Capturing A Moment

December was a difficult month for me: I moved to a city where I didn’t know anyone, in hopes it would be a better fit for me; my then-boyfriend and I broke up; and my cat Marty had emergency surgery when it became clear there was a growth in his stomach, causing him a lot of pain. It was this last piece of news that hit me the hardest — I was just really learning how to love this cat, adopted from a shelter by an ex-boyfriend, then stolen by me when it was clear he wasn’t being treated well. At the beginning he had been stand-offish and always pretty independent. But he had changed in the months before the surgery. I had changed too.

The surgery went well, but the prognosis wasn’t good. The vet gave him a month.

It’s been four.

I know I don’t have forever, but I do have this time.

And I wanted it captured, with me in it. I’ve typically been the one snapping photos, but really wanted some of me with my cats. My friend Carrie came by and took a few photos for me.

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There are days that harder and days that are great. I don’t always know which it will be. My work sometimes falls a bit behind, because I need to be present more with my cats than with emails or my blog. But I am where I need to be, and that matters most to me — and to them, I suspect.

Becoming an Essentialist

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown stood on my nightstand for weeks. It was a nightly reminder of how I have been wanting to shift things in my life.

It all comes down to this: “If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.”

Our lives are filled with such informational clutter. Physical clutter too. We collect news articles on Flipboard, old pairs of jeans that we swear we’ll fit into again someday, email subscriptions (because we needed that free offer and never thought to unsubscribe even though we don’t even read those emails) — the list goes on.

Somewhere in the process of accumulating (and wanting to feel like we’re keeping up), our freedom and our clarity are lost. Not permanently so, but we forget them in the piles in our heads and in our homes.

Essentialism provided a series of perfect notes reminding me that an extra hour of sleep mean more productivity, not less; that if it isn’t a clear yes, it’s a clear no; and that with limits and boundaries we become limitless.

As much as we’ve been heard that ‘less is more’, the concept takes time to integrate. This book does a brilliant job of helping with those illustrations, and at the end, I was sold on being an essentialist in everything I do.

For me, the biggest struggle is the art of the graceful no — or how to say yes to the things that really matter. It’s not that I forget what really matters, only that I love helping people so much in my business, I sometimes fail to see the trade-off — what free time I might be losing by taking on another project. My new mantra? “Let me check my calendar and get back to you.” Those extra moments of reflection are key for creating space.

Obviously, there’s so much more I could talk about and dive into here, I’ll let you find the gems that suit you perfectly. I guarantee, by the end, you’ll be transforming into an Essentialist too.

On Amazon: Essentialism

From Novice to Expert

Last week, I received an email from Patrick (okay, I’ve totally changed his name, just to protect his privacy), who saw my job posting online. Rather than applying for the job, Patrick asked me about how to go from novice to expert — without a degree. He had noticed that I was self-taught and wanted to do the same.

Patrick explained that he’s moving to Virginia with his wife who was offered a great position. He’s spent the past few years working as a Project Manager for a company that handles some website work. With his upcoming movie, he decided that he wants to jump into the world of working online, and asked me how he could go from complete novice to a solopreneur developer.

My first question was “Why do you want to?” I could have laid out a clear path for him, but I believe the worst thing we can do is choose a job because it’s convenient. Frankly, if coding makes you giddy, if you love solving puzzles and organizing involved mathematical problems, you might make a great developer. But just because you want to work from home in this digital age does not mean you should be a website developer, nor is it the only path open to you.

We live in this awesome world where we can create positions that have never existed before, some of which can be done remotely. I love that.

My background prepared me for development work: I have a bachelors in Physics and a minor in Mathematics (which was only a few classes short of a major). My first coding course was at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. But more importantly, I’m killer at organization and a natural puzzle solver. Coding is a zone of excellence for me because my real Genius Zones make it possible.

That’s what I asked Patrick — what were his Genius Zones? I suggested he look at those and his past experience, then consider what position he could create for himself that he would love. That’s what he should be an expert at, because he’s been on that path all along.

There are days I feel like I’m only really beginning to understand my Genius Zones and where they’re taking me, and I’m okay with that. I like the adventure. And I really love helping other people on their paths too.

What we can create ourselves, what we can create together is incredible.

Binging on Business

When I committed to my mastermind group in December, I promised myself that I was really going to get my business set up right this year. My business had a lot of growth in 2014 — my income tripled from my first partial year and the projects were flowing in. But it was all me and the hours I was working were very reflective of that. I wanted more freedom in business, the ability to take a vacation without the anxiety of knowing there were unanswered emails piling up, the time to dream big in all I was doing and work on projects that I loved.

So I promised myself I would work on my business like an athlete training for the Olympics.

Three months in and I’m seeing some incredible changes. My work load hasn’t let up yet (and won’t any time soon), but everything I’m doing has a clear purpose. There’s intention behind it, there’s strategy.

Where is all of this strategy coming from? Obviously, the mastermind group is a big part of my growth, but I’ve also been reading some incredible books lately that every soulful entrepreneur needs to dive into. Here are four to get you started:

The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks
Entreleadership by Dave Ramsey
The Referral of a Lifetime by Tim Templeton
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

While the first three are obvious business books, the last one, The Four Agreements, definitely doesn’t fall into that category. However, this book has such valuable insights about being in the world that I can’t leave it off this list. It has profoundly shaped how I see the world, and I attribute a good portion of my past success to what I learned from it. The Four Agreements is the first you should pick up — and have a permanent home for on your bookshelf.

What books have you been learning from lately?

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Credits

Jane Reaction

(logo and original branding) is a graphic design and art director who works with with small businesses and creative entrepreneurs, creating cohesive and interesting brands and websites.

Carrie Coleman

(photography) is a wedding photographer, whose goal is to capture the visual expression of a couple's love through timeless, organic images. She is based in Charlottesville, Virginia.