5 Lessons I Learned from Viewing 4000 Pieces of Picasso's Art

Me and "Picasso."
Me and "Picasso."

Well friends, JC and I returned to the states on Sunday after a little over a week in London and Barcelona. It was an incredible trip that was jam packed with tours, museums and imagining what life was like in the shoes of some pretty influential, awe-inspiring people. Our days in London and Barcelona had us pulling back the curtain on the lives of Winston Churchill, Paul McCartney (and the Beatles), Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, C.S. Lewis, Pablo Picasso and Antoni Gaudí.

Today I want to share with you some of the lessons that stood out to me as I toured the Museu Picasso de Barcelona. The museum has a permanent collection of over 4000 pieces created by Pablo Picasso. The pieces are organized chronologically so we saw how Picasso's style evolved over the years, step by step. The first section was a collection of paintings Picasso created when he was about 14. The first thing I noticed?

1. You don't become a world class artist without starting with an unusual amount of natural talent. 

"Man in Beret" by Picasso, age 14
"Man in Beret" by Picasso, age 14

2. Talent must be cultivated. Picasso started formal artistic training with his father at age 7. He was enrolled at Barcelona's School of Fine Arts at age 13. And he never really stopped learning. In 1900 he moved to Paris, the art capital of Europe. He was influenced by many other artists and continued to grow.

3. Picasso was prolific. Picasso clearly did not just paint when he "felt" like it. While I saw some 4000 of his works at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona, the total number of art works he created in his lifetime has been estimated at 50,000: 1,885 paintings; 1,228 sculptures; 2,880 ceramics, roughly 12,000 drawings, many thousands of prints, and tons of tapestries and rugs.

4. Evolution is integral. Picasso's style greatly evolved from the time of classical realistic paintings in his teens to his blue period (in which he only painted in blue shades for three years) to finally arriving at the cubism he is famous for creating. Change can be scary but it's important to grow.

"Science and Charity" by Picasso, age 16
"Science and Charity" by Picasso, age 16
Mother and Child, by Picasso age 23
Mother and Child, by Picasso age 23

5."Bad artists copy, good artists steal." -Picasso One of my favorite portions of the collection at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona was a series of 58 paintings Picasso worked on for an entire year in 1957. Picasso went deep analyzing and riffing on the famous painting Las Meninas by Diego Velásquez. Picasso donated the entire collection to the museum--the only complete collection in one place today.

This is what Picasso said about it: "If someone want to copy Las Meninas, entirely in good faith, for example, upon reaching a certain point and if that one was me, I would say..what if you put them a little more to the right or left? I'll try to do it my way, forgetting about Velázquez. The test would surely bring me to modify or change the light because of having changed the position of a character. So, little by little, that would be a detestable Meninas for a traditional painter, but would be my Meninas." -Picasso, 1950

Las Meninas by Velasquez, 1656
Las Meninas by Velasquez, 1656
Las Meninas, by Picasso age 75
Las Meninas, by Picasso age 75

Creativity and contribution may not come from a completely original piece but rather a new take on something older. Maria Popova said it so well: “Creativity is combinatorial: Alive and awake to the world, we amass a collection of cross-disciplinary building blocks — knowledge, memories, bits of information, sparks of inspiration, and other existing ideas — that we then combine and recombine, mostly unconsciously, into something ‘new.’ From this vast and cross-disciplinary mental pool of resources beckons the infrastructure of what we call our ‘own’ ‘original’ ideas.”

I was awash with inspiration walking through the halls of these great museums seeing the work that has far outlasted the lifetimes of the people who brought these great creations to life. I've come back from vacation just a little more determined to leave something useful or inspiring behind one day. They certainly did life on purpose. I want to as well.

Have you ever encountered a performance, piece of art or history that made you want to take action yourself? I'd love to hear about it in the comments. 

6 Ways to Combat Writer's Block

6 Ways (4)
6 Ways (4)

Maybe you love the idea of blogging but the idea of writing on a regular basis seems daunting. Have you ever started a blog and abandoned it? Or told yourself you'd blog weekly and then, whoops, 4 months go by? I get you. Today I want to share a few ideas for writing consistently whether you're writing blogs, articles or the great American novel.

1. Keep a notebook (or notes app on your phone) nearby at all times. When inspiration strikes jot it down. I can't tell you how many blog outlines I've created while running on trails. They may be inspired by a podcast I'm listening to or just come together when I link two separate ideas I've been mulling over. They always go in my notes app and they eventually show up here.

2. Set aside a Creative Think Day once a quarter. Every three months (or more often if you're lucky) hammer out as many ideas as you can possibly think of. Don't feel overwhelmed--we're just talking headlines or key concepts. No need to stress over the finished product or what your five points will be. You're just gathering stones.

3. Put yourself in your readers' shoes. What are their pain points? What can you help distill for them? What are the consistent questions you get asked both online and off line? This is your starting point. Your writing should be of interest to you but it should always have deliverables for your audience. You are serving them.

4. Take the ideas you've aggregated and plug them into an editorial calendar. And just like that, you've got a plan for the next several months. The next time it's time to publish a post, you're not starting from scratch. You already have an idea you've been mulling over. Mark Twain said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

5. Read up. Ideas come to those who are voraciously digesting other people's thoughts. A ton of what I write comes from an idea that I formulated after reading other people's work.  Samuel Johnson said, “The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.”

6. Sit in the chair. The least sexy of all the tips--sometimes you just have to sit there until you create something. The disciplined habit of showing up is half the battle! If you want to write consistently you have to make it a priority. Sit there until you create something. Listen to Maya Angelou: “What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat.’ And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.’”

We all wrestle with what to write from time to time. Having a strategy in place to combat those times will always help you get pen to paper. Do you have your own tips for overcoming writer's block? What is your biggest writing challenge?  I'd love to hear what you work most to overcome and how you do it.

Why I hope you get rejected--and soon.

 

Well that probably sounds harsh. But it's true. I do hope you get rejected.  The truth is one of the biggest favors you can do for yourself is to fail. Fail hard. Fail big! When I was a teenager my dad handed me the book Failing Forward. In my 15 years of life I didn't know that failure would be coming for me soon and I had to decide how I was going to respond. Before I ever experienced forehead-to-the-pavement failure, I read Napoleon Hill's words: "Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure."

I've put myself on the chopping block a lot as an entrepreneur, freelancer and actor. I've taken risks and I've gotten a lot of "no's." But the beautiful thing is once you've survived a "no" or two, resilience manifests. One day after being rejected you realize, "hey, I'm ok."

That moment of "failing" gives you guts.

Not only does it make you brave, it also gives you a heart for other people. When you've been through something and lived to see the other side you can encourage someone who finds himself in a similar situation in the future. What a gift to be able to encourage someone by identifying with their challenging experiences.

So today I want to encourage you: go for it. Be brave. Risk falling on your butt. Accomplishing big things means taking risks. And let the words of Wayne Gretzky echo in your ears: "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."

See you out there.

20 Lessons I Learned in My 20s

20 Lessons I Learned in My Twenties Hilary Sutton
20 Lessons I Learned in My Twenties Hilary Sutton

 

Over the past few days I have received hoards of birthday wishes from friends and family. My husband put together a book of notes from people who have impacted my life along the way. One consistent theme that I saw in what they wrote was that they saw something intentional in me. Someone who goes for it and really seeks to live on purpose. What's funny is, I don't see this as admirable. It is how I'm hard-wired. I can't imagine phoning in life or not consistently checking in to see if there is a way I could be doing things better. Included in that "I can't not think deeply about my direction in life" thing is that I took a lot of time over the last year to reflect on the decade I was wrapping up.

I spent the last year of my twenties looking back on the decade as a whole and aggregating lessons I learned along the way. I actually journaled and blogged through much of my twenties so I had great reference points for looking back and seeing what was on my mind at any given age. Today I want to share with you 20 of the lessons I learned in my twenties. There's more than just this, of course, but these were the game-changers. My hope is that perhaps one of these lessons gets your wheels turning and is somehow helpful to you.

20 Lessons I Learned in My Twenties

1. Everyone has a story.

2. The things I needed in a partner were chemistry, connection and respect. Determining those three things and using them as a measuring stick was really helpful.

3. Pay attention to the cues you are receiving (people will show you how much they value you.)

4. Say "yes." Try new things. That will help you learn what you really love and you won't have to ask "what if?"

5. You can love and pursue more than one career path. It's harder than choosing just one. But some people are not meant for just one thing and that is OK!

6. Getting a second skill is imperative if there is not a huge need for your desired career path. It will help you not live in anguish stressing out about money and it means you'll enjoy contributing to society between gigs.

7. Tell the world who you are --better yet-- tell the world who you want to be.

8. "Funny" may not be one of the most important requirements in a spouse. (But do find someone who gets your jokes.)

9. People can't put you in a bad mood. You control how you experience the world.

10. Look for opportunities to invest in people. Relationships are the only thing in this world built to last.

11. Respect yourself enough to listen to your gut.

12. Education opens doors.

13. Marrying someone just like you is probably not a good idea. Balance is a great thing.

14. We regularly need to zoom out and examine our lives. We should ask ourselves, "Are we doing things on purpose?" Is this the direction I want my life to go?"

15. Internships are career launching pads. Get one. or two. or three.

16. Social media and the web are tools that can be used for good or for bad. Use them for good!

17. You never know what is right around the corner, so be intentional and optimistic. Sometimes bad things are around the corner, but it's not worth bringing the future bad into the present by being negative. And sometimes there is something great around the corner--quite often actually. Life is cyclical that way.

18. The best stuff money can buy are experiences. I'm so glad that when I was young and poor I figured out ways to travel and have great experiences. Caveat: it's also nice to have a warm home and all the necessities of comfort. At some point air mattresses don't match up to beds. ;-)

19. Show up to do the work even if you don't feel inspired. You've gotta show up.

20. If you don't audition you'll never book the part. If you don't write the book it will never be a best-seller. You have to risk rejection and failure. Be brave!

So that's my list of twenty things I learned in my twenties. The prospect of learning so much more in my thirties sounds pretty thrilling to me. But tell me, did this list spark a reminder in your mind of lessons you've learned in your current or last phase of life? I would LOVE to hear them.

30 Creative Pursuits of My 30th Year

30 Creative Pursuits
30 Creative Pursuits

So let's cut right to where my head's at:

This is the last week of my twenties.

And as such it is time to finally share with you about my 30 Creative Pursuits of My 30th Year.

Back when I turned 29 last year I had a real moment where I was overwhelmed at the thought of that decade winding down (yes, I still had a whole year to go). What had I done? What did I want to do? Was I being as intentional as I needed to be? I'm not one of those people freaking out because 30 is "old." It's just crazy to me that I so vividly remember turning 20 (what was going on, what I was thinking and feeling) and that was a decade ago. Life moves swiftly--especially as we get older. This pace is speeding up and I need to pay attention to all of it.

In 2013 my friend Megan did this uber interesting #30to30 challenge--thirty things she wanted to cross off her bucket list to usher in her 30th birthday. It was this awesome eclectic mix of like riding 500 miles on her bike and reading Dostoevsky and giving blood and other artsy things too. As I tried to totally copy her and make a list of my own I realized my short-term bucket list just didn't get me jazzed and I definitely couldn't come up with 30 eclectic items. Really what I wanted was more intentional creativity in my life. Thus, 30 Creative Pursuits of My 30th Year was born.

I made a list of 30 things I wanted to do around creative enrichment, experiences and output in the last year of my twenties. I've crossed many off my list: put 2 (better) musical theatre clips on Youtube, implement bimonthly HSL Creative Retreat Days for creativity and thinking, performer in a musical or play, start some sort of writing, creativity, thinkers or reading club (meet at least once), take at least one voice lesson, come up with ten book ideas, go to an industry conference. All of these intentional pursuits have been crazy fulfilling and/or inspiring and I wish I had been this intentional before I came toe-to-toe with 30.

Others on the list I've simply not completed yet or I've avoided them: read On Writing by Stephen King, see Gone with the Wind, write three songs, complete a book proposal, write one work of fiction. I'm not sure why these items got put off to the end. Update: I started the audiobook of On Writing and I just can't seem to get into it. Somehow Stephen King has made even a book about writing a little gory. Perhaps if I was a fan of his novels I would appreciate his style more. I still haven't seen Gone with the Wind but have high hopes to do so in the next week. I worked on some song lyrics last week but an actual song, they are not. The book proposal is simply a matter of blocking off time to flesh it out. The book is in my head.  I just haven't written the proposal because other things seem to be more urgent.

That's the interesting thing about this whole list. Easily none of it could have gotten done if I didn't prioritize it. These aren't things that were urgent or that one of my clients or bosses needed me to do. These weren't going to impress anyone or really greatly benefit my family or friends. They were kind of just for my own enrichment and enjoyment. So they were easily avoidable and easy to put on the back burner.

On the other hand, some of the greatest highlights of the last year came as a result of these items. I absolutely adored reading the Artist's Way with Erica and Whitney (and sometimes others who joined in). If it weren't for that, Enchanting Entertainment wouldn't be here and I wouldn't have led a workshop at Toolry. HSL Creative Retreat Days were a refreshing opportunity to put daily work on pause and check in with myself. Was I heading in the direction that felt most right? Was I pleased with the content I was writing? I stopped once every other month and instead of working from my home office like normal, I explored new locations and incorporated the outdoors into my experience for the day. (Click these links for photo proof.) I hiked Candler's Mountain and fell in love with Percival's Island. I found my perfect study place in Liberty's Library. I tried the Bean Tree Cafe for the first time. All experiences were enriching, pleasant and helped me recalibrate. I've done some of my best thinking and writing on HSL Creative Retreat Days.

As a result of 30 Creative Pursuits I pushed myself to attend the Internet Summit in Raleigh, NC. I attended a conference solo while most everyone else who was in attendance came on their employer's dime. I heard from some of the greatest minds in social media and content marketing. I wrote a million notes and began to imagine myself as a keynote speaker. Could I encapsulate what is cool about social media and dual careers and being a female solopreneur and being a millennial and inspire someone through a talk about those things? I began to imagine.

In voice lessons with David Hahn not only did I gain a friend and an advocate but I also found new layers in my voice and began to really grasp the "less is more" of singing. I loved working steadily on the craft of vocal performance. It was a big part of my life in college and I hadn't studied with a voice teacher consistently in about four years. Music does something for the soul unlike anything else.

29 has been a creative, intentional year of growth. It's pushed me to a place of embracing "no" to things that are good and saying "yes" to opportunities I didn't predict. I really hope that I find the inspiration to live so intentionally every year whether it's a milestone birthday or not. I know my life has been better this year for intentionally carving out time to be creative, both outwardly creative and inwardly.

I encourage you to embrace your creativity this year. Whether you're drawn to visual arts, poetry, cooking or rearranging your furniture, taking time out to create something, to reflect more deeply or just to consciously inject change into your daily life can catapult you into a place where you see things quite differently and you connect dots that you didn't see before. I'm so glad I made this weird list last year. I think I will make another for my 31st year. It's too good to stop now.

I'd love to know, will you take me up on my challenge? What is one creative thing you will make time for this year? 

Hilary is a writer, a performer, a social media nerd, and digital strategist.

Internship Opportunity. You in?

SOUP & SALAD
SOUP & SALAD

Interested in the ins and outs of solopreneurship, multiple businesses, multiple gigs? Great with research, building business relationships, and social media? Passionate about story? Love to play around with creating images in tools like Canva? Excited by the prospect of being mentored by a creative who has successfully avoided cubicle life? Then you may be who I'm looking for!

HSL Enterprises, LLC  is looking for a summer intern! I'm really excited about the prospect of exposing a college student or recent grad to the ins and outs of solopreneur life. This is a pretty unique opportunity in that he or she will be working with two businesses: HSL Creative and Enchanting Entertainment.

(Pause. If you don't know me then have a looksy here.)

What does that mean? Variety! Said intern will on any given day be conducting research for social media content, creating images for blog posts, build relationships and help with promotions for Enchanting Entertainment, conduct market research, attend some Enchanting Entertainment events to help document them for social media and may even get the opportunity to contribute content to blogs for Enchanting Entertainment and HSL Creative (bylines on 2 company websites? Not too shabby.)

If the idea of doing research for social media content in the morning, writing a blog post around lunch and stopping by an area restaurant in the afternoon to  build relationships sounds exciting to you then email me at sutton dot hilary at gmail with your resume and why you're interested. I'm looking for 2 days a week commitment starting May 11. Stipend provided.

Let's do this.

The Connection Between Increased Responsibility and Increased Expectations

THE CONNECTION BETWEEN INCREASED RESPONSIBILITY AND INCREASED EXPECTATIONS
THE CONNECTION BETWEEN INCREASED RESPONSIBILITY AND INCREASED EXPECTATIONS

One of my first assignments for Profile Magazine was to interview the inspiring and no-nonsense Raquel Libman. Raquel is the executive vice president and general counsel for the Miami Heat. Yes--that Miami Heat. In our interview, Raquel shared a few speeches and interviews that really impacted her along the way. I took the liberty of doing the googling for you and included the links. Enjoy!

Raquel Libman's Career Advice

What is the best career advice you’ve ever received? You’ll be happiest and most successful if you learn and work in ways that make the best use of your natural strengths and abilities.

Who do you recommend young female professionals listen to or read? Madeleine Albright. Most recently she was interviewed for a TED Talk—a terrific resource in and of itself—on being a woman and a diplomat. Also, there is a 2007 interview by Laura Liswood, who spoke at the Salzburg Global Seminar, called “Women and Power: Mechanisms to Advance Women’s Leadership,” which is really excellent.

What is one lesson that you share with younger colleagues? Don’t be in too big of a rush to develop professionally, because the higher up the proverbial food chain you move, the harder the job, the greater the pressure, and the higher the expectations. Telling yourself that you are ready to have the buck stop with you is one thing, really being ready is another.

A closing thought from Raquel: "My role within the company is by its very nature the antithesis of ‘front and center,’ and that’s fine with me,” she says. “The truth is that there is a tremendous amount of preparation involved in putting on a game or a show, managing a facility such as the [American Airlines] Arena and everything in between. The trick of it is to make the end product look effortless.”

Libman has worked hard to prove herself in a male-dominated industry and has been rewarded for the great work that she has done.

Do you agree with Raquel's assertion that you'll be happiest and most successful if you make the best use of your natural strengths and abilities? 

Enjoy the full-length version of this article in Profile Magazine.

5 Reasons Why You Should Start a Reading Group

Me reading the Artist's Way alone. (Read alone, then discuss together!)

I think it’s time to tell you…I have a milestone birthday coming up in exactly two months.

And like any true blue ENFP I have been thinking about the implications of it since my last birthday.

One of the ways I wanted to head into my 30th year was to add more creativity and intention to my life. So I embarked on a journey of 30 Creative Pursuits for My 30th Year.

The whole thing is well under way as I’ve only got two months left, but today I wanted to share with you what has been one of the most meaningful and impactful items on the list.

#27 Start some sort of writing, creativity, thinkers or reading club (meet at least once)

hey, don’t judge my ‘meet at least once’ goal—I was trying to make it attainable :-)

Last fall I started a book group and together we read through Julia Cameron’s book, the Artist’s WayNow this particular group happened to be centered on reading a book together, but I think groups that are meant to simply share what your current challenges are in your work or get feedback on your writing or to pursue various creative pursuits together are all highly valuable. I would like one of each please! 

For our group, the book choice was great because the chapters were short, it was very action-oriented and it was already organized into a 12-week study.

But more than the choice of book, the choice to pursue reading a book with some women who challenge me was even greater.

5 reasons I encourage you to make your own writing/creativity/thinkers/reading group

1. Connecting with like-minded people. Putting an intentional group together to discuss a book or another given topic is a refreshing experience. In the case of my book group, while I didn’t run into all the people in my group in my regular circles, I knew there was a kindredness of spirit there. It was really rewarding to spend time around a table discussing something we jointly cared about and were interested in.

2. Accountability. Knowing that I would be seeing my book group again in two weeks made me stay on schedule with my reading. When I’m reading a book on my own it feels pretty “optional” but knowing that my group would be gathering soon to discuss this week’s reading served as great accountability to get it done.

3. Your thinking is challenged. While my group was filled with like-minded people it was also filled with opinions, perspectives and backgrounds that differed greatly from my own. It was a wonderful reminder that two people can read the same text and feel completely differently about it. A meeting of the minds is challenging and gets you thinking more critically.

4. Intentional conversation. When meeting up with friends it’s so easy to let conversation focus on the latest headlines of our lives and not go to a deeper place. With the right book or subject matter to discuss, conversations go deeper and you actually might get to know your friends on a deeper level than you would have without it. 

5. Reading is richer when it’s a shared experience. My experience working my way through the Artist’s Way was so much better because I got to not only interact with the book by doing exercises and writing a ton, but also because I got to discuss it with my fellow readers. We talked about what resonated with us in the book and our reactions to the reading. It really created a bond and made me closer to the people in my group.

Maybe it’s because I work from home (alone) most of the day or maybe it’s because I’m an extrovert but this reading group really enhanced the quality of my life. I’m already mulling on my next book group.

Do you have a book/great minds/writing/thinkers group? I want to hear ALL about it.

The 20 Essentials: What Every Solopreneur Needs for Success

20 Essentials Every Solopreneur Needs for Success

20 Essentials Every Solopreneur Needs for Success

Over the years,  I've learned in my work as a solopreneur that success of course takes determination, creativity, guts, faith and talent, but there are also a bunch of other things that every solopreneur should be using or doing to achieve great things. Here's my list.

20 Essentials Every Solopreneur Needs to Succeed

1. Website. If you're a solopreneur, I hate to break it to you, but if you don't have a website, you don't exist. Services like Squarespace and Wix make it possible for you to easily create your own. 

2. Twitter presence. Every solopreneur needs to take advantage of this social media platform. It is an ideal platform for anyone who is seeking to leverage their expertise. 

3. A desk with a ton of space. I got this desk from World Market a few months back . It almost doubled my work space. It's been GREAT. Bonus: it was also easy to put together.

4. Google voice number. If you're a solopreneur this saves you from using your minutes on work-related calls. Get that free Google voice number and let them call your "office line." 

5. Buffer app.This let's you pre-schedule social posts with regularity. I'd skip it for Facebook but it's perfect for Twitter and Linkedin. 

6. Pocket. This digital bookmark lets you save pages you'd like to look at later. If you strive to be a content curator around your given area of expertise, this is a great way to save content that you can share later.

7.Tweetdeck(or Hootsuite if you're into that). Every solopreneur needs a way to manage multiple accounts at once. I like Tweetdeck best to glance at my Twitter feed, notifications, lists and sent posts all at once. 

8. An optimized Linkedin account. If someone is searching for someone like you, will you pop up in their search results? 

9. About.me page. It's too easy not to use. Get one. 

10. Solid headshots (and other professional photos for your website and social media would be great too.) 

11.  Wordpress blog. For SEO purposes, for customization options, for credibility--you need a self-hosted Wordpress site. 

12. A lunch break. Get out of your office. Unplug. Go for a run, heck a walk will do. Get some sunshine. Then get back to work. Solopreneurs can easily never stop working. That's why you need to be intentional about time off.

13. A clear list of what only you can do and what can be outsourced. Are you terrible at bookkeeping? What about answering emails? Scheduling things? What about tending to your plants or housekeeping? Could you plausibly use independent contractors so you can focus on the strategic items on your list? Figure out what you can outsource and outsource it. 

14. A group to connect with on the regular—whether it is a remote team, a book club or a business professionals weekly gathering, you need to be in community. 

15. The 4-Hour WorkweekBuy this book. Read this book. Apply the principles.(See #16.) Your life will be better for it. Guaranteed. 

16. Batch similar tasks. Let's save the decision-making brain power for what really matters. In the meantime, how bout you do all your blog writing at the same time once a week--heck, once a month. How bout you do your grocery shopping only on Sundays? Shifting your focus throughout the day is tough on your brain. Shift less. Focus more.

17. Track your time. Afraid you might be wasting too much time on a given vice? Track your time. It doesn't have to be a complex process. Just jot down how you're spending your time throughout the day on a notebook next to your computer. Do you keep to your schedule or do you diverge? Worth investigating to see if you're maximizing your time.

18. Give yourself a cut off for how much time you will spend on social media (or video games or online shopping or TV or etc etc etc) each day. You know how you're prone to waste your precious time. Be a drill sergeant on yourself. You won't be mad at yourself for it. 

19. Do not disturb button on your iPhone. Find the button. Embrace it. Every text message and email doesn't have to be attended to at the moment that it is received. Be a good steward of your time, energy, attention and brain power. If you're easily distracted, employ the power of "do not disturb."

20. Designated time off. In addition to taking a lunch break or exercise break mid-day, I encourage you to make sure you have long periods of time off each week. A Sabbath was invented for a reason! Give your time to rejuvenate, refresh and recalibrate. You'll be more effective the following week as a result.

Well, there's my list of 20 things every solopreneur must have to be successful. It's not comprehensive though. What would YOU add to the list? 

Hilary is passionate about helping people create work and lives that are wildly fulfilling. To learn how she may be able to help you, contact her here.

3 Surprising Things You Can Learn About Goals from Facebook

During the company's third-quarter earnings call, Mark Zuckerberg let the world in on his three, five, and ten-year plans for Facebook. Yep, Mark fully anticipates Facebook being around and relevant in ten years. His plans for the social network are specific, calculated, and gutsy.

What You Can Learn About Setting Goals from facebook

Mark zuckerberg

Mark zuckerberg

Take a cue from Zuckerberg and make your own three, five, and ten-year plans. Here’s what I noticed about his plans.

3-Year Goals

Zuck said,

“Over the next three years, our main goals are around continuing to grow and serve our existing communities and businesses and help them reach their full potential.”

Zuckerberg’s discussion of Facebook’s three-year plan centered around what’s currently happening and proving their approach is working.

What are you currently invested in regarding your career, relationships, and finances? Do you want to have anything to do with where you currently are in three years? If you don’t see yourself in the same industry, in the same relationship, or spending money in a similar way in three years, now’s the time to make those changes.

What’s working well in your life? Invest more there. For Zuckerberg it’s Facebook Groups and Instagram. For you, perhaps it’s the company you work for or your newfound love of biking. Take note of the aspects of your life that you want to cultivate long-term and focus your efforts there.

5-Year Goals

For Zuckerberg’s five-year plan he said,

“Over the next five years, our goals are around taking our next generation of services–Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp, and Search–and helping them connect billions of people and become important businesses in their own right.” Zuckerberg continually uses the language “our goals are around.”

That begs the question—do you know what ideas your goals are around? What do you value most? This may not be your primary focus right now, but it will be in five years. Maybe in five years your goals are around getting a book published or starting a family. What can you do now to make solid investments toward that future?

Zuckerberg also mentioned plans to continue building on what the company is currently doing. He mentioned that just last month they finally completed the acquisition of Whatsapp. Facebook’s five-year plan has a lot to do with what’s happening at Facebook right now. The same is true for your life.

10-Year Goals

It’s pretty impressive that Facebook even has a ten-year plan. Ten years ago when Zuckerberg was a 20-year-old, could he have possibly “planned” where Facebook would be now? No matter how much the technology landscape can and will change, he can’t simply throw up his hands and say “well, there’s no way to plan for or predict the future that far down the road!” That’s business suicide. The same goes for you. You need to start dreaming and envisioning who you want to be in ten years today. It’s OK to be somewhat general and to center your vision on certain ideas you value. That’s kind of what Facebook is doing.

This is what Zuckerberg said:

“For the next 10 years our focus is on driving the fundamental changes in the world that we need to achieve our mission, connecting the whole world, understanding a world with big leaps in AIs, and developing the next generation of platforms, especially in computing.”

Facebook’s ten-year plan is focused on values-based decisions and “fundamental changes.” Zuckerberg envisions putting a lot of focus on one of his projects that will have a lasting legacy: internet.org. According to Zuckerberg, the internet.org app “provides free data access to a set of basic internet services for health, education, employment, and communication.” What will your legacy be? Begin thinking about this now.

Your goals and priorities probably looks pretty different than Zuckerberg's.  But approaching your career, personal life, and life’s purpose in a similar way will help you make decisions today that put you closer to the life you want to be living in the future.

Can you envision where you want to be in five years? What could you do today to contribute to that future? 

A version of this article first appeared on Levo League

Why I'm Killing the old HSL Creative and Starting Fresh

“In writing, you must kill your darlings.” --William Faulkner

Why I'm Killing the Old HSL Creative and Starting Fresh
Why I'm Killing the Old HSL Creative and Starting Fresh

 I love the promise that comes with the turning of the calendar year. It's an opportunity to change it up, to do it better than last year, to get it right.

For me the turning of this calendar year means that work life is changing.

I’m working with Pursuant, a Dallas-based fundraising agency, in a brand journalist capacity. There will be blog posts and press releases and articles and video interviews and podcasts.

Oh heck yes, podcasts.

So what does that mean for HSL Creative? It means I’m pairing down and getting crystal clear on what I can contribute. This is where 2015’s “less but better” mantra comes in. Rather than supporting clients by writing articles and posts and executing their social media strategy on a daily basis, I’m stepping back and thinking big(ger) picture. The services list on my website currently has three categories and 18 different services. (18!)

Simplify. Simplify. Simplify.

 I'm focusing on "less but better" this year. This means I want to do less overall but do it a heck of a lot better. This approach means my clients really win. I'm not spreading out my energy in a million directions. I'm focusing on a few things and I'm going to do them as well as humanly possible. What does this mean, practically? It means saying "no" more often (a challenging and uncomfortable thing for me.) It means fewer shows, fewer freelance articles, fewer commitments overall. But the things I say "yes" to will get double (sometimes triple or quadruple or whatever, [you math people,  this probably deserves some sort of equation]) the effort  and focus.

So here's what all of that means for HSL Creative.

what HSL Creative will deliver in 2015

Strategy Consulting: I'll work with clients on brand strategy, social media strategy and help you think outside the box with rut-busting brainstorming sessions. You can rent my brain to create a social media plan for your business, give you feedback and perspective on your branding, or just get help when you're not sure where to go next with your business or career.

Speaking & Teaching: Last week's super successful Blogging for Business workshop, made it crystal clear to me that teaching and coaching are ways I can really help add value for clients. There will be more workshops, opportunities to receive coaching on blogging, social media and business, and guest lecturing, media appearances and other talks.  You can also take my social media, journalism and mass communication courses at SNHU--but maybe, only do that if you're working toward a degree there? Actually, I take that back. Do whatever you want. :-) 

Content & Special Projects: Expect me to up my blogging game this year. That means more free articles that relate directly to you and your marketing needs as well as social media analysis, and posts that center on goal-setting, career and lifehacks.  I'll also be taking on select writing projects ranging from magazine articles to bios and other content created just for the web.

So I'm killing HSL Creative as we know it. Goodbye, old friend. I'm trading old HSL Creative for the new crystal clear HSL Creative. I can help you through consulting, teaching, and writing content that is helpful to you. That's my promise for 2015.

What is your mantra for 2015? Are you revamping your approach to business? I'd love to hear about it!

Hilary is Principal of HSL Creative. If you'd like to learn more about one of the aforementioned opportunities, fill out the form below.

10 Ways to Kick This Year in the Pants

Are you one of those mega motivated people who geek out on resolutions? Or maybe you're more of the skeptical, I-don't-want-to-disappoint-myself types who opts out—or maybe you like goals but aren’t into New Year’s resolutions because the date feels arbitrary. Either way, today I want to challenge you with ten ways you can start the year off with a BANG! If you could really do something about it, would you want this year to look different than last year? I have good news for you. YOU CAN!

You have 50 weeks left of this year. What will you do with them?

10 Ways to Kick Your Year in the Pants

1. Establish a Brain Trust. The truth is--you probably already have one. A Brain Trust is that go to personal board of directors who you seek out for advice when you're making big decisions, whose opinions you  weigh heavier than all the rest. Feel like your Brain Trust is a little too small? Seek out building relationships with people who you highly respect and value. You can also read all about the original Brain Trust in Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration.

2. Make a list of things you want to learn this year. You've always wanted to _________. What just popped in your mind? Why not go for it this year? What's stopping you? Ok, at least search for Youtube videos about it, ok?

3. Use this epic process by Christine Hassler to get clear on what you want to co-create this year. There are the goals that you may have already penned (after all we're a solid two weeks into 2015) but then there are deeper hopes and values that you have for this year that you may not have fully articulated yet. I encourage you to walk through Christine's process of what you want to leave in 2014 and what you want to manifest in 2015. This exercise can bring a ton of clarity.

4. Make a list of books you want to read this year. If you're like me your stack of books to read seems like a never-ending tower. This year, make a list--that you can review regularly--of the books that you will read. Plug it in to your calendar like any other activity you highly value. I was so sad when I realized how few books I read last year. I so value reading and have a bookshelf full of books to conquer this year. I know myself. The way to make that happen is to get specific on my to do list. It will happen if I plug this goal into my calendar.

5. Follow 5 inspiring people on Twitter that you aren't already following. Use these incredible tools called social networks to grow your experience. Not sure who to follow? How bout Billy Porter, Greg McKeown, Tanner Christensen, Maria Popova, or C.S. Lewis?

6. Make a vision board on Pinterest. Hat tip to Camryn for making this great suggestion! Take your 2015 goals and find visuals for them on Pinterest. I just did this (after spending Saturday going through #3 on this) and the visual representation of my plans and hopes for the year is pretty exhilarating.

7. Reach out to someone you've admired from afar (whether acquaintance, stranger or other) and ask them to grab coffee or lunch. Worst case scenario, they say no. Best case scenario, you've begun to establish a personal relationship with someone that you would like to know better.

8.Track your social media ROI. Every day take into account how your time on social media was spent, what the payoff was and what might have made you feel not so good. **Adjust accordingly.**

9. Get a pedometer of some kind and track your exercise. It's  so easy to *literally* hibernate in the winter. How bout you use this time where things are quiet and you're not pulled in a million directions to up your health and fitness game?

10. Commit to writing until you fill three pages each morning for 21 days. See how you feel about it afterward. I started doing this last fall when I journeyed through The Artist's Way. Guess what happened? I began to come up with idea after idea. One developed into a series of blogging workshops, and the other resulted in a side hustle that recouped its initial investment in three months. I'm not sure how to better convince you to write every morning.

What are you doing differently in 2015? What is your one big message for the world this year? What do you hope people remember about you?

Hilary is passionate about inspiring people to live their best lives. And if that happens through a performance on stage or through something she wrote, well then, she couldn't be happier.

5 Reasons Every Artist Should Have Two Careers

Five Reasons Every Artist Should Have Two Careers
Five Reasons Every Artist Should Have Two Careers

When people find out that I do multiple things (writing, social media, acting) they often sort of shake their heads in bewilderment. I want to take them by both shoulders and say, "you should do more than one thing too!" In lieu of that potentially awkward moment, I'm writing this blog post. Especially for my artist, musician, actor, dreamer friends, I want to encourage you to pursue your craft and consider pursuing something else alongside it. After spending four years as a professional actor, I knew to have the lifestyle I wanted to live and to be inspired and engaged with the work I was doing on a daily basis I would need to pursue a second career. Of course there are the exceptions, but by and large, getting a second skill is only going to improve your life.

Here's why you should have two jobs

1. You don't have to let your dream die. I'm not proposing that you give up the keys to your dream for a life in Office Space. If I'm the first person to tell you this, move in a little closer. Pursuing a second career doesn't mean you're selling out, it means you're opening up more doors for yourself. You don't have to give up the certainty that you'll be making a decent living because you want to be in a band or be an actor. Pursuing a second career gives you the opportunity to pursue your passion without resenting it for making you really, really broke. Pursue a second career so you won't get to that dark place of cursing your career when you can't make rent.

2. You become more marketable. Whether it's a second skill directly tied to your first love (learning how to sew so you can step into the costume, learning how to run sound so you can take over the board if a band needs a sound tech) or one completely different (ie me with journalism and acting), having more than one skill makes you more valuable in the overall marketplace. You never know what open door leads to the next, so simply becoming a more useful worker overall is a very, very good move.

3. It gives you options. You know what the problem is with acquiring only one skill in a tough market? If there's no use for that skill at the moment, then you're out of work--or out of the kind of work that you actually like doing. If the idea of waiting tables between gigs til you're north of 60 sounds kind of awful to you, I urge you to rethink your plan! If you are a passionate, talented person, there's no doubt that other industries would jump at the opportunity to use your talent, passion and heck, charm (cause we know you got it!) for their cause. What about real estate? What about social media? What about yoga? What about entrepreneurship? Draft up a list of things that people have told you you're good at, you feel personally are your strengths and things that you like (*besides* your first love career). Start there.

4. You can make an impact in the lives of more people. If you work across several fields you will be making a greater impact on more people. Not only will "show people" know you but so will marketing people or nonprofit people or real estate people or church people. You get the idea. If you want to do something significant with your life and leave a legacy, consider how you may have an even greater impact if you work in more than one field.

5. When someone says "no" it's not over for you. One of the biggest advantages of having more than one skill is that you're not putting all your eggs in one basket. If that gig that you're really hoping for doesn't pan out it doesn't mean you have to go back to the worst-job-ever. You get to go back to your "in-between-gigs" job that is fulfilling, purposeful and rewarding. Isn't that so much better than going back to your minimum wage job where you're really not using your strengths?

Bottom line: your passion/first love career is your main thing. It's your identifier. But don't let your passion for that career keep you from having a meaningful day to day existence in your work. Reinvention is always acceptable. Adding on a second skill or heck, business, is a good thing! So think about what else sparks your interest, the other things you're good at, and how could you use the skills that you've developed for your art in other marketable ways. Remember, the artists who are at the pinnacle of their careers aren't doing just one thing. Whether they create new companies, (hello Jessica Alba), or invest in startups, or go back and forth between acting and music, your role models aren't just focused on one career. So why should you?

If you found this post interesting or helpful would you do me a solid and share it? 

Gift Guide for the Entrepreneur: 10 things for that person who you fully expect to take over the world one day

Gift Guide for the Entrepreneur
Gift Guide for the Entrepreneur

If you have a hustling, creative, self-starter in your life, my guess is that they would go nuts for any of the following items on this list. Happy Holidays!

1. Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook. Full disclosure: one of my latest podcast obsessions is #AskGaryVee. The main thesis of JJJRH is that though communication is still key, context matters more than ever. It’s not just about developing great content, it's about developing high-quality content that's perfectly created to blend in on specific social media platforms and mobile devices. Anybody who has something to promote online should read this book.

2. Subscription to Audible.com. We're all busy here. Why not get a subscription for that busy person in your life and let them read while they exercise or drive? The Audible subscription includes one audiobook per month. Perfect!

3. Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. This New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestseller was written by one of my favorite bloggers and podcast hosts, Michael Hyatt. Recently, Forbes magazine named him one of the “Top 10 Online Marketing Experts To Follow In 2014.” In this book Michael unpacks how to let the world know about your incredible message by building a platform that gets you noticed.

4. Premium Skillshare subscriptionSkillshare is an online community where you can take classes from some of the country's leading experts. Topics range from building a logo to starting a business. It is one inspiring place. Plus, Seth Godin even  lectures here.

5. Fast Company. This magazine has gotten my wheels turning about trends in technology and business many a time. Fast Company inspires a new breed of innovative and creative thought leaders who are actively inventing the future of business. When I look through the pages of Fast Company I see role model after role model. This magazine will inspire and challenge your entrepreneur.

6. A photography session. Every aspiring entrepreneur, thought leader or creative needs professional images on his or her website and social profiles. In today's image-focused social landscape, pictures are everything. To say they will enhance your online presence is a gross understatement. (Photographers I've worked with and love: Foster & Asher, Adam Barnes Fine Art Photography, Billy B Photography, Deb Knoske, Ty Hester)

7. The 4-Hour WorkweekThis book has had maybe more of an influence on the way I work than any other book I've read in the last five years. In its pitch the 4-Hour Workweek says Tim Ferris will "teach you how to escape the 9-5, live anywhere, and join the new rich." Well, I can't say I've quite joined the new rich yet, but Ferris' book is chock full of helpful ideas to help you do more of what matters and less of what gleans you a less valuable pay off. This is a GREAT book.

8. BluehostSo web hosting is not a sexy gift, you say? It IS! I say. Your creative knows he/she needs a self-hosted site to really run with the big dogs and show the world he/she is serious about his/her endeavor. (This very blog is moving to a self-hosted site in January.) Sometimes its hard to make that initial investment. Give them the gift of Bluehost and do it for them.

9. Success MagazineThis subscription was actually not one I sought out for myself; my dad got me a 2-year subscription last Christmas. Oh how I love it. I appreciate that the stories are not dumbed down for the multi-tasking millennial generation. They are long and in-depth. In addition--my favorite part of the magazine--it comes with an audio CD with in-depth interviews based on the focus of the magazine that month. Just last night I was listening to an interview about significance. It has challenged and inspired me on my drives more than once. Well worth it. 

10. Creativity, Inc.  By Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar, Creativity, Inc. was named one of the best books of 2014 by Library Journal. This book takes you behind the curtain at one of the most innovative companies of the 20th & 21st centuries. Forbes said it "just might be the best business book ever written.”Listen to Forbes people.  

There you have it! If you read this and see items that you'd love you might ought to reshare it as a helpful hint.

For more posts like this subscribe, follow on Twitter, like on Facebook and double-tap on Instagram
 

8 Podcasts You Should Be Listening To This Week

Apple iOS Podcast
Apple iOS Podcast

One of my favorite functions of my iPhone is the ability to listen to podcasts. Podcasts have come a long way--no longer is it just a couple of guys in a basement talking about Star Trek (not that there's anything wrong with that) but now there are podcasts that can help you grow your business, create better habits, and help you get into the minds of some of the world's best thinkers. These podcasts have truly helped me do life better. More often than not I glean GREAT content from each and every listen.

So the next time you're at the gym and you're looking to work out your body and your mind, listen to one of these. You won't regret it.

8 Podcasts You Should Be Listening To

The Tim Ferriss Show. You may know Tim from his book The 4-Hour Workweek. I read it last December. His book was transformative for my life. 2014 has looked wildly different because I've implemented many of Tim's strategies. His podcast is like spending an evening with him and one of his brilliant friends. He ceaselessly brings in the most interesting people ala: Maria Popova (Brain Pickings), Tony Robbins, and Ed Catmull.

TED Radio Hour Podcast. I love TED Talks because they are so information rich and concise. These radio hour podcasts splice together several talks around one theme. They are so thought-provoking and enriching. I particularly love the one on creativity, the one on originality and the one on millennials. Download one!

The Owner's Mind with Chris Brogan. Chris is huge on relationships. He has built an empire by showing his clients and audience that first and foremost he cares about them. Chris is also my go-to business mind when I'm looking for content on fitness. There's a huge correlation between discipline in fitness and discipline in work. Brogan has cracked it.

Fresh Air PodcastThis one is cheating a little bit because it is the podcast version of Terry Gross' radio show. It is well worth the listen because how often are you near a radio when a good show is on? Terry has interviewed the most fascinating people and she always asks the BEST questions. If you haven't listened, you're missing out.

EntreLeadership Podcast. This is a podcast specifically geared toward entrepreneurs and leaders. They've interviewed some really inspiring leaders (ie Seth Godin and Mark Cuban) and have introduced me to new concepts like keystone habits. You can fastforward through the first 10 minutes or so to get to the good stuff.

This is Your Life with Michael HyattThis podcast is frequently updated and a reliable source for any of us who are constantly trying to be better and do better. Michael's productivity hacks and approach to blogging have both really shaped my work. His multi-faceted work astounds me. I would love to be like him when I grow up. :-)

Daniel H. Pink Office HoursDan Pink is one of my favorite non-fiction writers who is incredible at distilling why we do what we do. His book A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future had a huge influence on me and how I approach the world. In fact it even inspired my tagline: "Your story is begging to be told." In his podcast (which I'm afraid, does not get published nearly often enough) Daniel picks the brains of writers and genius types like Biz Stone (co-founder of Twitter), Malcolm Gladwell (The Tipping Point), and Gretchen Rubin (The Happiness Project) Bonus: Daniel is brilliant but doesn't take himself too seriously.

HBR IdeaCast. Of all the podcasts on this list, HBR--brought to you by the Harvard Business Review, is maybe the one that takes the most concentration. The HBR podcast is ahead of the curve. They're not talking about today's trends; they're talking about tomorrow's.

Are you a podcast fan? Do you have any podcast suggestions? I'd love to hear em!

8 Surprising Lessons Running Taught Me about Goal-Setting

Photo (1)

I've never been a runner. In fact some of my earliest memories are of being a 4-year-old on a soccer team at the Y and strongly wanting to just skip to the post-game reward of a Capri Sun and a snack cake.

I have no memory of running an entire mile until I was at least 26. Ironically, my dad was a collegiate track runner. I've always just firmly believed I didn't get that gene.

Last year I stood at the finish line and celebrated my dad and husband when they finished the Virginia 10-Miler. It was so exciting! Over the summer I got the idea that I wanted to run the Virginia 4-Miler, an abbreviated version of the 10-miler course. It would be no easy task as on the same day I'd also be doing two performances of The Little Mermaid. But I knew with months of preparation and planning, I could do it.  I modified a running plan so I'd have no problem with the 4 mile race on a two-show day--even though, at the start, running a mile without stopping was a real challenge.

My training was empowering, thought-provoking and hard. I was away from a screen for at least an hour in the middle of my morning--a big deal for this writer/social media manager. I was forced to unplug regularly. And that time on the trail got me thinking. Over the course of the ten weeks I learned some really valuable lessons.

8 Lessons I Learned on Goal-Setting By Training for the Virginia 4-Miler

1. If you have a goal that only takes you to achieve, the odds are very much in your favor. This goal wasn't up to anyone but me. Sure, things like injuries could have prevented my goal from coming to fruition. But a goal like this one was mainly in my control. It was just me and the road.

2. A big goal broken down bit by bit is not overwhelming. Check off what you need to do that day. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Every week I simply had three days of running I had to accomplish. Whatever the plan said, I did. I just. kept. running.

3. To accomplish any goal you have to intrinsically desire to accomplish it. You can't be motivated by others. If your mom wants you to accomplish it or your boss wants you to accomplish it, that may be some incentive, but it's not going to get you across the finish line. You have to want it.

4. It's necessary to take into account other commitments and who else is affected by your goal. I knew I had to be serious about my training in order to be in good enough shape to run my race and then perform two shows in the same day. If I hadn't trained properly I might have injured myself or exhausted myself--affecting the entire performance. Remember that multiple aspects of your life are impacted by your goals.

5. When mental toughness and discipline are achieved in one area of life, it bleeds into other areas. Studies have proven that committed, disciplined runners also become disciplined in other areas of life. They eat more healthy and spend less. When you start to view yourself as someone you respect, you treat yourself better in other areas.

6. If you run in the morning you face the rest of your day already feeling like a winner. Accomplishing something right away in the morning empowers me to attack the rest of my day and expect great things to happen. I know that on days that I run I am more fully present with others  and invigorated to work with excellence.

7. It is empowering to choose your own label. I was never referred to as a "runner." Nobody ever told me I had my dad's "runner's build." But I trained and I ran a further distance than I ever anticipated that I could. In fact, I ran further. (The week before my race I ran 5 miles.) Deciding to become a runner and then doing it was pretty encouraging. What else could I decide to be or do?

8. A goal needs a specific "end by" date in order to be a goal and not just a dream. Hopes are great, but without a plan and a deadline they don't become a reality. I had to face the music on September 27, the day of the Virginia 4-Miler.

Doing anything challenging can be rewarding. C.S. Lewis said, "You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream." What lessons have you learned when you've set a goal and accomplished it?

Happy moment with Dad and Juan-Carlos after the race.
Happy moment with Dad and Juan-Carlos after the race.

My Top 12 Posts in Honor of HSL Creative's First Birthday

My 2nd birthday.
My 2nd birthday.

I’ve had a stunning revelation: HSL Creative, in its most recent incarnation, is officially ONE year old!

Cue the streamers, candles, and of course cake (my favorite.) In honor of our first birthday I thought I would share a countdown of the 12 most popular blog posts from the last year. (Get it? 1 for each month?)

Over the past year I’ve shared observations on social media trends, productivity hacks, career advice, information about our services, and even personal reflections about not living in a major city or overextending myself. So I give you the top 12 posts of our first year as voted by your clicks. So take a look, check out the ones you may have missed. And thank you, thank you, thank you for coming on the journey.

CHOCOLATE CAKE ALL AROUND, I SAY!

Here’s to year 2. Cheers.

12. Finding Margin: Confessions of a Wayward Blogger Whether you're an entrepreneur, a stay-at-home parent, or an employee of a giant corporation, there are always priorities and choices to make. And sometimes we have to say "no" to good things in order to say "yes" to great things.

11. 7 Hacks for Shaking off the Blahs and Getting Out of ProcrastiNation I have a war within me: lazy person vs. driven person. That conflict can easily manifest itself in procrastination. Here's some ways I combat it.

10. How to Launch Dual Careers I'm a passionate advocate of kicking the status quo in the face. If you are a soon to be college graduate, an early career professional, or just know in your gut it's time for a change, this post gives you the first steps to making the move to dual careers.

9. 10 Secrets to Getting Started in Freelance Writing If you've wanted to get started freelance writing but you're not sure where to begin, this post gives you tips on how to get paid to write.

8. 6 Reasons Someone You know Did the #ALSIceBucketChallenge Why the heck did the Ice Bucket Challenge raise over $100 million? How did that happen? Here's some reasons it worked amazingly well.

7. 10 Social Media Resolutions to Adopt This Year Need a cheat sheet for social media etiquette and smart habits (like knowing your privacy settings)? Here ya go.

6. 10 Ways I've Made Life Easier for Other Businesses, And How I Can Help You Too Don't really know what all we do here? Here are some of the most practical ways that organizations and individuals have used HSL Creative services in recent months.

5. 9 Surprising Things I Learned When I Met a Client in Person Bottom line: in this incredible digital age where I (and many other people!) make a living by never seeing anyone in person--the face-to-face communication remains irreplaceable.

4. The #1 Reason I Feel Ok Even Though I Don't Live in a Major City My industries are media and the arts. Of COURSE, I have a desire to be in a major city where patrons and potential clients flock. But here's why I think this small city life has been GREAT for me and my career.

3. 6 Ways Grad School Launched Me into the Career of My Dreams Grad school gets a lot of flack in creative fields. "It's not worth the money," they say. "You're avoiding the real world," they say. Well, I say it was the exact right move for me. Here's why.

2. Will You Do Anything Social Media Free This Year? Do you ever feel like you've become a little too attached to your technology? Do you twitch when you accidentally leave your phone in your car? Have you never left your phone in your car because you always make certain it's on your person? This one's for you.

And drumroll please...the most popular post of the last year is....

1. 5 Lessons We Can Learn from the Most Retweeted Selfie of All Time Did you retweet it? Do you know exactly which one I'm talking about? What makes us take part in viral activity online? These are a few of my observations from both academically and professionally studying people and their social media habits.

There ya have it! My 12 most read posts of the 1st year of HSL Creative. Do me a huge favor and comment here or on Facebook or Twitter with some feedback on what kind of posts you'd like to see more of in the future. I'm listening!

10 Secrets to Getting Started in Freelance Writing

Coffee
Coffee

One question I get asked with some frequency is "so how did you get started writing?" You may be interested in pursuing freelance blog or magazine writing but don't exactly know where to start. Though I started with a degree in journalism, I submit that it's certainly not the only way to launch a career writing. Here's ten steps to take that I've seen work:

1. Start a blog. This is your first stop on the road to getting paid to write. Blogging gives you full control of what you will say and how you will say it. Show the world what you can write and what you're passionate about saying! The world is your oyster. The blog is your step one.

2. Get a copy of the Writer's Market. Pore over it. This annual volume is the bible of freelance magazine writing, poetry and writing contests. It also has a collection of great, informative articles all about the business of writing. You can fork over the money for it or just spend some time at your local library.

3. Offer to guest post on other blogs in which you can provide relevant and helpful content. Can you think of a blog or a website that really resonates with you? Look for their contributor guidelines. Some sites won't pay but if you have a good looking blog with compelling content and a great idea for a post, they will give you a shot. Look you're collecting portfolio pieces already.

4. Master the art of the query letter. This is your pitch. The magazine industry has its own nuances. Make sure your ideas are relevant to the magazine. Show you've read it and you like it. Then pitch.

5. Read On Writing Well by William Zinnser.

6. Get YourName.com. I have several friends in the business who regret that some other joker got their name (ie janedoe.com) before they did. This is a just a good rule of thumb for anyone. Buy your name's URL at GoDaddy just in case. My dad always said: "better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it." A website provides a great opportunity to point potential editors to check out several of your clips in one place. You have full control over this corner of the internet that has your name on it.

7. Spiff up your Linkedin page. Make it clear that you're a writer. Add keywords that people who might be in search of a freelance writer would use when looking for one. Consider eliminating positions you've held that don't add helpful or interesting context to your work story. Yes, I left the fact that I once swept hair from the floor of a salon off my Linkedin page. Gasp.

8. Read Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott.

9. Do your research on the people in your network that are in the publishing business. And when I say "network" I don't mean "people you follow on Twitter." I mean people who you know that would be glad to pass your name along to the proper person. Let friends and family know this is the direction in which your career is headed.

10. Keep writing.

Have anything to add to the list? Comment away!  

10 Quick Tips to Increase Productivity

Increasing productivity is beneficial to any worker. Maybe it means you get to leave right at 5 pm, maybe it means you add more value to your company, maybe it means you get a 4-day work week instead of a 5. (Wouldn't that be nice!)  As a freelancer who only gets paid when I complete a project, productivity is everything for me. So today I'm sharing 10 ways to boost your productivity to get more done.

1. Minimize alerts. Put your phone on sleep mode and close out unnecessary tabs on your browser. The fewer alerts you receive the less likely you are to get sidetracked onto social media, an email or a text message. 

2. Batch similar tasks. Don't try to do three or four items on your to do list at once. Group similar tasks and knock em out together.

3. Have set days for lunches and meetings with colleagues and friends. It's easy for me to accidentally zap the productivity out of my day by scheduling an off site meeting or lunch several days out of the week. Instead, identify certain days for these meetings. This is a huge time saver.

4. Set certain times to check email throughout the day. Instead of stopping every 5 to 10 minutes to read a new email keep your email browser closed and check it at certain times of the day. This is a guaranteed way to minimize distractions. 

5. Plot out 3 or less important tasks to get done each day at the end of the day before. Keep this list ambitious but practical.This gives you a game plan at the start of each day. You know what's most important and it's plausible to get it done. 

6. After a phone call or a meeting with a manager or client shoot them a quick summary email to make sure you’re both on the same page regarding action items, next steps and deadlines. It can be very frustrating to have stalled progress because team members are not on the same page. Keep the momentum moving forward by creating an action list. 

7. Use the Pomodoro Technique. Work in 25 minute increments with a five minute break in between. Use a physical timer, stopwatch or even the digital version on your smartphone or computer.

8. Don’t go to inbox zero just for the sake of being at inbox zero. This can be a real time waster.

9. Live and die on deadlines. Take a cue from the efficient world of journalism. Assign deadlines to everything. An item without a deadline becomes a zombie project--a project that's not exactly dead but not exactly alive. Keep that ball rolling by giving yourself a deadline. 

10. Keep a birds eye view 3 week calendar accessible and a 7-day detailed calendar accessible on your desktop. This shows you what's coming down the pipe so you're not surprised by any deadlines in a week or two while simultaneously showing you how you're going to execute your work over the next week. I've found this to be the most productive calendar views.

If you like this kind of post you may also like a previous post I wrote: 7 Hacks for Shaking off the Blahs and Getting Out of ProcrastiNation.

How to Stay Calm During Transitions

May is a season of major milestones and transitions. We've all experienced transitions of varying stress levels. Whether you're moving from student to graduate, single to married, childless to parent, or resident of one state to resident of another, transitions are exciting moments in which we know life will never be the same. Here are five tips to move through transitions effectively:

1. Be present. During the heightened emotion and excitement of transitional periods it’s so easy for it all to become a blur. This is one of my own greatest challenges during a period of transitions–being still and taking it all in. It’s so easy to jump ahead to the wedding day, the moment when you’re holding a baby in your arms, or even to worrying about what life will be like after college. Be intentional about engaging in the present.

2. Take stock. Transitional periods are a great time to evaluate your life. Are you pursuing your goals or are you just kind of going along with the life that seems to happen for you? Are you on the path to the career, relationship, calling that you desire and are meant to pursue? Now is a good time to look around and make necessary bold choices to get to the place you want to be.

3. Talk with supportive friends. Transitions are times of increased stress. Nothing is more therapeutic than letting it out and talking with trusted friends and family. Let your inner circle be there for you.

4. Prioritize. Plan your time based on what is most important. Be intentional. Make time for the people who matter most. What are the most important ways for you to spend your time during this period? What will matter to you looking back? A grade? Quality time with a loved one? How wise you were with your finances?

5. Don’t make decisions out of fear. When forging through times of change it is easy to freeze up and not make decisions at all or worse– make decisions based on fear. Look fear in the face and articulate the “worst case scenario.” When you say it, you can extinguish its power. Move forward with courage.

What has helped you through times of transitions?

Hilary is Principal of HSL Creative, a writing and social media firm. Learn more

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