Figuring Out The Art of Re-Invention

It’s really difficult to come back from some of the crazy, curve ball black eyes we get in life sometimes.

Throughout most of my life, I was able to bounce back from just about anything. I never worried, I didn’t ever second guess myself.

I was always positive that the “next thing”, that proverbial opening door after the one that closes, was going to be even better than the last.

I went to college to pursue my dream of working with animals. Afterward, I got my first job at a zoo, and then a month later 9/11 happened and both of my full time jobs disappeared.

I moved back to my childhood home, head hung low and fighting off some serious depression over watching my dream go down the drain… then picked myself up and used my skills and interest in web development to get some work with an SEO company.

A year later, they dissolved my position and the owner told me that she thought I should go out on my own. So I did.

I mean, why not? My father was self-employed most of his life, my mother had done the same, so why not me?

After a few years I landed my best client ever, Darren Rowse of ProBlogger. I worked with him for many years, and wouldn’t trade a second of it. I met so many amazing people, many of whom I call friends to this day. I left ProBlogger for Blog World Expo, and then fast forward to November 2011 and I was unemployed.

One would’ve thought that I could’ve just picked up some new work and that would’ve been it. I mean, I’d worked with Live Nation on a project for Coty and Madonna. I’d worked with Kraft Foods on several projects of theirs. But every job I sought out wanted me to move across country for their startup and way too little pay, much less any security.

Then my only grandparent passed away, and two weeks later? I was pregnant.

Talk about an emotional roller coaster! I had desperately wanted my whole life to become a Mommy. But what the hell? No job, losing my Gram, and NOW?

Don’t get me wrong… I was ecstatic. But I say this with 100% certainty – being pregnant and subsequently giving birth to a perfect, healthy baby girl is what kept me alive.

See, I’ve always tended to identify myself heavily by what I do for a living. I wanted to be a zookeeper since I was 5, and when I finally did it, I was “there”. But at this point with not having any work coming in and after nearly 600 resumes, not getting anything… I was thoroughly depressed.

I tried to focus on my art. It was one thing that has always brought me immense pleasure and joy… that sense of accomplishment. I still do spend as much time with my art as possible, though having a wee one who’s learning to walk makes it somewhat difficult these days! :)

I did eventually get a job, back in August. I love it. I’m helping people create 6-figure incomes for themselves using some really amazing tools. It’s such a joy to get the emails from people who were on the verge of homelessness and are now using our software to build their businesses and care for their families.

But to be absolutely honest – as much as I love what I’m doing, and I really don’t have any plans of leaving my job anytime soon, part of me still misses being self-employed, and wishes there were a way to sustain my family on an artist’s income. Not happenin’, man. Not in this economy.

So I guess what I’m saying is that I’m no stranger to re-inventing myself. In fact, I think I’m pretty damn good at it by now. And I want to help people, be it to re-invent themselves, get inspired, or care for their families, or discover their inner child’s audacity to get what they want.

I think it’s time I get to working on something I’ve had in my head for a while. I want to put some stuff together to help people… what’s sticking with me is time, but I’m going to simply have to figure it out. I do know one thing, though. I need to come here and write more.

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”
~ Walt Disney

I promise, during my own re-invention, the following:

  • Everything you read here, from this point forward, will be part of a bigger story. It will be authentic, no mincing of words, sheer honesty from yours truly.
  • My aim in everything I do will be to help people. Sure, I’m going to make some money along the way, but my goal is to help others, be it one at a time, or en masse.
  • I will acknowledge both failures and successes, and share them with you. Hopefully we can all glean a lesson from everything.

So yes… this post was inspired. This post was something I needed to get out. And now, it’s time to move forward. Come with me?

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Finding Your Childhood Audacity

Or… Remembering Your Inner 10 Year Old’s Bravery.

Do you remember your first lemonade stand? I do. Vividly.

Where I grew up, we had well water. An Artesian Well, which to me always sounded so sophisticated.

Our runoff went into the creek across the street, while my neighbor’s runoff came out of a pipe at the end of his driveway, into the rain ditch. People used to “sneak” up in the middle of the night and fill their containers with this “miracle water”. They came from all over. Eventually, they stopped being sneaky and just boldly would park their cars in our yard, driveway, and even would block our driveway, to go get this delicious water.

Remember, this was the EXACT same water that came out of my tap.
The exact same water I made my delicious lemonade from.
Which I was selling for 25 cents a cup.

childhood-audacity-post

So I got really tired of seeing people pass me by to go get this not-so-special “special” water, and not stop to buy my lemonade. Potential customer after potential customer would drive by, smile, even wave at me. And grab some water from the “spring” next door instead of stopping at my stand. So tired of this that I decided to yell over to one man in particular while he was filling up his glass.

“Hey Mister! This lemonade was made with that very same water!”

He looked at me and laughed to himself. I assumed he was going to get into his car and drive off, shaking his head with a smirk or something. Nope, he walked over to me, wiping his forehead with a handkerchief he’d soaked in the cool water first.

My mom had heard me, and of course came outside to see what I was yelling about. The man looked at my pitcher of lemonade and said, “So this WHOLE pitcher was made with the same water as from that spring?”

I said, “Yes, sir. It’s the same water that comes out of my faucet ‘onnacount it’s well water.”

He looked at my mom and smiled, and then asked me how much for the whole pitcher. I tried to imagine just how many 25 cent cups of lemonade would come from that pitcher, and while I was counting in my head, he put a $10 bill on the table and asked if that would cover it.

I looked up at my mom and she smiled. She told me we could always go make more.

He then patted me on the head and said, “Little girl, some day I want you to come work for me. You’re an AMAZING saleswoman!”

As he walked back to his car, I realized that he didn’t even take more than one cup of lemonade with him. He left the whole pitcher.

Now, this can be absorbed with any number of “morals of the story”, but the truth is this: I sold one 25 cent cup of lemonade for $10. Just by being honest, bold, and having audacity.

Fearlessness.
Guts.
Confidence.
Assertiveness.

You HAVE to know that what you’ve got to offer is just as good if not better than what’s available elsewhere. Even if it costs more, even if people prefer what’s free or cheap. By thinking that you have to lower your prices, or just sit there and wait for people to come to you, you’re shortchanging yourself. You’re missing out on your true potential to make money, be successful, and build your business and better yet, your own confidence even more.

I was inspired to write this because lately I’ve seen more and more artists and crafters, even designers and small businesses, just doing the basics (if that) and not going after what they want and deserve.

Is this you?

You need to learn how to market yourself for what you’re worth, regardless what your business is. What you’re worth is what people are willing to pay for your services, and just because your Aunt Sally thinks that you’re charging too much, doesn’t mean you are. Just because other people doing the same thing as you are charging less, doesn’t mean their work is as of high a quality as yours. It doesn’t mean that they have more sales, and even if they do, they’re putting in more actual labor than you are, to make the same amount of money (or less).

I sold a $0.02 (materials cost) cup of lemonade for $10. Just by opening my mouth. By being bold and assertive, all while being honest.

If I just sat there, with my little table, sign, and pitcher that day, I may not have ever sold a single cup.

How can you be more bold and assertive in your business? How can you attract buyers better?

6 Appealing Thoughts on Minimalism

I will absolutely admit that the idea of switching to a “minimalist” lifestyle does have a strong appeal to me. I spent much of my life living in a home that had all sorts of chotchkies, dishes on display (two to three sets of “fancy” dishes, plus the “everyday” set in the cabinet!), lots of appliances on the counters, and a general sense of “clutter” by today’s standards.

That being said, I’m not trying to say that my home was dirty, but more like messy. I was always searching for something for an hour, or doing an arm sweep across the counter to clear off a space to do homework or some other project.

I read things like Adam’s page where he posts a photographic inventory of everything he and his wife own, and it amazes me. Leo has trimmed down his personal possessions to just 50 things that are his own, not including family items or things that belong to others in his home. I’m floored.

Maybe it’s a guy thing? Maybe it’s easier for men than it is women?

Nope. Lynnae has a deep-seated desire to be more of a minimalist. Jules minimizes her cooking, by doing it with only 5 ingredients per meal, and gets in and out of the kitchen in 10 minutes. I’m sure there are plenty more.

Okay, so maybe I’m just totally not cut out for this.

I currently live with my boyfriend who owns a computer repair business, so we’ve got computer parts everywhere. While you might think that I could easily work from anywhere with just my laptop and a wi-fi connection, I’ve got an entire room filled to the brim with my art and jewelry supplies. Yes, “stuff” that’s actually intended to serve two purposes: To give me that physical, creative outlet I crave, and to make some extra money.

And I don’t even have all of my “stuff” here. I left about 90% of it back at my father’s house when I moved. Seriously, 90% of my possessions aren’t even anything I’ve looked at in over a year, much less actually needed to keep.

Some of the thoughts and feelings behind the minimalist lifestyle that are appealing to me:

  • Less stuff means less cleaning. Less laundry to do when you have fewer clothes, less dishes to do, less dusting, less cleaning in general.
  • Maintaining means constantly paring down. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying something for a while and then selling it to make back some of your money.
  • Money! Less buying of “stuff” you don’t need means you have more money to buy things you do. Selling off gently used clothing, older appliances, books… all of that money adds up in your coffee can labeled “Vacation Fund” or in our case, “House Fund”.
  • Money #2, you can pay off your debt faster and stop creating more debt. How many times have YOU bought groceries or gasoline on a credit card because you didn’t have the cash?
  • Less clutter means feeling less cluttered. It’s easier to find things you need, when you need them, because you know right where they are. Living in a chaotic environment forces your brain to feel chaos.
  • More time. If you add up all the minutes in a day you spend looking for something, cleaning or doing laundry, or moving things around to create a space for a task, I’m willing to bet you could reclaim at least an hour a day, more like two or three, if you lived more like a minimalist.

I also think that applying the core beliefs above can be helpful in regards to work just as much as it applies to day-to-day living and home life.

I’m not sure I can do it and give it my all, but looking around the apartment I definitely see things that we don’t need, that we could find major purpose for with the money that could be made by selling it. I’m thinking that lots of craigslist, eBay, and garage sales are in our near future.

My Not-So-Official, Official Story

After a recent thread in the ProBlogger Community about a member who was having trouble working his “About Me” page, I decided I need to do some restructuring with my own sections of this site. In doing that, I’m writing this post because where I came from to be where I am today is sort of a long story, and I feel it deserves it’s own separate post.

[easyazon-image-link asin=”0783233523″ alt=”Gorillas in the Mist” src=”http://www.larakulpa.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/gorilla.png” align=”right” width=”300″] Those of you who know me well, know that I didn’t grow up imagining I’d be doing what I’m doing today. In fact, I firmly believed from the time I could speak that I was the reincarnation of Dian Fossey. You might remember her name from the movie Gorillas in the Mist? Yeah, that Dian Fossey.

After graduating high school in the mid-90s, I went to college to become a certified zookeeper. My plan was to work for years as a zookeeper, working my way “up the ranks” while I continued on to get a PhD in Animal Behavior. Of course, what I didn’t realize at the time was that as a single (unmarried) zookeeper who grew up an only child and never did well with having a roommate, I’d need a second job. No time for more school, bills needed to be paid.

My First Experience Working Online

So I went to work for Neopets.com – it’s a cute community site, mainly geared toward kids nowadays, but started out for college kids. (In fact, I’d been working for them while I was still in college, but continued on afterward out of necessity and admiration.) I was senior community manager there, so my main job was to keep the baddies out. No pervs stalking little kids, no “adult language”, that kind of stuff. I got to do other cool stuff like design items in the game, beta testing, all that. It was great. And got me into web design. I had a blog before they ever called them blogs back then, and I loved it!

After September 11, 2001 my world as I knew it really crumbled. Tourism shot down so the zoo thing was on thin ice, and Neopets wanted some security for their company (because no one in the country knew just what was going to happen next) so they had asked me to move to California (I was in Florida at the time). I just wasn’t able to do it on the pay they offered me, so I had to decline. So without a good second job, and with the risk of walking in to work one day and not having a main job anymore, I moved home to New York. I was terribly sad, confused, and really had no clue what the heck I was going to do with my life. Go back to school? Take some time off and go back once the economy settled?

The Changing of Tides or, Riding The Rough Waves

I held several jobs for a few years, ranging from 911 dispatcher to lab tech in a biotechnology company. (I was also a fitness trainer at Curves for Women, a retail store assistant manager for Bombay Company, and a few other short lived things I can’t remember.) In my spare time, I took what I’d learned by working with Neopets, my own blog, and tinkering with web design, and started building actual, professional websites for myself, family and friends. It was kind of cool, because as much as I was into animals, I’d also always been a creative geek, and loved computers and programming.

Soon, I found a guy who had an internet marketing and SEO company whose job ad said he was looking for “someone with web design experience, but could be trained on SEO”. It was a neat gig, but after 6 months he “restructured” and laid off all but two of his employees.

I then found another SEO company who took pity on me and created a special position just for me, also doing SEO, but working from home. After about a year, she came to me and told me she felt I’d be better suited to go into business for myself, and with her blessing, off I went.

On My Own

I had my first paying client only two weeks into it, and they remained such for nearly 6 years. For a while, I had been blogging with b5media, a company co-founded by Darren Rowse. Darren and I quickly became friends and he’s by far one of my most favorite people on earth. Over the past 5 years, we’ve grown our friendship and working relationship to the point where I’m now involved in several of his projects. I know I’m gushing here, but I love working with Darren, and being a part of what he’s doing in helping people learn how to create an income online. Doing so has truly opened up doors for me. I’ve spoken at several blogging and social media conferences, am currently in talks with some colleagues about doing a series of ebooks, and planning to continue working as a consultant and speaker.

Going out on my own was the best thing that ever happened to me, both as a career and on an emotional level. As much as I miss working with my animals, and yes, even get sad sometimes because my childhood dream was “so close and yet so far”, I absolutely love what I do today. I’m in a place where I’ve got amazing clients, great friends in business and my personal life, and am eager to see what the next decade of my life will amount to. It’s not Gorillas in the Mist, but it’s my life, and I love it.

Have you ever been forced to take a major detour in your life plan? I’d love to hear about it!

About Letting Go and Making Room in My Life

Note: This post is inspired by recent events in my own life, but also by Chris Brogan. I adore Chris, and am grateful to watch him do his own letting go in favor of making room in his life. You deserve it, Chris!

I’ve had a crazy couple of weeks. I spoke to a room of 80+ people (may of whom were sitting on the floor! I love you guys!), unfollowed a few hundred people on Twitter, canceled 7 hosting accounts, removed 250 people from my Facebook friends (though I have a “fan” page, if you’re so inclined), ended a 20-year long friendship, and posted over 60 domains for sale.

I’ve hunted for houses with my boyfriend, had drinks with friends in Manhattan, written a few blog posts, helped my boyfriend’s sister move, and listened as at least two friends told me of their broken hearts and dreams. I spent some time with my nephew watching “Young Frankenstein” for his first time. I sat with a neighbor as she ran a yard sale, and took photos of a Memorial Day parade, both while soaking up the sun (just a little too much).

I’m letting go of so many things, which has enabled me to truly enjoy so many more. I’m learning something, and it’s that what matters most in life are the things that make you feel good.

  • Letting go of the domains and hosting accounts makes me feel good because I’m no longer spending money on something I’m not using. It gives me room, financially, to focus on the things that will help me grow in many areas, online and off.
  • Letting go of the toxic relationships, the “acquaintances”, the “we used to know each other but now we don’t” people – it has helped me to breathe deeper. I’m no longer feeling like I have to perform or be a certain way for anyone else’s benefit. I no longer spend my time worrying about who’s saying what behind my back, or why. I can’t even begin to tell you how free I feel right now. Words can’t possibly do it justice.
  • Spending time with friends and family – This is the biggest. I’m so glad I could both laugh and cry with my friends so much recently. I’m so grateful that the sun was shining so much that it bronzed my skin and warmed my soul. I’m happy to have spent time away from this box of metal and glass, to really interact with people I care so deeply about.

Don’t get me wrong – I love what I do, I love the internet. I just can’t keep spreading myself so thin. I want important relationships with people, I don’t need connections to people I only hear from on my birthday because Facebook alerts them. I don’t need to hoard domains because I once felt I had a great idea. What I need in my life is more of the stuff that lights fires in my heart.

There are a great many people who have completely inadvertently helped me to discover this “rebirth” I’m going through. I’m sure many of you know who you are, and if you don’t, I’m sure I’ll let you know somehow, in some special way, how much you mean to me. It’s something I look forward to.