Lisa Robbin Young

As more creative entrepreneurs take to the interwebz to build an online outpost for their business, the conversation always comes back to technology at some point.

What software do you run your site on? How do you take credit cards or invoice clients? What plug-in did you use to get that countdown timer? How do I build an online fan club/membership site?

These are just a handful of questions that have some form of technology as the answer.

Okay, Chaotics, brace yourselves. We're about to speak geek. I promise, it'll be okay. In fact, if I've done my job right, this will be useful and maybe even a bit FUN for you. These are a handful of my favorite tech tools for Creative Entrepreneurs, recommended by your creative type.

Basic tech tools that make it easy to build your creative business online

Website platform: WordPress

Hands down, this is the most flexible platform... once you get over a slight learning curve. Actually, it can be as easy or hard as you make it. You can go with a hosted site at, or host your own version from for more bells & whistles. From a single page, "brochure" style site to a robust e-commerce shopping solution, you can pretty much make any kind of website you want starting on the back of WordPress, considering that e-commerce has grown so much over the years, with more customers option for online shopping (look at this site for more info), this is great news for those wanting to start an online business. This is great news for Linears who like a single-point solution to keep things simple. Fusions dig the flexibility of options and the bajillion different plug-ins designed to add more functionality to your site. Chaotics can appreciate the simple word processor-style interface for content. A basic WordPress install is point, click, easy. There's also a vast array of free and premium themes that don't require you to be a web designer. Or you can hire a pro (like my designer, Tracy) and get as customized as you like.

Accepting payments: Paypal

Hands down, it's still the easiest interface for buyers and sellers. Their simple "" URL has saved me tons of time creating payment links for clients, and while their dispute resolution is for crap, it's accepted more places than almost any other payment option. You have easy access to your cash via the paypal debit card, and you can even get instant transfers to your linked bank account now (for a small fee). Other tools like Stripe or Square require more backflips, and aren't as easy to integrate for most creatives - although Linears will probably prefer Stripe because of their lower rates for accepting payments. If you've got a higher dollar volume business, Stripe or Square make sense for the other options they provide. But if all you need is a simple shopping cart and checkout system for your website, Paypal is easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

Financial Management, Invoicing, Bookkeeping: QuickBooks Self-Employed

While Paypal does offer invoicing, QuickBooks is a more robust option for all things financial management. Mint, also owned by Intuit, is like the baby version of QuickBooks - and focused more on your personal finances. Chaotics will probably freak out at first, which is why I recommend having someone else set it up for you. Then, once all your accounts are linked, QuickBooks pulls it all together, cranks out reports, and lets you get paid like a boss. It also tracks mileage. Linears probably already know that QuickBooks is the industry standard for financial management, and Fusions are probably trying to cobble together their own makeshift plan using free tools like spreadsheets. They say diamonds are a girl's best friend, but I've found that a great bookkeeper is better. You'll be able to buy your own diamonds soon enough, if you keep your finger on the pulse of your cash flow.

Mailing list service provider/Autoresponder: MailChimp or Aweber

These two are not technically the same thing, but most list services include some type of autoresponse feature. There are a LOT of providers out there, and I've used quite a few in my 20+ years on the internet. If you're just starting out, MailChimp is a user-friendly way to get started. Chaotics appreciate the step-by-step hand holding and visual interface, making it drag and drop easy. Linears will appreciate the robust reporting options that come standard - even with the free accounts! Fusions love it all - and the playful nature of the company makes it easy to love the Chimp. One thing that MailChimp DOESN'T offer is single opt-in. For that, I prefer Aweber. With a fairly simple and straightforward interface, Aweber uses plug-ins (for an additional fee) to give you more of the features that you'll find standard on MailChimp. But Aweber also costs less as your list grows, so that's a consideration for someone with a larger mailing list.

Membership /Course Software: Wishlist Member or Teachable

I've been using this tool for years and every update makes it better. With just a few clicks you can set up a private, members-only area on your website, with as many different access levels as you like - including "pay per post" which allows you to charge for access to a single page or post on your site. Every user has their own login and password, which makes it easy to maintain and track, plus, because it's hosted on your own site, there's not a bunch of extra fees like you'll pay on a site like Teachable. The downside? You've got to host and manage your content on your own, which means you'll need a little bit of tech savvy to run it all. The alternative is Teachable. There's no option for students to interact, like they could on your own site, but Teachable accepts payments and tracks student progress without the need for additional plugins like Wishlist. For Chaotics, I recommend Teachable, for Linears, Wishlist. For Fusions, look at the level of personal engagement you need in your program. If you want conversation, Wishlist is your tool, otherwise you'll have to pair Teachable with another tool, like a Facebook group.

Each of these tools is great for someone just starting out and still gives you room to grow. If you've got an established enterprise, you'll probably need to grow into something a bit more robust, which I'll cover in a future post.

Not long ago, I was sitting in a group coaching session and one of the other group members made mention of a diagram she'd created to help her have better clarity about her future. She'd taken a piece of paper and on on edge of the paper, she'd made a list of all the data points of her current reality. On the opposite edge of the paper, she'd listed out her future reality - the things she'd like to accomplish and goals she'd like to achieve around her health, business and lifestyle. There was a big gap in the middle representing the distance she had to travel to get from where she was to where she wanted to be.

It fascinated me to have this visual representation of "the gap". It was so simple, yet entirely intimidating when you don't know what to put in the middle. I was inspired to evolve her idea and incorporate it in my own Dreamblazing program and my upcoming event: Creative Freedom Live.

Building a bridge to your dream life

Essentially, I've changed nothing about the way she mapped her goals. What I've done is added depth to the process of filling in the blanks. Using two elements - backward planning and right-sized milestones - you can confidently determine the next steps you need to take to cross the bridge from where you are now to where you want to be.

And today, I'm teaching the entire process to you - free of charge.

This is a virtual workshop. If you've got big dreams you're trying to achieve, this could be the help you need to get unstuck and moving forward with clarity, confidence, and momentum.

Get Your Bridge Worksheet Before Class Begins

Download your Bridge Worksheet here. It's a Google Doc, so you'll need to "save a copy" or download it to your computer in order to edit it. Watch the replay here.

Forget about "overnight success". There are countless quotes from successful people across industry that will tell you the trappings of external success aren't had overnight. My favorite is McDonald's founder Ray Kroc, who says he was an overnight success, but "30 years is a long, long night."

If you're just starting down the path of entrepreneurship, consider this your final warning: establishing your business and making it a profitable, sustainable entity doesn't happen overnight. Sure, some people can shorten the learning curve to get there faster (I'll tell you more in a minute), but the truth is profitability (and sustainability) can take years.

Years, I said. YEARS.

As an entrepreneur with 20+ years in the game, I've helped entrepreneurs at various levels of business development. I've seen brand new startups go like gangbusters only to fizzle out after a year... because they couldn't sustain the momentum it took to get to six figures in the first place. I've also seen a solopreneur limp along for several years before hitting their stride... and what looked like "overnight" success was actually the result of several "redirections" they had to make until they got on the right path for them.

Creative Freedom is about defining success on your terms, doing the work that you love, making good money doing it - and being able to enjoy the fruits of your labor. But it isn't all fun and games. That's why I typically ask my new clients the following question:

What are you willing to do free of charge for 3 years?

overnight success

Most fresh-eyed entrepreneurs will laugh at you and say "nothing!" because they somehow think they should get paid for every waking minute they plow into their business. While that's nice in theory, it doesn't always play out in practice. This is one of the big reasons why you see continual debates about working for free or for "exposure". The truth is, there's a time and a place for free work (or deeply discounted work), but if it's all you're doing, you don't have a sustainable business (this tongue-in-cheek flow chart gives you an idea, too). Free work is a great way to learn new skills, connect to new people, and leverage your Great Work in the world. But it shouldn't be the only work you're doing.

That said, I often ask people what they're willing to do, unpaid, for the next three years because sometimes it can take that long to hit the "profitable & sustainable" stride. Many businesses get profitable more quickly than that, but they're "hustling" so hard that it's simply not sustainable. Others maintain a sustainable pace, but aren't consistently profitable until about year three. But if you're not willing to put in the hours before you hit pay dirt, then maybe you should keep your day job.

My friend and former client, Les McKeown shares the lifecycle of a business in his book, Predictable Success. Every company begins in Early Struggle - where the singular goal is to find a profitable, sustainable market before you run out of start-up capital.

If you can do that, Les says, that's when it gets "Fun" - the second stage of business growth. On average, it takes 2-5 years to find that sweet spot. Why? Well, here's a closer look at what most of my clients go through during the early struggle phase of their business.

Year One: Honing Your Offer

When you're just starting out, the entire first year is about honing the offer. What are you really selling ? What's the investment? Who would buy what you're offering (it might not be who you think)? How can you do it in a way that works for the lifestyle you're trying to create for yourself? Some of these questions don't apply to large, corporate entities, but for solo and micro-preneurs, building a business around your life, they are imperatives.

The first year can often find you throwing a lot of spaghetti on the wall (and essentially working for free), because you're just trying to find enough people with a pulse and a checkbook to keep your business afloat. This is often when we take on crap clients that we end up firing later, because we "need the money."

Year Two: Honing Your Marketing

When you've got a minimum viable offering, and you can start creating consistent sales, you may be hustling like crazy in order to do it. In that case, you're still not sustainable, and you might not even be profitable yet, but you've got some traction. Your nose is a little more above water, and you can see a little farther out on the timeline. You can think more clearly in terms of WHO your offer is meant for, and how they most resonate with your Great Work. You can begin tweaking your messaging to improve your results, or testing new avenues to market your offer because you've finally got some cash flow to pay for a marketing budget!

The second year builds confidence - for you as well as your potential customers. No one wants to deal with a fly-by-night enterprise, regardless of your industry. If you've made it through the first year, your clients have more reason to trust you're going to stick around and be there when they need you. You've also figured some things out - and maybe even started firing clients (or team members) that aren't moving in the direction you want your business to go.

Year Three: Honing Your Systems

You can't keep doing everything yourself, and if you  haven't already, it's time to start implementing systems to keep your business running smoothly. Whether it's hiring team members, marketing automation, or financial management tools, without some level of systematization, you call into the trap of having to re-create everything or each new customer. Can you imagine re-creating an email to be sent every time a purchase is made? Email marketing systems can pick up the slack on that quite easily. By the third year, you've done a few things more than a few times, so you know what works and what doesn't. You can create a process manual that makes some elements of your business easier to delegate.

The third year is where profitability ans sustainability come together. The need to "hustle" is replaced by the need to "systematize" - there's more breathing room, positive cash flow, and team members to help take the load off you and support the growth of the business.

You Can Go Faster, But You Can't Rush It

In my years of working with clients, these three steps can't be skipped if you want to eventually be able to make good money doing what you love AND have time and energy to enjoy the money you're making. The faster you can do this, the quicker you get to the fun stuff. But you can't rush it, either. For as many people as I've seen shorten the learning curve and throw money at a problem to fix it faster, I've also seen people try to systematize something they've done once - and they keep having to re-trace their steps and modify the process. Every entrepreneur has their own tempo: Find YOURS. Hustling is a short-term sprint. It's not sustainable, and building your business around "always hustling" is a sure-fire way to stay on the hamster wheel for the rest of your life.

Um. No thanks.

But if you've got a knack for marketing, or you're a systems wizard, you'll be able to trim time off that three year projection and see profitability AND sustainability that much sooner. If you're a whiz in all three areas (crafting an offer, creating great marketing, and systematizing the hell out of your business) or can hire someone who is, then you can REALLY shorten the time frame.

But going into a new venture, thinking you'll be rich and famous in a year is a crisis waiting to happen. Instead, be willing to give yourself some wiggle room to make mistakes, experiment, and get this new venture off the ground. Bootstrapping is great, but if you're planning to give up after a hard first year (or three), you're in business for all the wrong reasons.

Join Me For A FREE Teleclass Series

Liz Larocque and her partner, Eric, have put together a free teleseminar series for corporate escapees that are ready to break out and launch their own business. The event kicks off February 9, and I am excited to be one of the speakers. You can register here to get all the details about turning your passion into a profitable (and sustainable) business. Disclosure: This is my affiliate link, which means if you purchase the recordings, I get a small stipend for referring you. The event is free, however, and I know there's LOTS of great information being shared.

It's here! After months of being sick, fighting resistance, and in general just not getting it done, I'm proud to announce my new web series for creative entrepreneurs! It's called "Creative Freedom" and we talk about anything and everything related to building a creative business that lets you have more profit in your pocket and more time to enjoy the money you're making.

One of the business support systems I've come to value above most anything else is my mastermind group. These wonderful people come together to celebrate and support one another in their life and business pursuits. One of the things that keeps us connected between meetings is facebook. So this week, I'm sharing a few simple tips to develop your own mastermind group using Facebook - no five-figure investment required!


That's my official goodbye kiss to the first quarter of the year.

How'd it go for you? If you've been through my Dreamblazing program, you've probably already reviewed your milestones and re-assessed your targets for this quarter. Good on ya!

Did some of your goals fall off the radar, or get completely kicked to the curb (mine did!)? Are you on track (or ahead of schedule) for others?

In a recent post, I shared that by the end of January, nearly 35% of Americans have kissed their resolutions goodbye. This far into the year, some entrepreneurs have thrown their plans out the window entirely. Where do you stand?

One of the biggest pieces of advice I consistently offer to my clients is to focus your goals and objectives around YOU: things you can control, measure, or impact. It's challenging to set and attain goals that rely on someone else. But if you're driving toward DUMB goals, chances are good you'll have less flying out the window over the course of your year.

In the spirit of transparency, I thought it might be helpful to share with you my Q1 milestones and report on my results. I use the approach I developed in my own Dreamblazing program and define my milestones based on my 5 Key Areas of Success (Faith, Family, Fitness, Fortune, and Freedom).

Shall we?

Quarter One Recap


This year, my faith goal revolves around my self-worth and how I see myself in the world. To that end, I've built a strategic plan to reach out to and connect with people I admire. One such connection has led to my nomination for the 2015 Rulebreaker awards! I also have been working to strengthen connections with friends and colleagues in my existing circle. My mastermind groups, my accountability partner, and my closest friends have all been instrumental in helping me navigate Q1 with grace, peace, and ease.

I'd say I'm on track and doing better than anticipated in this arena.


My definition of family is probably more loose than some, since my blood relations aren't as plentiful as they once were. Because of that, I've been creating my own family, as it were, by making new peer connections. This is kind of a double-dip from my "Faith" goal, but it's also more about new people, versus cultivating the relationships I already have.

The first quarter of 2015 saw some big and unplanned changes in our home. My oldest, now 18, has passed his road test and is now driving (God help us all). He's had his own ups and downs over the past few months, but seems to be stabilizing with some part-time work and finishing up his schooling. This is a huge relief for me, as I am beyond ready to turn over the role of "Worried Mom" to some other deserving woman with teenagers.

The end of March also marked my youngest's 9th birthday - which means we've got all the birthdays on lock for the year. *wipes brow* Whew! But he's been having an up and down semester at school. So we've been navigating some emotional issues for him on that front.


When family stress increases, my emotional eating trigger kicks in, and it takes even more focus and commitment to stay on track. Needless to say, my already ambitious goal of dropping 16 pounds got revised when I was sick for the entire month of February. That's NEVER happened to me before, and dealing with "feeling behind" in my projects only fueled the emotional eating fire. While I didn't hit my revised 8 pound goal, I DID manage to hone in on a couple of trouble foods (gluten, dairy, and soy). Once I got clear, and started steering myself away from them (harder than you might think) I found myself edging closer to that goal. So for this quarter, I'm sticking with my goal of another 8 pounds off by July.

My mental fitness goal for the year is to attend one learning conference. That did not apply to this quarter, since the conference I want to attend isn't until later in the year. Not one to stagnate, however, this quarter saw me doing the research for a new book I'm working on, and participating in a few community groups on Facebook. I've been learning a lot and looking forward to sharing even more during my free monthly webinars.


I'm known for setting rather lofty income goals (though, I'm very prudent with my income projections). Due in part to a month-long illness, but also because of a shift in priorities, my Q1 income fell WAY short of my milestone goal. With the shift in priorities, I was not caught by surprise. In fact, the only reason I didn't revise my milestone was because I wanted to see how close I could get anyway.

Not. Even. Close.

The good news is that every transaction was profitable. Using the Profit First approach, I was able to keep everything on the positive side of the ledger - actually with better results than I did this same time last year. My quarterly profit distribution was also higher than the last quarter of 2014, which was a nice surprise, since it felt like I did less business in this quarter. I made a point to find ease in my business this quarter, which is partly why it felt like I was working less. I also got the delayed payments from Amazon for my book re-launch last November/December, which contributed to the increase in income without added effort. Yay leverage!

What else? I launched an entirely new business development for creative entrepreneurs, and started the process of re-designing my direct sales training program for a late spring launch. I also re-vamped my coaching offerings to make them more accessible and meaningful. With two other projects and a book in the works, I'm fairly confident that this quarter's shortfall will be recovered in the coming months. // Lyric from Styx's Show Me The Way. #300songsFreedom

My favorite thing about this Key Area of Success is that it means so many different things to different people. For some, it's the ability to come and go as you please, or the financial freedom to travel, send your kid to college, or whatever. For me, Freedom is about being able to show up fully as myself (warts, sparkles, and all) and being proud of how I'm showing up in the world - as both a business coach and a musician. I'm proud to say I've been booked for numerous (PAID) private events this year, and my client list is growing. WOO HOO!

I started 2015 with a goal of finishing my album. The 300 songs project began as a means of honing my skills and getting back on track. Now that we're about 100 songs in, I'm ready to compile a dozen or so of the best tracks and share it with the world in a more finalized and formal package. The hard part right now is just picking the tracks (I'm open to suggestions). Des has already done some incredible work on the keyboard parts, so now it's just about me measuring up vocally and creating a package people feel good about investing in. I'm on track here - maybe even ahead of schedule, which is a wonderful thing to be able to say about a project I've been working on for so long.

Because this goal is nearing completion, I've shifted my focus to planning a possible relocation. Me and the fam are taking a recon trip to Nashville to scout the area, connect with some colleagues, and see what's what. If it looks good, my goal is to be moved by July. If not, we'll stay put until we have more clarity. This is the shift in focus I mentioned earlier - and it's drawn a bit of my personal resources (time, energy, focus) this quarter. With the recon trip upon us, I'll have less resources committed to this project during this quarter, and more in Q3 if we decide to make the move.


It's not always rainbows, sunshine, and Uni-Kitties around here.

There's work - lots of it. Not everything goes according to plan, but that's not what plans are for. I think it was Eisenhower who said "in preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable." While I don't necessarily think of business as a battle, I couldn't agree more about the need for planning - even if things don't go according to plan.

There's also fun -a good bit of it. We took a trip to Illinois last month and had a blast at the Lego Discovery Center (that's my 9 year old hangin' with Lego Einstein). We've also traveled a bit around the state, and enjoyed many evenings out with friends and family. In addition to our upcoming recon trip to Nashville, we've got a bunch of other activities in the works for the year.

I don't share this report to brag, but rather to show you exactly how I've built my business (and my annual plan) around what matters most to me. By using the 5 Key Areas of Success and my Dreamblazing program I get CRYSTAL clear on what really matters to me and then do my daily prioritizing with The PEACE System to make a strategic plan and move closer to those goals.

Moving closer to what really matters to you... novel concept, eh? (tweet this)

What matters to you?

This is just one way of building a business around what really matters to you. It's the way that works for me. I've used it for more than five years now, and it's the first thing I've ever managed to stick with! Many of my clients have found use in it as well - but I admit it's not right for everyone. Most planners are too rigid for me. I needed more flexibility to work with my creative moods and the typical unexpected happenings that come along with having kids. I needed to develop a framework - like a jungle gym - that I could "swing from" and use in a way that worked for me and what was going on in my life and work on any given day.

How do you plan and prioritize your year? What do you do when your plan goes off the rails? How do you course correct? What are the tools you absolutely love? Share your ideas in the comments!



Over the past couple of weeks, I've been offering up tools, ideas, and resources that I usually find helpful this time of year to help me get a jump start on the new year. From The Success Finder, to my new Dream Owner's Creed, and the Profit First Instant Assessment, each has been a part of what I use to get more clarity and move more confidently toward my future.

This week has been a little heady for me. On Sunday, I posted a song from my last concert with a story about a music teacher who realized his musical dreams as part of one of the most influential progressive rock bands in America. But then he had a kid, started looking around at the world, and realized that things weren't always what they were cracked up to be. So he wrote a song of hope as he was birthing his son into the world.

I still get a little teary-eyed when I hear that song. A bunch of people emailed and tweeted to connect with me and share that song with their networks. I didn't expect that kind of response from such a simple hymn-like tune.

Then, on Monday, we launched the Dreamblazing program with very little fanfare (there's still time to join, if you'd like). I've been going through it right along with the participants, and in the process, I've gotten the gut feeling that a lot of people are feeling stuck right now.

And I wanted to do something about it.

Announcing: Next Step Sessions

From now through the end of the year, I'm inviting you to schedule a no-cost 30 minute session with me to help determine your next steps in having a business and life you love. This isn't therapy, counseling, or tax/legal planning - that's not my area of expertise. What I'm good at is seeing the big picture, and how all the parts and pieces fit together in a way that creates more meaning, gives you more freedom, and provides you with a clear path to a profitable, sustainable business.

I call that a Noble Empire and an Inspired Life.

Interested? Click here to schedule your time.

What to expect:
Once you're scheduled, I'll be sending you some simple instructions. Nothing heavy-duty. Just the basic background info. Then, when we're in session together (call or skype), we'll dig into where you feel stuck, and I'll help you see where to get unstuck. It might mean referring you to a book, program, or professional that I know that can help. Or it might just be a mindset shift we can make right on the call. Whatever I think will be most helpful to you (based on your current situation), is what I'll be sharing with you in our session.

Why am I doing this? And free?

There are lots of reasons, actually. Because of the projects I've been involved in this year, I've not had a lot of time to lead teleclasses or workshops. That means I haven't been connecting with you as much as I'd like - hearing what's going on for you.

Being out of touch with your clients means you're out of touch with what's important to them (click to tweet). That's the fastest route to going out of business! Talking with you individually really helps me know who's reading my posts, what's going on in your world, and how I can better serve your needs. 

 Also, this is the time of year when things can get pretty crazy and a cool head, or objective viewpoint can be a blessing. I have the space in my calendar and I'd love to be that third eye for you!

Lastly, each year around Thanksgiving, I try to do something to give back to my online community. Last year, we gave away over 1,000 copies of my book, and we're doing another book re-launch next week (watch for an email on Monday!)

This year, I wanted to do something a little more personal.  I've got a phobia I'm working on overcoming, and this will really help me immerse myself in serving with love instead of focusing on fear.

While I can't guarantee everyone will get a spot on my calendar, I've opened up hundreds of time slots over the remainder of the year (limit one per person, yo!). If you've ever wondered what it's like to work with a coach, or what it's like to work with me, there's never been a better time to give it a try.
In blessings and peace,

P.S. Last time, I promised to share a video I filmed about dealing with toxic relationships. You can find that here.

Ever have one of those moments where you think you know how something is going to go, and then it turns out completely differently, but it still works to your favor?

That was my experience last week when I asked my facebook connections to vote on a video topic for a contest I'm entering. I asked them to choose between these two topics:

  1. How to show up more confidently as yourself in every aspect of your life and work
  2. How to balance work and life demands more effectively.

Hands down, the winner was #1 - in all but one group where the vote was evenly split. For whatever reason, people I know can really relate to the struggle of showing up fully as themselves - a malady I can SO relate with.

But here's the thing... both topics are really about the same thing.

The only way to be truly successful is to be yourself.

It almost sounds like a dangerous idea, right? I mean, there are "blueprints" and "formulas" galore in the world. There are gurus, guides, and coaches who want nothing more than to sell you their 'proven system' to help you be "successful" in some area or another of your life or work.

Heck, I'm a mentor myself. I have systems and tools that I use and offer to others, so it stands to reason I could lump myself in that category, too, right?

I wouldn't blame you if you did.

The thing that I hope sets me apart is that I detest the one-size-fits-all approach that so many leaders laud. A lot of people tread that path, and in my experience that's where the mediocre are. Back in my direct sales days, there was a "technique" that was touted as a sure-fire way to get business: pass out your business card to everyone with a pulse. Does it work? Sure. Eventually. But it's painful, awkward, and gives you a bad reputation.

Cookie cutter "blueprints" have their place. Like making cookies, or building houses. You want to know, before you invest your resources, a reasonable idea of what the end result will be. But you can take one blueprint and build two "identical" houses and they won't even be close to the same. Why? Location, interior decoration, and other considerations that have nothing to do with the blueprint itself. Likewise, three people can take the exact same cookie recipe and have three dramatically different results. Why? Again, lots of considerations that have nothing to do with the recipe itself.

Essentially, YOU are the difference.

I matter. On good days, bad days, days when I'm in the zone, bad hair days - and all the days in between. My worthiness is not at stake. From my first breath to my last, I matter.

The difference in the house and the cookies lays squarely with the owner. Who's the one doing the building, the decorating, the baking? That's what's really going to dictate how things shake out.  That's something most coaches and gurus don't take into account in their blueprints.

Frameworks are helpful, but you can't expect to duplicate someone else's success because you are not that person! Believe me. I've invested my share of cash into training, blueprints, and frameworks. Any time they're a step-by-step "here's what I did to be successful" approach, it falls flat. Because I'm not them! I've been coaching and training for almost 10 years, and while there are some common themes, every client is different. There are no two people, no two businesses that are exactly alike. Even in direct sales, where every consultant is selling the exact same product from the exact same catalog, the results are markedly different because of WHO is doing the selling and HOW they are doing it.

A blueprint or a framework can show you how, but it may not work for who you are. It's the underlying principles, the concepts, and the WHY this worked that matters. Once you know WHY something works, you can figure out HOW to apply it to your situation in a way that works for WHO you are.

The most important product your company has to offer is YOU.

It was my very first tagline and it's still true. You are the most important piece of the puzzle in growing a profitable, sustainable business. Without you, it's just another product, another service, another offering. You are what makes it special. But if you're spending all your time, money, and energy trying to fit yourself into the mold of someone else, you're missing out on your biggest opportunity for success.

Showing up as yourself more completely means being willing to own your shadow and your light. None of us - not even the well-paid gurus and muckety mucks of the world are perfect. No matter how much spit and polish they put on. We all have bad days, make poor choices, and then have to live with the consequences. Being willing to admit your imperfections takes courage, and a little vulnerability, it's true. What I've learned, though, is that when I am willing to show up as myself - warts, sparkles and all - it gives the people around me permission to show up as themselves, too. It's an upward spiral that perpetuates itself.

When I finish speaking in front of an audience, I usually hear two comments. The first is usually about my energy and enthusiasm. The second is about how refreshing it is to see me be so "real" on the stage. They appreciate that I speak without talking down, insulting their intelligence, or making them feel inferior. They appreciate that I'm not afraid to tell the messy stories of my life. It gives them confidence to share their stories - sometimes just with me, but often with a larger audience they've been nervous to talk to.

From my perspective, life is messy. We all know that, yet so many people try to pretend otherwise. Embrace your mess, maybe even love it a little, since that's where the juicy stories come from. That's what makes you relatable.

Don't be afraid to be yourself. It's a job no one else is equipped to do. (click to tweet)

That doesn't mean you have to air all your dirty laundry. I do my best to share my stories in ways that are helpful to others. I'm one of those people who believes that if you can learn from my mistakes, then you won't have to repeat them. I also believe that every choice I've made (for better or worse) has led me to this moment. That if there's something from my journey that can help you on yours, then I want to he able to share it.

Showing up as yourself means letting go of the masks.

We've all put on the brave face, the happy face, the facade that says everything's okay when it's not. But I'm talking about something deeper. You've heard me talk about "The Pretender" and "The Coward" before. One mask protects you from the world, the other protects the world from you. Yet, neither serves your highest good. You have to take off your masks to risk being truly seen.

When you know who you are, you aren’t afraid to admit who you are not. I'm not a scientist. That's my husband. When the kids come home with math homework, I quickly remind them I was a music major in college, so I can count to 12 and divide by 7, but that's about it. I know my limitations there. But it's easy for me to forget those limitations when I slip on the mask of what a good mom is "supposed" to be. I'm pretending. It's frustrating. And it's just digging my hole deeper.

Once you start wearing a mask, it becomes risky to remove it. Showing up as yourself means letting people see what you don't know, what you can't do, what you aren't capable of in this moment. That's scary stuff.

But it also means showing people what you do know, what you can do, and what you are truly capable of in this moment. That is sometimes even more scary.

I grew up in a "gifted" program full of smarty pants kids. We were all too smart for our own good and socially awkward. Most of us had one or two things that we really knew - we were smarter than even the smart kids! But if we dared to show our intelligence in that area, we were quickly brought down a peg by someone who was smart in another area - just to show us that we didn't know everything.

Sadly, that attitude doesn't leave us when we're adults. So being seen as smarter, faster, or better than someone else can become an equally heavy burden and scary proposal.

Masks, to me, are like McDonald's. Once you've seen it, you know what to expect. When you walk into a McDonald's you pretty much know what's on the menu, where the bathroom is, and how competent the counter help will be. On those rare occasions when they're offering a special menu item (remember McDonald's pizza?) it throws you off. Now you're not sure what to expect. That could be good or bad, but either way, you're thrown for a loop for a minute while you get your bearings.

Masks become a cultural shorthand. The problem is that humans grow and change, and masks don't fit forever. Try taking a picture of yourself when you were a child and wearing it around during the day. Unless it's Halloween, people are going to be thrown off. Why is this grown-ass person wearing the face of a small child? What are they hiding? Why are they hiding?

Peeling off the masks is a must-do. How can we fall in love with you if we can't see who you are? If you're wearing a mask, we're not falling in love with you, we're falling in love with the mask, and that creates all kinds of internal backlash and self-loathing. It's a vicious downward spiral that keeps us trying on different masks, hoping that one will eventually fit.

There's nothing more courageous than being yourself.

It takes guts, and tremendous amounts of courage to be true to what really matters to you. Lady Gaga takes a risk every time she steps out in public in one of her crazy ensembles. Yet, it's far less of a risk than playing small and not owning her outlandishness. If you fell in love with "small-playing" Lady Gaga, you just might have a heart attack watching her tramp around in some of her crazier get-ups. Her outspoken, outlandish appearance is part and parcel to who she really is.

To deny any part of you is to deny all of you.

You can't say "that's not my hand" when it's clearly connected to your body. If you deny the hand, you deny the body. Likewise to deny what's important to you (family, faith, travel, relationships, etc.), is to deny YOU. You can't deny a part of you. You're denying your whole self, because that "part" is woven into the very tapestry of your existence. It's a meaningful thread of who you are... whether it's a piece from your past, your present, or your future, it's every bit as important as every other part of you.

In the next few days, I'll be sharing a special gift with my subscribers to help remind them to remove their masks and show up more consistently as themselves. If you'd like to get it, be sure you're subscribed above. In the comments below, I'd love to hear your stories. When did you recognize you were wearing a mask? Did you choose to take it off? Why? What happened as a result? It's in sharing your stories that we lift each other up.

"Dreams without goals are just dreams that ultimately fuel disappointment." - Denzel Washington

You know what SMART goals are, right? It's a helpful little acronym that breaks your goals into something that's:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

So many people use SMART goals - and for a lot of people that works. But not me. Not for a lot of big dreamers I know. It's too hard to wrap a big dream into the SMART package.

Sometimes, it's a challenge to get clear on the specifics of a goal. Take, for example, my desire to win a Grammy. It's a real dream of mine. But right now, my music doesn't easily fall into a category. It's not really pop music. It's not blues or jazz per se - although if the category still exists in a few years, it could be construed as contemporary pop. And someone recently reminded me that I'm also a speaker, so it's possible that my Grammy might come in the spoken word category - or even the comedy category, since I can be a bit humorous from time to time.

So while I have the desire to win a Grammy, it's not easy to get more specific than that.

Sometimes, big dreams are difficult to measure. In the case of a Grammy, it's not so hard: when I have it, I have it. Until then, I don't. But in the case of wanting to leave a positive impact in the world (or a dent in the universe as Steve Jobs put it). Setting a goal to sell a hundred, a thousand, or even a million copies of my book is measurable and specific, but will that really change lives? I won't know until someone reaches out and tells me that my book made a difference to them.

Then there's that whole "is this really attainable?" thing. Who really knows what's attainable? Some of our greatest inventions came by accident and curiosity. Sir Richard Branson cracked an April Fool's joke about a product that would one day become reality. Now, millions of people own MP3 players of some sort. Nobody believed it was attainable. Now, it's commonplace.

I think of Columbus and the debate over whether the world was flat or round. Sometimes, you don't know if it's attainable until you try. Sometimes you fail, but the attainability of a goal, in my mind, shouldn't be a qualifier on whether or not you give it a try. There are lots of failed attempts that ultimately led to success. Light bulbs, anyone? The original inventor couldn't figure out how to get his filament to burn more than a few seconds. FAILURE!

But Edison and his crew stepped in and worked over and over and over until they found a way to make it work. Voila! Electric light - and ultimately electricity in every home gives me the ability to send this message to you anywhere in the world.

Which ties into the whole realistic thing. Who really thought it was realistic 100 years ago to have little video screens in every home? You can watch moving pictures from the comfort of your living room couch! Back in 1914, We were embroiled in survival struggles. Wars. That kind of thing. It wasn't until 1926 that the first broadcast of moving pictures even happened - and they were crappy compared to today's standards. Heck, we were still watching silent movies until 1927! It wasn't until 1939 that the first experimental broadcast network was set up in the US - and color TV didn't come on the scene until the 50's - but most homes didn't see it until the 60's.

So until about 50 years ago, it was pretty unrealistic to think that you'd be able to watch "talkies" in your living room... with a push of a button.. or downloaded off this thing called the Internet.

So much for "realistic" eh?

Who really knows how long it will take for a big dream to materialize? It took Christopher Plummer most of his life to win an Oscar. The Oscar is one of the highest honors an actor can receive. While I'm sure he wasn't acting for the sake of earning an Oscar (a sure-fire way to NOT win one, I'm told), the look on his face when he held that statuette and said "Where have you been all my life?" only illustrated further that a time-bound goal can be a little limiting. So what if it takes your whole life to achieve a goal? I guess, in that respect, it is time-bound. But would you turn it away, too little too late, if you didn't achieve it until after you died? Remember some of our greatest artists didn't know success in their lifetime, yet their legacy impacts the lives of countless people hundreds of years after their death.

Does "eternity" count as time-bound? 🙂 // Big Dreams. DUMB Goals. #ownyourdreams

So when it comes to big dreams, SMART goals leave me cold. There are those that would say that you could still use SMART goals on the smaller sub-set of steps you need to take in order to achieve those big goals, and I agree. It also makes it a lot easier to lose sight of the goal itself and get lost in the minutiae of the every day steps that may or may not ultimately lead you to your goal.

Take the Grammy for example. There are some things I need to do: join the Academy, for example. Those are more tasks then goals, though. I need to have a project -an album, a song, a something that could be submitted for consideration by the Academy. But what? An album of songs? A single song? Design a package for a project (they give Grammys for design, too). Or maybe a video? Hmmm... see how easy it is to get lost in the minutiae?

Lately, I've been working on "DUMB" goals - even a few of my clients and colleagues admit that the DUMB approach is actually very helpful.

Here's how it works. DUMB goals are:

D - Doable  
U - Understandable  
M - Meaningful  
B - Believable  

Is this something that, with the existing resources and technologies available or known to you, can be done? Television was an extension of ideas that had been developed back in the 1800's. So it was most likely do-able, they just needed access to the resources. Radio waves were already transmitting across the country, so broadcast technology existed, they just needed to figure out how to tweak those waves to send images as well as sound.

Everything they needed was available, just not all in one place. It required some testing, experimenting and putting those pieces together - like a jigsaw puzzle, trying to make the pieces fit together.

So while it seemed unrealistic, it was, in fact, very doable.

"1000 songs in your pocket." Nothing could have been easier to understand when Steve Jobs uttered those words about a device that no one had believed was even possible. Funny enough, MP3 players existed before the Ipod. They were clunky, unsexy, and relegated to the realm of nerds and technophiles. MP3s had been around for quite a while, so it really wasn't a stretch to create a disc drive that would hold them and play them. The technology existed, so it was doable, but how to you explain what these little boxes do in a way that gets you move a million units?

1000 songs in your pocket is a very understandable goal.

There are a lot of folks that think I'm nuts, wanting to go for a Grammy. But it is meaningful to me. There's an aura of prestige around those little gramophone statuettes (Prestige is one of my triggers), it's also a symbol of recognition and acceptance from a field of my peers. Those things are meaningful to me. Maybe not to you, but because they are to me, I'm willing to do the work to achieve the goal.

If you set goals that aren't meaningful to you, why are you setting them at all? (Click to tweet)

To those that say I'm deluding myself into thinking I can win a Grammy, I say you don't have to believe it's possible. Only I do.

Owning dreams that are believable is one of the biggest mistakes I see people make. "I want to make a million dollars" someone will say to me, but when I take them through the threshold of belief exercise, they don't even believe it's possible for them to do so.

How in the world can you bring a dream to fruition if you don't believe it's possible?

So many people believed the world was flat. They fought about it. But someone believed - and a few were willing enough to believe that they loaned some boats and supplies so this Columbus kid could go cavorting to the "edge of the world". Worst case scenario, they wouldn't get the boats back and there'd be one less weirdo on the planet.

Turns out that willingness is a big piece to allowing space for believability. If you're not sure you can believe in the possibility of your dream, are you at least willing to try to believe it? Are you willing to hold space that someone else might believe in it (and you)? Because I believe in you. If you're reading this right now, I'm cheering for you. I know you've got something special, and if you want it to happen, I want it for you.

So that's how I handle goal setting now. Forget SMART goals, I'm all about DUMB goals. Goals that are do-able, understandable, meaningful and believable to me. Forget what the rest of the world thinks! DUMB goals are a great idea.

There are those that would say it's a negative approach, but I've found it actually plays into a sort of "reverse psychology" - when people criticize your goals, call them dumb or whatever, you can say "Yep. They're DUMB alright. And I'm going to GO for it!"

My clients get it, and since it doesn't force them to reprogram their thoughts, it becomes a more effortless way to own your dreams.

So what say you? This is the first time I've really been transparent about my goal setting process. You may already be familiar with how I prioritize things (using The PEACE System), but this is the first time I've ever shared publicly my DUMB goal setting technique. I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas about it.

I am thrilled to be a guest this week on my the Current Inspiration blog, wherein I share my simple 2-step process for gaining instant invincibility. My secret? I use an army of Grandmas:

Okay, maybe not exactly like this, or even this:

But it's a quick and easy technique that's helped me through some pretty tough stuff (like being in court for 4 hours this week waiting to find out the results of a plea agreement in my youngest son's case.).  If you could use a shot of invincibility every now and then, check out Pam's blog and tell her I sent ya!

Here's a rehearsal clip of the stars of Christmas Unplugged - an a cappella holiday show put together by me and Jen Harris.

Pictured from left to right: Kasie Johnson, Jen Harris, me, Ryan Johnson and Steve Harris.

I have to confess feeling a little like a 5th wheel with these two wonderful married couples surrounding me with their beautiful voices. And this is Ryan's FIRST-ever public appearance. We're so proud of him!

We're doing 2 sets during ArtWalk in Flint this Friday at The Lunch Studio - 6:30pm and 8pm. Hope you'll join us (it's FREE!).