27 Limiting Mindsets That Could Be Holding You Back Creatively & Financially

Back in October, some of you will remember that I sent out a long-form survey to get to know you guys better. I wasn’t interested in the typical stuff — how old you were, where you come from, where you found Made Vibrant, etc.

Instead, I wanted to open up a deeper dialogue. Things like -- What does success look like to you? What relationship do you want to have between your creativity and your income? What do you think is holding you back?

As I pored over HUNDREDS of entries, I felt l got to know each of you in a much more vulnerable and intimate way. (Thank you for sharing those things with me, by the way.)

Turns out that last question -- what do you thin is holding you back? -- was quite illuminating. 

I was struck by just how diverse and specific the answers were regarding the limiting beliefs and mindsets that keep us from our full potential. With every new entry, I felt I unearthed another fear that I myself had experienced, but that I hadn’t specifically identified for some time.

Which got me thinking…

It’s impossible to work to break through our limiting beliefs if we can’t first identify exactly where they stem from.

So that’s what I want to attempt to do in this newsletter. I went through all your responses looking for patterns and I plucked out 27 distinct mindsets or limiting beliefs that you all feel are holding you back in one way or another.

I want to encourage those of you that feel a sense of potential for your life beyond what you’re experiencing right now to carefully cull the list and write down which of them apply to you.

I’ve also shared some links to past articles related to some of these mindsets so if they call out to you, you'll have some actionable advice on how to work past them. (You guys know me... I can't just leave ya hangin' with a list of things holding you back without some direction on how to change them!)

Next week I plan to elaborate on this list by speaking specifically to those of you that want your creativity and your art to become your full-time income. If you're wondering why you're not making more money with your creative pursuits, step one is identifying these self-imposed limits below. If that step isn't taken, all the business help in the world won't solve a foundation that's cracked. So, let's start here, let's get honest about what habits and old mindsets have been deepening their grooves in our heads, and let's BREAK THROUGH in 2017.

(One caveat: some of these obviously overlap and share similarities, but I wanted to break them out into their most granular characteristics so that we can really see how broad the idea of Fear is and how it manifests in so many different ways.)

1. Lack of Self-Worth - 

"I don’t deserve good things."

I listed this first because it is probably the most insidious of all the following self-limiting beliefs. If we don't believe we're deserving, we're always going to be sabotaging the good things that unfold in our lives. This is work that takes time to break through, but once you truly believe you are enough and that you are deserving, it makes the rest of this list become a heck of a lot easier!

2. Lack of Confidence - 

"My skills aren’t good enough or I’m not unique enough to make my work valuable."

See this article: Confidence And Learning To Trust Yourself


3. Financial Anxiety - 

"I hate looking at or dealing with all things money-related so I just hide from my accounts and hope things get better."

See this article: How I Wiped Out $7,500 in Credit Card Debt in Six Months

4. Lack of Motivation - 

"I don’t feel enough of a catalyst to work towards my goals; I say I want things, but I struggle to take action to make them happen."

See this article: Is There A Secret To Sustained Motivation?

5. Overwhelm - 

"I have no idea where to start or what to work on."

See this article: Using Prioritization To Make Values-Based Decisions

6. Guilt of Success - 

"I’m holding myself back for fear of alienating a family member or partner."


7. Fear of Public Failure - 

"I’m afraid if I try things and fail, everyone will see me negatively."

See this article: The First Helpful Thing Failure Teaches Us


8. Fear of Success - 

"I'm afraid that if I accomplish my big dreams I won’t be ready for it or I'll have to sacrifice too much to get there."

9. Perfectionism - 

"My skills aren’t where I want them to be and my work is never close enough to perfect so I don’t put anything out there."

"An imperfect reality will always beat a perfect mirage."


10. Fear of the Unknown - 

"I keep myself limited because it’s comfortable and a lot less scarier than putting myself out there and not knowing what will happen."

See this article: Are Your What Ifs Helping Or Hurting You?


11. Fear of Commitment -

"I’m afraid that if I go down one path I’ll be stuck doing that forever and I won't be able to change my mind."

See this article: Are You Giving Yourself Permission To Evolve?


12. Lack of Discipline - 

"I can’t get myself to sit down and put in the work or stick to a consistent schedule."

See this article: Why It's Harder For Some People To Form New Habits


13. Self-Sacrifice Syndrome - 

"I feel responsible for everyone else (my family, my partner, my kids) so I put myself and my dreams last."

See this article: Re-defining What It Means To Be Selfish

14. Fear of Rejection - 

"I don’t want to go after projects that I want because I hate the feeling I get when people say NO."

See this article: How To Deal With The Pain of Rejection

15. Fear of Asking for Help - 

"I'm at max capacity and I know I need help in order to move forward but I don't want to feel like a burden and I have trouble delegating."

See this article: Why Is It So Hard For Us To Ask For Help?


16. Lack of Patience -

"I want to see the results of my hard work right away so when I don't see something payoff immediately, I quit."

"Give it time."


17. Second-Guessing Everything - 

"I’m afraid to make a move one way or another for fear I’ll make a 'wrong' move, so I waffle on everything and stay stuck."

See this article: Are You Afraid of Running Your Business The Wrong Way?

18. Over-Optimization Syndrome - 

"I need to know the BEST, MOST EFFICIENT, MOST EVERYTHING way to do something or it’s not worth doing at all."

See this article: How To Make Big Choices With Less Stress?


19. Need for Comfort - 

"I’m afraid to make any financial investments in my business or myself because I’m comfortable with the life I have right now."


20. Need for Struggle - 

"I tend to not trust things that come easily or that just flow."


21. Fear of Selling - 

"If I try to promote my work or earn money with my creativity, I feel it undermines the authenticity of the work."

See this article: Selling What Is True Over Selling What Is Easy


22. Fear of Judgment - 

"I care too much about what people think about me and it prevents me from doing anything that feels risky or vulnerable."


23. Lack of Self-Trust 

"I can sense my intuition sometimes and what my ‘gut’ wants me to do, but I don’t necessarily trust it; it doesn’t feel practical."

Watch the workshop: Connecting With Your Core


24. Lack of Focus - 

"I have SO many ideas that I end up making a tiny bit of progress on each one but never finishing."

See this article: Framing Your Year With Thoughtful Reduction


25. Lack of Expertise - 

"I feel like I’m good at a lot of different things but not great at any one thing."

See this article: How Do I Create A Brand When I Have Many Different Interests? 


26. Fear of Disappointing People - 

"My family or people I care about expect something different from me and I don’t want to let them down."

See this article: Do You Feel Pressure To Make Everyone Around You Comfortable?


27. Inflexible Idealism - 

"Everything I work on at all times must be 100% in line with the vision and values I have for what I want to do and who I want to work with."

See this article: Defining The Relationship Between What You Love & What Makes You Money


(One you won’t see on the list “Lack of Time.” Time is simply about prioritization so if you don’t “have the time” it’s because you’re not “making the time” and that means something else is filling up your days. The answer to why those activities are getting all of your attention is hidden in one of the items listed above. 😉 )

Your challenge this week is to identify which fears/beliefs/mindsets from the list above describe the challenges you face when navigating your own personal evolution.

ou can see just based on the fact that I've written articles pertaining to a majority of these topics that they are all things that have crept up on me at one time or another. Thankfully, though, by confronting them head on and taking steps to overcome them, I've been able to stretch my own boundaries and continually raise my own expectations for what's possible in my life. 

I'm hoping this list is the beginning of that process for some of you! 

Wishing you a limit-busting week!!


State of the Union 2017

Happy Monday, my dear friends!

Boy does it feel good to be back in your inboxes. The holidays were an amazing time to slow down and be present with family and friends, but given how much I love my work, a part of me has definitely been itching to get back to it!

We actually just moved back in to our place yesterday after two months of living in a temporary unit thanks to some flooding, and the timing has me even more excited about the new year since it feels like our place has become new again! I took the opportunity to finally deck out/cozy up my studio space, and I’m thrilled with how it’s coming along. I’ll be sharing more updates as it comes together over on Instagram, so check back there if you want to see how it comes together!

Last year I kicked off 2016 with a post idea that I stole from my friend Paul Jarvis titled “State of the Union, 2016.” To continue with the tradition, today I wanted to share with you guys the highlights from last year, what lessons I learned, and where I think this year could be headed. Let’s get into it!

What Went Well


It’s hard to believe that my obsession with acrylic painting originated only a year ago because it has become such a huge part of my daily life. At the beginning of 2016, I knew I wanted it to be the year that I really started to embrace my identity as an artist. I knew creating art was central to my core being, but there was a part of me that was still lacking confidence since I wasn’t “trained” as a painter. I knew the only way to overcome that insecurity would be to create A LOT of work, which is why I challenged myself to a year-long painting project, Abstract Affirmations Daily, creating and sharing one hand-lettered abstract painting a day.

Even though I wrapped up the project before the year was over, without a doubt I can say my “plan” to gain confidence and find my voice definitely worked. I don’t think you can go through that amount of paintings or spend that amount of time (around 400 hours!) without gaining confidence in a skill! I formed my own processes, experimented with all kinds of mixed media, changed up my style several times, and now I can look back on this huge body of work with immense pride and joy.

When I originally had the idea for the project, the business side of me wanted a way to justify the time I knew it would require (and the cost of my art supplies) so I wondered if I could sell prints of each of the pieces. That may have been the biggest surprise of the year with the Art Shop bringing in over $10,000 as a revenue stream.

Previously I had the notion that physical goods are hard to make any money on because of the low margins and high time/cost investment. I still believe that to be true but selling prints has shown me that if you have something people like and support and you’re willing to put in the effort and overcome the hurdles that pop up along the way, physical goods are definitely a viable (and fun!) business opportunity.

Color Your Soul

This was the other big win for me last year. Color Your Soul was something I had envisioned for over a year — a kind of hybrid monthly mindfulness subscription that was part community, part online learning, and part content/art discovery all built around one monthly theme.

Now, four months in, I can honestly say it’s my favorite thing I get to work on every month. I pour such love and care into every single aspect of the subscription, and I can see that come through in the responses I get back from subscribers. The biggest surprise has come in the form of the private Slack group that accompanies CYS. I’ve been blown away by the quality of conversations and connections forming there. It’s such a beautiful thing to see other soulful creatives sharing their insights and their challenges, getting feedback on ideas and helping each other. In a way it makes me feel grateful to be somehow offsetting some of the more surface-level interactions that social media so often facilitates.

Now that I have a few months under my belt, I definitely intend on trying to up my marketing game for this offering, mainly because I’m that confident in the experience it provides and I’m not sure I’m doing it justice by keeping it largely hidden from sight. Color Your Soul is definitely one of those things that for me blends art and commerce beautifully and I want to be able to show people you CAN actually earn a living off of some weird idea that is hard to explain. It may take longer and be harder to do, but it’s worth it.

I went back an re-read my State Of The Union from last year, and one of my goals for 2016 was to throttle up the intersection of creativity and personal growth in my work. Looking back at Color Your Soul and my Abstract Affirmations project, I feel I definitely followed through on that intention and it’s allowed me to carve out a little niche that feels 100% me. The fact that I am making a sustainable living doing that? Well I can’t ask for much more than that.

Moving to Oceanside

On a personal note, the best move I think we made last year was moving to a condo in Oceanside, CA. Finding this place is a perfect example of why I say “you get what you settle for” because we turned down tons of potential properties before we found this place, which we actually discovered by accident. It popped up on Zillow outside the general areas we had been considering, but with its modern style and location just two blocks from the ocean, we decided to check it out. I’m so glad we did because it only took us a day to snatch it up before anyone else could. Despite a little plumbing snafu that forced us to move into an empty unit for two months, living here has been beyond a dream. The natural light and panoramic views of the California coast have me waking up to gratitude every single day. I’m someone who draws a lot of inspiration from my environment, and I definitely think this home has played a large role in making last year so incredibly rich and joyful for myself and Jason.


I honestly can’t believe I’m even saying this but… 2016 was a good year for fitness. For years I’ve struggled to stay consistently active. I’d find something I liked (barre workouts, for instance), go all in for about a month or two, and then something would knock me off the wagon and I couldn’t get back on.

Around June of last year though, Jason and I made the commitment to start working out again together, despite the fact that working out as a couple has not worked well for us in the past. (Picture me throwing a temper tantrum because Jason told me to use heavier weights. It wasn’t pretty.) We joined a local gym here in Oceanside and stayed consistent for about three weeks when… the gym went out of business. Now, in the past I would have taken that as a well-timed sign form the universe that I am simply not meant to be “a fit person.” But, determined not to lose our momentum, we worked out a deal with our property manager to use the small “amenities” gym of a condo about a half mile walk from us, and we actually stuck with it!

With the exception of a few trips (many of which we actually worked out in hotels while on the road — who are we?!) we’ve been able to work out about 3 days a week. In no way is my health perfect but I feel really great about the slow, steady and most importantly SUSTAINABLE progress I made in 2016 to making it a real lifestyle shift. I still hate the gym, but at least now I have a love/hate relationship where I can see the benefits it’s bringing to my life, benefits I definitely want to keep making a priority.

Now… let’s talk about what didn’t go so well…

What didn’t go so well

Better Lettering Course

The proof is in the pudding, folks. If you neglect a revenue stream, it will show up in the sales. Better Lettering Course was my first online course and it has brought my business over $100,000 since its creation (that’s nuts considering it’s a $20 course!) But, in 2016, with my focus moving to painting and creating other courses, I no longer felt inspired to tend to that community and improve that low-priced course. Sales went from about $3,000/month at the beginning of the year to about $500/month in the last part of the year. I still am very passionate about hand-lettering, and I have a lot more to teach on the subject (including iPad Pro lettering and more digital topics that have become relevant since the course was created in 2014), so I have a plan to update and revive the course to give it new life. Stay tuned for that in the next month or so.

Being glued to screens

I spent way too much time on a screen in 2016. Even though I feel I was able to cultivate more balance in my work schedule by taking walks, spending time painting, reading, etc., the time I DID spend with my phone in my hand or in front of my laptop was not spent very intentionally. If I’m being honest with myself, I got way too sucked into the trap of trying to “keep up with” technology, which probably just stems from a place of not wanting to be left behind in my business. Too often I felt stretched thin, in a comparison mindset, and, honestly, kind of addicted to the validation of this little screen in my hand.

As I took a step back over the holidays, I was reminded that it’s not the amount of Instagram posts or one’s use of Snapchat that ultimately determines the growth of a business. It’s doing things differently and authentically enough that you create real connections with other humans who want to share your work. I’m going to do my best to remind myself of that in 2017. While social media can still be useful and fun, I want to make sure I’m keeping my usage in check.

What’s ahead in 2017


Last year Jason and I were finally able to pay off our debt, putting us in a position to spend more money on something we both highly value in 2017: travel. As of right now, we have three big trips planned for the year: a family trip to Asheville, NC; a two-week vacation exploring Italy with two of our friends who moved to Sydney last year; and a week-long trip to Iceland for a friend’s wedding!

To say that I’m excited would be an understatement. I think back to three years ago when we were over $100,000 in debt, living modestly and busting our butts to build the foundations of our businesses. These trips were just a dream at that point, but with smart saving, hard work and values-based living, we’ve been able to design a life with enough financial room for the things we care about.

ps. Jason and I also have a fun side-project to share our travel adventures in the future, so you'll be able to explore these new places with us!

More unconventional projects

While I love online courses as much as the next person, I really want to stretch myself to create more things that go beyond what’s typically seen in the online business world. I want to embrace experimentation, put aside my fear of failure, and try out some things that are a bit unconventional. I have no idea what this means specifically yet, but ideas have been brewing in my head for new art experiences, short films, interesting product pricing (like the Vibrant Stuff Bundle!) and fun software tools. I want to continue to challenge myself to create things that are beyond what you all are seeing out there in order to keep you (and ME!) inspired.

Learning to focus

Man, this is what I struggle with the most as a creator/business owner. I come up with a plan, but then I lose interest in following through when a shiny new idea comes along. I’ve enlisted the help of the self-discipline master himself Jason to act as a sort of project manager for me and to implement a level of accountability to my focus. Like anything that you want to improve within yourself that doesn’t come naturally, I think it takes time and intention to slowly shift those habits over time. Rather than declaring some resolution to focus more this year, I’m viewing 2017 as my year to learn how to focus, acknowledging that it will take time and practice to cultivate this skill.

More writing

It’s funny, I’ve been writing consistently through this newsletter for three years now and yet there’s a part of me that still struggles to call myself a “writer.” I see similarities in this lack of confidence with my hesitance to call myself an artist in 2015. That’s why I want to continue to make writing a priority this year, and i want to work to integrate this more fully into my identity as a creator. Could this mean there’s a book on the horizon? Who knows. You guys will just have to stick around to find out. 

My word for the year: LIGHT

Finally, for the past few years I’ve chosen a guiding word for the year and I know many of you do the same. In 2015 my word was SAVOR; in 2016 it was CURATE; and now my word for this year is LIGHT.

Here’s how I see that potentially manifesting in my life, though I’m sure it will change and take on new meaning as the year unfolds:


I find it interesting that for the past two years my words have been verbs, while “light” is more of a noun. That shift reflects a broader shift I’ve seen in my growth journey which is that the past two years I’ve been focused a lot on DOING, and now I’m sensing a move toward BEING.

I used to be largely focused on what I want to be creating and how I want to be creating it. But now I find myself more interested in how I show up in the world as a person, separate from the things I’m creating. Just an interested observation I thought I’d share!

Alright friends! That’s the state of things around here. I’d love to hear how your 2016 went — what worked? What didn’t? What’s your word for the year? Feel free to hit reply and I’ll do my best to get back to you. I love hearing from you all and getting to know you better.

Looking forward to another year of growing together and navigating this thing we call life!


People Won't Know What You're Capable Of Unless You Show Them

It’s no secret that possibly the biggest thing that holds so many of us back from making or creating at all is a desire for perfectionism.

We all want our work to be high-quality and fully-formed right out the gate, right? It’s only natural.

Thankfully, though, over the past few years, I’ve seen a shift in conversation encouraging creatives to overcome this barrier of perfectionism. This conversation has given birth to ubiquitous mantras like: “Done is better than perfect,” “Aim for progress, not perfection” and “Start before you’re ready” -- all of which is advice I can certainly get behind.

Personally speaking, perfectionism is actually something deeply rooted in my consciousness, being the over-achieving, academic kid that I was growing up. For the past six years I’ve worked to overcome this mental barrier nearly every day, trying to create and share my work despite the voice in my head that naturally likes to point out every flaw or short-coming or opportunity for improvement.

Today I want to share with you one specific mental shift that helped me start to make that journey from perfectionism-induced paralysis to prolific production (holy P's!)and it may just be one take that you hadn't yet thought of.

It starts with a story.

My first job out of college was at an advertising agency in North Carolina. The office was in an old renovated tobacco factory, with industrial-chic brick walls and polished concrete floors. There was ping pong and shuffleboard, dry erase marker frenzied across glass walls, and a coffee bar at the center of the office to work and hang out with fellow co-workers. It was the epitome of what I imagined was a “cool place to work,” and I couldn’t believe I’d snagged such a coveted spot.

But there was a problem — I was so eager to get my foot in the door of the advertising industry and this “cool firm” that I ignored the fact that the only position they had available when I graduated was in the media department.

In short, this meant I spent my days formatting spreadsheets, running banner ad campaigns, and fielding calls from media reps at niche financial magazines. (You see where I’m going with this, right?)

With every passing day, I could feel the walls closing in on the creative essence that I now know to be at my core.

I’d gaze longingly at the creative department that sat in the pod of desks nearby. I’d see them revising logo concepts and brainstorming wild campaigns and editing TV spots. I wanted so desperately to be there with them. Knowing inside the kind of creativity I was capable of and realizing that nobody else knew the potential inside of me inflicted on my heart a slow, desperate kind of suffering that’s hard to describe.

I would daydream about someone from the department marching over to my desk and asking little 22-year-old me: “Hey Caroline, I know you’re super creative and we could use a little extra brain power over here — can you come help us?!” It took me months to actually snap out of my delusion and realize: that is NEVER going to happen.

Why? Because I hadn’t given them any reason to.

No one will know what you’re capable of unless you SHOW them.

No one will know what you’re capable of unless you SHOW them.

That’s the simple truth.

In an interview I watched recently, Glennon Doyle Melton said this when talking about the feeling of envy:

“There’s nothing more painful than seeing someone else do something that you feel like you were meant to do.”

We’ve all had that feeling, right? You come across something another person had made and it HURTS. You don't want it to feel that way but you can't stop it; the envy creeps in. When that hot feeling of envy rises up in us, it’s usually because we’re actually mad at ourselves for not acting on the potential that we know is within us. We don’t want to feel the disappointment in ourselves, so we pass it off onto another person in the form of envy or jealousy.

Back in 2011, I was itching to start my own blog. I had SO much I wanted to say and share and create, but I couldn’t settle on a name and I had no idea how to customize my blogger template and I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to write about… so I just waited.

I waited for A YEAR. I waited until I finally paid attention to that hot envy I felt when I stumbled upon every favorite blog I saw, and I decided that it was time I stopped whispering to myself “I can do that” and I started proving it by putting in the work.

Again: No one will know what you’re capable of unless you SHOW them.

Don’t just expect people to sense that you’re a writer; start a blog or self-publish a book so you can show them.

Don’t just expect people to guess that you’re an artist; post those paintings on Instagram and show them.

Don’t just expect people to assume you’re musically gifted; publish those tracks to SoundCloud and show them.

Right now you might see sharing your work as scary, especially if you feel it’s not perfect. (Reminder: no one’s is.) You don’t yet have that perfectly cohesive Instagram feed or every page of your blog beautifully designed or each lyric of your song in its poignant beauty.

That’s okay.

Look at sharing your creativity less as evidence of your magnum opus and more as the first line on your resume showing others what your potential is.

With every new piece of art that you make and share, it’s like one more little beacon of proof showing the world (and, more importantly, yourself) what you’re capable of.

I guarantee you, if you simply BEGIN and you share consistently for just one month, you’ll start to experience the thrill of taking what is inside you that’s begging to be expressed, and letting it see the light. That is the soul’s ultimate feeling of freedom, and it’s better than any drug. (Full disclosure: I don’t like drugs, so that's an easy comparison for me.)

The truth is:

Imperfect freedom tastes so much better than perfect confinement. 
Imperfect reality feels so much better than perfect fantasy. (Because it's real.)
Imperfect progress is so much more satisfying than perfect stagnation.

Your challenge this week is to identify what potential is inside you that you’ve yet to share.

What are you capable of that you can start SHOWING today. Then, make that plan and simply begin.

The tools that are available to us as creators have never been more accessible or more plentiful. Get out there and use them.


Selling What Is True To You Over Selling What is Easy


Last week I released the final Color Your Soul issue of the year, the Wonder Issue.

As I was putting together the finishing touches — formatting the magazine, finalizing graphics, creating the daily challenge booklet — I found myself reflecting back on the evolution of this strange idea I had over a year ago.

My vision was to create a monthly mindfulness experience, a kind of peaceful, soulful and heartfelt alternative to a lot of the overwhelming content I was starting to see geared toward creative entrepreneurs:

I was seeing so many articles about how to DO more; so few articles on how to BE more.

So many people teaching you their blueprints on how to make, sell, and promote; so few offering you a means of self-awareness to write your OWN blueprint from scratch.

This weird hybrid subscription idea was hard to communicate, mostly because I’d never seen anyone create something like it. Kind of a membership community; kind ofan art experiment; kind of a digital magazine; kind of an online course subscription.

The form felt a bit nebulous, but the mission was always clear: cut through the noise to deliver insightful and inspiring content that would help people feel closer to their core selves.

The only problem, I quickly learned, is that people are already convinced they NEED the “how to do more” stuff. They are willing to pay for something that feels like an easy step-by-step process to a guaranteed return on their investment. (By the way, I know this because I consider purchases in the exact same way. What am I going to get out of this? Will my money be well spent? It’s a natural part of purchasing psychology.)

As it turns out, that makes promoting something like Color Your Soul a bit of a challenge.

Our little community has reached more than 50 active subscribers now, all of whom I’m so grateful for. But let’s be completely transparent here — the revenue generated by those 50 subscribers to this unique product is far less than what I’d make if I created the 124th “How To Succeed on Instagram” e-course. That’s just the truth.

I want to share that fact honestly with you all because I KNOW so many of you creative entrepreneurs are faced with the same dilemma out there:

Do I make/sell what feels EASY or do I make/sell what feels TRUE?

Ie. Do I go with the sure bet or do I gamble on a vision that feels uncertain?

Well, only YOU can truly answer that question for yourself and your business, but here’s the real heart of the message I want to hit home with you today: the fact that it is more challenging to sell something with deeper, more intangible benefits does not mean that it is impossible, nor does it mean it’s a bad business move.

If you gave me the option of standing on a street corner and selling Big Macs or selling a delicious and healthful kale salad, I know which of those options is going to be the “winning” business venture. The Big Mac is scrumptiously artificial and instantly gratifying. The kale salad? It may also be delicious (let’s assume it is) but its real benefit is in the nourishing impact it has on your health and your body. That’s a selling feature with a payoff that’s hard to fully communicate.

But you know what? When given the option, I will choose to sell the kale salad every time.

With so many Big Mac products already for sale out there — delicious and gratifying, sure, but ultimately artificial — I will happily challenge myself to continue to create healthful kale salads in my business because I want to continue to create things that are nourishing, both to MY soul as the creator and to YOUR souls as the recipients.

If something is not wildly profitable, that does not mean it is not worth doing.

If something is not wildly profitable, that does not mean it is not worth doing.

You have to remember that there are all kinds of different value metrics to measure when it comes to evaluating your ideas. Money is just one of them.

There are also things like impact (does this project help a lot of people?); growth (does this project help me grow in a way I desire?); and, my all-time favorite, whole-hearted expression(does this project allow me to express my core self in a way that feels good to my soul?)

Color Your Soul definitely fits squarely into that last category. What it lacks in highly scalable profits, it more than makes up for in the immense joy I get putting it together and in seeing the real, lasting change it creates for subscribers. I get to use SO many of my gifts and learned skills in one single project, and the final outcome is something that feels uniquely ME through and through. I would never want to trade that experience for something that is “easier” to sell.

We as creative (and soulful) business owners must come to terms with this: Some things are just simply harder to sell. And that's okay.

Oftentimes the things that are more pure of heart or enriching to the soul, they aren’t the things that people are convinced they need. But that doesn’t automatically mean they aren’t worth doing or that they can’t contribute positively to the overall economics of your business. That’s why it’s so important to establish your values as a business so you can see those more intangible benefits more clearly.

For myself and for Made Vibrant as a business, my central driving ethos remains to choose what is TRUE to my core over what is easy, every. single. time.

As we wrap up 2016 and you take a look at the projects you’re considering for the new year, my challenge this week is for you to take another look at that idea you have that you LOVE but that you’re afraid no one will want or buy.

It may not be easy to sell, but does it feel TRUE to your core? If so, could it be time to give yourself permission to go for it anyway? Will you look back and be glad that you went for the kale salad instead of the Big Mac? (If you hate kale salad, feel free to replace with the healthful treat of your choice.)

Running a values-based creative business is complicated stuff. It’s always a delicate puzzle determining which ideas are worth pursuing, which ones will bring you money (because there’s nothing wrong with earning a sustainable living), and which ones you want to tackle because it lights up your heart.

The fact is, the only person who can navigate that delicate puzzle is YOU. But I hope in pulling back the curtain just a tad and showing you that profits aren’t the only measuring stick for the projects I take on within Made Vibrant, that you feel empowered to see your creative business ideas perhaps in a new light.

Wishing you all a wonderful week!


Color Your Soul with WONDER and the December Daily Challenge

Holy cannoli, how in the world is it the end of the year already? 

It always sneaks up on me! Anyway, it's the beginning of the month and you know what that means... a new #MVColorYourSoul theme! (Not sure what Color Your Soul is? Read more about it here!)

As I considered topics for this last issue of 2016, I realized that I wanted something that might act as a counterbalance to the often hectic and stressful energy that the holidays brings. 

As Andy Williams says: "It's the most WONDERful time of the year..." and yet we run around like a bunch of chickens trying to buy up presents and nail down travel plans and hope that Aunt Bertha doesn't cause a ruckus at the dinner table again this year, and we tend to lose sight of the magic that's so available to us during this season. 

But that's true of every season, isn't it? 

More often than not we get so caught up in the hustle and bustle that we forget to slow down and see the beauty, the awe... the WONDER

So that's what I wanted to bring our collective attention to. 

This month, I want you to Color Your Soul with WONDER.

Inside the December Color Your Soul issue, we're exploring this idea of wonder through three different sub-themes all month long: AWE, CURIOSITY and DELIGHT. 

Which brings me to the December daily creative challenge: #WinterWonder30!

Join the December daily challenge: 


The goal with the #MVColorYourSoul daily challenge, as always, is to offer you prompts and exercises to spend just 5 minutes a day folding the monthly theme into your life. 

You can use the prompts to inspire photos, drawings, poems, journal entries, etc. -- just some creative expression sparked by the theme.

This month's daily prompts are in three sections — awe, curiosity, and delight — meant to help you explore WONDER in different ways throughout the month. 

If you want to share your creations or your insights on lnstagram, be sure to use the tags #MVcoloryoursoul and #WinterWonder30 to chat with other participants.

Here's the list of daily prompts:


While there's no prize up for grabs this month, I hope the challenge will still serve as a fun way to shake up your creativity and bring more Wonder to your holiday season. 


Get The Prompts in a Free Printable Workbook!

This month... the workbook is back! I've created a free PDF workbook that you can use to house all your daily drawings/journal entries etc. 

Remember, use the pages of the printable workbook in any way you like: as a journal to spend 5 minutes a day writing about each prompt, as a coloring book to create art related to the daily prompt, or simply as a visual reminder that you can pick up daily.

ps. Here's how to turn your PDF into a mini booklet like in the photo above! 

Step 1: Download the PDF using the button above. 
Step 2: Open the PDF using Adobe and select Print
Step 3: Select Booklet under Page Sizing and Handling. I chose to go with Both Sides and a Left Binding. 
Step 4: Wait for your pages to print and assemble your booklet using staples as your binding.
Step 5: Enjoy your mini coloring book/workbook all month long!

Whether you decide to share your work or not, the goal is to fold more Wonder into your daily routine. In this craziness of the holiday season, I hope these prompts bring a spark of beauty and magic to your life. 

Join the Color Your Soul Community!


Want to get access to the full Color Your Soul issue and chat about it inside our private CYS community? Get a Color Your Soul monthly subscription today! With your subscription you get: 

  • A VIP Slack community with soulful creative members to connect with and cheer you on.
  • Beautiful art for your various devices to inspire you and keep the monthly theme present for you.
  • Articles and insights to illuminate new breakthroughs.
  • Journal prompts in your inbox every Sunday to ask you those meaningful questions you have trouble carving out time to ask yourself.
  • New exclusive workshops and classes added every month to feed your curiosity. You get access to these classes FREE with your subscription!

Here's a little preview of this month's magazine!

The Clarifying Power of Regret

This week was Thanksgiving here in the states, so Jason and I flew back to Florida for the week to be with our families.

I spent the time away filling up on stuffing and mashed potatoes while simultaneously detoxing from social media a bit (both were equally satisfying.)

With all this happy family time, it might seem a bit odd then that this week’s topic of interest is regret, but in fact it’s this very topic that’s given me a new lens with which to view my experiences, including family holidays.

It first came to my attention as Jason and I were driving to the airport to catch our flight back to California. We were listening to an episode of The Tim Ferriss Show with guest David Heinemeier Hansson (also known as DHH, co-author of a favorite book of mine, REWORK, and co-founder of Basecamp.)

During this interview he made reference to something called the “regret minimization framework” which, as it turns out, is just a fancy term that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos applies to his approach to decision-making attempting to minimize that number of things he’ll regret at the end of his life (a framework that ultimately led him to take a chance on this crazy idea for “selling books on the internet.”)

I wrote this phrase down the second I heard it, mostly because I’m honestly so unaccustomed to thinking about regret and the very mention of it had my ears perk up.

I guess I’ve always thought of regret with a negative connotation. It conjures up some left turn in your life or event in your past (or perhaps post-tequila-shot decision) that you dwell on which ends up spoiling your present. That never seemed very productive to me.

I’m one of those people that believes every decision, every success, every failure, every path ends up leading you to who you are -- and really, making you who you are -- so what could there be to regret, I would wonder?...

But when I heard this term in the interview, it’s like I suddenly understood the idea of regret with a fresh perspective. I no longer saw it in the context of a present regret for a decision made in your past, but as a future regret for a decision made in your present.

In imagining a future version of yourself, perhaps even at the end of your life, suddenly you’re able to see more clearly which actions in the present support the deeper (often dormant) values that your inner core is longing for.

While considering this, I was reminded of a podcast interview I did with my friend Tiffany Han a few weeks ago and I remembered she too had discovered the clarifying power of regret.

When confronted with those big leaps that we often want to take but we're fearful of, she asks herself:

“Will I regret NOT doing this a year from now?”

Once faced with that question, it then becomes easier to sift out the difference between “I don’t want to do this because it’s not in alignment with who I am” and “I don’t want to do this because I’m scared.”

It’s funny though, whereas many people might find this idea of regret the thing that helps them get the courage to take a risk or conquer a fear or finally pursue a dream, in applying this to my own life, I discovered something altogether different and surprising to me.

I realized that my dormant values aren’t actually about expressing my creativity or stretching my boundaries; when I consider what I might regret at the end of my life, most of what comes up for me is about family.

As we rode along in the car on the way to the airport, I reflected on the Thanksgiving week we’d just had. Trying to balance my family, his family, seeing all my brothers and sisters, new nephews and nieces, trying to fit in a few friend visits. Trying to give everyone time, and attention, and yet still trying to carve out tiny pockets of self-care and introvert-crucial silence. And here’s the honest truth: it wasn’t EASY.

I don’t mean that necessarily in a negative way, I simply mean that when it comes to the routines of regular ol' everyday life that we cultivate, there’s a comfort there. There’s a rhythm. We know what our needs are, the needs of our partners, of our children or our pets, and for the most part, each day is simply our best shot at the delicate balance of meeting all those needs.

Family holidays, on the other hand, are kind of like an episode of Needs Gone Wild. There are so many more factors, so much more nuance and history and complexity that goes into the orchestration of all these various relationships coming together. And for me at least, all of that complexity comes with a little bit of unavoidable anxiety.

However, this lack of ease that I describe seems to fall away and the complexity matters so much less when I look back and frame the week around the context of REGRET.

I simply ask myself: Would I look back and wish I would have braved the uncertainty of the Needs Battlefield in exchange just a few more cherished memories with the people I call family? And when I sit with that question, I see the answer is almost always YES.

This “regret framework” allows me to peel away the subconscious label of obligation that family holidays often reflexively invite, and instead I can see them with a deeper perspective of gratitude and joy and even privilege. It may not make the scheduling or the navigating any easier, but at least I can bring attention to how lucky I am to have so many people pulling at my time and my attention.

And that’s the value that this whole idea of regret has brought me the past few days. It’s given me a new filter or test to hold my actions and decisions up against in order to get more clarity.

We can actually use regret as a tool for clarity in navigating life’s big decisions. 

We can actually use regret as a tool for clarity in navigating life’s big decisions.


The more I thought about it, the more powerful this idea started to become for me because it is advice that has the advantage of speaking to each person individually.

When you think about it, regret is actually a relative concept -- something that bends for each of us depending on what we value at our core.

So, the beauty of using Jeff Bezos’s “regret minimization framework” (we gotta get a sexier name for it, Jeff) is that for me, it might mean saying yes or making more time for family functions even if it means plucking me out of my comfort zone here at home because deep down I ultimately value family, connection, and shared memories.

For you, it could mean saying yes to that risky business idea even if it means overcoming your fear of rejection because deep down you value creativity and curiosity.

Regret is that rare concept that might exist in an ethereal space, but we seem to feel it and relate to it in a very tangible way. If you can tap into that not as a way of dwelling on your past, but as a way of ensuring the future that you really want, that’s when you can discover the clarifying power of regret.

Your challenge this week is to simply ask yourself: At the end of your life, what’s one thing that comes to mind that you think you’d regret not having done?

Bonus challenge: Go DO that thing. (Or perhaps take one baby step action toward that thing this week.)

Wishing you all a week filled with minimal regrets ;) and Happy It’s-officially-acceptable-to-listen-to-Christmas-music Week!


My 13 Ingredients For A Vibrant Day

I’ve never been the type of person to have one static daily routine.

I feel like I’m always testing and tweaking, adding and subtracting things to my routines in order to find new ways to keep myself feeling energized, focused and, well, VIBRANT.

Over the past few years, this has led me to all sorts of interesting experiments trying to optimize my day. I’ve tried things like meditation, morning reading, waking up earlier, waking up later, taking more breaks, the pomodoro technique, mid-day walks, ending my workday at a specific time… the list goes on.

Each tiny change did feel like it had an effect on the way my day unfolded, but none so much as the changes I’ve made recently. Over the past four weeks, I feel like I’ve finally arrived at a recipe for what leads me to a consistently good day.

And it actually starts with the realization that it has very little to do with the specific systems or tasks I integrate into my day.

Instead, I’ve discovered that the quality of my day is directly related to how many of my core values I put into motion.

Instead, I’ve discovered that the quality of my day is directly related to how many of my core values I put into motion.

In other words, it matters less WHAT routines I engage in, and it matters more WHY I engage in them. It’s less about the systems, and more about the values those systems represent.

Let me explain...

I know I’ve mentioned this more than a few times the past few weeks, but I’ve started a daily gratitude practice using The Five Minute Journal. It only take a few minutes a day and it’s incredibly powerful. It gives me an opportunity to bring more awareness to all the goodness in my life and to connect with my intuition before I start my day.

One of the most interesting discoveries from this new practice of mine comes from the final question at the bottom of every page, one that I answer each night before I go to bed:

"How could I have made today even better?"

This simple question has been a sort of revelation for two reasons: 1) it gives me a daily opportunity to evaluate what I would like more of and what I would like less of in my daily life and 2) I began to realize there was a noticeable pattern that emerged from the days when I honestly couldn’t think of a single thing I would have changed. 

Those were the best days, and after more and more of those days started popping up, I was able to ask myself: What things did I do differently on these days to separate them from the I-could-have-made-it-better days?

That’s where I started to see a pattern emerging. It wasn’t a list of specific things I did on each of my best days, but I did realize that there were things I did that fit within a specific list of VALUES -- values that (unsurprisingly) line up quite well with my core values.

13 of them, to be exact. And, let me just say, I know 13 may sound like a lot to you. But it’s not about trying to “cram” each of these values into an already overbooked daily schedule.

It’s about identifying what core elements contribute to you feeling like your best, brightest self, and then finding tiny ways to live out those core elements inside your existing habits.

Like I mentioned, maybe for you it’s about adding one positive action that aligns with your core values and subtracting one habit that detracts from your core values.

Either way, I think the actions we take day in and day out matter. I often talk a lot about big conceptual topics here in these letters, but every now and again I like to break things down into their most practical, tactical pieces so that you feel inspired with ideas you can use TODAY to start living a more vibrant life.

All that said, here is MY personal list of the 13 ingredients that make a vibrant day. I encourage you to write down your own list and maybe experiment with a few of the ways I listed below to LIVE OUT your values and put them into action on a regular basis. Enjoy!

Psst. At the end of this article, download your own free color-it-yourself daily checklist!


1. Gratitude - Did I practice (out loud or on paper) what I’m grateful for?

For me, it all starts with gratitude. Gratitude allows me to bring awareness to the things that already bring me joy and satisfaction in my life, which starts my day off on a happy and peaceful note (rather than a very reactive, stressful feeling which is often how I feel when I start my day with email or social media.)

Ideas for folding gratitude into your day: Taking 5 minutes in the morning to write down what you’re grateful for; using The Five-Minute journal; swapping gratitude texts with a friend; reciting your gratitude before dinner with your family; writing down 3 awesome things in your life before you go to bed at night.

2. Stillness - Did I take at least five minutes to be still with myself and my feelings?

I’m finding more and more that stillness or presence is a crucial element for getting in touch with my intuition and feeling connected to my core. When I take that time out to get into alignment before moving forward, it sets me up to have MY most vibrant day, rather than just reacting to all the shoulds that tend to pop up.

Ideas for folding stillness into your day: Starting a meditation practice; sitting with your morning coffee AWAY from a screen; finding a favorite spot outside to sit and take in the day; spending five minutes in stillness at your desk to get centered before your workday.

3. Intention - Did I set a goal or purpose for my day?

As someone who values flexibility immensely, I used to think that days where my schedule was wide open and my to-do list was nebulous might be my personal idea of heaven. Turns out, not so much. In my recent experiment, I found that days when I didn’t write down a focus or intention for what I wanted to accomplish that day (even if what I wanted to accomplish meant watching 3 hours of Gilmore Girls on Netflix, thanks Sundays!) I ended up feeling like the day passed me by. Days where I did set a purpose or intention gave me a loose-but-guiding structure which helped me feel focused.

Ideas for folding intention into your day: Using a planner to write down your to-dos, taking five minutes to block out time on your calendar to work on certain tasks; writing down one big task you want to complete for the day or one desired feeling that you want to work toward as a huge post-it on your desk.

4. Productivity - Did I accomplish at least one thing I set out to do?

Intention is awesome, but the even more satisfying part of setting the intention is actually following through with it. If I’m able to focus long enough to complete just one of the tasks on my intention list for my work, I feel pretty darn good about myself. If I lose focus and I let myself get distracted, I find that I don’t feel nearly as peaceful at the end of the day. Keep in mind though, “productivity” is less about feeling guilty if I don’t get everything done on my list and more about feeling good about taking one step closer to whatever my goal of the moment is.

Ideas for folding productivity into your day: Prioritizing your to-do list so you have one most important thing that you want to tackle; breaking down your goals into small and practical steps; giving yourself a small reward for getting your top priority task done each day.

5. Creativity - Did I make something purely for the joy of making it?

Expressing myself and using my creativity is simply what lights me up. Lucky for me I’ve built a business around using my creativity so I’m making things all the time. However, I’ve learned that I need to carve out even just the tiniest bit of time to make something NOT for any business purpose -- just for myself.

Ideas for folding creativity into your day: Spending a few minutes in a sketchbook; taking a break in between tasks to doodle in your planner; spending 15 minutes after the kiddos go to sleep to work on a new hobby; creating experimental art with new tools and apps on the iPad (this is me lately!)

6. Nourishment - Did I feed and hydrate my body with what it needs to feel energized?

I don’t know about you, but all it takes is one migraine headache and what started as a good day can go off the rails REALLY fast. And that’s exactly what happens to me if I don’t drink enough water -- I get a splitting headache and feel like calling the day quits right then and there. Similarly, if I go out for an indulgent and heavy lunch, it leaves me feeling lethargic and sluggish and it feels like the rest of my day revolves around debating whether I should take a nap or not.

But, when I drink plenty of water and nourish my body with delicious but healthful food, I seriously feel like I can run the world. I have energy, it’s easier to focus, and on top of all that I feel good about contributing to my overall internal well-being.

Ideas for folding nourishment into your day: Drinking at least six glasses of water (one day I’ll get to 8, but for now 6 feels like a win.); eating well-balanced meals that are energizing; keeping healthy snacks on hand; maybe limiting it to one glass of wine instead of two during the week. ;)

7. Movement - Did I move my body?

If you’ve been following these newsletters long enough, you probably caught wind of the fact that I HATE exercise. I loathe it. But that doesn’t mean I don’t recognize the value it brings to my life in terms of how much energy I have, how strong and confident I feel, and the overall calming effect it has on my anxiety. Lately Jason and I have found a rhythm and we’ve been able to keep up with a consistent schedule of exercising about 3-4 days a week. (Truly, you have no idea what a WIN this is in my book.) But, even on my “off days” I find myself now wanting to take a walk or do some yoga just because I view it as that time when I can get out of my head and into my body.

Ideas for folding movement into your day: Start your morning with a dance party; take a walk around your neighborhood; play tag with the kids; try a new workout class; do five minutes of yoga in your PJs first thing in the morning.

8. Laughter/Joy - Did I laugh and feel lightness?

Luckily I have a partner in life that helps out A LOT with this. Sometimes I get so “busy” though that I forget to build in time to have fun. Fun and laughter and joy can sometimes feel like such frivolous things, as though they’re inessential. On the contrary, I think they are SO essential to relieving tension and getting back in touch with our childlike inner selves.

Ideas for folding laughter into your day: Planning a harmless prank on a coworker; playing a game with your kids; doing a silly dance around your living room; watching a hilarious video on YouTube.

9. Delight - Did I do something for myself that felt beneficial to my soul?

We have to fill up our own tanks before we can give to others, and that’s what delight is for me. It’s doing something that might feel a bit self-indulgent so that I can feed that personal, core self. Whatever small delights makes your soul happy, carving out time to integrate more of those into your day can make a big difference.

Ideas for folding delight into your day: Walking the aisles at Anthropologie; drawing a bubble bath; listening to my favorite sing-along album; taking ten minutes out to snuggle with my pup; painting my nails; listening to my favorite funny podcast, making cookies for no reason.

10. Community/Connection - Did I connect with another human in a meaningful way?

Even as an introvert, the days when I spend a few minutes to reach out and connect with another human end up feeling more full and satisfying. For me, community is about so many things: it’s about not feeling alone in the world, like someone else sees and understands me; it’s about cultivating relationships that provide me with emotional support; and it’s just about getting out of my own head and bouncing ideas off another person. Some days that means just giving more attention to Jason and doing something that allows us to connect outside of our autopilot work-from-home routines, or some days that’s sharing a Skype call with a friend.

Ideas for folding community into your day: Calling a family member to say hello; having a meaningful email exchange with one of your blog readers ;); having a pleasant conversation with the kind barista at your favorite coffee shop.

11. Service - Did I help someone?

I love helping people and even if it’s a small gesture, I feel my best when I’m providing value or support or kindness to another person.

Ideas for folding service into your day: Holding the door open for someone at the grocery story; showing a coworker how to use a new tool; volunteering at a local charity; responding to an email inquiry of someone asking for advice.

12. Knowledge - Did I learn something new?

I’m a curious person by nature and there’s something so satisfying to me about learning something new. I love looking for opportunities to stimulate new areas of my brain and challenge myself intellectually.

Ideas for folding knowledge into your day: Listening to an interesting podcast; reading a thought-provoking article or long-form essay; taking an online class; spending a few minutes on a learning app (I’m currently learning Italian on Babbel.com!)

13. Nature - Did I go outside and experience the natural world around me?

Going outside is my simple cure-all for making just about any day better. Feeling present to the beauty that is around me and detaching myself from the screens that I’m constantly surrounded by helps me slow down and feel alive. Whether it’s the sun on my face, fresh air in my lungs or the sounds of birds chirping in the distance, it might sound cliche but it’s soothing to my soul.

Ideas for folding nature into your day: Sipping your morning coffee on your porch; eating lunch outside; taking a lap around the block of your office; having a “walking meeting”; tending to a garden; playing with your kids in the yard.


It may seem like a lot seeing them written out this way, but if my daily journaling has taught me anything, it’s that so many of these were already naturally a part of my instincts. This just gives me a new awareness to act on those instincts. And I love combining them too: I can block off a half hour in the middle of my day, take a walk down to the ocean listening to my favorite podcast, sit on a rock watching the waves for a few minutes and in that half hour alone I’m able to experience movementnaturedelight and stillness.

Now I want you to think about what those elements are for you. What’s YOUR personal recipe for a vibrant day? Is there any missing from my list that you’d add to yours?

This week I challenge you to write down your own “recipe for a vibrant day” list and see if you can integrate a small action in each category into your day for the whole week.

You don’t have to turn your life upside down, but my hope is that just by becoming aware of the tangible actions that bring happiness to your day, you may find a basic formula of values that you can use to boost the number of GREAT days you have.


Want to track your recipe for a vibrant day?

Here's a fun and free color-it-yourself worksheet. Download the version with my 13 categories or write in your own in the blank version. Track each element so you can see what you might need to bring more attention to! 

Re-defining Success Through Internal Validation, Not External Validation

On Monday I posted this little illustration to Instagram, which many of you (as in like… DOZENS of you) commented on with a collective AMEN and I figured that served as an indication to me that this topic might be one worth going deeper on:


When I posted that image, I remember the exact state I was in, and maybe it’s one you can relate to it.

Just a few moments before I had realized I was feeling uncharacteristically tired (typically an indicator something is out of sync), so I took a second out of my day to ask WHY? (High five for recognizing my Indicators; Double five for getting curious about it!)

Without realizing it, over the previous few weeks I had let myself drift back into an exhausting state of “success chasing.”

“Success chasing” is what I call the state where I’m fueled more by my desire for external validation than I am by my satisfaction with internal validation.

Success chasing is where the driving force behind my decisions, productivity, and general output comes from wanting to “achieve” something or be recognized for something rather than the satisfaction of creating something from my core self.

Now the trickiest part of success chasing is that it often disguises itself as motivation. And motivation feels like a very good thing -- it fuels us to go after our goals.

The problem, though, is when that fuel is coming from a place of lacking, ie. the distance between ourselves and that external validation we crave.

We see what we want. We realize we don’t have it. We work hard to get it. Right? Well unfortunately that particular line of logic also means that our work is stemming from what we don’t have.

That I think is what so many of you latched onto in that illustration. The world around us not only feeds us messages reminding us of what we don’t have, but it also makes it pretty clear there are a few traditional things we should have: million dollar businesses, big girlboss-y teams to nurture, and a rapidly growing fan base.

But... there’s an alternative.

There’s the fuel that actually comes from internal validation instead. From recognizing not what you want to have but how you want to feel. Not what you want the outcome to be, but what you want the process to be.

Instead of success chasing, it’s what I call creative satisfaction (satisfaction as in fulfillment, literally the opposite of lacking.) It’s that feeling that you’re designing your life in a way that’s deeply aligned with your values. It's a fullness; an integration.

And THAT feeling creates its own kind of fuel, a different kind of propulsion that isn’t rooted in a sense of lacking or deficiency. Instead it’s one that’s rooted in abundance -- an overflowing sense of joy and confidence.

Here’s a little diagram to show you the difference as it sits in my head (I'm a sucker for diagrams!):


Now how do these two types of validation relate to success?

Well, in our culture, we often label the external validation framework as the one that defines “success.”

Why? Because it’s the one we can see.

It’s the one that gives us things we can measure like money and followers and best-selling books and website traffic.

The other framework is much more personal and intangible. Oftentimes, the only one who can even identify it or quantify it is the person engaging in it.

But is there any reason that the second diagram shouldn’t still be a perfectly acceptable framework for success?

In fact, most of us would probably agree that out of the two, it’s the only one that’s really sustainable.

In the traditional version, the joke is actually on us because we never actually catch up to that nebulous benchmark of external validation. We experience tiny milestones along the way, but without cultivating a practice of appreciation, we end up staying in that “hungry” state, resulting in an excruciatingly endless hunt.

And the other framework? Well that’s the one I finally came around to with my revised definition of success in that first illustration.

I found my way back to it by reminding myself that every Monday morning I wake up with equal amounts of peace and excitement. No dread, no expectations hanging over my head, no orders to follow. I’ve reached a point in my professional life where I thankfully control every facet of how I run my business, and that includes NOT waking up on Mondays in a frenzy. It also includes making things I love, that I’m proud of, and answering ultimately to my intuition.

As a sensitive and creative soul who values flexibility, that IS my ideal.

What could be more successful than carving out a life for yourself that allows you to live your values daily?


And so if there’s one thing I want you to take away from this letter and my wacky diagrams, it’s this:

You get to DEFINE what success means to you.

Keep in mind though, if you do select Diagram #2 -- the path of alignment -- you WILL have to choose it over and over and over again. Your instinct WILL be to drift back into Diagram#1 and into the chase for external validation. You’ll want the milestone, the public pats on the back, that glorious feeling of being accepted into the tribe of humanity.

Trust me though, all of that will ring hollow compared to the glorious, sustaining satisfaction of being accepted BY YOUR INNER SELF every single day.

Last week I came across an interview of Maria Popova, founder of Brain Pickings, on 99u.com and this excerpt that speaks to this notion perfectly:

“...I frequently get emails from young people starting out and asking, ‘How do I make a successful website or start my own thing?’ And, very often, it’s tied to some measure of success that’s audience-based or reach-based.’How do you build up to seven million readers a month or two million Facebook fans?’ But the work is not how to get that size of an audience or those numbers. That’s just the byproduct of what Lewis Hyde calls ‘creative labor,’ which is really our inner drive. The real work is how not to hang your self-worth, your sense of success and merits, the fullness of your heart, and the stability of your soul on those numbers—on that constant positive reinforcement and external validation. That’s the only real work, and the irony is that the more “successful” you get, by either your own standards or external standards, the harder it is to decouple all of those inner values from your work. I think we often confuse the doing for the being.”

A few weeks ago I was gifted a Five-Minute Journal and since the Color Your Soul theme this month is Gratitude, I’ve been trying to cultivate a gratitude practice for the first time in my life. (ps. it’s working. The gratitude thing is for. Real. ) Every day the journal has a line for you to write your own "I am" affirmation, a guiding belief that you can repeat every day to yourself. As of last Monday, here's mine:

“I am ALREADY successful because I have designed a life that I wake up excited to live every day.”

This week I challenge you to redefine your idea of success and write your own “I am successful” statement, one that acknowledges the way(s) that you are already a success.

Remember, this doesn’t mean that you have to stop striving, stop wanting to be better, or stop trying to create a brighter life. It just means that you take a moment of gratitude for how far you’ve already come.

When you already feel successful, you move forward from a place of abundance, not scarcity.

When you already feel successful, you move forward from a place of abundance, not scarcity.

When you are fueled from that place of creative satisfaction, you’re striving from a sense of peace, not poverty; fullness, not famine. From a place of WANT, not from a place of need.

I hope this week’s letter has given you the permission you need to redefine success on your own terms. Be careful not to “confuse the doing with the being,” dear friends.


Learning To Dance With The Opposing Forces Within

Let's talk about... BALANCE. It’s a topic that weaves its way into our conversations a lot these days.

Balance between life vs. work. 
Balance between the hustle vs. the flow. 
The art vs. the commerce. 
The deep vs. the light-hearted. 
The masculine drive vs. the feminine intuition.

I find myself caught in the tug-of-war between ALL of these forces on. the. regular.

What about you?

My instincts tell me that as an intuitive, soulful maker, you too probably experience the constant push and pull of opposing forces like these.

For me, the struggle that plays the most prominent role on a daily basis is the one between wearing my bosslady, make-it-happen, business hat and my intuitive, sometimes idealistic, feel-it-out artist hat.

One moment I’ll find myself watching a video on Gary Vaynerchuck’s YouTube channel lighting a fire in me to tackle my goals with gusto, work harder with more focus, and to dream up new ways to grow Made Vibrant as a business.

Later that same day I’ll find myself reading a post from Liz Gilbert reminding me to return to my truth and to create whole-heartedly, without worrying about what everyone thinks or what will make me money.

BOTH people inspire me. BOTH messages speak to me. I find myself benefiting from BOTH perspectives at different moments in time.

But, instead of embracing this complex mix of inspiration, here’s what happens instead...

I find myself swinging wildly from one end of the spectrum to the other, convinced that no, THIS is the right side of the fence to be on, and inevitably I feel like I’m somehow cheating on the part of myself that’s still clinging to the other side.

“I need to embrace that I’m running a business here and not view my work so idealistically.”

“NO! I need to return to the purity of making and not put so much pressure on my work to be financially fruitful.”

NO this is right.

NO that is right.

And before long my brain and my heart feel like they're literally engaged in some epic version of tug of war.

It’s exhausting.

Then, after a couple deep breaths, I take a step back and ask myself:

What if it’s actually just somewhere in the middle?

We are complex humans with the capacity to hold all sorts of opposing forces within us at the same time.


Yes, we're makers AND business owners. We carry both masculine AND feminine facets. We believe in striving forward toward goals AND taking gratitude in what we have now.

The problem lies in our attempt to create false dichotomies where they need not exist.


It is not either/or, it is yes AND.

I’m a little bit of Garyvee AND a little bit of Liz Gilbert. I’m deep and light-hearted. I thrive on a mix of still satisfaction AND fiery forward-motion. My truth is somewhere in the middle of all that.

The distress and exhaustion of our “struggle” doesn’t actually come from traveling back and forth between the two; the distress comes from FIGHTING the urge to travel between the two. In pretending that either one is a static solution rather than a dynamic flow.

We have to learn to see this pendulum swing from one end of a spectrum to the other not as a struggle or tug of war, but instead as a DANCE. A waltz where the passage is fluid and purposeful and graceful.

When you lean into that pendulum swing and embrace it as aligning with one of the varied, complex parts of you (rather than fighting it every step of the way) you’re able to fully integrate all the complex parts of yourself AND benefit from the middle-ground that each one creates.

Our instinct is to place the world around us and ourselves into neat little boxes. Our brain takes comfort in the categorization of things.

But the more comfortable we can get with this squishy, uncertain middle ground, the more confidently we’re able to ride the inevitable waves of the creative process.

Sometimes the work that lights us up to the core is not the work that makes us money.
And sometimes what makes us money isn’t the most fulfilling work we do.

But I’m learning that I want to live somewhere in the soupy middle of the two, putting my business hat on when I need the financial wiggle room to create and putting my artist hat on when I need to fill up my soul. And sometimes, if I’m lucky, I may just get to wear both hats at once.

Your challenge this week is to write down a list of 5 “opposing forces” that you find yourself waffling back and forth between.

Then I encourage you to think about (or write about) how you possess both opposing forces WITHIN you and giving yourself permission to embody BOTH.


How To Embrace Experimentation In Your Creative Business

To start today’s letter, I have a few questions for you:

  • Do you ever feel like you TRY too many things? Like you have too many interests?
  • Do you ever feel judged for having a different vision every few weeks?
  • Do you beat yourself up over not being able to “nail down” or “button up” your creative business?
  • Do you have a million projects/ideas you’re juggling at once that you LOVE but the world keeps telling you to focus and pare down and it leaves you feeling like an amateur.

I hope some of you are nodding your heads hard because this is probably one of the biggest things I’ve struggled with as a creative, and I had no idea it was still an issue for me until recently.

A few weeks ago, I did a podcast interview with a friend of mine from the early early days of blogging, Kelsey Cronkhite of Pinegate Road. Kelsey and I talked about a lot of things (and I totally recommend listening to the episode!) but one tiny part at the end had me thinking long after we hung up.

When Kelsey asked me what particular mantra was guiding me at the moment (1:19:10 mark of the ep if you want to listen), the first one that came to mind was one that has guided Jason and I in life and business for years:


This simple phrase has always reminded me to keep a mentality of exploration and adventure as I approach both life and business. It reminds me of the importance of testing assumptions and pushing boundaries. You can’t always think or plan your way through things… you have to test and try and be willing to find out.

BUT, then Kelsey asked an interesting follow-up question:

“What would you say to someone who IS a planner. How can they go from that ‘wanting to have it all figured out’ stage to actually taking that first step?”

Without thinking about it too much, my answer was:

"You make experimentation a part of the plan.”

What I was trying to say was that experimentation CAN be purposeful and intentional and you just have to remind yourself that trying things is actually a more efficient and effective way to figure things out, rather than just thinking about something and making assumptions.

The funny thing is though... 

I desperately needed to reminded MYSELF of this advice.

As much as I still try to use the ‘life is an experiment’ mantra to guide me, if I’m really honest with myself, I still carry some kind of guilt around how much experimenting I do -- especially in my business.

Just in the past year alone with my business I’ve tried: a daily art project, selling art prints and originals, filming two new art classes, live paid classes, free email courses, redesigning my website, launching a monthly subscription, the list goes on and on and on.

The truth is I love to learn BY DOING. I love experimenting -- thinking something will yield a certain result but then testing it and trying it only to find it yields a completely different result.

So why then do I find myself feeling GUILTY over all this experimentation?

Why do I feel like all this experimenting should have led to some grand conclusion by now?

My word for this year was CURATE, and -- as our best-laid plans often tend to -- that hasn’t quite panned out the way I intended it to.

I think subconsciously I wanted this year to be some sort of “graduation” from trying so many things, not because I no longer wanted to try new things but because I thought I SHOULD be reaching that point in my business where things felt more stable, more concrete. Like it was all supposed to lead to some big moment of clarity and then I would continue on in a clear and methodical way from that point forward.

But I'm learning to appreciate the fact that, for me, I don't think there is some final destination of clarity. It's a mirage; a horizon line that keeps moving the closer you try to get to it.

And now that I’m thinking about it, if there WAS actually an end to all my experimenting, I would be so sad!

I love making exploration and discovery a part of my business. I love trying several different things and being surprised by the outcome. I never want to lose that.

So, thanks in part to the unexpected reminder from Kelsey’s interview, I’m taking my own advice and making experimentation a part of the plan.

I’m finding my own peace with it by making it intentional. I’m raising it up as a CORE VALUE in my business, and in doing so, I'm removing that guilt around needing to have some static trajectory or plan.

I never want to pretend to “have it all figured out” and when people think of Made Vibrant and of me, I want them to think of someone who tries a bunch of different things.

If the mission of Made Vibrant is about doing the things that light you up at your core, trying and learning and pivoting and re-calibrating and testing and exploringMUST be a part of that too.

No longer am I going to see myself or my business (even subconsciously) as flaky or chaotic or disjointed. Instead, I choose to see it as exciting, ever-changing, unpredictable in the best way.

Yes, there is definitely value in focus. I’ve seen the benefits of trimming back and editing down so you can be a lot more effective, but being focused and being experimental do not have to be mutually exclusive. Just ask any lean startup trying to get their business off the ground. In fact, a part of the experimentation process I want to embrace is the skill of letting go of a project or tactic once I’ve learned what I needed to learn.

So this week, my challenge to you is to look at your track record in a new light.

All the things you’ve tried, all the things you’ve quit, all the times you’ve shifted directions or hopped off one train and hopped on another -- I want you to see those moments as indications not that you are flaky but that you are courageous and well-rounded.

Experimentation in business doesn’t have to mean a lack of focus; it can mean courage and well-roundedness.

And, if you’re on the other side of things and you have trouble doing things in the first place for fear of having to switch gears down the road, fear not!

Make experimentation part of the plan and encourage yourself to do one thing today as part of your intentional, experimental process.

I think what makes having your own creative business so fun is allowing yourself to learn things by engaging in them. I think I forgot that for a while, but I'm grateful I've been reminded.

"Having it all figured out" is over-rated in my book. The fun is in putting the puzzle together, not in seeing the final product.


How Do You Know When It's Time To Quit?

Have you ever found yourself in the midst of a project or task and you wanted to quit?

I bet your inner dialogue started tossing out all sorts of motivational mantras to encourage you to push through. Maybe something like...

Keep going! Persevere! Follow through! Remember why you started!

All of that advice is immensely valuable in the right moment (and it’s certainly advice I’ve dispensed before)... but what if “pushing through” the task at hand is ultimately doing more harm than good?

What if persevering down a path is only leading you farther and farther away from yourself?

These are the questions I was asking myself two weeks ago when we were about to leave for our trip to Tahiti.

I could feel myself being weighed down by the various daily commitments and projects I’d undertaken. During our trip, I wanted time and space to myself to be present and to reflect, so I decided I wanted to stay off of Instagram and social media for the duration of our stay.

This posed a bit of a conundrum, because as most of you know, for 2016 I had committed to posting a different abstract art piece and message every single day of the year.

I considered the possible solutions. What was I to do, program my posts and publish them while I was on vacation?

Not only did that seem to undermine the authenticity of the project, but I also didn’t love the idea of going on the most freeing, beautiful vacation of my life only to have this daily “task” weighing over me.

That’s when Jason asked the question I was too afraid to ask myself: “What would happen if you didn’t post at all?”

It was the first time since January 1st starting the project I had actually allowed myself to consider quitting.

There were plenty of moments throughout this art project when I didn’t want to do my piece for the day. Maybe I was feeling tired, or had a splitting headache, or didn’t feel inspired, or wanted to do something else, but ultimately I powered through anyway because I knew that resistance was part of the process. I learned a lot about myself and what I’m capable of in committing to push past that resistance.

But this road block felt different.

It felt like I had arrived at a moment in the project when every ounce of my original intention was no longer there.

In the beginning, my mission for undertaking such an ambitious commitment was essentially this list of things:

  • To develop my confidence when it came to painting and my own point of view as an artist
  • To commit to carving out time for creativity and make it a habitual part of my daily life
  • To push myself to explore new boundaries and share my art, even if it felt imperfect

But now, 10 months later, my confidence had been built, my creative practice had become a habit, and I have no problem exploring the boundaries of my creativity or sharing imperfect work.

So, if these original intentions had been met, what was the project about now?

I realized that the project was no longer about creating; the project had become about NOT quitting.

It had become about what other people would think if I didn't make it to day 366. What it might say about me if I didn’t follow through.

Liz Gilbert in a podcast episode once said something I'll never forget:

“Anything that doesn’t taste like freedom is not your path.”

This project stopped tasting like freedom and started tasting likeobligation. Once I realized that, I knew that was my cue to make the hard choice and, yes, QUIT.

It was such a difficult decision to make, and yet once I saw it as a possibility, it was the easiest decision to make too because I saw it as a path back to freedom.

During my delightful week of vacation (away from social media, away from my studio, just present to the experience at hand), upon Jason’s recommendation I picked up the book “The Dip” by Seth Godin. Here’s a quote I love that feels especially appropriate:

“Most of the time, we deal with the obstacles by persevering. Sometimes we get discouraged and turn to inspiration writing, like stuff from Vince Lombardi: ‘Quitters never win and winners never quit.’ Bad advice. Winners quit all the time. They just quit the right stuff at the right time.

The truth is, quitting things allows you to make room for other things. It allows you to reallocate precious resources, like your mental space and your time.

Now that this project has taught me what I wanted to learn, I’m ready to use that time and space for things that feel more valuable to this current version of myself.

What’s funny about this whole project as I think back to December of last year making the scary declaration that I was going to do a year-long project, my biggest fear was that I wouldn’t finish it. That I would quit. I was so terrified of putting myself in a position to look like a flake.

The irony though is that, in quitting -- in basically realizing my “greatest fear” -- I’ve also realized the baselessness of that fear.

Just because I stopped before piece 366 does not mean that the commitment and hard work and dedication it required to complete 280 pieces simply disappears. It does not eradicate the lessons I learned along the way, nor does it take away from the people whose lives were touched, even just momentarily, by the messages of these pieces.

And that in itself is a huge lesson I will take with me. That even if you’re afraid to start something for fear of not following through, do it anyway.

I also learned a TON about my own artistic voice. I developed a love of painting and it jumpstarted my point of view which has allowed me to move on to huge canvases like these two that I ADORE. I never would have had the courage to paint these last year.

I’ve brought in almost $10,000 to my business through selling prints and I learned how to get my art printed and sold without knowing the first thing about how to do that in January.

I’m so grateful for this project for all the things it taught me, but I think the greatest lesson of ALL is that it reminded me of what is most important to me -- the belief that is absolutely central to everything I do at Made Vibrant:

If I’m doing something that’s not aligned with my truth, my essence, my core being -- if it’s something that’s not lighting me up and I’m tempted to do it because of some type of external validation -- I always want to be the kind of person that finds the strength to walk away from that.

So, my challenge to you this week is to think about what it is in your life that you need permission to quit.

What one thing are you doing for everyone else BUT yourself. What thing is no longer bringing you value or joy or growth, but you continue to do it because you’re afraid of NOT doing it?

Let my own “failure” be an example:

When it brings you back to your true self, quitting is an act of self-empowerment, not an act of weakness. 

When it brings you back to your true self, quitting is an act of self-empowerment, not an act of weakness.

Once you’ve learned the lesson that a task or project or relationship was here to teach you, it’s okay to release it.

I will still be sharing abstract affirmations on my Insta account, just not within a formal “project” basis, and I’m excited to transition what I’ve learned into the 15 or so huge canvases that are currently taking up my studio.

Thank you guys for continuing to support every creative experiment and project I continue to take on. After all, what are we on this earth for if not to explore, discover and connect?

I’ll tell you the one thing I don’t intend on quitting any time soon… you guys. :)


One Simple Exercise To Recalibrate Your Life and Business

For eight  glorious days, Jason and I went on vacation to the island of Moorea, French Polynesia, to celebrate the paying off of our debt this year.

During our trip I did my absolute best to stay off of technology (hence the lack of newsletter), knowing that I wanted to give myself fully to the present moment during our trip.

I’ll be honest with you guys, this trip could not have come at a better time. I could feel myself approaching that familiar feeling of burn out right before we left.

I don’t know if it was just the creative hangover from pouring so much of my heart into Color Your Soul (which is unfolding beautifully, but still takes a lot of energy to produce!) or if it was just the changing of the seasons and a natural lull that hits occasionally for all of us creatives.

Either way, I was itching to take a step back and really sift through my life, business and creativity to see what was lighting me up and what wasn't.

Before I left, I found myself entertaining a never-ending deluge of uncertain thoughts:

Should I pour more effort into promoting Color Your Soul, or keep letting it grow organically?
Should I keep up my Abstract Affirmations Daily project even though I feel it’s no longer serving my creativity?
Should I stop doing monthly classes and instead move to live-only classes?
Should I pack up and just move to Tahiti permanently? ;)

A should-ton of shoulds, don’t you think?

To take back some semblance of control from my should-spiral, I tried approaching these big sweeping questions rationally. I tried thinking my way through it by putting my big girl business pants on. I thought about time vs. money and profitability and all that very adult, reasonable stuff.

But that approach just didn’t feel quite right. My business pants have always played second fiddle to my core-truth/intuition pants and that’s the way I keep myself aligned to a path that feels most vibrant. (Note to self: Intuition Pants = future business idea.)

Finally, after a few days of relaxation and SPACE and not forcing myself to “figure things out” on our vacation, I picked up Danielle LaPorte’s book The Desire Map on my Kindle. I knew of the basic core desired feelings philosophy from reading her other work, but I’d never really gone through the process of laying out my own in concrete terms.

This framework -- one that was actionable and concrete but still very soulful and heart-centered -- was exactly the catalyst I needed to work through this block of mine.

I’m sure I’ll be sharing more of how this philosophy is helping point me forward in the future, but for this week, I wanted to share one very simple exercise that actually helped me get my grasp back on what was working for me on a daily basis and what wasn’t. What was leading to my core desired feelings and what wasn’t.

One major feeling that I immediately identified as essential to how I want to feel on a daily basis was FREE.

Freedom to me represents doing what my core feels pulled to do rather than what I feel I have to do or should do. Freedom to me feels light, energetic, satisfying, unencumbered, and fluid.

So, half-way through the book, I I took out my one notebook I brought with me on my trip and I made two lists: MORE and LESS.

What did I want more of in my daily life and what did I want less of?

What things light me up that I can pump up the volume on and what things dim my light that I can start to remove?

What makes me feel more vibrant and what makes me feel more gray?

Two lists. It’s that simple.

Here are some examples from my lists:


  • Freedom
  • Stillness
  • Connecting with other soulful creatives
  • Long walks with my favorite podcasts
  • Morning meditations
  • Lazy weekends
  • Writing
  • Checking in with myself regularly
  • Panting when I want to
  • Trusting my instincts
  • Viewing experimentation as productive


  • Deadlines
  • Urgency
  • Self-isolation
  • Obsessive notification checking
  • Morning email checking
  • Using weekends to “get ahead”
  • Second-guessing
  • Pushing myself to burn out before I check in with myself
  • Painting because I “have to”
  • Consuming the work of other artists/business owners
  • Viewing experimentation as failure

Writing these things down in these very specific terms and differentiating what made me feel free versus what made me feel constricted was key to getting back to my core self. It was like my compass had been gathering dust and with this one exercises I was able to see which way was North again.

Now even this long list can start to feel overwhelming pretty fast, like you have to make all these trades and swaps RIGHT THIS MOMENT. But that’s a recipe for disaster. I’ve come off of these breaks before and tried diving back in head-first, which only leads me right back to where I started: burned out.

So instead I’ve just chosen two swaps to try: morning mediations instead of email checking; and cutting back on my inspiration sources so I can reconnect with my own instincts.

Next Monday I put 5 minutes on my calendar to revisit this list and check in with how I’m feeling. (Okay, I guess that fits under “more checking in with myself regularly.” Huzzah! One more on the list!)

My challenge to you this week is to do the same. Take 5 minutes and write down your own more/less list.

Then, if you’re feeling frisky, head over to Instagram and share in the comments one swap that you intend to make this week to follow what lights you up instead of what dims your light.

My hope is that we can all encourage one another there and, by sharing, we can all remind ourselves that this journey to becoming vibrant is a DAILY journey, one that takes constant calibration.

The journey to becoming vibrant is a DAILY journey, one that takes constant calibration.


One HUGE clarifying thought that came to me on this trip is the reminder that this flux of flow and doubt, of growing and then re-assessing, is at the heart of the creative journey. It does not stop. This is not something to “figure out” or a puzzle to finally solve; it is something to constantly come back to and tend to.

Just remember, you don’t need to take a week or fly to a distant land to reconnect to yourself. You can make that space anywhere, anytime if you choose it.

Wishing you a week of more light, less stress.


How To Thrive Through The Uncertainty Of Your Creative Business

In January of 2015, my Better Lettering Course (a $20 basic course on hand-lettering) made me $5,100/month of (virtually) passive income.

Basically one blog post on my site was getting an unbelievable amount of traffic from Pinterest and it was converting to sales of the course. My gifts/talents/products were aligned with a need in the market, plus I had an effective marketing machine that was pumping life into my business. Times were good, and I actually thought to myself, I think I’m getting the hang of this independent business thing.

Fast forward to yesterday when I pulled the financials from September (I do this every month separately from my bookkeeper to keep myself actively evaluating my business revenue and deciding which projects to focus on and which to let go of.)

Do you know how much income that same lettering course pulled in for September 2016? $460.

$5,100/month to $460/month.

Quite a difference from the basically full-time salary it was creating for me throughout last year.

Now, thankfully I’ve been smart enough to diversify my revenue over the past two years so my business health doesn’t hinge on the sustained success of one product. 

But I wanted to share these numbers with you guys to illustrate a very important lesson in running a creative business, one that I don’t see enough people talking about online: The market is ALWAYS changing.

As artists and creatives, we often want to operate in an ideal world where we can simply create what we want to create, build an audience of devoted patrons, and watch the money follow.

(Let me be clear, I still VERY much advocate for making this kind of idealism the primary approach. We’ll never even come close to creating an ideal life/career for ourselves if we don’t start by aiming high and believing in what’s possible.)

BUT, I also believe we have to temper that idealism with the pragmatism of what actually works in business and what will actually bring us money.

I believe that delicate balance is the cost of entry for the immense privilege of earning a living solely from your passion. The truth is that we can’t go on creating our heart’s work if we don’t have money to sustain us. So while money will never be a primary driver for me, the financials have to be stable in order to give me the space and oxygen I need to create.

Which is exactly why it can be so terrifying when a once stable source of business revenue stops being stable.

Turns out, there’s actually a biological basis for this fear. See, humans CRAVE certainty. When faced with uncertainty, our brain’s go into a state of defense. Here’s a particularly interesting passage on the subject from Psychology Today:

“A sense of uncertainty about the future generates a strong threat or 'alert' response in your limbic system. Your brain detects something is wrong, and your ability to focus on other issues diminishes. Your brain doesn't like uncertainty - it's like a type of pain, something to be avoided. Certainty on the other hand feels rewarding, and we tend to steer toward it, even when it might be better for us to remain uncertain.” 
- David Rock, Psychology Today

Did you catch that? To our brains, uncertainty basically equals pain.

To make that uncertainty even more complicated, not only is the market a moving target, but WE are a moving target ourselves. What we want today may not be what we want tomorrow.

What I value right now in my life above all else -- flexibility, freedom, experimentation -- may not be what I value in five years when, let’s say, I’m starting a family.

So that’s the core challenge of running a creative biz: the market is always changing, and YOU are always changing. Either way, what worked yesterday won't work today, and that leaves us in a perpetual state of uncertainty.

The challenge of running a creative biz: the market is always changing & YOU are always changing.


To my creative business owners out there (or aspiring creative business owners), does this hit home with you? Can you relate to that sense of anxiety that comes when something that was once solid ground for you becomes dust beneath your feet?

Maybe it’s a revenue stream that takes a downturn. Maybe it’s social media growth that suddenly stalls. Maybe it’s a launch plan that worked a year ago but is no longer connecting.

Or… maybe the uncertainty is stemming more from the moving target within. Maybe you no longer feel connected to a creative project you started a year ago. Maybe your values have changed and now you don’t feel aligned with what you’re producing in your business.

In either case, the question remains:

How do you thrive when the game changes on you?

Well, I certainly don’t have all the answers, but after contemplating this quite a bit, here’s the advice I’ve been giving myself.

Tips for Thriving Through the Uncertainty of Business:

1. Learn to love the puzzle.

The unfortunate truth is that the uncertainty of “the puzzle” will never end. This mixed up rubik’s cube where all the variables are constantly changing -- you, the market, social media, technology -- will never stop changing. Though we’re hard-wired to seek out certainty, we have to come to terms with the fact that we live in an uncertain world.

Part of being an effective business owner is learning to love and appreciate that constant flux. To find joy in the variety of it all and to let the puzzle feed your curiosity. Can it be exhausting and frustrating sometimes? Sure. But, flip the script for a moment and it can also be fun and interesting and incredibly rewarding when you see yourself solving level after level of the complicated puzzle.

2. Don’t let your uncertainty turn into self-doubt.

When we’re facing the unknown, it’s natural to feel fear. But unfortunately, what so many of us creatives do in response to that fear is we make it say something about US. When things go changing on us, it’s our immediate reaction to suddenly question all that we are or all that we’ve ever done, as if any wins we’ve had to that point weren’t a reflection of our capability but instead a fluke.

I could have let the change in my lettering course revenue affect my confidence in my own work. “The course must not be that good. People don’t want to learn from me anymore.” Ummm…. Over 3,000 students seem to disagree. Instead of letting the uncertainty of the future turn into self-doubt, I was able to look at all the revenue that product has brought me over the years and let it FEED my confidence, not diminish it.

3. Make your internal metrics as clearly defined as your external metrics.

This is HUGE one. It’s so much easier to define and measure our success with external metrics. Followers, dollars, subscribers… these are all NUMBERS and numbers are well within the comfy, non-painful certainty camp. That’s why we cling to them. They feel like a concrete, REAL reflection of the health of our business.

But what happens when you’re ONLY measuring your business health or success with metrics that reflect external factors? If you’re defining your success only based on how the market responds to you, you’re placing all the power into the hands of something you can’t control.

You can’t control how people respond to your art or your business offerings or your products. You can only create, experiment, observe, learn, and grow. If you’re only measuring your success by the level of market validation, then you put yourself at risk to be disappointed every time you try something that doesn’t work. (Which, as I’ve pointed out, is almost 100% certain to happen in the life of your business given how ever-changing the market is.)

Instead, we have to soften those expectations and external metrics with inner ones. So, ask yourself: how can you measure whether your business is meeting your internal desires and values? Can you count the amount of mornings you’re able to take 15 minutes for a gratitude practice? Can you do it in the number of hours you’re working, or the number of times you create something that feels scary?

The external metrics may feel real and satisfying to our need for certainty, but the internal metrics -- the ones that tell you you’re fulfilling the deep, true desires of your most vibrant life -- are the ones that bring important context to those numbers. I’m perfectly happy to see a drop in my revenue if it means I’m working less hours, taking more breaks, and stretching myself creatively.

This week, your challenge is to write down your own internal metric system.

Next time you find yourself in that spiral of uncertainty when something in your business stops working the way you thought it would, I want you to first come back to that metric system and remind yourself to also measure your internal alignment. Find peace in the fact that at a core level, you’re still making decisions aligned with your true self.

THEN, remind yourself that business is merely one complex puzzle after the next. Keep changing one variable at a time until you land on something that IS working again. (And prepare yourself for the moment when that too changes yet again.)

We live in a time when it’s easier than ever to create a business around who you really are and the things you love. BUT, that’s doesn’t mean it’s EASY. It will never be easy. And I’m starting to think that could be part of the fun of it. 😄

I hope this week’s letter was helpful. I haven’t dedicated an entire letter to a business topic in a while! I love sharing this ever-evolving journey with you guys, so THANK YOU for reading week after week.


Join The October Challenge and Draw Your Memories

Draw Your Memories, a 30-day drawing class is now open! Sign up here for just $30 and join me in drawing a different memory every day of October!

October is right around the corner and that means a new issue of Color Your Soul and a new daily challenge on Instagram!

Before we talk about the details of the upcoming challenge, I wanted to give you a sneak peek of the October issue of Color Your Soul. Rich, bold color and unexpected pops of brights have me feeling cheeky yet STRONG. Which leads me to this month's theme...

This October, I want you to Color Your Soul with CONFIDENCE.

"We always tend to think of confidence as something that is delivered TO US from the outside world. If others would just give us positive feedback or validation, THEN we’ll feel confident, right?
"But confidence is not something that comes to us; it comes FROM us. It is planted within us first through BELIEF and is cultivated and tended to through experience and practice."

To read more, become a Color Your Soul Subscriber and get the Confidence issue in your inbox starting October 1st!


Okay, enough with the secrets! Now onto this month's creative challenge...

Since the goal is to cultivate confidence this month, I knew I wanted to offer up some type of creative challenge every day of October.

Enter... Draw Your Memories, my newest online class!

Many of you have requested an online class for line drawing and illustration so that's exactly what I've created! 


Not only do I go over the basics of simple line drawing and how I approach my own illustration style, but I talk about how to discover and hone your own style. Drawing does NOT have to feel technical and intimidating and restrictive. It can feel fun and playful and full of personality!

You can join the class NOW by clicking here! 

To cultivate CONFIDENCE with your creativity, this month's #MVcoloryoursoul companion challenge is to post your illustrated memories on Instagram using the daily prompts below!


October Giveaway Details


how to play

Step 1: Enroll in the Draw Your Memories online class right now for just $30! (or get access for free with a Color Your Soul Subscription!)

Step 2: Use the daily prompts to draw an object that represents a past memory every day of October. 

Step 3: Post your work on Instagram using the hashtag #MVcoloryoursoul and #DrawYourMemories (This is how I'm able to see your post. You can also tag me @ckelso if you want so I see it!)

The more days you post, the greater your chances to win!

Step 4: Celebrate on October 31st by being a complete rockstar and experience the boost in creative confidence that comes with doing something intentionally for a whole month! 


On November 4th, I'll be choosing one winner to get this creative prize pack worth over $100! (**Remember, you must be a student of #DrawYourMemories to be eligible to WIN but not to participate!**)


What's included:

  1. Year of the Doodle: 365 Drawing, Collaging, and Mark-Making Adventures (aff link)
  2. 20 Ways to Draw a Doodle (aff link)
  3. Pattern Play Coloring Book (aff link)
  4. The 52 Lists Project: A Year of Weekly Journaling Inspiration (aff link)
  5. Canson Artist Series Universal Sketch Pad, 5.5"X8.5" (aff link)
  6. Blue Q Reusable Zipper Pouch (aff link)
  7. Staedtler Ergosoft Colored Pencils, Set of 24 Colors (aff link)
  8. Semi-Hex Graphite Drawing Pencils 4/Pkg-HB, 2B, 4B, & 6B (aff link)
  9. Crayola Broad Line Ultra-Clean Washable Markers (40 Count) (aff link)
  10. Black Sharpie 5 pack (aff link)

    This prize pack is worth over $100 in creative goodies!

Ready to get started? Access the class and all 30 drawing videos now! 

want to play with friends?
INVITE them OVER ON TWITTER and instagram!

Join me in @ckelso’s #MVcoloryoursoul Challenge for October! Let’s draw our memories & gain creative confidence!

What do you say? Are you in? I sure hope so! 

Join the challenge by itself or become a Color Your Soul Subscriber and get Draw Your Memories free, plus the latest digital issue straight to your inbox today! 

Can't wait to see some of you in class and check out everyone's work over on Instagram all month long. 

Confidence will come with experience and practice, so take the month of October to become more confident in your creative voice!


The Hidden Key To Cultivating Confidence


We all want more confidence in one way or another.

Whether you want the confidence to make and share your art, to build your business by selling your services or growing an audience, to negotiate for more money, to feel good in your own skin, to speak to a large group of people, or take a big risk… we all have a hunger to feel capable and safe from rejection. That’s what confidence does for you. 

But where does it come from? And how do we get more of it? Well, that’s what I want to explore inside Color Your Soul, but today I want to share one tiny nugget that has helped me approach projects and risks in my own life with a bit more confidence.

Flashback to when I was 22, fresh out of college by just six months, and I was having a serious conversation with my mom. Right after graduation, I’d broken up with my boyfriend of a year to start dating Jason (scandalous, I know), and we had been navigating the fun but uncertain waters of a new relationship while doing the long distance thing -- him back in Jacksonville, and me in Durham, North Carolina.

Things were going well with us but not so great with my new job. In short, I hated it. After just six months at an esteemed advertising agency, I decided I couldn’t stand one more day in a job that didn’t utilize my creativity, and so I quit.

The serious conversation with my mom was about my big decision to quit my job and move back to Jacksonville, to MOVE IN with Jason. I remember the look of fear and worry on my mom’s face for me. Wasn’t this all a bit sudden and was I sure I wanted to do this and what would happen if Jason and I didn’t work out.

There are so many things I was NOT confident about back then but I will never forget the unshakable certainty that I felt about that decision to move back to Jacksonville and start a life with Jason.

I was nervous, but I was confident I was making the right decision. HOW?

So many times I’ve asked myself where that unexpected assurance came from in an attempt to unlock some hidden secret about this mysterious thing called confidence.

Was it because I knew Jason and I would work out? Heck no, I had no idea. Was it because I was too naive to think of all that could go wrong? Maybe, but I’d been in other serious relationships and it’s not like I thought they were always sunshine and rainbows.

Upon looking at it further, I realized that the reason I was so confident about my decision was this:

I knew that if it didn’t work out, it would be painful, but ultimately I’d be okay.

I think this knowing -- this belief that YOU can be your own protector -- is the hidden key to cultivating confidence.

Imagine any big (or little) risk in life as though it were an image of you jumping off a cliff into a beautiful, but shockingly cold, lagoon of water below. That’s what a risk feels like, right -- tempting, but scary because you don’t know what will happen when you hit the water, you don’t know what it will feel like when you take flight off the cliff. That’s when you start to think maybe it would all feel much more comfortable and easy to stay on that ledge forever.

Oftentimes when we think of confidence, we focus on the feeling at the top of the cliff, that moment of courage that we need to work up in order to actually leap. That moment is where confidence ends up, but I don’t think that’s where it comes from.

I think confidence actually lives at the bottom of the cliff in the lagoon.

Confidence resides in the belief that we'll be okay regardless of what is on the other side of uncertainty.

Confidence resides in the belief that we’ll be okay regardless of what is on the other side of uncertainty.

It is the voice that tells us that we can take the risk, we can leap off the cliff, because despite not knowing what waits for us below, there is always a safety net. That safety net is YOU.

When I was just starting my design business back in 2014, one thing I struggled with the most was sending out proposals. This is where I basically had to declare what I think I’m worth as a designer. I would write and rewrite the final project estimate 20 different times because I lacked the confidence to tell someone exactly how much I deserved to be paid. I would fixate on that moment when my potential client would open up the email and look at the price tag, and I agonized over what their reaction would be. Would they think I was arrogant and way overpriced? Would they think I was an amateur and way underpriced?

I struggled with this for months until Jason finally gave me some powerful advice: Don’t focus on the moment when they open the proposal; focus on the moment when they email you back with a no.

As you write that final project total on your proposal, he said, ask yourself: If they say no, will I feel good about the value I’ve placed on my work?

What? Seems like strange advice doesn’t it. Focus on the rejection in order to build your confidence?

What it did for me though is it allowed me to confront my fear of rejection head on and confirm that even if that potential client said no, I wouldn’t fall apart. It put me back in control of my own worth.

And THAT is the key.

When you know that you have your own back no matter what, that’s when you can confidently move forward, even if you’re afraid or unsure.

We all have the tools within us to provide this kind of comfort and protection for ourselves. But in order to use those tools, we have to acknowledge our our power.

We have to take back ownership of ourselves from all the places we’ve divvied it out to -- to our families, to our relationships, to our social media followers, to near strangers on the other end of a proposal email. We place the delicate matter of our own self-worth in their hands, which leaves us feeling incapable and vulnerable to feelings of rejection.

But once you finally make that shift and decide you are the ultimate judge of your own worth -- that you have the ultimate say in who you are and who you become -- that’s when you carry the confidence of a person with a built-in superhero at their side.

Confidence isn't just about acting in spite of your fears; it’s trusting you’ll put yourself back together if those fears come true.

Here’s a sketchbook piece I created inside this month’s Confidence issue.


It is my own reminder that I can be my own safety net. I can cultivate enough trust with myself to know that even if I take a risk and it doesn’t work out, I won’t allow a momentary feeling of failure or rejection stop me from moving forward.

My confidence lives in the knowing that I will never abandon myself.

I hope yours does to.

Your challenge this week is to choose one area of your life in which you'd like to feel more confident.

I want you to write down all the fears that affect your confidence in that area. Then I want you to respond to each fear with how your inner self-worth superhero will take care of you if those fears are realized.

I believe that actually confronting your fears head-on and reminding yourself that you will be okay regardless of if those fears come true or not will help you move forward more confidently in reality.

I have so many more thoughts on this topic I want to share with you guys, but I'll leave it at that for now.

Thanks so much for reading! Wishing you an empowered week!


Why Creating a Shared Vocabulary Is Crucial To Effective Communication

Have you ever found yourself in a situation with another person where you felt completely incapable of communicating? Like nothing you were saying was getting through or being construed in the way you could see it in your head?

I know I have, and the situation that immediately comes to mind for me is my relationship with my partner, Jason.

Now most of you have heard me talk about Jason in these letters before, and rightfully so because he is 100% my other half. For six years now we’ve been living together, working together, co-parenting our fur-child Plaxico together, spending literally 95% off our days together, and it’s led us to develop a deep mutual respect and love for each other. We really are that “best friends” couple cliche.

AND YET, while the rainbows and butterflies of any relationship are nice to talk about, that’s never the full picture, is it (despite what the news feeds of the world might suggest…)?

Maintaining a healthy and happy relationship is NOT easy. We’re two separate humans with two separate perspectives (and two separate gender-specific biology) and all of that means we have to work hard to communicate our way through challenges and disagreements so that we emerge stronger and closer together, not weaker and further apart.

Over the years there have been so many hard conversations, one’s where it felt like we were two strangers in a foreign land, speaking separate languages AT one another without a word of understanding between us.

Why Creating A Shared Vocabulary is Crucial To Effective Communication / via Made VIbrant

What I’ve learned over time is that in order to remedy this, in order to communicate in a way that will actually move a conversation forward, you have to begin by creating a shared vocabulary.

Let’s take the language most of us probably know if you’re reading this right now: English. The only way that I’m able to share my thoughts with you in an effective way every week and actually get my intention across is because I, the sender of this message, and you, the receiver of this message, agree on the basic definition and meaning of each word (aka the building blocks) of this message. Our shared vocabulary allows us to see this message from a fundamentally similar perspective so we’re able to connect.

But, when this isn’t the case, when two people are trying to communicate without a shared understanding of the building blocks of the message, that’s when the wires get crossed and everything turns to noise. The message can’t connect.

I think this is why a book like The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman has found itself on the bestseller list for YEARS. This book acts like a dictionary of physical and emotional cues between partners that creates that essential shared vocabulary. It gives two people in a relationship a way to define and bring shared meaning to certain behaviors which gives them a way to talk about their needs in a way that BOTH people can understand.

So what about expanding that beyond relationships? What about creating a shared vocabulary between you and your friends, or family members or even customers?

In Brene Brown’s book, Rising Strong, she proposes a simple tip for helping to create that shared vocabulary between two people that leads to understanding. When you find yourself feeling hurt (which we can all agree is the criteria for 99% of disagreements or conflict in relationships) you can say the phrase: “The story I’m telling myself is…” in order to voice those inner stories floating around in your head constructed from that hurt place.

In a conversation with a best friend who hasn’t called you back it might be “The story I’m telling myself is that I’m not important enough to make time for.” That adds honesty and context to the conversation which can open up the lines of communication between you and a friend that may just be going through a particularly tough time and needs space. That simple phrase helps bring shared meaning to the time between phone calls, a signal that could be interpreted way differently by both people trying to communicate.

In the case of Jason and myself, probably the most stark of our differences is the fact that I am an exceptionally sensitive person and he is an exceptionally stoic person. It’s something that brings balance to our partnership, but it also creates difficulties in communicating too. Over time though, we’ve been able to develop a shared understanding around each of our emotional biases to situations. When I feel hurt or down or particularly sensitive, I’m able to let him know it’s not because of something he did; and when he responds to a situation in a way that might feel unemotional, he’s able to let me know it’s actually not because he doesn’t care. This shared vocabulary has allowed us to add texture and awareness to each other’s perspectives so that we can talk through any challenges in a constructive and mature way.

Working through things this way may be harder than just reacting, but every day we inch just a little bit closer to the middle of the emotional spectrum so that we can understand each other better.

It might sound silly, but I believe this simple concept can even help you in business. By clearly defining a few simple ideas for your audience or customers first, you can create a clearer, more powerful line of connection between you. It’s why I always talk about what it means to live a VIBRANT life, or what it’s like to be a soulful creative. This is the shared vocabulary that brings an even richer, more nuanced level of understanding to our conversations.

So, whether it’s your partner, a family member, an employee or coworker, or your customers, if you want to get your message across, communicating with a shared vocabulary is essential in reaching a mutual understanding. 

Communicating with a shared vocabulary is essential in reaching a mutual understanding.

My challenge to you is the next time you find yourself in a conflict, disagreement or a simple misunderstanding with someone, before moving forward ask yourself if you’re operating with a shared vocabulary.

See if you can dig in and first bring awareness to the building blocks of the message you’re trying to send. Are their assumptions at play that need to be verbalized? Are their emotional differences and perspectives that first need to be communicated?

Communicating is most effective when you’re on the same page, and that’s all a shared vocabulary does. I know it’s helped me have more meaningful conversations and interactions in my own life. So while I continue to learn and navigate my own interpersonal relationships, at least I know the ones I am able to cultivate are built on a foundation of effective communication.

Thanks for reading, as always, and check out the latest news and updates on all things Made Vibrant below!


How To Get Started With Acrylic Abstract Painting

How To Get Started With Acrylic Abstract Painting

Click below to read more about my personal journey with painting, plus my 4 tips for getting started with acrylic abstract painting!

The Causes Of (& Cures For) A Creative Hangover

Wow, last week was a bit of a blur!

Finally launching Color Your Soul -- a project that was basically four months in the making -- was such a joyful feeling. It was so comforting and validating to know that this creative idea of mine was in loving, accepting hands with you guys. Your warm email replies (especially from those of you that unhesitatingly jumped on board with this first issue and became subscribers!) was an incredible feeling.

Today, though, I want to get REALLY honest about the emotional aftermath of launching a creative project like this, one where so much of your heart is invested.

Truthfully I thought about not writing this letter at all, sticking to some safer topic that felt less raw. But, after thinking it over, I realized that you guys don’t open these emails each Monday for the sugar-coated stuff. I’ve always tried to share with you the REAL emotions and real insecurities behind running a creative, values-based business, and so today I wanted to honor that promise by keeping it real.

So here’s the truth:

This weekend felt WEIRD.

Despite experiencing the highest high introducing Color Your Soul to you guys on Thursday and welcoming many of you as subscribers, I woke up on Saturday and felt strangely OFF. It was a feeling I haven’t had in awhile, not necessarily one of sadness or disappointment but just of confusion, like this beacon of light I’d been chasing all summer was no longer illuminated and I was now fumbling around in the dark.

This isn’t how this is supposed to feel, I thought. I made the thing I’ve been dreaming of making! It’s alive and in the hands of people who appreciate it! So what is this strange feeling?!

It’s not that I was questioning my vision -- I believe more than ever in the vision I have for this movement toward soulful, inspiring, thought-provoking content -- and as I look at Color Your Soul and the canvas it’s provided me to go on making this kind of content for you guys, there’s no doubt in my mind it’s what I want to be working on.

So, if it’s not the idea itself then, what is it? Where was this sudden slump coming from?

I spent all day yesterday trying to sort through these emotions. I took my token beach walk to ponder the meaning of life (that’s not a joke, I actually do that), and I got really honest with myself, peeling back the layers until I hit on something that felt real.

What I decided was this:

I was experiencing a creative hangover.

A creative hangover is the emotional aftermath of bringing a dream into reality. 

A creative hangover is the emotional aftermath of bringing a dream into reality.

There are two primary causes of a creative hangover. (Duh, bourbon and tequila. Just kidding... Or am I?? 💃🏽😉)

Creative Hangover Cause #1: The loss of your guiding focus.

For months I woke up and I had a clear purpose: to get ready for the launch of Color Your Soul.

I had a guiding vision that provided a structure for each of my days and gave me something distinct to measure my progress against. This made my creative spirit feel safe and purposeful.

My friend Steph often refers to this as “chasing the carrot.” When the carrot goes away, there’s a feeling of aimlessness that settles in.

This weekend, even though my purpose was technically unchanged (work on Color Your Soul), the big guiding beacon of “Launch Day” -- the carrot -- was no longer there. That absence no doubt contributed to my weird and aimless feeling.

Creative Hangover Cause #2: The dissonance between dream and reality.

When you pour your whole heart and your true self into an idea or a project or some kind of brave leap, when you spend days or weeks or (in my case) months daydreaming about it, you inevitably create a version of it in your head that feels real.

You spend so much time and invest so much of your emotional resources imagining it, that a part of you just assumes the reality will match the fantasy.

But, we all know that the reality NEVER actually matches the fantasy (that’s literally the definition of a fantasy -- it only exists in our imagination.)

When I experienced the high of launching last week -- a mixture of joy and relief and excitement and anticipation -- all of those amazing emotions fit the vision in my dream BUT they weren’t sustainable, not at those levels anyway.

After the high faded and my heightened state started to even back out this weekend, suddenly I became acutely aware of how my reality contrasted with my dream.

Think about it: we never fixate on visions of ourselves having a perfectly humble, mundane happy day; Instead, our dreams and fantasies tend to feel grand and elevated. It’s no wonder reality can often seem pale in comparison.

That dissonance -- the disconnect between the grand vision I’d fixated on for months and the happy-yet-humble satisfaction of reality -- caused a sort of emotional reverberation, my creative hangover.

This concept doesn’t just apply to some big project like I’m talking about, but I think it could be any big event in your life, any vision you’ve been working toward.

Once you reach that milestone and the high of it wears off, often you can be left in a strange emotional limbo.

So how do you work through it?

For me it was a matter of first becoming of aware of it and not feeling guilty over it. For a moment I thought to myself, “Snap out of it, Caroline, you made the thing you wanted to make and you should be elated!”

Criticizing yourself for your emotional response is never productive, at least not in my experience.

Once I recognized this creative hangover for what it was and realized it didn’t say anything about me OR about my love for Color Your Soul, then I just shifted my focus back to the long game. I let go of the fantasy of “Launch Day” and set my sights on a more sustainable, more reality-based vision -- one where I’m not building up some grand to-do or chasing down another carrot, but instead I’m reminding myself to aim for what’s sustainable. To recalibrate my emotional measuring stick to a range that’s much closer to the everyday kind of happiness that comes with doing work that’s deeply fulfilling.

It may not be the grand stuff that daydreams are made of, but it’s REAL and it’s rich. It can be that normal happy day where I get to continue to work on the thing close to my heart, serving people close to my heart (hint hint: that’s you!)

So my challenge to you this week is then actually just a question:

Have you experienced this emotional, creative hangover? A project or event or big leap that left you feeling a little lost or dazed afterward?

If so, how were you able to navigate that experience and how can you emotionally recalibrate your own expectations so that you find satisfaction in reality, however that feels? Let me know in the comments!

The reason I wanted to share these feelings with you all is to show you that no matter how long you continue to make things, no matter how many years you get under your belt running a creative business, there is always more to learn and further to grow.

Even if you do find the courage to MAKE THE THING (which is half the battle!) there will always be unfamiliar, often uncomfortable feelings to navigate, and that’s just part of the gig. Creativity at its foundation is an emotional pursuit.

Anyway, I hope this message came across in the way I intended it to. I want to be clear, I’m still 100% all in on Color Your Soul and I’m already so in love with the conversations starting and the community forming around helpful AND heartful themed content like this.

In fact, topics like this are exactly WHY I wanted to create it in the first place. I want to start conversations about the real creative journey, the one that’s messy and yes, WEIRD, and full of all sorts of tangley, disorienting feelings. Why? Because these topics are where the clues to living our brightest, most VIBRANT lives reside.

Hoping you had (and are continuing to have!) a restful weekend.


Introducing... Color Your Soul and Made Vibrant 3.0

It's here!!

I'm so EXCITED to finally introduce you to the new Made Vibrant site and the project that has been brewing in my head and heart for almost a YEAR now... Color Your Soul! 😱🍾💃🏽

I want to share EVERYTHING that went into this update, but first, a little backstory on what led to these big changes... 


it began with An Evolving Business Strategy

Back in April of 2016, I started to realized that the overall Made Vibrant brand was becoming a bit muddled in my head.

I had all these online courses -- my branding course, my lettering course, an e-course about e-courses (!) -- as well as a resource shop that was rarely being visited and an Art Shop with new pieces being added to it daily.

I was starting to feel like Made Vibrant was becoming just a mix of THINGS without one cohesive concept to pull it all together. 

Not only did this overall business strategy feel pretty disjointed to me, but the website started to reflect this dispersion too, like it had been cobbled together over the course of the months and years to retrofit one-off projects. (Ummmm... probably because it had.)

In an effort to embrace my 2016 word for the year, CURATE, I began to ask myself:

What do I really want Made Vibrant to offer and how can I pull that together under one logical "roof"?

I began evaluating my various offerings/revenue streams to look for a sweet spot: the place where what I'm good at meets what other people need/will pay for meets what I actually like doing. 

The sweet spot became obvious pretty quickly: fun and affordable online classes.

I'm an eternal learner who is always challenging myself to cultivate new skills across a variety of topics, and I LOVE passing on that info to others in an engaging way. I view online classes like a creative medium in itself because I get to combine production design, editing, branding, curriculum design, writing... all my favorite stuff!

The Better Lettering Course -- a $20 online class -- has brought in over $70,000 alone in the two years it's been available, so I knew that low-priced (but quality) class options were resonating with my audience, making it a viable strategy from a profitability standpoint.

My plan then became to shift my focus to creating these types of affordable, bite-sized classes (between $20 - $40) more frequently and formally to build up a diverse and engaging course catalog. 

That's when the thought hit me.

As my class catalog grows, it only makes sense to offer a monthly subscription to access ALL the classes at once, rather than asking people to purchase them one off. As a consumer myself, I personally love the subscription model because I'm definitely a "taster" -- I have really diverse interests and like having access to many things at one time. I felt like the Made Vibrant audience would feel the same way.

Armed with this new subscription-based focus on classes, it suddenly became clear that my old website design didn't support this business objective whatsoever.

The structure of the old site was created at a time when I only had one class, and, as I preach inside the Better Branding Course, you want your website design to support and contribute to your overall business goals. That's the whole point of having an online presence after all -- to aid in the growth of your business.

Takeaway: If you've experimented with several different revenue streams and it's starting to feel disjointed, take the time to evaluate each one and pare things down to what's most profitable AND enjoyable to you.

With a new business strategy and website re-design plan in hand, one more piece of the puzzle started to become evident...

The New Brand


developing an artist's brand

As I got to work planning out the new website in April, another thing started to become pretty obvious to me: I no longer felt fully connected to my own brand. 

The last Made Vibrant brand update was back in April of 2015, and while the colors and overall bold, vibrant aesthetic still felt relevant, there was something... missing

I always say that if you no longer feel your brand authentically represents who you are FULLY, then it’s time to consider an update

(Notice this doesn't say update your brand just because you're bored with it. 😉)

In my case, a lot had evolved for me personally since that last brand refresh. Most notably, I started painting and was beginning to fully embody this identity of “artist” that I’d fought so hard to confidently claim. I wanted that story to be told through the brand.

That meant there were two big elements that felt lacking (or far too quiet) in the old brand identity that I wanted to amp up in the new one: 1) An emphasis on art and 2) Some kind of soulful element.



New mood board for Made Vibrant 3.0 brand

You can see the mood board that I put together to reflect the brand shift. 

Inspired by the messy nature of acrylic paints and paper collage, I wanted to make sure that the brand carried a tactile, layered, kinetic feeling -- a feeling that I experience every day in my studio.

My biggest challenge with incorporating these new elements into the overall tone was in balancing the punchy, bright colors that feel joyful and fun with visual elements that carry a current of soulfulness and depth.


I tried out a lot of different design directions until I stumbled upon a visual solution: colorful marbled paper patterns. This became the primary inspiration for the new brand. You can see them in action on these Instagram quote cards here:

The reason I love these is that not only do they feel artistic and kinetic like I talked about above, but there’s a soulful, almost celestial quality to them that reminds me of the galaxy and the ocean at the same time. 

Once I created those as an inspiration jumping off point, the rest of the brand just started to flow right out of me.

I kept the old color palette primarily the same with the addition of a few lighter accent tints to provide more flexibility with the palette. 

The biggest change came in the expansion of graphic elements and collage-like photo treatments which give the overall brand a layered, artistic, collage-like vibe. I also wanted to play with the intermingling of a flat 2-dimensional style and a more 3-dimensional multi-media art vibe, so I included these little hand-drawn scribble shadows (inspired by the illustration work of Oliver Jeffers) throughout the branding to offer up some depth and visual interest. 

Dynamic logo concept for new Made Vibrant brand


I updated my typography palette to include two new fonts, Karla and Sailec. Each one fits a role similar to my previous brand font (Adelle Sans), but I really love how modern and bold the geometric sans of Sailec feels with the friendlier and versatile Karla. 

I also made a custom accent font, VIBRANTLY, from my own hand-lettering, which adds an approachable, personal vibe to the largely modern and basic typography palette: 

Hi, I'm Vibrantly! A bold yet quirky handwritten font!
Nice to meet you!

To check out all the new brand elements in action, you can flip through the new brand guidelines I created here:

Takeaway: Your brand should feel like it aligns fully with who you are (and, in some cases, who you're becoming.)

It's important that you feel emotionally connected to it so you can feel proud to get out there and share your business and your heart's work.

The New Website


rethinking everything

Once the new brand was in place, the website redesign process started to really accelerate because I could finally see a clear vision for the brand vibe emerging. 

(To give you an idea of the website evolution process, here's how the Made Vibrant site has changed over the years:)

You can see the slight update in the color palette and layout, but overall the sites feel very similar in style. 

In website updates in the past, I mainly focused on updating the aesthetics, not necessarily rethinking every single page from the ground up.

This time around though, I really wanted to throw all the other site iterations out the window and start from zero, keeping my new business strategy in mind. On every single page I asked myself: 

What one action do I want someone to take on this page? 

I really tried to practice what I preach inside the Better Branding Course, which is to not only meet the needs of a visitor by delivering what they might be looking for, but also balance that with the objective I have for the site: to get people to sign up for the individual online classes or the monthly subscription, Color Your Soul (more on that below!)

That meant a more streamlined navigation and home page, with the emphasis being the classes and Color Your Soul. 

Made Vibrant 3.0 website design / vibrant, approachable, and creative



  • Blog Feed page - I made it easier to see multiple posts at a glance PLUS I created category pages (like this one) to make sure visitors can easily find the type of content they’re looking for

  • Full-width blog posts - What?! No sidebar? Ahhhh! I probably made this into a bigger issue than it needed to be, but I was really torn on this decision. I love reading content that doesn't have a distracting sidebar, and my writing always felt a bit constrained in the old post design BUT sidebars are highly functional. They can introduce you to a new visitor and I didn't want to miss out on that. My solution? A little hello image that is added to each post so that new visitors will have a small idea of who I am as they read. It may not be a fancy solution, but I kind of like that in this layout, images play off the text like little clippings of visual interest.

  • Classes page - Believe it or not, on the old site I didn’t have one easily accessible page where visitors could see at a glance ALL my class offerings. This page will be even more important in the future as new classes are added every month!

  • Login page - Laura and I get emails on a regular basis from students that can’t locate where to login to their classes (or don't want to search for their Welcome email) so having one place to log in to individual classes or to access the exclusive Color Your Soul content dashboard was a must.

  • And of course, the Color Your Soul page is new! Color Your Soul is what my idea for creating an online class subscription turned into (more on this below!) This page explains exactly what it is and what's included in the subscription. I especially had fun planning and editing the Color Your Soul trailer video to explain the subscription. 


Technical considerations

From a technical standpoint, there were two big changes. 

First, I decided to switch my Squarespace template over from Bryant to Pacific.

The main reason for this was to take advantage of their Index Page feature, which allows me to create full-width color-banded sections within one page. From a design standpoint, I love that I can clearly separate/define areas and organize information, and it's a great opportunity to use those fun marble brand patterns!

The other big move was to find a way to manage subscriptions and create paywalled, exclusive content for the Color Your Soul Subscribers.

I've seen others use the service Tinypass before, and I tried months ago to play around with their product but it seemed overly complicated to me. Thankfully, Jason encouraged me to do another search back in May thinking that maybe someone had improved the experience since I first did my research, and he was right! 

Enter... Memberspace.

Memberspace is literally a service for managing memberships through Squarespace. 🙌  It was a match made in heaven!

They make it SUPER simple to set up plans, manage member accounts and create paywalled content, which is where all the Color Your Soul content lives (only accessible to paying members.)

**ps. If you're interested in using Memberspace on your own site, you can get 10% off your first three months with them by using the code "color_your_soul" at checkout!**

Speaking of Color Your Soul, you may be wondering at what point my "online class subscription" idea turned into something called Color Your Soul...

Color Your Soul


a year in the making

It all started with a desire to create online content that felt deeper.

Around November of last year I had this idea to create a monthly magazine of sorts that would center around one central theme each month. I wanted to release it in January of 2016 (some of you might even remember a live workshop I did announcing the idea to gauge interest.)

The problem is that I felt rushed to create something in one month that didn't even feel fully formed in my own head yet. So I scrapped it.

The idea sat in the back of my head, waiting for the right moment to pop back up, but I never fully let it go.  

When I came to my conclusion about wanting to create a monthly subscription that could house all my online classes, Color Your Soul popped right back into my head and it became clear that THIS was the missing thread I was looking for to tie the various pieces of Made Vibrant together.



It was around this time that I was also starting to feel like even though I LOVED teaching online classes, the whole info-preneurship movement was reaching peak saturation.

I felt like there were all these THINGS being thrown around telling people HOW TO do X, Y and Z, and I didn't want to be just another person adding to the noise. 

I wanted my classes and content to come from a place of inspiration and depth, not just wanting to make another quick buck by telling someone HOW TO do something. 

As I thought about what kind of monthly subscription I myself would want to subscribe to, the idea of what Color Your Soul could become started to come into focus. 

It would be part digital magazine, part learning community, part art gallery... all centering around one mindfulness theme every month. 

Part digital magazine, part learning community, part art gallery... all centering around one mindfulness theme every month.

The goal would be to inspire, to teach and to encourage soulful creatives to fully embody these themes that have brought such beautiful growth into my life. 

Themes like FREEDOM. And gratitude. And courage. And authenticity.

And rather than continuing to TELL you what Color Your Soul is, how about I show you:

I just wrapped up the first issue for September 2016, and already it's becoming more than I ever dreamed it would be. I finally feel like the unique mix of art/creativity, business/design and personal growth that has always been signature to Made Vibrant now has a beautiful conceptual package to live in thanks to Color Your Soul. 



Color Your Soul in the future

I have so many ideas and visions for how Color Your Soul could evolve in the future. At the top of that list is definitely some sort of community aspect so that subscribers can meet each other, collaborate and share in an open and safe space.

I'd also love to expand the digital magazine to include contributions from other soulful creatives and hear about how the various themes have impacted them. 

I hope you’ll consider coming along for that journey by signing up!

A monthly digital magazine to make your life more vibrant PLUS ongoing access to the Made Vibrant class catalog!

In A Nutshell


Made Vibrant is still the colorful, approachable hub for creativity and curiosity that it always has been, but now it has a focus that feels more cohesive, more purposeful and more CURATED. 

My mission and the mission of this space has been and will continue to be: helping soulful creatives (like you!) become the best, brightest versions of themselves.

Helping soulful creatives become the best, brightest versions of themselves.

My sincere hope is that these changes will provide me with authentic foundation to evolve this business further over the next couple years.

Thanks to all of you that have continued to come along for the ride!