cat gif :: big cat small box

How To Think Outside the Box

If you want to know how to think outside the box, you must first know how to think inside it, literally. I wish the steps for how to think outside the box were simply ::

  1. Obtain a box.
  2. Get inside the box.
  3. Think.
  4. Get outside the box.
  5. Think.

Sadly, the term is not a literal term, as you know. But I have a few techniques that have worked for me when I was, well, inside the box, so to speak.

When You’re a Big Cat in a Small Box… Think Outside It

I grew up in a small town and often felt like a big cat in a small box, weighted by a lingering feeling that there must be something more beyond these cardboard walls. I was right. In my “grown up” life, this feeling still creeps up, sometimes in the form of writer’s block, or lack of confidence, or boredom. Here are a few ways I’ve gotten out of the jam so that I could think outside the box again.

Think Outside the Box 01 :: Listen to New Music

If you’re in a jam, you might want to try switching them up… jamz, I mean. Listening to new music can get you into a new groove (pun intended!). I like to turn up something that makes me feel fierce, which lately has been “Bossy” by Kelis. But your mix up could simply be trying out a band you’ve never heard or a genre you rarely explore. I mean, who knows, maybe Mozart has what it takes to get your brain juices dancing. They do say classical music helps you learn.

Think Outside the Box 02 :: Look at Cat Gifs

Seriously, I got the idea for this “think outside the box” blog post from the cat gif you see above! Not only will taking a break from your routine jog you out of a rut, but you may be inspired by what you see. Don’t limit yourself to cat gifs either. Google is your oyster.

Think Outside the Box 03 :: Dance

I’m a performing dancer in another life of mine and sometimes I apply my learnings to my work life. This means when I take a break, I often look in the mirror and shake my stuff, let loose. It makes everything better. You don’t have to be a professional, or even good, to dance, you just have to do it. Start by putting on a fierce tune (see Think Outside the Box 01), then bob your head, tap your toes, get your body into it. Jam out.

Think Outside the Box 04 :: Stop “I Can’t-ing” Yourself

I know what some of you are saying. But, Stephanie, I can’t dance, I don’t know any good music, what’s a gif?. Stop! Yes, you may have questions, you may have fears, you may fail, but there is one thing for sure, you can… at least try. Give it a shot, quiet your inner critic and start small. If Napoleon Dynamite can do it, so can you.

Think Outside the Box 05 :: Read Your Journal

When I feel starved for blog topics, I often read through old journal entries to see if anything sparks an idea. As a writer, I have a lifetime’s worth of material I can reference, but if you don’t keep a journal, old photographs could do the trick, or even old calendars that chronicle your schedule. You could even call your mom or an old friend and reminisce.

Think Outside the Box 06 :: Take a Class

Learning a new skill could be just the ticket you need to think outside the box. I always loved school—nerd alert—I was good at it. But you don’t have to be good a school to take a class. Nowadays you can’t learn in many different forms, even without leaving your home. What’s something you’ve always wanted to try but were too afraid? Get someone to teach you how!

Think Outside the Box 07 :: Get Outside Your Box, Figuratively

Don’t limit your world to four corners and a lid. Get outside your box by trying new things. Travel, go to events, take stay-cations, eat new food. Anything outside of your routine will help you to think outside the box. When you gift yourself a new experience, you add to your repertoire of reference. It’s worth it.

What do you do to think outside the box? Leave a comment and let me know!

What a Terrible Teapot Teaches Us about Success

What a Terrible Teapot Teaches Us about Success

There’s a teapot that causes grief everywhere I go. Do you know the one I’m talking about? It’s the one you get at cafés and diners that does anything but what a teapot is meant to do. As soon as you tip the spout to fill your cup, water pours down the edge, burning your palm, pooling hot water all over your table. It’s ridiculous. It’s a f*cking teapot and it can’t pour properly. What’s the deal?

What a Terrible Teapot Teaches Us about Success

What a Terrible Teapot Teaches Us about Success

Success Does Not Equal Greatness

It’s not like I encountered this teapot once at some dive, I see it everywhere. Even in establishments that pride themselves on gourmet quality food/coffee/tea/etc. So, clearly this little terrible teapot is doing well for itself.

This got me thinking.

Success isn’t an indicator of greatness. “Success” can mean selling millions of cheap teapots that don’t even do the one task they are supposed to do. How is this happening—she says yanking her hair. How is it that restauranteurs are satisfied supplying their customers with malfunctioning utensils? It’s ludicrous.

It’s also frustrating. There’s this quote floating around the internet that says “good things come to those who work hard.” Yes, working hard is essential, but it doesn’t mean there are no shortcuts. Clearly these teapots are taking a mind boggling shortcut and are still being rewarded. But they’re always going to be that terrible teapot. Who wants to be known as the terrible teapot?

There’s that One Thing that Gives You Away

I’m not the only one who can’t stand this terrible teapot. People who like their tea, like it in their cup not on their plate! So, if you’re a business owner and you think you’re hiding this terrible teapot, you’re wrong.

When you hand me a terrible teapot with my meal, it gives you away. It tells me that, even if it’s just this one thing, you’re cutting corners. It makes me feel cheated because your food is so good, your atmosphere is so inviting, but YOUR TEAPOTS DON’T WORK!

I know you’ve invested a lot in your business, and you pride yourself on good food, and it’s true, it’s sooooo good, but the utensils we use to enjoy it are just as important to our satisfaction—and brand trust.

Of course, the terrible teapot syndrome can be applied to any business. What’s the terrible teapot in your industry?

Hawaii - How to Achieve Goals

Three Tricks for How to Achieve Goals

Last month, I made set some summer health goals. So far, I’ve only been successful with one of those goals, and it’s the one I thought would be the hardest. Start a workout regimen. I’m slowly keeping up with the other four goals, so I thought I’d write this week about a few tricks on how to achieve goals.

Three Tricks for How to Achieve Goals

Hawaii - How to Achieve Goals

Photo by Mi..chael via Flickr cc

How to Achieve Goals 01 :: Acknowledge your Motivation

In business we’re taught to “know our why.” The same is applicable to how to achieve goals. When we know why we are setting out to achieve something, it will be easier and more motivating to push through challenges to achieve goals. For me, my motivation is a trip I’m planning with my family to Hawaii. I both want to save money and tighten up my body. So, when I’m feeling weak or unmotivated, I just picture myself in the hot Hawaiian air—this is made easy by printing off images of Hawaii and posting them in my wallet, on my wall, and at my desk. Most of the time it helps.

How to Achieve Goals 02 :: Take Baby Steps

It’s overwhelming to make many changes all at once, so it’s important to take baby steps to learn how to achieve goals. Make a list of tasks that will get you closer to your end result and make changes week by week or month by month. For instance, your goal may be to eat healthier, so instead of totally overhauling your diet, try adding more water the first week, adding more veggies the next, and reducing sugar intake the next. This approach will make your goals more manageable.

How to Achieve Goals 03 :: Alter Your Approach

When we think about how to achieve goals, we are often approach them ineffectively. There are many ways to approach achieving goals and sometimes all it takes is pursuit of it from a different angle. When I said last month that I wanted to do sit ups every night, it didn’t work. Maybe it did when I was 15 and all I had to do after school was homework in front of the TV and gossip on the telephone, but in my twenties, not so much. I’ve decided to alter my approach and instead of doing sit ups every night, I’m going to take pilates classes once or twice a week. We’ll see if that makes a difference.

What do you think? Are these tricks helpful? How can you apply them to your goals? Let me know in the comments below.

How to Stay Motivated

Get that Funk Out :: How to Stay Motivated

Being an entrepreneur is harder than it looks. While some may think your job consists merely of leisure coffee shop excursions + long hours perusing blogs all day, you’ll know the truth, that entrepreneurship is more blood, sweat, and tears than the gruelling workout you sneak in now + then. Your business woes will keep you up later + more often than your horrific dating life and may even replace it altogether. All that and it pays just a fraction of the cushy job you left, gave up, or couldn’t get. You work twice as hard for half as much or less. At least in the beginning.

So why do you keep going? Or rather, how do you keep going when all you want to do is quit? How do you get that funk out + stay motivated?

How to Stay Motivated

How to Stay Motivated

In my first year of business I found a few ways to get that funk out and I learned how to stay motivated during those down times. Here they are.

How to Stay Motivated :: Tip 01

Turn the tunes on.

It’s funny how such a small thing can turn up the gears so quickly. When I find it hard to get going in the morning, or the late afternoon, I crank my special tunes + hum along while I get to work. Lately, I’ve been loving Lykke Li’s new album or Beyonce or Lana Del Rey and always Rihanna. What’s your motivate-me-music?

How to Stay Motivated :: Tip 02

Get silly.

I love this one because it seems to happen without actually trying. When I’ve been hustlin’ hard I tend to slip into this silly mode where everything is funny, to me at least. But it works. It gets me motivated to keep going because I’m having so much fun. But here’s the thing, you have to take that time, shut the technology off for a few minutes or hours + let loose. Call a friend because this how to stay motivated tip is best when accompanied by another silly soul.

How to Stay Motivated :: Tip 03

Make a plan.

Sometimes the biggest thing standing in your way is yourself. You’re overwhelmed, you have a to do list longer than your bucket list and you don’t know where to start. Here’s where you set aside a whole day just to plan. Layout your monthly, weekly, and yearly goals to keep you focused.

How to Stay Motivated :: Tip 04

Set a routine.

Setting a daily routine will get you in the habit of staying motivated. It starts with your morning. If every day you wake up with the top few habits that keep you motivated, then the rest of your day will surely follow. I like my mornings to consist of dance tunes, a tasty smoothie, emails, earl grey tea, and lots of water. Sometimes I’ll throw in a bit of stretching or a dance break mid morning to shake things up a bit. What’s your morning routine?

How to Stay Motivated :: Tip 05

Get out.

Get out of the house. Get out of town. Get out of your head. Just plain get out. It’s time for a break, girl. All you could need is a little refresher to refuel your creative juices. I used to work so much that I wouldn’t even take a weekend off. But now that I’m reserving some important fun time, I’m able to hustle even harder than before. Plus, the reward is sweeter because I’m rested enough to enjoy it.

So there you have it. My top 5 how to stay motivated tips to get that funk out of you. I hope I’ve inspired you to keep pushing through the rough patches because you know what they say, “no risk, no reward…” or something like that. What’s that quote again?!

Now it’s your turn. What are your how to stay motivated tips? Wanna share your playlist? Leave a comment + let me know.

How to Photograph Head Shots for Social Media

Today’s post comes from Jessica Hammond of Jessica Hammond Photography. She’s going to teach you how to taking a beautiful head shot for your social media profile! Read on to find out what it takes to look good in your social media photographs.

How to Photograph Head Shots for Social Media

Photography is a unique art form. On the surface, it captures reality in a way that paintings and illustration never has. There is this notion that photography is a reflection of life as it is, and that there is little skill or perspective involved.

And yet as anyone who has tried to take their own head shot (see: “selfie”) can attest, there is much more to it than that! The importance of a powerful head shot for social media and blogging purposes is increasing by the minute in a world where marketing is deeply rooted in online presence. For those of you hoping to jump into your business, or are just getting your start, the cohesion between your social media accounts is incredibly important.

I recently contributed to Ashley and Stephanie’s amazing 100+ page business vision eBook, Jump Into Your Business. I was honoured to write the portion about the importance of a powerful head shot that aligns with your brand and personal identity. One of the topics we discussed in Jump ( which you can purchase here ) is how to pull off a great head shot. Whether you hire a professional, grab a friend, or set up a tripod, how on earth do people look natural in front of a camera?

Step One :: Awareness.

I know it’s called a head shot, but keep in mind that tension anywhere in your body is bad for business. Before you begin posing, start with a warm up. Posing is a physically-demanding activity, so prepare your body for the task at hand! Wiggle your toes, roll your ankles, and bend your knees. (If meditating is something you enjoy, or want to get into, now’s a great time to practice!) Sit down and swing your legs, or do a couple of squats to loosen up your legs. Feel free to jump on the spot (footwear permitting) and raise your arms above your head. Inhale deeply, and hold, before exhaling again. Shake your head no, and just to be contrary, nod it yes. Suddenly you’re in tune with the subject of this amazing photo shoot, and you’ve released any negative tension or worries you may have had building up in the moments before the lens cap comes off.

Step Two :: Posing.

There are many different fundamentals to posing, and often these are taught to photographers. Even famous models like Coco Rocha have stated they prefer a photographer directing them, rather than being told to “look sexy” or “just have fun with it!” Direction is part of a photographer’s job. If you’re taking a head shot for your Twitter account, you might have just grabbed a tripod and headed out. Or maybe you’re handing your own camera to a friend. Either way, here’s a couple of posing hacks:

Instead of approaching the camera head-on, tilt your body slightly. You can align your chin to just beside your shoulder for a slender look. Turning your body to the side also provides more layers in the photos.
If looking directly into the camera is intimidating (don’t laugh!) there’s no law saying you can’t lock your eyes on something out of frame. Often in the media women are encouraged to look directly at the camera, to invite the viewer into the shot. But look at any men in magazines, and you’ll see they’re more often gazing pensively towards the sky, the ground, or something unseen by the viewer. There’s no wrong approach: try both styles and see which feels and looks more natural!

Step Three :: Editing.

While all of our Instagram and Twitter profile images are quite small, you’ll want to edit in a larger format. You may want to use these photos for a blog post, so try not to resize them any smaller than they would appear on your blog. It is a popular choice for many photographers to take portraits and street photography in black and white (or at the very least edit them into black and white after the fact). Experiment with this approach, as it can be a daunting process for those not well-versed in Photoshop or Lightroom to get a “natural” skin tone in their photos. Sometimes you luck out and the lighting at the time of the photo made for a flattering skin tone. Other times, black and white can be a huge photo saver.

Head shots can help demystify your business that never intended to be mysterious. They can provide you with an essential image of yourself and your brand to clients, followers, leads, and fans. Once you have a great head shot, you can use it over and over and over again, it and will never lose its value. Though I do recommend updating your head shot as often as your haircut!

If you haven’t read it already, I highly recommend checking out the Jump Into Your Business eBook. Along with the 100+ page eBook (filled with strategy, pro tips, and daily/weekly/monthly worksheets) there are coaching opportunities provided by Stephanie + her co-writer, Ashley!

Jessica is a photographer and blogger living in rural Ontario, Canada. She is an advocate for online education and curious minds. You can see her work, follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.