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Our Legacy is All We Have to Give

I saw my first sunrise this past year at the age of 49. “How can this be?” you might be asking. Well, I usually like to be asleep when that is happening. Living on the West coast my whole life, I’ve seen hundreds of gorgeous sunsets. I’ve even seen the elusive green flash once. But never a sunrise. Of course, there have been a few times when I had to be out of bed before dawn, so I’d witnessed the creeping orange light pushing the darkness out of the early morning sky. But this year, from a picture window in a rented flat in San Francisco, I saw the sun peek up over the horizon and rise, slowly turning from deep red to bright yellow and changing night into day. I hadn’t planned on taking that trip. It didn’t make sense to do it, but I did. And I saw the sunrise.

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In 1997, Greg and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary. We thought it was such a big deal. We planned an epic Vegas vow renewal and invited our family to join us. Everyone was super pumped to party in Vegas. About a week before the big celebration, we got a phone call. It was after 10pm when the phone rang, and my Grandmother had been very ill, so I immediately thought the worst. No, I guess I thought something bad, but what I actually heard was the worst. My cousin Brandon had been in an accident and was in a coma. Traumatic brain injury. Sometimes people recover from it, sometimes they don’t. Brandon passed away the day before my birthday. You don’t think that 23 is going to be too late, but sometimes it is.

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That changed my life in a way that cannot be unchanged. Even when my life was seriously disrupted in 2009 because Greg and I both lost our jobs, and everything we had worked for, all of the careful plans we made and the feeling of comfort and security vanished, we had the most important thing. As long as you are alive, it’s not too late. We thought that.

 

About three months after losing our entire way of life, we got more bad news. My dad Bob was diagnosed with lung cancer. We were pretty much like “WTF, Universe?” But we had hope. Bob’s treatment was a success, and he was in remission. He looked pretty good, he felt pretty good, his test were great. He had time. Then, in another WTF twist of fate, he was severely disabled by a medical procedure gone wrong. Everything changed, again. He would never recover from it; he could not. He would forever need to use oxygen. He could never fly again, or go on a cruise, or walk very far. He was fragile. When Greg and my brother Justin were planning their trip to Mt. Whitney this past summer, it was bittersweet. Bob was so excited to hear them talking about it, and bonding over it, but deep down he was sad that he couldn’t join them. If they had done this ten years ago, would he have wanted to go? I bet he would not have, because ten years ago, we didn’t know that it would soon be too late.

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And now he’s gone, sooner than we expected, even though we knew all along what was happening. I am tormented by the questions I didn’t ask. Greg and I were planning to take drawing and painting lessons from him, but this summer it was way too hot to be in his studio, so we thought we could start in the new year. And now, it’s too late.

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That is the thing about “too late”, you hardly ever know when it’s coming. Bob knew something that most of us don’t know – too late would be too soon for him. But most of us don’t want to know that too late can happen at any time. “Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today,” is a quote people like to throw around. If I thought I was going to die today, you can sure as hell bet that nothing constructive would get done. I wouldn’t be standing here typing this, guaranteed. My day would be mostly eating, and spending time hugging my loved ones and telling them all of the things before it was too late. So how about we dream as if  we’ll die today and live as if we will die sooner than we want to. Let’s not put off telling people we love them. Let’s not wait until the stars align to get going. Let’s not wait until everything is perfect because it never will be. Do not wait to try something, to do something. To be something. Even though, or maybe because he knew his time was short, Bob still tried new things. He was a Master Lithographer, but he had never tried linocuts until this year. Of course, he was awesome at it.

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When Brandon died, my life and the way I saw things changed. I had allowed fear to control my life under the guise of safety, and when I realized that none of us is 100% safe, it was freeing and a little scary. I’d already begun to move away from materialism and this just sealed the deal. Experiences were what I now craved. Nobody wants to hear the story of how you scored a set of dishes on sale. They want to know the story of your one-day whirlwind trip to Paris while on vacation in London, and how you dashed through the city so you could see the Mona Lisa, Notre Dame, and the Eiffel Tower in a matter of hours. I was terrified to fly (and oddly, of airplanes in general), but I wanted to get over it. I had to, before it was too late.

Red Scorpio creates bold unique statement jewelry. 100% Handmade by richelle shadoan. Beaded bracelets and necklaces make perfect gifts for the woman in your life who has everything. How to be awesome. Step out of your comfort zone. Live an artful life. Dare to be awesome.

So here is the deal. I am 50. A lot of soul-searching has been going on around here lately. I am living the years of my life where, barring any unforeseen circumstances, it is not yet too late. I cannot allow this time to just pass. I quit my job in 2012 to become a full-time maker. The plan was for me to get my thing going, then Greg would be able to quit his job and live his dream of traveling our beautiful country and taking gorgeous pictures. It hasn’t panned out. Maybe because what I really want to be is an artist and not a jewelry maker. Maybe my heart just isn’t in it. Maybe there really isn’t a market for what I make, or I’m just bad at business. Maybe I am still more afraid than I’d like to admit. I don’t know. I only know that I can’t wait any longer. We are moving forward with the plan. I confessed to Greg that I’ve been afraid to take this next big step because I didn’t want to ruin our lives, but ruining your life one drip at a time is no better than going all in and seeing what happens. It is time to go all in, before it’s too late.

In 2016, we will begin our Legacy Project. It’s not just enough to have experiences. You have to document and share them. Going through Bob’s childhood photo albums after his passing made me realize how much I didn’t even know I didn’t know. It made me wonder if my kids would remember that trip to Paris. They’ve seen pictures from our journeys and heard stories, but nothing is written down. Could it be lost forever? Very likely. Will it be too late someday? Without a doubt.

My word for 2016 is “fearless”. Will I still feel afraid? Of course. But I am going to do my best to act fearlessly, because fear is an illusion that is supposed to keep us safe, but too often it’s used as an excuse.

[bctt tweet=”Usually what we’re afraid of isn’t disaster but discomfort, and that is bullshit.” username=””]

No more of that. We are taking a trip, and hopefully leaving a legacy. I want to see Old Faithful, gaze in wonder at the Northern Lights, feel the mist of Niagara Falls, and dip my toes in the Atlantic Ocean before it’s too late. I have no idea what will happen. And truth be told, we rarely ever do.

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How is 2016 Going? Let’s Review

As we enter the second half of 2016, it’s a perfect time to do a halftime review and make sure our game plan is working out.

Let’s start by going over the goals we set at the beginning of the year, the progress we’ve made, or didn’t make, and tuning up our game plan to make the rest of 2016 kick ass

Step One: Get clear on your goal

[Tweet “To move the needle on your business, you need to devote consistent focus.”]
Did you set a goal for 2016? Did you set a bunch of different half-baked goals? Did your goal evolve as the year progressed?  Dig out your list of resolutions. If you did set a concrete goal for 2016, have you been focusing your actions to make this goal a success? If you have a more casual list of resolutions, is that working out for you? Chances are, if you are juggling several ideas, your focus may be too divided.

Check out this webinar replay by Tara Gentile to help you determine your top goal. 

 

Having a goal is just the first step. Knowing what actions to take to turn your intentions into reality requires that you break down the big hairy goal into smaller, bite sized tasks. You should be able to put three things on your to-do list each day that are specifically designed to move you forward. Your goal needs a plan. If you need a little assist with goal planning, please check out my awesome system. It’s vital to keeping me on track and productive. If you don’t like mine, there are literally hundreds of other planners systems out there in the world. Use one.

 

Step Two: What are your numbers?

Your “numbers” are the money you spend running your business, the money your business brings in, and most importantly, the difference between the two. This is officially referred to as a profit & loss statement. The scariest question an entrepreneur must ask themselves is “What are my actual numbers?”

One thing that I’ve learned, in life not just business, is that ignoring scary stuff doesn’t make it go away. In fact, it usually makes it scarier, because it’s an unknown. It’s always less scary when you know stuff. And you can’t grow if you don’t know. I didn’t even try to rhyme there, so, bonus.

[Tweet “Do you know your numbers? If so, good for you! Knowing them puts you in control.”]

If you don’t know your numbers and need some help figuring it all out, here are some resources:

Figuring out your numbers is about as fun as filing your taxes, but it’s a vital step in growing your business, so, sorry but you’re going to have suck it up and get started. Good news, you only have to set it up once. You may be pleasantly surprised to know that you are doing okay, maybe even better than ok. If you crunch the numbers only realize that you’re not doing so well, at least take solace in the fact that with this information, you can start correcting your course to success.

 

Step Three: How did you get this far?

“You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” Have you heard that one before? It makes perfect sense. How do you know if you’re making progress if you’re not keeping track of what’s happening? How do you know how you got where you are if you don’t know what efforts are paying off and which ones are just a waste of your time?

 

After you get your numbers straightened out, check out your key performance indicators to figure out what is working and what is not. Entrepreneurs these days feel like they need to do everything and be everywhere on social media, but the fact of the matter is you only need to do what works. So, although it may take a little effort to figure out what is working and what is not, in the long run, you’ll save time by not doing things that aren’t moving you forward.

 

If you aren’t tracking your KPIs, it’s time to get started. If you sell on Etsy, you probably know that it keeps track of your stats. Did you also know Etsy has some amazing articles to help you grow your business? Google analytics is another amazing tool, and they have a free Analytics Academy to help you get the most out of it. If you have a WordPress blog, you can install plugins to track your analytics. Nathalie Lussier’s “30 Day List Building Challenge” explains how to build your list by using analytics, and she even walks you through the steps to set them up for your WP site.

 

You might be surprised how things ‘magically’ start to grow when you make the effort to measure their progress. Here is a list of resources to help you better understand what KPIs are and how to build your business. 

 

Step Four: Why we do what we do

Running your own business is hard, and sometimes you can get so discouraged you might wonder what you were thinking by starting this in the first place.

Red Scorpio creates bold unique statement jewelry. 100% Handmade by richelle shadoan. Beaded bracelets and necklaces make perfect gifts for the woman in your life who has everything. How to be awesome. Step out of your comfort zone. Live an artful life. Dare to be awesome.

 

I began making bamboo tile jewelry back in 2009. I was looking for an easy & fun project to teach in workshops at Party Arty!, the art studio my sister & I owned at the time. I fell in love with everything about these magnificent bracelets and necklaces, and spent many hours perfecting my process until it was no longer a craft project, but an art. I got lots compliments, and then requests for custom orders, so of course I took the next step and turned my jewelry making into a business. In 2012, I quit my job to work on it full-time. I was so sure that I would soon be making a living doing what I love, but here we are, almost three years later, and I am still struggling to make consistent sales. If not for my husband’s “real” job, I would have had to ditch this dream a long time ago. I’ve never worked this hard in my life, and for so little money. But I just have to believe that this work is going to pay off someday. I joke about getting famous, but all I really want is to be able to make a decent living.

I believe that my jewelry is beautiful; that it helps the wearer express themselves and tell their story; that it is a way to be connected. My “why” is my commitment to self expression, quality small batch goods, and creating a meaningful alternative to hyper-consumerism. And so, I keep on. Every day, my goal is just to move forward.    

Simon Sinek gave an amazing TEDtalk on the subject. My friend Kris wrote this beautiful piece on her “why” and how it drives her. Take a moment to remember your “why” and get your goals realigned with that “why”. Create a “motivational poster” using PicMonkey and hang it in your workspace to inspire you when things get tough.

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Step Five: Finish 2016 like a boss

After looking back at the last six months, how are you doing? If you’re seeing measurable progress, awesome! This is the perfect time to refine your focus. You figured out what doesn’t work, so cut that out right now. Devote that time into ramping up the things that are working for you, or testing out (and measuring) a couple of new things.

If you’re not growing the way you’d hoped, don’t panic. Figure out what you might need to start paying attention to so you can finish the year strong. 2016 is only halfway over, so there is still plenty of time to correct your course to success.

 

Take all of this information and develop an action plan. Download my free “Big Project Planner” here. It’s a super awesome tool that helps you reverse engineer a big goal by breaking it down into small steps.

 

Here are some additional resources to get you going. And remember, every tiny step forward is progress!