Monday, April 25, 2011

On the Couch or On a Roll?

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I'm reading Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh's Delivering Happiness. In an early section of the book he talks about what he wants to accomplish in his life, and relates business and life choices with what he's learned about poker. At one point he realizes that if things aren't working out, he can always "change tables. Psychologically, it's hard because of all the inertia to overcome. Without conscious and deliberate effort, inertia always wins."

Nowadays when I read the word "inertia" I think "couch potato," but that's just because I've tried hard to forget all of the physics I ever had to learn. When I look up inertia the first definition includes words like "inertness; inactivity; sluggishness." But the second says, "the property of matter by which it retains its state of rest or its velocity along a straight line so long as it is not acted upon by an external force." In everyday words that means inertia describes the guy on the couch as well as the guy "on a roll." Inertia is sitting still because it requires effort to move, but it's also moving forward because it takes effort to stop the momentum. When it comes to our jobs these are very different issues, but inertia in any expression can cause trouble.

Everyone knows about the couch potato trouble, the can't-get-the-top-spinning kind of inertia. The best cure that I've found for this is Steven Pressfield's book The War of Art. He talks about Resistance, that thing that keeps us from doing what it is we're supposed to be doing. He talks about the many forms it takes, and he's funny and direct and helpful. I've read this book several times, and each time I find more relevance to more areas of my life. It isn't just about writing or creative work, it's about deciding who you want to be and then being able to make that happen. If you know what you want but you're finding it hard to do it, read this book. It helps.

Pressfield also has a new book called Do the Work. The Kindle edition is free. I'm reading it now and it's also excellent, even more help in this never-ending battle with Resistance.

This other side of inertia, however, has me stumped. I'll admit, I'm a workaholic. I'm not recovering. There probably isn't a cure. The intervention could come any day now. The point is, I can relate more to the "momentum" part of inertia than the "resting" part. On a work day, that's good. In the middle of a rush order, it's necessary. But on a vacation or weekend intended for family time, it's trouble. That's why I'm sure that Tony Hsieh was also talking about this aspect of inertia when he said, "Without conscious and deliberate effort, inertia always wins."

This is the inertia that can propel people into business growth that they don't want, partnerships that don't suit them, bigger, better, faster equipment and technology that doesn't work for their businesses or lives. When you're on a roll it's hard to stop. It's hard to slow down. It's difficult to change gears. I'm struggling with this right now, because I know that there's value in both: that spending a little more time on the couch is actually as good for me as working! I'm looking for new ways to stop and start with less difficulty. Do you have any suggestions?

Do you have trouble with inertia? When you take time off, is it hard to start back up again? When you're working hard on something, do you sometimes sit back and realize it's the middle of the night and you've been lost in the project? Are you on the couch or on a roll? What techniques do you use to transition between the two?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Coloring the Eggs

I remember so well the years that both of my kids colored Easter eggs and ended up with brown hands. Those wire loop holders were ignored in favor of tiny fingers, dipped into one color after another. Easter morning they showed off fancy dresses and handsome dress shirts and hands still stained to the wrists. Most of the eggs were brown, too.

The kids are bigger now, but not too big to enjoy coloring eggs. Tristan's hands were still a bit "colorful" but I'm happy to say that the eggs were, too.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Flower Straws in FamilyFun!

I just had to share this good news with you! One of our ideas from this blog is featured in the May issue of Disney's FamilyFun Magazine! You may not remember our Spring Flower Party posts (they were way back in 2009) but there were a few posts showing how to make spring flower cupcakes and how to make paper flower party straws. The drinking straws DIY included templates for daffodils, tulips, and other spring flowers and directions for putting them together with tissue paper.

FamilyFun has made it even easier: they make the flowers with baking cups. Use different sizes and colors, fold, punch holes, and cut petal shapes. Then slide onto straws and tape in place. Very simple, and I love how the crinkle of the paper cups makes the petals and leaves look real!

Here's their version (on page 19...forgive me for blowing up my name, I got a little thrill out of seeing it here!). If you've never seen FamilyFun, I really recommend it. They have so many terrific crafts that you can do with your kids, and this issue is so fabulously Spring-y. I am loving the origami feature, too.

If you are looking for more spring projects, here are some of our past posts, including the Spring Flower Party posts:

Spring Flower Theme Party Part I
Spring Flower Theme Party Part II
Ladybug Cookies
Cherry Blossoms

What do you think? Do you have crafty projects to celebrate spring? Do you enjoy craft magazines? Which ones do you like best? Please share your thoughts!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Kiva Loan Number 19

I was so excited to make my 19th Kiva loan today (which just happens to be the 19th)! I made loans to two retailers: one in Paraguay, one in the Ukraine. One of the women works in clothing sales, the other sells souvenirs. As my initial loans are repaid, I get to re-loan them to other women entrepreneurs all over the world. The same money gets loaned over and over again, which I love. (Of course I'm also adding more every so often, too, so I can make more loans!)

You can learn more about Kiva here. I've also blogged about Kiva a couple of times. Oh, and here's another. I think I'm up to one new loan every month, so I'll be sure to share the next one with you, too!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What's "Delivering Happiness" for you?

I've always been a reader, but these days I find a generous amount of my reading is done for work. I'm always delighted to find a business book that's also fun to read, which is why I am excited to be participating in the Q2 Indie Business Book Club. A dozen of us are reading Tony Hsieh's "Delivering Happiness," and meeting every two weeks for the next few months to discuss it.

I read "Delivering Happiness" last year and really enjoyed it, but reading it for a book club gives me a chance to reread it with new focus. So much of what Tony Hsieh talks about makes sense to me, but I'm wondering this time around how much of it could be applied to any person? Any job? Any company?

When offered the chance to sell his first business (he was offered $20 million when his company wasn't even a year old), Hsieh made a list of what he'd do with the money. One of the things on his list was: "I would start another company, because I really enjoyed the idea of building and growing something." Hey, I can relate to that! When he decides not to sell for $20 million, it's partly because "even if we failed, going after the opportunity was the right thing to do." Even at this early point he seems motivated more by the experiences of starting and growing a business than by a large sum of money.

Contrast that with one of the delivery guys who brings packages to my business. In several of our many interesting conversations, he's told me how much he hates his job. He's looking forward to his approaching retirement and the pension that he stuck around for. When I asked him about this path, why he didn't quit years ago to do something he enjoyed, he said he didn't know what else he'd do, and he'd already put in time with this job and didn't want to lose it. He has worked 30+ years doing a job he hates largely because he wanted that pension. What amazes me is that even 25 years ago, when he hadn't put in much time, he already felt that it was too late to change. He didn't want to go after any opportunity if it meant losing the promise of that cash 30 years later. I know that it's important to commit to things and stick around for the long haul, but is every job worth that? WWTD? (What Would Tony Do?)

Actually Tony Hsieh did sell his company to Microsoft for $265 million (worth the wait, right?!). Part of the deal involved staying with the company for a year. When deciding whether to walk away from that deal and lose about 20% in the process, he returned to his lists. He said, "I made a list of the happiest periods in my life, and I realized that none of them involved money. I realized that building stuff and being creative and inventive made me happy." He walked away from the additional cash, acknowledging the shift that he'd made: "I had decided to stop chasing the money, and start chasing the passion."

When I was a kid I spent a lot of time with my best friend's family. Her dad worked for the local shipyard, a terrific employer in my community. Sometimes he talked about his work, but he often talked about his vacation time. I could tell by the way he talked about his vacations—hunting, fishing, camping—that these were the things he really loved. I remember thinking then (I was probably 10 or 11) that I would rather work 52 weeks at something I loved than work 49 or 50 at something I hated in order to have 2 or 3 weeks to enjoy. We spend so much time in our lives working, shouldn't we find something we love?

What is it about some people that makes them willing to dive in? I'm not a particularly good example because my husband's job has always supported us, but there are so many people who really risk everything to do what makes them happy. They follow their passion instead of always focusing on the salary or pension or accrued vacation time. And that's a scary thing, when you think about it. Why are some willing and able to do it?

What is it that's "delivering happiness" in your life right now? Is it your job? (If not, you aren't alone; almost 3/4 of people would switch if they got a better offer.) Have you dreamed of making your hobby into your life's work? What is stopping you? Please share your thoughts! And please consider reading "Delivering Happiness" so you can follow along as I talk about it in the coming weeks! I'd love to know what you think about it!

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Flip Flops and Lollipops

New flavors! New designs!

I've been busy this week putting the final touches on our new Kids' Party Favors! I've added more Candy Jar goodies like these Blue Raspberry gift sets. I've added new designs: monkeys and tutus, fairies and Mary Janes, flip flops and lollipops! Lots of new theme ideas to choose from!

And along with those designs we have some new flavors. In addition to the candy jar flavors (Blue Raspberry, Grape Soda, Lemon-Lime, Melontastic) we have Monkey Kisses, a tropical blend of banana, coconut, and pineapple!

I'd love to know what you think!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Monday, April 04, 2011

What is "Real"?

I spent most of Saturday lost in kids' party land. I've been working on new design ideas and finally had a big block of time to finish up. While I was working, I realized that this is my 14th year of doing graphics work. I remembered something an early client told me when I first started designing ads for her: "You're not a real designer."

My degree is in biology and psychology, and though I'd always had a personal interest in art, I had no formal education in design. My client was an artist and designer who had a degree from a design school. What she didn't have was a computer or the skills to create a digital ad, so even though I wasn't a real designer, she still hired me. But I remember feeling like an impostor. I didn't feel comfortable asking for money for my work. And even 14 years later I'm still telling people, "I'm not really a designer."

How do you know when you're a real designer? Or a real anything? A real doctor or nurse or lawyer is easy to know, I guess: if you get a degree or pass the bar or complete your residency, you've earned a title and you're "legitimate." But what about writers or artists? Musicians or photographers? How do you know when you're real?

My favorite book about being real is The Velveteen Rabbit. Do you remember that children's book by Margery Williams? There's a scene when the Velveteen Rabbit talks with the Skin Horse about what it means to be real:

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time."

Another of my favorite books is Steven Pressfield's The War of Art. In the book he talks about "turning pro." He speaks of "the Professional as an ideal," contrasting it with the amateur. He says:

The conventional interpretation is that the amateur pursues his calling out of love, while the pro does it for money. Not the way I see it. In my view, the amateur does not love the game enough. If he did, he would not pursue it as a sideline, distinct from his "real" vocation. The professional loves it so much he dedicates his life to it. He commits full-time.

It seems to me that becoming a real anything requires these three things: Love. Commitment. Time.

I'm grateful to my client (who later became a good friend) for pointing out that I wasn't a real designer. I still don't think I'm real. But I'm becoming. I love my work, I'm committed to it, and I will keep putting in the time, which is my real joy.

Are you a real something? How did you know that you were real? What have you committed to becoming?

Friday, April 01, 2011

Feedback Friday is Tulips

It's Feedback Friday, and you know what that means! (Or maybe you don't know...) If you're just joining us, Feedback Friday is when we feature one of our fragrances or flavors with an invitation to share your opinions below. If you haven't tried the featured product, we make it easier by offering a sample in your next order.

This week we're introducing a new fragrance! Of course I'm writing this in the middle of the umpteenth blizzard here in Maine, but I'm gonna be optimistic and think Spring! About a month from now my garden will be a blaze of color, and the tulips will be some of the first and brightest to bloom.

Our new Limited Edition Tulips fragrance captures that early-bloom scent. Think warm spring breeze with an airy floral and light, fresh green. It's an elegant floral scent, feminine and graceful. I'm thinking it's just right for Mother's Day, though this fragrance makes unique women's gifts for many occasions. You have lots of products to choose from; Tulips fragrance is available in:

hand creams
bath gel (with red and yellow jojobas for gentle exfoliation)
sugar scrub (also with red and yellow jojobas)
bath salts
gift sets

We'll be tucking a sample of Tulips hand cream into all of our April orders. Once you've tried Tulips, we hope you'll feel free to share your comments here. Let us know what you think!

Thank you for your interest!

You may be interested in these other Feedback Friday posts:
Lemon Blueberry
Green Clover & Aloe
Apricot Freesia
Sweetini Spa
Lip Balm Tubes
Maine Woodland Berry
Coconut Twist
Pumpkin Pie
Sugar Cookie
Chocolate Truffle

Blarney Balm


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