Baubles

I was having lunch with  a girlfriend yesterday and the conversation, of course shifted to businesses. I am at that Flickr Creative Commons alysinwonderland baublesNext Step as I mentioned earlier and I’m not quite sure what direction to go.

In the past, that would have meant that I didn’t quite believe there was a NEXT step, just that I needed something to be different. I knew that I had the answers somewhere within my heart and soul, but there was zero clarity to unlock it.

These days, though, that isn’t my mindset.

I see a plethora of possibilities in my path forward.The sabbatical I took in April was a huge eye-opener for me that I am needing something MORE along with something LESS.   Sometimes, too many choices is more challenging than only a couple of choices.

This is where it gets tricky, because for creatives it’s so easy to choose the shiniest bauble.Often, we choose the shiniest bauble in a basket because it looks the prettiest. Then we discover that the shiny bauble isn’t real silver or gold; it gets its shine from cheap glue and glitter.

What I need in the next step is something that is beautiful, lovely and nourishing. Because the number one priority (ah, back to that word again, PRIORITY) is the quality of my daily life.  Shiny Bauble choices are for New Year’s Eve and One Time Events, because they don’t need to last and aren’t meant to be for the long run.

The shiniest bauble doesn’t produce the best quality of living day after day because it’s not something that’s sustainable, and frankly, it isn’t something I desire to sustain.

It’s taken a lot of years to come face to face with the fact that though I am passionate and excitable, I love peace.

I used to believe that life could only be fulfilling if there was drama and excitement, until I got a taste of a life that had a different kind of excitement. And that excitement is finding the peace and perfection in ordinary, every day moments.

Life is truly a grand adventure, I just hadn’t understood that adventure was to be discovered in sharing coffee with JB while the birds serenaded us. And that we could ALSO have the OTHER kind of adventure of experiencing beaches and sail boats and ancient ruins and historic homes. I thought it had to be and either / or situation.

I have created the kind of personal life that rewards me with those moments in my daily life, but to allow it’s growth and sustain it, my business world is going to have to shift.

I wish I could say that this little ramble has allowed me to discover exactly what IT is, but the possibilities lay before me still.Well, except that super glittery possibility. It’s definitely lost it’s shine.

Glittery Bauble Image by Alys Perry via Flckr Creative Commons

Butter & The Beast

It was a beautiful summer evening in Washington DC. I was on a date with a gentleman I had met while in New York City earlier in the year. We’d shared a beautiful meal at Central Michel Richard, a bottle of wine, and I had promised to show him one of my favorite spots on the National Mall: the Lincoln Memorial.  We climb the steps, stand in reverence before Lincoln and read the inscriptions.

Romance is definitely in the air.The moon is full and we walk around the porch to the backside of the Memorial and we are entranced by the Moon’s reflection on the river. His hand caresses my cheek and he leans in to kiss me.

And my cell phone rings.

I, of course, answer it.

It is 2008 and I am in the middle of the biggest and most important contract I’ve ever had since I started my business in 2003. It’s a demanding and stressful project.

When the phone call is over, we resume our date. But, of course, we can’t recapture the mood. We manage a half dozen more dates over the next few months, but the relationship fizzles out. Just like so many of the relationships during the 2003 to 2010 time frame.

I’ll be honest: though the work was contract was demanding and the personalities were challenging, I flat out adored the work. My small consulting firm had taken the contract to serve as the Project Manager for an Environmental Impact Statement, which means I am immersed in words and people every day.

This was my typical schedule.

I’d wake up (in a hotel) around 5 AM. I turn on my computer, connect to the hotel WiFi, and begin downloading my email. I grab coffee in the lobby and process email for the next hour. I shower. Dress in a suit, hose and heels. I snag a cab and, on the fifteen minute ride to my client’s office, I peruse the paper. I am in the office no later than 8 AM and my first conference call begins at 9 AM. I manage challenging personalities along with piece of the document all day. I leave the office at sometime between 5 PM and 7 PM. I take the Metro back to my hotel, drop my briefcase with the bellman, and head to one of the restaurants close to my hotel. I am back in my room by 8 PM and work until 11 PM.

Suffice to say, my personal life is basically non-existent. My blood pressure is also sky-high and I am about twenty-five pounds overweight.

Like many entrepreneurs, I created my business because I was passionate about what I could create. I chose the challenging road of being an entrepreneur because one of my top values was freedom.

When you are running a business, it’s so easy to get lost in the work. We look at the outside goals – the amount of money we will make, the vacations we’ll (eventually) take, and dream about how successful our business is going to be. The thing is, though, passion and perfection can push us towards further away from the other things we say we value – like health, family and freedom.

And, darling, I promise you that’s no way to live.

My life today no longer resembles my life in 2008.

Yes, I am still self-employed. I am still passionate about words and people, but I reconfigured my business at the end of 2010 because I realized that I wanted to keep the parts I was passionate about, but needed other things in my life as well. I wanted to be healthier. I wanted a fulfilling personal life.

I wanted freedom. And working eighteen hours on the average day isn’t freedom.

On an average weekday, I rise around 6 AM. I start coffee and put my partner’s lunch together. Between the hours of 7 AM and 6 PM, I have coffee, write in my journal and make sure I have a real breakfast. I coach brilliant people around the landmines in their lives as they work to create a daily life that feels nourishing. I run our household errands and chat with a girlfriend. I write blog posts and work on my book. I make a beautiful meal that I share with my partner and we shoot to go to bed sometime between 9 PM and 10 PM.

Becoming an entrepreneur is one of the most rewarding callings you can answer. Listening to your passions and turning that into a way to support yourself and your family is beyond rewarding and fulfilling.

If you want to create a business that provides you with your daily bread and butter, do the important things that allow you to create the structure you need to succeed: a business plan, financial goals, and marketing plans. Know that the fears around creating your business will arise. You’ll convince yourself that the only way to success is to devote all your time and energy to tending your business.

But don’t forget to tend yourself and nourish your life.

As you create your business plans, dig into how you desire to feel and make sure you’re your plans are congruent with those feelings. As you set financial goals, don’t forget to set boundaries around your work hours. And darling, as you create a marketing plan for your business, plan for ways to nourish your heart and soul to ensure that you don’t get lost in your work.

Remember that as you nourish and grow your business, putting a value on the quality of your daily life is a way to ensure that you keep your passion and are able to stay dedicated to your dreams.

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Though I am a logical person, I believe in some age-old traditions to bring luck into your life. Like eating Black-Eyed Peas with Pork on New blackeyedpeas.1Year’s Day to ensure a lucky and prosperous year.

Before you go to bed, rinse a pound of dried black-eyed peas and place them in your crock-pot. Cover them with water and leave them overnight.

In the morning, drain and rinse the peas and place them back in the crock-pot. Add one diced yellow onion, 6 sliced (or pressed) cloves of garlic, ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, a dozen grinds of freshly ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and 3 bay leaves. Add 4 cups of vegetable or chicken stock (Kitchen Basics is my go-to). You may need to add a little bit more water until the beans are completely covered.

Put your crock-pot on low.

Then, take either a boneless pork loin chop or pork loin (about ¾ pound) and dice it into bite sized chunks. Heavily season it (salt, pepper, garlic, cumin). Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a skillet and sear the meat until it has a nice brown color. Add the contents of the entire skillet to the crock-pot (yes, including the olive oil). Cook on low for about 8 hours.

When the peas are done, remove about a cup of them and throw them in a blender or use your immersion blender to cream them. Add that back to the crock-pot and leave on low for another 20 minutes. This will make a huge difference to the quality, the overall creaminess, and depth of flavor. Remove the bay leaves before you serve!

You can always double the amount of meat you add to this if you know you want to serve it alone and want something heartier. You can make a meal on its own with the peas and some cornbread – another lucky food because it represents GOLD.

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This piece was created for the Butter & Beast Project and was scheduled for today.