Being an artist, writer, entrepreneur, or any kind of creative person (any kind of human, really) can sometimes be a discouraging journey.
At times, it can feel like you are yelling into the void of the Internet…hoping somebody will notice you. I speak from experience.
You pitch 20 publishers but nobody wants to give you a book deal.
You email 10 potential clients but nobody wants to hire you right now.
You reach out to 5 journalists but nobody is even remotely interested in doing a story on your company.
You put up flyers about a free class you’re leading. C’mon people, it’s free! Who could possibly say no! But then 1 person shows up and asks, “Uh, is this the right place? Am I too early?” And you swell with shame and realize you bought way too many donuts.
You begin to feel like you’re begging, pleading, and groveling for the things you want and need. Which does not feel good.
As one person said to me recently, “Hearing ‘no’ I can handle. It’s the silence that really hurts. When I email someone and it’s just…crickets. That’s when I really feel like a failure.”
After a long string of disappointments, your ego is bruised. You, understandably, begin to feel discouraged. You’ve been burned too many times. It’s hard to motivate yourself to keep trying. Why bother? It won’t work. There’s probably no point.
And then, this defeated energy begins to permeate everything you do. Your emails stink of it. Your body language, your facial expression, everything exudes discouragement, bitterness, resentment. People can smell it. And this doesn’t exactly make people eager to work with you.
And so, the cycle of disappointment continues. You feel increasingly frustrated, invisible, and powerless.
How do you break the cycle?
You have to take back your power.
You have to stop waiting for someone to say “yes” to you, and instead, say “yes” to yourself. Be your own yes.
You want to speak onstage? Host your own event and speak there.
You want to be a guest on an amazing podcast? Start your own amazing podcast.
You want to be an author? Write and self-publish your own book.
You want to win an award? Instead of waiting for someone to notice and choose you, choose yourself. Nominate yourself. (Hot tip: most people win awards because they took 30 minutes to fill out an online form and nominated themselves.) Or create your own award and give one to somebody else.
Instead of waiting to be invited to the cool party, throw your own cool party.
Instead of waiting for the world to be generous with you, be generous with the world. And then, this generosity of spirit tends to boomerang back to you.
History is full of countless examples of people who “started their own thing” and that beautiful “thing” eventually grew into something much bigger.
The Joy of Cooking began as a self-published cookbook.
Issa Rae’s self-created webTV show eventually gained a fanbase, and then her pilot got picked up by HBO and became the hit show Insecure.
Luvvie Ajayi started her blog as a hobby, a place to share her rants and randomness, and that blog eventually unfolded into a TED Talk and bestselling book.
My friend Susan started hosting garden parties in her backyard. She’d serve a meal and lead a seminar on how to achieve your goals. Nobody was inviting her to speak to audiences (at the time) so she figured, “I’ll just do it behind my house on the lawn.” Humble beginnings. Now she gets paid (very well) for her work as a motivational speaker and life coach.
You can wait forever for someone to say “yes” and unlock a door for you. Or you can build your own door, build your own key, build your own house. And when you run your own house, then you can be the person who unlocks doors for others. That’s real power.
You are more powerful than you think.
What is the power you’ve given away…and how could you take it back?
When the pandemic hit, I got extra-serious about my fitness and self-care routine.
Since my local yoga studio and gym were both closed indefinitely, I created a do-at-home workout zone in my house.
I laid out my yoga mat. I put out my shoes. I purchased a new set of elastic resistance bands. I got a stationary bicycle. And of course I bought a cute neon yellow headband with major throwback ’80s vibes, because obviously that’s crucially important too.
I felt proud for investing in myself and prioritizing my health.
For several weeks in a row, things went great. Daily cycling rides. Daily resistance training. Deep, cleansing sweat. Long walks with the dog. Swimming and bodyboarding in the ocean. I even carved out quiet time to be still, meditate, and rinse out my brain.
Then “life happened” as life often does.
I took on several new clients. I launched a new program. I set some ambitious new financial goals for my company. I got busier. My workdays intensified. And I fell out of my wellness routine.
I was working longer hours, sitting more at my desk, logging much more time in front of a glowing digital screen, and inventing 1,000 excuses why I couldn’t possibly squeeze a 25 minute workout into my day.
I began feeling annoyed with myself.
“Why am I being so lazy?” “I’m really good at focusing and accomplishing goals. So why am I avoiding this *one* thing?” “Why can’t I just get back on track?”
This spiral of annoyance carried on for several more weeks.
This morning at 5:54 a.m., something changed.
I can’t explain what exactly. It was just a moment. A decision.
I looked at the dawn sky and simply decided, “It’s time to get back on the bike.”
And I did.
I completed a low-intensity 10 minute cycling ride, followed by 10 minutes of weight training (light weights, 3 pounds), and then 10 minutes of stretching on the floor. Nothing too crazy. Gently easing back into things. It felt incredibly refreshing. Soul-electricity: alive again.
It is never too late to find renewed commitment and devotion.
It is never too late to do the thing you’ve been avoiding.
It is never too late to get back on the bike.
Whatever your “bike” may be.
This year is not over yet.
Today is not over yet.
Get back on the bike.
On a typical day in your life, how much time do you spend staring at a digital screen?
If you add everything up—scrolling on social media, answering emails, Zoom meetings, browsing the Internet, shopping online, texting, reading on your tablet, watching Netflix and YouTube, using GPS to navigate around town, and/or playing video games—how much time is it, per day?
What’s the grand total?
According to the Nielsen Company audience report, the grand total is a little over 10 hours per day. That’s the average for most Americans these days.
10 hours per day is 3,650 hours per year.
Assuming you start using tech devices around age 20, and stop around age 75, that’s 200,750 hours over the course of your lifetime.
200,750 hours converts into 23 years.
I don’t know about you, but the idea of spending 23 years of my life staring at a digital screen just feels…not okay.
In my “hut” (heart + gut) that number doesn’t feel acceptable.
That’s not what I was born to do. Frankly, I don’t think any human being is meant to live this way.
So, what now? Well, we have options. We can take charge of the situation. We can set new policies. We can get creative. We can make different choices. Just because “most people” spend 10 hours a day glued to a screen doesn’t mean you must, too.
You want to make some changes?
A few good places to start:
– Create new household policies. For instance, no phones inside the bedroom. Or, make Sunday a tech-free day.
– Decide to work differently. More efficiently. For instance, dive into your inbox. Set a timer for 45 mins. Answer emails as quickly as possible. Then decide, “That’s enough for today,” and get outta there. No need to putter around for 5 more hours.
– Set firm limits with social media. Create a plan that aligns with your values. This might mean posting one gorgeous pic on Instagram daily to promote your business, then logging out. It might mean creating a private profile for family and friends only. It might mean not using social media at all. You can become a social media “dropout” like myself, and I assure you, the world will keep turning. :)
– If you run a business, or freelance, create a marketing plan that feels healthy and balanced—one that doesn’t require you to be online 10 hours a day. You don’t have to do that.
– At least once a week, take a walk and leave your phone at home. You don’t need it. Admire the world. Gaze at the sky. Look up, not down.
– Reconnect with off-line activities that bring you joy. Write a card and mail it to your auntie. Practice the ukulele. Perfect the art of snuggling. Play fetch with your dog. Hold your kids tightly. To the best of your abilities, live like it’s your final 24 hours.
I love technology. I’m grateful for the Internet.
But (in my opinion) 23 years is way too much time.
Technology should make our lives better, not worse.
It’s important to be intentional and purposeful, or it can rapidly become a never-ending time suck. Decades. Gone.
This is your one, precious life.
Make sure you’re using tech, and it’s not using you.
PS. Want more clients, more money, less time online, and a calmer, gentler way of “doing marketing”? Registration for The Marketing Without Social Media Program closes on July 5, a few days from now. Kick-off meeting is July 6. Join soon.
In this program, you learn how to promote your work, strengthen relationships, and get plenty of sales using no-social-media options—including personal emails, creative newsletters, snail mail, and unexpected acts of generosity.
You’ll leave this program with more clients, a calmer brain, a new attitude about marketing, and a healthier relationship with technology overall. Less scrolling. More joy.
See you inside!
There’s an ancient Yoga sutra that goes: “When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite ones should be thought of.”
Opposite thoughts and actions, too.
This practice is called Pratipaksha bhavanam.
Cultivate the opposite.
Good advice for so many situations in life. (Especially right now.)
When everyone around you is panicking about money and hoarding resources, cultivate the opposite. Be exceptionally generous.
When everyone on your workplace team is spinning with anxiety, cultivate the opposite. Be the strong, steady rock.
When everyone online is screaming for attention, a noisy cluster of never-ending pixels, cultivate the opposite. Be the quiet leader. Speak with discernment. Say more with fewer words.
When the world feels topsy turvy, upside down, and so uncertain, cultivate the opposite. Build certainty. Make a checklist. Fill it with tiny goals that you can definitely achieve: drink water, have coffee, gaze at the sky, answer 3 emails, listen to an uplifting song.
When something isn’t working out and you feel so discouraged, cultivate the opposite. Ask yourself, “How can I make this feel amazing?” How could you make this situation feel like a big “win”—even if everybody cancels, even if nobody shows up for your party, even if you make zero dollars, even if things do not match your original vision? How could it feel beautiful, even then?
When your lower back is aching, cultivate the opposite. Literally. Move in the opposite direction. Forward fold. Soften your knees. Gently reach down for your toes. Immediate relief.
When my friend Theresa gets a 1-star Amazon review for one of her books, she immediately writes a 5-star review for somebody else. By doing this, she neutralizes the negative energy and feels different immediately. My friend Melissa does the same thing.
Flip it around. Dark into light. Loss into gain. Cultivate the opposite quality, then beam it towards yourself and others like The Care Bear Stare.
The opposite is good medicine.
And the world needs plenty of medicine right now.
In these challenging times, it’s so important to breathe, stay calm, and focus on the things you can control–rather than obsessing about the things you cannot.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try making a checklist.
Checklists are like an extra storage tank for your weary, over-stuffed brain.
Research confirms that making a checklist can help you feel calmer and more focused, and can shift your body on a physiological level. When you check off a completed item, this creates that oh-so-satisfying burst of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps you feel more positive, think clearly, and solve problems creatively.
Personally, I know that making a checklist helps me feel more steady, strong, and grounded during turbulent times. Checklists are good medicine.
A few checklist ideas and downloadable templates for you. (All of these templates are free. Enjoy.)
– Got a bunch of unexpected free time? Maybe a project got cancelled, your shop is temporarily closed, or a trip has been postponed. Instead of panicking, try to use your time purposefully. Here’s a checklist of different ways to use your free time productively–and strengthen your business or career.
– Feeling stuck? A checklist to help you finish a project you’ve started.
– Need to find more clients and line up some work? A checklist full of marketing ideas, including lots of ideas that don’t involve social media. Because social media is optional, not mandatory.
– Tired of endlessly scrolling on your phone? A checklist to help you reduce screen-time, create a healthier relationship with your devices, and create more quiet and space in your day.
– Want a fresh approach for planning your day? Here’s my personal method for creating a Daily Checklist, which I do every single night before bed. (I make tomorrow’s checklist *today* and print it out in advance.)
– Lots more checklist templates here: including a Self-Care Checklist, Workout Checklist, and others.
– You might suspect I have a mild obsession with checklists. You might be right. I wrote an entire book about checklists. The book is available online. You can also find The Checklist Book at your local bookstore, or ask your public library to order it for you.
– Also, while it’s not specifically checklist-related, you might enjoy this too: One Letter Today. A short e-book about the power of sending a handwritten letter, filled with all kinds of letter-writing ideas. Perfect for these stressful times when people yearn to slow down and connect from the heart. Sending–and receiving–snail mail always feels so good.
Stay safe and healthy.
Take good care of yourself.
Make a list. Check things off. One tiny step at a time.