Go Find Your Like-Minded, Weird, Lovely Friends

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So I have to tell you about a first-rate thing that happened last weekend. Consider it my own personal proof that life’s more fun when you get over your hangups and let yourself be who you are. For crying out loud, you guys, is anybody else tired of being concerned about what everybody might think of us, anyway?

Here’s the deal. I love thrift shops. I adore them so much I’ve devoted entire blog posts to celebrating good ones like Top Drawer of Austin, Texas. I’m also a huge fan of people who build community, which is what draws me to bloggers. So a few weeks ago I had an idea for putting these two together in a way that brought me so much joy it made my head want to explode.

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It wasn’t all that complicated, really: How about I reach out to the Twin Cities Blogger Collective and invite them along on a thrift-shop hop? We’d visit a local thrift store or two, take pics, then write about it. Yes! I was drawn to the idea and it was simple enough. But simplicity wasn’t my problem. No, my issue was much more diabolical. In order to follow through with the outing I envisioned, I’d have to get over my fear of not being liked.

First of all, I’d never met anyone from this collective of women bloggers. I’d recently joined their Facebook group, but that was my only point of contact. Okay, I had met one, but she hardly counted, as she’d told me about the group in the first place. That left 108 ladies I’d never seen face to face.

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Spolier alert, I pushed past my doubt and reached out to the bloggers. Here I am with Sarah, the Recreational Gardner herself. We explored two fine Minneapolis thrift shops, Junket: Tossed and Found and Time Bomb Vintage.  (Photo by Recreational Gardner.)

Second, I hadn’t entirely gotten over my shyness about taking photos in public. Sure, taking a quick phone snap is practically the norm. Even so, wearing a DSLR around your neck feels like an invite for unwanted attention, regardless of whether or not this is actually true.

Think about it. There’s no way to have a long-lensed camera suspended on your chest AND appear casual at the same time. You might as well hang a sign on that industrial Sony strap. It might boast something like, “HEL-LO, fellow shoppers! You may be here for a spontaneous afternoon jaunt, but I actually planned this. I really, really like this place, and I drove 18.8 miles one way just to come. (True story.) What’s more–and this may be the hardest part to admit–I genuinely care about what happens here today.”

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This is my favorite image from our trip. Yes, it’s a bin filled with typewriter keys. I was  drawn to their stark beauty, and it felt good to run my fingers through them.

I know. My dilemma may not sound like life and death, because of course it isn’t. But I believe there are too many of us walking around, holding back back the best parts of ourselves. What a damn shame! Not only does this habit require a great deal of personal energy, but the world is missing out because of it.

Since starting this blog just over a year ago, I’ve grown braver about reaching out. I’ve learned skills that have helped me feel more empowered. I’ve gained inspiration from creative women all over the world. So when the idea came along to connect with actual people in my own city, it was easier to push past my fear and just go for it. And thank God for that, because the afternoon was ridiculously fun.

Four bloggers responded to my Facebook invite to meet me at a local thrift store, and I was able to sync schedules with one right away: Sarah of the Recreational Gardener. She figured she could score some thrifty yard art for her garden. We agreed to meet along the Minnehaha Mile, a collection of hip neighborhood shops in Minneapolis. We’d head to Junket: Tossed and Found, then walk a block to Time Bomb Vintage.

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Truer words have never been spoken. This sign accompanied the rack of ties hanging on a  display at Junket.

Both shops are nothing short of delightful. The displays are arranged so lovingly they actually talk to you. That’s right. Within minutes of our arrival, a photo in a small green frame spoke to me. (Literally, assuming you count thought bubbles, which I clearly do. I mean, obviously.) It reassured me that I’m among friends and don’t have to be embarrassed.

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Here it is, the photo that reached through the cosmos and spoke what I needed to hear. Check out the kids! I snapped this shot without noticing them. Later, while cropping this image, I saw them for the first time and laughed out loud.

I’ve come to believe this advice is is true of the world as well. There’s no need to feel ashamed. And who are the best reminders of this? Our very own like-minded, weird, lovely friends. So get over yourself and go find them, wherever they may be. Look online, head to a meetup in your city, invite that work acquaintance to coffee. Sure, not every lead will pan out. But that’s okay.

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I thought of my grandmother while taking this shot. She collected napkin rings and had two  displays of them hanging on her dining room wall. You could tell she treasured them, and each ring was different from the one next to it. Dosie was an artist who passed away when I was in middle school. Oh, how I’d love to have an adult conversation with her!

Know that it’ll take time, but seek your community. Surrounding yourself with your people is one of the best ways to draw you out of shyness and into your best self. Find those who are already doing what you want to do. Learn from them. Pay careful attention. Then over time, figure out which ones you can come to meet, online or in person. In fact, I’ll leave you with one final piece of thrift-shop wisdom: “To hell with circumstances; I create opportunities.”

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Find your community and you’ll be one step closer to living this out.

For the bloggers among you, do you have your own story of creating opportunities? Join my February linky party: Make, Mend, Change.

So what about you? Who are your like-minded friends? Let me know in the comments!

Want to Finish That Project? Let’s Try This.

I’m going to guess you’ve got at least one project that taunts you. It wants to be finished, and Lord knows you’re ready for it to be done. Yet there it is, in all its incomplete glory, still hanging around. In my case, the unfinished projects tend to be DIY, home-decor related. Don’t look too closely, but I’m pretty sure I’ve got one for every room of the house. And so, when I chose to take on a far bigger project–starting a side business–I knew I needed to do things differently.

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A workshop I attended this summer called Start Finishing resonated with me. When starting a project, I discovered, we’d all benefit from establishing a success pack. (Read Part 1 of this article to become equally convinced.) I sensed setting up a support network would be critical for me, since starting a side gig would be a long-term task.

Let’s Do This, Together

If I intended to pull this off, I wouldn’t be able to rely solely on the bursts of enthusiasm that typically bring me through projects. And so, I set off on a hunt for pack members. I scoured online communities, reached out to people I know, and looked for gatherings in my hometown.

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Over the course of the next two months, I became obsessed with my success-pack search. Though I work full time, I sent out feelers during free time: in the mornings before work, while watching TV at home, and on weekends. Once I got going, I went from having almost no resources, to gathering more than I knew what to do with.

Would-Be Entrepreneurs And Bloggers: There Are Tons of Resources Out There

By getting a little brave and reaching out, I learned an important lesson: There are tons of success-pack resources out there. Here’s a list I’ve found helpful.

RESOURCES: NO MATTER WHERE YOU LIVE

Blogging Courses from WordPress. My blogging journey began with a free online class from WordPress, Blogging 101: From Zero to Hero. As promised, I went from no blog to fully functional one in 30 days. Granted, I devoted significant time to it each day, and I dove headfirst into the community provided. But the structure paid off, and I’ve loved blogging ever since. If you’re curious, give it a try!

Live Your Legend (LYL). If you want to surround yourself with can-do types, see if there’s an LYL local group in your city. This global movement is dedicated to helping people find work they love. See the TED talk from founder Scott Dinsmore. Tragically, Dinsmore passed away in the summer of 2015, but the community he built lives on with enthusiasm.

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Here I am at my very first LYL Local meeting (Minneapolis, January, 2016). Within minutes of walking in the door, I was welcomed with a mug of tea. Then I got to hear stories of ventures being carried out by this crew of creative, committed folks. Interested in simple living? Our group’s host has a site for that: Joel Zaslofsky.

Facebook Communities. I found a few good ones early on, and they helped me feel supported right away. I’m amazed by the active encouragement strangers give each other in online groups like Blog Share Learn, Design Your Own Blog, and The Women of Midlife. Search an activity, and you’re sure to find a FB group talking about it. It may take some trial and error to find the right ones, so don’t be shy. Take part in the conversation, and start picking up new skills.

Mastermind Groups. If you’d benefit from regular check-ins with a small group, I highly recommend tracking down one of these. Masterminds, which typically happen as video chats, bring together 3-5 people working toward sharpening business and personal skills. They share ideas, provide accountability, and track progress.

I love living in a world where I can meet soul sisters across the globe. There are three of us in my mastermind: an English teacher in Germany and an artist in New York. Lucky for me, their group had an opening after someone dropped out. I was super impressed when I discovered these crafty ladies had created an ebook together last year. Check out their workbook Stoke Your Creative Fire.

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My mastermind buddies and I chat weekly. Yes, my tea mug is a permanent fixture. The wall art behind me was created by grandparents. I like to think their artistic legacy flows through my veins, an idea that boosts my new venture.

Tracking Wonder. Someone in this online community blows my mind every time I visit. The group serves mission-driven professionals and has the tagline, “Be radical. Lead with your ideal.” Its community has an active forum that shows people living this out every day. Their projects help me see beyond limitations I put on my own ideas.

Rising Tide Society.  This group, for small business owners in creative industries, encourages members to “grab a cup of coffee and start learning.” In addition to their online support on topics like blogging, branding, and life-work balance, the group hosts TuesdaysTogether meetings in cites across the United States. (Yes, they happen at cool coffee shops.)

Fizzle. In a world where we expect online stuff to be free, it can sometimes feel jarring to be charged for something. But Fizzle, Honest Online Business Training, is a shining example of a principle we should all embrace: Good content is worth paying for. The site features a host of video classes on topics like video production, social media, and connecting with anyone.

RESOURCES IN MY HOMETOWN (These Are Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.) Check your Region for Something Similar.

Twin Cities Blogger Collective. I’m super pumped to have discovered this crew of capable women, who write about a bevvy of things like this:

Springboard for the Arts. This organization provides professional development, health care support, and incubator programs for individuals making a living through the arts.

Pollen. I always enjoy popping onto Pollen Midwest’s site. As if its job boards, events, and stories of local entrepreneurs weren’t enough, the site’s design is gor-geous. Seriously. These people know the meaning of good design.

Women Venture.  This nonprofit helps women create and grow small businesses. At their information session, I learned the two most common types clients start are food trucks and fitness ventures. Also: The organization serves men, too.

Whew. This may be the longest post I’ve written, so kudos for making it this far! I hope you’ve found some tools or inspiration for that venture of your own. So, what resources do you use to stay connected and complete projects? Do tell.

 

Finishing Projects: Build Your Success Pack

A few weeks ago, I announced my intention to start a side gig. Admitting this terrified me, and talking about it hasn’t gotten any easier. That said, I’m also drawn to bringing you along with me, in case you have similar dreams of your own. Whatever life project you’re undertaking (starting a business not required), I’d love to provide inspiration for your journey. And heck, I’d even consider it a good thing if any of my failures help you figure out what to avoid.

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Let’s talk about finishing projects. Are you a finisher, or more of a chronic starter? For me, ideas come fast, but willpower tends to lag. I routinely start WAY more projects than I complete. But this venture, my dream to to build a side business, is different. It’s tugging at me in a deeper way. So much so, that I’m actively putting structures in place to propel me from dreams to action.

This past August, at the summer camp for entrepreneurs called Camp GLP (a.k.a., Good Life Project), I attended a workshop that’s been gradually changing my life ever since. Led by Charlie Gilkey of Productive Flourishing, Start Finishing was a session that provided us with 10 keys to finishing any project. Together, they’ve transformed my habits and equipped me with a structure to follow. (I hear he’s turning this workshop into a book. When he’s done, I’ll be first in line to buy it, unless you beat me to it.)

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The notes I took during Start Finishing continue to inspire me. “Impact doesn’t come from things you might do.” Indeed, Gilkey, indeed.

Right now I’m working on Key #4: Pick Your Success Pack. As you’ve probably guessed, a success pack is a collection of people that helps you make things happen. Gathering this crew is super important, but it’s a step people tend to blow past. An individual may think teams will come down the road, or worse, that he or she is obligated to go it alone.

Last month I attended an info session for budding entreprenuers at WomenVenture, a MInneapolis nonprofit. It’s devoted to helping women “achieve economic success through small business ownership.” There I learned that women are particularly susceptible to overstretching their emotional and financial resources. They’re more likely to believe they have to do it all, especially in the early days of their businesses. If not corrected, this miscalculation can lead to massive frustration, often causing the venture to fail.

During Start Finishing, Gilkey put it this way: “Every successful project has a team behind it.” I already believed this, but the part I hadn’t considered was the importance of building a team from the start. In fact, you’re considerably better off if you establish your success pack before you begin.

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The project-starters among you may be surprised, as was I, that doing the work doesn’t even come till Gilkey’s Key #9 (yes, of 10). Preparing for your project, as it turns out, is critical to success. Big sigh! Yeah, sure, I get this intellectually and have known it for a long time. Even so, planning ahead doesn’t come naturally to me.

My shiny-object personality is precisely why I’ve relied so heavily on Gilkey’s recommendations. I’ve found them helpful because they’ve taught me what to do and when. They’ve given me confidence to know I’m on the right track and keep going. In this case, Gilkey says a solid success pack includes four roles: guides, peers, supporters, and beneficiaries.

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Guides know more than you and have the ability to teach it. Peers understand what you’re going through, as they’re doing similar projects. Supporters cheer you on along the way. They may not understand every detail of your project–and they don’t need to–but they DO care about you. Presumably, they’re fun to hang around, which will come in handy when you’re ready to celebrate a milestone. These can be large or small, but make sure to plan on regular intervals to recognize them.

Gilkey emphasized the importance of sharing and celebrating socially. He made a point of telling us that “any progress counts.” Boy, is this last piece of advice tailor made for you and me or what? It’s easy to minimize things you’ve already done, focusing instead on the mountain of tasks ahead. Finally, beneficiaries are the ones who’ll make use of your project’s end result. Understanding their needs is vital, so you’ll want to check in with them regularly, too.

Can you identify people in your network who might carry out these roles on your project? Think about it, then think about it some more. Then, if you feel inspired, feel free to chime in and let me know. I’d be curious to hear what your project is (or not), and how you’re using success packs to help you get there.

By the way, I’ll be sharing more about my process of picking a success pack in Part 2 of this article. Until then, happy pack building!