Show up, just as you are.
That’s what they say. The branding experts, the authenticity coaches, the wellness facilitators. Show up just as you are. But hold on a minute. I are not a pack of cards. I are not the Queen of hearts. Sometimes I is her tarts, sweet and jammy in the middle and crunchy on the outside. Other days I is the hedgehog rolled up tight into a croquet ball waiting for someone to hit me with a mallet so I can skittle away under a bush.
Occasionally I’m the joker and other days I don’t even want to decide what I am. Okay, so maybe I am a pack of cards. But show up just as I am? I’ve tried doing that. In fact, I myself have been an enthusiastic advocate for doing that. I think we should do that. In theory. But what happens when we feel like a snarky feminist on Monday, a jolly parent on Tuesday, a pile of shit on Wednesday, an Empowered and Abundant Manifestation of Entrepreneurhood on Thursday and like railing against the world on Friday. When we sit down to pen our weekly email newsletter, who is it sitting down to write? Who were we last week? Who will we be next week?Read more
For my mum who has been unlucky enough to break her arm playing catch but who is nonetheless wonderful.
I seem to have a problem
Not the kind where
You go and see a nurse
Or ring a hearse
Not a problem with sanity
Or even mild depravity
I just seem to have
A fairly insignificant
But nonetheless worrying
Problem with gravity.
Just the other day
I was picking plums
At the top of a ladder
Made entirely of rungs
Held together by strange forces
And nails and things
When there was a slight fluctuation
In the position of
My centre of gravity
And with startling alacrity
I met the ground with a force
Roughly equal to, say,
Oh, seven hundred newtons
And at that point I
Whether many other people
Had this fairly insignificant
But nonetheless worrying
Problem with gravity.
Or perhaps it’s just me.
You're a creative person. You know you have something big, juicy and pretty flabbergastingly amazing to bring to the world. Trouble is, your head feels like one of those depressing pictures of a Windows hard drive before defragmentation.
It's a spaghetti-mess full of tiny blocks of passion, inspiration and yahoo. You're worried that one day, your head might actually explode, like a pressure cooker full of borlotti beans accidentally left on the stove for too long.
Great glomping froths of brain foam will ooze out and be lost.
You'll keel over from this explosion and, because the post-pressure-cooker trauma is so very painful, you'll retire to a quiet life of lorry driving and wondering what might have been.
It's not fun, huh?
And the thing is, there's a LOT of advice out there. I mean, you can spend years and years and years reading every single self-help book in the Universe and still your head feels exquisitely fucked. (Did you know that the person most likely to buy a self-help book is...someone who's recently bought a self-help book. Funny, right.)
Sometimes, though, it's not more steps you need. Sometimes you don't need another reminder that you are a Child of the Universe and you are Here to Do Miracles. Sometimes that's not helpful. Sometimes you want a tiny little pep-talk, like a mini-revolution over a biscuit and cuppa. Like a best friend who rings you up and makes you laugh until you've wet yourself and need to get out of your pyjamas.
It's not always WHAT you think. Sometimes huge shifts happen when you sit down and question HOW you think.
I'm in the middle of writing a free seven-part email series designed to help creatives and other passion-fuelled entrepreneurs (and wannabe entrepreneurs) to fall in love with a helpful, head-not-exploding, self-sufficient and productive mindset.
I'd like your help with this. Tell me simply in the comments below: what are you struggling with? Make sure you hop on the list here to be the first to know when this teabreak revolution kicks off.
So in our brand playgroup, we're talking about how to define brand. We're talking about how to make a little you-shaped dent in the Universe. What do you think we're focusing on? Logos? Nope. Tagline? Nope. Colour palette? Not really.
No, the answer is this: we're focusing on how as a business owner, whether you like it or not, you are a leader of some kind. You have a vision for how you want to show up. You have a head and heart full of passion and cultural markers, a story to relay, and you have a totally unique lens through which you see the world. There are others out there who totally 'get' you. They want 'in' because they share your outlook, your aspirations, your sense of humour, your taste in graphic novelists.
So let them in. Build a virtual home for them. Welcome them, love them, honour your front door and know when to open and close it. We all have a fundamental desire to go 'home', wherever that may be. You're not a brandbuilder really.
You're a home maker.
Marcus Romer shared a tweet which, in one day, got retweeted over 7000 times.
I think it struck a chord.
It goes like this:
The Creative Process:
1. This is awesome
2. This is tricky
3. This is shit
4. I am shit
5. This might be ok
6. This is awesome.
This cycle is so familiar to me that I go through it several times a week, a month, a year. This week, I've looped the loop of shittiness to awesome (and back again) twenty seven times. So believe me when I tell you that I understand. We all understand. It's a universal problem, faced by just about anybody over six who ever made anything.
So, what's the tricky bit?
Why do we go from 'this is a great idea' to 'this is tricky' so deftly?Read more
Exams were over.
I'd graduated with a first class degree in Nothing Really and I'd a cushy job offer at a tech firm in London.
It was all Yellow. At least, it was on the radio at my temp job: I was matching, batching and coding invoices at Virgin Media HQ, where Coldplay held sway.
Returning from micronapping off a weeknight hangover (reckless!) in the loo, I'd have to pretend to my line manager that I was keen on working my way up the accounts payable ladder.
Except I wasn't. I liked the job; it was fun. Coldplay played. There was banter.
But did I want to do that when I grew up?
I wanted to have a cushy tech job riffing C++ in London Town.
Except, I didn't. So I went to France. I wanted to manage a ski resort.
Except, I didn't. So I went to New Zealand. I wanted to...
be a software tester
an office girl for a winery
a lab technician
a features writer
a fitness teacher
Except, I didn't. Even when I did five of those things at once (and I did, and I was pooped.)
I went to Spain with my baby daughter and husband, who worked long shifts making wine. Suddenly, surrounded by people whose language I didn't understand, I was stripped of all my 'I ams.'
I was alone, and the only 'I am' I had during long days was 'mum' to my daughter. And she was too little to chat.
I felt like the bottom had fallen out of the earth. I was in grief.
You see, I kept on trying to define myself by what I did.
And if you're multipassionate, like me, that's exhausting. Not just to you, but to those around you who just think you're flaky and shallow.
My daughter is eight now. And it's taken me all these years to work out something that seemed obvious when I was that age.
When I was eight, I wanted to be a potter-artist-writer-actress-mermaid.
Why? Because it would be fun. Those were all the things I liked to do.
Because you get to go underwater and see things like the bottom of boats from funny angles. Because you get to play with squishy things that feel nice. Because you get to make up stories and make beautiful things from colours. Because sometimes you create things you weren't expecting. Because you get to make something look like another thing and it's strange and people laugh.
Do you get where I'm going with this?
Multipassionate minestrone souls like me freak out when we have to put ourselves into convenient little pigeonholes and define ourselves with whats.
But you know what? Those people who are drawn to you, who are out there, just over the horizon, waiting to fall in love with your work?
They don't fall in love with your job title.
They fall in love with how you do things. They fall in love with the unique, brilliant, kooky, refreshing, polarised lens through which you offer them a shared glimpse of the world.
And, in the words of the well-known multipassionate business badass bard-ess Marie Forleo: how you do one thing is how you do everything.
If I'd asked my inner potter-artist-writer-actress-mermaid how her life should feel when she grew up, she might have said this:
I have 34 promises of secrets unlocked
from that bloke who says video marketing rocks
in my inbox
I have fifteen plus ones and a whole bunch of pokes
I'm not sure what twerking is n'anyway
I don't think it matters
I'll make goals through to christmas and hold the fixed grin
I'll handcuff my muse and invoke
the goddesses of editorial calendars
surrender because there are matters of consequence
and Tim Minchin
I'll fish out my dark side from the box sealed with tape
under the bag for life stiff with odd socks
who await transfiguration into puppets who
look like fraggles
are sad like us
because yeah, I have a dark side too
(if you want me to)
yeah I do
I'll tell you your pain and I'll sell you your struggle
you'll cry and
you might look like a fraggle
I'll be your peace angel
I'll mend all your undies
I'll untangle the haywires and
stuff like that
even if I have a dark side too
(yes, I do)
and even if you do too
(yes, that makes us strangely compatible)
I might possibly,
my sweet internet-and-also-we-might-possibly-have-met-in-which-case-I'd-certainly-like-a-reprise-or-two
I'm not going to show it to you
there are rainbows and ladybirds with yellow not red and snowflakes and trumpets and crumbs in my bed and
people like you
who do all that you do
even on days when you look like a fraggle
// p.s. I wrote you a manifesto: want to work with me in a small group to create your own? Excavate your awesomeness? Show up whether you're a fraggle or a yogini or a punk rocker? Good: the Brand Playgroup is open - come see.
When you click, like, reshare, plus one, retweet or whatever the hell else you're supposed to call it these days on social media, do you stop and listen to your internal (or external) commentary?
What kind of words, sounds or thoughts arise when you see something that just compels you to add your own seal of approval, of flag-worthiness?
Perhaps it's 'Hell, yeah!' or 'I cannot believe she said that' or 'OMG that is SO cute' or soft, silent tears or pant-wetting laughter or that feeling that you want to reach out and hug the person who just gave opened a window for you to hope, joy, inspiration, alternative realities or companionship.
So, let's have it: when you are moved to hit the 'reshare' button, what are your own reasons for doing so?
Can you guess why this might be a good question to ask yourself if you seek to make those very eye-heart-head-click connections around your own work?
This is one of the topics I'll be chewing over with our special not-in-pyjamas panel of fellow entrepreneurs-just-like-you: care to join us for a live video hangout? Well then mosey over to the Google+ event here: kicking off at 1pm British Summertime, Mon 30th Sep. You're SO welcome. Bring joy, playfulness and a nice pencil. Hair-brushing totally optional. I don't much care for it myself.
At primary school I was shy. I didn’t exactly fit in. I was. In. The chess club.
I had a handful of good friends to hang around and write terrible comedy skits with. Put me in a big group of kids I didn’t know, though, and I became She Who Never Spoke. I mean, I didn’t have a Kylie and Jason teeshirt. I had crazy leather brogues and floaty jumble sale dresses twenty years before they came back into fashion and ten years too late. I wanted a tracksuit, and shiny new trainers, and fluoro socks.
What was a girl to do?
You try to join the gang, but...
It’s hard when there are loud, popular, smart and funny voices out there and you feel small and insignificant, huh? And you build up the courage to contribute, to add a comment, to pipe up with your wobbly voice and, you know, join the party.
And nothing. And you feel you might as well be talking to yourself. You might as well be invisible. So you skip home, lock yourself in your bedroom and escape into small, safe worlds of fiction. Or TV. Or bad Australian soaps where the school uniform consists of shiny teeth and incredibly short skirts.
Before you quit and go back to cubicle hell
And today? Beavering away at Getting The Word Out about What You Do. It’s incredibly brave of you. You’re amazing! You’re in business, making a difference to the world...but nobody’s listening and you wonder why. You wonder how long this can go on before you have to give up.
I don’t want you to give up. I don’t want you to be invisible. And no, you don’t need a Kylie and Jason teeshirt.