level of commitment has taught me: Dreaming is easier than doing. Doing takes action and persistence and investment and grit. But doing trumps dreaming every time because it’s REAL.
If you love something, commit to it. Commit to taking actions that will get you where you want to go, doing something that makes you infinitely happy. Show this love of yours that you’re willing to hold up your end of the bargain. That you’re willing to show up and put in the work to make your relationship with your craft, this craft that you love, flourish.
I don’t know what I expected from today, but it’s safe to say I was not prepared for the level of love and support I received. “It’s just an art project,” I thought to myself as I hit send on the launch email this morning. Maybe it was that I had worked so hard to detach myself from the outcome or maybe it was just that I was blissfully happy to set a goal and conquer it, but I just didn’t have any idea that today could be such a magical outpouring of encouragement. So many of you emailed in congratulating me on getting the shop up and running. So many of you actually bought prints (!!!), grabbed them for friends, wrestled over which to buy (best customer service problem ever to help with!) and told me of your plans of where to put them. Friends I hadn’t talked to in years commented and shared the link to the shop.
When I really sit with the impact of this, for a moment I think it’s silly to feel like it’s all such a big deal — it IS just an art project after all 😉— but then a moment later I correct myself to acknowledge that it IS a big deal. Any day that you can put a piece of yourself out into the world — your thoughts, your emotions, an expression of your very essence, and instead of rejection and criticism it is met with warmth and acceptance and above all else LOVE, well that is a VERY big deal indeed. Today I experienced an immersion of what I wish the whole world could feel: happiness and acceptance for the truest expression of one’s self. We’re all afraid of rejection, I know. This fear permeates everything we do. But today was a reminder of how beautiful it can be when you say I WILL show up, I will be my whole self and I WILL share my heart, no matter what happens. Because I MUST.
What I learned today: Show them your heart and the *right* ones will reflect it right back to you. 💗
Tomorrow the #MVartshop opens for pre-orders, but it won’t *technically* be the first time I try my hand at selling my art… Nope, I actually experimented with selling limited edition “prints” back in 2014, a few months into opening my business. In those early days, I didn’t have an audience or a clear voice, but I thought getting paid to make art had to be the best job ever so I thought I’d give it ago. I created a few pieces of my hand-lettering, got them printed at, I kid you not, Kinko’s! — and I charged $10 a pop for them. The first design did okay (selling 10 of the 10 I had printed). But the second? After putting it up on my website and sending it out to my email list, the second design sold JUST ONE PRINT.
Truthfully, I was mortified. I took that response to mean my art wasn’t valuable. That I was a fraud. And so for over a year and a half, I let the disappointment of that experience prevent me from selling my art again. That ONE tiny failure created a mountain of doubt that I couldn’t overcome.
That is until Christmas when I realized I had put my art up for sale for all the wrong reasons. I was doing it for the outcome. I wasn’t interested in giving; I was interested in *receiving* validation. But I’ve learned a lot since then. No longer am I trying to create for an outcome. Yes, I would love for my prints to sell but it’s no longer about the validation; I want to do it for myself. To create work that is an expression of my heart and to offer up a part of myself to bring happiness and light to someone else. Today’s piece feels like a perfect reflection of my brain the past few days — chaotic and scattered but so bright and so joyful. Because I’ve finally reached the place in my journey where I’m no longer doing it for the outcome; I’m doing it for the journey.
Whatever that big scary hurdle is that you’re not sure you can muster the courage to overcome, you’ll be able to tackle it once you discover it’s something that’s worth doing even if you stumble. Do it for YOU and there is no such thing as failure.
They say “the truth hurts” and sometimes it certainly does, but ultimately I would argue the truth always heals.
Today, Jason and I had a workshop where we were able to share openly about our ups and downs with money the past few years. Even though it feels like we’re on the other side of the low points we had a few years back where my business was struggling and we had massive amounts of debt, I couldn’t help but remember that time when we let the shame of it all keep the truth hidden. On the surface we told ourselves we were doing fine, getting by, but underneath it was clear we were taking on water. We didn’t want to face it, didn’t want to admit that we’d let it get so far. It wasn’t until we were able to look the truth in the face, admit we were really unhappy and painfully in debt, that we were able to make real changes. From that moment on, the shame didn’t have power over us anymore and we were able to get out from under it.
This lessons stays with me. Our wounds need air in order to heal (thanks to my good friend Margaret Kelsey for this metaphor.) That’s what truth is to me: exposure. Removing the facade and exposing what’s real, even if it does hurt, so that the air and light can heal what’s been festering. Facing the truth ultimately relieves us of the heavy, heavy burdens we carry (sometimes without knowing it.)
Whatever truth you may be hiding from — be it finances or relationships or happiness or whatever — allow yourself to expose it so you can move forward and heal.
Do you just ever have one of those days? Those days where you just wake up on the wrong side of the bed and it throws your whole day off? It doesn’t happen that often but boy did it hit me today. I mean, I tried *everything* I could to snap myself out of it, but from the moment I opened my eyes, something just felt unsettled. I threw every perspective-shifting, optimism-wielding, jedi-mind-tricking, mood boosting strategy at myself… and yet I just couldn’t shake this OFF feeling. It was still running through me as I painted this tonight and it’s still running through me even as I type this.
I know I post a lot of positive messaging around here, especially through this daily project, and it’s because I believe in it. I truly want to show up as my brightest self in as many ways as I can, and I think we have far more choices in how we handle situations than we give ourselves credit for. BUT… I’m also a realist. And the REAL truth is, not every day is as bright as this painting. (And that’s okay.) BUT that’s what tomorrow is for. :) Tomorrow we get to wake up and try again. And that’s something.
I closed the door to my studio tonight and tomorrow I plan to return with fresh eyes, a fresh heart, and — hopefully —a fresh attitude. If you too found yourself feeling unsettled today, close your eyes tonight knowing tomorrow is a new day.
Imagine if we rooted for ourselves the way we root for our favorite sports teams.
I mean, I know I don’t have a TON of experience in this arena. (I’d hardly consider myself a football fan.) But I watched tonight like most everyone else and I couldn’t help but think how much we all care. We cross our fingers for our favorite team. We muster every ounce of belief that our guy will pull off the big play or come back to win. We hope, we pray, and we celebrate every single yard gained.
What if we all treated ourselves with the same level of belief? What if we invested as much in our own outcomes as the outcome of the big game? What if we were there for ourselves every yard, celebrating every completion, every inch of ground gained instead of listening to the doubt and the criticism and the inevitable “you’re not good enough” thoughts that creep in. What if we were fanatical about supporting *ourselves* no matter what?
I don’t know much about football, but I do know that it’s a game where everything can change in an instant. A true fan is the one who stands by their team no matter what, and I wish we all could be our own biggest, truest fans. To celebrate every yard, every inch, every moment until victory, and to be kind and supportive to ourselves in moments of defeat. To show up at game time ready to cheer until we go hoarse. To beam with pride when we take home the trophy — whatever it may be.
Whatever outcome you were hoping for tonight, just remember that every day is a chance to be your own biggest fan.
Oh man did I fight a battle with the tax monsters today. It may sound silly, but as anyone out there who has started a small business can attest, taxes are no simple thing to figure out. I spent my Saturday Googling things like “state nexus” and “retail license” and trying to translate state tax codes into some semblance of the English language.
These past few years have been a gradual climb toward “going pro” and now I finally feel I’m at the point where my business has its big girl pants on. I have a bookkeeper, an accountant, a federally recognized business entity (and all the paperwork to prove it.) You’d think by this point I’d feel a little more confident about all things legitimate. And yet, today as I was Googling myself in circles and sending desperate SOS emails to my accountant, I felt like I was back at square one again trying to navigate around in a foreign country…blindfolded. I felt alone and helpless and, honestly, kind of incompetent at times. “WHY doesn’t this make more sense to me,” I’d ask myself.
After hours of pulling my hair out, I was right on the verge of giving up on the whole thing. I figured I’d just have to trust all of this to the professionals and have faith in the people whose job it is to help me. But I just couldn’t do it, I couldn’t quit. I did not want this blip of a thing called taxes to beat me! So I kept reading, and I kept searching, and I arrived at some sort of understanding of the steps necessary to accomplish what I was trying to accomplish. Because it’s important to me that I have a grip on every aspect of my business, even if it’s not an area of my expertise.
I realized that, yes, some things in life are just plain complicated. We can spend our time wishing that were different, OR we can do our best to figure it out and press on. Hey, if starting a business was easy, everyone would do it, right?
So, whatever your hurdle is today, be it taxes or business or a whole slew of other challenges that exist out there for us humans, keep believing that you WILL figure this out. Just do your best with what you have and don’t let it beat you. You WILL figure this out.
One of the biggest positive changes I’ve seen in my life has been from letting go of my sense of urgency. I’ve always felt this need to do everything NOW, to have everything NOW, to live the future that I envision RIGHT NOW. In the past, it’s that sense of needing to make things happen like yesterday that has led me to overwork myself and over-program my schedule. At best it’s made me productive but exhausted and at worst it’s actually made me unhealthy and even physically ill.
Recognizing this, I made my word last year “savor” in an effort to slow down, soak up more rest in my life and give gratitude more often. Looking back I can definitely see how this small intention amounted to big changes in my stress levels and overall health, leading me to a version of my life that now feels much more balanced and sustainable. This year, though, I wanted to take that concept one step further by really limiting my focus to one single project at a time. I wanted to replace that sense of urgency with a deliberate pace that I could maintain.
It hasn’t been easy. Every day I think of a new project or new thing I want to tackle to reach my goals faster and to have all of my ideas come to fruition NOW. But that’s when I remind myself: there’s no need to rush.
There’s no need to run around with a false sense of insistence all the time. My ideas will still be there, waiting for me to give them my all when I’m most able. But the difference is that now I’ll be the best version of myself when it’s time to tackle them (not the burnt-out, stressed out version of myself that often comes from finding myself in a perpetual state of blitz.) I know we all have big dreams, and that’s great. But remember that on your way to accomplishing those dreams, it’s okay to slow down a bit and take in the view too. In fact, I would argue, it’s kind of the point. 😉
I try not to get distracted by what other artists or entrepreneurs are doing, but inevitably there are moments when I find myself confronted by the thought that I’m just one small fish in a very, very big sea. Usually this moment arrives when I, say, visit my Pinterest where I’m bombarded with a cascade of dozens of blog post images from other businesses or gorgeous artwork from artists doing it for longer and with more ease than me… (OR so the tiny voices say, right?)
And it can be easy in the moments to get discouraged and say to yourself, “Why even try?” It can be easy to become competitive or comparative, and to let those thoughts keep you stuck or, worse, never going after your dreams in the first place.
But guess what? There is an infinite amount of awesomeness to go around in this world.
So what if there are a bajillion blogs or a bajillion other whatevers in this world besides you… they aren’t you. As Simon Sinek says, “People don’t buy WHAT you do they buy WHY you do it.” In other words, they buy into your values, your beliefs, your personality, your history, your uniqueness. And since there is every flavor of human under the sun, every flavor of business under the sun has the potential to thrive if they can just connect with the right people.
When that scarcity mindset takes over for a moment and I start to feel like there’s a limited number of “You get to follow your dreams” tickets that the universe hands out, I softly say to myself: there’s room for us all.
Her success does not mean that yours is diminished. HIs body of work bears no impact on yours. My happiness does not mean there is less happiness for you, just like your accomplishments don’t exclude me from accomplishing my goals too.
Today I FINALLY sat down and wrote out a timeline for the launch of the art shop. (If you’re wondering when my daily pieces will be for sale, make sure you’re on the email list: madevibrant.com/daily. I’ll be sending out an email to those peeps first thing tomorrow with all the details.) I’ve been dragging my feet on getting a concrete plan together for weeks and making all kinds of excuses (other projects, travel, etc.) If I'm really honest with myself though, the excuses have been a cover. I’ve really been avoiding locking in a date because the thought of how many little steps I have to take to bring the whole thing to life has me more than a little overwhelmed. I’m learning that there are SO many more things to consider when you’re producing a tangible product, and I’ve been afraid to sit down and write the whole thing out, task by task.
Until today. Thanks to some newfound energy and inspiration from our recent trip, today I finally faced the scary monster of a to-do list. I wrote down every single little thing I could imagine standing between me and getting my artwork up for sale. I plotted out timelines. I emailed my printing vendor. I chatted with Laura about how the logistics will work. It’s not that I was less overwhelmed or less afraid than I was before when I was avoiding everything; it’s just that I finally realized there was no Art Shop Fairy that was going to appear from the heavens to come tackle it for me. I had to look my to-do list square in the eye and get my butt to work.
And that’s the deal. You can dream all day about the business you want but if you really want that dream to happen, you have to face the monsters you’ve been avoiding and you have to put in the work. It’s amazing how much more powerful I felt just by setting a date and writing down a list. Whatever project you’ve been holding off on, the one you keep saying you’re going to do, take the first step today because there’s just no way around it: if you want it, you gotta work for it.
Most of the daily pieces I share are created in my home studio on 24”x36” sheets of watercolor paper with a messy selection of acrylic paints. But that’s not the case today. This piece was created in my 8”x10” sketchbook with a Sharpie and Prismacolors, and that’s where my lesson on reframing comes in today. I knew Jason and I would be out of town, so I made sure to have a small arsenal of acrylic pieces built up (minus the lettering, that I try to add real-time) so I could share them on the road without bringing my whole mobile art studio.
Well, for a number of reasons, I ended up one piece short today, leaving me to create using only what I brought with me on the road. I won’t lie, I was bummed when I realized all I had at my disposal were markers and a few Sharpies. It felt so limiting. No sweeping brushstrokes to intuitively make or layers of color to surprise me with their emerging palette. Then I thought about it a moment longer and realized: this is not a misstep; this is an *opportunity.* This is a chance to see if I can get resourceful and create art that expresses my heart in a different medium/process.
All I had to do was reframe the situation -- to come at it from a new angle. Then I thought about how many times a day that simple advice can make a huge difference. When I dread working out, but I’m somehow able to look forward to it by reframing it as my time to myself, away from my computer. Or when I can’t get that one line of CSS to work correctly but I reframe it as a puzzle, like a code to unlock. Who knows if I’ll return to the markers, but you may see this switch up again if for no other reason than it reminds me not to take it all so seriously.
There’s no definition for what this project has to be. I only need to show up to the commitment I made and witness the imprint it leaves on me. Next time you’re faced with an unexpected challenge, ask yourself how you can approach it from a new angle. How you can reframe it into something that might turn out to be a positive.
To say that our afternoon was unexpected is an understatement.
After searching for rental properties in San Luis Obispo and coming up empty, Jason urged me to call one final listing for a vacation rental (an unbelievable place at the very top of a mountain in SLO and views of the entire city) on the off chance they’d be interested in a long-term rental agreement. “You don’t get what you don’t ask for,” he said (as he often does.)
That one phone call I made on a whim led us to Ryan and Anna, the two fellow entrepreneurial-minded and open-hearted people who admitted they don’t typically entertain long-term rentals but (on an equal whim) invited us up the mountain to see the place anyway.
What started out as four kind strangers making introductions somehow led to SIX HOURS of honest stories, life experiences shared, perspectives contemplated and tons of laughs! It’s such a rare and beautiful and unexpected thing when you find true, meaningful connection with people, especially virtual strangers. It reminds you of how big the world is and how small it is at the same time. And how great it feels to share our human experience in a way that makes us feel seen.
I honestly don’t know if we’ll end up renting the house, if it will all work out serendipitously in the end, but I do know it never would have happened if Jason and I didn’t stay OPEN to the possibility of such a magical encounter. And if Anna and Ryan weren’t OPEN to inviting two enthusiastic randos into their home!
Today’s newsletter was all about What Ifs, and I’m so glad that we decided to entertain the constructive “what ifs” that led us to such a random but unforgettable evening.
This world is filled with infinite unforgettable evenings if we would all just STAY OPEN to them. :)
The foundation of Made Vibrant is built upon this single mission: to help people live and work as the brightest versions of themselves. That is the single defining thread that runs through everything I do and everything I believe in.
But I’ll be the first to admit that there are days when even I am finding it hard to act as my brightest self. There are days when I’m moody or disappointed or self-absorbed or anxious, and all those intentions that I try so hard to keep at the forefront of my mind get drowned out by the immediacy of whatever the funk du jour is.
Today, for instance, we drove up the California coast to San Luis Obispo, taking in one of the most beautiful, scenic landscapes I’ve ever seen, but it happened to be pouring rain. Maybe it was the cold wetness (or my lack of coffee) but I spent the morning unconsciously matching my mood to the dreary weather. It took me until well after lunch to have a mental sit down with myself and to intentionally pull myself out of such an unnecessary rut. The turnaround didn’t happen right away (my moods are hardly that persuadable) but before long I was feeling sunnier (and coincidentally so was the weather.)
The lesson I learned was that I was the one that had to brighten myself up; I couldn’t rely on the weather or the circumstances or anyone else to do it for me.
Today’s piece is a little reminder that we’re all responsible for what lens we choose to see the world with. Even when the day is dark, wet, and dreary (metaphorically or otherwise), with a little mindfulness and a lot of effort, we can choose to brighten up. It’s never to late (in the day or in life) to come back to our most vibrant selves.
I’m a messy person by nature. This took me many, many years to be able to admit without shame because I feel like we’re taught to associate negative qualities with being messy: lazy, thoughtless, unproductive.
For me, my messy desk or studio space reflects the freedom I feel when I’m at my most creative. There’s a kind of exciting and abundant energy in chaos that my inner muse responds to. I love the feeling of having everything out where I can see it, my next artistic whim ready to grab hold of whatever’s at arm’s length.
However, that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate things that are organized or neat or beautifully succinct in their simplicity. Quite the contrary — for a long time I used to fight my desire for coloring outside the lines, leaving lines “unfinished” and the overall loose quality to my artwork. I wanted to be like the artists I saw with a refined eye and carefully curated marks.
But in trying to suppress this “messiness” of mine, I found that I was just stifling my voice by trying to be like someone else. I realized that the purpose of art for me is to give my soul permission to run around and play. To try things. To channel emotions or thoughts or momentarily feelings into something tangible. So lately I’ve been giving myself a lot more freedom to get messy. To scribble and scratch and scrape in whatever way feels right.
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but I’m finding that usually the messier my work is, the more connected I feel to it. Wherever you fall on the messy spectrum, I hope you’ll give yourself the space to revel in the fun that a little chaos can bring.
Last night @jasondoesstuff and I found ourselves in conversation with two strangers at a wine bar over a shared bowl of parmesan popcorn (classic Thursday night.) During our conversation, one of the ladies said something that stopped me in my tracks: “Conflict between two healthy people should bring you closer, not further apart.” I sat and thought about how true that was for a sec, and it got me thinking a lot about communication. While I try my very best to navigate my friendships and relationships with honesty and grace, the one place that I know I falter is in my defensiveness. When I begin to hear words that have the potential to hurt me — true as they may be — it’s like my missile defense shields are activated and I'm ready to protect at all costs, even if it means it’s impossible to receive whatever truth there is to be told.
This thought was still fresh as I watched The Biggest Loser before bed (anyone else cry every episode?) and one of the trainers, Dolvett, was confronted by his team. Instead of defending his training style or boasting about how many seasons he'd been on the show or telling them they were wrong, he simply and sincerely said, “I’m sorry.” He let them know he appreciated their honesty and that he would try to take their feedback to heart. It sounds strange, but it was beautiful to watch. Something that could have been a conflict or a stand-off turned into an opportunity to grow closer, just like that quote from my wise popcorn-sharing stranger.
So here’s a question worth pondering the next time someone comes to you with hard-to-swallow but lovingly honest truth: Are you proving to that someone that they can honest with you? That you can truly *hear* them, with your defenses dropped and your heart open? Because when we’re not too busy protecting ourselves at all costs, we actually have the opportunity to use conflict as a tool to grow.
The source of every idea I’ve ever loved has come from this directive.
The great irony of marketing is that we’re all trying to play by the same rules (“This will up your conversions! This will grow your audience! This will turn your blog into an automatic dollar making machine!), yet we all know the secret to getting people’s attention is by standing out. It’s a simple enough truth: you can’t stand out if you’re always trying to fit in. So, whenever I embark upon a new project or a new idea, I think to myself — how can I do this differently than it’s been done in the past.
The person who exemplifies this thinking more than anyone I’ve ever met is my partner-in-life-and-crime (but-actually-not-crimes-because-I’m-too-afraid-to-break-the-law), @jasondoesstuff.
When you’ve made a living wearing t-shirts, when you’ve gotten paid thousands to write your first book before even putting pen to paper, when you’ve sold your last name or even your FUTURE… you’re definitely doing it differently. (And making it incredibly difficult for your girlfriend to answer the question “what does he do?” in the process.)
He inspires CONSTANTLY to think about how to carve my own path and rewrite the rules of the game, and I’m beyond grateful for it. I don’t think I brag on him enough (because he doesn’t let me) but I at least wanted to acknowledge the impact he’s had on my life in the way that he encourages me to question the norm.
So tonight I challenge you with the same challenge Jason poses to me often. Whatever you’re working on right now, answer this question: How can you do it differently?
How can you go left when everyone else is going right? How can you carve out a space for yourself that no one else could possibly occupy? How can you be unapologetically, confidently, unquestioningly YOURSELF in whatever you're doing.
Whatever it is, do it differently, and do it with heart. Do that and people will have no choice but to pay attention.
Yesterday I shared a bit about one way I get myself out of a creative rut, but in terms of what catapults me into said creative rut in the first place… most times the entity responsible is that bossy little voice who desperately wants to be in charge: my brain. (Seriously, don’t you just wish you could shut the place down every now and then? “Sorry, we’re closed today! Come back tomorrow!”) If I’m frustrated and anxious, staring at a blank page, this usually means I’m trying to THINK my way through art rather than FEEL my way through art, which is only a recipe for over-analysis, doubt, and angst.
When that happens, I try my best to just immerse myself in the studio, crank up the tunes, and paint whatever comes from the heart. I don’t try to think about what colors would look good together or how to make it different from the last piece or, frankly, even concentrate on what I’m doing; instead I try to focus my attention on not thinking at all. In that way, the process becomes a sort of meditation that loosens me up, gets me out of my head and allows my intuition to take the reins. Finally, that bossy voice takes a backseat and the pressure is off. And suddenly I’m creating from the heart again and not the head.
Whatever it is you’re obsessing about, over-analyzing, rethinking, rehashing, or reworking for the twelfth time, let it go. Quiet your bossy brain and find your way back to your intuition — back to your heart.
Create whatever makes you feel good because in my experience, the soul knows way more than the brain could ever articulate.
Last week I found myself in a bit of a creative rut. I was hitting week four of this daily challenge, with the newness wearing off and the fear creeping in. Ideas weren’t coming and the whole process was starting to feel less joyful and more of a labor than anything else.
I knew this would happened. It happens in EVERY creative project I’ve ever started. The excitement of the beginning ends and then you’re left in the thick of it. Left to do the actual work. To prove to yourself that you love it even when it’s not new anymore.
So, what do I do when I’m feeling stuck? It’s actually pretty simple: I change. it. up.
The newness of the project might be over, but that doesn’t mean I can’t make it FEEL new. So that’s why I try to do. I try using new tools. Or experimenting with my process. Or writing in a new part of the house. Or at a different time of day. Whatever those variables are, if I can tweak them enough, things can start to feel novel and uncomfortable again, but in a way that invites the excitement and the mystery to return.
This past weekend I bought a few new paints, started trying out an entirely different schedule, and above all I changed up my approach: returning every day to whatever makes me enjoy painting the most.
If you’re like me and you’re finding yourself in a bit of a post-new-year-excitement slump, it’s okay! Just take today’s piece as your directive to shake things up! You don’t need a new year or a new project to make something *feel* like it’s new again. You just need a bit of intention and effort! 😉
Years ago I was at a conference where I heard a talk by Nathan Clark of Wondermade Marshmallows (wonderful guy, wonderful company.) Nathan pointed out an illuminating fact about human behavior when he explained that in so many situations we’re trained to GIVE based on what we GET.
Think about it… how many times in a relationship have you noticed someone pull back with their affection and in response you pull back yours. Or in a gift exchange you find yourself trying to price-range-match based on what you expect to receive. Or to treat a customer or potential customer based on what they have given YOU in the past. In a sense we’re used to having a reciprocal, proportional response when it comes to giving. Anything else just isn’t “fair,” right?
Well the problem with this, as Nathan illustrated, is that this type of thinking just leads to a race to the bottom.
Let’s take a relationship, for example: It begins with two people giving their ALL, until something happens and one person can’t give their All anymore so that person starts giving a little less — maybe just their Best. The other person, feeling this inequity, starts to give a little less too, maybe lowering it to their Best. It’s two people giving their Best, until the same happens and it’s two people giving A Lot and then suddenly it’s a Little, until both people have matched each other right down to the very bottom and no one is giving anything at all. This is the inevitable conclusion of giving based on what you get.
But, it doesn’t have to be this way. What if we re-trained ourselves to give MORE than we get. To look at generosity as though it were SUPPOSED to be disproportionate. That the very nature of it is to go beyond what you expect to receive, especially in matters of the heart. When we give MORE than we get, there’s only more to go around, not less.
Today I woke up and watched an awesome video of my favorite YouTuber, CaseyNeistat, snowboarding through the streets of New York.
Casey inspires me for so many reasons (his work ethic, his commitment to creating, his passion for filmmaking) but his snow day video reminded me of another reason I admire him: the guy loves to have FUN.
I couldn’t help but have a huge smile on my face as I watched him fly through Time Square being tugged along by his Jeep. I know it may sound simple, but FUN is definitely something I’m trying to keep top of mind these days.
A few weeks ago, Jason and I decided we wanted to commit to bringing way more fun into our daily lives and businesses. (We’ve since commemorated this intention with the catchphrase “Morefun,” pronounced like Mighty Morefun Power Rangers. 👊)
We’re pretty goofy to begin with, but sometimes we forget to let that goofiness pour over into our business decisions.
It’s easy to get caught up in doing things the way everyone else does them and sometimes we forget that WE are the ones that get to make up the rules. If we want to use phrases like “email mullet” (those who got last Thursday’s email, you know what I mean) or put silly gifs in our live workshop slides or include buried treasure in a podcast episode, there’s nobody who can stop us.
I have a habit of putting a lot of pressure on myself, and finding the fun is about neutralizing that pressure by making everything a lot less serious and a lot more joyful.
I encourage you to take a look at your own life or business and ask yourself how you can find the fun in whatever you’re doing. Whether it’s a dance party or a practical joke or some silly lines of copy, fun is a tool that is wildly underrated in my book.
Over time I’ve discovered that just about every aspect of my life exists in a state of constant undulation — things rising high and dipping low, back and forth, and back and forth.
I will push hard, and then I’ll need rest. I’ll feel inspired, and then I’ll feel blocked. I’ll find myself wanting to expand and stretch, then recoil and retreat. Each journey to one end of the spectrum teaches me to respect and appreciate the other.
I used to find this perpetual motion a bit exhausting, like I was always being swallowed up by a powerful wave in motion, never able to find a calm place to rest in the middle. That was until I learned to stop fighting the waves and instead befriend them. To trust them. To find comfort in the abiding truth that no feeling or mood, no high or no low, will ever last.
cInstead of fighting the laws of nature and resisting the tide, we can learn to let it carry us from one season to the next. We can act as co-conspirators with the tides, riding a feeling from one end of the spectrum to the next.
I find this especially reassuring in matters of creativity, when I inevitably find myself in periods of inspiration drought. While in the thick of it, it can be tempting to believe that the spark will never return. Thankfully, over the years, I’ve gone through enough peaks and valleys of inspiration to know that it’s never permanent. I’ll find that spark again if I just keep wading through it, doing my best to hold onto the joy until I do.
Whether it’s your creativity or your mood or your season of life, learn to trust that our lives roll in and out like the tides. There’s comfort to be found in knowing that no single thing will last forever.
A few days ago I just happened to open up an email sent by Danielle LaPorte with a beautiful piece entitled “All the things that softly kill me.”
She told the story of a moment recently when she purchased a calendar from a man standing on a street corner with a toothless, beaming smile. The interaction gave her pause and she felt a wave of gratitude wash over, causing tears to stream down her face. Then she said:
“My boy looked up at me, with pride, his eyes saying to me, ‘Oh mom, I love that you feel things.’ He did not say, ‘It’s okay, the man will be okay.’ Because we both knew he may not be very okay. And he did not say, ‘You’ll be fine, don’t cry,’ because he knows that I am much more than fine and that I cry all the time on street corners because of all the things that softly kill me.”
Those words, “I love that you feel things,” hung in my heart long after reading it. The past few years have been a learning experience in loving the parts of myself I used to feel self-conscious about, things like sensitivity and an open heart. There are still moments when I feel almost embarrassed that something touches me in a deep way or how often I want to just crack open my life to a stranger and peel back the layers of their story as well.
I needed to hear those words as a reminder that not only is it OKAY to feel things so deeply, but in fact it is such a GIFT. In those moments of overflowing emotion — whether it be sad or joyful or grateful or painful — that’s when I’m able to go beyond myself. To experience a world that extends further than the one I see in front of me every day. And I know not everyone can experience that, so I count myself lucky.
If you too are like me (and I know some of you are if you’re reading these long posts every day!), then I hope you don’t feel weird or alone in your depth. I hope you sleep well knowing that deep feelings are like miraculous jewels of our humanity, and that they should be treasured and esteemed as such.
I saw somewhere once that Elizabeth Gilbert, when asked what her spiritual practice was, replied by saying that she tries to “bring the light” into every encounter she has.
This phrase has never left me. I think of it especially in the times when I know I’m not being my best self. When I’m stressed, or defensive, or my feelings are hurt, or my heart feels heavy. We all know those moments, right? When we react from a place of fear or hurt and, not a moment later, we think: Who the heck WAS that person? Certainly that wasn’t ME.
Those are the moments when my brain thankfully conjures up this small and simple line, and I remember that I alone am responsible for the energy I put out into the world. In those moments of hurt or impatience or stress, I can choose to let my emotions rule my behavior or I can bring the light instead. I can walk into an uncomfortable situation dreading it or I can bring the light instead. When my feelings are hurt, I can hurt someone back in retaliation or I can bring the light instead.
In a sense, I believe this to be a beautiful act of service to humanity — to bring the light whenever possible, and to connect from a place of love, openness and generosity rather than from a place of judgment, narrow-mindedness and scarcity. Imagine a world where we were all eager to bring the light.
One major lesson I learned about myself in 2015 is that I have a hard time following through on things. It’s funny, it took me years to get over my perfectionist ways in order to finally put things out into the world (“done is better than perfect” and what have you), but in doing so I accidentally developed a habit of neglecting a very important part of the making process: the last 10% (as Jason calls it.).
When people say “Done is better than perfect,” no one adds the important caveat that the story doesn’t always end at “done.” There’s the follow through — the finish line beyond the finish line that involves wrapping it up or tying up loose ends or closing the chapter. Whether that’s testing your product for feedback, or proofreading your blog post or following up with your clients etc., I think it’s important to see your vision through to the very end.
One promise I made to myself this year, beyond committing to focus more on one thing at a time, was to also COMPLETE the things I focus on. To stick around for the follow-through. Even if that last stretch of the journey is a bit of a slog and way less fun than the enticement of beginning a NEW project or NEW idea, I want to put my head down and see it through. There’s the Muse and then there’s the work horse: both are necessary at different times in the creative process and both are valuable for different reasons. This year my goal is to pay slightly more attention to the work horse when needed and to simply finish what I start.
After nearly three weeks of this daily art + writing process, one thing I’ve come to appreciate is that I’m more attuned than ever to my thoughts and whatever daily insights happen to pop up for me throughout the day. I think I’m primed now, like I always have this open net in my mind waiting to capture a thought that’s interesting or close to my heart.
What I didn’t expect, though, was how many of those thoughts would essentially contradict one another: Push yourself further / Give yourself a break ++ Get going! / Let yourself rest ++ Play more / Do the work ++ Take control / Let go.
Each of these lessons is useful and valuable at different moments and for different people. Some of us have a tendency to let ourselves get away with too much. Some of us are too hard on ourselves. Some of us need a fire lit beneath us to go after our dreams, and some of us have been working too hard for too long. It all depends on the person, doesn’t it? It all depends on where we are in our lives and in our work.
All the advice in the world, all the affirmations, all the inspirational posters and quotes, these daily posts(!)… they are all to be taken with a grain of salt because no one can tell you deep down what you need to hear but you. That, my friends, is precisely why I’ve decided it all boils down to this: KNOW YOUR NATURE.
What I mean by that is, you have to be willing to enter into an honest, intimate relationship with yourself. You have to ask those hard questions so you can reveal to yourself your true values, your shortcomings, your pitfalls, your strengths, your personality traits, and your habits so that you can listen to the advice that will lead you to the best version of yourself.
By far the most valuable pursuit I’ve ever embarked on is the daily journey to get to know myself better. Because when the right message at the right time heads my way, I have the awareness to use it.
It may have been naive of me to think that I wouldn’t get swept up in the social gratification of a daily project.
But, if I’m being honest (and I always am), this morning I woke up and my first instinct was to reach for my phone and head straight to Instagram. Any comments to respond to? People to connect with? More likes than yesterday’s piece? Less?
WHOA. I’m grossed out even writing it, but it’s true.
Even with notifications turned off, even with the VERY little time I’ve whittled it down to that I spend on social sites, even on my most mindful days — I can still feel my brain urging me to answer the call of validation screaming from this handheld device. I truly believe it is the epidemic of our time.
As creators, the danger is that it teaches us to measure the worth of our creations in the rise and fall of an arbitrary number. And, what’s worse, as humans, it teaches us to measure our SELF-WORTH in the rise and fall of an empty number.
But it's difficult to examine because these dopamine-injecting platforms do bring so much substantive value to us. I love this community and I love sharing my work in a way that might serve as a positive influence for others. I also can’t deny that it fuels my business.
But, just as we must learn how to handle any addictive substance with care, I believe we have to learn how to treat social media with the same care. We have to remind ourselves (on a daily basis if need be) that we were whole before we started sharing our lives and work on the internet and we are still whole regardless of our likes, followers, emails and texts.
Today I’m reminding myself that I create for the process and not for the response. I create for the magic that happens in the making, not for what comes after.
I SO appreciate those of you who take the time to like and to comment here, truly, but today I’m reminding myself that my worth is not dependent upon it. And neither is yours.
As I held my position at the barre today, my fitness instructor cheerfully exclaimed one of her many encouraging expressions in an effort to challenge us: “Find your edge!” she said over the mic, a phrase I’ve become familiar with as I try, like many of us, to hop back on the fitness train.
In the context of class, this idea is a way of saying “Challenge yourself.” It’s a reminder to be aware of what physical limitations you *think* you have and to consider pushing just a little further, a little harder, in an effort to expand that threshold. In moments when I feel like my muscles can’t possibly go on, I try to hold on for a few more seconds and sometimes I succeed in surprising myself. I walk into the next class with a new sense of strength and confidence I didn’t know I had.
Today I heard that phrase and all I could think about were the “edges” I find myself up against on a regular basis - the perceived limitations (“I’m not ____ enough to do this”) or some new frontier that feels foreign and terrifying (selling my art for the first time). Whatever those lines may be — those edges that define our zones of capability and comfort — I think it’s important to be aware of them. To recognize when we’re afraid or hesitant or resistant to cross over them. Because by recognizing them, we’re able to consider what we might gain by pushing beyond them.
Now, that doesn’t mean we have to go beyond — some classes my muscles just won’t cooperate, just like some days I’m not really interested in expanding my consciousness (probably due to a lack of coffee). But when I do, when I step over those lines and beyond what I thought I was capable of, the fact holds true in life as it does in class: I always emerge stronger and more confident than before.
The danger in being the kind of person who wants to learn it, Google it, find it, try it, and D-I-Y it is that you forget sometimes there’s an easier way to find out how to do something. Sometimes it really is as simple as asking someone who has done it before.
This whole print shop thing that I’m working on is definitely one of the greatest challenges I’ve encountered with my biz yet (part of why it’s so enticing, I’m sure).
There are logistical question marks in every conceivable direction (paper thickness? shipping costs? managing inventory?), not to mention doubt and fear and all the run-of-the-mill “will anyone care” question marks too. There have been moments where I feel like I’m on some sort of blindfolded treasure hunt, fumbling around in the dark and guessing which task to tackle next in order to move forward. It's how I’ve always done things — the self-made way.
But, as I was reaching out to a few local printing partners to get quotes, feeling as though I had no idea what I was getting myself into, I remembered a lesson that took me months to learn back when I started lettering commissions a couple years ago: If you don’t know how to do something, JUST ASK.
I used to be so afraid of looking dumb or naive or like an amateur that I would just keep my questions to myself and hope to pick up bits and pieces along the way. Now I’ve realized that side-lining a dream because of the fear of looking (momentarily) naive is absolutely ridiculous. One lasts for a moment; one lasts for a lifetime.
I sent off an email to this printing partner with a bulleted list of 11 questions related to what I wanted to know about the printing process. They answered every one of them. No condescension, no ridicule — just honest help. From that one email, I’m now worlds closer to knowing what the heck I’m doing!
It’s a simple lesson, but a powerful one: If you don’t know, just ask.
One of the most common struggles that creatives often share with me is the fear they have of putting out work that’s “not good enough” or of moving forward with a project before it’s perfect. And my advice to them is always this statement, the mantra that has completely shifted the way that I approach my life and my business: It’s ALL an experiment.
Life is an experiment. Business is an experiment. So often we confuse *assuming* with *knowing.* We assume that people won’t like our art if it’s not this way. Or we assume people won’t buy our product if it’s not that way. Well, maybe they won’t… but there’s an equally likely chance that they will. You’ll never know unless you go for it. Taking this “experimenter’s approach” has gone such a long way for me in removing the fear of moving forward because I know that if something doesn’t work, at least I’ll have REAL data to learn from and REAL experience to aid me in future efforts -- not assumptions.
It’s also a fantastic way to shift my own measures of success for any endeavor. The goal doesn’t have to be whatever outcome I’m hoping for; instead the goal can simply be to run the experiment. If I do that, if I simply make the thing or launch the product or share the piece of art every day (😉) what happens after is less important than the very fact that I did it — that I ran the experiment in an effort to learn something.
Whatever you’re holding back on right now because you want it to be perfect, ask yourself if you’re doing so based on real facts or just assumptions. And consider the idea that the way we run our businesses and our lives is all just an experiment anyway — a matter of taking a guess, running the test, seeing what happens and then doing it all over again based on what we learn.
This is a mantra I continue to repeat to myself, especially when I hear the phrase “Dream bigger.”
Dream bigger is what conventional advice tells us. Shoot for the stars! Go for the gold! Aim for the million dollar business or the Fortune 500 clients or the best-selling novel. You can do it! I think this advice is well intentioned in most cases. It asks us to expand our idea of what we think we can accomplish, a notion I can certainly get behind. The problem, though, with dreaming bigger is this: bigger is not necessarily better. (In fact, in most cases it decidedly is NOT better.) Bigger might mean more recognition and adulation, but bigger often also means more pressure and more people telling you what they think you should do.
That’s why in response I offer up this slight variation: dream DEEPER. Peel back the layers of your own values and discover what contentment might *actually* look like for you. Search within for the definition of success that wasn’t prescribed to you, the one that you continue to write as you evolve. It might be a million dollar business, or it might be one that simply allows you to spend days with your kids and not worry about paying the bills. It might be to speak to a crowd of thousands, or it might be to host a local meet up where you can talk to each and every person that attends.
The point is, to say that we should all aspire to goals that have some measure of grandeur is to assume that we’re all the same people with the same values, and we’re simply not. So I encourage you with every dream you have to keep asking yourself, “Why do I want this? If I knew I couldn’t post about it on social media, would I still want it? What will I feel when I actually achieve it?” I’m not saying don’t dream big, I’m just saying that when you do, make sure those dreams are rooted in your own truth and your personal values.
I believe so much of what we accomplish in life can be attributed to one moment where we decided to press on instead of turn back. With any great project or goal or endeavor, there will inevitably be setbacks — things that were impossible to foresee, money that ran out faster than we thought, layers of fear we weren’t prepared to confront. But when those obstacles become so burdensome that we seriously contemplate giving up? That’s often when the magic is just about to start.
The only time I ever seriously considered giving up on my dream of running a solo business was the summer of 2014, my first year of Made Vibrant. I had maxed out my credit cards, money was beyond tight, and I seriously wondered at the time if I had what it took to build something sustainable. I went so far as to browse job boards of my favorite companies, really considering the pros and cons of reluctantly tabling my dream. Thankfully, though, there was still this burning Must that just wouldn’t let me quit, some sort of deep belief in myself that I couldn’t even consciously articulate. I chose to keep going. A month later things started to pick up and just three months after that I was on my way to being profitable.
Every so often I think about that decision and wonder what would have happened if I didn’t keep going. Who knows, maybe it was the act itself of being faced with the question and having to actively choose to persist that ignited a fire I didn’t know I had. Either way I’m glad I pressed on.
If there’s something you truly want and you’re at that moment now where the obstacles are mounting, keep going. If there’s still an ounce of Must in you that feels like you were meant to make it, do it, write it, finish it, explore it, build it… keep going.
It goes for business and it goes for life too — YOU get to make your own rules.
So often we let “shoulds” dictate our decisions. Things other people have told us that worked for them, things other people expect from us, things that are widely considered conventional or acceptable or wise, and we think those rules apply to us too. “I should settle down and have kids now because I’m almost 30.” “I need to scale my business and hire more people because that’s what successful businesses are supposed to do.” “I need to have X email subscribers before I can launch my first product.” “I should buy a house because, well, I’m old enough and it’s a good investment.” 👈😁 All statements that are made in an attempt to play by someone else’s rules. But guess what: nobody gets to tell you how to live your one and only precious life.
You are the owner of every second you’re granted, so you have the power to spend those moments living according to your OWN values.
You want to only work with people who make you belly laugh? Cool. You want to rent an RV and visit every single national park? Good onya. You want to sell a course for $20 instead of $200 or send out one launch email instead of 10 even though you’ve read 30 blogs that tell you differently? Well then more power to you because you’re a girl after my own heart. You want to travel the world making things until you find the spot that beckons you to put down roots? Right there with ya.
There are rules that make sense and there are rules that just don’t. All I know is… question every single one of them until you’re sure that the ones you’re playing by are the ones that are written by YOU.
As we start to sink into old routines and new ones, it can be easy to forget how miraculous it is that we’re here. That we get to wake up each morning and start again.
There were a few different occasions today when I found myself reminded — whether through a movie watched or a conversation had or an email received — that life is both stubborn and precious at the same time. It is obdurate and it is fragile. It is forgiving in some moments and it is relentless in others. But whatever it is, it is always a gift. Something that not everyone wakes up to receive. So whether it’s through a still moment in the morning or with heavy eyes in the evening, give gratitude. Always gratitude.
Whenever I come up with an idea, the very beginning of the creative process feels so pure. It’s all confidence and excitement and possibilities. As I develop the idea, though, inevitably there comes a point where the bold confidence of that first phase begins to crack, and the sturdiness — the certainty — of that initial idea begins to slowly erode. That’s when the noise starts to creep in. The voices of doubt elbow their way into the conversation in my head.
That point in this daily project came earlier today. Is this even good? Am I doing the work justice? Am I communicating my vision right? Doubt after doubt poured into my head and I kept butting up against these mental blocks with every stroke I attempted to paint. That’s when I asked myself where all that noise was coming from and realized it all came down to one source: comparison. All those tiny cracks in confidence were because I was comparing my work to other artists I admire, or comparing my work to my own expectations of taste (see: Ira Glass and “The Gap”), or comparing my work to some future evolutionary stage that doesn’t even exist yet.
Once I was able to identify where this wall was coming from, I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and I imagined myself lowering the volume on the track of chirpy commentary in my mind. I thought of yesterday’s post and reminded myself that my voice matters. The point of this project is not to emulate other artists or aspire to create work that my future self would create or to create museum quality work, it’s just to show up every day and to enjoy each step of the process without plaguing myself with constant self-doubt.
If you too find yourself at that point in your own project or process, that point where the noise starts to get to your head and steal the joy from you, remind yourself to turn down the volume, shut out the noise, and keep moving forward.
Who am I? Who am I to talk about creativity when so many others out there could do it more eloquently? Who am I to paint when so many others have been doing it longer and better? Who am I to share wisdom or advice? Who am I?
I’d be lying if I told you these questions don’t find their way to the surface of my mind occasionally. The doubts. The fears. The inner critics telling me that I’m not original enough or qualified enough or whatever enough to do what I want to do. And they might be questions that you recognize too.
When I find those questions popping up, I remind myself of this simultaneously humbling and emboldening fact: there is no objective truth in this world.
There are 7 billion people on earth with 7 billion different perspectives on reality. 7 billion tiny truths all adding up to our collective human experience. None of us has the answer, only our version of the truth, and that is the great equalizer.
Each one of us is equally worthy of sharing our tiny truth, of sharing our perspective on the world. Because among ALL those people, no two of us share the same unique lens. We’re all made up of experiences and feelings and values and proclivities that come together in a one-of-a-kind way. And in that regard, each of our voices is equally important.
As Liz Gilbert says, “Most things have already been done—but they have not yet been done BY YOU.”
Your voice -- your lens which with you see the world -- deserves to be heard just as all of our voices deserve to be heard.
Who am I? Who are you?
We are here, and we are worthy.
I love the word THRIVE.
To me, it encapsulates this distinct, complex state that no other word quite captures as well. It’s that feeling you get when multiple aspects of your life come together and suddenly you feel like you’re able to really shine. To flourish.
I always relate it to nature in that way — I think of thriving as cultivating a rich environment most conducive to growth.
Whether it’s eating foods that make you feel energetic and nourished, or taking quiet time for yourself if you’re an introvert, or creating morning rituals that boost your mood at the beginning of each day… do more of what makes you thrive. Do more of what leaves you feeling like your brightest, most vibrant self.
Jason and I both made this a priority last year, shifting our values away from “the hustle” and toward a much more balanced approach to our lives which left plenty of room for rest, nature, travel, adventure, creativity and inspiration — all things that make us thrive.
Whatever those things are for you, write them down, make time for them, and watch yourself flourish.
We’re just a week into the new year now and (predictably) I find myself with my mind on the future.
Where do I want to be a year from now? What things do I want to have achieved? How much do I want my business to have grown?
It’s a natural thing, I think, to want to use the novelty and excitement of a fresh year as a source of momentum for growth. Growth is good. Forward progress is good. Striving and stretching are good.
But here’s what I want to keep in mind, especially as this season of goal-setting is fresh in our minds: the time we spend achieving our goals (hitting the milestone, crossing the finish line, surpassing the revenue projection) is minuscule compared to the time we spend striving toward them.
And while those accomplishments feel great for a moment or an hour or a few days, it’s never long before our human brains inevitably go looking for the next challenge, the next milestone, the next goal. Whether the origin is societal or biological, being human often means being in a perpetual state of hunger. We want something bigger, something better. More this, the best that.
But, given how much relative time we spend playing the game vs. accepting the trophy, it’s important we remember to actually ENJOY the journey. I think it’s important we realize that it’s never really about the final goal, but the satisfaction it brings us to work toward the goal in the first place.
And, in that way, I like to think that the journey sort of IS the destination itself. To seek is far more important than to find, because that’s where all the excitement happens.
Anyway, just something I’m trying to remember as I approach the new year with all of these well-laid plans. That ultimately it’s not about where I’m going or even if I get there, but how determined I am to make it an enjoyable adventure regardless.
I have no curiosity for perfection. I don’t wonder at things that are flawless.
Am I impressed? Sure, sometimes. But curious… moved… touched? Those things I am not.
You know what’s beautiful to me? Things that make me FEEL something. Things that stir my soul, that pique my interest, that make my heart dance.
And, by that definition, what could be more beautiful than those moments that express humanity — imperfect humanity?
I love art that is imperfect. I love experiences that are memorable and unexpected and delightfully quirky. I love when people snort or declare their awkwardness or confess their own irrational fears over dinner and wine.
Because that’s what feels real to me. It feels accessible. Imperfection holds its hands out to you and says, “Everyone’s welcome here.”
It’s a natural instinct to want to hide our imperfections. We all want to be liked and accepted. We all want to protect ourselves from the pain of judgment or ridicule. But, take away our imperfections and you take away the most interesting, unique parts of us.
When faced with the opportunity to hide your (perceived) shortcomings, I hope you’ll think twice about withholding the very thing that makes you one-of-a-kind, because, in my opinion, it is also what makes you beautiful.
I know this phrase gets thrown around a lot, but when I painted this piece, the only word that the energy kept reminding me of was “joyful.”
It’s an important word to keep top of mind — joy — when you start to realize that life can often be filled with all of these decidedly UN-joyful things: stress, jealousy, exhaustion, disappointment, impatience.. the list goes on.
That’s why I think it’s the CHOICE that is the more notable thing to remember here. The notion that there is an alternative to living a joyful existence — a lot alternatives, actually, I just listed a few — and that, if left to our very human devices, we all have a tendency to slide slowly and unwittingly into the routine comfort of these less desirable emotions. In a weird way, joy can actually be hard.
What I mean by that is to say that joy takes intention. It takes effort. It is not our first and most automatic response to the situations that daily life often throws at us. And that, my friends, is why we must CHOOSE joy. To spot that happy, kinetic, satisfying energy wherever it exists around us and acknowledge its presence. And maybe, the more we spot it, the more it feels welcomed in our presence. The more it decides to stick around and stay awhile.
Let it go.
Your worry, your shame, your resentment.
Your stress, your fear, your self-doubt.
They are syrupy, heavy things.
They will weigh you down and stifle your joy,
so let it go.
Release your expectations, your burdens, your grudges.
The paths not taken, the loves lost, the ideas stolen.
Release the invisible clasps on the invisible cages in your heart
where you keep these things.
It’s exhausting watching over them, isn’t it?
Feeding them, keeping them alive, listening to the lies they whisper.
So let them go.
Let go of your failures and your flaws.
Embarrassments and imperfections.
Reasons you want to hide.
Let go of your need to keep up, to measure up, to level up.
If it isn't serving you or helping you or nourishing your soul...
Whatever is holding you down, holding you back, holding you -- that is, taking hold OF you,
just let it go.
And with that, become weightless, become effervescent, become free.
I wrote this poem (I think it’s a poem?) on accident in my notebook today as we drove to Texas. Whatever you need to let go of today, tomorrow, next week or next year, I hope the simple message rings in your ears.
Lord knows there are always more things I could let go of! Hope you enjoy!
“Play, which I would define as anything we do simply for the joy of doing rather than as a means to an end, might seem like a nonessential activity. Often it is treated that way. But in fact play is essential in many ways…Play expands our minds in ways that allow us to explore: to generate new ideas or see old ideas in a new light. It makes us more inquisitive, more attuned to novelty, more engaged.” - Greg McKeown, Essentialism
Funny enough, "play" is the very reason this daily project exists.
I imagined what it would be like if I took the entire month of December while we were in Florida to simply paint. Not for any reason or outcome, but simply to give myself a few hours a day to create for creating’s sake. And so I did. I spent as little time as possible on my computer and instead I got messy, made things (some pretty, some not), and I allowed myself to settle into that amazing, transcendent state where there is no time and no stress and no expectations — that state we call FLOW. Spending time in that kind of suspended happiness was such a restorative way to end one year and start another, and it ultimately led me to this project, a way for me to share my painting, my lettering and my writing all in one.
Now, I know not everyone has the luxury of “playing” every day for hours on end, but I think the lesson here still remains: we have to find ways to give our conscious minds a timeout so our subconscious intuition can take over. Ways to connect with the care-free spirit of our inner child. Ways to release the stress and the weight of our daily lives. Play is the answer to that, and even if it’s not for hours on end, I urge you to find 15 minutes a day if you can to make up stories, to build forts, to name constellations, or to make paper airplanes. To do something, anything, for the pure reason that it brings you joy. Though some might suggest it's an expendable part of our daily lives, in my opinion, it couldn’t be more vital.
Who will believe in you if you don’t first believe in yourself?🎨
...A powerful realization that came to me back when I opened Made Vibrant as a freelance design studio.
I still had a major fraud complex about being a self-taught designer (no design degree, not even practical design experience), and I was convinced that it was only a matter of time before every potential client exposed me for what I was: an imposter.
Until I realized that my own self-doubt was sabotaging my growth. No one was ever going to pay me to perform a service they didn’t confidently know I could deliver on. And that’s when I realized that confidence had to start first with ME.
So what do you do when you don’t feel confident? You cultivate it. You CREATE it. You build it with your own conscious mind. You wake up every day if you have to and you repeat to yourself: “I can do this. I am capable. I am talented. I am worthy.”
And you do that for as many days as you have to until it really starts to sink in. Give it enough time and I promise you, if you commit to speaking those words to yourself, eventually you will start acting in a way that aligns with that mentality. As Oprah says, “You become what you believe.” Experience has taught me this is true.
You may not feel this confidence now, but do whatever you must to remind yourself on a regular basis that you can’t expect others to believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself first.
"This is an invocation for anyone who hasn’t begun, who’s stuck in a terrible place between zero and one.” That’s how Ze Frank’s video “An Invocation For Beginnings” starts and when I embark upon any new project, those words always echo boldly in my head.
It is possibly the simplest, best advice I have ever received or ever will receive: JUST BEGIN. It will never be perfect. The planning will never fully erase the fear (despite our best efforts). We will never know unless we try. And we will never learn unless we DO.
So today, on Day 1 of this little year-long artist adventure, I want to remind you what I am reminding myself, the same thing that Ze Frank so poignantly ends with in his video invocation:
“There is no need to sharpen my pencils anymore. My pencils are sharp enough. Even the dull ones will make a mark.”
Whatever it is you’re dreaming of, whatever it is you want this year to be, I can assure you, your pencils are sharp enough.