Category Archives: living and working well

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

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

Why 2017 Will Be the Year of the Freelancer

Guest post by Cassie Phillips, Technology & Internet Security Enthusiast; Blogger at securethoughts.com. Full bio located at the end of the post. 

Another year in the information age has come and gone, and the internet has cemented itself even further as an essential part of not only our personal lives but our business lives. Can you think of many positions that don’t involve the use of the internet and complex programs now?

With that advent comes the rise of freelance labor from all around the world, people much like yourself who wanted more control over their careers and their lives. And from what we can tell, people are starting to freelance every day and therefore joining the freelance economy.

Here are four reasons why next year will be a year freelancers and hopeful freelancers will celebrate:

Online Freelancing Platforms Are Cementing Themselves

When the internet as we know it was forming, there wasn’t a centralized location freelancers could go to find safe and reliable work. Craigslist at the time was more legitimate for finding work, and various illegitimate sites popped up and vanished after doing damage to the freelancers who tried to use them.

Now we have websites, such as Upwork and Freelancer, that let freelancers congregate and bid for jobs that not only have protections put in place but are numerous and specialized. Not only that, the most established of these sites are now perfecting their systems and their reputations, allowing freelancers and clients alike to find the people they’re looking to work with.

This makes the process of finding work much easier for both people just entering the freelance world and those who have been there for years. Potential clients are now focused on a few major websites, making job searches a shorter process. These platforms also allow for rating systems, and while those have their problems, experience is noted and commands a higher price.

More People Are Turning To Freelancing Than Ever Before

Given the shake-up the world economy incurred in the last decade, more people have tried out freelancing as a means of bringing in income when full-time employment was hard to find or to supplement reduced wages. This wave of freelancers not only created a stronger infrastructure for freelancers (by necessity), but it normalized freelancing more than ever among the average person. To show the numbers, the number of freelancers quadrupled over the last decade.

This is now combined with the proliferation of the internet and technology to create an environment where nearly anyone can try out freelancing as a career choice. While the dedication and hard work have not been removed from the equation, the high costs of entry originally required are now gone, and there are many websites that will help new freelancers on their path (such as this one).

More Businesses Recognize Remote Freelancers Are An Option

Fortunately, to match this increased freelance workforce, there’s an increased demand for freelance work as companies have more tasks that they need completed by specialists in their field who they do not have employed full-time. From their point of view, they don’t have to worry about HR problems, and they don’t have to maintain a long-term contract with the freelancer should a project dry up. They usually don’t need to use any office space as well, and due to the independent nature of freelancer, managerial time is kept to a minimum.

Quite simply, freelancers and prospective freelancers such as yourself are convenient for companies, and they often do better work than their in-house counterparts. Why wouldn’t companies take advantage of the opportunity to work with and learn from an expert? Next year will be filled with uncertainly, so freelancers provide a short-term commitment.

Not only this, but freelancers are now available all over the world. Companies are no longer bound to finding the best local employee. They can hire people from Canada to South Africa, even someone with special talents who happens to live in a place where they would be locally in low demand.

A freelancer can work from anywhere where there’s WiFi, so long as the connection is strong and that they’re using a Virtual Private Network to protect client information. Internet cafes aren’t as popular as they used to be in the United States, but worldwide the industry is still strong.

Freelance Workplace Culture is Becoming Mainstream Workplace Culture

When you think of workplace culture, do you immediately think of setting your own hours and having autonomy on projects? Many people wouldn’t think that, but people in some tech industries and forward-thinking companies are realizing that flexibility and specialization are keys in bringing a company ahead of its competitors. The workplace is becoming a little looser and open-minded, and with that freelancers are more readily accepted into a company fold, even if only for a short while.

It’s now standard for managers and projects leaders to use and communicate with freelancers to get the job done. Remote workers are now appearing in most major companies, and remote work (and partially remote work) is commonplace. While teamwork is as important as ever, individual creativity and decision making are growing in value as skillsets. These are skills that freelancers by nature are going to bring to the table.

Conclusion

Next year is going to be great for freelancers. Opportunities are growing, and the online culture making its way into businesses is only going to improve the general climate toward freelance professionals of all fields. In fact, no matter what industry you look at, freelancing is becoming a more viable source of income. I hope that you are in a good position for yourself whether or not you’re freelancing and that you take the steps forward to give yourself the life that you want.

About the Author: Cassie is a freelance author and marketer who has found the freelancing life to be an amazing one after she eased into the lifestyle. She hopes that others will consider opening up their life and turning toward freelance work as a potential choice for them.

Environmental Biohacking & Rumbling With The Unknown

Sunset at Big Sur taken during week 4 of my bio-hacking experiment

Big Sur, CA – Taken during Week 4 of my experiment.

The following is based on a talk I gave a few weeks back at Twitch HQ for Women’s Catalyst Lightening Talks.

At the end of September I deliberately kicked myself out of my studio apartment.

I sublet to a friend for two months and hit the road.

Now, I didn’t go very far. I drove around California in my trusty Prius C – living with friends, crashing on couches, spending time in nature.

I did this because I needed to get uncomfortable.

Because I believe that curiosity is greater than comfort.

[ Curiosity Zone > Comfort Zone ] *

I didn’t always believe this.

I’m a virgo perfectionist who likes her creature comforts. I’m in the upper half of my 30’s. What sense did it make to live out of my car when I had immediate goals to achieve?

Because I needed to clear my head. Because I wanted to get better.

Biohacking is a systems thinking approach to our own biology.

Here’s a short list of hackable things** :

• Nutrition – what we put into our bodies

• Physiology/Movement – muscle activity, cardio-vascular health, stretching & posture

• Environment – lighting, air quality, spending more time in nature

• Meditation – it can literally rewire the brain

• Mindfulness – practicing gratitude on a regular basis

• Sleep – measuring how much you get, performing regular quality checks

• Attention – how you think, learn, reason and focus

• Getting Uncomfortable…

…Ah ha!

Getting uncomfortable can mean a lot of things. It can mean taking a cold shower, contemplating death, or giving rejection therapy a spin. For me, it was a version of being homeless.

I’m not going to say it was easy. I oft dreamt about returning to my peaceful Oakland apartment.

But as soon as I returned to Oakland two weeks ago I felt a wave of disappointment wash over me. I walked to the window and looked out. Where was everyone, and…

…When can I do it again?

Here are my findings post-experiment:

1. Possessions – I can get by with less. A lot less.

2. Focus – Having less allows me to focus directly on my goals.

3. Self-reliance – I became stronger with my asks because my needs were clear.

4. Self-Awareness – I became more open minded to new situations.

5. Planning – I made a choice to just show up and take it one day at a time. And it worked.

Most of all, I learned that I don’t need to have everything figured out.

Becaue we are a generation defining life on our own terms. There are no right answers, no playbook to live by. We can write our own stories as we go.

 

* via this post by James Altucher

** via this post by Dave Asprey