What if it doesn’t work?

What if it doesn’t work? 

What if I’m not good enough? 

I invested a lot of energy into trying to make those thoughts go away. Not realizing that pushing them away only made them stronger. Saying to myself, “Think positive, Kate! Stop telling yourself you’re not good enough!” only did one thing… it kept me focused on the idea that I wasn’t good enough. 

I felt like I shouldn’t do something unless I was sure it would work. And that if I wasn’t sure something would work I shouldn’t speak up.

Which, big surprise, meant I wasn’t doing much of anything.

So as I mentioned last week—apparently Saturday’s are for feelings?—I turned myself into my own science experiment. The kind you’d read about in one of those NY Times bestselling advice books.

I gave myself permission to follow my instincts. To let myself focus on the questions that interest me instead of searching so hard for answers and tearing myself down if I couldn’t find them.

I gave myself permission to show up as me, exactly where I am, with the understanding that I might feel/think/act differently tomorrow and that’s OK. In fact, that’s good. That’s growth. That’s how we find clarity.

Not to sound like an infomercial but this really has changed the game for me. I can’t believe how much better I understand myself, and the difference in the quality of people I’ve been meeting and opportunities I’ve been finding (or perhaps finally noticing?).

It’s a lot easier to meet people and find things you like when you show up as yourself, because like attracts like.

So I’ll say it again—because Lord knows I had to hear it a few times before I did anything with it—clarity comes from action, not thought.

Flowers! Because, feelings. Taken in my Mum’s garden. You know when people come over for dinner and bring you plants? She’s the one person I know who manages to keep those things alive and put them in her garden. So the next time that person’s over she can be all, “Look, the hydrangea’s you brought last spring are blooming!” It’s a level of domestication I can only aspire to… 

Clarity comes from action, not thought

I’ve spent my entire life trying to make sense.

Make sense of myself. So I can make sense to others.

I’ve always… “had a lot of interests”. I thought that made me confusing and people don’t like to be confused. I wanted to be easy to understand.

“Wait, she’s studying financial planning? Wasn’t she working at a craft shop?”

“You’re at a software start-up now? Oh. I always thought you were going to be a fashion designer.”

I hated feeling like I had to explain myself. I wanted to fit neatly in a box so no one would have to go through the mental gymnastics of reconciling my seemingly conflicting interests.

I wanted to find my one thing. My calling. My elevator pitch.

So I could present myself to the world all, “Here. It’s me.”

After extensive list making (oh man, I do love a good list) I narrowed my options down to a few career and business ideas I felt excited about. I just needed to choose. I felt like the whole world was telling me to choose.

“You have to decide what you want to be known for. People hire specialists, not generalists.”
“You’ll never get good at anything unless you’re focused.”

“People aren’t going to take you seriously if you keep changing your mind like that, Kate.”

I thought once I knew what my thing was, once I decided which rabbit hole to go down, the rest would be simple and the shame would go away.

But I couldn’t pick (spoiler, I still can’t pick). And I didn’t want to appear scattered or unfocused by doing a little bit of everything.

So I waited…

Waited for a sign, for clarity. Waited for an answer.

Let me tell you something, Dear Internet, clarity doesn’t come from thinking about The Things, clarity comes from doing The Things.

So I turned myself into a science experiment. (Because that felt like a legit, sensible approach.)

What if I gave myself permission to run in a bunch of different directions. What if I just—in the name of science, of course—let myself be the person who figures out a new retail model for makers and who writes about money and who does marketing consulting for tech companies and who spins her own yarn and who talks about mental health and who takes pictures of falling down buildings and who makes YouTube videos.

What if took all the energy I’ve been spending trying to choose and put it towards action. What if I let myself focus on problems without getting hung up on solutions?

Well… the results so far have been amazing.

By getting out of my head and actually acting on my instincts—by having coffee with makers I admire to figure out what model would serve them and by taking on new clients in different industries and by recording my first YouTube video—I’m starting to see that all these passions of mine aren’t so divergent after all.

I like discovering things. People, places, products… Stuff that make me say, “Oh, that’s good. How don’t people know about this?!” I like sharing those things and telling their stories. I like teaching and connecting people.

That’s marketing.

And great marketing is art. Which, ultimately, is what I’m after. More art in the world.

See?? It’s all coming together.

If only I could go back and tell my teenage self the good news.

Oh look, a falling down barn. My favourite. Taken somewhere near Markham… I think. 

P.S. I first heard the “clarity comes from engagement not thought” thing from Marie Forleo. She’s great.

Yes, you can

A quick and largely unoriginal New Years thought for you…

I’m not big on New Years resolutions—January 1st doesn’t feel extraordinarily more promising than the start of any other day—but I do like to reflect on the year that’s passed. (Unoriginal already, told ya.)

This little shift in thinking has had the biggest impact on my life recently.

I pay attention to all the things that make me think, “Well I can’t do that.”

“I can’t make videos. I’ll look like a fumbling idiot.”

“I can’t do Crossfit. Have you seen these noodle arms?! Remember when you mentioned it to an Ex and they responded with a crushingly animated eyeroll?”

Instead of letting these thoughts float past and cement in the back of my brain, I catch myself…

What do you mean you can’t? Says who?

Either you want this or you don’t. You’re going to make time for it or you’re not. All perfectly fine options, but using “can’t” as an excuse isn’t.

We all do it.

I can’t join that rec soccer league because I’m not good enough.
I can’t start investing because I don’t have the money.
I can’t do ‘x’ because I’m too young, too old, don’t have the resources…

We collect these cants over time—maybe they came from something a parent or partner said, a bad experience, or other people’s fears. You’d be surprised how young some of these beliefs start.

(Don’t worry, we’re not going to dive into your childhood. That’s between you and a qualified therapist.)

My point is…

Awareness is powerful. So is choice. 

Exercise both.

Those two cants of mine I mentioned earlier? Well, *casually brushes dirt from shoulder*, I recorded my first video tutorial a few months ago—an experience I loved that’s opened up a world I’d previously written off—and I started Crossfit last week.

I might not be the best at either but I show up. That’s all it takes.

It’s cliche advice for a reason.

I (you!) most certainly can.

P.S. In lieu of a somewhat-passably-relevant stock photo… Please enjoy this snap I took at the top of Whistlers Mountain in Jasper, Alberta. I think the whole clouds-mountain-top thing qualifies as inspirational. 

Starting somewhere is better than starting nowhere

Can I confess something?

I’m having a heck of a time starting this blog.

Last March (oh man has it been that long?) I got it in my head this needed to be a thing. I’ve had a craft blog for a few years, but there are other topics I wanted to explore. Topics that needed a different home. Like why are we so bad at teaching people about finance? and how can artists use growth hacking! and what does your money look like if you never want to retire?

So I began jotting down post ideas. Anytime a podcast or advertisement or conversation sparked one. I’d write rough drafts in Evernote when I was in line at the grocery store. It was exciting!

But I didn’t publish much. Or I’d post it only to take it down. I even started a few anonymous blogs.

What gives?

Well… I’ve had it in my head that if you’re going to touch topics like money and marketing, you’d better have it together. You’d better be a voice of authority, an expert!

People want to read actionable How-To’s, not random observations of an unknown twenty-something.

They want answers, not questions. Conclusions!

“I don’t know but here’s a thought…” isn’t good enough. Not decisive enough.

And what if my writing is too casual? Or formal! What if I come across as judgemental or wishy-washy (what a great word…) or as a know-it-all when I’m just trying to start a conversation? What if my content is too scattered—isn’t blogging 101 to pick a niche? What if a future boss/client doesn’t want to work with me because of something I’ve posted?

What if! Oh, screw it I’m just going to watch Netflix instead.

… See what’s happening here?

Nothing. A whole lot of nothing.

I’ve got to figure I’m not the only one who finds themselves in this delightful storm of overthinking-meets-perfectionism-meets-inaction. I can’t be the only one with ALLTHEIDEAS! and nothing to show for it.

Being the season for reflection and resolutions, I’ve spent some time doing just that. And I thought I’d share with you the interwebs a little realization that’s helping me in a big way.

Ready for it?

Starting somewhere is better than starting nowhere.

Producing bad work is better than producing no work.

So just… Start. Somewhere. Anywhere. You don’t even have to share it! But you do have to consistently show up and do the work.

Promise the world won’t end if you make something less than perfect.

Noted? Noted.

P.S. In lieu of a somewhat-passably-relevant stock photo… Please enjoy this snap I took in the middle of the SK-5 on my way from Saskatoon to Preeceville last summer. It’s seriously beautiful out there, FYI. 

Is procrastinating a procrastination hack?

Now I haven’t been experimenting with this for very long, BUT, I think procrastinating might actually be a procrastination hack.

Hear me out.

I’m in the kitchen making my 11th tea of the day (I have a legit problem) and my brain hits me with remember-the-thing-you-promised-yourself-you’d-finish-every-morning-for-the-past-week-and-you-haven’t-yet-because-you-suck-geeze-what-a-loser-you-can’t-get-anything-done-you’re-hopeless.

And I’m faced with two options.

A: Do the work.

B: Grab some cookies to dunk in said tea and proceed to YouTube to figure out once and for all how to build a capsule wardrobe.

(I’ll give you one guess as to which I that’s-right-Option-B)

But what about an Option C? What about, “OK fine. You don’t have to do the work. You don’t have to write that article. Instead, you can choose from any of the following pre-approved procrastination activities: read a book, go for a run, paint something, cut out that dress pattern you’ve been meaning to sew” etc.

You’ll notice ‘watch YouTube haul videos’ is not on that list. The key here is differentiating between what I’ll call ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ procrastination. The former is legitimately good for you and works on a skill. It’s probably a hobby you wish you did more often anyways, like running. The latter is whatever your personal brand of procrastination looks like. For me that’s YouTube, Instagram, Netflix, and obsessively cleaning and organizing. (I know that last one seems like a good thing but trust me, me with a duster is flat out procrastination.)

This will, of course, look different for everyone. I like to think of healthy procrastination as things you’d find on your list of New Years resolutions—read more books, run a 10K, learn how to code, start meditating because the NY Times says it’s what successful people do… and so on. Organize my desk isn’t resolution worthy for me because Lord knows I don’t need a reminder to do that more often.

Somehow by doing this, but letting myself procrastinate and work on something that might not feel directly related to the article I have to write or whatever it is I’m putting off, I actually start to gain confidence. I feel good about myself and after a while, I’ve built enough momentum that my brain is like OKAY might as well get crackin’ on the real reason we’re all here…

I can’t properly explain this Jedi mind trick just yet, and I’m sure it’s riddled with caveats, but the results so far are pretty freaking cool.

P.S. In lieu of a somewhat-passably-relevant stock photo… Please enjoy this graffiti snap I took of some alley in Kensington Market, Toronto. Man, I love that place. 

Whatever you’re scared of, do that

Ahhh the midlife crisis. Or quarter life crisis. Or this week crisis. (?)

We’ve all been there. And we’ll all be there again. That super fun feeling of being completely, utterly stuck and not knowing what to do next.

But you know what the cool thing is? You do know. You do know what you need to do next.

It’s whatever you’re afraid of.

It’s the thing you casually (or maybe not so casually) day dream about like running a marathon or starting a YouTube channel or selling something you made on Etsy. It’s the thing you get a rush imaging before you shut yourself down with, “I can’t”.

You know the thing you don’t think you can do because you’re not good enough or you don’t have the right connections or people will think you’re stupid? That’s exactly what you need to be doing.

And if you’re honest with yourself, you know it.

So look for that fear. Actively seek out what makes you scared and uncomfortable and do that. Not all at once, not all in one day, but start working towards it. Instead of dodging the idea (because you know it’ll just come back) lean into it. If you dream of running a marathon, start today by walking around the block. Because the littlest step towards a goal is better than no step, right?

Look for the fear.

And lean into it.

Photo taken at The Whistlers in Jasper, Alberta.

Procrastination is a habit we can change

Oh, what’s that sound? Just me eating my own words.

As it turns out, that stirring declaration I made about writing a blog post every day for two weeks (no excuses, Kate! It’s only 14 days, Kate! Everyone has 30 minutes, Kate!) didn’t stick.

My inner procrastinator found a friend in my perfectionist tendencies and, well, here we are a few days later. Sigh.

It’s never good news when those two get together.

Procrastination is a funny thing isn’t it, because it’s not like you don’t know how things are going to turn out. You know you’re going to regret it. You never surface from a Netflix binge, covered in chip dust, thinking, “Fantastic use of my time! Couldn’t be happier that it’s midnight and I haven’t started studying for tomorrows exam!”

You know what’s at stake. And yet…

The great thing here though is that procrastination isn’t some inherent trait you live and die with. It’s a habit, like exercise or being on time. It’s a self-fulfilling narrative. “I’m such a procrastinator. I’m always late. I never work out. I’m so indecisive.”

It comes down to habits, and habits can be changed.

How? That I don’t know (obviously) but I suspect momentum is key—because that feeling you get when you push through and do the work is always worth it.

P.S. In lieu of a somewhat-passably-relevant stock photo… Please enjoy this snap I took in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Home of my future art studio.

Treat your life as a series of two week experiments

This. This I can do.

Committing to an indefinite lifestyle change is, well, daunting. “I’m going to start waking up earlier! I’m going to start running! I’m going to start eating healthy!” Somehow the larger the undertaking feels, the easier it is to keep pushing the start date.

“I’ll start tomorrow!” turns into months, or even years, and that’s when the shame sets in. And shame is a total confidence killer. The cure? Action. Stop think-hoping-wishing and start doing

Tim Ferriss was talking about this whole thing on his podcast recently (Can I find the episode? Of course not, sorry…). But hearing about it just clicked. It took the pressure off a few things I’ve been building up and putting off, prompting me to start my own two week experiment… blogging.

There’s no reason you can’t find 30 minutes (heck even 10) from the next 14 days to try something new. Packing your lunch, meditating, journaling… whatever it is.

Two weeks. Fourteen days. That’s it.

We’re not talking a lifetime. Make a commitment to yourself and honour it, knowing you can re-evaluate the whole thing when you’ve finished.

Think about it, we’re keeping the stakes pretty low here. What do you honestly have to lose? More importantly, what do you have to gain?

Thought so.

P.S. In lieu of a somewhat-passably-relevant stock photo… Please enjoy this snap I took at White Point in Cape Breton Island. Just your standard back yard… Sigh.

Just Start

Easier said than done, right? Don’t I know it.

I’ve had ‘write first post’ on my to-do list for months.

Here’s what I’ve realized—and it applies to a lot more than starting a blog—we’ve got to stop using the details as an excuse.

“I can’t start my YouTube channel until I have a proper camera. I’ll reach out to clients once my business cards are printed. I’ll start running once I buy the right shorts.” You’re just stalling. You don’t need a DSLR to record video, you can start with your phone, right? And the running shorts? Come on.

So in this case, what’s the most important thing? What’s the thing without which the blog couldn’t even exist? The writing, duh.

You know what doesn’t matter at this stage? Everything else. Themes, logos, colours, categories, about pages, twitter links… There’s plenty of time to deal with that later.

Because honestly, the perfect theme colour isn’t going to make you feel any less vulnerable.

Stop overthinking and just start.