Lisa Robbin Young

Have you ever watched Cake Boss? They make some pretty amazing cakes, and my youngest has recently become fascinated with every cooking show on Netflix he can find, including that one.

I'm no Cake Boss, but I love my kids.

So when it comes to birthdays, I do my best to give my kids the cake they most want. Sometimes, when it's clearly beyond my skill, I get help:


My friend has mad cake skills, and she once made my youngest this fun Angry Birds cake. The grass alone would have put me in the loony bin.

But this year, my youngest wanted a lego cake - which he, of course, designed using legos:


 At first blush, it looked simple enough for me to tackle. Four "bricks" layered on and around one larger "brick" in a quasi "L" shape (because "Liam" starts with "L" after all). I used graph paper. I measured. I planned, and I baked the hell outta this cake. I bought three cake mixes and two cans of frosting, just to be sure I had enough of everything, in case I screwed up and had to do it again. I even started making the cake two days before his birthday - JUST to be sure.

A half sheet cake and 2 dozen miniature muffins later,  I thought I had this in the bag.

Until I didn't.

Making the cake part was easy. Mix and bake. Cutting the cake into bricks went pretty smoothly, too. I froze the whole lot to make sure of it. I remembered the LAST time I made a lego cake, and how I thought it would be easy, but it didn't quite turn out according to plan:


So this time, I took it out of the pan, froze it, and that made it SO much easier to level and frost.

But then there were those blasted studs. The lego cake two years ago was a pain to frost between the studs... and this time the studs would be smaller!

I figured that mini muffins would work well, since the last time we used regular cupcakes. But the minis were too wide, and I couldn't get six of them on the bottom layer.


Then I had this seemingly brilliant idea - I have a small petit-four cutter that I could use to cut the cupcakes into perfectly shaped studs!


Except the cake was so light and fluffy that they kept falling apart.


So then I had another seemingly brilliant idea - what if I dipped the cake studs in chocolate? That should firm them up, yes?


Even frozen, the fluffy tubes of cake kept spinning on the dipping stick. So I just plunged one into the chocolate, and it disintegrated in the warm puddle of chocolatey goo.

Double Crap.

Then I had my epiphany: Google it!

I looked for suggestions on how to frost the studs on a lego cake... and got all kinds of explanations telling me I was doing it wrong.

People were using brownies, peanut butter cups - pretty much everything except cake.

And all I had were these crumbling pieces of cake. I had to make ten studs, and I'd already lost seven of my mini cupcakes. I was starting to panic.

Okay, I was, in fact, getting angry. So angry, that I scraped up all the chocolatey cake glop and poured it out onto wax paper, trying to figure out what the bleep I was going to do. I grabbed the wounded cupcake remains - shot clean through by the cutter - and started squishing and squeezing them, generally being pissed off at the world.

That's when it happened.

The chocolate and cake started to form this dough-like substance. I'm told this is something like how cake balls are made.

So I took my doughy-chocolate-cake-ball glop, packed it down into the petit-four mold, then I stuck it in the freezer for a minute or three.

Voila! A perfectly hard chunk of cake-stuff that wasn't going to be a beeotch to frost! Now I could proceed with the crumb coat!


I frosted and froze each layer independently, then assembled everything once the crumb coat was on. I'd like to say that was my first mistake, but if you've read this far, you know better. I really should have frosted each layer separately and then assembled the darn thing after all the frosting was completed. But since I'm not a cake boss, and I was building this whole thing from a lego design, I, of course, built it the same way my kid built the original plan.

Cakes are not Legos

Only problem is, cakes don't interlock the way legos do.

When we cut into it today, we'll have to avoid the mine field of wooden skewers and toothpicks that are deftly holding this creation in an upright and locked position.

But it's assembled. I even managed to frost it (in multiple colors) without killing myself. Although I ended up sending the husband out for another tub of frosting because I didn't have enough to put on the final white coat or finish the blue layer.

I managed to finish last night, just in time for him to see it before he went to school this morning.


Here's the finished product:

It leans a little The layers aren't perfect. If you look really closely, there are a couple of spots behind the blue studs where the white crumb coat still shows because I couldn't get in there to frost it without screwing up the green. On the other side, there's a small gap between the yellow and white frosted layers. And the size of the studs make it look more like a set of Duplo blocks than Legos, but you know what? My kid thinks it's fantastic, so I am completely happy with it.


"Exactly 10 studs showing, Mom! Nice job. And you used strong brick connections, just like a real Lego build!"

Dude. I just followed your design. I changed the colors a bit (I was NOT making grey frosting. Ick.), but other than that, this is your design, kid.

And that's the reality of being a mom - it's not about me. Sure, I want it to be perfect and measure up to the original idea, but my definition of perfect and his are entirely different. Maybe his bar is set too low, but maybe mine is set too high - on a lot of things.

So, too, is this the journey of every creative entrepreneur. We get an idea, and even the best laid plans don't always mean our project will turn out perfectly... far from it, usually. You can plow a lot of money into hiring a great team to support a project and still get lousy results (like Langley's government-backed team of experts trying to get an airplane off the ground). You might even run out of frosting - er, I mean, resources - mid way through the project. But still you plow through.

So if it's not about money, or planning, or even a great idea, what is it really about?


Oh, I know it sounds all cliche and Pollyanna, but the reality is that love - not passion - is what keeps you going on projects like this. I have no passion for making cakes, but I love my kid. You love your fans, and you're creating for them. You love the act of creating, so you're creating for you. And the problems that come up along the way are just the hurdles you have to navigate - they're part of the journey. Never once while I was making this cake did I threaten to quit. I did threaten to throw the cake across the room and start over a couple of times with those blasted studs, but I wasn't about to quit.


Because my kid matters. Because bringing him joy matters. Because bringing his creation to life matters to me. Showing him you can take an idea and make it a reality is important to me. It's a lesson I want him to learn now, while he's young, so that he can take it with him into the world when he becomes a creative entrepreneur in his own right.

It's not about you (but it is)

Because the sooner you learn that it's never about you (and yet, it's all about you), the sooner you realize that all the external measures of success don't mean squat. It's only ever been about your fans, and deepening your connection with them. It's only ever been about finding your joy and sharing that joy with the world.

Those studs are the best part of the cake, in my opinion. Because that's where my heart and soul are. That's the part I had to figure out. That's the part that challenged me and gave me an opportunity to grow  - not just as a cake maker (God help me), but as a human being. Those studs challenged me to not give up, to keep trying, to figure it out.

I never would have tried so hard if it were just about me. This was for my kid. My fan. So I doubled down. And in the process, I got a tremendous benefit: I learned. I persevered. I created.

The Creative's Challenge

Every creative endeavor meets this moment of challenge: do you give up, or keep trying? Do you listen to everyone around you that says your way is wrong ("Use peanut butter cups!" "Use brownies!"), or do you keep trying to figure out the way that will work for you ("But all I have is cake, frosting, and chocolate chips. Hmm, I wonder...")?

Maybe it will work, maybe it won't, and maybe you'll throw it out and start over. But one things for certain: you won't quit until you figure it out. And maybe, just maybe, if you're like most creatives, you'll come up with some clever new way of doing/being/experiencing the world that will inspire your fans and deepen that connection in a way that makes them love you even more.

Isn't that what it means to be a creative anyway?


If you're looking for a community of creatives that are encouraging each other to step up and keep figuring out the way that will work for who you are, join us in the Accountability Club. Every month we take specific action on goals that moves us closer to our dreams. Only a few spots remain and when they're gone, you'll have to get on the wait list.


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!