Weekly-ish notes on navigating big change

Month: June 2013

The grounding rhythm of review

What kind of flowers are these? As tall as me & all over town. #foundwhilerunning

Oh dear, have you noticed that it's the end of June?
And with the end of June, comes the end of the second quarter, and the end of the first half of 2013.
I like to take this opportunity (really the whole month, starting with my birthday) to look at the year so far and figure out what's going well, and what I want to bring into my life in the rest of the year.

I find this regular reviewing deeply satisfying. Not only does it give me a moment to stop and celebrate (always a good thing!), it helps me spot the connections between what felt like a seemingly random collection of events. Perhaps the conversation I had with one client sparked a class, and now the students in that class are needing something else. Or perhaps the sudden spike in signed book orders points me towards my next project (hint: it does!).

At the beginning of the year I wrote (to email subscribers):

“One thing I know for sure is that you have to make it easy to succeed. Easy to remember the lessons you've learned, easy to do your to-do list. You have to set up your days (and weeks and months and year) so that you just naturally do what you have to do. And that's what I'm adding into the Starship – a flexible frame that puts success in your way, so you can't miss it.”

In the next few months I brought more regular review of our intentions to the Starship and I was pretty delighted when the members loved it. Just  last week in the chat, Beverly said, “One of the aspects I love best about the Starship is the predictability of the weekly check-in questions, of the quarterly reflection prompts, of the map-making process. The rhythm of it all grounds me.”

In the always-changing, sometimes-bewildering world of your own business it's easy to just keep moving and miss what your people and your business is telling you. So how about taking a moment and reflecting and grounding yourself in where you are right now, with the lessons you've learned and the things you've accomplished?

You can start by writing a big list of what you've done, what you wanted to do, and what you were inspired by.

Or, you can answer some specific questions:

What have you learned in 2013?

What would you like to celebrate? 

What has truly helped your business grow? And what got in the way?

These lessons are the seeds of your next crop of decisions, your next harvest of business growth.

Are you making it easy to succeed by building in rituals and review?

If you need some help and would like the gentle structure of regular accountability, the Starship is now boarding new cadets. Come aboard here.

How to use scarcity without being slimy

Max the lamb REALLY likes pets.

Max is terrified of seeming like a slimy salesperson


One of my regular refrains when a Captain asks me to review a sales page is “Why would I buy this now?
In every page or description, you need to give the person who has stumbled upon it a compelling reason to buy now. That might be the complete and total falling-in-love-must-buy-it-now moment. This works for things we don't need, but love, like gorgeous yarn, wonderful art, or anything really beautiful, moving or hilarious.

But what about if you sells something useful or practical? It's unlikely that anyone is going to become smitten with your class or editing service, the same way they do with a gorgeous object.

This is when marketing people start talking about scarcity: limit the availability or limit the time in which it's available. That gives customers a reason to buy now, and not wait until later.

And scarcity works. Sometimes. But it also has the tendency to feel icky or gross. I see a lot of makers creating scarcity through limited-time discounts (today only, 50% off!). The problem with this is that it can undermine the value of your product, and teach your customers to wait for another coupon or sale. Discounts definitely have their place, but they're not the only way.

So how can you help customers decide to buy now, without feeling like a slimebag?

Let's look at same ways that you can create that compelling page, no matter how scarce your item is.

When the scarcity is real.

Some things are truly scarce. My handspun yarn is one of a kind. I literally can NOT make the same skein twice. If you can only make so many items before you run out of a specific fabric, that's real scarcity.

Your time is also scarce. If you do custom sewing or one-on-one work, or anything where only one client can have your focus at a time, then you have real scarcity. (That pesky space-time continuum!)

Your job, then, is to communicate this clearly and with love to potential buyers. Without being apologetic (and that's tricky!) be sure to state the number of spots or items you have available, with a short explanation of why that's true (your explanation can be a single sentence, as mine about the yarn was.) There's nothing gross about this, in fact, it's the just the opposite. When you inform buyers about the limited nature, you are serving them – you are giving them all the information they need to make a wise buying decision.


When there's not scarcity.

Before we go farther, let's double-check – is this thing truly unlimited? Is the time each sale takes you unlimited?

For example, I used to have the Starship  open all the time. People would trickle in, sometimes right in the middle of a class, or during a time I was busy with a client project. I realized I wasn't serving anyone with this scattered approach, so I limited registration to once a month. After a few months, I learned that this was still too scattered. I was spending so much time opening and closing the Starship that I couldn't spend as much time creating value for the members.
So I narrowed it down even further. The Starship is only open once a quarter. This ensures that I can welcome in each new cadet personally, and take the time to click through to their site and read up on where there business is right now. They get more of my attention right from the beginning, because this Open Boarding Party is a time I set aside to do only this – no other classes or client projects.
And then, once the Starship closes, I have 3 full months to focus on creating amazing classes and experiences for the members. It also allowed me to start offering solo-sessions to every single Captain!

So you see, I took something that is, in theory, unlimited (if I didn't have one-on-ones with every member, The Starship could have a zillion members) and I looked what the best way to serve the buyer is. That required adding in some “scarcity” (in the limited time frame) that is both honest and valuable to both parties.

When your product really is unlimited

But perhaps you sell something that is truly unlimited. Your online class is open forever. Your book is available to anyone.

In these instances, your job is to explain the benefits of buying your item now. How does it change their life/business/home immediately? How soon can they expect to experience these benefits? What problem do they desperately want solved right now? (This might be something as dire as bankruptcy or as pressing as needing a dress to your sister's wedding.)

The key to staying non-icky in all of these situations is to stay honest and communicate clearly. If your item is limited, share that without hesitation. If it isn't, share the real benefits without hedging. Things get gross when you get desperate, and keeping your descriptions and site clear and honest will help you develop a business that avoids desperation.

What do you think? How does “scarcity” fit into your marketing?




PS. This is one of those Open Boarding Parties! The Starship is open for the quarter, and will close again on July 5th!  Join here. 







Go forward with confidence

This week I worked with an explorer who was struggling to feel confident, in order to move forward and make a map.
She said she wasn't confident enough to talk about her work with anyone, not confident in herself enough to move forward.

And I nodded along thinking, Yes, that's right. Of course you don't.

Because, darling, you don't start confident.

Rarely do I meet a maker who is certain she is smart and capable enough to really, truly do what she wants to do. Oh, we all have moments of hope and inspiration and I can do it!…followed by stretches of Oh Lord, what was I thinking?

Confidence is something you build.
You become confident in your work by making more of it.
You become confident in talking about your work, by talking about it, practicing, learning what your customers respond to.
You become confident in yourself, by doing what scares you, by adventuring forward, even when you're not sure.

Sometimes, the Doing will build confidence all on it's own.
But usually, you have to show yourself what you did. You have to remember that you weren't sure, you tried something, and you survived. (Whether the thing you did succeeded or not doesn't matter. The fact that you tried is all you need.)

I think we look around at our world and we see bloggers blogging, makers making, and everyone selling, selling, selling and we think that it comes so easy for everyone else. That it must just be us that it's awkward for.
But, oh honey, that's just not true.
I have a Starship full of people who, despite being rockstars in their fields, regularly back down from making a clear request, from writing a compelling description, from asking for the sale. They stumble and fumble and doubt. They have total crises of confidences.

So do I. Sometimes, right here, out loud.

That's why I build in weekly yay-ing. Every week we share what went well. Every month we spot what's working. And every quarter we revisit our goals and celebrate the milestones. This way, we can remind ourselves of our boldness and that build confidence.

It's not that the bloggers and makers and sellers are more confident. They are just doing it. (really). They (and you!) build confidence by a steady cycle of doing + rejoicing over the doing.

What can you rejoice in doing, to remember your confidence?


The Adventures

Every week is an adventure. I share my adventures via images + notes, and you're invited to join in.
You can find all my adventures here, or follow along via email here.
Trumpeting. #foundwhilerunning

Handquilting with the pup and The Doctor and the little bros.

Standing on the dam. #appalachiantrail

Jammie Dodgers & The Doctor. #happysaturday

Prioritizing enthusiasm: today I painted before doing the To Do list. #tdoybook (more about enthusiasm on the blog)

So so happy with my basil! Pesto this weekend! #containergarden #yum

Yay! The rest of my yarn for Staccato arrived. #staccatokal


Savoring…pesto from my homegrown basil


Quilting…with bright red thread

Exploring…the Appalachian Trail around Watauga Lake

Celebrating…a succesful class that the students loved

Trying…Jammie Dodgers with The Doctor

Preparing…to open the Starship next week

Planning…at least two workshops in Boston, in September (!!)

Listening…to Icona Pop

Watching… (hopefully!)  Before Midnight


How about you? 


Change takes time

This is Beau's face when I jump up & yell: Dance Break! #boredpuppy

The hardest part about believing that Things Can Change...is that things take time.

It's hard to believe it will ever happen, because, hardly anything important changes all at once.

Things take time.

I'm addicted to setting big crazy goals, splitting them into 3 month maps and then pursuing it like crazy. Each quarter when we map-make in the Starship we also take the time to review the quarter before. The Captains are always amazed by what they've accomplished in 3 months. And also, disappointed at what hasn't changed…yet.

Things take time. 

It takes time to make your first sale.
It takes time to make your 10th sale.
It takes time to build a business that pays any bills.
It takes even more time to figure out what you're doing and how to talk about it.
It takes time to put all the systems in place that introduce people to your work effectively.

Even though you know this, it's still frustrating. You thought it'd be faster. You thought that if you just did x + y, everything would come together and your business would thrive.
You thought if you bought the class, read the book, worked with that one person, things would go faster.

But things take time.

When your goal is something life-changing like quitting your dayjob, or going to your first trade show, or writing your first book, it takes time. It takes time to get to the point where you can even start on it. And then it takes time to prepare to do it. And then it takes time to actually do it.
And sometimes, after all that, it's not what you expected.

This is just a fact of business (and life). It's why I focus so obsessively on exploring what works for you. Because if your business is only about those Big Moments, you're bound to be dissapointed. The Big Moments take time…and then they're rarely what we expected.
It's so much more sustainable (and fun) to make every day full of enthusiasm. To make reaching your goals a daily exploration into what's going well and what you want to change. It makes the time move more quickly, or at least more pleasantly. It helps you shift your focus from what's ahead, to what's happening right in front of you.


What are you tired of waiting for?

What can you enjoy a bit of right now, today, without waiting? 



We explore what's working, make maps and celebrate success inside the Starship, which will open to new cadets next Wednesday. If you're curious about it read this, and then sign up to learn more.





When you don’t know what to do.

Sign of adulthood: making my own birthday (cup)cake...and doing all the dishes after. #birthdayadventure #tomorrowstheday

Instructions for when you don't know what to do next.

First, do something really fun. Whatever you deem to be FUN counts.

Then, sit down with your journal and take 3 deep breaths.

Ask yourself: If I really could do anything, what do I want to do?

Start writing.

Ask yourself: What's the bigger picture I'm working towards? (it might be: 8 hours of sleep, paying off debt, leaving the dayjob)

Ask yourself: What could I do today that would get me closer to that big picture?

And that's it.

There's nothing you can read or class you can take that will give you answer clearer than what you'll find out fromanswering those questions calmly (calm is vital! If you're freaking out, your answers will be doomdoomdoom.)

You see, I work with makers who insist that they do not know what to do next. They're not sure of the next step to take in their business or their life, and they write me to ask if working with me is going to help them figure that out.

I used to write back: No, only you can know where you want to go.

That's true, and in my work, I don't tell anyone what they should do. You gotta find that for yourself.

But after a recent solo-session with a Captain, I realize that's not quite right. Noone knows where they're going. What I do is ask the above questions (and many others), and listen. I spot those moments where you're enthusiastic and bold and I reflect them back to you.

And that's how you figure out the next step.

So now I tell those not-sure-what's-next makers, “Yes, together we'll find the next thing. I've got strategies and techniques to make the doing it more effective, but you have the compass. Together we'll use both to create a path.

But the point is, everyone thinks they don't know what do next. Thus, it's totally ok that you don't know where you're going. It's ok to feel like this 10 times a week. When you do, instead of flopping around in confusion or frustration, stop + reorient yourself.

If, right now, you're thinking you really don't know what to do, and your compass is spinning wildly, take a break from the internet. Set aside a half hour, and ask yourself the questions above. Collect yourself, your thoughts and your enthusiasm and reset the compass.

You're allowed to do this as often as you need to. It's not a sign you're lost. It's not a sign you can't do this.

It's a sign of life.



PS. I've been shy about offering my solo-sessions before (although some curious souls manage to find it every month) because, you can orient yourself and make a map on your own. You can ask yourself questions, listen to your inner voice, and spot your own enthusiasm.

But man, that's hard. And you don't have the experience of having worked with hundreds of small businesses. And the fact is, answering my questions and talking to me for an hour is a lot faster and effective than arguing with yourself. So if you'd like to combine my experience + strategies with your own compass, check this out.



Things can change.

I love waking up to the colors of my bedroom. #coloringmehappy #nofilter

Today I want to send you a short reminder:

Things can change.

If you're not where you want to be, in your business, your relationship, your health – things can change.
If you wish you were better at making, painting, writing, marketing – things can change.
If you don't want to eat meat, smoke, feel frustrated – things can change.


Belief is the first step towards any change. Believe that you can become comfortable sharing your work. Believe that you can run a 5k. Believe that you can learn to paint. Believe that you can grow your business in the next year.
You have to believe that it's in the realm of possiblity before it can ever happen.

When I talk to people who have been on the Early Boarding Party for over a year, but haven't yet joined, this is usually the sticking point. They have a hard time believing anything in their business can change. They don't believe will ever have the business they want.

So I tell non-believers: Don't join.

Because the Starship can't make you believe.
There's nothing I can say to convince you that you can do it.

You first have to believe in yourself.
You have to believe that you are capable of setting a goal. That you are able to take a small daily action.
You have to believe that tiny actions add up to bigger results.
And above all, you have to believe that you are worth the effort, that what you want is worthy of your time and attention.

What are you believing is possible today?





Explorer Club of Book Lovers – June

I follow my enthusiasm by reading…a lot. And once a month, I’ll share (some of) the books I read last month and the books I intend to read this month. You can share your list of books in the comments, or we can talk about any of the books that you want to read along with me.

June's reading list. More books &  info today at TaraSwiger.com

This was a weird reading month, because I had whole, uninterrupted days to read (yay!), followed by a long week with my visiting brother (love him!), where I didn't pick a book for several days (so weird!).

Here's what I read, from May's list:

I swallowed Divergent in one glorious weekend gulp. Completely fun and engaging. I have Insurgent on the list for this

Contagious was a great investigation of what makes things (any thing!) spread and become known. The author studies (and develops a kind of equation) what I was trying to express in my book, in the section on making your work shareable. If you want to increase the sharability of your work, I highly recommend this book.

Lean In was much better than I expected. I wrote a review of it on GoodReads that sparked some Twitter conversation. The short version: A woman's work life is influenced by a number of things, many of which are under the surface and out of view (social and cultural norms). By bringing these influences to the surface, Sandberg wants to make it easier for you to make a real decision, with all of the facts in front of you. She's not on one side or the other of the mommy wars (and neither am), she just wants to talk about your options. When (if?) I have kids, I'll be talking about my own choices honestly with ya'll, and I look forward to exploring the range of experiences we have in our community.
(If you want a book to reaffirm your decision to work after children, The Feminine Mistake comes down pretty hard on that side. I read it 6 years ago, so I'm a little fuzzy on it, but I remember liking it. If you're choosing another way, you'll probably want to avoid it.)

(I also read The Paris Wife and Tattoos on the Heart, both great!)

June's To Read List

The list is a bit shorter this month, because I'm hanging out for a week my littlest brothers (12 + 14) and I'm spending a week at the beach with my extended family. If I learned anything last month, it's that I really can't pick up a think-y book after a day of interaction. (For more on my introvert needs, read Quiet)

  • The Great Gatsby – yes, I read it in High School, but Jay didn't, so we're both reading it this summer. I'm excited to talk about it with him! (on GoodReads, also on Craftlit – which I recommend if you wanna sound supersmart)
  • Insurgent – because Divergent was fun! (on Goodreads)
  • Paradox of Choice – I often suggest that Captains strip their offerings down to few choices…and this book has the science on why.
  • A Walk in the Woods – we've been exploring bits of the Appalachian Trail near us, so I'm looking to reading more about it. (For a lovely tail of long-trail hiking, you can't beat Wild.)

(For more reading inspiration, visit the comments of May's, April's, and March's book club.)

What are you reading this month?

What was your favorite book of May?




Please note! I’m an affiliate for Amazon, which means I get book money if you buy through the links I’ve used here. (So far, I've earned enough for half of a book, or one grande soy latte.) GoodReads is a free tool for tracking what you read. I read all of these books via my library, which I strongly recommend!



Your brain on words

A sign today is going to be awesome? A free soy caramel macchiato & total Flow in workshop prep.

I know it's hard to talk about your work.
But I also know (and I bet you do too) that the thing that makes it hardest is…you.
You worry about how you sound. You worry that you're talking too much.
You worry that you're awkward or aggressive or too quiet.

Part of the reason it's so hard is because it's all so verbal. And the minute you start picking words or stringing them together, The Monitor shows up. This isn't just your emotions or self-esteem, there's an actual part of your brain that judges what you say and do. This is super helpful when you need to make a decision, but troublesome when you have to speak extemporaneously or write freely.

But there is good news. You can turn the Monitor off. The best jazz players and comedians have learned to do just that. You can circumvent words + judgement all together and work with another part of your brain.

That's what Diane and I  had in mind when we started talking about a visual process that could make it easier for makers to talk about their work. Instead of judging and thinking and arguing with yourself, we want you to skip right into the images that stir you. We jump past the thinking and go right to the seeing. (You can join us in Monitor-silencing this Monday right here.)

For a visual-thinking person, using images to spark words make perfect sense. But it's not the only one. When I started thinking about it, I have all kinds of tricks for turning off the Monitor…

Working in the same place with the same little rituals.
Zooming way out of the screen I'm writing on, so that I can't read as I write.
Writing to just one person.

How do you do it? What are your tricks for turning off The Monitor?

PS. The last chance to join the class is this Monday. If you'd like a reminder, sign up here.

Enthusiasm as your business planner

This post is part of The Declaration of You's Tour, which I was honored to be invited to. Learn more — and join in — by clicking here. Although I haven't read the book (yet), I'm a big fan of Jessica Swift's work…and I always like talking about enthusiasm, so I was thrilled to accept the invitation.

All dressed up for an afternoon in Asheville, waiting for my date. #colorful #windy #birthdayadventure


The other day I was writing in my journal, trying to answer a conundrum in my business, when the following popped out:

What if the “right” thing to do for your business is to find your own way? What if the path to success is in finding your own path?

This would mean, your #1 business priority is….you. Your gifts Your passions. Your enthusiasm.

Your sole responsibility: Show up, every day, to your enthusiasm.

I write about this all the time, but it's so easy to forget, or doubt. We think we have to do more.
You worry that you have to pushpushpush to get it going. Because it's true that business is hard work. But it's not hard someone-else-told-me-to work. The hard work can be based on what you want, and where you're going.

When it is, the hard work streams directly from your enthusiasm. Your to-do list is full of things that you put there, because you want them done.

We lose this, when we think we don't get to have what we want until we “make it.” We think we have to follow the rules, compare our work to others, strive strive strive before we get to have what we're after: freedom, love, comfort.

But you don't have to wait.
You can experience that before you've got your dream business. You can have it while you build your business.

The trick?
Following your enthusiasm, at every step. Don't let other people's awesomeness distract you. Don't let anyone tell you what has to go on your list, but you. Don't even let your own ideas for how it “has to be” derail you.

Following your enthusiasm is simple, but hard to remember. Here's my own self-prescribed plan:

Define (and regularly redefine) what it is you really want, what you're really after. (Is it really the money…or what you'll do with the money? The press…or what the press will mean to you?) Put the real things, the experiences and feelings you truly want, at the top of your priorities.

Map out the steps to getting the things that are get-able, making sure that you're not adding in steps that don't have to be there. Or, just let it flow, and pay attention when it shows up before you thought it would. (ie., you can't map joy, but you can notice it everyday. You can map out income goals.)

Get up each day, and work on the things you're enthusiastic about.

Check in regularlyis this what I want? Am I feeling what I want right now? Note if the things you're enthusiastic about every day line up with the steps on your map. If they never line up, reassess your priorities and the things you're mapping towards.

Your enthusiasm is the best guide towards the business you'll actually enjoy being inside of.Trust it. Listen to it.

What are you most enthuastic about today?


Have a hard time talking about your most enthusiastic work? Join us for a 3 day word-finding adventure, that uses your favorite images to inspire your words.





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