Author Archives: Nicole

Why It Pays To Be A Misfit

Photo: Amanda Jordan via Unsplash

About five years ago I attended a party that a friend was throwing in celebration of her new clothing store launch in downtown Los Angeles.

I spotted the host off to one side and walked over to say hello. As I approached, she looked around, then behind me.

“Did you come alone?” She asked in a high pitched voice, the end of the sentence curling up into an extra-squiggly question mark. “Yep,” I cheerfully replied, holding up a pair of neon-yellow drop crotch trousers to my waist. She grinned. “You’re such a lone wolf! I love it.” She touched my arm in a way that maybe she thought to be conspiratorial before turning to walk away.

I get it, I’m independent. I live alone and traverse social circles fluidly, dipping in and out of various groups while enjoying time spent alone immensely. Still, her comment stuck because the tenderest part of me felt like a misfit for being this way, an outsider even — as though by being independent I was somehow doing something wrong both socially and in life.

I began paying closer attention to those around me who I considered to be independent. I looked for cues and commonalities in both their actions and in the traits they expressed. I noticed that some of them are misfits in the most admirable (and even lovable) of ways, and that those traits can translate to big moves in business.

Misfits can be brutally honest, for example they say things like “Great story, thanks for sharing.” They yawn loudly at dinner. They are masters of the chat and cut.

What I discovered was a treasure trove of traits that make a certain type of independent person unique, uncompromising, and at times terrifically entertaining.

I also found that some highly productive and creative people — including many successful business founders and leaders —are all misfits in their own way and share some of the following traits.

1. They play big.

Misfits think beyond their perceived set of limitations. They take big risks because they understand that the long term reward outweighs any immediate risk. Some misfits live for the possibilities — they proactively seek opportunities and double down where they think they can win. This is sometimes effectuated to set an example, and other times pursued for personal gain.

2. They speak their mind.

I once met a very successful female entrepreneur in a line to board a bus at a wellness retreat. We got to talking and as we boarded, she casually said something to me about her business that I’ll never forget. “I’m not going to do that, it’ll hurt my soul.” In that moment I had laughed, but secretly I was also relieved. I respected her ability to unabashedly voice her concerns — it made her relatable and human, and gave me permission to think about adopting a similar philosophy to my own life.

3. They are relentless.

While their actions don’t always seem logical, over time they might become crystal clear. In business I’ve noticed that many misfits are often relentless in asking for what they want. They are also unafraid of rejection and will be persistent enough to keep asking — or find another way — until they get what they want. A friend of mine is a band manager. Every time we go somewhere together she manages to find a way to get in the door, behind the rope, onto the stage, and into the after party. When I asked her what her secret was she simply winked and said “You have to find a way to weave your web around them.”

4. They do whatever it takes.

Independent people tend to be focused on their own priorities. At work, they look for the end goal and do whatever it takes to get there. At one former job, my boss at the time knew that in order for us to land a critical new business partner our odds were greater if we met with the decision-makers in person. We scored a meeting, and before I knew it we were boarding a plane from San Francisco to New York where the winter storm season was at its worst. We pulled an all-nighter polishing up our presentation for a twenty minute meeting with someone who had zero vested interest in our company. There was no guarantee of a favorable outcome, but my boss had demonstrated the importance of doing whatever was necessary in order to take the opportunity as far as it could go.

5. They break the rules — and don’t look back.

For many misfits, there simply are no rules. Rules can be seen as a distraction and their actions often reflect this. I once had a colleague who came barreling into the office at seven in the morning each day and left at four in the afternoon. She knew that those were the hours in which she was most productive, so that’s when she showed up and left for work. It took someone boldly breaking the rules to demonstrate how efficiencies could be made.

6. They are quirky and memorable.

I once worked for a very successful entertainment executive who was a sought-after speaker. Often times he’d bring a squirt gun to an event with him and shoot water at speakers who started to sell their company rather than speak to the topic at hand. (He also had an electric cattle prod in his office that was given to him as a gift, and subsequently my desk was zapped a couple of times but that’s for another story.) I know many executives who surf, skateboard, or deep-sea scuba dive. Many have large personalities or distinctive character traits that aligns them on a level to any central character from a Wes Anderson film.

Misfits are important to business and society because they’re unafraid to carve their own path, which is necessary in business for making considerable progress and change. It can be lonely at times to be an independent person, but in other ways can be extremely beneficial. When we march to the beat of our own drum, we follow the paths available only to us. This leads towards alignment with our goals and personal definition of success — even if at times we need to show up alone.

This post has been syndicated from Thrive Global

The Introvert’s Guide to the Workplace

Photo: Unsplash

I’ve been working in digital media for most of my career – building websites, doing marketing, graphic design, and even photography. But there came a time that if I wanted to advance in my career, I had to get out from behind my tantalizingly-oversized Apple monitor and lead actual meetings. It became critical for me to be present in the workplace not only as a project manager, but as someone who was able to successfully lead client meetings as well.

Flash forward to now: I’m a freelance marketer in charge of all aspects of the business from project management to finance, production to sales.

The road wasn’t easy. As an introvert, small talk is not my strong suit — I don’t harbor the gift of gab, and until I get to know someone I tend to be an energetic but typically quiet person. In the past, I had always defaulted to playing the supportive role in the workplace—the cheerleader operating behind the scenes, the lone wolf focused squarely on getting the work done while working with others on a strictly one-on-one basis whenever possible.

Until I started working for myself, I had that choice.

But when I went freelance, I had to do everything on my own.

I devoured books about leadership and doing sales. I tapped into my networks to see what worked well for others. I scheduled lots of meetings and began to practice. Over time, it’s gotten easier. Here’s what I’ve learned.

1. Books are good, but practice is better.

I’ve noticed that outside of what I’ve read, I tend to clam up on calls and forget any tried-and-true tactics anyway! Still, by repeating a similar meeting flow you’ll begin to see patterns emerge that will make the process more familiar and increase your confidence levels overall. For an introverted person like me who is pretty awkward over the phone, this was painful at first but I’ve improved over time — simply with practice.

2. Stick to an agenda.

Inform the participants right away about the flow of the meeting. With limited time in the workday and an endless list of things to do, people appreciate having a roadmap.

3. Ask Questions

This is huge, especially for an introvert. Ask questions to help surface challenges and clarify key points—you will help move the meeting along and contribute to its overall productivity without having to say a whole lot. Take notes for generating strong follow up later.

4. Be unafraid to contradict

I struggle with this one all the time. I tend to be an agreeable person but sometimes need to ask a potential client if they’ve thought about taking another approach if something seems off in their strategy. This can definitely be done in a polite way and can even position you as being extra-knowledgable in your field.

6. Don’t be afraid to talk money

This is another one I’m terrible at. Don’t be afraid to ask someone what the budget is upfront, or what they’ve spent on a similar service in the past.

7. Have strong follow up

Per #3, above. This is a big opportunity for an introvert to truly shine. Take lots of notes – in a notebook, on a laptop, wherever you have the most speed. After the meeting, distill and translate them into your proposal or follow up bullet points along with actionable next steps.

8. Practice Self-Care

Let’s face it, meetings can be draining for some of us introverts. Take a walk outside when you need a break, bring a cup of herbal tea with you into the meeting, and focus on your breath, posture, and even a calming keyword to keep you poised. It is more than okay to take a break from social activities when you have a lot going on at work, and know that the more you practice, the more energy you will have and the less drained you’ll feel over time. Be patient, go one step at a time, and give yourself what you need to clearly demonstrate your value while always making sure to honor who you are.

This post has been syndicated from Thrive Global

Why Repealing Affordable Health Care Will Hurt The Freelance Economy

Photo: Aaron Thomas via Unsplash

Photo: Aaron Thomas via Unsplash

The Affordable Care Act has made health insurance accessible for millions of freelance workers, a number that is expected to account for 40% of the workforce by 2020. For various reasons self-employment is also increasingly popular amongst millennials, with nearly 40% of the millennial workforce already describing themselves as self-employed. To put things into perspective, that is 60 million Americans, and the numbers are on the rise.

A freelance economy revolves around companies who hire independent workers on a short-term basis to complete a specific set of tasks. The term “freelancer” can also include consultants, solopreneurs, lifestyle entrepreneurs, and other types of independent workers able to contribute to a company’s operations while remaining lean to both parties’ benefit. This cohort, known for being nimble and resource-savvy, is key to job growth, economic innovation, and technological progress.

If the American Health Care Act act passes (currently passed by The House but not the Senate) and the Affordable Care Act is repealed, it is certain that the monthly cost of health care for self-employed individuals will skyrocket. This will make acquiring health care near impossible for many independent workers.

Under the law, individuals who make roughly less than $46,000, or families of four making less than $95,400, qualify for lower premiums. This means that they can pay as little as a third of the retail price for health insurance via federal taxcredits — that is, if they don’t already have access to health insurance through an employer.

Growth of the freelance cohort will stall as many new freelancers will be intimidated by the astronomical monthly expense without these credits — or simply put, they will be unable to meet the expense all together. Many existing freelancers will undoubtedly be forced to return to corporate life, surrendering the freedom and flexibility that made freelancing so attractive to begin with — or alternatively, forgo health care altogether if securing full-time employment at a company with health benefits is not an option.

The suggestion that the United States will not provide reasonable health coverage to its independent working population is troubling. Not only is it bypassing what should be a fundamental right for any member of a functioning society, but it stalls innovation in a competitive and ever-changing global economy. Let us not forget, many of our recent industry disruptors began their ventures solo and/or relied on contractors in the early stages of business.

Freelancers Union, a non-profit organization that aims to ensure that independent contractors receive adequate rights, protections and professional benefits, has handpicked health insurance plans on their website to fit freelancers’ needs. The online private exchange requires a qualifying event in order to apply (examples include: job loss, relocation, discontinued carrier plan). If qualified, HMO plans with a deductible of $5,500 for an individual ($11,000 for family) start at $285 per month for freelancers in the state of California through plans offered by Kaiser, Blue Shield, Anthem, and Sutter Health. For a lower deductible, plans start closer to $760.00 per month.

The Affordable Care Act has made healthcare available to millions of Americans striking out on their own. By repealing it, we are placing freelancers in a precarious position. Health care will become too expensive for the fastest growing segment of today’s soon-to-be largest workforce. As a result, we are not only inhibiting the health and wellness of this large cohort of Americans, but we are limiting the options for the workers of tomorrow’s economy.

Virtual Reality And The Future Of Storytelling

virtual reality

Photo: Pixabay

“Just so I understand this correctly, it’s possible to experience death in virtual reality. To experience what it’s actually like to die, in the brutalist of ways even. And as our senses develop — touch, smell, things like that — this experience is only going to get more realistic.”

The woman nodded in response. We were sitting across from each other in a large yurt that overlooked the Pacific Ocean, the door flap of the enormous tent making a gentle slapping sound in the wind as six of us sat cross-legged in a circle well past midnight.

The topic: virtual reality and consciousness.

“But you have to consider another scenario,” she said, leaning in further.

“What if experiencing death enabled us to face our greatest fear, and what if that wasn’t a bad thing? What if experiencing death gave us a greater appreciation for life, maybe even enabling us to live with more appreciation, empathy, and gratitude?”

Last fall, we gathered at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur for Digital Raign, a week-long summit created for bringing together industry folk (and curious minds – me) in the virtual, augmented and mixed reality worlds to discuss the state of the industry.

*

According to a report by Canalys, over 2 Million VR headsets were shipped in 2016. While this is a notable number, it remains small in comparison to the hundreds of millions of smartphones sold each quarter.

Still, we are on the brink of an industry that is set to change the world as we know it.

With last year’s launch of Google Daydream and Samsung Gear VR at under $80each, wider accessibility to VR is finally possible. And for $15, you can buy Google Cardboard or even build a headset on your own for free. (Hint: it involves cardboard, bi-convex lenses, magnets, velcro, and a rubber band.)

The biggest setback that prevents VR from truly taking off is content. VR content is expensive to produce and funding usually comes from supporters who see enough traffic to turn around and monetize big on advertising.

Users show up for content. And more users = more traffic = sponsors, who in-turn fund content. It’s a chicken-egg scenario.

Music video director Chris Milk (Kanye West, Arcade Fire) is out to change that. Milk has dabbled in virtual reality concepts early on and in 2014 co-founded a production studio with artist and entrepreneur Aaron Koblin.

His first TED talk on the topic was in 2015, entitled “How virtual reality can create the ultimate empathy machine.”

“VR is the last medium for storytelling, because it closes the gap between audience and storyteller. -Chris Milk

Linden Labs, the founders of Second Life, are also betting big on VR with the upcoming launch of a new platform.

Variable Labs is one of many other companies dedicated to creating immersive VR experiences in order to help individuals foster empathy, develop soft skills, and help change behavior through therapeutic techniques. Last year, it was also announced that Reel FX was teaming up with Facebook’s Oculus for a $1 million ‘VR for Good’ initiative dedicated to inspire social change.

From spirituality and healing to education, work, tourism, and of course entertainment, the possibilities in virtual reality are endless.

VR is too new for us to fully understand the full scope of its implications, but it’s good to know that as it emerges as a platform for mass-consumption the social good element is breaking through sooner than it did in its predecessors, despite the outliers.

And, as early consumers and content creators, we have the unique opportunity to help decide which direction it goes in.

Whether it be transformative and uplifting, or dark and potentially traumatic.

The time to call it is now. And the great news is, good things are on the horizon.

More:

Chris Milk, Virtual Reality as an Art Form (TED talk)

VR for Good at Sundance

Goal Setting – Designing A Life Plan In 2017

Photo: David Schap via Unsplash

One year ago I hired the talented Harper Spero to help me find the time to complete a creative project. My life was action-packed and I needed to figure out how to make quality time and space for my craft in order to ultimately reach my writing goals for the year.

What Harper helped me to understand was that it was everything around the project that needed to shift first. This shift was necessary to bring my best self to the table as a creative professional and burgeoning business owner.

Let me explain.

The process began by optimizing first for health. Getting the proper nutrition, the right amount of sleep, and regular exercise were key to functioning at a high level.

After that, I needed a support system in place. It was critical to surround myself with a steady stream of quality individuals and communities.

After that, I needed to make sure that all of my work — creative and otherwise — had meaning.

A year ago, I knew that I wanted to branch out on my own at some point. I also wanted to help more people and dedicate more time towards creative projects.

Of course, there were other things too. I also wanted to get in better shape, start a regular meditation practice, and all of the things we aspire to be and do when the new year rolls around.

It was a lot. So with Harper’s help, I began measuring how I spent my time.

This enabled me to generate balance and see where I was (or was not) focusing the most.

First, I created five core areas of focus.

One year ago today, they were:

1. Health/Wellness/Fitness

2. Friendships

3. Community

4. Career Transition

5. Writing Projects

I had target units to hit each week per category. This gave me something to work for each week. For example, 2 units of community, 10 of health/wellness/fitness.

Every night I marked off the units that had been achieved for the day. One unit of meditation. One community event.

We put a running tally in place to see how I was performing week-over-week, month-over-month.

I am proud to say that after 12 months, I now meditate almost every evening and have successfully transitioned to take on freelance marketing work full-time, bringing in on other partners to work with in the process.

I am also close to completing a creative writing project that I’m eager to announce later in the year.

I have made some great friendships, been part of a happy romantic relationship, and have dipped in and out of several communities where I have found incredible camaraderie and support in my journey.

This in mind, my goals for 2017 have been slightly edited to the following:

1. Wellness/Fitness

2. Business Building

3. Craft/Writing

4. Relationships

5. Community

6.  Learning

7. Experiencing Joy

 

I wanted to make my goals productive and also enjoyable, keeping in mind the holistic model of incorporating all aspects of life into the plan.

The biggest challenge I noticed from last year have been showing up consistently for the units I have the most fear and/or apprehension about. For example, I’m not the best at sales, so I already know that business building will be a challenge.

I also get nervous about attending new community events for the first time — just another thing to be aware of.

I am willing to tackle these challenges head-on because 1.) each unit is driven by my core values and beliefs, and 2.) through other exercises undertaken in 2016 I have become increasingly risk-hungry (and therefore am willing to get uncomfortable).

With those goals in mind, alongside my core values and principles, I use this methodology as a means for taking action on my goals.

Some good working templates and resources for making this your best year ever can be found at the following:

Bullet Journaling

Hive Leaders – resources 

Technori – The Most Effective Goal-Setting Plan You’ll Ever Find

The 2017 Volt Planner