Making Stuff: An Act of Love or Bravery?

act_of_love

Can you believe it’s the last Wednesday in February, y’all? To a summer gal like me, the end of February is a welcome sign that we’re kicking through winter. This year the date brings another milestone, too. Today’s the last day of my first blog experiment. This month, I did something that took me weeks to build the nerve to try: Host a linky party, which is a way to start a conversation for blogs.

In this case, I invited bloggers to submit stories centered around mending self and making stuff. After all, these actions have changed my life, so I wanted to surround myself with gutsy women who are out there doing them, too. There are countless ways to interpret the theme, so I was curious to find out which stories would emerge.

mend_make_change_lp

This week I’m privileged to feature a story that spans a lifetime of making. It comes to us from poet and teaching artist Ren Powell, a Californian who has settled in Norway. (Can you blame her? Check out that shot of her by the lake.) Her post, “The Making of Objects,” brought up a mixture of emotions for me. In fewer than 700 words she traversed the decades and made me want to shout with frustration and longing and finally, vindication.

Powell’s story begins and ends with making things for people she cares about. On the surface this sounds sweet, and it is. But as Powell well knows, making objects isn’t just about making objects. She calls it an act of love; I call it an act of bravery. No wonder I’m drawn to the topic: Anything that combines these two acts is what matters in this world.

What strikes me about Powell’s story is the ease and regularity with which society dampened her voice. Whether she was 8 or 18 or 28, her call to create was present. However, as is often the case with women who express themselves, there were consequences. Each time someone diminished her work, she responded. More often than not, it seems, her reaction involved holding back.

amateurish.pngPowell is hardly alone in this response. (Cough, cough. Ever heard the phrase, “Takes one to know one?”) When people are are told repeatedly over time that their efforts have little value, they hold back as a means for survival. As someone who’s recently learned to overcome past fears and embrace my creative voice, I was particularly struck by this quote: “I studied art in school. In college. I won little, local awards for poetry. But unless it was sanctioned by the gatekeepers who put monetary value on things, it was amateurish in my mind, and amateurish was a bad word.”

And so, I relished the ending of her story with enthusiasm. No longer crippled by the hesitance of youth, she found a way to embrace her creativity. In the end, love gave her the strength to embrace her medium and own her creations. I, too, have become weary of the gatekeepers and hope we can all learn from Powell’s post.

act_of_love

Thanks again to all the writers who chart Canadian Dollar - Japanese Yen joined me on my linky quest. Here’s a recap. Enjoy!

Initial Invite: Join Me in February: Mend, Make, Change

Week 1. This New Year, What Will You Create?

Week 2. Why Women Write: Global Edition

Week 3. Women and Husbands: Two Stories of Empowerment

Week 4. Making Stuff: An Act of Love or Bravery?

 

Think Everyday Women Can’t Change the World? See Lisa Shave Her Head.

anyone_can

So, who thinks everyday women can change the world? Here’s hoping you’ve got your hand raised, but I’m on a mission to bring it a little higher than before. My mindset has improved in recent years as I’ve made efforts to spend my free time surrounded by makers and doers. Now I want to share these stories in the hopes I can do the same for you.

This week, here’s who’s inspiring me: Lisa Stiefel of English with Lisa. I met Stiefel this fall when I joined her mastermind group. If you’re not familiar with these, check out Forbes’ “7 Reasons to Join A Mastermind Group.” I concur with the author: My mastermind has expanded my network, exposed me to new learning, and given me bigger ideas. Each week, Lisa and I check in via video chat, where I get to hear the latest on her life and work in Germany.lisa_before

This past Wednesday Stiefel shaved her head. She did it to help others, but she has a message for you, too: Anyone can make a difference. She believes even small efforts matter and that people can help out in any way that feels right to them. I must say I agree! For her, what felt right was to take part in the Irish Cancer Society’s Shave or Dye campaign. (Stiefel lived in Ireland several years ago.)

By shaving or dying their hair, participants show support for people who are going through, or have gone through, cancer treatment. Lisa chose to shave hers and donate it to Locks of Love, which provides hairpieces to children suffering long-term medical hair loss. Here’s your chance to find out why she did it, in Stiefel’s own words. If you’re feeling so moved, join me in sponsoring Stiefel’s Shave or Dye campaign.

anyone_can .jpg

What Inspired you to participate in Shave or Dye?

The first time I participated was in 2010. A bus went past me in town with a big poster advertising it, and when I saw it, I just knew, ‘This is something I have to do.’ I decided to combine it with making a hair donation to Locks of Love-I had heard about that organization years ago. My sister is a person who is always finding cool and lovely ways to make the world a better place, and I’ve always admired that about her. She had donated her hair to Locks of Love once way back when, and that’s how I heard about them. My participation in that year resulted in 1 hair donation for Locks of Love, and about 500EUR (approx. $550 today) in donations for Irish Cancer Society.
lisa_during
I participated in Shave or Dye again in 2012, but that time I dyed my hair bright purple. I wanted to try the other option. My participation this time round resulted in about 200EUR (approx. $220 today) in donations for Irish Cancer Society.
Because Locks of Love don’t accept permanently dyed hair as donations, I had to wait til all the color grew out, then wait til my hair got long enough to be able to make a donation. Now in 2016, my hair meets those two criteria, and so I’ve decided to participate again.
I think it’s a good thing that I am able to do, so why not? When I stop and think about it, there are more reasons for why I should participate in the event than why I shouldn’t. It is also an incredibly liberating feeling. 
incredibly_liberating

What challenges have you faced as a woman who chose to shave her head?

For starters, it certainly makes a person reflect on the notion of beauty and what their relationship to their own vanity is. Getting over my own vanity was the only thing standing between me and doing something that could really benefit people who are suffering from a terrible disease. And is conventional beauty the same as true beauty? If we believe that beauty comes from the inside out and from being a kind-hearted person, then what does it matter if my hairstyle is conventional or not? 
challenge_shavedhead.jpg
By participating in this event, I get to put this value system to the test and gather first-hand experience. Most people who know the background are supportive, but it is still a challenge for many people in our society to see a woman with a shaved head. For some, even with the background info and knowing that it is for a good cause, the stigma is too much to be able to accept. I’ve seen these people cringe at me, laugh nervously and completely inappropriately, or even make rude comments. 

The thing is, I don’t think I look bad with a shaved head. In fact, I think it suits me quite well. And the feeling I get when someone I barely know writes me or tells me, ‘My friend or family member has suffered terribly from cancer. Thank you for doing this.’ far outweighs any rude comment that someone might make. 

The whole experience reveals quite a lot about people, and about oneself.

thank_you.jpg

What do you have to chart Swiss Franc - Japanese Yen say to others who may want make a difference but may hesitate to do so?

I would say: Anyone can make a difference, and they can do so in any way that feels right for them. Think about what you want to do, and your motivation for doing it. Reflect on the things that are holding you back- what are those things? How can they be overcome, worked around, or worked with? 
lisa_after

Any Final Thoughts?

I think we shouldn’t take for granted the importance of making small differences, either. Sometimes something as small and simple as a warm-hearted smile can make all the difference in the world. 
So, there you have it. Small and warm-hearted actions do change things. Let’s take Stiefel’s advice and find our own motivations and goals, then work around the obstacles in our way. Onward!
Replay in Action, Part 1
Replay in Action, Part 2

Women and Husbands: Two Stories of Empowerment

Hi, friends. It’s a Wednesday in February so you know what that means. It’s “Make, Mend, Change” sharing day! This month I put out a call for bloggers to submit stories involving making stuff, mending self, or changing life. Creative women around the world are doing these things every day, and I wanted to surround myself (and you!) with their stories of proactivity.

As it happened, this week’s entries brought two different perspectives on the same theme: husbands. One found her strength after divorcing hers, and other used gardening to celebrate hers. First up came Debi, who submitted her entry through a comment on my blog. I was pleased to discover her blog Hanging Out with Debi, which provides “simple plans for mastering the mental game of reinventing yourself after divorce.”

Story #1: Empowerment Through Divorce

Wow, if Debi’s site doesn’t embody empowerment, then I don’t know what does. I know because I’ve been there myself. I could have used her strategies three years ago, when I went through my own divorce. At the time I remember thinking, “If divorce is as common as the stats say, I can’t believe how many of us are walking around carrying this level of pain.”

Indeed, it took me years to rebuild my circumstances and spirit. For me, self care was no longer a luxury and renewal became intentional. I simply had no other choice. I could have used Debi’s Vibrational Life Transformational Flight Plan and her reminders to ask myself, “So, what do you want?” Replacing negative thoughts with positive action is, in fact, the entire point of my blog. Though Debi’s story and mine (and yours and yours) are different, the need for reinvention is the same.

stop_your_thoughts

Story #2: Celebrating a Healthy Hubs

Whatever difficulties each of us are facing, surrounding ourselves with can-do types will help us along the way. This brings me to my blog-link party’s second entry for the week, a story of renewal I was thrilled to see this post pop up from Sarah the Recreational Gardener. (You may remember her from my recent thrift-shop jaunt and subsequent discovery of a new like-minded, weird lovely friend.)

It gave me great joy to read about the burst of purple she’s added to her kitchen counter. Her addition of this orchid was enough to make me smile on its own, but the reason behind it makes story even better. I learned Sarah and her hubby had endured a health scare a couple years ago, when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He underwent surgery and has been cancer free ever since.

Her choice of a vibrant orchid strikes me a like a fitting reminder. After all: I, like Sarah, appreciate the value of finding brightness during Minnesota winters. My heart goes out to them and any of you who may be facing your own cancer journeys. And, as Sarah points out, organizations like the Testicular Cancer Society and the Testicular Cancer Awareness Foundation are here to help. “If I can inspire one person to either self-check, our encourage a man in their life to check, then my goal is met,” she says, and I support her message.

consider_orchid

We’re midway through the month, so keep your stories coming! Write a post or link an existing one to my party. Next Wednesday, I’ll post a recap. If you’re not a blogger, feel free to comment and let me know what “make, mend, change” means to you.

 

 

Why Women Write: Global Edition

If you’ve been following along, you know I recently put out a call for bloggers to share their stories. Not just any stories, I thought you’d enjoy hearing from creative women about how they’re living the theme: Mend, Make, Change. Each Wednesday in February, I’m writing a post about entries from the week.

mend_make_change_lp

Last week, we met Linda from New York City, who’s making things happen by starting her own blogger’s group. I appreciated the spirit of her story: Undeterred by snowy streets and the possibility of no-shows, she went to the craft store anyway. Across the miles I’m cheering her on, and I hope her attitude will inspire you to go for it and start making that change you’re contemplating.

This week’s week’s submission comes to us from Poland and is all about writing. I was thrilled when this comment popped up on my blog: “I’ve wanted to join you from the very beginning and now I’ve got the post I had in mind.” The commenter turned out to be Emilia Ciepla of The Light Inside of Us, which is available in English and Polish. 

I don’t know about you, but I find it hard not to feel uplifted by a blogger who describes herself this way: “I’m someone looking for sense and light in life and if I’m lucky enough to find them I’m delighted to share them with you.” Her post this week, “Please, Come Out,” reads like poetry and encourages us to let go of limiting thoughts. As someone who’s spent the past few years working on this, I concur that life’s better when I manage to achieve it. 

ciepla_quote2.jpg

Reading Emilia’s words got me thinking about women’s poetry and its ability to travel the globe. My thoughts immediately came to a blogger in Oslo whose work is so powerful I pause after reading each poem, just to take it in. If you’re a lover of language’s stark beauty, or need a reminder that humanity can be positive, I urge you to visit Nomzi Kumalo’s What Are You Waiting For. You only have to read as far as her About page to encounter wisdom such as this:

I believe that silence is golden. I believe that language is power. I believe that most answers lie in nature, meditation and yoga. Within ourselves. Participating in good causes big and tiny. I believe in love.

kumalo_quote

Before I started blogging, I couldn’t have predicted how much sanity I’ve gained from participating in this online community of creatives. Amplifying voices of encouragement makes a difference, and my own perceptions are more positive, thanks to the women who are making it happen.

It’s not too late to join the party. Bloggers, feel free to link your stories to the my mend, make, change page. For the next two Wednesdays this month, I’ll reflect on any submissions that come. Till then, I wish you light and love.

Go Find Your Like-Minded, Weird, Lovely Friends

lovely_go_find

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.

lovely_go_find

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.

s_and_s
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.”

shift1
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.

sharp_dressed
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.

proclivities
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.

napkin_rings
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.”

opportunities
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!

This New Year, What Will You Create?

“The new year is a great time to create something.” Yay, they were the words of a kindred spirit, all right. And I was psyched. Three days before, I’d taken a risk. I’d put myself out there, in the hopes of finding fellow makers and doers. It’d taken me weeks to build up the nerve, but I’d finally posted a request for readers to submit stories to my very first linky party: Make, Mend, Change. And now, this quote had come from the party’s very first submission!

Linky parties are a method for bloggers to create community. They’re an invitation for others to write about a certain topic on their own blogs. Then, the original blogger organizes the posts together in one place, so like-minded readers can find a lively dialogue there. And though I didn’t know what I was doing, I decided I wanted to learn.

create_something_new

The thing is: The only way to learn anything is to get comfortable wading into unfamiliar waters. And so, I went for it, despite the “I’m okay with failure” post I’d already started writing in my head. You can imagine, then, how thrilled I was to see a comment pop up: “I guess somebody had to be first.” It was written by Linda of The Linda Life, the brave New Yorker who jumped right in and became the party’s first linker.

That alone was enough to endear her to me. But then I read her post and discovered that, yep, she’s a fellow maker, indeed. I especially loved this part: Just as I was taking a risk to build an online community, Linda was out there doing the same thing to build one in real life. It was enough to bring on a fist pump.

live_a_great_story
I took this shot while visiting Austin, Texas (my former hometown), in 2014. On a leisurely walk around Town Lake, I couldn’t help but notice this underpass. Whatever these decals  were promoting, I must say I liked the message!

I enjoyed reading about Linda digging through the snow on the way to the bloggers’ group she founded. You can’t win them all, but now, I can’t wait to see how her group grows. So fellow bloggers. . . who’s ready to join Linda and me on our quest for community? I’d love to hear your own story of mending, making, or change. Changes big or small are welcome, and you’ve got all of February to submit your story. Till then . . . happy Wednesday!

Join Me in February: Mend, Make, Change

It’s my first linky party, y’all! What does that mean? I want to hear your stories. So, anytime in February, write a post about how mending or making has changed your life or someone else’s. The change doesn’t have to be big. (Though if it is, who am I to stop you?)

Maybe you’ll make a note for your kid’s lunchbox, and it’ll bring a smile to her face. Perhaps you’ll take a step toward mending a habit you’d like to repair. Or maybe you’ll tell about a project that’s making a difference in your community. Who knows? You might even make a craft project out of an item that needs mending. Regardless, share a story about changing life for the better.

mend_make_change_lp.jpg
Sure, the graphic says “mend you, make stuff,” but you can interpret the theme however you want.

By all means, be liberal with your interpretation. Post a photo, write a poem, dream up a fiction piece, or write a straightforward post. Whatever you do, don’t worry about perfection. Just take part in the conversation.

Then, every Wednesday during February, I’ll write a round-up featuring some of your (sure-to-be inspiring) posts.

 JUMP IN. HERE’S HOW.

  • Get into the spirit of encouraging others, taking care of yourself, and making stuff.
  • Anytime in February, write a post on the theme.
  • When your post is ready, go to the Mend, Make, Change Link-Up Page add your entry.
  • Then, read at least two posts from your fellow party contributors.
  • Pick your fave post from a fellow party-goer, then share it generously on your social media of choice.
  • Check back here on Wednesdays in February. I’ll write a round-up of the stories submitted that week.
  • If you have questions or recommendations, shoot me an email or a write a comment. (Remember, this is the first time I’ve done this, so I’m open to suggestions.)

TIPS FOR YOUR POST:

  • Use original content throughout your post. I know you know this.
  • The point is dialogue, so don’t link to giveaways or anything you’re selling.
  • Go ahead. Have fun.

 

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.

sl_success_pack

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.

build_your_successpack2

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.

LYL_jan15
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.

hangout.jpg
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.

build_your_successpack.jpg

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.)

things_you_might_do2.jpg
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.

successful project.jpg

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.

yaysayers

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adopt-a-Crop: Choose the Best Pic

One of my fave things about photography is the cropping tool. Seriously, y’all, I looove cropping photos! But why should I get to have all the fun? Let’s play a game I’m calling Adopt-a-Crop. The rules are simple: I create multiple crops of the same shot; you choose the best one. Last weekend at the park reserve near our house, my guy snapped a pic of me with our Frankie girl.

Ready to play? Great. Now, adopt your crop by taking the poll below.

suz_frankie5

A: The Sky’s the Limit to Doggy Fun

 

suz_frankie1

B: Golden Tree, Golden Girl

 

suz_frankie_4

C: Grounded in Snow and Love

 

 

Feel free to explain your answer in the comments. I’d be curious to hear what drew you to your choice. Either way, thanks for playing along!