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Most often I am super-charged and invigorated by the world around me and the entrepreneurial filter through which I experience it.
When I describe my early business model of decorating eggs, what distinguished me from the multitude of other egg decorators out there (!) were the opportunities I saw in the art form.
I quickly let go of using the traditional symbols and colors of Ukrainian Easter eggs in favor of quilt and paisley patterns along with the marvelous hues aniline dyes allowed a contemporary artist vs. one reliant on natural ingredients. I was able to monetize the art by not only selling the decorative eggs, but expanding it to include jewelry, stationery items, framed photos and a book on the subject. My first paid speech was entitled, “If I Can Make a Business Out of This, You Can Make a Business Out of Anything.”
Whenever I am out and about or simply reading the daily news, I find nuggets that pertain to me and my audience. There’s a journalism expression I learned from a colleague, “Notice what you notice.” For me it’s the opportunities that life sends our way and how we handle them. I see the entrepreneurial spirit demonstrated many times a day. There is always plenty to fill these paragraphs on a regular basis.
But today I find myself nursing a cough and laryngitis and feeling better lying prone, laptop mounted on my belly, than in a desk chair. I’ve been in for a couple of days and not interacting in my typical way. So I reached out to my coaching community for help.
One of my members, Jennifer Polk, posed the question, “Where do good ideas come from?” which I immediately recognized as a universal, age-old quandary. Thank you, Jennifer!
My best tool is to close my eyes, quiet my over-active brain and let inspiration come. In this moment, it’s telling me to address another question that came out of that same request for help today. How easy was that!
Another member of my coaching program, Rita Burke, wanted my thoughts on this:
The fear that grips you when you’ve decided to do something and you remove all the noise to get ready to move forward and there it is – you and the blank canvas, the abyss, the unknown. How do you not cycle backwards, distract yourself, inevitably postponing or avoiding the very action you decided to take….
This is an easy one to answer since it comes up for me on a fairly regular basis. It also applies to every entrepreneur I know because we work alone, don’t have cubicles next to us or a water cooler or cafeteria to wander into for support. What we ALL need is support.
My solution is to pick up the phone and call another entrepreneur. I’ve identified a handful of people to whom I am not afraid to say, “I’m afraid.”
There’s something extraordinary about giving voice to our fear. Naming it, saying it out loud, describing that gripping fear this client describes is the equivalent of throwing water on the Wicked Witch of the West. It dissolves it. If you don’t believe me, you haven’t tried it. Fears shared are fears lessened. False Evidence Appearing Real is the acronym I like best to describe this gremlin.
Now, if you’re saying to yourself, no one wants to listen to my nonsense, you’re WRONG! There you go minimizing your impact on the world. Ask one person…today…if they’ll be there for you. Picking up the phone, which is much better than email, and making the human connection is empowering beyond words for both parties. If I didn’t have laryngitis, I’d insist that you call me!
Joseph and Noah McVicker invented a substance to clean wallpaper. It was soft, pliable, durable. Trouble was, no one wanted it. And the McVickers set their invention aside.
Ten years later, the brothers heard an elementary school teacher describe how her students, with their little hands, struggled in their art projects. Art clay was hard and unyielding. So Noah and Joseph dusted off their invention—and today we call that wallpaper cleaner Play-Doh.
This is Howard Butt, Jr., of Laity Lodge. Our world is full of ingenuity and innovations that at first solved nothing. Maybe you have a right idea that hasn’t found the right time. Stay open. Be patient…and keep thinking…in the high calling of our daily work.
Although our higher powers have different names, the message is the same. Stay open, be patient and keep thinking.
I first received money for my artwork the summer of 1970. My co-designer, Noonie Shear, and I were encouraged by our Professor/Producer, Jim Cavanaugh, to display and sell our pen and ink drawings for patrons during the premiere season of the Mount Holyoke College Summer Theatre. Our prices ranged from $2-10 per piece, and we did brisk business.
It was a few years later that I displayed and sold my Ukrainian Easter eggs at the Pink Tent Festival in Stamford, CT. At that time I regarded myself as a freelance artist and operated in that manner, waiting for opportunities to come to me and taking advantage of them when they did.
Then, in the late-80s, I joined the Entrepreneurial Woman’s Network (EWN) and discovered that I was actually a small business owner who had been operating in a void that EWN quickly filled.
There I began to meet other women business owners and to learn how to give an elevator pitch, set a goal, write a business plan and lead remarkable women. More important, for this entrepreneur, I learned that I had acquired knowledge that others sought and was invited to share that knowledge with my peers. That early participation on panel discussions and leading workshops for my colleagues gave me the confidence to seek other networks and associations with whom to demonstrate my newfound expertise. And, more important, to seek out and create opportunities rather than passively wait to be asked.
Many women from EWN have become lifelong friends, trusted vendors, exceptional clients and mastermind partners. I was inspired, at numerous lunch events, by hearing other successful women share their stories and strategies for success. I’m grateful to them all.
This week we members received notice that EWN would be closing its doors. Like many institutions that have shut down in the past few years, EWN suffered from lack of volunteers willing to take leadership roles, dwindling attendance and a vastly different workforce than when it was formed 30+ years ago when it was the only show in town.
Six women began gathering for lunch back in 1982 and exchanged ideas and suggestions for how to improve their small companies. The group’s original purpose was to help one another by talking about and sharing problems. At the time, their only competition was the local Chamber of Commerce which supported small businesses with different demographics and needs.
EWN was born from the need for women to talk to and hear the voices of other women. Lucky for us they found each other and founded a network that would live to benefit so many over its 30+ years of existence. My Soul Proprietor’s Coaching Program continues to serve that need via a virtual community of women business owners.
Just last week I had the opportunity to attend at least four different women’s networking groups, each with a different focus. This broad a selection was unheard of when I started my business. EWN was there first (for me) and served its membership nobly and well.
I cherish my the relationships formed there and mourn the loss of that special niche that EWN filled.
I’ve been in NYC for seven months now and had my first up-close celebrity siting on the subway this morning. I recognized Christopher Palu, one of the finalists from Project Runway- Season 10, a design show I have avidly watched since its inception*. Anyone who watches any of these reality shows knows how close you feel to the contestants. We watch them not only demonstrating their talents, but also in their hotel rooms eating breakfast, quibbling with each other and dissing the competition.
But I refrained from greeting him by name in the subway.
I should have said what was on my mind. “I think you are amazingly talented, and I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated watching your creative process during the season you were on Project Runway.”
Instead, I was trying to be a cool New Yorker, accepting that celebrities walk amongst us, and giving him his space. I said nothing.
Why I regret it is, like many other business owners and ordinary citizens, I question my gifts on a regular basis. And then I’ll receive an email, like I did this weekend from a former client letting me know that she appreciates what I’ve contributed to her life. She wrote:
You never know where your face is shining. I just tossed a Mary Oliver book back in this basket (in my bathroom) and the books rearranged themselves to show your face. Made me smile. You’re sandwiched between Rumi & another Mary Oliver. Good company!
And I feel lifted up and re-energized. Yes, I would have survived another day without that input, but it was like a booster shot that added extra zip to my spirit for the day.
I want to go on record and encourage each person reading this today to share a good word with those you admire. Let them know. Say something positive to someone who has inspired you, touched you or made your life a bit brighter. Some of that karma may find its way back to you. And how would that feel?
It may be a little Pollyanna-ish, but I’ll cop to that and advise this anyway.
*At first I rented the DVD’s from the library to get caught up on the years I missed. Now, not being the owner of a television set, I download the show from iTunes when it’s in season.
No doubt you’ve heard the saying that when you point the finger at someone else, there are three others pointing back at you. May I tell you how much I hated that adage?
I far preferred to place the blame on anyone but moi. Me, wrong? Can’t be!
I was fueled by self-righteousness and perfectionism. It’s a great smokescreen for insecurity and feeling ‘less than.’ If I could place the blame squarely on anyone else, I could remain on my perch as the hero or the victim, but never the architect of misjudgment or wrongdoing.
Last Friday I was unable to log onto the dashboard I use for administering my monthly call to my Soul Proprietor Community. I entered the usual URL for the conference line, but kept getting an error message. I remembered that my VA had requested my new credit card number for the May billing cycle. But it didn’t even occur to me to stir up anger at her, because even if she hadn’t gotten to that task yet, it wouldn’t have remedied the situation at hand in that moment.
I couldn’t start the recording as I normally would have, so thought quickly and explained to the group that I would offer the session a second time and record it then. I proceeded to conduct the rest of the call without benefit of the muting option, but it went smoothly nonetheless.
Two very cool things happened. One–the recorder went on automatically unbeknownst to me so the call did get recorded (perfectly, btw), and I did not need to duplicate the effort. The second was this message from a participant:
I learned a wonderful lesson today on our conference call. There were some technical mishaps with recording and sound feedback. If I had been in Jane ‘s shoes I would have gone nuts. However, it was so refreshing and eye opening to see how Jane handled the situation. As a participant I found that her attitude did not cause stress to me (the client/guest) and in fact made me find humor and humanness.
I’m about to get on the phone with my assistant,(who had paid the monthly fee for me) and navigate how to NOT have this happen in the future. I’m very grateful that I didn’t blame her for something she didn’t do to relieve my anxiety in the moment. Relationship and sanity saved.
For as long as I can remember I have had set goals: to go to college, to graduate, to get a job, to get married, to have and raise children, to write a book, to become a coach, to speak publicly, to succeed in my own business, to work on my relationship(s), to achieve peace and serenity, blah, blah, blah.
I did all that.
I’m at a point now that feels like a mid-life crisis, but it’s a tad late. I feel goal-less.
The career stuff has lost its appeal. I go onto LinkedIn to look at discussion threads and go right back out. I’ve heard it all before. It feels competitive and repetitive.
Let me be clear that I adore my clients, my groups and the community I’ve created. I look forward to those calls and meetings immensely. It’s the marketing for new opportunities and filling the pipeline that has lost its appeal for me.
For the first time ever, I am waiting for a goal to define me.
While I know that I am in a lull and looking for some form of manifestation to come knocking at my door, I constantly remind anyone who works with me, or for that matter knows me and listens to my opinions (!), that in order to get what you want, you have to be very specific and offer it up in excruciating detail.
So here’s my want ad (versus my goal) to the Universe in the hopes that putting it out there in this form will be useful:
My vision is to coach men (new, I know) and women to become their best and highest selves; to integrate their insides with their outsides, and to be joyful and present in the process.The companies that hire me (I am free lance, not employed) recognize the importance and value of coaching, and that the act of sharing the truth in a safe, confidential and receptive place will add to their bottom line measured by employee productivity, satisfaction and retention.
I visit three different places of business three days a week (Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Fridays are for MY private groups and communities) in New York City where I am the resident coach. These are small (up to 100 employees), conscious (this description is touching their hearts and souls), green (environmentally aware) companies who care as much about their employees as they do their products and services.
My role is to share my experience, strength and hope with those who work there and who feel the need:
- to be visible
- to hear themselves speak about what’s real
- to share a current struggle
They appreciate that my path as business owner, wife, mother, divorcee, woman in recovery and world traveler equips me to hold space for any and all issues that may arise. The outcome of these coaching relationships is more productive, happy and courageous employees.
The salary for this position is commensurate with the value I bring to each company and is abundant, prosperous and satisfying to all parties.
I’m often the guinea pig of my own coaching. I had a task I’d been putting off and putting off for at least 10 days–creating a warm letter to send to clients, friends and colleagues about the upcoming holistic cruise I’m participating in.
I knew I had the necessary information (dates, early bird discount and itinerary) somewhere on my desktop, but when my desk is messy or I have too many windows open on my computer, I can feel overwhelmed.
First, I would have to locate those details, and second create an opening paragraph describing my excitement. Well, that excitement was buried under the mess as well, the same as it often is for the women I work with.
When I’m coaching a client who is procrastinating, in addition to getting beyond the stuckness, I am always curious to hear more about the to-do that’s paralyzing her. Articulating the situation helps break through the first level of resistance. I can hear the pressure being released and relieved. Then I come in with the zinger.
“Exactly how long will it take to do this?”
That’s the question I asked myself earlier this week. How long will it take to actually compose the letter? It felt like the answer would be “Two years!” but my higher self knew the truth–under an hour.
And so I applied this technique, shared it with my goal buddy, and accomplished it within the hour. Not only that, I personalized 15 versions of it, hand wrote a special message to each recipient, and put all 15 letters in the mail.
I’ll send out another 85 by next week. The ice has been broken. It’s downhill from here. And you know what? Now I am really excited about this amazing opportunity.
I had the privilege of being the opening presenter at the Make.Art.Work series back in January. My topic, my specialty, was goal-setting. I got to be with the artists enrolled in the sessions held in Fairfield, New Haven and Hartford. I challenged them to come up with a pie-in-the-sky opportunity that would change their lives forever. We had dynamic interchanges and commitments to take the next right action in the direction of that dream.
On Sunday I had the good fortune to run into two of the artists who had attended. One of them, Lisa Keskinen, was exhibiting her art at a gallery in Cornwall, CT. Among her pieces was a mock-up of a public art installation that she had ‘dreamed up’ during my session. I was beyond thrilled to hear that it was in progress.
Attending her show that morning was Amelia de Neergaard who filled me in on what’s been happening since she attended my class this winter. I asked her to write up what she’d been doing, and she kindly obliged. I believe her response will be inspiring and informative to anyone who ever gets stuck:
At your workshop, I made the goal to develop a website before March 1st, something I’ve been intending to do for a couple of years. Deciding which company to use–there are several that offer templates for art portfolio websites–was the first hurdle. Finding one that allowed you to customize it so it didn’t look like all the others was next. Checked out wordpress–lots of customizable variations but need to learn how to use it. Signed up for lynda.com. Sat for 2 hours just learning how to link the domain name to the website. There’s got to be an easier way, besides hiring someone to do it (cost is a factor, and as a former graphic designer, I want to learn how to do it myself).
In the meantime, out of a need to accomplish something more quickly, I decided to look at some of the artist residencies I was considering applying to. A deadline of March 1st was for the Haystack Open Studio Residency, a new, free program for artists who want to work on their own in beautiful studios overlooking the ocean in Deer Isle, Maine. I’d been there several times in the past to take a workshop in a specific media, usually paper making or fiber-based sculpture. The “open studio” in the title means that you can explore different media and work in one or a variety of studios– printmaking, metals, ceramics, fiber or wood.
I knew that I thrive in this environment, having worked 12 hours a day in past years, energized by the challenge and inspiration of this community of artists. No menial chores, no distractions, and wonderful food served three times a day. I applied: uploaded images, references, statements, resume, etc–and three weeks later was informed that I was accepted!
Another perk was seeing that the list of selected artists included two highly accomplished artists whose work I have admired and had considered taking workshops with in the past.I’ve been reading your blog off and on for several years, and appreciate your words of wisdom. “Start from where you are” is my favorite and gave me permission to ignore the myriad inner voices that try to tear me down– “I’m not good enough, I’m too old, I don’t have time…”
Lately I have been applying for grants and shows more often, and succeeding, much to my surprise. I’ve been letting my passions carry me, and not letting my fears control me. This has been a gradual climbing out of a very “stuck” place. When I finally got unstuck and took action, well, things started moving forward. I am also realizing that I have to learn to set goals and recognize dreams. Too many years of relying on somebody else to make decisions and set goals, left me just going from task to task, and helping others fulfill their dreams.