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.

30 Day Challenge Recap: Relaxation

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3586/5846438885_854f49a064_z.jpg

I’m proud to announce that my 30 Day Challenge to relax was a complete success. I am now an ordained zen master and my life is flawless! ;)

Because this month’s 30 day challenge was not physically measurable as the learning German challenge was, I don’t have anything physical to show for my work and I have no way of quantifying the success. And if the success of this challenge was dependent on my ability to never be shocked or surprised or anxious for one second, then I failed.

But if I can label it a success because I remembered to consider each moment through the perspective lens of relaxation, or because I talked about it with my friends and almost everyone I encountered for the last 30 days and learned what relaxation meant to them, then I might be okay with labeling it a success. But I feel pretty relaxed in this moment, and I think a relaxed person wouldn’t really worry about whether their experiment counted as a failure or a success.. they’d just realize they learned a lot and move on.

A RUNNING START

In the beginning of the challenge, my strategy was: whenever I had a worrying thought, I’d tell myself that worrying wasn’t allowed and that was interesting and it worked for a while. But at some point, it began to feel I was depriving myself of something: it’s like when you tell yourself that chocolate is not allowed. At some point, the hungry baby in you takes over and says “Fuck you, I’m doing this anyways”. So, after about a week or so, the angry baby in me said to my sensible self, “Fuck you, I wanna worry!” The thing was, it felt like I was saving my worries for later, and that I was just procrastinating. I was avoiding rather than addressing my worries.

NEW PERSPECTIVE

In the middle of my few-days-bout of slight worrying, my good friend came from Great Britain to visit me and see Berlin for the first time.

Emma (let’s just call her that in case she doesn’t want to be named) is one of my favorite people in the world because she has a seemingly unwavering abundance of positivity. She’s always calm, has great insight, and things just seem to flow easily around her.

In attempt to understand how she could possibly so composed & chilled (and really to prove she was a different species of human than me) I asked at least 1 million variations of “But, don’t you get worried when ____ happens?” The answer was always no. I told her that my natural state, when I wasn’t concsciously making a decision to be relaxed or positive, was frazzled or.. dare I say it.. negative. She said that hers was either neutral or happy. I was shocked.. I had never considered that was possible, as silly as it sounds.

I was under the impression that everyone has good days and everyone has bad days. That’s just the way we humans work–hormones and the like. And I know that this is true to some extent that there are natural fluctuations in energy and hormones, but I think what Emma showed me was that its not necessary to let your emotions/fears/worries run wild on up and down swings.

I don’t NEED to worry!?!? I was always under the impression that if I wasn’t worrying, I wouldn’t get the job done properly–I (subconsciously?) thought that thinking about my “problems” all the time meant that I was working towards their resolution, and otherwise I was being lazy. Sounds a bit stupid to me now, but realizing that worrying is a choice and its useless, that its not engrained in human nature, and that a neutral/happy default state was possible… it was truly a revelation. It’s as exciting as the time it finally clicked that I never HAD to get a standard 9-5 job to qualify as an adult, or when I realized I didn’t NEED a room full of new clothes & the latest gadgets to be content.

Emma’s visit also provided insight for my challenge indirectly, even when we weren’t discussing the topic directly. She only had 3 days in Berlin, and that’s not even remotely enough time to see and do everything here. But instead of worrying and trying to fit everything in all at once, we just picked one thing at a time. We didn’t second-guess ourselves and think “maybe it would have been better if we did this instead” or “perhaps we should ditch this plan and go here instead”.

I wanted to be a good host and often that can be a stressful situation, with pressure to entertain. But Emma had no expectations and there was no pressure for either of us this way. It wasn’t so much about what we did, but just that we enjoyed whatever it was. We made a decision and stuck with it.

WHAT’S IT ALL MEAN?

I can’t say that I’m perfect at relaxation now, but I definitely feel I’ve gained a lot of insight about it. I also feel like something has clicked into place, and I think the main idea is the revelation that my default/natural state doesn’t have to be negative–I don’t HAVE to be thinking of things to worry about. (I also don’t have to be positive, and I don’t have to be mad at myself when I’m not in a bubbly mood…)

If I have no expectations for myself or for my plans or for a problem or decision to be resolved in a specific way, then I can never be disappointed. I can just BE. I realized that most of the time when I’m in a negative state and no unpleasant event has actually triggered it, I’m just searching for problems to worry about.

Worrying truly never helps the situation, and I guess much of my worrying comes from decision making: will I make the RIGHT decision? And time and time again, it’s become clear to me that its not about any specific decision, its just choosing one without overanalyzing. Because the outcome never matters either–in my 23 years of life, every single outcome of every single problem I’ve ever encountered has always somehow turned out.. ok. No worst-case-scenario that ever became a reality shook me so hard that I was unable to bounce back.

So if all of my seemingly unsurmountable difficulties from the past worked out okay whether or not I worried about them, then I guess every single “insurmountable problem” that I will have in the future will also work themselves out with no harm to my consciousnes.. wehther or not I worry about them. And since worrying is not necessary.. I have a choice–to worry or not. I don’t want to set any expectations of myself, so I can’t make any promises about never worrying again. But for right now at least, I’m not worried. And that’s a damn good feeling.

Berlin 4-Hour-Workweek Recap for 6/3: Forums & Blogging

Abuela by Melissa Rachel Black

What would grandma say when you're not sure how to proceed with your business? Just keep trying till something works.

Perhaps the most successful 4HWW meeting yet, we’ve adopted a new format.  Rachman leads the discussions, and asks if anyone has any specific questions or needs help on a particular area in their muse.  I think it’s a great format because its structured like a 1-on-1 conversation which gives individual people real feedback, and the material is useful for the group as well, and everyone is free to jump in to the conversation.  We talked about:

- Hiring SEO experts on Odesk to write affiliate/adsense articles

- Using Feedback Army for real live humans to test the usability of your site and give you feedback, for a small fee.

- Using Appsumo to get daily web coupons (“groupon for web applications”)

- A/B testing with Optimizely is free and highly-recommended by Fabian Dittrich

- You can buy facebook likes for your business or website to increase “credibility”

- Using forums on your blog to increase interaction and productivity, in two ways: 1. Posting on existing forums to bring traffic to your site, or 2. Finding a niche where there isn’t already a forum and bringing it to life by building a forum  on your site.  Increase interaction while at the same time increasing content on your site.  PHPbb is free to build a bulletin board/forum.

- Using Balsamiq for idea prototyping to create digital sketch mockups of a product.

- One of our new visitors, Erik Frank, told us about his site where you can rent great apartments in Berlin for vacation or short stays at berlincribs.com

- Using kickstarter to fund creative projects–a really unique, community-building way of raising money for doing what you love.

- Putting things in terms of dollar signs is a great strategy because it gives customers a good perspective.  For example, a customer who wanted to quit drinking asked Rachman why his site Make Habits cost so much to join, and he told her that she’d save the $39 in a week or two of not drinking, as that’s only 5 or 6 drinks at a bar.

- Sebastian Mikaelson (who is bringing minimalism to Germany at Mr. Minimalist) increased efficiency of his blog by making an elite area and newsletter.

- Using Google Keywords to help think of words to include in your blog’s articles to boost your blog’s appearance in search engines.

- Sebastian also recommends Copyblogger.  He says it provides great content to help new bloggers.

- Mixergy has tons of inspirational videos of successful entrepreneurs.

- Lynda has training/how-to videos on EVERYTHING.  You have to pay, but its a great service according to several folks in the group.

- We all committed to a weekly goal.  Mine was to contact 20 people for my etsy shop.

Looking forward to next week!