Weekly-ish notes on navigating big change


274: How to recover from summer

“It’s so easy to get stuck in the day to day of what you think you should do without it ever lining up with and moving you towards what you really want.” -Tara Swiger Listen in at TaraSwiger.com/podcast274

Hello! I am back! After a summer of pre-recorded episodes and rebroadcasts, I am back with you in nearly-real-time! Today we are going to talk about how to recover from your summer – whether you took time off, or you got tons of work done, or you did a bunch of craft shows or you went on vacation – how do you get back into it and move forward and reach your goals for the year?

Today I'm going to give you an update on my summer, we're going to talk about how to learn from the summer and move forward, and I'll share some changes I'm making in my business!

First, I have to thank YOU for sticking with me over the summer – for staying subscribed, for sharing the show with friends, for leaving a review on iTunes or comments on YouTube and for those of you who supported the podcast on Patreon – I'm going to be thanking my patrons AND linking them up over the next several episodes. If you want to support the show and get some bonuses every single month, head to Patreon.com/Taraswiger.

Thank you to long-time patron, Jacie of BandofWeirdos. Jacie makes the most awesome geek-inspired pins, patches and I proudly wear my Band of Weirdos pins, Cat Spock and “Slayers Gonna Slay” on my jean jacket.

A giant thank you to long-time supporter, friend, and Starship graduate, Lisa Check of Flying Goat Farm. Lisa is a farmer with angora goats and sheep, whose fiber she dyes and spins into beautiful yarn! If you want to get yarn that is well-loved from animal to needle, head to FlyingGoatFarm.com

I had a summer that NEEDS to be recovered from – on May 30th, two toddlers came to live us, ages 2.5 and 3.5. The sisters are sweet and so loving and they have just flourished. The young one went from quiet and shy to a little chatterbox in the last few months and they are both just so totally fun and silly. ADJUSTING to living with two toddlers has been its own challenge. I spent the first month napping every time they napped or left the house. We're blessed that they were already enrolled in a preschool, and to make the transition as easy as possible for them, we've kept them there, even though it means driving an hour round trip, twice a day.

It looks like they'll be with us until the end of September, they have a court date September 26th, and we'll hopefully know a bit more after that. If you want more updates or to see the very adorable back of their heads, be sure you're subscribed on YouTube, where I share a weekly vlog or your watching my Stories on Instagram, for daily updates.

So now that we're three months in, I'm at the spot where I feel pretty capable of thought, on most days, which is significantly better than how foggy I was all summer. So I've been thinking a lot about how to get back to work, how to move forward.

I know many of you are in the same place. Maybe your kids were home for the summer and so you didn't get as much work done. or maybe you traveled a lot for shows, or for fun. Maybe you don't have any particular reason, you're just ready to move on from the summer and get back to your business.

Plus we're about 4 months from the end of the year, so you may be feeling a bit freaked out about the goals you set and how you're going to reach them.

To start with, we're going to expand on the good. Yes, I am sure that there are a million things you didn't do and a million projects you're behind on. But if you try to operate from a feeling of “behind”, you're going to feel scrambly. (Spellcheck tells me that's not a word, but I've decided it is.) And you can't be productive when you're scrambly.

Let's start by answering the following questions:

  • What went well this summer? (list anything, even things that aren't work related!)
  • What in your work was easy?
  • What were excited about?
  • What new ideas did you have? (You might need to flip through your planner or journal for this)
  • What projects are you excited to work on in the next season?
  • What did you try this summer?
  • What worked well? What didn't?
  • Why do you think that is?

(THIS is the lessons you learned this summer! It is so easy to NOT learn them and make the same mistakes again and again!)

Next, let's zoom out:

What were the goals you had for 2019?
(If you've got Map Your Business, pull that out and look at it. It guides you through doing this every quarter but maybe you need the reminder to  open it again?)

Which of the goals have you already met?
(You may be surprised! Almost every quarter I hear from a Starship Captain who already reached their yearly sales goal and they DID NOT EVEN KNOW IT.)

Which of these goals do you want to let go of?
(Maybe you just don't care about them, or they aren't the direction you want to move in.)

Which of the goals really excite you?

This is your OFFICIAL PERMISSION to let go of all the goals that don't excite you. You may come back to them later, or never. But let them go for now.

Don’t skip this!

You may be listening right now and thinking, yeah, yeah, review my goal, I'll do that later. I need to get back to work NOW. But please, don't skip this. This is a very important step in being productive AND in staying on the right track.

It is SO easy to just get stuck in the day to day of what you think you should do, without it ever lining up with and moving you towards, what you really want.

It is also very easy to get burned out and disappointed because you're not hitting your goals and you don't feel like you're making progress.

Do you know what solves both of these problems?

Regularly looking at your goals and CHANGING them based on what you really want, what's actually WORKING in your business, and focusing in on how you're going to get them.

Then create a plan:

So the next step is to look at the answers to your questions and start to combine it into a plan: how can you work more on what has you excited? How can you reach the goal based on what you learned this summer? What other ideas are you having?

At this point you may be noticing that this doesn't look anything like following someone else's blueprint for your business. Your plans and ideas might look totally weird. And you know what?

THAT is how you build a business that stands out, that doesn't blend in. Learning lessons from YOUR business, from YOUR customers, then applying them to YOUR enthusiasms. It may lead you down a weird path, but you'll be moving close to what will make you feel fulfilled and to a business and product that YOUR people will like.

I did this process myself, and lemme tell you what I came up with!

But first, a giant thank you to long-time Patron, Marrietta of Inner Yarn Zen. She dyes beautiful yarn and when I popped over to InnerYarnZen.com, I noticed that she has yarn advent packages available, inspired by both Game of Thrones AND Outlander!

Now, when I did this process myself, here's what I came up with:

Even in the busiest time with toddlers, it was always fun for me to do a few things – chat live with my Starship Captains each week, read books, watch booktube videos and make videos about what I was reading, or my planner, or whatever struck me. I participated in several reading challenges and vlogged my way through them (vlog = daily or weekly video journal) and it was SO MUCH FUN.

Now, that's only tangentially related to what I do for work (which is guiding and inspiring women to create sustainable businesses and lives around their enthusiasm). But it was following MY enthusiasm and it was giving me energy (I could do more than just nap!), so I gave myself permission to focus on it this summer.

And it's always easy for me to host the weekly accountability check-in in the Starship, which is great, because I love what the Starship provides to creative women, and I want to open it to even more makers and artists this fall. I've got a list of new bonuses I'm creating and tools I'm making for Starship Captains, and I'll be announcing those soon. You can head to Taraswiger.com/StarshipBiz to be the first to find out about it.

So that's one area of my business and focus settled – I find it easy, it aligns with my goals and with my bigger mission. Check!

But what about this area that was so fun and easy, making more videos and talking about books? Is there a way to integrate that more into my life?

One of the things I tried this summer was participating in the reading challenges, and hosting a book club for my Starship Captains and essential oil customers. That went SO well and had such a great participation and feedback I knew I wanted to do it again. So looking for connections and putting it together with some other new videos I want to make, I realized the answer was to host a new book club for ANYONE who wants to join, and give those same people all the weird videos I want to make every month.

For $2/mo you can support the podcast, get at least one extra video each month, and join my book club – where you'll vote on the book and we'll read it together. If you want to support the show for $7, you can TELL me what to add to my own reading list each month, get a shout out on social media, and pick the specific topics I cover on the podcast. Head over to Patreon.com/TaraSwiger to join the book club and get extra videos.

Nothing about this podcast will change – you'll still get new episodes every Wednesday, FOR FREE, and the full transcript here at TaraSwiger.com/blog. And if you subscribe on YouTube, you get a video every Monday, usually a bit of behind the scenes of running my own business. If you support the show, you get extra videos, the book club, and more, but most importantly you make THIS free show more sustainable, so I can keep helping more women craft the business they want, so I can keep encouraging you through hard times, and so I can keep taking time to parent my foster kiddos.

Thank you so much for being here, 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.

The magical power of celebration and review

I just celebrated a birthday! As I do each year, I looked back on the last year and, well, my whole life. Today I share what that review looks like, all of the other ways I build review and celebration into my business, and how you can review your last month. Listen to the episode at TaraSwiger.com/podcast110/

I just celebrated a birthday! As I do each year, I looked back on the last year and, well, my whole life. Today I share what that review looks like, all of the other ways I build review and celebration into my business, and how you can review your last month.

 In this episode:

  • My Annual Birthday review
  • Weekly celebration
  • Why I start with the question “What's going well?” in the weekly Starship chat
  • Monthly review (a part of both Lift Off and Starship)

You can find the Monthly Review questions in Challenge 6 of the #monthofbizlove workbook! Get it here! 

My past birthday posts:

  • 33
  • 32
  • 31
  • 30
  • 29 (I opened the Starship!)
  • 28 (I launched this site!)
  • 27

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.

On my 32nd birthday

Rocking the bangs & the pink sweaters & the flyaway hair way back in...86? I think I'm 4ish. #tbt

It's my birthday! Yay!

It's become a kind of tradition that I reflect back on the last year + share what I've learned (and accomplished) each year on my birthday.
Finally cold enough for tights, sweater, shawl. #yayfall
Of course, I always do this on my own, for myself (I talk about that more in tomorrow's episode)…but I also share it here for two reasons:

  1. It takes time.
    I think that, when you're looking at anyone's life and business from the outside, it's easy to miss just how long it took them. (More on that here). By sharing the last year (and a quick brief on the years before), I hope that it helps you see that everyone's growth goes slowly, piece by piece.
  2. Celebration is important.
    It's more socially acceptable (and comfortable!) to be modest, humble and self-effacing…to the point where we skip over acknowledging our accomplishments and move on to the next thing. (Claudine and I chatted about just this!) But celebration is important – it keeps you going, it reminds you of your awesomeness, and it builds your confidence so you try the next thing. Since I build my work around encouraging others to celebrate, I have to do it myself in order to have integrity. It's my hope that, as uncomfortable as this may make me, it serves as a model for your OWN celebration.

Auditioning all-over pink for Boston trip. Will it last the whole week? (This after 3 washes). #hmm

A look back…

Last year, I reflected that you never know where a tiny step is going to take you

Two years ago, I shared my secret of success. Then I started leading in-person workshops, finished two quilts, and explored my enthusiasm. I trained for (and ran!) a 5k
Three years ago, I explained why I was giving it all away and opened the Starship. The following year I got a book deal, wrote my book, and gave my first live speech. It was a sparkly year, full of firsts + traveling + feeling like a rock star.
Four years ago, I welcomed you to this site. The following year I moved from individual classes to building a community for makers, and got my first “big” client. My house was broken into (multiple times) and we moved suddenly into a 10×10 room, with all our stuff in storage, for 3 months. It was a rough year, but by my birthday I was feeling brave.
Five years ago, I was at the beach, about to quit my dayjob. That year I became self-employed, and opened a yarn shop (and quickly closed it, when I recognized that I wasn't having fun). It was a year of boldly following my enthusiasm through fear.
Six years ago, I was working full-time in an office, making yarn at nights and weekends, growing my business.
Seven years ago, I was teaching and dyeing custom colors for a local yarn store.
Eight years ago, I was managing a paint-your-own-pottery studio, beginning to dye yarn, but hadn't even dreamed of starting a yarn company.

After missing the first day and a half of the beach thanks to the flu, I'm that much more thankful to finally be in the sea air. #windy

This year, I feel like I fully let my enthusiasm become by business advisor and I doubled the Starship membership, opened the Solo Mission, and created 4 new digital workshops.
Later, Boston. See you tonight. xoxo, your new girlfriend.
I also got brave + bold with my in-person teaching: I taught at the national trade show for the knitting industry (!) in San Diego (and learned an important lesson), two workshops in Boston, at community colleges and arts councils around North Carolina, and signed a contract to teach with CreativeLIVE. I dedicated myself to helping you explore your Enthusiasm, by hosting the Exploration Party in July and by starting a podcast (Explore Your Enthusiasm) last month. Oh, and I totally redesigned by whole website.

Moms new Christmas quilt, on top of last year's Christmas quilt. #nofilter #pennypatchqal

I found a good balance between work and play- I finished 2 quilts (and started 2 more), I started painting and I picked knitting back up.

Emerald Isle quilt

But I definitely made less this year than others, because I spent a lot more time outdoors: I ran my first 10k, in the Redwoods (and of course, trained for it most of the winter).

Hiked 4 miles to swim at the falls (& then 4 miles back. Oof).

I went to the Outer Banks with my extended family, took a roadtrip with a college roommate, watched the sun set on my brother's boat, visited my dad twice, celebrated a friend's wedding, and met a whole host of students, friends and fellow biz explorers during my travels. Jay and I spent endless evenings snuggled in with great food and our favorite TV shows.

More from my goodbye to the Oceanside Pier yesterday, because pretty. (& running though CLT requires pretty).
There were, of course, less-than-awesome moments. Beau had a weird growth on his mouth, that required several hundreds of dollars in vet visits (and one surgery)…to discover it's just an bacterial overgrowth of skin and nothing to be worried about. There were misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and one friend-break-up (Jay's). There was hope and possibility, disappointment and impatience.
The rain is busy pelting the petals off the trees, so I wanna remember this moment in last week's run. #yayspring #foundwhilerunning

But really, when I look back, I can't remember much about the bad, sad, or exhausting. I remember the beautiful spring runs, the seabreeze, the hugs, conversation, smiles, and gigglefits. I remember the moments when I felt loved or understood. I remember that this was a year full of love and opportunities.

And that's all I can hope for the coming year.

Reviewing the year in your business

As the year wraps up, it’s time to review the past year. Now, this can be as painful as doing your taxes or it can be as fun as attending a New Year’s Eve party.

Let’s do it the fun way, yeah?

Making your yearly wrap-up FUN can be as simple as setting some intentions before you get started – what do you want to learn? What information do you need to make the New Year awesome?


I like to know: 

  • What are the best things I did for my business in 2011?
  •  What were my most succesful months?
  •  Where did new business come from?
  •  What risks didn’t pay off?
  •  What was the most painful time (or project) of 2011
    (notice: I didn’t ask what wasn’t successful,because if something was a huge money-maker, but I hated every second of it…I want to avoid it in the future, or find a way to make it more fun)


To answer these questions, I do a quick three-step process:

1.  Gather information

2.  Find the connections

3.  Use what I’ve learned


1. Gather Information


Now, this is the step that you’ll try to avoid, but you’ve gotta just buckle down and do it.

The kind of information you want to gather is:

  • Your business financials, by month (all income and expenses) – I get this by donwloading my Paypal activity by month into  a spreadsheet, then I update the spreadsheet with information from my bank statements (anything that I earned or spent that didn’t go through Paypal). If you use Vianza, these reports are easy to generate!
  • A list of the time-specific marketing you did (what months did you run advertising, attend trade shows, release new lines, etc) – this is easiest to gather if you’ve been writing it down as the year’s progressed, but you can dig through your emails to find the info you need.
  • The metrics that I care about, by month – this is everything that reflects the health of your business that isn’t related to money. For you this might be new accounts (and when you landed them), web traffic (pay attention to spikes, and changes in where the traffic came from), publicity.


To keep it simple, I like to organize the information in  a simple list with each month’s final numbers (income and expense), the marketing in that month, and any other metrics listed under the Month Name. If you spread it out too much, over multiple documents, you won’t be able to see as clearly how one month affected the next.


Now go back through your months and write in anything else that you think of.
Did a trade show one month lead you to hire someone to help you fill the orders? Or did it overwhelm you so much that you sent orders out late?
Did one retailer fail to pay you one time and mess up your cashflow?
Did you get a sales rep in one month and see your orders double the next month.
Is one month’s income made up from just one big order, while another month’s made up of several small orders?


Whew, this is a lot of digging and thinking and it may take you more than one day. Take as long as you need to think over this list and add things as you think of them.

When you're ready for Part 2 of the review process, check it out at Vianza.


I wrote this post for Vianza, but liked it so much I had to share it here! Let me know how your review goes!

Knit Green – Book Review

I received my copy of Knit Green 2 weeks ago. Since then, I have been pouring through it.

Now, I should warn you – I am NOT unbiased about this book – I sold my photographs to the editor and they appear in the book. This is the first time I've seen my name in print, in a bound BOOK. So yeah, I was more than a little excited when my copy came in the mail!

Knit Green, pg 109

That said, I was prepared to just scan the book and put it on my shelf (or let's be honest, on my coffee table where I can casually flip to my pictures whenever anyone wanders into the room). I've been reading and researching eco-friendly fibers since I first thought about starting a yarn business, over 4 years ago. I didn't think this book had a lot to teach me.


I was wrong. So very wrong.

This book is FULL of things I didn't know or couldn't find the answers to.

Part of the book's brilliance is in it's layout. Each chapter tackles a different angle of “green” knitting: Biodiversity, sustainable farming, vegan fibers, maintaining folk traditions, fair trade, organic, recycling, buying local & changing habits.

Each chapter has a well-researched article on the topic, followed by 2 – 3 patterns using yarns that embody the characteristic.
Knit Green - My photo!

While most of the patterns aren't for me (I hardly ever knit from patterns, so *most* patterns aren't for me), the fact that the author gives you real applications for what the book is teaching is refreshing.

The real gem in this book is the articles. The articles are worth the price, even if you never knit any of the patterns, if you are concerned with making concientious decisions in your knitting.

And don't let the whole “green” thing scare you away. The author never becomes preachy or pedantic. She seems to share my belief that knitting “green” needn't be a major life-changing commitment; it can be a slow path to making decisions you are comfortable with.

Shop Indie Bookstores

Book: Knit Green, written by Joanne Seiff
(since we're all about the shopping-local, why don't you try to find a local indie bookstore through IndieBound?)