“I feel so out of my depth”

“I’m not very good at this. I feel so out of my depth.” Me, yesterday afternoon, struggling to sketch out our business plans in a slide.

“I think this is where you really shine, D!” Teresa, reassuring me (for about the hundredth time) that I am actually quite good at this weird unknown jungle.

I’m in the process of putting together an investor deck for Outlaw Soaps, our happy little soap company (which is taking over the world, by the way), and this is all new to me on so many levels. From the actual budgeting process itself, to the articulation of our strategy, to the sexy graphics required for such presentations, I’m struggling to get the deck together in a compelling way.

Russ and I started Outlaw Soaps in 2013, and since its inception, we have stayed fairly faithful to the business plan I sketched out in my little silver notebook. The products have changed, and we shifted our business strategy a little to capitalize on shifting markets and our improved understanding of the industry, but the concept and plan was a good one.

According to that plan, 2017 was when we wrapped up our product development (it leaked a little into early 2018), 2018 was the year we worked out all the kinks in our product line and  created a business foundation to grow on… and 2019 is when we get an investor.

When we started the business, I didn’t know anything about corporate structures or investors.

Before Outlaw, I had been a cubicle worker at the Oprah Winfrey Network, putting together product specifications for the developer team to execute on the website. Aside from glimpses into project budgets and ad insertions, the business side of the Oprahverse was invisible to me. I collected a bi-weekly paycheck. For my own entertainment, I’d periodically calculate the “return on investment” (ROI) of my employment to Oprah, adding up the ad projects I worked on and measuring that against my paycheck. As long as I cost 1/5 as much as I was making, I was satisfied.

But that was for “fun.” It was very different from submitting a plan for new hires and additional marketing expenses. All my projects were responses to advertiser or editorial team requests, translating vague hand-waving into hard plans… and now I’m both the vague hand-waver and the plan generator, plus the accounting department, the marketing department, and a lot of other random stuff.

A few months ago, in preparation for getting an investor (who would want to be on a board), I assembled a board of directors – trusted advisors I had worked with on other projects or at other jobs.

I had no idea how to assemble a board, but I knew that just like we defined our customers as the kind of people we’d want to go camping with, our board would be people we could be ourselves around, vulnerability and nonprofessionalism included.

I wanted to get everyone together before we brought on an investor, so we could establish a rapport among ourselves and come up with an articulate business strategy. I wanted the investor to come to an existing foundation so we didn’t have to scramble around getting ourselves introduced, etc. It seemed like the wise thing to do.

And I did assemble the right team, that’s for sure.

As chaotic as it is inside my head, our board has been so great about introductions, laying the foundation for good board meetings, and bringing the kind of leadership our business needs.

On Monday, I’m going to San Jose for my third annual trip to the Quickbooks Connect Conference, which I’ve found to be very enlightening. This year, I’m going with an ear toward connecting with investors.

In a surprise serendipitous moment, I found that a startup incubator in San Francisco will be having a mixer on Wednesday morning. I bought a ticket just to see if some wisdom might rub off on me in the company of these slick, smart Silicon Valley types.

With this business, we’ve stayed focused on being our authentic selves and bringing our earnestness to everything. We’re hard workers. We’re scrappy as hell. We made mistakes early and with our own money so that when we finally went to ask other people for money, we could do it with the confidence that they’re making a good investment.

I hope we’ll find someone who can appreciate our authenticity, even if my slides are a little rugged looking.

Why I’m excited to talk at the Altitude Oasis in March 2019 (and how you can get a discount)

Last week, I got the above email, which prompted about an hour of shrill “OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG” from me, both typed and shrieked. See, for the past three years, I have wanted to go to the Altitude Summit, but tickets have sold out almost immediately after launch. Plus, it has always seemed really expensive (which is why I set an education budget for myself this year!).

This year, when I got the call for proposals, I knew what I wanted to talk about: Why goals work for some people and not for others, and how to set goals in accordance with your own goal-setting style so you can actually benefit from goals, rather than just being burdened with the guilt of not achieving what you hoped. (that title was too long, though, so I cut it down)

What is the Altitude Oasis?

It’s a 5-day conference for creative entrepreneurs and marketers who want to understand how to use modern technology and skills to create empowering impact, while following ethical practices.

(my words, not theirs)

Here’s a sample of topics from their blog:

MARKETING & BRAND BUILDING
Newsletters Intensive Workshop For Beginners
Advanced Newsletters Workshop
Instagram Growth
Instagram Stories & Live — Trends & Tips
Using Facebook Pages
Strategies for Facebook Groups
Using Facebook Ads
Driving Traffic with Pinterest
Pinterest Promoted Pins
Preparing Photos for Pinterest
Collaborations With Complementary Brands
Marketing through Influencers & Bloggers
Traditional Media Coverage
Trade Media Coverage
Marketing on Local TV
Logo & Web Design
Developing Your Brand Voice
Creating a Brand Style Sheet
How To Be A Good Community Member

CONTENT
Podcasting 101
Podcasting Equipment & Setup
Podcasting Growth Strategies
Developing As An Online Writer
Writing For Other Sites
Coming Up With Authentic Sponsored Content
Creating Positive Communities Online
Using Your Platform For A Good Cause
Writing about Current Events on a Non-Political Site
Writing About Pages
Moderating Conversations on Social Media and Blogs

MORE CONTENT — PHOTOGRAPHY & VIDEO
Shooting Flat Lays
Editing Process — From Capture Through Publishing
iPhone Skills Photo Class
Shooting Interiors
Shooting Kids & Portraits
Shooting Food
Shooting Yourself — Self Timers and Other Tricks
Modeling
Top Photo Editing Apps
Facebook Live
Instagram Stories & Live — How to Create
On Camera Skills
Capturing Great Video
Video Editing
Building a YouTube Audience
Finding Your Youtube Niche
Video Lighting

REVENUE
Affiliate Marketing for Beginners
Advanced Affiliate Marketing
Finding Your Affiliate Niche
How to Pitch Sponsors
Working With An Ad Network
All About CPMs and Other Display Ad Terms
Book Projects
Launching or Running a Small Online Shop (like Etsy)
Launching or Running a Big Online Shop
Opening or Running a Brick & Mortar Shop
Creating and Selling Email Courses & Video Courses
Creating and Selling Hosted Online Classes (like Skillshare)
E-books
Collaborations With Existing Brands (creating a line or a product for someone else)
Consulting or Joining a Board of Directors
Writing/Creating for Other Sites or Brands
Selling Skills You Didn’t Know Your Had
Creating a Media Kit

BUSINESS SKILLS
Accounting Tools & Skills
Payroll Tools
Managing Company Email Addresses
How to Hire or Build a Team
Negotiating Contracts
Getting & Keeping Business Paperwork in Order
Strategies for Managing Your Inbox
How To Pivot
Working Full-Time and Managing a Side-Gig
Leveling Up – How to get the skills to go to the next level
Finding Your Tribe
Starting a Mastermind Group
Getting Investment as a Woman Entrepreneur
Getting Grants as a Woman in Business
Developing Residual Income or Putting Your Business on Autopilot
Selling Your Business and Other Exit Strategies
Career Paths in Social Media

WELLNESS
Work Life Balance
When To Quit Your Day Job
Realizing Your Potential
How To Find Your Creative Passion
Overcoming Creative Blocks
Dealing with Negativity Online
Managing Stress
Top Wellness Practices/Trends
Mediation
Toxin-free Living
Trash-free Living
Minimalism
The Art of Organization/De-cluttering
Tiny Houses

ART & INSPIRATION
Artist Installations
Movie Screenings + Panels, featuring woman-led projects
Concerts and Performances
Runway Shows

NEW & OTHER TOPICS
Why You Need to Know About Blockchain
Telegram -The Important Social Media Platform You Haven’t Heard Of
Cryptocurrency Overview
Voter Registry
How Bloggers and Influencers Can Wield More Political Power

It was the above list that made me realize I absolutely must go this year, whether or not I was accepted to talk at the event. And yes, there are practical courses that help with almost every aspect of creative business, but there are also more than 2000 attendees who are creative, empowered, incredible, awesome, driven individuals (mostly women), and the idea of connecting with an army of brilliant people like that was just too much to resist.

Plus, in Palm Springs at a fancy hotel? (I’m staying at The Riviera) Hell to the yeah!

I bought the $850 ticket just a couple days before I found out I was accepted (they gave me a refund on my ticket, bless them).

Why I think this conference is worth it

Right. So, I paid $850 for my ticket (before they refunded it) because I knew it was going to be worth it, no matter what. I knew that with the hotel and travel and everything, the cost of the conference was going to be about $2200 (if I include the reduction of my billable hours for Mozilla, the cost of the conference is more like $3500).

If I wanted to go (and make a successful pitch to Russ for me to go), I had to be sure I’d make at least $3500 from the lessons I learned from the conference, just to break even. Which sounds like a lot.

But look at those above topics.

  • If I get a $10k grant because I took that workshop on “Getting Grants as a Woman in Business,” it has already doubled my investment.
  • If I can create more free time and make more money because I took the workshop on “Developing Residual Income or Putting Your Business on Autopilot,” then I get more time, and what’s more valuable than time? (nothing!)
  • If I can learn to be better organized and be satisfied with less stuff because I took the wellness courses on “The Art of Organization/De-cluttering” and “Minimalism,” then I will have significantly simplified my life and built systems for saving money.
  • If we launch an affiliate marketing program and get Outlaw Soaps into the hands of thousands of new customers because I attended the “Affiliate Marketing” workshop, then we have fundamentally shifted the direction of our business!

Any of these workshops could boost our business and more than make up the investment of time and money, not even considering the incredible relationships I’ll make while I’m there.

We support you!I always try to surround myself with interesting, creative, driven people, and this is the conference for people like that. It’s like professional-oriented Burning Man, but with indoor plumbing and office supplies (both major selling points for me)!

Should you go?

If you’re reading this, I really do hope you decide to come!

Do a cost evaluation for yourself like I did. Is it worth it? What are you giving up by deciding to go? What do you stand to gain from attending? What would you learn? Are there other places to learn these things? What style is best for you?

If you decide to go, I’d love to hang out while you’re there!

They gave me an affiliate code so you can save $50 on a ticket (and I get a kickback, 100% of which is being funneled into books to bring to the event and give out for free).

Here’s the registration link to the Alt Oasis, and if you use the code YOU-NICORN when you check out, you’ll get the $50 discount.

Hope to see you there!

Your opportunity is time, allocated wisely.

In meditation this morning, I asked The Universe to show me the opportunities I needed to make our goals a reality. The Universe’s response* was “Your opportunity is time, allocated wisely.”

This reminded me of a meme I saw four or five years ago:

 

That realization was the catalyst that started me on my quest for optimal time management. Because if Beyoncé could figure out how to become Beyoncé with only 24 hours in every day, then I could certainly figure out how to become Danielle.

Since then, people have asked me things like, “Do you ever sleep?” and “I feel like you’re a rush of activity, but you also seem to have so much leisure time. What?”

Friends, I get 8 – 9 hours of restful sleep every night. I meditate almost daily. I dork around on Facebook for 1 or 2 hours every day. Russ and I have dinner together almost every night, and watch between 3 and 4 hours of television every night. And yet I also lead a small company called Outlaw Soaps, have a great contracting job with Mozilla, and wrote a book (and continue to write them). I go to the gym about 3x per week and hang out with people I love, doing exercises I enjoy.

It’s a good life.

There’s no reason you need to be running around harried.

Here are the fundamental driving principles behind my time management strategy:

1. Manage Your Priorities

I have tried many time management techniques, and really, the biggest and most important time management technique I have found is PRIORITY MANAGEMENT. Because you can optimize every one of your actions, work 30 hours every day, and chase your feet to the bone on a treadmill, but if your actions are working toward a goal you don’t care about, then your time is still wasted.

This is why I created the Goal Workshop as one of my very first pieces of content. It’s that important to me.

When you are clear about your priorities and what is important to you:

  1. You can stay motivated even when stuff gets hard – and stuff will get hard
  2. It’s easier to decide what tasks are of no use (see point #2, below)
  3. It’s easier to identify what tasks are valuable, and make time to prioritize those tasks (see point #3, below)
  4. Articulating your priorities to other people is easier, so if you’re working with other people, they can understand the logic behind your priorities and not even bother you with stuff that isn’t in your priorities

2. Reduce Inefficiency

“Do nothing that is of no use.” – saying I heard somewhere

“80% – 90% of stuff we do doesn’t matter.” – Gary Vaynerchuck

Between these two principles is the answer: Don’t do 80% – 90% of the things that you think you “have to” or “should” do. If it aligns with your priorities and is in the 10% of tasks that will create meaningful progress, then it must be done. Otherwise, don’t do it. Delegate it to someone else and let go of the outcome, because it probably isn’t that important.

3. Actually do the things that need to be done

This is actually the hardest part for me, and I have been trying my darndest to figure out a way to be sure to actually do the things that need to be done. From the beginning of my time management journey, I have been trying to craft systems. The Checklist of Doom was one such attempt. I still do believe in that and am going to be incorporating it into my future time management system, but I am shamed to admit that I don’t use it now.

For now, I just have a bunch of pieces of paper with daily lists on them.

I know. It’s not fancy. There are online tools like Asana I have tried to use, but the tasks build up.

Since most of the tasks are timely, if I don’t finish a task list in 24 hours, I decide what to carry over (what still fits in the 10% of things I need to do) and throw out the rest. There’s no point in doing tasks too late (except taxes). Let them go. It has been proven time and time again that letting shit go (and self-compassion is a big part of this, which I’ll discuss later) is the best way to reduce stress and build enjoyment of life.

My most recent attempt is this daily worksheet:

planner sheet

(click to download)

The best explanation I have come up with so far is this: As long as you are only attempting to do the 10% of tasks that create meaningful progress toward your actual goals, even if you don’t do all of them, you’re still making measurable progress.

Perfection is not the goal here, incremental improvement is.

Assorted other rabble

Once those Big Three Principles guide your time management, you’re doing great. Not only will you be living on purpose, you’ll be making progress toward your measurable goals in a stress-free way.

There are a few other things that you can add to the mix like salt:

  • My friend introduced me to the 1 Minute Rule the other day, and I have been dabbling with implementing it.
  • Delegation: I am really blessed to have capable, competent people around me. If I delegate something to Ruth or Russ or Alyssa, I know it’s going to be done right 99% of the time.
  • Ask for help. People really do want to help you. And yeah, in some cases, you have to ask them, and you feel like you shouldn’t have to ask them… but do you want to be offended, or do you want to get the shit done? It is what it is. Get shit done.

Ok, that’s it! Those are my principles! And now I’m off to conquer the day!

* Yes, I do believe that I can get divinely-inspired messages

Making a mess of asking

“You might as well just ask” / “Just go for it?” / “What’s the worst they could say? ‘No’? That’s not so bad!”

Worm's personal purposeI have read and given this advice a hundred times. It’s good advice. Mostly.

We don’t even think to ask for what we want, because a lot of times, we feel like if we ask, we’ll get turned down. There’s something else we need to do first: There’s some credential we need to get; we need to shoot some photos first; we have to put together the pitch or the catalog first.

There’s a window of opportunity and we aren’t prepared to go through it just yet.

So the advice is to just go through it anyways — barge in there with who you are, let them tell you “no,” and maybe let them tell you “yes.”

Is this advice any good? Should you prepare? Or should you just wing it?

When we first started the business, I would reach out to press and retail shops hoping to get coverage or make sales. I look back on these awkward messages now and I cringe: Did I really send those crappy photos? Did I really spend so much time talking about the our business, and so little time talking about the products? Couldn’t I have spent a little more time crafting our offering so we didn’t seem like such amateurs?

These bridges are probably behind me. I can’t reach out to them again even though our pitch is much more refined and optimal.

I went for it anyways, and because of that, I have a whole bunch of cringe-worthy pitches to companies who were, frankly, out of our league at that time in our business.

Having done that – the thing most of us are not willing to do – I lived, and I’m here to share the results with you.

90% of those pitches went unanswered.
Of the 10% who got back to us, probably 8% said something nice like “No, thanks. We’re focusing on [xyz other thing] right now.”
Of the 2% who didn’t politely decline, we’ve had mixed results:

  1. One was our first wholesale account, Marion & Rose’s Workshop, in Oakland, California
  2. One was Cowboys & Indians Magazine, who featured us and opened a whole new channel for us (the cowboy crowd)
  3. One was UNFI, the largest natural food distributor in the US, who started carrying us

Not one said “Get your fucking act together, you amateurs!”

That’s our worst fear, right? Well, that or the silent dismissal of people who think we aren’t even worth responding to… which arguably, that 90% could be interpreted as (it sure feels that way) — though it’s important to remember that it actually isn’t that way, we just imagine it is.

And of those 90% of people who didn’t respond, we are free to follow up again once we’ve got ourselves differently positioned. In fact, that different positioning gives us a great excuse to follow up: “Howdy! I thought I’d reach out since we have this new product line / set of photos / because I saw you recently posted about [subject that is related] and found your post very insightful.” Be nice, but be persistent.

I can tell you from experience, it is non-fatal to act before you’re ready, and you might even get some great contacts and results out of it!

My Secret to Continued Productivity? The Checklist of DOOM! (by popular demand)

Some things are quick, one-time things: you fill an order or you respond to a customer query.

But some things can’t be achieved in a few days or weeks: organizing all your finances for taxes, working with press, and writing a book.

These require tireless persistence, focus, and dedication. I have none of these things. Not. A. Single. One.

When I was on Adderall (prescribed for my ADD, not recreational), my lack of focus wasn’t so bad. But that made me irritable, and in the interest of keeping peace in the household, I had to give up the Adderall.

Enter: THE CHECKLIST OF DOOM

I’ve developed a weirdly non-technical way of managing these tasks over long periods of time, but it works, so now I am on something like version 8 of The Checklist of Doom. Every time, I refine it a little to account for my changing priorities and lessons I learned from the previous checklist.

Sometimes the checklist includes personal things, sometimes it includes only business, sometimes it includes fitness. It’s so personal both to the individual, and to the individual in that time. I have created a worksheet to create your own, since I love how fancy that is.

Here’s the philosophy behind the The Checklist of Doom:

We all have long to-do lists that we carry around with us, either physically or digitally. These are good for managing short-term tasks that can be achieved and crossed off.

The truly Great Things, however, require months of dedication.

Like eating an apple, if you try to shove the whole thing in your mouth at once, you’ll choke. The only way to eat the apple is bite by bite.

You have stuff to do!

Accounting is the perfect example of this. How many of you scramble around for the week before taxes, frantically itemizing everything before you can send it to your accountant? (Probably more applicable to small business owners than W-2 employees.)

Not me. I exported my Profit and Loss (P&L) and sent it to my accountant in about 5 minutes. BOOM.

I also manage my press and retail contacts as items on the checklist, because there is no immediate reward for writing press (it takes literally weeks of follow-ups to even get a response, if you get one at all). Without the checklist, this activity feels endless and futile.

But they aren’t endless and futile. Press seems to be a numbers game, and to get one hit, you have to send about a hundred queries. But you still have to send that hundred queries. The checklist keeps you on task even when you feel most adrift.

You have to do some stuff more often than other stuff.

Depending on your priorities, you might have to update Facebook and Twitter several times per week, whereas you only have to send out your newsletter every two weeks.

The checklist is cool with that.

I’ve created a couple worksheets to help you create your own Checklist of Doom. Sign up for my newsletter to get them:*

[convertkit form=4949462]

* Look, I know people use handouts like this as a lure to sign up for their mailing list, and this is absolutely no different. However, you don’t really have to download the worksheets to get the benefit, and the newsletter is really great, so… please sign up.

For complete instructions on how to create your Checklist of Doom, I created an instructional video:

How to survive panic attacks

Fear is a ridiculously insidious thing.

“But it’s all in your head,” as the saying goes … well, that may be true, but inside our heads is the absolute worst place for it, because we can’t escape!

It’s like that moment in the movie when you realize the killer is inside the house.

Grant Cardone (and maybe others, but he’s the one who I first heard it from) says FEAR stands for False Events Appearing Real. Basically, your mind creates scenarios that feel like you’re about to be eaten by a tiger, but in actuality, there’s only the slimmest of possibilities that you’ll really be eaten by a tiger (or face any other mortal danger).

This time of year – and I’m not exaggerating here – I feel like I am constantly having a heart attack. Like, a real, honest-to-God heart attack.

The first few times it happened, I wasn’t sure what was going on, and I was pretty sure I was actually dying. I wrote a couple of my entrepreneur friends on the third day asking, “Um, is this normal? because… it can’t be normal.” But now I know it’s just end-of-November,-beginning-of-December panic attacks.

And despite feeling like I’m going to die, I have somehow failed to die for the past four years.

Panic attacks are not fatal.

It’s OK to be uncomfortable. It’s OK to have panic attacks. It’s OK to be scared.

It’s OK to feel paralyzed…

… as long as you remember that you are not literally paralyzed. You can still move. You can still walk. You can still write. You can still make calls.

“But I’ll be so much better at it when I don’t feel like I’m dying.”

Yes, that’s probably true. You may absolutely suck at it because you’re freaking the fuck out. But the only way that you’ll get better at it while you feel like you’re dying is by actually doing the thing while you feel like you’re dying.

But you’re not dying. You’re living.

Because life is sometimes scary. And to people like me (us?), our body sometimes has inappropriate physiological responses to fear… specifically, panic attacks.

But we have to remember that this truly is just an inappropriate physiological response. It’s not real. The only thing that’s real is the effect of not doing the thing (which is likely something like not getting the sale, not making the product, not writing the blog post, or whatever).

And that’s something to be afraid of.

I’m not telling you that panic attacks or depression or anxiety doesn’t exist — I’m absolutely never going to tell you that, since I know how real they are — but I am telling you that sometimes you have to force yourself anyways, because retreating from that scary thing has more real-world bad effects than the False Events Appearing Real.

Have you successfully overcome FEAR? Share how you did it, so that we can all get better at it!