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A time to share

A close friend recently said I should share more. Actually, several friends have given similar advice, summed up in the words, “Tammy, you really should write more.”

“But, I’m not a writer,” I say.

“Plus, there’s not enough time in the world, AND there are already so many voices online that I can’t keep up with it all anymore, AND I like my privacy, AND it stresses me out to even think of having to keep up with creating content for my own site, but most importantly. . .I’m NOT a writer.”

Do you see where I’m going with this?

Even while writing that first paragraph I’ve squashed an argument between my (adorable) sons, watched my eldest son perform top secret fighting moves on his LEGO Ninjago game, been asked to pour a glass of milk by the littlest one, and listened to the Beyblade Burst theme song multiple times – it’s parenting in full swing.

How can I write and share my work when I’m busy working, creating, (over) thinking, parenting, sleeping, volunteering, cooking, cleaning and everything-else-ing? All I hear them saying is, “Tammy, you should really add one more thing to your to-do list!”

Plus, as if time limitations aren’t enough – I also do NOT like conflict. Some people love debates and being challenged, but that’s not me. Challenge is not something I intentionally set out to encounter or to incite in my everyday life, but writing and sharing opens you up to being challenged in your thoughts and ideas. There’s no way to put your foot in your mouth when you don’t say anything at all! You won’t be misquoted. You can’t be misunderstood. You’re never wrong (technically). Ahhhh, that sounds heavenly doesn’t it? For an Enneagram #9, INTJ, introvert like myself – yes, yes it does.

I like to think that adopting a non-sharing philosophy actually increases productivity by not inviting any unwanted elements into your work and life flow. There are no “likes” to tally, no comments to mull over, and no outside opinions to process beyond those of lovingly supportive family and friends. It’s simple really.

But is moving so far into productivity and progress that we forget to share/invite/connect the best path forward? I’m starting to think it’s not.

I’ve spent the last two decades helping people visually share their ideas, so I’ve seen firsthand how rewarding it can be to have an idea come to mind, then to see it be expressed. And it’s even more exciting when the idea inspires someone else, and they build on the idea creating an even better version.

In the book Show Your Work by Austin Kleon, he quoted another writer/consultant when he said:

The stupidest creative act is still a creative act… On the spectrum of creative work, the difference between the mediocre and the good is vast. Mediocrity is, however, still on the spectrum; you can move from mediocre to good in increments. The real gap is between doing nothing and doing something. 

Clay Shirky, Cognitive Surplus

Ahhh, the gap between doing nothing and doing something is real indeed. Getting started is super hard and not as rewarding, especially when the early drafts and mock ups aren’t so great. But we ALL have to start somewhere. No one is born an expert or a professional.

So this is my attempt to start my journey of sharing. . .

I see the importance of freely exchanging ideas and expressing ourselves through journaling, creative writing, song writing, artistic endeavors – it all has value.

From silly social media posts, random tweets and viral TikTok videos to insightful Clubhouse discussions and informative podcasts, all of these modern modes of sharing provide us with a continuous stream of old and new ideas, old and new sources of inspiration, old and new perspectives.

Lately I’ve been finding unexpected sources of inspiration from the writings and experiences of others. I can pinpoint many times in my life where reading someone else’s stories of trial and error, flat-out failure, lucky successes or hard work were just what I needed at that moment to get me going. Sharing experiences inspires us.

Stories from the Bible teach us about life and give us hope. Personal testimonies from people we know can inspire us. Funny anecdotes entertain us and lighten the mood during a pandemic (thank you Kev On Stage). Stories with “imperfect” endings remind us of life’s unpredictability. Sharing stories connect us.

I may not be a writer, but it’s time for me to commit to making forward progress along my personal creative spectrum from mediocre toward good. I encourage you to jump beyond your impossible and make this your year to close the gap from doing nothing to doing something. Find the time to connect the dots, bring your ideas to life, share your journey, and encourage others to do the same!

How to Manually Generate and Install Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificates with Certbot (Part 2)

In Part 1 we discussed the importance of having an SSL certificate and how to generate them for free with Certbot. As we continue the process, you’ll need access to:

  1. Terminal (on Mac go to Applications > Utilities > Terminal)
  2. CPANEL Admin access where you can access both
    • File Manager (you can also use FTP) and
    • SSL/TLS Manager

Generating the Certificates

In the Terminal app, type this command to create a new certificate (swap your own domain in both spots that say “yourdomain.com”)

sudo certbot certonly -a manual –rsa-key-size 4096 -d yourdomain.com -d www.yourdomain.com

You will probably need to enter your computer’s admin password to proceed, and then type “y” to allow your IP Address to be logged.

In your web browser, follow the steps for creating the two verification challenge files in .well-known/acme-challenge on your server. (For me, it’s significantly faster to use the File Manager tool within CPANEL instead of FTP. )

CPANEL’s file manager tool is helpful and often faster than FTP.
Certbot asks users to create two verification files on their server.

You will do this two times – adding separate files with the verification data to your server.

Once the files are verified your certificate will be created – Congratulations you’re ready to install an SSL certificate onto your server!

In the confirmation message, Certbot tells you exactly where your full chain and private key files are saved. You’ll use a new command (vi) to open these files.

Copy the fullchain.pem file path starting with “/etc/…” (Your file’s actual location may vary.) Type “sudo vi” and paste the file path, then press enter.

sudo vi  /etc/…/fullchain.pem

Copy everything from the starting “—–BEGIN CERTIFICATE—–” down to the last dash in the “—– END CERTIFICATE—-” line. Ignore anything that comes after the top certificate ending.

Example of an SSL certificate file in the visual editor window.

Now, head back to your browser window and open the CPANEL SSL manager. You’ll find it further down in the security section.

Then click “Manage SSL sites”.

In the far right column of the row for the certificate’s domain, click “update certificate”, then scroll all the way down to the section called, “Install an SSL Website.”

Paste this entire fullchain.pem contents that you copied earlier into the space for Certificate: (CRT).

Switch back to your Terminal window and type the command “q:” to close the previous fullchain.pem file.

Next, copy the second file location – the one for your private key. It also starts with “/etc/…”, but ends in “…privkey.pem”.

Type “sudo vi” and paste that second file’s path, then press enter.

sudo vi  /etc/…/privkey.pem

Again, copy everything from the starting “—–BEGIN PRIVATE KEY—–” down to the last dash in the “—-END PRIVATE KEY—-” line.

Switch back to your SSL Manager in the browser window and paste this super long string of odd text and numbers into the Private Key (KEY) box.

Click the blue button to “Install Certificate”.

If everything has been entered correctly you’ll see a pop-up window confirming the new SSL certificate has been installed and is now active and accessible via https on yourdomain.com.

Certbot will send a renewal reminder via email 30 days before the SSL certificate expires. Follow these instructions step by step again to generate and install a new certificate before the old one runs out and you’ll have no issues with the pesky browser warnings.

How to Manually Generate and Install Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificates with Certbot (Part 1)

What is an SSL Certificate?

In the simplest terms, SSL certificates allow the secure transfer of data between a browser and a server. The SSL certificate itself is installed at the server level. When a site is secure, it will load in your browser over https (<– the “s” is for “secure”) and you’ll see a padlock icon in the URL bar like this:

Do I need an SSL Certificate?

SSL certificates are essential for websites that handle sensitive user info like email addresses or credit card numbers. But even if your site isn’t collecting “sensitive” information, it’s still a good idea to use SSL for visitor confidence. Some web browsers will display a warning to visitors if the page is loaded over https, but an SSL certificate is misconfigured or not installed. The warning I see most often looks like this:

How do I get an SSL Certificate for my website?

I’m glad you asked! Some hosting providers offer support for Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificates with their website hosting plans. They’ll typically use an automated version of Certbot (Let’s Encrypt) to handle the certificate creation and renewals on their servers. If your host does not have this option, then you can still add Let’s Encrypt certificates to your server manually using tools like Certbot or ZeroSSL.

In this tutorial, I will be using Certbot on macOS to get Let’s Encrypt SSL certificates.

Let’s Encrypt certificates are provided free by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and they expire after 90 days. The manual process I’m outlining here works great for securing a handful of domains, but if you have lots of websites to manage, then it can be a burden to have to repeat this process every 90 days.

Another option for low-cost SSL certificates that renew yearly is SSLMate. These start at $15.95 and you’ll only have to update once per year instead of every 3 months.

Getting Started

Before we begin, you’ll want to make sure that you have access to:

  1. Terminal (on Mac go to Applications > Utilities > Terminal)
  2. CPANEL Admin access where you can get to the
    • File Manager (you can also use FTP)
    • SSL/TLS Manager

Using Terminal & Command Line Basics

Terminal is a command line interface for Mac. For those of us old enough to remember the days of DOS or checking email through Telnet portals back in the late 90s, using Terminal may bring a feeling of nostalgia. Command Line may feel intimidating at first, but once you learn a few basic commands you’ll gain confidence. Here are some commands that are essential to know when starting out:

Command Line Basics

pwd = print working directory (directories are folders)
ls = listing (this command lists all of the contents in current directory)
ls -al = more detailed listing that includes hidden files
clear = clears the screen
cd = change directory
.. = move back up in the directory
../.. = move back up 2 directories
cd~ = move back to the home directory
man (insert any command i.e. – pwd) = get help
sudo = used to temporarily move into super user role
vi = enter visual editor for command line
:q = quit

If you’d like to learn more about this powerful tool, here’s a helpful article on command line usage from Lifehacker.com.

STEP 1: Install Certbot via Terminal

Open Terminal and install Homebrew by running this command:

sudo /usr/bin/ruby -e “$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/master/install)”

Command for installing Homebrew in Terminal. It will take about 5 minutes to run.

After Homebrew installs, use it to install Certbot by running this command:

brew install certbot

Installing Certbot using Homebrew.

Use command line navigation to enter the directory where you installed Certbot. On my computer, it can look a bit like this:

pwd (I do this first to see what directory I’m in to start)
ls (I sometimes list the directory contents right away to see what’s inside. You’re looking for the certbot folder. If it’s not there, you’ll want to do some more navigating around until you find it…)
cd certbot

Once you’re in the Certbot directory, you’re ready to jump to Part 2 and start generating certificates.

Working Smarter Not Harder With Dubsado

Where would I be without all of the smart folks who have gone before me? Where would I be without the brave ones who’ve made their mistakes both publicly and privately, and who have lived to tell the tale? I’d be lost in a sea of subscription apps trying to manage my business the hard way.

So, where am I going with this?

I’ll back up and start by sharing that I build websites and design stuff for a living and have been doing it for over 20 years. I don’t often share about my business directly when I’m talking to new people (I’d much rather listen to what others have to say and learn from them). But sometimes, it’s good to be more open and share too. So here it goes:

As a “creative” person, I didn’t think much about business systems when I first started my design and web company. Client on-boarding, workflows, automation – these terms were foreign to me. Over the years I read a lot, listened to an insane amount of podcasts and used trial and error to build what pretty much required about 4+ paid subscription apps to manage. Here’s what my process looked like:

  • New client reaches out to me through email or phone (always unscheduled)
  • We’d chat for a few, I’d take some notes and promise to send a proposal/estimate soon.
  • I would stop everything else I was working on to spend the next few days writing the proposal and laying it out via my InDesign template to make it look pretty.
  • After drafting the perfect proposal, I’d convert this proposal to a PDF and upload to Adobe eSign. Sometimes clients still preferred to fax the contract or print, sign, and snail mail it back to me.
  • Then I used Freshbooks to accept the deposit, manage payments, and track project time.
  • To make things even crazier, I was also in the process of building my very own client portal with a custom meshing together of a WordPress database and Dropbox.

My system worked, but it wasn’t the smartest way to do things. It drained valuable time and energy because every single step of my old system required me to stop the real work of creating and doing what I enjoyed doing. I spent more time managing my business subscription apps than actually growing my business.

That all changed when I found Dubsado!

I learned about Dubsado through another designer who’d used it for sending proposals. Since it was free without a time limit, I decided to test it out for an upcoming project proposal. I’m not going to lie – setting it up was almost like having a second job. But I love how the Dubsado team is always there to help, their tutorials and videos are easy to understand, and the users’ Facebook Group is very active and supportive.

I took a few months to convert all of my proposals, contracts, forms and questionnaires into the Dubsado platform, and after about 6 months of juggling multiple apps I fully downsized to two – Dubsado and Acuity Scheduling. (Dubsado recently released a scheduling feature, so once that’s in place for me I’ll be able to cancel my Acuity account too!)

Now I no longer cringe when an organization reaches out to me about a new project. I no longer have to stop EVERYTHING to build a proposal or send an estimate because I’ve already done the work up front in creating my master templates. And it makes it easier for my clients too because they can do everything in one neat client portal – accept contracts, make payments, view delivered files, review agreements, reference project documents and more. It’s truly a game changer for me as a solo entrepreneur.

If you’re curious about Dubsado and want to give it a try, here’s a sign up link that will get you 20% off your first month if you decide to upgrade to a paid account. (I’ll also earn a free month so it’s a win-win for both of us!)

You can either click the link to sign up, or sign up from their main site with my code ‘panoramicweb’ to get 20% off.

Once you’ve tried it out, please let me know how it changes how you manage your own business. Enjoy!

Clutter Decluttered (Part 2)

When it comes to staying on top of the latest TV shows, entertainment news and music – the 15-20-year- ago Tammy would have been able to blurt out random celebrity facts, song lyrics, liner credits. . .you name it – all without needing to Google it. But things changed for me over the years (new interests, 2 kids, LIFE) and now I’m usually the last one to hear about EVERYTHING! So when it came to this topic of tidying and neatness, I was proud to be the first of my friends and family to discover Marie Kondo and her books about organization.

When I heard last month that Netflix was releasing a new series “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo”, I was thrilled! It’s been fun sharing this excitement with friends who have been Kon-verted after hearing of my own tidying adventure of how we downsized from a 4,565 sq ft home in NC to our amazingly awesome (and compact) 975 sq ft NYC apartment.

I stumbled across the the KonMarie method of organizing when researching a better way to organize our stuff that survived the first purge of the relocation. After watching a few of her videos, I quickly learned the most efficient ways to fold and store clothes. Then, I picked up her book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” because I NEEDED to learn more.

As a lover of strategic planning, including developing and implementing systems, I was drawn to the fact that the KonMarie method was more than series of tips for organizing and cleaning. She gave me a plan to follow: Start with clothes, then move on to books, then papers, then Komono (miscellaneous stuff), and then tackle the sentimental items last. Simple enough. I also liked the idea of storing things by category, to me it made perfect sense.

Armed with a plan of action, I began my tidying adventure full of optimism. I survived parts 1-3 and wrote about that journey in my original post on decluttering. This post you’re reading now picks up my adventure with organizing Komono items.

Before we moved back to New York City, I worked for weeks to clean the attic and sort through all of the closets in the house. I was most proud of having whittled my growing Christmas décor collection that once took up an entire side of the attic down to 3 plastic storage bins. With storage constraints, I knew I couldn’t bring much to our new home. We’d gotten all of our belongings down to only what could fit in the 12 foot Penske moving truck. We decided that if it didn’t fit in the truck, then it didn’t need to go.

Our NYC apartment has a very large walk-in storage closet and by the end of the 2nd month in our new space it was filled to the brim. I couldn’t even take out a coat or stroller without first emptying out what was stuffed in the front, and then I’d jam it all back in wherever things would fit. It was a mess. I never thought that I’d have the capacity to get rid of even more stuff after getting rid of so much already, but the need to free up more space was evident.

BEFORE – The walk-in storage closet filled to capacity. Sigh!

One chilly Saturday afternoon when a good friend was in town staying with us (hooray for free babysitting!), my first order of business was to take everything out of the closet and to start attacking it KonMarie style. Going through each item one by one created an even bigger mess in the kitchen and living room, but at least there was a method to the madness. After many, many hours of opening up containers, sorting through items, and figuring out what sparked joy and what did not – I managed to discover a truckload full of items to donate or throw away.

Dropping off donations to Goodwill.

That night we took the donations to our local Goodwill. I tried to get rid of the larger stroller too, but it wouldn’t fit in the SUV with all of the other stuff so it survived the cut this time and stays parked in our building. It felt so good to come home to a closet that now looked like this:

AFTER – The walk-in closet has space to walk in!

Having attacked my clothes, books, papers and now the household Komono items, I feel so much lighter. This whole process is one I recommend to everyone, even the most organized.

Improving Your Website’s Page Load Speed

I’m old enough to remember having our very first dial-up connection to the internet with AOL. The idea of having an ongoing connection to the internet wasn’t even something we could fathom as teenagers. We had a greater level of patience with connectivity issues – including when someone in the house needed to make a phone call and they kicked you off line in the process. Everything was slow and the internet was all one big magical mystery.

Fast forward a few decades and now we not only have constant access to the internet, because of our mini pocket computers (aka cell phones) the world is literally at our finger tips.

We’ve become more savvy with navigating the internet, and less patient with slow loading websites. According to a recent Think With Google article on Mobile, Data and Measurement, “53% of mobile site visits leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load.” No one likes traffic.

Embed from Getty Images

Page Speed matters to Google and is factored into their rankings for mobile searches. So if optimizing for search engines is your thing, you can’t discount the importance of fast-loading web pages on your site.

Every second counts.

So how can you tell if your site is a slow poke online?
There are tools like Google’s Page Speed Test and GTMetrix that let analyze your own site’s performance. They also give recommendations of what you can do to improve your site’s page speed.

Before doing my own site’s optimization, I ran a quick analysis for this site using GTmetrix to show you what you don’t want your score to be. . .

Yep, that’s right! A big fat red “F”! The page took 5.2 seconds to load which is crazy. So now that we know the unfortunate truth, what can we do to speed things up?

The first two items under the recommendations column tell us that serving scaled images and optimizing images will give us a boost. So let’s do it!

Serve Scaled Images

It’s not uncommon to take a photo, upload it to the WordPress media gallery, and then use the WordPress built-in resize tool and CSS to make it fit the space.

The problem with this method of resizing after uploading is that the web page still loads the full-sized image along with its extra data. The resize action all happens in the twinkling of an eye, but when the same action happens 10x, 20x, 30+ times on a single page – that’s a lot of unnecessary data being transferred just to display a smaller version of the image!

One solution is to use an image editing tool like Photoshop (or even Canva) to resize the image to maximum 1920px wide before saving. If your image won’t be used in full screen, then you can size down the width even more.

The page speed report can be a useful starting point for images that need to be resized, saved again and re-uploaded at a smaller size. But, before you get started with resizing to serve scaled images, let’s also look at how we can also optimize images with compression.

Optimize Images

When I say “image optimization”, I’m essentially describing a process where you get your image file size down to the smallest it can be without sacrificing the quality. The smaller the file size, the faster the images will transfer from the host server to your browser window, and the faster the web page will load.

Saving optimized images through GTmetrix

The beautiful thing about the GTmetrix tool, is that in your report it will give you a link to view (and save) the optimized version of the image. You can manually save the new images and swap them out on your site and voila!

A savings of just a few kilobytes seems small, but when compounded over tens and hundreds of images throughout the site it begins to add up!

Saving optimized images with Photoshop

If you want to do this manually and have access to Photoshop, then I’d also recommend converting any PNGs to JPGs if you don’t need the transparent background to reduce your file size even more. In my own example, I was able to reduce the image size from 307KB down to 88KB by adjusting the file settings to JPG, Quality: 70%. TIP: Anything in the 60-80% quality range will be safe for most web images to compress them with little to no noticeable difference.

I was able to reduce the image size from 307KB down to 88KB by adjusting the file settings and image type.

At this point you may be wondering if this image optimization process will take 5 months or 5 years because you already have hundreds of images saved to your website. If that’s you, then wonder no more. I’ve saved the best for last 🙂

There is a web app called Imagify by WP Media that helps with image scaling and compressing all in one! There is also a WordPress plugin that will bulk optimize your site’s current images and auto-optimize images directly on your website as you upload them to the media gallery. The free version has some limitations, but it’s a good place to start if you have too many images to tackle the issue manually.

Once you get it all cleaned up, remembering to resize and compress images before uploading will be the key to keeping your website at top speed.

The page load time went from 5.2 seconds to 3.5 seconds,
and the page size went from 12.4MB down to 1.89MB. Whoo hoo! But we aren’t done yet. . .

After optimizing most of the images on my site, I was able to bring my score up to a C+! I’ve never been one to accept average, so next we’ll get into making some caching adjustments and a few other tricks to bring the final page load speed to an A+!

Until then, happy image optimizing!

Behind the Scenes: Editing the Family Christmas Photo

Behind the Scenes: Editing the Family Christmas Photo

Christmas cards make me smile. I LOVE receiving cards and postcards from friends and family, sharing them with my husband and kids, and displaying them around the room as a reminder of how blessed we are.  Over the years it has become one of my favorite moments of the season. 

And as much as I love receiving printed Christmas cards, I also enjoy creating our family’s card so that we can share updates and holiday wishes too.

This year’s card was special for me because our family recently moved back to New York City. I wanted to take a family photo that had an urban vibe to it.  Fortunately, the rooftop of our building has a fantastic view of downtown Manhattan + my mom came to visit us for Thanksgiving, so I had an ideal photo shoot location and a designated photographer to help out this year. Being able to avoid the need to find and hire a photographer at the last minute was a huge win!

On a cold and cloudy Sunday afternoon, I set up a tripod and adjusted the settings on my Fuji XT-1 camera so that my mom could just take the shot. It took a lot of trial and error to get the positioning and the settings correct.

Initially, I used the 18-55mm zoom lens, but this early photo was too wide.  Even though I shot in RAW with the image size setting, when I cropped the photo close enough to where you could see our faces, the picture was grainy and too small to be used in print. 

I switched to my 35mm F1.4 lens, repositioned my mom and the tripod, and we shot another round with the photo background framed a little better so that I would need to do less cropping. This time we took a ton of close(r) up pictures, but I still didn’t like how we were standing because of various heights and visual focal points.  It looked too busy and still wasn’t quite right.

After more trial and error out on the cold and windy rooftop, we finally figured out that it looked best to have the little guys standing in front on top of the outdoor stools to add little more height.  A few more frames later and we got a picture that I was excited to share!  

Final camera settings on my Fuji X-T1 with the XF35mm F1.4R lens: ISO 800, f 8.0 1/60 sec.  No flash.

The next task was figuring out which card we liked. I’ve used Shutterfly for years now, so out of habit I checked there first and came across this design which would fit nicely with our landscape photo. 

But when I dropped in the photo, it didn’t “feel” complete or ready to share.

So I decided to make some color adjustments and tweaks using Photoshop and Lightroom.  First, I used a fun photoshop action to add a snow effect because falling snow makes everything look better.

Then, in Lightroom, I used a Cinematic Lightroom Preset to give the photo an antique look that I thought would go well with the gold foil lettering on the card. 

After editing the photo, I uploaded the new version to Shutterfly and this was the final result. 

I couldn’t have been happier with the design and feel so excited to share the cards with our friends and family this Christmas season!

What to Expect When Your Business Succeeds

What to Expect When Your Business Succeeds

This morning I decided to treat myself to a Starbucks vanilla latte and a delicious ham, swiss & egg breakfast sandwich. (Yum, yum!)  Most days I eat on the go, but today I grabbed the stack of mail lying undisturbed on the kitchen counter.  An oddly shaped rectangular magazine (or so I thought) slid out and grabbed my attention. It looked like a catalog, but it didn’t have the words “catalog” written on it. A quick flip through the pages revealed that unlike typical catalogs, this one had realistic product drawings with lengthy, story-like product descriptions and looked like it came from a different era all together. This was my introduction to the J. Peterman Company and their Owner’s Manual catalog.

It’s in my nature to research, to dig in when something catches my attention and to learn more. A simple perusing of the catalog then led to an online search where I found an article in the Harvard Business Review written by John Peterman himself in 1999 after his catalog business failed and was sold to another business man.

Mr. Peterman had an idea that grew from one item that he loved – his cowboy duster.  I flipped through the catalog to see what this the coat was all about and must admit that I personally haven’t seen anything else like it. I’d never seen a catalog with drawings instead of real pictures.

In the article, he thoughtfully shared about the The J. Peterman Company’s ascent, issues they faced, mistakes they made, and the lessons he learned.

As a 38 year old African-American female (and a self-proclaimed entrepreneur), I didn’t expect his story to resonate so strongly, but it did. 

J. Peterman said,

“Managing managers wasn’t something I set out to do; it was a job requirement that was incorporated by default into my position because my original idea for a business was a good one.”

This quote brought to mind another book that I read last year, “The E-Myth” by Michael E. Gerber. In case you’re wondering. . . the “E” in E-myth stands for “Entrepreneurial.”

I remember feeling a growing sense of relief with every chapter as Gerber put into words what I was only beginning to see in my own experience as an entrepreneur.

The greatest takeaway from “The E-Myth” for me was this (in my own words):

Having talent and a strong desire to pursue a specific passion or activity often leads us to believe that we should start a business. We dream of days when work no longer feels like work, and we can do this thing we love to do 24/7. The irony is that as your business grows, with each success you’ll find there is less time to do what you love to do.

This takeaway is meant as an encouragement, a caution to avoid the idealistic myths surrounding the entrepreneurial life.

One of my mantras is that life is a series of choices. As entrepreneurs today, we have an advantage because so much information is readily available to us and we can easily look at the examples of others, ask for help when we need it, learn from our own failures and, when we’re ready, share our failures so that others can learn from them too. Although I’ve never met either of these men, I’m glad they decided to share their own stories of success and failure.

I highly recommend The E-Myth book to anyone who wants to start, or who has started their own business. It gives practical advice on how to avoid the traps many entrepreneurs face during the various life stages of their business. And just for fun, check out the online J. Peterman catalog and be amazed by the illustrations and unique product descriptions.

Overcoming Creative Paralysis

Overcoming Creative Paralysis

Recently, I was chatting with a long-time friend who always encourages me to write things down. Her logic is that I have a degree in journalism, so I should be writing. But honestly, it’s the degree that makes me hypersensitive about writing because it implies that I have mastered the subject when I know that is not the truth.

In my head, I know what great writing looks like. I have read it, analyzed it, and admired it. I used to write for fun, but after college I began constantly analyzing and reanalyzing my own work to the point that I don’t even write for fun anymore. Yikes!

I now like to think that ignorance is bliss when it comes to being creative. Knowing too much about anything in the creative realm can cause paralysis because with this newfound knowledge, it becomes easier to compare where you are, what you think you’re capable of, and what you’ve done with what you know and the work you admire from others. Comparison is the pathway that leads to the death of creativity. Ten times out of 10 comparison leads to a feeling of either pride or discouragement. For me, these two extremes wind and meander into a weird sort of creative paralysis. 

The quote on the side was a mini pep talk I gave to myself during an internal debate about my procrastinating with writing…

“Jump in! It’s less painful when you do it quickly. Like with swimming, the discomfort is drawn out indefinitely when you linger and slowly wade into the cold waters. Just do it afraid!” – me

So my big takeaway is TAKE A STEP. Or better yet, JUMP IN! If there’s something you enjoy doing don’t get sucked into the black hole of information gathering and comparing. Go for it!

Photo by Bookblock on Unsplash

Clutter Decluttered

Clutter Decluttered

I created this image to visually explain how I’m feeling while in the process of tidying.  The left side is my brain before decluttering. The right side is where I hope to be after tidying and organizing my belongings.

Having been city-dwellers in the past, we knew that our decision to come back to New York City would mean getting rid of nearly everything in our large, Southern home. We gladly accepted the challenge. This summer we sold or donated about 75% of our belongings. I wouldn’t say I’ve become a minimalist (although I enjoy listening to The Minimalist Podcast), but discarding these material things sparked something in me!

In a quest to organize our new, miniature space more efficiently, I discovered this book by Marie Kondo that challenged me to go even further with decluttering. By keeping only items that “Spark Joy”, I went from discarding based on what I felt I didn’t need, to discarding based on what I wanted to keep.

The top 2 takeaways for me were:

1) to give attention to each item one by one and

2) to only keep items that make me happy.

This slight change in thinking made a huge difference in my recurring choice on what to keep and what to throw or give away.

So I’m following the KonMarie method with a few modifications since I find it odd to say, “thank you” to every inanimate object that I decide to discard. 🙂

I’m getting started with the first three categories: clothing, books and papers; so far, I feel lighter and more focused.  As an avid CD collector, I never  thought that I would be able to part with the CD collection that I began accumulating in middle school starting with Usher’s debut album “Usher” and Hi-Five. Or the massive book collection that included every single book I’d ever purchased or that was given to me since high school (even old college textbooks.) 

Overall, I’ve been cultivating a deeper sense of gratitude and appreciation for the things I own. 

Digital clutter is another story, but one day I hope to begin unraveling that too. 

 

BEFORE

Discarded bags of clothing after Day 1 of tidying

Lots of very old papers to throw out after Day 2 of tidying

Mountain of books to sort through.

AND AFTER

Update:  I’ve published a follow-up post that shares Part 4, organizing Komono items. You can read about it here.

Hello! I’m Tammy and I am so happy you’ve stopped by my little corner of the internet.  I’m a graphic designer, website developer and so much more: mom, wife, entrepreneur, and worship leader. This online space is where I share designs I’m creating and give you a glimpse into my many interests. I’ll also occasionally post little things that simply make me smile. I hope you’ll feel inspired as you browse around. Enjoy!