entrepreneurship

School Supply Shopping for Grown-Ups

school supplies for grown ups - fueling creativity

It’s back-to-school season, which means that the grills and outdoor rugs and patio furniture and colorful poolside goodies have been replaced by pencils and colored folders and notebooks since early July (insert sad violin songs here for those of us who want summer to last forever...). 

The bright side is that shiny new office supplies can be fun. There’s something thrilling about opening up a brand new notebook or writing with a previously-untouched Sharpie or peeling back the wrapper of a new stack of Post-Its. 

On that note, here’s a list of my favorite office supplies for grown-ups. 

*Note: you don’t need any of these things to start a business, become an entrepreneur, go to the networking event, or attend the workshop next week. We humans have a funny way of not starting [fill in the blank] until we have purchased [fill in the other blanks] which can lead to never doing the things we really want to do and buying a lot of crap that we don’t actually need. 

Notebooks 

  • Leuchtturm 1917 Dotted. These are far and away favorites. They are slightly wider than the similar Moleskine notebooks, making enthusiastic note takers like me very happy. They contain page numbers and an index at the beginning so you can actually organize (and later find) your notes - which can be a game changer. 

Pens & Pencils 

  • After much experimentation over the last 6 years, I’ve recently returned to the Pilot G2 for my daily pen of choice - specifically, the ultra fine (.38) version which keeps things a bit tidier for those of us who write a lot. The ink is easily replaced, helping to reduce the amount of used plastic pens in our landfills. (The EPA estimates that Americans throw away 1.6 billion pens each year).

  • For more colorful notes, I like the iBayam Fineliner pens. They are smooth and don’t bleed through thin sheets of paper. The downside is that they are not refillable, and they don’t last forever - so I try to use them sparingly to cut down on waste.

  • For pencils, I’m excited to check out The Good Pencil Company next time I have a need; they are certified as a B Corp and through 1% for the Planet, and they donate a pencil to a school in need with each purchase. Read more about their impact here. 

Paper 

  • There are few things quite as thrilling as a big, blank sheet of paper. For this, I find that a big chunk of recycled printer paper does the job best. This is what I use for client notes; the blank pages photocopy and photograph easily for clients who want to take copies with them. 

Brainstorming 

  • I wish I didn’t like Giant Post-Its as much as I do, because they are absurdly expensive, comprised of paper, and I do not have tiny handwriting. However, in the six and a half years I’ve been running my business, I haven’t found any sort of suitable replacement for when I’m leading retreats, courses, or workshops in spaces with limited or no whiteboard space. I find that the Sharpie Flip Chart Markers to be the best and last the longest (even over some more expensive brands like Neuland which have the absolutely perfect chisel tip but seem to run out of ink more quickly). Speaking of markers - tip: BYO whiteboard markers when leading anything where you’ll be using a whiteboard. 80% of white board markers in conference rooms and retreat venues across the country seem to be dead upon arrival (insert that sad violin again) so I like to bring my own to be safe. Board Dudes White Board Markers have been going strong for the last several years.

Idea Capture 

  • For this, it can be best to stick with the classics: index cards and post-its. Index cards are great for mapping out ideas and projects in a way that can be easily moved around and re-ordered. A stack of post-its, in various places around the house, are great for capturing impromptu grocery lists, reminder notes to loved ones, and thoughts that are swirling around when we are trying to go to bed.

Electronic Organization 

  • For storage: I am not the best person to advise on this topic because I have a deep love of all things analog when it comes to writing and reading and note taking. “Real” books, real notebooks, real paper, and handwritten over electronic notes for any in-person conversations. However, this system can get a bit cumbersome for a long-time journaler and paper lover. I’ve been working on scanning and uploading some of this paper over the last few years. Google Drive , DropBox, and Google Photos have been the systems of choice. Both might require paying a small monthly fee if you have a lot of files, but I find the small fee to be worth the peace of mind that all documents won’t be lost in the instance of spilling an entire cup of coffee on one’s laptop. Not that this situation has ever happened, though………

  • For project tracking: Trello is great (and free) if you’re a visual person. I’m thinking about trying out Notion at the recommendation of a trusted friend and client. 

  • For note taking: I like to keep it simple with Google Documents. They are easy to use, easy to share with others who need to edit or collaborate, and Google Drive is relatively searchable (though the search function can be a bit spotty). Many clients adore Evernote but I’ve never been able to convert fully. 

It’s sometimes said that September is the new January - a time of fresh starts and new beginnings. Sometimes, a fresh notebook feels like the perfect supplement to whatever it is that we’re starting - whether it’s school, a new project, or tackling a goal we’ve been thinking about for awhile. 

For other fun reading on this topic:


Any favorite grown-up school supplies on your list?

Copycats

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Many entrepreneurs, creatives, and makers who have been at their craft for awhile have had the experience of finding their work, their products, or their content repackaged, duplicated, or plagiarized by others at some point in time. Sometimes, it’s a newer entrepreneur or artist taking “inspiration seeking” to a whole new level. Other times, it’s a massive corporation or brand that has used the work of an independent artist without permission.

Most entrepreneurs and makers I work with deeply value creativity and originality - meaning that it can be difficult to look around and find that someone else has seemingly copied our idea, our product, our content, or in some cases, our entire brand. (A dear friend and client found her entire business - the name, the logo, the website, and even the social media images - plagiarized and up and running as its own business in Asia).

On the flip side, when working with new entrepreneurs and coaches, one of the most common things I hear as an intended early step is “I’m going to go out to [insert name of someone I want to be like]’s site and see how she did it.”

While seeking inspiration can be helpful, the greatest inspiration often comes from looking within - or looking around out in the world - versus looking at other people’s websites or products, especially if those people are in the same industry as we are.

Below, some thoughts on what to do if you feel like you might fall on either side of this equation.

If You Think You Might Be the Copycat:

Have a heart to heart with yourself.

Ask yourself: are you seeking inspiration, or have you moved into imitation? Signs that you might have moved beyond the “inspiration” point: repackaging phrases, content, other people’s wording, descriptions, products or programs; visiting certain websites regularly for inspiration; becoming a bit of a cyber stalker of your favorite entrepreneurs or brands.

Seek inspiration from outside of your industry.

Find inspiring people who do distinctly different work than you do. Get curious about cool things happening in other industries. Ask yourself if it serves you to follow the people who you’re following in your own industry. 

Stop looking around and start looking within.

Take the time you’ve been spending on other people’s websites and LinkedIn pages and Instagram accounts and blogs and redirect that time into reflection and quiet space. Meditate. Go for a walk in the woods. Take time to find your own voice, your own style, and your own way of thinking about and speaking about things. 

Consider: what could be possible if you trusted yourself enough to create your own content and tune into your own ideas, rather than pulling from other people’s?

And what’s currently getting in the way of doing so? Is it a lack of confidence? A lack of trust in yourself? Not being able to find your own voice or your own perspective? Get quiet, spend some time tuning inward, and see what you discover. 

As Marie Forleo, who is often imitated but will never be replicated, says:

“The world needs that special gift that only you have.”

If you think you might have a copycat:

Pause. Take a deep breath. 

In talking with entrepreneurial soul sisters about this topic, I’ve discovered that this can be one of the most hurtful and most triggering things that we encounter as entrepreneurs. We pour ourselves into our businesses, and to find our content recreated, oftentimes by people we historically have trusted, can be a particularly awful experience. First things first - we need to pause and take a deep breath. 

Ask: Is it True? 

Take a page from Byron Katie’s book. When we feel that parts of our business have been repackaged or recreated by someone else, we can ask:

“Is it true?”

And, “can we be absolutely certain that it’s true?”

Oftentimes, the answer - especially to the second question - is no. We cannot be absolutely certain that it wasn’t just a very intriguing coincidence. These questions can help us to move out of a place of unhelpful inner dialogue, and into a place of calm acceptance. 

Remember that it is inevitable. 

If we put our content out into the world, it will be available not only to our communities and our clients, but also, of course, to our competitors. As Seth Godin says, “The easiest products in the world to develop, option, license and get to market are copycat products. They are beyond reproach. They feel safe.”

The truth is that many people want what is easy and what is safe. As a result, copycats will not go away anytime soon. That said, copycat products are rarely as good as the originals. Often the originals are creating more than a product or service; they are disrupting an entire industry and forging a whole new path that others will want to follow.


This is part of the package, and how awful would it be for us to hold back on our content or ideas, for fear of others stealing them? This would be a modern day version of The Miser and The Gold - tragic for everyone involved.

Take a page from my friend Mike’s book. 

A few months back, I asked him how he felt about the number of people who have openly expressed a desire to create an exact replica of the organization that Mike has created. His response? “Good luck! It’s a lot of f$#king work.”

I can’t help but smile to myself each time I think of his response.

Take Oprah’s advice.

“How far you are from the center - from the diveness of yourself, your source energy, that which created you - is how out of sync you are with your life. When you are aligned with this, nobody can touch you.”

Focus on aligning with your center. Put your head down. Make something awesome. Keep creating. And remember that no matter how many words or phrases or pieces of content others might take and repackage, they will never be you. 

Additional Resources, Reading, and Watching:

The Pareto Principle

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I ordered my green smoothie, minus the chia seeds.

“Just so you know,” he said, “after Friday we’ll no longer be serving smoothies. They generate the smallest amount of our revenue and cause all of our headaches.”

“Have you heard of the Pareto Principle?”

“Yes, I love the Pareto Principle!”

We proceeded to geek out on the Pareto Principle for the next 10 or so minutes, after which I walked out with one of the last remaining green smoothies on the menu.

The Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule, states that for many events, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. It is credited to Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto, who was born in Italy in 1848. In his case, he noticed that 80% of his pea plants generated 80% of the healthy pea pods, and then went on to discover that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.

In the case of the restaurant I visited, 80% of their stress, irritation, and time investment tied back to 20% of their menu items (in this case, smoothies and smoothie bowls). And this 80% stress, irritation, and time investment produced under 20% of their revenue.

We can apply this same principle to nearly any type of business, to how we structure our work day, to the way we prioritize our work, and even how we approach our health and fitness.

Like Essentialism, this is one of those things that (for me) feels like common sense, yet takes constant attention and intentionality to apply in everyday life.

Here are a few ways that I like to practice the Pareto Principle.

  • Looking across all the projects I’m currently involved with, which fall in the 20% that create 80% of the positive impact and also feel the most joyful?

  • On the flip side, which projects fall in the 20% that create 80% of the stress and headaches?

  • Looking at the flow of my workday, where can I invest 20% of my time and effort for 80% of the returns? (For me, when doing independent work, the answer always falls in the early hours of the morning.)

  • Looking across my life at the things that aren’t working as well as they could be, where are the 20% of small irritations that are causing 80% of the lack of daily ease? (often, for me, this ties back to some sort of misalignment with my calendar.)

  • Which 20% of clothing items do I wear 80% of the time? (I’ve been working on continuously donating that other 80%, as for me there is a very clear 20%. I tend to wear the exact same few outfits on rotation.)

  • In which 20% of our house do we spend 80% of our time, and how can we maximize that 20% for the way we live?

  • Looking at my list of monthly, weekly, and daily to-dos, which 20% will yield 80% of the results?

The Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 Rule, can help us to focus our time and energy on the things that yield the highest results.

Do you use the Pareto Principle? If so, in what ways has it been helpful for you?

With Love, You are Not a Corporate Hostage

"Hi, I'm Ron. Ah, you know how it is, I'm a corporate hostage, doing the corporate thing... I hope to get out someday...."

"Hi, I'm Rich. I'm a recovering project manager......now I'm a consultant." 

"Hi, I'm Heidi. I'm a corporate refugee......I escaped though, I found myself, and now I'm a coach." 

"Hi, I'm Erin. I'm a recovering corporate executive and now I travel the world delivering keynotes about all that I endured in the corporate world." 

I hear these intro lines all of the time.

And each time I do, I cringe. 

Beyond the plain absurdity of these statements (is your employer really holding you hostage?! Did you really have to escape, as a refugee, from your previous place of employment?) and beyond the fact that they flippantly diminish the act of actually being in recovery from addiction, the refugee crisis happening in this very moment, and real hostage situations happening around the world, these statements perpetuate the type of thinking that keeps us stuck and divided:

Corporate America as the perpetrator, and the corporate escapees, as the victims. 

Corporate America as "other."

"Us" versus "Them."

This "us" versus "them" thinking is the same thinking that has created the current political division of our country. It's the same thinking that has our nation sliding backwards as we face riots and murders related to race. It's the same thinking that overlooks the fact that "Corporate America" is actually made up of 127.34 million human beings, many (I would argue most) of whom are incredibly talented individuals who are creating positive change, committed to doing the right thing, and making the world a better place. It's the type of thinking that prevents us from solving the actual problems that need to be solved.

Using this language also diminishes parts of ourselves. Our corporate experience is part of who we are and is part of our human experience. Shutting down this experience is shutting down a part of who we are. 

I believe that all of these things can exist together. We have an opportunity to shift from either/or, to both/and. We can be both an independent, free-thinking consultant and a former timeline-driven project manager. We can be both a conscious, heart-centered coach and a former corporate executive. We can be both a savvy, creative, and innovative entrepreneur and a former analyst in the corporate world. And we can embrace all of these parts of ourselves and our experiences to return "over there," to Corporate America, to partner with the many organizations that are doing business in a thoughtful, innovative, socially conscious and mission-driven way to create massive positive impact in the world. Perhaps we can also even bring these parts of ourselves to partner with organizations that aren't quite there yet, but that want to be better. 

It can all exist together. And when we start to recognize this, through our perspectives and our language, we start the healing that needs to happen - within ourselves, within Corporate America, and within our world. Healing begins when we can embrace the both/and. Let's start within ourselves.

You Want to Become a Life Coach? Three Key Things to Consider

Each week, I receive calls and emails from people who are interested in becoming life coaches. For various reasons, their hearts have called them to the profession, and they want to know more - what it's like, any tips I have, and what my experience has been like. 

The tragic truth is that I see many brilliant coaches fail, or become so frustrated with their coaching practice that they abandon it altogether.

Here are three key questions to consider in order to increase your odds of success, happiness, and fulfillment as a coach.

1. Why Do You Want to Become a Coach?

The answer I hear most commonly is "to help people." While this is great and noble, I lovingly say that this is not enough. You can help people in your current job, you can help people by volunteering, and  you can help people through a position with a nonprofit where you still get paid. 

What is your deep, compelling Why that cannot be ignored? What is your Why that outweighs walking away from your corporate job, your salary, and your benefits?  What is your "why" that makes paying $12,000 for a coach training and certification program a Hell, Yeah?

This crystal clear Why will be essential when you start telling people about what you're up to. It will be essential for creating content that feels 100% like you. And it will be essential on the days when building a coaching practice is damn hard. 

Before moving forward with training, certification, or abandoning your corporate job for good, spend some time reflecting on your Why. If it feels squishy, or unclear, spend some more time. Journal. Get quiet and listen. Check out Simon Sinek's TED Talk for inspiration. This Why will be your home base for your business. It's essential.

2. How Do You Feel About Running a Business?

In a successful coaching practice, only a fraction of our time is spent actively coaching clients. The rest of the time is spent running a business: creating content, handling operations, building meaningful relationships, growing your skills as a coach.

New and prospective coaches often tell me, "I just hate the sales part of coaching," or "I don't really like the business part of coaching." If this is you, PLEASE proceed cautiously down the path of becoming an independent coach. 

In order to have a thriving coaching practice, you must run a thriving business. And in order to run a thriving business, you need to either a) love running the business, b) learn to love running the business, or c) build out a phenomenal team of people to support you. who love running the business.

I invite you to spend some additional time thinking about how you feel about becoming an entrepreneur in addition to becoming a coach. The successful coaches I know run a business in addition to running a coaching practice. 

If you decide that the entrepreneurial aspect of coaching doesn't thrill you, there are many ways to be a coach without it. I know several people who have built out roles for themselves inside their organizations, as internal coaches. I know others who are part of coaching collectives, where they are connected with fully vetted clients, in exchange for a commission. They just show up and coach.

We are most successful when we are working within our zone of genius: the place where we are doing what we are best at and what we love. Getting clear on your zone of genius, and specifically where "entrepreneurship" fits into your zone of genius, will increase your odds of success and happiness with your coaching business. 

3. How Do You Want Your Life to Look?

Oftentimes, we start our own businesses because we desire more freedom, in addition to the opportunity to serve others.

Prior to starting a coaching business, take some time to reflect not only on how you want your business to look, but how you want your life to look. How do you want your business to flow with your life? Do you want to run your coaching practice as a lifestyle business, or do you want to build a global company? Do you want to work a couple days per week and spend the rest of the time with your kids? 

Getting clear on this vision up front helps us make better decisions down the line. As my business has grown, I've noticed an unintended pattern of, at times, accidentally recreating my 'old life' from the corporate world in my 'new life' as a business owner: working from 7 am until 9 pm, back to back travel, and a pace that is unsustainable. These days, I love my work so it rarely feels like work; however, one of my values is freedom. At times, I've compromised this value by saying Yes to too many things. 

When I get to this point, I find that it's helpful to take a step back to connect to my vision of how I want my work and my life to look. Doing this exercise up front makes hard decisions easier, and allows us to run our business in an intentional, rather than a reactive, way. Additionally, it allows us to set a clear foundation upon which we can build. For example, I know a number of new coaches who say Yes to taking clients at all hours of the day: 7 am, 9 pm, and weekends, because they are so desperate for clients. Not only does this create challenges up front, but it forces them to attempt to unravel this aspect of their business later on, when they decide it's no longer working. Clear agreements and boundaries up front make things easier for everyone: for us as coaches, and also for our clients.

Bottom Line

This work is the most rewarding, fulfilling, and joyful work I have ever done. I love it, and it fills me up from a place deep within. And, it's hard. Running a business is not for the faint of heart. A business takes time, energy, sweat, and sometimes tears to build. When I moved to Iowa for two years shortly after starting my business, I knew exactly one person. Building my business in Iowa meant combing through the local newspaper each week to try to identify possible opportunities to serve, and it meant more coffee meetings than I can count. Ultimately these efforts paid off and allowed me to create a greater regional impact through my business. And, the path to get there was not glamorous. Being tethered to my Why, being committed to my business, and reminding myself of my vision for my life were essential.

What about you? What is your Why? How do you feel about running a business? And how do you want your life to look in this new chapter? For more on this topic, check out 5 Key Questions to Ask When Looking for a Coach

"Being Busy" and "Being Good" - An Entrepreneurial Epidemic

 

There’s a bit of an epidemic happening these days. It’s happening to good people doing good things with good intentions.

It’s been written about a number of times before, and there’s a small movement underway to fight it.

While we’re all familiar with this epidemic in the corporate world, it’s hitting a population that we don’t talk about as much because it often, from afar, looks like success and abundance and prosperity and “making it.”

The epidemic is busyness, and its most recent target includes entrepreneurs, freelancers, startup founders, coaches, trainers, public speakers, and people kind of like me.

At a recent networking event, I was greeted by a well intentioned woman with, “You good? You busy?” In her question was a clear implication: Being good means being busy. Being busy means being good.

I see a similar correlation among my peers almost daily. When we’re “good,” we’re busy - meaning we are booked a lot, traveling a lot, gone a lot, and busy doing the things we do to stay busy. Being good means being busy and being busy means being good.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love to be busy. I love having multiple projects happening at one time (I’m an ENFP, after all). I love being busy developing strong relationships and creating new clients. I love working in the early morning over coffee, and I love jotting down new ideas late at night.

I love the work that I do, so of course - I love doing more of it.

However, the epidemic of busyness that’s hitting hard in the entrepreneurial world is clouding the real question at hand: are we having a positive impact?

  • Are we doing work that we believe in and can stand behind with all of our being?
  • Is it original and fresh and different than the other stuff that’s out there?
  • Are we working with clients we love, who push us to be even better at what we are doing?
  • And are we completely connected to our purpose?
  • Do we love not only what we are doing, but how we are doing it?

 

  • Do we love the travel, the hustle, the schedule and the busyness?
  • Do we love saying “yes” to the things we’re saying yes to?
  • And do we have enough time and space to completely, whole-heartedly, and fiercely serve our clients?

If this is what busyness feels like, then YES, let’s create more of it.

But if we’re sacrificing impact, or relationships, or pieces of ourselves in order to be busy - then please, let’s stop.

If we’re doing a lot but with minimal impact - then please, let’s stop.

If we’re creating busyness in order to create the illusion of “being good,” then please, let’s stop.

Let’s step back and pause. Let’s reconnect to our purpose, and let’s reconnect to the reason we started doing this work in the first place.


Let’s redefine for ourselves what it really means to “be good” and let’s start doing that instead.