I have the book "The Creative Habit" by Twyla Tharp very near me in my office at all times. This book has offered me inspiration on several occasions. Mostly, it has provided me with specific actions to take to help me transform my way of thinking and being, allowing me to step away from doing things the way I always do them. It opened up my mind to try something new. These actions have helped me get through proposals to potential clients, problem solving marketing issues for current clients, and even coming up with ideas for growing my own business. Because I have found this book to be an invaluable resource over the years, I am compelled to share with you one of my favorite passages form this book and I challenge you to "Give Yourself a Little Challenge."
On page 114, the section numbered 14 is titled "Give Yourself a Little Challenge" and it reads: "George Harrison once decided, as a game, to write a song based on the first book he saw at his mother's house. Picking up at random, he opened it and saw this phrase 'gently weeps,' whereupon he promptly wrote his first great song, 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps.' You can give yourself the same kind of challenge whatever medium you work in: paint only in shades of green; write a story without using the verb 'to be'; film a ten-minute scene nonstop with one camera. Giving yourself a handicap to overcome will force you to think in a new and slightly different way which is the prime goal of scratching." For Twyla, scratching is where creativity begins and she puts it " the moment where your ideas first take flight and begin to defy gravity."
I strongly urge you to take on this challenge. Let it help you relieve the grip of the mundane and elevate you to a place of curiosity and creativity. Use it to finish that project you started and can't seem to finish. Let it inspire action or provoke the urge to serve in your community. Let it move you out of stagnation and propel you to new heights.
To learn more about Twyla Tharp's creative habit, I encourage you to get the book.
Finally, if you try this challenge, please share your story here. I'd love to hear from everyone on what they did and how it worked out for them.
Here's to your illumination!
Do the important things first? In my last post, I told you not to worry about the most important things. I just want you to start doing ANYTHING and start crossing things off of your list. Working on feeling accomplished and creating momentum is key to getting things done. But, there are some IMPORTANT things you should do first, but let me define important.
Important is NOT that project you've been putting off, and it's not checking your email to make sure you don't have any fires to put out today. Important is any activity or task that creates energy for you rather than drain energy. Energy creating activities including drinking water, stretching, exercising, meditation, creative work, journaling, brainstorming, or anything that energizes you. Meeting a colleague or friend for coffee might energize you. Going for a challenging hike could be what energizes you. Taking a long hot shower could be it too. Whatever those things are, these are the most IMPORTANT things to do first thing in your day. In order to start doing these important activities first in your day, it takes a simple mind-set shift and tweak....
I know you've had days like this. In fact, they can last for longer than just a few days. It's those days that really test you due to some hardship in your life. It becomes so hard to get motivated and you just can't seem to get anything done. You know you have to do these things, it's your job or you made a promise and you are a person of integrity. Of course, as luck has it, your motivation usually starts drying up right around the time something big is supposed to happen at work or in your business. Your non profit may have that big capital campaign coming up, or you are launching a new program in your business, you have a brand new marketing campaign to develop for the new product you created...but, life is happening too. Your child is sick at home, things aren't going so well at home, you were in a car accident, something major needs to be fixed in the house, or a family member is ill. These stressors can lead to poor sleep quality or in many cases you are not sleeping at all. And, I've learned that a lack of motivation in one area of my life stems from neglecting other things like exercise, eating well, and sleeping well. But it doesn't need to get to that. And if it does get to that, you can get out of it. Further, I'm here to tell you that you can stay motivated and be productive with your work and career tasks when you are going through something tough personally.
When we plan, whether it's a personal plan, a business marketing plan, or a non profit development plan, we assume we are going to be successful. We work hard to make sure the plan will lead us to success. But, there are many things that can cause delays and even derail us from our end goals and outcomes. But, most plans do not have a crisis component built into it. That is a mistake because ANYTHING could go wrong, I've seen some of the best laid plans fail miserably because something went wrong.
When a crisis occurs you might be able to maintain it internally without news leaking to the public, but more often than not the public finds out. So, plan for the plan failing, plan for a crisis and plan that the news will go public. Here are 3 things you must do when managing this kind of crisis.
By the time Friday afternoon rolls around, I can feel that my body is ready to stop. My focus starts to go onto other things like baking, sewing projects, house shopping, hiking, getting the garden ready....everything else but business related work. Though I'd LOVE to stop and just dive right in to these other projects, I can't do that always. There is an endless list of things to get to in my business. I get even more weird about finishing my week a few hours early because, we're supposed to work until 5pm, AT LEAST, if we want to advance our careers, or so I've been reading. "Lean In" is what Sheryl Sandberg COO of Facebook tells us in her new book. But, all I want to do is lean into some of my red forest cupcakes that I'm dying to make!
If the breakdown is inevitable and you just couldn't avoid it, (read about avoiding a breakdown by clicking here) see the immense opportunity in it. Yes, I know, when you are down, destroyed, and lying on the side of the road smoking (reference to my car) there IS opportunity. Don't roll your eyes. I know this sounds woo woo, but maybe Deepak can change your mind.
Deepak Chopra, a person I greatly admire, says that in every problem we face there is an opportunity that awaits you. It's your choice whether you seize it or not. In order to seize it, you must recognize that the opportunity exists.
When you recognize, you gain the chance to rebuild. Even in the wake of complete annihilation you can pick yourself, or your business, or your car up and start again.
Breakdowns. It can happen. In fact, it happened to me, or shall I say, it happened to my car. But, it feels like a personal breakdown too. So why did this breakdown occur and what can I learn from it? Well to start, a key gauge in the car made it look like everything was fine. No lights were flashing, no check engine alerts. From where I was sitting, all seemed fine. Then yesterday, I heard this horrible knocking sound coming from the engine. Today, it broke down.
Personal breakdowns are similar to this. From the outside, everything looks good, or at least this is how you present yourself to others. That you've got it all under control. In fact people always say how in control you always are. You are smiling at everyone you meet, no one knows that secretly things are being neglected in your life and you are approaching or are on the brink of a breakdown. Are you eating well? Are you getting enough sleep? Are you getting enough time to yourself and some r and r? Are you working out and are you taking your vitamins...the list can go on. But, these are some of the essential areas to keep your attention on in order to avoid break downs, personal ones at least. Also, everyone's essentials list is a little different. For instance, for me specifically, I would add to this list drinking enough water because I tend not to. I get dried out very easily and this depletes my energy. In order to do all the things I do in my life, keeping my energy is essential, so staying hydrated is a must.
Businesses can have breakdowns also. Again, there are essential functions that cannot be neglected or overlooked. Are you looking at your projected cash flows? What expenses are coming up? What leads do you have in the pipeline? What marketing actions are you taking everyday, weekly, monthly and yearly? Do you have a strategy on growing your business or you just winging it? Here again, the list can go on, but these are some of the essential ingredients for avoiding a business breakdown.
In all of these instances the cost of a break down is huge. So note my mistake and heed my advice. Make a list today of the essential things you need in your daily life, or at least regularly in your life for all areas, in order to stay at the top of your game and avoid having a breakdown of any kind.
My first blog of the New Year, WOOHOO! What's it about? Not giving up. Yes, I know it's still a little early to give up. Various articles on the web site statistics that people give up on their resolutions within weeks of setting them. Here it is just 5 days into the year and I would bet that many of us are already slacking a bit. I'm here to tell you that it's okay to slack, but don't give up. You see, sometimes we slack because something internally is off. We either need a break from the rigidity, or our body just wanted to head down a different path one day. Other times, starting something at the beginning of the year is too much pressure so you are stressed out about your resolution. You are making it too hard on yourself. And then there are instances where the way you are approaching or have acted on your resolution might not be the right way to go about it. In other words, there are many reasons why the majority of us don't find sticking to resolutions a walk in the park. Even getting out to the park on these blistery winter days in Santa Fe are hard!
I know, I know. You are already so busy working in your business. You already know you have to work ON your business too. But, time keeps passing you by and you're just not doing all that you'd like to be doing especially when it comes to marketing. Ugh..marketing isn't even your strong point. And, honestly, word of mouth is your main source for leads so why even bother. This kind of thinking may make sense to you now, but in the long run, you will feel the aches and pains of having relied on one very uncontrollable source for your marketing. Businesses and organizations don't thrive and grow with this kind of thinking.
I often get asked, "Rubina, what is the one thing I can do to get clients." Or "What is the one thing I can do to get people to donate to our organization." My answer is always, There's not. There is no ONE thing you can do to get people to buy from you or give to you. Many don't want to hear this, but it's true.
Regularly, we are all consuming massive amounts of information from a variety of sources. Rarely do we run out and buy something or get compelled to give right when we consume that information. It's when we are ready to buy something or ready to give to a cause or organization, when one or two brands, or messages will stick out for us in our brains. We can recall these specific brands or images more easily. Why? Because we saw the brand and/or message enough times through various channels and they stuck with us. This is called accomplishing top of mind status. If you did just one thing, it would be very hard to achieve this status. Therefore, a variety of methods are recommended even if you are a small business or small organization.
TIP 4 : Get the word out by using a variety of marketing channels.
Here is my list of what I like to recommend to folks to do if they want to get the word out about their business or organization. You start here and you build. You build by either adding more channels, or turning up the frequency of delivery on an existing channel, like first you start off by sending one press release every quarter, but then you up the frequency of delivery by sending out one press release every month.
1. Network. There are many networking opportunities out there. The problem is trying to choose which ones to go to! Chose the ones where the people who are most suited to buy your product or give to your organization. Also, go to those events that accommodate your schedule so that you are at your best at these networking events. Also, you don't always have to go the same networking evens in town. Create your own. Get some groups of people together that share the same interests, start a book club. Get creative with this and get the word out.
2. Ask for referrals. Don't assume that because you did a great job for your client, that your client is not automatically going to tell people. You have to ask them to give you referrals. You also have to follow up with them and give them the things they need to make referring you easy.
3. Utilize social media. The people who have friended (this is now a word at least in my book thanks to Facebook!) you are your biggest fans. They've come to you with permission. Give them information about what you are doing. Don't make it a sales pitch. Genuinely share what is happening with you and with your business or organization. Engage others by commenting on their posts , etc.
4. Have business cards you are proud of. You need something to handout to people when you meet them. Every time you meet someone, they should get their business card. Your business card does not have to a standard business card. It can be the size of a postcard, or stitched onto cloth. But, always have something you leave people with. On the flip side, always leave with their information too. This way, you are not leaving it up to them to get in touch with you. You then have the ability to be proactive and reach out to them first.
5. Send press releases. Let the media know you are an expert. Send them press releases bi-weekly or even weekly of information that is pertinent to them and the section they usually write in. Start building a relationship with the right media contacts. Press releases don't have to be exactly about your business or be very sales pitchy. They can be about a great new book you read related to your field of expertise and you are offering a quick synopsis. You could write about a topic related to your field and share information. There are many ways to go with a press release that doesn't have to directly sell to people. The knowledge you are sharing is doing the selling.
6. Collaboration. Find other businesses, organizations and individuals you might be able to collaborate with in order to stretch those marketing dollars. They don't have to be businesses and organizations that do similar work as you. Pick those entities that complement you and your business. For instance I was at a used book store today and next to them is a herbs store. When I was checking out the store manager said that if I supported the herbs store then they would give me 20% off my purchase. The true was also the same at the herbs store. This is just one example of collaboration.
Focus on these few things and start documenting what works and what doesn't. Change accordingly again if necessary.