My daughter and I talked today about the blessing of encouraging parents. (She brought it up, I swear.) She knows my parents well, growing up in the same Colorado town with them, and having my mom as her elementary school principal. So, my kiddo laughed when I declared that my mom was “too encouraging” with me as a child.
Me: “Mom, I think I could totally go to the moon. NASA would be such a cool place to work.”
Mom: “Sure, Sara Jane, they’d be fortunate to have you!”
I told my daughter, “Grandma should have said, ‘Um, Sara, you get sick when you read a book in a moving car. Space travel might not be your gig.’” But she didn’t. She dreamt big with me and for me. And I am thankful for it. Grateful I received that encouragement and not the opposite as some, painfully, do.
That “you-can-do-anything” encouragement instilled in me a “why not try it attitude” that still governs my wide berth of interests and hair-brained schemes to this day.
It’s why I started Fadooger. And it is that which bubbles up in me when I’m watching The Great British Bakeoff and think, I could probably do that…when I can’t. Or when I see professional artwork on Wayfair and start a folder on my Mac entitled, Art I Could Do. Even though watercolors, acrylics, or even crayons…are definitely not at home in my hands.
That brings me to tonight.
I painted two canvases tonight. Our mantle looked bare after the Christmas décor was packed away. It needed some art.
So, I made some.
I’m quick to say “I’m not a painter”. But, then again, who is? Maybe all of us. What if we are all painters, but in varying degrees? Have you seen quadriplegic, Joni Eareckson Tada, paint beautifully with a brush in her mouth because she is paralyzed from the shoulders down? We all can paint.
You’ve seen “art” that looks like paint tossed at a canvas. Or a blank frame depicting “the endless possibility within the human spirit”. I think we’re all able to create art, if we recalibrate our desired response.
If everyone can paint, why don’t we? I know for me I am usually happy to let someone else do it, or I don’t take the time, or on a more Dr.-Phil-level I fear failure. But tonight, as I was filling canvases with paint I made a few mental notes about how painting is a more fun than I remember and it makes me a better business owner and marketing consultant for my clients.
I saw these 7 business benefits in full color while painting tonight:
1. Think wider not bigger.
Experts love to tell us to “think big”. But what if the solution lies in front of me if I think wider, not bigger?
When I began to consider art for my living room I envisioned gorgeous watercolors, thick oil paintings, the perfect colors. But I wanted to personally to create the art this time. I don’t paint with – or own – watercolors. How would I accomplish this? I thought wider. What if the art wasn’t so literal. How about I remove the opportunity for our next house guest to ask, “Is that a cow or a horse?”
Expand your expectations and possible routes to the end goal for better inspiration. Think wider.
2. Start somewhere.
A blank canvas looks daunting. It’s fresh and unflawed.
I fill blank pages every single day. And in over a decade of writing daily I am grateful to say I haven’t ever struggled with “writer’s block”. Words seem to land in my lap, daily, like sandbags off the back of a truck during a flood.
Don’t let the white, blank, untouched canvas give you any pause. Jump in! This is one of many. Just start.
3. File some learnings away for later.
Once I started my concentric, geometric painting I discovered some things I would have done differently while I was painting. On this particular painting, if I’d gone back and changed my first several strokes it would have been obvious and ugly so I had to file away my learnings for next time. I skinned my knees, but I’ll know more next time.
4. Don’t hold back with your business.
I like to save stuff for later. If I buy a box of Hot Tamales at the movies I never eat the whole box. There needs to be some fun for later. I am a saver. This tendency works against my business-building at times. But I’ve learned to push through it.
For the painting I wanted a mixture of two different colored acrylics to achieve the desired effect. I forced myself to squeeze out more paint than I wanted. More ocher. More silver. Swirl. Swirl. (Technical artist terms.) Because I knew I couldn’t go back and recreate the mixture a second time. The percentage of silver would never be the same. I needed to squish it all out there now and not worry about future painting supplies.
Get it all out there now. Commit to the bit.
What area of your business do you need to squeeze out more?
5. Exercise discipline.
I was tempted to fiddle and fix tiny blob and hiccups. Ones only I would notice.
But messing with the tiny, inconsequential distractions potentially derails that area of the canvas or, potentially, the entire piece.
A fleck of paint where it wasn’t supposed to be becomes a larger smudge if I go back to the canvas to remove it. Spending too much time finessing a blog or a book or a product means it will take forever to get to market.
Focus on what matters, not the one-offs or might-happens. At Sprint we called this tendency to focus on the two percent that could go wrong “managing the red beads”. When you overextend to try and please the two percent of the business who feel differently about your product or service and it drains the energy left to serve the remaining 98%. Resist the urge to please everyone and fix and re-fix and re-fix.
6. Done isn’t always done in business.
Although it’s best to not spend forever tweaking the tiniest of details, you should feel the freedom to let ideas “marinate” and settle in to make sure you’re putting your best product out there.
I was done painting. I had washed the brushes and cleaned up when I noticed the second painting’s focal point was flat. Your eye wasn’t drawn to it. It was a mumble when it needed to be a shout. It needed something extra. So, I globbed up the brush and added a few accent strokes.
Go back and add the magic. Underscore that which needs highlighting. Make your “customer pathway” so clear a purchase decision is the next, logical choice.
Point them towards the bullseye so they understand your intent clearly, easily, and quickly.
7. Expand your grace for other artists.
A final great reason to create – paint, write, sing, carve, counsel, fill-in-the-blank- is the empathy it offers you for others who create. We all have someone in our life who is overly critical of every product, outfit, commercial they see and yet they don’t create.
When you put yourself out there, when you create, you expand your likelihood of extending grace to others who do. When painting, I left imperfect areas and moved on to complete the piece. I saw missed opportunities for a better piece, but I knew there would be other paintings. People in the marketplace are similar. They had to finish that song, write that last chapter, or choose a running mate. Respect their constraints and honor their efforts. They may do better next time.
My acrylics and brushes are shoved back up in my office closet. I won’t paint for several months, probably. But I liked the reminder that I could. And I enjoyed toying with these 7 business benefits in my mind as I filled the canvases.
Forget “keep calm and carry on”. Go forth and create.
For truly golden life hacks I don’t turn to Tony Robbins or Oprah. I channel Fleetwood Mac.
Have you ever had a challenging relationship with a co-worker or client? Have you burnt a bridge or had the gasoline and match ready? Stevie Nicks had a challenging relationship with a co-worker.
The woman with the goose-bumpy, gravelly voice in Fleetwood Mac that defined a generation had to sing songs about her ex while her ex sang harmony right next to her. Awkward.
So why do it? Why walk through that pain?
When the five-members of Fleetwood Mac hit the studios in Sausalito, California, in 1976 to record Rumours, four of the five were going through ugly break ups – with other members of the band.
Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham had ended their relationship that started in college and John and Christine McVie had just divorced. Now they had to spend 10-14 hours a day singing their hearts out as they share a mic with the one who broke it.
The result of their agonizing determination?
- 31 weeks at #1
- 40 million copies sold
- The 8th-best-selling album of all time
Their tenacity, creativity, and dedication to their craft fascinate and inspire me. What can a freelance or small business learn from this mystic band and their messy journey?
1. Keep moving forward.
Did you realize the band Fleetwood Mac released ten albums and made multiple line-up changes before Rumours won the Grammy for Best Album in 1977?
Ten albums! That is a lot of, largely unrecognized, work.
Keep moving your freelance business, small business, family, and life forward bit by bit even though the future is unclear and the accolades aren’t pouring in.
2. Make your best “music” with the team assembled at the time.
Ever worked with an odd, annoying, or controlling client? Did you wish you could shuffle the deck and choose someone else? It appears Fleetwood Mac did that often, and yet they never quit.
Fleetwood Mac was formed in England in 1967 as a blues group with five guys, two of which, namesakes – Mick Fleetwood and John McVie – hung in through it all. And boy was there a lot to hang through – label changes, legal battles, personality conflicts, their label putting a completely fake Fleetwood Mac on tour in 1974, alcohol, drugs, misunderstandings, and egos.
But they kept at it and churned out album after album with whoever showed up on stage and in the studio.
3. There is no magic formula.
Overnight successes are rarely overnight.
Fleetwood Mac’s monstrously successful album, Rumours, with hits like “Go Your Own Way” and “Don’t Stop,” came 11 years after the band’s founding. If there was a magic formula they hadn’t found it.
Are you (am I) willing to keep producing, keep dreaming for eleven years … or more?
Don’t. Stop. Thinking. About. Tomorrow.
4. If you make magic, don’t try to make Magic Part II.
If you are lucky enough to land the big account, build a skyscraper, win the election, or make a chart-topping album, don’t try to recreate a version of the exact same thing the next chance you get.
Create. Build. Innovate. Write anew.
Lindsey Buckingham who wrote a lot of Fleetwood Mac’s hits says he would have loved to been a fly on the wall when Warner Bros. listened to the Rumours follow-up album, Tusk. It was a total departure for the band, experimenting with new wave and punk rock. It was not Rumours Part II. Warner Bros. was not thrilled, but how much could they complain when the album spent five months in the top 40 and was certified double platinum?
Drummer, Mick Fleetwood claims in the almost forty years of Fleetwood Mac, Tusk is his favorite album. It gave them two top-ten hits and one I’m especially partial to, “Sara.”
Enjoy your artistry. Grow beyond your last “big hit” and explore new frontiers.
5. Another life hack? Press on through the pain.
Life is difficult. New challenges come your way, often on the heels of the challenge you just put to rest. Don’t wait for the perfect conditions to move forward. Press on.
Lindsey Buckingham tells Dan Rather in The Big Interview, “The subject matter [of Fleetwood Mac songs] was what we were living.” He wrote “Go Your Own Way” to Stevie Nicks tell her, “I’m resigned to whatever happens [but]… It’s not what I want.”
Buckingham reflects now, “I think there was an investment in not just the music, but in the people who made the music because of [the pain]” that they rode out and wrote about.
Buckingham told Dan Rather, “We did accomplish what we accomplished under pretty adverse circumstances, and just for myself it was about choices. It was about saying, ‘I’m hurting from Stevie. Here she is. She needs me to do this. I guess I could do a crappy job or I could do the job I know I can do.’ What’s the choice? You try to make right choices that accumulates or adds up to something.”
Press on through the mess.
6. Take a break, but don’t break off.
We all need to catch our breath. Sometimes a break from doggedly plowing ahead can be beneficial, but when you take your break, don’t break ties with your team.
Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie, both significant songwriters for the band, took breaks from Fleetwood Mac. Lindsey talks about needing time off after Tango in The Night. He knew a national tour with the current volatile environment was not a healthy choice for him.
He took a break, but he didn’t burn the bridge. And now the whole band tours together almost forty years later.
7. Share your gifts with the world.
Do you ever wonder why you are like you are? Because, you’re one-of-a-kind.
You were crafted uniquely to do what you do, think what you think. Only you can do and think exactly like you do.
Don’t let adverse or painful conditions, naysayers, or fear stop you from sharing your gifts with the world.
Fleetwood Mac battled for months to make Rumours because they felt they needed to “somehow fulfill the destiny that had been laid out for us.”
Thunder only happens when it’s raining. When conditions aren’t perfect. When a storm is raging.
It may not sound like perfect harmony now, but you could have the magic that the world needs.
Go. Your. Own. Way.
I grew up talking business with my father. I thought all kids did. My parents owned a small business. As a kid, I went on service calls with Dad, discussed logos, worked at a drafting table with a cool electric eraser, and witnessed the victories and pains of small business. And I am forever grateful.
My dad’s business was an extension of him, and an ever-present “12th man” at our dinner table and on our car trips. We talked about business, daily.
I learned a lot about character, priorities, and kindness from my father. And I also absorbed three valuable business lessons from him:
1. Business is about serving people.
Dad was always helping someone.
My dad always took a customer’s call. He said, “If they took the time to call, it must be important.”
He always wanted to be accessible (pre-mobile phone days, of course) so we had a three-line phone in our home, which my friends thought was way cool. We loved acting like we were executives. Pressing the red hold buttons. Scribbling on notepads. Hollering for someone to bring us coffee.
I spent hours listening to Dad explain to customers how sprinkler systems functioned, ideal watering times, and the eventual payback from an investment in saving water. Again and again. Each time his gentle, helpful response sounded as if their question was the first time anyone had ever asked that important question.
Dad served others with integrity. We lived in a small, geographically isolated town. So there was nowhere to hide, if you burnt a bridge with someone, you’d likely need to scorch your toes as you crossed that same bridge in the future. This did not present a challenge for Dad. He was nice to everyone, and served all people with a smile.
My dad was so nice; in fact, he started a business (that lost money) for his landscape employees to keep them busy during the winter months. He told me, “They’ve got families to feed. We’ll figure it out.”
Dad taught me business is all about serving people.
2. Take some risks.
Dad taught me to take chances. He was born into farming, but not born a farmer.
Much like Matthew McConaughey’s restless character in the blockbuster movie, Insterstellar, Dad respected the value of the farm, but was not a farmer. I thought of my dad when Cooper mused,
“We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars, now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.”
Dad left the farm to explore. To start something new. He risked security to explore what else was out there. And once he explored and established a successful business, he explored the next possibility.
I remember accompanying Dad to a lawn and garden trade show in the late ‘70’s where he patiently explained solar lighting to stupefied customers. People didn’t get it. Why use that “hippie dippie system” when I can flip a switch?
That’s okay, Dad, we get it now.
3. Remember why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Dad operated his own business so he could provide well for our family, set his own schedule, and spend time with us.
When I was home from school in the summer, he’d come home for lunch almost every day. He would stop what he was doing at work to come home and eat lunch with mom and I (and catch a quick nap on the living room floor). We’d hear about his morning, and if I begged, he’d hop in the boat to take me for a spin around the lake.
He hooked our family on snow skiing (eight hours away in Colorado) because it was an activity all five of us could enjoy together with our wide range of ages, and it was during his business’s slow season. Dad knew work could demand a lot of his attention during season, but wanted us all to profit from his hard work and availability during the winter.
Family came first for Dad. Maybe that’s why all three of us kids have moved our families to another state to be near he and mom. Had he forgotten why he was doing what he was doing, he would have poured all of his love and energies into his small business. And I doubt it would have spent much time with him in retirement.
I continue to learn a lot from my dad. And in a lot of ways, I am like him. I approach every day with wonder and appreciation. And I love peaches, the Hi-Lo’s, and can identify more plant species than a normal human being. I choke up when I talk about family members who have passed on. And I take risks, serve others, and structure my freelance business to benefit my family.
Thanks for the tremendous example, Dad!
It’s been awhile since I have blogged – for myself. So why write a blog on business productivity and forgiveness? How does that make sense?
Use the old adage of the cobbler’s-kids-have-no-shoes to explain why someone, like me, who gets paid to write doesn’t take the time to write for her own business.
But you know what I’m going to do about my lack of productivity?
I’m going to forgive myself.
I feel better already.
Being tangled up in guilt and excuses makes effective forward progress difficult. The washed-up seaweed entanglement of my guilt slows my advancement, causes me to lurch ineffectively side to side, and prematurely exhausts me.
You can’t change the past. Small business owners are natural problem-solvers. But fixing the past is impossible. For everyone.
That inability to change history may bother a small business owner more than sane people who haven’t chosen to work for themselves. Fixers like fixing. The events of the past can’t be fixed, but they can be forgiven.
How would forgiveness improve your business productivity (not to mention the quality of your life) if you let go of: what could have been, things you should have done, and the lost opportunities?
Could your leadership benefit from a clean slate of forgiveness?
Take a moment of your present, to revisit your past. No clock chiming, zero visits from apparitions, no grainy television footage with British actors – just you and your thoughts. Try this:
1. Take an inventory.
What part of your past is weighing you down? Are there ghosts chasing you? What nags at you in the dark? If no ghosts are chasing you is there one sitting in the boardroom, quiet, but ever-present and distracting? What’s holding you back from your next step?
Take some time to consider your regrets – your words, action, or lack of words or actions.
2. Accept it.
Accept that you can’t change the past. You’ve heard it before. Believe it this time.
Don’t give this caution the same level of heed as running with scissors, really digest that truth – you can’t go back and change the past.
President Harry Truman used to sit at his desk and pen angry notes when he was frustrated with a particular person. He never sent them. Instead, he put them in his bottom desk drawer. But he explained that for him the process was therapeutic.
I wonder if writing down some regrets and filing them away in a bottom drawer, like Truman, would help us accept our regret and move on.
3. Learn from it.
Our best use of the past is to learn from it. Ask yourself:
- What could I have done better?
- Is there a risk I should have taken?
- What discipline did I fail to start then that would have been useful today?
- Did I enlist help and wisdom from others?
- What was a waste of time?
- How did I serve someone else?
- Did I get the “big stuff” right?
- What did I ignore?
- Was I moving too slowly? Too quickly?
- What baggage would an honest friend tell me to toss?
- Is there an opinion of another that I am allowing to color my opinion of myself today?
- What distractions did I allow to derail my goals?
By freeing yourself of past hurts and learning from your mistakes you pave the way for more creative freedom and success in your future. You may actually profit from forgiveness. An increase in business productivity.
4. Forgive yourself.
Take whatever time necessary to mourn the loss of what might have been, the mistakes made, and then forgive yourself. Forgive yourself fully. Put a pin in it, stuff it in the bottom drawer (or incinerator), and move on.
Professional coach, Marc Chernoff, outlines 5 Things You Must Leave Behind To Get Ahead. His number one suggestion is to let go of the past. Forgive yourself and leave the negative things behind.
5. Forgiveness for someone else.
Now that you feel the zero-gravity effect of forgiving yourself is there anyone else you need to forgive? Someone who wronged you? That someone who let you down? Someone who didn’t believe in you?
Forgive them before bitterness can unpack its cancerous baggage in your life.
They say harboring bitterness for another person is like drinking poison and expecting them to die. Unforgiveness for another ultimately harms you, not them.
I can’t say I ever thought I’d write a business post about forgiveness. Even one on business productivity. But the topic seemed to follow me around every corner until I jotted it down. So, forgive me.
And forgive yourself.
Ever feel like you don’t know enough to tackle the task in front of you? Imposter syndrome sets in?
Have you ever thought, “I could learn a lot from my dog?”
My pound pup lives a charmed life. Most days it is because I spoil him, but other times Yogi’s wonderful “dog’s life” is actually of his own making.
Things We Can Learn
My tiny, odd-looking, too-many front teeth, mixed-breed pooch makes a good life for himself when he
- loves unconditionally, so he doesn’t ruin any of his days holding a grudge,
- naps often, especially in the sunshine,
- must have great dreams,
- greets every person gleefully when they return safely home,
- eats only when he’s hungry and exercises often, and
- barks louder at the big dogs.
Those who live on my street may or may not notice my fourteen-pound, straggly Pekinese-Chihuahua-mix barks louder at the big dogs.
This makes no sense at first glance. But there he is, nose pressed against the glass, shaking with doggie rage, barking his loudest bark at the German Shepard or stout Labrador who dares to use his street.
Shouldn’t he let those obviously big dogs pass, knowing he can’t win a fight if they engage him? Shouldn’t he save his efforts for smaller dogs he knows he can best?
Don’t tell Yogi that. Big dog equals bigger bark.
No Imposter Syndrome For My Dog
What if I employed that wisdom in my business? What about you?
When a large problem or opportunity approaches, bark louder. Give it more than you think you’ve got. If the fight looks big, bark big. If it starts to look bigger, bark bigger.
What would your business, your future, your dreams look like if you barked louder at the big dogs?
To emulate my bug-eyed canine and bark bigger, I need to:
- Approach my largest, hardest projects when I am at my best, my loudest. For some people that is first thing in the morning. For me, it’s after a workout or lunch.
- Apply my most effort and time towards the most difficult tasks. How many times do I choose the easy projects where I know I can do well? What effort do I embolden to tackle the impossible?
- Embrace more risk. Avoid waiting for the perfect time, when things seem to line up … perfectly.
- Focus on this moment, not on past mistakes. Yogi does not care that the same dog walked by yesterday totally unaffected by his barking. This time it might work. He gives every mutt ounce of himself in that moment. Did your product launch or new blog fail to hit the heights you had hoped? Maybe it wasn’t the right time. Today might be your day.
I need to bark louder at the big dogs.
Tonight my brown and rust spitfire is quiet. He had a long afternoon at the veterinarian so he is allowing all furry creatures to traipse along the street in silence. I miss his spirited, never-say-die barking.
Like Yogi, you might not feel ready to bark at the big dogs every, single day. But I guarantee you, he will break the silence first thing in the morning. To see who barks back. Will you? Will I?
What if you barked louder at some big dogs in your neighborhood tomorrow?
I think Yogi might say, “Go for it! Cats don’t bark. They have nine lives, but not us. Start barking louder now. Today may be your day.”