Monday, January 19, 2015

4 reasons I hate to ask, and a big weekend that helped me see how I've grown

This is a bit of a long post, but please stick with me, it does come full circle and has a point (as well as some geeking out fangirl moments).

My brief meeting with the exceedingly charming
and multi-talented, Neil Gaiman.
MOFO has just finished here in Hobart. For those of you who don't know what that sentence means, I'll explain that MOFO is short for MONA FOMA (or the Museum of Old and New Art: Festival of Music and Art). Oh, and Hobart is the capital city of the Australian state of Tasmania (which is both where I live and where MONA happens to be).

So, let's get back to the article...

I should start by reminding readers that Derek and I can be hermits - so it is safe to say that even when things like this happen, we often don't end up getting involved. That has improved since moving to Tasmania, but the last MOFO event we attended was way back in 2011. I decided that this year we would break out of that habit, and what better way to do that then with the amazing Neil Gaiman.

Our small island state near the bottom of the world, is one of Neil Gaiman's favourite places. He started coming here almost 20 years ago, and is a patron of the Bookend Trust, with which he is currently filming a documentary on cave spiders. But I digress... Thanks to this love affair with our state, Neil and his amazing wife Amanda Palmer, are semi-regular performers at MOFO. So this year, we decided to take in both of their shows, and this blog post starts as a review of sorts.

Neil Gaiman's The Sleeper and the Spindle
A reimagined fairy tale, the voice of Neil Gaiman, projected illustrations from the book, animations and a string quartet combine to make this a lovely storytelling experience. Neil's book, The Sleeper and the Spindle, is a combination of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, but with all of the quirks and missteps you would expect from the mind of Mr Gaiman.

It was made even more special for us because this was the first time that this work had been performed in this way, and we got to see it first in Hobart, which was pretty sweet. The whole event was made even more special for me, because I got to briefly meet with Neil after the show. See, a lovely friend had passed on some of the Dust of Other Worlds to Neil - a vial and pendant each of Faerie (because it comes from his book Stardust) and Gallifrey (since he wrote an episode of Dr Who) - and I had a quick chance for him to put a face to the gift, and for me to grab a photo with him.

I find it increasingly strange that by moving to this small island state (with a population of about half a million people), I've had more opportunity to meet people who have inspired me, than I've ever had in the much bigger states I've lived in.

Anyway, if you get an opportunity to go and see the performance, I highly recommend it. If you don't get the chance, well the book is excellent anyway; even without having Neil reading it to you.

Amanda Palmer and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra
I thought about doing a whole separate post on this, but this is a whole story, so...

I enjoy Amanda Palmer's music, it is a bit quirky and probably not to everyone's taste, but I think she has an incredible voice and is a fantastic storyteller. Seeing her with the TSO was always going to be a little special though, and they didn't disappoint. Most of the performance were Amanda's songs, arranged for the orchestra by Jherek Bischoff (he also did the arrangements and played with Neil's string quartet). There were a couple of other songs; a Lou Reed cover (with Neil Gaiman), a duet with Robyn Hitchcock and Amanda performed John Grant's Glacier.

There are some artists who you 'watch' live, but with Amanda Palmer you are somehow part of the performance - like I said, she is a storyteller who takes you on an emotional ride. And then you are invited to be part of the show, when she performs the Dresden Dolls Sing. It's an experience to be ordered onto your feet and instructed to sing along, but when you give into that (like the vast majority of the audience did) it's wonderful.

Amanda didn't close with Sing though, because she was in Tasmania, and there is only one song she could close with in Tassie, even when she was performing with our Symphony Orchestra. That is, of course, Map of Tasmania - and for those of you who are not familiar with the reference that goes along with this, just Google Tasmania and you should be able to quickly work out what a woman's map of Tassie is.

I completely concur with Amanda's comment in the performance, we do have an awesome symphony orchestra here is Tasmania, and we loved the performance. She is touring with this, using other cities' orchestra's - but I'm sure they will do just as well as ours :-)

Amanda Palmer and The Art of Asking
Okay, so TED had to pop into here somewhere, and that is through Amanda Palmer. She recently released a book called The Art of Asking, which expands on her very popular TED Talk on the same topic.

Amanda gave her talk at TED2013, and it's had well over 6 million views so far. My Year of TED had ended a few months beforehand; had it not, an activity would probably have been developed around this talk. It resonated with me beyond the conversation about music fans and paying for music; it resonated with me because of the underlying discussion about "is this fair" and this quote
But the perfect tools aren't going to help us if we can't face each other and give and receive fearlessly, but, more important, to ask without shame. 
Like many people I know, I've always been afraid to ask for help. I've spent a lot of time considering this in the last couple of years and I think it was generally down to a mixture of four reasons:

  1. I didn't want to admit that I needed help, that I wasn't perfect.
  2. I didn't want someone to help me with something that I was then unable to complete or follow through with in some way - I hate disappointing people or feeling indebted to people.
  3. I didn't want to risk being rejected (this probably should have been number 1).
  4. I didn't like to impose on people.
Some of this started shifting with My Year of TED - the perfectionist trait was certainly given a huge kick, and I became far more open to the concept of being rejected, or failing in some way. Then Amanda's talk sat in my brain for a while, and when I started selling my creations at markets it came back to me. I was not a street performer, but I was suddenly standing face-to-face with people, asking them to pay me for the things that I had created - and I spent a lot of time wondering whether the price I was asking was "fair".

So now I ask - because what's the worst that could happen
The markets have definitely improve my ability to ask things of people, and last year I put out a number of asks. What I discovered was that the majority of people were happy to help if they could, and that any rejection I experienced had little to do with me, but more to do with the fact that I was asking busy people who only have so much time to give away. There is a way to ask that doesn't put you in a vulnerable place where you tie all of your value to them saying yes. I will write more about that when I review Amanda's book - because I'm hoping I can find a way to articulate it, or she might have done it for me.

This all leads full circle you know - without Amanda's talk, and how it seeped into my experiences, I might not have had the courage to ask a friend to connect me with a stranger, so I could ask them to pass my gift of Dust onto Neil Gaiman. If I hadn't asked for that, then my friend would not have been able to help me, I wouldn't have made a new friend, and I would not have had the chance to meet Neil Gaiman.

When I took The Art of Asking to get signed my Amanda Palmer after the performance, I thanked her for her wonderful TED Talk - I didn't want to take up too much time explaining what she had started though :-) Neil was there as well, so I took the opportunity to say hello again, get a Sandman comic signed for my brother (who introduced me took the creative genius of Neil Gaiman through that series) and to have a slightly longer conversation about Dust. 

He was very lovely and generous, and those stolen couple of minutes would not have occurred if I hadn't learned to ask. I'm still learning, but then again, there are many skills and lessons from My Year of TED, and subsequent TED Talks, that I continue to learn and grow with all the time.

Are you someone who asks other for help or assistance? Someone who asks for what they want or need? If not, what do you think stops you?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

2015's Three Words - Build, Strong and Focus

It's that time of year again, well actually it is a few days past that time of year, but who's counting :-)

After much deliberation I've settled on three words that will drive my actions and activity for 2015. Last week I reviewed 2014's words (Brave, Calm, Connect), and I was pretty happy with how well these words helped me define 2014.

So what are the magic words for 2015?
I decided that this year was about building on the successes of last year, improving my resilience and health, and stopping myself from getting distracted by the fun stuff, so...

This isn't just about building dinkylune, although that is a major part of what I am building this year. I will be focused on constructing courses, pulling all of the parts of the business together into a more cohesive offering, and building something strong and viable.
This word is also about building more confidence - confidence in my abilities to create and run a business; and confidence from other people in the value I have to offer.
Finally it is about building a stronger and more involved audience and community. So lots of building.

One of the areas I have neglected for too long is my physical health, and particularly keeping my body strong. I live inside my head too much, and I need to change that. So I decided that Strong would be a great focus for my body this year.
It is also important for me to keep myself mentally strong, particularly in relation to my mental health, so that works as well. This also aligns with building confidence, working on my emotional strength and resilience to the difficult challenges I am taking on in my life.
Lastly, it marks a continuation of my journey to live authentically and create a life that strengthens my spirit and capacity for joy in this life.

This is possibly the most important word of the three, because I certainly have not had enough of this in the last two years. I know that it's only natural to be overwhelmed with the possibilities and new ideas that come from starting a new business, but I need to stop and do the work if I want this to happen.
So, this year I will Focus more, and be distracted less. I will do the work of setting goals and planning more. I know that there are three areas of focus that I need to maintain, and I am not going to divert myself on bright and shiny ideas until the work is done on those tasks.
This will probably be the hardest, but without focusing on the doing the work, getting the products out there, asking for the sale - well this venture will never make it off the ground. 

So there you have it, the three words that will define 2015 for me. It's funny that this year I found it significantly more difficult to choose only three words, last year was a lot easier. I think it's because there are so many things I've realised I need to do to make all of this work.

How about you? Have you done the three words exercise? Do you know what your focus for 2015 will be? Would you like to share it with us?

Sunday, December 28, 2014

2014's words were Brave, Calm and Connect - how did I go?

I had not planned on writing a post like this, quite frankly the next planned post was when I sorted out my three words for 2015 (which may not be until early January at this stage).

Something happened recently that has made me a little more reflective, made me think a bit more about what 2014 has been – and whether I lived up to the three words I set for myself this year. As a reminder, for 2014 my three words were BRAVE, CALM and CONNECT, the post explaining them is here. So how would I reflect on this year in relation to these words?

This was probably my bravest year to date. Starting with my TEDxHobart talk, then launching my business and running my first 90 Days of TEDcourse (I’ll be giving an update about that in January). It is a fascinating process to keep pushing ahead with something when every fibre of your body is screaming out at in you in fear.

What I’ve realised is that fear is just a mechanism to protect me – and it is great that my brain wants to protect me from failure, making a fool of myself, getting hurt, loss etc. But if I don’t do the things that scare me, I will never achieve the success that I want to achieve; I will never get where I want to go. I have chosen a risky path in some ways, and my brain just has to be retrained to get on board or get out of the way.

I’ve gone a long way in that retraining, but I still have a long way to go. So, even though it won’t be a word for this year, I still have to remind myself to be brave – but I think that is true of most people.

I could have done this a little better at times throughout the year. My ability for calmness improved when I started my own business; gaining greater control over the structure of your day introduces an innate calmness. Don’t get me wrong, that control comes with fear and anxiety over getting paid work, but there is something wonderful in knowing a random SLJ is not going to be thrown over the fence to you without any notice.

There is an aspect of this that will come into my 2015 words as well, because I think I need to put in more effort to looking after my mental health. Although, I still think that the greatest thing I can do in looking after my mental health is protecting myself against people trying to mess with it.

This was my year of networking, online and offline. This year, I connected more with new people than at any time in my life. I joined Hobart’s Live Your Legend get togethers – a group that has allowed me to meet, and develop lovely friendships, with a small number of like-minded people in Hobart. It has been wonderful watching the members of the group change and grow throughout the year – and they are a very positive addition to my new freelancing life.

Talking at TEDxHobart gave me a couple of other new connections, who have become wonderful additions to my world down here. The Ripple community has also added a few people who have become important to my support network. Then there are the two companies that I have started doing consulting/training work for as well.

Online I joined Chris Brogan’s Brave community, did Ramit Sethi’s ZTL course (and trialled his Brain’s Trust as well), and forged stronger connections with some writing friends in the US. The online space also saw the expansion of my dinkylune mailing lists, although I would still like them to grow a lot larger – but who wouldn’t?

As well as all of the new connections, most of my older friends continue to provide me with support, laughter and sanity breaks. This is harder with the ones I seldom physically see, but they have still been there for me, and I cherish that.

So, I think that connection went well this year – combined with Brave it has brought about some lovely outcomes in my life.

What are your reflections on the year that was? Did you do three words for the year or have any goals that you set for yourself? Have you reflected on how well you met, or didn’t meet them?

I’ll be back in early 2015 with my three words for the year. I have two but the third is proving a little elusive at the moment.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The dinkylune 2014 stash giveaway

UPDATE: Thank you to everyone who entered the competition. The winners have been notified and we have received one confirmation - Tasha from Tasmania. We should receive the second one shortly, or it will be redrawn next week.

I’ve been making so many wonderful new products for Christmas this year that I decided I should give some of them away – and since I’ve never done a giveaway it’s long overdue.

I’m calling it dinkylune’s 2014 stash, and it is a collection of many of my market products and my ebook. The stash includes one each of the following:
Visit the competition page to enter by 30 November - so I can mail them out before xmas. Just answer a simple question about Dorothy and her friends, enter your email and you're entered. Then, if you want more chances to win, share your unique URL with friends.
dinkylune 2014 stash prize pack

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Will you have a Great Life - or a mediocre one?

Can you answer that one? Do you even know what a Great Life means to you? Is it fame and fortune? Love and a big family? The ability to impact and influence people on any scale? Or a combination of all of these things?

You might remember the post I did a little while back about Larry Smith's TED Talk (Chances are you will not have a great career, unless...) where he talks about most people being afraid to discover their passion, and few people who discover it being willing to pursue it. Well this question is not about career, it is about your life in general - and it is not necessarily about an arbitrary and external concept of "greatness", but what a great means in the context of your life. In other words, what would an excellent or above average life be for you?

What's this all about?
I ask this question because I have been pondering it quite a bit in the last year. It aligns with the work I've been doing on choices and decision making - which came from the shocking realisation that I had been a passive decision maker in my own life for way too long. Which all makes sense, with no idea what a Great Life would look like for me, why would I take the risks in making decisions when I didn't know where I wanted to go? Surely this is familiar for some of you.

Last night I gave a talk to a small group of mumpreneurs here in Hobart. It was the first time that I had talked about what I've been putting together, and so I thought I'd share a little of it with you today. Mainly what I thought I would share is the page I put together yesterday, my notes for the talk if you like. I decided that the bullet point list wouldn't do this time, I needed to capture it in a different way.

Start with the elements of great and work around clockwise; this is where my brain is currently going with this topic. I found it powerful to understand these things, and knowing it has definitely allowed a shift in my confidence to make the big decisions, as well as my courage to take action once that decision has been made.

Starting to come together
This is all coming together in an interesting way for me, and my hope is that you can get something out of all of this as well. If you've been around for a little while you will know that there is a free resource about helping you become a more active decision maker in your own life (called Positive Decisions) - you get access to it when you sign up to the dinkylune courage newsletter. You also get the dinkylune manifesto, which adds to this discussion as well. You can sign up through the Positive Decisions page, or in the top right of this page.

What do you think about the story in the image? Is there an aspect of it you would like me to expand on? Do you think I'm off the mark? Or can you see how it relates to your life as well?