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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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!

5 Things I’ve Learned Recently

I didn’t even have time to write up a post about my birthday back in the beginning of April, but deep-hearted thanks to all of you who took the time to acknowledge it either via email, tweets, or on facebook. You all helped make the day much less painful for me! ;)

Since the end of 2010, my life has kind of been this weird, roller-coaster, flip-flop of a ride. Lots has changed in my life even from my last birthday, but really it’s been the past 6 months or so that have really begun to shape a few things in my mind. I decided that since I haven’t posted an update (or challenge) in a while, that today was a great day to do so. I present you with “5 Things I’ve Learned Recently” or, “Way To Wake The Hell Up and Start Enjoying Life, Girl!”

  1. I was right about relationships: Little things DO matter the most. Nothing against any of my friends who feel differently, but I’ve seriously never been one of those girls who felt the need to demand high-end gifts or fancy dinners or anything like that. Not for birthdays, holidays, or even whenever. Could it be because I’ve never been spoiled in that way before in life? Maybe. But I think more it’s because I’d rather feel spoiled on a much different level… one that I get to feel every day, not just look at. My boyfriend totally rocked my birthday, and it was neither expensive (unless you count the cost of fuel, of course) or extravagant. We simply spent the day together, went to a really cool, 1940’s rail car diner, and then drove around daydreaming of homes we’d see. We stopped off at an art gallery store and he bought me a beaded hummingbird to add to my collection, and then we came home and enjoyed a nice, relaxed evening. Spending time with each other all day, doing something we both enjoyed, was the best gift of all.
  2. You’ll never actually get more work done or make more money by spending more than full-time hours working. I swear, it’s true! The more time I spend online, the less focused (ie. spending excess time on facebook or playing games) I become. Since I’ve reduced my screen time to less than 8 hours a day, with no weekends, I’ve gotten so much more done in life it’s ridiculous. The laundry’s always handled, the dishes don’t pile up, I get to hang out with my friends and family, and I have more time to be creative with my art and jewelry, which not only is another form of income, but something that feeds my soul.
  3. Sometimes it’s better to walk away. Oh boy, this one’s a doozy. Between the scrawny little blonde fetus at the gym who, in some kind of roid-rage or something, jumped the counter and tried to attack me, and learning that some people you’ve spent decades fighting to keep in your life are really just better off being left out, I’ve discovered that sometimes it’s best to not fight, not argue, yet not to overlook the really shitty stuff people are capable of. Of course, this all applies to clients who jerk you around, delay your projects and then demand you jump to attention months later, and companies that seriously don’t understand anything about what’s a good idea and what’s not. Walking away makes room in life for better stuff to come along. And believe me, it has!
  4. Cats aren’t so bad as long as someone else cleans the litterbox. This is true, but it’s also a metaphor about living with someone else. I’ve always lived either with my parents or alone with the exception of two roommates (one, then the other) whom I absolutely hated. I really liked having things be a certain way, having my dogs, and so on… But in living with my boyfriend, I’ve learned to ease up a bit and not be such a stickler about certain things because he will take care of it. I’ve learned that even though I miss the hell out of my dogs (who stayed behind at my dad’s house), these cats are kinda cute, too. :) (Both of which happen to be curled up on the bed next to me, preening each other every 20 minutes or so, and reaching out for me longingly to pet them every once in a while.)
  5. Don’t ever, ever, EVER count on any one thing being forever. Lots of things change, people change, even YOU might change. The only things you can count on are the things that come from within you. Sometimes people surprise you, and other times they let you down. But as long as you’re doing whatever you can to make yourself happy and to be that surprising lift in the lives of others, you’re way ahead of most of the world. Sharing life with people makes it worthwhile, and you have to hang on to the ones you want to share with, be they friends, family, or even acquaintances, and just let the rest go where it wants. Call it fate, call it karma, whatever… just know that you have to be open to things changing, and be okay with it when they do.

Simple things, these that I’ve learned. Sure, I’m probably a little late in learning some, but I’ve always said that if I’m learning and growing every day, then I’m doing something right. ;)

Stop and think about the things you’ve learned, or could learn, every day.

Books I Want to Write

For a very long time now, I’ve seen my friends like Chris Brogan, Darren Rowse, Chris Garrett, and many others write and sell books. I mean, that’s just three of them, but there are literally dozens I could probably name in a few seconds. I know even more who are currently working on books. Some have been asked to submit proposals, others are just writing now and are going to publish later.

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve considered writing one of my most favorite things to do.

Ever since I got into this whole “blogging” thing, which was way before they even called it that, I’ve really enjoyed writing.

Ever since I’ve been a business owner, I’ve wanted to write, but haven’t found the time.

I know, I know… all you pro-writers out there are humming along in unison: Just do it. Make time.

One of my goals for the new year is to write more, I promise. It really helps me get thoughts out that sometimes develop or expand in Skype chats with my other blogging friends.

Another place I get my crazy thoughts about writing is my own career as a Community Manager. Between ProBlogger Community, Tassimo, and Country Time Lemonade, I totally have a ton to say.

When I tell people how I got started working online, so many people say, “What’s this blogging thing? How do you really make money?”

But trying to explain to them that I can’t just knock out a thorough explanation in five minutes just won’t cut it. For now, I refer them to my friends’ books. How crazy is that? I want to write a book about blogging and community.

People look at my jewelry, and they ask me, “How do you do that?” or they say, “I make jewelry too, but it’s really just simple stuff, nothing like what you’re doing!”

Hello? Lara? Major opportunity here! I want to write a book about making artistic jewelry.

My greyhounds are still at my dad’s house. I miss them so much, and while I always said that I’d always have greyhounds, my boyfriend happens to be dog-avoidant. But I know literally everything there is to know about owning a retired racing greyhound. I know about worldwide issues with retired racers. I know the personalities, I know the environments they do best in, and I belong to local and international rescue groups. I want to write a book about retired racing greyhounds.

When I look at that list, I laugh. They’ve all been written before, some more often than others. It makes me think that I’d be wasting my time. Then I remember hearing that there is no such thing as an original idea, just an original way of thinking it, and I decide that this year (2011), I’m going to write a book.