This week's challenge in the Biz Confidence challenge was to list 3 things you're proud of. Not just list them for yourself, but share them with the community on Instagram, using the hashtag #bizconfidencechallenge. And friends, this is hard! Today we're going to talk about why it's hard, and why you need to do it.
A new round of the (live) Biz Confidence Challenge started this week (if you haven't joined us, it's not too late – sign up at the bottom of this post!). The Challenge is a 6-week practice in building confidence in yourself, so you can move forward in your business. Each week I send one challenge for you to do and then share on Instagram (with the hashtag #bizconfidencechallenge), then I explain how that challenge will build your confidence in the next episode of the podcast, and then we dive even deeper and I'll share my own answer to the challenge + your reactions + I answer your questions in a weekly live webinar, each Thursday.
When I said, in episode 123, that you can build your business, exactly as you are NOW, it struck a chord. That episode has sparked more conversation, emails, and Instagram comments than any episode I’ve published so far, so let's talk about it in depth.
You can be broken, jacked up, down in the dumps… and still work on your dream. Yeah, you’re not going to look like other people doing it, but that’s OK. You don’t have to.
Today we'll talk about:
The Comparison Trap
How building your business your way is better for your mental health
Did you ever just *click* with another creative biz owner and want to collaborate?
In today's episode I'm talking to two people who clicked, came up with a crazy idea… and then followed through on it, in a big way. Anne Poldesak and Kathleen Dames, the editors of the new knitting magazine, Filament, join me to discuss:
How they found each other
Why a magazine?!
What tools they use to work together
Kathleen is a member of the Starship, which is now open! Get the details here. (It closes this Friday!)
Sometimes the right collaboration can make a BIG difference in your business. That's exactly what happened with Starship Captain Jill Maldonado (of Material Rebellion) and her friend, Linda Ruel Flynn (of Flora-Ly). They met almost by chance and have built their relationship into a partnership based on mutual respect and equal levels of enthusiasm. Read on to hear their story.
Tell me a bit about what each of you do:
Linda: I preserve flowers and create custom botanical collages that will forever connect you to a time, event, person or place that otherwise would feel lost in the past.
Jill: I design instruments of the imagination for creative kids using reclaimed textiles. (That means I make toys and accessories for children that encourage open ended play and I make them all from discarded jeans and t-shirts.)
How did you start working together?
We both belonged to an artisan group here in Western MASS and really connected at a holiday party over our frustration about feeling stuck in our businesses.
Jill: I felt like I’d been trying to have this conversation over and over again with every maker I met. When I talked with Linda, I finally felt like someone was speaking my language.
Linda: Connecting with Jill created a spark. She was the embodiment of what I felt I had been missing in my business, the kindred spirit who can have long, deep conversations over the minutia we all ponder. Aside from the fact that she is funny, bright and knowledgeable I had a deep appreciation for her work and level of craftsmanship. We had a great conversation at the party, emails went back and forth and I made the leap to send an email that said, ‘what if we work together for each other’s businesses? here’s what I am thinking…what do you think about that?’
Jill: Even though I didn’t know Linda well, personally, I knew that I respected her work and I felt like we had similar goals for our businesses. I was thrilled at the idea of meeting and talking with her more about what we were each trying to do.
HOW do you work together? Where do you meet? What do you discuss?
Jill: Because we didn’t know each other well at the time, we started with a fairly formal structure. We met once a month in a café that was a midpoint between our homes. (We actually live two hours away from each other!) We’d be very careful to dedicate an equal amount of time to each other’s business. We discuss anything and everything! Sometimes we’re looking at broad strategies- branding, targeted customers, what space we occupy in the market. Sometimes we’re super-focused on tactics – this photo, that font, this copy, those print materials. It’s very flexible and bends to each of our needs in the moment.
Linda: We joke that the barista our third partner in business! We start with breakfast and end with lunch. We found the perfect cafe where they don’t give the evil eye for sitting for up to 4 hours at at time. I really appreciate our HOW. We have come to a very fluid place of give and take. Not only the day of discussions but the follow-up that happens. We don’t let topics drop just because we aren’t sitting across from each other.
Do you have a schedule or a plan ahead of time, like the specific questions I ask in the Starship weekly chat?
A few days before we’re going to meet, we’ll email each other with a general idea of what we each want to talk about, along with any pictures, links to articles, podcasts or videos that will help the other prepare for the discussion. By preparing ahead of time, it makes us better able to use our time together effectively. We also give ourselves as much time as possible for our meetings. By setting aside several hours, we’re able to dive very deeply into each other’s work. This means, if one of us is struggling with writing website copy or forging a new brand identity, we can do actual work together with long silences while we both focus on the problem. Or, we can go through several iterations of an idea in one sitting, getting up to stretch or (of course) get more coffee.
Now, nearly two years later, our working relationship has become more intuitive and less formal. We reach out to each other a lot through text, email and phone with little questions or worries that we’re looking for support on. We get together at LEAST once a month, sometimes more. Sometimes these are long, working meetings and sometimes they’re just quick catch ups. We’ve added a new element of putting our strengths and skills to work for each other on bigger projects.
Jill: For instance, when I wanted to take my website to the next level and Linda decided I needed photos of kids using my products, she not only found me a model, but she created beautiful black and white paintings to use as set pieces. We worked out the concept together, but she was able to execute it in a way I never could have. (You can see the paintings from the shoot here.) Now, as I’m designing and building my first trade show booth, Linda is again right there with me as we work out the concept and she creates her amazing paintings. They’ve become a big part of my brand identity.
Linda: In tandem with that I am laying the groundwork to push my work out on a broader geographic area. I knew that would involve customers having to ship their wedding flowers to me. I needed a How To Pack Your Flowers video. Jill, with an enthusiastic Yes! and her trusty BFA from NYU film school, came to my studio for a day to shoot video. Not only that, she is editing and will hand me a finished product for my website. This is a huge step for my business that would have happened much further down the road if it had not been for Jill.
Another exciting thing we’ve started doing is a quarterly retreat. We’ll get an inexpensive AirBnB in a central location and take 2-3 days away from family and the daily grind of our businesses to power through some big stuff. With that much time, we can work side by side on our own thing and stop to get opinions, work out issues, work on each other’s things. It’s pretty amazing.
Linda: At about 10pm on our first night away Jill looked over and said, ‘Can I have at your website?’ Absolutely! By 2 am she had cleaned up, re-written some copy, created Book Now buttons and all around made it the lovely website it is today. I appreciate the level of trust we have created.
What lessons have you learned from working together?
Jill: I’ve learned the power of letting someone else help. It can still be hard to ask for help because I feel like I’m taking up Linda’s time or taxing her talents for my own benefit, but I’ve realized that I have a lot to give too. Sometimes we take our own gifts for granted because they’re the things that come easily to us. By working with Linda, I’ve come to a better understanding of what my own strengths are. For absolute sure, by working together we have both moved our businesses further, faster and better than either of us ever could have done alone. We like to say that we move mountains together. I love that idea. Although, I tease Linda that now, through the work we’ve done together, I feel that we don’t need to push against those mountains anymore, but we’re soaring over them instead.
Linda: I have learned I am not an island. As a person without siblings, alone has always come easily to me. I don’t seek the company of others for the heck of it. But working with and becoming friends with Jill has really brought home the power of complimenting resources. We are much stronger together than apart.
What are you most enthusiastic about right now?
Linda: I’m excited for Jill’s trade show!!! She has approached this with such depth that I just can’t wait to see what happens. Her message and commitment to her vision and product inspire me. I’m also excited for the upcoming changes in my business. Casting a wider net has me thinking more about my website, my product offerings and my message. Taking my business to a demographic that is new to me is terrifying but so necessary.
Jill: I’m enthusiastic about watching Linda take a local, 2nd generation business, pivot it to make it undeniably hers and reach out to a national market. I’m enthusiastic about my first trade show too! Actually, it’s the thing I’m most terrified about at the moment! I’m excited to strike out into the wholesale market with a strong brand, a cohesive product line and a beautiful booth that embodies everything I’ve been able to achieve through this co-working, synergistic, accountability partnership. Thanks, Linda!
What should other business owners look for in a potential accountability partner?
Don’t worry about working whether or not your potential partner works in a similar industry or has a similar business. It’s almost better to work with someone in a totally different area. That way there’s absolutely no competition and you each bring a fresh set of eyes that might more easily spot faulty assumptions you’ve been making about how or why you do things in your business. The most important thing is that you both have a similar vision for where you want to take your businesses. For instance, if you want to build a global brand and someone else wants to build a business doing retail craft shows that brings in extra money for groceries, those are both great, legitimate businesses to build, but you might be better able to help each other if you have your eyes on the same horizon. To go back to the analogy we use about moving mountains, it helps if you and your potential partner both want to move the SAME mountain. You also want someone who approaches the relationship with a generosity of spirit that matches yours. You will both benefit from the help you give each other.
Linda: I can’t say enough about the generosity of spirit. There is no score keeping! When two people bring open hearts, skill sets and the sense that WHATEVER is talked about and worked on will benefit you both, you can’t go wrong.
Jill and Linda met outside the Starship, but we've also got an Accountability Partner program on the inside, as well as the option to connect + collaborate with other business owners through the forums, weekly chats, and more. If you think this type of partnership and accountability could benefit YOUR business, you're in luck! The Starship is now open – click here to learn more.
Want to learn more about how you can find and use collaborations and business friends? Join us for the free workshop this week!
Today we’re going to get into some heavy stuff that a LOT of you have talked to me about privately: anxiety and depression.
Over the last 6 months or so, I have been amazed at how many people have come up and talked to me about their mental health or that of a family member – anxiety, depression, and Alzheimers. Stories of their abuse, miscarriage, stillbirths, of their children with Autism and learning disabilities and physical disabilities. And this makes sense statistically, as 1 in 5 adults deal with mental health issues at least once in their life.
At CGOA in July I started to think: I know it's common among thriving business owners, but you – my dear friends – may not. You're not hearing these stories. And for good reason – it’s personal and these makers aren't called to share it all online. But I am.
I'm here to help you know you're not alone in this.
You are NOT alone in struggling with this. And as I share, I want you to remember – whatever you're struggling with, not only are you not alone, but you can also move forward WITH IT. Exactly as you are. People are doing it. You don't have to be different, better, or “more together” to make a business thrive.
Now, before we go on, I wanna give you a warning – I’m going to talk about suicide, depression and anxiety. When I’ve been at my most anxious, reading about other people’s anxiety made my own symptoms worse, so please be kind to yourself.
If you’re feeling like you can’t listen to this, that’s OK! But please use this time to talk to someone – tell someone in your life, or talk to a professional. You can call a helpline with professionals of the National Institute of Mental Illness at 800-950-6264. To find affordable options for a mental health professional, visit NAMI.org. Don’t just read stuff on the internet, tell a human being. Feel free NOT to listen to this week's episode and get help if you are feeling panicked or depressed.
If you're still in, go ahead and click on the player above to listen to the episode or watch the video below.
I am happy to hear your own story (including what works for you!) and I'd love if you felt comfortable sharing it with the community. To share your storey, call my inbox at (567) 393-8272 and leave a message telling me how you're working on your business with depression and anxiety – you can share your name or remain anonymous. If I have more than 3 calls, I'll put it together into a podcast episode as proof that it's not just me and you.
If you feel like you can’t handle your anxiety or you feel deeply uninterested in life for more than 2 weeks and you don’t think you have anyone in your life that will help you, call NAMI: 800-950-6264 or make a doctor’s appointment.
I posted about this in the Starship last week, before recording this podcast and the outpouring of support and “me toos” has given me the courage I need to share this with you. The Starship is full of people who are being brave and working on their business, despite anxiety, depression, and chronic disease. It opens tomorrow, so if you’d like to learn more, head to TaraSwiger.com/ starshipbiz
Talk about this with me, live, in tomorrow's free webinar. Details here.
Tomorrow I'm continuing this conversation with a free webinar. In it, I'll share the specifics of how I kept my business going while taking time off, and examples from my students and friends. To join us, sign up here.
I 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 with me on Facebook and find all the posts here.
My Age of Anxiety, by Scott Strossel – This is an occasionally interesting history of Anxiety disorders and their treatment, told through the lens of the author's own life-long experience. Much of it was very interesting, but he left out solutions and history that he didn't personally experience and discussed some medications with mind-numbing biological detail.
Missing, Presumed, by Susie Steiner – I got this as part of my Book of the Month Club (which I SO recommend!) and I loved it. Creepy, without being graphically violent. I look forward to reading everything else by this author.
Switched On: A Memoir of Brain Change and Emotional Awakening, by John Elder Robinson. This is the tale of an autistic man who undergoes experimental treatment that dramatically alters the way he perceives his world. I heard about this treatment first on Invisibilia and then spotted this on the New Non-Fiction shelf at the library so I picked it up. A friend's son was recently diagnosed with Autism, so it's timely.
Shoot the Damn Dog: A Memoir of Depression, by Sally Brampton – This is the best memoir I've ever read about dodgy mental health, and one of my Top 5 memoirs, period. Right after finishing it, I dropped it in the tub… so now I own this library book and I'm secretly thrilled. If you worry you might be all alone in how you feel, read this.
The Girl on the Train, by Paul Hawkins – Confession: I saw this book all over social media and so I picked it up when it appeared at my library. Another creepy sorta-thriller. If I didn't read so many great mysterious novels this month, this would have fared better.
Before I Go to Sleep, by S. J Watson – Another mystery that sucked me in! The premise is the same as 50 First Dates (woman loses her memory every night), but without the romance and with a dash of spine chilling secrets.
Carry On, Warrior, by Glennon Doyle Melton – I don't know how I stumbled on Glennon's blog, but I got totally sucked in. I read tons of the archives and then requested this book from my library. If you like her blog, read the book.
Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch – This was one of the Book of The Month Club options that I didn't choose, but it looked good so I got it from my library. Um, yeah, I read it in one late night gulp. A barely-sci-fi thriller (ie, it's set in a world just like ours, but with one big scientific discovery). It's a novel I'd recommend to any of my friends (even the non-nerdy ones).
Special Mention:Harry Potter, books 1, 2, and 3. Yeah, so. It's time to come clean: I've never read or watched any Harry Potter. I know, I know. I just wasn't the right age to read it when it came out (really busy reading tons of French literature, in French!) and I didn't get around to it. So I decided to fix that, and sped through the first three last month.
To be honest, and at the risk of losing all my readers, I gotta admit: I didn't get it. The first two books were just…okay. Not as gripping or fast moving or even as well-written (gasp!) as other YA I've read. (Hello, Lord of the Rings! Anne of Green Gables!)
However, by Book 3, I started to get it. I'm at least hooked enough to start in on Books 4 & 5 this month.