Weekly-ish notes on navigating big change

Month: August 2013

You don’t need social media.

You don't need social media

This week I taught a workshop for Arts Council members in Morganton, NC, on Social Media for Beginners (I shared the lessons I teach in today's Explorer Note, which you can get here). And at least a few times a month someone asks me about Twitter or Facebook and if they should be using it (maybe because of all those Social Media endorsements on LinkedIn?).

Here's the short answer: NO.

No, you do not need social media if…

…you don't have a website or an online shop, where someone can click through and buy your goods.
…you don't have any other part of your customer path. (You can't answer the question, “What action do I want my Right Person to take?”)
…you sell your work in person, at your studio or at craft shows.
…you are so busy with paying work, you don't have time to do anything else.
…you have 0 customers. (Stop worrying about Twitter followers and focus instead on paying customers.)
…you sell wholesale (yes, your buyers may be on Twitter, but I bet they're there to interact with their customers, not their vendors).
…you just aren't interested.
…you haven't clarified your business objectives. (You can't answer the question: “Why am I using this?“)

Social media is not the solution to your business problem.

It is not going to quickly improve anything (in fact, it's going to take time to build an audience, time that might be better spent on building a community of buyers.)

Social media is a tool. Like a hammer is a tool. If your problem is “I need more art on my walls”, a hammer can help make that happen…but you also need to buy and frame art. The tool isn't going to do that for you. And if you have a leaky sink, the hammer won't help.
Don't get me wrong, I loooove the community I've built via social media. I had the courage to quit my job, cheered (in real time) by friends on Twitter. Instagram is my favorite. I'm warming to Facebook. I keep track of recipes on Pinterest. I wrote an entire chapter about using online tools effectively.

But no matter how much I love it: it might not be for you, right now.

You might benefit more from spending your time building relationships with customers, finding new customers, or showing up in person.

So, darling, this is a giant Permission Slip – If you do not want to jump on the newest (or oldest!) social media tool, you do not need to. Your business does not require it. You are building a business to live in, for years to come, so make it a comfortable one!





This week I've worked individually with an author launching a new book, an artist trying to find motivation, a knitwear designer launching a new pattern book, and a writer creating her next online course. Due to this pesky time-space continuum, I'm closing the loading docks on new solo-sessions in about a week. If you want to talk about your social media strategy (or your book launch strategy), you can buy it now and schedule it any time in the next 6 months. (I'm booked through September and most of October, I have about 3 spots left in 2013.) I'm not sure if I'll ever open these up again, except for Starship members, so I wanted to warn you!



A sneak peek at Explore You: You have permission

What kind of flower is this? A droopy bush with long boughs. #foundwhilerunning

For the last two weeks I've been answering your questions about the new class one by one, but today I want to share those answers and tell you a little more about how it came to be. If you have a question about the class, please ask in the comments, or send me a note.

First, I want to say: I love this class so much. It is so different from anything else I've done, but it's the kind of work I've been wanting to do all along. This is the very foundation of what we talk about here. Exploring is the heart of how you build a sustainable business, share your work with the world, and connect with customers in meaningful, profitable ways. And the heart of exploring is something I find missing in our online world – the reassurance that you don't have to get it “right” the first time. You don't have to know what you're doing to start doing something. You don't have to be the best, biggest, brightest star in your field. You can build something that reflects who you are, in every aspect (product, people, communication, all of it!)


Now, in order to actually facilitate your personal exploration, I had to do my own experimenting about what works. 
Students tell me that their favorite part of a class or book is the worksheets, where you apply what you've learned to your own business.  The best thing about a class or session is the time you invest in looking closely and being open to new ways. It's never the individual lessons, it's always the thinking and experimenting that results. I don't hold the magic answers, but you do. And you only find them by spending organized time looking and thinking about them…which is hard to get in your day to day business life. A class gives you the kind of structure you need to prioritize fixing something.

In Explore You, I'm taking all that to its logical conclusion. Instead of teaching lessons on how to do something specific, I'm guiding you to find your own answers, within your own experiences, for any situation. I'm sharing tools, for you to use in your life. I've built a space for you to take the time and apply your thoughtfulness to the area of your business that needs it most. And I've filled the space with other clever, helpful explorers.

In order to create that kind of environment, I've transformed the way I lead the course. We have a totally new class space and many many more lessons than every before. Pay Yourself had 6 lessons over one week. How to Talk about Your Work had three lessons over three days. Explore you has 15 lessons over three weeks + 6 lessons in the welcome week, that are available as soon as you join.  But, because this about leading you into an exploration (and not teaching you facts) – each lesson is different. There are videos, worksheets, discussion questions, and creative assignments (no special equipment needed). You won't just read or watch, you'll also write and think and do. You'll capture photographs or sketch or collage.

Because this course is a completely different kind of experience, I've had a few people ask for an example of what it's like. So I'm going to share a video from the “welcome” week  of materials. This is one of the extra lessons, about one of the first Exploration Tools you're going to need for this journey:

(included with every video is a copy of my notes, so if you don't want to watch the videos, you can read it all!)


Explore You starts on Monday.

I'm deliriously enthusiastic and can't wait! Monday's the very last day you can join us, so invite you to read more about and sign up here.


Stop looking for your Purpose

Hello, ancient tree. #brothersisteradventure

Oh, I know you know it. That worry that you have to know what exactly you're doing, before you do it (especially something you that you care about sooo much, like selling your handmade goodness or your writing). You have to know what your Thing is.  This worry can be compounded by people (like me!) telling me that you need to focus in on your you-ness, in order to stand out.

But wait! Before you fall down the spiral of I-need-to-figure-it-all-out – be of good cheer! As I point out in the book, you figure out what makes your work special… by making your work!

Yep, you don't have to know before you get going!

You don't have to know where you'll end up or even what you'll sell or where you'll sell it.
You start by creating what you really want to create.
And then you make a bunch more.
And then, if you really want to, you start putting it into the world.

“Purpose is attracted to motion. Purpose is attracted to momentum.”

-Jon Acuff, Start

This is exactly what I mean by “explore” – you start moving before you know everything.

Because you will learn the terrain as you adventure. You will learn what makes your product special by making them. You will learn who your people are by offering your work, and then talking to who's there.

I think of it like an episode of Castle (or Bones, or The Closer). You often meet the Answer in the beginning of the episode…but you don't know it yet! You have to try things, follow leads, interview suspects, uncover more and more of the story…until you realize it was the First Guy all along! Maybe your purpose is floating around your life right now. It's probably something you're already doing.
But you're not going to identify it until you do some legwork. Until you start exploring.

So get out there and explore!

What are you exploring?

Share your story with the Party, or join us for a group exploration!


Exploration Party Notes

Since today's my anniversary (yay!) and I'm spending the day shooting videos for Explore You (eep!), today I wanted to just highlight some of my favorite moments of the Exploration Party. You can find all the inspiring stories here (and I highly recommend reading them when you need a dose of happy!)

Pulling my favorite exploring photos for an #exploreyou project. (Starts Monday! Detail on site)


“Exploration is about living in a state of what if? There’s no place I’d rather be.”



“Bolivia is a place for exploration and new ideas. Bolivia is where I can jump into things without worrying about mistakes. There is no place for feeling embarrassed in my Bolivia.

My map needs to be refined but I’m busy packing. And I am terrified. What does your Bolivia look like? I’ve got an extra ticket, so come join me. We’ll figure out Bolivia together.”

Vanessa (Bolivia = a metaphor for what she's exploring)

“So, this year has been about bravely countering those old beliefs with a lot of exploration and creating new beliefs to live by.”



“But mostly what I’ve learned is that there aren’t that many rules right now. All the tried-and-true get worn-out-and-dull and there’s technology changes every day. The one rule that holds true is there there are people out there who will love what you do and what you offer—which I’ve seen over the last 7+ years on CraftLit and Just-the-Books—and that when you find those people and listen to them and give them more of what they want, they’ll stick with you.”


“After six years of self-employment, I can tell you that everything changes all the time, but one thing stays the same: uncertainty!”

Diane (who is sharing a handy worksheet for exploring your assets!)


Not surprisingly, ignoring problems doesn’t work.

As a part of my turn-around plan I committed to weekly financial tracking. And I stuck to it. No excuses.”



“I'm going to let you in on a big-time secret right now, are you ready for it?

You Are Creative.

Seriously. Don't believe me?  Keep reading, I'm going to tell you some of my tips for being creative, and how I've been exploring my own creativity this summer.  It's all about openness and adventure.”

“In the Starship I've had access to classes and counsel from other creative business owners like me, and I've learned that I can change my business (and really, my LIFE) if I just sit down and take the time to explore what's working – and what isn't working – and map out the steps to make the changes I need in order to get back on track with where I want to be.”



Are you ready to explore? Join us to explore what's not working in your business and how to find your own answers!



The surprising connection between happiness + exploration

Happy to be back to my morning runs, even in drippy weather. (Also, #plankaday is up to :46) #zombierun


“Truly happy people seem to have an intuitive grasp of the fact that sustained happiness is not just about doing things that you like. It also requires growth and adventuring beyond the boundaries of your comfort zone. Happy people, are, simply put, curious.

Curiosity, it seems, is largely about exploration—often at the price of momentary happiness. Curious people generally accept the notion that while being uncomfortable and vulnerable is not an easy path, it is the most direct route to becoming stronger and wiser.”

What Happy People Do Differently, Psychology Today


I knew it! Science backs me up!

I developed Explore You (and the Exploration Party), because, after 4 years of self-employment and 7 years of biz-building, I have learned that my business (and well-being) thrives when I approach my business, my people, and my mission with curiosity. The more I explore, the faster I grow.

But, as this article points out – exploration is often uncomfortably vulnerable. It doesn't feel easy and carefree. It's awkward to try something new. There's an uncomfortable tension in Not Knowing. And when you add that to the vulnerability of putting something you care deeply about out there…well, it can all be a bit much.

How can this much discomfort be a good thing?

When you let go of thinking your business has to be One Way, you let go of the dream that someone else The One Answer. You know, the answer to life, the universe and everything. The answer that will tell you exactly what you should do next…to have a six figure business, and hundreds of thousands of subscribers and {fill in dream scenario here}.

When you get rid of that dream of someone else having the answer….you realize you have the power to find the answer.

You turn to what you've already learned about your business, your people and your products. You make decisions that will actually work for your business. You start to provide your people with what they really need and want. You start to create the work that only you can create.

Your business (and happiness) grows, because it's not mimicking someone else. It flourishes in totally new ways. It shines with it's own sparkle. It stands out in the crowded marketplace. You can stop competing and start collaborating with your fellow makers.

You become the expert in your business.
And that's pretty darn happy-inducing. Not just a momentary hit of social-media-approval-yay, but a long-lasting confidence that even if things aren't working out right now, you will figure it out. You have the skills, the knowledge and the curiosity to find the answer.
Now, this doesn't happen all at once, it's a process of continual exploration, experimenting and learning lessons from some failures (and successes!). But it is sustainable. You can keep exploring your work, your skills and your community forever, free of charge.

Best of all, you can start today.

Just look at one particular issue in your business and ask: What would I do if I was curious about this? How can I experiment with it? 

And then, share your story with the Party.

Need help exploring an sticky area of your business? We're going on a group Exploration next week! Start the adventure here.



Adventures in Business with yarn dyer Katie




Before we get started with Katie, a quick Welcome to the first day of the Exploration Party! Join in by sharing your own story of exploring, and linking to it in the comments of this post. You can read all the stories that have been shared (so far!) right here!







Today I’m delighted to have Katie, a yarn-dyer, designer and explorer, share her smartness with us. You can find her latest fiber antics, right here on her blog. Follow her on Twitter  or Facebook  for a sneak peek at what she’s dyeing.




Let's start with the amazing email you sent me! I appreciate your kind words, but it is totally YOU that rocked the lessons you learned in Market Yourself to surpass your income goal! What in particular did you put into practice that caused such a monumental shift?

The first thing I did was stop avoiding my financials. I’ve never been naturally adept with numbers and I often used that as an excuse not to bother with the financial aspect of Yarn Love – especially when things weren't going in the direction I wanted.

Not surprisingly, ignoring problems doesn’t work.

As a part of my turn-around plan I committed to weekly financial tracking. And I stuck to it. No excuses. I already had Outright.com up and running for Yarn Love, and now I do a weekly financial check-in. I write the following numbers down on my quarterly map:



Total Income:
(I itemize major income sources like this)

  • Etsy Sales: $
  • Wholesale Orders: $

Total Expenses
(I itemize major expenses like this)

  • Etsy Fees: $
  • PayPal Fees: $
  • Supplies: $

I am highly motivated by goals – but I need to see that I’m making progress or I get discouraged. Keeping track of my weekly financials lets me see how I’m doing. I can correct over-expenditures or pat myself on the back for a job well done.

The second thing I did was make a map. Tara has a great map-making mini-course. I worked through her steps and crafted an effective turn-around plan. It worked so well that I had Yarn Love back on track and humming along in 6 weeks. I had given myself 6 months to dig out of the financial-avoidance quagmire…and with a plan it took me a month and a half.


Now I always know where I am, and where I’m going.


Finally, I took action with my business profit.I withdrew a sane amount of profit and used it to fund my Roth IRA, personal savings, and I have a bit set aside for fun. Taking action with a portion of the new profit helps me feel a sense of accomplishment.

 I have actually only completed 4 out of 10 milestones on my current map, but that’s ok. I know what I’ve accomplished and I know exactly where I’m going. If completing only 40% of my goals resulted in such a dramatic turn-around I can only imagine how awesome business will be when I reach 100%.


How is this different than what you were doing before?

I’m no longer scared to take a good look at how Yarn Love is doing. It’s allowing me to identify new goals and areas of improvement. On the days when I feel a bit out-of-sorts I grab my map and get to work. That prevents me wasting a lot of time trying to decide what I should be doing.

Most major business changes are first predicated by a change in thinking. How is your thinking about your business different now?

This is so true! I stopped thinking the “businessy” side of business wasn’t for me and instead I made it work for me. I didn’t suddenly decide to become an accountant but I did stop allowing my excuses. I am happier. My family is happier. Yarn Love is better than ever.

I also started looking for opportunities. It’s hard to look for new opportunities when you’re stressed out over finances and spending a lot of time ignoring problems. It’s paying off. I feel that all my business efforts are in harmony with my goals.

I’ve added a steady diet of business & marketing education to my daily business tasks. I take time at the beginning of every day to read one article or blog post on some aspect of small business and living a creative life. I simply pick one item from my Feedly Business category and read it through. It’s fun, and often it jumpstarts business brainstorming.


What new thing are you exploring now?

Oooh, this is a hard question for me, because I tend to keep in-progress ideas and projects to myself. (Not for any good reason, I’m just weirdly mysterious that way.) So here’s a sneak peek:

  1. Expanding my dye kitchen and studio space to improve operating efficiency by 20% (or more!)
  2. Expanding my yarn line to include 2 new custom-milled yarns.
  3. Outsourcing repetitive tasks that are necessary, but are also a drain on my time.
  4. A website redesign to show off my yarns!


What’s your definition of success for your business?  

I live a non-traditional life. I was homeschooled. My husband was homeschooled. Our children are homeschooled…and I love it. My definition of success includes a vibrant and adventurous family life where every member of my family – including myself and my husband – have the freedom to live a fulfilling life together.

That means my business needs to serve our needs and desires and leave room for us to live our life. It also means that Yarn Love must live in harmony with me, with my husband, and with the needs of our children.

Living in harmony is my definition of success.

(Wow. That turned out to be pretty deep. It’s funny how success in business isn’t always reaching a “business goal”.)


What’s the next destination you’re working towards? 

In the short-term, I’m working on expanding the Yarn Love line and facilities. I will be setting aside funds to take a castles tour of Great Britian – something that we’ve wanted to do for ages.

My long-term goal is to continue growing Yarn Love to be the main source of income for our family. That’s a very big, very scary goal….but one that I think with planning and care can become a reality.



Thanks so much for sharing your amazing story with us, Katie!

I absolutely love this definition of success! (My own definition is similar: to live in integrity!)

Have you read the book or made a map?

I'd love to hear from you! Drop me a line and tell me how it's working out!

And no matter what you're exploring right now, you can share your story in this week's Exploration Party! 







Katie's an explorer in the new class, Explore You. Join her to explore your business and build the confidence you need to make your own good business decisions. (Starts next Monday, but there's a whole week of Welcome materials available as soon as you join!)





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.

The View

Love you too. #foundwhilerunning
Bound and washed and perfect. Beau approves.
What kind of flower is this? A droopy bush with long boughs. #foundwhilerunning
Video editing for #ExploreYou. (10 days left!) #selfie #sorta #augustbreak2013
Again, with the laying on what I need. #caturday


Explore You starts nowThis 3 week class gets to the very core of what makes a successful business: making the right decisions with ease and clarity. Instead of looking for a book, class or mentor to tell you what to do next, discover it from the actual facts of your own business, through exploring! This is the very most material I've ever shared at once, with over 20 individual lessons, as with videos, articles, and worksheets.  (As soon as you pay, you have access to the first five lessons, so you can start exploring right away!) Join us here.


The completely free Exploration Party starts Monday! We've already got a big handful of artists, crafters, and writers who will be sharing their own explorations. Post your story any time next week, and I'll share it with the entire community. Details here.


Hate your inbox? Alex has the solution – and it's a fundraiser for Women's Earth Alliance! I truly love email (because you send the best mail!), and I think you should too. Get all the details here.


I got in a new box of books to sign! Just in time for my upcoming workshops at Arts Councils (I'll be in Morgantown on 8/19. You can join me for Social Media for Artists if you're nearby!). You can grab a signed book here, or read more here.


 Today is the last day that 10% of all sales will go towards cancer research. If you were moved by Allison's story and have been considering joining the class or buying a book, do it today! 




The story of a dad, and a bike adventure

Today we've got something a little different….

If you've met me for longer than 15 minutes, you've heard me mention my college roommates. I lived with Carissa, Lindsay and Allison for 4 years, in the dorms, apartments and one very wonky old house. They've been my confidantes, my advisors, and my mirror. 


We got to know and love each other's parents, visited each other's homes and formed strong attachments (I helped C's mom build her first website! I still rave about L's mom's hashbrown casserole! A's dad explained “joint finances” in a marriage to me!) I love these girls and their families.
Allison's dad, Mark Van Sickle passed in 2008, surrounded by his family, after battling cancer since 1999. 

When I heard, I was 6 hours away from my friend. I spent the whole day at my office job with my door closed, crying.  We were just 20-something. We were far too young to lose our parents! The roomates all met up at the funeral and sat there stunned, wanting to help, knowing we couldn't, our hearts breaking for our friend and her family.


In case I had any doubt, cancer sucks. It is an unfair, ridiculous, heart-breaking disaster. One that has struck some of you, and your families. 
When Al emailed me that she was doing an Obliteride to raise money for cancer research, I wanted to do more than just donate. I wanted to take the opportunity to share her story and listen to yours. Our community is full of the chronically ill, the cancer survivors, and those that have lost their parents too young. I'm routinely amazed at your perseverance, at your grit, and at your vulnerability with sharing your stories. Allison's is just one story among many, but it's a place to start. Here's a bit of her story…

(images throughout are from Al's training rides)
My dad bought me my first bike. I was about 5  I had been sharing my older brother's bike because I didn't have one. After dinner one night my dad told my mom “Allison and I are going to the store to get milk”. Instead of going to the grocery store my dad drove across town to Toys R Us and when we walked in he just said “pick one” and I, as a 5 year old in footed pajamas, got to ride bikes around Toys R Us at 9 pm on a school night to pick out my very first bike.
I, of course, chose a bright pink one with purple wheels and a purple seat. No basket, no streamers just a hardcore bike that could do what all the boys bikes could but still look adorable.

When I decided to play softball (about 7 or 8) my dad was super excited because he didn't have to attend anymore dace recitals. The first year I went out I was right in the middle of the pack with everyone else, nothing special, kind of slow and confused. The next year they were watching me during try outs and I was killing it. She said they both looked at each other and were like “where did that come from!?” To which my dad replied “Well, she obviously gets that from me.”  😉

My dad was my biggest supporter and challenger in any competition I entered. He encouraged me to focus more on character than attention. Whether it was not crying or throwing a bat or glove after striking out, or missing a fly ball, or continuing to cheer for my teammates even if we are losing 15-0. I don't care how far behind you are –  you can still try.

As I became a CrossFit  athlete and coach, I take those lessons he taught me and use them when I'm working out and pass them on to my clients (or try). I decided to do Obliteride because I have arthritis in my knee and I can't run anymore (so 5K's and triathlon's are out). I have been looking for something to commit to for raising money for cancer research since he passed away 5 years ago and haven't found anything. When Obliteride popped up, I remembered that night when he took me to get my bike and how close I feel to him when I'm riding. I know a lot of people also loved my dad and wouldn't mind donating in his memory either. I just never imagined that this many people would give so much of their hard earned cash. Training has been a lot of fun and I know that he would be extremely touched by the commitment I've made and the donations made in his memory.

I'm excited to commit to something again and be in “training”. It is fun and helps me push myself.

I want to help raise money for cancer research, that's all. That's why I'm doing this. I know what I am doing is a tiny drop in the bucket but if even so, it will help. And if I can do something, anything, to help prevent a family from experiencing the pain and heartache mine did, then I will do it. No one, young or old, father or mother, wife, husband, child, friend should EVER have to lose someone to such an annoying and hateful disease.

You can donate to Allison's Obliteride here. You can follow her training and ride on Instagram. 10% of all sales (of the class, the guide, solo-sessions, book, everything!) for the past two weeks (and the rest of the week!) are going to cancer research in memory of Mark. 

Explorer Club of Book Lovers – August

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.
A peek at this month's To Read list (more on blog). #reading


What I read in July

Ocean at the End of The Lane  – Beautiful and mysterious and exactly what I expected from Neil Gaiman. (If you haven't yet, go and read all of his books. Right now.)
I started The Woman Upstairs and decided not to finish it. I just didn't like the narrator at all, and when I found myself avoiding it, I remembered: I believe in quitting! Why spend more time with someone you don't like?

(And there were more, but not worth talking about. You can find all the books I read on GoodReads)

Still reading…

I love love Annie Dillard's The Writing Life and I'm taking it nice and slow (and occasionally posting quotes on Instagram).

I'm also taking the Declaration of You slowly. It's my feeling-stuck un-sticker during my workday!


August's To Read List

  • We were talking about money and our relationship with it in the Starship (and I was gushing over how much I like You Need a Budget) and a captain recommended Your Money Or Your Life. Even though I'm feeling pretty great (for the first time in my life!) with how I'm managing things, I'm reading this book as research, so I have something good to recommend when people ask (I usually recommend Ramit Sethi's book (automation!) and this Dave Ramsey book (debt reduction!)).


  • Jay and I used to send funny posts by Jon Acuff to each other all the time, so when I saw Start at the library I snatched it up. “Punch Fear in the Face?” Um, ok! Probably another book to recommend to explorers.


  • I also picked up Making Good on a whim. After deciding to donate 10% of sales to Al's Obliteride, I've been thinking more about integrating  philanthropy a part of my business. I've been giving $25 in Kiva loans (to help other tiny businesses!) for every Starship captain, and I'd like to be more comfortable talking about it. (I know I don't do a great job, because, well, I've been tithing my income my whole life and was taught not to talk about it…so I'm looking for a way to make doing good integral to what we're doing here, without feeling showy.)

And..there's a pile of books my friends wrote, that are filling up my Kindle:

  • Do Nothing, Get Rich – a parody of the “get rich” books, written by my uncle (his name is not Moneylicious)! He's funny + smart, so I'm looking forward to reading it.
  • Amy's novel! I've been feeling fiction-less and adrift since giving up The Woman Upstairs, so I'm looking forward to something fun!
  • Stephanie's not-quite-released yet novel. (I'm an early reader! Yay!) Watch her space for updates!
  • Diane's book comes out August 27th! If you like quilting and self-discovery (which are, like, my two most-favorite things ever), I think we're gonna love this book. I can't wait for my copy to arrive (pre-order yours here!)


What are you reading this month?

What was your favorite book of July?

Disclaimer-y Disclaimer! I was given a free copy of my uncle's book and Stephanie's. But I'm not in any way coerced into saying nice things, or even mentioning them. Or course I'm biased when my friends write a book, but I don't mention things I don't like.  (I bought Amy + Diane's book.) Read the usual disclaimer here. 



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