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dual purpose: jewelry box

August 31st, 2011   |   ExfoliatingStyleWardrobe


As you can imagine, being a jewelry designer means that I have several jewelry boxes. This one in particular is very special to me as it once belonged on my Grandma’s dresser for many years.

Since I use display boxes to showcase most of my special pieces, this box has been meaningful but unnecessary.

… Until I found a new way to organize my sewing materials inherited from my mom. Now things are perfectly organized and easy to see.

And the bonus? Now I love fixing small holes or snags on my clothing because it means that I get to use the jewelry box that is meaningful and organized.

have’s, do’s, and be’s

August 30th, 2011   |   LifeThink About It

Oh man, I feel like this summer in all of the new growth and anxiety I’ve felt, I emerging out of the fog with very little in my mind with which to cope. And in a way, that is the best thing that could happen to me for a few reasons. The first, is that it allows me to rediscover things that I already knew about life and intentions before, in a whole new way, without my past perceptions casting a shadow over my present reality. It also allows me to go back and re-trace a lot of the successful steps I’ve taken in the past, and then share that journey here with you.

In fact, yesterday while running with Mr. Lively while still in a bit of a personal funk, I kept searching for things to be grateful for in my own life after yesterday’s discussion on envy vs. inspiration. Logically I knew that I have a great life, and so much to be thankful for, but anything that I thought of to be thankful for seemed forced… Until I thought about the fact that I am able to share the tough stuff I experience here with you. To know that when something sucky happens to me, I am able to share it here on MML and read comments that say “thank you for sharing” is pretty incredible. Not many people get to turn their crap into constructive, positive feedback. And for that I am truly, deeply grateful.

Have’s, Do’s, and Be’s

Okay, now back to my newest epiphany. This weekend I decided to go back and re-read my favorite book of all time, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. This book helped me get out of a major rut in my life in college and is still the number one resource that I recommend to readers and friends when they talk about finding purpose, happiness, or intentions. It has been the single largest factor in my success at designing my own life and business with intention and I’ve probably referenced it here on MML over three dozen times.

What is crazy is that while in a tailspin of confusion, frustration, anxiety, and worry this summer, I never thought to go back to this book and re-read it sooner.

But better late than never, right?

In re-reading the first chapter on proactivity, I’ve discovered a major flaw in my recent life paradigm that has led to a lack of clarity and peace:

This summer I focused on my Have’s and Do’s.

After making a million intentions in a intention-based program a few months ago, I focused mostly on things that I wanted to have and do. I thought a lot about the dream house I want, the marriage and kids that I want, and the trip to Italy I want. I also thought about the things I wanted to do: learn Italian, do yoga every morning, eat a healthy vegetable every day, read the NY Times daily, save $1000 a month, etc. I believe there were around 144 things that I wanted to “do” overall to have the life that I wanted.

But the truth was that by focusing on the have’s and do’s I was so overwhelmed and dissatisfied at my lack of those things, I felt miserable.

And after finally letting go of the misery, the past few weeks I’ve wiped my mind clean of intentions altogether. Sure, I still want to launch the collections we are working on for Jess LC, and I am living my life rather similarly to how I normally do, but I was scared to think about intentions too much for fear that I would find myself back in the anxiety trap I just escaped from.

No impending need to “do” anything helped me release my life and live with open hands and faith.

But it also wasn’t giving me a lot of pleasure, just the blessed absence of anxiety.

And while reading Habit One, I found a clue to help me regain my excitement and joy while also avoiding the stress that my intentions had caused earlier: I need to work on my Be’s. 

The one thing that I can control at all times, and work to improve, is my Be’s no matter what life throws at me. (Which MML reader, Marguerite, commented on earlier.)

I can choose what qualities I want to cultivate and focus on daily. And I also recognize that these Be’s are also the overriding frameworks that I can later design my life around once more. I just needed to realize that Have’s and Do’s aren’t the intentions in my life. They are the effects of utilizing my “Be” intentions. So here are my few, new, Be’s which will one day become my intentions:

I want to Be Present.

I want to Be Peaceful.

I want to Be Healthy.

I want to Be Grateful.

I want to Be Loving.

Starting with these overarching themes, I will eventually find ways to design my actions (my Do’s) to fit these intentions. But for this moment, I just want to relax into the idea that these are the things which are in my control in this very moment, and are attainable. I also have a feeling that over time, those Have’s I have been seeking may just come my way. But if they don’t, it doesn’t matter in this moment.

Right now, I just need to be.

 

 

glitter credit

envy vs. inspiration

August 29th, 2011   |   LifeThink About It

Over the weekend I spent my Sunday morning pouring through a new favorite blog’s entire two year archive.

I found this new blog crush’s life and content fascinating. She is also very talented in a particular area that I am working to improve in my own life. For the purposes of this post, who she is and what she does is not as important as what I’ve learned from this experience, so I am going to keep her name and blog anonymous.

What is most important to know is that from reading her content she seems talented, beautiful, successful, loved, thankful, happy, and though not perfect, pretty darn close to perfection. Of course I know that her life cannot be all sunshine and rainbows – no one’s life is – however the good things she shares are really good.

After pouring through the archive I found myself frustrated by my own shortcomings, wishing that I could be as successful as she is in specific ways.

And then I noticed a sinister mindset creep into my mind. I started to look at my shortcomings compared to other bloggers I admire as well. I started to think about how I’m not as talented at graphic design as Pugly Pixel, as pretty as Emily, as good of a re-mixer as Kendi, as unique as Bri, as far along as Sheridan, and as driven as Michelle.

It culminated in a stew of pity and envy. I focused on my weaknesses rather than my strengths.

Thankfully, at this point I had a breakthrough: blogging is not meant to be a place to compare ourselves, it is a place to get inspired by others, to learn and grow more fully into ourselves.

Sure, this may not seem like a big deal to most people. I bet there is a big chance that you already have figured this out for yourself. Heck, I’ve even known this is true in the past. But at that moment on Sunday morning, I forgot that’s what blogging is about and let myself think that I “need” to be as good as everyone else at the things that they excel at most. And the fact that it is easy to compare oneself to not just one person, but hundreds of bloggers, is overwhelming and defeating.

Because unlike Oprah Winfrey, Joyce Meyer, or Gary Vaynerchuk, who to me represent an ideal to strive for without jealousy; bloggers close to my age and place in life are more relatable and seem to bring up feelings of inadequacy.

The bloggers aren’t that different from me, so why can’t I be as good as them at what they do best?

After figuring out that I am meant to use these bloggers and their strengths as a gentle inspiration, rather than a spotlight on my shortcomings, I began to feel more light, excited, and empowered. I don’t need to be as good as Bri at graphic design, but I can admire her creativity and push myself to improve my graphics. I can watch Kendi remix her striped shoes with her solid top and see how I can try something similar with my own wardrobe. I can use these bloggers as teachers to help me improve in areas that I desire.

I’ve also noticed that some of the personal life bloggers who seem the happiest do not have perfect lives. But their gratefulness alone creates the happiness that I envy. They do not usually live in the coolest cities, go to the coolest restaurants, or have the coolest jobs (okay, some have pretty fantastic jobs). But they usually have an ability to share how thankful they are for the awesome things they do have in their lives. And at the end of the day, that is what I admire. I want to love my life as much as they love their life.

And by focusing on their life instead of my own, I am doomed to always feel “less than.”

Only by using their blogs as gentle inspiration to become more connected and appreciative will I ever be fully present and happy in the life I have been given and created.

maggie’s dream report: week twelve

August 26th, 2011   |   Life

Stand by me

Although being a solopreneur (get it?) suggests working alone, it’s not entirely true. Even if you’re the only person WORKING for your business, I don’t think any successful entrepreneur would be so without a strong support system. Family, friends, and your significant other are all a part of the business because they love and care about you.

I’m so grateful for my sweet boyfriend, Ryan. He is a huge part of Maggie Rose, even though he has little opinion of decorating and has only written two blog posts (out of pressure from me!). It was Ryan who put his foot down when I was miserable at my old job and said “Enough. It’s now or never.” It’s Ryan that reminds me that I’m not failing until I’ve given up. We live frugally because of my career switch but to him, my happiness is more important.

I can’t stress enough the importance of having the support of my partner. Even though I sometimes feel guilty that we can’t spend frivolously (even when I’m the one who wants to), that guilt comes from ME, never from him. He believes in me and has from the beginning.

From my friends, even the ones who aren’t into the blogging world at all, I get nothing but cheering and support. I don’t know that any of them have been anything else than encouraging. Even though most of them have “regular” jobs, I think they know that this is what I HAVE to do, for myself. A few in particular have been great as sounding-boards for business ideas and yes, some complaining.

I hear a lot from entrepreneurs whose family is not supportive of their new venture. I’m lucky to come from parents who have followed their own paths (my dad is a full-time musician and has been for over 30 years and my mom runs her own non-profit after being run into the ground working for someone else for years). That doesn’t mean they weren’t worried – and what parent wouldn’t be in this economy! But my mom was proud after I finally took a stand after complaining about my job for 5 years.

Not everyone is going to be supportive or understanding. But when you have your key people behind you, the naysayers don’t seem so important. They’re just the ones who “don’t get it”. The ones that do, keep ‘em close! They’ll keep you sane.

dual purpose: door hooks

August 25th, 2011   |   ExfoliatingStyle

Today I’d like to introduce a new little treat I have for MML; Dual Purpose. As a designer and someone who is all about clearing the clutter and staying (mostly) on budget, I have a few tricks up my sleeve that help me have a home that looks great and functions well. From time to time (which means I’m not setting a rigid posting schedule) I’ll share new ideas that re-invent the purpose of something you may already have.

Because designing a life with intention means having intentional stuff, too.

Making the most with what you have

There were quite a few design bloggers who watched and wrote about the show ‘Million Dollar Decorators’. I watched one episode but never got around to watching the entire season. The reason I am bringing this show up is because I really wonder how well “million dollar decorators” would do when forced to use a very tight budget and some not-so-high-end pieces. Truth is, most of us aren’t millionaires and we don’t have the ability to go buy all new beautiful high end pieces to curate our home with. In most cases we just have to work with what we have. This is even usually the case with decorators!

My husband and I recently moved into our home (May of last year). We are your typical twenty-something couple early in our careers and we don’t have a huge disposable income. I’ve been decorating our home slowly but surely, doing what I can when I can. Even though I believe your home should be amazing and make you happy, I don’t believe going into debt just to buy a piece of furniture.

Here is an example – my husband and I bought our sleigh bed back in 2006. In fact, we bought the entire bedroom suite. However, as my tastes evolved and changed over the years, I no longer liked the furniture. As I recently decorated our current master bedroom, I sold the nightstands and dresser, but the sleigh bed had to stay. A new bed is expensive, especially one of quality. So I’m working with what I have – the sleigh bed.



I worked the old bed into the new room, using cool colors to offset the warm bed. I replace the previous nightstands with softer skirted tables, and added some color with a new painted dresser. Even though I don’t LOVE our old bed, I do love our new bedroom. And someday, when the budget allows, I can get a new bed.

Another example is our TV stand. Sure, I would love this beautiful bamboo TV console from Noir, but the cost is $1,875.


So instead, I purchased this vintage piece at an auction for $60. Is that a price difference or what?


Someday I hope to get a new sofa for our family room. This one would be wonderful:


It’s by Lee Industries; they really make the best sofas. BUT they are priced in the thousands. Until we can afford the sofa we desire, we use this hand-me-down sofa that was FREE!


Sure, there will always be bigger and better things that we all want to fill our homes (and lives) with. But that’s why you must create your home with intention. Be intentional about what you bring into your home. Make sure you can afford it (with CASH. No credit.) If you cannot afford it, work with what you have until you can (like I did with my sleigh bed). Find pieces you love even if they aren’t what you dream of (i.e. I really love our $60 TV stand, even though it’s not the Noir piece).

When you start living this way, you’ll really start to love your home!

living life with open hands

August 24th, 2011   |   LifeThink About It

Now that I’ve shared what has been complicating and frustrating me, it’s time to share the baby steps I am taking to walk out of the anxiety and fear I’ve been feeling.

Earlier this summer I had the pleasure of speaking to Mindie Kniss and she pointed out that I seemed to have a strangle hold on a few areas of my life. It was as if I was trying to force situations to come about as I expected them to be – immediately. But the fact was that they were not manifesting in my life as I decided they should.

And rather than leave those situations up to Life, trusting that they would play out for my ultimate benefit, I chose to worry and attempt to control them. Because the only thing I could do other than be peaceful was worry. And on some unconscious level, I felt that the worry was more beneficial to make my desires come true.

At least when I was worrying I was doing something. Which gave me a fictional feeling that I was driving the outcome, that I was in control.

False.

Worrying was an active posture, but it was not accomplishing anything other than make me feel miserable and anxious.

So Mindie suggested that I begin to lighten my grip and place the situations in open hands. To let things play out exactly as they should, trusting that they would resolve in positive and peaceful conclusions when the time is right.

And though I’d love to say that I took her advice and did this immediately, I did not. I continued to worry and feel anxious, as well as learned some valuable lessons.

So now, I begin again. Today I begin to take my life and business and put them into my palms. This practice has served me well when it came to my struggle with weight, and I do believe that it is my best choice for the rest of my life as well.

Will it be easy to do?

Not necessarily. But I do believe that this is the lesson that I am meant to learn.

in the middle

August 23rd, 2011   |   Business AdviceLife

I think I need today’s post to help me process my thoughts as much as I hope it helps others in business or contemplating a start-up.

Besides my own life getting off track this summer, I also have been working through things on the business side as well.

Each year since I launched Jess LC four years ago, I’ve tackled a new area of business which has catapulted Jess LC to new levels. But that also means that each year I have faced a huge (stressful) learning curve. In 2007 I took a part-time hobby from college to full-time company in a studio apartment in Chicago. In 2008 I got sales reps who took our distribution from 15 stores to over 100 and brought on jewelry making assistants and interns. In 2009 I strayed from wholesale accounts focused on selling online and started MML. In 2010 I completely re-branded, launched a new site, shopping cart, packaging, and designed cast pieces which were custom made for Jess LC. I also worked with a major PR company in New York and LA who got our jewelry in Real Simple, People Magazine, and Daily Candy. And this year, 2011, has been the year of designing collections beyond jewelry.

Early in January while speaking at a conference in New York, I finally dared myself to think beyond jewelry. And the minute that I dared to imagine that I could design my favorite item to personally purchase, handbags, I was over the moon. I also quickly conceived the idea of making Jess LC a lifestyle brand with many new products, and I set to work making the very popular Lake Shore collection.

What hasn’t been so apparent since that spring launch is that I’ve also been working on four other new areas as well.

Since June, I’ve been working side by side with new sources to make the other collections. These new products are all in areas that production-wise, I knew absolutely nothing about. And I’m realizing that in my quest to design and launch the four new collections simultaneously, I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.

In theory I imagined that this process would be fantastic, easy, and fun. And at first it was fun, then it was challenging, and now it is hard. I’ve had to learn to work with three totally new people and companies who all have their own ways of doing things, and who are not always able to produce exactly to my preferences. Time lines, likewise, are frequently delayed, samples are denied, and materials are inaccurate.

My enthusiasm for my ultimate vision underestimated my capabilities and those of my suppliers. And while I keep pushing along, expecting things to go perfectly, I end up banging my head against the wall, trying to control things beyond my reach.

I thought that by leveraging suppliers and experts in the areas my life would be easier. But the reality is that it is actually more stressful because it is so often now out of my hands.

So after months of hard work, highs, lows, stalls, and waiting, the collections are finally reaching completion and look great. But in order to really get things going, I also realize that I should cut one of the items which isn’t up to par with what I’d like to present on Jess LC. My hope is to perfect it, and return to it again next year.

I’m also learning that four collections launching over the next three months is a too much to do properly, so I’m going to do a double launch of two collections together in September, another launch in October, and a final launch in early November.

By dropping the one problem style, skipping a photo shoot and launching two collections together, I am taking a step back from my massive expectations. I am ditching perfection in favor of doing what is do-able. As much as I want to do everything, I also want to do things well. And if that means taking smaller steps and being more flexible, that is what I need to embrace.

I’ve learned that I can’t expect things to be easy or perfect, but I can have faith that they will be worth it. As Joyce Meyer says, you have to go through the middle to get to the other side.

what went wrong

August 22nd, 2011   |   LifeThink About It

Now that I’ve shared who I am, why I started MML, and how I spent the last four years living intentionally, it’s time to talk about what went wrong over the past few months.

As I briefly mentioned a few weeks ago, my intentional journey took hit a rocky patch this summer. And though in some ways it’s still a work in progress for me, I’d like to share the negative ways that I have approached intentions and how I plan to move forward. My hope is that by sharing the negative patterns, others may avoid the same pitfalls.

This summer I made intentions for every area of my life and refused to leave room for compromise, change, or Life.

As I mentioned a while ago, I went to a four day retreat called Lifebook that helped me create new intentions for every area of my life. Coming out of the program, which I definitely recommend, I had massive breakthroughs in terms of career vs. purpose and email. But I also took my intentions to a not-so-good place.

After discovering what my ultimate lifelong intentions were, I was quickly dissatisfied with my current life. I started to want to live all of my intentions NOW. Right this second. Going through the journey to develop the skills, and assets that I desired was not acceptable to me. I wanted the fullest, complete life I craved immediately.

The problem with that mentality was that it is simply not possible.

Right now I am 26 years old, I don’t have the dream house I designed in my head, and I don’t have all of the desires of my heart. I don’t have children, I am not married, I am not eating my ideal diet, I do not have the money to travel to Italy, I do not have the income and savings that I would like.

Comparing my ultimate ideal life with my current one made me feel dissatisfied and brought out my latent perfectionist side.

I suddenly wasn’t allowing the new intentions to be general guides or beacons in my life, instead I made them absolute present moment necessities. And since I have no real way of knowing which intentions will really happen in the future or which ones I’ll have control over, I was scared as much as I was dissatisfied.

I was so attached to the glossy vision I had of my future that I was unwilling to acknowledge that much of the things I desired were not controllable. And some things, like when (or if) I have a two natural born kids (a boy and a girl, of course), is not something I can just snap my fingers and dictate.

I also cannot know – or demand – that I am guaranteed that I will one day have the exact home that I dream of, all the way down to the drawer pulls on the bathroom cupboards. (Hey, it may sound silly, but I was as attached to the minute details as much as the massive ones.)

The other more sinister aspect of this all or nothing mentality was that it allowed for no imperfections in myself. I was hyper-critical of myself each time that I did not live up to the ideal that I set for myself. This insanely high level of criticism also leaked into my relationships. I started to measure them by the same perfect vision and when people fell short, I had a hard time empathizing and felt frustrated. Forgiveness, understanding, and gratitude went by the wayside when things didn’t match my expectations.

Thankfully, I eventually became miserable enough to start to examine my beliefs and re-think how I would like to approach life.

For a while, the best thing that I could do was let myself not focus on intentions at all. Sure, I still got up each day and generally drove Jess LC and my personal life in positive ways, but I didn’t dictate what I needed to do or accomplish. I floated around a bit and let myself relax from the mental death grip.

Now that I’ve had time to decompress, I’m slowly revisiting my intentions and recognizing which intentions are within my circle of current influence. My dream house, theoretical children, trip to Italy, and ideal income are not things that I can control today.

But habits like reading, saving, working out, and meditating are intentions that I have direct control over. For now, I’m leaving the pie in the sky wish list up to God or life, and focusing on the present moment power I possess. I have faith that if those large dreams I have are meant to happen, they will occur naturally as a result of me moving towards them in the down to earth, not always perfect, methods I have available to me each day.

In addition, I’m also revisiting the words intention and goal.

A few years ago, during my struggle with perfection, I recognized that the word “goal” was very black and white for me. If I met my goal, I succeeded. If I did not meet my goal, I failed. Whereas the word intention felt much more flexible, gentle, and kind.

Somewhere during this summer, I started treating my “intentions” like “goals.” I placed my self-worth in achieving those intentions perfectly as soon as possible. Now, I’m working to return back to what I really do mean when I say the word intention, a gentle determination to act in a certain way as much as I can.

It’s not about being perfect all the time, it’s about doing the best I can in the present moment.

Which is all we can ever ask of ourselves.

maggie’s dream report: week eleven

August 19th, 2011   |   Life

 

Roller Coaster

There are, in business as in life, highs and lows. Friends, I’ve been at kind of a “low” point.

Fear is the main force of gravity in my business’s low point. Fear of failure, of being laughed at, at screwing up, of going broke, of having to give it all up, and of letting people (like you all) down.

The fear comes and goes, usually in a different form one day to another. But it keeps coming back.

As someone prone to anxiety attacks (thanks, former desk job) and stress-induced aches and pains, stress-eating, and tension headaches, giving into the fear and stress is possibly the worst solution to my worries, and yet I find myself letting them take over from time to time. Like now.

I’m worried that I jumped in too far, too fast. Worried about bills that always seem to roll in right at my most stressful moment. Worried that I’m doing something wrong, that things won’t pick up, or that I’m marketing myself to the wrong people. Worried about client’s reactions to my designs, budgets, or well, ANYTHING. Worried until I get so stressed out that I flounder and miss items on my to-do list simply because I spent the afternoon crunching numbers and wondering if I should look for a part-time job.

I think in some respects it is easy to romanticize the idea of starting a business. There is definitely a “rush” involved in stickin’ it to the man, setting up shop, and landing your first big gig. But after the first wave of success there is a lapse. A slow-down where you start to wonder if you made a mistake. If you really are cut out to do this. If this really is your passion, calling, and future.

It is. IF you can hang on.

Another climb up, up, up is coming. Just hang on.

beauty with intention: the best unlaid plans

August 18th, 2011   |   Life

The Best Unlaid Plans

When I started my blog, Beauty Bets, it was as a creative outlet from my day job as a magazine editor. I had NO IDEA that it would lead to me quitting to become a freelancer, and I certainly had no intentions of starting a product line. That wasn’t even a pipe dream. But once someone planted the seed, I couldn’t stop thinking about what I REALLY wanted out of beauty products: That elusive combination of healthy, all-natural ingredients, effective formulas that actually DO SOMETHING, and pretty, pretty packaging. And so began the crazy, fun, excruciating, exhilarating process of creating my own skin care line, By Elizabeth Dehn.

In the beginning, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. But I knew where I was going, and I was going to look darn good in my lab coat and geeky (but chic) glasses! Equally important: I planned to stay excited about what I was doing no matter what. Even when I had to scrap my scent blends and start all over. Or forgo a vacation in lieu of prettier (read: pricier) labels. Or lose weeks of my life learning how to build a website. What I discovered along the way is that if you set your intentions from the beginning and they align with your heart, your head, and your principles, you can’t go wrong. Oh, there will be some meandering and plenty of twists and turns along the way, even with the best-laid plans. The key is to keep coming back to your intentions. The outcome can only be positive. It might be different than you expected, but it will be something you’re proud to put your name on.

four years of intentional living

August 17th, 2011   |   Life

Yesterday, August 16th, was my four year anniversary of living in Chicago. To think of where I was on this day four years ago is simply insane. The first night that I stayed in my new studio apartment I cried for a long time because my boxes covered the entire floor of the apartment. There was barely room to walk. I also was devastated to realize that my full size bed was not going to fit in the extra roomy closet as I had hoped. This realization may seem petty. However, it forced me to realize that I would have to live, work, and sleep in the same room.

Soon after settling in, I had a new challenge to face, self-employment. At first I was crippled by uncertainty. I was desperate to know what the “right way to work” was. Eventually I realized that it was up to me to define, keeping in mind that I had bills coming on a monthly rotation. When people told me they couldn’t imagine being self-employed because they thought they thought they would not actually be able to do work at home, I was baffled. Of course you go to work each day, how else are you going to pay the bills?

My strategy for getting Jess LC started full-time was simple: sell jewelry to stores. And that is exactly what I did. What I did not expect was the exclusivity that many Chicago boutique owners wanted in their neighborhoods. Which meant that of the hundreds of boutiques that could carry my jewelry, I needed to find the best in each neighborhood and stick to those stores to have long-lasting relationships. This was new to me since in Ann Arbor, I was able to sell to three stores in the same town.

From August through December of 2007, I was a one woman show. I listened to books on tape as I cut every necklace tag, made every piece of jewelry, and answered every single email. I calculated out that to meet my bills I needed to sell $1000 worth of jewelry at wholesale a week. This simple metric helped me pace myself as I worked to get store orders. Some weeks I hit my goal early, some weeks it went down to the wire, and some weeks it didn’t happen at all. But I am thankful to say that I’ve never had to defunct on a payment, and things have always worked out in the end.

Please let me assure you that the first two years of living intentionally and growing this business could also be considered minimal, at best. I think a lot of people expect that living intentionally will always feel safe, comfortable, and relaxed. In the beginning it was not that way for me at all. Most people thought I was crazy for doing it, and even store owners placing orders would ask what my “real job” was.

Intentional living is based on the faith that you are doing what you are meant to be doing as best as you know. But you also must realize that it can involve sacrifice. I lived in a crappy studio apartment with a boyfriend for two years, didn’t go to the dentist for three years, and only went on vacations that doubled as work trips. I had anxiety attacks about cash flow. Once, I debated going and trying to find a job and give up completely.

But through it all I persevered – please don’t think this was a glamorous process – I literally just kept going.

And ever so slowly things started to improve. In January of 2008, I picked up a sales rep team who hustled and got Jess LC into 100 stores nationwide in a year. I also picked up my first assistants and interns and started to learn to delegate so I could be three times more efficient. I no longer worked one day a week at a boutique for spending money. Little by little things picked up momentum.

Then in January of 2009 I started MML as I mentioned yesterday. It was finally time for me to stop being a hypocrite. When I began to get lauded for the courage it took to start the business, a voice in the back of my mind kept reminding me that I didn’t start the business because it was my passion. It was the vehicle through which I could help people because it would allow me to write about making under as well. And the longer that I delayed working on the real mission, the easier it would be for me to eventually ditch making under, my purpose, altogether.

I was scared that one day I’d have a million dollar jewelry business and have no time to help people design lives with intention.

But as you know, the blog soon took on a life of it’s own and I now spend my mornings sharing here with you. And as I gave of my time and thoughts here, I also began reading and getting involved in blogging via the business as well. This soon helped me clarify how to best use the business. By focusing on my online customers and site, I could consolidate my efforts and become more effective. Working with people online for Jess LC and MML is much easier than trying to focus on store accounts, sales reps, and trade shows while also being present and active on MML and other social media efforts.

I’m also happy to say that by September of 2009 I was also finally able to move out of my studio apartment and able to move in with my boyfriend, at the time. Consolidating from two studio apartments to a two bedroom apartment was a huge luxury. There were rooms with doors! I set up Jess LC in a second bedroom and reveled in the extra space.

But unfortunately the move also became a turning point in my relationship and we eventually realized we needed to go separate ways. But rather than break the lease six months early, we stayed together until the lease ended. Though Jess LC had been tough to start, the summer of 2010 was one of the hardest times in my life. And thankfully, taught me some of the best lessons I’ve ever learned.

Once I knew that I had to move again in September of 2010, I decided that God, or life, was not asking me to take a step back and retreat to a studio once more. I loved my new apartment building and I literally decided that I was going to make it work in a one bedroom apartment. Sure, this meant that my studio was going to have to be in the living room, but thank goodness the bed wasn’t there anymore like it was in the first place. It also meant that I was going to pay 50% more rent. This was scary, because I had no real proof that Jess LC would be able to afford it, but I set my foot down and again, persevered in the most unglamorous way possible.

And it worked out.

Since that move last September, things have risen to a whole new level for me. I began to go on speaking trips and I continued helping people make under on MML in a greater way than ever before. My personal life flourished as well. I met Mr. Lively and could not be more thankful. I decorated my apartment exactly as I wanted, and was even part of a Rue spread.

And Jess LC is evolving into a fantastic new adventure for me. Allowing myself to design and work beyond jewelry design has been a thrill, and a huge roller coaster with many twists, turns, inclines, and falls. After four years, I have found a way to design my business with such clarity that I cannot imagine life without it for the foreseeable future. The mix of MML and Jess LC has become a great fit for me. I feel honored to do both to the best of my ability.

So there you have it. A summary of the four years since I rented a U-Haul and plopped myself in Chicago. My hope is that this story resonates and in some way dispels any myths about intentional lives being perfect, easy, or even enviable. The risks, sacrifice, joy, and meaning are always there, unique to each person.

The path will not always be easy, but the path provided from within will always be worth it.

 

photo by Emily Anderson for Rue

why I started MML

August 16th, 2011   |   Life

a snapshot of the studio apartment where I launched Jess LC and MML in 2007-2009

Though I have been making and selling jewelry since I was a high school freshman, the decision to make the business a profession was a long and winding road. As I mentioned yesterday, before selling my first anklet, I had no real interest in jewelry. In fact, I spent most of my childhood re-decorating my bedroom endlessly.

But neither interior design nor law, a career I pledged my life to when I was in third grade, became my lot in life. And though my college application essays professed a drive to grow the business full-time, I became seriously close to dropping it completely and getting a corporate creative job in marketing, product development, or buying.

To understand how I got to Chicago launching Jess LC, you need to understand how miserable I was during my junior year of college.

Like many college students, I went through a phase of uncertainty and questioning. For me, this was during my junior year of college when I was living as a Resident Adviser in free-spirited residential college and taking classes in the business school. These two worlds, separated by a single street, could not have been more different philosophically and they perfectly reflected a lot of my own internal struggles. Work hard, play hard vs. live in the moment and be happy without attachment to material wealth. Combine this debate with the realization that I needed to forge my own path in life independent of my upbringing or other people’s expectations and you have yourself a pretty little stew of suckiness.

All of the beliefs that I had held as a child were challenged and I effectively burned my life paradigm in order to begin again. And in the process, I despised myself. I didn’t want to face the uncertainty, the confusion, and the imperfections in my life. I wanted to be perfect. RIGHTNOW. I wanted to abandon my body and dive into a new, perfect one. During this time I binge ate candy bars and gained 20 pounds in just over one semester. I went to counseling. I hated hearing my thoughts inside my head. It was as if my ego was rampant in my mind pointing out all of my flaws and shortcomings.

For a long time, my method of trying to fix this feeling of lack and imperfection was to get something new to fix it. Maybe this new lip gloss will make me feel beautiful. Maybe that new Coach bag will make me feel stylish. Maybe this new guy will validate my worth as a woman. Maybe this new pillow will make my dorm room perfect.

I sought validation and completion in external stuff.

Then one day in my journey to undo all of the negative thinking in my life I stumbled upon a quote by Michelangelo in which he stated that creating the David statue was easy because he saw the potential within the marble; he simply removed the layers that hid the masterpiece.

That simple paradigm shift, from thinking that I needed more stuff in my life to be my best self to realizing that I was already the “best me” underneath all of the stuff changed me forever.

No longer did I need to complete myself with extra things to be perfect. The person I wanted to be was exactly who I was, without the extra crap. My best self was me without the 20 pounds of candy bar fat – not a super model body. My best self was me without the skinny clothes I saved – getting rid of the ill fitting clothes left me with a great wardrobe which was comfortable and attractive. My best self was me without the negative self-talk – not a different mind.

I also realized that our culture at the time had a hand in other’s feeling this way as well. Extreme Makeover was one of the most popular tv shows at that time, and I knew that my mission was to help people realize that they could makeunder to be truly happy.

While I was re-wiring my brain and becoming happier and climbing my way out of my misery, I did research on Oprah and Martha Stewart other women who had made massive change and decided my best course of action to help people makeunder was to write a book. And as much as I worked on the book proposal about simplifying your home, I also knew that I was living in a dorm room. I didn’t have much authority on the subject of simplifying a kitchen, garage, and playroom. I felt like a green banana, not quite ripe yet.

So in 2007 after graduation, I decided that running Jess LC full-time would allow me to devote as much time as possible to the book proposal and writing. I knew from my internship at Macy’s the summer before that a 40 hour work week was a challenge to write around and that I could easily get caught up in the rat race and delay or ditch the proposal altogether.

Which meant that in August of 2007, I moved to the studio apartment shown in the photo above in Chicago and launched Jess LC. Getting the company started took much more time and energy than I ever could have imagined and I decided to focus my energy there until it was more established. Then the recession hit, and things got even more challenging. But in January of 2009 I made the intention to start writing bits and pieces of my makeunder journey on a blog so that I could eventually turn it into a book proposal.

Which is exactly what I did. I had no real intention of anyone reading the content, it was simply a less daunting writing tool than a blank Word document.

But a few days later after advertising on my first blog for Jess LC, I got a comment from Anne of The City Sage on my “book proposal” site. I had been reading her blog for months and was quite shocked that she would even look at something I had written. For me, it was a sign.

I didn’t need to have a book, book tour, or tv show to help people makeunder. I simply needed to write each day and help people exactly where I was – on MML.

And that, my dear friends, is why and how I started MML. Thank you so much for reading. I hope that what I’ve shared over the last two and a half years has indeed helped you find your best self underneath your stuff.

photo by becki schleis

As I get my fall wardrobe in order (I’m doing a makeunder which I’ll share here in a few weeks), I thought I’d pass on some savings to Jess LC customers who might be in the same mood themselves. Hop over today through Friday to save $20 off the Lake Shore Clutches (navy and natural) and Crossbodies (navy and natural). These puppies are going to be adorable with plaids, velvets, and denim. I can’t wait.

Oh, and did I mention the natural clutch made it’s way to Glitter Guide last week? We are over the moon.

back to basics: me before makeunder

August 15th, 2011   |   Life

Thank you so much for all of the feedback about what you love most about MML! I appreciate the encouragement and support so much. It also helped me clarify exactly where to go next with MML. As much as I was focused on ‘new frontiers,’ the responses I received helped me realize that I really need to go back to basics for a little while. Which actually works out perfectly in my personal life as well.

As you know, I have been writing and designing my life with intention since January of 2009 and over the past two and a half years, I made great strides. But in recent months the self-imposed pressure to perfectly achieve all of my intentions in all areas of life in this very moment was causing anxiety and stress. Now that I’m coming out of that pressured haze, it’s great to step back here on MML as well and revisit the core elements and values that make designing a life with intention satisfying and less stressful.

So for the next few weeks I’ll be going back to the basics of who I am, how I came to find my purpose, how to create intentions, how to simplify, how I’ve designed my business with intention, and how to do a makeunder. Though I have touched upon all of these topics over the past two and a half years, I’ve never done it in succession and with continuity.

So to start, I’ll share a bit about my background before making under was a part of my life.

Me Before Makeunder

My name is Jessica Lynne Constable and I was born October 15th, 1984 in Dayton, Ohio. I have two younger brothers, ages 25 and 21. I spent my early childhood in Ohio and when I was eight my family moved to Rochester, Michigan.

Though my last name sounds like a British police officer, it was originally a different, Italian name. When my great-grandfather, Rocco Constable came from Italy, the nuns changed it to be more easily understood. So my heritage is a quarter Italian and a quarter Irish alongside a smattering of French Canadian, Swiss, and German.

From an early age I had lots of freckles. When I was younger, my mom told me they would go away as I became an adult. However, that was not the case.

When I was young, I was not a girly girl, despite what my hot pink nail polish I wear so frequently today would indicate. In high school I played soccer (Freshman), basketball (Freshman/Junior Varsity), Track (Varsity), and Cross Country (Varsity). I also had incorrigibly curly hair and rather unfortunate eyebrows. Thankfully, the hair and eyebrow situations are now vastly improved thanks to Moroccan Oil and a good pair of tweezers.

And believe it or not, I had no real interest in jewelry.

The jewelry business came to be while I was making ankle bracelets for myself at a pool my freshman summer. Some women at the pool asked me to make them the same anklets and after six hours, I made a whopping $30. Immediately, my dad encouraged me to continue making and selling jewelry and I took his advice. I spent the remaining years of high school making jewelry and selling it at picnic tables during my family’s boating trips. As well as to students, teachers and school staff.

Later, I began wandering into boutiques in Michigan as well. By the time I graduated from high school I was sold in 12 stores and enjoying the balance between design (something I inherited from my mom’s artistic side) and business (something I inherited from my dad’s engineering and business mind).

In 2003, I went to the University of Michigan and was accepted into the two year undergrad program at the Ross School of Business.* Though I expected to find a bevvy of entrepreneurship help and classes, I was disappointed to find that the undergrad classes were geared towards finance, accounting, and getting your first corporate job. Not. My. Thing. I struggled to fit  in with the course load and was a bit of a round peg in a square hole. I spent most of my time and energy traveling to business school conferences, getting to know the teachers, and building my business outside the classroom. One of the business conferences I attended eventually landed me an internship at Macy’s in product development in New York City for a summer.

I should also mention that by my freshman year of college I was so sick of the “jewelry girl” persona which had developed in high school, that I left my beads and pliers at home and joined the mens crew team as a coxswain. It was a fantastic experience and something I’ll always remember fondly. But come sophomore year, the baubles came back with me and I elevated the business in terms of products, designs, and focus. While in college I had a love/hate relationship with the idea of pursuing Jess LC full-time which later was decided in a moment of clarity which I’ll discuss in more detail tomorrow.

So now you know a bit more about what led me to this place; from freckles to finance to fun on the mens crew team.

 

* This program has since become a four year program, for those interested in applying.

maggie’s dream report: week ten

August 12th, 2011   |   Life

It’s ok, I’m a professional.

I had an initial consultation with a new client earlier this week and after the first round of introductions, the woman said “I don’t really know where to start – we don’t know how this works.”

I had to bite my tongue. My response in previous meetings might have been something like, “Well I’m just getting started, so I don’t really know either!” or with a more positive spin, “Let’s figure it out together!”

But those kind of brush-off responses where I offer up the information that I’m still getting my sea-legs doesn’t do any good in establishing myself as an expert or professional. Instead of “being honest” with my new client (and I’d been framing those responses in my head), I’m selling myself short. Even though I’ve done quite a few designs for clients online, the in-person decorating is still a new process to me. The principles of design don’t change, but the interactions between decorator and client are different. It has taken some trial and error to figure that out.

But in this meeting, I didn’t spout off anything about being brand-new, or blurt out that “Well I don’t have a degree or anything…” which I have done before. Instead, I answered her comment with “Well, let me tell you a little about how I work.”

Of course, if asked point-blank about my previous experience or schooling, I will be truthful. But what’s important to remember (as shared with me by another entrepreneurial friend recently) is that even though I’m new to this business, I’m still the expert on interior decorating when it comes to the people sitting in that room. Compared to Bunny Williams, or Mary McDonald, or Thomas O’Brien (all well-known designers), I’m not the expert. But my client hires me because I know what will make their home look better. Between the client and decorator, the decorator is the expert on decorating.

And in terms of how I conduct business, only I am the expert on my own business. I determine (and tweak) what happens after the initial consult, how I create a budget, how I bill, and how the process will work. Maybe not how their previous decorator functioned, but it’s how I choose to run my business. If a client feels that I don’t know how to run my own business and how the design process works, then I’m not in control of the project anymore. Purchases will be made, time lines changed, contractors hired… and I’ll suddenly be the last to know. That is the worst position to be in as a decorator.

So slowly but surely I’m learning to answer questions and explain what I do with confidence. I’m learning how I like to work with clients, what processes are efficient and effective. I’m learning to be the interviewer in an initial consult, not just the interviewee. I’m learning to be a professional.

PS – The Soc Chic All Week MML winner is #11, Valerie!

feeling a little lost

August 11th, 2011   |   Life

Hi guys. After my mini rant yesterday sharing the ways that I’ve been mega stressed out lately, I am finally leaving my stress coma and I’m emerging more open minded (which is a proactive way of saying “unsure”).

As you know, I’ve been working for months on a lot of new products for Jess LC that will evolve the company to the next level. And in my personal life, I also think things are going to the next level now that I’ve left things to unfold naturally.

But where does that leave MML to evolve to?

I’ve noticed general trends throughout the years I’ve been writing. There was a phase were my personal life was more on stage, where de-cluttering was the central theme, where business advice and midnight hustling was the focus, and where thinking with intention was at the forefront.

And while I continue to write about these topics, I feel like I’m not quite sure where you most want to see me head. I know that this is my purpose in life, and I do this so that I can first and foremost help people design lives with intention.

So my question really is;

How can I help you? What topics most benefit and interest you?

health with intention: real food

August 11th, 2011   |   Life

Makeunder Your Diet with Real Food

Without a doubt, the crucial foundation of a healthy, satisfying, and delicious diet is real food. You’ve probably heard that before. But what exactly is real food? Some people define it as unprocessed food, which is a good place to start, but I don’t think it tells the whole story. Here are four characteristics of real food to help guide you when you’re making food choices.

1. Real food is as close to its natural state as possible. Most of the foods you eat should look pretty close to how they exist in nature. That means that a bag of full-size carrots is better than baby carrots, which are better than canned carrots. But the optimal choice would probably be a bunch of carrots from your local farmers’ market. It gets harder when you’re talking about foods that are more processed by definition, like cheese or pasta, and that’s where ingredient lists come in handy. Don’t be afraid to get intimate with ingredient lists! To me, they’re just as important (if not more important) than nutrition labels, which can be misleading. Check out the ingredient list to make sure the ingredients in the food you’re buying would be the same ingredients you’d use if you were making the item from scratch. Trader Joe’s does a great job of making sure their packaged foods have stellar ingredient lists.

2. Real food isn’t necessarily low-fat or low-calorie. To remove fat/calories from food that’s naturally higher in fat or calories means more processing, which means the food is farther from its natural state (see above!). To me, low-fat is only a good thing when the food is naturally low in fat. I always choose full-fat dairy, for example, rather than low-fat. It’s more satisfying, flavorful, and hasn’t been shown to have a negative impact on health. Diet foods aren’t real foods — they’re edible nonfood. They’re not satisfying, and they won’t necessarily make it easier for to lose weight or improve your health.

3. Real food often has complex flavor. When you eat a lot of fake food, your tongue and brian get used to very simplistic flavors — sweetness and saltiness, mostly. Once you start eating more real food, you’ll start to appreciate more complex flavors. You’d be shocked at which foods taste sweet when you’re not eating saccharine sweet fake foods all the time! The subtle sweetness of nuts, cream, and of course, fruit, are really noticeable once you start eating real food most of the time. Eating real food has taught me to appreciate nuanced flavors that might not be popular with the average tastebud (tartness/bitterness, umami, etc.).

4. Real food is diverse! Fake food dresses itself up to make you think you’re getting diversity: “Another flavor of low-fat chip? Awesome!” Processed food is largely made up of two ingredients: corn and soy. And it’s disguised to account for most of the food in any given supermarket. But real food offers so much more variety. Think of all the different vegetables available today and how different they are in terms of flavor, texture, etc. You can keep your meals interesting just by constantly sampling new produce and proteins (meats, fish, etc). I’ve given my clients the homework of trying one new ingredient a week (which can include herbs and spices) just because it keeps things interesting.

Okay, now it’s your turn. How would you describe/define “real food”?

the burden of intentions

August 10th, 2011   |   Life

Above is a question that I received earlier this week. And it came at a great time. I can honestly say (hold on, there may be a bit of feisty-ness in this post) that this question relates to a whole myriad of lessons I’ve been learning since April.

Since I really want to address the idea of intentions being a burden, I’ll quickly say that I don’t specifically design intentions around spontaneity, though sometimes I do find it helpful when I get in a rut.

Okay, back to intentions and burden.

To be honest, lately I’ve noticed a ton of self-imposed burdens in my life that in many ways, relate back to intentions I have set. And it has caused me a significant amount of stress, worry, and in recent weeks, anxiety. I actually spent Monday worried that I may have been stressing myself to the point of stomach sickness, only to find that I had ab pain from a strenuous Saturday ab routine. Even my worries about worrying were upsetting.

Though I don’t want to get too deep into the specifics, I can say much of the stress was inter-personal, and totally self-imposed. I was worrying about a relationship in my life and whether it was going the way that I envisioned it (code for: imagined it).

I’m sure I’m not the only person who has a general “plan” in the back of their minds about how their life is “supposed to go” and “when things were supposed to happen.” For Ms. Intention here, I have taken even those general ideas and have held tightly to them and tried to force my gut to agree with My Plan. And when I got little feedback from my gut, I fretted and fussed. After all, My Plan is “right” and my gut should obviously agree with me.

After several months of stress, I finally realized that when (or if) I can have children, when I get married, and when I know that the time is right, is completely out of my ego’s control. For me, I see these areas controlled by God, while other people may see it may as fate or luck. Sure, I can take steps towards those things, but I hold myself accountable for following my intuition first. And in order to do that, I need to listen to my gut and be peaceful in the process – not try to force my gut to know things prematurely.

Then I went to Lifebook and thought about the intentions I have for so many areas of my life. And while the overall process is great, and healthy. I took my ideal vision for my life to a very negative place in my own mind. I started to live my life and comparing it to how I wanted my future to be. Which lead to over-analyzing most areas of my life and made me feel completely dissatisfied, discontent, and “important.” I wanted my future life to be NOW, dammit. I was in a very negative mindset after a few weeks, and I’ve only just recently started to unravel and relax again. I was hyper-critical of all things in my life that were not “exactly what I wanted.” And I developed a perfectionist perspective on life, relationships, and my business.

Just because I know what my dream house looks like, doesn’t mean that I need to be upset that I am not living in it now. And I should also realize that my dream house may not actually happen – that is beyond my current control.

… And who knows if that dream house is the one I’ll want later anyways.

An ideal vision for one’s life is great, but the pursuit of perfection in every area of life is impossible. Though I knew this mentally, emotionally I was not accepting and honoring that fact. Further, relationships with other imperfect people are inevitably going to be excellent, but never perfect. Perfection in relationships with family members, friends, or co-workers is not possible. Thinking that it is possible to have perfect relationships, only ensures that I will never have relationships at all.

I also took a glaring view of the business. I started to get frustrated with the product development of the new collections and contemplated kicking them to the curb a few times. I thought, “If they can’t be absolutely perfect, I have no idea whether anyone will buy them at all. I might just be wasting tons of my own money on imperfect stuff that no one will want. Oh, and working with the people to get that stuff made, well, they should be perfect too. And if they aren’t, maybe I should just go find other people to do it for me.”

Ugh. My whole mind was pretty polluted.

But recently I’ve begun to slowly awaken to the fact that there is so much of my life I cannot control. And to try, as hard as I can, to keep coming back to the present moment and be here. I don’t need to be over thinking my long term life intentions. I have thought about them, I know what they are, and I can let them manifest as time allows. I don’t need to circle around and around in my mind evaluating whether the actions and people in my life will be able to make them happen.

That part is up to God. I just need to do the best I can in each moment and take

one

breath

at

a

time.

 

august email intervention

August 9th, 2011   |   Life

Today I’d like to announce the second installment of the MML Email Intervention! You may remember from the last Intervention, I have had several a-ha moments throughout this journey to rid myself of emails on nights and weekends. Including the fact that I used to work 119 hours a week.

This new shift has allowed me so much more presence in my off time that I’ve even taken up a new hobby – learning guitar! (Mr. Lively is a very patient man as I play Walk the Line‘s intro over and over and over…)

Below is an email I got from Erin, an MML Email Intervention participant from July. She shares the lessons that she learned from stepping away from the inbox.

Erin’s Email Intervention Story

I recently moved into a new position this past March and since then I have been so busy that overtime was becoming the norm and I was often checking my emails constantly throughout the day and night. Sometimes I found myself checking my emails every 15 minutes. In my mind, it’s what was expected of me and what was necessary for my position as a recruiter.

Then I learned about your Email Intervention and I read about your many reasons behind it and I realized that I didn’t need to be available 24/7 for my job. In fact I shouldn’t be that available. I needed a jolt to remind me that it was a job. I should put my 40 hours in each week and use the rest of my time to focus on my personal, social and spiritual life.

Throughout the two week intervention I sometimes found myself opening my work email and beginning to log in. It was so weird because I didn’t even think about it. Suddenly my brain would start thinking about work and suddenly I was opening up my email. Because of your intervention though I would catch myself rather than allowing myself to become absorbed by my job at all hours of the night. So there I would sit, staring at the log in page and asking myself, “why?”.

Why did I feel a sudden need to check my work email…

Was I hoping to get something done? Not really.

Was I looking to fill the time with something random? Yes, sometimes it was nice to have something to do rather than fill that time with something meaningful for me.

Was it necessary? Not at all.

Did it cause problems? Actually, yes it did. My boyfriend repeatedly mentioned that I checked my work email too often and I noticed that even though I would plan on just “seeing what was in there” I found myself responding to emails and working on projects for 30, 40, 50 minutes and suddenly I was working and worried about projects and deadlines and everything else.

Essentially, this bad habit was taking away from my personal time, and you know what? My manager wasn’t demanding or even asking me to check my email every night.

So, when I signed up for your email intervention I went cold turkey. Once I left the office I left work with it. I didn’t check my emails at night or early in the morning before heading in. There was one moment of weakness when I actually logged in but once I saw the emails staring back at me I closed out and walked away from my laptop.

Since I don’t check my work emails at home I found that I don’t think about work which is great! I don’t worry about who is responding or what has happened in the office after hours. Instead, I spend more time writing my blog, reading books, catching up on my Google Reader, stretching, listening to music, and genuinely feeling a bit lighter.

So thank you. Thank you for showing me that I don’t need to check my work emails all the time and that my personal time is just that – a time for me to grow, rest and enjoy all of the other aspects of my life.

Thank you for everything.

A grateful friend,

Erin

August Email Intervention

The Pledge: To not check email (or your tech distraction of choice) on nights and weekends for two solid weeks. You may tweak this to work for your life, but it’s Scout’s honor that you keep your pledge with the rest of us in the group.

The Dates: August 15th – August 29th

To Enter: Comment on this post by Thursday, August 11th to be included. Yes, you may enter multiple Email Interventions.

The Bonus: I will send out four emails throughout the challenge to discuss tips, tricks, and lessons learned from reducing inbox intake.

Of course, there is no price or anything, this is what I consider my “public service announcement.” My goal is to get 1,000 people to take the pledge.

 

news flash

August 8th, 2011   |   Life

Life doesn’t always go the way you expect it to.

No matter how much you design your life with intention.

 

Something I need to remind myself from time to time.

maggie’s dream report: week nine

August 5th, 2011   |   Life

Time Management

One of the most difficult parts of being my own boss is managing my time effectively. By nature, I’m a procrastinator, but I’m also a planner, so while I’m still adjusting to answering only to myself (and my clients), I’ve tried a few techniques for structuring my time.

Part of the reason I was drawn to entrepreneurship (instead of getting a job working for an interior designer) is prioritizing and scheduling my own projects, working on what is exciting to me, and not having to read a supervisor’s mind in what they expect you to have been working on that day. But it’s easy for the “boring stuff” (ie financials, following up on email dead-ends, billing, etc) to get pushed to the side – or even for my blog to take a hit when I’ve spent all day searching for the perfect pillow to finish off a room and don’t want to blog.

I am by no means an expert on time management and I’m still figuring this out – but here’s kind of what I’m shooting for right now:

Monday: Post writing – I like to catch up on my blog reading, find cool links, and try to write 5 posts so I’m good for another week. I’ve yet to hit a full five (usually max out at three…)
Tuesday: Design work, based on which client is expecting to hear something soonest, then by what sounds fun to look for or (if I’m feeling ambitious) the hardest piece to find. I also like to devote some time to business-type tasks like tracking expenses or updating my mileage.
Wednesday: Big Project Day. Get to work on whatever is fun and exciting. Project doesn’t HAVE to be big, but usually is a multi-part job, like planning a class I want to teach, or working on an ebook.
Thursday: More design work. Some time spent thinking about/working on marketing plan.
Friday: Daydream time, and then whatever needs to be finished before the weekend.

I don’t know that I’ve had a full week that has stuck to this completely, but I like to have some kind of direction for those mornings when I think “I don’t know what to work on first.” And of course, deadlines, meetings, installs, etc. all happen whenever and interrupt the “schedule” but that’s ok. That’s why I don’t schedule by the hour : ).

So a “normal” day is kind of like this, assuming I don’t have any meetings and I’m staying home in the evening and not going out for networking drinks or whatever:

Usually I wake up when my boyfriend does to go to his day job (about 7:30 or 8). I check my email, read a few blogs, eat breakfast. I’ll usually spend a few hours working on any client projects – right now they’ll all online, so I spend a lot of time at the computer. I buckle down to whatever the day’s “focus” is. I usually take a shower in the middle of the day, and I’m trying to do some kind of exercise daily (this is also a work in progress). I’ll have lunch whenever I’m getting antsy and that’s when I’ll do dishes or laundry. Once I settle in for the afternoon I’m usually drawn to one of my ongoing bigger projects – marketing plan, researching networking opportunities, the website redesign. I’ll work on that unless I have any pressing deadlines. Once Ryan gets home we have dinner and I’m free to do whatever (tv, run errands, go to the park) unless I’ve been bad about my blogging and have to write a post.

I’m also trying to schedule at least one get-together each week with another creative person or blogger in the area. I find that I’m really inspired after even just a casual coffee date or happy hour. I’m also trying to find more events and networking opportunities to meet potential clients, so those are in the evening.

I’m also a list-maker. I try really hard to make lists that are action specific (I picked this up from Getting Things Done). So I’ll put “choose 5 pillow options for Davis house” instead of “pillows” or “Davis living room”. Anytime I’ve tried to break these out into days, it gets totally haywire but I usually have a couple items that are day-specific so those take priority. I sometimes use Remember the Milk online (and on my phone) but typically a good old lined notebook works best for me. I like crossing things off.

So that’s a dose of my time management – one of my growth areas, I think! Figuring it out. It’s not something I expected to be challenged by in business-ownership but it’s proving to be the toughest part.

finance with intention

August 4th, 2011   |   Life

Hi there, MML readers! It’s Cathy from Fiscally Chic with my first “finance with intention” post. Today I’d like to share a few financial intentions from the Fiscally Chic household and the thought process behind them.

Intention #1: Be happy with enough.

Here’s a consideration for those looking to win the lottery or become the next billionaire. A Roper study conducted for Jean Chatzky’s book The Ten Commandments of Financial Happiness revealed that what you need to feel happy is enough cash to live comfortably—not lavishly, just comfortably. More money than that won’t buy more happiness. “Understand this,” says Bert Whitehead, author of Why Smart People Do Stupid Things with Money, “and you can quite possibly control your brain and avoid nutty behavior. The true definition of financial independence is knowing how much is enough.”

If you can’t have it all, what do you do? You have to make a choice.

Think back to high school or college economics class, and please don’t have a nightmare. What were some of the first things you learned? Opportunity cost and scarcity. Until you earn more money, the money you have is a scare resource. There are only 24 hours in a day. And you only have so much closet space. Put another way, if I have $75 to spend, I have to choose between a new dress or dinner at the new restaurant in town.

Unfortunately, Americans (and especially Millennials) want what’s bigger, better, newer, and faster. And we want it now! Maybe even yesterday. Especially if Ms. Jones has it. Let’s work on changing that mentality. Because when you boil it down, will “it” make you happier?

Intention #2: Save up for the good stuff.

The NY Times had a fantastic article about that very subject. Studies have found that people are happier and enjoy their purchases more when they’ve saved up and planned to buy something long before they buy it. Even better, buying experiences such as vacations or theater tickets can lead to even longer-lasting happiness. Bonus points if you’ve saved for it. This is because those experiences create memories and you can build stronger relationships with family and friends. Pretty powerful stuff, eh?

Based on personal experience, spending money on a deep sea fishing trip during our honeymoon was more valuable to me than the dress I bought to wear to my sister-in-law’s rehearsal dinner. Why? Because I have some great stories about the mahi mahi and 8.5 foot sailfish we caught.

Intention #3: Live below our means.

“Where money is concerned, people tend to do two things over and over”, says Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice. “First, we adapt to how much money we have. Second, we compare ourselves with others. Chances are, if you make an irrational decision about money, one or both of those factors are in play.” So what do you do when you get a raise or a bonus? Instead of increasing spending, create an automatic transfer that moves the increase in pay from checking to savings or investing. When you make savings automatic, you won’t even miss the additional money. You’ll actually have more to use down the line. Or use those funds to pay off your student loan, car, or mortgage a little sooner.

Intention #4: Pay off the credit card bill each month.

Yes, some debt will be inevitable in life and business. We have a mortgage and some of you may have student loans or small business loans. But when it comes to credit cards, if I can’t pay off my credit card bill at the end of the month, I don’t buy it! I’m not bad mouthing credit cards in general since I use one. They’re convenient and you can earn perks such as cash back, hotel stays, or airline miles. I’m talking about the frivolous spending using credit cards. Are those $100 shoes really worth $120 or $150 dollars when you include the cost of interest? Maybe, but most likely not.

I know it’s easier said than done, but we were able to put a 20% down payment on a house in a Chicago suburb by following these principles.

What about you? Would you rather spend your money on an experience or the new “it” item? What are you saving for right now?

the ainslie lookbook

August 3rd, 2011   |   Life

After sharing the Ainslie designs yesterday, I’m excited to debut the lookbook here on MML as well.

Take a look by flipping through the pages below (you can click in the center to see the images full screen as well).

This entire project came together with the incredible help of Melissa here at Jess LC and the lovely Linley of Dwelling and Telling.

We first “met” Linley during our Jess LC Design Your Look challenge. Her entry was one of the most popular in the bunch, and it quickly caught our attention here in the studio as well. After hopping over to her fashion blog, we were hooked. Her style is approachable and chic, the perfect mix for Ainslie styles.

So once we got to planning the launch of the collection, we thought it would be fun to send the styles to her and allow her to work them into her wardrobe exactly as she’d do naturally – without any prompting from us. Then, once she shot the looks, she sent the photos to us to collect for our lookbook. It was a fun challenge for her and a great chance for us to really let a customer share how our jewelry works for her.

We couldn’t be happier about the lookbook and cannot thank Linley enough for all her help.

stay at my place over labor day weekend

August 3rd, 2011   |   Life

Mr. Lively and I are headed out for a long weekend in Philly over Labor Day for my cousin’s wedding. If you are looking to stay in Chicago over that weekend and want to “rent” my apartment, please let me know! September 1st through September 5th are open.

You can see more apartment pics and location details here.

If you are interested, please email me (jess @ jesslc.com) and I can give you more info.

meet our new ainslie collection

August 2nd, 2011   |   Life

At long last, please meet our newest jewelry collection, Ainslie. We are loving this collection’s ability to be both formal and casual – depending on how you style it. A sheath dress and heels? Totally ready for a wedding. Wearing jeans and a tee? The pearls and crystals add a bit of extra sparkle.

Below you can see several of the new styles in soft grays, pinks, and champagnes as well as freshwater pearls.

One – Crystal Cluster Necklace. Two – Three Crystal Earrings. Three – Crystal Strand Necklace. Four – Crystal and Link Earrings. Five – Round Crystal Earrings. Six – Crystal Cluster Necklace.

Seven – Pearl Drop Earrings. Eight – Single Pearl Bracelet. Nine – Pearl and Link Necklace. Ten – Single Pearl Necklace. Eleven – Pearl Cluster Necklace.

And later I’ll be back to share the lookbook featuring our newest Jess LC girl, Linley of Dwelling and Telling.

“specialness”

August 2nd, 2011   |   Business AdviceThink About It

When I set out to start MML I did so with a clear purpose in mind; to help people discover their best selves and highest potential underneath all of their ‘stuff.’ I had learned this lesson in college and knew that if I struggled so much, others must feel the same.

At the same time as I started this site, I was also getting my own small business off the ground and I shared that process here as well. People responded to both the business aspects and personal topics on MML and I quickly felt at home in what I was doing. Jess LC and MML over a course of trial and error, became my “jam.”

Over the years, I got more and more extremely kind emails from readers worldwide that supported what I was doing to help people. I was incredibly thankful for their kindness, but what I did not expect was the word that kept bubbling up over and over:

inspiration

Yes, I did set out to help people lead meaningful, fulfilling lives that served their highest purposes. But I never thought that by doing so, I would be considered inspiring.

For a long time I kept myself at bay of that word. It didn’t fit well. After all, I’m just a 20-something woman on my own journey, learning my own lessons. Just. Like. Everyone. Else.

But nevertheless, words like inspiration, unique, and special kept cropping up on conversations with others. As Jess LC grew, people looked at what I have done, and again, labeled me as special or inspirational.

To be quite honest, as I took new risks, new challenges, and pushed myself further, I started to assume that those people’s words about me were true.

I started to think that I must somehow be different than other people if they see me in this way.

Which is a load of crap.

I had an epiphany yesterday that I owe to you: I’m not inspirational nor special, I’ve just gone through a lot of tough stuff and stayed true to my intentions. I am just like everyone else, we all are the same, no one is inherently separate in this world.

On my journey I have gone through a lot of shit, quite frankly. I battled against my ego controlling my weight for almost a decade. I went through therapy in college to face a lot of issues that I needed to work out. I used to hate listening to my own thoughts – I couldn’t stand being around “me.” I went through a tough, but ultimately positive break up. I had a lot of hard times.

The same is true with my business. I have cried myself to sleep after a trade show. I’ve worried about not being able to keep my business going. I had anxiety attacks worrying about cash flow. I flossed because I didn’t have the money to pay for a dental exam for three years.

What made those tough times bearable was what I did about them: I prayed (a lot). I wrote in journals frequently. I had supportive friends (and not-so-supportive friends). I read a lot of books. I worked on improving my business for 12 years. I had a business coach.

And I always asked myself the question: what is my intention?

That’s it. My main differentiator is that I’ve had the guts to constantly ask myself what my intention is, and then design my life around that intention.

Which is something every single person on Earth has the ability to do in their own lives. And every single person that people regard as “special” or “inspiring” simply have had the guts to go towards their intentions and be uncomfortable in the process.

Meaningful intentions often involve risk, faith, and perseverance. We all have those muscles. They simply need to be used.

where the heck i have been?

August 1st, 2011   |   Life

Hi guys. It’s me, Jess.

I know, it’s been a while.

Even though MML has been quite busy lately with the new Thursday MML Contributor introductions last week and a few Jess LC updates, I haven’t been sharing much.

And I don’t feel that good about it.

So today I’m going to level with you and let you know what I have been working on and what is coming up in the months to come. There’s a fair amount to recap, so stick with me.

What I’ve been working on this summer.

This summer has been passing quickly in a flurry of new changes and opportunities. Most of which I’ve shared, such as Lifebook and the Pop Up Shop. And the part about me learning to fill my ice cube tray and to stop checking emails after hours. I’ve also explained how I removed my career from my purpose.

But then there is the other stuff that I didn’t really talk about. Stuff like my new collaboration with Elizabeth Dehn on our newest makeup pouch. This was such a fun project to do, and the first one where I worked with a fellow online business owner to create a Jess LC product for a different company.

I also just took a long weekend trip with Mr. Lively to Mackinac Island, Michigan. You can see us above hanging out along our (humorous) tandem bike ride. This vacation was a fun getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life. We rarely checked the time, I left my phone turned off in the hotel room, and I didn’t check my email for four straight days. It was a challenge not to check my inbox and to only look at my phone once a day, but worth it. I was truly able to unwind.

Throughout April, May, June, and July I have also been planting a large crop of new products which all seem to be sprouting up at the same time over the next several weeks. Like a farmer, the time it’s taken to sow these designs, approve rounds of samples, and order materials has been tedious. But I also find myself more in love with what I’m doing with my business than ever before. And I do believe the end results will be worth the time and financial investment. So while it may seem like we haven’t been up to much lately, the truth is that all of the launches that are soon to follow are a result of the past few “quiet” months.

What will be coming up this fall.

Now onto the stuff that is going to unfold through the end of fall.

The first most notable thing is the launch of our newest jewelry collection, Ainslie. This delicate collection which launched today, will be shared in more detail here on MML tomorrow. But for now, feel free to hop over and check it out. This was the first jewelry collection where I allowed our jewelry maker Jewelry Queen, Susie, take the lead on the designs and color selections. I think the end result is a great addition to our line and plays off some of our most popular styles from across all of our collections.

Over the course of the next six weeks, three other new collections will be making their debut on Jess LC as well. One will involve new products in color combos selected by readers here on MML. Another collection will involve two new products which can be used for home and wardrobe. And a third collection is a collaboration with a talented designer on the east coast.

And to wrap up the fall, we have another handbag line coming out (September-ish) which truly has my heart. These fall bags will be luxe. And in my opinion, they really show what I am capable of designing. I can’t wait to have them finalized and launched so you can see them.

While all of these projects come to completion, I will continue to share my own life’s journey here on MML. I have been learning so much this year. Most of which I’ve shared here with you. And other parts which are more personal, will be shared as I learn the lessons and can find the universal truths which we all can relate to.

 

Phew. So there you have it. This is where the heck I’ve been and where the heck I’m going. Thanks for listening and for your support.

soc chic all week giveaway

August 1st, 2011   |   Life


Good morning and happy August! I just got back from a long weekend vacation with Mr. Lively (more on the trip and what the heck I’ve been up to lately to come in a post later today).

But right now it is time for me to announce our annual Soc Chic All Week Giveaway! In an effort to help get the awareness out about our Jess LC Soc Chic necklaces that support non-profits (10% of each necklace sale goes directly to the cause), we do a massive giveaway of all eight necklaces each year on eight different blogs. This means that you can hop around to the eight participating blogs (one of which is MML, right in this post) and comment to win each necklace.

I would like to first and foremost thank Melissa and Michelle, our Jess LC managers, for hosting and putting on this little party. They planned and prepped and launched this year’s SC All Week with incredible enthusiasm and attention to detail. They also hand picked the seven blogs participating – several of whom are also Jess LC Ambassadors as well. And of course this also leads me to a huge thank you to all the participating bloggers for helping to make this year’s giveaway possible. I hope you’ll take some time to browse their sites – they have some pretty fantastic content and happen to be super nice people to boot.

Below you’ll find out a bit more about the necklace we are giving away here on MML and the links to hop around and enter the other giveaways.

On Friday (8/5) all the blogs will randomly select a winner for their giveaway and we will send out the Soc Chic necklaces to winners next week.

Makeunder My Life giveaway – Raindrops on Roses Necklace


Here on MML our giveaway necklace is our Raindrops on Roses necklace which benefits the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Leave a comment on this post before Friday (8/5) to win this necklace.

Comment to win the other Soc Chic necklaces

And to win the rest of the Soc Chic collection, hop to the following blogs to enter the other necklace giveaways as well.

 

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