“Only Then Do We Sign Our Work”

The first two minutes of this video are absolute gold. This is poetry. Click below to watch.

Only then do we sign our work

if everyone

is busy making everything

how can anyone perfect anything?

we start to confuse convenience

with joy

abundance

with choice

designing something requires

focus

the first thing we ask is:

“what do we want people to feel?”

delight

surprise

love

connection

then we begin to craft around our intention.

it takes time…

there are a thousand no’s

for every yes.

we simplify

we perfect

we start over

until every thing we touch enhances each life it touches.

only then do we sign our work.

RELATED POSTS:

1) A Body of Work

2) Exponential Habit and Fear

John Mackey: Conscious Capitalism

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, is known as an advocate for what he calls “Conscious Capitalism”. Here’s a fantastic summary video of his line of thinking, where value and purpose are the top priority, and profit is simply the item allowing you to continually expand those priorities.

This is similar to last week’s “Advice to Innovators” video from Jack Dorsey, in the sense that artists can learn from entrepreneurs. Some artists may have a tough time watching this and seeing the connections to their music, but the connection is definitely there, and it’s worth the challenge.

RELATED POSTS:

1) Advice to Innovators

2) Your Customer Service Experience

Exponential Habit and Fear

Exponential growth happens when the amount being added to a system is proportional to the amount already present. In other words, growth is rapidly building upon itself, and the larger the system becomes, the larger the continual increase. Exponential decay is the reverse of this.

While these concepts might initially overwhelm or seem irrelevant to artists, it’s worth considering them in a different, more personal context.

HABIT:

Are personal habits an example of exponential growth? I think so. Habits are building blocks of progress, both personally and professionally. You start small, and as you get one habit under your belt, your range of both discipline and personal potential rapidly increases. The umbrella of possibility extends, and real progress can be made. But the tricky part about habits is that you can’t fool yourself – there’s no quick fix. Luckily, though, habits are stairs – the further up you go, the more easy it becomes to disconnect from whatever was keeping you on the ground.

FEAR:

Fear, on the other hand, serves as an example of exponential decay. Everyone can think of a time when approaching was something they were nervous about. Thinking about that scary thing never helps. Instead, it makes it much worse, very rapidly. Fear builds on itself exponentially.

It’s worth taking the time to thoroughly examine the direction in which you’re exponentially moving. Pinpoint the specific areas where positive habit is developing , and find those areas where fear is driving you towards decay. The more you can expand habit, and shelve fear, the better.

RELATED POSTS:

Fear Of?

4 Steps To Building a Habit

Learning From: Isabel Thottam

Isabel Thottam is one of the coolest people I know. Not only is she a constant traveler and writer, as well as a fellow Ohio native, but she’s also a founder of Hold On Another Day, the inspiring organization connecting independent artists with a variety of causes. Between her trips around the country, I was lucky to be able to get to talk with her about her experience starting HOAD, and the challenges she faces in juggling passion with the need to make money to build her business.

1. TELL US ABOUT HOLD ON ANOTHER DAY

Hold On Another Day is a social business that connects causes and people through music, specifically from emerging artists. We raise awareness for a specific cause by essentially translating their campaign (for example, bullying) into a mixtape.

Isabel Thottam: Founder of Hold On Another Day

Isabel Thottam: Founder of Hold On Another Day

I went through a really bad depression when I was in high school and I felt very alone – except for when I was listening to music. Since music gave me the strength to keep going, I knew I wanted to do something to help other people recognize how powerful music can be.

I think it’s important because mental health is a serious issue, especially among youth, and this, to me, is a creative way to provide an alternative when medicine, therapy session and talking about it just doesn’t work.

2) PEOPLE OFTEN LOOK AT A STARTUP AS A FUN ADVENTURE, WITHOUT ACKNOWLEDGING THE SACRIFICE IT TAKES. ANY THOUGHTS ON THIS?

I’ve had so many hurdles and I continue to face them every day. Once our following began to grow, that’s when I really knew it was going to be a lot of work. Every day we still deal with the mental debate of “should we keep going? Will this idea actually work?” because it’s a startup and it is a lot harder to get off the ground than you think.

Thottam RunningPeople always say to me, “If you’re not making money yet, why are you still doing this?” and it’s hard because sometimes, i’ll admit, I doubt if this is realistic too. Then I remind myself that it takes about five years for a business to become profitable and, well, this is what I love to do and is what I believe in. How many people can say that?

3) WHAT HAS YOUR EXPERIENCE WORKING WITH ARTISTS BEEN LIKE?

The artists we work with are the people who keep me going with this business. When I listen to their songs, it reminds me of how many people these CDs could help and how, when I was younger, something like this would have meant so much to me.

We did have a few bad experiences when we were looking for artists for our first CD, Songs For Soldiers, because we’d get artists that would e-mail us and say we are a ‘scam organization looking to rip off artists,’ which was funny to us because we were trying to do the complete opposite. That was disheartening, though, to think people could read our website or what we’re doing and think we were bad people. But, we also found tons of artists who believed in us, and for that, I am grateful.

"Songs For Soldiers" Album Artwork

“Songs For Soldiers” Album Artwork

4) DESCRIBE THE CHALLENGE OF PURSUING YOUR PASSION WHILE NEEDING TO MAKE MONEY.

That’s been really hard for us, a social business selling mix CDs in a digital age. As much as we love CDs, and though there are people who still buy them, there just isn’t a strong market anymore. The challenge has been in thinking smaller to make bigger profits. I’m a big thinker and a big dreamer so I usually just want to go out with my biggest and best idea, but now that I’ve been in business for a year, I’m recognizing that that mentality doesn’t work for a startup.

5) WHAT ARE SOME TIPS YOU WOULD GIVE AN ARTIST LOOKING TO PRESENT THEMSELVES TO A LARGER ORGANIZATION FOR PARTNERSHIP OF ANY KIND?

Your story is the most important part. I think we’ve had as much success as we have because people know that I am passionate. Give them a story to care about; an honest, true story that tells them you’re not ordinary. Make them cry.

8) WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM HOLD ON ANOTHER DAY IN THE FUTURE?

We’re hoping to set up one or two more benefit concerts in Boston. I’m also hoping to spread internationally – I’ve submitted a proposal to empower underprivileged children in Bangalore, India by giving them access to a music education. No matter what, you can expect another CD from us by the end of the year; more concerts and hopefully we’ll settle into a city we’ll start calling home by the end of 2013!

Music works differently for all people, but what I envision is for Hold On Another Day to become a community where people can gather and share how music helped them. So not only do we all connect over this idea that “music is power,” but we also recognize that we’re not alone.

Speaking at "Concert For a Cause" in Portland, OR.

Speaking at “Concert For a Cause” in Portland, OR.

Learning From: Giuliana Hazelwood

Giuliana Hazelwood is the founder of Lovely Healthy, the all-things-wellness brand she has been building for years. I’ve been friends with her since she first launched LH and was struggling to find local schools willing to let her use empty classrooms to teach yoga. She is living the juggling act of turning creative passion into a sustainable business. Below is my full interview with her, where she discusses working in niche communities, personal branding, and shifting offline work to the web.

Enjoy.

Giuliana Hazelwood

Tell us about Lovely Healthy, who you are, and what you do.

I am a yoga teacher, wellness writer, and lifestyle coach in NYC.  Lovely Healthy started as a way for me to organize what I was researching about autoimmune disease, healthy lifestyles and food allergies during the time in college when I became very, very ill. I’ve always been interested in health and wellness, but it wasn’t really until I got super sick that I realized that there wasn’t really anything out there that suited my needs.  I wanted a one-stop resource for healthy lifestyle, healthy mindset, and healthy eating that was still relevant to modern, urban life. So now that I’m no longer sick and the blog has grown, it’s really just become a place where people can learn how best to care for themselves.

Like niche genres of music, the yoga community is tight-knit. What are some advantages and hurdles you’ve faced due to the closeness of the community?

The advantages to such a small community are really infinite. It sounds kind of silly, but it’s true: yogis are really, really nice people, so it’s nice to work with them. But it’s way deeper than that: there’s a term in sanskrit, kula, that goes back to an ancient tradition of spiritual practice within a community. Today, the term kula is more often used to a family, group, or community, but it’s interesting to note that the idea of having a close group of people walking the same path is so rooted in the ancient practices of yoga.

It’s the yogic way to help each other, to serve others, and to be kind and generous to each other. I know my teachers and colleagues will always be there for me, in any way they can. It’s such a blessing to work with people who uphold the belief that compassion and honesty are the highest values we can possess. That goes far beyond business and cuts straight to the soul.

I know I would not have been able to survive the year 2012 if I had been working in any other industry. On a deeply personal note, when my father passed away unexpectedly in May, the outreach from teachers, students, and people I have connected with through yoga was  one of the most deeply moving experiences of my life.

The downside of the industry size is that it’s a numbers game. Sometimes studios simply don’t have a time slot for a new teacher. There’s only one cover of Yoga Journal per month.

While attempting to turn Lovely Healthy into a more stable business entity, can you touch on branding yourself and what that process has been like?

The process has been amazing, and actually parallels a lot of the work I do on a spiritual and emotional level. As a yogi, I’m constantly observing myself in order to learn and then change what is not ringing true to my purpose on this Earth. I imagine it’s very similar for artists who are always evaluating what they create and asking themselves how they can create a product that more effectively represents what they are trying to say.

So as far as branding and marketing goes, it’s really been a project of asking myself:

  • Who am I?
  • What am I here to do?
  • What do I have to say?
  • How can I serve others?
  • Who can I serve?
  • Is what I’m doing in alignment with my true purpose?

When I can answer these questions, the work of branding kind of happens naturally.

For example, I pretty much just woke up one day and realized “oh this website has looked the same for three years and looks nothing like what I want it to communicate. Time to change. Boom.” I finished the re-design in a day and got a HUGE response from it. Because I was aligning more closely with what it is I’m here to communicate, and the people who are supposed to resonate with my message were able to connect more effectively.

The challenges I have faced all stem from the fact that I don’t exactly know what I’m doing here. I’m flying by the seat of my pants and just recruiting my intuition and the help of great people to figure it out along the way.  But honestly, I kind of prefer it that way.  I’ve never been a recipe-follower, and I really don’t believe there’s any black-and-white secret to success. I’d much rather be doing it my way, with integrity, and with the help of amazing people.

The work generally done in your field is live, in-person, with the client. I’ve written about turning offline activity into online growth, and vice versa. How are you using that concept in the work you do?

The internet and yoga are becoming fast friends. As yoga teachers and wellness advocates, we have the potential to reach a crazy amount of people with one blog post, one facebook status, one video podcast. It sounds ridiculous but it’s true.  So to go from teaching a class of 20 or so students to reaching hundreds and thousands of people is an amazing opportunity for people in this field.

For me personally, that means more video content, more engagement with students and readers on social media, connecting virtually with other people in my field, and getting involved with major media outlets. I used to really resent social media, communications, and technology. But the way I see it now is: if you can’t beat ’em join ’em… and inspire ’em to do some yoga and drink some green juice along the way.

5) Where can we find more from you, and what can we expect in the upcoming months?

Lovely Healthy is going to the next level. I just launched LovelyHealthyTV, my most exciting addition to the Lovely Healthy brand. I’m hiring an intern to help with crazy cray design stuff, and also just finished up with a new designer to roll out some fresh logos. I also love love love connecting via Instagram and Twitter, which I’m still a bit of a luddite with, but is a great way to connect with wellness homies all over the world.

In short, Lovely Healthy is about to become a multimedia, super-interactive, ultra-inspiring, playground for health and wellness homies to get DOWN(dog) with their bad selves. And you’ll want to be able to say you knew about it before it got too cool, so come on over and ch-ch-check it out.

For more information about my teaching, background, and philosophy, you can visit my personal site, www.giulianahazelwood.com.

4 Steps To Building a Habit

As a slight continuation of my previous post, I wanted to touch on building true habits.

Too often, people look at goals and habits as abstract, idealistic desires, stemming from a random burst of inspiration, to be quickly followed by failure (ex: new years resolutions). A big reason for this, I think, is that people reach for everything all at once. You don’t reach goals by repeatedly trying the same thing, hoping it works one of these days. You reach goals by slowly but surely training yourself to develop habits. You cannot reach a goal without first mechanically developing the habit that will put you in the best position to reach it.

With that in mind, here are four steps to take to develop a habit:

1. Be Knowledgeable

Knowledge does two things for you. First, it makes it very difficult to convince yourself of something. If you are on a diet, for example, and know a cheeseburger “is bad”, it’s easy to tell yourself that one cheeseburger is “not that bad”. If you take the time to learn about where fast food beef comes from and the related dangers, your desire to eat that cheeseburger plummets. Secondly, and most importantly for artists, knowledge breeds inspiration. Picture the author who spends months researching in the library to prepare for his next book. Artists who truly dive into the subtleties of their craft find themselves completely encompassed in their art. This combination of knowledge and inspiration will serve as the perfect platform to grow from.

2. Be a Failure

If you want to be a better writer, write a bad song every day. Developing a writing habit is more important than writing one great song. If you spend your time obsessing over making one song perfect, you are simply convincing yourself that this song is a pivotal moment, when in reality it probably isn’t. If your one and only song that you spent so much time on turns out to be bad, then 100% of your songs are bad. If you write one song every day, though, the pressure goes away, and the chance of you writing the masterpiece you have inside of you skyrockets.

3. Be Consistent

Confucius said, “It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop.” Don’t stop. Over time, two things will happen simultaneously. First, your output will continue to increase. Second, your consistency will make it less difficult each day to do the work you know you’re capable of. As these two things collide, everything jumps to the next level, very close to solidifying the habit at a level you’re satisfied with.

4. Be Brave

Get comfortable with vulnerability. People rally behind those who are brave, not those who hide until everything is just right. I promise people will respect your work if you do it with consistent bravery and vulnerability.

*These are not necessarily chronological steps. These ideas do not work in isolation. Rather, each area inspires another, turning your work into a constant stream of positive, productive momentum.

Qualitative vs Quantitative Goals

Because we’re not robots, few people feel a sense of reward from measuring their goals by data alone. At the same time, without some sort of measurable unit, it’s difficult to truly monitor progress.

Whether your goal is in songwriting, social media, developing your live show or anything else, it helps to break your goals down into qualitative and quantitive categories.

QUALITATIVE GOALS: Goals that are felt rather than measured

QUANTITATIVE GOALS: Goals that are measured rather than felt

To cover the most ground and increase focus, start with a few key qualitative goals, and then use quantitative units to measure those qualitative feelings.

Here’s an example:

I. Be More Active Online

  1. Tweet 3+ times daily. Two of those three must tag someone else in your message.
  2. Create a blog and make 6+ posts/month
  3. Post two new pieces of photo or video content on my Facebook page every week.

II. Write Better Songs

  1. Write one bad song every day.
  2. Co-write with one writer I respect every week.
  3. Record everything I write.

III. Get More Press

  1. Create one spreadsheet with 50+ media outlets my music can identify with
  2. Send a personalized email to each, mentioning a recent article they wrote that you liked.
  3. Follow up one week later to those you do not hear back from.
  4. Create one spreadsheet with an organized record of all responses and non-responses. 

If you take the time to support qualitative feelings with quantitative measurements, it will cover more ground and ultimately help you succeed.