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.
I grew up talking business with my father. I thought all kids did. My parents owned a small business. 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 business to benefit my family.
Thanks for the tremendous example, Dad!
I hate packing before I travel. I put it off until the last minute. Every time. My suitcase-filling was so wire-close this time, as I sat on the plane fiddling with the jammed window shade I wondered, “Why do I do that?”
I have to book my tickets weeks in advance – had to book the car, the hotel … I even scouted fun restaurants. So why wait so long to pack?
I’m not typically a procrastinator. I like closure. I like getting things done.
So why do I delay packing?
I wonder if it is primarily because I do not like limited options. Ever. And that 22 x 14 x 9-inch suitcase limits me.
Imagine a typical Colorado morning. The radio alarm goes off. You hit the snooze, hoping against hope that at some point today you will get that Journey song out of your head.
Easing out of bed, you make those old-age noises you swore you’d never make, and you greet a day full of options. You open the blinds and a glance out the window towards Mount Herman tells you, it is snowing. It’s April, but it’s snowing – one of the “perks” of living at 7,300 feet. So you select silk socks to go with wool socks, liners for under your running pants, and spring-colored layers to keep you warm, but look like the calendar is correct.
That same scenario for a traveler in a nearby Denver hotel room plays out differently. Alarm goes off. Room-darkening curtains toss open to reveal – snow. What? A glance at the suitcase tells the mile high visitor – it’s going to be a rough day.
Packing for another city, climate, or country is definitely a challenge, but I love to travel therefore, I must figure out how to summit my Everest without waiting until the last minute. So I found 5 hacks to help pack-haters like me. (I think I’ll call them “pack hacks”.)
1. App it up.
Yes, it appears there are apps to make the chore of packing and the pre-trip tasks easier, especially if you plan to take any repeat trips.
The Packing Pro app helps you create a packing list and lets you save your lists for future use. You can save different lists for different members of the family or parts of the country or cities, i.e. my New York City list looks nothing like my Omaha list. You can sort your list by category, i.e., clothes, medicine, electronics. There is also a pre-trip “To Do” list that looks helpful. Customer reviews of the app assure me they have used it for foreign and domestic travel and would never embark on a trip without it.
2. Roll with it.
Packing is demotivating on some level because you know your nice outfits that you carefully tuck away will look (and I think, smell) nothing like that when you arrive at your destination.
The expert’s suggestion: roll certain items for better results. Real Simple’s The Best Way to Pack a Suitcase suggests rolling your softer garments, i.e. jeans, T-shirts, blouses, etc., and folding stiff ones, like dress pants or blazers.
Then arrange those rolled items in the bottom of the bag, forming a solid suitcase foundation like burritos in a baking dish.
3. Group outfits.
It may feel a bit like summer camp, but if you hate packing as much as I do seeing some order and method to the madness helps. Use Ziploc bags or roll clothes with loose rubber bands to group your items into outfits.
Grouping also forces me to think more thoroughly through what I actually need to take versus my temptation to toss in favorite shirts, comfy clothes, and forget pajamas, shoes and socks.
4. Bulk up.
I would not consider myself a chick who “loves her shoes” but let’s be honest a poorly selected shoe can ruin an outfit or make for a very, very long day. So I struggle when it comes to packing shoes. The experts suggest every trip needs the trifecta of shoes: a casual sandal or loafer, sneakers, and an evening shoe. Then they suggest wearing the most bulky of the shoes to save suitcase room. (I’m thinking that means my boots.)
I also try to stuff any shoes that I am packing full of various items before they go in the suitcase: belts, underwear, jewelry bag, or phone chargers. If they’re going to take up space in the bag they may as well be worth every inch.
5. Just do it.
Lower the bar. Drop your expectations and just pack. Get comfortable with the notion you may forget something or circumstances may change.
If you forget something or a surprise rainstorm settles over your travel destination, use it as a free pass to go buy whatever item you need to make your stay comfortable. If you find yourself at a COACH store shopping for a $900 purse, you might be pushing the boundaries a bit. But short of medicine and eyeglasses, you can pretty much purchase whatever you forgot on “the other side”.
In a few weeks when I drag out that far-too-small suitcase again, I promise to take my own advice, focus on the fun travel options that await me (not the limited suitcase options) and will start to pack sooner-than-later.
Happy travels to you.
Stay calm and pack.