2016, Entrepreneur, Mindfulness, personal branding

The Mindful Entrepreneur

Note: This blog piece was written January 11 2016 but has been migrated onto a new site.

Entrepreneurs are often a labeled as aggressive, stubborn types who let nothing and no one stand in the way of their vision. I have no qualms with this type of entrepreneur. They have given us Facebook, intuitive tech and software, and agency to customize our daily experiences from apps that track our monthly cycle (down to our eating and pooping habits) to adjusting to our music tastes to give us only what we desire. But I am finding another type. They have existed for a long time but their space is opening up in a more integrated and interdisciplinary way. These people I am going to call “Mindful Entrepreneurs” and as it happens, my clients so far all fall into this category and it’s exhilarating.

These are some traits I have found these people to possess in various combinations:

  • Holistic in their approach
  • Their mission involves contributing to a social good
  • They desire a “tribe” and often feel lonely or disconnected in traditional friendships
  • Their inspiration can reach the heights of Everest but just as quickly they can get caught up in a web of existential worry about their own worth.
  • They’ve undergone at least one major transformation if not more
  • They have not always known exactly what they wanted to do but they had a pretty good sense of they wanted to feel about what they do
Photo by Kaj Peterson. Licensed under CC at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/
Photo by Kaj Peterson.
Licensed under CC at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

So why do we need to pay attention to these people? They are going to be the ones who connect the two seemingly disparate paths of our desire for the simplicity of the past and the drunken lust with which we stumble to our complex futures. When I talk about the past I mean our dreamy vision of “simpler” times where language was less important than spirituality and storytellers played the roles of healers and magicians. I also mean our own simpler pasts as children. The time where we felt an inherent connection to the dirt beneath our feet and freedom felt like outside.

So now that we understand these types a little better let’s talk about their typical business challenges and is often what brings them to me:

  • How to monetize (this being the biggest and most difficult challenge)
  • How to balance maintaining professional relationships without comprising their natural desire to connect deeply with people on a truly personal level
  • What to call themselves (job title, position etc.)
  • How to make a sustainable business out of doing but also teaching others how to do
  • How to make a living doing what they love without losing the love by making it about money
  • When to protect their ideas and when to share them with anyone who will listen

An unexpected calling that has revealed itself to me this year has been to understand these challenges and find solutions for them that resonate with the mindful. Second to that, I feel a strong need to curate these ideas and solutions into a larger vision for the world to start seeing how valuable these people will continue to become.

I’m not one for New Year resolutions since my feeling of renewal and the need for freshness only came Jan. 8th after an impromptu night out with my tribe. That aside, I am on a clear path to deep dive into these topics and challenges. Because I believe that we do not need to be afraid of business. We do not need to feel like a cop out. We just have to pay attention to what we are offering in the exchange between us and a client or a customer. Because while money is a necessity of modern life, we are all capable of more meaningful exchanges and one does not erase the need for the other.

2015, Entrepreneur, RedBrick Rooster

Four Endings & A Beginning

Note: This blog piece was written June 1 2015 but has been migrated onto a new site.
I am my own boss. I am my own boss. I am my own boss. No, I still cannot believe it. Not because I am so in awe of myself. Quite the opposite. December 2014 – I found myself in a bind. Not the good kinky kind either. After submerging myself into the corporate marketing world for almost a year in what appeared to be the perfect job for the perfect future – life threw me yet another, all-too-predictable curve-ball. “You think you like stability, security, a nice clean suit with a nice clean salary? Think again”.
I had it all – a wonderful job with a great team, visions of future leadership, and husband to spoil with my very first adult-sized salary. Then. Boom. A small group of contract workers including myself were told that no contracts would be renewed for 2015. As I’m sure many of you know, especially if you are under 30, job security is a dusty top shelf dream. Most of us don’t even have the luxury to think about things like retirement, pension, mortgage payments. My coping mechanism for this lifestyle of being in and out of jobs, was to worry less about my longevity at a company and to instead focus on the impact I was making while I was there. I wanted to let my various experiences shape my career. But this time was different. I believed this one had taken. So when the door closed on yet another path to job happiness, I was defeated. Anxiety and depression for the last two years left me exhausted. Worst of all – I felt like nothing could recharge my once self-charging batteries.
Essentially, I had spent so much energy investing in what I believed would bring me happiness that I accidentally unlearned how to be happy myself. So I slept. A lot. I let the defeat saturate my whole. Then, one cold and dull day, I went to my church. I should explain that this is not an actual church but it is my spiritual getaway; the place where I seem to flock when I need to understand something. A tattoo shop where I spent one summer working as a receptionist. I was in need of money and the owner, a big-hearted animal-loving lady, to my great surprise and despite my inklessness hired me. So one dreary afternoon I wondered over there to visit one of the artists who is now a dear friend. I told her the news. I had lost my job. Her reaction was unexpected – at best. “Toni this is the best news. Now you can just do your own thing”. Then the choir chimed in. It wasn’t just her. Other people reacted the same way. When I went back to my tattooed spiritual guide and told her about this she gave me one heck of a talking to. She believed wholeheartedly that it was time for me to build something of my own. I felt it. That urge to detach my ambitions from the bureaucracy that seemed to control it for the past 10 years of my life.
So one Saturday afternoon I sat in this chair (my comfy office chair at home) and came up with a business name – RedBrick Rooster Creative. So now, this is what I am building. This time without worrying that it has to be this impenetrable fortress designed to create future happiness and kick out all anxiety and depression.  To be honest, it isn’t much of anything yet. I wake up every morning (never at exactly the same time) and think – today I will build and play. I am less scared about taking things apart and rebuilding them because it’s just for me. My happiness. I have learned that my happiness relies on my personal and professional life being a big blurry grey line. One does not help defeat the evils in the other. They work together. I thought I knew this already. So as you can imagine I was quite shocked when I found out that I did not.
2015, Entrepreneur, RedBrick Rooster, Uncategorized

An Office of One’s Own…and One Own’s Dog

Note: This blog piece was written June 16 2015 but has been migrated onto a new site

Boris (my Great Dane) and I spent most mornings the same way these days. My husband gets up to start his job in carpentry bright and early. Boris and I make lazy attempts at getting rubs and cuddles from him, but soon enough Boris plops onto the warm space where my husband was sleeping and the two of us drift off for another hour.

Once Boris has been for his morning walk and I’ve made my cup of coffee tea (I’m trying) I go back upstairs, where on the other side of the bedroom I have set-up a cozy little workspace. I will usually start building my weekly schedule on Monday mornings. Now don’t get me wrong, Mondays are not my favourite part of the week, but I love this part of it because I do exactly what I did in all my years at a Montessori elementary/middle school.
Let me first tell you a little about my time there.
We used to get all our work for the week assigned on a Monday and then it was up to us how we wished to complete it. During the week we’d have lectures, art classes, music classes, and other once-off activities as well. We were many grades in one class so we all had the benefit of listening to the same “lectures” – we just had different projects to complete at the end of it.  We were even allowed to try an older grades project if we wanted a challenge. But before I gush my way to a novel-sized memoir of my Montessori days, let’s get back to scheduling.
As boring as it sounds (it’s not!), this entire post is will probably end up being about scheduling.

“I am my own boss” means I make my own week.  On Mondays I sit with about 15 little sticky notes on my fingers and rearrange them on the side of my bookcase under titles that indicate the day of the week. Stickies include: research and development for workshops; video editing; bookkeeping; current clients; new clients; and my favourite – blogging. Now, as good as Montessori was at teaching me how to schedule, I found these lessons quickly evaporating in a conventional work environment. When I started my own business I found myself wanting to adhere to those conventional rules and frankly it was a completely demotivating exercise.  For a while I didn’t understand that I was doing this. I actually thought I was living by my own rules. Then I stumbled upon Braid Creative.

A creativity consulting and design company, they wield strong weapons against falling into traps of being anything except yourself. So naturally when I saw that they offered an e-course in “Personal Branding” I jumped – hard. One of the exercises I completed was to map out all the traditional rules or norms associated with being a professional. I thought back to my jobs in corporate marketing and started to uncover the expectations – what they refer to as “the optics” – of what a professional is. These were things like: work hours; when to take lunch; how to dress; how not to dress; what language to use; when to take personal leave; what an appropriate stress level. Ironically, if your answer to elevator small talk didn’t at least reference being stressed or “over-capacity”, the general assumption was that you weren’t serious enough about your job. It took writing out these “rules” to realize just how this had impacted my perception of a ‘professional’.
As I was taking stock of my workweek, I started rewriting these rules. In doing so, my definition of a professional began to shift.

I love Fridays. I’m energized and stimulated from the week and full of restless energy. I love the energy of the 9-5ers downtown as they ramp up for the weekend by taking a slightly longer lunch to grab a beer with a pal, or walk in the denims they only get to wear on Fridays. It feels like everyone is giggling at the same joke on the inside. So a little while ago I decided – no work on Fridays. By Sunday I’ve usually had my fill of domestic chores and family BBQs so I like jumping into some of the more free-flowing creative work on a Sunday afternoon. This means that when I wake up on Mondays I’ve already started, though I still hate Mondays.
But now, I love Sundays.
They are not that bitter reminder of a Monday.
They are their own special day where work blends with BBQ and white wine. Fridays are my very own day. Most of the time I’m out and about in one of my favourite Ottawa hoods – Hintonburg. When I’m there you’re likely to find me perusing the sales items at St. Vincent De Paul, then going next door to Flock to longingly stare at each and every beautiful creation in there. Then I walk to The Hintonburg Public House where I treat myself to a glass of wine and something to eat. Dessert is ALWAYS Suzy Q donuts and I ALWAYS buy half a dozen. They make a lovely snack later when husband and I are watching Netflix.

Now before you think  – well of course YOU can do that, YOU work from home. Let me just say that you are completely right. I chose to build my life in a way where my personal life and work life, my personal self and work self all blend together. In order to help people tell stories, I have to have stories of my own. In order to help local businesses brand and create unique content, I have to understand the Ottawa appeal. It is my job to love my work as much as it is to do my work. And – if I have to be honest – I think we all need to change our thinking to be a little more in line with that. You will be better at your job if you love it – even if what you love about it is that it gives you time or money for something great in your personal life. Check yourself before you wreck yourself. Work to live. Don’t live to work.

Any other “dad style” advice-sayings you can all throw at me?

I’m lovin’ it. So should you.