When to Cut Your Losses

I met with a friend over the weekend who just had her second little kid. She also happens to be an entrepreneur who bought a business a couple years ago and has been limping along trying to keep it afloat. Having two small kids is hard, and then add to it all the sweat equity that a small business requires . . . phew! She was wondering about whether going the non-profit route would be a good option. 

I don't think I've shared much of my non-profit philosophy on this blog yet, but I am not a huge proponent of going non-profit. My friend shared some of my views. For one, you are reliant on the grants coming in. So you're spending all this time working on grant applications (most of which you don't receive) and then you actually have to DO the program and then you have to continuously follow up. Another thing is that you are at the whim of your board and responsible for documenting every decision and purchase with justifications. Some of this should be done in a for-profit model as well, but in a non-profit, the liability is much bigger if something goes "wrong."

After discussing this and deciding it would be best to stay a for-profit (which was her initial inclination), she confessed that earlier this year she had said her partner that maybe they should just let the venture die. 

In moments when you don't feel like you have one last drop of inspiration, let alone energy, to put into your business (or your training or project), remember that life is full of ebbs and flows. Creativity comes in bursts, not a steady stream. There are also times in life when you are saving and stockpiling money and other times when you're digging into those reserves. If you are at a point where it feels like you're using up the valuable stores that you need, step back and look at the big picture. 

"I don't think you should give up on the business just yet," I told my friend. "You have invested so much time and money and the business is not growing right now because your energy is needed elsewhere (the new baby)." This business makes sense in the line of my friends work and passions and she's feeling drained because it's one of those ebb times for her, but big picture, this business still makes sense. If you happen to be asking yourself the same question right now, take a step back (or even better yet ask a friend to help you) and examine the big picture.  


There is No Such Thing as a "GOOD" First Draft

When I was writing my book, I joined a writing class that gave us time to dedicate to our work. The first part of the day was for talking about our processes and then the rest of the day was dedicated to just . . . writing. Some people um'd and ah'd about what to write, but I quickly learned that I just needed to get going. The best lesson from this class was: there are no good first drafts. 

If you are finally at the stage of putting some ideas down on paper, don't be intimidated. The first words you ever write will probably be long gone by the time you actually submit your application, but you have to start somewhere. Oftentimes, writing things down can help you think abut exactly what you want (and need) to say. It's a tool to clarify your thought processes. 

In my office, I work with some extremely talented people. For weeks, even months, two of my colleagues have been brain-storming a management plan. They round and round, talking about the components and the structure and the desired outcome. This week, I had the pleasure of being asked my opinion on their process. "Just start writing it," I told them, "you have been thinking this thing to death and it's time to put it on paper." The next day, they started writing. At lunch, I asked how it was going. "It's almost too easy, I feel like we're leaving something out," they told me. I posed an alternative, "Or maybe all your planning and talking about it made it so that the work is actually done and all was left was to write it out."

If you're waiting until you have everything figured out to start writing, you'll be waiting forever. Sit your butt down and get a draft done. It'll be a start, but from there, you'll overcome the hurdle "starting" your application and coming back to revise your thoughts will be much easier. I promise. Give it a try. 

That Terrible, Wonderful Subject: Money

I've been on a money journey this year. On January 29, I got an email from my marketer about a class that she did last year called the Art of Money. I was skeptical, it sounded a little like a money-making scheme, but after returning to the website multiple times over a couple weeks, I joined the class. Among the plethora of online resources, articles, interviews, worksheets, I found that the first three months of the program were all about figuring out how I feel about money. 


So how do I feel about money? I have always known that money comes and money goes, and when I hold it less tightly, sometimes it flows more. I have had the privilege of always having family that could give me money to get me out of a tight spot if I needed, so I was never worried that I wasn't going to have a home or food. I also like the nice things in life, I am willing to splurge on myself and buy the nicer brand or the higher quality furniture. 


However, this terrifies my husband, an accountant, because although we always make it work, we have been in some tight spots before and I could never seem to recall how my credit card had suddenly racked up a couple thousand dollars. I was unaware of where the money was going. 


So this year, in consideration of my husband's anxiety, and as a gift to myself, I started taking this course. So here are some of the things that I have come to realize in the past eight months of becoming more aware of my relationship to money:

  1. So many parts of life relate to money but socially it is unacceptable to talk about this subject, even with close friends
  2. Up until this summer, my concept of "budget" was similar to most people's concept of "diet"- it felt like deprivation and seemed unsustainable 
  3. When I listen to  my emotions instead of spending when I am feeling sad or anxious or deprived, I can nourish myself holistically instead of putting on a bandaid
  4. I look forward to looking at my credit card and bank statements now instead of crossing my fingers when I open them in hopes that the damage isn't too bad
  5. Money is my friend because it is a tool, and not a means to an end that is always taunting me

I have the pleasure today to introduce my teacher, Bari Tessler Linden, at her 13th Art of Money book reading tonight at the Railyard Performance Center. If these insights intrigue you, then Bari's new book will be a great starting point for your own money journey (and a very affordable one). Please come out if you see this in time, 7pm at 1611 Paseo de Peralta, Santa Fe NM FREE

Surprises Await

When I talk to groups about my book, Funded!, I liken the process of getting fellowships to getting a wonderful present. You know how wonderful it is to get a box on your doorstep? I think that secretly we all order things online so we can forget it was us who bought the thing; we can pretend someone else bought us a present. So how wonderful is it to get a "gift" in the mail? Now imagine that it's a letter saying, "Congratulations! We have selected you to be a _______(program of choice) Fellow!" Or even better yet, imagine that it's a check for $500 or $1000 or $25000? How awesome would that be? This has happened to me and each time, it's the most wonderful feeling. 

Working on fellowship applications is not easy. It's an arduous process that takes many months in most cases. But the rewards are plentiful. And best of all, if you submit multiple applications every year, a surprise could be waiting for you at any time. Planting these seeds of joy that could explode into your life unexpectedly is the best present you could give yourself. Try it out, get my book Funded! from any of the vendors listed on my site

Get On A Roll

As one of my favorite happiness and work-life balance researchers likes to say, "Develop good habits; you won't need as much willpower that way." With anything new and difficult (like starting the process of becoming a competitive fellowship applicant), I need to start with the smallest step and practice every single day. When it's a tiny action, it's less intimidating to get done but once I've developed the habit, I get on a roll. 

Where are you in the process of funding your dreams? Are you still in the dreaming phase? Have you figured out the perfect fellowship to apply for but haven't gotten down to writing the essays? Wherever you are, just start doing a little bit of the work every day. You'll find that instead of dreading the task of getting back to work on the application, you'll look forward to it. Where previously you may have had to spend half an hour reviewing where you left off (months ago) before you actually get meaningful work done, now you'll start fresh and current each time you get to work. Your mind will start brainstorming before you even sit down to work and you won't have writers block. 

For me, the best way to make progress is by taking tiny bites each day and committing myself to work consistently (even if its just gradually). 

When Less (time) is More

Have you ever found that when you have a small amount of time to get something done, you're more motivated? This is certainly how it works for me. I used to block off whole days to get assignments done or designate a whole weekend to cleaning out the shed. But really, when I am pressed for time, I'm more efficient. 

When I was writing my book, Funded!, I gave myself half an hour to write every day. Within that half hour, I aimed to get 500 words written, but if I didn't get exactly that amount, I wouldn't fret. The next day, I would come back and do the same. Had I given myself an hour (or two) to do the same task, I would have sat there not working for half the time and then at the last minute, cranked out the daily limit. 

As my mom says, nothing would get done if there weren't deadlines. And it's true. So if you're looking for time to work on an application (or do the research for your perfect fellowship), give yourself a strict time limit. Designate twenty minutes a day, or use the twenty minutes between tasks to fit in some valuable fellowship time. Giving yourself all day to do this, or worse yet, waiting until you have a whole day free, will get you nowhere. Start today and take just a few minutes to get the ball rolling. Tell me how it goes!