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One Year Bossiversary

One year ago today, I threw away my business cards.

They were fine business cards, really, but they came with one huge caveat: they represented the fact that I was hired to work on someone else’s dream, in a windowless room on an uncomfortable ergonomic chair, for nine hours a day.

So I left.

Turned in my two week’s notice.

And bought my own damn business cards. (Plus a bottle of wine.)

Calling yourself “boss” is a lot like setting yourself on fire while simultaneously trying to invent water. You’re ALL out there. There’s no backup. No accounting team to double check the numbers, no boss to ask permission, no one to tell you to reign it back in.

So, in lieu of my One Year Bossiversary, I wrote this letter to myself.

Hi you!

When you leave for work that one April morning and walk out the front door saying to Joe, “We should start that business together sometime,” you should act on that instinct. Your intuition will NOT fail you this year. Your intuition is the boss of you, so learn to love it, nourish it, and listen to it as often as possible.

Your intuition will tell you to fire your first big-deal client. It’ll tell you to pivot and sign these incredible new clients that feel good in your soul. It’ll tell you who in the creative community is ‘good people’ and who to befriend. Your intuition has never been sharper, my dear, so make the most of it this year.

A lot of people will come out of the woodwork just to see you fail. People who you thought were your biggest supporters will show you their true colors. They’ll launch vendetta campaigns against you, they’ll sic people on your back, and they’ll try to poke holes in your self-esteem. Don’t waste your time worrying about it. It won’t work. You’re stronger than that. You’ll learn that silence is sharper than small minds, so try to let these things go and be the bigger person. Oh, and keep that lawyer’s number on speed dial. She’s a badass.

In your first few months of business you won’t sleep much. You’ll wake up before sunrise and question everything. You’ll wonder if you should just chalk all of this up as an experiment – there’s no way you can keep yourself afloat – and who are you to even try? But deep down inside, you’ll know that’s a coward’s choice and you’ve never backed down from a challenge. You’ll write a Post-It note on your mirror that says “just try”. Some days, you’ll look at this with tears in your eyes. Some days, things will feel so crushing that you’ll stay in bed under the covers. It’ll be hard. But if you never try, you’ll never know, won’t you?

A year later, you’ll have signed well over six figures.

You’ll realize, for the first time ever, that you co-founded your six figure plus business at 23.

You’ll poop a little.

(That’s okay. You can afford new pants.)

You'll soon learn that money is just a scoreboard for the number of people you've served.

You’ll live without a car for a long time. You’ll carry home groceries in the depths of winter, and the heatwaves of summer. It’ll feel like a heavy burden, but it’ll actually turn out to be a blessing in disguise. You'll log 1,342 miles on your own two feet. You’ll decide that bosses need to be fit for the job – mind, body, and soul, so you’ll get rid of some weight in your life. You’ll start lifting and lose 25 lbs. You’ll eat better. The new pants you bought will continue getting looser.

Oh, and by next summer you’ll have bought a car – in cash.

Sometimes you'll get discouraged because it seems like lots of people are getting married and having babies and buying houses. And then you realize that you will, too. But you'll have a strong, debt-free foundation AND the ability to go hike a mountain on any given Tuesday. Give it time. Let it happen.

When you have that meeting that goes really well, keep everyone’s business card. You’ll have to be persistent, but it’ll pay off one morning in late summer. When you get the good news in your inbox on a morning you began to send out resumes – as a backup plan – you’ll run and tell Joe about it. He’ll be in the bathroom, which was serendipitous given the reaction.

You’ll be scared a lot of the time. Even when things are going well, you’ll wonder if you’re doing any of this right. And then there will be moments that shine through the cracks, like when you look across your desk and see your handsome co-founder working on the same dream with you. Or, like that time you learn a client is launching a non-profit because of the workbook you created for her. You’ll be called on as a creative partner to someone you consider your idol and role model. People will get emotional when they tell you how much the process transformed their business – their life – and that they have you to thank for turning an idea into a story they can own. They’ll tell you that you ask better questions than they’ve ever been asked in 20 years in business. Trust the process. Trust yourself. Because you might not know it yet, but people trust you.

When you order that used book on Amazon one winter’s night and a nonprofit’s bookmark floats to your feet, email them. You’ll play a small role in changing the story of AIDS. And when your grandmother passes away and you want to make a contribution in her name, skip the Donate page and ask what you can do to help instead. You just might help some people live through what she suffered through.

More than anything, enjoy yourself. You left that cold, dark office for a reason. Buy the $300 Katy Perry tickets. Get away from your desk and fire up your hotspot. Sleep in ’til noon and still get your work done. Book a massage after that killer deadline. You deserve your success because you worked for it.

You invented your own version of water.

Congratulations, you, on your first year as CEO.

You not only survived your first year in business – you became a firestarter.

To this year, and many more.

Love, The You Who's One Year Wiser

What's So Wonderful About Mr. Wonderful?

Photo Credit: Profit Guide

Photo Credit: Profit Guide

I'm a huge fan of Shark Tank. Are you? Do you have a favorite investor?

I love ALL the Sharks, ALL for very different reasons. But where I used to hate the ground Kevin O'Leary walked on (if only for his brusqueness), I've been converted.

In fact, I actually kind of love him.

Here's why:

As a business owner, I completely understand why he is the way he is. You've got to know how to hold your own, speak without fear of offending others, and know your worth when you enter into an intense negotiation. Kevin is a living, breathing example of what Michael Corleone meant when he said, "It's not personal. It's just business."

I'm trying to cultivate a little more Kevin in my life these days. He's a total ballbuster, a self-described "merchant of truth", and a financially-motivated investor who, yes, gets way too caught up in the bottom line at times.

But I think if I could shadow anyone out of the core group of Sharks, it would be Mr. Wonderful.

He's an a-hole, but he's my a-hole.

Unplanning and the Magic of the 3 Foot View

“E.L. Doctorow once said that “writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you’ll pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice about writing, or life, I’ve ever heard.” — Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird


I’m learning how to unplan lately.

Which really means that I'm letting go of my instinct to overplan. 

(Undoing the habit to plan in large periods of time is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.)

Learning to say “yes” to more spontaneous experiences. 

Learning to say “no” to my nagging Practical Voice that demands to know every detail in advance. 

It’s challenging, but oh-so important.

Hear me out.

I’m part business owner, part project manager, part creative director.

Part juicy-soulful-vision-filled writer, part analytical content strategist, part design advocate.

Part significant other, part pet parent, part fitness enthusiast, part twenty-something. 

I’m trying to be more tuned into the frequency of all my processes I switch in and out of throughout my days.

The ebb and flow and rhythm and push-pull that comes with all of them. 

But one of the best things I’ve begun to ask myself each morning is this: 

“What’s your 3 foot view?"

Instead of having a 30,000 ft. view of a project, a trip planned down to the mile, or a move planned six months in advance, I’m trying to plan only as far ahead as I need to be organized while retaining enough flexibility for serendipity and magic to play a role.

See, here’s the thing about planning.

Extreme planning is the enemy serendipity.

And serendipity is what makes stories and storytelling and well, life for that matter, so incredibly soul-stirring. 

Planning is also terribly overwhelming and crazy-making.

Overwhelm causes creative strain.

Too much weight, and the well doesn’t only run dry — it cracks. 

So, while I thought planning down to the grain was an advantage in the name of diligence, I’m quickly realizing that it’s only a drain in the name of creative output.

I’m actively learning how to plan just enough to create structure and stability, while unplanning just enough to allow for serendipity and happenstance to chime in as my muse. In business, in writing, in fitness, in my relationships, in my nights and weekends. The wiggle room allows for more space for the unknown, which is what living a creative life is really all about.

Planning for the day is planning for the week. 
Planning for the week is planning for the month.
Planning for the month is planning for the year.

Day by day things happen.
Little by little, progress reveals itself. 

When you're not planning for large swaths of time all at once — when you commit to planning only for the day, for instance — it adds up to pieces of time and projects that connect. When one project spills over from one week to another, it won't be forced to awkwardly overlap with something else that was pre-planned. When an unexpected project comes in the door, it can be neatly placed into the day without having to rearrange the entire month or year ahead. When an unexpected road trip happens, it can be an opportunity for getting work in while bumping into new faces and places along the way.

The Five Year Plan is dead.

The 3 Foot View is the only way I'm traveling these days.

Because in the end, The Five Year Plan lives inside the 3 Foot View.

It's just smaller parts of the whole.

That's the beauty of unplanning.

 

 

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Similar to what Lexicontent offers through Content Therapy, this is a short-term solution that has the potential to give you longterm results.

Skillpocket is for you if:

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Let's make your content work harder for you. I'll see you there!

Things I Loved in 2014

Good gravy, what a year!
 
Left a job. Started a business. Said goodbye to my childhood pet and grandma. Saw Katy Perry catapult overhead in a rainbow jumpsuit. Set some boundaries. Said hello to creative freedom, dream clients, travel, and happiness. Turned down projects that didn't make my heart race. Shot my first paying gig. This August marked the first half of my golden year (and I've been collecting anything "gold" that I can get my hands on) and I'm honestly a little sad to see 2014 go.

But before the door shuts and we raise a toast, I wanted to share with you my favorite books, shows, products and apps that I loved this year.

You'll see that many of these were not published or launched in 2014.
Rather, these are the things that I enjoyed, found useful, or incorporated into my day-to-day this year. 

Cheers to a bright, shiny New Year!

Books

Fiction 

The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin (Buy) 

I can only compare this debut novel from Amanda Coplin as silence so loud it’s deafening, like standing in a dark wood only to hear the crazed whistle of your own loose thoughts.

This is the story of a recluse orchardist named Talmadge, orphaned in youth and left to survive with his sister who, one day, disappears from home. His life becomes a rabid search to find her to no avail, and a lifetime of questions left unanswered, rocks overturned in his mind and heart without a trace.

While tending to his Washington orchard, Talmadge, a quiet man with a steady hand for his work and sharp attentiveness for his crops notices two young girls enter his property. Scared, hungry, and both with child, Jane and Della are two sisters who enter Talmadge’s life to break the deafening silence he had become accustomed to. The book is poetic in its dialogue, tragic in the way it unfolds, and an earnest reminder to love without reserve, lest we slip through one another's fingers.

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (Buy)

There’s something about Irish authors that I love. Frank McCourt, Oscar Wilde, Colim Toibin — they're all supremely gifted. Maybe it’s because of the way they put a spin on sadness, or the way they can see God in all the details. Whatever it is, it’s clear that Colum McCann has it, too.

Let the Great World Spin is a story that thrives on synchronicity and interconnectedness of mankind. Opening with a shocking event unfolding high above the streets of Manhattan in August of 1974, it quickly lunges headfirst into the story of Corrigan, a radical Irish man brought to the Bronx to live among the sinners and saints in a self-flagellating calling to respect the disrespected. The novel, like a leaf blowing in the breeze, makes its way into the home of several Uptown mothers all dressed in black, mourning the death of their sons who gave their lives in Vietnam. Next, the scene of a hit-and-run accident leaves a young artist reeling, while a spry grandmother is called to the streets. Never before have I encountered a book that’s 

You wouldn’t think these characters have much in common. They are of different classes, different worlds, brushing shoulders only on the sidewalks of the city. But when the man on the tightrope between the World Trade Center takes his first step forward, they become part of each other’s story — an analogy to the events that unfold and the serendipitous ways that we’re called to one another out here in the real world. 

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (Buy) 

I’m drawn to immigrant stories like a moth to a flame. The tension between leaving home and staking new ground are something that resonate closely with me, since the European side of my family came to the United States in the 70’s. I’m the only non-native Hungarian speaker on my Dad’s side of the family, the only one fully assimilated into the English culture. I’ve always had so many questions about the transition my grandparents experienced, painting mental pictures in my head of their home, the challenges they faced, how they were received. The process seems painful and thrilling all at once.

So when I picked up this book by Jhumpa Lahiri, an exceedingly talented author, it felt like a sort of homecoming, a book I could really sink into. Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli, Indian expats and newlyweds who’ve settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts are in the midst of acclimating to a new world together. He attends class and studies in the evenings. She cooks meals that remind her of home. The novel is dripping with detail, offering the reader intricate snapshots of the family’s day to day.

When the couple give birth to their first child, Gogol, he is burdened by his parent’s choice to pay homage to a tragic train event and a Russian author all at once. If you’ve ever felt a wave of embarrassment from your parents, a mild disdain for traditions past, or a feeling of pity deep in your gut, I have a feeling you’ll seek refuge in this book. This is a story of generational love, told with compassion, humor, and searing honesty about carrying the torch across continents and bloodlines.

Non-Fiction
 

Brand Thinking and other Noble Pursuits by Debbie Millman (Buy)

There is no one I respect more than Debbie Millman. The host of Design Matters and instructor at the School of the Visual Arts, her words have inspired me to take the leap toward launching Lexicontent, On Branding, and now Brandthology. She is the epitome of what I strive to be: warm, thoughtful, and thought-provoking in the way she gently asks questions of living design legends. You can probably tell, I admire Debbie on a whole other level, like a 60’s kid admired Ringo Starr. 

Brand Thinking isn’t a strategy playbook, nor is it a workbook. To me, it’s an anthology that I return to for blog posts and down to earth designspeak. I’ve heard somewhere before that it’s the written equivalent of being a fly on the wall at a bustling dinner party, among such greats as Malcolm Gladwell, Seth Godin, Alex Bogusky, and dozens of others who lead Fortune 500 brands, take up research in brand anthropology, or build household names from the ground up. 

A few quotes I've highlighted in my copy:

“To appeal to real people in the real world, the brand will have to be able to connect with a series of feelings we have that go back to the time we were four years old — and then — maybe reconnect that experience to a chocolate bar that people can buy for $4. […] The reason we keep refreshing the way so many things look is because of our ceaseless race to leverage the feelings of safety and nostalgia this old thing imparts, while simultaneously injecting a sense of newness to seduce us into reengaging in the experience.” — Seth Godin 

“It feels like we’re in a moment of repudiating the modernist impulse that says we’re happily abandoning the present as we rocket into the future. I think the whole return of retro design — the artisinal movement and the coveting of everything handmade — is evidence of this. It’s as if we’re struggling to create a new notion of time […] Designers are able to help us craft a new notion of what time missed.” — Grant McCracken, anthropologist, cultural commentator, consultant 

“We call this “the first moment of truth” — that moment when you decide whether you’ll invite the brand in and let it be a part of your life.” — Phil Duncan, VP and Global Design Officer, Proctor & Gamble 

The Desire Map by Danielle Laporte (Buy)

If I carry Debbie Millman on my right shoulder, then I carry Danielle Laporte on my left. She’s this starburst source of energy, a doula for inspired thinking and intentional revolutions. She’s helped countless women give birth to their dream businesses, rid themselves of toxic forces, and get knee deep in the work of dreaming. 

The Desire Map is one of those books that marks a turning point for me. Knowing how I want to feel through my Core Desired Feelings is the compass I use every single day. My CDF’s are personal — no one knows them but me — but they give my goals a kind of soulful direction that add up to something intense. In fact, our own Lexicontent workbooks and Emotional Targeting were inspired by the process of naming Core Desired Feelings. Knowing how you want your content to be received is similar to knowing how you want to feel as you go about your day, your month, and your year. Targeting the way you want your customers to feel when they open the email, watch the video, or page through your annual review is more than creating content: it’s creating an emotion that becomes synonymous with your brand.

Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés (Buy)

This is a dense, soul-stirring read, a classic in the canon of feminist literature — while avoiding the stigma of “feminist literature” all along. It smolders. It simmers. It’s like literary incense, dancing under Northern Lights, dyeing your hair with henna. It’s spiritual and raw.

Women Who Run with the Wolves is a homage to the craft of storytelling, and the use of myths, fairy tales, folklore, and symbolism to unveil the female mystique. It’s a timeless reminder of what it means to be a creative force, a source of life, and a creature in today’s wild landscape.

Albums

The Speed of Things by Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Jr. (Buy)

This is pure Pop-Rocks for the ears. My favorite track is the very last one, “War Zone” but there are so many standouts on this album. Bonus: I saw these guys live in November and they were as energetic as you’d expect them to be. 

Awake by Tycho (Buy)

This is the album I listened to this year when I had to get massive amounts of sh*t done, or when I needed to be in creative-dreaming mode. It’s lush, cinematic, ambient and unobtrusive, somehow powering you through any beastly to-do list.

The Voyager by Jenny Lewis (Buy)

This album caught a lot of backlash this year, and I’m not too sure why. The Voyager is, no doubt, a new sound for Jenny Lewis, but not altogether a bad one. Her voice is turbocharged, especially on my favorite track, “She’s Not Me”, and the general vibe is pop-gloss Fleetwood Mac. The stories within are a bit “dear diary”, but the music validates whatever twee lyrics are thrown in. A fun album made for grooving to — not taking seriously.

Honorable Mention: 

Evergreen by Broods (Buy)
Sukirae by Tweedy (Buy)
Utah by Jamestown Revival (Buy)

Shows
 

Parenthood (Watch)

Oh, Parenthood. Since your debut in 2010, I have steadfastly waited for Thursday nights like a puppy waiting for its owner to come home at 5 o'clock. This show breaks my heart to smithereens, repairs it again, and stands as the image of what I’d like my family to be like someday. The way the stories are told, woven between vignettes among characters, is highly enjoyable, and the raw emotion blurs the line between “these are just actors” and “these people are an extension of myself”. I will say that this last and final season is my least favorite, but I have a feeling the finale will make me take that back…as I say goodbye in a blubbering pool of my own tears.

Downton Abbey (Watch)

Yet another mainstay in our household. Because of some fancy footwork, I’ve been watching the latest UK versions of the show and am loving it so far. That’s all I’ll say. This is a spoiler-free zone, of course. But I will say that scandal, sex appeal, and shock are par for the course this season. 

House of Cards (Watch)

When Season 2 dropped last February, I kid you not, I holed up in my house after work for hours upon hours watching this 'til (almost) sunrise. It was kind of an addiction. I’ve always had a penchant for political dramas, but this one is absolutely searing in its intensity...and sociopathy. If you haven’t watched this yet, or you’re just getting into the series, the last 30 seconds of Season 2 are goosebump-worthy. NO FAST FORWARDING. 

Products 
 

Audio Technica AT-LP60 Turntable (Buy)

I’ve wanted a record player for years and years. Joe bought this for me recently, and I’m in love. Unlike Crosley’s, which are all looks and low quality, this turntable from Audio Technica is built to stand the test of time. We’ve hooked ours up to play through a stereo system in the studio, which means all the record shopping I’ve done before finally has a means to an end. 

Teavana Contour Tumbler (Buy)

This year, especially with the launch of Lexicontent, I drank a lot of coffee. And tea. And hot beverages in general. At the same time, I also forgot about these beverages and they became ice cold within minutes, only to be found again come late afternoon and “salvaged” as “iced coffee” the next morning. Enter the Teavana Contour Tumbler. This thing keeps my drinks hot for 6+ hours, and even includes a basket for loose leaf teas. I love it.

DeLonghi Safeheat Radiator (Buy) 

We work in a studio inside of our home, which despite its 75 year age, is relatively well insulated. In the winter, it gets a bit chilly especially on the brick side of the house, so we bought this little radiator to supplement running the heat. This thing is magical. Like a giant toaster oven that gives off heat all day long. No noise, no weird humming, no strange smell. It keeps our toes warm all day (and night) long as we move it to whichever room we happen to be in. Totally worth it this winter.

Honorable Mention: 

Aeropress Coffee System (Buy)
Chromecast (Buy)
"Let the Good Times Roll" Lush Scrub (Buy)

Apps & Tools 
 

Sunrise 

I was never a huge fan of iCal. It was always messy, I juggled too many calendars, and to this day, I still get the notifications of people's birthdays that I picked up at a previous job. Yes, people I don't even know. But Sunrise is different. It's a lot more visually friendly, with color coding options, little icons that give a quick view of the type of activity, embedded maps, notes, and much more. It's a robust little calendar app, and I love the heck out of it. 

Scan Pages

Who owns a scanner? *crickets* Exactly. This app is some kind of sorcery. You take a picture of a document, like a receipt, lease, contract, or literally anything else, then it converts it into a high-res black and white version that looks exactly like it was run through a scanner. Save and send the file as a .PDF or .JPG too! This is a lifesaver if you own a business or generally like to stay on top of things.

UberConference 

We do a LOT of interviews, calls, and group meetings. Uber Conference came at the recommendation of Brad, and we've been using it ever since. Create a conference date/time, and the service calls everyone at once. You talk as usual, and once it's over, you have a really clear audio file that you can use for transcribing or general background. It's something we just can't live without.

Evernote 

My first love. My only love. I've used this since college when I toggled between two laptops pretty often, but because of some recent additions, I'm including this in the list. I use this in my writing every single day and it's never left me down. Notes and notebooks sync between devices seamlessly, everything is backed up and protected, and I can even search my notes by keyword. This year, the Evernote team also added some new functions like Work Chat, Context, and Presentation Mode. Whether you're running solo or running with a large work team, Evernote is an app to swear by.

Homejoy 

Homejoy is a home cleaning service that allows you to book a 2.5+ hour home cleaning straight from your iOS device or the Homejoy website. As an entrepreneur, this has radically changed my life in just two sessions. Since our studio is also located in our home, caring for both house and workspace is a huge time suck — and an unglamorous part of the week that left me feeling icky. Now I book an appointment whenever I feel the place needs a good deep cleaning and Homeboy's staff is on the way. I love it, and the price makes up for any time spent doing it on my own.

That's a wrap! What are some of the things you loved this year?