Move & Play

What began as a list to remind me of exercises that I enjoy turned into a really fun hour, and something I thought might make you smile too. Here’s a quick and dirty peek into my secret notebook.  Let me know what you think.
move & play

Why The Tattoo?

I got a tattoo of a deer today.

Though I do think deer are lovely creatures, it’s not especially about deer in particular. Or at all, really.

I had the idea to sell my Art Outlines illustrations almost two full years ago, and with the support and encouragement of my fellow entrepreneurs, I even built a fully functional website, created a video, and got strangers from all over the web to sign up for the email list.

But then it came time to actually list something for sale. And what did I do?

I shied away from it. I let doubt creep in. I turned my back on the project, thinking it wasn’t good enough. I worked on other things.

Over a year later, deep into my 10-month travel adventure around the world writing The Eat Team, I was getting really itchy feet (and a shockingly tiny bank account). I have a massive drive (compulsion?) to create, and because you can’t take an entire print studio full of hundreds-year-old lead and machinery and boxes full of paper, I couldn’t work on Ye Olde Gangster.

So, even though I felt totally unprepared and scared and embarrassed, I just decided I’d put a few of the illustrations up for sale on Etsy. I was terrified, and I didn’t have a lot of hope, but I asked myself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” And the answer was.. nobody would buy my illustrations and I’d be in the exact same place I was now. Well, that’s not so scary I thought–either I’m in the same place I am now, or perhaps maybe just maybe someone will send me some money for something I enjoyed doing.

Nothing happened for a few months. So, my “worst case scenario” was true for a few months. But of course, I wasn’t really thinking about it much and hadn’t expected anything to happen anyways.

Then, out of the blue, on July 4th, 2012, a stranger from New Zealand sent me $2 for my drawing of a deer as I prepared an American Independence Day feast for my new Australian friends in Melbourne.

“WHAT?!?!?!?” I shouted, I danced, I shoved the email in front of my friends faces. It wasn’t the money that lit my fire.. obviously $2 isn’t gonna stretch very far.. it was the cold, hard, undeniable real truth that I had a viable product. A worthy idea.

It made my heart soar.

So, why the tattoo?

I guess there’s several facets to that answer.

- Commitment to the long haul. It’s always been my dream to support myself with my creativity, and this was a moment I’ll never forget. I know there is no quick fix, no secret to making my dreams come true–it’s hard work and trust and taking risks and getting up every single day and starting all over again. It’s blood sweat and tears and I’m in it, forever. This is a commitment to myself to never give up on my creativity, to never stop growing and learning and making.
- That if I can pull this off, anyone can.

- Reminder that what I do is good enough. For a long time, I was embarrassed that my style of drawing was so childish and simplistic. At some point I decided to embrace that and run with it. It’s amazing how much love and support you get when you say “fuck it” and embrace the differences that make you you.

- Reminder to keep it simple. My whole idea with Art Outlines is to make extremely simple, elegant drawings. To eliminate what’s not necessary, and do only what’s necessary. Focus. Minimalism. Contrast.

- Reminder that imperfection is perfection. That you’ll never feel ready, you’ll never feel finished, but to say YES anyways. To figure things out as I go. Something I learned on my big adventure was that nothing is ever perfect.. but if you can embrace those imperfections, it makes it perfect. That was one of the overarching themes Hannah and I encountered every single day on our crazy trip. If we tried to make things perfect, we wouldn’t have done a single thing. If I had known that I was going to get this deer tattooed on my body forever when I drew it, I would have spent hours trying to perfect it. I love that it has tiny flaws and things I’d probably have changed if I had known.

If you look real close, there’s a little dimple on my deer’s bum–that wasn’t part of the original drawing. That was a speck created by the xerox machine that my tattoo artist thought was part of the image. When we realized it was permanent, she asked if I wanted her to try and pick it out. I considered it, then remembered.. imperfection is perfection. I love that it’s just another layer. Humans are all imperfect, and instead of getting mad or embarrassed by “hiccups”, we can just run with it and love it anyways.

That I’m not the only one involved–the stranger in New Zealand and my amazing tattoo artist had huge parts in it. To remember that PEOPLE are what make the world go round, and we’re all family in some way. To trust others and not try to control everything. I went in thinking I’d get the deer facing me. Alice told me that would be upside down to the rest of the world. And so I worked with her instead of trying to control it, and accepted her expertise since I was a tattoo n00b, and rolled with it, even though it’s not what I first imagined. Give and take.

Life is imperfect, and if we want to LIVE we have to remember and accept and love anyways.

Intentions for This Week

Every week I take a day to myself, Melissa Monday, where I journal, organize, maintain, and do whatever the hell I want. It helps me refocus and reconnect.

This Monday I sat down and wrote out my intentions for the week. Rereading it, I have a feeling that’s how I’ll want many of my weeks to look. Sometimes I forget the big picture, and I’ve recently started physically writing down my Big Picture, be it for a day, an event, a relationship, or in this case, a week.

Without further ado:

Intenions for This Week/Big Picture:

To chip away at my Portland/life goals in an efficient, simple, minimal way. To go at an efficient but relaxed pace. To stick to original plans, but yield when doors close and remain flexible to changes and unexpected happenings–to live in the present moment and find the humor/niceties in every scenario, every moment.

To wake up grateful for the exact scenario, recounting my blessings, and never allow doubt or fear to guide my decisions.

To turn off my brain and act from my intuition.

To not fear missing out. To remember and focus only on the moment’s top priority, whatever that may be, and let all else disappear, knowing that I have enough, have always had enough, and will always have enough.

To remember that I don’t own anyone or any thing and never will, so therefore I have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

To not second-guess or worry about any decisions I made. To make decisions based on love and inspiration and let my complete and unjustified faith in myself and the universe meet me halfway. To know that it always will, every time. That all I can do is the best I can do, and the universe will show me what I need to learn.

To remember that I’m not missing out on anything.

To help others when I see the opportunity and have enough to give (always.) To remember life is lived off paper.

To remember that I’m not perfect and can never be, but that I can be perfectly and unabashedly myself.

To make plans and set goals but not get angry or disappointed when (not if) I don’t get to all of them.

To release all expectations of myself and those I come in contact with. To be patient and kind to myself and others. To let doors open and close, never using force, always asserting what I feel, think, and want, but never trying to change a scenario, always yielding and facilitating the opening and closing of doors. Keeping in mind that “when one door closes, another one opens.” Not giving my power away or letting things get past my mental “mudroom”, never reacting angrily to a door closing, but rather taking a moment before speaking or acting to think about what other doors I could walk through instead. Remembering that I have enough, do enough, and am enough. That my presence is enough. That existing is enough. That everything positive that happens is merely the icing on top of my cake, and that anything “negative” that happens can never take away from the fact that I have had the best cake ever. The cake is always enough.

To use my tools for good (brain, computer, relationships, etc).

To work when it’s time to work, and to rest when it’s time to rest. To let everything breathe–to act when action is required, and to hold the pose when there’s nothing to be done.

To remain equanimous–to break the link between feeling tones & craving; to be with the pleasant without chasing it, with the unpleasant without resisting it, and with the neutral without ignoring it.

To forgive myself when I “mess up”, without delay. To appreciate challenges and “setbacks” as opportunities to use my creativity and grow, to practice these ideas. To know that its this contrast that makes life beautiful and fun and interesting and that, no matter how much I whine or complain, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s a necessary part of the game.

To remember that it’s just a game, and to play for fun and not points.

To always value real, in-person connection above all else and to communicate and share ideas and goods as often as possible. Daily. Always look for opportunities to help others, dig for ways I can serve them, and not how they can help me or what I can get from them.

Laugh as often as possible.

Fuel my body with nourishing food.

Exert myself, but don’t over-exert myself.

Allow silence. Don’t try to fill every second.

To listen when others speak, and really hear them.

To address issues immediately, before they have a chance to fester and explode.

To be detached but warmly engaged with the world. To appreciate but to know I don’t NEED anything or any body.

To give only when I want to give, never to seek or need a response or reaction, and know that what I gave is enough. To remember that whatever anyone else gives or does is enough. To be confident yet vulnerable. Taking healthy risks.

To treat friends as family; to remember that an argument, disagreement or bump in the road doesn’t mean you break up; to move on with positive forward facing momentum and keep my eye on the big picture of what’s good for the whole team. To remember that a discussion never has to be an argument–that an issue never has to be a problem, that differences in opinion can be discussed in a relaxed, honest way and then moved on from.

To re-read “in the flow” days if (when) I feel disconnected, or talk with someone who gets me, or read my “balance” list and get back on track when I fall off.

To create every day. To find inspiration around me.

What are your intentions?

Overhauling the Publishing Industry


To anybody who likes books & having the freedom of creative expression:

Today the The 4-Hour Chef is out.  It’s a followup to a book that undeniably changed my life.

Maybe even more important than the incredible content inside it, author Tim Ferriss is currently fighting a battle against the traditional publishing industry.  The 4-Hour Chef is banned from 1000+ bookstores (including all Barnes & Nobles) because it’s the next big bet by Amazon Publishing.

The success of this book threatens the stability of the traditional publishing industry.  It could also pave the way for bigger and badder things.  As I’m getting ready to publish my first book, I’ve seen first hand how outdated traditional publishing methods are and how their restrictive nature of it all doesn’t do much to benefit the author or the readers.

A victory for the 4-Hour-Chef could mean getting more books and information into the right hands, and more creative flexibility for authors.  It’s a win-win scenario (except for the big publishing corporations.)

If The 4-Hour Chef “wins” in any capacity, authors will feel freedom to experiment. If this book “fails” because the old guard makes of an example of it, their message wins: don’t mess with the system that keeps us fat and happy, or we’ll punish you.

Our world is changing.  We’re noticing the unhappy effects of our “dog-eat-dog world” of the last decades, and seeing that “sharing is caring” goes a lot further.  We’re working on updating health care, we’re working on updating our views on race, gender, gay marriage, the environment, and more.

To me, this is just one more small step for man.  Let’s make it happen.

 

Passive Income Update

My best-selling set.

In May, I wrote about my goal to ”create a new stream of passive income by September 30, 2012, that generates at least $50 per month on average and endures for a minimum of 10 years in a way that delivers strong value for many others around the world.”

Since the “deadline” date has passed, I thought I’d share an update on how I did.

The plan was to monetize Art Outlines by selling my illustrations as downloadable vectors for other designers to use.

My plan was to group sets of drawings together into full-sets, each of which would be one page in the upcoming Art Outlines book.  For example, I created a full set of banners, vegetables, stars, christmas illustrations, and so on.  I drew a page per week and listed each page on my etsy shop for $12.95. And then…

…I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And then, on July 4th, American Independence Day, something magical happened. I made my first sale. A stranger sent me $2 for my drawing of a deer while I slept.  Fucking magical.

So was it a success?

I’m pretty damn stoked (and surprised) to be able to say yes, both monetarily and otherwise.  After the initial $2, I ended up meeting my monetary goal of $50 passive income per month after September 30th.

I didn’t exceed it by much, but something interesting happened: I ended up starting a new form of active income as a by-product.

By listing my pre-made Art Outlines illustrations on etsy, people started getting in touch about creating custom illustrations in the same style.  I was getting fresh eyes on my work and exposure via the etsy platform from people searching for quirky illustrations.

As well as making a fair bit more money than the passive stream, I also really enjoyed actively creating illustrations for customers with a set brief.  It’s a fun puzzle for me to solve when a client tells me what elements they would like to include, and then I get to figure out a way to make it happen, using my judgment and creativity to fill in gaps.

I liked having the balance of creating pages at will for the book based on my own wants, and creating something more structred for my active clients.

I really loved making custom illustrations for new clients.

Here’s my Art Outlines monetary earnings breakdown since I started my goal:

JUNE: 30.00 active

JULY: 14.95 passive + 175.00 active

AUGUST: 38.85 passive + 90.00 active

SEPTEMBER: 37.95 passive

OCTOBER: 64.75 passive + 180.00 active

Passive Total: 169.45

Active Total: 475.00

Total Total (passive + active): 644.45

Reflections

I’m really, really excited about my progress on this so far.  Art Outlines is pretty much my ideal form of supporting myself: I can work from anywhere, any time; I get paid to use my creativity and make art I want to make anyways, I’m providing value for others while providing value for myself, and it’s completely passive because I created an automatic download page which customers are emailed after purchase for my completely digital product.

I guess all there is left to do is.. keep going.  Based on the fact that people are actually ordering and paying for what I’m making is a clear indicator that I’m heading in the right direction.  All I need to do is persist if I want to increase the volume of orders.

A couple folks commented on my initial goal blogpost that a goal of $50/month was too easy.  I thought about changing it to a higher goal, but decided to stick with my initial instinct.  I didn’t want to set the bar higher because I was (and still am) in the midst of constant travel.  During the entire time I’ve been working towards this goal, Art Outlines has been a side project.  I couldn’t give it my full attention, as my full attention has been dedicated to my main goal of traveling and working on The Eat Team.  I reckon if Art Outlines was my main focus, I could have upped the ante a bit.  I’m proud that I was able to meet my goal while exploring and journeying through Australia, New Zealand, and the west coast of the U.S.

I’m looking forward to seeing this project through to completion and earning enough money through passive income to fully sustain my life monetarily.  I’m still creating one new set per week, so the finished Art Outlines book should be finished in the next year.

One of the biggest parts of creating passive income streams according to Steve Pavlina is mastering the mindset and really thinking about what you’ll do with your time once you fully sustain yourself with passive income.  I think I’ve also been successfully acting upon my answer to that: I’ve been traveling, cooking for friends and family, creating, dancing, and making the most of what I earn.  I’m looking forward to fulfilling the remainder of that list in the months and years to come.  I’m in it for the long haul and won’t quit till I get there.

Tools

‘A ship in port is safe, but this is not what ships are built for.  - Grace Hopper

There is nothing inherently good or bad about a hammer.

It is useless if it’s left in the drawer–paintings left to collect dust in boxes, Ikea dressers disassembled in their original packaging, a calendar lying unhung halfway through it’s calendar year.

It is only a tool, and it is useful only when it is being used.  It can be used in so many ways, but there’s only a few things it was made to do: drive home nails, take out nails, smash things.  Of course, you could also carry it around and use it to knock on people’s doors with, as a back-scratcher, to play catch with.

But those last few aren’t ideal.  They’d get the job done in each of those last few scenarios, but in an extremely inefficient way.

There’s a few ideas here I’ve been mulling over that seem to apply to all tools:

1. Tools are made to be used.  

A pot was made to be cooked in.

Paintbrushes were made to paint with.

Running shoes were made to run in.

Tools are only useful when used.  Don’t let them sit and gather dust.

2. Tools are made to be used in a specific way.

You could use a speaker as a chair, or you could sit on a chair.

You could use a butter knife to cut a watermelon, or you could use it to spread butter.

You could use your desk as a space to write a book, or as a dumping ground for wrinkled clothing.

Each option would work, but which one is a pleasure and which one causes frustration?  Impatience?  Using a tool for its intended use makes things simpler and more efficient.

3. Tools are neither inherently good or bad.  

You could use a hammer to hang some shelves… or you could use it as a murder weapon.

You could use your iphone to share photos of your creations… or you could use it to waste time refreshing your facebook feed.

You could use your legs to propel yourself in a swimming pool… or you could kick your neighbor.

You could use your brain to empower you, or you could use it to produce degrading thoughts about yourself.

You could use your hands to create a sculpture, or you could use them to pick at imperfections.

4. Tools are everywhere

Almost everything is a tool.  That is to say, there is a way to use it.  From literal tools like a wrench, to everyday items like combs, to every part of your body and your mind.. these things are here to enhance your experience of life, if you use them, and you use them for good and not evil.

The value lies in the usage.  The user decides how to use the tool.  Therefore, the value is created by the user.  The decision, the power is in how you choose to use the tool.

Use the tools at hand to enhance your life and the lives around you.


Joining the iPhone Club

Five years after iPhone was first released, I’m finally joining the club today.

The reasons I didn’t get one until now ranged from the fact that they were unnecessary– that all I needed on a phone was to call and text, that I didn’t need the bells and whistles, especially at the extra price tag.  But the biggest reason of all was that I didn’t feel I could trust myself to use it efficiently.

Now that the cell phone companies have eliminated the excuse of a high price (they make it just about the same price and sometimes even more expensive to buy a new “basic” phone as they do to buy a smart phone), and realizing how handy some of the apps would be on the road and in navigating daily life, I had only one reason left that could get in the way.  My mindset.

“Technology alone is not enough. It’s tecnology married with the liberal arts, the humanities, that gives us the result that makes our hearts sing.” – Steve Jobs

I always knew that if I were to get one, I’d have to have reached a level of maturity that I could wield my iPhone for good and not evil.  iPhones are extemely powerful, and we all know that with great power comes great responsibility.  Pirates had swords to do their bidding, and we have smart phones.

Since having an iphone is a great responsibility, I must treat it accordingly.  As a young college kid addicted to constantly refreshing facebook in 2007, I knew that I was not ready.

Maybe you’re thinking that’s a little dramatic–it’s just a phone, right?  Well, really, it’s a tool.  And no tool is inherently good or evil.  But you can use it proactively, or you can use it against people and against yourself.  You can use it to enhance life, or you can use it to distract you.  To connect, or to disconnect.  The choice is yours, whether you want it or not.

Before I took on this responsibility, I wanted to make sure I could handle it.  I wanted to make sure I had outgrown my other technologies, and truly lived my life fully knowing that I could live without it.

Now I know that I can live without it, because I have done my whole life.

But I now feel ready to wield my power responsibly.  But before I dive in, I want to set some guidelines for what is “good” and “evil” in my iPhone usage.  Because, after all, I am human, and we do tend to make a butt load of mistakes ;)

GOOD iPHONE USES

- Note taking: I use sticky notes on my computer and a TextEdit document to compile my notes and to-do list.  So unless I’m at my computer, I’m always writing stuff down in a ton of locations.  In draft text messages on my phone, taking photos of things to remind me, scribbling on notes here and there, writing them all over my physical notebook.  I’ll be eliminating at least two gathering points by jotting down most of my notes on my iPhone, which I’ll be doing since it will be near me more often than the other items.

- Instagram & Camera: I’ve been photographing for 10 years now, studied it, loved it, and continue to do it every single day.  I have a bulky digital SLR which I use for events and travel, but I’m looking forward to putting away/selling/donating my point-and-shoot, which is less powerful than the iPhone camera and using it means I carry a phone and a camera at all times.  I’ll be saving space and upgrading the actual camera technology, while being able to share photos more rapidly and efficiently.

- Youtube/video: The camera upgrade is already massive, and as I am just getting into youtubing my adventures, I’m looking forward to capturing these moments in higher quality and sharing them more efficiently.

- Not having to bring my computer everywhere: I like having the option of working when I get a burst of inspiration, and also being able to use internet when I want to.  I’ve been known to lug around my 6-year-old hulk of a macbook through big cities, and having a computer for a phone means I can give my back some much needed rest and get up and go more quickly.

- Maps/directions: I travel regularly, and when I’m not traveling, I live in Los Angeles.  In both scenarios, I’m going to new places on a regular basis.  Having an iPhone means I no longer have to google map before I leave and take a photograph of it on my point-and-shoot camera and zoom in to scrutinize the blurry little map while I’m on the freeway.

- Emergencies: I imagine it’s going to be pretty damn handy in a stitch.  As my friend Hannah pointed out though, there’s a fine line between convenience and laziness.

- Update twitter/facebook: Not having to remember what I want to say until I get back to a computer means I can free up mental space.  Especially useful for my entrepreneurial projects and pages. Think it, type it, publish.

BEFORE I DIVE IN

Before I even start using it properly, I want to make a pact to myself that this iPhone will be birthed into an organized environment.

After 6 years of inconsistent file naming on my home computer, totally disorganized folders, photos this way and that, documents here and there, 3 hard drives, music in all the wrong places, and a digital clutter of the worst degree, I realized that I really should have taken those extra 20 seconds now and then to create some consistency on my hunk-a-hunk-a burning love macbook.

I’ve slowly been working through the mess and bringing it back to a clean, simple, organized environment, but how much easier would it all have been if I had just started it right?  This is my public vow, to myself and to the world, that I will organize from the beginning, taking care to learn and instate processes which will clarify and enhance usability.

BAD iPHONE USES

- Mindless facebook: This was the big one.  In younger years I spent a truly embarrassing amount of time refreshing facebook, waiting for notifications, riding on the highs of attention, wallowing in the lows of nothing-new-to-see.  Somehow I finally stopped that bad habit, and use it consciously to stay connected with friends and family.  However, history always has a chance of repeating itself and I want to make sure I’m aware of that so that I don’t slip back into old ways.

- Constant email: What was once a facebook addiction in college gradually grew into an email addiction after graduation.  With real work and clients and meeting people and new friends, it’s a constant barrage of information and people awaiting your reply.  You can just as easily get sucked into email as facebook, and I let myself drown in it for a while.  But, I learned my lesson again and, for the most part, am good at respecting the line between keeping in touch and drowning in my inbox.  I don’t want to be constantly updated, I don’t want to know who’s written to me, and I definitely don’t want my phone to make a noise or pop up every time I get a new message.  What I don’t know can’t affect me, and I intend to keep my mental clarity and sanity in tact by keeping up my “once a week email-a-thon” and intermittent checking.  I say when it’s time to email, not my phone.  Step back, biotch.

- Using it in social situations instead of participating in real life conversations and connections: One of my biggest pet peeves is when you’re talking with someone and they whip out their phone and multitask.  I won’t lie, my feelings get a little hurt.  If we’re hanging out, let’s be together.  I don’t like to be multitasked on, and I will do my damndest not to multitask on you.

I think that’s about it.  Let the madness begin.

Eating Ice Cream Every Day

My travel buddy Hannah of The Eat Team and I just finished a five-day road trip across New Zealand’s north island.  We had an epic adventure, climbed mountains, showered in a rainbow waterfall, visited the Lord of the Rings Hobbiton village at The Shire, ate a ton of junk food, read literary trash fiction, got drunk, played cards, laughed, and generally did absolutely nothing productive.

As part of our ongoing travels for The Eat Team, we’re calling, interviewing, writing, planning, photographing, and running around like madmen working hard and playing hard on a daily basis.

But on our little road trip, we didn’t do a single interview for The Eat Team.  We didn’t send a single email.  We left our phones off for days on end. And we indulged in procrastination and nothingness to the highest degree.

It’s not like doing stuff for The Eat Team is a hassle and to be honest it doesn’t much feel like work at all– it’s exactly what we would want to be doing even without a project like this.  (That’s the point of a dream right?)  It’s just that, no matter what you do, you can’t do it day in and day out without pause.  Even though ice cream one of my favorite things in the world, I wouldn’t want to eat it 30 days in a row.

The week leading up to the road trip left both of us feeling a bit uneasy–we were in Auckland with at least 15 incredibly talented folks ready and willing to meet us.  We had a backlog of over thirty articles and interviews already conducted and just waiting to be written, edited, and posted.  We had a place to stay for the next two nights and absolutely no plan after that.  We desperately wanted a break from the nonstop action and jam-packed schedule, but we were consumed by FOMO.  We got a golden opportunity to take a roadtrip, but we didn’t want to let those people down who were waiting to hear back from us, especially those who we already had scheduled meetings with.

What did we do?

We decided to let go.  We acknowledged the fact that no matter how much we tried to do and see, there was absolutely no way we’d ever see and do it all.  So we let go of it all.  We got in touch with the people we were meant to meet, apologized for canceling, and packed our bags.

Today is the first day that Hannah and I have gotten back into “working” on The Eat Team, scheduling, planning, writing, photographing, and tackling the daily steps of bringing our bigger dream into reality.

We spent the entire day in our pajamas behind our computer screens, emailing and facebooking and twittering and preparing and planning and the beauty is this: although the thought of this last week would have overwhelmed us, it did not. because we took a big fat indulgent break last week, today felt like just as much fun as showering in a waterfall by the sea.

It was refreshing.  I feel totally inspired again and ready to take on anything.  I think that’s the beauty of this nomadic lifestyle which feels more and more like a normal life.  There’s huge variety in it, and when one situation becomes tiresome, we move on to the next one.  We repeat them alternately, and each of them are just as enjoyable because of the rotation.

Last week, adventuring and hiking and roughing it and indulging felt like heaven.  Today, I couldn’t think of anything better than lounging and working and waking up in a real bed and drinking tea and eating a crumpet.  On Thursday, I’m looking forward to getting back out in the world again and interviewing some new folks in Wellington.

Sometimes you do this, sometimes you do that.  Sometimes you’re here, sometimes you’re there.  Sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down.  They’re all a necessary part of the balance, the rhythm, the flow, whatever you wanna call it.  This is as much a reminder to myself as it is to you: don’t fear either side, just let it pass through you and keep on moving,  keep on making decisions, keep on firing, just keep on swimming.  Don’t beat yourself up if you’re feeling burnt out–take a break and embrace it!

Just like in a photo, it’s the contrast that makes life beautiful.

Help Wanted: A Mentern

One of the new holiday cards in my shop.

One of the new holiday cards in my shop.

As things have expanded, I’m looking to hire a Mentern (Mentee & Intern) in the San Francisco bay area or Los Angeles for my growing gangster-rap greeting card business while I travel to Asia and Australia to write a book on food and art.  Basically I am looking for someone like me a few years ago: a creative, smart, motivated individual who doesn’t want to settle for anything less than the most awesome life they can imagine.  For me, that meant quitting my dismal 9-5 life that society promotes and carving out my own place in the world, to be able to pursue a passionate existence.  I’d like to offer my knowledge and expertise to someone interested in pursuing their dreams in return for help running my online shop and as an assistant organizing my projects.  Not only will you learn tricks of the trade “on the job” from managing the shop & tasks below for an average of 5 hours per week, I will chat with you weekly for an hour & provide 1-on-1 coaching to help you reach (or figure out) your dreams and start making money with your own business or at your dream job.  I want this to be a mutually beneficial partnership, where we both grow & succeed.

What you will work on:

  • Fulfill orders
  • Correspond with customers
  • Create content for the mailing list
  • Research physical stores to stock cards in
  • Update the facebook fan page (jokes, sales, etc) & website
  • Browse Etsy for cool items, think of creative themes & create Treasuries around them
  • Read & contact art/design/gadget blogs, magazines, & newspapers for features
  • Research & contact chefs & artists to interview for the aforementioned book
  • Copy write & create etsy listings
  • Update Flickr
  • Write blog content
  • Update website
  • Maintain flexible: I will have different and varied projects for you.
Location:
  • Your home, or wherever you are.  I know you don’t need a watchdog.  Best case scenario, you’ll live in SF, Oakland, Berkeley, Santa Cruz, or Los Angeles, as I intend to work in print studios in those areas and it would make giving you the prints easy.  Also, if it interested you (hopefully), you could come with me to the studio and see how I work.
Required skills:
  • Reliable, timely, and excited to use your own creativity.  I will give you tasks, but for much of it, I want you to get to exercise your unique skills & innovation.
  • Desire to make a positive impact in your life & the lives of those around you.
  • 100% honest, all the time.  I will be with you, and you will be with me even when it gets awkward.  That’s the only way we can make progress and learn from eachother.  As they say, the truth will set you free ;)
  • People person (good on the phone, in writing, and not scared to say what you mean)
  • Bonus points but not necessary: knowledge of Etsy, graphic design, wordpress, photography, printmaking/letterpress, blogging, SEO, facebook fan pages, twitter, art world, html etc.

This is an ideal Menternship for you if you are interested in most of the following, as I kick ass at and can help you with:

  • Defining & pursuing your ideal life
  • Supporting yourself through art, design, creativity
  • Graphic design, fine art, illustration, bookmaking, printmaking, photography
  • Running an etsy shop for yourself
  • Living and working on your own terms (avoiding the 9-5 to create your own path & enjoy life, or finding & landing your dream job)
  • Starting, running, or building your own business
  • Making money from a passion
  • Learning about entrepreneurship, freelancing, marketing, and advertising
  • Building a network of supportive people
  • Learning about printmaking, letterpress, paper
  • Traveling while still making money from your business
  • The “4 hour workweek” lifestyle introduced by Tim Ferriss
  • Minimalism, a “less is more” lifestyle (have less things, but more experiences)
  • Reaching your full potential/living as your best self

If this sounds like you:

  1. Please check out my creative endeavors here, my earlier blogposts, and my about page  to see if you’d like to work with me.
  2. Email me without hesitation at melissa@yeoldegangster.com a paragraph or two telling me about yourself and why we would be a good working match.  Attach a resume just so I know what you’ve been up to, but know that I’m choosing based on business compatibility and how much I think we can benefit one another, not what brands you’ve worked with.
I’ll be in the Bay Area to pick a Mentern until early December.

Thanks & looking forward to hearing from you,
Melissa

Handling The Lows

9-25-11 HandlingTheLowsInfographic

The sweet spot to maintain mental clarity. "Good" and "bad" events will always be in your life. "Good" and "bad" emotional states are also natural and unavoidable. The only thing you can control is how you view and respond to them.

I spent the last two and a half days doing absolutely nothing.  I cancelled every hangout, meeting, and party I had planned, shirked all responsibilities, ignored my emails, all so I could do… not a single “productive” thing.  And as much as I wanted to want to do these fun things and carry on with my work, my intuition said no.  It said my brain was overloaded.  And so I succumbed to my “weakness” and hid in my room like a werewolf waiting for the human/”good” self to come back out.  I also read, walked, biked, ate, cried, laughed, drank, and more.  I listened to my intuition, even though my ego wanted to carry on with scheduled programming.

But I’ve put “weakness” in quotations because I’m learning that if I view this low state as a normal, natural, and necessary occurrence (sweet alliteration, or?), and let it take its course without judging myself, it passes without adding insult to injury.  That is, it doesn’t make me feel less like crying or hiding, but it makes me feel okay to cry or hide.  I feel pretty damn good about this realization.  When I can remember that its a passing state, and that everyone I know goes through the same thing (even Tim Ferriss) then I also can keep it in perspective.

I’ve tried to convey my understanding in a highly advanced technologically and scientifically sound graph above.  The blue line represents the “good” and “bad” events which happen in your life.  (I’ve put these words in quotations because I don’t think there are good events or bad events.. they are both equally necessary, but that’s a topic for another day.) For example winning the lottery is up at the top of the orange curve, and getting stabbed is down at the bottom.  ”Good” and “bad” events such as these are gonna happen no matter what you do or how you feel.

Similarly, you will feel both “good” and “bad” at different times in your life (as illustrated by the yellow line); by this, I mean natural fluctuations in your hormone levels and brain activity that just make you feel a certain way, regardless of actual events.  Have you ever felt on top of the world, even when you had an outwardly shitty day, full of mishaps, miscommunications, and failures?  Or have you ever felt terrible even when you had nothing to complain about?  If so, you know what I mean when I say the blue and yellow lines have nothing to do with one another.  These two lines have nothing to do with each other; the “happy” emotional state you feel after winning the lottery has nothing to do with your natural emotional states, but rather it would be part of the third, black line, which is your reaction to both of the other lines.  For example, this weekend, my emotional state (orange line) was on the bottom, even though I had no actual reason or event that caused it.  On the contrary, my events (blue line) have been pretty close to as high as possible for the last few weeks and I had nothing on the orange line to be upset about.  However, since the blue and orange are independent, I was free to feel like crap.  But this time around the low bend of the rollercoaster of my yellow line, I managed to (for the most part) keep my black line straight.  And that’s what rocks.

And since I’m always fumbling to maintain that shiny black straightness that pervades cool and unattached-ness to outcomes when I hit the bottom of the yellow curve, here are my top tips for keeping my cool until the bend swings itself back up.

Read, read, read.  Especially fresh material, and things that inspired you in the past.  Try on some different perspectives, and be reminded of other parts of life.  When I’m feeling low, I really love the cheesiest material imaginable, like Paulo Coelho’s classic novel, The Alchemist.  I seriously cried reading Tuesdays With Morrie this weekend, and I have never cried over a book or movie in my life.  That was cool.  I also loved watching this compilation of awesome Will Smith wisdom .

Treat yourself to great food.  Splurge a little, indulge.  I don’t just mean eat a bucket of nutella, but take yourself out to a nice lunch, and nourish your body.  Cause what you put into your body affects your mind.

Make a list of a few things to be thankful for.  You might even find that after you start, you want to keep going on, and on, and on.  Mine usually starts with really small things, like “Thank you for sunshine.  Thank you for the cool breeze.” and today it ended with thanking people who have challenged me or been angry at or disrespected me.  I thanked them for teaching me patience, and for helping me grow stronger.  For showing me how to be better next time, to act with courage and love.  For forcing me to think creatively, and suspend judgment.  To let go of resentment.

Let yourself cry if you want to.  There’s no shame in it at all.  It’s totally fine, normal, and valid.  And guess what.. you’re not the only one who’s ever cried before or felt the exact same way you do.  Pretty much everyone has, and will again.  You will feel like this again too, so don’t fool yourself thinking otherwise ;)  But on the other side of the spectrum, you’ll also feel ecstatic again.  Accept your emotion, embrace it, and when it’s time, move on to the next one.

Draw or paint.  My super wise and awesome roommate Jenni (who also played a big part on my 30-day learning german challenge) reminded me that it can be ugly as hell; that nobody but you has to see it, and that using your creativity usually puts you in a different emotional state.  Focus on media meeting paper; it doesn’t have to look good.  Get lost in a picture.

Go to a park & watch children and dogs play.  Remember that sense of freedom, playfulness, creativity & experimentation they have?  How freaking awesome is it?  So awesome, I know.  Don’t forget to let their attitudes infect you, when you’re ready to let go of your current emotional state and move on.

Sing.  If it’s not tooooo overwhelming cheesy when you’re feeling low, and you have the energy, I definitely recommend this one.  Sing as loud as possible.  Put the ipod on full-blast; take a walk or stay inside.

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1115/3165933423_ed7248c357.jpg

Why do you have highs and lows? Why does night complement day? Why is anything the way it is? Just simply because.

Listen to music.  Really listen to it.  If you’re feeling angry and you want to embrace it for a while, put on something with fiery passion–I like Audioslave’s “Show Me How To Live” and Nirvana songs where Kurt is yelling like a maniac.  If you’re ready to move on from your emotional state (take your time!!) put on something that will put you in your new desired state.  When I’m ready to move towards a more relaxed/positive mindset, I love anything by Air, ragtime jazz, and the Amelie soundtrack.  Cliche?  Don’t know, don’t care.

Get out in nature. Observe your surroundings, appreciate the colors & smells.  Take your shoes off and get your feet dirty.  Remember you’re just another part of this crazy/awesome world, and connect to it through the soles of your feet, the air in your lungs, the sun in your eyes.

Exercise. If you’re full of energy and/or pent-up RAGE, go sweat it off.  Create some endorphins.  Release your tension with some physical movement. Don’t promise yourself you’re gonna do a two-hour long workout; just start small.. jog to the corner and see how you feel after that.

Hide in your room.  If that’s what you feel like doing, so be it.  Take a nap, read a book, cry, draw, watch youtube videos, whatever.. just let yourself do exactly what you want.  And most importantly don’t feel bad about it.  Hiding in your room is a valid exercise, and downtime is totally necessary.  Embrace your solitude and enjoy your own company.  Just don’t let solitude turn into loneliness.  When you’re ready for the world, get out there.

Meet a friend.  In person, at home, at a party, on skype.  But not just anybody.  Make 100% sure its a friend who will support you and can relate to how you’re feeling.  Otherwise there’s a good chance they’ll bring you right back down again.

Remember that you’re awesome.  This one is hard if you’re in one of those “fuck the world, rainbows and unicorns suck, and i’m the worst person in the universe” phases, but it pretty much always makes me feel good to look at past things that I’m proud of or that brought me joy, like photographs of people and places I love.  Just make sure not to think “those were the glory days, nothing will ever be as good as that was” because it just ain’t true.  People and places come in and out of your life; savor the goodness they brought, and move on to the next chapter when its time.  More awesomeness awaits.

Remember that all of this is super fucking difficult.  Especially when you’re feeling low.  But do it anyways.  Or at least try one of them (or one from your own list) for 10 seconds.  Maybe you’ll find you want to do more than 10 seconds.  I’m not a pro, but with practice, I’m getting better at remembering all this, little by little.

Trust your intuition.  This is the most important of all.  It overrules every other suggestion on this list, because as well-intentioned as they are, nothing beats your own inner voice.  Even if the rest of your brain and body disagrees with that voice, and your own mom tells you otherwise, and your friends say you’re crazy: do exactly what that voice says.  Cause that’s the only way you’re gonna feel content.  And the awesome part about this is that your intuition always, 100% without a doubt has an opinion–my good friend Sebastian, aka Mr. Minimalist reminded me of that.  It may be quiet at times, almost inaudible–I know that’s the case when I’m feeling low.  But it’s there.  You just have to take a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a week, or a year to simmer down and listen.  But once you hear it, don’t fight with it.  Just let it lead you, because it has your best interests in mind.

What are your methods for handling the lows?