Category Archives: pondering

Business Lessons from Baking Cookies

The Hubs and I were baking cookies last week. But not just regular old chocolate chip cookies.

These were made with coconut flour. Gluten free, fewer carbs – seemed like a great idea. Or at least worth a try.

I’d done some research online, found a recipe and everything was good to go. Or so we thought.

We had an inkling that they might not turn out very well when the dough was drier than traditional cookies. A lot drier. Dry enough that the chocolate chips kept popping out of the dough when we were trying to mix it all together.

Looking back, we probably should have added some more butter or oil or something. Somehow I convinced the both of us that we should just stick to the recipe because the cookies could still come out okay.

When they were done and cooled a bit, we tried them.

They tasted lovely – coconut-y and chocolatey – but dry.

Not coughing dust dry, but damn I could really use some milk dry. Thankfully we’d only made a quarter batch.

Then we started talking about what we’d do differently next time. And I started thinking about how different coconut flour is from wheat flour.

And then I started thinking about America’s Test Kitchen, and how they make a recipe many, many different ways to come up with the best results.

(I still remember the Tempura episode, where they determined that the best crunch comes from using seltzer water and vodka in the batter instead of plain water. Who the hell would even think, “Oh I know! I’ll add vodka and seltzer to the batter!”)

(If seltzer and vodka in batter is actually pretty common, please keep that to yourself.)

Where was I?

Oh yes. Trying something multiple ways to get the best results.

I realized that if I wanted to be able to make great cookies using coconut flour, I’d have keep baking with it. Only then would I be able to make educated guesses as to what would improve the recipe.

What this has to do with business

1. On the way to great results, you have to throw out a lot of crappy cookies (and/or Tempura).

Trying something that doesn’t work is not a failure. It’s part of the learning process. It’s how you figure out the best technique, method, or solution.

Looking at it as a waste (of time, money, energy, ingredients, etc.) will stop you from experimenting freely.

I’m constantly catching myself holding back from offering things because I don’t know how it will turn out. The sooner I stop holding back, the sooner I’ll have a better understanding of what works in my business and what doesn’t.

2. The only way to really understand – or grok – how something works is to get in there and use it.

Reading about coconut flour isn’t the same as baking a bunch of stuff with it.

Reading about sales pages and how to write them just isn’t the same as writing them and seeing how they perform.

The down-to-your-bones understanding, the kind that makes it easier to tweak and troubleshoot, only comes from mastery. And mastery comes from practice.

Again, it goes back to being willing to try stuff that might not work out.

3. Sticking to someone else’s recipe isn’t a guarantee of success.

Life is full of variables.

Your Essence Piece is different from my Essence Piece. Or from that one marketing expert’s Essence Piece.

Believe me, I wish there were a formula that listed guaranteed steps for biz success. “Do x, get y! Risk free!”

I don’t believe such a thing exists. And sticking to someone else’s recipe for business – even when it doesn’t feel right – is like handing over your power. I’ve done this. It never turns out well.

That’s why I focus on learning (and teaching) tools, strategies and frameworks that help me (and you) become more self-sufficient. The kind of stuff that allows us to be fluid in our work, rather than taking action we don’t understand.

Yet again, it comes down to being willing to experiment and risk failure by trusting yourself and going “off recipe.”

Bonus (Non-Business) Lesson: Don’t make cookies with 100% coconut flour unless you have steel intestines.

Those cookies were hard to digest. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

How about you?

Do you have a hard time allowing yourself to experiment?
What holds you back?
Are there some things that are easier to experiment with than others?

Looking for Clues

In my past jobs, there was always something I couldn’t stand about them.

When my misery at the thought of staying outweighed my fear of the unknown, I’d leave for what I hoped were greener pastures.

Except usually the pastures were only greener for a short time, and then a pack of dogs would run over, piss on the grass and turn it yellow.

I’m not sure what the dogs represent in this metaphor.

I often felt that my inability to enjoy what I was doing was my fault. Or due to character flaws that I’d never be able to fix.

Which I guess would mean that I was the pack of dogs pissing on my own green pastures?

It took a long time for me to realize this, but those crazy-making things about my jobs were actually clues pointing me toward what I needed my work to look like all along.

  • The feeling of meaninglessness pointed to the fact that I need my work to have purpose.
  • Being annoyed with stupid questions meant I need to work with smart, sensitive people.
  • Being exhausted at the end of the day from dealing with too many people meant I need to honor my introversion by having time to work in solitude.
  • Winding up bored easily meant I need to be able to use my creativity at work.
  • My low bullshit tolerance and belief that silly rules don’t apply to me meant running my own business would likely be a good fit.

I wasn’t the pack of dogs killing my own grass, I was on the wrong pasture to begin with.

Don’t get me wrong. Do I have some rough edges that could use smoothing? Hell, yeah. Who doesn’t?

The point is that I wasn’t unhappy at work because I was broken.

Remember the Puzzle Pieces? Our personalities and gifts and strengths – by their very nature – mean that some work will fit and some won’t.

It’s a process. You think you know what shape work you need, so you try it.

Maybe it fits and maybe it doesn’t.

All you can do is to notice what did and didn’t fit so that next time you can look for a Work Piece that fits better with your Essence Piece.

Most importantly, an ill-fitting Work Piece doesn’t indicate a problem with your Essence Piece.

But it can show you more about what kind of work will fit you. And that’s true whether you work for the Man or have your own business.

What can you understand about the kind of work that’s fulfilling to you – who you serve and how you help them – by looking at what’s not working now?

When the Thing Becomes Too Important

I’m feeling something that might possibly be the beginning of writer’s block.

Writing blog posts took a back seat to prepping to teach the Thing-Finding class.

And then once all of that was over, my post ideas were mostly vague glimmers that I couldn’t quite latch on to. Kind of like when you wake up in the morning and you know you dreamed something really bizarre but you can’t remember the details enough to describe it to anyone. (Or is that just me?)

The glimmers of ideas are coming into slightly clearer focus, and yet it also feels more difficult to put words to paper.

It feels almost as though writing a post has started to become too important.

And that reminded me of other things I want to do but don’t because they’ve become too big a deal.

A couple months ago on Twitter I learned about Zentangles. (Not sure from whom – @AmySeyBrown, maybe?) I was completely fascinated. And I thought it would be the perfect creative outlet for me because it’s simple – you just need a pen and some paper.

But then I read about how the perfect pens for this activity were Sakura Microns.

So I ordered a set.

The first set got lost in the mail (what are the odds?), so by the time I received them over a week had gone by.

(Can you guess where this is going?)

I took the pens out of the box. Opened the package and made some scribbles to see the different pen thicknesses.

And haven’t used them – or made a single Zentangle – since.

So what had happened?

I thought I was giving myself something I wanted by splurging on a set of art pens. But what I really had done was to impose a set of rules for when and how I could start creating.

This pattern is very closely related to the “if only’s” and the “I’ll do x once I ____.”

I’ll get serious about my Thing once I don’t have a full time job.
I’ll write the ebook once our house sells.
I’ll start painting once I can afford an easel.
I’ll knit something once I find the perfect yarn and pattern.
I’ll set up my Etsy shop the next time I use some vacation time.

This stuckness is not about lack of time or equipment or supplies.

It’s deeper than that.

For me and my non-existent Zentangles (and my on-again, off-again relationship with knitting), it’s fear of messing up. Of creating something that’s not good enough. Too much emphasis on the outcome of my efforts.

As for the lack of blog posts, here are some questions I’ve been asking myself about this, along with my answers.

What rules are you trying to follow?

I’ve already let too much time go by since my last post, so I need to hurry up and get something out there.

If I’m going to post something, it needs to be important. And useful. And at least a little entertaining. I don’t want to waste people’s time.

But it can’t be too long of a post. Nor can it be too short.

And the writing itself should feel like it just flies out the tips of my fingers. If the words aren’t flowing, it must not be worth writing.

What are you trying to avoid?

I don’t want to bore people. Or drive my readers away.

Or look like a dumbass.

What’s the kernel of truth in the fear?

That I want my writing to be genuinely helpful.

How can you take some of the importance out of writing a post?

Write about the struggle itself. (Wooo…meta!)

Trust that showing up is, in itself, helpful.

Drop my expectations about how it should look and feel.

Give myself permission to write something even if I decide not to publish it.

Intentionally write something badly. Ramble. Be ridiculous.

Draw a zentangle!*

First zentangle

First zentangle

* This is a perfect example of how getting unstuck in one area (writing a post) can lead to getting unstuck in a completely different area (drawing a zentangle with my fancypants pens).

How about you?

Have you set a condition for doing something (or some Thing), and then found yourself not doing it even once the condition was met? Share in the comments by answering some or all of the questions below.

Or don’t – let’s not make the comments too important. (I would say there are no rules, except, well, there are two: Be nice and no advice.)

What’s the thing you want to do but aren’t?
What rules are you trying to follow?
What are you trying to avoid?
What’s the kernel of truth?
How can you take some of the importance out of it so you can move forward?

(Ahhh…feels good to post again.)

I Did All That Work for Nothing

How many times have you said that?

Or maybe one of its cousins:

“What a waste of time that was.”
“What was the point of doing that if it was going to turn out like this?”
“Two weeks (or months) of work, flushed down the toilet.”

I started pondering this after the following sequence of events from last week:

There I was, lying down in shavasana after 15 intense minutes of Dance of Shiva. My intention? Make all the final niggling decisions I needed to make in order to launch my Shmorian Thing-Finding class.

In the back of my mind, I was semi-consciously aware that my husband was supposed to be leaving for work in about 10 minutes, but hadn’t come home yet to get ready. I shrugged it off, certain he must have the night off but forgot to tell me.

I was just about to start my meditation, when the door that leads in from the garage flew open and my husband was running through the house, trying to eat lunch, shower, dress and leave ten minutes in the past.

So, of course, I jumped up from my prone position on the floor (headrush!), and ran downstairs to try to help.

I wasn’t of much use, though, because all that frantic activity makes me nervous. Had he been able to bark orders, I probably could have helped. But intuiting what he still needed help with and doing those things, all without getting in his way? Nuh-uh. I cowered in the office, figuring that if I couldn’t help, I should just give him a wide berth.

Fifteen minutes later, he was off to work (and got there only 2 minutes late).

At that point I was completely frazzled. There was no way in hell I was going to be able to march back up to my meditation spot and get to meditating.

And I confess I was feeling thoroughly a little bit resentful at the interruption. Which is right about when I started ranting out loud to myself about how I’d done all that Dance of Shiva for nothing.

*sound of needle scratching across record*

Is that even possible?

Can you really do something like Dance of Shiva and get nothing out of it?

What about writing a blog post that you wind up not publishing? Or prepping to teach a class that gets canceled? Or studying to get certified as a [fill in the blank], and then changing directions after failing (or after passing, for that matter)?

Which then brings up all sorts of questions.

Why am I doing this thing (or this Thing)?
What does it mean to get something out of doing [fill in the blank]?
What kind of angst am I creating for myself when I look at the “failed” outcome as removing all value from the process?
Is it possible to increase my awareness of what I’m gaining from the process, and take some of the focus off the outcome?

(Wow…I could probably keep going with the questions, but I won’t.)

Hearing myself use that phrase that day – “I did such-and-such for nothing” – emphasized for me how much trouble I get into when all my focus is on the outcome of my activities.

In February, when it became clear I wouldn’t be conducting my 10-month program, all I could see was that I’d done a lot of prep work for something that wasn’t going to happen. I already shared how hard that was. I kept thinking of all the things I could have been spending my time on instead, and how they probably would have worked out a lot better. (Hello, pattern.)

Sure, it’s possible that a different focus would have generated different results. Whether those results would have been “better” is a whole ‘nother question that’s not really answerable.

What I couldn’t see before, though, is that the whole “failed class” experience planted a lot of seeds. Seeds that are just barely starting to sprout.

The upshot

This is still pretty fresh as far as epiphanies go, but among the things I’m thinking about:

This highlights the importance of doing work that I enjoy enjoying the work I do. Even if I want the benefit of a completed project, if I’m not being fed by the process of working on it, I shouldn’t be spending my energy on it, because the outcome isn’t guaranteed.

I’m also thinking that maybe there are ways to remind myself of the value of what I’m doing while I’m doing it.

Yes to more noticing what I’m enjoying and what I’m not as I go about my work. More noticing how different types of projects make me feel. And more finding ways to spend my time doing the stuff that energizes me.

And guess what?

The noticing adds value to whatever I’m doing, because no matter the outcome I’m learning about me.

Will there still be situations where I feel heartbreaking disappointment at how a project turns out? I’d be shocked if there weren’t.

Maybe it’s just how our brains are wired, but I think our capacity to know the full value of what we’re doing is limited.

The seeds get planted behind our backs, and we don’t even know they’re there until the first little green shoots pop up through the soil. They show up as an unexpected blog post, or an inkling of a new understanding of our Thing.

But maybe by noticing those seedlings we can build a body of evidence to remind ourselves – even in the midst of disappointment and frustration – that there was a point to the work we did. We just have to wait for the seeds to do their thing.

How about you?

Can you relate? What have you found that helps? Want to share your stories of work that felt like it was for nothing at the time but turned out to be hugely important?

I’d love to hear about it.


After all my falling apart lately, it seems that things are starting to clear a little bit.

My tendency, for better or worse, is to approach shifts toward the positive cautiously. Because, you know, they could shift back the other way at any moment.

Does my old buddy, Urgency, still visit without an invitation? Oh yeah.

Hence the caution, because sometimes Urgency shows up and decides to camp out on the couch for days at a time. In his boxer shorts and undershirt stained with Cheetos dust. What a dick.

Wait, what was this post supposed to be about?

Oh, I remember. Things looking up.

So the fact that things are looking decidedly less staring-into-the-abyss-ish meant I needed to figure out what’s next.

And wondering what’s next led me to reflect on what was going on for me when I started this blog (and before ever starting it).

Which led me to remember how stuck I was.

First, let me be clear that I am in no way implying that I am immune to getting stuck. I think my previous two posts make that point pretty well.

But there was a particular flavor of stuck that I was in for years. The I-hate-my-job-and-I-want-to-do-something-else-but-I-have-no-idea-what-my-Thing-is flavor.

And by Thing, I mean the thing I am good at, enjoy doing, and want to be paid to do.

Story time

Way, way back, when I first discovered that I loved databases and wanted to work in IT, it wound up taking me about a year to get my first real IT job. I was so excited to have finally broken through that frustrating Catch-22 of not being able to get experience because I didn’t have experience, yet.

And then it took less than a year for the career honeymoon to be over.

Even if I decided to ignore the feeling that I was living a Dilbert cartoon everyday, all the little technology gremlins that kept something from working for no apparent reason? And the constant assault of new tools coming in to replace the old tools? Drove. Me. Crazy.

Yes, there is always new stuff to learn no matter what field you’re in. But I quickly got tired of all the new learning required to be successful in IT. It just wasn’t my Thing.

I was heart-broken. Because for the second time, I’d thought I’d found my dream career, only to learn that I would have to go back to the drawing board. (The first time? I really thought I’d be a scuba instructor in the Caribbean for longer than three years.)

But the drawing board was not a fun place to go back to, especially for someone who doesn’t like being in the not knowing.

“What do you want to do?”
“What do you like to do?”

Those questions caused me a lot of anxiety. Because no matter how many times I asked myself, or others asked me, I only heard static.

I started reading books by people like Barbara Sher and Martha Beck. And the kinds of books that had tests you could take to help you figure out what you’d be good at. Those stupid tests never worked for me – they always seemed to result in the answer of “you can do whatever you want.” (Uhhh…thanks?)

What did you like to do as a child?

That wasn’t a helpful question because, by the third grade, I was only interested in making sure I got straight-A’s in school. There was no time for anything else.

Oh but wait…I used to like crafts.

At the time, though, that wasn’t an acceptable Thing at all, so the information wasn’t helpful. It was so tied up in all my Stuff around creativity and perfectionism that there was no way I could explore it as a possible business.

Looking back, what really kept me stuck was that I was unable to give myself permission to do anything about finding a new Thing. No experimenting. No trying and then moving on to something else if it turned out I didn’t like it.

It’s a sad and uncomfortable place to be. I desperately wanted to want to do something, but between the disappointment of so quickly falling out of love with IT and the fear of getting the next choice “wrong,” I couldn’t even let myself dream.

Am I alone?

I’ve got some ideas that I think would have helped me had I been able to give them to myself back then. But it made me wonder about you.

Can you relate to wanting to find your Thing but not knowing where to look?

If you’re still in the process of figuring out what your Thing is, and you’re feeling stuck around that (or have felt stuck in the past), what flavor of stuckness is it?

What kind of “yeah-buts” are you hearing when you come across something that could be your Thing, and you’d like to know more about it?

Or maybe you’re pretty sure you’ve found your Thing, but you’re still hearing lots of yeah-buts. Are you feeling stuck around how to move forward? Or how to be sure it’s for real?

Of course, I’d love to hear about it in the comments. But I know this can be a difficult and frustrating topic. So if you want to remain anonymous, you can share your answers in the form below.

I really want to hear from you.

(If you’re reading this via email and aren’t able to see the special form, you’ll need to click through to the web page in order to use it.)

Is Your Business Not-Quite-Born?

I know that last time I said that this time I’d be talking about Necessity. This is not that time. Instead I need to say a couple of things about about my course.

If you’re 100% not interested in the course or whether it might be for you, feel free to skip this one. It’s okay.

Someone emailed me yesterday to ask they were a good fit for my course.

And I realized if one person emailed me to ask, there are probably others out there who are wondering the same thing, but haven’t sent me an email about it.

What’s the question?

Is this course right for me if I have a solid business idea but I’m not yet open for business?

The short answer? Yes.

The long-ish answer…

I’m guessing you were hoping for more than a simple yes or no.

The essence of my course is to help you go from idea to plan to implementation.

It’s about getting clear on what you’re really wanting from your business (and in your life), and creating a plan to get you there.

Clarity and a plan are crucial whether you’re dealing with an old business, a young business, or a not-quite-born business.

And then it hit me. Yes, this course is absolutely for people whose businesses already exist. But what I realize now is that this course is also the one I wished was available to me when I was getting ready to launch my business. I get downright giddy when I think about the kind of difference this course could make in helping people launch a business.

Why is this course so great for people planning to launch their businesses?

The exercises we’ll be doing to develop our vision will help you clarify what you want to offer, so you can put those pieces into your strategic plan. (To get a taste of the process of creating your vision, check out this post.)

It can help you avoid the expensive mistakes so many new entrepreneurs make, because you’ll know where you stand financially before you dive in. You’ll know what it will take to be able to quit that day job, if you’ve got one.

And the work we’ll be doing with creating our own project plans? The launch of your business is your project.

You’ll know very early on what business expenses to budget for, such as a website or equipment, and they’ll be the expenses that directly support your vision, because you’ll already know what’s important to you this year. (I wrote about how our spending can support our vision here.)

Maybe some of you are wondering, “But what if I get stuck?”

I completely relate to that, and have documented it on this very blog. Remember Hedgehog Girl? There’s nothing like a new adventure to bring out our stucknesses and resistance.

Fear is to be expected – you’re venturing into new and unfamiliar territory. And the voices of our inner critics seem to be particularly loud when we’re doing something big like a launching a business. They’ll do what they can to keep us from moving forward, because they think that’s the only way to keep us safe.

That’s part of why I’m offering a private coaching option for the course. Between starting something new and getting clear on our financial needs, Stuff is likely to get triggered. It’s completely normal. The one-on-one sessions are that extra bit of support that can help keep you on track, so you can get that business of yours out into the world where it can help people.

Growth is often uncomfortable and tantrum-inducing. Giving ourselves what we need as we go along makes it less so. Together we’ll be able to address any resistance that comes up.

If you’re ready to take the next 10 months and build a solid foundation for your business idea, learn more and sign up here. The $200 early-bird discount is still available, but only through 2/11.

Supporting Your Vision Part 2 – Does Your Spending Actually Support Your Vision?

Last time, I shared questions to help you explore how you might spend your money to help you bring more of your No-Brainer set of qualities into your life and business.

As promised, today we’ll look at it from the other direction: Looking at the money we spend to see what qualities our choices are increasing (or decreasing).

Still with the big fat caveat

I said it before and I’ll say it again: It’s normal to feel uncomfortable when looking at how we spend our money. Our stuff gets triggered, shoulds get louder, our hindsight tells us we could have done better…it happens to all of us.

We’re just gathering information with no expectation of making changes. So that we can have some clarity around what our money is doing for us in terms of supporting our vision (or taking us away from it).

The questions (with my own answers)

Pick two or three things you currently spend money on regularly, that you believe aren’t necessities. What qualities do they bring or what needs do they fulfill?

Going out to eat and ordering take-out – I guess this brings the qualities of ease and support. It means we don’t have to cook. Perhaps it also brings luxury or, well, whatever the quality is for indulging my sense of taste.

Starbucks – Partly the taste thing again. Sometimes connection when I met people there. But my history with lattes is that they were something I picked up on my way to the office, so it was more about “making up” for the fact that I had to go somewhere I didn’t want to go.

Renting DVDs – It brings fun, sometimes creativity if the movie sparks ideas for me. Connection with my husband when we discuss the movie.

More-than-basic cable & DVR – Sometimes fun. The DVR brings ease (I guess) or efficiency (!), in that we’re not forced to sit through commercials. Connection if we’re watching something together.

What I’m noticing: For all of the items I listed above, I’m feeling like I need to defend the money I spend on them. I also notice that these things can be used for good or for evil. Yes, movies and TV can bring fun and connection, but sometimes I use them to numb out when I’m overwhelmed. Sometimes they bring dis-connection, because it’s passive entertainment.

For the qualities and needs you listed above, what other ways could you receive them while spending less money?

I could replace the ease of ordering out with simple recipes that leave us with a few days of leftovers. Bonus points if the recipe tastes really good. Usually I’m okay with leftovers (even boring ones) because they’re so easy.

I could also start working on my pattern of using TV to numb out when I’m overwhelmed. I’m sure there are much better ways to unwind and recharge, but this is a habit that spans decades, so it might take a while to unravel it all.

I could increase the fun and connection from renting movies with a board game night sometimes.

My Starbucks habit has already dropped off considerably now that I’m not going to an office. Plus, we make really good coffee at home.

Are there better ways to receive those qualities, even if it costs the same or more money?

Note: the point of this question is to encourage you to consider how you’re meeting your needs. Something more expensive might give you a lot more of what you’re wanting, compared to the cheaper thing that only gives you a very small amount.

Instead of reverting to movies and TV together all the time, we could consider signing up for a class together. Swing dancing, or painting. My sense is creating shared experiences would do a lot for increasing the qualities of connection, creativity and fun.

What comes up for you when you think about some of your spending and the ways you could change it?

I see quite a few things that I spend money on due to inertia – it’s easier to just keep it the way it is than to address it.

I’m also noticing that sometimes giving ourselves what we really need and want, rather than choosing the convenient options, is its own form of work. Sad but true.

Now that you’ve explored your spending and the qualities it brings, are there any changes that feel like a “No-Brainer” to you?

I’m definitely going to work on ordering out less, because I realize now that it just doesn’t give me that much of the qualities I’m wanting. I’d like to go from ordering out twice a week to twice a month. I can even try to find some fun recipes to try.

Until next time…

I’m thinking it might be time to talk about that elephant in the room, Necessity.

What about you?

Any aha moments from looking at the qualities your spending is bringing you? Any No-Brainer changes you’d like to make? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Oh, and feel free to share your No-Brainer recipes that you think I should try!

Enjoying this process of using qualities to direct your investments of time, money and energy? My upcoming course will be using the same approach to help you get clarity and create structure in your business. I’m offering a $200 early-bird discount until February 11. You can get the details here.

Supporting Your Vision Part 1 – Qualities & Spending

Earlier this week, I shared the questions I asked myself when I was trying to come up with my business vision for 2010.

The questions help you to go from the soft of qualities, needs and desires to the hard of how to apply it in the real world. To go from vision to reality. That’s really what my course is about, too.

Last time, we chose projects that would support us in our No-Brainer set of qualities.

Another place we can look at to support our No-Brainer set of qualities is in where we spend our money. We can make spending choices that will support our vision and increase our desired qualities, or that will take us further away from what we really want.

Big fat caveat

Money and spending are areas that can be full of triggers for people. Sometimes there’s shame and fear and avoidance.

It’s okay.

It’s important to treat this exercise as information gathering. You have my permission to look at it but not change anything you’re doing at the moment. In fact, I really don’t want you to think about changing anything right now.

Because this absolutely is not about whipping your spending into shape or cutting all the fun out of your life because it costs money.

This is simply about noticing. Exploring the idea that some small changes could make a big impact in your sense that you really can bring your vision into reality (which is all about clarity and sovereignty).

Once you’re clear about what you’re spending and why, you might find that some things are easy to change. But you won’t know until you get clear first.

Two ways to look at spending

When looking at where your money is going, or could go, it’s helpful to consider it from two directions.

1. From Qualities to Spending – What kinds of things could I put my money toward that would increase the qualities I’m wanting? (If you don’t know why I keep mentioning “qualities”, reading this post should help.)

2. From Spending to Qualities – What qualities are the things I currently invest in bringing? Are there better ways to bring those qualities into my life?

And for the purposes of this exercise, it’s going to be easier if you start with non-essential spending – entertainment, for example. But this exercise could be used for non-essential business spending, too. (Which begs the question, “What qualifies as essential?” But I’m not going there today.)

Today’s post will focus on going from Qualities to Spending.

Questions you can ask yourself (with my own answers)

What are the qualities you want more of?

For me, it was Connection, Creativity, Fun, Stability, Safety and Sovereignty.

What are you currently investing in that increases those qualities?

My work with Hiro definitely helps with a lot of the qualities – especially in learning how to increase my sense of sovereignty and safety as I navigate this entrepreneurial adventure. It’s a huge part of my self-care and my business-care.

Being a member of the Havi‘s Kitchen Table program increases connection (among other things) for me.

What other things, if you chose to spend money on them, would bring more of those qualities into your life?

In my personal life, I’m thinking about some kind of artsy class I could get involved in, which would (in theory) increase connection, fun and creativity.

For my business, I could join a paid membership site in hopes of increasing connection, but that doesn’t feel like what I actually need to do right now.

I’ve also considered increasing connection by investing in a video camera to record video blog posts.

Sidebar: If you listed Support as one of your qualities, you might think in terms of hiring a VA for your business. Expansion and Flow are other qualities that might increase by outsourcing some of your work.

Of the spending you listed (both current and potential), which ones make you feel excited? Where do you feel you’re getting (or would get) the most bang for your buck?

What I’m noticing is that the things I’m most excited about are the things I’m already doing – hanging out at the Kitchen Table and working with Hiro.

When I think about the potential options of taking an art class or buying a video camera, I feel some resistance come up.

For the class, I need to figure out my No-Brainer Scenario and turn that into a Very Personal Ad to help me find it, so that I don’t get bogged down in why it won’t work.

For the video camera, I think I was more excited about video posts a couple of months ago, for whatever reason. The idea probably came up now because I was remembering that I was excited about it.

I’m noticing that most of the qualities that I’m wanting in my business aren’t things I can buy right now. They’re things I need to create. I’m going to ponder that some more, especially if I get tempted to buy another information product.

Until next time…

We’ll see what comes up when I look at my actual spending and ask what qualities it brings or what needs it helps to meet.

What about you?

I’d love for you to come play by answering the questions in the comments. What are the qualities you’re wanting more of? What could you spend your money on to help increase them in your life and business?

Enjoying this process of using qualities to direct your investments of time, money and energy? My upcoming course will be using the same approach to help you get clarity and create structure in your business. I’m offering a $200 early-bird discount until February 11. You can get the details here.

This Might Sound Crazy But…

I’m going to share something kinda kooky with you. Because we’re friends, and I’m always kooky with friends.

Well, I’m always goofy with friends. Not always kooky.

In fact, I feel a little weird about posting this, because it’s not at all what I expected it to be.

But one of the big things I’m trying to learn right now is self-trust. And how to lean on my intuition (or whatever you’d like to call that spidey-sense that sometimes tells us things we don’t expect to hear).

So I’m taking what feels like a big risk and posting this in spite of my doubts. It’s an experiment. And if nothing else I’m modeling taking risks and experimenting, right? Right?

Off we go…

Ever since I started developing my course, I’ve been meditating on it. Talking to it. Hanging out with it.

Today the conversation went something like this…

Me: What do my Right People need from me in order to find you?
The Course: Reassurance.
Me: Help me understand that.
The Course: They feel bad for not already knowing the stuff they’ll be learning.
Me: Ohhh. What’s the best way to reassure them?
The Course:
Me: Can you show me a symbol or a word or something?
The Course: They want to feel safe.
Me: Safe?
The Course: Safe with you.
Me: How do I do that? I can’t tell them, “I used to not know how to do this and felt out of control in my business until I learned how to do this and now I can teach you.” My brain thinks in ways that make spreadsheets and planning relatively easy.
The Course: But it’s okay for them not to know.
Me: Of course it is.
The Course: Tell them they can learn.

And then I started in with my analyzer, thinking this was not worthy of a blog post.

Me: Hmmm…can we come back to this? I need to just explore whether maybe there’s some other thing I need to do right now. Like Monday’s post where I gave people some questions they could answer. Is there something we could do that’s similar to that?
The Course: Reassurance.
Me: But…
The Course: Reassurance.

So there it is. I still feel stumped as to how to convey reassurance about this other than to just say it.

It’s okay not to know how to budget and forecast and create project plans. If you knew this stuff, you wouldn’t need this course.

It’s okay if you feel as though you’re flying by the seat of your pants most of the time. There’s no such thing as feeling 100% in control. Certainly not as an entrepreneur. But I can help you feel more in control.

It’s okay to mostly know how to plan projects and keep track of your business numbers but not want to do it. A little accountability can go a long way.

It’s okay if you’ve been afraid to look at your finances. And if you don’t really know how much money is coming in or going out.

Nobody will laugh at you or judge you for what you don’t know or for what you haven’t been doing. Even if you feel as though you’ve been in business long enough to “know better.”

This isn’t about correcting you or telling you how to do it right after you’ve been doing it wrong. It’s about feeling safe and supported in your business because you know where you want to go and you have a plan for how to get there.

I will teach you this process in the simplest, gentlest way possible. We will all be there to support each other as we go.

You can learn this.
Without tearing your hair out and working crazy hours.
Without subjecting yourself to esoteric jargon and convoluted methods.
It really is possible to build a solid foundation for your business.

Noticings on the Hiking Trail and Elsewhere

Warning: Post sans point ahead.

I’ve been very aware of certain patterns, lately. When I started writing about them, I hoped I’d have some awesome realization about what it all means, but alas, I have many questions and no real answers. Yet.

But I figured why not share anyway?

Ready? Commence brain dump!

Pattern #1 – Doing things to the extreme

I’ve been trying to get outside more lately, to try to take real breaks instead of the half-assed periods-of-rest that aren’t really restful at all.

Being at the computer during “break time” isn’t restful. I wish it were, because oh the convenience, but it isn’t.

So I’ve been trying to go hiking a few times a week. There’s a beautiful park with trails about 10 minutes from our house.

But what I’ve noticed is that when I’m on the mountain (okay, mountain might be a bit generous, but it’s definitely bigger and steeper than a hill) is that I’m not really enjoying it. Well, I am but I’m not.

I find myself thinking the following:

How far can I get this time?
How fast can I go this time?
Can I make it all the way up to the top?
It’s already been 25 minutes…should I head back now or try to get a little closer to the top?
Uh oh, there’s someone coming up behind me. I don’t want to have to get out of their way yet, so I’d better speed up.

What this all adds up to is that even though I’m doing good things for myself by getting away from the computer, and getting some solitude, I’m not necessarily doing these things in a healthy way.

Is it really beneficial if I’m trying to power up the mountain and See What I Can Accomplish?

Pattern #2 – All activity must produce something

I guess the noticings while hiking reminded me of other attempts at hobbies.

Back before I knew I wanted to be a coach, I started making beaded jewelry.

But somehow that wasn’t challenging enough, so I had to start making the glass beads, themselves.

I got quite good at it, and really enjoyed it, but it was also about continuing to push myself and get better.

There was always a next step, and my next step was going to be buying my own equipment and setting up a studio so that I could start selling my work.

Then for reasons I won’t go into here, I had to quit making the beads. I was devastated, and quit making jewelry all together.

Eventually I realized that I didn’t really want to make and sell jewelry, anyway, and that led me to feel like there was no point in making it at all.

If there is no producing-something-of-value, don’t bother doing it at all? Is that what I really believe?

Is there such a thing as a hobby that produces nothing but is still enjoyable?

Or are those hobbies just not appealing to me, because I’m wired to create things?

Pattern #3 – Practicing and pushing

Driving to the hiking trail the other day, I saw a father and son in a grassy area.

They had set up six or seven orange traffic cones in a line, and the boy was kicking a soccer ball while weaving between the cones.

Then I noticed that the father had a stop watch, and was timing his son as he practiced the drills.

Seeing that made me feel incredibly sad. Even writing about it now, I kind of want to cry.

Just that one little scene triggered so much stuff.

My stuff around competition and sports and needing to push myself to get better at whatever I was doing. From a very early age. And my stuff around winning and losing.

They turned “going out and kicking a ball around” into “objectively evaluating performance.”

Pattern #4 – The knitting

As I’ve mentioned before, I picked up my knitting again and am working on finishing that scarf I started five long years ago.

Knitting is a bit of a weird hobby for me because I feel like I need to be doing something else while I knit. Watch TV or listen to a podcast or something.

But I’ve been wondering if I’m really enjoying it, or if it’s turned into a Thing to Produce.

If I’m doing a “fun” activity that doesn’t absorb my full attention, does it count as fun? Does it provide the replenishment I’m looking for?

All of which leads me to…

I’m very aware that I need to learn how to replenish myself

I’ve started working on a pretty big thing. A big, scary thing that I want to do but oh it’s so scary.

(Which ties in nicely with Eileen’s post where she talks about the contradiction of wanting and not wanting to do things.)

And maybe because it’s big and scary, after I’ve worked on it for a while, I’m completely drained.

Empty drained.

Can’t even hang out on Twitter drained.

And it’s been happening a lot lately. Which is part of what led me to being more dedicated to getting out of the house to go for a hike. And more dedicated to spending some time knitting every night.

I’m also spending more time doing Dance of Shiva (yep, aff link) and practicing the techniques I’m learning from Hiro.

Yet I’m continuing to have trouble recovering from feeling drained. So I’ll keep working on it.

But here are the real questions:

Have I ever done any activity, ever, without looking at it in terms of accomplishment and production?

Is my tendency to look at hobbies or “fun” in those terms part of why I’m feeling so drained and having a hard time recharging my batteries?

Or is this just the nature of the true creative process, and it’s only now that I’ve begun to use the full extent of my creative energy?

I don’t think it’s inherently a negative to find pleasure in creating or producing something. (That’s sort of what art is all about, right?) There’s also nothing wrong with wanting to improve our skills at something.

But where is the line between enjoying it and turning it into a mountain that needs to be climbed or a game that needs to be won?

Today’s comment zen:

This was me sharing my thought process. A process that has not reached conclusion, yet. I want to hear what you think about your patterns around creativity and fun. Can you relate to what I’ve shared?

But please be very gentle with these thoughts and questions o’ mine. Let’s definitely keep this a should-free zone.