get your biz off the ground Archives - Page 2 of 21 - ⚡️Kristen Kalp

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Let out your meows.

I’m teaching at a conference and I want to try an experiment. The premise is simple: “Tell me something you believe to be unique to you in all of human experience.”

People look around awkwardly. I’m concerned that Ryan Gosling has just appeared in leprechaun form to do a tap dance on the shoes of each student, their boots are suddenly so interesting. The room is absolutely silent in the way only a classroom about to mutiny against a teacher can be. Yeeeeeeears pass.

Finally, a raised hand! “Ok, great! What’s unique to you in all of human experience?”

“Sometimes I want to die.”

Way to start off with a bang. Wow.

“Who else has had that feeling,” I ask. Hands shoot up around the room. The secrets these peeps have tucked into the hollow place inside themselves have been seen, and suddenly they’re not so scary. Suddenly, they’re not alone. Volunteers for sharing are now plentiful.

The list of unique-to-me universals goes on and on: people who hate their clients, people who can’t stand some aspect of their bodies, people who feel the unbearable heaviness of being alive. For each careful revelation, there’s a corresponding uprising of hands.

Every single I’m-sure-this-only-applies-to-me statement is met with nothing but understanding by the hundreds of people in the room.

It’s working, I think. We’re all united by the human condition! We all get to say “Me, too!” to these statements!

And then. A tall, blond gentleman stands. He’s clearly scared shitless and has the skittish look of someone who’s got a massive secret on his shoulders. I ask him to tell me what’s unique about him in all of humanity, and he says, “I talk to my wife in meows. You know, like a secret language.”

Nope, I don’t know. OH GOD MAYDAY MAYDAY. How did I ever think this was a good idea!? What will I do when no one raises their hand for this guy???????? Stupid Kristen, you didn’t even CONSIDER that someone would say something that isn’t universal aggggghhhhhhhhhh…

I have no poker face, so I’m sure the group sees my dismay. There’s no way we have two meow-talkers in the same room, right!? I throw his statement to the group anyway.

“Anyone else talk to their partner in meows?”

A single hand shoots up in the front of the room.

YES! YEEEEEEESSSSSS, WE HAVE TWO MEOW TALKERS IN THE ROOM TODAY!!!

The first meow talker goes to sit by the second, and they launch into what I can only imagine is the best and most intimate conversation of their entire lives.

What does this story have to do with you, fair reader? If that guy can be brave enough to out his meow talk to a group of complete strangers, you can be brave enough to share your whole self with clients. (Related: come to the Brave workshop.)

When you’re afraid that you can’t take the shot (or you can take the shot but are scared to show it to clients).

When you’re obsessed with perfection and are bound up in how weird or wrong you’ll get it if you even try.

When you see other people’s work in your head and try to recreate them.

When you can’t find a way to express your voice and when you dread picking up your tools.

When all originality seems to have fled your work.

When you’re scrolling through social media and despair at your utter and complete lack of talent.

Let out your meows.

Get weird. Get weird in your posts, in your updates, and in your images. Admit to your likes, your dislikes, and your quirks. Tell people what you care about, and yes that includes politics, movements, resistance, and organizing for a cause.

Get weird in your work, too. If there are children present, they’ll be weird with you. Start dancing or meowing or jumping on the couch with genuine joy, and not a child in the room will be able to resist. If there aren’t children present, don’t be afraid to make an ass of yourself, or at least to poke fun at yourself.

Joy begets joy.

Vulnerability begets vulnerability.

There’s no other way.

Back to your work: you can preface your ideas with nuggets like, “This might be weird, but…” or “I have this crazy idea, want to hear it?” if you’re feeling too vulnerable to announce the next step in your plan outright. More often than not, at least the kids in the group will say “YES.” Mothers who are dying to have a moment of happy family zen on camera will go along with you just to save themselves from the despair of a family photo ‘failure.’ Fathers who hate everyone in the tri-state area will be distracted by their kids using them as a jungle gym or their partner making out with ’em as the kids run in circles and will give in to your plan despite themselves.

Let out your meows.

Throw leaves and jump in the pile instead of taking the posing-in-front-of-foliage shots. Risk making mothers-in-law and grandmothers unhappy with the final shots. (No stiff upper lips? No perfectly posed staring at the camera? How COULD you, the angry grandmothers rage.) Delete the photos you’re not 300% proud of, even if it means you’re only showing a family 18 images. Include the quirky images you love but that you’re sure your clients will reject.

Do you like it?

Is it interesting?

Does it contain any meows?

These questions will take your work to far more interesting places than:

Is it perfect?

Will it get the most likes on Instagram?

Is it sharp as a tack and perfectly exposed?

The quirky, the weird, and the vulnerable bits that come out in your work are vital to your growth as an artist. When you stuff them, suppress them, or shut them down, your work loses its living elements.

The work of every artist you admire is deeply and completely ALIVE. I guarantee it.

Alive is vulnerable. Alive is honest, alive takes chances, and alive is growing.

If you find that your work has stagnated, ask yourself when you last listened to that weird-ass, completely vulnerable meowing impulse. How have you incorporated your vision and your joy into your work? How have you consciously shaped a story that your client will-probably-but-might-not approve? How have you taken risks in your work, and how can you continue to do so? How have you taken steps to stop hiding?

In other words: how are you growing?

Not learning from others growing, but experimenting with ideas growing. Not joining a Facebook group and copying techniques growing, but playing in your down time growing. Not following a 7-step formula growing, but finding your voice growing. Not taking no chances and keeping a lid on your life growing, but making mistakes and tossing the majority of your work growing. Not seeking the next level growing, but steady exploration growing.

That point when meow guy stood up and shared his secret? It was vulnerable, it was scary, and it was deeply alive. Your work can’t be any of those things if YOU are not any of those things. Again…

Your work cannot be vulnerable, risk-taking, and deeply alive if YOU are not being vulnerable, risk-taking, and deeply alive.

So. Let out your meows.

Let your heart be seen, even when you can’t guarantee that a corresponding heart will meet it in the front row. Risk being the one to go first, to be weird and alive, and please promise to enjoy the ways your work shape shifts and surprises you when you do.

Psst!  This is an episode of That’s What She Said, my weekly podcast! You can listen to all the episodes or check out the top 10 episodes here.

P.S. This is big, vulnerable work, and if you want to dive into it further, let me send you the first chapter of Calling to the Deep!

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Photo by Love Knot Photo // that time I met a porcupine named Cuddles during Steer Your Ship (my peeps love animals, it’s one of my meows!) and cried at how soft his ears were.

Stop the overwhelm. ‘Busy’ and ‘Focused’ aren’t the same.

Sometimes you feel completely overwhelmed and don’t know where to start your work, so you sink under a mountain of emails and quietly, calmly wave a white flag at your own life. Here’s a really freaking helpful question to move you out of overwhelm and into action:

What will your future self thank you for?

The answer to this question doesn’t have to be a big deal or a major life decision. In fact, your future self will probably be more grateful that you did 10 minutes of meditation today than that you committed to go on a silent one-week retreat six months from now.

Here a few always-on answers to keep on tap from your future, ever-so-thankful self!

Keep marketing. Continuing to market far past the point where you’re comfortable is hard, hard work — but it’s worth it. Stay on it. Whether it’s making a marketing calendar, starting an e-mail list, actually communicating with the people on that e-mail list, letting out your weird, holding a sale, or simply being consistent with showing your work on social media, marketing is one of those things that future self never regrets.

Embrace nutrition. The long journey to the body inevitably means paying closer attention to what makes you feel good (chia seeds and coconut oil, woot!) and what makes you feel crappy (sugar makes me weep exactly 3 hours after consuming it. My scientific research involves making sure of this at least once a week, just to be certain nothing has changed). Your future self will also thank you for having sex, which releases a gorgeous cocktail of hormones that brighten your mood and make you a whole lot more fun to be around.

Create and hold boundaries. These ordinary, everyday decisions create a structure that prevents overwhelm, makes room for your truest work, and keeps your phone from taking over your life. Boundaries also keep clients who insist on texting you and Facebook messaging you and e-mailing you at 3am from expecting an immediate response. More about reclaiming your time and energy through boundary-making here.

Change your sheets. Especially when you leave for vacation, and then you get to come back to that deep blissful ‘sleep in my own bed’ delight.

Embrace stillness. When you get in touch with your interior continent — the parts of you that no one else can know unless you explore and express them — you’re more closely connected to your intuition and more likely to make decisions that your future self will enjoy. Stressed-out, hasn’t-had-a-minute-to-breathe-in-a-week-you isn’t likely to make the decisions that end in deep fulfillment and unbridled joy.

Move. Not run-seven-miles-to-punish-yourself-for-eating-a-cupcake-that-one-time move. Just move like, be in your body and see how it feels. Maybe that’s yoga, maybe that’s running, maybe that’s Qoya, maybe that’s taking a long walk around the neighborhood. Maybe it’s going to a class at the gym, and maybe it’s swimming in the ocean. How can you connect with your body without punishment and without making yourself wrong for being human? Can you view your body and its current state with something like tenderness?

Show your work. Maybe you think your work isn’t ready to be seen (hint: no one does), or asshole brain says you need a new website before you can show anyone anything you’ve done, or you’re planning an epic 52-day blog series to showcase every single thing you made during every single week of last year.

Start now.  Right now.

By the time you would have started, you’ll be halfway through your next project, and future self can high five you from six months on via time machine.

Stop the ‘busy’ overwhelm.  Make ‘busy’ a bad word, right up there on the forbidden list with racial slurs and hate words. ‘Busy’ is the box you can put your whole life into when you don’t want anyone to question what’s inside. It hides all the pieces you’d rather not sort through, like time’s junk drawer, and it means you remain unseen by others and by yourself under cover of endless scheduling and obligation.

‘Busy’ makes you tired, makes you sick — quite literally, as it means you’re running your body into the ground — makes you resentful, and weighs you down with obligations.

‘Busy’ and ‘focused’ are not the same.

Someone who’s ‘busy’ for 10 hours a day at work won’t necessarily accomplish as much as someone who’s ‘focused’ for 4 hours a day at work. It’s the difference between having browsers open and scrolling through Facebook and turning off the internet entirely, or going to the grocery store with a time limit and a shopping list instead of wandering the aisles in search of sustenance.

You don’t have to describe yourself as ‘busy’ ever again, even when your days are full and your life is brimming with activity. You don’t have to throw yourself onto the heap of drudgery that is your overbooked schedule and pretend to care.

When in doubt, do less. You can turn off your phone notifications. You can power your life, your phone, or your laptop down for at least an hour a day. You can create space to hear yourself think and feel. It’s not easy, and it’s certainly not what most people seem to be doing, but it does mean that you regain intimacy with yourself and your own thoughts — your interior continent and what lies within.

Steer Your Ship at sunset
Stop the overwhelm is the first of the four tenets of Steer Your Ship, my 6-month-long program that starts with a retreat in Santa Monica, California, and ends in Asbury Park, New Jersey. We span the coasts during our time together and also work 1-on-1 to get you from wherever you are — I’m guessing it’s some form of stuck, overwhelmed, spinning, and vaguely hopeless — to wherever you’d like to go. (Focused, effective, and connected with yourself are places I assume you’d like to end up.)

Read all about Steer Your Ship here, or drop a line to k@kristenkalp.com if you’ve got any questions whatsoever.

4 of the 6 spots are already taken, so please don’t do that ‘I’ll save this for later’ thing. 😉

P.S. The ‘next level’ for your business doesn’t exist.

How to have a perfect launch.

1.) Give up on having a perfect launch.

Things are going to go wrong, and all you can do is roll with the punches as gracefully as possible. I say this not with dismay or sarcasm, but with the acknowledgment that life is imperfect.

Preparing for imperfection means your day won’t be ‘ruined’ by a glitch or two.

Last week’s launch of Calling to the Deep  (sample chapter here), Introverts at Work (sample chapter here), this new website, the free-for-you Fuck Yah magazine, and the Brave workshop went off without a functioning Paypal account to take the monies. My selling Art for Aleppo raised a red flag that required further investigation by Paypal for months(!!!!).  The launch also happened without a new e-mail address, since getting a fancy one proved to be a multi-week saga that still hasn’t ended and that involves working closely with Google’s tech support in a never-ending game of phone tag because they call from Malaysia every night after I’ve gone to bed. Oh, and one book wasn’t ready to go until the actual day of launch, and I was pretty sure I couldn’t make it happen at all.

Are those circumstances ideal? Nope. But I could still take credit cards. I still had the old e-mail address. Cutting it close still counts as ‘done.’ I launched.

2.) Aim for way, way more than you think you can handle.

Part of the goal of a launch is to push yourself and your own work further than you thought possible. (I mean, sales. It’s totally about the sales. Nothing spiritual going on in your business at all…)

Aim for a big, crazy-ass goal that will feel like winning the lottery to hit. When I decided to publish two books in print on the same day that I announced a new workshop, a tiny magazine, and my new website, I figured I could hit 4 out of 5 and feel pretty freaking great about life.

When I hit all 5 — Calling to the Deep went live at 10:35 a.m. on launch morning — I cried. Some part of me believed I could do it, many parts of me were Unreasonable, and the small, quiet bits of me that secretly believed it would never happen were put in their respective places. BOOM take that, asshole brain.

3.) Tend a list of ALL the to-do’s like it’s your freaking job. (Because it is.)

When you’re going to launch a thing — whether book, class, program, service, or product — there are physical world tasks that must happen to bring it to fruition. Your natural inclination will be to hide those tasks from yourself because they’re totally and completely overwhelming.

The opposite of hiding will be the most helpful: make a list of every last thing that has to be done, then plow through the list with all your might.

From ‘write blog post’ to ‘update Facebook page tab’ to ‘e-mail Sarah (interview with her here) and Morgan (interview with her here) to ask for feedback,’ every single task I had to complete before the big day was on the list. I scheduled every single task in advance, making enough time to take care of each one instead of letting the to-do’s pile up and drown me.

4.) (Keep giving up on the perfect launch and) shift list tasks to ‘later’ as launch approaches.

There are things that MUST be done before launch day, and things it would be nice to have done before launch day. When you can draw a distinction between the two, you shift stress off your plate at a rapid pace.

Did I have to have plane tickets to attend Brave booked before launch? No. ::moved task to post-launch::

Did I have to have the Brave venue contract signed and confirmed? Yes. ::got it done::

5.) Take time to plan the way you want your DAY to go.

It’s easy to let the LAUNCH part of the day take over, but it’s still a day. You would have cake and maybe 3 balloons at a corporate job on the day of a big project’s launch, so you owe yourself AT LEAST that much!

Do you want to sleep in? Go out for breakfast? Make pancakes at home? Take an extra 20 minutes with your coffee before you dive into the internets?

Do you want to cover the house in balloons or flowers or confetti or all three? What do you want your house to wear for the occasion? What do YOU want to wear for the occasion?

Who do you want to have on call to support you? To celebrate with you? To bring you snacks and make sure you actually hydrate and eat food instead of spending nine continuous hours staring at a screen without a pee break?

How do you want to make the day special from all the others so it isn’t lost in a long line of sleepless nights and eyes-glazed-staring-at-laptop days? How do you want to feel on the day your work comes into the world?

In other words: how do you want to remember the day everything changed, for you?

Acting like a launch is just another day at the desk does you a great disservice. This is not any other day, no big deal, whatevs it’s just this little thing you did.

A launch is a big deal and should be treated as such.

6.) Leave room for magic, too.

I decorated the whole house with giant gold ribbon and tassel garlands and flowers and cleaned every room from top to bottom (with Bear’s help) in the days before launch. I threw copious amounts of confetti — most of which is still trapped between the floor boards — when I hit the ‘IT’S ALIVE’ switches.

Bear and I went into the city to wander in the afternoon because I wanted to see what would happen if we let magic lead instead of making a reservation somewhere for dinner.

We ended up stumbling into Shane’s, which has actual drinking chocolate made by hand for you in tiny delicious quantities (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), and is more like tumbling down a secret rabbit hole into 1937 than simply consuming a fancy beverage.

From there, we wandered over to City Tavern, where we found what might be the city’s only harpist performing in authentic colonial garb. Turkey pot pie and Thomas Jefferson’s favorite sweet potato biscuits accompanied by colonial harp! It was far more spectacular than any day I could have scheduled via meticulous research and the endless reading of Yelp reviews.

7.) (Keep letting go of the perfect launch and) thank everyone.

Whether peeps are sending you typos or small errors to correct (hint: they will) or showering you with praise, thank ’em. Thank your peeps for paying attention to you, for helping you make your project happen, or for being along for the ride. I used this service to shower my peeps with gifts on launch day.

Don’t forget to shower yourself with thanks, too! You’ve shown great discipline and nearly boundless faith in your work while you brought the project to fruition.

YOU DESERVE A REWARD, TOO.

Yah, I know it didn’t go perfectly and you could have done X better and next time you’ll kill it on the Y front, but DAMMIT YOU DID IT.

Whether your reward is time alone or away from work, a new purchase of some kind (I’m installing 20 yards of pom-pom tassels in my car), a big fancy dinner, a trip to a new locale, or a not-yet-invented extravaganza involving a laser light show and trained aardvarks — reward yourself.

You did it. YOU FREAKING DID IT.

No if’s, and’s, or but’s, no berating yourself for the ways it’s wrong…you did it.

With all my love —
K

P.S.  What no one tells you about owning a business.