Let me rephrase that… I LOVE making stuff. Making anything that does not yet exist drives me. I lose sleep thinking about ways to make my ideas and inventions come to life. I know that’s my passion, and talent. It has taken a long time to fully understand and accept that about myself, but it’s one thing I absolutely know about myself. No question, it’s one of my God-given purposes in life. I could build prototypes all day and all night, and I would completely lose track of time.
Which brings me to the topic of self-awareness. Being a business owner and entrepreneur, I have worn many many hats. It is necessary and valuable to serve every role in your company, to a point. You learn what you are really good at, and what you should delegate to someone who is more capable and skilled at other tasks. You have to let go of some responsibilities, and surround yourself with people who are better at those jobs than you. Letting go is really, really hard. Choose people who are better than you at those things, and also passionate about what they do well.
I know what drives me and what energizes me and what makes my soul happy. I will use that to keep moving forward, and never stop the hustle.
Two years ago I stumbled upon the most effective, challenging, exciting way to really push my creativity. I was reading the wonderful book, “The Crossroads of Should and Must,” by Elle Luna. Her book talks about finding your true calling and passion, and designing your life to live that path to your highest potential. I was very inspired by the book and after reading did some research on the author.
In my research I discovered an amazing exercise in creativity called The 100 Day Project. (https://thegreatdiscontent.com/interview/elle-luna-100-day-project). It was a social media version of a grad school project conceived by Michael Bierut, a talented designer, writer, and teacher. For years, he led graduate graphic design students at the Yale School of Art in a workshop that he called “The 100 Day Project.” The premise for Michael Bierut’s class was simple: each student chose one action to repeat every day for 100 days.
It was a project that had just begun, ironically, that entailed committing to 100 days of any creative exercise of your choice. It was a celebration of process that encourages everyone to participate in 100 days of making. You were instructed to follow these steps to participate:
100 days of making:
Sign up for #The100DayProject newsletter for important announcements prior to and throughout the project.
Choose your action – It could be anything, from cooking a new recipe, taking a photo of animals, to creating a painting… anything you enjoy to do, that you can do EVERY DAY for 100 days, and post something visually.
Select a unique hashtag for your project so all your instances of 100 can be viewed in one place. Include the hashtag with each of your posts (i.e. #100Daysof____ ).
Announce your project on Instagram. Download an image and post it on Instagram, along with your project’s unique hashtag, to announce your project.
I was all in, I knew I wanted to participate but wasn’t sure what that subject matter would be for me. I didn’t want to choose something easy, like logo design, or anything graphic design related. So I challenged myself to think about a creative project unrelated to my career, that I REALLY loved. I had gone to graduate school for interior design, but never pursued that career because I was really successful in the graphic design world, and wasn’t brave enough to make a change. While in grad school for interior design I worked on a project to build a miniature version of a chair designed by an accomplished interior designer. I LOVED that project. I was so fun. I loved the entire process; researching designers, choosing the chair, and then building the chair! There is it was… I was going to design AND build a miniature chair every day for 100 days! I knew it was a lofty goal, but I knew i had it in me, and was excited to get going.
I was so inspired every day with a new idea, it was remarkable. I was inspired by all things around me. It might be a pattern I loved on a fabric, it might be a concept, such as graffiti, or a holiday. It was never an issue finding the concept. Once I found the concept, I just had to make the chair happen. Some days were better than others. Some days I had more time, some days I jut needed to get the chair done. That was OK. As long as I was accomplishing the task to which I had committed. I didn’t miss a day. Here is one aspect that was super crucial. I made the commitment to myself, but I also made myself accountable to every person following me on Instagram. After a few chairs, I was really gaining followers, and getting too much positive feedback. I could not let anyone down.I was almost shocked at how easy it was to design & produce a unique chair every day. It’s amazing where your creativity and imagination will take you when you challenge yourself to dig deeper. In college a design professor once said to me “Your first idea is never going to be your best idea.” At the time that was hard to accept. When starting a creative endeavor it’s exciting in the beginning and the ideas flow quickly. I usually can’t wait to get started and get my visions on paper, or on the computer, or built. But, what I have truly learned is that if you keep pushing yourself, you will almost certainly get better with each idea. If you make a commitment to not settle for your first, or second, or third plan, you might be surprised where your mind will take you.
Not only will this exercise drive your creativity, it will also instill greater consistency and discipline. Steady, unfailing commitment to work consistently on your business, or your art, or your fitness routine, is required to make progress and succeed in the long run. Great things don’t happen over night, it takes time, hustle and committal to achieve greatness.
Pick something you love and enjoy
Decide to commit to giving it attention every day for 100 days. It can be any sort of art, but it doesn’t have to be. If you love cooking, try a new recipe every day and take a photo of the completed dish. Or if you enjoy yoga, take a picture every day of you doing a different yoga pose. It really can be anything, just think of a way to document your activity and, ideally, post on your choice of social media.
It’s a little intimidating at first, but make the decision, dive in, and enjoy the process. I guarantee you will be amazed with your own creativity and feel a huge sense of accomplishment after the 100 days. You might even love the exercise so much you continue after those 100 days. I did and was sad when I stopped, I really missed my chairs every day! But I enjoy looking back at them all and being reminded how much I love using my blessing of creativity.
Check out this book that inspired my 100 Day Project:
OK, everyone says follow your passion and the money will come, everything will be great, etc, etc, etc. It SEEMS like it should be really easy to say what you passion is, right? But, in reality, it’s not at all easy. I feel so much pressure to identify what my God-given passion is. Yikes, what if I pick the wrong thing? Do I have to pick just one? Can it change as I get older?
Let’s step back.
Let’s think a bit more logically and look at things from a different perspective.
Some questions to ask:
What do I really enjoy doing in my free time?
What are my hobbies?
Are there any topics or subjects about which people often ask me for advice?
What are the things I can do where time just flies by and I get caught up in what I’m doing?
If others where to describe my strengths & talents, what would they say?
If money were not an issue, what career would I choose?
How can I best serve others?
What are some of the things I like most about myself?
What are some things I would regret not accomplishing if I never tried?
What drives me to succeed?
Don’t try so hard to make it happen and figure out all of the next steps. Think about some activities that might get your brain on another path, which then might lead you to your answers. Definitely read as much as possible. There are tons of wonderful, inspiring books out there to help you do some soul-searching, inspire you, and offer more possibilities you may not have considered. Be on the lookout for classes that might interest you on subjects you would like to know more. Or, maybe even teach a class on a topic you do know lots about and would like to share your knowledge. Start writing in a journal. It can be a diary style of writing, or more of a gratitude journal, anything that gets your thoughts and feelings on paper. Listen to pod casts. There are pod casts available on pretty much any topic; it’s actually pretty remarkable! Pod casts are great because you can listen to them in the car, while exercising, while cleaning the house, whenever. Accomplish two tasks at once!
I also find that taking a little road trip or larger vacation puts things in perspective for me. Getting away from the everyday chores and obligations is so important to clear our heads. Just changing your scenery and routine can help to clarify what you truly like to do and how you want to spend your time. Not to mention, traveling somewhere, either new or familiar, exposes us to new experiences, people, cultures and lifestyles. After any kind of get-away I always feel a greater energy to pursue my dreams and passions.
Lastly, trust yourself, and your gut. Your gut NEVER leads you astray. Be honest with yourself and enjoy the process. Oh, and be fearless. What have you got to lose? There are no wrong answers to the passion questions. There may be roadblocks, or setbacks, or changes in course. That’s OK, and useful. Learn from those and believe with all that you have that there are reasons for the challenges, because nothing awesome comes easy. It will be so worth it.
Once people find out that I have gotten a few inventions and businesses off the ground lots of them approach me saying, “I’ve had this idea for a long time, it might not be great, but I think it might be, but I have no idea what to do with it.” I love it. It’s my opportunity to serve someone else and use the mountain of knowledge and experience I’ve accumulated along the way to help someone else follow their dream. There have been so many twists and turns in m career, I have to believe the reason is to equip me with tools, ideas and skills to make the path a little smoother, and less painful, for others who have a desire to create the next big idea, or open their dream business.
Being an entrepreneur you have to be your own cheerleader, as well. We will have friends and family for encouragement and the occasional pep talk. But, you have to consistently have the drive, conviction and grit to keep going on a daily basis, especially on the days when you start to have self-doubt – which will happen – a lot. I also hope that I can be that champion for my clients when the going gets tough, and they start to lose steam.
The best part of my job is sharing the logo that captures my clients’ vision, or getting their website up and them seeing for the first time their dream in reality. Or whatever it is that encourages my client to keep going, get excited and know they are on the right path.
Go for it… because if you don’t someone else will. Make that idea, or invention, or business yours. What have you got to lose?
Next, get one of these…
Super Easy Step #1 ~ Start by putting your ideas into an invention or business journal. No one has to see it, it’s for you to get your initial thoughts, plans, sketches, contacts, etc. down on paper and start to make this whole thing real. It will evolve and become a huge resource for you. It will also document your work and ideas along the way, which will prove to be priceless. I still look back at my journals from projects past for reference. It’s easy, and you will know you have started!
I have been entrepreneurial as long as I can remember. Right out of college I started drumming up business to build my freelance graphic design firm. I had NO idea what I was doing, but actually was pretty darn successful! But, back then I had no idea I was also an inventor.
Fast forward to February 2007. Oprah teamed up with QVC and launched her search for the next big idea. I happened to see that show introducing the campaign and decided right then & there that I would enter. I didn’t have a product, or even and IDEA at that point, but for some reason I knew I would enter. I vividly remember sitting in my home office, with 3 little kids running and crawling around, asking myself, “what need do I have for a solution that isn’t out there?” Within a few hours I came up with something.
I wanted a hair styling product that would give my hair lift at my crown. Something to create fullness, that was easy to use, and undetectable. I hated teasing, and hated using yucky, sticky products. So I went to work building many prototypes of a simple, small hair accessory that would achieve this goal.
LONG story short… I created a great product, the Speedy Bump (I still love the name). I submitted to Oprah’s contest. And waited. I got a call shortly into the contest period from QVC asking for some samples so they could test my invention. OMG!!! I followed their instructions, provided samples, and waited again. I can’t remember the exact date they would be contacting winners, but I certainly remember how I felt that day. I was a bundle of anxiety, I didn’t know what to do with myself. And the phone rang… it was a rep from QVC. Basically, they said that I didn’t win Oprah’s contest, BUT, we are still interested in your product and will be in touch. I soooo thought I was going to Chicago to be on Oprah and share my idea.. so I was sad. But, I needed to change my perspective and realize that QVC liked my idea, and that’s a pretty big deal!
Ultimately QVC passed because I was so early in on my product, I only had a great prototype, I didn’t have manufacturing, proven sales, etc. But I was determined to move forward because I knew I was onto something.
I started researching manufacturing, learning how to get it made on my own, testing it further, and looking into the infomercial world. Through tenacity and dedication I got in touch with one of the first major infomercial gurus in the world (think Ginsu Knives). I found his contact info, reached out, and he actually called me! What??? We had a couple of conversations about my product, then he had me talk to someone else in his organization, talked to his legal department, etc. Then there were crickets. OK, fine, I’m moving forward without them.
I continued working on everything; manufacturing, promotion, marketing. I got a call from my sister-in-law several months later asking me if I had gotten my product on TV because she just saw a commercial for something just like my idea. WHAT??? A very similar product was suddenly everywhere… As Seen On TV, every drug store, you name it. I did as much research as I could on that product, and feel that it did lead back to that infomercial guru from months past. What could I do? I’m a little guy, I didn’t have the resources to stick up for myself. It was terribly painful and heartbreaking. But, here’s a few takeaways:
I HAD A GREAT IDEA!
Protect yourself… talk to a lawyer before you share your great idea with anyone.
I learned soooo much. Mainly, I had a great idea, I will have more, and I can help others with their great ideas to make their teams come true.
I have since realized why it was scary for me to sign on to be a Rodan + Fields consultant… I wasn’t listening to my gut. Deep down, I knew it was not the right opportunity for me, but I dove in, hoping it was going to be a good move. I am not at all criticizing R+F, Dr. Rodan and Dr. Fields are brilliant doctors, and impressive business women. R+F is wonderful for so many people, both customers and consultants, but it’s just not my path. And that’s OK. I’m a designer, artist, builder and entrepreneur. I LOVE creating and designing prototypes and helping others build their companies and realize their dreams. That’s my path… using my God-given creativity to help other hopeful entrepreneurs reach for the stars. The graphic attached is actually a concept in Carrie Green’s wonderful book, “She Means Business.” If you haven’t read it, go buy it now. I had a little detour on my path, but I quickly figured that out. I’ve had some other minor detours; a couple of part-time jobs that turned out to be unrewarding, some courses I took that I totally snoozed through. But, looking back I can almost always connect the dots and see why those challenges and situations were placed in my life. It’s super hard to understand when you’re in it, and you ask have to ask, “Why in the world did I do that?” or “Why did God place me in that wacky spot?”
Sometimes we need that venture off, to bring clarity to what truly is our passion, and purpose, and how we can best serve.