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Are You Stuck? Change Your Perspective Instantly – Take Off Your Glasses

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Without glasses, my world looks a bit like this.

Tonight I bicycled home blind.

Well, almost.  I am not legally blind, but I don’t think I’m far from it.  I wear glasses or contacts to help me navigate through daily life.  I got my first “sight correcting contraption” at the ripe age of 11; until I put on those glasses, I had absolutely no idea my vision was “impaired.”  That was just the way life was, and it didn’t dawn on me that there was a different, better, clearer way to see the world around me until I noticed that my classmates could read the chalkboard when I couldn’t.  In other words, I didn’t know I had a problem until I compared myself to my peers.  But imagine my delight as I put on my (super sexy circular bug-eye) glasses for the first time.. “HOLY CRAP!  Everything is so CRISP and SHINY and BEAUTIFUL!  I have been missing out on a LOT!  …Woah!  There are letters on license plates?!” and so on and so forth.  It was a glorious moment to behold.  This was the way everything was supposed to be seen, and now I could enjoy it too!  A level playing field!  Hooray!

As the years passed, I thought about how annoying it was to have to wear these things all the time.  How unlucky was I that  I had to wake up everyday and flail blindly till I found my specs; or that I couldn’t fall asleep wearing them or I’d bend or break them; that I had to waste time cleaning them every day; that I must pay  heaps of cash for these stupid ugly things I didn’t even want; that I couldn’t just roll out of bed and SEE!; that others were born with “perfect vision,” but not me.  Life was unfair, and it irked me.  As I grew older, I dreamt of the day when I could afford laser eye surgery and be rid of my burden forever.

This evening, I found a new perspective.  Two, in fact.. a physical perspective shift introduced a mental perspective shift.

It’s not a new idea in the world of personal development that a new mental perspective provides a fresh outlook on life, and as I trekked my 1 hour bike-ride home from a day of printing through the city, I realized that I was being a huge grump.  I  was impatient, rushed, nervous, and thinking rude thoughts about people who got in my way.. not nice & certainly not my ideal version of myself at all.

When I realized what I was doing and that I wanted to stop being a jerk, I remembered that I could use a perspective shift.  So after a few failed attempts, I found one that worked: instead of thinking about how the people on the street were “making” me feel (nobody can make you feel anything, you decide that), I tried to imagine how they were feeling.  And I didn’t have to imagine once I started really looking.. it was a fun game to read the emotions on people’s faces, and it made me feel good that I could relate to each and every one of them that way.  It also felt a lot less selfish, and got me out of my own head.  And since I was unabashedly looking into people’s eyes, I couldn’t help but smile when I imagined their stories, and they usually smiled back, which just formed a sweet positive feedback loop.

But that’s not even the perspective shift that really caught my eye (no pun intended.. kindof).. because as I was making my way through the Tiergarten (Berlin’s enormous, beautiful central park) I decided I wanted another perspective shift.. so I took my glasses off.  Immediately my world transformed from people whizzing by on bikes, dogs, cars, leaves, trees, dirt, & ground into a soft landscape of light and colors.  The way the light from the sunset filtered through the gaps in the leaves looked like shimmering diamonds or stars, blinking on and off in soft cascading rhythms.  I slowed down to savor the sight (and, let’s be honest here, to avoid crashing into a tree).  When I got onto a small side street, I was mesmerized by the floating lights the lamps created, which bounced off parked cars, which were intersected by headlights of oncoming traffic, all the while neon signs beamed from the sidelines.. I felt like I was on drugs.  I was stunned by the beauty and the stark contrast to what I was used to seeing; like the first time I saw the Grand Canyon and the Swiss Alps.  And here I was, just on the same-old regular trek that I have ridden almost every single day for the last 6 months.

As a photographer, my first instinct was to capture it with my camera so I could remember and share the sight and experience.  Then I remembered that that was impossible.. it was something only I could see.  I was occupying the same space as the people around me, looking at the exact same things they were, only seeing it in a completely different way.

It dawned on me that my new world looked exactly like my camera’s bokeh, which is defined by Wikpedia as “the blur, or the aesthetic quality of the blur, in out-of-focus areas of an image, or ‘the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light.'”  Simply put, it’s the blurry bit in the next two photos.

Bokeh: the blurry bit in this photo.

Bokeh: the blurry bit in this photo.

So am I going to ditch the specs all the time now?  No–both perspectives are valid & I enjoy being able to switch between them.  And as my growing business brings me closer to being able to afford that laser eye surgery I so desperately longed for.. well I guess that’s crossed off the shopping list.  Since it seems I have the opportunity to shift my physical perspective in a split second…  that got me thinking about my mental perspective on my vision.  Maybe my burden is actually a gift.

Update: I’ve tried this a couple times in the last few months, including today in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.  Each experience has been like dreaming while awake.

As I stood staring at the seemingly mundane, I must have looked quite strange to passersby who saw things with “clear” vision.  But I was in my own world, seriously focused on the present moment, and enjoying it all too much to care.

If one can change their physical perspective in an instant and be teleported to a world of imagination, adventure and possibility, they can change their mental one in the same way and reap the same benefits.  Are you feeling stuck like I was?  Make a conscious decision to change your perspective–physical or mental and see what happens.  The world you see is based on it.

As the Gorillaz said, just remember that it’s all in your head. ;)

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Help Wanted: A Mentern

One of the new holiday cards in my shop.

One of the new holiday cards in my shop.

As things have expanded, I’m looking to hire a Mentern (Mentee & Intern) in the San Francisco bay area or Los Angeles for my growing gangster-rap greeting card business while I travel to Asia and Australia to write a book on food and art.  Basically I am looking for someone like me a few years ago: a creative, smart, motivated individual who doesn’t want to settle for anything less than the most awesome life they can imagine.  For me, that meant quitting my dismal 9-5 life that society promotes and carving out my own place in the world, to be able to pursue a passionate existence.  I’d like to offer my knowledge and expertise to someone interested in pursuing their dreams in return for help running my online shop and as an assistant organizing my projects.  Not only will you learn tricks of the trade “on the job” from managing the shop & tasks below for an average of 5 hours per week, I will chat with you weekly for an hour & provide 1-on-1 coaching to help you reach (or figure out) your dreams and start making money with your own business or at your dream job.  I want this to be a mutually beneficial partnership, where we both grow & succeed.

What you will work on:

  • Fulfill orders
  • Correspond with customers
  • Create content for the mailing list
  • Research physical stores to stock cards in
  • Update the facebook fan page (jokes, sales, etc) & website
  • Browse Etsy for cool items, think of creative themes & create Treasuries around them
  • Read & contact art/design/gadget blogs, magazines, & newspapers for features
  • Research & contact chefs & artists to interview for the aforementioned book
  • Copy write & create etsy listings
  • Update Flickr
  • Write blog content
  • Update website
  • Maintain flexible: I will have different and varied projects for you.
Location:
  • Your home, or wherever you are.  I know you don’t need a watchdog.  Best case scenario, you’ll live in SF, Oakland, Berkeley, Santa Cruz, or Los Angeles, as I intend to work in print studios in those areas and it would make giving you the prints easy.  Also, if it interested you (hopefully), you could come with me to the studio and see how I work.
Required skills:
  • Reliable, timely, and excited to use your own creativity.  I will give you tasks, but for much of it, I want you to get to exercise your unique skills & innovation.
  • Desire to make a positive impact in your life & the lives of those around you.
  • 100% honest, all the time.  I will be with you, and you will be with me even when it gets awkward.  That’s the only way we can make progress and learn from eachother.  As they say, the truth will set you free ;)
  • People person (good on the phone, in writing, and not scared to say what you mean)
  • Bonus points but not necessary: knowledge of Etsy, graphic design, wordpress, photography, printmaking/letterpress, blogging, SEO, facebook fan pages, twitter, art world, html etc.

This is an ideal Menternship for you if you are interested in most of the following, as I kick ass at and can help you with:

  • Defining & pursuing your ideal life
  • Supporting yourself through art, design, creativity
  • Graphic design, fine art, illustration, bookmaking, printmaking, photography
  • Running an etsy shop for yourself
  • Living and working on your own terms (avoiding the 9-5 to create your own path & enjoy life, or finding & landing your dream job)
  • Starting, running, or building your own business
  • Making money from a passion
  • Learning about entrepreneurship, freelancing, marketing, and advertising
  • Building a network of supportive people
  • Learning about printmaking, letterpress, paper
  • Traveling while still making money from your business
  • The “4 hour workweek” lifestyle introduced by Tim Ferriss
  • Minimalism, a “less is more” lifestyle (have less things, but more experiences)
  • Reaching your full potential/living as your best self

If this sounds like you:

  1. Please check out my creative endeavors here, my earlier blogposts, and my about page  to see if you’d like to work with me.
  2. Email me without hesitation at melissa@yeoldegangster.com a paragraph or two telling me about yourself and why we would be a good working match.  Attach a resume just so I know what you’ve been up to, but know that I’m choosing based on business compatibility and how much I think we can benefit one another, not what brands you’ve worked with.
I’ll be in the Bay Area to pick a Mentern until early December.

Thanks & looking forward to hearing from you,
Melissa

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Who Are You?

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Define the ideal version of yourself in writing so you know how to be that person.

Only when you know the meaning of a word can you use it properly in a sentence.  Similarly, when you have defined your ideal self, you can tap into your full potential.  Having an actual written-down definition of who it is you aim to be provides some serious mental clarity and allows you to act from a place of understanding rather than confusion.  Also, it serves as a reminder on those days when you feel lost, feel like you’re not enough, feel down and out.

What are the qualities you want to embody?  What does your best version of yourself do and think?  It’s not a finite list, you can add to it whenever you want, and you can change it over time.  Even if you don’t feel like that person all the time (I know I don’t) you’ll have a base to return to at all times.  Don’t be afraid to write down anything–don’t take yourself for granted.  Step into your greatness and leave fear behind.  You don’t even have to share it with anyone if you don’t want to.

Here’s my definition of my ideal self.. what’s yours?

I am patient.  

I am relaxed.  

I remember to breathe deeply.  

I appreciate right now, the present moment, for that is all there is and all that ever will be.  

I express my gratitude in a myriad of ways, be it a smile, a note, or a comment–to myself and to others.  

I am decisive, without second-guessing myself, because I know that it doesn’t matter which decision I make–I can always adjust course afterwards if I don’t like the outcome of a decision, and if I choose based on “what I’d like to experience” (aka what my intuition says) versus “which is the best/right decision”, its easy.  I know that making decisions is easy because if one opportunity falls through, I know there are literally endless more opportunities.  

I am strong–mentally and physically.  

I am beautiful.  Even if I was burned and scarred and mangled I would still be beautiful, because if I say I am, I am.  Because my beauty is my presence, not my appearance, and my presence is always enough.  

My spirit is safe, at all times, because nothing that could ever happen to my physical existence could touch it.  In this way, I am immortal.  

I am generous–I give to provide value to others, who are extensions of my self.  

I appreciate the things, people, relationships, circumstances, and events in my current situation while they exist and when its time for them to pass, I let them go freely.  I am always free to recall the joy they brought me (without a sense of longing for what was).  

I am not afraid of new changes; I embrace them with a sense of curiosity.  new things are mere experimentations–they are opportunities for growth, creativity, and learning.  Since growth, creativity and learning are my top priorities and favorite aspects of life, then by geometric proof, New things = Growth, Creativity, and Learning = Top Priority.  

I do not take my worries seriously–I listen to them, thank them for their presence, and let them go.  I only take the work of being “unserious” seriously.  

I take many breaks.  

I value nothingness, solitude, and silence.  

Equally, I value the company of others.  

I strive to grow and learn, but know that I am enough.  If I died today, that would be okay, because I live consciously.  

Working harder does not make me a better person.  Value comes from learning and sharing.  

I act with intention and purpose, thoughtfully, but do not over-think things.  

I forgive myself when I make mistakes, even when I deviate from my ideal self, and then carry on as best I can, as my ideal self.  I forgive others because resentment serves nobody.  

I offer help and share advice when requested, but I do not try to change people.  

I don’t question why the way things are the way they are; I accept that the answer to all questions is just “because.”  Instead of asking why, I ask, what am I learning?  

I am respectful.  

I consider the needs of other people, and I do not step on others in my haste towards my own advancement.  That is, I do not value my time over my peers.  

I am kind, but I do not sacrifice myself or my needs to please others.  I must be whole, wholly content  to be able to give to others.

I embrace my differences as strengths.  

I do not get angry at myself when my energy is low–I recognize both sides of the spectrum as equal and necessary.  I know that there are two sides to everything, and that one is not better than the other.  I recognize that I need lows to appreciate the highs.  

I am completely honest and transparent–with myself and everyone else, because that is the only way to grow.

I am proud, but not boastful or arrogant.  

I accept all circumstances.  

I express my love and gratitude.  

I am imperfect, but I am perfectly myself.

I’d love to hear your definition of your ideal self.  Please do leave a comment or send an email.

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Filed under Authenticity, Balance, Learning, Personal Development, Purpose, Success

Handling The Lows

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The sweet spot to maintain mental clarity. "Good" and "bad" events will always be in your life. "Good" and "bad" emotional states are also natural and unavoidable. The only thing you can control is how you view and respond to them.

I spent the last two and a half days doing absolutely nothing.  I cancelled every hangout, meeting, and party I had planned, shirked all responsibilities, ignored my emails, all so I could do… not a single “productive” thing.  And as much as I wanted to want to do these fun things and carry on with my work, my intuition said no.  It said my brain was overloaded.  And so I succumbed to my “weakness” and hid in my room like a werewolf waiting for the human/”good” self to come back out.  I also read, walked, biked, ate, cried, laughed, drank, and more.  I listened to my intuition, even though my ego wanted to carry on with scheduled programming.

But I’ve put “weakness” in quotations because I’m learning that if I view this low state as a normal, natural, and necessary occurrence (sweet alliteration, or?), and let it take its course without judging myself, it passes without adding insult to injury.  That is, it doesn’t make me feel less like crying or hiding, but it makes me feel okay to cry or hide.  I feel pretty damn good about this realization.  When I can remember that its a passing state, and that everyone I know goes through the same thing (even Tim Ferriss) then I also can keep it in perspective.

I’ve tried to convey my understanding in a highly advanced technologically and scientifically sound graph above.  The blue line represents the “good” and “bad” events which happen in your life.  (I’ve put these words in quotations because I don’t think there are good events or bad events.. they are both equally necessary, but that’s a topic for another day.) For example winning the lottery is up at the top of the orange curve, and getting stabbed is down at the bottom.  “Good” and “bad” events such as these are gonna happen no matter what you do or how you feel.

Similarly, you will feel both “good” and “bad” at different times in your life (as illustrated by the yellow line); by this, I mean natural fluctuations in your hormone levels and brain activity that just make you feel a certain way, regardless of actual events.  Have you ever felt on top of the world, even when you had an outwardly shitty day, full of mishaps, miscommunications, and failures?  Or have you ever felt terrible even when you had nothing to complain about?  If so, you know what I mean when I say the blue and yellow lines have nothing to do with one another.  These two lines have nothing to do with each other; the “happy” emotional state you feel after winning the lottery has nothing to do with your natural emotional states, but rather it would be part of the third, black line, which is your reaction to both of the other lines.  For example, this weekend, my emotional state (orange line) was on the bottom, even though I had no actual reason or event that caused it.  On the contrary, my events (blue line) have been pretty close to as high as possible for the last few weeks and I had nothing on the orange line to be upset about.  However, since the blue and orange are independent, I was free to feel like crap.  But this time around the low bend of the rollercoaster of my yellow line, I managed to (for the most part) keep my black line straight.  And that’s what rocks.

And since I’m always fumbling to maintain that shiny black straightness that pervades cool and unattached-ness to outcomes when I hit the bottom of the yellow curve, here are my top tips for keeping my cool until the bend swings itself back up.

Read, read, read.  Especially fresh material, and things that inspired you in the past.  Try on some different perspectives, and be reminded of other parts of life.  When I’m feeling low, I really love the cheesiest material imaginable, like Paulo Coelho’s classic novel, The Alchemist.  I seriously cried reading Tuesdays With Morrie this weekend, and I have never cried over a book or movie in my life.  That was cool.  I also loved watching this compilation of awesome Will Smith wisdom .

Treat yourself to great food.  Splurge a little, indulge.  I don’t just mean eat a bucket of nutella, but take yourself out to a nice lunch, and nourish your body.  Cause what you put into your body affects your mind.

Make a list of a few things to be thankful for.  You might even find that after you start, you want to keep going on, and on, and on.  Mine usually starts with really small things, like “Thank you for sunshine.  Thank you for the cool breeze.” and today it ended with thanking people who have challenged me or been angry at or disrespected me.  I thanked them for teaching me patience, and for helping me grow stronger.  For showing me how to be better next time, to act with courage and love.  For forcing me to think creatively, and suspend judgment.  To let go of resentment.

Let yourself cry if you want to.  There’s no shame in it at all.  It’s totally fine, normal, and valid.  And guess what.. you’re not the only one who’s ever cried before or felt the exact same way you do.  Pretty much everyone has, and will again.  You will feel like this again too, so don’t fool yourself thinking otherwise ;)  But on the other side of the spectrum, you’ll also feel ecstatic again.  Accept your emotion, embrace it, and when it’s time, move on to the next one.

Draw or paint.  My super wise and awesome roommate Jenni (who also played a big part on my 30-day learning german challenge) reminded me that it can be ugly as hell; that nobody but you has to see it, and that using your creativity usually puts you in a different emotional state.  Focus on media meeting paper; it doesn’t have to look good.  Get lost in a picture.

Go to a park & watch children and dogs play.  Remember that sense of freedom, playfulness, creativity & experimentation they have?  How freaking awesome is it?  So awesome, I know.  Don’t forget to let their attitudes infect you, when you’re ready to let go of your current emotional state and move on.

Sing.  If it’s not tooooo overwhelming cheesy when you’re feeling low, and you have the energy, I definitely recommend this one.  Sing as loud as possible.  Put the ipod on full-blast; take a walk or stay inside.

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Why do you have highs and lows? Why does night complement day? Why is anything the way it is? Just simply because.

Listen to music.  Really listen to it.  If you’re feeling angry and you want to embrace it for a while, put on something with fiery passion–I like Audioslave’s “Show Me How To Live” and Nirvana songs where Kurt is yelling like a maniac.  If you’re ready to move on from your emotional state (take your time!!) put on something that will put you in your new desired state.  When I’m ready to move towards a more relaxed/positive mindset, I love anything by Air, ragtime jazz, and the Amelie soundtrack.  Cliche?  Don’t know, don’t care.

Get out in nature. Observe your surroundings, appreciate the colors & smells.  Take your shoes off and get your feet dirty.  Remember you’re just another part of this crazy/awesome world, and connect to it through the soles of your feet, the air in your lungs, the sun in your eyes.

Exercise. If you’re full of energy and/or pent-up RAGE, go sweat it off.  Create some endorphins.  Release your tension with some physical movement. Don’t promise yourself you’re gonna do a two-hour long workout; just start small.. jog to the corner and see how you feel after that.

Hide in your room.  If that’s what you feel like doing, so be it.  Take a nap, read a book, cry, draw, watch youtube videos, whatever.. just let yourself do exactly what you want.  And most importantly don’t feel bad about it.  Hiding in your room is a valid exercise, and downtime is totally necessary.  Embrace your solitude and enjoy your own company.  Just don’t let solitude turn into loneliness.  When you’re ready for the world, get out there.

Meet a friend.  In person, at home, at a party, on skype.  But not just anybody.  Make 100% sure its a friend who will support you and can relate to how you’re feeling.  Otherwise there’s a good chance they’ll bring you right back down again.

Remember that you’re awesome.  This one is hard if you’re in one of those “fuck the world, rainbows and unicorns suck, and i’m the worst person in the universe” phases, but it pretty much always makes me feel good to look at past things that I’m proud of or that brought me joy, like photographs of people and places I love.  Just make sure not to think “those were the glory days, nothing will ever be as good as that was” because it just ain’t true.  People and places come in and out of your life; savor the goodness they brought, and move on to the next chapter when its time.  More awesomeness awaits.

Remember that all of this is super fucking difficult.  Especially when you’re feeling low.  But do it anyways.  Or at least try one of them (or one from your own list) for 10 seconds.  Maybe you’ll find you want to do more than 10 seconds.  I’m not a pro, but with practice, I’m getting better at remembering all this, little by little.

Trust your intuition.  This is the most important of all.  It overrules every other suggestion on this list, because as well-intentioned as they are, nothing beats your own inner voice.  Even if the rest of your brain and body disagrees with that voice, and your own mom tells you otherwise, and your friends say you’re crazy: do exactly what that voice says.  Cause that’s the only way you’re gonna feel content.  And the awesome part about this is that your intuition always, 100% without a doubt has an opinion–my good friend Sebastian, aka Mr. Minimalist reminded me of that.  It may be quiet at times, almost inaudible–I know that’s the case when I’m feeling low.  But it’s there.  You just have to take a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a week, or a year to simmer down and listen.  But once you hear it, don’t fight with it.  Just let it lead you, because it has your best interests in mind.

What are your methods for handling the lows?

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Filed under Health, Productivity, Relaxation, Success

Hello Etsy Review

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My business cards for Hello Etsy from Moo.com

Hello Etsy was a smorgasborg of awesome.  This is the first conference I’ve attanded, but I think its safe to say it was uniquely personal.  A relaxed and open atmosphere pervaded the epic ewerk building, and it seemed no stone was left unturned. From the nametags to the elevator signs, everything had a special Etsy touch, which really made an open and friendly atmsophere to connect with some truly inspirational people.

I could probably talk for days about how and why I never wanted Hello Etsy to end, but here are my highlights instead:

Getting My Moo On.  Everything about Moo rocked.  They sponsored Hello Etsy, and offered 50 free personalized cards to all attendees, which was awesome for several reasons: the cards looked great, it was a like a game to exchange moo cards with everyone and see what they did with theirs (“You should Moo me!”), and I don’t feel spammed by Moo’s marketing efforts–they gave a lot, what they gave was quality, and I’m happy to support and spread the word.  This is the kind of marketing that all parties can feel good about.

My mouth was happy. Among my favorite culinary treats at Hello Etsy was Wonderpots frozen yogurt on tap–really delicious and fresh merry-making for your mouth.  Can’t wait to go to the store.

Local yokels.  There was a strong emphasis on highlighting and supporting local businesses; and Hello Etsy truly walked the walk that they talk about.  Other than Wonderpots froyo, LASERN created the super hip laser cut nametags (LINK), my friend and local berlin letterpresser Sabrina of SmallCaps printed the flyers, and Marco Clausen from Berlin’s local mobile Prinzessinnengarten which is just feet away from the 4HWW meeting’s home at betahaus gave an amazing talk about combining urban spaces, gardening, community, food.. all good stuff.

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My nametag, created by local Berlin business LASERN

The totally chill vibe, bro. Even though it was noisy at times because there were hundreds of people, I felt totally relaxed and at home.  Everyone was so approachable, and it was a great feeling to be surrounded by happy creative nerdy internet people like me.  I was so stoked (but not really surprised) at how warm everybody was, including Etsy’s new CEO Chad Dickerson  and Dragon’s Den Dragon Doug Richard. Meeting them was just the tip of the colossal iceberg; among many others and in no order, the following folks totally rocked my day: my favorite Etsy blogger Danielle Maveal, Nicola Rowlands who makes cat-taco greeting cards, Amanda of Buses Trams & Strawberry Jam, James from the amazing Berlin blog duo Uberlin, Etsy’s super personable head of accounting Sinohe and his fantastic son Ethan who gave me a tour of the control room, the owner of Frauelein Herz fabric and handmade store in Berlin, two lovely ladies from the Travelettes, and Etsy’s head of European communications, Matt, who came up with the idea for this mindblowingly cool conference.

Variety was the spice of life.  There were so many different people at different levels and I think it made a cool, well-rounded mix.  From heads of multi-million dollar corporations to folks just thinking about starting a store for the first time, it really helped me think about each of the talks from different perspectives, and also to realize there’s not much separating these people but time and work.

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Honored to be part of the 'Share Your Success' panel!

Impromptu Awesome.  Within the first few seconds of arriving at Hello Etsy early Saturday morning, I ran into and got to meet my favorite Etsy blogger Danielle Maveal.  She invited me, my friend and client Adam Fletcher from the Hipstery, and a few other awesome folks to join her on stage for Etsy’s Share Your Success panel.  That was such a cool and unexpected experience, and you can watch the video of our talk here and get some insider tips for success in business.

Juicy tidbits of inspiration and advice.  There were way too many talks to attend, and many at the same time, but luckily they are  are all viewable online.  Obviously not all of them suited everybody since there was such a wide spectrum of folks there, but my favorite tidbits were:

- Be yourself, seriously. Charles Festa‘s stand-up routine on his journey with the legendary Threadless tshirt company.  As Uberlin said in their writeup, he was totally himself even on stage, and that’s always a good thing.  His awesome Chicago accent paired with the fact that he looks like my UC Santa Cruz (probably that awesome beard) just made me like him all the more. Watch his talk here.

- As a small business owner, you know all the solutions to your problems, but sometimes you just need a sounding board or listening mentor.  When you hear youself telling them the problem, usually you’ll discover how to proceed on your own.  Founder of small business support company, Enterprise Nation and co-founder of StartUp Britain, Emma Jones gave excellent tips and advice on running a business from your home, with a bit of that classic, dry English humor thrown in.

- Start by making friends, not pitches. Representing Twitter, Rachel Bremer’s Secrets to good PR talk was damn good: informative, succinct, and actionable.

- “The most successful people I know aren’t lucky, they’re just the hardest-working.  They’re the ones who send you a reply at 3:05 am when you send an email at 3:03.”  Etsy’s new CEO Chad Dickerson shared his personal story and delivered a powerful dose of inspiration in his talk on finding your courage.  He highly advocates sharing success along the way, helping others while you do your thing, and following your intuition even when your own mom tells you to quit.  He seems to do a lot of inspiring over at his blog too.  Watch his talk here.

Thanks Matt, Emily, and all the organizers and participants of Hello Etsy.. I’m blown away and can’t wait for next time.

 

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30 Day Challenge Recap: Relaxation

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I’m proud to announce that my 30 Day Challenge to relax was a complete success. I am now an ordained zen master and my life is flawless! ;)

Because this month’s 30 day challenge was not physically measurable as the learning German challenge was, I don’t have anything physical to show for my work and I have no way of quantifying the success. And if the success of this challenge was dependent on my ability to never be shocked or surprised or anxious for one second, then I failed.

But if I can label it a success because I remembered to consider each moment through the perspective lens of relaxation, or because I talked about it with my friends and almost everyone I encountered for the last 30 days and learned what relaxation meant to them, then I might be okay with labeling it a success. But I feel pretty relaxed in this moment, and I think a relaxed person wouldn’t really worry about whether their experiment counted as a failure or a success.. they’d just realize they learned a lot and move on.

A RUNNING START

In the beginning of the challenge, my strategy was: whenever I had a worrying thought, I’d tell myself that worrying wasn’t allowed and that was interesting and it worked for a while. But at some point, it began to feel I was depriving myself of something: it’s like when you tell yourself that chocolate is not allowed. At some point, the hungry baby in you takes over and says “Fuck you, I’m doing this anyways”. So, after about a week or so, the angry baby in me said to my sensible self, “Fuck you, I wanna worry!” The thing was, it felt like I was saving my worries for later, and that I was just procrastinating. I was avoiding rather than addressing my worries.

NEW PERSPECTIVE

In the middle of my few-days-bout of slight worrying, my good friend came from Great Britain to visit me and see Berlin for the first time.

Emma (let’s just call her that in case she doesn’t want to be named) is one of my favorite people in the world because she has a seemingly unwavering abundance of positivity. She’s always calm, has great insight, and things just seem to flow easily around her.

In attempt to understand how she could possibly so composed & chilled (and really to prove she was a different species of human than me) I asked at least 1 million variations of “But, don’t you get worried when ____ happens?” The answer was always no. I told her that my natural state, when I wasn’t concsciously making a decision to be relaxed or positive, was frazzled or.. dare I say it.. negative. She said that hers was either neutral or happy. I was shocked.. I had never considered that was possible, as silly as it sounds.

I was under the impression that everyone has good days and everyone has bad days. That’s just the way we humans work–hormones and the like. And I know that this is true to some extent that there are natural fluctuations in energy and hormones, but I think what Emma showed me was that its not necessary to let your emotions/fears/worries run wild on up and down swings.

I don’t NEED to worry!?!? I was always under the impression that if I wasn’t worrying, I wouldn’t get the job done properly–I (subconsciously?) thought that thinking about my “problems” all the time meant that I was working towards their resolution, and otherwise I was being lazy. Sounds a bit stupid to me now, but realizing that worrying is a choice and its useless, that its not engrained in human nature, and that a neutral/happy default state was possible… it was truly a revelation. It’s as exciting as the time it finally clicked that I never HAD to get a standard 9-5 job to qualify as an adult, or when I realized I didn’t NEED a room full of new clothes & the latest gadgets to be content.

Emma’s visit also provided insight for my challenge indirectly, even when we weren’t discussing the topic directly. She only had 3 days in Berlin, and that’s not even remotely enough time to see and do everything here. But instead of worrying and trying to fit everything in all at once, we just picked one thing at a time. We didn’t second-guess ourselves and think “maybe it would have been better if we did this instead” or “perhaps we should ditch this plan and go here instead”.

I wanted to be a good host and often that can be a stressful situation, with pressure to entertain. But Emma had no expectations and there was no pressure for either of us this way. It wasn’t so much about what we did, but just that we enjoyed whatever it was. We made a decision and stuck with it.

WHAT’S IT ALL MEAN?

I can’t say that I’m perfect at relaxation now, but I definitely feel I’ve gained a lot of insight about it. I also feel like something has clicked into place, and I think the main idea is the revelation that my default/natural state doesn’t have to be negative–I don’t HAVE to be thinking of things to worry about. (I also don’t have to be positive, and I don’t have to be mad at myself when I’m not in a bubbly mood…)

If I have no expectations for myself or for my plans or for a problem or decision to be resolved in a specific way, then I can never be disappointed. I can just BE. I realized that most of the time when I’m in a negative state and no unpleasant event has actually triggered it, I’m just searching for problems to worry about.

Worrying truly never helps the situation, and I guess much of my worrying comes from decision making: will I make the RIGHT decision? And time and time again, it’s become clear to me that its not about any specific decision, its just choosing one without overanalyzing. Because the outcome never matters either–in my 23 years of life, every single outcome of every single problem I’ve ever encountered has always somehow turned out.. ok. No worst-case-scenario that ever became a reality shook me so hard that I was unable to bounce back.

So if all of my seemingly unsurmountable difficulties from the past worked out okay whether or not I worried about them, then I guess every single “insurmountable problem” that I will have in the future will also work themselves out with no harm to my consciousnes.. wehther or not I worry about them. And since worrying is not necessary.. I have a choice–to worry or not. I don’t want to set any expectations of myself, so I can’t make any promises about never worrying again. But for right now at least, I’m not worried. And that’s a damn good feeling.

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