Stubborn & Stilted? Staying Competitive in Your Biz

As a new mom, I have been breastfeeding from day one—believing wholeheartedly in the long term benefits to my baby. However, as my daughter has grown, it has become increasingly apparent that my very active love bug cannot be a long term nurser. She has mastered standing up now, so she stands from the time she wakes up in the morning until we put her down at night and nursing is no deterrent from her all day stand-a-thon. She is now also cutting teeth and the vigor and enthusiasm with which she nurses has not boded well for my poor breasts. They have been screaming “mercy”—tapping out like old school thumb wrestling style—for at least two months now. All things considered my boyfriend and I came to the decision that it was time to wean her.

I can openly admit that I was making a halfhearted attempt at it because I was convinced it would be an impossible task. Love bug seemed to have such an affinity for the comfort and sustenance of nursing. One night recently, after an entire day without nursing [can you say #winning], my daughter awoke from her sleep as she usually does and her dear old dad who had been on evening duty handed her off to me. As I had done so many times before, I just stuck a breast in her mouth and waited for her to fall asleep [at 3am who is thinking about any stinking weaning plan? not me]. An hour later, with her still suckling and growing more and more restless, I realized that my quick fix was anything but. It took me all of five minutes to get up and fix her a formula bottle which once consumed in a matter of seconds compared to our hour-long-nursing-marathon got her right back to dreamland. This is not a statement on the breastfeeding v. bottle feeding knock down drag out debate/war… I have no dog in that fight. ​In my mind, a fed baby is a happy baby and happy healthy baby is the aim. However, you get ’em fed is between you, your God, and your baby. So don’t sick ​any crazy mommy bloggers on me. The point I am attempting to make is that I was too lazy and/or stubborn to adapt to change and therefore, cheating love bug and I out of several hours of sleep not only that night but the many that preceded it.

If I’m honest with myself and with you, it was clear that my method wasn’t working, but I continued to use it, mostly out of habit. Lil love bug was not fueled by some inexplicable crack-like addiction to nursing [I mean she does love her some breast milk but to say she was jonesing might be a stretch]. She is nine months old, her life and needs are very very simple. In this case, she needed to be fed a filling meal and given the space to fall back asleep. In many instances, when confronted with evidence that my plan was ineffective at best, I had refused to acknowledge the fundamental flaws of my here-suck-on-a-boob method. Coming to that realization made me wonder how much of that stubbornness spilled into my work life. Worse yet, how much money had I possibly left on the table as I remained unconsciously stubborn and stilted?

In order to not only be a successful entrepreneur and creative, but a continually innovative and active one, you-me-we must be constantly willing to reassess and adapt our process[es]to fit the market needs. How easily do we become lazy? or plain ol’ stuck in our ways? How can we recognise the signs? And what are key elements to getting ourselves “unstuck”?

Recognising the Signs that You’re in a Sticky Situation

What, if any, opportunities have you left on the table? And how so? Here’s a quick activity that will help you gauge where you are and what you can do about it.

There is more than one way to get yourself into a sticky situation. Keeping this in mind and considering the questions below, fold a piece of paper in half so that you have two columns. On the left side list any and all missed opportunities you have had in the last six months. On the right, next to each item write one thing you can accomplish today that will turned that missed opportunity into a viable one.

Are you using success in one aspect of your business to avoid trying in others?

For example, I am an artist but my main focus lately has been building the training business that I own with my sister. I was recently invited to submit work for a potential gallery show but I have allowed myself to use the excuse of working on my other venture to avoid making time to draw.

Have you brushed up on or acquired any new skills to propel you and/or your business forward lately?

We can get so wrapped up in the day-to-day work of our ventures that we forget that the landscape around is changing. There maybe new tools out there that could make your job easier. Are you reading industry and business related literature? Better yet are you availing yourself of free resources that can help you improve your skills? Check out this list from entrepreneur.com :http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/238908

Have you reevaluated your tools, work style or methodology lately?

  • How well do your processes work?
  • What are the top 2 things that are working in your business/es? Why?
  • What are the top 2 things that aren’t working? How do they differ from the processes that are? And why?

Key Elements to Getting “Unstuck”

Here are a few other strategies** that I am using to become unstuck and to inject life into my ventures:

  1. Let Go of Preciousness. One of the biggest creative stumbling blocks is our need to get things right. Believe me, I’m a perfectionist myself, so I know how hard it is to let that go. The reality is that treating your creations as precious little things to protect keeps you from the world of possibilities the comes from trying new things out, making mistakes, and getting things wrong.
  2. Freedom Comes From Limitations. If someone were to give me an infinite amount of time and an unlimited budget to create something, I would be frozen. It’s only from narrowing down the options that creativity becomes possible, as you are forced to push against the walls that close you in.
  3. Get Out of Your Environment. No matter how inspiring your workspace, there’s only so much creative work that can be done within it. Of course, if you’re in a place that’s not so inspiring to begin with, the need to be elsewhere is even more urgent. Since most people spend the majority of their time inside, they’re missing out on the much wider world right outside their door.
  4. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone. At some point in your life, you’ve probably been told not to make a fool of yourself, but the fact is that it’s one of the most effective ways to get creative inspiration! Fear of rejection and fear of embarrassment: these are the recurring enemies of creativity.
  5. Get Things by Giving Them Away. It may sound counterintuitive, but you get a lot from giving things away. If I had kept my own project under wraps, rather than sharing it as I went along, I probably would have had a fraction of the positive experiences. The more I gave away, the more people gave back to me.
  6. Collaborate. There’s no substitute for the benefits you receive when working creatively with other people. Some of the best things that came out of my own project were the friendships that blossomed from incorporating other people into my work. You get results that are exponentially greater when you don’t work alone.

Looking for other real-life strategies for bettering your creative business?

Check out my book  “An Artpreneur’s Guide to Pigging Out: Storing Some Fat to Survive the Famine Before Your Feast” (published in 2013; new edition available in early 2016).

**These strategies have been adapted/borrowed from Unstuck: 52 Ways to Get (and Keep) Your Creativity Flowing, at Home, at Work & in Your Studio by Noah Scalin

 

Never Hope More Than You Work…

This week,  I read so many really inspiring stories about successful entrepreneurs including  that of a 13 year old wiz kid. These stories were great but one thing struck me, even as a somewhat seasoned business owner these stories can lull you into a false sense of reality; there is an element of luck and “the stars being aligned”.
As a new or aspiring entrepreneur who might be struggling to garner support for one’s business, I can only imagine  that it can seem like everyone but you is winning the  successful business lottery. And for some reason your lucky number just hasn’t come up! I mean if a 13 year old has cracked the code, just what are you doing wrong, right?
As hard as it maybe to admit, you might just be hoping more than you are working. Hope a45152_670958499622838_1876837059_n(1)nd faith can be your best friends when building a business because they allow you to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. However, reading too many entrepreneurial blogs, and business mags can make them your worst enemy. These things can put you in a state of wonder — a euphoria of sorts–about all that is possible and how you just have to wait your turn. What you can sometimes miss in this bubble of successful bliss, is that these people work everyday on their businesses.
Reading and waiting is not enough. Use that inspiration as motivation to spur your venture forward. Learn new techniques to build your business and try them.
What steps have you taken to put your hope into action this week?

One way to move forward is to register for MAM Squared LLC’s Support is A Verb Webinar. Learn how to decipher and cultivate appropriate supportive relationships for your business, get one free consultation with MAM Squared LLC’s experts, and two handbooks to kick start your new support strategy.

Melissa A. Matthews is author of the e-book, An Artpreneur’s Guide to Pigging Out and co-owner of MAM Squared, LLC.

The competitor …

The competitor to be feared is one who never bothers about you at all, but goes on making his own business better all the time. – Henry Ford

One of the most valuable lessons we can learn in business and life is that your competition lies within. You have no idea what motivates the next man, thus his success(es) or failure(s) should not motivate you. Play your own song. Make your own product. At your own pace. Only you can do business the way you do!