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.
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?"
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?"
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!
Confetti! Fireworks! Hooray! Huzzah!
This has been a goal of mine for several years, and I'm beyond thrilled that it's finally happened. It was a lot more challenging than I expected, and I've learned a lot along the way. As my channel grows I've developed a love and strong respect for the YouTube community. If you're on YouTube, please say hi and spread the love. Your awesomeness makes this show possible.
I was on a coaching call with a client this week and we spent a good amount of time talking about how hard it can be to shine brightly when everyone around you is complaining about your light.
"You're too bright."
"Can you turn it down a little?"
"You're always so enthusiastic about [topic]. I'm tired of it."
While occasional constructive criticism is important (when you work with me, I'm not afraid to give it to you straight), it's also important to remember that you've got Divinely-given gifts that are uniquely yours to bring into the world.
Shout it out! Tell everyone about your brand. Heck, have your brand name printed out onto face masks, hoodies, pens or mugs if necessary. Don’t hide them away; be proud of who you are and what you have achieved.
Often times, we're put down, or we feel guilty about being so awesome. And even if you're shy and reserved, it can be tough to deal with the criticism and "baggage" others want to foist on you when you're sharing your gift with the world. It often results in being overgenerous as a means to counter the criticism, to be liked, or to "apologize" for your existence.
Been there, done that.
You don't need to apologize for being awesome. We all shine in our own way, and yes, some of us are called to shine "brighter" or to a "bigger" audience (remember: size is relative. If it's your dream, it's big. Period.). That doesn't make us any more (or less) needed in the world.
Sometimes we're put in a position where we shine brighter than the folks around us because they need to get used to having more light in their lives. This isn't a statement of arrogance. Most of the awesomely talented people I know didn't ask to be awesome. They just are. But the amount of guilt they feel and crap they take for being so shiny is overwhelming. I'm reminded of the crawdads in a bucket that keep pulling each other back down so that no one escapes.
You don't have to make your light any less bright. That's what sunglasses and window shades are for. People can choose to be around you and they can choose to leave. This is a lesson I'm learning myself. For YEARS I have felt the need to dim my own light because the people around me couldn't deal with how shiny I am. I never asked to shine. I was born with these gifts, and while I've honed them over the years, it was never in an attempt to be better than anyone other than myself.
It's not your job to diminish your light. Your job is to shine your light into the world. (Click to tweet this)
There are plenty of people in the world who are afraid of the light. Heck, even Plato wrote about it in his Allegory of the Cave. But here's the thing:
Just because other people are afraid of the light, or judge the light, or shun the light, doesn't mean that you need to take it personally.
When I walk into my bedroom and flip on the light, sometimes my husband grumps about it. My light bulb doesn't get all defensive and start apologizing for being bright. That's what light bulbs do, for pity's sake! And while I might apologize for causing my husband pain, I rarely apologize for turning on the light because I needed the light to see. Don't apologize for your needs. Apologizing for your needs equates to saying "I'm not worthy of having my needs met. I'm sorry for my existence."
Word choices can be tricky, eh? But I've said this many times in the past: you train people how to treat you based on what you've come to accept from them and what they've come to expect from you. If you're constantly apologizing for your existence, then, Houston, YOU have a problem.
Katy Perry sang an inspiring song that confirms that the only way to shine is to ignite yourself:
"You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine
Just own the night like the 4th of July"
I think it's safe to say that if you don't ignite yourself - and let yourself shine - it's improbable that anyone else will do it for you.
On the surface, Independence Day is about celebrating my country's establishment as a sovereign nation. It's become the high holy day of picnics, beach fun, and fireworks.
But at the core, it's a symbol to embrace what matters most to you, hold it out for the world to see, and stand your ground. Do you think the British were particularly pleased? Hardly. They fought us for several years before and after we claimed our independence.
You'll probably face a few battles of your own (both internal and external ones). That's to be expected. As several great minds (including William Lamb and Stan Lee) once said, "with great power comes great responsibility." Being awesome ain't always easy, but you've got it in you to handle it!
Need a little extra incentive?
Our Independence Week edition of Creative Freedom brings us a special "guest appearance" - this time by Katy Perry. It's a friendly reminder to own your awesomeness.
What are you awesome at? Go on! Toot your own horn (I dare you)! How have you been holding back your awesomeness? Do you know someone else that's letting their light shine "brighter than the moon"? Share your stories, thoughts, and ideas in the comments.
If you or someone you know could use this information, please share us with them and be part of our Rising Tide! Every share helps. THANK YOU!
OH, BTW... Des is coming back from California this week, so look for new videos in the 300 songs project soon! YAY!
This past week, I was fortunate to be able to travel to the Berkshires and visit with great friends. Actually, they're more like sisters. As one of the inscriptions reads in my book, sometimes friends are as family, and these ladies are it. We met during Amy Oscar's Soul Caller retreat last year, and we've kept in touch since then. We spent a few days re-connecting, learning, laughing, crying, and generally showing support for one another - which is what good friends and family do in my mind.
At one point, we made a trek to a nearby waterfall - the Umpachene Falls, to be exact.
Here's a photo one of my companions (Nicole Navratil) took while we were trekking. The beauty of the photo pales compared to the beauty of the experience at the falls. Imagine coming into a quiet little town park, green grass, lots of trees, and a small cache of playground equipment. Then imagine coming around a bend and seeing massive grey rocks with cool, clear water cascading in and around them.
Stunning doesn't begin to describe it.
As I climbed, I reached a point where the only way to go higher was to either move away from the water and go inland, or cross the water to get to the other side. I considered my options and, because I was more afraid of what I couldn't see in the trees (and because my companions were all waterside), I figured my best bet was to cross the water. At least if I fell, my friends would be there to collect me.
The higher I went, the more exhilarated I was. When I turned back, I could see everyone down below. I could even see the handful of brave souls that decided to climb higher. Then, as I turned forward to see what lay ahead, I saw something that couldn't be natural. Something I really wanted to look at more closely.(more…)
Each time I go to my coach's weekend intensives, I always walk away with lots of ideas that pop like "popcorn" over the coming weeks. Sometimes they come in the most unusual ways.
For example, I was back in my hotel room, kind of winding down for the night. After a weekend like this, you can be emotionally raw, which means I can cry at the drop of a hat.
This video took me over the edge. Not only is it a powerful display of courage, but also conviction, commitment, and to staying the course when it comes to owning your dreams. Watch (you might need tissue), and I'll share some key lessons after. (more…)
It started innocently, as revolutions often do.
I've been working (and re-working) my branding and messaging for the past year, and nothing really seemed to hit the mark. I dove into course after course that offered bits and pieces of what I was hoping would help me craft a clearer direction for me as both an artist and entrepreneur. As usual, some were better than others. While class is still in session in at least one of those programs, I want to update you on a major ah-ha I got from Revolution U, the brainchild of author and all-round good guy, Jonathan Fields.
It probably sounds better when the Beatles sing it. Jonathan's premise is that instead of creating a business, we can create a commercial revolution that sets us apart in our industry as well as in the minds of our biggest fans. We stand for something bigger than just the "stuff" we sell.
That sounds like a pretty sexy idea to me.
RevU takes you through a series of exercises and prompts to ultimately identify the core idea of your revolution. Jonathan asks what you're moving away from and what will supplant the old dictatorial regime. For me, it boiled down to one simple idea:
As kids, our hearts are full of whimsical fantasies and never-ending stories about our biggest dreams. Firemen, princesses, becoming a rock star. We keep on dreaming until, one day, something happens, or someone else enters our lives and slowly, those dreams get squashed, squelched, or otherwise relegated to some dusty corner in the attic of our minds... often to never be revisited again.
That's when death begins. It's slow, plodding, and sad. Most of the time, we don't even realize it's happening to us. Someone tells us we're too loud, or too enthusiastic, or a bit obnoxious about our dream, so we turn the volume down. Little by little, (more…)
For some of us, there comes a time in life when it feels like everyone has given up on you.
You might even feel like giving up on yourself.
As I write this, I've just returned from spending the day in the hospital with my oldest son. Suffice it to say he's on the brink of giving up on himself. He waffles, as I suspect many teenagers do, between thinking he's the greatest thing since sliced bread and seriously wondering why anyone "wastes" their time with him.
If you've followed me for any length of time, you know the trials (more…)
[Editor's note: This is Day 16 of the Be Your Own Guru series. This is Melanie's first adventure as a guest contributor to ANY blog, and I'm humbles to share her voice today. Melanie brings the perspective of an artist and an intuitive to this conversation. She reminds us that we all have our own guru inside ourselves - and it's time to let it shine.]
Guru: the act of being a pure, spiritually aligned wise one.
Are you your own guru, or is someone else? Do you feel that this thing they are is separate and nothing to do with your own existence? Are they teachers and gurus who convince you they’ve got it down and are perfect super uber spiritual beings? (& Perhaps you're not?)
Well perhaps they have it down.
Everyone is unique.
Everyone is diverse.
Everyone has a different life...
Take on things...
If we are all unique, so are (more…)
By Doug Knight
[Editor's Note: This is Day 13 of the Be Your Own Guru series. Today, we roll into more of the "brass tacks" of building a Noble Empire. I met Doug at a local TEDx event, and was blown away not only by his passion for non-profit work, but also his ecclectic music tastes. Over the past year, I've come to learn how dad-gummed smart he is. If you're looking to dive into a new venture, this could be the kick start (or the warning flag) you've been looking for.]
A friend of mine asked me the other day, “How do you…you know… start something?” My friend was having trouble articulating what truly he was trying to get me to talk about, but after a round of drinks it came out a little easier to understand.
Ah…. got it. The old “High Risk, Tough-to-see-but-know-its-
It’s one of those weird things, especially now with our economic situation as a country (broke), as a typical American (in debt), and as a community (“get a real job” talkers). But I think the first thing I would say to someone who is even just considering such a move is to first ask yourself…. “Are you Happy?”
Now this “do what you’re happy at” talk is obvious to many and simple to say (hard to do). But I don’t just mean the personal happiness that you perceive in your dreams when you see yourself as the President/CEO/Chief Food Taster at Honkin’ Industries, Inc.
I’m not talking about money or being a boss per se; I’m talking about that happiness that happens when you live by a “Work Hard, Play Hard” mentality – where you’re not sure when you are working and when you are playing because both bring you so much JOY.
Being happy also doesn’t mean always in the positive column. You must also know (it is guaranteed) (more…)
[Editor's note: Today is day 13 in the Be Your Own Guru series. I met Tiffany as a contestant on Prosperity's Kitchen. Her mission spoke to me, as I hope it will you. Her commitment to helping young girls take ownership of their dreams is something we can all learn from as we strive to reconnect to our true voice and trust ourselves again.]
Think about a time in your life, around age five or so. Remember how you knew you could do anything you wanted? How you knew you could change the world?
You got excited, you were present, and you didn’t give a crap what anybody else thought.
But most of us lose it, to some extent, along the way. We let other people dictate what we’ll do with our lives. The kids that grow up and go on to rock the world are the ones that still have that passion as they grow older. They never lost sight of their awesome - or they reclaimed it in adulthood.
How do we reclaim our awesomeness? If we’ve lost it, do we even have time to get it back?
Follow these steps to be present again in your life, and embrace your awesome.
1. Allow yourself to feel pain. You’ve got to make that emotional connection, or it’s just not going to stick. Take some time for yourself one afternoon. Go someplace you really enjoy being and where you can concentrate, and bring a pen and paper with you. Start listing all the things you
wanted to do and be when you were little. List all the dreams you had. Big and small, crazy and doable. You’ll start to notice something: you’re getting a little not-so-fun gut feeling, you’re realizing the pure joy you had when you had those dreams. Determine that from this point forward, you will dream and you will help support others in their dreams. This is your little mourning period.
2. Dream those dreams and be a believer. My daughter and I believe in fairies. Sure, we’ve never actually seen them, but do you know how absolutely exciting things are when you believe in the possibility of them? Life is no longer seen through practical black and white glasses. There’s color and beauty and huge dreams and possibilities. Whatever it takes, dream. Write it down each day. Make a vision board. Keep those dreams alive and start looking at the world from that vantage point.
3. Help someone else dream. This might be your spouse, child, friend, neighbor. It doesn’t matter. When you help someone else dream, you get caught up in those happy feelings. It’s no longer about you, but how you can help that person realize their dream. When you’re in this spot, you start dreaming again yourself.
Technology, books, mentors are very useful, but to get started with anything in your life, you first need to check-in with yourself. You’ll see the untapped potential there.
I’d love to know: what were your childhood dreams? What are your big dreams now? Let me know in the comments below!
Tiffany Manley helps girls realize that they can find all they need to sparkle and shine within themselves. She uses education appreciation, career exploration, & confidence construction to help girls realize they can dream gargantuan dreams - and that they can achieve them. Her website is a collection of resources for boosting self-confidence in young women (and their moms!), homeschooling, and more. You can also connect with Tiffany on twitter.
As a small child, I knew I was called to be a performer. I remember being 2 or 3 years old (before we moved into the house I grew up in) and "performing" for my family. I'd stand up on my wooden toy box, pretending it was a stage, dancing and singing for whoever would give me the time of day. I remember the day I was too big to stand on that "stage" - my foot went right through the lid and broke the toy box.
I grew up in a community where the biggest dream most folks had was to get a good paying job in "the shop". GM practically owned Flint when I was growing up, and the parents of most of the kids I ran with were either in the shop, or served the shop workers as teachers, lawyers, or doctors. Our town was a shop economy. (more…)