Category Archives: Self-Help

What’s the value of your creativity?

creativity_loresWhen I used to work for a non-profit social service organization, about half of the funding came from government and municipal entities. The contract renewal and budget approval time of the year was always stressful. I wasn’t the financial decision maker so I only knew the financial state of the organization on the surface level. But after the recession, we were under a constant threat of losing governmental funding. It was really sucky. It was terrible to work your butt off to help people in a bad situation and to be told (indirectly, in their action) that your work was not important enough to continue funding for.

Luckily, domestic violence victim advocacy community had a really strong presence in the region, so with the strong public pressure to the government, we were able to continue receiving their funding every year. But other social service agencies were not that lucky. Many of them had to reduce program offerings or forced to do more with less. And at the end of the day, the point is that we had to fight for it. We had to prove our worth to the funders to continue providing services. Which is pretty crappy.

On a similar note, I’d hear from time to time that public schools were cutting music and arts programs for financial reasons. I would have the same yucky feeling whenever I hear the arts are the first ones to be cut. What kind of a message does that send?

It says that arts are not as important as other subjects like math and science. It says that arts do not bring as much value as other things people are willing to fund.

As artists and makers, we need to pay attention so we don’t internalize these negative messages ourselves. I’m not saying that arts should be prioritized over other things. I’m saying that the unique value arts and creativity bring need to be recognized, and people, young and old, need to be encouraged more to nurture their creative side.

I saw a statistics once that people “lose” their creativity at a significantly high rate after age 8. And it spikes again after retirement. Interesting, isn’t it?? The presenter explained that it’s not that our creativity naturally declines, but rather we’re just not encouraged enough to be creative as we get older. And many of us when we retire and get out of the expectations of the workplace find the space to be creative again.

In this video, Brené Brown (my hero!) talks about creativity and vulnerability so eloquently and describes how kids get discouraged and shy away from engaging in creative activities after getting bad marks in art classes or teased because their creation doesn’t look a certain way. Early experience of shame around creativity really sticks with you. It’s so powerful that some people avoid any creative activity like a plague!

Have you been to a non-arty conference or workshop where the facilitator asks you to draw how you feel or what your ideal self looks like or whatever? I never really understood why people were so embarrassed to share their drawings with the group. It struck me after watching that video that I was naturally a pretty good artist as a child and never really experienced negative interaction around creativity growing up. So even though I’m not a master artist and get insecure around my art sometimes, I never feel ashamed of my creation. On the other hand, I was not very athletic and was often ridiculed in P.E. class, so I dreaded and avoided (and still do!) any sports activities. It totally makes sense! The shame I felt growing up left such a bad taste in my mouth about any physical activity. I’m slowly recovering from that now as an adult… Yikes.

Let’s go back to the conversation of values that your art and creativity bring, shall we? When I hear value, naturally, I think of money. Social media is flooded with the v-word. I’m sure you’ve read a blog article or two talking about how to bring the most value to your clients etc. While the money-making aspect of business is very important, I sometimes feel lost when I think of what “value” my art is bringing to my audience.

People can buy my art prints, but it doesn’t make them more money. Well, at least not until I get super famous and people start fighting over my work 😉 But you know what I mean. So what is the value of my work?

I bring this up because I provide “nice-to-haves” for a living. You know, I’m not fixing someone’s car or rescuing people out of a burning building or anything. And it makes me doubt my work’s value sometimes. People don’t “need” my art to survive, right?

It’s true if you want to think of it as an absolute necessity for survival, like if you’re stranded in the middle of the desert, you’d probably choose a drink of water over a cute drawing of a cat. But we don’t get stranded in the middle of the desert very often. At least many of us don’t… So why do we measure value of our work against something super tangible or basic human needs?

Think about what values you’re getting out of the things that are not directly helping you make money or do specific things. I know you have them! Like your favorite shows on Netflix. Art on the wall. How about your cat that’s snoozing on the couch for 12+ hours every day?? You have them because they’re clearly filling some needs you have that are not tangible.

We have a Netflix subscription so we can watch shows that entertain us. I have many art on the wall made by artists you’ve probably never heard of because they make our home beautiful and inspire me to create more. I have a cat because he gives me the unconditional love and the comic relief. Oh, and apparently petting your kitty lowers your blood pressure! I guess that’s a tangible benefit they have 🙂

Do you see? Just because they don’t directly help me make money, it doesn’t mean they don’t have a value. And you might have noticed that they’re all helping me to stay well and happy – which is super important if I’m going to keep working hard and thrive as an artist.

If you’re able to read this blog that means you have access to internet. That means you can afford “nice-to-haves” in one shape or another. Think of why you chose to have those things in your life. It doesn’t have to be a physical “thing”, either. Maybe you’re subscribed to an online artists’ community. Maybe you work out with a personal trainer. Are they less important than having a cold, hard cash in your hands right now? Not necessarily, I bet.

How are those things making your life better? Imagine if you don’t have them, how would your everyday life be different? And how do you think your creativity is making other people’s life better? I know many of you have taken the time to tell me how my blog and art work have inspired you. You have no idea how much your words of encouragement mean to me! Yes, money can certainly motivate you to do things, but that’s certainly not the only thing or even the top 5 motivating factors for many of us.

And on the flip side, if you didn’t have these “nice-to-haves” for whatever reasons, you’d definitely need to use your creativity to make your life more interesting or convenient, wouldn’t you? After all, that’s what we did as kids. We made up stories and characters to entertain ourselves. We could get lost in the world we created for hours and didn’t think it was waste of our time. There were no boundaries or limitations of what we could do with our creativity and imagination. And it can still do that if we let our creativity run free. It’s just that we picked up some baggage along the way and learned to hold on to certain things as our security blanket. Being creative has become riskier as we got older.

Creativity is a gift that keeps on giving. Everyone has it. But many of us were told it’s not that important or you were not that good so we stopped nurturing them. When your creativity is not nurtured, it becomes more work to access it so you don’t even bother trying.

Being creative is empowering. It lets you see things in different ways. You realize you can do things you never thought were possible. You learn to adapt to difficult situations with grace.

Whether you’re a writer, a singer, a dancer, a painter, a poet, an actor, a comic etc. etc. etc., you’d be doing a disservice if you were holding yourself back because you don’t feel like you’re providing any values. Don’t believe it if someone treats your work as “less than” because it’s not perceived to have values in a conventional or super tangible way.

What you do is important. Without art, this world would be so boring and not really worth living for. So don’t wait till you retire to find your creative sparks again!! Now is always a good time to start.

xoxo Yuko

p.s. I’m participating in the Journey Within blog hop by Kiala Givehand this coming Tuesday, December 22! Come on by and join me in a couple of days 🙂 I’ll be sharing my holiday food tradition with my drawings!

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Say No

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Hello!

Lately I’ve noticed saying no to potential opportunities more or be a lot more thoughtful about saying yes. I’d been trying to say no to time wasters all along, but this is money-making opportunities I’m talking about here. It’s not like I’m making a lot of money from my art yet. How can I afford to say no, then?

You’ve probably heard the advice “take any jobs you can get” especially when you’re starting out. I’ve always felt a little funny about this notion that when you’re a new at something, you should be grateful and say yes to anything no matter what. Say yes to projects or clients you don’t feel good about. Because, how else are you going to pay your bills, right?

When you compromise your values or processes to pay your bills especially if the job is closely related to your passion, it’s bound to make you feel resentful and burn out.

If you feel like you can’t afford to be choosey with the project you take on, it probably means that you need to have other ways of bringing in an income. You could do the Overlap Technique Seanwes talks about and keep a day job, or work on building up your savings so you could quit cold-turkey and don’t have to worry about  paying your bills while you pursue your passion.

OK, so let’s assume your bills are taken care of for the purpose of this conversation. If the money is the number one reason why you can’t say no, then you need to figure that out first even if that means you can’t pursue your passion fully or at all until your bills are taken care of. I know it sucks, but seriously, mixing your passion and money is a tricky business.

If you’re dreaming about making a living doing what you love, do whatever it takes to avoid burn-out! It’s the best thing you can do!

Let’s talk about how you know when to say no. I ask these questions to help me decide if the opportunity is right for me.

1)  Do you have time to do it?

I’m getting better at this but used to underestimate how long anything took from start to finish. I would get frustrated because I said yes to things thinking it’d only take so long to finish but in reality it took waaaaaay too long.

For instance, I just recently said no to an art show. It’ll be showing some of the pieces I already have. And I almost said yes because I know the organizer and like her personally, and it’s not like I needed to create a whole new artwork for it. But it was coinciding with a couple of big holiday craft shows I’m doing. Since I’ve done a few art shows now, I know putting together a show, even if you’re not making new art, can be a lot of work!

I’m having an art show right now at a nearby cafe, so my husband suggested I just take them down and hang the same art work at the new place when the show is over (the new place is only a few blocks away). But I don’t want to show the same pieces again because it’s boring.

If I don’t follow my husband’s reasonable advice, I’d need to take them down from the current venue, bring them home, choose different pieces to show, make sure I have a scan of all the original works (and if not, scan, edit, and upload them), trim them, mat them, and frame them (go get frames if I don’t have them). I’m gonna need display signs, coordinate uninstall/install with the people of each venue, drive, park, etc. Uninstalling the pieces doesn’t take very much time, but it’s still work. Installation usually takes longer when I’m doing a good ol’ nail on the wall method. You have to measure, level, and hang your pieces carefully. When I’m hanging about 12-ish pieces, it usually takes anywhere between 1.5 to 2 hours. Now that’s a chunk of time! And that doesn’t even include all the prep time, which could take 2-6 hours.

If it wasn’t the holiday crazy time, I would’ve said yes. Like I said, I almost said yes to this. And I’m sure I would’ve managed it somehow had I said yes. But it’s been a little bit of a pattern lately, and I always get so overwhelmed and resentful and swear I’d never do that to myself again. So I said no and felt GOOD.

In order for me to know exactly how long my tasks take, I log my hours on Google calendar. I like having a documentation because I can’t hold that information in my head! It’s also helpful to track your progress over time, too. When I was working on a series of watercolor abstract paintings, I got quicker as I worked on more pieces e.g. 8 hours per piece to about 6.5-7 hours. So in the future, if I do a similar project, I can make a pretty accurate estimation of how long it will take to complete it.

With that said, though, 99% of the time, things take longer than I think. I need to remember that when I’m scheduling things. I try not to schedule things back to back and also schedule some extra buffer time just in case. And don’t forget to factor in the time it takes to clean up your art equipment, packaging and shipping your stuff, taking and editing photos, backing up your files etc. that’s related to our project! They add up.

2) How is your work going to be valued?

I was recently talking to a potter friend of mine about commission works. We both had a similar reaction about people coming to us with very specific request about what the piece should look like. It feels like they’re coming to you for the technical skills but not for your unique voice or the artistic expression. I’m tempted to charge more for these types of projects where clients have a lot of subjective or arbitrary art directions and want you to follow them exactly. The best kind of clients are ones that love anything and everything you do and pay you to create your best work for the project.

this.
this.

When I work with a client for a commission work, after getting all the initial information back, I talk to them about my creative process and how I use the One Concept Approach. 

With this particular process, you get all the relevant information and project goals at the beginning, then you go away and do your work and come back with one final piece for the client. No arbitrary revisions or input. This way, the client can focus on what they’re best at, which is knowing about their goals, and you can focus on what you’re best at, resulting in you providing your client with your best work.

When I heard this concept on Seanwes podcast, it blew my mind. Really?? This is OK? I mean I loved it. It totally shifted my belief about power and value I had as a creative professional. It’s not mean or stubborn. It’s saying: Hey, you came to me because I can create what you want. Let’s be on the same page about how that can happen most effectively for both of us.

Anyway, I do use this approach when I work with clients, and most of them have been totally OK with it. In one situation where we had a problem, it was because we had a miscommunication, and not because this particular approach was bad.

I’m a shameless idealist, so I would choose to turn down a job if the job/client requires me to compromise my values or process. Even if that means I need to get a day job again to pay my bills. And maybe you’re not as sensitive as I am to that aspect – and that’s OK as long as you have strategies to combat burn-out!

3) Ask your gut.

Above all else, your gut is the most effective tool to gauge whether you should say yes or no. Money or no money. Time or no time. You want to pay attention to that gut feeling. We all have it.

Unfortunately, many of us have trained ourselves not to listen to it or talk ourselves out of it because it’s not logical or you’re afraid of the consequences of saying no to something or someone.

Like you, I’ve said yes to many things I shouldn’t have. You know the moment you say yes, you regret it and feel the tight knots in your stomach. You put off working on the project as long as you can. You dread the whole process. You’ll get the project done because you have to, but you’re drained and resentful. Not very nice.

It can be scary to go with your gut especially when your head and heart are saying something else. But once you do, you’ll know that your gut is always right. When I decided to quit my day job cold-turkey, I was scared (= my heart’s voice). I didn’t think I was ready (= my head speaking). But my gut was telling me I needed to do it. So I did and haven’t regretted it once.

I do a gut check by imagining saying no to a project. If I feel light and relieved for not having that thing on my plate, then it’s probably not right for me. Maybe it’s not right because I don’t have the time. Maybe it’s not the kind of project I want to take on even if I had time for whatever reasons. You could also imagine saying yes to something and see how you feel. Focus on how you feel in your stomach, not in your head (=logical, rational voice) or heart (= emotions, fear, shame etc.). Your head and heart might try to sway you in a different direction by asking you, “But what about the money?” or “Oh but don’t you wanna have a good relationship with this person? Are you sure you want to say no? They might never ask you to do this again.”

But what’s your gut telling you?? Listen to it and see what happens!

And the thing is, even if you say yes to a wrong thing, it’s not going to be the end of the world. You wouldn’t be excited about it. You may have to pull long days and late nights and not have a day-off for several weeks. You may feel small because your client is micromanaging your creative process.

But you’ll learn from it. No experience is wasted no matter how sucky it is! That’s how I’d like to see life anyway.

I remember several years ago I was in a workshop about self-care, and the facilitator said to us that saying no to something else is saying yes to yourself.  A light bulb went on at that moment!

YES.

I want to say yes to myself more. Because if you don’t, nobody else is going to do that for you!

Take care and talk soon!

xoxo Yuko

p.s. I’m so excited to let you know that I’m guest teaching in the Journey Within: A Year of Handmade Art Journals e-course hosted by Kiala Givehand in 2016! Give yourself a gift of art and creativity and learn with me this coming year ❤ Find out more and enroll here 🙂

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Back from my sabbatical week!

slow-down_loresHappy December!

Can you believe we have less than a month left in this year? I sure can’t!!

I originally had a different post prepared for this week but decided to do a report back from my sabbatical week off instead! It seemed a lot of you liked my sabbatical report last time around, and if I make a habit to do a report back from every sabbatical, it’ll help me stay on track with my mini sabbaticals and self-care 🙂

sabbatical_lores

I took my sabbatical the week of Thanksgiving, and it was SO needed! I had multiple holiday art & craft shows in November, and with everything else I had to do, I was pooped. I was so ready to unwind and recharge!

The timing was great because it was the holiday week, and I wasn’t able to work the whole week anyway. Dave, my husband, had the most of the week off, too, so even better!

In my last sabbatical, I kinda had an agenda and things I wanted to get done. I consider sabbaticals to be the time to focus on things I don’t get to do normally, and not just a vacation. You can read more about what I did during my first sabbatical here!

For this week off, though, I didn’t really have an agenda. It was partly because I was too busy working up until that point and didn’t put a lot of thought into how I wanted to spend  my time off. It was also the holiday week, and I already had a few social things to attend on the calendar. I try to avoid filling up the calendar with events during my time off! I like structure but also enjoy freedom 🙂

Here are some highlights from my sabbatical week!

1) Family & Friend Time

When I’m in a hustle mode, I’m not very good at making time for my family and friends. I try to be mindful of spending time with people I care about on my sabbaticals.

Since Dave’s been working out of town a lot and hadn’t seen each other very much, we decided to kick off my sabbatical with a day of hanging out! We went grocery shopping (OK, not super exciting, but I enjoy going to the grocery store with him :)), went to the matinee of the new Hunger Games movie (intense!!), and went out for a delicious Japanese food at Nishino, one of the most amazing Japanese restaurants in Seattle! They were participating in the Dine Around Seattle, where you can get a 3 course dinner for $33. Many of the participating restaurants are pretty fancy, and we can’t normally afford to go, so we like to take advantage of it when it happens in March and November. Anyway, the food was amazing, and we were a couple of happy campers 🙂

nishino dinner
This is what I had… I can still remember the yumminess! Mmmm.

On Tuesday, I had a coffee date with my new artist friend, Esther Loopstra, and had a great time chatting about art/illustration business and just getting to know each other. I love her work, and her positive energy is really contagious 🙂 Since I quit my day job this summer, I’ve been working on my own for the most part. I have artist friends I talk to on the internet, and it is nice to have someone so close that I can get inspired by.

On Thanksgiving day, Dave and I visited my American parents. They’re the family I stayed with when I first came to the U.S. almost 20 years ago (wow!!), and we still get together for the holidays. Living so far away from my family is hard sometimes, and I’m so grateful that I’ve made new families here along the way 🙂

thanksgiving-kitty_lores
He’s chill on Thanksgiving Day and every day!

We also had lunch with good friends of ours during my week-off. We hadn’t seen each other for over a month even though we live so close by. We spent almost 3 hours at the restaurant talking and catching up on what we’ve been doing. It was so nice ❤

2) Health & Fitness

One of the many perks of working from home is I can cook and eat healthier and have the flexibility to fit in a regular workout schedule. I’ve always eaten pretty healthy, but when I work from home (and don’t have a regular paycheck!) I tend to eat at home a lot more. And when we eat at home, we use mostly organic ingredients, eat more veggies, and it’s not as rich.

Because it was the Thanksgiving week, and I knew my diet would be a little off, I ate extra healthy at home.

lunch sketch
My typical lunch looks like this. I love roasted veggies!

I also went to the gym one extra day. I’ve been getting into kettlebell workouts lately, and adding one more workout session to the week totally kicked my butt!! But I felt really good 🙂

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I used to be an avid yoga practitioner but have been slacking off for the past few years. I find it hard to “slow down” these days because there are so much to do and so little time, you know? I know intellectually that things like yoga and meditation are good for you, but my first reaction is “But I don’t have the time!”

It’s a bad habit many of us have to think that “being still” is not productive and waste of time. I almost talked myself out of doing some yoga during my week off, but I remembered this proverb: “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” Sigh. That’s exactly right…! Things you’re avoiding the most are often what you need the most. So I did a couple of yoga/meditation sessions, and again, it was awesome 🙂

3) Research & Preparation for Special Diet

Since early summer this year, I’ve been suffering from eczema that came out of nowhere. I’d never had any food or seasonal allergies before and didn’t have eczema as a kid, either.

I’ve been working with my naturopathic doctor on some diet modifications for several months, but nothing is sticking. We suspect it’s caused by the intestinal yeast overgrowth and decided to take the treatment to the next level. It’s basically a very low-carb, low-starch, and low-sugar diet to starve off Candida and bring back the healthy balance of gut flora. I’ve been on a modified diet for a while now, so it won’t be a super drastic change, but it’ll be stricter and I would have to pay a very close attention to what I eat for the next 4 weeks or so.

So I spent a lot of time reading articles about it and researching different recipes online. I’m excited to find many recipes that work for the treatment and have already made a few tasty dishes! My favorite sites to find good Candida Diet recipes are herehere, and here.

Here are a few things I made during my sabbatical! They were all pretty simple to prepare and yummy!

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Curried Shrimp from elanaspantry.com
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Chicken Zucchini Burger from thecandidadiet.com
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Stuffed Peppers with Turkey from elanaspantry.com. I’d never made stuffed anything, but it was so easy! Although I forgot to put the green chiles in, they were still delicious 🙂

Please note that there is SO MUCH different information about Candida diet out there! Do talk to your doctor if you’re considering trying the diet.

I know it’ll be challenging – I’m worried I’ll be hungry all the time and will have bad sugar and carb cravings – but look forward to positive outcomes at the end of the treatment! And I’m excited to explore different recipes to make and eat 🙂 Wish me luck!

4) DYI Project

I like to learn new skills during my sabbaticals. Art related or not. This time, I wanted to learn how to repair holes in my socks a.k.a. darning! I’m not very skilled at sewing, and it’s one of the goals for next year to learn how to sew. Now, darning socks doesn’t really require “real” sewing skills, but it’s a practical skill with some hand sewing practice 🙂 And at the end I’ll have socks without holes! Woo hoo!

I love my SmartWool socks. They’re stylish, light, and keep my feet very warm. But they can be on a little pricy side, and I always felt bad pitching them when they have holes while everything else about the socks was still great.

I read articles and watched tutorial videos about how to darn socks (I found this and this helpful). It’s pretty simple actually!

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So one evening, I sat down with a pile of socks that have holes or have thin spots and started working on them. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) I discovered Glee on Netflix at the same time (how did I not watch this until now??) and got totally engrossed in the show, so I didn’t get a lot of darning done. I repaired one and a half pair 🙂 But now I know how to do it, so I can keep working at it this winter! It’s very satisfying to learn a new skill, put it into practice, and see the results in a short time.

OK, that’s it from my sabbatical week! It was really chill. I had a good combination of hanging out with people, working on projects, and spending time alone, which for an introvert like me, is a critical part of self-care.

Now I’m ready to tackle the holiday craziness once again!! Let me know if you’ve incorporated sabbaticals or something similar into your self-care strategies 🙂

See you next week!

xoxo Yuko

p.s. I’m offering free U.S. shipping on my Etsy store through today (Sunday, December 6) with a coupon code “JOYFUL2015” Get some holiday shopping done 🙂

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Can I coach you? (Part 2 of 2)

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Last week I shared here that I’ve been coaching other artists and helping them stay on track to achieve their big goals. My Creative Coaching service is still in a pilot stage, but I’m really loving it and am looking forward to taking on more clients in February 2016!

Today, I wanted to share some of my current clients’ experiences and give you a peek at what it’s like to work with me as a Creative Coach.  First of all, I want to thank my clients, Michelle and Sarah, for being so open and letting me share their experiences with you all!

So, a few months back when I was thinking about starting a Creative Coaching practice, I reached out to a couple of people whom I thought would be a good match. First person I reached out to was Michelle Greco (www.michellegreco.com). I reached out to Michelle because she’s been following my work on multiple platforms and had been really engaging and encouraging. She’s a poet, writer, and a photographer, and has been pursuing painting/drawing lately. I had a feeling she’d meet my “ideal client” profile and emailed her to see if she would want to work with me.

I got a very enthusiastic “YES” from her, and we’ve been having bi-weekly sessions on Skype since September.

hi Michelle!
hi Michelle!

Michelle, like many of us, has multiple passions and talents. She also has a demanding day job as a writing instructor and was having a challenge making time to dedicate to a meaningful daily creative practice.

In our first session, we narrowed down her goals to something reasonable yet challenging enough. Since she was struggling with keeping a consistent art practice at that time, we spent time problem-solving around that particular challenge. One of the roadblocks for Michelle was that she’d come home exhausted after work, and setting up her drawing/painting materials was just too much work.

So when she found the Paper app, she found a way to draw on her mobile devices without the hassle of setting up. She could spend as little as 2 minutes to create a quick doodle and post it on her Instagram. I could tell that was a big game-changer for her! Michelle also uses this productivity app to keep her motivated to accomplish different tasks daily and weekly. It has a note feature she uses to write down one or two things she’s grateful for each day as part of her “Practice Gratitude” habit. What a wonderful way to stay positive every day! 🙂

So I asked Michelle how our Creative Coaching work has been helping her achieve her goals, and here is what she had to say:

Yuko’s coaching has been helpful in several ways. The first is accountability. Up to this point, I’ve had a lot of trouble keeping a daily artful practice. Since September, though, I’ve only missed a handful of days, and even then, I catch up. I think this is largely in part because I know Yuko is looking out. Her likes and, especially, her comments have kept me motivated to keep creating because, if anything, I know at least one person will take notice if I don’t post. Her comments also help me gauge what catches the eyes of my followers and what styles really capture who I am as an artist.

Another very useful aspect of coaching has been reasonable and adaptive goal setting. At the end of our sessions, Yuko and I set goals for me to accomplish. They keep me focused while also being flexible enough so that if an original goal isn’t working, there is space in the plan for fine tuning. Yuko helps keep me in check too. For example, when I mentioned starting a podcast, her first question was a firm but open, “I want to ask are you sure you want to start a podcast when you already have quite a bit on your plate?” That’s something I normally wouldn’t ask myself, and it forced me to reevaluate why this particular project was important to me and how I could make it a sustainable practice.

Lastly, Yuko’s coaching has helped me see the fruits of keeping a steady creative practice. Over the past three or so months that she’s been guiding me in my creativity, I’ve started an e-mail prompt challenge (#MuseMoments), which has grown my newsletter list, been asked to present a lecture on the intersection of poetry and art, and had two pieces I created during my daily art practice accepted to a local gallery exhibit. I’m supercharged by these opportunities!

More importantly, however, I’m proud of myself and so grateful to Yuko because I now see that I can keep a daily practice and achieve a personal goal.

It’s been amazing to witness Michelle’s journey – with the right tool and additional accountability and support, her art practice has been very consistent, and I can tell she’s become more comfortable exploring art in her own way, too. She’s also started a podcast recently and has been creating new episode every week. I’m very happy she’s found multiple ways to express her creative talents so successfully! You can hear her talk about what her daily art practice has been like on this episode and her steps on accepting her art for what it is here. I really admire Michelle’s courage and generosity for sharing herself so openly with her listeners!

OK, so let me now introduce you to another person I’ve been working with! Sarah Golden from Maker Maker (http://www.sarahgolden.org) and I met in an online block printing class called Design, Carve, Print in January 2015. (By the way, I highly recommend this class if you’re interested in learning how to block print on fabric!!! Jen is an amazing artist and a great teacher.)

Sarah profile
here is Sarah!

Sarah and I have been internet friends since then, and I’ve been really inspired by her beautiful work and just how consistent she shows up for her creative practice. She prints her simple and beautiful motifs on fabric and turn it into accessories/eye candies you will fall in love with. She’s also a mom to adorable 2-year old twin girls, and I still don’t know fully how she manages all of that…!

© Sarah Golden, Maker Maker
© Sarah Golden, Maker Maker

I reached out to Sarah wondering if my Creative Coaching service could be helpful to push her creative business forward. By the way, I just wanna say that I wasn’t reaching out to people whom I thought were “less successful” or somehow struggling – I hand picked people who were already working hard for their goals and seemed open to learning and growth. That’s absolutely the number 1 prerequisite to success!

Anyway, I was delighted to get Sarah on board! When we met for the first time, we went over her goals and challenges. Sarah is a very talented artist and designer – and she’s also a strategic-thinker, who keeps her eyes and minds on her long-term business success. It’s an ideal balance for someone who runs a creative business. Her challenge was all of her short-term tasks and ideas were getting in a way of her focusing on her long-term projects. She had an overwhelming list of things to do, especially leading up to the holiday season, and didn’t have an effective way to prioritize her tasks.

We discussed urgency vs. importance of the tasks at hand, and I introduced her to the decision matrix I’ve used in the past.

olivergearing.com
olivergearing.com

You may have seen this tool before. If not, I totally recommend you incorporate it into your priority-setting activity! This article and this one give you more details on how to use the tool if you’re interested!

Sarah reported back to me later that this tool was extremely helpful in organizing her thoughts. Although she doesn’t pull this out every time she makes a decision, it gives her mind a little more space to sort things out so she doesn’t get overwhelmed.

For Sarah, what’s most helpful about working with me as her Creative Coach is to have a consistent person to talk things out with and to ask her questions. She’s been accessing other support and resources to grow her business both online and in a group setting. And when we meet, our time is intentionally focused on her and her business. I ask her questions because I’m truly curious to know more about what she’s been working on and how things are going. And by having her explain to me and digging even deeper, it gives her the clarity she’s been looking for. Sarah is always full of wonderful ideas, and after each session she feels lighter and is ready to move forward with more clarity.

Sarah’s been offered some pretty amazing opportunities lately as well, which I’m not able to share yet, and I’m so honored to be part of her creative journey! Be sure to follow her on social media and be inspired 🙂

Can I just say – I’m so lucky to get to work with these amazingly talented, smart, and hard-working people?? I said this in part 1 of this blog post last week, but I’m so privileged to be able to pursue my passions so wholeheartedly. Making art and helping people feed my soul like nothing else can. And doing more of what I love actually help other artists be inspired to achieve their dream goals? I can’t even handle it!!

I’m so looking forward to opening up my Creative Coaching service officially to new clients on February 1, 2016!! If you want a consistent one-one-one support that’s going to help you push your creative practice (whether professionally or as a personal goal) to the next level, be sure to sign up to receive updates!

On that note, I’m off to my mini-sabbatical this week! Woo hoo!! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving week! I’ll post a shorter sabbatical blog post next Sunday 🙂

Talk to you soon!

xoxo Yuko

yuko_flowers

 

Can I coach you? (Part 1 of 2)

coaching_lores

Are you passionate about multiple things? I bet you are.  Arts and tech. Food and design. Gardening and games. Yoga and cat-whisphering, perhaps?

For me, it’s art and helping people. I’ve mentioned this several times here, but I worked for a social service organization for domestic violence victims for 14+ years until this past July. I had many positions throughout the years. Admin support to direct service to program management to HR to sum it all up.

I had many reasons to why I stayed there for so long, but at the end of the day, I liked helping people. I felt so honored to be there for people who were going through tough times. Many people who came to our programs had gone through horrendous, heart-wrenching violence, physically, mentally, and spiritually, at the hands of someone they loved. And the hardest part of intimate partner violence is not always physical. Most physical scars heal – but the toughest part is the emotional and spiritual scars. You can’t show them to anyone, and it takes longer to heal. Repeated violence and control destroy who you are inside.I heard many times from the survivors that they’d wished their partner would’ve just hit them.

When I was doing direct service work, I always worked in the community-based program and not in the shelter program, so people would come in to the office for one-on-one meetings and support groups while they lived at their own home. When they first come in to meet with me, a lot of them are just a shell of themselves, feeling confused, tired, scared, and worthless. They want the violence to stop but don’t want the relationship to end.

They’re often told by their family and friends that they should leave or call the police. Or be strong and stand up to their abusive partner. Though these people are trying to be helpful by giving these kinds of advices, it can be very disempowering for the victims and feels like yet another person is trying to tell them what to do.

So the first thing I would do when they first come to me is to listen.

I would listen intently to understand their situations. And for many of the people who come in, that’s the most powerful thing anyone can do. Even though they had to go back to their not-so-happy home at the end of the day, it was so valuable that someone listened and understood what they were going through and not judge them or their decisions.

I believed in the advocacy based counseling model we use when working with our clients. We listen without judgement and meet people where they are and support their ability to choose what’s best for their unique situation. We don’t tell people what to do or what not to do. We listen, offer options, and discuss pros and cons of each option. For many people, leaving their abusive partner is not the best or the safest option. So we’re there to help brainstorm different ways to stay safe for as long as they need to.

Some people just call or come in once, and we never hear from them again. But other times we get to work with them long-term. They start to acknowledge the injustice their partner had put them through. They recognize what happened to them was not their fault. And most importantly, they start trusting themselves again.

In my recent years, I managed general HR stuff at the same organization. Among other things, I enjoyed helping employees reach their career goals the most. I developed and facilitated a group for employees so they can explore their passions and skills and work towards their big goals. It was so rewarding for me to help them understand how their everyday work was moving them towards their career goals. Though I’m not there any more, I know many of them have moved into a different position that supports their big career goals. YAY!!!

So, as I was leaving my day job this summer to be a full-time artist, I thought, “how can I combine my passions and skills to maximize my earning potential?” You’ve probably heard the advice, “diversify your income stream,” somewhere. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket because if something bad happens to that one basket full of eggs (I’m assuming raw eggs), you’d be in a BIG trouble. Lots of artists diversify their income source by doing client work, selling products, teaching etc.  What else could I do?? Hmmmmm….

Oh, I got it!  I could coach people!

Creating art and helping people are two of the things I enjoy and am good at. Isn’t the point of being your own boss to be able to decide how you’re going to make a living?

Coaching seems like a really good fit for me. Instead of helping people in violent situations or employees, I can help other artists, makers, and crafters stay on track and get stuff done so they can reach their big dream goals.

“What is coaching?” you may be wondering. There are different schools of thoughts, and each coach would approach their work slightly differently. But basically, coach is someone who can help you set goals and be successful by drawing out your strengths and helping you find your own solutions for the challenges you experience.

Here is what it would be like to work with me as your Creative Coach (yup that’s what I’m calling myself):

  1. Our coaching session will be one-on-one conversation over Skype or phone.
  2. I’m a nice person (and a good listener), who actually cares and wants to know your story and the unique struggles you’re having in your creative pursuit. You won’t be laughed at or ridiculed, I promise.
  3. I’ll ask you a bunch of questions about your dreams, goals, and ideas because I’m curious about you and what inspires you. In the process, you’ll definitely learn more about yourself! Oftentimes the answers you’re looking for are within you, but you just need a little extra help to realize it.
  4. You can come with an overwhelming list of things to do and leave with clear, bite-sized action steps to work on, feeling lighter and inspired!
  5. You’ll get a reality check. If you tell me you’re thinking about taking on a new client, launching a new product line, and saving 100 kittens from an evil monster all in the same week, you’re gonna hear what I really think about that. I’ll help you decide where to focus your energy and time first. (FYI – I’m a cat person but am not gonna impose my personal preference on you during our coaching sessions…)
  6. You’ll have a reliable source of accountability and encouragement. Our conversations will be focused around your goals, and I’ll ask you to keep track of your progress and challenges in between. We can also discuss ways for me to provide extra accountability outside of our sessions if needed!
  7. You’ll have someone to bounce ideas off of and problem-solve with in a non-judgemental environment. Like my point #2 above, you can usually find the answers by looking at your problems from different angles. My goal isn’t to tell you what to do or what not to do. It’s to help you come up with your own solutions that work best for your unique situation. After all, those are the skills you’ll need long-term, and you’ll be more likely to stick to the solutions you come up with yourself!
  8. You’ll have someone to celebrate your small and big successes with. It’s important we take the time to acknowledge your accomplishments when you’re working towards your big dream. I’ll notice them and point them out to you even if you don’t think it’s significant.
  9. I’ll teach you what I know about having an art/craft-based business. I don’t consider myself to be a business expert by any means. I can’t give you a blueprint for your business success. But I’m more than happy to share with you tips and tools that worked for me and give you my feedback if you’d like. You can choose to apply it (or not) to your own situation. You’re the expert of your own life! If you’re looking for specific business advice that is beyond me, I’d suggest you work with a business consultant who specializes in the area you’re seeking advice.

Ok, if any of these things sounds good to you, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have many creative passions and don’t know where to start, so you end up starting nothing?
  • Do your friends and family tell you you’re creative/artistic?  Are you wondering if you should take your “hobby” to the next level?
  • Do you start new projects but have a hard time following through?
  • Do you wish you had time or motivation to make art every day?
  • Do you want to pursue your creative dream while having a day job, family, and other obligations?
  • Do you want to transition out of your day job and pursue your passion full-time eventually?
  • Do you perform better when you know someone else is counting on you to show up?
  • Do you say yes to every opportunity and feel resentful and stressed as a result?
  • Have you been pursuing your creative passion for a long time and haven’t seen any results? Thinking about giving up?
  • Do you compare yourself with other “successful” artists and be hard on yourself?
  • Are you serious about making your creative dream come true?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, having  a Creative Coach could really help!

I’ve been running a pilot of my Creative Coaching service for the past few months and am happy to see the positive impact our work is having on my clients so far! I’ll share more about their experiences in my blog post next week 🙂 Don’t miss it if you’re curious about working with me!

I’ll be taking on new coaching clients beginning February 1, 2016 and you can sign up here to receive updates and be the first to know when I officially start booking sessions!

I’m super excited to have found a way to combine my passions and help you be successful! Stay tuned for part 2 of this blog post next week to hear from my awesome clients 🙂

Take care!

xoxo Yuko

yuko_flowers

 

 

 

On Jealousy

jealousy_loresI was at a craft show a couple of months ago. I was all prepared. I worked really hard to make lots of stuff to sell, and they all looked really cute. I sold lots of the same things at the previous show so I was hopeful that people would go crazy for my stuff again. And…

It bombed.

People would come by and look at my stuff. They would tell me my stuff looked great and how much they liked them. But I ended up making a very small sales at the show. Meanwhile, my neighbors were having a great show. People were buying things from them left and right. And it was one of the other vendors’ very first show, too.

I was happy for them. They had great crafts and deserved success. And I was jealous. I was  jealous of their success and felt very insecure. I felt like all of my hard work was wasted. It was an extremely busy month for me, and all that time and resources returning poor results was very discouraging. I couldn’t quite figure out what went wrong. Is this how it’s going to be forever?

The answer is, no, of course it won’t be like that forever. Because no one, not even a super-duper psychic, could tell you what’s going to happen 100%.  I’ve done a handful of shows now to know there are many factors that determine if it’s going to be a successful show. But even if you do all the homework, you don’t always know for sure how it’s going to go.

In a moment, I could intellectually understand that it happens. It could be hit or miss, and I missed. People were going out of their way to tell me they liked my stuff, and some people did buy stuff from me. Just because not everyone wanted to buy from me, it doesn’t mean my work is bad. And there were other vendors who had beautiful things, and their sales weren’t going so well either.

When you see other creative people being successful (i.e. making more money than you, or at least you think they do.), it’s a very natural human reaction to feel jealousy. It’s OK to have positive or negative emotional reactions to anything. It’s important, though, that you notice it when you start creating stories that may not be true. Especially unhelpful ones that will make you feel small and keep you focusing on what other people are doing rather than what you can do to grow.

You can be happy for them and maybe learn a thing or two about what they’re doing – attractive display, their interaction with customers, how they price their products etc. etc. But don’t put any more subjective judgements or beat yourself up about why it didn’t go well for you.

When you see other people being more successful, in this scenario at a craft show, the only observable fact you have is that they had more customers buying from them than you did during the time you were there. That’s it. The rest of the story is made up in your head. Some of it might be true, but you don’t know that.

The truth is, you’re only seeing a snapshot of their life at any given moment. Social media is a great example of that. People, including myself, tend to curate what they share on social media. Especially as a business or brand, you have to curate what you share. And it creates an illusion that everyone is doing so well and happy and successful all the time when in reality that’s simply not true.

We all have ups and downs. What you may not be seeing is the problems they are having with their families. Or many unreturned emails and phone calls from art directors. Or first 5 years of their career where nobody knew who they were. Maybe they only sleep 4 hours a night and feeling grumpy all the time! Who knows what people are struggling with?? I’m all about being a real human being on the internet, but I’m still thoughtful about sharing only relevant contents.

Like I said,  we all have these emotionss, and it’s OK to have them. But how can you manage them when it’s doing more harm?

When I feel jealousy, it’s often accompanied by a little bit of sadness and envy. Sadness because I put in a lot of time and energy into something, and it didn’t work the way I had hoped. So it’s a combination of sadness, disappointment, and a little bit of loss. Envy because I wish I had what I perceive the others have. I’m saying “perceive” because I don’t really know for a fact if they have what I think they have.

What’s at the core, though? It is the fear that I’m not good enough. There I said it. The big, scary monster that lives in many of us. The fear and self-doubt creep in as soon as you see a sign that things might not be going as well as you’d hoped. It hurts. Somehow you’re drawing a conclusion internally that “being unsuccessful” equals “being unworthy”, which is totally a separate thing.

So, what do you do to fight it?

My somewhat Yoda-like answer is “don’t fight it” but accept it and be OK with it.

Or more like be OK with you feeling jealousy and all the other “negative” feelings. It’s kind of like looking at all the emotions as tiny individual you inside – oh, like the movie Inside Out, which did a great job of portraying how all emotions, even the negative ones, have their purposes for human growth and development.

So when a part of you is hurting, blaming yourself or being hard on yourself for having these feelings are counterproductive. This could be emotionally intense for some, but you could imagine yourself as a child or a younger person and try to be compassionate and kind to yourself when you’re having these reactions. If it’s too much, you can also imagine talking to your best friend who is being hard on themselves for something they didn’t have control over. Do you want to belittle them and tell them to snap out of it, or do you want to give them a hug and tell them you’re sorry things didn’t work out as they’d hoped?

To me, that’s the first step of getting over it. See it for what it is. It’s not good or bad. Cut yourself some slack. Be kind to yourself. You’ll find that once you give it some space, rather than ignoring it or trying to shame it out of your mind, it’ll quiet its voice eventually, and you won’t be thinking about it as much.

I’m getting better at this as I get older. I’m constantly learning from my life experience, and meditation or some kind of practice to be present also helps me. I used to be an avid meditator. Going to a 10-day silent meditation retreat in 2014 was one of the best things I did for my personal development. It did many things a few years of therapy couldn’t do! I don’t sit and meditate for two hours a day any more, but when I notice my anxiety or stress building up, I zero in on the sensation of my breath going in and out of my nose. Focusing on that tiny area of my body for just a split second can bring me down to the calmness just like that. It’s pretty magical and super empowering.

Other tools and resources to work with jealousy and other unhelpful thoughts:

1) I wrote this blog post about not comparing yourself with others on the internet a while ago. Give it a read if you haven’t yet.

2)  I love this book Your Illustrated Guide to Becoming One with the Universe by Yumi Sakugawa! I love her beautiful art and her message of compassion and kindness to self.

3) Keep praises and encouragements other people have written to you, and look at them when you need a little boost. Sometimes you need to look at the version of you that other people see to be able to recognize it for yourself. Isn’t it funny how that happens?

4)  Ask yourself: Is this helping me become a better artist/business person/who I want to be? Your answer is probably “no.” You only have 24 hours a day like the rest of us. Do more of what helps you achieve your goals and less of what holds you back.

5) Seek a professional help. I’m a big fan of therapy. I’ve worked with a couple of amazing therapists who changed my life. When your emotional ups and downs are causing you to have problems in your health, relationships, and work – or even if you just need an on-going support to maintain your emotional wellbeing, working with a trained professional is a huge help. It’s not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign that you’re not afraid to ask for what you need.

Now go out there and do your thing!! I know you can 🙂

xoxo Yuko

yuko_flowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will you be my accountability partner? (Part 2 of 2)

accountability-partner02_lores

Hi!

I hope you enjoyed my interview with my friend and my accountability partner, Whitney Thoren, last week! It was nice for me to hear from her what her experience has been, and it also validated my reasons for having accountability meetings.

So, today you’re going to hear from my other (and original) accountability partner, Stefanie Robbins. Stef and I go way back. We were also co-workers at our old day job doing direct service for survivors/victims of domestic violence. We remained friends after she moved on to different things several years ago.  By the way, many people have told me I keep in touch with my old co-workers/friends very well. And it’s true 🙂 As adult, I don’t meet new people or make new friends very often, so ones I like I want to keep forever!

 

Earlier this year, I was itching to get an accountability partner. I’d been an avid listener of Seanwes podcast, and they talked a lot about accountability meetings. (Note: this episode focuses on why, how, and what of accountability partners if you want to learn more!)

I started thinking of who would be a good match for me. It needed to be someone I like and trust, someone who is working on creative goals, and our personalities have to work well together, too. And ideally, someone who lives nearby (I hate driving.)

And guess what? Stef met all of my accountability partner wish list!

So I began writing her an email asking if she’d be interested in being my accountability partner and meet regularly to check in on our goals. I was SO excited to reach out to her because I just knew our meetings were going to be awesome.

She responded to me with an interest, and we had our first meeting in March of this year. We’ve been meeting monthly since then. We typically meet at a coffee shop in our neighborhood and check in about how things are going and how we did with our goals. We support each other and help set goals for our next meeting.

I really appreciate her warm and friendly personality. She’s honest and kind. I also feel honored to be part of her support system because her music is so amazing and powerful! Every one should receive the gift of her music 🙂

I’m friends with both of my accountability partners, so we do talk about personal stuff, too. I feel I can support a person better if I have a bigger picture of what they’re going through outside of their career/creative goals. However, that’s more my personal preference, and it just works better that way with friends, so if you want to keep your accountability meetings more business, I think that works just fine, too.

OK, enough introduction from me!  Here is Stefanie!

Stef photo

Please introduce yourself to my readers. Tell us a little bit about yourself!

Hi All! I am a mama, a musician, a therapist and each of these identities are front and center in my life right now. I have two children ages 5 & 9 and, as a family, we stay very engaged in our school community, Jewish community and neighborhood. I work half-time at a community mental health agency providing counseling to young people ages 5-22 and their families.

Since I was a child I was singing and making up songs. I started voice lessons at a young age, participated in choirs and musicals, attended a specialized performing arts high school and began University as a Music Theater Major. As I was “launching” into young adulthood I had a crisis of confidence (maybe it was pragmatism?) and stopped most avenues for performing that were familiar and had a structure I understood.

For a while, I dabbled in a bands, songwriting with friends, and “a Capella” over the next few years but nothing really stuck and filled the music (on a soul level) and I was aimless. Other parts of my life were blossoming at their own pace and, over all, going well – personal identity, career, a wonderful partner and marriage, house, kids – but something was deeply missing and it was music.

Something shifted in me after having my second child and I knew I needed to pursue my music goals and reach my own potential. The universe aligned and many of my fears and questions got the attention and answers needed to press on. I continue to do daily work on resistance and pushing through my doubts (some days are easier than others) and struggles and have found mountains of support from friends, family and a community of artists/musicians.

I completed my first EP “In the Sun” and am currently working on my first full-length album with the goal of recording in January 2016.

Why did you decide to become my accountability partner? What were your initial expectations?

Yuko initiated the conversation about being creative accountability partners and a few things helped me reach the decision to say yes. First, being asked! That is a huge piece of the puzzle! I was inspired by Yuko’s courage to be an artist and because I know Yuko to be reliable and kind, so I felt it was safe yet there was still a little jump to trying something unfamiliar.

I was familiar with the idea of mentorship and have enlisted support of many more experienced musicians for guidance and advice. What was different about Yuko’s ideas is that it is a partnership. My expectations were that we could support one another in our individual goals and that when we listen and teach each other, we learn and apply it to our own stories as well.

How has having an accountability partner helped you? Any examples of the changes you’ve noticed or progresses you’ve made in your own practice since you started meeting with me?

Having accountability and specific, concrete steps toward meeting lofty goals has been incredibly helpful. I have set goals in the past but often left too much time in between the goal and the deadline. With this model, we meet monthly and set baby-steps toward an overall bigger goal. One example of a change I made because of this partnership is when I was approached to do a performance for a non-profit that would also help me raise money for my album production and I was afraid to say no and lose the opportunity EVEN THOUGH my schedule was packed with other shows that were taking a lot of time and energy that I needed.

Through the accountability partnership I learned to shift my ideas around timing – not doing everything NOW is ok – but looking at the ways I can move things to fit what I am capable of doing. I reached out to the person who asked me to perform and suggested we revisit the idea in the fall and that is what we did. It worked out and we are in conversations now about how we can work together.

In your own experience, what are the most valuable things about having an accountability partner?

The infusion of energy and intention around my music and goals is incredible. I may come in to a meeting thinking I have not done enough that month or that I am off track but the point of meeting is to explore what I HAVE done (and to celebrate that) and what barriers were in the way (mental, financial, health, etc.) for what I haven’t yet done.

I find it very pragmatic and goal-oriented but also validating and supportive of where I am now.

What do you think are important to look for in an accountability partner?

I believe the things to look for are a person who be consistent (monthly works for me, about 60-90 minutes), a person with non-judgmental approach, and an active listener, practical and lofty (able to hold both), some ability to be vulnerable and share their own stories and struggles, someone who is invested in their own goals and can relate to what the other may be experiencing.

Any words of wisdom for someone who’s thinking about having an accountability partner?

Find someone who inspires you and approach them with the concept. You may be really surprised but many people are willing to be part of your support network if you ask.

And where can people find you?

Oooh! Self-promotion, yay! Uncomfortable! Necessary!

I have a website or I can connect with you on Facebook

Wonderful!! Thank you for taking the time to share with us! 

Do you have someone to check in about your goals? Find someone if you don’t! It’ll totally boost your motivation, and you can do the same for them too.

FYI – If you just can’t find someone in your community, I’m working on launching exciting new services to help provide on-going support and accountability to people pursuing their creative goals early 2016, so stay tuned!

Have a wonderful day!  See you next week.

xoxo Yuko

yuko_flowers

 

Will you be my accountability partner? (Part 1 of 2)

accountability-partner01_loes

Hey friend,

I’ve shared in my past blog posts about how my accountability partners have helped me stay motivated and focused on my goals.

Accountability partners are someone you meet regularly to check in about your goals and provide support. Maybe you don’t need any external support to achieve your goals, but many of us do better when you know someone else is counting on you!

I used to practice Bikram Yoga (a type of hot yoga) a lot. The instructors often said “showing up is the hardest part of the practice” and it’s so true. You know it’s going to be hard. In the beginning of the class, I always thought “Why am I here? I’m going to DIE!!!” It’s SO hot in there. You sweat and hold difficult poses. You feel so beat and uncomfortable. But then after the class, you feel amazing. You feel so refreshed and renewed.

What motivated me to show up oftentimes was that I had a couple of buddies to go to the class with. Sometimes I gave them a ride, and the other times I just met with them at the studio. Either way, I chose to go to my yoga class because I knew they were expecting me to show up in some ways.

And once my yoga buddies moved on, it naturally became more difficult for me to consistently show up for the class. Boo!

Today, I want to shine a spotlight on one of my accountability partners, Whitney. We’ve been meeting monthly since June of this year. Whitney and I used to work together at our old day job and became friends. She moved on to a different job a few years ago, but we kept in touch because she’s a really cool lady and we like each other 🙂

150723_Whitney_Thoren_019
Hi Whitney! ❤

Whitney has since gone back to school to get her Master’s in Organizational Leadership. She also quit her day job earlier this year to start her own consulting & coaching practice!  Her thoughtful approach to helping others grow has really inspired me.

We were having dinner one day, and at that time I was contemplating getting a different day job that might be less stressful and draining. Whitney had just quit her day job then, and I had another friend who had just made a big switch to pursue her creative passion full-time.

I was totally inspired by their ability to quit their day job to pursue their dream and wanted a bigger push to make something happen in my life, too. I was telling Whitney about how my accountability meetings with my other partner, Stef, have been helping me stay on track. Whitney was going through her big transitions then and thought having an accountability partner might be helpful for her, too.

Naturally, we felt like we would be a good match because we knew and trusted each other already. We were also at a similar point in our life starting something new for ourselves and experiencing similar challenges. Plus, it helps me, an introverted homebody, get out of the house to actually see a friend regularly!

We usually meet once  a month over a meal (brunch or lunch). Monthly seemed reasonable for both of us. You could agree to meet more often if it feels necessary and doable, but I wouldn’t recommend no less than monthly especially if you’re a procrastinating type 🙂

Anyway, I wanted to hear how our accountability meetings have helped her achieve her goals, so I interviewed her!

Without further ado, meet Whitney.

Please introduce yourself to my readers.  Tell us a little bit about yourself!

Hi, I’m Whitney Thoren. I am originally from Colorado. I moved to Seattle about 6 years ago, which is when I met Yuko! I’m married to musician/designer, Irene. We live with our two cats in a funky old house in the north part of the city. I love to ride my vintage Honda motorcycle.

Earlier this year I left my full-time job, in an unrelated field, to start my own innovation consulting practice, Whitnums. I create and facilitate experiences related to change and growth for both for individuals and larger systems. I am inspired to help organizations be kinder and more empowering places for the people who work there. I’m currently in the process for building my reputation and finding clients.

Why did you decide to become my accountability partner?  What were your initial expectations?

The idea of an accountability partner seemed to emerge organically for Yuko and me. We were both in similar places in our professional lives, and agreed that having someone to offer a more specific type of support would be value in our process.

Not sure I had any initial expectations? We talked about the ways in which we can hold each other accountable for the tasks we set for ourselves. I think saying out loud, what you are working on when you work for yourself, helps to keep you moving forward. When you work alone it is much easier to let yourself off the hook 😉

I experience our accountability relationship as space to bring our challenges, personal and professional. We don’t always need an agenda. One of the great things we can offer each other space to share our fears and insecurities too. Sometimes those meetings are the most helpful.

How has having an accountability partner helped you?  Any examples of the changes you’ve noticed or progresses you’ve made in your own practice since you started meeting with me?

Our meetings gave me the push to try blogging! I feel insecure when it comes to my writing. It felt like a big leap to share something publicly, but I pushed through, and it was a real success. Now I just need to keep it up…

In your own experience, what are the most valuable things about having an accountability partner?

For me, it’s been really lovely to have someone going through a similar transition in life to talk with. Yuko understands the challenges AND the value in this process, no explanation required. Additionally, the consistency of our meetings is awesome. If I know I have a Yuko hang coming up, I better get my butt in gear 🙂

What do you think are important to look for in an accountability partner?

Someone who is serious about being there for you and has the space in their life for the commitment. Someone who is open to you and your feedback. Someone you trust.

 Any words of wisdom for someone who’s thinking about having an accountability partner?

Go for it! Nothing bad can come from it. It is truly a special relationship to gift yourself with.

 And where can people find you?

You can find me at:

whitnums.com
@whitnums
linkedin.com/in/whitneythoren

And you can learn more about my professional coaching practice for the alternative professional here –> Straight Talk with Queer Whitney

Thank you Whitney for sharing your experience with us!   I’m so fortunate to have you as a friend and my accountability partner!  I always look forward to our next meeting 🙂

Well, I hope you get a better sense of how helpful an accountability partner can be!  In my next blog post, I’m interviewing my other partner, Stefanie Robbins.  She’s an amazing person, and I can’t wait for you to meet her!  Stay tuned 🙂

Have a wonderful week, my friend ❤

xo Yuko

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Let me tell you what I did on my first sabbatical week.

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Hello guys!

It’s so nice to be back from my mini sabbatical week! For those of you who haven’t heard, I decided to take every 7th week off to step back from the day-to-day and recharge. I just had my very first sabbatical week the previous week, and it was really awesome!

As promised, I wanted to report back and share how I spent my week off. To me, this was not a vacation, per se, but an opportunity to breathe and do something I don’t normally get to do.

1) I created a new drawing tutorial.

Some of you may have seen it, but I participated in a blog hop with Kelly Johnson of Wings, Worms, and Wonder on Wednesday October 7 as a guest blogger! I had always wanted to do tutorials, so I was excited and honored when she approached me to join her.

She asked each participating artist to come up with a tutorial that inspires people to connect/re-connect with the nature. I thought about what I could teach people and decided to create this Fall Leaf Marker Drawing tutorial! I’ve received positive feedback from folks that it was very accessible and inspired them to try marker drawing. I really enjoyed the process, too, and hope to create more tutorials in the future!

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2) I cooked more.

I might have mentioned this here before, but I’m not that into cooking. I don’t dislike it but just don’t enjoy spending a lot of time cooking up some gourmet meals (that’s more my husband’s thing, which I’m very grateful for!) I enjoy eating simple tasty meals that are quick to make.

But there is something about non-regular cooking, like making jams, baking, and making fermented foods that I like. It might be because the process is fairy simple, and you get to enjoy the products over time? Canning and fermentation make me feel very empowered, too. You can turn some fresh ingredients into things that last for a long, long time. Magical!

I used to do these things more often before I got serious about my art business. Even though I’m not juggling a day job and art any more, I’ve been plenty busy and was feeling like I didn’t have the energy to do much else.

My husband had been asking me to make more jam because we were out for a while. So I decided to tackle that during my sabbatical week!

We buy fresh fruits in bulk during the summer and freeze them. I prefer to make jam when the weather has cooled down because our apartment gets super hot during the summer, and it wouldn’t be fun to do water bath canning then… :p

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I made three kinds of jams this time! Our all time favorite blueberry, apricot, and I made a new addition, spiced apricot with cinnamon and clove. YUM.jam02_lores jam03_lores

It’s kind of a long story, but I’ve been on an elimination diet of no grain flour for a while. But after making so much yummy jam, I really wanted to have something to eat it with. So I did some research and found this easy almond flour muffin recipe!

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It was really quick to make and was delicious! It has a nutty, earthy flavor, and the texture is very similar to cornbread. It went really well with my jam too!almond-muffins03_lores

And I just generally spent more time cooking during the week. I love to eat and am happy when my creations turn out yummy!

3)  I made art for fun.

I still make something every day, but nowadays I spend much less time making art just for fun. During the sabbatical week, I tried to turn off my work mode and doodled my little heart out.

Here are some of the drawings I made!

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Aren’t these fun?? As I shared in this blog post, I always get new inspiration and fresh ideas for future work when I’m playing around.

4) More friend/family hang out time

I had a few dates planned with my friends but ended up having just one for one reason or another. It worked out fine because, well, I’m an introvert and I recharge by being alone 🙂 My husband was away for work for a few days too, so it was a good balance between having a nice quiet time alone and hanging out with him when he was home!

5) Veg out!

Don’t worry, I wasn’t being productive and doing things all the time, either. I did sleep in and just veg out too! In one afternoon, Dave and I just watched a whole bunch of Netflix shows on our couch. It was very nice 🙂

He was helping me be a couch potato!
Our kitty was helping me be a couch potato = his special talent

It took me a couple of days to turn off the work mode, but I really enjoyed the slow week. I totally feel more energized and calm this week. I’m really glad I decided to schedule regular time-off and can’t wait for my next mini sabbatical! I’m gonna need it 🙂

Have a wonderful week!

xoxo Yuko

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Why I Decided to Take a Mini Sabbatical

sabbatical_loresHey guys!

This is my very first sabbatical blog post.  By the time this post comes out, I’ll have finished my first sabbatical week!  Woo hoo!

I’m following Seanwes‘ advice (I pretty much follow all of his advice) to take every 7th week off to step back from my day-to-day and recharge.  To learn more about the small scale sabbaticals, you can watch his short video or listen to this podcast episode.

If you’ve been following along my weekly blog, you probably know that I quit my day job to pursue art full-time at the end of July this year.  Ever since, I’ve been hustling pretty much non-stop.  I’m grateful for all the opportunities and all that I’m learning every day.

At the same time, I was drained.

It’s weird right?  You’re following your passion and are able to do what you love all the time.  I should be happy and more full of energy, shouldn’t I?

The thing is, it’s still work.  In a way it’s even more taxing than being in a day job because now you’re 100% responsible for whatever happens. I’m mentally more engaged every day, making all the decisions and thinking ahead.  And making a lot of art can be hard on your body, too.

When I was toying with the idea of taking a week off regularly,  I was hesitant at first.  I just started doing this full-time not too long ago, and my business is still at an early stage of growth.  Is it smart to take a week off now?  It’s not like I have paid vacation any more!  I started thinking, well, maybe I can take sabbaticals later when my business is bigger and then I can afford to take a time off.

And then I had to shift my mindset around a few things to really recognize the benefits of taking a regular time-off.

By taking a week off every 7 weeks, I may have a small loss in sales or client work.  But if I put off taking care of myself, I’m going to burn out for sure.  There is absolutely no doubt about that.  And if you’re burnt out, there will be no passion to pursue.  That’s the worst thing that can happen to any creative people, right?

When I worked with people affected by domestic violence in my old day job, we often talked about self-care as an ethical obligation.  Working with people with trauma could cause you to have secondary trauma, which will lead you to burn out.  If you don’t recognize the signs of burn-out and take care of yourself, you’re not going to be able to help people effectively.  Not to mention your own happiness, and your personal relationships will suffer too.

I know that growing a business is hard work that could take many years.  If I put off taking care myself until I could “afford it”, 1) it may never happen because there are always things to do, and there is never a “good” time to take a time off, and  2) my business may never grow to the point where I feel like I can “afford it” because I’ll burn out and quit.  Neither option sounds good, does it?

So I’m making a commitment to take every 7th week off to step back and recharge.  I’m not going to wait to implement a good plan that’s going to help me and my business grow long term.  My future sabbaticals are already on my calendar so I know not to schedule any “work-y” stuff, like client meetings and project deadlines during that week.  I’ll probably stay away from my regular blog-writing though I might continue writing for a different project or for fun.  I’ll prepare a shorter blog post for each sabbatical week, so you won’t miss me 🙂

Some sabbaticals may just be me relaxing for a week.  But here are some of the things I’d like to do during my week-off:

  • Make art for fun and/or exploration
  • Learn new skills and information whether it’s about creativity, business, or something totally different (like cat whispering!)
  • Spend more time with family and friends
  • Focus on my long-term project – e.g. web redesign, new service development, future visioning etc.
  • Enjoy other creative things like crochet and sewing
  • Cook more
  • Pamper myself

I know for sure that the long-term benefits of taking mini sabbaticals far outweigh any short-term losses.  Plus, one week is not that long…  It’s not as big of a deal as taking a year off or something!  If you get behind during the week off, I’m sure you can catch up in the following weeks because your time off will make you even more productive.  Win win!

Oh I can’t wait to report back what I did this past week in my post next Sunday!

See you soon!

xoxo Yuko

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