I DISAPPEARED. HERE'S WHY.

It has been about 9 months since I last wrote a blog post. I kinda fell off the map. I pushed me coaching business aside and here is why.

In April of 2018 I accepted a freelance Art Director gig which involved a heavy commute and long hours. From the get go, I knew it would be insane. I was warned by people who knew the inside scoop. I also had that gut feeling that yup, this is gonna be a gong show.

BUT I also had this feeling that I HAD to take it. Not only did it pay well and didn’t require a contractual commitment, but I knew it was something that would serve me in ways I didn’t understand yet. It was for a media company I always wanted to be a part of, and it was almost a bucket-list kinda thing to check off.

So I accepted the ongoing gig and braced myself for intense corporate pressures and red-tape shenanigans.

What transpired was a 3.5 month tsunami of stress that left me beaten, battered, and completely LIBERATED.

First, the beaten and battered part.

Within those few months every part of my life went on a steep decline: health, self-esteem, relationships, and mindset. I had absolutely no work/life balance and was cranky AF every night. I would begin to demonize around Wednesday, and by Friday, whoa, look out, because I was on a war path.

My health went downhill the fastest. I developed crazy blood-sugar issues and found myself literally seeing stars some days. I was so tired I felt nauseous and I was eating junk food without a second thought. The vending machine outside the Photographer’s studio started calling my name - daily. An Oh-Henry bar? Don’t mind if I do. Ugg. Combine too much sugar with extreme stress and it is no wonder my body started to revolt. I also wasn’t sleeping most nights and my anxiety was bubbling up to an unmanageable level.

And my finances took a hit - though I was being paid well, um, I actually wasn’t paid for over 2 months (freelancing isn’t for the faint of heart). And because I let my personal business slide (I didn’t have an ounce of energy left for it) I found myself super stressed about cash flow. And then I was SUPER angry because I know better than to rely on one source of income! Gotta have MSI (multiple sources of income), people! So then I felt even more angry, frustrated and like a total failure.

On the upside, although I was experiencing all of this stress, the actual work was creative, really challenging and some days, I dare say, were super fun. I worked on photo shoots all day long and saw behind the curtain of the whacky world of television. And I met some amaaaaazing people and learned new skills that I will literally use for the rest of my life. Indeed, many wins were gained.

But the job had ridiculous hours and demands, the place was grossly understaffed, and most importantly, I didn’t feel valued by many people at the company. And since I have spent years working on personal development and feeling strong, I was like, no, not staying in this situation. I value my SELF too much. Time. To. Leave.

That leads me to the LIBERATED part.

The part of this story that has me literally thrilled to the bone is that within a couple of weeks of taking on this gig, I was planning my exit. If I had been in this job 10 years ago, I know I would NOT have tried to leave so soon.

I would have felt an obligation to stick it out, prove I can do this crazy job, and suffer daily to establish a sense of self worth.

I used to be completely addicted to anguish and I didn’t understand the difference between hard work and suffering. Now I absolutely do. And I will not continue to participate in anything that brings out my worst self and leaves me feeling like garbage. Not only is life to short for that crap, there are BILLIONS of other options out there for work that can serve you. It is your job to find the one that works best for you. Don’t sit and suffer, don’t just wait it out. MOVE ON, mavens!

Even though I was beyond exhausted, I worked to find a new contract. It took a few months, but eventually I landed on my feet like Nadia Comaneci at the 1976 Olympics. How did I do it? Aside from obvious networking activities, every day I diligently wrote out my intentions to leave, visualized something better coming my way, and focused on a life of balance and joy. It was such a cool experience I promise to write a blog post about it. I am now working a contract that leaves me creatively satisfied, provides financial empowerment, AND allows me to return to coaching and mentoring. From where I’m sitting, it feels like a perfect 10.

Soooo… I’m back. It has taken me a while to recover, but I am feeling better than ever! Hope to see you here again every other Wednesday.

To your brave success,
Alana

Know your VALUE

Some years I tend to be a HUGE reader, and some years I tend to only get through a handful of books. This year, I am on an official reading binge. I cannot seem to get enough words into me - via reading actual books and also by listening to audiobooks. And whoa, have I have stumbled across some good ones.

One of the best in my 2018 pile is Knowing Your Value by Mika Brzezinski. It was excellent. LOVED it. Not only does she share her own harrowing story of moving up the ranks in the television business, but she covers the stories of other business mavens such as Sheryl Sandberg and Susie Orman. This book does not serve up fluffy, happy-go-lucky, just ‘put-your-mind-to-it’ stories. No, this book goes into the nitty gritty of negotiation, career strategy and rising up to your potential even when everyone else is trying desperately to bring you down. It is meaty goodness served up with a side of brass tactics.

Important warning: the book does have a ridiculous Q&A with Trump - before he was prez - and knowing what we know now, it is even more offensive. But it does not take away from the awesomeness of this book. Just roll your eyes, ignore and move on.

I really knew nothing about Mika Brzezinski. I saw the title while scrolling through the online library listings and just grabbed it. I knew there would be something in it for me. I still have never seen her show Morning Joe, and likely I will never tune in, but if there is a woman out there who has risen to that level of success, I want to hear her story.

There have been so many times in my career - especially working as a graphic designer in the highly toxic and competitive world of branding - when I just did not see the value I was bringing to the table. I under-quoted and under-charged so many times, it still amazes me I was able to hit six figure years. But I did - by working more and more and more and… big breath… more. It was so bad on so many levels. I was tired, burnt out, cranky, and pissed off all the time. I was definitely driven by some subconscious belief that I was only worth so much, and whatever I was worth had to be earned by working hard 24/7.

But now I am older, wiser and I definitely have a better sense of my worth.

It feels good.

One thing I do now, before I put any quote together or list a new product or service, is I ask myself, “What would Laura* do? What would Laura charge?”

Laura is one of my bestest friends and she is a total SuperMaven.

Most of us know of at least one bad-ass, super successful person in our life who takes no bullshit. They know their value, they step up to the plate and they ask for what they want. They are not afraid to ruffle feathers. They don’t worry about what others think. You need to think of that person when you are negotiating a deal or contract.

Because that SuperMaven is someone you RESPECT. They may not be liked all the time by everyone, but you can be sure as heck they are respected. And that is what you want for yourself. Respect leads to value - which leads to being paid what you are worth.

And if you don't have someone in your life that is a SuperMaven, think of Ellen or Oprah or someone else who inspires you and leads a life you think is effing fantastic. Think of them, and push aside that little voice inside of you that says “Maybe I am asking for too much”. Tell that voice to SHUT UP.

Because then YOU will become the SuperMaven. Then YOU will be the one to inspire someone else to level up, power up and embrace the glory.

And the world needs more SuperMavens.

To your brave success,

Alana

*Not her real name. Protecting the somewhat innocent lol.

Nothing is Expensive

Full disclaimer - I am not a financial guru.

But I do consider myself a mindset maven.

I believe your thoughts become your feelings, which create your reality.

I believe what you you think about all the time shows up in your life. Especially when you add an emotional charge to it.

I believe if you spend time thinking about what you DON’T want, that crap will manifest into your life faster than you can say, “Get that crap away from me.”

And so, for that reason, I believe it is imperative that one word be completely banned from your life:

Expensive.

If you are someone who complains all the time that things are expensive, then chances are you are frustrated with your financial situation.

Because every single time you say something is ‘expensive’, what you are actually saying is, “I can’t afford that”.

And every time you say, “I can’t afford that”, you are repelling abundance and all things good from coming into your life.

You are telling the universe that yup, I am poor and can’t have that. Even if that isn’t at all true on paper.

You will never be a SuperMaven if you see things as expensive vs cheap.

Never, ever, ever say something is expensive.

Because it isn’t.

Every item has a monetary amount attached to it, and it is not expensive or cheap or fair. It just is.

Whether you choose to spend money on it is another matter. It depends if the product or service has enough value in it for you to fork over the cash.

See how you can shift the mindset around it?

When I see a $250 bottle of wine, I don’t ever say, “Whoa, that is expensive!". I just choose not to buy it. Because it doesn’t hold enough value for me to spend that quantity of money on it. It doesn't bring me a lot of joy. I am very happy with my $15 bottles of pinot prigio (the one with the dachshund on the label).

But someone else - like a sommelier - might find a ton of happiness in that $250 bottle. They might feel totally fulfilled and excited with the purchase because it is of true value to them. If they hand over the cash with joy, then it is a win win situation.

Saying something is expensive is, for many, a hard habit to break. I believe this is because many of us have a deep-seeded need to remain poor (poor people are more altruistic and who doesn’t want to be like Mother Teresa?! MT was totally rich btw), and it helps us bond with the masses.

Here is a simple trick to combat that negative reflex reaction of claiming something is expensive.

Instead of responding with “That is too expensive!” every time you pick up something with a fat sticker price, just say:

“Wow, isn’t that interesting”.

Approach it with curiosity.

Curiosity has a more positive charge, and it doesn’t suggest you can’t have it, or deserve it.

Saying, “Isn’t that interesting” also removes all judgement from the situation. And money loves to gravitate towards a judgement free zone, mavens!

This will create a HUGE shift in your money mindset.

I literally shudder every time someone says something is expensive. It simply isn’t true.

Try banning expensive from your vocabulary for a month and see how much better you feel. Don’t be surprised if more cash finds its way to you, too.

To your brave success,

Alana

You know more than you think you know

A few weeks ago I wrote the story of The Chicken Sticker where I shared a funny story about getting over the fear of charging potentially 'too much' for your services. I hope it inspires you to let that self-sabotaging story go because, as the story explains, someone, somewhere paid thousands of dollars for me to design a stupid sticker for $1 off a pack of chicken.

Another important self-sabotaging story to let go of is, "I don't know enough".

I feel very confident declaring that yes, 98% of the time you do know enough. You know more than you think you know. Think back - were you ever in a situation you thought was waaaaaay above your abilities and you wrangled through and pulled it off like a champ? I am hearing a 'hells ya!'

For me, I always remember the time I almost worked for one of the big Canadian banks. About 8 years ago, the Royal Bank of Canada used to have a niche financial leg of their business with its own sub-brand, RBC Dexia, and a recruiter put me forward for a Senior Graphic Designer role. While I wasn't jazzed about working somewhere so corporate, the job paid 90k/year and had all the fun trappings of a bank job - great benefits, decent hours, a Starbucks right in the building. And as my husband was still pursuing a music career and only working part-time, it made sense to go for some decent cash and not worry about hustling my own entrepreneurial career at the same time. 

So I get dressed up in my best bank-appropriate outfit (cream blouse, black wide-leg pants, sensible heels), tuck my portfolio under my arm and head to the tall glassy RBC building downtown for my first interview.

It was intense. This was a serious company and a serious role. The people who interviewed me, while very nice, were serious. One guy got especially excited to point out a spacing error on my resume. Oops. Shoot. Not the best kinda mistake to make when you are supposed to be a detail-oriented designer. Nonetheless, the interview went well. I got called for a second, so I went.

This time, I started to freak out a bit. The panel interviewing me - I think there were three people, all men - started to go on and on about complex illustration skills, conceptual talent, visual data management and I don't know what the eff else. It all started to sound just TOO MUCH, TOO HARD and beyond my level of expertise. I started to crumble. No way could I do this job and I feared maybe they knew it, too.

At one point, one of the interviewers  - let's call him Alex - asked me if I would like to see some printed samples of what they were talking about, so I could get an idea of the work they produced. I said yes, of course, and prepared myself to feel totally incompetent among these bad-ass banker gurus.

I was led to a back storage room where there were thousands of RBC Dexia brochures and annual reports etc... Alex picks one up and proceeds to talk about it with grand reverence and painstakingly analyzes its conceptual brilliance and the technical skills used to execute this masterpiece.

It was at this moment I literally tried not to laugh. I was so overcome with relief and laughter at the same time I knew if I tried to speak I would sound like I was choking. So I just kept nodding and murmuring "mmm, ok, uh-huh, mmmm!"

This is what was actually going through my mind: 

"Is this really happening? Are you effing KIDDING MEEEEE?? This is a boring, typical bank brochure (though admittedly, a nicer one than most) with an illustration of a PAPER AIRPLANE on it and he thinks this is cerebral, complex stuff? He/they made it sound so HARD and complicated... And THIS is what they were talking about the whole time? I am going to need some Bailey's in my Starbucks. Pronto."

After this initial mental rant, my brain changed gears and went here:

"OMGeee Alana you are such an idiot sometimes. Once again, you assume everything is so goddam hard and out of reach and you set yourself up for failure. You think everyone is better than you, smarter than you and then hello, here is proof that they are not. They are just normal corporate folk doing a normal corporate job that you can TOTALLY handle. Get your shit together and stop worrying so much."

Indeed, I had so built up the job in my head, and had so torn down my self-worth and expertise, I allowed myself to be totally overwhelmed with insecurity. I allowed myself to be intimidated and then I waivered in my worth. Not my proudest moment.

In the end, I didn't get the job. There was a weird moment in the interview process (made it to a third phone interview) where I knew in my gut it just wasn't going to happen. I think it went to a guy who already worked for RBC, but really, I almost didn't care. Ironically, even though I didn't get the job, I came away with bolstered self-esteem. I knew - I REALLY knew in my bones - I could do the job. And do it well. I was good enough, smart enough and knew enough to pull it off. For that reason alone, I was super grateful I went through the somewhat gruelling interview/recruitment process. I often think back to this experience when I am overcome with moments of doubt, and it does seem to magically snap me back to a positive headspace. A great example of how seemingly crappy past experiences teach us amazing lessons down the line.

And yes, while there are times we go beyond our comfort zone and end up completely out of our depth and we fail - I have a good blog post brewing about that topic! - most of the time, we are able to step up to the plate and Rock the Casbah.

I know more than I think I know.

YOU know more than you think you know.

WE know more than we think we know. 

Keep growing, keep learning, keep stretching yourself - but don't slow down out of a fear you need to know more before you can do more. You will only know more once you DO more, so just go out there and get it done.

To your brave success,
Alana

Keeping fonts fab

Lately I have been asked a ton of questions about fonts and how it they can support a brand, so here is a tidbit to help your brand shine. Of course, fonts alone do not make a brand, but great typography can absolutely help to create a brand that is engaging and inspiring. And 100% profesh.

And while it is sooooo fun to play with fonts and there are thousands of really amazing ones out there, but I’m putting you on strict typography diet. You need a maximum of two fonts to effectively design all of your branding elements (business card, postcards, website, etc.). Remember, with every font you also have bold and italic options for adding emphasis, so you are not as limited as you might think.

When choosing your two fonts, always select typefaces that are in visual contrast with one another. For example, mix a sans serif font (like Helvetica, Gills Sans, or Proxima) with a serif font (like Garamond, Baskerville, or Lora). Or use a sans serif font with a script font (ie: Monterey, Embassy, or Edwardian Script). This is a tried and true formula and will enable you to keep your designs engaging without being busy or overwhelming. The more contrast you have between your two fonts, the better your engagement and legibility.

In addition, choose clean, simple fonts. Legibility trumps aesthetics - always. Also, remember to think about people who may be visually impaired and make your type as easy to read as possible. Accessibility is a big issue these days, especially in web design, and as many people as possible should be able to read your content.

And one last note: do NOT decide to throw in a random font unless it is for a one-off specific program or product that is short lived and needs its own mini identity. Keep it simple when it comes to design and surprise! The rest of your life feels a little simpler, too.

To your brave success,

Alana