Go Small or Go Home

“Am I painting a dog or a bear?”

The thought ran through my head about a dozen times while attempting to paint Kutzu – an insanely handsome big boy who crossed the rainbow bridge. The painting was commissioned by a friend for her parents, so I wanted it to be perfect. I started painting portraits after losing my beagle, so I know how important these memorial pieces are to pet parents.

I went big for the first attempt despite my trepidation. Black dogs are typically more difficult to paint. They can easily look dull and flat if you don’t find a way to incorporate more color, texture and depth. I filled nearly every inch of the 7×9 paper, even including a big portion of his body, which I normally don’t do. Go big or go home, right?

If home meant trashcan, yes, I went big and it went home. Yikes. On to attempt #2. I focused more on the face – taking more time to sketch out shadows and changes in the fur. Success is in the small details with any pet portrait. It turned out well, but I still wanted to try again. I decide to go much smaller. It is a tip I’ve picked up and it really works. It forces you to abandon nuisances and conquer the basics. Painting Kutzu in just a little 2.5” x 4” portrait turned out pretty darn cute. To help fill the space, I included his sibling Bailey. Going small was a success!

When Going Small is Your Only Option

April, a former police officer turned small business owner, knows all about starting with the small stuff. I recently interviewed her for my “Wishes are for Wussies” book to learn of her devastating tale of loss and her path to redemption. After a violent encounter with a suspect, April was bruised and banged up. But she got the bad guy and booked him. She went home that night feeling numb, as she had for some time as a cop. She’d been trying to plan her way out of law enforcement. Despite working 13-hour days, she found time to get her nursing assistance certificate and planned on going back to school to be a physician’s assistant.  

“The universe took it upon itself to redirect me,” April said.

The day after the violent arrest, April was found on the office floor. She was rushed to the emergency room where she was told she had a traumatic brain injury. At hospital, she didn’t know where she was or who she was. April had to go back to basics. Small steps every day with a team of therapists.

“There were years that went by that I could only shower or get dressed with post-it notes of instruction,” she admits. “The hardest part was looking normal from the outside. When you’re standing in line and you can’t figure out how to count money and people are yelling at you.”

As she was starting to get stronger, the universe nudged her again. This time in the form of a bad bra fitting.

“Now is not the time for people trying to make me feel bad,” she joked.

The small seed for her lingerie business, The Perky Lady, was planted. She took manageable action steps over a couple years to launch a business that allowed her to control her environment and pace, which was still key to her recovery. She did research, interviewed experts, attended trade shows, and more to ensure she was proficient in lingerie and underthings. Perky Lady is now celebrating their 3-year anniversary and it all started with going small. April had to start over with the basics – relearning how to walk and function in daily life. Those small steps now have her running toward a second business venture (coming soon!).

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by a career move, don’t be afraid to go small. Take little action steps every day. Take a free webinar. Talk to someone in the field you’re interested in. Practice your craft. Read articles and case studies. Like building a puzzle, just one piece a day is all it takes to build a beautiful picture.

April carries something for everyone at The Perky Lady.

Please join me in celebrating April and her amazing business that celebrates women of all sizes and shapes. I highly suggest you visit her gorgeous shop in downtown Apex, but if you aren’t local or practicing social distancing, April is doing virtual fittings. You can also shop their top 5 favs – I personally love the Grump Puss Hipsters. Added bonus for all my anti-wishers – use PERKYWISH at checkout to receive 10% off and free shipping on your first online purchase. 

The Perky Lady team believes in service practices of a by-gone era, positivity, fun, and dedication while providing you with captivating, beguiling, and sensuous selections that magnify the woman within.

Could Unchecked Perfectionism Be Holding Your Career Hostage?

Unchecked perfectionism is addressed in my upcoming book, “Wishes are for Wussies: Finding Success without Luck, Chance or Circumstance.” When writing the next chapter in your career, especially when moving toward a independent career (solopreneur, contractor, portfolio careerist, etc…), it is critical to understand who you are as the main character of your story. What are your strengths and what challenges have you experienced in the past? It’s up to you acknowledge character traits to build upon or keep in check before it turns into your biggest villain. Today, we look at one trait: being a perfectionist.

In the span of a week, I had two friends talk to me about how perfectionism may be negatively impacting their work and forward movement. It was resulting in sleepless nights, fear-based paralysis when applying for jobs, and overall dissatisfaction from their work. So, I decided to look into the matter and came across this article from Psychology Today that surprised me. 

If you don’t have the time to read it, I’ll get right to the shocking bits. People with traits of perfectionism often find themselves guilty of…

  • Giving up before you start
  • Feel anxious when not given enough praise
  • Not following routines as planned freaks you out
  • Doing things themselves to ensure it is “done right”
  • Making even simple decisions is difficult
  • You decline opportunities if you’re not 100% sure you’ll perform well

There were more examples listed, but you may already be thinking some of those sound familiar. I was surprised, because I related a lot. I’ve never considered myself a perfectionist, but maybe I should. Take the above watercolor scene from Game of Thrones. I painted it for friends in thanks for a kindness they had done for my husband and me. I wasn’t super proud of it, but it was just a big greeting card in my mind – something they would toss away, so I sent it. Months later, I find out that our friends bought a new, gorgeous home and HUNG THE PAINTING IN IT! My juvenile painting! Because I was focused on everything that was wrong with it, I didn’t feel honored rather than embarrassed. I realized that I have a lot to learn about perfectionism. So, down the rabbit hole I went…

There are three types of perfectionism according to Psychology Today:

  1. Self-oriented perfectionism: Imposing an irrational desire to be perfect on oneself.
  2. Other-oriented perfectionism: Placing unrealistic standards of perfection on others.
  3. Socially-prescribed perfectionism: Perceiving excessive expectations of perfection from others.

Do you identify with one? I think I’m a mix of #1 and #3. Left unchecked, a perfectionist can fail to celebrate victories (feeling it is never good enough or felt they didn’t get enough praise), procrastinate on going after that project or promotion (fear of failing) or work to unhealthy degree to avoid criticism or judgement. It can also impact your relationships at work. Putting your unrealistic expectations on others and being more focused on the wrong things (not celebrating wins) can make you pretty unlikable.

Alright, possible challenges identified. What are the possible opportunities for growth? I asked an amazing career coach Megan Myers for her tips on understanding and working with these tendencies*. While she believes perfectionism can be a challenge, she also believes it to be a strength to work with rather than against. Megan dishes out her top tips for dealing with perfectionism:

– Set clear boundaries. Set boundaries for your own work. Make sure you have “scheduled” time to relax. One way to do this is by setting clear project milestones (like mini goals), this way you can set it aside when you accomplish a milestone and avoid spending too long on it. Another similar option is try setting timers for how long you want to work on a task.

– Explore and develop your sense of self confidence. Be aware of past experiences and sense of self concept that might impact your views on your work. Perfectionism can impact us even more heavily when confidence is lower. If your confidence bucket is feeling full (not from accomplishments – just from being in touch with your inner self) then you may not be quite as hard on yourself with self-critical perfectionist tendencies

– Use your wise mind to hold space for your feelings. The wise mind concept originates from Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. The idea behind this is that we have an emotional mind and a logical mind. The logical mind is rooted in facts, and the emotional mind is rooted in the inner emotions and reactions. Allow yourself a moment to feel the emotions associated with perfectionist tendencies, then try to look at just the facts. For example, perhaps you are upset that you did not meet a project deadline. When turning to the facts you can try to look at the situation objectively. Were you unable to meet the deadline due to quick turn around? The wise mind comes into play when an individual is able to acknowledge both the emotion and the facts. For example, “I feel really upset I didn’t make this deadline and it makes me feel less capable; however, the information I received from the team was incomplete and it would have been very difficult to meet this deadline.” Using the wise mind allows you to hold space for the emotions and facts, because they are both legitimate and part of the human experience. 

Open up. If you know you need detailed directions or get frustrated with a lack of participation, try to allow for honest communication to combat these challenges early on. The sooner you own these elements of your personality, the sooner you can use them to your advantage rather than to your disadvantage. We all have strengths and weaknesses and our strengths can be our weaknesses if we allow them to dominate our thinking patterns. If you are able to open up, and set clear expectations, then you may be less likely to be frustrated or disappointed later on.  

We all have strengths and weaknesses and our strengths can be our weaknesses if we allow them to dominate our thinking patterns.

– Megan Myers

If the perfectionism is a result of setting difficult goals for yourself, then open and share your feelings with a friend, family member, or professional. Be sure you are setting realistic expectations with others and yourself. Talking about the expectations you have for others, as well as yourself, can help you get a better understanding of how these tendencies are impacting you and ensure these expectations are realistic. It can also serve as a powerful outlet for these feelings.

Thanks, Megan! Whether you’re in the process of changing your career path, or looking for more direction on your journey, understanding your strengths and opportunities is a critical first step. Are you still working on being a thriving perfectionist? Maybe you’re still trying to overcome some career challenges? Reach out to Megan! She’s offering a free (that’s right, free!) 30-minute coaching session – just mention “Wishes are for Wussies” to snag the deal. Get started here.

*DISCLAIMER: While perfectionism is a title that helps identify personality traits, it’s not a diagnosable mental health disorder in the DSM 5. These insights and tips are unrelated to a mental health diagnosis and neither author of this blog post is a licensed counselor.

The Problem with Wishing

Have you ever been wish slapped?

When I worked in nonprofit, people would say, “I wish I had a job helping people.”

When I worked for a marketing agency, people would say, “I wish I worked in a cool office.”

When I started working from home, people would say, “I wish I could do that!” (pre-pandemic days)

Now that I have my own business, people say, “I wish I could be my own boss.”

That’s wish slapping. It stings a bit, because it makes it sound like you got lucky. For me, it felt like people assumed I won some sort of job lottery – not that I worked my a$$ off, often working two jobs, to gain the experience I needed. While I appreciate those comments meant as small talk or kudos, I knew the hearts of those who spoke those words with real truth. Many, many people do not like their current career situation. They wear those wish statements like a straitjacket. So, I decided that I want to turn those wish slaps into something less painful for all.

My friend (and frequent mentor) Pete Smith, told me the best way to hold yourself accountable is to broadcast your goal. With so many folks dealing with unexpected career tests and trials lately, I feel it is the perfect time to announce that I’m writing a book. Correction: I’m finishing a book by November 26, 2020. Insert sweaty pits. It is a self-help book titled, “Wishes are for Wussies: Finding Success without Luck, Chance or Circumstance.” I want to help people who are unhappy, stuck or lost in their career journey to write that next chapter of their story, so that they find fulfillment and success on their terms.

It will be a collection tips and interviews with badasses who ditched the wish for a new reality (specifically those working for themselves). Thanks to a writing contest I won, I already have an outline with a stamp of approval from a book editor. I just have to get to writing! You can help – I’m looking to hear more stories of those who struggled with something in the life (addiction, money, home life, career, grief, etc…) and managed to pull themselves out of a state of wanting into a state of doing. Reach out if you or someone you know would be willing to share their journey. Thanks for joining me on the journey!

Why Introverts Should Ditch the Label

I’ve been using the introvert label for years. I wore it like a sticker. Hello, my name is Introvert. You may see me smiling and cracking bad jokes, but I’m dying a bit on the inside. And not from the cheesy jokes. I struggle to keep up with a regular social pace. It certainly makes for a boring social life, but it has really impacted me at work. Here are a few examples:

Why are you against working in an open-office environment?

– I’m an introvert. Being forced to hold my facial expressions and posture in a socially-acceptable manner for 8+ hours is too exhausting.

Why do you have to freak out over this tough work meeting?

– I’m an introvert. I have a hard time speaking my truth or handling confrontation.

Why don’t you like to join team activities or after-work events?

– I’m an introvert. Socializing is a total drain on my emotional battery.

Do you see a trend? A problem is presented and an excuse is given. The excuse of being an “introvert” comes across as a negative characteristic. It also comes across as though you expect the people involved with the “problem” to accept this horrible thing about you.

Just in case you think I’m full of it, a quick Google dictionary search states an introvert is a person predominantly concerned with their own thoughts and feelings rather than with external things. Ouch. Makes introverts sound like depressed narcissists.

It is no wonder I got in a habit of making excuses for myself or asking for validation to make amends for my “deficiencies.” I would often mutter phrases like, “Sorry if this sounds dramatic.” Or even, “Do you think I have a right to feel this way?”

The risk of using labels as lifelines.

When those I’m-an-introvert-and-here’s-what-you-need-to-know articles starting exploding on the internet, I grasped onto it like a lifeline. I thought maybe I would be able to work from home more if I showed my Introvert Badge. I thought people would be forced to have sympathy and understanding for me after a difficult work meeting. It took me years to realize it, but it did the opposite. It presented my decisions and reactions as destructive and damaging. The worst part — I actually believed I was shoddy and incompetent.

I’m ditching the introvert label.

After many frustrating conversations with my husband and an eye-opening chat with a dear friend, I had a brain switch flip. My internal conversation was completely rewritten when I really realized the source of my anxiety or unwillingness to go with the crowd. Take a look…

Why can’t you enjoy working in an open-office environment?

– I’m a workhorse. I care a lot about the work I do and the thought I put into it. I find open-work spaces to be distracting, which impacts my work. That is not ok with me.

Why do you have to freak out over this tough meeting?

– How I present myself is very important to me. I want to be helpful and supportive. However, tough calls can sometimes trigger negative feelings for all involved. You may have to explain deficiencies or reveal mistakes. I cringe at the thought of making others feel bad, even when done in the most professional manner. I care even more if the conversation reveals I had a misstep and let people down. That goes against my work ethic. I don’t “freak out.” I care. I care A LOT.

Why don’t you like to join team activities or after-work events?

– I keep work my work. I hope I enjoy it most of the time, but I will always enjoy my family more. I’ve been working since I was 15 years old. I deserve to spend my time doing what makes me happy, so I am…damn it. I will contribute to the team in other ways.

While it may look like my tendencies are all about my “own thoughts and feelings (eff you, Google dictionary),” it is more about owning and respecting who you are and what makes you a badass. The more and more I tried conform and act as expected, the more the results suffered. Instead of instantly agreeing to something that goes against my work style, I now try to offer an alternative…

Are you free at 3pm for a meeting to chat about the team meeting tomorrow?

– That’s a great offer. I think you should host the meeting if it is helpful to the rest of the team, but I won’t be joining. I’m going to be planning my talking points and solutions for the meeting, but I’ll keep Slack up if you want to ping me questions during your meeting.

Why can’t you just have a full-time job? / Why can’t you just work with one client for years?

– I love the challenge of tackling new things and I’m damn good at it. Like The Wolf in Pulp Fiction, I like playing the role of the cleaner. I’m awesome at discovering opportunities and showing a team how to make it work…then getting out. It works for me and I’m not compromising. Harvey Keitel wouldn’t sit behind a laptop for 8 hours doing the same job for 8 years!

So, while I recognize and love my fellow introverts, let’s ditch the label. Let’s just own what makes us confident, successful and happy. I dare you to replace, “But I’m an introvert” with “I own who I am and I know what works for me.” Ok, it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but are ya with me?

What Your Favorite Social Media Platform Really Says About You

One of my favorite interview questions was from Ignite Social Media. They asked me what was my favorite social media platform and why. It was a great question, because it tells a lot about a person. If I had said Myspace, I wouldn’t have gotten the Community Management gig. Three years ago, my answer was Twitter. I liked to stay on top of NHL news and talk shit with fellow hockey fans. Huh, not sure what my answer would be today.

Here’s what your favorite channel may say about you…

TWITTER

You like to talk. Like you really, really like to talk. Twitter is the one social media platform that allows you post like a mad (wo)man and get away with it, thanks to the short lifespan of tweets. You probably also love your sports updates, pop culture news, and brand updates.

FACEBOOK

You’re a people person. You like keeping up with family and friends while sharing your own life updates with the occasional rant. Change makes you itchy and Facebook is your old reliable pal.

INSTAGRAM

If Insta is your favorite social hangout, then you are probably a visual, creative person. You like to be thoughtful and intentional with the content you produce. You dig being inspired by like-minded people.

LINKEDIN

Ah, the platform of professionals. You’re classic with a touch of old school. You like staying on top of industry news and scoping out that next lead or networking opportunity. Heck, you may not even use the other social media platforms. LinkedIn is enough for you.

SNAPCHAT

You’re a spontaneous, confident busy bee. You share personal experiences with a carefree attitude. You may also be a little cray (in the most loving way) and appreciate that your pics will never come back to haunt you…maybe.

PINTEREST

Organization is the name of your game. You just love your boards and boards of pins (most of which you will never try). Your desk, closet, and kitchen are all pinspired. You’re a fun, go-getter with a passion for trying new things.

Did I get you right? What is your favorite social media platform?

How Volunteering at an Animal Shelter Changes Your View on Life

Depressing. Scary. Dirty. Hopeless.

These were all the reasons why I resisted volunteering at an animal shelter. I’m irrationally emphatic when it comes to furry creatures, but that was the very thing holding me back from donating my time at a shelter. I had fostered dogs through rescue groups in the past, but with two senior, grouchy dogs my home was no longer a great option for foster pups.

A dear friend pushed me to shadow her during one of her volunteer shifts at the SPCA of Wake County. Despite telling her I wasn’t emotionally capable of seeing frightened and isolated animals, she kept reassuring me that I would be pleasantly surprised. She was right! Three months later, I’m an active, happy volunteer and have taken away valuable life lessons.

1. Assumptions are toxic.

Today’s climate is full of aggressive perceptions lately. Social media is a dark hole for politic argument and harsh judgement. In an attempt to avoid this turning into a politic post, I’m going to assume you can rationally connect the dots here…

I truly thought people who volunteer at animal shelters and don’t walk away emotionally wasted must either not care for animals as much as I do or they willing sacrifice their mental health, because they are freaking angels. Gah, I feel embarrassed to even admit that now. Stepping out of my comfort zone and turning my assumptions into different reality not only changed my view on volunteering at the SPCA, but opened my eyes to other areas of my life that may be constricted by tunnel vision.

2. Forgiveness is a beautiful thing.

I would be lying if I said volunteering at an animal shelter didn’t have hard-hitting moments. However, it doesn’t come from seeing forgotten pets in the shelter rooms. It is the history that some of them carry: abused, neglected, used for breeding and then discarded, starved, etc…

During a recent shift, I was walking down the hall of the SPCA of Wake County and stopped dead in my tracks. A gorgeous gray pit bull was being brought into the shelter fresh from surgery. Her body was covered in several long, angry stitches. The staff didn’t know what caused her initial injuries, but she was a mess. To my novice eyes, they didn’t look like bite marks from a dog fight. Before my imagination conjured up a story, the pittie lifted her tail and moved toward me. She sniffed my hand and allowed me to pet her soft head. Regardless of the horrors she had experienced, she didn’t hold that against me. Animals possess an unearthly way of forgiving and accepting love. A lesson humans should exercise more often.

3. A little attention goes a long way.

We all hustle through life. We fall into routines and neglect the opportunity for little shared moments. Volunteering with animals reminded me how little gestures can go a long way.

Jess, a pit/lab mix is a perfect example. In her doggie room, she is very quiet and still. Usually asleep on her cozy bed, she looks pretty content. I’ve had the pleasure on working with her twice this week, but I was getting discouraged that she never wanted to play with toys in the yard. So, I took a different approach today. I just sat down on the ground and she immediately pushed her entire body into mine. She laid her head on my shoulder and I laid my head on hers and we just sat. For 15 minutes, we just cuddled and connected. At one point, she took a huge breath and exhaled. I heard her, “I just needed some loving attention.” Don’t we all, Jess, don’t we all.

4. Be you.

Some people have to sleep with socks on. Some people think sleeping in socks is some sort of torture device. We all have our “things.” Daisy, a hound mix full of personality, is the perfect example. She had to (had to!) be let out into the yard with her leash still intact. I can’t tell you why, but if you took it off (and I did, because I thought she was being ridiculous and didn’t want her to pee on it!) and she went bonkers. She ran around and wouldn’t let me get near her. I realized I was forcing my opinion on the matter on her and kept the leash on during my second round of outside time with her. All went well. She happily played with me…leash dangling like her super hero cape.

I imagine volunteering anywhere can remind you of life’s most important lessons. For me, getting over my ill-placed misconceptions and volunteering at the SPCA of Wake County has been a tremendously rewarding experience. I encourage you to do the same!

Visit the SPCA website for all their volunteer opportunities: http://spcawake.org/get-involved/volunteer/