Determining Your ‘Last Straw’ & What To Do About It

Note: This is going to be a pretty long post. Please read it when you have the time to absorb it and internalize the things I’ve said in a way that helps you best.

It’s funny, this internet thing. I’ve been working online in some form or another since 1996, and to say, “I’ve seen it all,” is an understatement for me most of the time.

I’ve learned that while the internet can be an amazing place to express yourself, meet people, build a career, profit from a hobby, and get yourself addicted to certain things like facebook games or social media sites… after nearly 20 years, I’m becoming one of those people who begins to loathe what they love.

I’d be lying if I told you it wasn’t bothering me.

My pants would likely catch fire if I told you there was never a time where I wanted to just shut down everything, move to some artsy-touristy town, and try to make a living by opening up a bakery/coffeehouse/shop that sold my art and that of others. Without using the internet at all.

determining-your-last-strawI think the things that are bugging me the most lately are when I see people being out and out mean to complete strangers, people who are out there convincing others that they should fork over their life savings to learn how to make more money, and all those stupid, effing “viral” sites.

A contradiction, I’m sure you’re thinking, since here’s me, a creative business coach that offers one-on-one and group coaching on how to build your creative business up to be something you can make a real living from. Online. And I charge people for that.

But there’s a deep-seated purpose to what I’m doing here, and I really want to share it with you because I feel like with all the bull-puckey going on out there, I need to keep it as real as I possibly can.

I’m NOT someone out to make a bajillion dollars a year so I can take fancy vacations and buy my daughter more clothes/toys/junk than she needs. I’m not someone who wants to drive the most expensive SUV on the market (or even the mid-range expensive ones). I have a 2004 PT Cruiser that I absolutely adore, and will drive until she decides it’s time to die forever.

I’m NOT someone who wants to convince people that if they give me $4000, I’ll have all the answers as to how they can multiply it times ten in 30 days. In fact, I happen to know for absolute certain that anything anyone promises that remotely sounds like that is complete and utter lies. And if you’ve fallen into the trap someone’s set like that, I’m really, really sorry for you.

No, I’m a mom of a toddler whom I’d give anything to spend more time with.

I’ve got an amazing man with a heart of gold and a broken back. We’ve got bills to pay, like everyone else, and I’m the only one who can do it right now.

I want to help people be comfortable selling themselves and their art online. I’ve had SO many heart-wrenching conversations, with women especially, where they’re afraid to upset their fans, or worse… afraid to fail. It’s painful to hear, and I’m on a mission to make it feel safer and better and be happier for them.

I don’t need a huge house (or even multiple ones). I don’t even want that! Too much work, really. Same with extra cars, clothes, toys, and so on.

I would like to be able to give more money to charities I love to support when I can. To spend more time volunteering, helping, and giving back. Teaching my daughter how important that kind of stuff really is.

These are the reasons I do what I do. The real purpose behind my passions. I’m over all the people who are over-charging for services or coaching. I’m over all the sites that focus on making fun of people. I’m over the jerks on social media sites that hide behind their internet wall and say things they’d never dare to say to someone’s face.

I just want to help people and have enough time and money to do the things I mentioned up there. That’s the purpose behind doing what I do for a living.

Determining Your ‘Last Straw’

I can honestly say that I’ve never truly enjoyed working for others. I was always one of those kids that wanted the payout before doing the work. I remember my parents telling me that whenever they tried to get me to do something by promising me a reward, I was always trying to convince them that if they let me have/do the reward, I’d then do the work. I know, it sounds absolutely ludicrous as an adult, but as a kid, it made perfect sense to me.

But this whole paycheck-paycheck thing, with someone else having 100% control over whether or not I got one, has always driven me mad. Sure, when I was working jobs I loved, like as a zookeeper and when I was working for Neopets and ProBlogger… it wasn’t so bad. I loved getting up in the morning and going to work and clocking in, or sitting at my desk and jumping into what was going on.

However there have been way too many times where the thought of even getting online to work gave me a migraine. Times when I really didn’t want to finish a project because my heart wasn’t in it, even if the money was good. Times where the person I was working for was a completely selfish jerk, and I really just wanted to crawl in a hole and die every single time my phone would ring or a Skype message would pop up. But I did it all, simply because I needed the money.

And then I got so sick and tired of it, I stopped.

I totally threw caution to the wind and decided that it was over. No more doing work that didn’t make my heart sing AND pay the bills. I’d had my last straw (or several of them), and made the conscious decision to do whatever it took to work to live, not live to work.

I’m completely, thoroughly, madly in love with what I’m doing now.

I’m doing everything in my power to keep doing things the way I am, because it not only fulfills my passion, but my purpose.

But the truth is, not everyone has the same tolerance (or lack thereof). I know people who get up and go to the most ridiculously boring jobs, because they have to pay their bills. They deal with interoffice politics because… they have to pay their bills. They loathe every single face they have to see every day, but they do it because they have to pay their bills.

Yes, needing money is most people’s second-to-last straw. It’s the thing that keeps them hating their work. It’s not the boring job, the politics, or the faces that put them over the edge. It’s their fear of not being able to pay their bills that prevents them from stepping near the edge in the first place.

I’ve lived that fear. I’ve even been in situations where I needed to rely on public assistance. I’ve currently got 3 mouths to feed on one income. Is every single month a cake-walk? Nope. Are there times I stress more than others, because I can associate signs with history to prove to myself that it’s gonna be a bad month? Yep.

What To Do About It?

The difference between me and those people who haven’t found their last straw yet is that I leapt. I know that if I really, really need money, I can go pick up a gig and be able to earn some. It may not be what I love doing, but it’s something. I’ve stopped looking at working for someone else (be it a single project or an ongoing thing) as a dead-end, and began to view it as an option. A last resort. I KNOW that I can make a living doing what I love and with purpose. I’ve done it, and I continue to do it. And I know that everyone can. It’s just a matter of them finding their last straw and making that jump.

If there’s nothing else I can ever teach anyone I come across, I want to teach people to have courage. This life we live is so short. So limited. I know that when you’re 70 years old, everything feels like it was so long ago, and that you’d spend a huge amount of time on this planet. I know that when you’re in your 20’s you feel like you’ve got your whole life ahead of you and nothing can break you. I know that when you’re a parent to small children, it feels like each day lasts a second and before you know it, they’re talking in complete sentences and you just want them to go back to being that teeny tiny person that couldn’t even hold their own bottle. As much as you couldn’t wait for them to be able to hold their own bottle when they couldn’t yet do it.

Life is not meant for us to trudge through. Life is meant to be lived with as much joy and excitement and eager anticipation we can muster. Yes, there are super low times. For some people, it seems more often than not at times. But you know how we get through them? By embracing all the joy and excitement and eager anticipation for the good times that we can think of. It takes courage to let go of what you know and try something new. It takes planning, too, of course. But boy howdy does it ever take courage.

But that’s what life’s about, for me, and what I hope you’ll discover for yourself. I want you to step so close to the edge of that cliff that your toes hang over and then…

You leap.

BlogWorld Expo LA 2011 – Woah!

Okay, so I can’t even begin to describe how long it’s taken me to “come down” from my BWELA high. This was certainly not my first time at BWE, as I’ve been attending since 2008, back when I had just started blogging over at b5media and working for Darren Rowse. Back when it had been my first ever real conference I’d ever gone to. Considering I’d been blogging since before they called it that (circa 1996), it only made sense that if I could afford just one to attend, BlogWorld be it.

While not my first BWE event, it was the first time I was attending as one part of the “behind the scenes” team that put the event on. Yep, back in August, I started working as Community Manager for BlogWorld, and for the first time ever, I would be going to an event with specific duties and a schedule to follow!

Usually when I come home from BWE, I’m motivated and inspired, and this time is no different, but it’s only because of all the great new faces we saw this year. So many of our attendees in Los Angeles were doing so much, and had only been at this blogging thing for a short time, and that’s ridiculously inspiring. The passion I saw when I spoke with first time BWE attendees, the awe in their faces, wow… just wow.

You guys made me love my job even more, and I didn’t know that was possible.

But First, The BWELA 2011 Team…

I’ve known Deb Ng, our conference director, and Nikki Katz and Julie Hunter-Bonner since my days at b5. Allison Boyer started at b5 right around the time I was leaving, and I met J-Wo a few years ago at BWE. But the people I hadn’t worked with at all before, like Rick Calvert, Dave Cynkin, Patti Hosking, and the rest of the team – I knew they were passionate people, but I have to say that putting all of us in the same room? It’s a wonderful, glorious overload I’ll be honored to share for years to come, if I’m lucky.

A little background – Rick used to have a blog, and went looking for an event geared toward content creators (bloggers, podcasters, vloggers, authors, etc) and couldn’t find one, so he grabbed Dave and Patti and pulled it together back in 2007. I’ve never met people with more heart in my life. They’ve succeeded in finding others like them, and have built a team of the coolest people I know.

This Year…

It was the biggest, best BWE yet. No joke. It was the first year in Los Angeles, which was pretty cool. The event space was large – but with 307 speakers alone, the team had decided they needed that space. We covered much of two floors and three wings of the Los Angeles Convention Center, but it really wasn’t too terrible in terms of walking or getting from place to place.

Our speakers rocked the socks off everyone, both the staff and attendees alike. To quote Rick, because I can echo these sentiments exactly:

There were so many other fantastic speakers but a few come to mind that I was able to see this year, Gary Arndt, David Armano, Jason Falls, Amber Naslund, Peter Shankman delivered a block buster opening keynote, Jay Baer and Joe Pulizzi knocked their crowd dead and were wearing authentic kimonos (that’s going the extra mile), Amy Lupold Bair, BlogHer co-founder Lisa Stone was amazing, Lisa Barone, Erin Kotecki Vest, Annissa Mayhew and Cecily Kellogg gave inspiring talks, Mikal Belicove did an brilliant job with his post “state of the blogosphere” interview with Shani Higgins, If you have never seen Mitch Canter speak do it the next opportunity you get. He is Brilliant. Kelby Carr and CC Chapman, Steve Garfield the godfather of Vlogging gave a great talk, Marty Coleman (The Napkin Dad) is a rising star, Mack Collier and so many others.

Seriously, all of these names were ones I heard from the mouths of attendees, with words like “inspiring” and “hilarious” and “brilliant” in close proximity. There were lots of wide-eyed reactions to our keynoters and high-profile speakers as well, and short of listing all 307 of our lineup,  I’m sad to not be able to give proper props to each and every one.

Our Attendees

I have to say that going into the event, I had some definitive tasks I was given. My main job, aside from continuing my tasks of updating the facebook and twitter accounts, was literally to hang out with attendees on the floor and at the parties, making sure everyone was having a good time, networking with each other, and especially for first-timers, ensuring no one was missing out on the greatness of BWE – the “family reunion” feeling I’d always get each year that kept me coming back. I want to thank Chris Brogan for recognizing my efforts in that respect, because it was super important to me to do my job well. He’s been around BWE a few times (hehe – understatement) and he knew exactly the feeling we want each and every one of our attendees to have.

During the first night, at the Networking Mixer, I had several people approach me, telling me how they didn’t know anyone there. One in particular had seen me having my first chat with a first-time attendee, and swore that he and I had known each other for years. She told me that she only started blogging and working social media for her company, and they sent her to BWE to “learn how to do it right”, but that she felt like everyone there had a crowd of their own friends. I asked her what her niche was, and brought her over to a few people I knew she could glean something from, namely Chris and Jacqueline Carly. You know, I’ve heard time and again that at other events (in other industries), and the high-profile people literally either lock themselves together in one section of the room, or worse, don’t even come at all. But not Chris or Jac. They opened up their table to make room for this “newbie” I brought over, and I watched all night – she never left. Always talking with someone new there, and it gave me the biggest warm fuzzies ever.

See, I’ve known these high-profile people for a long time. Really, many of them are people I call friends, like Darren Rowse, whom I worked for almost exclusively for nearly six years. What I truly love about BWE is that these guys are so open and friendly, so welcoming, so engaging, and so damn humble! Every time I turned around, there were people talking to me about how they couldn’t believe they got to spend time with them. I love that. It’s the same stuff I felt at my first BWE, and to be able to call them my friends, and watch them continue to give that experience freely to others is just awesome.

Big thanks to the few of you who agreed to be on tape with me, sharing your thoughts about BWELA 2011. I’ll have those videos smashed up and online soon.

My Takeaways

Since it was my first time working the event as part of the BWE team, and since I wasn’t doing the whole “family reunion” feel with my longtime pals, but instead working to spend time with people who were new to BWE, I have to say that it was almost like attending for the first time myself. I really loved seeing all the new ideas and hearing about people’s projects. I can totally see some of these first-timers coming back year after year, and within a very short period of time, turning into speakers and then high-profile people. I kid you not, some of these people are really on top of their games, and you’re going to see much more in line with fitness, health, cause, and military blogging and podcasting lines very soon.

What I learned was that people have moved beyond the notion of just making as much money online as possible, and there’s a shift – people want to change people’s lives, even if in a very small way. It’s not about YOU anymore – we’re beyond that, and it’s awesome. People want to share so they can help someone or some cause or something. Yes, it’s still very personal and many people do it for the personal expression value, but their goals are moving in the direction of wanting to help, and that. is. awesome.

Copyright 2011 Natasha Wescoat - Click for larger image

Before I end this tremendously long post, I have to give a shoutout to one of my favorite people, an amazing artist named Natasha Wescoat. She came to BlogWorld to do a livepainting session wherein the finished piece would be auctioned off to benefit the United Way of Greater Los Angeles. You missed the auction, but you can grab a print of the piece here. Natasha’s been using social media as an artist for years, and has been one of my biggest inspirations as a fellow artist. Watch for she and I to be collaborating on some really nifty stuff in the near future!

When You Get Overwhelmed… Use An Egg Timer!

I love starting new projects and ideas. Really, I do. But sometimes I get ahead of myself and start projects that take much of my attention, and things fall behind.

Like this blog.

Like my Artist’s eCourse. (I’m so sorry – new lessons coming soon, I promise!)

Like my online shops and my site for my handmade jewelry.

So what do I do when I find that I have tons on my plate, and need to get better organized? I use an egg timer. Yup. It’s a virtual one I downloaded that lives on my computer. I choose a task and set the timer for an hour. I work on that task for half an hour (or whatever I set it to) and then pick a new one and reset the timer. My friend Craig Jarrow would be so proud!

Email on personal biz account: 30 mins. (2-3x a day)
Email on Blog World account: 30 mins. (2-3x a day)
Twitter: 30 mins. (3-4x a day)
Facebook: 90 mins. (Yes, I do spend loads of time there for both BWE and my own stuff.)
Writing blog posts: 30 mins. (not enough each day)
Commenting on other blogs: 60 mins. (2-3x/day)

See all I can get done in a day?

I have seen people talk about spreadsheets and charts and mindmaps, but I really think that while a list of daily tasks is a good idea, it’s far too easy to get caught up with things and spend more time navigating facebook (ungh, those changes!) than actually accomplishing the things you set out to do each day.

If you prefer the loud ring of a real egg timer, I’m sure your local dollar store has plenty for you to choose from. I personally enjoy having my desktop version, because there’s too much stuff on my real desk as it is, and I’m afraid it’ll sit there unused. When I use up a whole hour, I just click “reset and start timer” and move on to the next thing.

What are some ways you use to keep on task, manage your time, and get everything done?

Recommended Reading:

[easyazon-image-link asin=”0805075909″ alt=”Time Management from the Inside Out, Second Edition: The Foolproof System for Taking Control of Your Schedule — and Your Life” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51F0bGoDXHL._SL160_.jpg” align=”none” width=”103″ height=”160″] [easyazon-image-link asin=”0142000280″ alt=”Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51On%2BoFTGvL._SL160_.jpg” align=”none” width=”101″ height=”160″] [easyazon-image-link asin=”047029034X” alt=”Successful Time Management For Dummies” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51M1WQTN8zL._SL160_.jpg” align=”none” width=”127″ height=”160″] [easyazon-image-link asin=”0609800906″ alt=”Time Management for the Creative Person: Right-Brain Strategies for Stopping Procrastination, Getting Control of the Clock and Calendar, and Freeing Up Your Time and Your Life” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51OoVvRVtJL._SL160_.jpg” align=”none” width=”103″ height=”160″] [easyazon-image-link asin=”097695060X” alt=”The 25 Best Time Management Tools & Techniques: How to Get More Done Without Driving Yourself Crazy” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51MogZ%2BKOgL._SL160_.jpg” align=”none” width=”122″ height=”160″]

On The Closing of Doors, and Opening of New Ones…

So by now you may or may not have seen the announcement about a new step in my career, that I’ve been given a wonderful opportunity to work with a whole bunch of amazing people I adore. I’ve been hired as the Community Manager for Blog World and New Media Expo, and I’m really excited!

While this means that I will no longer be the Community Manager for ProBlogger, I will still be offering my online strategy coaching and a few other services. There’s only really enough time in the day to be CM for one project at a time.

I wanted to take a moment to share with you how I’m feeling about all of this.

First, I have to emphasize how much I truly love, admire, and respect Darren Rowse. I’m fortunate enough to know him better than most of his online connections, and you can’t even begin to fathom how much of a blessing that’s been for me. Darren is absolutely as wonderful as you may think, and then some. He’s been an amazing friend, confidante, cheerleader, and “boss man”. I wouldn’t trade a second of my experience of working for him for anything, and I owe my successes to him giving me a chance all those years ago. I’ve learned so much, experienced so much, and been honored to be connected with him as long as I have. Believe me, leaving is bittersweet – but Darren has been gracious and proud of me for making this next step in my life, and for that I am eternally grateful.

Now, on to the next chapter!

I’m so unbelievably excited about working with Blog World! I’m a huge fan of the conferences (they’re the only ones I never, ever miss) and to be working with such an amazing team as Rick, Dave, Deb, Allison, Nikki and everyone else will be just phenomenal for me. I’ve known Deb for several years, having been her “web goddess” for ages when she owned her blog network, and we’ve become dear friends over the years. Rick and Dave are amazing guys with a creative vision that just inspires the hell out of me, and I can’t wait to connect that vision with the BWE community of attendees past, present, and future. I’ve been a huge evangelist for Blog World since my first conference back in 2008, having convinced many to join us each year, and I’ll continue to do so. I believe in what these people are doing, I believe in the connections that are made, the friendships that I’ve built, and where this company is headed. I’m SO excited!

So keep your eyes peeled, you’ll find me on the facebook page, twitter account, forum, and more!

 

I Fired A Potential Client Today

I don’t know what it is about working online that gives people the sense (or lack thereof) that people who do it are just freely available 24/7 to jump when they tell us to.

Weeks ago, I met with a local business that’s fairly well established in their niche. It’s one with a lot of potential, as at least 30% of the population (if not much more) could use their product at some point in their lives. A friend who worked there had suggested that the owner and I meet and see if we could work on a few projects together.

After literally weeks of delays, missed appointments, and well… you’ll see:

At 1145 this morning I received an email with them asking for a 1pm appointment. At this point, I’d had enough of having my time not being respected whatsoever, so I wrote back simply,

Dear XXX,

Thank you for your kind offer. However, I feel that this relationship is already off to a negative start and I have to decline.
Thank you for the opportunity.

Sincerely,
Lara Kulpa

The response I received was one of sheer confusion, and seemed to be seeking a deeper explanation from me, so I sent one.

Dear XXX,

Between all the delays (from even day one, as I sat in your waiting room for over half an hour), promises to be contacted, and last minute requests for phone calls that never happen, I feel that my time has not been respected. As I explained previously, I run a tight ship and I schedule things out very detailed and explicitly, and I simply feel that our styles of working would not mesh well together.

I wish you all the best of luck.

~ Lara

Firing Clients Sucks, Especially Before You Even Get Started

My business is about helping people grow and succeed online. Be it as an expansion of a bricks-and-mortar business, or an entrepreneurial beginning, I love seeing success for others. This economy sucks, and if I can help people make a little more money, sustain their businesses even a little longer, then I feel that I’ve succeeded on even a basic level. But if someone doesn’t take the process seriously from the beginning, it’s a wasted effort to try.

I’ve learned that respecting my own time is important enough, but even more so that respecting others’ time is non-negotiable, and I expect that people who want to work with me can handle that. Unless someone’s paying me to come in and give them a verbal kick in the pants, I’m not about to offer that up for free before we even get started on the project at hand. I sat there for over two hours explaining to them that what they had envisioned was wrong for them, and that I knew the better way to do it. They actually took notes on the free advice I gave them. Yet they couldn’t be bothered to keep an appointment with me?

It sucks, because I would’ve really enjoyed helping this company grow their rather large and rapidly expanding business, online. I have a ton of knowledge and experience to offer them that seemed to really “blow ‘em outta the water” even on day one, and I think they would’ve really thrived taking it to the ‘net. But the truth is, unless someone’s desperate for work, or have absolutely no self-respect, they’re not going to put up with this kind of stuff either. I know none of my colleagues (to whom I thank deeply for their advice on this matter) would’ve allowed this to continue, so why should I?

Moving Forward

I’m actually glad this happened the way it did, because it definitely taught me that I need to enforce my scheduling and timing even more than I did before. As Deb Ng also stated in her post today, On Being Accessible… but Drawing the Line, it’s important to respect others’ time, and your own. When you’re not planning to have an hour long (or three hour long) conversation with someone, don’t drop everything for them and don’t expect them to drop it all for you. Asking someone for a good time to talk is much better than requesting a specific time (or worse, immediate time) to do so. You may even be surprised when they tell you, “I’ve got a few minutes right now!”

While this wasn’t the first time I’ve had to “fire a client”, I’m sure it won’t be the last. And I’m sure that next time will suck, too, but it’s better to dodge a bullet than suffer for the sake of a few bucks. However, I’ve now left room for bigger and better opportunities, so here’s to that!

Have you ever had to fire a client?