What will you be focused on in 2018? I believe that deciding on what you will focus on will decide the kind of year you have.
2017 was a year that started in November 2016 for me. I, like many other people, assumed I knew the direction the world was moving in. There were new challenges ahead that we had to face, but there were also expanding opportunities. I did not think Hillary Clinton was the right leader to guide us to this new world but she was a better leader than the alternative, at least she wasn’t looking to take us backward.
After the election results came in I spent November 2016 in despair and afraid.
But life went on. There was a wedding, the holidays, and a new year which meant it was time to set up new goals.
My goals for 2017 was to become more selective about who I associated with. Debate less about politics and discuss more issues. Make new friends and be an impact in other people’s lives. I was going to pay attention and be involved. I was going to join the resistance. I signed up for every publication, association, and nonprofit that would tell me what I needed to do to fight against the tyranny that was trying to rise.
January 1st started with a minor car accident and the month did not get any better. A couple weeks later I was in a hospital bed with a kidney stone and sepsis. It was the first time I ever truly acknowledged that my life could end without warning. I had been worked up about the election and all that was going on in the country and I realized that none of that mattered as much as caring for myself. I took a closer look at what I wanted to do and where I wanted to fit in. I couldn’t jump at every request to contact my representatives or feel righteous outrage at every Trump tweet. I needed to live.
In February my husband and I took a much-needed vacation to the beach where I got to reflect. I realized that I needed to find some balance.
2017 was still a year of political firsts. I attended my first protest and went to my first candidate meet and greet, had my first campaign sign, and led a series of neighborly bi-partisan political talks.
There were many great moments in 2017. I went to NYC for what was supposed to be a business trip but ended up being more of a solo tourist trip. I got to be in the live audience of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert the night that Michael Moore was his guest.
I repositioned my career to try to help as many people as possible adjust to what I believe are the realities of work, which is rapid change, no job security, and the need to be self-sufficient.
I started writing more political pieces.
I experienced 90 minutes in an isolation/float tank, a few times.
I cooked more this year and tried a variety of new recipes.
I drove to Dillard GA with my boys and a friend to see the total eclipse of the sun.
I binge watched all 7 seasons of Game of Thrones.
I learned how to use the nice camera that I have had for 2 years.
Overall, the year had more ups than downs on a personal level. On a political level, I am starting finding my voice and trusting that this is a nation of laws and checks and balances. I need to stay involved and rally for the future that I would like to see unfold, but I also need to live for the little day to day moments.
As we welcome in a new year I look forward to focusing on a new story. 2018 will be a story about self-improvement and new friends and continuous work toward a future of greater opportunities, creative expression, and spiritual connection for all.
Happy New Year and may 2018 be your best year ever.
In one big sigh, I finally released all the frustration and disappointment I have been carrying around for several months. It caught my husband’s attention and with immediate concern, he asked,
“I just have so much to do.”
I am sure this confession was confusing to him. For months I have been acting like I have everything handled, things were slow but that was a good thing. I needed some downtime. Money was still flowing from other sources. In my mind, and from what he understood, I was doing what I wanted and needed to do.
But at that moment and all of a sudden, I was overwhelmed.
No Boss, No Deadlines, No Commitments
I have been freelancing for 12 years now. My favorite thing about being a freelancer is the freedom to refresh my career. I recently heard Satya Nadella on NPR talking about hitting refresh on Microsoft. He used the Internet browser as a great metaphor for what it means to refresh.
“The browser has this beautiful logic when you hit refresh on your browser. It doesn’t replace everything. It replaces only those pixels that need to be replaced. “
That is a perfect metaphor for refreshing a company, including one as small as a solopreneur. I tend to hit refresh every year around this time. Some years I have replaced quite a few pixels. This year I am more focused on rearranging the pixels.
I can do this every year because I have no boss who needs to approve my decisions. I can take my time on implementing the changes, and if a change is not working out the way I thought it should I can pull back.
But last night, all at once, I saw how my pixels should be arranged. At the same time, I knew what I had to do to rearrange those pixels and I was all of a sudden overwhelmed.
Freelancer means being “a creative”
I think we all understand that the world of work is rapidly changing. Developers continuously introduce tools to automate tasks. Professionals are expected to increase the breadth of their expertise. An emerging generation with new ideas and assumed expertise are competing for work at lower rates.
When you are on your own, defining your offerings, seeking work, pricing your offerings, and delivering expertise, the world will change and pierce through everything you have built or think you know.
This is why I refresh every year. This is why being a freelancer means being “a creative.” If you are building your brand and offerings on fulfilling an obvious and existing need, you won’t last long out here in the wild. Like an artist, a freelancer has to look for the connections that other people miss. A freelancer has to have a vision of where they would like their industry to go. A successful freelancer has to have a desire to make a mark on this world, if not a ding in the universe.
My favorite definition of a brand comes from Jeff Bezos, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” That means your personal brand has to be interesting enough for someone to say something about you. You have to stand out. To achieve sales you have to stay top of mind. To keep clients you have to remain the expert, navigating through the rough waters of change.
That means to be a freelancer is to be “a creative.” To live the pain and sufferings of a creative. To wallow in the doubts and darkness the way that creatives do.
And to emerge with a new vision and an urgent and overwhelming need to get to work.
I have been working with a long-time friend on re-developing my personal brand. I say “re-developing” because it is a process of reclaiming the energy, the passion, the purpose of why I do what I do. I started by reclaiming the title “Idealist”.
When I launched my personal brand in 2005 and gave myself the title Idealist, it had two meanings. The first meaning was that I helped my clients come up with and stretch the ideas of what was possible for their business. The second meaning was that I was extremely optimistic about the future and I embraced that my optimism was a bit idealistic.
Many people helped me grow my business. I learned a lot from them and am forever grateful for their time and insights. But in many ways I allowed their insights and advice to destroy my idealism and to sidetrack what I was trying to accomplish. Over the years, I began resisting sharing the raw personal stories that I believed were so critical to connecting with other people in the world. I dropped the title of Idealist in favor of “being taken more seriously” and I focused less on stretching ideas and more on outlining paths to the typical business metrics.
The silver lining is that I vastly improved my business skills and knowledge. However, the greater good that came out of my years of rejecting idealism was the void I felt. There was always a feeling of dissatisfaction after a job well done. There was the numbness I experienced as I went through the routine of mapping out a plan to meet a goal. It was obvious what I was doing was working, doing a job. I was back on the hamster wheel that once drove me crazy enough to leave a good steady paycheck and to leap into the unknown. I say this was the greater good because it was this void that reminded me of my purpose.
The darker the world got the more I realized my light was no longer shining. We are living in precarious times right now. I believe it is vital for each of us to find our light to shine our way through to better times. My light is idealism, whether it is in the form of helping people stretch the ideas of what is possible, being unrealistically optimistic about the future, or identifying the silver lining of tough situations. It is my purpose of why I do what I do.
I have been on my own since 2005. It is a rollercoaster ride. At one point I considered getting off the ride and joining a company. That would be sacrificing the flexibility I had been enjoying. I spoke with my son about it. He asked me why I was considering a “real job.” I explained that I would like a steady paycheck. His response was “I know that money gets tight sometimes, but when you are rich, you are really rich!”
I laughed and decided what I really need to do is manage my money, time, and activities to achieve the stability I was seeking. In my article, Top 5 Ways to Survive as a Freelancer, I highlight a few practices that have worked for me.
I saw a news story today that bothered me a bit. Apparently, the United States Air Force is threatening to not let a soldier serve if he does not agree to violate his own beliefs. What are his beliefs? He’s an atheist.
A person who does not believe in God. That used to bother me and make me a little sad at one time in my life. “How can you look at all the majestic and wonder of the world and the Universe and not believe there is a God?” I thought. Then I would comfort myself in thinking that this person probably was still searching for his or her beliefs and they would eventually find God. This year I had a revelation that opened my eyes and heart to what it can mean to be an atheist. More on that later.
I was raised a Christian. I went to a variety of different churches growing up. When I was 20 years old I sat down and read the whole bible front to back. I discovered I needed more than just the Judeo-Christian Bible to grow spiritually.
That is when I began exploring Buddhism. Through the years I have become a student of religions. I am always listening to and reading about what other people believe. Much of what I learn does not resonate with me, but other parts of what I hear become like missing puzzle pieces that connect with ideas that have resonated with me. You can say I am a spiritual explorer picking and choosing the pieces that fit me best.
And why not? Why does anyone have to align themselves with only one belief, one dogma? How can anyone say one religion is the only truth and all others are living a lie or a partial truth? I love the story about The blind men and the elephant. Each man can only feel part of the elephant and thinks they know the whole truth based on the little section they have access to. We only have access to parts of stories. The more we explore the more we can learn.
But the question I used to have in my mind was “where do atheist fit into the story?” If they do not believe in God what can I learn from them? For a long time, I assumed they were people who believed only in science and nothing else. I assumed that perhaps they had something happen in their life that made them close the doors to the idea that there was a God. It was sad.
Then, one evening after a huge rainstorm had passed by leaving a field in Atlanta wet and muddy, my 2 boys and I stood in the humid air with a crowd of others who were waiting for a music festival to resume. It was the Candler Park music festival and the next person on stage was going to be an English chap named Frank Turner. He began to play and we began to dance around – not really knowing his songs yet and therefore listening closely in order to learn more about this chap.
Then he began singing a song to the tune of a church hymn. But the catch phrase of this catchy song was “There is no God.”
Below are a few lyrics that stood out for me. :
But just pretending it’s not happening isn’t gonna see us through,
If we accept that there’s an end game and we haven’t got much time,
Then in the here and now then we can try and do things right.
We’d be our own Salvation Army and together we’d believe
In all the wondrous things mere mortals can achieve
There is no God,
So clap your hands together,
There is no God,
No heaven and no hell.
But there is no God,
We’re all in this together,
There is no God,
So ring that victory bell.
In all the wondrous things mere mortals can achieve”…then please let that man fly and stand up for what he believes.
When we go to the movies, we get to escape reality. When someone like Robin Williams is in the movie, especially a comedy, we get to feel like the world is ok. Everything will work out in the end and we will get to laugh along the way.
The shocking news that Robin Williams took his own life took my breath away last night and has left me confused and sad today. Not because he was someone close to me, a friend or relative, but because he was so distant from me. He was, as he says at the end of Aladdin, he was mythology – our mythology.
His suicide was a slap of reality. Perhaps things don’t always work out in the end and sometimes we will not be able to find the humor in a situation. Sometimes the joy we are experiencing is all just pretend – just an act.
It does seem that Robin Williams was our mythological Genie, imprisoned by an awful spell of depression, compelled to grant us our own wishes to escape our own reality. I felt this tribute on Twitter last night was the most appropriate of all. “Genie, you’re free.”
If your 12 or 13-year old wanted to get married, would you be ok with that?
Probably not. In fact, most parents I know are not ok with their 12 or 13-year-old dating yet.
Why? Because they are so young, impressionable, vulnerable, and they have their whole lives ahead of them to experience so many things and learn life lessons that will one day help them have a successful marriage.
For me, that is exactly how I feel about kids who are signed with record labels at a young age.
You might have heard about the talented metal band, made up of a 12-year-old and two 13-year-old middle school kids, out of Brooklyn who call themselves Unlocking the Truth, and just signed a $1.7 million deal with Sony.
That news caused me to cringe.
I have a talented 13-year-old. I have had people in the music industry ask me if I was interested in having him signed. I decided to look into that and see what the music industry was all about. Of course I do not know that details of Unlocking The Truth’s deal, but in general what I know, and what makes business sense is that Sony is willing to front $1.7 million dollars to record and market the albums of these kids. All – I repeat – all of the money that Sony pays for production, distribution, and marketing has to be recouped before the kids make a dime. And once that money is recouped they will make a small percentage of their sales. Also with the change of the music industry, most labels are signing 360 deals, which means that Sony gets the lion’s share of not just their music sales, but merchandise, performances, sponsorship deals and so forth.
And Sony wants to make money so they will work these kids. So much for high school life – or any normal life – or making any of their own decisions.
And how many kid stars have had a really sustainable career into their adult life? Not many. Because the pressure of being a kid star robs kids of their childhood.
If you have a talented kid, my advice, from one parent to another, is to get them opportunities to perform. Let them learn the business on their own by selling their own concert tickets and merchandise. Get them marketing their band as well as their individual brand. Let them develop a strong fan base to the point that when someone like Sony comes knocking on their door – the negotiating power is firmly in their favor – and they know the business enough to be able to take a deal or walk away and be happy with their current path.
There are so many opportunities for musicians of all ages today – that I just get sad when I see any musician not take full control of their career. And at the age of 12 or 13, really, should those kids even have a “career” yet?
Last year my older son graduated high school and his only goal was to go to Bonnaroo. He signed up to be a volunteer during the event which meant that he got to stay in the volunteer camp. None of his friends were able to join him, so I drove him to TN with a tent and duffel bag full of supplies and dropped him off. Immediately he made lifelong friends and over the next 7 days had a life changing experience. This year he insisted that we needed to make Bonnaroo a family vacation and he was able to convince 2 of his friends to join us and volunteer post show to clean up.
This is a big deal for a few reasons. First, at least 95% of Bonnaroo attendees are 19-24 (estimated based on my observations). It is a festival of music starting from 1:00pm and lasting to 6:00am. It is a giant party, with a lot of drugs being passed around. It is not a place a teen would invite their parents and little brother. But my son did. He wanted us there to experience the positive vibe and music that was there. He was not there for drugs or to hook up, he was there for the music and he wanted to share that with his family. I could not be more proud to be there with my son who wanted us there.
The other reason it was a big deal is the most common way to lodge at Bonnaroo is to camp, and we have never been camping as a family. I did a lot of research in preparation for the trip and overall did a pretty good job getting what we needed to be comfortable.
We had a lot of fun hanging out together at the campsite.
The Bonnaroo vibe is most appealing to me. I always thought I missed out on the hippy years since I was not born until the 70s. But Bonnaroo brings back the love of the earth and fellow man vibe. There is art, and community, and an ever-present message of being good to the earth. There is tie-dye and flowers in girl’s hair. And messages to Radiate Positivity.
The music line up was overwhelming. There were constant compromise and sacrifice. If you see this great artist you will have to miss another great artist. We chose to see:
The Naked and the Famous
Seasick Steve ft John Paul Jones (bass player from Led Zepplin)
Tedeschi Trucks Band
Damon Albarn of Gorrillaz
Lake Street Drive
The Avett Brothers
Sir Elton John
And that was us taking it easy. There was a lot we missed. We took some time to visit the art vendors and ride the Ferris wheel. I learned when we got home that there were several other cool non-music events that we missed.
However, with all the positivity being radiated and high fives going around, we were still reminded that not all people know how to embrace such a vibe. It is fine when people need to get through a crowd to meet up with their friends, but shoving is not necessary. This was not common, but the few times it happened was enough to kill the vibe. There was also one guy that really came close to killing everyone’s vibe at the Elton John show because he was sloppy drunk spilling beer on everyone and being careless with his cigarette. He was there by himself, I am guessing his friends abandoned him. When we confronted him for putting our 13-year-old son’s safety in jeopardy he told us we should not bring a 13-year-old to Bonnaroo. In a crowd of tens of thousands giving my 13-year-old high fives for being there, I guess there had to be one asshole.
Overall, we had such a great time we think that Bonnaroo may become an annual vacation for us. However, it is not an experience I can recommend for everyone.
Yesterday was a day that should be marked down in my history.
Yesterday I had an epiphany. I realized how I was going to write this book that has been on my mind for almost 9 years. I have almost all the notes written, I just could not figure out how to organize the information in such a way that people would get the message in an artful and enjoyable way. Yesterday all the answers came flying at me at once and I soaked them all in as soaked in the Spring sun after a long, cold, dark, bitter winter.
As I was enjoying the moment of clarity I was also being very thankful that I did not try to rush the process many years ago when I was being told that I needed to write a book. I knew I needed to write a book. I knew that there was a book in me. But the gestation period has been many years. I have watched many people I know write multiple books. I have seen others praised for their accomplishment of publishing their book, all while I was waiting for this book inside of me to reveal itself.
I am so happy I waited. I did not force the book out prematurely and I am not sure the book is ready to be born anytime soon. This may just be the next phase of the development, but I am enjoying it.
There are many things this book has taught me along the way. The most important lesson is to slow down and enjoy the view. The book has been a journey for me. Along the path, the book has helped me make some very important decisions in my life. It has revealed to me a new path for the next decade of my life and in doing so it has shown me where the book itself fits in within my life story.
Had I put myself on a schedule, a deadline, had I forced this book out of me, or shoved it aside for a book that I could have been written quicker and gotten published in favor of the notoriety and praise, I would have missed the lessons – I would have missed the milestones – I would have taken a different path and missed the view that was trying to unfold in front of me.
Slow down – trust what is inside of you. Follow the path in front of you as it unfolds. Don’t try to rush it. Relax. Enjoy the view.
I cringe every time someone says it; “I am very busy.”
It is said with the tone the suggest being busy equates with being important. Or being busy is equivalent to getting things done, having a purpose in life.
It is as though the world has taught us that if you are not busy, you are a slacker, a loser, moving around aimlessly.
What is wrong with you? Get busy. Do something with your life.
Stop. Please just stop.
I am raising two boys, still driving my oldest to destinations that require highway driving and transporting my youngest to his various rehearsals and gigs. I am helping with homework, keeping the house clean, walking the dog, grocery shopping, running an online marketing agency, selling, managing a team, invoicing, developing strategies, pitching, writing, reading, being a wife, going to my husband’s gigs, nurturing my friendships, networking, and keeping up with all the changes that happen on social media while maintaining my own social presence. I am also on the board of two nonprofits and I keep up with paying our monthly bills.
Oh – I also play games on Facebook. I grew up playing games with my family, and now that we live in different states, Facebook allows us to continue to play games with each other.
I am not busy.
I have a life to maintain, but rarely will you hear me say the words “I am busy.” I do not need to apply that label to prove that I am accomplished or accomplishing.
I have priorities. Sometimes I will say I am not available at a set time, but that is not the same as I am too busy. That means let’s look at the schedule and see where something falls on the list of priorities and when I can get to it.
You are never too busy to do something or meet someone, it is just down on the list of priorities.
Also, you do not need to have every moment scheduled. Deadlines are important for most things, but when you actually do the activity should be when you are inspired to – obviously before the deadline. It is also vital to learn how you work and how long something will take you.
When I have to write a social media strategy for a client I suggest it will take 2 weeks. The first 10 days is me thinking about it, jotting down notes, doing research, and thinking some more while I do other activities. Then the last 2 days I sit down and write the report. It is thorough and thought out, but it did not fill every moment of my two weeks. Yet having the time to let information present itself and ideas to connect provides inspiring new concepts for effective strategies.
The more relaxed a person is the more creative they can be. Ideas can flow. But you cannot be relaxed if you are always busy.
Also, ideas and inspiration come from the oddest places. Today I sat down at Starbucks. My intent was to work on a campaign strategy that needs to be presented in 2 days. However, the gentleman next to me decided he wanted to chat. Was I too busy to chat? No. Who knows what wisdom this man would offer me. I will never see him again. So I felt I needed to push my work aside and listen to his stories. Within 30 minutes he was on his way and I was inspired to write this post. I still have plenty of the weekend to work on the strategy which will be written quickly once I finish collecting all the ideas that are around me.
If I was too busy to collect new ideas, all my ideas would be recycled and the value I offer would be diminished.
Let’s change how we view the idea of being busy.
If you are too busy you might be unorganized. If you are too busy you might be uninspired. If you are too busy you might be trying to fill in a void that needs to be addressed. If you are too busy you might have anxiety.
If you are too busy, you might be missing out on all that life has to offer.