Tag Archives: Entrepreneur

Five Things You Should Quit Doing Today

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There hasn’t been much excitement around the Turtle lately. We’re in between trips, it’s rained nearly constantly this summer, and we’re both working hard to build our businesses. So I don’t have any great camper mishaps to share with you on this (hopefully not for you) rainy Friday.

As I sit here with my cup of coffee and watch water trickle down the windows in my tiny corner office though I do have some advice. You’re welcome to take it with a grain of salt or two Ibuprofen, it’s your choice. Here it goes…

Sometimes you have to quit before you can start.

There are things that we all do every day that can really get in the way of making life changes and doing big things.

There’s the obvious stuff, quit spending so much time on Facebook and go do something important instead. Quit eating so many miniature Kit Kat bars and go for a walk. Both of those were directed at me today by the way.

Then there’s the not so obvious stuff, stuff you may not even know you’re doing. You may have to really pay attention to realize what you need to quit.

If none of the things on this list apply to you then congratulations, you’re a robot.

Quit Doubting Yourself

You’re not too old, or too overweight, or too busy. Those are excuses your mind dreams up because you’re really too scared.

There’s a boy in our town with only one arm. I’m not sure if he lost the other one as a baby or was born without it, but now he’s around eleven years old and just as capable as any other little boy, and some grown men.

He’s also one of the best baseball players I’ve ever seen. He can catch a ball in his glove, throw it up in the air while simultaneously dropping his glove on the ground, catch the ball back in his bare hand, and throw someone out at second before some of the other kids even realize what’s happening. It’s pretty awesome to watch.

Kind of makes all our excuses invalid, doesn’t it?

Quit Procrastinating

I thought I would write about this later, but I guess I’ll get it out of the way. Badda bing.

Seriously though, 90% of the time when I put something off there’s a deeper reason for it. It’s not that I just don’t want to do it. Usually what it means is that there’s a step in the process I don’t fully understand or am afraid to do.

And nearly every time that I finally make myself sit down and tackle the issue it takes such a minimal amount of time that I can’t believe I put it off that long.  Especially when putting it off resulted in a late charge, missed deadline, or some other equally yucky thing. That just irks me.

Quit Trying To Make It Perfect

Most of the time done trumps perfect. I think the only exceptions are brain surgery and rocket science, and you should skip this if one of those applies to you. I’m flattered, but you probably have better things to do anyway.

Get it done, get it out there, and then work on making the next thing you do better than the last.

Quit Building Things In Central Park

In his book Start Jon Acuff talks about the concept of what Central Park does for New York City. It’s this huge patch of green land in the middle of a bustling city, kind of out of place really. Obviously they could find a thousand things to build in that space, there could be more offices and apartments and probably a great pizza joint. But they don’t. Because they need Central Park to keep the city working properly. Central Park is a break in the middle of the crazy. Not to be confused with Central Perk, which is what formed my opinion of Jennifer Aniston and all coffee shops.

Jon goes on to say that everyone needs their own Central Park. A space to rest, time to think and breathe. If you’re constantly rushing from one task to the next without spending a minute in your happy place you’ll quickly wear yourself down. Just like good design your mind requires white space to be effective.

Quit Forcing It

I’m talking to myself here. I worked hard yesterday… I stared at my design program tweaking pixels for nearly 10 hours with very few breaks. I wrote and did chores and caught up on lots of things.

And I’m feeling it today. I’ve had writers block all morning, I’m having trouble focusing and I just feeling scattered. And now I really just want to eat mini Kit Kats and watch Friends.

I know that pushing myself to do great things today won’t work. I’ll get frustrated and instead of getting in the ‘flow’ of work I’ll have trouble making my thoughts show up right on the screen.

So instead I’ll focus on small tasks. Things that have to be done – emptying my inbox, doing the dishes, website updates for a client, maybe just one tiny Kit Kat. These things don’t require a huge amount of thought on my part, but I can get them done and out of the way so tomorrow I can do big things again.

What have you quit in the name of simplifying or doing big things? Are you looking forward to relaxing this weekend or is that when you get things done? I’ll be catching up on Season 4 of Breaking Bad before the premiere Sunday night… if the rain will let the satellite stay on!

Experimenting With Rejection

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Editors Note: You don’t actually have to Keep Out, despite the sign. This will just probably be a slightly different post than you’re used to from me. There are no cats, or campers, or deep and hilarious thoughts. Just me musing about the direction I’m going to go for the next phase of my work and life. I’ll be back with more hilarity later this week though if this isn’t your thing! 🙂

A little secret about me, I’m terrible at asking for things. I don’t want to impose or take up too much of someone’s time or energy, I don’t like the idea of rejection and I generally don’t do well with being laughed at… unless I started it. That’s probably not earth shattering, I’m sure if you asked 100 people 98 of them would say they hate rejection. The thing is, out of those I’m sure there are plenty that would ask anyway. That’s where I want to be. And considering I’m an growing entrepreneur it would be pretty handy if I could learn to ask for things, because obviously no one is going to just offer it… despite all my hinting.

I read a blog post the other day about a man who wanted to learn to accept rejection. He knew being turned down for stuff was inevitable and he wanted to get past the fear of asking. So he decided to make sure the fear of rejection didn’t keep him from asking for what he wanted in life, because that would have actually been rejecting himself before anyone had a chance. Deep stuff, yes?

The way he decided to conquer that fear was pretty ingenious, kind of akin to the invention of sliced cheese or Redbox. He decided that for 100 days in a row he would make an intentional effort to be turned down once a day. He would ask for anything that came to mind and assume the answer would be no. He asked a policeman to drive his cruiser, a pilot to fly his private plane, and showed up on a strangers doorstep holding a soccer ball and wearing a full soccer uniform, asking if he could play ball in his backyard. He did anything he could to be turned down once every day.

The crazy thing is that according to the story, in all three of those examples, he wasn’t turned down. He played soccer in that mans back yard, he drove that police car and flew that plane. But as cool as it would be to play soccer in a strangers backyard that’s not really the part that piqued my interest. The part I thought was so interesting was the concept of asking with the intention of being rejected. It takes all of the pressure off, if the answer is no you can just shrug and say ‘Yea, that’s what I thought!’. There’s no risk of looking silly or being embarrassed because you tried and failed. Well, I suppose doing the walk of shame in a soccer uniform might be a bit embarrassing, but you know what I mean.

I think the experiment sounds pretty interesting, and I think we’ve established I like a good experiment, so I thought I would incorporate it into the Year of Change. Plus the answers may very well be surprising. Ya never know, maybe I’ll get to drive a police car.

Now, I think there’s probably a very fine line between asking in a genuinely expectant way and sounding pushy, or even having it sound like you’re just joking. I’m sure learning to ask will be just as important as learning to accept a possible no. The question needs to be phrased politely, but in a way that makes it clear you expect the answer to be yes. I’m sure a smile and the manners you learned in kindergarten will go a long way. And obviously being gracious if and when the answer is no would make the whole thing less awkward. Plus it beats silently backing away like a weirdo.

I’m in a perfect position to try this experiment. I own a small graphic design firm and I’m working on growing it by getting more clients. My ideal clients are small boutique businesses and bloggers, and I need to reach out to those people before I can offer to help them with what I do. I also need to contact other design firms and build relationships that place me on their list of freelance contractors. Another goal is to grow this blog and do more freelance writing, which might include guest posting on other blogs. That means I have to put myself out there for those possibilities.

This is the last day of my first experience with the Start Experiment (you know, the cult I joined?), and Round 2 starts this coming Monday. I’ve spent this first experiment getting my website and portfolio in order and talking to mentors, it wasn’t what I planned to accomplish, but it’s what needed to be done first. I’ve come along farther than I even planned in the beginning, and now I’m ready to reach out and start actually building the business side. So I’m going to combine the two, starting Monday the 12th I’m going to spend the next 24 days asking for things that will help me build my business. The answers might be no, they might be yes, I might even get laughed at. Whatever happens though I’ll keep asking and I’ll share it here, along with everything else we talk about! I might even throw some crazy questions in there just for the heck of it.

Also! Do you want to join me in an experiment? The Start Experiment is now open to the public! It begins Monday August 12th and lasts for 24 days. If you’re interested in getting motivated to change your life and want to join us there will be more information on Jon Acuff’s blog starting tomorrow, or you can always contact me to find out what flavor of Kool Aid to bring. 

 

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Average

First off, I have to apologize for having gone rogue and left you hanging here. I hope you found the Oreos and the remote.

Evidently our brief tent camping adventure actually tried to kill me, which might make me the biggest wuss in the history of tent camping.

In reality that’s probably not what did it, but the timing is definitely hard to ignore. I’ve been sick for the last eleven days with pleurisy. Which I now know is a Latin word with the literal translation “Horrible stabby pains throughout the torso accompanied by sudden onset asthma”. I think the Greeks referred to it as “Oh my God why does THAT hurt now?!” and it’s marked on the Mayan calendar as a series of flying monkey carvings and comic book swear words.

Needless to say I’ve had trouble focusing on writing anything of any significant purpose. But as of yesterday I’m feeling much better. I believe it’s due to threatening myself with a return trip to the doctor… cleared it right up. Others might attribute it to the round of steroids, but I’m sure it was just my super strong self control.

I haven’t just been lying around groaning though. I mean, I have been lying around groaning, but I’ve done plenty of other stuff as well. Remember that secret society I joined a couple of weeks ago? The one that you probably thought was a cult when I disappeared? Well you can quit tracking down their bearded leader, it’s turning out to be one of the best things I’ve done in quite some time.

Last week we were placed in groups of 24 and given a partner. We introduced ourselves, started private Facebook groups, shared a cup of Kool Aid, and waited for the actual experiment to start on Monday.

The experiment itself is nothing overly magical. Right now it consists of a short email every morning asking us to do something very simple, to take one small step down the path towards our goal. Pretty basic stuff.

If I’m being totally honest with myself I was actually pretty skeptical when I joined this group. As excited as I was about the mysterious aspect of the project and the possibilities that came along with it I really didn’t know how it was going to help any of us face our fears, much less achieve our goals. I’m not sure Jon Acuff even knew what he hoped to accomplish, which is probably why he called it the Start Experiment and not the Definitive Start Project.

I’m no stranger to goal achieving attempts either, I’ve done plenty in the past in an attempt to try and move myself along. I’ve read books and bought courses, I’ve joined small groups of other entrepreneurs. I’m a pretty smart girl and when I set my mind to something I can be very motivated. But despite all that I’m still basically in the same place I was 5 years ago career-wise. Nothing significant has changed. I’ve learned things, improved things, gained business and lost business, worked and not worked. But the net result of it all is that I’m still not where I want to be, nor am I much further down the path. Things were getting stagnant in the life’s work department.

Then a funny thing happened. I joined a group of 2,547 other people who also wanted to push through and do something more with their lives. People who had lofty dreams and challenges and fears just like I do.

At first it was disorganized, no one really knew what to do or expect from the project, or what was expected of us. But in the last few days things have started to happen in big ways for people. Something has shifted in the wind. People are coming out of their shells, they’re making moves previously considered unfathomable, they’re doing things that were totally unconsidered, although entirely possible, before.

I personally have stepped way outside my self induced shell, and I have to say the air is pretty invigorating out here. I’ve put myself out there and asked for help on my own website (do you have any idea how humbling that is for a designer?), I’ve confessed my fears and faced them in front of hundreds of people, I’ve made great contacts with people doing exactly the thing I want to do, I’ve found people willing to mentor me and others willing to be clients, my website looks better than it ever has, my teeth are whiter, and my laundry smells like fresh cut daisies. No kidding.

I know It might sound crazy or even cult like, and it might be very hard to understand how a simple little experiment could have such an effect on so many people, but in reality it’s not just the experiment. It’s the other people going through it with you. It’s the accountability, the community, the fact that no matter what you’re afraid of there is definitely someone else afraid of the same thing and another 20 people ready to tell you that your fear is completely unfounded*.

It’s also the tasks we’ve been given. We weren’t told on the first day to write a business plan or hand out 5 business cards. Instead we were told on the third day to identify our superheroes, those people who have come before us and done exactly what we want to do. That in itself was a humbling experience, reaching out to someone and saying “Hey, I’m not sure I know what I’m doing, but you seem to… can I ask you some questions?”. That’s not something I would have willingly done before, and it’s pretty damn hard to do if you’re older than 12. But I’m learning now that it’s oh so important.

I’m also learning to ask for help, I’m learning to not stop learning, and that no one operates in a bubble. All from letting down my guard and admitting that I can’t do it all myself. Which ironically is something I actually didn’t need a group of 2600 people to learn, but I’m glad I found them anyway.

It’s been a pretty intense four days to have only received four short paragraphs by email. I feel really good things coming out of this, and I can’t wait to share them. Especially now that the flying monkeys are gone.

For now the moral of this story is this little quote, which is one of my favorites. I’m starting to think it’s the key to a lot more than I thought.

I hope you can find something scary to do today.

 

Everything you want is on the other side of fear.

– George Addair

 *Unless it’s a fear of garden gnomes, the conclusion was reached that the fear of garden gnomes is well founded.

On The Beauty Of Working A/C And Starting

Lest you think we melted into a puddle of goo after the air conditioner went out last week, we’re still here. In fact, we’re now the proud owners of a superbly cool tin can (fiberglass, I know I know) with two brandy dandy new air conditioners.

But I’ll get to that in a minute. There’s plenty going on in this catch up post, so I might get a bit scattered, I apologize in advance for that.

First off, I have to mention the passing of my Maw Maw this weekend. My dad’s mom. She lived a long and mostly healthy 91 years and up until the last few she was independent and strong, to a nearly comical point at times. You knew not to wander in front of the TV when the game was on for example… any game actually. That was a running joke in her house. And I’ll never forget her shaking her cane at us like a character out of a movie when we tried to decline coming to dinner after some random family event. She, like a lot of my family, was larger than life at times. She was the matriarch on my dad’s side, a position she handled gracefully.

She also marked the fourth death in my family in the last few years… preceded by my Grandmama on my mom’s side, as well my aunt and cousin from the same side. That’s a lot to lose in a short amount of time, and it was especially tough on the family due to my cousin and aunt going much too soon.

It does however have the sobering, but beneficial, effect of making you consider your own mortality. I don’t want to look back at some point and realize I wish I had done more, or played more, or loved more. I don’t want to assume that I have another 60 years and find out too late that it was really only 10. I want to enjoy now as much as I can, to avoid the regrets that come with ignoring what you’d rather be doing. So that’s what I plan to do.

Now, onto a lighter note. I’ve joined a secret society! Sort of.

I’m a big fan of Jon Acuff’s writing, he’s the author of Quitter and Start (if you haven’t read those you’re really missing out!). He’s a great writer and an even better motivator, and he keeps a blog over at jonacuff.com which I follow. Last week he posted on his blog asking people to sign up to join him on an adventure. The post was up for about 24 hours before he took it down. It was vague but intriguing, and the only commitment at the time was to email him a little information, then wait and see what happened. Considering this is already the Year of Change I figured what the heck, and shot off an email.

I had almost forgotten about the whole deal, between the air going out and my grandmother’s passing. But then yesterday I got an email from him containing the link to a private Facebook group dubbed The Start Experiment. Of course I joined immediately, to find around 700 other people already there introducing themselves. It’s already been inspiring seeing all these people who are ready to do something beyond the norm, and the experiment hasn’t even begun yet. I won’t reveal too much, but so far it looks like it will start as a personal challenge of sorts, with an accountability partner. We will be asked to push ourselves outside our comfort zones every day for 24 days in some way or another, and I can’t wait. As an added bonus, did I mention I’m part of a secret society? I think we should get a handshake or some sort of power ring.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, we didn’t melt in here last week when the air conditioner started messing up. There were a few sketchy days, but we were able to limp along by turning it on and off at the breaker when we needed it. We had to keep it off at night or it would freeze up, and I kept it off as much during the day as possible, but regardless we made it.

I did remember last week that we had an extended warranty that had been thrown in with the purchase of the Turtle, so I figured it couldn’t hurt to see what they would take care of. As it turned out, it was actually a pretty good warranty. They even offered to pay for a mobile repair guy to come out and fix it so we wouldn’t have to pack everything up and find a shop that could take us in. This time of year most repair shops are two or three weeks out, so that seemed like a terrible option all the way around.

After looking for a mobile RV repair place for hours though I was beginning to think a camping trip to the parking lot of a service department would be in order, until I found a place about an hour and a half away called Southern RV. They did warranty work, were certified, and said they worked anywhere in middle Tennessee… so of course they weren’t open that day.

I did get in touch the next day though and was able to get them started dealing with our warranty. It took several phone calls between myself, the repair shop, and the Xtra Ride warranty adjustor, but we finally came up with a plan. The warranty would pay for nearly all of the service call and all of the parts and labor to repair our existing unit, and we would cover the remainder to install a second unit in the bedroom. Great!

Marty was worried though that repairing the unit would just be a band aid and other problems would keep popping up, so after a lot of talking we decided to go ahead and spend the extra money and replace the unit we had with a new Atwood A/C with a heat pump. The Atwood’s are less expensive than the Dometic we had, and the repair shop said they were impressed with the quality of their construction, plus the heat pump will help lower the propane expense this winter hopefully. I paid for both units over the phone, then spent the next two days secretly hoping I hadn’t been duped by some kid with a fake website.

They said both units would be in by Friday and they should be able to come that same day, or Saturday at the latest. Friday afternoon came and went with no word, and I was really starting to question my own judgement. But then, at 7pm on Friday night, the Southern RV repair truck pulled up out front. The parts had come in a little after 4 o’clock and they headed out then.

It took nearly three hours to install the two units and fix a light switch that wasn’t working quite right, and I was expecting the worst when it came time to settle up. He showed me both work orders, the one they would send the warranty company for the repairs and the one I would owe for the extra labor since I had already paid for parts. It came time for the grand total and I held my breath a little…

That’ll be $85.

Huh? Oh.

That’s not at all what I was expecting. One hours labor. He even waived the remainder of the service call, saying if I wanted to give his guys a little extra to grab dinner with on the way home that would be plenty. I gladly did, and gave him a bit extra too for coming out so late on a Friday. The guys were all super friendly and professional, and they did a great job, definitely a win in my book.

Then we checked out our new units, and they are awesome. I don’t have much to compare to, just our travel trailer and this fifth wheel, but both of our previous A/C’s have been so loud you couldn’t hear each other well from one room to the next. Our TV volume would go from 20 to 50 when the air kicked on. When I walked in the den to look at the new unit I had to ask if it was on yet, it’s that quiet. And the air flow is twice as much as our Dometic Duotherm was producing.

Atwood hasn’t been in the cooling business that long, although they’ve made other RV parts for years. So we took a bit of a risk on these units, not knowing their track records yet. But as of right now I’m thoroughly pleased.

They function a bit different than any I’ve seen before though, and I had to call Atwood this morning to make sure they were working right, which I was assured they were. When the fan is set to Auto most air conditioners will run until they reach the right temperature and then cut off until they need to start cooling again. In these the fan runs all the time. When the temperature is right they switch to low fan speed and the compressor turns off, and as needed they cycle back up to medium or high and kick the compressor back on to cool things down. The result is super quiet and keeps the whole place at a nice consistently cool temp. Now that I know it’s not a wiring problem I have to admit it’s a pretty interesting process. They also have some other neat things, like the Dry mode which acts as a dehumidifier if you’re happy with the temp but want to pull some of the humidity out of the air. It also has a Sleep button,  when it’s set the temperature will rise by 2 degrees over the next hour, or lower by 2 degrees if you’re using the heat pump. All in all we’re glad we spent the money, and hopefully won’t have to do that again for a long time!

This week will be crazy as well, today is my catch up day. Tonight and tomorrow are visitation and funeral a bit more than an hour away from here. Wednesday is a morning meeting and getting ready for Thursday. And then the fun begins! We’re going to pack up the truck Thursday morning, hook up the boat, and head over to tent camp at Mousetail Landing State Park. We’ll stay there a few days fishing and hanging out. I’ve looked around and found a local concert to check out on Saturday night and a few restaurants to look at. Other than that there isn’t much in the area other than lots of rivers and creeks.

It’s an exploratory mission too, we’ll be driving around looking for an inexpensive piece of land along the Tennessee river. We’ve talked a lot about what the next step is and it would be kind of dreamy to be able to go to our own little spot on the river when we feel like it, or even live there for longer periods in the future. Ideally we would find one that someone has already set up for an RV, maybe with a concrete pad and utilities already in place. But if the price were right we could buy a 1/4 acre lot with no utilities and add them as we have the money. It would give us somewhere to go if we didn’t want the expense of paying rent at a campground, because a payment on land that small would actually be less than our rent right now. And it would serve as a bit of a home base too, without the commitment of an actual home base. We don’t want something that requires a lot of maintenance, we want to be able to leave it for as long as needed without worrying about things breaking down or tearing up.

I’ve bookmarked several great looking spots on Craigslist and some local realtor websites, and we’re excited just to go ride around a new area and look at the possibilities. Even if that doesn’t turn anything up it will still be a great weekend of fishing and camping!

Are you doing any camping this weekend? Starting anything or joining a secret society? If not you should at least go right now and do one thing that scares you… it’s great for the soul. 🙂

How To Get A Little Better Every Day

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Sometimes it takes just the smallest shift in perspective to change how you go about your day and help jump start real change.

Everyone has something they would love to make happen, but most never take the steps to get there. They sit there day after day, unhappy with the situation but unsure if they could ever change it, so they do nothing. Maybe it’s because of fear, or not knowing where to start, or maybe it just feels like real change is too hard. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re working towards a goal, no matter what it is.

Maybe you want to be debt free or a size 4 and you feel like it’ll take you forever to get there. Maybe you want to declutter your house, simplify your life, or build a business but you don’t know how to even begin. All you can see is the huge gap between where you are now and where you want to be, you don’t see the thousands of steps that will help get you there.

You start to think one decision won’t matter in the long run because the task you’re looking at is so big. Today doesn’t feel very powerful when it could take years to get where you’re going. That’s when you start making bad choices, because if today doesn’t matter then the choices you make today are miniscule compared to the huge goal in front of you.

But what if instead today is all that matters?

Unless you’re in the waiting room about to have liposuction or have just won the lottery you’re probably not going to drop 3 sizes or be debt free by the end of today, but you can be in a little better shape than you were when you woke up.

You can choose to go for a walk, no matter how short, or to not spend $4 on a coffee, or to take one small bag of unused stuff off to donate. You can choose to do things that cause you to make just a little forward progress. Even if it doesn’t feel like it will make a difference at the time, it will.

All those little choices add up, and winning is almost always the result of being born Charlie Sheen making small intentional choices every day. You don’t have to make the right choice every single time, that could cripple anyone with indecision. All you have to do is make sure that the net of your choices at the end of today has made you a little bit better in some way.

Your life is the sum total of your days, which are the sum total of your decisions, and those days are going to pass regardless of how you spend them. You can either sit idly by and wish things were different, or you can use the time you’ve been given to change for the better.

You could…

  • Get out and go for a walk around the block. It may be a short walk, but it’s a lot farther than you would have gotten if you’d stayed on the couch.
  • Eat a little something before you leave the house if you’ll be gone for several hours, that way you won’t spend money eating out.
  • Put a $5 bill in a jar. Next time you have a $5 bill, put it in the jar too. Only put fives in the jar and see how fast it adds up.
  • Take everything out of one drawer, separate it and decide what goes back in the drawer. Get rid of the rest.
  • Read an article on something related to your dream. Google is a wonderful thing.
  • Want to start a business? Decide to do one thing every day to get started – read articles, find your domain name, set up a price structure.
  • When you run up on something in your closet that you don’t love or don’t wear much, take 3 seconds to take it off the hanger and put it in a donate/sell box.
  • Start planning a trip if your goal is to travel, even if you don’t have the resources to go yet. Doing the research will make it more real in your mind and give you a good idea of what you’ll need.
  • If you want to be a writer, start writing. Sit down for 20 minutes and just write the first thing that comes to mind.
  • Clean up. If you’re anything like me you’ll be more motivated and feel better at the end of the day if your space is clean.
  • Say no thanks to a commitment you don’t want to take on. Just one for now.
  • Say yes to something that scares you. Push yourself to go outside your comfort zone and see what happens.
  • Set up a budget so you know how much money you really have.
  • Take a class. One class on something you want to learn how to do. Or even smaller, just research and find that one class so you know what’s out there.
  • Do something totally unique to your dream or goal.

Incidentally, the majority of this post was written in my head while taking a short walk this cool quiet morning. More often than not I think you’ll find that one good choice leads to other things falling into place. I always feel more productive when I walk in the morning, I have more energy to make better choices, and I nearly always clear my mind enough to be much more creative the rest of the day. It’s worth far more than the few minutes out of my day that it takes.

All you really need to focus on right now, at this moment, is making one decision that will ensure that tonight you are just a little better than you were this morning. Not perfect, just a little better. Don’t worry about getting it all right, one day your choices will have become habits and you’ll be able to look back and see how far you’ve come.

You don’t have to sell your house, run a marathon or win the lottery to get started, you just have to start. One day, one hour, one choice at a time.

Apparently, If You Don’t Ask The Answer Is Always No

Who would’ve thought that? Someone really should make that into an inspirational t-shirt or Facebook graphic.

I’ve been a designer for years, I taught myself to design websites on (gasp!) Geocities when I was 13 years old.

I was at one point in time the queen of wavy textured backgrounds, and have used more than one of those little ‘Under Construction’ GIFs. You know the ones, they looked like a pixelated road work barrier and usually had a little blinking light on top. They always showed up with a message that said “Oops! This awesome corner of the web is under construction! Please check back again soon!”. Alas, lots of sites never came back from the blinking GIF… I assume they were absorbed back into the internet or collected up and recycled into MySpace.

The blinking GIF existed before we had plugins for our WordPress sites that let us install a countdown timer with a signup button to join our mailing list. All with one fell mouse click.

We’ve come a long way, baby.

I swear I’m going somewhere with this. Anyway, my point being that I’ve been doing this a while. I’ve built up my skills over time, learned a ton, and had plenty of customers, but never to any real end. I haven’t made a fortune, or even really sustained myself for any length of time with design work. Even as much as I’ve always wanted to call myself a designer and spend my days doing something I love.

Several years ago I decided to get serious about it and set up a legitimate business around what I was already doing for people. I bought my business license, worked for hours on a logo and stationery, then spent a few weeks going to local businesses and handing out cards, telling people who I was and what I did. Looking back on it I wasn’t near bold enough at the time, and probably looked like a geeky traveling salesman.

I did get some jobs, and I was already building sites for quite a few local government entities and factories, but none of it was what I really wanted to do. They are jobs, and they pay okay, but they didn’t need or want someone with creativity or design skill, they just needed someone to build a site. Every now and then a ‘fun’ site would come through, I would get a chance to work with another entrepreneur with a dream, and those were the sites I loved.

But I still didn’t try to do anything specific to meet those people. I didn’t figure out who exactly I was looking for, or how to find them, or even what to say to them if I did find them. In fact, I spent most of my time being so scared that I wasn’t good enough for them that I did nothing at all.

I would take work as it came to me, even if it was for someone who was definitely not on my ‘ideal customer’ list. I never turned a job down. But I also never manned up and went out looking for people who really needed my specific skills, my style, my personality. My target customers.

Because of that work was sporadic, I did minimal marketing and then expected jobs to come to me. Shockingly, they didn’t come pouring in. So I blamed it on living in a small town… my target market is mostly female entrepreneurs with small, fun, boutique style businesses. There’s not a ton of those here, so that might be half true. But that’s just a cop out really.

Cut to last year, when the great mind shift of 2012 occurred. I had already decided that 2013 was to be the ‘Year of Change’, and it turns out there’s something about selling everything you own and deciding to live more intentionally that really opens you up.

I think the act of choosing to make that first bold move, and then following through, helped immensely too. I realized that I can do anything I set my mind to, and that maybe the worst that can happen really isn’t that bad. So what if someone thinks I’m crazy? That’s their problem, not mine. Maybe I’m not ever going to be able to run a successful business, but if I don’t try then I sure as hell won’t be able to.

My fear from before, the one that said I wasn’t good enough to work for these fun, stylish people… It’s gone. I now realize that it was just that, an irrational fear, a silly little voice in my head.

Part of what helped me realize that was putting myself out there. This blog, my Etsy store, choosing to be more open on my Facebook wall.

I decided one day that life really was too short, and that every other cliche thing I had read on Pinterest was probably true. I can choose to put myself out there and possibly build a life doing what I love with people I think are awesome, or I can do the opposite because of what someone might say. I’m pretty sure when the zombie apocalypse hits I won’t be giving a second thought to what someone said.

So I put my designs out into the world, I became more open and started introducing myself to people in the forums on Etsy, I started blogging regularly and sharing the posts on Facebook along with my newest designs. It took a lot of courage at first, I won’t lie.

And you know what? Shockingly, it started working. People actually responded when I told them what I needed. They responded to the blog, to my shop, to me. Turns out, the people I thought I wasn’t good enough for were completely receptive when I offered my services. Who woulda thought.

I’ve done more business in the last few months than I have in the entirety of some years in the past. Apparently the only thing holding me back this whole time really was me.

I can’t help but wonder, if I had started being true to myself years ago, where I could be by now.

My work isn’t quite steady enough to make a living on yet, but the benefits are killer. I feel so incredibly alive when I’m doing something I love, whether it’s helping an entrepreneur put their vision into their website, creating a custom sticker for someones baby shower, or training to run a 5k. It fuels me.

Doing work you love, for people you care about, is an amazing experience, and I hope I get to do a lot more of it. I think everyone should strive for that.

But I think the coolest thing about all this is what I’m learning – that it’s been in my control this whole time.

None of this would have happened if I hadn’t decided to…

– make an intentional change in my life

– decide where I wanted to be and start walking in that direction, however slowly

– just ignore the fear and open myself up

– and most importantly, decided to just ask.