I can’t believe Creative at Heart Round 9 has already come and gone! For four lovely days, I spent time at the beautiful WinMock at Kinderton in Winston-Salem, NC soaking up wisdom from industry leaders, laughing with new friends, and eating (way) too much Mexican food. We were spoiled by heartfelt messages, gracious volunteers, and an abundance of swag (including a brand new set of Cultivate What Matters Powersheets, but more on that later!).
In the world of online business and digital entrepreneurship, it’s incredibly easy to feel isolated and consumed with thoughts of “never enough.” Now, don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade this business for anything in the world! However, there’s something so special and so sweet about surrounding yourself with people who “get it.” People who get the hours that extend way past the standard 9-5; people who regularly struggle balancing #allthethings and often sacrifice personal time in lieu of work, aaaand people who understand the self-induced need to have a pretty Instagram feed (no matter how silly it sounds!).
Needless to say, the conference was worth every penny, and Kat Schmoyer is a total wonder woman for putting it all together each year! While I’m still processing everything I learned, I thought it might be fun to share some of my favorite takeaways (in no particular order!, related to reshaping both your heart and your business.
1) a healthy perspective can change everything.
To kick off the conference, the wonderful Nancy Ray of Nancy Ray Photography spoke about having an abundance mindset. What does that mean exactly? She took us back to the basics and encouraged us to remember what a GIFT it is to even have a business, to work creatively, and to provide for our families. Even when things feel tough, we must put ourselves in a headspace of graciousness knowing so few people around the world are free to do what we do. Nancy spoke of the importance of examining our habits and being honest with ourselves about the detrimental thoughts that occupy our minds. Thoughts like “I wish my business was doing as well as hers” or “I need to do XYZ to really make it” can mentally crush the all of the progress we’ve made.
She shared that in order to shift gears into a mindset of abundance, we must start with an obedience to gratitude.
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough and even more.” - Melody Beattie
2) YOU are the one thing in your business that’s truly unique.
Oh man, did I need to hear this one. This past year taught me quite a bit about impersonation of copyrighted work within the design industry (never fun!), but Terri Baskin gave us a look at how to make our business stand out in a saturated space. She shared the statistic that small businesses typically fail for two reasons: 1) there is no real differentiation between what they offer and what others offer or 2) they are out of touch with their customers. The big kicker? PRICING WILL NEVER MAKE YOU DIFFERENT. Bam. This one hit me like a ton of bricks.
At the end of the day, people can use all of your same resources. They can claim your work as their own. They can mimic your website or join your same networking groups. But they can never copy what really makes the magic happen: You! Your unique skillset and your innate ability to create the work your clients love is the one “special sauce” no one else has the recipe for. YOU are your best marketing asset.
3) the outside world shouldn’t define what you ARE and ARE NOT good at.
Let me start by saying Laura Foote is an absolute gem and everyone wanted to be her best friend after this talk! She’s a former Disney Princess, and if that isn’t amazing in its own right, she built a business that’s founded on creating magic in her client experience. Laura shared her recipe for moving from who we are, currently, into who we were created to be using the “3 T’s” : Traits, Talents, and Truth.
We all have innate traits about us - traits are those characteristics that are only sometimes understood by others. Maybe you’re organized or punctual, or maybe you have a body built for the water, like Michael Phelps. Talents, on the other hand, are traits that have been cultivated into something exceptional, observable, measurable, and repeatable. For example, your traits of organization and punctuality may emulate into a talent of flawless event planning, just like Michael Phelps’ traits led him to succeed in swimming. Lastly, Truths, are talents that you have exercised. Talents bring yearning and satisfaction for more - they are more than something you are good at, they mean something concrete to you.
In other words, a talent is something that requires hard work, a healthy perspective, and a yearning to grow. We are all capable of cultivating talents from our unique traits.
4) set big goals and start with elementary-sized steps
Oh, Lara Casey. I’d be lying if I said she wasn’t one of the main reasons I bought a ticket in the first place! I’m sure most of you know her story, but Lara is essentially the queen of goal-setting and the ever-inspiring founder of Cultivate What Matters. She provided us with three practical steps to actually achieving your goals, and the one that really stuck with me is to break down your goals into small, bite-sized steps. Even if it makes your “to do list” longer and even if it’s daunting to break up this way, there’s something satisfying about tangibly seeing progress each day. I spent the latter half of her session writing down every, little obstacle to launching a big project this fall and I’m already SO excited to dive in.
One quote from her session I just have to share: “The world needs you to use your gifts. To rise up and be confident. To open doors and to make the RIGHT THINGS HAPPEN.” Amazing, right?
5) at our core, we are all motivated by one of four things
I really can’t pick favorites, but if I absolutely HAD to, I’d say Shanna Skidmore’s talk on our core motivators resonated with me the deepest. Shanna is a former financial planner turned creative financial coach who completely rocked our worlds with the reality that success is a faux motivator. At the end of the day, we can have success and STILL be unfulfilled, so it’s important to dig deeper and to really get to the heart of what we crave in our work. In entrepreneurship, we are all drawn to one of these motivations:
Creative Expression: A job that fuels who you are allows you creative freedom. Clients who appreciate your work and the time you put into creating it.
Time: A job that allows for ample vacation days, shorter hours, routines and systems. People motivated by time are very aware of how and where they are spending their time.
Challenge: A job that has potential to build an empire and grow, satisfying those who have a deep need to achieve something bigger than themselves.
Impact: A job that enables you to use your talents to serve others over yourself. This was my core motivator and really helps me see why certain clients or certain tasks have me feeling less fulfilled than others!
While there are things to be aware of no matter WHICH motivation you resonate deepest with, the main takeaway is that if we aren’t living out what motivates us, we will be headed down the fast track to burnout.
6) an unhealthy yes to a project, a client, a collaboration, or a new venture will only buy you a temporary sense of peace
THIS. TALK. ROCKED. MY. WORLD. Abby Grace of Abby Grace Photography gave the talk I’ve needed to hear for a very, very long time, and I’m honestly still processing how to apply all of what I heard. Abby shared the simple fact that we, as business owners, have the power to determine the rules of engagement, and telling someone “no” doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In fact, saying no often makes you more of a SPECIALIST - someone who’s focused on very specific clients and very specific tasks, who can’t take on just anything for the sake of it. In order to prepare ourselves for the right yeses and the right noes (yep, apparently the plural of “no” is noes…who knew!), we must first take inventory of what yeses we must protect. What things in your life are irreplaceable? What will ALWAYS get a yes from you? My own list included things like time with Rob and my family/friends, exercise, and church.
Then, you take a look at the opposite! What are the things you KNOW you don’t want to do any more of? What things cause stress or anxiety? What makes you feel like you’ve done a poor job?
Protect your yeses.
7) you’re in your season for a purposeful reason.
Katelyn James ended our conference with a talk that had us all in tears. I heard her story at Round 8 in November, and (to be honest) I wasn’t sure what I would walk away with this time in hearing it for the second time. But BOY, was I wrong - I felt like she was speaking directly to me without pause. In Katelyn’s own words, “Mountaintops are beautiful, but that’s not where you grow. The valleys are where God does his best work.”
Real talk: We are ALL going through something right now. Whether that thing (or things!) are personal or work related, these trials can leave us feeling really alone, like we’re the only ones enduring pain. I think this is especially true in the age of social media, where all you seem to notice is the highlight reel of those around you. Highlights sharing business victories and personal wins.
Katelyn challenged us to be vulnerable in the midst of these highlights. To share the good but to also share the bad without fear of how it makes us look. She challenged us to SHOW UP for one another the the valleys, knowing that they’re where we have an opportunity to be transformed and see the world differently.
There is SO much more I could share, but I truly think Creative is the kind of thing you really have to experience for yourself. Don’t be fooled - there are practical takeaways, too! I have a laundry list of SEO, Email Marketing, and System-related goodness to work on this week, but I truly believe the best part of this conference is the heart work that happens while you’re there. It’s transformational in the best way, and I already can’t wait for the next one!
Have questions about C@H? I’d be happy to answer!