This time of the year is really crazy for me. I have a client who hosts a big golf outing every year and I handle all of the graphic design for that project – as well as sitting on the organizing committee to help with general event logistics and handle the technical aspects of the website registration system. I put in about 80 hours in the week or so leading up to the event. It makes for a very season and it takes several days to recover and get back to normal.
I’m writing this from the chiropractor’s office. I just got an adjustment and I’m waiting for the massage therapist to take me back in a bit. I’m always very sore after spending so much time hunched over the computer screen for so many hours in a row and then spending a long day on the golf course to work with the rest of the committee on whatever needs to be done. My chiropractor always works magic and today he said that I really, really needed that adjustment because I “had a rib out” and my elbow was way out of whack. Gee, no wonder I was sore! This little visit will go a long way to getting me back to normal. And it’ll be nice to regain my focus on what else is going on in life and get back into a normal routine.
Do you have time in your life when everything else has to fade away so you can focus on just a single thing until it’s done and you can get your life back again? Maybe it’s a big event like mine, but maybe it’s just a season in life that comes around once in a while like a wedding or family reunion or maybe back to school season when you have to get the kids ready for their school year.
Focus on one thing at a time…
One of the big decisions I had to make in my life recently is that when something comes up and it needs my full attention, that I just need to give it my full attention and stop worrying so much about all the other things in my life that might also need my attention. I can’t be everywhere at once. I can’t be everything to everyone all the time. Instead, it’s healthier if I just pay attention to what’s in front of me at the moment and give it all my energy. Then when that thing is over, I can refocus on the rest of the things in life that need my attention again.
Sometimes you just need to have a laser focus on one thing and let everything else wait until you’re done. Trying to do it all at once is just going to stress you out and cause unnecessary anxiety. But if you be present in the moment and let yourself be fully in the thing you need to give energy to, you can get through that pr0oject and finish it. 0
My motto right now is “explore and be present” — the big part of that is to be present. Live in the moment you’re in. Give your energy to what is happening right now and stop worrying about all the rest of the things that can wait for another day.
If you’ve been following along you’ll realize by now that I’m in the midst of a struggle to find my next new thing. I’m ready to take a break from new graphic design and brand management client work and move to something more sustainable for the long term. I want to stop trading my time for money and build assets that can sell over the long term with some upkeep, but not so much that I’m trading my time for money. Basically the traditional definition of passive income… but using the real definition, not the hot new version of the term that implies that I don’t have to do any work to earn the income.
And when I say struggle, that’s truly what’s going on in my head lately because I’m having a hard time picking a direction to take and mustering the energy it’s going to take to build something completely new.
But then I figured something out. It was a big lightbulb moment when I figured it out … it’s huge. But I can’t believe it took me so long to come to this realization. Ready for it? Brace yourself, it’s big.
I don’t have to decide right now.
I told you it was big. It was a big DUH! moment for me. Why am I putting so much pressure on myself to decide right this very minute about what the rest of my business life is going to be? I have a full-time day job that pays my bills and provides the benefits I need to live a comfortable life. The business income is nice but mostly it’s play money and feeds my dream of one day quitting my job and working for myself. But there’s isn’t an urgency for that side business to sustain my lifestyle completely right now.
I’m tired. I need to take a break from service-based work. I need a change of scenery. I need a new challenge that excites me. I need a side business that gives me the added income I’m accustomed to so I have some pocket money that allows me to go on vacations, feed my electronic gadget habits, and keep me buried in art supplies.
What surprised me about this big realization – when I realized that that I don’t need to make a decision right this second. I was shocked at how free I felt all of a sudden. It was like the universe had been weighing on my shoulders and was just waiting for me to figure out that I needed a break.
Why was I putting so much pressure on myself to have a new side business lined up before I even finish the current one I have now? Well the answer is simple if you know me even a little bit … it has to do with being a control freak and needing to know all the future plans and have lists of tasks lined up ahead of time.
But why? Why do I have to operate like I always do and have all the things lined up neatly in a row? Why can’t I just chill out for a minute? Why can’t I just let life happen and enjoy the view? Why can’t I take a break and just play for a while?
My art studio
It’s been a while since I gave myself permission to play. Putting it on the calendar and scheduling it into my life. I think it’s about time to change that situation.
Years ago I converted one of the bedrooms in my house to an art studio. It’s huge and beautiful and stocked with (too many) fun art supplies. I used to spend hours upon hours in that room just playing, making and creating, experimenting and discovering. I love my art studio.
But then when I found myself in an “emergency house repair” situation 18 months ago, my art studio become the storage space and catch-all area for household stuff that needed to be relocated during construction. That construction project took nearly a year of DIY work but my little art studio never recovered. It’s still piled high with boxes and bags and books and miscellaneous crap that just needs to be sorted and purged. I want my art studio back!
Permission to Play!
So that’s my next big project. I’m giving myself permission to play. Permission to explore and be present. It’s time I swapped my computer mouse with a paint brush and glue gun for a while.
I’ll chronicle the process, of course (yes, I’m even going to show you the “before” pictures – maybe even a video – of what the art studio looks like right now, before I dig it out. Yikes!). I’ve come to love this little blog I’m creating and I want to use it more to document how my journey progresses. So it’s time I got back to the art of play and I’m going to take you along for the ride.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been carrying around a notebook (technically I do that all the time anyway) and I’ve been going through an exercise to uncover my super power. What I discovered confirmed what I sorta already knew and uncovered some kryptonite too. Remember the blog post a few weeks ago where I gave myself this writing assignment – How do I figure out my super power? – the process worked!
Before I get into what I discovered, let me give you a brief overview of how I did it.
I first dusted off my resume and started with a list of all my former jobs, then added any special projects or events that I was involved in over the years. Add in volunteer activities, associations, and a list of my closest friends. Then I started filling in a few bullet points for each of those things on the list.
- What was I responsible for and did I enjoy those tasks and what was I really, really good at doing there?
- What did I hate doing at that job or on that project?
- What awards or commendations did I receive at that job or on that project?
- Did I ever get in trouble for doing something wrong?
- What things do all these jobs or projects have in common?
- In my businesses and side projects – what do I excel at? Where do I fall short? What do I enjoy? What do I dislike?
Next, it was time to think about the people in my life. Friends, family, colleagues, associates – thinking back to interactions with the people in my life of the past and those I interact with now. In some instances, I actually asked those people to help me uncover some answers.
- What is the last thing that person asked me for help with? Was I good at helping with that thing? Did I enjoy it?
- What do I dread doing when asked to help with something?
- Even years after I regularly interact with someone… what do they still come to me about?
Then it was time to evaluate all those pages of bullet points. I searched through the lists and highlighted things that were similar. What stood out as being in the same category and what patterns emerged that
As you might imagine, the little notebook filled up quickly and this project ended up taking a lot longer than I expected it would take. But it was an enlightening experience to figure out my strengths and weaknesses – and a fun trip down memory lane. But now let’s talk about what I actually discovered about myself, shall we?
Super Power 1: vision and logistical planning
I have a strong skill of seeing the end of a project or goal. I can visualize it as it will actually happen and then sort of walk around in that vision to see how it all works together, spot any flaws or snags and realize which things need a more specific plan. Sounds abstract and hoaky. I know. But this skill came in handy when I had a business doing event and wedding planning and it helps me now as I work with clients on large scale event design projects.
Super Power 2: understanding complicated topics and teaching it to others
I think I first discovered this with my blog about my weight loss surgery journey – Journey to a Healthier Me. I have never studied more topics of biology, science and macro/micro-nutrition than I did when I had my guts rearranged in the name of living a healthier life. And once I researched a topic and understood it, I wanted to record it somewhere – so I wrote up a long blog post about it and published it on my bariatric blog. Mostly that was information for my own reference, but then people started telling me how valuable that was for them too. I also have the ability to teach people how to do art or craft projects that they don’t necessarily have the skill to do without help.
I also have the ability to teach people how to do art or craft projects that they don’t necessarily have the skill to do without help. For the past 20 years (I try to quit but my mom won’t let me) I’ve taught a craft class at my Mom’s church for an event she organizes called Gal’s Day Out. A couple hundred women and girls come together for a day of crafting, lunch and Bible study. It’s treated school style in that you “enroll” in three different craft classes, rotate through the classes and lunch hour throughout the day and ends up together for the big “pep rally” to listen to a special speaker. I’ve taught a class at this event for years and it’s always …. uh… shall we say… an adventure. But it’s not just hands-on crafting classes I can teach. I have helped many people who want to start a business by teaching them the step-by-step process they should take to be successful. Or teaching interns at work how to create graphic design projects using the best practices of the design industry.
My kryptonite is routine and lack of variety.
Just as I discovered what I’m really good at through this exercise, it also became obvious what I was terrible at. My kryptonite is routine and lack of variety … doing the same thing day in and day out with no challenge and no need for creativity. I get restless and need to find a creative outlet. Sometimes I can deal with this type of routine-based job if I have something else in my life that gives me the creativity I crave. But knowing that I have this particular weakness is helping me understand what I should focus on as I move forward with the next chapter of my life.
I’d love to hear if you have gone through this same exercise. What did you discover as your super power? Did you also uncover your kryptonite?
I’m absolutely sure that I’m not alone when I say that I buy too many domain names. In fact, my friend Cory Miller has the same problem. I think of a great business idea or blog name and I get all excited that I need to make sure the domain name is available…. then when it IS available, I feel the overwhelming need to snatch it up and own it just in case someone else thinks of that same exact idea and buys the name before I can.
So yes, I own a few domain names. And yes, many of those names are just parked in my account not really doing anything. I typically redirect them to one of my other related websites while it’s parked so it’s at least doing something while it just sits there.
I buy all my domain names from Name Cheap. I love their customer service and they are a super reliable registrar. In fact, I love them so much I became an affiliate for them, so when you click on that link and buy something, I get a small commission.
Over the past couple months I’ve been working through this “new business discovery” process (thanks for coming along for the ride) and whenever I think I’ve hit on a really good idea, I go check to see what domain names are available. Since I started this process I’ve purchased four names. I mean, domains are cheap, right? So it’s not like I’m spending thousands of dollars or anything. But sometimes it makes me wonder if this is really the wisest way of expending my energy.
Ha! What am I saying? Of course, it’s wise!! Buy all the domains!
Why am I writing about this? Mmm… probably because I’m trying to minimize the guilty feeling over the fact that I bought two domain names this past week. But also, I just want to make sure YOU know that you’re not alone. There are others of us out there in the world who buy too many domain names. Maybe we need to form a club or something.
As I explore which new side hustle venture to try, I decided to revisit an exercise I did about 4 years ago when I decided to get serious about business. I wrote about the technique on my business website because it’s a great way to explore your strengths, skills, expertise, and how to combine those things into something that will help you be better at business. The article is called: “How to Identify Your Business Strengths” but it’s about more than just business. It’s about discovering what you’re good at and applying it to your life in any number of ways. So let’s explore, shall we?
The Original Method
The original method came from a book about creativity and what types of art to try. But I adapted it to related to business strengths and determine what you’re good at so you can apply those skills to building a successful business.
Let’s Change the Method
I’m going to expand and change that original method again. This time I want to go through my “resume” and figure out what I really liked about each of the past jobs or business ventures I’ve had. Then I want to look at the best things I brought to that job or project? Also, what did I enjoy the most and what did people comment on about my abilities related to that job or project?
Identifying my Super Power
That list of things will eventually reveal a short list of my super powers – or at least that’s the hope. I’m writing this out before I even do the experiment. I don’t have any illusions that this is going to be easy to figure out. But I think it’s a good exercise and it’s the best one I know of to uncover what’s already in my head. I know the answer already, I just don’t know that I know it yet.
My Writing Assignment
I love to write but I usually do my writing at the keyboard – what can I say, I spend 15 years of my career as a secretary so it’s in my blood. But this exercise I think it’s important to grab pen and paper and do this the old fashioned (yet oddly new modern) way. Don’t worry, I’ve got plenty of notebooks to choose from (we’ll discuss my notebook addiction in another post). So my self-imposed writing challenge is to write, write, write until I uncover my super power. Then we’ll explore how to leverage the super power into building a side hustle that earns $1,000/mo. I may – or may not – wear my red superhero cap while writing.
This post is part of my ongoing series of exploring my next income-generating business venture. Go back and read the past two blog posts for some background and context.
Sometimes I wonder if I should be exploring the idea of a new business or if I should think of it as a side hustle. But first, let me explain the definition of these two options. Of course, these are not scientific definitions, just the way they are separated in my own mind:
Business – building a company that will provide the full income needed to sustain my lifestyle and all the expenses associated with living my life.
Side Hustle – building a project that provides additional income on top of (or alongside) the main income generating job or business that pays all the bills for living my life.
Right now I have a day job. It covers 100% of my living expenses and gives me enough play money to travel a bit, buy fun tech gadgets (a self-proclaimed weakness), keeps me supplied in leather notebooks (don’t ask, it’s a serious problem), and enough money to set aside for retirement. My current business – Tremble Creative Services – acts like a side hustle because the money comes alongside my day job income and gives me extra play money. That business could easily be built into a sustainable sole income if I put enough work and effort into it – the potential is there and sometimes the workload is so great that I feel overwhelmed.
In my mind, a side hustle is smaller and more “project-based.” It might bring in $1,000 to $5,000 per month but for a side hustle to be the sole income for me, I’d need more than one side hustle project. A side hustle is still a business (at least the IRS would say it is, anyway) and if you have a really successful side hustle or multiple successful side projects – those can be combined under an umbrella company and be sole supporting.
Am I talking in circles?
So to break it down. A side hustle is something I would do in addition to a day job or other business. It’s a way to make some side income while doing something different than the main income generating thing I’m doing.
But why all the attention to the difference here?
I’m mostly just thinking out loud here. I’ve been really focused on trying to come up with a new business direction now that I plan to back away from taking on new client service contracts. I’ve been trying to think about the next BIG thing that will help me quit the day job and move to the beach. But is that the right way to be thinking about this next venture? Or should I be thinking of it as a side hustle instead? I’ve settled on the notion that I need to think smaller because I’ve found that thinking big is making me feel overwhelmed and it’s paralyzing me from taking action. What action can I take that will help me earn an extra $1,000 per month? That’s my new question to ponder.
Over the past several weeks (or have we lapsed into months now?) I’ve settled on the notion that I need to think SMALLER. I’ve discovered that thinking big is making me feel overwhelmed and it’s paralyzing me from taking any action at all. So I’ve had to assess my original goal of building a big new business and taking on the responsibility of all that goes into building something from the ground up. Instead, I’m focused on small. Small action, done daily that will eventually lead to larger results. I’m focusing on building a new side hustle rather than building a new business.
OK then… I’ve said it out loud.
Well, maybe not verbally out loud, but publishing an article online for the whole internet to see, I guess that’s loud enough. My next new venture will be a side hustle project and my goal is to generate an additional $1,000 per month from this side project. I’m not setting a time limit on myself right now, but I’m determined to act with speed and have fun while I do it. Explore and be present, right? That’s the goal. Let’s see where it takes me next.