Weekly-ish notes on navigating big change

map-making guide

How to pick your goal

Set your goals for the rest of 2014 with the Explore Your Enthusiasm podcast, on TaraSwiger.com

Happy Middle of the Year!

How's your 2014 going? Have you come closer to your goals for the year? Or have you forgotten all about them?
Either way, this is a great time to reset your intentions for the rest of the year and make a new map.

But where are you going?

In this episode you'll hear my favorite ways to set a good, clear goal that will bring you to a business you really want. I also share an embarrassing story about getting lost, and the importance of not just setting your destination, but paying attention the entire way there (with regular review!)

Links mentioned:


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.





Adventures in Business with yarn dyer Katie




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







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




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

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

Not surprisingly, ignoring problems doesn’t work.

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



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

  • Etsy Sales: $
  • Wholesale Orders: $

Total Expenses
(I itemize major expenses like this)

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

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

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


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


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

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


How is this different than what you were doing before?

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

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

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

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

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


What new thing are you exploring now?

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

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


What’s your definition of success for your business?  

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

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

Living in harmony is my definition of success.

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


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

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

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



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

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

Have you read the book or made a map?

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

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







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





The power of choosing (and quilts)

This week, as we've been map making in the Starship, I've been thinking about my own goals, and my investment into the belief that This Is What Works.


Even though I'm always exhorting you find what works for you. Even though I'm always reminding you that what works for someone might not work for you…there a few things that I stand by as Good For Just About Everyone. Map-Making is one of them. Not because you need to grow. Not because you need to do more.

But simply because, this is what's bumming you out.

When you feel like you're not going anywhere, when you feel like you “never finish anything” (a phrase I hear a lot!), the problem usually can be boiled down to one thing: you don't have a direction. All of your dreams and hopes and ideas live in the puffy land of One Day. And so you beat yourself up, you feel bad, you don't think you know/act/ARE enough.

And, darling, that's just not true.


You are enough. Brave enough to follow your dream. Strong enough to do the hard work. Smart enough to make the big decisions.


The reason you're stuck is because you don't know which way to turn. So, by making a map, you pick a direction. You just pick one. ANY direction is fine as long as you start making movement towards it. The Map doesn't care what your destination is. The power is in CHOOSING. Choosing to focus yourself. Choosing a path. Choosing to figure out what will get you there. Choosing to take action. Choosing to honor your dream by making it do-able.


Once you get in the habit if taking consistent action toward your hopes, you might not need a map, you might be able to wake up each day and just do what you need to do, without creating some big plan.

Then again, you might be the kind of person (like me!) who likes to have milestones to reach, who likes to set crazy challenges to test what you're capable of.

And that brings us to what I really planned to write about today – my crazy quilt goal. Last March I decided to try to finish 6 quilts in 2013. I joined the Finish-a-long to keep me on track. Last quarter I hoped to finish two..but I only completed one. This quarter I want to finish the two I've started and get as far as possible on a brand new quilt.

Here's the two I've got so far:

Red trip

(You can read more details here)

I am so close to being done! I just have 8-10 short hand-quilting rows left! I'll share all the details when it's done!


Blooms & Dots

This is another collaboration with my mom. We each picked 9 fabrics, cut them in strips, and are piecing all 18 fabrics into our own tops. I'm still not 100% sure on my layout, but I have a 40″x40″ panel done so far.



What are you choosing this week?

What's the goal you're working towards right now?




The magic of Mile Markers

This drive never fails to thrill. #avl #ilovemountains


Imagine, for a moment, that the path in your business – your to-dos and goals and plans – are a roadtrip. If I wanna drive from here to LA, I have choices. I could drive up to Minnesota (hi, Vanessa!) or down through Alabama (hi, Mercedes!), or I could just drive due West. If I fly, I'm going to end up going East first, through Charlotte.

What matters, as much as where I end up, is what I go through. That is going to determine how long it takes me, the experiences I have, and how satisfied I am overall with the trip.

Sure, I don't know all the tiny towns I'm going to drive through. I don't know all the sites I'm going to see. I don't even know if I'll change destinations halfway through. But picking the right Mile Markers (some of the in-between stops) will determine all that.


In Map Making, one of the first things we do is to make a list of Mile Markers. These are the things in between Where You Are and Where You Want to Go. These are the road signs you are going to pass on your way. To many map-makers, they seem like something extra. Not all that important.  But, after 2 years of watching map-makers reach (or not reach) their destinations (and learn lessons either way), I've come to learn that the Mile Markers are the map.
Mile Markers set your course, they pave the path between Here and There.

They help you:

  • Determine the direction you're going to go (through Alabama or Alaska?)
  • Focus in on what matters – and ignore all the distractions
  • Build confidence – each Mile Marker is a point of celebration!
  • Keep momentum – you only have to focus on the little bit of road between you and the next Mile Marker.


A lot of us get tangled up in is tasks that are unrelated to the destination.
We make To Do lists that are full of “extras”. (ex, I want to get press coverage…so I'll post on Facebook. I want to sell more blankets, so I'll post a tutorial.) Mile Markers can help you narrow down your to dos into the tasks that will move you in the right direction.

Setting appropriate, helpful Mile Markers is a process that takes time, trial + error, and lots of paying attention to what has worked (and what hasn't). But you learn all of this by doing it, again and again (and reviewing!)


What's your next mile marker?

DIY: Destination-setting

DIY: Destination setting
During a conversation about map-making last week, someone asked: I know all of the milemarkers (stuff I want to accomplish), but I don't have one BIG goal in mind. This is just a bunch of stuff that's not exactly tied together. Why do we have to pick a destination?

I love that question, because it perfectly expresses how most of us think about our business. We know what we want to do (release that new product, write that book, do that craft show), but they don't seem big enough to focus all of our focus on. And halfway there (especially when it looks like it's done deal), we move on to thinking about the next thing. Now that you released that product you want to redo your photography. Now that you wrote the book, you've got to edit it. Or you get sidetracked by the other (smaller) 5,000 things you want to do and forget all about your goal until next January.

Setting a destination is both a discipline and a celebration.

It's a discipline to focus in on reaching one goal, to keep on one path. It forces you to organize everything rolling around in your head  into a cohesive plan. It's easy to get sidetracked just chasing all these tiny-dos around our days and weeks, which leads to stumbling towards our goals.

It's a celebration because you acknowledge where you're going. It's easy to skip over what's happening now and start planning for the next thing, but when you know your destination you can take a minute to party when you get there. Yay! This is what I had planned for and now I'm here! I'm awesome!

No one else is going to do it.

When you work for yourself, you don't get raises based on employee evaluations.  You don't have a boss to give you a project or to grant you permission. No one will give you a pat on the back when you do a good job.

This is an adjustment. Up until now, someone else has set the parameters of success. Parents told you what they wanted. Teachers gave you tests. Bosses assigned work.

But now…not only do you have set your own projects (and systems for doing them…and measuring their success), you've also got to assign an end point. Otherwise, you'll never find one. There's no big moment (that I've found) when you think: Ok, I've done everything and am perfectly happy with what I've created here! You're always changing your goals and moving the definition of success. Without parameters and feedback, the work can become a grind. A never-ending list of things to do, with no sign of completion.

You've got to give it to yourself. You've got to assign the goalposts and then do a touchdown dance when you get to them. (And that's the only sports analogy you'll see around here!). You've got to decide what counts as a success and then celebrate it in order to enjoy the work.

What's your next destination?*

What do you want to accomplish by the end of March? And how will you know you're there? How will celebrate reaching it?

*Need help picking a destination? Try the Map Making Guide, or leave a comment and I'll help you brainstorm!

How a dream becomes doable

How a dream becomes doable

Now that you are swimming in beaming goals and dreams for the New Year and the holiday spirit is all packed up and put away…the moment of truth has come. How the heck are you going to make those dreams a reality? How are you going to get it all done? How is your day/week/month really, truly going to change to accommodate all the new plans?

The first step (and I know you know this!) is to break it down into do-able mini-goals. Something you can do or reach in 3 months that is measurable and map-able. The Map-Making Guide is my go-to way to break down a big goal into a bunch of smaller steps, do-able to-dos. (Elise has a great take on the difference between goals + to-dos here)

But even when you've made your whole map, plotted how to get from here to there….it's so tempting to stop. You have your big list, so you're all set! But well, that's not quite it.

You're not actually any closer until the to-do's get done.

And while I'd love to think I can fly down my list of to-do's in an orderly fashion…that never happens.Life gets in the way. Products have to be shipped, problems have to be solved, blog posts have to be written.

The only way to make sure the “extra” stuff get done (that stuff that moves you towards your bigger dreams, that's outside of your day to day work) is to make it a part of your normal day.

For most of the map-makers, this means Giving Your To Dos a Date. In the map-making guide we set lifelines (soft deadlines) for the stuff that has obvious dates associated with it, and then you move everything to a to-do list for the week. In other words, we're taking a big goal and taking it down to the exact week in which you'll take a step to get closer.

But then the question is: how do you get stuff done from the weekly level to the daily level?

I have a few things I do each week so I'm working on both my big goals (the map-made destinations) and the usual work of everyday life. This is what I used to write the book, get new wholesale yarn accounts and create my workshops.First, I set some intentions for the week.

What do I want to happen? What do I wish for?

And under each wish, I write:

How it might happen

My commitment to this wish

How I want to feel (or the qualities associated with this wish.)

Then, I make a big list of my projects (this might include movement towards a destination, or work for a client, or just blog posts), and include the to-dos under them.


On that list, I might assign a day of the week, or not.

And finally, I write my to-do list for the day. I make each day's list based on the weekly lists of project, going with what feels good and has my enthusiasm.


How do you move your big list of to-dos into your daily life?

PS. Before you plan your week, make sure your to-do list is moving you towards to your big, shiny dreams in a strategic way! Start with a map and then plan your week.


The Map is Not the Territory

Last week I was talking to  a map-maker and she said, You know, that goal I set, the endpoint for the map, it just doesn't fit anymore.

The map is not the territory.
Although maps are so vital to planning where you want to go, they're not the same thing as real life. Building your business, meeting your goals, exploring the world, it looks nothing like you thought it would.
Even if you crafted a really excellent, detailed map.
Even if you created it based on experience, and wisdom, and you thought we were traversing the same forest you've already been in.

Nope. The map you make is very different from the experience you have.

And that's a good thing!
The map is a guide, it's a starting point.
But the territory, the actual reality of moving towards your goals, that's the good stuff. That's growth and learning and adventure.

So if you made a map and set a goal and now you're only 1/3 of the way through it, and you look around, and you say, What the what? That's ok.
No, it's perfect! Because you are finally out of your head, off the page and on the real path.

You haven't done anything wrong, you've just learned more. So take out your map and edit it. Add in the rocks you didn't know were there. Build a bridge over that raging river. Take a side trip to refuel.

Whatever you learn from the territory: use it. Apply it to your map.

Or maybe you need a whole new map with a whole new endpoint. Maybe you realized halfway there that there is not where you really want to be. That's ok too! Find a picnic table, right there in the middle of your real life and make a new map.

(I totally stole this phrase from Alfred Korzybski. When I read it, I couldn't believe how totally it reflected map-makers experience!)


For more map-making inspiration, see Melissa's, Amy's, or Kristine's.


Melissa makes a map

There's nothing so exciting as finding something you've made, in the wild. Living in someone else's life and totally transformed by them. And there's nothing I like better than seeing people's maps! I don't get to see many of these, because this is a personal process. But every once in a while a Starship Captain will share it as it unfolds, and it seriously the best part of my job.
Today, Melissa of Pressbound is sharing her map with us. You can read all about her process (trial + error!) on her blog*, but she also answered a few of my (squealing) questions:
*My favorite part of her post? She says “Tara and the Starship (this sounds like a band name, right?)” I am TOTALLY naming my band that! 
What did you learn during the process of map-making? 

It's really important to break every goal up piece by piece until you have small manageable tasks that can be completed within a day or two.

Before, I would state many smaller goals that would eventually lead to me achieving one larger goal and gave myself deadlines but didn't really think about the smaller steps beyond that. But that wasn't working well because I was constantly falling behind and unable to get everything done. I was overwhelming myself and expecting too much in too little of a time period. Once I broke it down and saw how many steps it would take towards achieving smaller goals/metrics that lead to the main goal, then I was able to determine what can actually happen in a certain amount of time (or what was unrealistic).
What surprised you?
The sense of clarity I felt once I finished my current revised map.

I've spent too much time flailing and not knowing what to focus on in my business. This map has given me the direction I needed and eased quite a bit of stress.

Now that it's been a few weeks, how's it going?
I've been working on developing 2 new card lines. I'm still in the design process. I've picked a launch date and gearing up for promoting the lines and developing a few launch offers. However, I'm realizing that maybe I should have broken some steps down even further and figured in marketing efforts into the map as well. A few products I thought I might develop may change into different products too. I'm realizing that this kind of map is organic and flexible and it's okay if some goals and actionable steps change as I move closer to my goal.
I asked Melissa these questions a few weeks ago, and since replying, she previewed one of the lines! 
Have you made your own map? 
If so, share it in the comments! 

Linchpin in a Business of One

Last time I saw my uncle, he told me he had read a life-changing book. A read-three-times-in-a-row kind of book. An everyone-should-read-this kind of book.

What is the book, I practically screamed.

(We like to tell dramatic stories in my family…ones that can go off the rails by the constant interruption of cousins/sons/brothers.)

I was completely surprised to hear the title: Linchpin, by Seth Godin.

The only Seth Godin book I haven't read.

I thought the book was about being an indispensable employee…so I had skipped it. I'm not an employee and I'm pretty darn indispensable in my business of one.

But I trust my uncle, so I got the book from the library.
And devoured it this week.

It's a great book for employees and entrepreneurs alike, but here's what blew my mind: Seth talks, at length about the need to…make your own map. (I'm sorta into you making your own map, remember?)

He has an entire chapter on There Is No Map and here's how it starts:

What does it take to lead?

The key distinction is the ability to forge your own path to discover a route from one place to another that hasn't been paved, measured, and quatified. So many times we want someone to tell us exactly what to do, and so many times that's exactly the wrong approach.


 This is what I'm talking about. 

This  is exactly what I'm passionate about:
You, getting comfortable with your youness.
You, recognizing that your distinct talents (Seth calls it your genius), your amazing thing (or Seth likes to say, your art) are what your Right People are begging for.

You, getting clear, getting obvious, gettin' jiggy with your youness is what I want for you.

So whether you're working for the man, or your own womanly self – be honest:

Where are you looking to someone else to tell you what to do?

What area of business (life) could you be making your own map for?

Amy makes a map

I am SO excited to have Amy, artist, map-illustrator, and Starship Cadet, sharing her map with us today! Amy illustrated the Fairytale map that you get with the guide, so I love seeing how she took her idea of what to share with YOU and actually used it in her own business.
Amy's Map

What’s the endpoint on your map, the thing you’re working towards?

It's coming up time for me to get a new work computer, and there was a symmetry that pleased me in paying for the work computer with art money. So, my endpoint is to sell original art, commissions, and Etsy items equal to the money for the computer and some new software. I gave myself a 6-month timeline, from July 1-December 31, which felt reasonable to me since a lot of the work was prep in the first three months towards sales in the second three.

How is the map helping you work towards this endpoint? What tools did you use to make your map?

It really helped me see where there was specific work to be done, and when in the process it needed to happen. I used the Fairytale Map, since it was my art and idea  and because I really liked the little extras I'd made for it.

First I put in my goal! I wrote the number I was going for on the pot of gold and pasted it at the very end of the path.

Second, I added the extra path-loop with the castle at the top labeled Etsy, so that the two Etsy-related milestones would be visually separated from those more focused on my fine art business.

Then, I added in the other 8 flags in the spots along the path, including some things that needed to be done right away, and some that were longer-term.

After that was done, I took the other little clip-art things {which come with the Guide!} and put them in the places that felt right. For instance, I stuck the dragon down with rewriting the copy on my sites, because copy is always a monstrous task! I put the little purple monster up with “New Online Venues” (and wrote “Scary! Rawr!” on him) because that's a hard thing for me, increasing visibility when my instincts are always to stay in the background.

I peppered the pine trees in the blank spaces, and then put the apple trees near the end and wrote “fruits of my labor” on them to represent the delicious moment when I go to the Apple store and buy my new laptop. Daily Art, which is my 6-times-a-week blogging of a new art piece every day, went near the end because while it's not the sort of milestone where you can say “there, done!” it's an ongoing part of my business that I felt deserved acknowledgement in my Map.

I cleaned my painting studio while I was still working on the Map, so I added a shiny sticker and a note in one of the open spaces to commemorate unearthing my easel again. I also got some ridiculous shiny bling to go on the flagpoles as I complete things, too, so that I don't just let the Map stay static. I think that show of change as the Milestones are reached will help keep me focused on my goal.

Did you learn anything new about your business during the process?


I actually spent a couple of weeks contemplating my Milestones & all the steps they're going to take to complete before I finished the map, and it really helped me to see where the things are that I'm avoiding or wishy-washy about.

For instance, I was totally comfortable putting Daily Art on there as a forever-milestone, because I've been doing it for over a year now and it's quite habitual at this point to keep track of it during my week. But I waffled a lot about doing some kind of birthday celebration on the blog in September, because last year's was largely unsuccessful — it really showed me that I have a hole in my knowledge of what my audience wants in a promotion.

How has this changed (or not) what a normal day or week looks like in your biz?

I've really stepped up the time I spend on making and listing my art on the site — I take more photos, and I've set up a much easier-to-browse Art Shop on the site where people can find just the art that's for sale.

I also have put a higher priority on new projects and collaborations — I'm going to be doing some awesome laser-cut necklaces in collaboration with  Shannon of Polymath Labs (who I met through the Starship!), and I've started a whole line of awesomely gothy fabric designs on Spoonflower. Both of these things totally count as New Online Venues, but I've managed to sneak them past the monster because they're not things like blogs or forums.

Sssh, don't tell him!

I love having the metaphor of going on an adventure to my pot of gold — it reminds me of Neil Gaiman's wonderful poem “Instructions,” and really makes my goal seem like more of a game than a job. And, weirdly, makes it feel more attainable at the same time.

Even if I am still wishy-washy about my birthday celebration.


Thanks for sharing with us Amy! My favorite part is your use of dragon and that you have an apple tree at the end to symbolize your trip to the Apple store! So cute!

If you are thinking your craftybiz could use some direction and insight, check out the Map-Making Guide and you'll get 2 full pages of Amy's art (which includes the dragon and the path she used!), along with step-by-step instructions and a friendly make-sure-you-do-it email course. Get yours here.