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Clay Buddha Story

January 31st, 2011   |   LifeThink About It

Hannah over at What Have I Got To Give? (love her blog concept!) sent me over this video by Jack Canfield about The Clay Buddha. She mentioned it was about making under. Admittedly, I was a bit skeptical at first click. But as I watched the 4 minute video, I was shocked at how clearly and simply Jack retold a story about a clay Buddha capturing the essence of making under perfectly.

Check out the video here.

worry flashcards: free download

January 31st, 2011   |   LifeThink About It

Part of the recent Rue Mag feature of my apartment and work studio space was a Worry Flashcard PDF Download (pg. 52). Courtney Khail, the talented graphic/stationary designer and blogger,  did a fantastic job taking my ugly cards and turning them into works of art.

If you are new to MML and haven’t heard of Worry Flashcards, hop over and read the full story. I still think it’s the most valuable thing I’ve ever shared.

kendi and bryan’s dream report: week six

January 28th, 2011   |   Life

Be The Business Owner You Want to Be


You might remember the above print ad from American Express. It came out about 3-4 years ago. That’s Tina Fey, sitting scared underneath her desk, underneath her mess with her daughter, half-clothed in the midst of it all. Why of all of the thousands of ads I’ve seen in those past 4 years did this one stick with me? Because one day while perusing through magazines with my mom, she lovingly laughed, pointed to the article and said “This will be you someday. I can’t wait.” Now my mom did not mean this as offensive. In fact, at the time I took this as a compliment. That would be me as a mom some day, I said to myself with a laugh.

Fast forward to two weeks ago. I’m tired, my brain is tired. I can’t move and I can’t think. We’ve got laundry coming out of our ears, my desk looks like I work at a paper factory and we don’t even have a working printer so tell me how that is possible. I kept escaping to the nearest coffee shop to work. I didn’t want to be in my house anymore. I had turned into Tina Fey. Ok — I had turned into the Tina Fey in the ad. Do you really think I’d be writing this post if I’d turned into the real Tina Fey? Uh no.

I’d had it with myself by the end of that week. I woke up that Saturday morning and I started to clean. Bryan looked at me and he knew I was a woman possessed. He stayed out of my way and vacuumed whenever I silently pointed to an area and grunted. Not only was I cleaning our house, I was cleaning our house out. I cleaned out cabinets, drawers, bookshelves. Anything that had creeped in while I wasn’t looking and blocked the way of my thinking got tossed. I tossed many forgotten treasures into a box and drove 30-to-nothing to my local Salvation Army and said goodbye forever. (Included in this box was a tea pot set, mismatched vases, ugly pillows and an extra copy of “Drop Dead Gorgeous.” Don’t ask.)  By the end of that day, I was exhausted, but as I looked around at my calmed down surroundings, I was back home.
My natural tendency is to be messy. But regardless of my habits, I can’t stand to live in mess. I can’t work in clutter, I can’t work in chaos. Most importantly, I can’t start a business with these life habits. If I can’t keep my life in order, then how can I ask someone to let me keep theirs in order? I had to look at my home as if it were my business headquarters, because that’s what it is. I asked myself “if you walked into this business right now, would you hire them?” The answer was no. I rejected my own business! But the truth is I CAN keep my business in order, I CAN keep our clients business in order, I just wasn’t doing it.

I ran across a similar theory in the book The E-Myth Revisited (a book Jess has talked about before). Here’s the part that gets me:

“Your business is nothing more than a distinct reflection of who you are. If your thinking is sloppy, your business will be sloppy. If you are disorganized, your business will be disorganized.”

I can not expect to be the business owner I want to be until I change. My business will look like whatever I want it to look like, because I write the script, I make the story. If I don’t like where the story is going, I can change it. That’s the beauty of a small business, heck of life. If you don’t like something, change it. I was done with being messy, so I changed. If this is the way I want to run my business, this is the way I must live my life.
It’s been a week since the small but significant overhaul. Our house is still clean and clutter free. My brain is free to work again on our business. All week I’ve worked perfectly in my clean space. Who knows? I might even look into Feng Shu next week. And someone, somewhere is hopefully enjoying our extra copy of “Drop Dead Gorgeous” while sipping tea out of a polka dotted tea set.

my bedroom tour

January 27th, 2011   |   Style

Time for bedroom pics! You’ll see a lot of photos that didn’t make it into the Rue Mag feature (pg. 46) because the article was focused on the live/work space rather than my bedroom. And again, Emily Anderson did a fantastic job capturing the special moments in this room.

To be honest, I hated this room for quite a while. But over time it’s come together nicely. I finally feel like I have that “grown up” bedroom I’ve been wanting for so long.

This is the big shot of the bed. My nightstands were both (amazingly) free. The white one was found on the curb without paint and the left nightstand was found in the dumpster in perfect condition. I couldn’t have gotten more lucky.

The pink painting was actually an old print from Bed Bath and Beyond that I re-painted. Here is the before and after. And believe it or not, this wall is painted the lightest shade of pink possible. I love it, but I sometimes forget that it’s actually pink. I think I could have gone a shade or two darker.

This is my love seat. Though I’d love to say that I spend a lot of time there… I don’t. It usually holds pillows at night. But I can pretend, right?

The dresser and chest are pieces my best friend had in her childhood room. I refinished them and added the antique brass knobs before I moved to Chicago three years ago.

This is the left side nightstand I mentioned earlier. I found it in next to my apartment building’s dumpster. A gold and marble miracle.

These Michael Kors pillows (link below) were a no-brainer for me. My obsession with white and gold runs deep.

(And no, my bed isn’t always this perfect – but it is made everyday.)

My Grandma’s silk scarves are easy to see and accessorize with in this vintage glass bowl on my dresser.

You can also see how I’ve used my DIY Chevron Paintings in the bedroom too.

My new favorite way to display and store everyday jewelry is in a small bowl like this one from Anthropologie. (Those are my Chevron Earrings.)

As you can see, I’m pretty minimalist when it comes to table tops. (You can spot my Chevron Bangle and Simple Paisley Dotted Earrings too.)

And one last shot of my bathroom. I love my custom silhouette of my family’s Westie, Mackenzie.

Where to find my pieces:

Bed Frame
Throw Pillows
Duvet Cover (similar)
Nightstand Lamps – CB2 NA.

my living room/studio

January 27th, 2011   |   Style

I have to admit, I’m still buzzing with excitement over the Rue Mag feature (pg. 46) today. In fact, there were so many more awesome photos that didn’t make the magazine, I decided to make an entirely new post sharing them. Emily Anderson did such a great job with the photography it was impossible to just pick a few. And in case you haven’t seen, here is the tour of my bedroom as well.

It’s also awesome to finally be able to look back on my original makeunder plan (post one, post two) from this summer and see how it all came together.

A shot of the full room. Living room on the left, studio desk on the right. (The kitchen is directly behind this space.)

My DIY gold paintings with white felt flowers. So easy to make for such strong impact.

My desk. Where I spend my workdays working on MML and Jess LC. One day I’d like to turn this white marble farm house table into a kitchen island.

Gotta give a shout out to Erin at Plush Studio for making my custom blue chevron curtains.

These Lack Shelves from Ikea are so fun to re-accessorize with the seasons (little can you tell that there were Christmas decorations all over the apartment the day before this shoot!).

The yellow chair was my one large color commitment. It pops in the room perfectly. I’m so glad I went bold!

Coffee table (found in the dumpster) with Voluspa candle Crisp Champagne.

A jewelry box holds my desk supplies.

Thanks for visiting my home! I’ll be back later today with the bedroom photos.

Where to find my pieces:

Bookshelves with these shelves laid horizontally
Arm Chair
Table Lamps
Floor Lamp
Love Pillow
Desk Chair
Vintage found thrifting or in the trash: white marble farm table (used as my desk), polka dot bowls, penguin book ends, and gold metal coffee table.

my home/studio feature in rue mag!

January 27th, 2011   |   Style

After five looong months I’m thrilled to announce that my apartment/studio combo has been featured in Rue Mag‘s third issue, which launched this morning!

I am so thankful for the opportunity to share my home in Crystal and Anne‘s wonderful magazine. Not only did Anne inspire me to start blogging seriously back in January, 2009, but Crystal has become a close, dear friend here in Chicago over the past year and a half. As sad as I am to see Crystal transplant to San Fransisco this month, I’m happy to know her dream is rapidly taking shape.  — And that I’ll have a fabulous place to stay the next time I’m in San Fran.

But it wasn’t only Crystal and Anne who did an amazing job on the feature. Emily Anderson was one of the most easy to work with photographers and stylists. We had an instant connection and loved getting to know one another as she shot my home. I definitely cannot recommend her enough for anyone looking for a talented photographer in New York. I’ll share more of her photos of the space later today.

I also need to send a virtual hug to Adrienne Murrill for the excellent perfect article that accompanies the eye candy. Her writing captured what I’m all about, what the business is all about, and what the studio/home is all about. Thank you so much.

And last but not least, Courtney of Courtney Khail Stationary gets a huge shout out for doing an incredible job turning my worry flashcards into a work of art! Download them yourself on page 52 (more on this on Monday).

Okay, enough chit chat… hop on over to Rue Mag to see the entire feature (page 46)!

share the Jess LC love

January 26th, 2011   |   Life

Today in the Jess LC studio Melissa, Susie, and I have been busy planning our newest web initiative, With Love. Over the past few years we’ve been honored to receive many positive, touching, and inspiring stories about how our jewelry has impacted the lives of our customers.

So we’ve decided that it’s now time to share these special letters on the Jess LC site. If you would like to submit a story for our upcoming With Love page, please email Melissa your letter at theshop@jesslc.com. (If you have a blog, feel free to send her your blog link as well so we can send some love back to you.)

Once we compile our first batch of love notes, we will launch the With Love page officially.

PS – Only four pairs of White and Gold Diversey Paisley Post Earrings left! Get them while they last.

It’s true. I haven’t written my 2011 Future Letter to Myself yet. As I’ve mentioned before, for the past five years I’ve written a letter to myself that explains what I’d like to accomplish each year– as if I’ve already fulfilled the intentions.

Normally the Future Letter is the thing that I look forward to the most come holiday season. Drafting the letter is as fun for me as opening gifts on Christmas morning. I plan for it, dream about what I want to include in the letter, and then anxiously await the fulfillment of the letter throughout the year. These future letters have been incredibly motivating and clarifying. I’ve found that on average I fulfill 80% of what I set out to do in the letter each year.

But this year, I didn’t look forward to the letter.

On Sunday afternoon, I was more determined than ever to finally complete this year’s intention letter. It has been on my to-do list for weeks, but I never actually accomplished the task. After all, I’m “Miss MML,” I should practice what I speak about. Or so I thought. I turned my “want to” into a “have to.”

In frustration, I stared at a blank word document wishing and willing myself to feel inspired about this year’s intention letter.

But nothing would come.

So I stepped back for a minute and questioned why I suddenly seemed to have lost the spark that used to get me so fired up. And suddenly I realized that over the past five years of writing these letters, I’ve become more and more closely aligned with the person I’d like to be. And this year, I have some level of confidence that I will continue on this path but don’t need any radical overhaul. The person I am now is largely the person I want to be throughout 2011. The things I want to do this year are mostly incorporated into my life already.

For the first time in writing these letters, I feel a sense of completeness about who I am. I don’t feel lacking in any major way. Though this may sound prideful, this really has shown me how far I’ve come in my life. You see, the first time that I wrote my future letter as a college junior, I was miserable and hated living with my own thoughts. I hated being me. And the letter I wrote that first year explained who I desperately wanted to become – though I had no confidence that I’d ever reach my goal. But over the last five years, I have in many profound ways evolved into the person I used to dream about. Though far from any sort of perfection, I like “me.”

Talk about DESIGN YOUR LIFE, right? It really can work.

While this revelation may sound incredible, enlightening, and euphoric, it brought about a deep uneasiness within me. Where do I go from here? How do I keep making progress in life without a lingering sense of dissatisfaction between who I am and who I want to be?

The answer lies in focus.

I have now realized that my focus has shifted. No longer do I need to put my priority on my own self-efficacy.

My new focus is: my impact on others.

Every step I’ve taken to become more proactive has led me to my next purpose, to positively impact other people. My future letter now needs to reflect this new aim.

So my intention letter for 2011 will dwell on what kind of impact I want to have on the people around me: my friends, family, co-workers (Susie, Melissa, and Kat), customers, MML readers, and even Mr. Lively. Sure, I’ll also think about what things I need to do in my own life to continue to be happy and healthy, but those goals are now also a means to an impact-full end.

And that is something worth writing about.

Before I begin, I’d like to make it very clear that this post in is no way meant to be a commentary on my sex life or anyone else’s for that matter. This is purely a generic example of how sex is similar in some ways to starting a business.

Over the past few months I’ve recognized a common thread amongst many people who are starting their own businesses:

They are worried that their first business launch won’t be that great.

And the truth of the matter is: in many cases they are completely right.

Businesses often aren’t that great in the beginning and improve over time.

Just like sex.

With practice and experience, sex and business both improve. Prowess in both activities is not intuitive in the beginning, but is gained through trial and error.

And the longer business owners wait to launch their companies, the longer they are delaying any improvement or tangible results.

I have struggled to find a way to make this really clear to new business owners. Their fears and worries are so strong that they often have a hard time really understanding that they are only going to become better business people by actually starting to do business. And my hope is that this blunt analogy will help cut through the mind clutter and clearly illustrate how much they have to gain from pushing past their fears.

Just because the first time might not be that great, doesn’t mean it won’t be awesome later.

So stop thinking and start doing.

kendi and bryan’s dream report: week five

January 21st, 2011   |   Life

Putting Yourself Back into Your Business

I asked Kendi to step in for me last week because I was preparing to attend a national conference for photographers. I went into it excited about the opportunity to learn from some of the best and to have the better part of three days to focus completely on our business and where we were headed. I got home, my head swimming with story after story trying to relive the sessions I had attended in order that we could figure out how to apply this into our business. Every speaker and every session had something to offer, and I wanted to ensure that I heeded their words, each with innovative and exciting ways to help increase success and to try and dodge bullets of failure.

The problems with this method is complete overload. I was paying too close attention to every word said, thinking literally rather than with perspective. What can I say? I am a theory man. Point being, I sought out advice and expertise and what I got were theories of someone else’s business experience that I was working to maneuver into our business. If there was any need for the square peg in a round hole reference, it would be now.  Albeit most of the advice was good and helpful and very useful, but I missed the biggest question of all: what does this look like for YOUR business? What does YOUR experience tell you is the best advice to heed? Each business has a threshold. As businesses mature, there tends to be more room for the adoption of new ideas that align with the original mission. But you can’t start out with ten years worth of experience of owning your business, you just start with the experience you have. Each time I try to include someone else’s theory or new idea without collaborating with my own theory or idea, I am forcing my own experiences out. Every addition of someone else was relinquishing control, and transforming our business into something not easily recognized as an extension of me.

Don’t get me wrong — I learned a lot of valuable advice and practices at my conference this week. But the best thing I learned did not come from someone else’s experience, it came from my own experience of mental overload. That’s it. I am putting myself back into my own business. I need to go with MY gut, and MY knowledge, and MY understanding of what I want MY business to be rather than only copying methods that worked for someone else.

We are all unique. Each of us has our own special gifts, talents, and beauty to pour out into the universe. I am the best me that there is, and you are the best you. I want to create a business that thrives because I did not hold back and I poured the best and worst of me into making it what it is. I know that I will make mistakes. And that is OK. I would rather make my mistakes over someone else’s.

Now let’s go out there experience life and create our own theories, shall we?

- B

a life realignment

January 20th, 2011   |   LifeThink About It

On Monday night I gave myself a life realignment.

Just like visiting a chiropractor to maintain an aligned spine, I think we sometimes need to “crack” our life back into place. I found myself over the past few weeks ever so slightly out of whack. My center was off. My priorities a bit murkier than normal. My effectiveness slightly compromised. I’ve been busy, but not always doing the things that are most important to me. My activities haven’t always aligned with my life intentions.

Though it could partially be a bit of the winter blahs, the culmination has made me feel off my game. I’ve watched more tv than read books. I’ve eaten more sweets than veggies. My workouts have been irregular. My sleep has been insufficient.

I think most of us go through this every so often. And the tricky part is snapping out of the funk to start making positive changes that reflect our truest selves, our potential, our intentions.

In these cases I think a life realignment is called for.

My own realignment was an informal journal entry with a to-do list at the end. But there is no right or wrong way to do a life alignment. It really comes down to reflecting on what actions or habits are disagreeing with our intentions and then committing to the changes we need to make. It’s like we’ve already written our DESIGN YOUR LIFE manifestos, and we just need to redirect our actions to reflect those intentions once more.

After my 20 minute reflection I had a to-do list that looked like this:

  • Keep a food journal for a week – This is so that I can begin to return my attention to my hunger cues rather than eating unconsciously.
  • Throw out 50 things – My apartment was getting a bit too full, so I implemented my handy 50 Things strategy to lean out the space (more details on this to come).
  • Launch the I Love You necklace -This new necklace needed to be launched in time for Valentine’s Day. No more delays!
  • Cook a healthy dinner for Mr. Lively and myself – Time to eat those veggies!
  • Find a yoga studio – I promised myself this holiday season I’d start doing yoga again. It’s time to make that happen.
  • Have dinner with a family member – I’ve been putting off making a simple call to see someone I love.
  • Make peace with a friend - I needed to put a strained friendship back on my radar and let water flow under that proverbial bridge.
  • Do laundry and errands – It’s time that I had a fresh stash of socks and new body wash.

All of these loose ends were weighing me down. After putting them to paper I promptly accomplished several in just a few hours. The rest have been done throughout this week. And just as I suspected, I’m starting to feel more like my old self, my intentional self. Though there is still work to be done, I’m well on my way.

For the past few months the girls and I at Jess LC have been busying preparing for the launch of our newest Franklin design – the I Love You Necklace!

Just in time for Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, this baby version of our popular braille necklaces is the perfect gift for a friend, sister, girlfriend, wife, mother, or oneself.

We made the new “I Love You” pendant smaller than our past braille pendants so that it is easy to mix and match with the other intention necklaces – or any other pendants in your jewelry wardrobe. And of course, the words “I love you” are printed in English on the backside as usual.

The New “I Love You” Lookbook

[Click on the image below to see the fullscreen version of our new online lookbook.]

We also whipped up a cute new lookbook to kick off this special design with the help of some fabulous models. Crystal, co-founder of Rue Mag and blogger behind Plush Palate, Dana of The Broke-Ass Bride, and Naomi of The Rockstar Diaries all styled their new Franklin necklaces to show off their personalities. And I have to give a shout out to Becky Hill of Becky Hill Photography for shooting Crystal and Dana in California over the weekend.

They also shared what “I love you” means to them as a single woman (Crystal), married woman (Dana), and momma-to-be (Naomi). Their thoughtful quotes can be found in the lookbook.

How You Can “Drop a Hint” For That Special Someone…

Dying to get an I Love You necklace for Valentine’s Day or another special occasion but don’t know how to get the mister to listen? Try using the special Tweet and Like buttons on the product page to let him know about the necklace.

And of course, if all else fails, just have your best friend tell him.

kat’s cute valentines

January 18th, 2011   |   Style

Today I have to do a shout out for our incredibly talented Jess LC intern, Kat of Kat Doodles. She’s recently launched a line of valentines on Etsy and I’m beyond impressed. Her adorable doodles, cute phrases, and high quality card stock are a home run. I can’t wait to watch her line grow from here!

Here are a few samples. Each card is $5 and you can even have your own card customized!

Hop on over to her shop to see more.

paths to not reaching goals

January 17th, 2011   |   LifeThink About It

I’m feeling a bit under the weather, so I’ve been taking it easy and resting quite a bit. Here’s to hoping that tomorrow I feel back to my normal, healthy self again.

In the meantime, this thought by Penelope Trunk today really made me stop and think. Though her quote could be considered a bit controversial, I think it definitely warrants food for thought.

… Perhaps it might be a good idea to reflect on our own un-met goals and find out why we may not be reaching them.

kendi and bryan’s dream report: week four

January 14th, 2011   |   Life

Seeing is Believing?

Yes, it’s me again. Bryan took a week off to be an awesome husband. You’ll forgive him right?

My friend emailed me the other day, asking for advice on her new venture — an etsy shop. Now this took me by surprise as I have no experience with etsy besides one time I ordered one thing, once. That’s it. In her email you could tell that she was weary about this new start up. I could sense her lack of self-confidence in this new venture. And then she flat out said it — “I am just not very confident in myself.” Bingo. I sprung to action, as any good girlfriend would do. I immediately emailed her back telling her that she first needs to believe in herself and in her ability to create products that someone would want and love. I told her that in order for someone to believe in her product she has to believe in it most of all. Because if she, the owner, creator, maker of this good does not believe in what she is doing then why would she expect anyone else too?

Skip to me, hours later whining* to my husband/business partner about our business. Details sparred this is basically what I said “I am just not very confident in myself.” I didn’t actually say any of those words, but my husband has read my book a few times and knows it well. (Mainly because it’s short and uses a lot of pictures instead of words.) This is what he said:

“That’s stupid. You are confident in yourself. Why would you even say that?”

And I now understand where my friend was coming from. Because it’s hard to believe. It’s hard to believe in an idea, that’s why so many ideas go undeveloped. It’s hard to believe in something that isn’t quite finished, that maybe hasn’t even begun. But when it comes to a small business, believing can not just rely on seeing the results. Believing in your business has to happen every single day.

The best thing I can do is believe wholeheartedly in my business.
The best thing I can do is believe in my abilities, even one’s I’ve yet to discover.
The best thing I can do is back up my idea with action, and believing in each task.
The best thing I can do is to believe, even without seeing our idea completed.

So here is to believing until I am able to see, and no matter what I see still believing there after.

– K

*You guys know I’m exaggerating when I say words like whine, right? You guys don’t actually think that I’m whiney….

The DIY DESIGN YOUR LIFE edition is here! With lots of traveling over the past several Thursdays, this post is a bit overdue from December.

Hop over to Nicole and Allison’s blogs to see how they “design their lives around their intentions.”

Allison’s post is on Spare Change Living.

And Nicole’s is on Simply Nicole.

Want to find out more about the DIY DESIGN YOUR LIFE monthly feature? Keep reading.

the less you have…

January 13th, 2011   |   StyleThink About It

Well said, Ms. Post. This idea aligns perfectly with my four makeunder steps.

[quote found via Traci Zeller Designs]

Today I’d like to talk about something that occurred to me while I listening to a keynote speech at the WJA Women in the Know Conference. While sitting on a fateful mauve velvet seat, I re-imagined Jess LC for 2011. Though I don’t want to give too much away, I will say that I plan to design and launch non-jewelry products this year.

But I have no idea how to design, produce, and sell these new products.

And that doesn’t phase me one bit. In fact, it excites me.

This led me to a realization about business that I think a lot of new business owners (and would-be business owners) don’t understand about successful entrepreneurs. There are really two things strong business leaders know without a doubt:As I’ve listened and worked with more and more start-up business owners, I am finding that there is tons of stress and worry focused on the fact that they don’t know how to start a business.

But the truth is, this is normal for every business owner, and every person on the planet for that matter.

No one on Earth was born with an innate knowledge about marketing, business plans, production schedules, credit lines, and venture capital. We were all born with essentially no information. But over time, we learn through trial and error (hence the first understanding listed above) and through finding information (that’s the second understanding).

What separates the great business owners from the not-so-great ones is the simple fact that they aren’t intimidated by the process of making mistakes and figuring stuff out. They have a deep confidence that they can overcome mistakes and are able to seek out advice and unknown information.

So really, there is no difference between Joe Schmoe and a prosperous business owner. The business person is simply not intimidated by mistakes and trusts their ability to problem solve in their business.

Though there is a lot to be said about talent playing a huge role in many fields like art and science, business is usually a process of “learning as you go” and sheer determination.

So the next time you see an inspiring product launch or business model, remember that that the person behind the scenes made a bunch of mistakes along the way and figured things out as he or she went along.

And that is something we all can do.

First, I’d like to mention how much fun I had last week in New York speaking at the Women’s Jewelry Association conference, Women in the Know. The keynote speakers were fantastic and left me extremely inspired. Throughout the day I re-imagined Jess LC for 2011 — which now leaves me with a mega long to-do list.

The breakout session I led was awesome as well! I found as with past speaking engagements for American Express OPEN, that I truly love speaking to groups. So feel free to reach out if you have any speaking opportunities I might be a good fit for!

You Asked For It: Turning off your business mind

Last week Judit, an awesome MML reader, left me a comment “ordering a post.” You can see her question for me above about how I turn off my business mind when I’m not working.

Here is my honest answer:

I usually don’t have ANY trouble turning off my business mind after work.

I know, that may sound counter-intuitive, surprising, or even in some way wrong – but the truth is, I don’t like to think about anything related to the business at night or on the weekends. Of course there are times when I sketch ideas in the dark and so I am wound up with inspiration that I can’t fall asleep (e.g. last Thursday night after the WJA conference), but 98% of the time I am perfectly happy to turn off my Jess LC brain after hours.

For me, running the business 40+ hours a week is plenty of time to think about jewelry. However, there are subtle connections to work at all times – like reading emails on my phone (though I only respond during business hours) and getting design inspiration from shelter blogs.

When it comes to MML and intentional ideas, the lines of work and non-work are more blurred. Conversations with friends can often spark an idea for a post. However, I usually write down the idea and write the actual post during business hours.

To be honest, sometimes when I see the herculean work ethic of many online business owners, I am filled with awe and respect. I sometimes feel guilty that I don’t have that same dogged determination and enjoyment from of 50+ hours of business. It’s just not possible for me. I think my effectiveness and enthusiasm would deteriorate as I attempted to push myself past my natural cadence.

And it all really comes down to the fact that I charge myself with the responsibility to design my life (with intention) so that I enjoy it. For me, that means not thinking about business on Saturday and Sunday.

So Judit, to answer your question, I think you need to think about whether you enjoy thinking about your business at the theater and when reading. If you do, then embrace the fact that you have such a love and devotion for your craft. But if you resent the fact that you can’t stop thinking about business and it starts to frustrate you, then I think it’s for the benefit of you and your business to find a new hobby or way to unplug.

You are here to run your business, not let your business run you.

Do you want to “order a post?” Do so by asking me a question here.

kendi and bryan’s dream report: week three

January 7th, 2011   |   Life

Right Steps, Wrong Order

The last few weeks we’ve found ourselves lost. Completely lost. But the thing is we were doing everything right. We were working on the business, the web pages, the strategy. We met with a few clients to square things away for their upcoming weddings. But it was all wrong.

A few Saturdays ago, we were eating lunch at a little hamburger joint in town. We were laughing and having a great lunch when out of nowhere the conversation took a steep decline. I started talking about feeling lost in all of this (the business), how I didn’t know what I was doing or what I was doing it for. But I just kept on doing it because well, wasn’t that the right thing to do? We were taught as children that persistence is what brings success. I do not deny this truth, but persistence on treadmill is not the same as persistence on a road. Simply put — we were moving, but going nowhere.

We started backtracking the last month. We’d both been working very hard but when we started talking about we realized that we may have been doing things right but we were in fact doing them in the wrong order. We’d started at the bottom, instead of starting at the top of our list. Simply because the bottom part is what we are drawn to, it’s what we both like to do. Instead of working through creating a business plan (which is a beast by the way), figuring out what this whole thing called our business, we immediately delved into creating our website. We’d started branding our company and started creating a website but were lost as to what we were doing.

This is classic cart before the horse move, a move that I’m very familiar with. In fact, if anyone would like for me to write a 500 page book on putting the proverbial cart in front of the horse and then complaining about the horse not doing his job, let me know. I’ll have it to you by Monday.

Frustrated with our branding, frustrated with our progress, tears filled my eyes — where did we go wrong? My napkin turned into a tissue for my rolling tears. I didn’t really have to ask that question out loud before the answer came to both of us. And one cliche after another here, it hit us like a ton of bricks. We weren’t wrong in our actions, we just needed to slow down and start from the top. I think more than anything the beginning or top of the list is the scariest, for me anyways. It’s a list of tasks that must be accomplished one by one, the foundation to what you want to build. One time I tweeted (yes, I tweet) that I like to put things I’ve already accomplished on my to-do list, just to make myself feel better. But making my self feel better isn’t the reason we are building this business. We have a purpose that needs be fulfilled, one task at a time. I don’t know if any of you are Arrested Development fans, but you know the episode where Gob becomes president of the construction company and he wants to build a house in three weeks instead of 3 months like normal? This seems to be my business strategy most days. The faster the better! But just as Gob’s shell of a house (literally a shell) fell down, our business will too if we don’t take the time to take each step and fulfill it.

We’ve since started our first task — establishing a business plan. This is a process that neither one of us are familiar with. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Bryan looked at me the other day and said “I have no idea what I’m doing.” To which I replied “No one really does.” We must do what we know and learn the rest.

In an act of selflessness and pure empathy, I am asking you to comfort me with your own stories of the right persistence, wrong direction. If you don’t, I will just assume you really like to start at the beginning and not the end, even if it is just to make me feel better.

speaking of new york city

January 5th, 2011   |   Business Advice

Speaking of New York City, I’m on my way to actually speak in New York City. Tomorrow I’ll be sharing my business story and helping other small business owners at the Women’s Jewelers Association. The conference is called Women in the Know. If you happen to be attending, please come say hi and sit in on my presentation.

In the meantime, please pardon a quick break from posting. I’ll be back in Chicago and posting on Friday!

Photo Background Credit

As a follow up to yesterday’s post, Don’t Turn Your Want Tos into Have Tos, I would like to present a related concept; how I’m learning to turn my Have Tos into Want Tos. There is no denying that I have plenty of autonomy when it comes to my career, but even self-employment has it’s drudgery. The task that I find the most difficult to coax myself into is entering expenses into Quickbooks. Sure, I’m great at tracking revenue. After all, that’s how I know how much money Jess LC is earning. But since I submit my books to my accountant for taxes just once a year, tracking expenses tends to be the last thing on my to-do list.

However, if I am better at tracking my expenses throughout the year I will have a much better handle on our profit-margin and genuine company health. I will be more informed and will be able to make better business decisions.

I just need to take the time to sit down with Quickbooks one hour a month. That’s all it takes.

But with MML, processing orders, marketing, managing staff, and a life outside of Jess LC, there are plenty of monthly reasons excuses as to why I can’t complete the dang expense report. But the truth is, that I can make the time.

I just don’t really Want To.

So a few weeks ago I took a long hard look at the facts: bookkeeping is a Have To for any small business. But I certainly don’t Want To do it. Ever. I could have interns enter the expenses. But I’d rather keep finances within my control. I could also hire a bookkeeper to do them once a month instead for about $40 an hour. But that’s an unnecessary expense since I can do them myself.

At that point I had a great idea.

I can do the bookkeeping each month and “pay” myself $40 (the opportunity cost of having a bookkeeper do it for me) and then go shopping with the cash I would have paid someone else. I would thereby turn my Have To into a Want To. Because, let’s face it, $40 of fun money can mean a cute top, nice candle (or two), or some awesome makeup. That equates to $480 worth of spending money over the course of a year.*

Another option to consider is saving $40 in a bank account and watch the money I would have spent accumulate instead. (But to be honest, I’m more enticed by the spending option myself. Shopping with $40 definitely ups my Want To quotient.)

Either way you look at it, I no longer see my bookkeeping as a dreaded Have To. I now see it as a way to earn some fun money to go shopping – which I would do regardless – the bookkeeping is now simply an awesome bonus.

Though bookkeeping is a specific personal example, there are many other unappealing things we all Have To do. By taking some time to really reconsider the tasks, we might be able to redefine our motivation or perspective – it just requires an open mind and some creativity.

* I just realized that I could use the lump sum of $480 to buy a Tory Burch bag – which is one of my intentional obsessions for 2011. Awesome.

Shop Teezy Giveaway Winner

In other news, Amanda (commenter #11) won the Shop Teezy giveaway last December. Congrats, lady!

kendi and bryan’s dream report: week two

January 3rd, 2011   |   Life

NOTE: This post written by Bryan was originally supposed to be used for December, 24th. But since I was on vacation out of town, it didn’t make it on the site until I got back to work in the studio (today). So thank you, Bryan, for your patience and for being an amazing reporter. Enjoy!

Fighting vs. Surviving

I believe that there comes a time when every dreamer must decide: am going to do this or not?

For the past year and a half I have been working to build up a side photography business. I would spend many weekends snapping family photos or with an engaged couple preparing for their big day. The more that I worked with clients the more that I knew that this is what I supposed to be doing; the more that I knew that I had purpose in photographing others. My excitement would grow with new client inquiries, and I would often talk about how I couldn’t wait to be doing this full time.

But that is just the thing. I was talking and dreaming rather than doing and achieving. Although I alluded to taking this adventure full time, I didn’t follow through in the manner in which I worked. I was full of dreams and tales of what it would be like to fill my days capturing images, yet I treated everything about the business as a side job. And so it remained that way. I would celebrate each booked shoot, but would later grow frustrated because I wasn’t booked every weekend. I never saw substantial growth because I wasn’t putting in the work that was required to grow the business I dreamt of working.

The idea of being a photographer is somewhat romanticized. Often characterized in movies as a reckless artist spending their day walking through urban streets and snapping away. While I have always known this role to be fabricated, I was not acting far from this ideal or at all like an effective business owner. I was embracing the joy of the creative, and procrastinating on the reality of business. As Kendi wrote in our last post, I didn’t know who my customer was, what I could offer them, or even who I was as a photographer. So I began to ask questions in this direction. And Kendi was there to help me answer.

Me reaching out and asking for help was the first step in the right direction.  I needed to begin fighting to create the business I wanted, rather than survive in the business I was in. Together, we were able to talk through many of the specifics and truly discover who we are, and what we could be. Each of our ideas built on the other’s, and to our surprise, we both loved the collaboration. You see, as much as we love each other, and even after almost 3 years of marriage, we always assumed working together was out of the question. Kendi is organized and works best with a schedule and a task list. I, on the other hand, am much more likely to be distracted by my own thoughts and prioritize by stacking things. And let’s face it — we’ve got enough dirt on each other, that a simple business disagreement could easily turn into a spousal argument.

Luckily for us though, we have found that we are a well matched pair, and our strengths and weaknesses compliment each other’s. We have both regained a focus and have been able to understand more about intentionally building a business, rather than allowing the business to navigate itself. We know that it will always be a fight. It is a fight to come home after putting in 8 hours at my day job, and put in another 4-6 on our business. It is a fight to not spend weekends lounging, watching movies, or eating out, but instead using the uninterrupted time for research, reading, and building the  specifics of our business. I am not naive enough to think that this is a fight that will end with the launch, but after a year of simply surviving in a side business, I welcome the fight of the full time.


NOTE: Welcome back to MML! I’ve definitely needed the time I’ve taken off to recharge and prepare for 2011. I have some housekeeping to do here a bit later on over the next week. In the meantime, I’d like to jump right into one of the best lessons I’ve learned over this holiday break. Enjoy!

On December 28th at 6:18PM I sat on the Orange Line train at Midway waiting to return home after a trip to see my family in Pennsylvania. Due to the snow storm that hit the east coast over Christmas, flights were delayed and my entire trip (with a layover in Minneapolis) lasted about 10 hours.

As I sat in the train I had a mini-breakdown. Immediately after landing in Chicago there was a daunting list of things to do over the next six days.

  • I had to go home that night and eat dinner with my boyfriend, Mr. Lively.
  • I had to unpack and clean my apartment.
  • I had to prepare for my best friend and her boyfriend to stay with me for a few days – they were arriving the following afternoon.
  • I had to go for a run before my friends arrived.
  • I had to entertain and hang out with my friend and her boyfriend for several days.
  • I had to go to a Black Keys concert as a Christmas present on Thursday night.
  • I had to get ready for New Years Eve and go to a nice dinner at a friend’s house.
  • I had to clean my apartment after my friends left.

I felt overwhelmed, tired, and dismayed at the mountain of tasks that needed to be done. To be honest, I practically had tears in my eyes.

Eventually, I started to reflect on the to-do list that scared me so much. Everything on the list was something I had been excited about for weeks. In a matter of hours I had turned everything I wanted to do over my holiday break into a set of tasks that needed to be managed, controlled, and completed. At no point on that train was I recognizing how incredibly fun each item on its own would be. I wanted to eat dinner with Mr. Lively. I wanted to have my friends visit for a few days. I wanted to see the Black Keys in concert. I wanted to clean my apartment, run, and celebrate NYE with friends.

I had taken everything that I wanted to do and turned them into things I had to do. I had turned fun into work.

At that point, I managed to take a step back and recognize how fortunate I was that Mr. Lively was picking up dinner for me. I also asked my friends to arrive a few hours later to give myself more time to prepare for their visit. And I started to reconnect with how grateful I was for the amazing holiday break.

I’d like to say that this is the only time that I’ve ever taken my “want tos” and turned them into a huge list of “have tos.” But that is not the case. I think there is a good chance that we all may live much of our lives swapping “want” for “have” in our vocabulary and attitudes. Perhaps by taking a step back and looking at our perspective a bit more we might be able to restore many of our “obligations” back to what they were in the first place: fun.

Free Desktop Wallpaper

The wonderful Kendi has inspired me to do a series of desktop wallpapers for MML. This month’s wallpaper is the graphic above (Don’t Turn Your Want Tos into Have Tos) – a great reminder was we start a new year with fresh intentions.

You can download the full desktop size image here.

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