Alone, Together: Five Reasons Why Solopreneurs Need a Business Coach

Going solo is becoming the norm and for good reason. The construct of a 9-to-5 workday is irrelevant and disconnected from the rhythms of our creativity and productivity. Sitting at a desk all day is literally killing us slowly. Our growth conforms to the shape of its container. 

Well goodbye to all that.

Still, it’s not a decision to make impulsively; sure, the precarious nature of inconsistent income is scary, but you’ve prepared for that, right? You’ve shaped up your hustle on the side, you’ve built a bit of runway, you have a plan. 

It’s the solo part that’s actually terrifying. 

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Appetite for Reconstruction

How deconstructing a bagel sandwich can help you reframe your design challenge

A fundamental benefit of reframing is that it can turn constraints into opportunities.
Like MacGyver, we tend to get creative and invent clever workarounds when we have limited resources at our disposal. 

One way to play with constraints is to try out designer Ayse Birsel’s ‘Deconstruct:Reconstruct' process. 

She outlines four key steps:

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Three (and a half) Ways to Spark your Creative Curiosity

The next time someone tells you to just 'follow your passion,' you can just tell them to "go whistle." Or another directive of your choosing. We're all adults here. 

The thing is, true passion comes with time. There's no getting around it. It’s mastery that comes with deep, focused practice, often against odds. Passion is a long-term relationship, not something you discover by swiping right.

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How to Collaborate Like a Girl

It’s definitely not my first time at the mansplaining rodeo. 
I've had my work co-opted by others who’ve taken the credit on a few occasions, and once even had my entire portfolio stolen by some dude who foolishly tried to pass it off as his own in a job interview, where it just so happened I knew the hiring manager.

But this week was a first. Perhaps a career pinnacle.
This time I finally had a man actually present my own work back to me, explaining the strategy I’d developed, process I’d created, and the workshop I’d designed as though it would have been the first time I’d ever heard these (damn good) ideas. 

On a roll, he's also managed to take my writing, reformat my draft, and solicit feedback from each of the other managers (dudes), all except for me. 

In a weird way, I don’t blame him–not precisely–but rather the rest of my team who simply shrugged it off, ignoring multiple opportunities to set the record straight on my behalf, their British discomfort with confrontation apparently outweighing the value of my contributions. 

Yet somehow, I found myself feeling as ashamed as I was frustrated. Was my work not good enough? Was his better? Was he more qualified? What could I have done to improve? What am I doing wrong?

Somehow, even 20 years of experience, half of them as a leader and director is still not sufficiently convincing evidence to quell those impostor-y thoughts.

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Coming Full Circle to Find Purpose

Well now this is awkward. 

In what can only be considered a moment of prescience, or perhaps simply keen self-awareness, just under two years ago I wrote the following, in a post titled, “Confessions of a Design Imposter:”

"...inevitably I’ll become frustrated by the things that will never change, exhausted by all the little exigencies of daily life (meetings), and I’ll be parting ways dramatically to make declarative, no– definitive fresh starts doing something completely different.”

Re-reading it now, I can see from this safe distance that I wrote this missive as a kind of defense mechanism. It captures a vulnerable moment, one that forced me to mitigate some of the guilt and shame I’d felt for abandoning my food business to return again to my design career.

Two years is a funny punctuation mark in my life, an em dash connecting one phase to the next with only minor pause. Here I am today, completing the other 180 and returning to Amsterdam to reconcile my competing selves–cook, designer, business owner, who knows what else. I’ve got enough perspective to give myself the permission to not insist that I be just one or the other, feeling optimistic that I can find a way to make them whole and connected. 

It’s creating this coherence that is my mission, my raison d’être, not just for myself, but also for the work I’m setting up to do with others like me, we the ‘scanners’ and ‘multipotentialites.’ 

Call it serendipity that the central theme of my career as a design thinker has been the persistent negotiation of the Desirable, Viable, and Feasible. In other words, finding breakthrough ideas at the intersection of our values, our unique skills, and the opportunities afforded in our space. The sweetspot.

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Design Thinking for Everyday Life

After 20 years of leading product design strategy for companies like adidas, Gilt, and Capital One, I’m calling it the end of an era, and finally setting out my own stall as an 'experiment coach.’ I'm packing up everything I’ve learned along the way to help aspiring entrepreneurs use design thinking to shape, test, and launch their ideas. But what does it mean to think like a designer?

Designers are trained idea facilitators. We’ve got a killer toolkit to help bring structure to the occasional mess of creative thinking. And when it comes to doing the messy, creative work of designing a business in line with our life and values, these tools get the job done.

If the usual suspects of potential-blocking kryptonite– procrastination, focus, and ugh, effing perfectionism- are standing in the way, thinking like a designer can shift us out of our feelings of overwhelm and into creative problem-solving mode, helping us get started instead of getting ready.

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New Year's Resolutions

After passing a few days wandering around toute seule in my soul-home Paris, (over)indulged in food, drink, and luxury shopping, I thought I’d share my personal new year’s resolutions. I’ve been shaping this list over the months running up to le big 4-0, scribbling ideas as they came to me in various circumstances- introspective moments in the midst of city chaos or mundane routines. Before the proverbial ink is even dry, as with most resolutions, I’m sure I’ll be mucking around changing them, ignoring them, fighting them, and adding new ones. I’m fine with that. Here’s to another 364 possibilities.

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The Futility of Resistance

I admit I love those lists that make the rounds of our various feeds–untranslatable words for charmingly obtuse concepts. A personal favorite has always been l’esprit de l’esacalier, “stairway wit,” or TFW you come up with your wittiest retort or sick burn after the fact. Or the particularly resonant boketto, which in Japanese describes vacantly staring in the distance without thinking, something that I catch myself doing not infrequently when I’m writing. Recently I’ve come across tsukunde, also Japanese, and meaning hoarding more books than you can read at a time. 

The good news is that I’m certainly not alone in this habit, and really, there are worse things I could do. My books don’t languish though. I may rack ‘em up, but I also knock ‘em down. There is almost never a time when I’m not reading and note-taking, day or night. Whether I’ve diving into sourdough or startups, I invent a curriculum for myself with a syllabus full of required reading. Is there, perhaps, a word out there that describes this sort of compulsive learning?

Oh wait, yeah, there is. The word is procrastination.

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(Be)come As You Are

I was one of those rare teens who knew exactly what they wanted to become– a journalist- a music journalist, specifically- and when I got to college, I didn’t want to waste a minute forging that path. No sooner did I set foot in Boston did I immediately sniff out opportunities to immerse myself in that world. I joined the school newspaper as a music critic and interned for the first women’s snowboarding magazine (without having even been on an actual snowboard). I wormed my way into press passes writing punk and ska gig reviews for a popular local rag called The Noise, and pulled brain-bending all-nighters with my best friend and roomie producing our weirdo brainchild ‘zine, called “Biatches.”

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Want to learn how to practice? Get coached.

After spending awhile thinking about my lack of consistency in practice, I came to the conclusion that what really needed a closer look was my motivation. In writing about my so-called “lazy perfectionism,” I addressed the usefulness but ultimate limitations of extrinsic rewards like receiving high marks or praise. And while I recognized in myself a serious sense of drive, I couldn’t help but wonder what was under the hood? 

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The Lazy Perfectionist

I have in my possession (in my parent’s garage, anyway) a trophy commending me for perfect attendance from the first grade through my senior year of high school*. Like, my high school principal and my grade school principal at some point got together and decided that this mind-blowing feat deserved some goddam special recognition in the form of an engraved piece of brass. 

And you know what? I was proud of it. I was proud of my accomplishments, proud of being at the head of the class, and proud of being recognized. I thrived on the encouragement and praise and occasional tough love of my teachers and parents. I was, and still am, very happy to work hard. 

Of course the accolades and awards and shelves full of engraved brass strongly reinforced my drive to achieve, but even stronger is the motivation of consistently getting things right to a very high standard. If the bar is high, then I’m going even higher. No one demands more of me than I do. I expect to exceed expectations.

Maybe you can see where these is going. Maybe you can see that this attitude might slow me down when going about the day to day business of reality. Well, good for you, armchair analyst. You’re right. 

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The work of friendship

A few weeks ago, I took a short business trip to Switzerland. Just one night in Basel, a day of meetings, and then a 90-minute prop-jet flight into City Airport, and I was home by 7pm. No big deal, really. Still, it was the cap on an exhausting and chaotic week. I spent the next two days catching up on life, getting organized for the week ahead, and also just quietly relaxing. I blithely forgot about the tentative plans I'd made to get together with a dear girlfriend whom I hadn't seen for some time. I didn't think much of it until it the Monday morning, when, just as I was about to leave for work, my phone pinged with a message from her, "Are you alive?"

Ha! I thought, and replied straightaway, that indeed I was, and that I'd like to get together in the next few days. It then occurred to me that I'd missed our date. My phone pinged again. Actually, no, let's not get together this week, she said. She was pissed that I'd blown her off.

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