The ‘Secret’ of Success – and it’s not what you think…

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{“She Meant the World to Him” – Image by Studio MME}

I’ve been working with Jess for about a year now and I was ecstatic when she launched this new site.  She emailed me to see if I would write a monthly post for you because the site was all about becoming a successful maker and I was ‘successful’.

That work instantly made me scoff.

“I may look successful but I assure you I’m nowhere near where you are,” I replied back.

“But you’re doing what you love and supporting yourself, right?” she retorted.

The simple answer to that is yes.  The longer answer means revealing what my friend, Tara Gentile, rightly calls The Dirty Little Secret.  All of us ‘successful makers’ have it.

All of those inspirational/crazy people you follow on Twitter or Facebook who rock their business niche, launch something amazing each month, have 10,00 followers, and that many sales, they have it too.

What’s the secret?

No one is ever as successful as you think.

There are always things going on behind the scenes that you don’t know about.  Yes, that famous writer may have written 2 best-selling books this year but you don’t know how large her mortgage is, or just how much she actually made from those books.  That coach who sells out all of their spots on the first day may have put all of that money toward childcare or college loans.

You also don’t know how many flops every ‘successful’ maker has. 

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve launched something and had it flop so horribly I wanted to crawl under my bed and hope the world wouldn’t notice how badly I’d done.

On my Facebook, website, and Twitter page, I portray myself as an artist who is constantly creating new works, getting new wholesale orders, and lining up gallery shows.  Lots of my customers ask if they can come visit my studio.  I do my best not to laugh because if they only knew what my studio looked like, they wouldn’t ask to visit.

You see, while I DO make a living doing what I love, my studio/office is the kitchen of my one-bedroom apartment.  (Of course, being only 3 years out of school and living in Silicon Valley with my boyfriend – who is pursuing a graduate degree – means I can’t do much better than my one-bedroom, which costs over $1,000 a month.)

So while some artists have other artists as their studio mates, mine are a fridge and plethora of printers, tables, pots, and pans.  This last year I pulled in enough money to cover my business expenses, living expenses, retirement savings, insurance, taxes, and THAT’S IT.  I squeaked out evenly.  And yet, I’m ‘successful’ when you see me on Twitter or Facebook.

So why did I just reveal my dirty little secret?

I think so many people quit their creative endeavors too soon because they compare themselves to the ‘successful’ people they follow.

But that’s silly because you’re comparing your reality with their scripted/public reality.

What you should be doing instead of comparing yourself to Jess Van Den or Megan Auman is comparing where you are now to where you were a year ago.  How have you grown?  How has your confidence changed?  How do you feel?

Despite having squeaked by last year in terms of finances, I absolutely feel like I am on my way to being a truly ‘successful maker’ because I have no intentions of giving up.  You’re only a failure when you give up so as long as you keep trying, you’re a success.

Just think of all those people who don’t have the courage to do what you’re doing.  I’d bet some big money (as big as my rent) that those people think you’re a success.

After reading this post, I hope you do too.

How do you realise your creative dreams AND stay sane?

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I am super-excited to bring you this interview today! I got the chance to chat with the beautiful Jena and Jen of the Maven Circle, and ask them how they have both developed a way of living that keeps them centred in their ever-busy creative lives.

I’ve known Jena for quite a while now online (you might know her better as the lady behind the blog Modish) and so when I heard about her and Jen’s new project – and ecourse – I wanted to corral them up and find out more.

Hello ladies! First of all, would you mind giving just a little background on who you are and what you do?

I’m Jen Neitzel. I’m a long time crafter, designer, business person, lover of creative ideas and a generally helpful person. In my former life I was a social worker. I have a degree in Psychology and Sociology and can’t get enough of learning about people. What makes us tick. What inspires us. How to live the best life for myself and ignite others to have the same.

And I’m Jena Coray (aka Miss Modish), self-employed blogger turned marketing guru who has been helping promote indie businesses, artists and designers for the last 6 years. I am an over-analytical super nerd who has, since I was a kid, been fascinated with discovering why I’m here and what I’m meant to do in this world, and I think I finally figured it out- it has a lot to do with helping others find their place too.

We created The Maven Circle together with a different project in mind, but we’d meet and start talkin’ and through our chats, we discovered that we were both on this path of self-discovery, both making our own wellness a priority in our lives again and seeing all the benefits. We realized that thru the years we’ve learned a whole heckuva lot on how to control our own stress, how to face our fears, how to get past the blocks that tend to hold people back, and we thought- hey, we should do an e-course on that! And The Catalyst course was born.

So, you’re both long-term creatives who’ve done some pretty awesome things… and you’ve both reached the point where it all seemed just a bit overwhelming. How did that realisation come about?

Jena – I was swimmin a sea of stress and could not see the beach, couldn’t find a rock to climb up on – I felt lonely and tired and scared from feeling so overwhelmed. It got to the point that I was having anxiety attacks before I even got out of bed in the morning, just paralyzed by all the to-dos running around in my brain.

I just was sinking and finally realized I needed to change things NOW before it started affecting my health and life even more. I dedicated myself to taking my life back and getting out of my fraught-with-crazy brain!

Jen – When you’re involved with awesome creative projects there are two large pieces to puzzle. First, excitement, because you’re doing something that really matters and you’re making it happen, often times by yourself. And secondly, FEAR, because there’s no right or wrong way to do most things – you’re trail blazing.

This can be very overwhelming! I know I’ve had days in the past where I have been so overwhelmed by work that I’d dread working. I’d spend my time worrying rather than getting the job done. Then I’d feel more worried and get even less done. It’s a vicious circle really.

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Did you feel like you were ‘stuck’ and held back from achieving the dreams you knew were possible?

Jen – Yes! The best example I think of is when I was learning video editing (or what I like to refer to as “exorcising demons”.) I would spend hours learning some aspect of video – I’d be moving clips around and realize later that I’d deleted info that I’d just finished! I’d lose content regularly, I’d save things in the wrong place and not be able to find them again, on and on and on.

The thing I kept saying to myself, which may not have been the best thing to say, but it worked was – “This is impossible and I’m terrible at it, but I’m doing it anyway.” I just didn’t let myself quit. And now, I really enjoy video editing! But it took a number of exorcisms to get there.

Jena – The most stuck place I’ve ever felt was within my own brain, really – caught between a seemingly endless list of to-dos and nagging self-criticism is not a good place to be- it’s impossible to get anything done there! I found myself sabotaging things, dreading things, I was getting kinda sloppy in my work and not meeting deadlines…

I lost my motivation because I was too wrapped up inside my own head, worrying too much, letting my fears take hold of me, perpetuating badness with more badness. But somewhere I knew that wasn’t really ME, and so I had to find me again- and once I started working on that, that’s when I found my flame, my spark, my motivation again.

How long did it take you to discover the tools to overcome the feeling of overwhelm and gain back a sense of calm in your lives?

Jen – If I’m being honest I still feel overwhelmed from time to time. I feel that it happens much less than it used to and I don’t get stuck in the same ways, but I know now that it’s just a feeling and that it will pass. The major difference is that now I have the tools to deal with those feelings when they come up. Now, when I’m feeling overwhelmed I try to go on a walk in nature.

For me, the the movement of walking helps catch my body up and slow my mind down. Also, when you walk outdoors you will find that looking, listening and feeling nature is very calming. Having a regular routine of self-care helps you deal with feeling stressed out.

Jena – self care was my turning point as well, the thing that once I started to see the effects of it my life I knew it was the answer I had been looking for. I tried to meditate everyday for 15 days straight for, oh 6 months, until I could actually do it! But somewhere along the way of trying over and over again, of getting into the practice of it, I started to notice the effects it was creating in my life.

I found myself reacting differently, my mind felt clearer, I wasn’t waking up with anxiousness any longer- it felt like I was coming back to myself. And so that propelled me to continue meditating and to add, little by little, more self-care to my routine, like exercise (kundalini yoga is my favorite), drinking water, eating healthier. And as my energy and sense of fulfillment grow with every self-care step, it motivates me to keep going.

What difference has this shift in perspective and lifestyle had on your sense of well-being… and on your businesses?

Jen – I think I’m a better business person and I’m more fun to be around because I feel better now that I have more sense of balance in my life. I really want to use my life and the work I do as a story of inspiration. I want to inspire people to make the changes they need to access their best life possible. I think in general I’m a happier and calmer person now and that it influences all areas of my life.

Jena – I am a way better person to be around too! I feel calmer, more engaged, less reactive. Those things really aid me in my business too, in everything from being able to deal with stress to marketing my business more authentically. I feel like I can focus easier because my mind is clearer and I get more done in a day than I used to. My bones don’t creak, I feel healthy and for the first time in a long time, I feel whole! Now all I want is to help others feel that way too- if I can help them make a positive change in their lives, it fulfills me to no end!

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Could you each share one thing that you would recommend anyone do RIGHT NOW that will help them to start finding that centre in their own lives?

Jena – Meditate. Do a breathing exercise. It all starts with the breath – connect to it, and you connect to right here, right now, and that’s where your center lies – in the present moment.

Jen – Start a routine of self-care. Make sure you’re feeding your mind, body and spirit daily!

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Find out more about Jen and Jena – visit the Maven Circle.