Tools to Help You Leap from the Tentacles of a Mundane Work Life

The past few posts touched on both ‘The Why’ we stay in work situations and ‘The Action’ steps for seizing your life from those treacherous jaws of mediocrity.

A young girl struggle to learn Hini in a beggars camp in Dharmsala, India.

So, we’ve gotten those basics under our belts, we’ve pondered the why and we’ve made our lists and dreamed. Now what?

I’m going to take a moment and talk about a few tools that can help propel you down that different path in life.

Let’s start at the beginning.

The Art of Non-Conformity

I am a big fan of Chris Guillebeau, as are many, many thousands. And here’s my story as to why.

For the past 15 years or so, I’ve lived far outside the box. Every so often I peer into the box, out of curiosity and a little fear of the unknown, but for 95% of my time, my life has been anything but conventional. I’m cool with that, I enjoy wearing my unconventional badge and I love to talk about the lifestyle and adventures. I’m a storyteller- right?

In 2008, I decided to make a go of commercial multimedia production, with the hopes of fully funding my documentary work and my vagabonding tendencies. I relocated, lined up a relationship with an ad agency, over-extended my resources, and landed flat on my face. I moved two weeks before Lehman Brothers tanked and took the whole f*cking system with them. Thanks for that.  And I was not prepared, mentally or financially to attack properly when this happened- I was still in launch mode, not survival mode- problem! While I slogged through a long ass winter of poverty (those granite counter-tops and hardwood floors in my rental were of no comfort when the jobs dried up and I was living off peanuts. Try spending 3 weeks with 12 cents in your bank account and see if you don’t make some radical changes.)

So, I started to really reevaluate my goals and my dreams and returned to my core passions. I began to go online and study the emerging blogs of that year. While pursuing JD Roth’s Get Rich Slowly blog and trying to up my financial literacy (always a priority- not my area of strength) I stumbled onto an article about travel hacking. Huh? So, I clicked the link and found my Happy Place. The Art of Non-Conformity.

Seriously? There’s a whole online community based on the way I’d always lived my life. I was fully aware of the 4 Hour Work Week (I re-read it about every 6 months or so) but had never heard of this little gem. I spent 2 days reading all the article I could consume on this blog.

Hallelujah- somebody gets my world. I downloaded Chris’ free manifestos and knew that this was different. This was going to help steer me in a direction I hadn’t anticipated when I left UNC to launch my multimedia business. This was taking me back to the why- back to the basics. And it felt like I was coming home- back to my true self and my passions for my art.

I hemmed and hawed over purchasing an actual e-book from his site. I had never done that before and I was afraid of purchasing something at that price point that I could not hold in my hands and flip through first. But, I sucked it up and bought Art + Money. Loved it. If these resources had been around 10 years ago- my life would look much different. (Not that I’m not happy with my life exactly as it is unfolding- I might have accelerated my path had these resources and the Web 2.0 been around).
That’s why I love the AONC and think you should spend some time with the site and his e-books and new print book.

A young boy studies alone at the Tibetan Children's Village which provides a home and Tibetan education for orphans who have left their families behind in China.

WordPress

Yep- it doesn’t get much better than this (though Tumblr is going to give this a run for her money in simple usability). When WordPress first came on the scene, I dabbled in the platform, but it was very much a programmers/coders world and I just didn’t think that way. I speak Flash and I muddle through HTML, and it’s not pretty. But due to the beauty of open source, WordPress has evolved into a game-changer for entrepreneurs, bloggers, artists and even big corporations.

With a few easy steps, you can have a website up and running and you are officially in business. That’s just unbelievable to me. I knew I would have to really learn WordPress because there was no way I could afford a designer to help build my site when I was just starting out.

So, I built many a blog (yea, I have a few in that blogosphere graveyard) and stumbled onto this e-book that talked about the nuts and bolts of the platform. While I haven’t read it from start to finish- this comes in handy when I get stuck. Digging into WordPress. Love it- and the blog is chocked full of info as well.

DreamHost

If you’re building a blog- and yes, you should start there, even if it’s just to get your feet wet before you really launch your side gig/full time job replacement business- please use a host that allows you to have unlimited domains, lots of server space, uses a one-touch install option for WordPress and uses a simple to understand admin panel.

Do not use GoDaddy. Please, just don’t go there. Unless you are fluent in the ways of the web and don’t mind wasting hours looking for shit buried in your admin panel- just don’t. I actually put in my contracts for web developing clients that I will not work with GoDaddy.

I use DreamHost.  Have for many years and they are awesome. They don’t bother with phone service for tech calls (though you can call them if you must) but they use an immediate email response for problems. And they’ve never let me down- and I’ve done some fascinatingly stupid shit to my web servers and domains during my development work! For 10 bucks a month, I get all the domains I want with unlimited emails and I can set up a customized wordpress site in 10 minutes or less.

It’s all about the Skins, Baby!   WP Themes!

A gazillion free themes exist for use in WordPress. And thus, a great place to start. I recently helped a client set up a Woo Theme that she had installed for free and their support and usability was great.

Once you’re ready to evolve and invest a little in your blog, go to Studio Press.  I’ve used their themes for years and just love them. And they’ve evolved their admin panels for friendly usability. They use a main framework (Genesis- which is what this blog is built on) and then have lots of child themes that go on-top of the framework and provide a custom look and feel to the site. I use these for my clients and they love them!

If you have the budget to hire someone (and I recommend this if you have no internet knowledge, limited time or just want to focus resources elsewhere) check out this blog post by Chris Brogan that lists some great resources for designers.  In fact, spend some time with his blog- jam packed with valuable business info!

The main point if you’re going the DIY route is to get a grasp on the basics of the WP Admin panel and where your content goes (categories versus pages versus widgets and sidebars) find a theme developer with lots of premium theme options and stick with them. It’s a royal pain in the ass to learn a whole new theme structure with each new web developer. Be sure your theme of choice provides ample support through forums. I recently jumped ship from a theme I’d used for a year or more because the support answers were rubbish.

Monks debating at the Main Temple in McLeod Ganj, India. They gather nightly to engage in the art of debating- and this type of debate is amazing to witness!

Social Media

Yep, it’s inevitable these days. You need to be active on the social media if you are going to launch any kind of business. Your specific social media strategy will vary greatly based on your type of business and what your target customer needs from you.

But you need to be active on Facebook and Twitter and you need to understand how to use them properly. Do not spam, do not constantly post only your shit and do not simply retweet.

Follow leaders in your industry and follow the people following them. Seek out people asking questions related to your field and offer them answers to their problems. Talk about personal crap (not too personal though- no need to air your dirty laundry on the Twitter/FB) find people having meaningful conversations and dive in.  Here’s a great article on using Twitter properly as a business.

And be sure to explore other niches related to your industry. Use www.search.twitter.com and type in terms related to your services. I am still amazed at the communities that arise based on a particular blog post and how they interact with me on Twitter! I love it! Learn what a hash tag is ( # ) and how to use it in your tweets.

Real world example- I published a blog post last month about the art of conversation and it touched on a random and meaningful encounter I engaged in with a man while sipping java at my local coffee shop. The article was retweeted by a coffee shop lover who has a blog about conversations started in coffee shops and community gathering spots. He contacted me directly about the article and we still converse about our shared interest- community gathering locations and coffee.

You may be thinking, “that’s all well and good- but that’s the virtual world.” Not really, these are real people with shared interests and I know when I travel, I will contact these virtual connections through social media and have in person conversations over real coffee one day. It is one of the main reasons social media needs to be approached as both an online AND an offline interaction.

I use both Hootesuite and Twitter to keep up with conversations. It looks something like this:

  • I have 6 columns on Hootesuite . I have 5 columns for lists that I follow- divided into my main topics and they are only A-List bloggers. My lists include Lifestyle Design/Travel, Marketing/Social Media, Photography, Writing and Friends (friends and colleagues from the offline world).  And one column for my mentions so I can respond quickly to people asking me questions or mentioning me.
  • I scan Hootesuite periodically throughout the day for links, conversations or trends on the internet.
  • Once or twice a day, usually in the evenings, I go to the main Twitter page and just scan through all the tweets in my home feed. This is everybody. I find conversations I want to participate in and add my two cents. I usually converse with people of similar interests, bloggers, travelers, photographers and usually with those who are at a similar stage in their business development. I do reach out to A-listers on occasion and have had some great conversations, but these folks have tens of thousands of people interacting with them. Boggles my mind! Some nights, if I’m watching Jon Stewart and still working, I’ll tweet about that. I had a great conversation with a fellow traveler in Minnesota about Stewart and politics one evening.
  • I use Hootesuite to post most of my comments and retweets, it’s just user friendly and allows you to also send them to the other social media networks connected to the app. I connected Facebook and LinkedIn with my Hootesuite, though I prefer the UI on the actual sites as opposed to Hootesuite for these two.

Find a Twitter app you like and get to know it. I have also used Seismic and TweetDeck and just prefer Hootesuite. They allow you to track the traffic to your tweets which becomes a valuable tool once you begin to strategize. But, they are looking to start charging for their service- so I may be jumping ship on that one.

I just started using the new Twitter interface and I have to say- it may give Hootesuite a run for it’s money. Much more user friendly than the original Twitter. I’ve been testing it this week and find myself going to Hootesuite less each day.

Wow- I just realized what a total internet geek I’ve become with that last paragraph! Hilarious!!

A word about social media- you HAVE to stay on top of the trends with these platforms. It changes rapidly and you can not rely solely on one platform in your strategy. Twitter can crash and Facebook can be hacked and all of them can be sold to Google, AOL or Apple and then you’re screwed.

I also love the Tumblr. I’m not going to dive into that now, but check out my Tumblr page and start your own. Totally free and insanely simple to use!

Basically, social media and blogging had some wild sex and a Tumblr was born!

On a rainy afternoon in McLeod Ganj, I sat inside a tight little chai walla with fellow travelers and we talked and debated while sipping on 0.10 cent chai. Fabulous!

Entrepreneurship

So, we’ve touched on just a few resources for The Why and The How. Now, let’s look at a few resources for The Biz.

The resources for your business will vary dramatically, so I’m just going to mention some core books and websites that have helped me along the way and are rather universal. I’m going to try and be brief- because this topic could take years to address. In fact, I’m writing a separate blog at the moment about this topic and will be launching it and a series of e-books surrounding artistic entrepreneurship over the course of the next few months.

Let’s look at some basic but invaluable books.

The E-Myth. I tackled this puppy about 6 years ago and loved it. I purchased his follow up books as well, which are more technical in actually executing the theories presented in the E-Myth.

The basic premise of the book is that you must develop a system for your business where you work ON it not IN it. And he uses the example of a lady who owns a pie shop and can’t understand why she works 18 hours a day and can’t see any tangible growth of her business. This is a vital text for your business and you should read it and UNDERSTAND it before you launch.

Rich Dad Poor Dad. Please over look the rather slick and cheesy looking covers on these books, they really are a valuable resource and compliment the first book well.

I have read several of his books over the years and particularly like Retire Young, Retire Rich and A Guide to Investing. Both of these books really made me think about business in a different, big picture sort of method. While I don’t implement all the principles and I’m not on a fast track path to being rich, the fundamental principles are very applicable to any business and the first book takes less then a couple days to read.

The Four Hour Work Week. I really don’t need to say too much here, this book is so mainstream now, its ridiculous.

But, it speaks to the value of its content. What I find fascinating is to see the actual results now of people taking his advice and implementing it within their own businesses.

The Organic Entrepreneur. I love this book! I’ve read many business books and this remains my favorite.

The book touches on the why and the how in a manner that is so compatible to the way an artist’s mind works. And she bases her path through entrepreneurship in this book on the seasons of the year. The Organic Entrepreneur is a fabulous book and I read it often.

The Fire Starter SessionsThis one blew me away!

Danielle LaPorte, from White Hot Truth published an AMAZING resource for entrepreneurs and it’s applicable to various stages in your journey. I can’t recommend this highly enough and please go here to read more about my initial reactions to working with these sessions.

Financial books- find the ones that speak to your style and be sure to implement cash flow strategies for your business as you begin to travel this path.

I enjoy reading Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You to Be Rich blog and the book is valuable as well. Again, the book is not about being filthy rich- all Monopoly money guy style- it’s about understanding your money habits and finding a financial system that works for your personality. The Naked Millionaire is also an excellent book (same author as The Organic Entrepreneur) and I just started reading Man vs. Debt’s book, Unautomate Your Finances and am liking it so far. Lots of excellent advice and strategies.

I find that, at least for me, studying various financial strategies helps me implement one that works for me. And while I still struggle with finding the perfect balance, embracing the money beast is imperative for your business endeavor.

Cash Flow is king in the business world, and if your cash flow seizes up along the way- so does your business. Believe me- I’ve been there often and know I’ll still be going there again.

Students take a snack break at the Tibetan Childrens Village. One industrious little fella kept sneeking cookies into his pockets to save for later.

I know I’ve missed some vital elements that I use often- but these are the basics. This entry could literally go on forever, but I’ll stop now.

Point is, find your resources and find the people you admire who are Crushing It (yep, there’s Gary V again) and studying what they do and why. Take away the elements that speak to you, make them your own in some fabulous unique fashion and run with it.

Side Note- some of the links in this post are affiliate links. In a recent survey on this blog, folks said they’d like to support the writings here through these links. I only link to products I’ve used and find beneficial. I’ve also established a store at Amazon that has all the books in my Art + Biz library in case you want more resources. Resources to Fire Up Your Artistic Entrepreneur.


The photos in this article are from my trip to India several years ago.  There’s no significance to the topic, I just love these trips and am longing for a return journey to the Tibetan community in McLeod Ganj & Dharamsala, India.  More of my documentary work can be found at http://www.crystalstreet.photoshelter.com

Ten Steps for Creating an Effective Blogging Workflow

We’re gonna embrace our inner Type-A personality, coddle our little methodical inner gnomes and examine one writer’s blogging workflow. My workflow, to be exact. Not trying to be a narcissist here, I just know my workflow and can explain it best. Yes, I’m biased.

We’re not exploring the creative side of the writing- each individual will have their own path to stir up the creative juju and produce brilliance- but the actual, step by step logistical process to writing.

Buckle up, put on your logical thinking cap and let’s dive in.

When I began writing my blog, I really didn’t have a system and hadn’t stumbled upon anyone elses writing system, so, I adapted my professional photography workflow when applicable and winged it when not. Through trial and error and 9 months of writing regularly my system seems to be working pretty well- when the writer’s block doesn’t take hold. But that’s an article for another time.

Step 1. Frolic with your Muse!

I venture out into the world to drum up my writing material. My blog, for the most part, is based on my personal interactions with people and places while traveling. I keep a moleskin journal handy and jot down notes, headlines or just vague concepts for my articles. This step will vary based on your topics, but be sure to recognize and embrace your creative muse and allow time and space in your writing routine to frolic with your muse.

My Creative Muse- People Watching!!

Step 2. Let the music flow.

Your style may differ, but I can not write without music. And not just background noise floating around all “Sound of Music” like, but serious, techno-style Moby/Thievery Corporation beats. Long songs, complex musical structures, few words and powerful rhythms. And no ordinary headphones will do.  You are entering the zone- hoping to be sucked down the rabbit hole into the vortex of your mind- you need professional grade, noise canceling headphones that immediately send you into a parallel universe. This is of the utmost importance if you work in public locations, like coffeeshops, for every screaming baby and steamed cup of milk will break your concentration and pull you back to reality.

Main point- respect and cultivate your writing environment and be sure you have the proper tools to tune out distractions.

Step 3. Enter the WriteRoom.

No, the WriteRoom isn’t some dark, dank writer’ cave tucked away on the shores of Walden Pond (though that wouldn’t be bad) WriteRoom is my computer’s happy place that sends me into the writing zone and, if I’m lucky, propels me into the Flow.

WriteRoom is a down-loadable computer application that, when opened, turns the entire computer screen black and your computer becomes a word processor- circa 1985. It’s gorgeous! The dock is gone, no icons are screaming for distractions and no birds are Tweeting or emails dinging. Nothing. Just a black screen, green awkward font and my thoughts. I actually can’t write without it. Pony up, spend the $30 bucks, buy the software and go to your Flow.

Brings back memories- how can you not love the 1985 word processors?

Step 4. Write.

Yea, that’s a no brainer, but not always an easy thing to do. If I know what I’m writing about, I type in the headline- or a rough draft of a headline- and then write. I do punctuate and capitalize, but some people frown upon this as it breaks the flow of your writing. It’s personal preference- I just do it naturally. I do not correct spelling while typing and I turn off all spell check notifiers. That Red Line is a deal-breaker in my book and you’d be wise to do the same. I suck at spelling, I get that, I’m OK with that character flaw and I don’t need a constant reminder of my inadequacies while I’m in writing Flow.

Now, if you are staring at a totally black screen and no words are coming out of your fingers, then just write gibberish. Write about what you ate for breakfast. Write about the dickhead that cut you off on the way to the coffeeshop then tossed his cigarette out the window. Write about the next door neighbor trimming the hedges in her silky nightgown yesterday morning while the old timer sat on his porch across the street taking it all in. Whatever- it matters not- just write. After some time, you’ll find an article or a theme starting to rear its little head. Encourage the little theme to surface, nurture it out into the open and let it morph into your article. And whatever you do, DON’T STOP WRITING. You’ll know when you’re done.

Step 5. Save it!

Again, no brainer. But really, save the document- usually in a text format. If you’re not using WriteRoom (shame on you) write this draft in a text document program. The lack of formatting and options helps the words flow out. I use a naming convention based on the date and a slug related to the topic (YYYYMMDD_SLUG.txt). The file is saved in a folder with the same naming convention and the folder lives in a Category Folder that reflects the categories on my blog. Here’s a screenshot if that last sentence sounded like Mandarin.

My Folder Structure. It works. Use it.

I’ve used this naming convention for years with photography and it’s a necessity. Why, you ask? Why the anal file naming convention, oh work-flow-nazi? Well, when you use the following naming convention- 20100822_WRITINGWORKFLOW.txt (and yes, it must look exactly like that- YYYYMMDD_SLUG ) then your files will automatically order themselves chronologically in your folders. And when you’ve been writing for months- or years- and are trying to scan through hundreds of articles to pull out an old post for your portfolio, you’ll know exactly where to find it.

Seriously, I can’t stress this enough, if you don’t organize your writing files, you’ll have a train-wreck and your blog and writing will suffer eventually.

Step 5. Copy and Paste.

Now, WriteRoom is not the best for editing and does not format your text, so copy the writing and paste it into your word processing program, such as Pages for Mac or Word. I save the file using the same naming convention as above, IN THE SAME FOLDER, and then I hit my trusty friend, the Spellcheck! I like to knock this out right away so I don’t start off my editing with a reminder of my character flaw. Save it, close your computer up and go get some sunshine.

Step 6. Edit.

After some substantial time away from your article, three to five hours at a minimum, return to your computer, open up the word document and start the editing process. Just like writing, everyone will edit differently. Some will harp on the AP Style, others will obsess about it’s versus its and others will just gut the piece like a red snapper fresh from the sea. One of my professors at journalism school, a brilliant writer and historian, would print out his articles and physically cut sections together and tape them back the way he wanted them to flow. He’s in his 70s, so he learned to edit before computers!

Know your voice, know your writing style and edit accordingly. I know that my voice is unique and my grammar blows- at least for my blog articles- but that’s a more natural, conversational tone that I strive to maintain when editing. I know that my voice can reflect my years of bartending and my discovery of Eddie Murphy’s Delirious at the tender ago of 13. My vulgar use of the English language is one reason I don’t have my mother proofread my articles (and yes, my mom is a professional proofreader).

Step 7. Re-read it! Read your article. Read it again. Go on, one more time.

Step 8. Format for the Web.

Go through your article and find any points in the writing that might be well-served by a few hyperlinks, find them on the web and paste them into the article next to the actual place you’d like to place the hyperlink. This little step saves you time once you’re entering your article into your blog platform and will keep you from flopping around on the internet like an ADHD 7 year old without your meds when you’re supposed to be focused on publishing.

Step 9. Photos and Graphics.
Choose your photos or graphics and add them to your folder with the articles. Be sure the pictures are formated for the web (a 72 DPI resolution and sized no bigger than 900 pixels wide) and, for the love of god, be sure you have permission to use them.

DO NOT grab a random photo off the internet and make it your own. Not only is this tacky, disrespectful to the photographer and just cheesy- it’s also illegal. Illegal to the tune of $125K per copyright violation. Just don’t go there. Use Flickr’s Creative Commons section for free photos (with attribution) or learn how to take your own photos.

And don’t use sucky photos. We’re a visual society and we take quality images for granted- meaning- your readers expect quality photographs and if they come to your site for the first time and see shitty pictures, your words might not be strong enough to keep their eyeballs on your site. OK, I shall step off the photographer’s soap box now.

Step 10. Send it to the Web.

Finally. We’re ready to publish!! Open up your admin panel for your blog, click the new post and copy and paste your text from the edited version into your article. Cut the hyperlinks and paste them into the Hyperlink dialogue box, add your photos in the appropriate spots and add whatever special excerpts, thumbnails and formatting your blog requires. Then, hit publish. Go on, don’t hesitate! You’ve gone through the steps, your writing is brilliant and people will love it! Go for it!

Are we done yet??

No. Time to let the world know your life-altering prose are available for them to consume.

Go to the Ping.fm , visit the Facebook, fly over to the Hootesuite and send your article out to the world. In 140 characters or less, tell the world why your article matters and why they need to read it. Use Hash Tags to get your article in front of the right eyeballs and let it fly!

One more thing- BACK UP YOUR WRITING. Yes, back up your blog folder structure on your computer to an external hard-drive and send it to the cloud.

Now, you’re done. Uncork some wine, pop open a beer, brew some tea, sit back and take in your work. Revel the accomplishment of a fabulous article sharing your unique knowledge with the world.

Go forth and write.

A Mini-Smoky Mountain Walkabout

As my restless-feet-syndrome fired up last week and I sat in a movie theater by my lonesome watching Eat, Pray, Love- yep, that was me, alone at a chic flick- loved it- I decided to hop in the car and go visit my best friend in the Smokies.  Here are a few pics from my mini-walkabout.


Smoky Mountain Mini-Walkabout – Images by Crystal Street

Really, it was about an hour, walking through Gatlinburg. As I left one redneck tourist town for another- I decided to limit my exposure to the “Cooters Raceway” and the “Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum” lest my head fly off if I see one more t-shirt covered in a rebel flag.

Enjoy!

Planning My Blog Around the Cycles of the Moon

Yep, I said it.  That’s real.

Think about it for a second.  People have based decisions of consequence for their entrepreneurial endeavors around the cycles of the moon and the planetary alignments for centuries.  Millenia, even.

Storytelling from an Independent Traveler- documentary photography

A young boy watches the sunrise as the ferry approaches the island of Sangihe. Photo by me- has nothing to do with the topic- I just love the peacefulness of it.

Just take the Farmer’s Almanac.  People’s ability to eat was based on the moon- when to plant seeds, when to harvest, when to expect an abundant yield from their crops- all based on where the moon was at certain times of the year.

But, how often do we take the moon’s cycles into account in our creative and entrepreneurial lives?

Seriously- I’m not talking to you from loony-land right now, I’m being serious- I have on my big girl hat.  While I’ve always paid a vague attention to the moon and its cycles- particularly the full moon- I’ve never really paid close attention to my creativity and production energy based on a waning or waxing moon.

Three weeks ago, I was rolling!  My blog was blowing up with lovely new visitors, I was Tweeting my little ass off and business ideas were spewing from my mouth like the Exorcist.

A few days before the full moon, I was talking with a very wise Goddess (she’s in tune with Mother Earth, the universe and planets in ways I can only hope to emulate) and dear friend about her entrepreneurial adventure and the next step to building her business.  I made a comment about putting some online endeavors into action in the following week and she said nope, we were approaching a strong waning moon and she was gonna batten down the hatches and hunker down till it passed.

Huh?  What the hell?  Waxing moons?  Waning moons?  The moon approaching Leo.  Shit, I’m gonna have to learn this now?! I don’t have room in my brain for this!  It won’t fit between the HTML code I’m learning and the Final Cut editing techniques I’m trying not to forget.

And sure enough, the day after the full moon, I awoke to a frightful scene.  My brain was empty.  No words, no internal conversations that evolve into blog posts, no brilliant brain farts that extract new business ventures. Nothing. Nada.  Zilch.  Just the sounds of crickets shouting out mating calls in my brain.

Damn it.  I had lost my momentum, as if someone had pulled the plug on my frothy, warm, aromatic bubble bath of productivity and left me with a soggy, pruned ass stuck to the bottom of a dry bathtub.  Sigh.

The following 14 days sucked.  Every business move and activity was a struggle and pulling the creative juju out of its hiding place was an all out war.  Writing a blog post felt like getting a root canal.  My brain lost the ability to focus and I flopped around between Twitter and Facebook like a dying fish on the dock- accomplishing nothing during its manic gyrating but a faster death.

As the new moon approached, I even applied for jobs, real jobs.  With the dreaded words that give me hives- salaries, 401Ks and vacation time. (DISCLAIMER- National Geographic- if you’re reading this- I totally want that job- all hives aside- those words and fears don’t count when it’s Nat Geo) I was ready to just call it a day and hang up my travel shoes for a bit and wallow in my single-hood state.

Knowing that these feelings weren’t genuine and feeling like space aliens had invaded my psyche, I called my Goddess and asked her what the F**K was going on!  Is this the moon because this can’t be me!!

“Oh no, its not you.  Its the moon- its a big waning moon.  And oh, Mercury’s in retrograde.”

Well that explains it.  Me and Mercury in Retrograde do not play together very well.  Last year’s retrograde I was a train wreck!

So, I have to wonder, should I start really paying attention to the cycles of the moon and plan my business and creative endeavors around its energies? I do this for my personal life, so why not my professional life as well?

Is it possible to crank out content, projects and business ideas for two weeks straight during the waxing moon and then go into the creative cave for the remaining two weeks- for the waning moon- and get all introspective and shit?  Maybe I’ll just sit on the beach for that waning moon and read a good book.  Then run around like a banshee for the waxing moon and put all my intentions out into the Universe.

Since the dark moon has passed- I feel like my old self.  Mercury is in retrograde, so I’m still a little twitchy, but the juju is returning.  I drooled over Lonely Planet today, accomplished my business tasks with vigor and feel my ideas generated in the last waxing moon resurfacing to manifest into something fabulous!

But, I believe I am going to study the moon cycles a little closer and see if I can’t make a calendar of sorts for action and introspection based on the moon.  I’ll keep you posted on my progress as I journey down the work/moon balance.

Any thoughts about your work/creative moods and the moon?  Post them below!

Branding Yourself, Why it Matters to You and Those Around You

Branding.

The word feels slightly dirty to me.  To brand me, myself, just seems like the ultimate act in arrogance and narcissism- at least that was my old paradigm of thought.  I’ve recently revisited my past assumptions and started to re-evaluate my perceptions of personal branding.  When you’re trying to move people to take action, based on your visions of a better, more balanced society, you’d best embrace the act of branding yourself and your beliefs.  Or no one will listen.

I also believe the world is super saturated with corporate branding- it dictates what we purchase, how we interact in certain social situations, and in today’s world, corporate branding is influencing young people’s sense of self worth and their role in the world.  Insert Hannah Montana or Lebron James here and you see what I mean.

During some recent inner reflection on how to grow my blog and spread me message to the world, I realized that the missing link was two fold- my lack of proper implementation of social media and my lack of branding.  Branding, me?

Yep.  I needed to brand myself in order to get my passions for storytelling, independent travel, location independent living and my philosophies on life in general out into the world and hopefully into people’s conversations.  Oh boy.  I had to embrace my inner narcissist, make peace with with my ego and lay it all out on the table.

crystalstreet, twittering, documentary photographer, storytelling from an independent traveler

photo by brooke mayo photography

In this line of work, when YOU are the person delivering the message- not a corporate behemoth or lacky CEO mouthpiece- in the hopes of helping others and sharing your perspectives on a simple life, the brand has to be you.  All you warts, your burs and your bumps- all your beauty, your simplicity, your compassion and your knowledge. You have to become the face of your beliefs.  Not a cartoon, not an avatar, not a fictional being.  You.  Period.

Social media is powered by conversation.  By real people engaging with one another regarding topics they are passionate about. That’s the heart of social media and if you’re going to build your “Tribe” you must be a strong presence and embrace the transparency and authenticity that drives social media.

Let’s face it, if you’re not transparent or authentic, should you really be trying to build a “Tribe” and lead people to a different way of living.  Hell no.  Stop now, find another avenue of work and use Facebook to update endlessly about your dog or your children.

Over the years, I’ve never quite nailed down the art of branding.  Yes, I know, it’s not rocket science. My venture into lifestyle design began 15 years ago, before there was the 4HWW, webinars about blogging empires and social media was what you did at the bar on the weekend and then spread through the gossip grapevine on Monday.  I began freelancing in 2000, before a website was even necessary for a business.  I taught myself the traditional business models and engaged in a ton of trial and error.  I had a darkroom when I launched my freelance business- and I used it for commerce.

Wrap your brain around that one!

So, branding and identity has always been a challenge for me.  What is the business entity, what should it entail, should each genre of photography be a separate business, do I need to have an LLC for each photographic specialty?  Toss in writing and multimedia and blog development and well- my brain just curls up in the fetal position and cries for its mommy when I start to tackle the issue of branding.

Exhausting.

Last week I had my a-ha moment.  Finally.  Its not the business that needs to be branded, dumb ass, it’s you. You are the person behind the camera, you’re the person writing these blog postings, you’re the person producing the multimedia.  It’s YOU.  And YOU are the person people are contacting about how to engage in their own Walkabout to change their reality. (that happened last week- so amazing!)  You’re the person landing multimedia jobs by word of mouth, over conversations in coffees-houses.  It’s because people believe in you and your talent and abilities.  It’s that simple.

My branding adventures are coming together- and my face is now splattered all over my Twitter, Facebook,  Blog and a hiring/ about my services page  .  I tied everything together, made it look the same and branded it all- and it’s still a work in progress.  Though I’m still struggling about whether or not to separate some of the writing and the photography- I will tie it all in with my name, face and color schemes with my font.

I guess branding isn’t the end of the world when you have a positive message and are trying to start a movement, in fact, it’s necessary.  People need someone to trust when they are embarking on the unknown elements of life-altering actions, such as lifestyle design, minimalist living and location independent professional careers. If my branding wasn’t solid and I could not easily be recognized, I’d be doing my readers a disservice and my future “tribe” wouldn’t have a solid leader.  So, I’ll continue to brand and hopefully keep building my readership by providing something that inspires them or calls them to action.

At the end of the day, if your message is not solid, if your content is weak and your heart isn’t in the proper place and people don’t understand who you are and why they should care, none of it matters. Your branding a pile of shit, and people can smell that- even through the Twitter.