Lessons Learned: 2018 in Review

It’s that time of year when we naturally turn to both personal and professional self-reflection. As we draw 2018 to a close, I sit here at my newly created office and am doing exactly that. Here are the things I’ve learned from my small business in 2018.

  1. I am filled with good ideas and they are worthy. Whether it be noticing trends or paying attention to subtleties, this year has taught me that the ideas I see have merit. For me, part of the key to this year’s success has been paying attention to them and carrying them out for both my clients and myself.
  2. My work is serious and I treat it like the business it is. Though I tend to weave humor into my work, I do respect it and treat it as the vital, critically important business that it is. My family would not survive if Robinson Studio did not do well. I am grateful for the opportunities 2018 has provided to reach higher and treat Robinson Studio with dignity.
  3. It’s all about relationships. Whether client, partner or mentor, my business is all about relationships and nuturing those. This year, I had two very painful lessons with new clients refusing to pay for work rendered. To learn from this experience, I have to firmly understand my part in this misadventure so that I do not repeat it. For me, in both instances (which happened within a month of each other) were the result of several similarities including no clearly written expectations (i.e. a contract in place) and also no regular (weekly, bi-weekly) contact with these new clients to make certain that I was meeting my part of the obligations. Finally, in both these situations I did not send out a regular invoice and so when my cumulative invoice came it was a big chunk for a fellow small business owner and thence it was rejected…and I had no leg to stand on, legally or otherwise. I’ve learned from these painful lessons and can guarantee you that I won’t repeat those same mistakes.
  4. Budgets have limits. There’s nothing like having a budget, using it up and having to work for free to complete a project. It again was another painful lesson, this one primarily in time and money management. I left the days of minimum wage long ago. Minding my budget (and my client’s) and the time division is critical for not only my business’ success but my mental well being.
  5. Limit pro-bono to one project or activity a year. While some business’ may need to do giveaways or donations as a way of building an audience or exposure, 2018 for me reaffirmed that I need to stay focused and not scatter my efforts in too many directions. My time is limited and needs to be shared with family and other work obligations, if I overcommit, no matter how good my intentions, I will end up hurting the ones I love, including myself. Boundaries matter. Be generous. Above all, be wise.

Whether you are reading this on NYE or at some later date, consider taking some time to reflect on the past 12 months and the lessons learned. Write them down. See if there is a pattern or an overarching theme. And above all: keep at it!


Now is the time

Posted on my personal page today. It applies to all of us, in every aspect of our lives. 

“Now is the time to get serious about living your ideals. How long can you afford to put off who you really want to be? Your nobler self cannot wait any longer. Put your principles into practice – now. Stop the excuses and the procrastination. This is your life! You aren’t a child anymore. The sooner you set yourself to your spiritual program, the happier you will be. The longer you wait, the more you’ll be vulnerable to mediocrity and feel filled with shame and regret, because you know you are capable of better. From this instant on, vow to stop disappointing yourself. Separate yourself from the mob. Decide to be extraordinary and do what you need to do – now.”
— Epictetus.

Facing Dragons

Recently, I had to face some dragons. My belief before the last 48 hours had passed was that the dragons in my line of sight were the fire-breathing sort that were more than likely going to turn me into the proverbial #burntToast.

So, I spent weeks mentally preparing myself. Looking into alternate plans and routes and tactics. The future seemed shrouded in mist.

Literal months moving piles of paper around on my desk: organizing and breaking them down six ways crosswise. My head was full of numbers and rationales… and procrastination:

  • Do I have to face this now?
  • Is there an alternative?
  • What are the risks involved?
  • The long-term effects on all parties involved

Forty-eight hours later, I have faced my dragons. They turned out to be the stone dragons. Intimidating in appearance, but upon close inspection (and action) unable to harm. I wondered how many had turned back from the path when seeing them in the distance? How close was I from running away in fear and terror of the possibility of failure.

Like fire drills and tornado warnings, it is a good, safe practice to have plans in place and to practice walking those plans out “in the event of”. These past few hours have been that for me from a business perspective. But it was, in truth, not a drill.

Be prepared to face fire. Do not be afraid to do what needs to be done. What you need is on the other side of what frightens you.

Partners vs Clients

When you have a partner, you are far more concerned with their success than if they were merely a client. A client is someone that hires you to perform a service, but a partner is someone you work alongside with to achieve the greatest possible good.

Its a situation where the ultimate successful outcome is a win-win, with usually a couple of tertiary side wins as well (such as the community or the environment).

The negative fall out is the flip of that. Everybody loses, including the side players… the school, the event, the public, the town’s economy.

So, let’s work to build partnerships. We all thrive in those working conditions.

Double Grace

There are days, weeks, months…God forbid, years, when it just doesn’t seem to work out the way it was or is supposed to. I don’t have the magically answer here, except to say, when you want to say, “I can’t go on” to “please go on”.

Yes, you may need to change mightily, but still go on. Learn from what is happening. Be aware. Keep moving.

Don’t give up. Ok, you can give up for a minute, but that’s it. Not more than a minute. You can allow yourself to freefall in thought for :60s and go completely blank, but then, come on now… allow yourself the grace to be whatever is coming next.

Embrace it.

Life is messy. So is business. We can work in even small, daily ways to keep them both as beautiful as possible.

More Lessons From Pelicans: Magic

I know. I know. You are afraid I’m going to turn into the Nature Channel. Perhaps, one day, but not today.
Today, as I walk mesmerized by these creatures that have graced our small body of water (a shallow inlet bursting with silvery Shad minnows), a remark is made that stops me in my tracks.

My 12-year old daughter says to me, “They are not as beautiful as swans, but I like these birds better. They have a goofy elegance about them that makes you love them.”

She’s right, of course. How many of us spend our lives and our businesses trying to be something “ideal”. Something we are not at all in fact. Rather, we are each these magical, endearing creatures that people enjoy being around and working with.

So, take it from the pellies: work your magic. Swans are overrated!

Write It Down

Today, for my work in self-improvement and therefore my business improvement, I’ve been listening to a bunch of TEDx talks by folks like David Allen and Jeff Sutherland and somebody whose name I’ve already forgotten.

That’s the point. I’ve already forgotten.

Our brains, as amazing as they are, simply can not hold all the information we need to stuff into them. Because it’s not meant to do that. It’s meant to come up with ideas. But we still try to stuff it full of things that have little to do with primal survival. Still, it tries. It’s very good at holding about four different important things at once, but if your “to do” list is longer than that (especially if you are juggling multiple projects), then you are going to drop things, no matter how well-intentioned.

So, here’s some things I’ve learned today that I will share with you (and save you a couple of hours of your valuable time in the process):

  1. Write it down. Just get it out of your head and onto either paper or a digital format that you can consistently use. You don’t have to do anything about it, but be writing it down, you’ve let your brain know that it has done its job and can move on to more creative thinking. So, put it down.
  2. Decide what to do with it. Sometimes, it may just need to sit there. Sometimes, it can be dealt with in 2 minutes. If it can be dealt with in 2 minutes… do it. Immediately. Now, that is done, you can mark it off your list and move on to the next thing. Other things may take a little time or a long amount of time. Beside each thing, decide whether you want to invest the time needed to do “the thing”.
  3. Ideas. Now you are going to come up with a bunch of ideas on how to solve the problem. Some of these will be good ideas. Some bad ideas. Every idea gets a place down on the page. Take just 2 minutes to write down all the ideas that spring to mind on how to solve the problem/task. From this a loose structure gets formed.
  4. Action steps. Based on what you just spent 2 minutes blasting out of your brain, what is the next, single, immediate thing that you can do to move towards progress. Do it. And then the next. Repeat. Repeat.

And that’s all I can remember at this moment, and proved my point. I’ve spent all morning listening to these things, taking notes, being diligent. You’d think it’d stay in my brain longer. After all, I am not a dummy.

So let’s start with what I do remember:

Write it down. We can get stuff done.

Bonus: this is the planner that I am using and am finding a useful tool. I was called a nerd yesterday when I showed it to a friend. I laughed. Yeah, I’ll take that. I’ll be a successful nerd. No problem.

Note: this is what a note written on my phone looks like with my pudgy fingers: seriously ridiculous, but I guess it’s better than trying to remember it. 😉

What’s Hiding in Plain Sight?

January 1, 2018
So, here we are: a new year all bright and shiny with possibilities. Full of wishes, resolutions, intentions, good vibes and hope.
This is good and as it should be. After all, we don’t sing funeral dirges when babies are born, neither should we moan and bewail the new year ahead.

For many of us, today was a day of “non work work”… you may have been recovering from a wild night, or (like me) traveling back home from holiday, or like others, using the day home to “catch up” on things that need doing. Like, I found those missing receipts I thought I’d accidentally tossed!

To start of my 2018, I’m taking a course in Simplifying Life. It is part of my “work hard when you work and be have genuine down time when it is non-working hours”… part of that intention I wrote about earlier.

The mentor speaks about discovering what’s hiding in plain sight. For me, this struck a chord for several possibilities:
1. what work opportunities are hiding in plain sight?
2. who am I bumping into and not really seeing… or listening to?
3. what is another way that I can do this project more efficiently?
4. how can I make this list have credible value?
5. where is there 20 minutes in my morning that I can carve for mindful walking?
6. how do I stretch that budget in a way I had not considered before?

It’s good stuff to chew on as I drift off to sleep and gear up for the first work week of the year 2018. I have a feeling it’s going to be a very good year!