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On a regular basis I’m asked, “Do you miss doing your art?” The answer is “no,” but today I heard a perspective that articulated perfectly why I don’t. I was being interviewed by Patrick Kiger for secondact.com, a website devoted to helping people over 40 with all aspects of their lives.
Patrick had first interviewed me for a piece he was writing about my good friend and colleague Mary Ellroy. During that conversation he mentioned that he’d like to interview me at a future time, which turned out to be today. He’s very interested in the whole idea of re-invention, so my transitions from schoolteacher to mother to egg decorator, entrepreneur, speaker, author and coach was fodder for his mill.
He, too, asked me if I ever missed doing the eggs. I explained how creative it is coaching entrepreneurs, how my mind fires ideas like never before and that my clients’ creativity is satisfying to me as well as to them. “You’ve made business your art form,” he said matter-of-factly. I felt like saying, “Eureka!” It was crystal clear in that moment that I am still practicing art, but in a medium that is unlike any that I’ve used before.
Patrick reminded me of how Salvador Dali spent the first half of his career painting and the second half self-promoting. He didn’t stop being an artist, but his medium changed. I liked the comparison.
An unexpected package arrived at my door today…from a floral company. The return label revealed nothing about the sender. For a few glorious minutes I wracked my brain for who might be sending me a bouquet.
My birthday is next week (July 4 for anyone who wants to take note), so this would have been a little early to acknowledge that day. I have just came back from a wonderful family celebration in California, so might be on the sending end of flowers, but definitely not receiving for the gratitude I was feeling for my kids and siblings and nieces and nephews.
I tore open the cardboard-zippered carton and took in a deep breath of appreciation for nature’s ever-present gifts–a beautiful arrangement of sunflowers and complementary blossoms–tucked neatly into a glass vase with two packets of flower fertilizer enclosed. The neatly attached message solved the mystery. “Dear Jane, Thank you for continuing to refer women in your network to me.”
My marketing consultant, Heather Habelka of Red Poppy Marketing, had generously and thoughtfully acknowledged a recent referral I’d sent her with this beautiful surprise package. It’s another example of how well she does things. I was thrilled with her gift.
I flew out to Los Angeles yesterday for a family celebration this weekend. Across the aisle from me on my JetBlue flight was a bit of commotion. A young couple had noticed some empty seats closer to the front of the plane, which they proceeded to sit down in and buckle up their seat belts. The flight attendant was summoned by a petite white-haired woman who occupied the third seat which was next to the window of that row. The young man and woman were asked to vacate the seats they had mistakenly identified as unfilled. “She has paid for all three of these,” the attendant informed them.
The young couple and everyone witnessing the brief scenario had smiles on their faces. “Good for her!” was the reaction.
It still turns my stomach to read the rejection letter I received from a major bookseller when I sent them the new edition of Soul Proprietor last May. For those of you who are thinking of self-publishing, and also for those of you who have ever given up after a rejection, read on.
Here’s what you want to be aware of when sending a book in for evaluation:
Titles submitted to the Small Press Department are turned over to the respective category buyers for a decision. The buyers see hundreds of books every week and look at each one to determine its potential for sales in our stores. They consider the content, the author’s credentials, how the book looks, the marketing and promotion plans for the title, and how it stacks up against the competition currently on the shelf in the category. Once they have weighed all these factors they make a decision on how to proceed with the title. In this particular case, after careful consideration the buyer decided not to add Soul Proprietor: 101 Lessons from a Lifestyle Entrepreneur to the assortment.
The word forward is used improperly on the cover of the book. The proper word is foreword.
I was pained but not daunted, however, by this rejection. I knew that not one of my readers would reject the content of my book because of a typo on the cover that had gotten past me and my book designer. I swallowed hard and worked diligently to sell the first 1000 copies I’d ordered, which I have. I just received my re-order where the misspelling is corrected. I intend to re-submit the corrected version again to that company. (I can’t wait to write the blog post when they accept me this time!)
While networking not long after I’d received my rejection I met a woman who did decorative painting. Her business is called Fauxward, as in faux painting. Who knew there were so many ways to spell that damn word?!
“I suck at advertising,” was one of Drew Lamm’s opening lines last night to the group of assembled women. I could tell this was going to be a special event by the energy outside her purple front door. Women were pulling their cars onto Drew’s quaint, narrow street in the village of Rowayton and bustling up the purple stairs into her home. I overheard excited chatter among classmates seeing each other again after having shared intimate thoughts they’d written under the gentle, constructive guidance of their teacher Drew.
My thought after experiencing this special night was that she advertises extremely well. Word of mouth had filled the room. There is no finer testimonial than bodies filling seats, worthy readings and hearty applause. I’m not even in the market for a writing class and I wanted to sign up!
It was a grown up recital, much like those old piano class days, of students demonstrating their talents for the assembled masses. Drew gave an admittedly extemporaneous opening modeling her belief that when you’re in the company of creative women and the space is safe, the muses will inform you as they certainly did Drew. She spoke eloquently from the heart about the sacredness of the practice she preaches. One by one, her disciples read their drafts to us, smiling at the unexpected laughter they engendered, touched by the applause when they completed their reading.
“You’re hearing rough,” Drew explained, but it hardly felt so. These were wonderfully tender, meaningful and well-crafted essays and poems by a disparate group of women.The topics ranged from collecting lightning bugs to breastfeeding to cursing matriarchs to what to be buried in (naked on satin sheets was the request). Drew had promised a break during the readings, but read the mood of the room and kept the pace going. We were enthralled. An intermission would have disrupted the flow.
Drew made a gentle pitch at the end of the program for her upcoming workshops offered this summer. Based on the obvious success, support and affection that happens in this kind of environment, I don’t think she’ll have any trouble filling her sessions. For more information, visit her website.
Her house is eclectic and she invited us to visit her particularly magical bathroom located behind the star/beaded curtains. I was intrigued and captured a few images. The one above is the mirror in that room. There are many inspiring quotes hanging framed on the walls there. This was my favorite. It’s hard to read, so here’s the translation: There are two things in the world–life and death. ‘Art’ is life. ‘Not Art’ is death. ~Stuart Davis
Mary Ellroy, owner of Gamebird, is a game and toy inventor as well as a consultant to those wishing to bring their products to market. She’s also a member of my nearly 20-year old mastermind group and a dear friend. I take what she says seriously.
Slight digression: I remember my father trekking into NYC with me in the late 60′s carrying a perpetual calendar I had designed as a college project, which he thought was worthy of manufacture. My point here is that pretty much everyone I know at some point thinks they’re an inventor. Since you know some things about me already, one is that I didn’t get rich (or even sell anything) from that product.
Consulting to this audience proves tricky for Mary as most would-be inventions are as well-intentioned but un-salesworthy as mine. How do you kindly educate your audience, save them years of frustration and disappointment and take a small chunk of change in the process? Our mastermind group is an ideal place for her to share this challenge and develop strategies for making each appointment a win-win.
One not-so-easily rejected client of hers, after Mary thoroughly assessed her game idea, shot my friend an email the day after her disappointing evaluation. She wanted an explanation of what Mary meant when she said, “It’s all about the WOW factor.”
Mary is one of the most kind-hearted people I know. She doesn’t enjoy rejecting ideas, but also needs to respect and teach the wisdom of her industry and honor her own expertise in marketability. “That question had me go to UrbanDictionary.com to look up WOW Factor. They nail it down,” Mary told our group.
I’ll let you look it up yourself, but the more important take-away from our session was a retort Mary learned from Hasbro to whom she’s been selling for years. “The WOW factor–we know it when we see it. If we knew how to achieve it every time, we wouldn’t need you.”
It can be a tough world out there. The truth hurts. But it’s a time saver and may move you to the track you belong on rather than the one you may wish for.
A strategy I learned quickly and well in my early stages of entrepreneurship was that I got to choose which 8 hours a day I work. (A snarky associate suggested it was more like which 20 hours she chose to work…) As an early riser, I often have more done by 9AM than many accomplish by 2PM. Without phones ringing or a deluge of email, I’m able to laser focus and move through correspondence, writing, planning and mulling before most people hit their offices.
Going for a shiatsu treatment, as I did yesterday at 4, is a way I reward myself. While waiting for the practitioner to finish up with his previous appointment, I was able to fit in a business call while standing on his front porch overlooking a salt marsh in Fairfield. No need to explain my whereabouts or why the call needed to be brief.
A colleague of mine always says, “My office is in my pocket.”
Block in time for yourself on your calendar and treat it as an appointment, as you would with any other commitment you make. No need to share with anyone that those hours you’re booked are for a haircut. It’s nobody’s business but your own.
Self-care is a critical component of success. Deprivation is the bane of many business owner’s existence. My recommendation is to schedule in your personal needs along with your business needs and show up for both with equal enthusiasm and respect.
A – A seed for a blog post planted, watered by an article in the NY Times and then fertilized by an analogy for both.
I received a wonderful massage yesterday afternoon from a young woman in Black Rock. As we were chatting afterwards, she mentioned two things. One, that she and her husband were planning a four-month sabbatical to India. Possibly six months. And, two, what did I think of the idea of her starting an improvisational dance program between now and then. BTW, she has a successful and growing massage practice.
I told her about a lesson I learned from reading The Work of Craft. It’s about a person who loves doing things with her hands. This person takes up pottery and masters centering clay on the wheel in about a week. She begins to raise the walls of the pot and creates many bowls and vases for friends and family; maybe even sells a bunch. Then it begins to get harder. To create those beautiful thin-walled pots and vases is difficult. It may takes months or years to perfect this, so why not take up macrame or weaving where the learning curve to competence will again be fast?
It’s the staying in the learning times that brings mastery. It’s easy and rewarding to jump ship and try something else. You can say, “I know how to throw pots and warp a loom.” But what do you really want? My massage therapist friend got it immediately. “It’s a distraction, isn’t it?”
This morning, reading about Newt Gingrich and his departed band of strategists I saw these quotes:
“[They're - referring to Mr. and Mrs. Gingrich] not doing enough to dedicate themselves to the hard work and the unglamorous aspects [of the campaign]“
His strategists demanded that he “curtail distractions like screenings of his documentaries.”
It’s the dailiness of entrepreneurship (and life) and sticking to it no matter what that gets the big results. Do you have any unglamorous aspects to attend to today? I wish you a distraction-free day.