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309: Big Changes in business and Life


Links in today's episode: 

After publishing an episode every single week for 6 years, the pandemic and life really threw me for a loop and it's been four months since a regular weekly podcast. 

Well, I have good news – the podcast is back to it's normal weekly schedule!

This week we're going to talk about the big changes in my life in my business, why I made the changes that I did, and what lessons you can learn from my process. Next week we'll talk more about navigating the transitions you may be experiencing in your life and business. 

We have a baby!

First, the biggest, most life-altering change is that we are adopting our son, Judah! We have been his legal guardians since he was born, on July 6th, 2020 and the story of how he came into our lives (not foster care, not traditional adoption through an agency) is  amazing. We're going to wait to share that story until the adoption is complete, which will be around January or February. 

In the meantime, just know that I'm over here with a newborn and I'm loving it. You can see the birth announcement here

The Final Starship Boarding

The second big change is what I want to talk about with you today. Before I even knew Judah existed – I opened the Starship for the very last time in mid-June.

 As you may know if you've been listening for a while, I opened the Starship in 2011 and it has guided hundreds of makers, artists and designers through building profitable businesses through classes on marketing, pricing and following-through on your goals. Those classes were combined with a community of fellow business owners (Captains) who got together each week for a check-in and in a forum where Captains could ask questions and get feedback as they built their business.

The Starship has been my primary job for the last 9 years. It has generated multiple six figures in sales and some years has been 80-90% of my family's income. The Starship was the first community and had the first classes of its kind.

2 reasons I won't be opening it again

The first reason, which is something I've been thinking about for the last year or two is that there are now more classes available, really good classes, classes that dive deep into one particular thing, and I recommend many of these classes to makers.

Also, the online business and social media landscape has changed dramatically. 

When I started teaching people how to build their craft businesses, the culture around business and selling was completely different. The women I worked with told me that I was the only one in their life saying “hey, if you want to do this, you CAN do this! It's worth your time and attention to make it profitable. It is ok to make money from this.”

Now, of course, the messages we receive as a culture have shifted dramatically “follow your dreams! Make money at home! It's not that you CAN sell what you make, you SHOULD sell what you make! Create another income stream! Do what you love! Not only CAN you grow your instagram, you SHOULD grow your Intstagram! Why? So companies will pay you talk about their products – you can get paid just by living your life!”

Lemme be clear, I am super happy that the cultural beliefs about what we can be paid for, what counts as “work” is shifting. I think that a more holistic approach to our life and work is healthy. But the problem is that the message has been, especially during the pandemic, shifting to you SHOULD make money online. You SHOULD build a business. If you can sell something, you should! 

And here's the truth – owning a business isn't for everyone. Just like being a doctor or a teacher or an engineer isn't for everyone. It's a great career, but I don't think we help anyone by glamorizing one career path over another. 

So although my message never has been “everyone should do this!!”, I just feel less comfortable shouting online about a profitable business. 

But here's the thing – at this point, it doesn't come down to knowledge (all of the knowledge you would need is out there – watch my CreativeLIVE classes or read my books) it comes down to follow-through.

 In my experience, Follow through comes from 2 areas – 

  1. knowing yourself and what you need and building the structure around you that supports YOU and 
  2. Your mindset – getting real about what it takes and committing to it and continuing to have a growth mindset as you work. 

The more I think about it, the more I realize I’d rather spend my time helping you follow-through on your goals and dreams.

 

So all of that, that is a big change in our culture and how we think about businesses that has really affected how I think about what I'm doing here with y'all and what I communicate in my own marketing. 

 

*Here's a takeaway for your own business – you are never marketing in a vaccuum. Your marketing messages (talking about what you sell) is in context with everything else going on, both in our work at large and in the lives and subculture of the people you're talking to. So what might have worked 5 years ago, may not work today. What mattered to your customer in December may not matter to them in July.  

 

Now, I want to be clear – I could absolutely keep selling and marketing the Starship and my business classes in the new environment. I feel I have shared my business classes in a very authentic, encouraging way that stayed in integrity with my values for my entire business life. If I still wanted to, I absolutely could. 

That brings us to the real reason I won't be opening the Starship again or selling more business-based classes. 

I feel done. I feel like it's complete. 

I don't feel bad or negative or anything, it just feels like it's come to its end. I've thought about marketing and social media and profitability and learned and researched and then packaged into courses and podcast episodes that would clearly communicate it to you in a way that would help you transform your business – I've done it for a decade and I feel like that's enough. 

There is absolutely so much more I could learn – i could learn about the different platforms, I could dive in to what's going on with Etsy or Ravelry, I could learn more about what's new and different in email marketing or Instagram or YouTube and create classes from that but…well, I don't want to. 

I think this is the hardest thing to do as an entrepreneur – to see that paths you could take and just say “nah, I don't want to“. But this is also the most important thing – to really be clear about what you want to do and what work you can do consistently, sustainably, and build a business around that. 

I don't think that focusing on how to use a specific tool is really where most of my community needs to spend their energy. Yes, I could sell you a class on it – but is that what's best for YOU? Will your business be revolutionized by optimizing Instagram? 

Eh, I don't really think so. 

So doing that wouldn't be in integrity for me. 

What WOULD be in alignment with what I find fun and what I think will actually help most of you listening is to talk here on the podcast about follow-through and emotional well-being and accepting yourself enough to build a life that actually suits you. We’ll dive into what I mean by emotional well-being in upcoming episodes. It’s what is holding a lot of us back from following through on our dreams and goals. 

Now, here's the thing – you might still really want to learn about Instagram or email marketing or whatever, and the good news is – you can! There are so many places that are teaching about it with integrity and smarts – for example, I heartily recommend you check out the book and podcast, Hashtag Authentic, and the Instagram classes taught by Sarah Tasker. Check out the business classes by my friend Megan Aumen, she teaches on Pinterest and marketing basics.

What does that mean for me and my business? What's next? 

Well, I'll be honest with you – I don't know. 

I was going to wait to record this episode until I DID know, but then I realized that it would be much more authentic, much more REAL, to share it now, while I still don't know. Then I can share the journey of figuring it out, of building the next phase of my business, with you here on the podcast.

That's one aspect that I am sure about – i love doing this podcast and it feels in integrity (hey, it's free! If it's not helping you, you don't have to listen!). So I'm going to keep doing this podcast every week, and I'm thinking of this next period of time (I'm not sure how long it'll last), as Season 2 of the show. Yep, Season 1 was 6 years long!  In Season 1, I helped you build your creative business through marketing and pricing. 

 

In season 2, I'll walk alongside you as I pivot my business and I’ll share that process.  I’ll share how I’m making decisions and thinking things through. We'll still be talking about goal-setting, follow through, mindset, enthusiasm…and whatever else comes up as we navigate a very weird time that is full of transitions and change for all of us. 

If that doesn't sound like what you need, unsubscribe!

If you know others who are going through transitions right now, whether it's related to business, or the pandemic or general life stuff, please share the podcast with them! I've always had listeners who don't have a business but season 2 will be even more accessible for those who are looking to build a life with enthusiasm, whether that involves a business or not. Share the podcast in whatever app you're using to listen, share it on social media or send them to TaraSwiger.com. 

I hope today’s insight into why I chose to make a huge change in my business was helpful or interesting to you! If so, come tell me about it on Instagram, right here. 

 

308: Favorite books of Spring 2020

 

Today I’m sharing my favorite books of this spring – from March – May. This is a weird Spring! We were on total lockdown here in my house for about 6 weeks and I had 6 year old and 4 year old foster daughters. We’ll see how that impacted my reading! 

Every quarter I round-up my most-favorite books and share them here. If you are subscribed to my YouTube channel, you may recognize some of these books, as I’ve talked abou them there. If you like learning about great books and you are NOT subscribed over on YouTube, you are missing out! I share reading vlogs, monthly round-ups, and all kinds of fun bookish stuff. You can scroll down and see my whole Reading playlist or click on Videos to see my most recent videos.

READING STATS

I read 25 books in the three months of March – May. That’s 9 more than in the three months of winter. I’m pretty sure this is because I was home more and while the kids watched cartoons or played outside, I read. Of these 25 books, 10 were mysteries, 7 were Literary Fiction, and 3 were a part of my Jane Austen reading, where I tried to work through all of Austen’s 6 published works. It was going great at the beginning of March, but by April I couldn’t focus enough to keep going. I plan to pick the remaining three up this fall. Of the 22 books that were NOT Jane Austen, 6 of the books were written by women of color. I’m tracking this so that I can be sure I’m reading from a diversity of authors. The books I read this season were just SO good, I had so many books that are my favorites of the year (maybe the decade), it was hard to narrow it down, but I stuck with the books I think many of you will like, based on our discussions on Instagram. By the way, if you’re not talking to my over on Instagram, go tell me that you’re listening to the show! Snap a photo of your screen and tag me or shoot me a DM, I’m @taraswiger.

Before I dive into telling you about my favorite books, I am so excited to tell you about this podcast’s FIRST EVER SPONSOR. It is Hank Green, NYT best-selling author of the upcoming A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor. Hank is also half of one of my favorite youtube channels, VlogBrothers AND my fave audio podcast, Dear Hank and John.  

Hank wanted his publisher to sponsor a ton of small podcasts, but they said that was too weird. So, instead, Hank took 5% of his advance from the book and did it himself.

Thanks HANK! 

OK, so Hank’s first book An Absolutely Remarkable Thing was one of my favorites of 2018. It follows April May, who gets thrown into super-famousness when she uploads the first video about a weird sci-fi worldwide event. But it’s really about creating a brand and internet personality around yourself, is not the same as being yourself and what are the outcomes of that? How do you stay a person when the “brand” and personality become super-famous? I loved it and I am always recommending it to anyone who is creating and publishing online. It’s out in paperback now.

The sequel and conclusion to that story,  A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor comes out July 7th. I’ve already pre-ordered my signed copy! You can find it wherever books are sold, and Hank has said he’s adding some extra bonuses to the audio book, so you can grab it there as well. In the shownotes I’ve linked to Bookshop.org so you can buy this book and support indies and Libro.fm where you can get the audio book directly from an indie bookstore. And of course, head to hankgreen.com where you can find everything. 

If you get it, lemme know! We can do a little reading group on Instagram in mid-July!
Support indie Bookstores

Now, on to my fave books of Spring 2020.

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Last summer I read everything by Riley Sager (there’s a link in the shownotes to my vlogs about them) and I was soooo excited for this book to come out. It was published on June 30th, but I read an advanced reader copy. It follows Maggie, whose father wrote a very famous book about the haunted house that they lived in as a child. Maggie thinks it was all fiction, but her parents won’t talk about it. When she inherits the house she moves in to try to figure out (and fix it up to resell it) and the book alternates between Maggie’s present day mystery and the book her father wrote about her childhood experience in the home.
I knew nothing about what the book was about going in, or I might not have picked it up (I don’t read a lot of horror), but it was so so good! It wasn’t really horror, it was much more a psychological thriller. 

 

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
This list is in no particular order, but since we just talked about a little horror, I have to tell you about this book. It is so weird and so wonderful. Set in a middle-class suburb in the 90s, a bunch of housewives have a True Crime book club (which they tell their husbands in a bible reading group!). So when a sketchy guy comes to town, they’re ready to see him for the serial killer he is…except they’re housewives, so no one in their life respects them. This book is funny and fast-moving and a little bit of horror. It also does an excellent job of exploring what motherhood and womanhood is like when you serve others and  no one respects you or listens to you. 

I talked more about this book in this reading vlog

The City We Became by NK Jemisin 
First off, I hope you know NK Jemisin already if you like fantasy or sci-fi. She’s the only person ever to win 3 Hugo awards in a row for the three books in her Broken Earth trilogy. The City We Became is more sci-fi than fantasy, it’s set in modern New York City, where a pandemic of white tendrils begins to spread. Cities who reach enough complexity and maturity are “born” and become embodied in a person. But New York is so diverse it becomes embodied in 5 avatars who have to find each other and work together to save the city from the creeping tendrils. This book is super fun and fast-moving, it’s like the Avengers meets HP Lovecraft, written by a black woman who celebrates diversity and inclusion.

We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry

Also in the “set in our world but kinda sci-fi/magical” is We Ride Upon Sticks. This is a super-80s book, where the Danvers HIgh School field hockey team learns about the salem witches and sees if they can use their magic to win at field hockey. The best thing about this book, for me, is that it’s told in a collective first person. “We” did this, “we” did that. Each chapter spends time with a different girl and you can see how much she needs the sisterhood of the team and how she’s navigating her life as a teen in the 80s. It is so good and funny and I really had no idea how it was going to resolve until the very end.

Queenie by Cadace Carty-Williams

I talked about this book in a video about . The blurbs call it a mix of “Bridget Jones and Americanah” but, man, it’s so much deeper than Bridget Jones. A single Black woman is navigating a recent break up, in London, while trying to find a place to live and struggling at work. The real heart of this story is how it handles the mental health and Queenie’s experience trying to get better on her own, spiraling out, how her traditional Carribean grandparents think about mental health. It is so good and so true. I hope it’s not a spoiler to tell you that Queenie’s depression looks so so much like mine, it just felt really real. And yet, the book still manages to be funny and fun to read. 

 

The HIlarious World of Depression by John Moe

So while we’re talking about funny depression, we gotta talk about this book! I LOVE the podcast The Hilarious World of Depression, where John Moe interviews funny people (often comics and writers) about their depression. When I’ve had a bad bout of depression, and I can’t focus enough to read, this is the one podcast I can stand to listen to.
So I was like, really excited about his book, which I get as an ARC from NetGalley. In this book, the author tells the story of his own depression – when it started in adolescence, when it showed up, all the not-great ways he tried to handle it (what do you mean avoidance isn’t an effective treatment?!) and how he manages it now. He also explains how the show began, so if you're a  public radio nerd like me, you will likely enjoy that. I recommend that you read this book if you or anyone you know has suffered from depression, it will help you understand how their brain is telling them things that are not helpful to improving how they feel. 

 

Courtroom Thrillers I loved: 

These were a few really good reading months! Check the show notes below where you’re listening or watching for links to all the books, or head over to my website, TaraSwiger.com/podcast308 the full written transcript. 

When you purchase the book using my links, I earn a tiny percentage, which if you’re buying on Amazon, goes to buying food and clothes for foster kids and if you’re buying on Bookshop, goes to new books! I get most of my books at my local library, so check yours out because libraries are amazing. Lots  of my faves came from the Book of the Month Club.

 

I’ll be back in August with new episodes about enthusiasm, confidence and mental health! 

 

5 Business and Mindset Podcast by Black Women

 

Each week I bring you a lesson on your creative business and mindset…except for recently. Because of the Coronavirus and foster care and needing to care for my own mental health, I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus from the podcast.

Last week I had a podcast recorded for my birthday, about what I’ve learned this year, but amid everything that is happening, as America really grapples with racism, it didn’t feel appropriate. I want to keep our attention on what matters. 

This week I’m popping back in your feed to share other business and mindset podcasts that I think you’ll love, all of them hosted by black women. 

As I was thinking about if I wanted to record and what, if anything, I wanted to share, I realized that what YOU come here for is help with your business and encouragement in building it. And the best way I can serve you right now is to tell you other awesome business podcasts to listen to, while I continue my podcast hiatus, specifically podcasts by black women. 

Because here’s the thing – we all have implicit (meaning unconscious) biases. These biases affect what we listen to, who we pay attention to, who we trust. 

One of the ways we defeat these biases is to notice them and then work at changing them. And one of the best ways is to pay attention and then purposefully change your feeds. 

Changing your feeds isn’t the ONLY step, you also need to be educating yourself and interrogating your beliefs! 

 Book Recommendations for educating yourself on how to be anti-racist:

 

But changing your feed is an important step because, now more than ever, your reality and your beliefs are SHAPED by your feeds. Google and Facebook show you search results and NEWS based on your feeds and activity. 

Your world is being created by the voices you actively choose to listen to. 

Your life is created by your actions, your actions are caused by your thoughts and your thoughts are being shaped by what you see online, especially in spaces YOU and the algorithms have curated.

So let’s get your feeds full of brilliant black business women. 

Side Hustle Pro by Nicaila Mathews Okome

Nicaila interviews black women entrepreneurs who have scaled their side hustles into full-time entrepreneurship. Lately she’s been doing a “rewind” episodes where she shares the steps in her own business journey. I think y’all will like  episode 199 where she shares how to start a side hustle and her own journey and episode  195, where she talks to a jewelry designer who hustled for 10 years before turning it into a full-time business. 

 

Pimp your brilliance with Monique Malcom

Lessons on finances, business, creating a plan to turn your creative passion into a business. Monique is real about her struggles and the feel of the show is more casual, like this one. I think you’ll like episode 83: 5 ways to find focus while social distancing and episode 78: 6 systems for your creative business.

 

Support is sexy with Elayne Fluker

Elayne does interviews with a variety of women entrepreneurs, including Etsy sellers, authors  and psychologists and doctors. There is a great episode from May 1 on dealing with stress during coronavirus, where Elayne speaks with a therapist. I think listeners of this podcast will really want to tune in to episode 725 on how to build a million dollar Etsy business. 

 

Journey to Launch with Jamila Soufrant

This is a financial focused podcast that has interviews with many entrepreneurs and regular folks who have paid off their debt. I think you’ll like episode 129 on quitting your dayjob to follow your creative passion.

 

Be School withTaylor Elyse

Taylor is an embodiment coach and the focus of her show is on mindset and confidence and flow. Be School is a combination of interviews and mini-lessons, similar to the ones I teach here. Her episodes always encourage me. She posts new episodes TWICE a week, so if you’re desperate for new episodes, list in! I think you’ll love episode 304: Imposter Syndrome.

Now, these are just the business shows I like, and I don’t even really listen to business podcasts! Lemme know your fave podcasts by black women  over on Instagram I’m @TaraSwiger 

 

In the meantime, I’m extending my unplanned podcast break into a full summer sabbatical. I will go back to weekly episodes of Explore Your Enthusiasm the first week of August! Until then, you can find new bookish videos on YouTube.

306: Seasons in your Business

What if you are just not getting things done? What if you just can NOT get things done? Before you start beating yourself up, ask yourself: is this just a season of my life?

I recorded this episode over a year ago, when I was a brand-new mom, but it's so appropriate for what we're ALL going through right now – a completely new season in our life and business. So we're rebroadcasting it (it will come automatically to your podcast app if you've subscribed), in hopes that it will help you feel some peace about where you are right now.


Today we're going to talk about how to identify the season you're in, and what to do about, to be both as productive and GENTLE as possible.

My aim is to guide you to living an enthusiasm-filled life…which includes doing work you love, spending time with people you love, and feeling GOOD while doing it.

I was recently asked the question on Instagram: I feel like I'm in a season of my life when I can't get a lot done. Am I alone? Can you talk about this?

First, let me preface today's episode with some background: two months ago I didn't have any kids. We became foster parents last September and on December 17th a two year old girl came to live with us, for an undetermined amount of time. And let me tell you – one of the first thoughts I had about my business, when my head came above water, several weeks later was: I can't believe I ever talked about how to get stuff done. I had NO IDEA what it was like to have a 2 year old at home. It is insane. Especially when you have no warning and you're a stranger to the 2 year old, and they've gone through some recent trauma. But even if you’ve been with them from day one, it’s bonkers.

So here's the truth: I have no idea what you're going through. Maybe you have 4 kids. Maybe you have a sick partner. Maybe you just lost a parent or loved one. Every situation is different, and my situation and way of dealing with things is built from what I need, from what works for me (and sometimes it doesn't even work for me!). So you'll have to take what applies, leave what doesn’t, and find what will work for you.

In my experience, there are several different seasons in every business, that continue to cycle throughout the life of your business:

  • Idea/inspiration – when you start to dream and get inspired and slurp up Pinterest and blogs and videos
  • Creation/exhalation – if you inhaled a lot of inspiration, you need to let it out via creation. This is where you begin to turn your ideas into action, into real projects or relationships or products
  • Working away at what you started – After the initial super-creative part of the process a LOT of our projects have kind of a boring “keep going” part. It’s not new and exciting, but there’s more to be done. This might also be maintenance mode. As Kurt Vonnegut said,  ‘everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance.'
  • Rest – sometimes you’ll go right from creating to new inspiration and new creation but a lot of time your field will just need to lie fallow. You may just need to rest before you get another breath of inspiration. This is the time that you may worry that you’ll never have another idea and that everything is falling apart. But it’s just part of the process. Fill up your well and keep yourself healthy during this phase.

So those are the seasons in your business, but there are also seasons in your LIFE. Seasons where you’re actually not going to be in any season of creation or inspiration because you’re putting your attention on other projects in your life. It may be parenting, or a relationship, or getting well. That’s ok. That’s part of being a human!

If you are in a season of not getting stuff in your business done, you are NOT alone. I didn't work for 4 solid weeks. And now that I am back to “work”, my working hours are a fraction of what they were. Not only that but now the part of my brain that was free to think about strategy and business plans is now thinking about temper tantrum strategies and did she have any green vegetables today and is that a rash?

Now, I could be frustrated about that, or feel hopeless about it, or freak out about it (my income is 80% of how we pay the bills…so it's kinda important.)

But this is only a season of my life. Yes, she'll only be 2 years old for a short season. And because we're doing foster care, she may only be with us for a short season. But above that, the overwhelming NEWNESS of everything is ALSO a short season. We won't be in this everything-is-new-and-requires-decision-making season forever. Even after just a month of being together, so much has become easier. We have routines, we have go-to meals, we have regular activities to do together. I'm not saying parenting every becomes EASY or that I'll ever get back the huge percentage of my brain I used to think about my business, but the season of it being THIS INTENSE is fleeting.

And let me even more honest with you – before this season of being a new mom to a toddler, I went through a season of deep depression where I could not get my normal stuff done. Everything was hard. It started with fogginess, then things got physically hard, then hopelessness, then there was just apathy. (It’s real hard to get things done when you don’t care about anything.)

Even though that season was SO hard and I never want to repeat it, it was a season of healing. I needed to learn the lessons I learned in that season. It was NOT a season of ideas, creation or working. It wasn’t that restful (although I did rest my body a lot.)

Now that I’m more mentally healthy and I’m moving out of the intense brand-new-kid season, I’m in a season of transition, where I’m trying to find my new rhythm, my new normal. As much as I would love to just hop back to work-mode when I can work, I’m finding that I need to learn how to transition from mom-mode to work-mode. So this is a season of figuring-it-out. I’m not quite to creation, as I just transition into figuring out how to work.

And I know many of you are in an especially hard season. Maybe it's depression. Maybe you're taking care of a sick family member or partner. Maybe you've recently experienced loss. These are all seasons where your work is just NOT a priority. And hey, that's ok!

We are trying to build businesses that ENHANCE our lives, that bring enthusiasm and joy and connection to our lives, so those same businesses (and our plans for our business) need to allow for that life to show up and take over sometimes.

Are you in a difficult season right now?

If you're not getting stuff done:

  • Is it a season?
  • Is there a timeline?
  • Are your frustrated because you can’t do what you WANT to do? Keep track of your ideas.
  • Stick with the routines that make you feel like yourself (ie, shower, walk the dogs, get coffee)
  • Recognize the season and give yourself grace.
  • Realize when you’re in the NEXT season, and allow the change to happen.

I hope this has helped you navigate whatever season you’re in!

305: Finding Enthusiasm in Uncertainty

How do you find joy and enthusiasm for anything when everything is turned upside down? That’s what I’ve been thinking about this past week. 

As you know if you’ve been listening for a while, my fundamental business belief, what shapes everything I do and how i work with makers and designers, is that your business will thrive and YOU will feel best about it when you follow your enthusiasm. What do I mean by enthusiasm? I like the definition:  intense or eager enjoyment or interest.

You can follow your enthusiasm IN your business, by working on projects you love, letting go of expectations about what you “should” do, working with the kind of clients that you prefer. You can follow your enthusiasm outside of your business by allowing yourself to work on non-business projects and filling up your enthusiasm well with things that seem completely unrelated (for me lately it’s reading, and making bookish videos, which you can find on YouTube. Other times it’s been quilting or knitting). 

But with everything uncertain and stressful and all the change…how do we find any enthusiasm? 

 

I don’t know about your COVID situation, but mine is full of…obligation and responsibility.
Basically, we’re all having to do a lot of things we don’t want to do, or that we’re not prepared to do, or that are just hard. 

On top of that, you have your business – maybe it is doing just fine, maybe it has lost some of it’s sales channels, maybe you’ve lost all your working hours, when you would work on it. 

So does the idea of enthusiasm and joy really have a place in our current situation?

In my experience, yes. 

Not because things aren’t hard or we’re going to pretend everything is great. But because now, more than ever, you need to take care of your best business resource, and your family’s most important resource – your well-being. A key ingredient to your mental and emotional well-being is doing things that are just fun. That you get excited about, that brings you joy, or just interests you. 

But how do you tap into that enthusiasm?

I have a few suggestions. Not all of them are going to work for you, but I want to challenge you to try each of them, until you feel some spark of joy or even interest:

 

 

  • Start with the mental health checklist.
    I shared this in episode 285  You can listen in the that episode for the full list and explanation. The short version is – there are some easy things you can do every day that studies show are the most effective at maintaining mental well-being. Do them daily, even when you feel low or overwhelmed and you’ll feel a bit more human.

    • Wash your hands and face (good advice right now!)
    • Wake up at the same time everyday (really important for managing depression),
    • Take your vitamins and meds
    • Move your body
    • Say No when you need to.  
  • Do a thing that used to bring you a lot of joy, that is completely useless. When I say useless, this isn’t a judgement – I mean anything that doesn’t directly benefit anyone but you. There’s this pressure now (maybe always) to be using this time to very useful – to bake bread, to sew face masks, to educate our children 8 hours a day, to start that project you’ve been meaning to start or finish that project that you never found time for.
    I want to challenge you to do something OTHER than all that, just for the joy of it, for like 20 minutes. This might be video games or reading a novel or sewing or knitting (something not for your business) or painting or baking or yoga or talking on the phone with your friends.
    For me this is reading novels (Check out my YouTube channel for videos on what I’m reading lately) and playing legos and printing my photos.

 

 

  • Play a game.
    Not because your kids want to or to spend “quality” time, but just for the fun of it. It could be video games (I am loving Animal Crossing!), a phone game (Two Dots!), a card game (we’re trying out Uno with the kids) or a board game (we like Catan for the whole family).

 

  • Go outside.
    We got this $10 chairs for the porch and they are the best investment. Even if it’s for 10 minutes, being outside with a blue sky and listening to the birds chirp or watching the squirrels run around is the best thing ever.
    If art relaxes you, get a $5 box of chalk and draw over every surface you have access to for 5 minutes.  
  • Dance Party.
    Blast your favorite music and dance. Alone or together, this is my #1 mood booster, yet I’m always forgetting to do it.
    If dancing isn’t an option or your favorite music isn’t very danceable (Alanis Morisette’s Jagged Little Pill), so I highly recommend you look up old music videos from your favorite bands when you were a teenager. This has brought Jay and I HOURS of delight in the last month, and explaining MTV to the kids is….challenging.  
  • Watch YouTube videos or listen to podcasts about things you’ve wanted to learn about.
    Not because “now you have the time”, but because learning is a great way of sparking some enthusiasm for other things you have to do. Learning new things is inspiring, even when it’s hard.  
  • Make time to listen to podcasts or watch YouTube videos.
    Not even to learn, just for fun. If you have a favorite show on any platform – make sure you’re making time for it. For me, this is slightly different than watching a TV show, because the podcasts and videos are made by real people – living their real lives right now. It’s not slicked and produced – it’s more like connecting with friends. 

 

This all comes back to mental health.
You’ll notice that all the things I listed aren’t hard, but they are all somewhat challenging. The reason is that studies show that having too much completely passive consuming time is not actually restorative to our wellbeing. Yes, by all means, binge on your favorite shows and movies – but don’t count on that as your only form of rest. (One way that a show or movie can also be inspiring is if you create fan art from it, or go on a deep dive to research it or an aspect of it.) 

This can all be boiled down to one word – PLAY.
When things are hard and there is stress and responsibility, just make sure you have some time to play and be playful every day. 

I want to be clear – there’s no judgement in whatever you’re doing right now to survive. Most days I’m feeling good if I can just follow through with the mental health checklist and do ONE thing off this list. When I was sick for a week, I did absolutely nothing. And that’s ok. You’ll bounce back. Your family will bounce back. 

We will bounce back. 

In the meantime, I hope this helps you find a spark of enthusiasm and joy in your day and that you can carry that through all the other things you have to do. 

 

 

 

304: How to Plan in Uncertainty

Welcome to April and the beginning of a new quarter! This is the time where we usually make plans for the coming three months and review the progress we’ve made so far this year but…everything is weird. How do we do that now?

In the Starship this week, we’re doing Map Making – making a plan for the quarter. You can learn more about the Starship here and/or start making your own map with my book, Map Your Business.

I know, nothing is normal right now. 

You are staying home, no one in your home is ever leaving it, you may not be able to get the supplies you usually do, you may not be selling where you usually do, people are buying less because some people are losing their jobs. 

And yet. 

Now is the perfect time to plan the new quarter. 

I’ve actually talked about planning during uncertainty already – back in episode 254, I gave suggestions for how you can plan when YOUR life is uncertain. Add back in episode 291, I shared how I was planning the New Year while my life is so uncertain (as a foster parent). 

Well, guess what? Now you’re joining me in everything being up in the air and nothing being normal!

It’s really uncomfortable isn’t it? 

One of the things I find myself wanting to do is just wait….wait for it to feel normal. Wait for things to be ok. Wait for everything to be how it was. 

Well, that’s not going to happen.
We may very well need to limit social contact for quite a long while until this is completely past. 

But beyond that, life WILL be different.
Some of the people who lost jobs, won’t get the same ones back.
Some businesses won’t open back up. 

I don’t say any of this to scare you, but so that you can be honest with yourself – things have changed and we don’t when or if what we consider normal is coming back. 

What we can do is move forward with what we do know. 

What we can do is embrace today for being today. We can accept our current reality and find ways to live within that. 

And look, I know, it’s scary. Change is really really hard. And never before have we all been going through change at the SAME TIME. It’s so disorienting! 

Waiting until everything is normal isn’t going to work. 

Accepting where you are right now is the only way forward. Now it may take days or weeks or even a month to really feel ready to accept it. To even understand what the new reality is. It’s certainly taken me a week or two to get used to having two girls home from school every day and feeling out what our schedules are. 

 

But once you’re accepting it and through the fog a bit, it’s time to plan. 

 

So how can we plan when we don’t know what’s coming? 

  1. Look at your goals and dreams again. Get reoriented in where you want to go. Ask yourself which you still care about. Which still matters?
  2. Forget the old way of getting there and look for new ways.
    Maybe you were going to do a craft show – what about finally starting that shopify shop?
    Maybe you were going to grow your email list at a craft show, what about creating a PDF download to drive subscribers?
  3. Focus on systems, not outcomes.
    If you find yourself stressed that people aren’t shopping as much now (although I’m not sure this is true? Surely online shopping is surging) – stop focusing on the outcomes of your goals,and focus instead on setting up the systems of your goals. What technology do you need? How consistent will you be? What do you have to do in order to stay consistent? 
  4. Be Realistic.
    Yes, work on your goals, make a plan, but also really practice accepting the time and energy you have. I know I have about an hour a day, as long as my girls aren’t in school. I wish I could do more in my business, but that’s the extent of the time and energy I have.

    So I’m making a plan for the quarter – I’m looking at the systems and products I want to create, knowing I'll be doing it in about 5 hours a week. I will consider it a success if I use those 5 hours well, to create and publish this podcast, hold the weekly Starship chat and go live in my Facebook group. That’s it. 
  5. Be gentle on yourself.
  6. Along with being realistic, give yourself a break. I HAVE more hours than just naptime – I could get up early or work after bedtime…but I need that rest and recovery. I don’t know about you, but I find myself more on edge, more exhausted, more short-tempered than usual. So don’t make your business and your goals another thing to stress yourself out, another thing you should be doing. 

 

We are going to get through this. THings may not look the same afterwards…but what if that was a good thing? What if you set a goal for the quarter and reached it despite all the chaos? How awesome and grateful would you feel? 

One way or the other time will pass, the virus will pass and there will be shopping and craft shows and retail locations making orders again – will your business be ready for it? 

How to Make Decisions

How  do you decide what to do next? How do you make a decision? My family has a simple question that we ask to make complex decisions and I’m sharing it with you today. 

 I want to talk about how you decide ANYthing in your business (or life) and a quick question I use to make better decisions.
I’m not even going to make you wait, here is the question to ask yourself: Hard now or hard later? 

Over the years of making decisions together, from do we want to get pizza delivered or make dinner, to should we buy a new or used car, to should we rent or buy…my husband and I have realized that making decisions is it’s own skill set. To make decisions together, we need to be on the same page about what matters, what our values are, and where we’re going as a family. 

And there are a lot of ways to make bad decisions! If you just look at the short-term effect of the decision, if you look at what’s gratifying RIGHT NOW, if you make a decision based on a value that’s not really your own…you end up with a not-great result. Sometimes it doesn’t really matter (should we have ordered that pizza), but sometimes your whole future can turn on a few decisions. 

But this is not a marriage advice podcast (maybe I’ll start that next?) this is a handmade business podcast! You make decisions every single day in your business, and I know it is so easy to get stuck wondering “what is the right decision? Does this even matter?”

Here’s what you can do to cut through all the stuckness and get right to what matters: Hard now or hard later? 

What this means is: Is there a way to make this decision that may be hard now, but will make life easier later? Or if I choose the easier path now, will it make more difficult later?  

As an example, let’s look at a decision a lot of us made in our 20s – If I’ve got no money, but I want a pizza or to go out with my friends…should I just get it on a credit card or should I not go out and eat what I have at home? Most of us know that the easier decision is to order a pizza, but we could be paying interest charges on that one pizza for months – it will make the future harder. Or we could make the less fun decision now and have an easier future (with no debt!)

 

A lot of people are raised to (and parts of our culture encourages us to) make the easy decision now and let your future self deal with it. There’s even a  stand up comedian who jokes about making life harder for your Future Self. Screw that guy, let him deal with it! 

So this question – do I want to do the hard thing now or suffer the worse consequences later? 

 

Another way to ask the question is: fun now or fun later? 

Do I want to have short-term fun now, and pay for it later? Or make a hard decision now to make it more fun later? 

Now, this may not be the question you need. When I was talking about this on a Live in my Facebook group, my friend and life coach Joeli made the point that a lot of people in our community have this misunderstanding that life is “supposed” to be hard. That work is “supposed to be” hard. So they make things hard that don’t have to be hard. I totally know what she means because I see it all the time, this mistrust that things can be easy, work can be filled with ease. 

So if that’s you, if you think everything has to be hard, let me flip this question around for you. Next time you make a decision ask yourself: What can I do now to set my Future Self up for success? And how can I make it full of ease and fun? 

 

I used a financial decision as an example, but this can apply to so many thing in your business:

  • Do I want to take the time to schedule my social media for the next two weeks or do I want to have to deal with it every day?
  • Do I want to figure out my numbers and profitability now, or suffer the consequences of selling items at a price that doesn’t actually make sense?
  • Do I want to take the time to identify my market and shape my marketing message or keep trying to do it on the fly and getting more frustrated and disappointed when marketing doesn’t work? 

Do I want to confront this problem now (with a supplier, a customer, a friend) or do I want to leave it alone and have a bigger blow-up later? 

And if you, like me, are still practicing social distancing or quarantine right now, we’re not out of the decision-making loop. Do I want to give my kids another hour of TV and deal with them bouncing off the walls later? Do I want to mindlessly scroll Twitter now and feel unproductive and stressed later? 

Remember, sometimes you need to choose the easy thing. Sometimes you need the rest, sometimes you need to zone out. But the key to building a sustainable business is to give yourself what you need, while still honoring and taking care of your Future Self. 

Global Uncertainty: how to deal


I feel like I have been in intensive training for handling uncertainty and BIG change for the last year. As a foster parent, every 3 or 6 months we’ve had an entire new kid (or sibling set) move in our house. With new parents, new caseworker (who comes to the house weekly), new school, new personality, new food preferences – basically everything you take for granted in your regular life is turned on its head. In this time, I’ve learned some things about handling uncertainty and life changes, today I’ll be sharing them with you.

[Podcast]

Did my description of being a foster parent sound familiar? Everything that was normal and taken for granted, like your daily work and school schedules, the stores you shopped at, when you shopped, who you see and when you see them – everything has been turned on its head as we practice social distancing and for some of us, quarantine. 

I’m hoping that my experience and constant change has taught me some lessons that may help you. I don’t have all the answers, but I’m committed to bringing some hope and light into your life, while so much is hard and stressful. 

For starters, the truth is, the adjustment to the changes are going to be hard and it may take a long while. You are going to feel off-center, unbalanced and wobbly. That’s totally normal for any big change in your life, you feel wobbly as you try to get your equilibrium back and adjust to the change. That may look like swinging back and forth between worry or panic and dismissal “this isn’t even happening”. It may look like having really great days, followed by days when nothing seems right. 

It’s important for you to know: This is part of the process. This is not a sign anything is wrong. 

On top of YOU feeling wobbly, you are surrounded by people who are also feeling off-balance, who are going through their own changes in daily routines. 

So my first recommendation is: give yourself grace. Being mad or upset or judging myself harshly isn’t going to make any of it any easier. 

 

Know that this is part of the process, and give yourself grace. 


The next step is to adjust expectations – with your new schedule you may be more or less productive than you were before. Either one is ok. 

Here’s the real sticking point – you may have MORE TIME to work on your business but LESS HEADSPACE. Maybe it’s because the kids are home or maybe it’s because the news is scary or you’re worried about running out of toilet paper – but you may just have less energy to think. 

That’s OK. We’re giving ourselves grace…but the next part is to actually adjust your expectations. Put LESS on your to do list for the day. Hold yourself to lower standards. Give yourself a break. 

There’s a real reason why you may be having a hard time getting normal stuff done – cognitive load. ANY time you make a change in your routine, your brain has to spend more time thinking about it (because it’s not yet a habit), which creates a cognitive load on your brain. Right now, it’s likely you have a HUGE amount of things that are changed, so your brain is spending quite a lot of its energy just keeping up with the changes. I always remind myself with every new placement: New Tara may not be able to what Old Tara did. 

 

The good news, any new reality will become habitual, will become “normal”, freeing up your brain space to be creative and productive and have ideas again! Of course, you have a choice about this – you can set up routines that stay the same no matter what, routines that keep you out of the flow of news coming at you. 

 

There’s something else to remember about your brain – it is wired to have a negativity bias. That means that it is going to pay MORE attention to threats than to opportunities. That means your brain’s natural inclination is to pay a lot of attention to the scariest thing.  But we can control this by limiting how much time we give it. We can counterbalance the scary stuff by looking around and purposefully noticing what is going right. (You have a smartphone that still works if you are listening to this episode! You have enough food for today!)

Lemme be clear:  I’m not saying to ignore the important information or to go on with your life as usual. You absolutely have a responsibility to limit the spread of the virus to those who are most vulnerable. Follow the guidelines, pay attention to real information and to keep noticing what is good even while you’re taking the actions you need to take (like social isolation, quarantining if positive, getting tested if sick.) If the news you’ve been paying attention to has left you rattled, you can limit yourself to the CDC or WHO websites. They have all the information you need about limiting the spread of the virus, keeping yourself safe, and taking care of your loved ones. You need not need Twitter or Facebook to be a responsible citizen. 

The last suggestion I have is for when you are feeling a bit settled, and bit creative, and not in a stressed state. It is simply: Look for the opportunities to grow. Look, this is shaking up your life but it’s also shaking up the life of EVERYONE. Seriously, when does that happen? That means now is a great time to change the things that haven’t been working for you. It’s a great time to look at where you spend your time, your money, your energy, to look at your long term goals and ask: Is this the direction I want to keep moving. 

If yes, what can you do within today’s limitations to get there? (there is always something)
If not, what do you need to change? What do you need to let go of? What do you need to start doing? 

Maybe you need to let go of your super-high expectations of yourself or others and you need to practice more grace and forgiveness.
Maybe you need to adjust your business goal to suit the life you really want.
Maybe you need to stop letting fear hold you back from doing the scary thing.
Maybe you’re ready to commit to that scary goal and actually get yourself ready to do it.

Whatever it is, you can start to work on it and plan it NOW. 

If one of the things you want to spend your time working on is your business, if you’re going to use this weird time to get right on your profitability, your marketing messages and make a plan for your goals, the Starship is open right now. As a community, the Starship is encouraging each other, inspiring each other, and getting together every week to check in and adapt and grow in this time. If that sounds like what you need, head to TaraSwiger.com/starshipbiz to learn more about it. 

As a reminder, during this weird time, we are going to: 

  1. Give yourself Grace
  2. Change your expectations
  3. Recognize the negativity bias and notice the good
  4. Look for the opportunities for growth. 

 

301: 3 Mistakes to Avoid in your Creative Business

NOTE: I recorded this episode before the world changed pretty dramatically. We'll be talking about how to manage all this in my Facebook group and in upcoming episodes of the podcast. We're in this together. 


Why do you feel stuck? Why isn’t your business growing? It could be one of these mistakes that are common in creative businesses. I want to help you avoid these mistakes, so let’s dive right in. 

I’ve been working with product makers – yarn dyers, bag sewers, jewelry makers – and designers and shop owners for the last decade! I’ve been getting up close and personal with them, in my community, the Starship, since 2011. So I have seen a lot of what holds us back in our business, and what to do in order to move forward with confidence and profit. 

Today I wanna talk about three of the mistakes I see makers and designers make, in their thinking, that holds them back. If you want to avoid the three mistakes most creatives make in running their business, check out my free workshop on the 4 Foundation Method to a Thriving Business, where I explain the mistakes AND teach you how to avoid them (or fix them if you’ve already made them!).

This is not about shaming you. If you recognize yourself in the mistakes I’m about to share, that’s ok. Realizing you’re making a mistake is the first step to fixing it! So there’s no shame about making mistakes, there’s only learning and changing going forward. Ok? Ok! 

Here are the mistakes so many of us make in our thinking:

MISTAKE #1: Waiting for everything to be ready. 

Here’s the quick solution for this: Recognize that everything will NEVER be ready. 

Waiting for things to fall into line, for the timing to be right, for the technology to all work will leave you waiting for the rest of your life. 

One of the first questions I got last week was about how much of my journey I had planned or if I went with the flow. The truth is I had NO idea where my business journey would lead. I could have NEVER imagined the work I do now or the life I have now. There is no way to plan for what your customers are going to want from you in 2 years or 5 years. You can only show up today and listen to your customers and learn. You learn through trial and error over and over again. 

Nothing will every be ready because you’re not going to know any of those things you’ll learn BEFORE you get started. 

And if you’re waiting for your plan to be perfect, you’re going to be too attached to it. If you act when it’s PERFECT, then you’ll think it’s too perfect to change and adapt, and it will absolutely fail if you don't adapt. So you see a “perfect” plan that you wait for, is doomed to fail. 

So just get started today with what you do know and be prepared to fail and learn and try something else. 

MISTAKE #2: Waiting for YOU to be ready.

Guess what? You’re never going to be ready!
And you’ll certainly never FEEL ready!

And that’s ok, you are allowed to do what you want to do even before you feel ready! 

Because, just like your business, you are going to learn from DOING. You are going to be the kind of person who has the business youw ant by DOING what the business you want needs you to do. 

And if you really feel like you’re not good at DOING things, I have news for you! 

You do not need to be BETTER, you need a plan for how to follow-through. You need a plan that’s built from who you actually ARE, not who you wish you WERE. 

This is why I talk about the 4 Tendencies so much (go to episode 122  to learn more about the 4 tendencies) – if you know how you best work, you can make a plan that works FOR YOU. If you need accountability in order to get stuff done, by all means, get accountability! If you need to work from a list, work from a list! 

If you need to listen to the reasons why you need to something, well, that’s part of my teaching style – I will tell you exactly WHY we do things in our business. 

Don’t wait to be ready, decide you’re ready enough, embrace who you are and create a plan that works for you. 

MISTAKE #3: Being afraid of other people’s opinions. 

Oh man, I feel this one, deeply! It’s why I’ve done a few podcasts episodes about exactly this! (episodes 270 + 271 ). Most of us get stuck in this mistake from time to time, whether we’re just starting or we’ve been in business for a decade. 

When makers join my free Facebook group (fb.com/groups/taraswiger )I ask them what’s holding them back, and would you be relieved to know that over a quarter of respondents say something about fear and other people’s approval (or disapproval)? But they’re definitely not alone! 

Just like the other mistakes, this one can be avoided by changing your belief.
First, realize that other people aren’t thinking of you that much. (How often do YOU spend judging other people’s behavior and actions?). 

Very few people are thinking or judging you. 

The next question is: so what? DO you even know for sure that they will disapprove? If so, do you want them to run your life? 

Do you want to stay where you are? Frozen by their (perceived) opinions?
If not, that’s the belief switch: Realize that you are not AFRAID of their opinion, you actually don’t care to live your life by their opinion. 

So there you have it – 3 mistakes you may be making in the way you’re THINKING of your business. The next step is to look at the mistakes you’re making in RUNNING your business. To learn how to avoid (or fix) those mistakes, join my free workshop!

Remember: you can always listen and subscribe in your favorite podcast app! 
iTunes | Spotify

 

3 mistakes to avoid in your business

300th episode! Q+A – your questions with my husband

It's the 300th episode of the podcast! OMG!

Celebrate with me in this episode as my husband and business-encourager asks me YOUR questions. We discuss the very twisty journey that brought me here in my business, how I plan my weeks, and how I order my coffee.

Listen in by pressing the play button below or see our adorableness by watching the video above. 

Questions were asked by Starship Captains Theresa Burich of Serenity Ranch Handmade and Dawn Craig of Fairy Tale Yarn Co.

Help me celebrate by:

  • Leaving a review on your podcast app! (Here it is on Apple Podcasts)
  • Joining the free Facebook group where I'll be going LIVE this week with a celebration!

Explore Your Enthusiasm episode 300

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