Lisa Robbin Young

Have you ever felt like you're not good enough, even though you know you're talented? Are you feeling like you're the only one who hasn't quite figured out this whole "success" thing despite your years of experience and talent? Like you should "be there" by now - wherever that is. Or worse you keep getting overlooked and passed over for other people in your industry who aren't as skilled, qualified, or don't have the same depth of experience as you?

Well, my friend, you might just be an Undervalued Unicorn!

What is an "Undervalued Unicorn"?

You're probably wondering what the heck an Undervalued Unicorn even is. This is the best way I know how to describe the kind of clients I just adore! An Undervalued Unicorn is someone who is an absolute badass at what they do. They've got years of experience, a list of credentials as long as their arm, and a small army of raving fans that sing their praises. But they haven't gotten the recognition, the rewards, or the respect that they deserve for their genius.

Undervalued Unicorns sometimes fight with Impostor Syndrome, but usually Unicorns know that they are Unicorns - they know how good they are at what they do. It's usually less about feeling like an impostor and more like the sense of impatience and frustration that rise out of the Passed Over Paradox - being overlooked or undervalued by influencers in their field.

Undervalued Unicorns are some of the most innovative, risk-taking, and badass people out there. Because of your unique take on things, it's easy to feel misunderstood or like you're on the outside, looking in. You might feel like the underdog, the misfit, or the black sheep of your industry.

You have an advantage that others don't: you see the world in a different way, and that means you can create things that other people can't even imagine. Maybe it's a new business model, a new product, or a new way of doing things. Whatever it is, you have the power to bring your vision to life!

One of my clients is a perfect example of this. Jamie (not their real name) is a professional with more than ten years of experience in their field - and all the credentials that go with it. They envisioned a future where they would be on television, writing books, and being seen by the world for the expertise that they'd developed in their chosen field.

Jamie was definitely a Unicorn - a remarkable standout in their field - in an almost magical, mythical way. But what made Jamie an undervalued Unicorn was that they were grossly undercharging for their work. They mistakenly believed that they were charging the "going rate" for where they live and couldn't possibly charge more. But that rate wasn't sustainable. Jamie was compromising so much about themselves and the quality of their client experience just to keep that lower rate. Jamie could barely make ends meet when we met, and was ready to flip the tables and quit the career they'd worked so hard to build because they just didn't know how to break through.

Then, Jamie saw a newbie to their field charging nearly double what Jamie was charging - and getting it!

That's when a switch flipped.

Jamie finally realized they were ready to shift their thinking and open their eyes to how those false stories had been holding them back!

Jamie raised their rates and started showing up more visibly in the market. And guess what? The people who already loved Jamie loved this new way of showing up more powerfully. Most were even happy to pay higher rates to keep working with them. Those higher rates also meant that Jamie could afford to be more generous. Jamie created new offers that were financially accessible to people who might not otherwise be able to afford their new rates.

As Jamie's visibility grew, they got getting stopped on the street! Media outlets started seeking Jamie out for interviews. Jamie wrote a book and is now considered one of the foremost authorities in the world on their subject.

After years of working with these undervalued Unicorns, I can tell you that one of the biggest things you need to do is choose yourself. To stop waiting for someone else to pick you and create your own stages and your own opportunities. I know it can be easy to feel like you're not good enough, or just an impostor trying to fake your way to the top, but that's not true. Here's why:

Unicorns Are Innovators

First, Undervalued Unicorns are natural innovators. You don't just accept the status quo - you're frequently looking for ways to improve, to do things differently, maybe even stand out from the crowd in the process.

Unicorns don't fit neatly into any particular box. You're pushing boundaries and exploring new territory. Think about Prince - he was always breaking the rules and doing things his own way, whether it was his name, his fashion choices, or the way he approached music. He didn't care what anyone else was doing, he just did what felt right to him. And that's what makes Undervalued Unicorns so valuable - they're always pushing the envelope and bringing new ideas to the table.

You have a knack for thinking outside the box and coming up with ideas that nobody else has thought of. That's a gift that make a big difference!

Unicorns Are Mavericks

Undervalued Unicorns are the mavericks of their industries. They are the rule-breakers, the game-changers, the ones who refuse to conform to traditional norms and instead pave their own path to success. That's not always an easy path, but it sure is rewarding when you can stay the course.

Unicorns aren't afraid to put themselves out there and try something new. Sure, it can be scary as hell, but that's what makes it so thrilling.

When Lady Gaga broke out in the late 2000s, she was unlike anything in pop music at the time. With her wild costumes, theatrical performances, and unapologetic attitude, she quickly became a household name. But Lady Gaga fought tooth and nail to get there.

Yes, her dad offered to pay her rent for a year, but she still had to show up and do the work - or give up on her dream and go back to school. In her own words, “I left my entire family, got the cheapest apartment I could find, and ate shit until somebody would listen.”

About a week before it was time to call it quits, a door opened... then a label signed her. Then they dropped her. But she just kept going. As a songwriter, a background vocalist, whatever it took to keep the lights on and play for one more day. Then, she got picked up by another label and they got her. The label invested in her development and the rest, as they say is history.

Lady Gaga's story is a prime example of the Undervalued Unicorn mentality. She refused to let the industry dictate her success, instead carving out her own path and using her creativity and innovation to get noticed. And it paid off in a big way - today, Lady Gaga is one of the biggest names in music, with a loyal fanbase and a string of hits to her name.

That kind of fearless attitude and out-of-the-box thinking is what sets you apart - and is essential for your success.

Unicorns Are Trailblazers

And the piece that is often the most difficult for Undervalued Unicorns to embrace is that you create your own path to success. You can't wait around for someone else to hand you an opportunity. Make your own.

I've lost count of the number of times well meaning people have said I couldn't make a living as a creative entrepreneur, or that I should have a "real job" as some kind of "back-up plan". The career I've built for myself is a real job.

Undervalued Unicorns that wait for someone to give them permission or validation are usually frustrated and resentful. It's a harder path, sure, but creating your own path to success is a major advantage in today's crowded marketplace. But having that much autonomy can also feel like a lot of pressure:

"What if I fail? What if it doesn't work?"

Oh, but sweetie... what if you succeed beyond your wildest dreams? What if it does work??

That can be just as scary sometimes.

It's not always easy to be on the front lines, but that's where you need to be if you want the success that seems to be passing you by. Own your badassery. Sure, you may feel like an impostor sometimes - or like nobody sees how hard you're working, but that's not reality. The truth is that you are powerful, talented, and freaking amazing! Take a risk this week and try something new. Show up more YOU than you ever have before - out loud and on purpose!

Believe in yourself. Choose yourself. Because if you don't, why should anyone else?

Mid-January is a depressing time for a lot of folks. In the Northern climes, it's winter, it's bleak, it's a whole lotta meh. But add to that the fact that most people are already giving up on their goals for the year, and it's an even meh-ier time.

Yes. I just said "meh-ier".

Aside from the fact that the most common resolutions of 2018 are too vague and mostly worthless, there are a handful of other reasons why you're likely to bomb out again this year. Oh, if you're not a resolution maker (less than half of the U.S. population actually makes resolutions), this also applies to any goals, intentions, or commitments/re-commitments you might be making in your life or work.

In short, if you want to accomplish anything, these are likely the reasons why you've failed before, and will probably fail again. But take heart, these reasons are also relatively easy to fix, which will make attaining your goals SO much easier.

1. It's not your goal.

Think about the number of times Mom had to yell at you to make your bed or pick up your toys before you actually did it. If you're like most kids, a clean house isn't your goal. That's Mom's goal. You want to do anything but clean the house. And yet, like the old saw goes, "if Momma ain't happy, nobody's happy." So you make your bed and clean up your toys. But did you get to do what you wanted to do?

You were focused on someone else's goal. Sometimes, that's an important thing to do. I mean, if my kid is bleeding, all my priorities shift until he is no longer bleeding. My goal and his, in that moment, are the same... even if it wasn't the goal I had in mind at the time.

The problem comes when chasing someone else's goal becomes your way of life.

Here's how it looks: more times than not, you're not remotely focused on what you really want. You're too busy putting out fires or trying to keep someone else happy. There's no time left to consider taking care of what you want. So you just forget about it and stick with what's in your comfort zone. In short, you're no longer a priority (even for yourself).

Or worse, you're living in "the shoulds" - going after what someone else has told you should be your goal - or that you think should be your goal because of where you think you ought to be at this stage in your life/career.

This kind of subtle comparison-itis kills your dreams before you even start.

Instead, you need to get ultra clear on what really matters to you. That's why I created my Dreamblazing program. It helps you define success on your own terms. And The PEACE System helps you translate those priorities into daily action steps. Until you know where you're at and where you're headed, you'll have a hard time getting anywhere.

I've talked a LOT in the past about using ruthless honesty and dropping your judgement to get clarity on your situation. This year, I'm adding "speak your truth" to the mix. It's one thing to acknowledge your truth to yourself, but then you have to speak that truth and live it out in the things you do.

So many people want something, but so few people actually make the shifts required to have what they want because they're too worried about the rest of the world. Which brings me to the second reason you're failing...

2. Your goal can't thrive in your current environment.

Ever try to grow a plant from a seed? You need the right kind and amount of soil, nutrients, water, light, and climate control to get a seed to grow. And even then, sometimes you just get a bad seed and it won't sprout.

But once it sprouts you need to be vigilant. You need to monitor it, nurture it, care for it, or it's going to wither and die.

Goals are like that. If you start your day saying "I'm going to run a marathon!" and you have no suitable shoes, clothes, or training, you're screwed. Can you run a marathon that day? Maybe, but the odds are stacked against you.

On the other hand, if you prepare yourself - with proper training, attire, and the right environment in which to run, you'll have a much better chance of not just running that marathon, but finishing strong as well.

If you don't want to finish strong, why start at all? (Tweet this)

I can give you all kinds of tips to speed your progress toward you goals (I've written about it before), but if you don't set yourself up for success first, you'll have a much harder time completing what you start. The goal will feel more elusive, and you'll feel more stuck around what to do about it.

Let's get unstuck, shall we?

When you look at your goals, get clear (there's that word again!) on what needs to shift in order for you to attain that goal. Clarity is one of the 4 strengths every creative entrepreneur needs to succeed. Do you need to get up earlier? Stay up later? Sleep more? Ask for help? Be honest with yourself about what needs to change in your environment so that you can nurture this little seedling goal of yours! Then commit to those changes. If it feels like there are a LOT of things that need to shift, maybe you're setting the wrong goals. Maybe you need to right-size your expectations. Whatever the case, decide, then commit. And give yourself 90 days to really see it through.

Why 90 days? Statistically speaking, that's long enough to see real progress, but short enough to keep shiny object syndrome or boredom from catching hold. That's part of why I built Accountability Club (A-Club) around the concept of a 30-day goal system. So that you could start any month and run three 30-day cycles toward your dreams and goals. Which is also your clue into reason number 3...

3. If it's not scheduled, it's stressful.

Part of my personal environment is my planning calendar. I set it up so that it works for me. This year, I'm booking my co-working time with A-Club one week at a time. I have my clients book no more than a month out. I set up my calendar to work with my need for some level of flexibility. I'm a Fusion, after all, which means there are times when I need the rigid structure of a Linear, and times when I need more open space like a Chaotic. I can't have the same set schedule all the time.

I learned a long time ago that I needed to get over myself and take care of me the best way I can. It might sound a bit like overkill, but when I'm super busy, I put breakfast, lunch, dinner, and bathroom breaks into my calendar. Why? Because if I don't, something will happen and I'll get stressed out because I don't have time to pee. That's crazy talk. Besides, the only person peeking into my calendar is me, thankyouverymuch, and if that is what I need to do to stay on track with what matters to me, then that's what I'm gonna do.

If you're not scheduling time in your calendar to do the work that moves the needle on your goals, then you're less likely to actually DO anything that will move the needle on your goals. Make and keep appointments with yourself for the things that really matter to you. Take the time for your life. Don't wait around for the scraps.

Listen, I've got a friends who have crazy lives. A kid that's in and out of trouble. A significant other with severe health issues. THEY have health issues. A relationship on the rocks. Money troubles. You name it. But the priorities of their lives get time on their calendar. Time with the kids, time to work out, time to spend with their significant other. They make a point of prioritizing what really matters. Does it always go according to plan? Hell no. But that's not the point. Imagine how much crazier it would be if they didn't even try. like Eisenhower said "Plans are useless. Planning is everything." It's the act of making the plan, of identifying and committing to your real priorities that lights a fire inside you and helps you focus on getting them done.

Which brings me to today's final reason for failure:

4. You've made the "Strike zone" your goal.

Viggo Mortensen plays opposite Sandra Bullock in "28 Days" and there's this scene where his character, Eddie, explains the art of pitching. He tells Sandra's character that your focus needs to be on what you can control, not the strike zone.

Once the ball is out of your hands, there's nothing you can do. And if your focus is on your end result (the strike zone), then you've been putting your energy into what you can't control, instead of all the little things that make the difference in reaching the goal: the way you hold the ball, the way you stand on the mound, the way you pull back, release and follow through. Those are all things you have the ability to influence. Someone else is calling the pitches. All you can do is throw the ball to the best of your ability.

If you can choose, you often have some level of control or influence. THOSE things are where your real goal needs to be.

If you've got a goal of, say, losing 100 pounds, you can't directly effect that strike zone (unless you're going under the knife to cut 100 pounds off your body). But you can influence the direction the scale trends by focusing on the actions that get you closer to your strike zone. So make your goal to walk 3-5 times per week for 30 minutes or more. Or to drink 6-8 glasses of water. Or both. Whatever you know you need to to do move the needle in the direction of your strike zone.

In your business, if you've got an income goal, that's the strike zone, but it's the daily action steps that you take that get you closer to the goal. You can't directly control hitting a million dollars because someone else is involved in making that happen (probably several someones!). But you can control the offers you make, the audience to whom you speak, and the words you use to speak to them. Under normal circumstances, you can choose whether you are open or closed for business.

Set your goal(s) based on the action(s) you can control. Because then you can check off the boxes each week that say "I DID IT!" or not. You'll know whether you did all you could, even if you haven't hit the strike zone yet.

These are lessons I learned the hard way.

I focused on the strike zone for years! My ex-husband could regale you with tales of the lofty goals I set for myself that I never attained because all I could see was the strike zone and not the action steps that could get me there. But now, I pull out my growth plan every day and I know what I'm playing for. I know that when my clients pull out their growth plans, they're focused on the actions they can influence, versus a "Strike zone" that may or may not actually bring them any joy once they get there. See, that's the thing about goals. We often set them based on some ideal notion of how much better life will be once we get there. And maybe things will be better. Or maybe you'll change your mind mid-year because something better came along. But you don't know that until you start moving.

So start moving. And start accomplishing more of what really matters to you.

If you need help staying the course (and many people DO), consider joining us in A-Club. I'm looking to add no more than 5 new members this month. Why so few? Because intimacy and honesty are important in A-Club. We get vulnerable, and real. We share what's really important, which takes courage and trust. I take time to get to know every single member so that we can be a rising tide for one another. I take this community seriously and would rather watch it grow organically (and slowly) then cram it full of people who just want to pitch their wares to the other members. That's not how we roll. Once we hit 5 new members, we'll halt new enrollments until next quarter.

That's new this year. What else is new this year? I've added Dreamblazing and The PEACE System to the program. Simply put, all those pieces work together, so it didn't make sense to sell them separately. You create a plan, you implement the plan and prioritize daily actions, and then you check in with the group for support, celebration, and accountability. We've also got co-working times scattered throughout the week. Come and go as you please. What hasn't changed is our monthly training call. This month, I'm bringing in Becky Mollenkamp to talk about using LinkedIn to grow your base of Raving Fans. These training calls are still free to listen live as a way to "try before you buy" A-Club. Only members of A-Club get access to the recordings or the other benefits of the group. Want in to this month's training? Get on my mailing list, and you'll get all the details.

Every Halloween, I take a look back on my life and start making plans for the new year. When I was a practicing pagan, this was my New Year's Eve, and I've just kind of stuck with it. This year, it's especially poignant, because so much has changed in the last 12 months.  My year-end wrap up and theme song for 2018 is coming later, but today's post takes an intimate look at how I get stuff done even when the shit hits the fan.

[Note: Portions of this post have been edited and excerpted from my book, Creative Freedom: How to own your dreams without selling your soul. Pre-ordering is now available. We're slated for a global release on November 30.]

I've been online for more than 20 years. Back in the mid 90s, I built one of the first-ever e-commerce websites. Animated .gifs were a new-fangled thing back then.

This image took something like 3 minutes to load in the 1990s!

I mention this because I've been around the block a time or two. I've watched Internet marketers come and go (and come back again when the money ran out). In that time I've seen a lot of what works and what doesn't. Not everyone has staying power. Not everyone wants to have staying power. Some people want to fly in, collect their cash, and hit the dusty trail.

For me, it's always been about being of service.

As my new book is set to launch, I look back over the past two decades of my business career and I kind of boggle:

  • Three books (one best seller, and another on the way)
  • Three albums (working on number 4)
  • Dozens of unsolicited speaking opportunities (many of them PAID!)
  • Scores of interviews, guest posts, and colleagues who trust, share and recommend my work
  • At least 50 different courses and training programs for various audiences
  • Hundreds of clients, customers, sponsors and patrons
  • Tens of thousands of readers, viewers, and subscribers
  • Hundreds of thousands of views, likes, shares, followers, etc.
  • Millions of dollars made for my clients - probably more, but I don't pry.

That's a large body of work in 20 years. I'm a Fusion Creative, after all, so it makes sense. The kicker is that I'm still relatively unknown. I don't have a publicist, agent, or book deal. I'm not "famous enough" for that. I just show up every day and do the work of serving my right audience. Through trial and error (admittedly, a LOT of error), I've learned what it takes to be productive consistently and stay focused on what's really important to me.

When you're focused, you get a lot more accomplished.

It may seem obvious, but developing the ability to say yes to what really matters and ignoring what doesn't is part art and science. For creative entrepreneurs, it means paying attention to what's driving you and being ruthlessly honest about what you want (and what you don't) - even when other people think you "should" be up to something else, you've got to honor your gut.

I developed the first bits and pieces of this work almost 10 years ago - for myself. I've always been my own guinea pig, in the trenches, testing and experimenting with what works. I kept working on it, honing it, evolving it, and it’s been the constant companion on an otherwise roller coaster life. One of the things people constantly say to me is “I don’t know how you manage to get so much done!”

This is how. There’s no secret here. Plan, do, evaluate. Show up consistently. You want to be a millionaire? There's 5 common sense steps:

  1. Be awesome
  2. Share your awesomeness
  3. Get paid
  4. Keep showing up
  5. Don't be a dick.

There’s no promise of magical happiness and unending delight.

Owning your dreams takes effort, and life won’t stop happening just because you’ve stepped out to pursue the life you most want for yourself.

Six years ago, I was knee deep in writing The Secret Watch, building out the characters, getting their back stories straight so that the whole parable made sense. The year prior, my kid enrolled in a wilderness camp for boys with emotional issues. He was there for 25 months as my whole life started unraveling. Doing the work kept me sane at a time when I could have given up completely.

Five years ago, I was inches away from launching that book into the world. It was a process, but when we launched, it became an Amazon best seller. It was also the year my business started falling apart. I was struggling to keep my business and family together and the bad choices I made with a now defunct "business coach" had started catching up with me.

Four years ago, I got my first (and only, so far) 1-star review and sold over 1000 copies of the book in 2 days. It was also the year I probably should have died in a weird car "incident" that gave me a fresh start on life and led to the 300 Songs project. Doing the work allowed me to spin multiple plates, launch dozens of offers during my transition, and keep myself from going off the deep end of depression. To be clear I didn't want to do it; I had to do it.

Three years ago, The Secret Watch broke the top 5000 books on all of Amazon and became a best seller on 3 continents. I recorded my third album, The Fine Line, which outsold my previous two albums combined. I started slacking on doing this work, and it showed in my lack of income and the stress in my marriage. It was also the year I got clear that I couldn't be the glue holding everything together anymore in my family - and all the stress of trying to be that person crushed me.

Two years ago, I discovered the Creative Freedom Entrepreneur Spectrum and started sharing my discoveries. I outlined the book - several times - and started getting interviewed about this new approach to building a profitable, sustainable business doing what you love. We bought a house. It was also the year I asked for a divorce. Doing the work gave me a focus to dig myself out of that hole and rebuild my life and work.

Last year, I launched the Creative Freedom Incubator. Since then, I've helped some smart, talented creative entrepreneurs make a real difference in their worlds. They've increased their revenue, developed profitable offers, and learned how to be the CEO of their business. They've unpacked fears and grown as human beings in ways I'm not even sure they realized were possible. They've also informed much of what I'm teaching in the new book. It was also the year I left everything behind, packed two suitcases to the gills, hopped a one-way flight to Nashville, and stayed with virtual strangers who held space for me in their hearts and home when I had no place else to go. Doing the work gave me a direction and determination to get out of their home before I wore out my welcome. Again, I didn't want to do the work. I'd much rather have spent those months grieving the loss of my marriage.

I had to do the work because no one else was going to take care of me.

In the 12 months that followed, I traded my MacGyvered cardboard box furniture and air mattress for a real furniture in my space. I just launched this book that I know will continue to impact many creatives and help them make a living wage doing what they love. The Secret Watch even has a real shot at becoming a motion picture! I have GREAT clients, wonderful new friends, colleagues, and connections, and a life I never believed was possible for a poor mixed kid from the ghetto of Flint. All because I did the work of building a growth plan and executing on it day in and day out. Even when I didn't want to.

Am I where I want to be? Hardly, but looking at where I started this year, I'm proud of what I've managed to accomplish. It's been a great year and hard year in a LOT of ways. I cried at some point every day from the time I landed in Nashville for more than four months! The alone-ness isn't easy for me. I miss my kids, my friends, and family. I miss hugs and being close to people. It's challenging for an extrovert to have so much alone time. And yet, I'm clear that this is what I was called to do, so I'm showing up each day and doing it.

No creative entrepreneur is immune to the need to do the work of showing up consistently in their business and bringing their Great Work to the world. And it’s not without its sacrifices. There are hard choices to make on the regular. There are people to whom you must say no so that you can say yes to others. I think it was Marilyn Monroe that said sometimes good things must fall apart so better things can fall together. For creatives, choosing between to equally viable options can be like deciding which limb to cut off - especially if you’re a Fusion creative. But decide, you must, because you can’t put all your resources into everything. The decisions you make today shape your success tomorrow.

Remember: Success is a destination and you are already there.

Social media makes it easy to share only the veneer of life - the pretty, polished moments that make our friends envious, jealous, or otherwise disappointed in their own lives. Sure it's great to share the highs of our lives - the fancy dinners and fun nights out - but it's also important to remember that it's only the highlight reel. There's a LOT more that happens when the cameras aren't rolling. My stove explodes. The dishes sit in the sink. My tires need to be replaced. I don't live on the swanky side of town. I let people down. They let me down. We don't always get it right. We're human.

And still, we love, we live, and we strive. That's really all we can do. As creative entrepreneurs, it’s what we must do. We can’t not do this work for long, or it comes a-knocking. Sharing your Great Work with the world isn’t always easy, but it doesn’t have to be torture, either. My hope is that Creative Freedom gives you the clear path you need to own your dreams without selling your soul.

Here's to another trip around the sun for you and me. I look forward to seeing what's in store for both of us!

Every day, we're tasked with thousands of decisions.

How many? Well, Cornell University researchers said we make about 226 decisions just on FOOD in an average day.

The total number for adults is somewhere in the range of 35,000 decisions a day. Many of them are impulsive, and logic-driven (pro/con, etc.), but that's STILL a lot of remotely conscious decision making each and every day of your adult life.

Kids only make about 3000 decisions a day. Ahhh, those were simpler times, right?

Ten times more decisions and much less time in the day to process them all. What to do?

Here's a decision making tool that I've used for myself and my clients for years now - one that gets immediate results and gives you clarity when you've probably been feeling stuck on something for a while, maybe even overwhelmed at the prospect of having to choose from several equally appealing (or unappealing, as the case may be) options.

I call this my "messy room" technique.

This is just one of the tools you'll be working with in Your Breakout Year - my summer workshop for creative entrepreneurs. This program is designed to help you map out AND implement a clear path to a six-figure annual revenue stream.

  • You begin by closing your eyes and imagining each option on a blank sheet of paper.
  • Now crumple the paper and throw it on the floor. Do this for each of your options.
  • Can you see the messy room? All those options, all that wadded up paper on the floor? Oy. What a mess, right?
  • Well, now it's time to clean up. Which piece do you pick up first? You can't pick them all up at the same time, and you can't just leave them there. You've got to clean up the mess of ideas you've made, so which piece gets picked up first?
  • Take your time. Wait until one piece starts to "call out" to you louder than the others.

THAT piece is the idea/concept/decision that holds the most energy for you, so that's where you need to act first (yes, even if you don't WANT to, which is another thing altogether).

The Brain has different ways of making decisions...

The brain is a funny thing. When we take something out of one modality into another, our brain gets to work on the problem in a different way. By changing the way you assess the situation (from emotional or logical to visual), your brain has a new way of looking at the problem. The old block (which is probably a conflict between emotional and logical) is interrupted and you're able to make a decision so that you can move forward.

Often times, it doesn't matter what you decide, only that you finally make a decision so that you can get momentum again. So even if you "randomly" select a paper ball, you've made a decision and can move forward.

If you're a tactile processor, you might ACTUALLY write each option on a piece of paper and throw them on the floor. But then you've got a lot of cleaning up to do, which is totally NOT my jam. 🙂

Like I said, the messy room technique is is a powerful tool that's quick and easy to use to get clarity now, and get moving again.

Whether you're starting from scratch, been hobbling along at this for a while, or you're ready to expand and add a new revenue stream to your creative business, Your Breakout Year is the exact process I've used with clients - for over a decade now - to help them get clear on what really matters and build out a business model that gets them there faster, with less hustle, and more ease.

Courses and classes alone don't get the job done. You'll just end up with a lot of information and zero implementation. This is an implementation-heavy program because I believe that if you do the work, you'll get results. So doing the work is baked into the program. No "learn now, implement later" in Your Breakout Year. Implement as you learn, decide what works and what doesn't, cut the fluff, and see real financial results in your business.

There are still a few spots left for early bird pricing, and a 4 installment payment option to make it budget friendly.

If you're ready to find your right audience and make good money doing what you love without selling your soul, join me for Your Breakout Year.

This week I had an AMAZING photo shoot that's been several months in the making. I knew when I landed in Nashville, starting over would take up a good portion of my first year here. I also knew that I had projects that still needed to move forward: I've been sitting on Creative Freedom for a while now, and The Damn Whippersnappers have promised to visit this summer for a recording session. So with a new book and new music in the works, of COURSE I needed to get the website redone.

A perfect storm for new pictures!

Only, I didn't know anyone in this town, so I had no idea how long I'd have to wait, how much it would cost, or anything. Luckily, my best friend, Google helped me out. I met Emily, a wardrobe stylist from Effortlesstyle here in Nashville. She came over, looked at my closet and said "let's just start from scratch, okay?"

hee. hee.

While I know how to clean up, I've never been at the bleeding edge of style, and I told her that. My closet is full of black, black, and more black - with a splash of solid color here and there. So I gave her a budget and she went to work. A week or so later, we met for the fitting. There was really only one piece I couldn't bring myself to like. Everything else was wonderful - and a lot of it I wouldn't have picked for myself. Like this floral top. When I first looked at it, all the voices in my head took a swing at me:

"Oh, you're too big to wear white!"

"That floral print is just going to draw all kinds of attention that you don't want."

I swallowed hard when she showed it too me. I knew Emily could sense my reluctance. "Just try it on." she politely insisted.

I did. We found a keeper.

I had just raised my threshold of belief around what was possible for my wardrobe. Emily's a professional that's been doing this for years. Despite that, it was hard to trust her at first because I didn't know her. I didn't believe she could style a plus-sized momma like me.

Luckily, she made it easy to like her, and her ensemble choices were on point, so trust came quickly.

Which was good, because the hair and makeup artist I had originally asked to do the shoot booked herself another appointment and was unable to make our shoot date. It wasn't her fault. I was trying to coordinate all the details myself, and things didn't come together. Frantic, I asked Emily if she had any suggestions.

"Oh, yes!" she said. "I've got my GIRLS!"

Panic turned to relief, but I had no idea how much I'd be paying for TWO people instead of one.

I swallowed hard again, and just trusted the process.

I arrive at Emily's house on the day of the shoot for hair and makeup. Mind you, two total strangers are about to have their way with my head. The ONLY thing keeping me from not showing up is the commitment I made to my photographer, Ashley.

That, and I trusted Emily. She hadn't steered me wrong yet, so I figured she wasn't going to start now.

I knock on the door, walk in, and I'm greeted by two of the sunniest, most enthusiastic women I've ever met. Both hard-working artists, both incredibly talented. Both eager to make magic happen.

Why did I ever doubt Emily?

Within minutes they are both working on me: Angela at the front, Genia at the back. We're chatting, really connecting, and they're making it easy for me to trust them. But...

I don't even know how much time has gone by, I can't see a mirror, and I'm still too nervous to eat any of the snacks Emily's put out for us. I did manage to down a glass of water, because I kept telling myself "it's gonna be hot outside, you don't want to die of heat stroke!"

Still, I think I managed to keep my self-doubt to myself as we talked about building a business doing what you love, something I'm pretty passionate about. My fear was, hopefully, masked by my enthusiasm for profitable creative businesses.

When they finished, I snapped a quick photo of my glam team and off we went to meet Ashley at Cumberland Park. When I got in my car, I had all I could do to keep from crying. I looked GOOD! Like, I almost didn't recognize myself. I had a vision of what I wanted for the shoot, and even hired Duane "The Hair Fairy" Edlao to cut my hair before I met these ladies to make sure that it would do what we wanted it to do. But to see it actually come to life?


We headed off toward Nissan Stadium to meet Ashley for the shoot. This is the first time we've met in person, and she looks happy, so I'm feeling more relaxed at this point. She's got some ideas about how to get in all the wardrobe changes and make the most of our time together.

The first few pictures felt awkward to me - because my inner critic was having her way.

"Who do you think you are? You're no super model." 

There was a couple sitting at a picnic table across the way. They both stopped and looked up as my entourage pulled up with all our gear. I joked about being famous, but inside I was a self-conscious mess.

Despite these women all being super talented professionals, my inner critic was having her way with me. I told Ashley to "just shoot everything" because I knew that candid moments would probably end up making the most "natural" shots, plus we'd get some behind-the-scenes shots, too, which would be great for me to share with my clients in A-club. In truth, I was just hoping that, if she shot everything, there might be something that I could use.

Good thing Emily was listening, because she took some great candids, too. Like the shot of Angela, above, touching up my face, or this one, which is quickly becoming one of my favorites.

When I saw the first photo, I knew I was in good hands and I could relax. That's when we had REAL fun!

We joked, got silly, and just enjoyed being together - creatives whose only agenda was to create. Make magic happen. That was all we had to do, and when we could really let loose and trust each other, poof! The magic was there naturally.

The rest of the hour-long shoot went by fast, and it really felt like we were a team - working together to tell a compelling visual story. I look forward to seeing the proofs that Ashley took. Here's a sneak peek from the back of Ashley's camera...

This photo shoot was a massive investment in the future of my company, and it would be easy to just stop there...

...But that would be the least important part of the story.

MOST importantly, this was an investment in ME.

As the pictures started appearing, people on Facebook started asking me what the shoot was for. It was easy to say "new book, new album, new website," but that wasn't entirely true. It was also a "new me" of sorts.

In the past, I would have tried to DIY as much as possible and keep everything on the cheap - not to be efficient or save money (though those are the excuses I would have used), but because of my own self-worth.

I put at least ten times the money into this shoot than any other shoot I've ever done. I'm not saying that to brag. I still feel strange about it, to be honest. I tell you this because there was a time in my life where I didn't believe I was WORTHY of investing "that kind of money" in me or my dreams.

Some days, I still struggle with my worthiness.

My early photo shoots were courtesy of my kid, or good friends who were skilled with a camera. I actually hired a photographer and hair/makeup artist for my last shoot because I wanted to get some specific shots for the album. I was leery then about spending "that kind of money" on a project that had no guarantee of completion, let alone success. But I was so happy with the results that I used those pictures all over the interwebs for a couple of years.

This time, I had a team of three incredible women who had my back the entire time (four, counting my photographer!). They probably had no idea of the "who do you think you are?" trash talk my inner critic was laying on me. At least, I hope they didn't. I am thrilled that they made it SO easy for me to just be ME in front of the camera.

But what's that got to do with pricing? Plenty.

The next day, I was talking with one of my coaches about my book, online course, and live event all built around the foundation of Creative Freedom. One of the last things she said to me was about the pricing for my upcoming event. I've been in a holding pattern for WEEEEEEKS because I haven't been able to decide how to price it or how and when to offer the online version. I told her I feel confident that I could easily charge twice the price because I believe it'll bring a solid 5-10x return on investment, but I was keeping the intro rate low because I wanted to fill the program (totally an ego thing, by the way).

When she looked at my pricing and asked about my motivations, she reminded me that sometimes, when we offer discounts and low-ball our pricing, it doesn't actually empower our clients, because we're modeling a behavior that comes from a place of scarcity instead of abundance. She then asked me "what if, by lowering your prices, you're denying your clients from having the same experience you just had at your photo shoot?"

Eyes Opened.

If you've got a healthy relationship with money, this probably doesn't apply to you, but if you struggle with naming a price that feels right to you because your inner critic is asking "who will pay that?" - this could be helpful.

The answer to the "who will pay that?" question isn't found in the circle of people you've been begging to buy from you. The answer is found in the faces of the people who light up when you enter the room and say "where have you been all my life!?!?"

Sadly, most of us build our careers around the former and not the latter.

This is one of the reasons I encourage my clients to develop a $25,000 offer... not because anyone will ever buy it (though it does happen), but because it gets you thinking differently, so that when you offer something for $2k or $5k, you'll feel more confident around the real value you bring to your work.

What could happen (for you and your potential clients) if you just created and asked for the price you want without all the baggage attached?

Because it doesn't matter what price you pick, there will always be someone that can't or won't pay it. But there are also probably a few people who will.

Owning your dreams, without selling your soul. Finding yourself and building a life and business that works for who you really are and what really matters to you. Making good money doing what you LOVE (and all the ladies from my shoot love what they do). THAT is what Creative Freedom is about, and I can't wait to share more of this new evolution with you.

Oh, and tickets for the virtual workshop and online event will be on sale soon. If you're not already on my list, get there to be one of the first to know about it!

"You can't win if you don't play."

Mom used this sentence to justify a lot of behavior when I was a kid: learning to ride a bike, auditioning for plays, joining the cross country team (I took 11th place in the city meet). And yes, mom played the lottery. She had a winning streak where, with a little help from technology and lottery dream books, she won several days each week for a few weeks. Naturally, those words rang through my head every time I was faced with a risk-reward decision.

Until this week.

I won the lottery, and I didn't buy a ticket.


If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you may have already heard about how I found this lottery ticket on the ground while I was on a field trip with my kid. I thought it was trash (LITTERBUGS! ARGH!), so I picked it up to throw away when we got to the car.

But when I saw it was a lottery ticket, I figured I'd check the numbers when I got home, just in case.

I won the BIG money, honey! TWO WHOLE DOLLARS! WOO HOO!!

But here's the rest of the story...

Every morning, I sit down to do The PEACE System (a process I created to help clear my head and prioritize my day). Because field trips can be stressful - particularly with a special needs kid - I made a point of setting the intention to look for miracles.

Frankly, a well-behaved child would have qualified as a miracle in my book. I certainly wasn't expecting free money to fall at my feet. But hey, I'll take it!

I asked for (and was looking for) a miracle, and I got it. And the kid behaved, too!

You've probably heard stories about people who say "I won the lottery and it changed my life." Never did I think I'd be one of those people, since I don't play the lottery.

But winning those two bucks most certainly changed my life. If you want to test out your luck as well, you can go to sites like 바카라 사이트, for example.

Mom was wrong (and right)

"You can't play if you don't win" is a double-edged sword. In a way, I did "play" because I picked up the ticket and cashed it in. But in a way I didn't play, because I didn't actually buy the ticket. It wasn't even given to me (in the traditional sense). And the person that dropped the ticket probably thought it was a "loser" because they played $10 and "only" won $2. They lost money on the deal.

But from my perspective, I was $2 richer!

The last 18 months have been arduous and hard for me on a lot of fronts. At some point, I probably faced down some depression, though I was never clinically diagnosed. I've done a LOT of questioning my worth, my value, and why I'm really on this planet in the first place.

Two dollars won't even buy me a soda at my local restaurant, let alone pay my rent, but it was a sign. A clear sign that miracles are there if we are looking for them. I know that sounds kind of mystical and metaphysical, but it's true. I found that money because I was looking for it.

Well, I was looking for a miracle, and I chose to see this "win" as a miracle.

You can't earn miracles.

You have to have your eyes open and show up.

You have to be willing to go for what matters to you - even if it seems unreasonable. Even if it seems impossible. If it's in your heart to have it, you have to be courageous enough to show up for it. And keep showing up consistently.

In that respect, Mom was right: you can't win if you don't play.

But she was also wrong. I won without playing "the game" (by society's rules, at least). That little lottery ticket opened a Pandora's box of questions about the "teaching" that's been passed down through my family for generations. The "lessons" and "stories" that, in a previous era, had to be true for survival no longer serve the person I'm becoming in this era of creative entrepreneurship.

In the past, if you didn't "play by the rules", you wouldn't be taken seriously, and you probably wouldn't even get a foot in the door, let alone win. There were gatekeepers, expectations, and unwritten "rules" that were foisted on you by your industry, society and "the world". These rules were designed to keep certain people out, and to protect the survival of others. You had to play their way, or you simply couldn't play.

Now, you have a lot more latitude to define success on your own terms and not just survive, but thrive. You can create your own career, doing what you love, and make good money doing it - without selling your soul. That's the entire premise of how I help my clients!

Those old stories that once served to protect, inspire, and motivate me, had been holding me back from the life and career I was meant to have. I couldn't see that until I won the lottery.

What thoughts, beliefs, and stories do you hold as true, that might actually be limiting your success without you even realizing it? Untangling those beliefs and thought patterns can be tough, but the rewards far outweigh the risks.

Waiting for miracles? Your results may vary...

But here's the other thing that rattled my brain. I won $2. Winning anything was contingent upon someone else. Somebody else played the game, bought the ticket, left it on the ground. At least three other people walked right past the ticket before I picked it up. In short, I had no control over the outcome. All I could do was be in the right place at the time of the miracle.

Miracles are awesome, and they can feel magical. But they are, in many ways, unpredictable - even if you're looking for them. You don't know when they'll arrive, or in what form, and sometimes it's hard to know if it even is a miracle until well after the fact. Sometimes the worst thing that ever happened to you is actually a blessing in disguise... a miracle you won't see until years later.

In life, we can wait for others to open doors for us, or we can make a plan and get sh*t done. (Tweet This)

Waiting around for miracles is the snail's path to success. Can it happen? Sure! I just won the lottery, for crying out loud! But, I only won $2, because that's all the ticket was worth. Someone else got to dictate the terms of my success. I could only win what they played and paid for.

I don't want someone else to dictate how successful I can be. I don't want someone else to have that much influence over my success journey. I mean, I won't turn away blessings when they show up - even the $2 variety - and I'm not going out of my way to play the lottery, either.

I know I can't control everything - and some might say that control, like safety, is an illusion. But if I set an intention and follow it with consistent action, I'm going to move the ball further down the field more often than the guy standing around, waiting for a winning lottery ticket to fall at his feet.

Will there be setbacks? Most likely. As we all know, the so-called "overnight success" stories usually involve a lot more preparation and hardship than we realize. As Thomas Edison famously said, "opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."

I'm no stranger to hard work, although I'd like to be. 🙂

There were other gems of discovery that I'm still unpacking, and I'm sure you could tease out a few lessons of your own from this story, but ultimately, while I welcome all the miracles and blessings coming my way, I'm not going to sit on the sidelines and wait for them. I'm going to keep showing up, sharing my Great Work, and defining success on my terms. Not my mom's terms, or the terms of my ancestors, or even the terms of my fans and clients.

My game is the only game that matters for me. It's a game I'm happy to play, and one I can't lose, because I make the rules.

[Note: This is an excerpt from my forthcoming book, Creative Freedom. If you'd like to be part of the advance team and get more sneak peeks of the book, contact me for more info.]

There's a quote often attributed to John Lennon:
"Everything will be okay in the end. If it's not okay, it's not the end."

Dreams are kind of like that. It sounds trite, I know, but the reality is that if something really matters to you, there are really only two things that will prevent you from pursuing it in some way:

1. Death (in which case, you're no longer dreaming).
2. Something else that matters more (in which case, it's no longer your dream).

Death is fairly self-explanatory, so we'll leave that here and explore option two.

What matters more than your dream?

When I was a kid, I fancied myself as the next Madonna or Paula Abdul. I was a pretty good singer, and I spent countless hours practicing dance routines for the world tour I imagined I would lead once I became a rock star. I studied music at college, got a degree, and even moved west in pursuit of that dream.

Then life happened: single motherhood, relocation, marriage, second kid, etc.

For years, while my dreams of professional achievement languished, I put my focus, energy, and money into being a wife and mom. That was my priority. I made it so. I chose that life over pursuing my dream.

There are all kinds of "reasons" I could give as to why I made that choice. Here are a few:

  • I want to be a good mom... or at least be seen as a good mom. And good moms don't abandon their family to pursue their dreams.
  • I have a "sure thing" here. It's better to be safe than sorry. Who knows if I could really be successful anyway?
  • I made my bed, now it's time to lie in it. I need to honor this commitment no matter what.

Ultimately, I let guilt, shame, and fear dictate my priorities. Choosing to be seen in a certain light (by my family, friends, and children) were more important to me than pursuing my dreams.

So I didn't.

bigdreamsboxFor more than a decade, my dreams sat in a metaphorical box on a shelf in the attic of my soul. I didn't touch my musical instruments (I owned seven). I didn't even play the radio much. Music was all but absent in my life, with one exception: community theater.

I was somewhat of a fixture at the local theater. Ted, the Artistic Director, knew I was talented and a hard worker, so I was practically guaranteed a role every season. Usually not the lead, but something that allowed me to be in the spotlight, share my gifts, and get me out of the house a few nights a week during the run of the show.

That was my "fix" and, for a while, it worked. I was happy to contribute and be part of something that gave me a small glimpse into the life I wasn't ambitious enough to pursue because of other "reasons".

It was enough. Until it wasn't.

A friend and I had approached Ted about doing a holiday musical revue. He loved the idea. As we began rehearsals, Ted told me that ours would be the last show produced at the theater. After 15 years, he was closing his doors.

At first, it didn't register how much I depended on Ted and this rag-tag bunch of musical misfits. We all had "other lives" that kept us busy - teachers, lawyers, service workers, college students - but on Ted's stage we were all equals. We were all craftsmen.

We were family - and Ted was breaking up the band, so to speak.

I didn't realize, until recently, how important that creative outlet was for me. It was my primary source of adult conversation and a safe space to practice my art. It was also a happy-medium for a married mom of two with responsibilities and "reasons" that kept me from pursuing my dream.

And then it was gone.

I briefly toyed with the notion of taking over the theater, but my life and financial situation at the time just couldn't swing it. That's when everything in my life started to unravel. My kid ran away and ended up in jail, we filed bankruptcy, I lost my car, my home, and I hit the skids - quite literally.

I was driving my husband's car on the freeway. As I started to change lanes, it spun out of control. I threw my hands into the air as the car swished and fishtailed across three lanes, landing in the ditch, facing oncoming traffic. I looked up just in time to feel the rush of wind as an 18-wheeler sped past.

Somehow, I was still alive. Unscathed. Awake. The car had stalled out, but was otherwise fine. A Freudian moment.

I reasoned with myself that I should probably be dead. The only reason I survived was because, as Lennon put it, it's not the end.

So why I was still alive? What was this wake-up call all about?

Darth Vader told me to record 300 songs.

God talks to me in the voice of James Earl Jones - very deep, precise, and clear. Each morning for a few weeks, I posed the "why am I still alive?" question during my sacred practice. One day the notion to spend a year working on a new album crossed my mind. That thought led to doing 100 songs - just 2 songs a week. That's when Darth Vader boomed in.

"300 songs!"

I've learned not to argue when my inner Darth starts talking. So I started on the journey that has now become my 300 songs project.

Jim Rohn famously said "Become a millionaire not for the million dollars, but for what it will make of you to achieve it." About 100 songs into the project, it became clear that it was less about the number of songs, and more about who I was becoming in the process of making them.

Dreams vs. Fantasies

I was unpacking my dusty box of dreams, recalling the value of these old treasures - some of which still had meaning for me, others from which I was finally ready to move on. I pulled out those old songs, those dance routines, and I had to decide what my dream really was.

See, your dream is relentless. It persists even when you don't want it to. You almost can't let it go because it keeps coming back to haunt you. Fantasies, on the other hand, are something that you can plow a lot of time, energy, and money into, but at the end of the day, you feel a relief to let it go.

Dancing was like that for me. I still love to dance, but I'm almost 100 pounds heavier than I was when I dreamed of being the next Paula Abdul. While I'm working on getting into better shape, the thought of re-conditioning my body to the level of a professional dancer feels like a punishment worse than death!

When I gave up on the dream of becoming a dancer, I felt unimaginable relief. Can I still dance? SURE, but on my terms - without the pressure of maintaining a dancer's body.

Becoming the next Paula Abdul or Madonna was my fantasy, entertaining and inspiring people is my dream

In fact, I can't imagine my life without a spotlight and inspiration in some way, but if I could never dance again, I don't think I'd cry too much about it. As a kid, I believed that's what I should do, if I wanted to be famous. I should learn to sing, act, dance, and play an instrument - and be good at all of them. That way, I've got a much better chance at "stardom".

But as I unpack this box of dreams as an adult, it isn't about the "shoulds" of the world around me. I'm older now, and while I still care what people think of me, it matters far less than it did a decade ago when my roles defined me.

That's not who I am anymore.

Those priorities don't matter like they used to. I stopped defining myself by what I couldn't have and began to shift my focus to what I really wanted - what truly mattered to me.

And that's the point. When something else - even fear - matters more than honoring the Divine call of your dream, you'll try to ignore it. But if it really matters to you, it will not remain silent. It will fight to be heard. It will wake you from your anesthetized way of living. It will violently shake you - with the force of an 18-wheeler - until you make a choice.

Then you will find a way to pursue it - in stolen moments while the kids are at school, or while waiting on hold with the power company. You'll get up early, stay up late, and make any excuse you can to take even the smallest step toward realizing your dream.

Or you will choose to let it go. No longer a priority. No longer the dream it once was. In which case, it's not your dream anymore, so it no longer needs pursuing.

Mourning the loss of a dream, or letting it go joyfully (your choice) is not uncommon. Kids do it every day, with much less drama and heartache. They find something new that captures their imagination, and they pursue it until it's not worth pursuing anymore. Everything they pick up and put down acts like a filter, helping them draw closer and closer to what it is that really matters to them.

For me, dance and drama led me to refine my skills as a storyteller, a performer, and to be more comfortable in my skin - critical skills that make me a better musician, author, and coach. For a time, I thought dancing was part of my dream. Dancing wasn't my dream, but it pointed the way.

Will your dreams always manifest the way you envisioned? Not likely. But that won't deter you if it's really your dream. Many are the stories of elderly men and women who found success with their dreams much later in life. Who cares how long it takes? The pursuit is part of the work of building the dream in the first place.

And should there come a time when other choices, other goals, other priorities truly do matter more than your dusty old dream, then pack it away for a time, pass it on, or simply let it go.

In the end, whatever you choose will be okay. And if it's not okay...



Feeling stuck and unsure of your direction? I am honored to be co-hosting a webinar on May 12 with Tajci Cameron that might help. Tajci's a former Croatian pop star who left it all to try her hand at the American Dream, only to get stuck herself. Join us as we explore the steps she took to awaken to joy and purpose in her life and break the cycle of pain and fear that was holding her back. Click here to meet Tajci and register for this special event!

Catch the previous posts here: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4

Welcome to Day 5 of the Creative Freedom Challenge!

Today's topic is dangerous, and muy importante. As a coach and trainer myself, it's a bit sacrilegious for me to suggest that spending mucho dinero on some guru's "blueprint" or training program is a bad idea. I mean, I offer my own programs and services to help creative entrepreneurs build profitable businesses, so why would I put my own business in jeopardy by saying something like this?

For one, I make a point of telling my clients that no one approach will work for everyone, and that my programs are built on frameworks - customizeable elements that you can modify based on who you are and what really matters to you.

For another, not everyone needs a coach, a program, or a blueprint. Period. Sometimes you're already on the right path, you just need more time to get where you're headed. Confucius said "it does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop."

Blueprints have their place. But they're not the be-all, end all of your business building efforts.

Around 1920 in my hometown, General Motors established a house-building division to provide housing for all the new factory workers coming to live and work there. The Modern Housing Corporation built homes across industrial America using a handful of designs. In my old neighborhood, there were just three different house plans on my street - but every house was as unique as the owner that lived in it.

Blueprints are a starting point.

This is where architects begin. But they can only take you so far. And it completely lacks in any personality until you put your fingerprint on the design. Sure, you'll know exactly how to build a house that has a certain structure, but then what? The blueprint doesn't tell you anything about the neighborhood the house is being built in, the furniture or paint that will decorate it, or the people that will live in it once it's complete.

If you've ever lived in a house that just didn't work for you, you understand this problem intimately!

If you're further along than "just starting out", you probably don't need a blueprint. What's more, in business, more often than not, a blueprint only helps with a skill set - it shows you a particular way to do something related to building your business... like how to do a webinar, how to build a mailing list, or how to grow an audience.

All those things are great, but you need to also understand how they work together in YOUR unique situation. Depending on the Great Work that you do, you'll need a strategy to implement several tactics. Should you send a weekly email, or will you need to use video? Do you need a large audience, or do you prefer something more intimate? What about social media? And joint ventures, and blogging, and.... get the picture.

Take what you need, dump the rest.

In my decades in the online world (I built one of the first e-commerce websites back in the 1990's!), I've learned how to do LOTS and LOTS of things. I've learned and used LOTS of different tactics, strategies, platforms, and tools to support and grow my businesses. But deciding which ones to use (and how much, and when) are like the interior design of a home. I had to figure out what worked for me.

You'll have to do the same for yourself.

Yes. I said HAVE to. If you want to stop being a best-kept secret (or worse, a commodity), you need to "decorate" with your own flair. You need to find what works for who you are, who you serve, and how you want to show up in the world.

But that doesn't have to be as hard as it sounds.

Inventory Your Tools & Skills

Think about all the tools & skills you need to to your Great Work and bring it to the world. Start building a list and make special note of the ones that you enjoy.

Bookkeeping, design, email marketing, webinars, craft shows... whatever it is, just start building a list. Me? I love performing, but I don't always like rehearsing. Both are important to bring my Great Work into the world, but performing gets a special "hell yeah" from me.

It could be you like working in-person vs. online, mid afternoon vs. evenings, or that you couldn't live without your email list or bridge line. Maybe you like twitter over facebook, bookkeeping over customer service, or the phone over Skype. Maybe you really haven't figured out what makes your heart sing, but you have an inkling that some things are working better for you than others.

You might have also tapped into some less tangible resources. One of the first students in the Creative Freedom Apprenticeship listed "positivity" as one of her resources. You might find that you can't live without positive people, or a sense of freedom. These less tangible resources are just as important as your physical tools of the trade - sometimes more so.

The point of this list is to give you more clarity (Yay! Clarity!). This is the short list of what works for who you are and what you're up to right now. And yes, that list is bound to change over time because YOU change over time. Don't get married to it, and don't start making sweeping changes because of it. For now, the awareness is enough.

But what about the tools and resources that aren't a good fit?

Here's where I want you to start thinking beyond yourself.

Teamwork is sexy.

It's also incredibly smart and a great way to encourage greatness in others. Don't believe me?

POP QUIZ: Without Googling, can you tell me the name of Leonardo da Vinci's teacher?

Most people, if they're not travelling in art circles, can't tell you a thing about Verrocchio. If they do know him, he's most often referred to as "da Vinci's teacher"

It's like when the teachers at my son's elementary school knew me as "Forest's mom." For them, my identity didn't exist beyond their knowledge of my kid. It didn't matter that I was a musician with multiple albums to my credit, or that I've helped clients double or triple their income, launch best-selling books, and create entirely new revenue streams for their businesses (plus reduce the amount of time they need to spend managing things).

Nope. I was just "Forest's mom" to them.

Just because you're good at it doesn't mean you should be doing it.

Create a

Verrocchio was a master in his own right: sculptor, painter, goldsmith. People paid hefty sums to have their children study with him.

Verrocchio's method was simple: he'd start a project and leave it to his apprentice to finish it up. In that way, the apprentice learned how to paint, sculpt, or smith exactly the way Verrocchio did.

With so many Verrocchio clones out there, competition would drive prices down. So rather than compete on price, Verrocchio kept his students employed in his own studios. Verrocchio's students were able to make a decent living by replicating Verrocchio's style. Essentially, his students became his clones... for a fraction of Verrocchio's rate.

Verrocchio made a great living teaching and paying other artists to paint, sculpt, and smith the same way he did. He was able to leverage his time and money well enough to have multiple studios in Europe.

There's nothing wrong with following a blueprint. Blueprints can be very important. They do what they're designed to do, that's why people use them. Verrocchio's "blueprint" was a model for making a living creating art other people would pay for. It worked, which is why so many people paid him to teach his craft to their children. All they had to do was follow "the master's blueprint" and they were practically guaranteed a job in Verrocchio's studio for life.

But then came da Vinci.

This dude could not be contained! Sure, he learned the Verrocchio "blueprint", but he didn't limit himself to being just a painter or a sculptor.He learned the principles behind Verrocchio's teaching, then applied them in his own way. His unique gift was in seeing the world through fresh eyes.

daVinci's sketch books are filled with drawings and concepts that would have made Verrocchio roll over in his grave. "A flying machine? Che Idiota!"

da Vinci's ideas didn't fit the blueprint, but they represented who da Vinci wanted to be in the world.
So Leonardo da Vinci broke out of Verrocchio's mold and forged his own path outside the studio.

There's a time and a place for a blueprint. But at some point, the student becomes the master and must forge their own path. Just as you need to become the master of your own work, there are "students" of your Great Work, too. You might call them fans or clients, but they're all wanting to experience what you have to offer.

You don't have to do it all on your own, either. Verrocchio had plenty of apprentices in his studios. But you don't have to "clone" yourself to get great help.

Which is where Edison comes in.

Edison: Collaborator and Creative Entrepreneur

Another great inventor, Edison spent every waking minute working on his projects. He was passionate and deeply committed. His wife would sometimes give him a hard time about sleeping at the laboratory. But if he hadn't put in all those hours (and nearly 1000 failed attempts to sustain electric light), we might not have many of the technological advances we take for granted today.

Film, music, and even the Internet owe much to Mr. Edison.

Yet, even with all the hours Thomas Edison put into his Great Work, he knew he couldn't do it all himself.

In fact, many of his greatest inventions were possible because of the team of scientists and inventors that worked with him.

Collaboration and Creation

This is the core of creative entrepreneurship. When you're able to trust your team to co-create and collaborate with you, you get more than just Verrocchio's brand of "discounted copies". You get lasting relationships, you make progress faster, and you can leverage your time in meaningful ways.

Edison didn't just leave his Great Work to his cloned minions. He leveraged his time by bringing in smart, savvy people (like Tesla) so that he could do the things that only Edison could. Edison understood the value of a team, but unlike Verrocchio, he also understood that when great minds come together, a greater mind is created. There's power in collaboration - when you bring together brilliant minds to handle and even improve upon the work you're doing. He didn't always agree with those minds (which is why Tesla left), but he created space for collaboration.

Edison had a vision to illuminate the entire Eastern seaboard and eventually the entire country.

Remember the Artisan trap? If Edison didn't have a team, he'd have spent all his time making and installing lightbulbs instead of focusing on how to market and sell his vision of electricity in every home across the country. In fact, if he had stayed the course, we'd be running on DC power, instead of the more efficient AC power developed by one Tesla. Because Edison was willing to let his collaborators explore other ideas, Tesla eventually left Edison, and took his AC ideas where they had a better chance of implementation.

A rising tide lifts all ships

While Edison is credited on 1093 patents in his lifetime, it didn't happen without the collaborative team working in his lab in Menlo Park. Edison fostered an environment of creative collaboration.

For some creative entrepreneurs, that sounds scary. "What if someone steals my ideas?" Yeah. It happens, but not nearly as often as you think.

Look, you can't play all the instruments in the band. You need to be willing to ask for and accept help appropriately. Sure, your piano player might move on to a new group, but without his help now, your band won't be playing anywhere.

Be willing to ask for (and accept) help in bringing your Great Work to your right audience. As the African proverb says "If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together." It's worth noting that sometimes, when you work together, you can go farther faster.

Today's Assignment

  1. Make a list of all the tools and skills you use in your Great Work. Don't worry about it being complete - there's ALWAYS something new to learn in life and business. Just do the best you can. Put a star next to the ones that you really like using. Yay! More clarity for you!
  2. Examine the list of tools that isn't working for you (for me, that's bookkeeping and running reports, ugh!). Add to it the list of stuff you need to handle so you can do more of your Great Work.Hooray! More clarity!
  3. Consider if there might be ONE thing you can ask for help with - even if it's only a one-time ask.
  4. Make the ask.
  5. Whether the answer was yes or no, celebrate that you made the ask in the first place. PROGRESS!

If you're ready to jump into the Creative Freedom Apprenticeship, click here to learn more and get registered. Our next session begins soon!

Welcome to Day Four of the Creative Freedom Challenge. Here are links to Day One, Day Two, and Day Three so you can stay on track.

Today, I'm sharing an example of heart-centered marketing in action using what I call the "show & tell technique" It's a great way to bake the marketing right into your offering, and what better business to demonstrate this than a donut shop?

But I'm getting ahead of myself. First, let's talk baseball... sort of.

If you build it, they might come, but...

The movie "Field of Dreams" has been both an inspiration and a thorn in the side of creative entrepreneurs since its release in 1989. It's fun to fantasize about the throngs of people that will come to take part in and appreciate your Great Work in the world.

But what most people miss is the effort Ray Kinsella had to undertake before he ever made a dime with his ball field. In fact, he didn't even PLAN to earn a living from the field. He just kept hearing this voice telling him "if you build it, he will come."

(Notice, that little voice was only talking about one person? That's important to note.)

When many creative entrepreneurs first start out, they don't intend to make a living doing what they love, so this part of Ray's story is all too familiar for most of us.

Ray's neighbors in Iowa thought he was crazy when he started mowing down his corn, stringing lights, and building bleachers. MONTHS went by before Shoeless Joe appeared in the field (the first ghostly ball player from beyond the corn).  It took even more time before enough players came to field a full team. By that time, Ray and his family were on the brink of losing everything. It's not until Ray's friend and daughter tell him that he could sell tickets and "people will come" that Ray understands what he's created.

Is it a business or an expensive hobby?

This is the third issue I see so many creative, out-of-the-box entrepreneurs face in doing what they love and getting paid for it... they forget about the fact that it has to make a profit or it's not a business.

There's nothing wrong with plowing your cornfield under to build a ball field, just for the sake of having a ball field. But if you don't want to lose your farm, you need to find a way to make a living from it.  And I don't mean squeaking by. I mean a profitable, sustainable living - without selling your soul.

You've got to let people know what you're up to. You have to be willing to put in the effort (and use heart-centered marketing to tell people about it), in order to see real, lasting results. Sure, there are folks that will think you're a little crazy - they said that about Lady Gaga, Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, and a host of other out-of-the-box entrepreneurs, too! But if you're doing your part to let people know about what you've built, the right people will find you.

And they're going to LOVE you.

But what do you say? How do you tell people about your Great Work?

Smart, authentic selling isn't about pushing anyone or being slimy. Authentic selling is part of heart-centered marketing. It's the part of the conversation where you share your story about your offering with the people who most need or want what you have to offer.

The 'Show and Tell' Technique

You don't always have to tell the story. Sometimes, you can show it. Remember show and tell time at school as a child? I was always bummed when I forgot to bring my thing to show. Telling is fine, and I'm a pretty good talker, but when you can show - when people can experience your Great Work in a context that amplifies the meaning - it's a lot easier for people to say yes.

When I used to make and sell candles, we would regularly do craft shows where we weren't the only candle maker at the event. Sometimes, we had to compete with corporate competitors, too. Our display stood out because we used our vertical space to elevate the fragrances and make our little booth look more like a shop than a table of crafts. People could see us from across the room. We used twinkle lights to create motion and catch the eye. In short, we did everything we could to show our product in the best possible light (no pun intended).

It doesn't matter what your Great Work is. The more you can show (create an experience) the easier it is to sell.

Cops and... doughnuts?


A couple hours from where I live is a place called Cops and Doughnuts. When the Clare City Bakery was about to go belly up, a group of local cops bought it and transformed the little bakery into a mouthpiece for the community. The entire shop has a law enforcement theme (here's my "mug shot" from one of my multiple visits to the shop). The staff dress like convicts, the bathrooms look like jail cells (it's a poster they hang on the doors), and the cops wear their police uniforms. They've been written up in national publications and people come from all over the world to visit their little bakery and try one (or more) of their tasty pastries. It's quite an experience!

When you walk in, there's a huge display case with all kinds of interesting treats (including a cream-filled maple bar that's topped with bacon - no kidding!). The cops will interact with you, ask you questions, and make you feel welcome. They might even take a video of you singing and post it on their social media channels. They'll tell you about their different doughnuts and help you decide which flavor is right for you.

It's so much fun, and you never feel pressured to buy anything. Just helpful, engaging conversation about buying (and selling) coffee and doughnuts at the Clare City Bakery.

Show and tell at its finest.

What would happen if the employees dressed like every other doughnut shop employee? Or what if the cops put a curtain in front of the display case? How would you know what they've got to offer? Sure, the sign says "doughnuts" but most people want to know what options they have before they buy. I don't know many folks who walk in and say "Gimme a dozen doughnuts. Surprise me."

Smart, authentic selling shares the real you (warts, sparkles, and all) and removes the curtain from your display case so your potential buyer knows what you offer and how it can help (or delight) them. 

It's not always about "solving a pain" - although I suppose if you're REALLY craving bacon you might make a case for that maple bar. As a musician, my music can inspire people and create delight. Some of my most viewed YouTube videos are my musical mashups - fun, funny parodies of popular music. It's not solving a pain, but it's definitely serving a delight.

What kind of experience are you creating?

Kind of like the doughnut shop - or "Field of Dreams" - it's up to you to educate people about how you serve them - about the experience you provide for them. Whether you're solving a pain or bringing them joy, be honest, authentic, and REAL with them by sharing the stories of your products and your company.

The best way to build a profitable, sustainable business doing what you love is to be yourself. Use YOUR words, tell your stories, and share your vision for what you're creating.

When you do it (and keep doing it, via heart-centered marketing), the right people will come.

Today's Assignment

Today, spend a little time thinking about your stories. What made you decide to start doing this thing that you love so much? How does it help (or delight) people? What kind of people does it help (or delight)? What stories do you have from your current customers that put your company or offering in a positive light?

Start thinking about what words you would use to tell these stories. Write them down and start practicing them. These stories are the threads that become the beautiful tapestry of your business. Stories sell. The better you get at telling (and showing) your stories, the more of your right people you'll attract.

Hello dear one!

I have never been a big comic book fan. When I was a kid, I wanted to read "real" books. "serious" books. So comics were not part of the equation. Plus, I have an addictive personality, so that would be one more thing on which to spend money I didn't have.

So this whole resurgence of comic book films has been fun for me - to explore the heroic stories of these legendary heroes (many of which I wasn't remotely familiar with before the films). I'm one of those people comic book purists probably hate: I didn't read the books before I watched the movies.

Oh well.

Before this resurgence, the closest I could identify to a superhero was Wonder Woman - you know, the Lynda Carter version (again, never read the books, y'all!). She was something for my pre-teen, 80's self to look up to. But as an adult, I felt more drawn to action heroes like MacGyver, Jason Bourne, and the like.

Then came Captain America.

I admit, if it hadn't starred Chris Evans, I probably wouldn't have thought twice, but he seems like one of those really nice guys in Hollywood, so I went to check it out.

It just gave me another reason to love Evans. It also gave me a new hero.

One that reminded me of you.

In the movie, Steve starts out as this gangly little weakling of a kid (oh, and did I mention, he's an artist, too?). Through the miracle of "modern" science, he becomes Captain America.

But the core of Steve - that which made Captain America - was there from the beginning.

This is what I see when I look at you.

I was working on Pinterest lately, crafting a branding board for a client project, and came across a pin of this painting:

Captain America 1 by crymeouts on deviant art
"Captain America 1" by Crymeouts on DeviantArt

Here's little Steve, with all his heart, hustle, and commitment to the cause - regardless of his size or stature. He knows the person he's capable of becoming, even if the rest of the world doesn't see it yet.

Then, there's Captain America. He TOWERS over little Steve, yet, he's the same guy. The same heart. The same hustle. The same commitment to his cause, his beliefs, and what really matters in his world.

They are the same, even if the world doesn't always see it that way.

But that is how I see you.

I see you when you show up in your "small" self, just wanting to bust out. Ready to jump on your metaphorical "grenade" to save the lives of the people that matter most to you. I see you striving to be as big and strong as you know how to be. I see your "Captain America-ness" trying to burst out of you.

I see your potential - in all the various ways it can manifest: strong leader, successful business owner, deeply spiritual human, loving spouse and parent. I see your struggle for balance, your desire to win - but win something with meaning. To have a meaningful life, a beautiful living doing what you love in ways that inspire the world.

THAT is how I see you.

You don't need some crazy serum concocted by a mad scientist to get to where you want to be. That's just the window dressing that makes it easier for the world to appreciate who you already are. Steve was Captain America all along. The world just didn't know it yet.

I know what's inside you

I've seen it. I see it every day. I've lived it. I've had to look my own potential in the eye every day. Sometimes I see Steve. Other days, I'm clearly my own Captain America.

But it's all there, all the time. I know it, because I've lived it.

And I see it so clearly in you.

Thank you for letting me glimpse your awesomeness. Thank you for letting me shine a light so that the world can see your Captain. You have SO much to offer the world - even if the world doesn't get it yet.

I do. And I'm grateful to be part of your journey of awesomeness.

Love always,