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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. 

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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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299: Why Instagram Stories

Are you using Instagram Stories in your business? They can be incredibly effective, but they can also be overwhelming and intimidating. Learn more about using Instagram Stories effectively at TaraSwiger.com/podcast299

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Are you using Instagram Stories? Is it connecting with your customers and helping you reach your goals? Or are you confused about what to do to make it effective? Today I’m going to answer your questions about WHY you should be using Instagram Stories and HOW to make them work for you!

Today we’re diving into the tool Instagram Stories and how you can use them to connect with your right customers, build trust and make sales.

If you’re reading this podcast, thank you! You may wanna hop up above to the video of this episode as well because the video has a few extra minutes of showing you what exactly I’m talking about! You’ll find it at the top of the post.

What is Instagram Stories?

Instagram Stories is an extra feature on Instagram, where you can post images or 15 second videos from your day. They expire after 24 hours.

You can shoot them “live” from inside the app, or you can use the photos in your photo library on your phone. You can also share your regular Instagram posts (if viewers click on them they’ll be taken to your post where they can like and comment) and you can share other people’s Instagram posts, which means you can share your customers photos of your work!

Why do Stories?

What is the best way to build trust with potential customers? It’s in-person events. Customers get to talk to you, touch the product, then buy directly from you. The second-best option is live video, it is the most similar to being in-person. The potential customer gets to see how you really talk, see what you’re working on.

This builds relationships and it builds trust. And more trust = more sales.

Stories allow you to show way more than you can in your Instagram grid. Are you packing orders, getting supplies, making products everyday? In Stories, you can show that!

What do you have in common with your customers? You can share that in Stories. For example: reading, relationships, personality type, preferences, etc.

Remember: You get to decide what to share.

How do you use Stories effectively?

What kind of Stories build relationships?

  • Personal
  • Unedited

Use Engagement tools

  • Polls,
  • Questions,
  • Sliders

Use DMs

Use Stories to tell your Marketing Message, and then save it to “Highlights”

You may be thinking – uh, what is my marketing message? What do I talk about? I outline what goes into your effective marketing message in my free workshop “4 Foundations” and we can work together on your Marketing Message inside the Starship Program. To watch the free workshop and learn more about how we can work together go to TaraSwiger.com/foundations

I’d love to hear how you are using Instagram Stories in your business! Come tell me on Instagram. I’m @taraswiger.

I’m going to give you homework right now to put this into practice:
Take a screenshot of your podcast app as you’re listening, then open Instagram Stories, share this photo and tag me @taraswiger and add the hashtag #exploreyourenthusiasm. This is such a low-stress way to get started, you don’t have to talk to the camera or anything.

While you’re on IG, send a DM and tell me what you learned from this episode!

Thank you so much for listening and I’m wishing you an enthusiastic week!

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.

298: How Instagram creates sales

It can be easy to waste time on social media, especially Instagram. Learn how to use Instagram to make sales in your creative business at TaraSwiger.com/podcast298

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Is Instagram worth it? How do you make sales with Instagram? I know! This is one of the ongoing questions my students have about any tool, and Instagram in particular. Today I’m going to explain EXACTLY how you can increase your sales by using Instagram.

Before we dive into Instagram, we are coming right up on episode 300, and I am including YOU in this episode! To participate, head over to my free FB group: fb.com/groups/taraswiger and the info on how to be involved is right there, pinned to the top!

Today’s question comes directly from the FB group: Does Instagram actually make sales for anyone? It seems to be just a waste of time, a bunch of content going into the void.

First of all: yeah, it can DEFINITELY feel like a waste of your time!

The good news is: YOU are in charge of whether it's a waste of time or not. It’s true! You don’t have to wait for Instagram to send you people, or for your right buyer to just stumble upon you.

Instead, make Instagram effective for your business by creating a plan and using it to find, connect with, and build trust with your ideal buyers. You will make sales with Instagram when you talk to, connect with and build trust with your Ideal Buyers.

So how do you connect and build trust on Instagram? 

  1. Identify your Right People.
  2. Talk to your Right People on YOUR profile
  3. Find and connect with your Right People on their profile.

Now let’s get into it deeper.

Identify Your Right People

Who buys your item? Who wants what you sell? These are your Right People. This is who ALL your marketing should be for. This will impact what photos you use, what captions you write, what hashtags you utilize, everything about all of your marketing.

This is a deeper process than just answering a few questions and it is what I do with Captains inside the Starship. So if you want to know more about your people, check out the free workshop at TaraSwiger.com/Foundations and we can work together to identify your Right People.

On Your Profile

If you’re taking the time to post photos on your Instagram, then take the extra time to make it effective at making a connection with your Right Buyer.

How? Captions.

A photo might grab someone’s attention, but captions are how your customers get to know YOU, get to know your brand and what you stand for, and feel connected to you.

Yes, you could just write three words and be done, but if you’re taking the time to post, shouldn’t you take the time to make it worthwhile? Writing a longer post (over 65 words, which is the average), it will take longer, but it will also be more valuable.

The data shows that posts with longer captions generally have higher engagement than those with a shorter caption. Engagement is when your followers interact with your post (comment, like, save or share it). And more engagement leads to more people seeing your post.

Ok, so what do you write? This is where you come back to your RIght Buyer – what is she interested in? What does she need to know about your product or your company? We answer all these questions in the Starship, so you create effective posts.

On Her Profile

How does your customer find you?
Well, she may be searching, she may click on hashtags, but the most direct way for your customer to find you is… you find her.

Stop waiting for your Right Buyer to find your photos, or to find your shop – find her!

How? 

This goes back to the work you did to identify your RIght Buyer – once you have a very clear idea of who she is, you can look at who she follows, what sites she reads, what she’s into. One of the easiest ways is to look at your Actual Customers. See what they’re posting, who they’re following, what hashtags they use.
And… connect with her! Follow your customer on Instagram, comment on her posts, when she asks for a recommendation, give it! You’re not going to be SELLING to her, but you will be CONNECTING with her.

Look at who else they follow and who follows them. If that person seems like your Right Buyer, follow them! And connect.

Does this work? Doesn’t it take a lot of time?

Oh, I know, I hear you moaning now – but Tara! Doesn’t this take a lot of time? Does this work? 

And the answer is yes and yes. It does take time. But you are already scrolling on Instagram. Right? You are already spending time on social media that is not building your business. I’m not asking you to spend MORE time, I’m asking you to spend your time EFFECTIVELY. As in, doing stuff that will make a change.

As for it working, listen. I don’t recommend you do only this. This is one strategy in what should be a full plan for marketing, that includes clear messaging, email marketing, in-person marketing, along with Instagram.

This is not linear. You don’t get a 1:1 result. Or even a 10:1 result. Some posts will connect with people and get 5 new followers. Some will have a strong call to action and hit someone at just the right time and generate 2 or 10 sales. And some will just build a relationship and build trust, so that when you post your newest product, your followers are ready to click over and buy.

How does this actually work?

Well, here’s the thing: I’ve actually said all of this backwards to how your customer will experience it. How it’s going to work is that you are going to go out and connect with your Ideal Buyers on her profile. Leave comments, make recommendations, answer questions. Then, she will move from her profile to yours. You will be building a profile (full of photos and captions) that connect with her so she’ll stick around, maybe click through to your products, maybe follow you. Keep posting, with calls to action that lead her to click, and she’ll click through to your website and buy when she’s ready.

As I was sharing this in the Facebook group, I had someone ask “What about commenting on a post that already has tons of comments? Won’t I just get lost?”

Yes, yes you will. For marketing purposes, don’t bother with accounts that are super big, with dozens of comments. Your comment will mean so much more to someone who doesn’t get very many.

What I’ve noticed is that people have so much resistance to this idea. They don't want to do it because they don’t see immediate results. They don’t want to comment on other people’s posts, but they want people to comment on theirs.

Why? You show people how to interact with you. If you are never in comments, no one else will be. If you never follow anyone or interact, you can’t expect anyone to interact with you.

Yes, you will do work – captions, comments, stories, that won’t get a response.

So what? You’re learning, you’re creating a library of content. You are trial-and-error-ing it. You are getting better at your marketing messaging.

And guess what?

This podcast is built on the very principles you’ll apply to your Instagram. I create content that will delight you. It takes me a LOT of time and energy to create each episode I give it to you for free. I connect with you on social media, you may listen for a month or two years, all the while feeling more trust and connection with me, until you feel ready to join the Starship and work with me.

Are all those episodes I create where you didn’t buy a waste of time and energy?
No, they were building a relationship.

But don’t forget – your posts aren’t building that relationship with ONE person, they are building it with many people who are seeing today, and people who will scroll back and read it a year from now.

If you’ve been listening for a while, and you are curious about learning more to work together, check out how we can work together in my free masterclass – 4 Foundations to a Thriving Handmade Business. You can find it at taraswiger.com/foundations

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.

297: Favorite books of Winter 2020

I explore my enthusiasm by reading… a lot. Learn all about the books I’ve been enjoying over the last month at TaraSwiger.com/podcast297

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What is the best book you’ve read lately? In today’s episode, I’m sharing my favorite books of this winter – from December – February.

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 they were part of my Best Books of 2019. 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 in my Monday videos at TaraSwiger.com/YouTube. You can scroll down and see my whole Reading playlist or click on Videos to see my most recent videos.

Stats
I have read 16 books so far, and I will likely finish another 3 before the end of the month. 4 mysteries, 2 giant YA space operas over 600 pages, 3 personal memoir essay-ish things.

All three of the memoirs were great, so I’m going to just quickly tell you, you should read them:

  1. Enough, by Shauna Ahern, who you may know as Gluten-Free Girl. I read her blog years ago, and so I picked this up when I saw it on the New Book shelf at the library. It is totally different and so good. Shauna tells the story of how she began to feel as if she is enough, after a lifetime of living by the girl code (criticizing your body, trying to be smaller), a traumatic childhood and trying to make money on the internet. I think anyone who is a woman or works online should read it.
  2. How We Fight for our Lives by Saeed Jones, is the memoir of a young black gay man growing up in Texas. There is violence, there is sexual content, and there is a really beautiful story of finding himself and figuring out his relationship with his mother.
  3. Thick and Other Essays, by Tressie McMillan Cottom, is a series of essays about her experiences being a black woman academic living in the world. It’s about thickness, of body and of thought, and explores beauty and twitter and class mobility. Read it if you like Roxanne Gay or Lindy West’s Shrill.

Now, the fiction books:

Such a Fun Age by Kelly Reid might be my favorite book of the year, ALREADY. A young black woman is babysitting for a white family and has a very racially charged experience in a grocery store. The story unfolds from that tense beginning, but the book itself manages to be fun and compelling and build a momentum that had me up until 3am finishing it. It’s really about white privilege and how “good” white people try to do the right thing while completely ignoring the black person’s agency and selfhood. This book is complex and real and although it sounds like it could be heavy, it’s actually just great fun.

Illuminae, by Amy Kaufman is so weird I can’t believe it’s so good. It’s a kind of YA space opera with horror. I only think it’s YA because the protagonist is a teenage girl, who is saving absolutely everyone. But it’s a little dark and splattery for like, 12 year old Tara. It is really about survival and sacrifice and telling your own story. I’ve read the second book in the trilogy, Gemina, and I liked it almost as much. I’ve got the last book, Obsidio, on my shelf.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo has been on my shelf forever, but I had been avoiding it because it’s written in prose. It took me a minute to sink into it, but when I did, man! It beautifully tells the story from the perspective of a young Dominican girl living in Harlem who is figuring out adolescence and her conservative family, while starting to write slam poetry. It is just the most gorgeous and most true book I’ve read about what it means to be a girl when you start to get unwanted male attention… but it’s not even really about that.

Ok, so a few more books I read and loved but am not going to go into detail about:

These were a few really good reading months! I think I got to some deeper books, like the memoirs, because we didn’t have kids for a few of the months (in case you don’t understand how we only sometimes have kids – we’re foster parents).

When you purchase the book using my links, I earn a tiny percentage, which frankly, goes to buying diapers. 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 (referral link).

In a few weeks I have my 300th episode – to learn how you can participate in my celebration, be sure you’ve joined the Facebook group – facebook.com/groups/taraswiger

Thanks for listening and have a book-filled enthusiastic week!

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.

296: Fix your mindset

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Now that you’ve worked on your fear, what about your other beliefs that are holding you back? What do you need to believe in order to move towards your goals?

Over the last few weeks we’ve been talking about what’s holding you back.

We’ve talked about how a lot of you say what’s holding you back is… YOU. Fear is at the heart of a lot of it. Another aspect of what’s holding you back is what you believe – about yourself, your business, and how the world works. This is your mindset, the set of beliefs that form your frame that you look at the world through.

Now, before you think, “yeah, yeah, I gotta have the right mindset. But what I really need is 5 steps to grow my Instagram!”…let’s take a minute, just like 10 minutes, to go deeper on this.

If your mindset and your beliefs are holding you back, it won’t matter how many tactics and tricks you learn for Instagram or Etsy or craft shows. It won’t matter because YOU will keep holding YOU back.

Mindset

We’re going to talk about a few different ways your beliefs can hold you back. The first one is your mindset – what you believe you are capable of and how the world works. Over the years you’ve heard me talk about the research in the book Mindset, by Carol Dweck. As a researcher she looked across areas – school, business, sports – and found that people think of themselves and their challenges in one of two ways – with a growth mindset or a fixed mindset.

Fixed mindset = believing that you are the way you are and you’re not going to change.
Growth mindset = believing that you can grow and improve and learn to reach your challenges.

You’ve probably heard this before. And you’ve probably decided, I wanna have a growth mindset.

But this is actually WAY harder than a one time decision and it comes up again and again.

Here’s what I’ve noticed in the last few years of thinking about this and talking with makers about it:

  1. You probably have different mindsets in different areas.
    You might have a very growth mindset when it comes to your relationship (We can figure it out!) but a very fixed mindset when it comes to your finances (we’ll never figure it out!)
  2. Time and experiences can change your mindset.
    I’ve found that the more you become experienced in an area, the easier it is to become fixed in the belief that you’ve learned everything and figured it out. This is when you start to say “That won’t work for me.” “I tried that, it never works.”
    Those are actually the two phrases that are red alarms when I’m talking to a business owner. I know that they’re coming at it from a fixed mindset and there’s not much I can help them with unless they shift their mindset from “I already know what I know” to “I can learn and keep trying”

But I’m guilty of this too! I started out my business with a growth mindset – I knew there was so much I didn’t know and I knew I could learn it.

Over time, I learned more, and my mindset became more fixed. I think I know what works, what doesn’t and what is worth my time. My challenge, all the time, is to try new things with the mindset of: I can learn how this works for me. I do this through trying new tools (TikTok!), trying new strategies (webinars) and even trying new business models.

So when we’re talking about how you’re in your way – the question is: Do you believe you can grow or change? What areas feel really “fixed” or stuck? What areas do you feel really open to learning?

To learn more: 

Expectation

Another aspect of your belief that affects your business is your expectations and flexibility – what do you expect will happen? In what timeline? Or else…what?

I am so surprised when people tell me that they’re quitting their business because it didn’t reach a really outsize goal in a short time frame.

It makes me wonder: did you really want a business (which is doing the work every day forever) or did you just want that goal (probably money)?

I’m going to say this really clearly – having a business is doing the work day in and day out, whether you reach one particular goal or not. It is learning, changing, experimenting and being flexible. If you don’t want to do that, you don’t want a business.

And hey – that’s ok!

If you want a for-sure amount of money for your amount of work, you’re going to need to get a job where you are paid a specific amount of money for a specific amount of work.

Owning a business is not like a job. AT ALL.

So what are your expectations of your business?

As you know if you’ve been listening for a while, I don’t believe in lowering your expectations – I believe in setting big goals and working hard towards them. But I believe in expecting your business to behave as a business – to need tending and changing and flexibility. And to adjust your expectations as you learn more about what your business is.

Having the wrong expectations of your business can hold you back from appreciating it for what it is and for putting in the work you’ll need to, to reach your goals.

Belief in yourself

So this last point is a little bit about growth mindset, but it’s also about confidence. The most important belief you hold in your business is your belief about yourself. The number one indicator of what your business will do is what you think is possible.

Yes, YOUR belief in what you think YOU can do is going to shape how far or fast your business goes.

Why? Because if you don’t think you can do it, you won’t. If you don’t think it’s possible, you won’t do the work.

Wait, what about realistic expectations? Yeah, you need to expect your business to act like a business. But how big you dream and what you think YOU are capable of is going to determine how hard you work at making it happen. So EXPECT that your business is going to have ups and downs, that it will take work and growth and challenge you. But BELIEVE that you can do it. You are capable. You can learn.

Here’s what I can tell you for sure: if you believe that you aren’t capable enough to make this happen, it won’t. NOT because you aren’t capable, but because you won’t do the work. You won’t put in the time to learn and grow.

This isn’t some “believe it and it will happen” stuff… this is the hard fact that if you don’t believe it, it won’t happen.

And listen, maintaining that belief is NOT easy. I shifted how my business works about six months ago and I believe it is absolutely the right thing and that it is absolutely going to allow my business to grow more than it would have… but it’s taking some time to see that change, as dollar bills. It is taking me learning and growing in a bunch of ways. If that belief wavers, I’m going to stop moving forward. I’m going to stop midway and try something else, which will kill my momentum and confuse customers and cost me money and sales.

But if I maintain the belief and keep moving forward (while being flexible), I’m going to see results because I believe in what I have to share is valuable, it transforms businesses and I want it to help as many people as possible.

Maintaining belief in yourself and your business direction is not going to be easy. But giving up or stopping halfway isn’t a better option. It may be easier to stop or to try something else, but when you do that too often, you start to feel scattered and confused and unfocused.

And hey, that’s where a LOT of makers are today. They have tried so many different directions, so many different marketing strategies, that they’re all turned around and confused. If that’s you, I’ve got a workshop that will help focus you. You can find it at TaraSwiger.com/foundations.

I hope this series about what’s standing in your own way and how to move past these blocks have helped you reach your goals! Next week I’m sharing my quarterly round-up of favorite books and in 4 weeks we’ll have the 300th episode SPECTACULAR. It’s going to involve YOU and YOUR questions, so be sure you’ve joined our private FB group to get all the details and be involved, at FB.com/groups/taraswiger

Have a confident, enthusiastic week.

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.

295: Get out of your own way

If you’re struggling to grow in your creative business, you might be the thing holding yourself back. Learn how to get out of your own way at TaraSwiger.com/podcast295

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Are you getting in the way of your handmade business moving forward? Yeah, it’s time to get out of your own way.

Lately we’ve been doing a series on how to make your 2020 goals come true. In episodes 292 and 293, I gave you lots of applicable, step-by-step advice on how to increase sales, so be sure to head over to TaraSwiger.com/launch if you missed that.

But as I said in those episodes, only a small percentage of people will follow through with the action plan.

Why?

Well, for some listeners, what I shared just isn’t applicable. Maybe you don’t have a business.

Maybe you are just starting and you don’t have any products yet.

For some listeners, growth isn’t their primary goal in 2020. Maybe you have more demand than you can supply. Or perhaps your work day has gone wonky, and what you want to work on this year is working LESS or taking more time off or stopping work at a certain time.

We’re not always in a place of growth.

Or maybe you’re like I was in 2019, where your life has been upended and your main goal is to just HOLD ON and try to figure out a new way to move forward (or even stay in the same place) with totally new circumstances. Last year my own focus wasn’t the growth of my business, it was the growth of my family.

Wherever you are is perfect.

But what about those listeners who DO have products, who have a way to sell them, and who have the goal to increase their sales in 2020?

Why don’t they follow through?

We hit on some of the reasons last week (in episode 294) – you may feel unfocused, feel like you don’t have enough time, or feel overwhelmed and stuck in self-doubt.

In other words, you’re not moving forward because YOU are holding yourself back.

Last week I gave you some homework – to write down HOW you were holding yourself back and WHY you might have done that.

(If you skipped the homework you can hit pause now and write it down, or even record it as a voice memo to yourself!)

Why are you doing this? Well, without hearing your answers, I can make a guess, because this is what stops me: Fear.

Fear of the unknown.
Fear that I won’t be safe.
Fear that everyone will realize I have no idea what I’m doing and they (you) will think it’s all a scam and everyone will hate me (and I’ll be broke and alone).
Fear that I’ll get it wrong, that people will see me get it wrong and then will all leave and my business will fall apart (and I’ll be broke and alone).

That’s kind of intense, right? 

But that’s why this fear is so good at holding us back – we never look directly at it, so it just bubbles up underneath the surface and we feel a kind of uneasiness or nervousness or self-doubt. We don’t feel “quite right” so we don’t step forward.

What do you do about it? 

Good news: We’ve already done the first step! The first step is to bring it to conscious awareness so we can SEE the fear, so it stops running the show from the background.

Then, we need to acknowledge it for what it is. It isn’t that WE suck. It isn’t that we need to do more or learn more or get more confident.

Fear holding you back is a NATURAL part of growth and exploration. Your fear is your sweet little brain trying to keep you safe. That’s it’s whole job! It’s saying “Hey there, I don’t know about that, I need to keep you alive so BACK AWAY FROM THE UNKNOWN.”

If you’ve experienced trauma (whether it was one-time acute trauma or ongoing trauma like an unsafe childhood), your brain is a SPECIALIST in spotting danger (maybe where there isn’t any!) and keeping you safe. This may be why you experience something that SEEMS simple  (like talking to strangers in your craft booth, or posting a personal post on Instagram) as terrifying and flight-fight-freeze inducing.

Understanding and accepting this about yourself and your sweet little (confused) brain is vital to you moving forward. It shifts your focus from “pushing forward” to “gently finding a way forward.” Because when you push? Your fear pushes back. When you gently find a way to feel safe while doing the thing?” Your fear settles down.

Your fear just wants to be noticed and heard.

So we’ve identified it, we’ve recognized that it’s trying to keep us safe, but how do we hear it without letting it run the show?

Let it have it’s say – let your fear tell you what’s the worst that can happen.

Tim Ferris calls this “fear-setting”, it’s like the opposite of goal-setting, but is important if you’re going to move forward with a goal. Marie Forleo has a version of this exercise in her book Everything is Figureoutable. In other words, this works. So try it.

Pull out a piece of paper and answer:
What am I afraid of actually happening?
What is the absolute worst case scenario if that fear comes true?
And then what else horrible will happen?

And now that you’ve listened to your Fear, you’ve let it really unspool its dark fantasy,  it’s time to apply some reality to your fear.

If that happened, the absolute worst case scenario… what would you do?

How could you come back from it?
What skills, abilities and experiences do you have that you could use?

When I’ve done this with Starship Captains, we always take a deep breath and feel a little shaken and a little relieved. It is SCARY to think of all that can go wrong! But I bet you noticed that your worst case scenario is actually kinda… figureoutable? There’s very little you’re going to do in your business that’s going to shake the core of what you value. Your Etsy shop isn’t going to kill your loved ones. Your email newsletter isn’t going to push your friends away. Unless you’re becoming a skydiving instructor, your business is unlikely to cause you bodily harm.

So, how do you feel? Deep breath! Do you feel a little more able to move forward?

(If not, did you do this in your head, or in writing? When you just think it, your brain often distracts you with other stuff and you don’t really go all the way. Write it down.)

Now, listen. This is not a one-time thing. If it were, I would be fearless and unwavering since the first time I did this back in 2006!

Instead, this allows us to take the NEXT STEP. Which is all we need for now.

But it is very likely the fear is going to jump back up when we come to the next unknown thing.

Elizabeth Gilbert says (in her book Big Magic, which is great) that we may not ever be able to get Fear out of the car, on our journey. But we CAN stop Fear from driving the car or grabbing the steering wheel or pumping the breaks. We can ride with Fear next us. We can acknowledge the work it’s trying to do (keep us safe), appreciate that, and still choose to not let it run the show. (This is a lot like driving with a screaming toddler in the backseat.)

Sooo, bad news! You’re going to have to do this a lot. I need to acknowledge and listen to my Fear every time I set a new goal. Every time I start a new project. Sometimes I have to do it before a speaking gig, when my nerves get bad! I had to do it when I became a foster mom! Every time I level up or my business levels up, I have to do it again.

But here’s what I hope you take from this podcast episode – YOU are holding yourself back, because your brain is trying to keep you ALIVE. YOU are a smart, capable, adorable human who is capable of so much more than you think, if you find  a way to gently move past your stuck places. You don’t need to feel (or be) fearless to take the next step. You will build confidence through ACTION.

I am wishing you so much peace and courage this week.

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.

294: What’s holding you back?

What’s holding you back in your creative biz? Even though the answer is totally different for each of us, there are also a TON of similarities. Learn how to overcome what’s holding you back in your biz at TaraSwiger.com/podcast294

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What’s holding you back?

What is keeping you from achieving a profitable, sustainable business that you feel confident in? What is keeping you from working towards your goals every week?

We’ve been working on reaching your sales goal, all month. To hear episodes about increasing and sustaining your sales, tune in to episodes 292 & 293. After those episodes, I debated over what to cover next and then I realized: what’s keeping you from your goal is different for everyone. You have your own roadblock, so let’s talk about and work through it!

One of the questions I ask everyone when they join my free FB group (are you a member yet?) is, “When it comes to your business being profitable AND doable, what do you think is standing in your way?”

So today that’s what we’re going to talk about: the things that are standing in your way. And next week, we’ll talk more about how to get out of your own way.

It’s my hope that hearing what’s holding others back will help you recognize what’s holding you back, what is standing in your way.

So what is holding MOST handmade business back?

The answers I get most often:

Focus – I just can’t seem to work on what matters, I keep getting distracted!
Time – I don’t have enough time or I’m not using my time effectively (focus!)
Self-doubt or confidence – I doubt myself and so don’t act. If I were more confident I would act
Fear – most people who write this answer don’t give any more details… so I have to guess – are you afraid of failure? Afraid of poverty? Afraid of embarrassment?

Many people answer: ME, I am holding myself back. This feels like the REAL answer to all of these other answers – YOU feel self-doubt or fear. YOU want more confidence. I think this answer is the most truthful answer.

As you read those different answers, which one resonates the most? Which sounds like your internal dialogue?

And here’s the more important question: what are you doing about it?

Most people tell me they are working on marketing – social media, email list, or something systematic.

But… that’s not what’s standing in your way. Not a single person has told me KNOWLEDGE or INFORMATION was standing in their way.

If you know that something else is standing in your way, why aren’t you working on that?

I think the reason it’s that it’s much easier to learn something than it is to change ourselves; it’s easier to listen to another episode than to inquire within.

So what is holding YOU back?

Hit pause, ask yourself this and write down your answer. Write as long as our takes for you to process it.

Now, how are you feeling?
You may be feeling AMAZING because you got some clarity and you’re ready to change.
But you may be feeling pretty bad, because OMG, WHY CAN’T I JUST GET OVER IT. 

I know!

But I have really really good news.

None of this is holding you back.

Bear with me. I know it FEELS like you need less fear, more confidence, more time, more focus to move forward but what if I told you you’re only going to feel less fear and more confidence and you’re going to find the time only AFTER you do the thing?

What if the way to move past what’s holding you back is to let go of it? To let go of the idea that you need to fix it or fix yourself?

What if you were perfectly suited to build your business, as you were?
What if you were ready to move forward on the next project or with the next client, exactly as you are?

I know, I know, you want ACTION ITEMS. You want to DO something.

So I’m going to give you episodes and resources for each of these issues, so you can get some actionable steps.

But. I can tell you, after working with hundreds of makers, designers and artists, you are going to move beyond what’s holding you back only after you believe you will.

Now, belief isn’t the ONLY thing that’s going to build your business.
But without it, you won’t actually take any of the actions that will make a difference.

So, if you’re ready to start believing you CAN move past the fear and time and focus, I’ve got some recommendations for episodes that address each of these in detail.

Focus:

The best way to get focused is to be CLEAR on what you need to focus on. This is why we set goals and then create plans. So you can wake up each day, knowing what you need to do to move forward. My best resource for this is Map Your Business, which you can find at TaraSwiger.com/map

If distraction is your problem, I’ve got a whole kit of resources for you at TaraSwiger.com/distraction – it’ll help you crush marketing distractions and internet distractions!

Time:

Over the years I have written and shared a lot about how to manage your time, get more done and create a productive workday. My absolute best strategies are all in the class Get More Done. I created it at the CreativeLive studio, so it is 5+ hours of professional-quality video lessons, with dozens of worksheets, all at the most affordable price (last time I checked it was $29). Get it here. 

Self-doubt or confidence:

I have a LOT of episodes about this, as well. I also created a BizConfidence free course that I’ll be sharing again later this year.

In the meantime, check out these episodes:

Fear:

What are you afraid of? Failure?

Ok, now the last thing: YOU.

If you were thinking, oh man, I am what is holding me back, I have a little homework for you.
Next week we’re going to go more into how you can stop holding yourself back, and in the meantime, I want you to journal a bit. It doesn’t have to be a special notebook or anything official, just get any scrap of paper and set a timer for 10 minutes and answer the question:
What am I doing to stand in my own way? Why? 

Now, no matter what you wrote on the paper, I want you to practice holding it in kindness and gentleness. Look at it (and you) the way I would, with a lot of love and acceptance, and I’d say “Hey, it’s ok. You’re doing the best you can. It is soooo good that you’re acknowledging whatever this is. Let’s work on it a bit next week.”

I’d love to hear what you think is holding YOU back! Come tell me in our free group – FB.com/groups/taraswiger

I’m wishing you a week full of forward momentum and enthusiasm.

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.

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