Weekly-ish notes on navigating big change

Month: December 2014

Goodbye 2014

Reviewing 2014

We're doing things a little differently this week. Instead of a discussion about a small business concern, I will walk you through reviewing the last year, and learning the lessons of your business. Have a pen, paper and timer handy as you listen!

Important: Lift Off closes today!

How to listen

Find all the podcast episodes here.



Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned

What lessons have you learned this year? In today's episode I'm sharing a previously exclusive list of the lessons learned inside the Starship, in 2013. If you'd like this year's lessons, sign up here.

We'll discuss: 

  • The power of action
  • How to forget (or at least distract yourself) from failure
  • The key to making your goals 95% likely to be reached.

Remember: Lift Off closes in just one week. 

How to listen

Find all the podcast episodes here.



The Adventures

Every day is an adventure. I share the view, the gratitude and the news  on Fridays – you’re invited to join in. You can find all my adventures here, or follow along via email here.

The view

Vermont, you sure are pretty.And the best part: Chocolate chocolate chips cookies (link to all recipes tomorrow on the blog.)
The tree is up! #yayChristmas #doctorwho
Stella loves the Christmas lights.  #taralovesChristmas #catsofinstagram

First out of the oven: ginger molasses from @isachandra's #vegan cookies book. #taralovesChristmas

I am so grateful for…

  • The opportunity to spend time with my extended family
  • Hugs. Hugs. Hugs.
  • Staring at the Christmas tree
  • Watching White Christmas on the big screen!
  • Christmas knitting brought me back my knitting mojo!

The Finds:

I’m thinking about:

I’m eating: 

In case you missed it: 

What adventures have you had?

How to reach your money goal

How to reach your money goal

When I'm working with Captains on setting their goals, I often get asked, “How can I make a plan for reaching a money goal? Isn't it outside of my control?” Today I'm going to share with you what I tell them.

  • How to set a realistic sales goal
  • How to make your goal inevitable
  • How to avoid the common pitfalls

If you'd like to set a goal and reach it in 2015, join the Starship for accountability, encouragement and the information you need to make your dream a reality.


How to listen

Find all the podcast episodes here.



Make 2015 Awesome.

Make 2015 Awesome

I am getting super excited about the end of the year. I love using the next few weeks as an opportunity to hit pause on everything for a minute (remember, you have permission to take time off) and look at what happened in this last year, and what I want to happen in 2015. Over the next few weeks, I'll be sharing the biggest lessons of 2014 via email, so (in the last blog post of the year!) I want to talk about how to make 2015 awesome – how to be sure that next year at this time, you're going to feel great about what unfolded.



As I'm always reminding you, you can build your business to be whatever you want – you get to define your own success.
But that's not where it ends. After you define success for yourself, you have to boil it down to what that will look like – the specifics of it – and start taking action to actually getting it. Action that is directly going to impact your goal.

As you're planning your New Year, keep these things in mind:

Review the last year first.

List what worked and what didn't. Celebrate your successes and ask yourself: What actions made that happen? Let go of what didn't work. (In Chart Your Stars, which you'll get in both Lift Off + the Starship, the most popular activity we do is releasing the regrets of last year- forgiving yourself and choosing to move on is powerful.) Enumerate the lessons you've learned (I'm sharing my lessons next week, via email). Make a list of what lessons you want to bring with you into the New Year.

Be specific.

Everyone wants more sales or more money or “growth.” What does that look like in your specific business? This is where you're going to take what you learned while reviewing your year, and build on it. If you made 50 sales last year and you want to grow – how many sales do you want to make this year? If you want to write a book, how you will you do it (self-publish? book proposal to traditional publisher? something else)?

Find your reason.

Why do you want this? For things you truly want, you can usually answer this question swiftly, with multiple answers. Knowing your why will keep you motivated, even when things get hard. It will inspire in you another way of fulfilling that deeper desire, when a goal doesn't work out. For example, you want to make more money because you want your business to be profitable, because you want it to….pay some bills? Allow you to go to a movie? Contribute to your dream house? How else could you get that?

Pick a focus.

If you listed 500 things you wanted to do in 2015 – that's fine! But in order to make progress on any of them, you're going to need to pick one or two to really focus on in the next three months. You can start anywhere – I always tell explorers to pick the thing they are most enthusiastic about, no matter how crazy it might seem. After you choose a destination for your next quarter, you'll break it down into individual steps, so that you can take an action every day to get closer to your goal. (We do this step by step in the Map Making Guide – which is free in Lift Off and the Starship).

You may find, as you go through this process, that what you thought you wanted actually…isn't. Maybe you'll come up with an easier or more obvious way of reaching your definition of success. Maybe you'll realize that you don't have any reasons, and you're only doing this because you think you “should.” No matter what the results are, be encouraged and keep going until you have some goals and ideas you are truly enthusiastic about!

If you'd like to do all of the above in a guided workshop, surrounded by a community of encouragers – beam aboard the Starship! It is now open to new members!

Permission to take time off

Permission to take time off

By listener-demand, this week we're talking about taking time off, and I give you a giant permission slip: You ARE allowed to take time off, no matter who you are, what you've done, or where your business is!

Listen in for: 

  • Your Permission Slip
  • Why you have a hard time taking time off
  • How to get comfortable with breaks in your business

Need to take some time off from your biz? Check out my course with Stacey Trock of FreshStitches: Take a Break (without breaking your biz!)

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.



What it takes to go on vacation

What it takes to go on vacation

Last month, I took off a whole week off from work to visit my family, celebrate my brother's graduation, and enjoy my husband's only vacation all year.

But I gotta be honest: even writing that sentence makes me nervous. I want to give you a zillion excuses, reasons, and explanations. I want to point all the times I traveled and didn't take time off. I want to tell you how crazy I worked before we left. I want to tell you that I still answered work emails while I was gone.

I want to do all this because, for many of us, we feel weird, guilty, or unworthy of taking time off. It's a combination of our emotional attachment to work and producing AND the realities of what it means for our business.

Tomorrow in the podcast we're going to talk about the emotional stuff and how to give yourself permission to take time off, but today I want to talk about the practical side of it. HOW do you actually take time off? How do you step away from your business without it all falling apart?

The answer is: Systems.

Now, “systems” might sound serious, but they can be simple. Think of it like this: in order to take time off, you need to know what gets done in a normal week in your business, and either get it done ahead of time, or create a plan for catching up when you return.

For me, this meant that I wrote blog posts and emails and recorded podcast episodes ahead of time. I got all caught up on Starship posts and let them know that I wouldn't be in the forums for a week. I let all my collaborators know I wouldn't be working on our projects or replying to my emails while I was gone. I got all the recently ordered books out the door and created an email draft I could send to any new orders, to let them know their book would ship in a week. (Most items in the shop are digital products which are delivered automatically, which means I don't have to be online to make it happen.)

I knew what to do because I know what I have to do in a normal week. I have a content calendar that I plan about a month in advance and I have a marketing calendar (in the same doc) with important dates noted. I know the time I spend writing, emailing, answering Starship posts, and all the other tiny things that happen in a week.

But you can see how taking time off becomes completely impossible if you don't know what you need to do in a week to keep your business moving. If you've never looked at the underlying structure of your days and your business, you won't know what's important (and what can wait). If you just handle the urgent stuff that comes at you, not only can you not take time off, but you also can't grow or change or shift your business around.

Your systems might be:

  • What and how much product you make each week
  • How you handle incoming orders (labeling, printing, shipping)
  • When you do your numbers
  • How you connect with potential buyers (marketing)
  • Scheduling social media

If you're hoping to take time off for the holidays (which I heartily recommend!), start with this: list what you do in a normal week. Star the things that you want to be consistent with while you're away (like your communication with your customers: blogging, social media, email list) and the things you can get “ahead” on (production and working on projects). Note the things that can wait a week.

Now, make a plan with what you're going to add to THIS week, so you can take time off for the holidays.

A system can be that simple, and the more you pay attention to them and improve them, the easier it becomes to take time off, whether it's for fun or an emergency. Learn how to build these systems (and get time off) in Lift Off. It closes on December 31st, so if you're going to take the holidays off, sign up now.

Want to take a vacation from your biz? Check out my course with Stacey Trock of FreshStitches: Take a Break (without breaking your biz!)

What I’m Reading: December 2014

follow my enthusiasm by reading…a lot. And once a month, I share (some of) the books I read last month and the books I intend to read this month. You can join the informal book club by sharing your own list in the comments and find all the posts here.

What I'm reading December 2014

What I read

  • Inferno, by Dante Alighieri, translated by Mary Jo Bang  – part of my Great Books Project, more info below.
  • Grave Mercy, by Robin LeFevers – Ninja. Nun. Assassins. Historical fiction. That's all you really need to know – it was fun and I read it in a weekend. (Looks like it's free with Kindle Unlimited!)
  • Let's Just Say It Wasn't Pretty, by Diane Keaton – Sigh. I had hoped I would love this book as much as I love the actress, but it this collection of essays about her own relationship with her looks didn't reveal anything beyond a lifetime obsession with being “pretty”. Pretty disappointing.

Between Inferno and pretty Diane, my reading mojo was sucked dry. I'm halfway through 5 books, but I didn't get completely through any of them, so they're the first few listed below.

What I’m reading

The Great Books Project

After months of waffling, the Great Books Project is underway. I’m tracking it via GoodReads (my entire list is here) and holding discussions on the Facebook page, with conversations about our lists, our progress, and regular quotes from the books I love. I’ll be sharing a little update here each month, and you’re welcome to join in on your own project, either in the comments, or over on the FB page (the joy of FB is that we can all reply to each other).

This month I read Inferno, by Dante Alighieri, translated by Mary Jo Bang  and although I like the translation better than others I found, this is a grim read. I mean, we know that right? And yet, so many people had told me, “Oh! You're going to love it!” that I…thought I'd like it. But I didn't. Oh sure, it's  intense…but I'd rather not spend my reading time in hell, thankyouverymuch. (I am super curious to learn more about how many of modern Christianity's images of hell came from this bit of Italian poetry.) On the docket for this month: finishing the Aeneid and reading The Color Purple. See, Great Books aren't all ancient! (In fact, after I read Confessions, all books will be post-1500! Practically modern!)


What are you reading?



Why you’re not making more sales

Why you're not making more sales

Everyone wants to know: Why aren't I making more sales? 

The answer is that you're making a mistake that most small businesses make, and it's exhausting you, without being effective.
Whether the problem is that you're not selling anything, or that you're not selling more, or that your newest project just bombed, the underlying problem is usually the same. Today we're going to talk about what the underlying problem is, and how to fix it.

We'll discuss:

  • Why you're not making any sales
  • The easy change you can make
  • The foundations you need in place


Lift Off opens today! Join right here.


How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • ON ANY device, you can listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

Where is your business? The four stages of building a business

The Four Stages of Business

Last week I wrote about the “flip” – the moment where you start thinking of being a Professional. That's one moment in the life of a business, but in my years of working with makers, I've noticed there are actually a few stages that come before the flip:

  1. Thinking
  2. Plotting
  3. Doing
  4. Doing it and doing it and doing it well*

*You're singing this now, aren't you?


There’s often a looong period of time where you consider selling what you make. In this stage you may even take some “steps” like signing up for Etsy, listing a few things with hastily taken photos, or starting a blog (or maybe a whole string of un-updated blogs).
You think. You dream.

This is an important stage. But this is not a business.



This is different for different people. For me, it involved a crazy amount of research (mostly business books) and writing down every idea I had. For others, it involves sending emails to people who might help (like me!). Or reading the Etsy forums. Or finding some blogs.

The difference between this stage and the first?


At this point, you know, that you will do this sell-what-you-make thing. You will.
You may not know how. Or when. But something has shifted.
It’s real.
But it’s still not a business.

This plotting may eventually lead to Doing, but many (MANY!) people get stuck on the I-need-to-learn-more train and never get off. They go around and around and don't take any action.


This is the stage where you make it happen.

If you hang out in the plotting stage too long, doubt will creep in.
Is it real?
Is it possible?

Stay in this doubt too long and you slip back into the Thinking stage.
Everything seems too hard. Too confusing. Too out-of-your-range.

So how do you move from Plotting to Doing?
By making one decision.
A decision to commit.
When you turn that surety in your heart into something tangible.

The decision can be anything.
But it must involve investing in your business (investing = risking time or money or your comfort on something that will yield returns).
It can be signing up for a class.
It can be DOING what you learned from a blog post, a class, a friend.

Anything that you can look at when doubt seeps in and say “No, this isn’t just a dream, I AM doing it.”

(Afraid of moving to Doing too soon? Think you need more Plotting before you commit? Be reassured: you will ALWAYS be plotting. You never stop Plotting. I’ve been Doing a business for over 7 years, and I've been self-employed for 5 years and I’m still Plotting and changing and experimenting.)


It's only after you start Doing that you make the flip to a Professional. It's only after you're IN it, that you can get good at it.

But here's the thing: you can be Doing and STILL not have a business. Unless you have built a foundation and systems, all of your doing will be random and ineffective.


Doing it and doing it and doing it well

This is where you'll spend the rest of your business life, and this is where what you're doing becomes an actual business. This is where you do the profitability math, develop a marketing plan, and begin to shape a business you really want, focused on your own goals. (This is where I work with people. I don't help you with the initial start-up, I help you make it more awesome and more you.)

You can move forward.

No matter where you are now, and how long you've been there, you can make progress towards your dream.

I've put everything you need in the foundations of your business into one program, so that you can shift from random action to sustained focus (and profits!). In Lift Off, you'll figure out where you want to go, set clear goals, regularly assess what you're doing (so you only do what works!), do your profit math, create a marketing plan, and learn from your own business, so that you can take your business to the next level (whatever that is for you).

Lift Off is the guidance & training you need to get your biz off the ground and into the stars! It is open now.