Jun 26, 2011

Do I have to fake it to make it?

Sometimes I wonder how certain people make it in this world at all, and how some people don't do as well despite their obvious talent.  I have one friend with tremendous skill as an artist, but never does as well as she wants to.  She has poor self esteem, and can't seem to realize how good her work actually is.  I have another friend who is totally mediocre at everything, and takes some of the most boring photos I've ever seen, yet somehow manages to succeed fantastically.  He thinks very highly of himself, and has unfounded confidence in spades.  Each one of them perceives themselves to be a certain way, (struggling artist, photographer extraordinaire) and then lives up to those perceptions.

I can't help but think that one's perception of one's self has great impact on how well one does in life.  "Thanks Captain Obvious!  We never knew that!" you're thinking.  I know, everyone has heard about how important confidence is.  But I'm talking about more than that (I think).  I had never really thought about it before until recently.  My crippling anxiety and persistent belief that my clients are going to be totally disappointed has brought to light how I really perceive myself, and let me tell you, it doesn't look good.  Yet, I've never had bad feedback from a client, people seem to be really happy with their finished products.   Yes, I have high standards for my work, but why do I feel I'm never meeting them?  Why can't I live up to my own expectations? 

I'm pretty sure the problem lies with a skewed perception of myself.  On paper I look successful.  I've illustrated 3 books, I run a small business which is doing well, I'm working on a line of baby stuff which people seem to like...but somewhere there is a disconnect.  The person I am doesn't seem to be the person I feel like.  I can't tell if I'm faking success, or if I really have it.  It's like a girl playing dress up in her mother's shoes.  At some point you're a woman in your own shoes, but it's hard to tell when you actually cross the line.

So how do I bridge the gap between perception and reality?  I'm sure some people would say "positive thought!  You just have to believe that you're totally awesome and rad, then everyone else will too!"  Somehow that doesn't seem based in reality.  If I'm perceived as awesome, it better be because I'm awesome, and not just a lot of hype (which I think is why my lame photo-friend does so well).  Positive thought is a step perhaps, but I don't think it's the solution.  Then I'm just shifting from one false perception (hack job) to another (Queen Awesome, best at everything ever).

I read an interesting thing once about how children percieve themselves based on how they're labeled, and how that subsequently impacts the way they live their lives.  If you label a child as smart (i.e. look at you Jimjam, you did that all by yourself, you're so smart!), they tend not to work as hard in life, because they feel they should inherently be able to do things without effort.  Label a child as a hard worker (i.e. look at you Dingdang, you did that all by yourself, you must have worked so hard!) and they will always try hard and strive to meet their goals, believing that their strength is in their persistence.

It makes me wonder what kind of label I've been working under all this time, and if perhaps I should self impose a new label to live up to, a new way to percieve myself.  "Hard working artistic genius" seems like a good one I think.  How does everyone else work on this, or am I the only one?

Jun 4, 2011

The daily grind.

As my spouse's parental leave creeps closer and closer to its end, I've been scrambling to get all the tips I can on working from home while caring for a child.  I know one thing is for certain, something has to change.  I spend a lot of my time with divided attention, trying to do 2 things at once and doing both poorly.  Like, I'll sit down to take care of some invoices and watch Myriam but end up half-assing both.  I give Myriam a pizza crust to distract her so I can focus on getting some work done, but all that happens is that I neglect my child while I play around on facebook.  I'm mom of the year.

In my quest for survival tips, I found some great advice in a somewhat surprising place.  My neighbour Topon is the founder, guitarist, manager, producer etc.etc.  for the internationally renowned grindcore band  Fuck the Facts, but he's also a work at home dad who runs a home recording studio.  I had no idea he was such a fountain of knowledge when it comes to working and parenting at the same time.  Apparently a week at home with his girlfriend back to work has made him some kind of guru.  

He was saying how he's had to really manage his time better, something I know I struggle with.  His big trick:  no internet until the evening.  What the WHAT?!  No Interwebs?  Sounds crazy, I know, but seriously, how much time gets wasted watching the latest kitty video and reading about the "6 Personality Quirks You Didn't Know Were Medical Conditions".  I do have to access my gmail account throughout the day for my business, but *my* tip is to put a shortcut to the email account on my desktop.  That way I just click on it and I'm in my inbox, there's less temptation to click all my other links, like facebook, hotmail, blogger, and google analytics (to see how many crazies are actually reading this).

The second piece of dad-ly advice I got from Topon is to really take advantage of your baby's down time.  When they go to sleep, start working right away.  The dishes can be done with a baby on your back, but anything that requires concentration should be started the second the baby closes her eyes.  If you even stop for a second to check the news, you know you're going to lose at least 20 minutes of productive time.

Even those brief periods of time when they play on their own should be used wisely.  No more laughing it up at MadTv clips with one eye on the baby.  I should be using that time to crochet, or photograph my stuff, or start setting up my catalogue.  I can do all those things while I make sure my baby doesn't attempt to find out what electricity tastes like.

It is really important to take care of pressing tasks as soon as you get a chance.  Babies are so unpredictable, you may not get another time during the day  For example, Mimi is sick today with a cold.  As a result she needs constant hugs and only took a 20 minute nap.  Guess how much stuff I can get done on days like that?  About as much as your grandmother the day after her hip replacement surgery.

So, awesome tips to recap: Manage your time by limiting distractions, taking advantage of every work opportunity, focus on the task at hand, and don't procrastinate.  Sounds easy enough, we'll see if I can follow my own advice on Monday when it's just us two. (you thought I was gonna say "Just the Two of Us", but you were wrong.)

SuperDad here even gets his baby in on the sweet grindcore action.

If you want to find out more about Topon and Fuck The Facts, you can check out their Facebook page and their Myspace page.

Jun 1, 2011

Hey man, can't be everybody's friend.

Anyone that knows me is probably aware that I am nice.  Really nice.  Too nice.  (For those of you that disagree, shut the F*@K up, you don't know anything anyways so your opinion is worth nothing).  I like to keep a cool head, and be kind and polite with everyone I deal with in life.  I like to write cheerful business emails in colloquial language to my suppliers, I like to be easy to deal with when something goes wrong (remember, I leave room for error so I don't have to panic and get nasty with people who let me down). 

A few days ago I posted about this stupid reject named C.Cassie who stole my American Apparel shirts because the illiterate freak from FedEx delivered them to the wrong address.  (here)  So I filed an inquiry with FedEx and I contacted American Apparel to see what they could do.  FedEx isn't really following up with me, and  American Apparel is now saying they don't want to reimburse me for the shirts because, and I quote "if no one was home when they delivered the package they would have sent it back to the depot".  Uhhh, are you STUPID?!  Someone was home.  C.CASSIE WAS HOME, but not at my home. 

The final verdict ?  "Since it was signed for and shows that it was shipped to the correct address; we cannot do anything for you."  Oh, but you CAN.  And you WILL.  Friends, for the first time in a LONG time, Ms. Nicol had to get nasty.  And not in a good way.  I pulled out all the stops.  I used power language, like "this is unacceptable" and "I'm not the one who screwed up in the first place" and "find a better solution" and "see you in HELLLLL!!" Ok, maybe not that last one, though I was tempted.  Instead of using phrases like "oopsie there was a mixy-doodle" I said "you got my order wrong".  My biggest hope in life right now is that the tone of my barely contained seething rage comes through in the email.

I even played the Mom card.  That's right, I'm fighting dirty!  I'm appealing to emotions, I'm bringing my personal life into my business and using it to make others feel guilty.  I know it's wrong, but it feels so right.  Shake and bake, that JUST happened.  For the first time, I didn't end my email with "thanks so much you rule call me every day your bestest friend ever, Jillian".   Seriously people, if I (a work at home MOM with a baby trying to scratch out a living in the dirt) have to foot the bill for the mistakes of FedEx (a massive empire,  complete with the ill fitting slogan "The world, on time", formerly "Relax, it's FedEx") I am going to seriously . lose . it .  What kind of world are we living in when poor mothers with barely a penny to their name are paying for the clear and obvious errors of multi million dollar companies? 

Anyway, it was a really hard email to write.  I wasn't all that mad when I had to  ask a supplier 3 times to please send me the correct equipment.  I'm not kidding about telling my sales reps that they rule.  I really do appreciate good service, and I really do understand that things go wrong sometimes.  I wasn't even furious that their screw up cost me a portion of my contract.  But this?  This is UNACCEPTABLE!!  And it's time I let them know!

Part 2 of the goal post.

So, to continue on with yesterday's post about goals, today I'm going to talk about some of my future goals.  I'm trying hard to focus on a small number of goals, and then once I reach them I can add more.  I have a bad habit of making way too many goals, and then not reaching ANY of them.

For starters, I'd like to increase my client base.  Specifically, I would like to get more graphic design companies in on the action.  So far, most of my clients have been friends and some bands we know.  This only provides me with a few jobs a month, and one cannot save for retirement on a few jobs a month.  My goal over the summer is to visit potential clients and let them know I exist.  Do you think that having a baby strapped to my back will inspire sympathy and get me more clients, or will it look unprofessional and make everyone think I'm a crazy hack job?

My second goal this summer, which is a really big one for me, is to design a few of my own shirts to retail.  This one scares me a little because of all that it involves:  investment of capitol, locating proper venues for my work, doing some designs that are marketable but not too mainstream that people will actually like and buy *gulp*.  There's also a lingering fear that the market is saturated with screen printed stuff, and I'm not sure I'm cool enough to produce designs that will rise to the top of the pile.  I guess we'll find out.

My third goal, which is kind of last on my list, is to try to promote my custom crochet work.  The opportunity to have a vendor's table at a festival at the end of the summer fell into my lap the other week, so I can't pass it up.  I've got to get some sample stock put together, possibly a catalogue, photograph all my items, have forms for custom orders, the list goes on.

I've got a busy summer of goal chasing ahead of me.  Lots of organizing, promoting myself *shudder*, and drawing *woo!!*.  I've also got some secret long term goals, but it'll be a while before I can talk about those.  It may be 10 or 15 years before I actually see them come to light, but at least I know I'm on the path.  That's the great thing about goals, you can have some short term easy to achieve goals to make you feel like less of a shit sack, and long term goals that give you something to really work for and feel accomplished when you do achieve them.  Whether it takes you 1 year or 20, the important thing is that you're working toward something that's important to you. If you've got the time, I'd love to hear about your goals.