On May 23rd, YWiB Vancouver brought together a diverse and dynamic group of entrepreneurs for an invigorating conversation on a hot topic for entrepreneurs and freelancers—side hustles. The panel included fashion, lifestyle and entertainment blogger and vlogger Samantha Sito, food, nutrition, and health entraordinare Ana Arreola of Lola’s Churro Bar, digital tech and new media innovator Hamilton Ofiyai of Hypekraft and House of Gul, designer, developer, and real estate investor John Chan of Dayboard and 2x, and designer and ethical clothing advocate Kelsey Adair of Bare Knitwear. The side hustlers shared their stories and insights on launching their ideas, dealing with the highs and lows of running a self-started business, creating their own career opportunities, and more.Read More
I bought my first pair of TOMS last year. I chose the black canvas, and wound up traipsing around Western Europe in them. With each step I took through the back alleys of Venice and cobblestoned streets of Berlin, I silently thanked TOMS founder (and Chief Shoe-Giver) Blake Mycoskie for engineering such a soft shoe that was easy to pack and – bonus! – a do-good piece of footwear I was proud to own. So when his book, aptly titled Start Something That Matters, appeared on my desk at work from my boss, no less, I was excited to dive in. The appeal of TOMS, I realized as I flew through Mycoskie’s 185-page tale of finding passion, profit and meaning, is in its simplicity, both in the company’s product and its underlying philosophy of One for One. When you buy a pair of TOMS, Mycoskie donates another pair to a child in need – One for One. In fact, when you buy a copy of Start Something That Matters, a new book is provided to a child in need as well. TOMS is one of the fastest-growing shoe companies the world has ever seen, and for good reason – there really is a certain kind of beauty in its sheer ease of both style and philanthropy. I think that in times like these, the simpler the concept, the better. That goes for shoes and giving.
There isn’t anything earth-shattering in Mycoskie’s book – let’s know this. But again, sometimes things aren’t meant to be earth-shattering in order to have an impact. TOMS shoes themselves aren’t all that fancy. They’re made of cloth, more or less. And yet, TOMS has sold over one million pairs of shoes and given that same number to underprivileged children in more than 30 countries.
In Start Something That Matters, Mycoskie offers his readers six core lessons he learned while building his shoe empire from such innovative organizations as charity: water, FEED Projects, and (local shout-out!) the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation CIBC Run for the Cure. He writes in a fairly engaging voice, and I finished the book in a few days. If you have, say, Malcolm Gladwell or Seth Godin on your bookshelf already, I doubt you’ll find anything super-mad-crazy-inspired or pivotal in Start Something. But if you’re looking to flex your entrepreneurial muscle for the first time, or you just want to know how your red TOMS got to be on your feet, go on and pick this up for a quick and generally satisfying read. Mycoskie, ever the minimalist, lives on a boat. If there is anything to be taken away from his story, it’s that simplicity, simply put, works. If the shoe fits, wear it!
I used to hate planning. It felt unnatural and forced. Life felt like less of a grand adventure. I enjoyed the thrill of spontaneity, improvisation, and watching things naturally fall into place.
For a while, this approach worked. I did things that interested me and opportunities fell into my lap. I felt in touch with the flow of life.
But then a point came when life stopped moving as smoothly. I found myself spread too thin, spending my time and energy on things that didn’t matter. I knew the work and purpose I was meant to birth into this world. But I wasn’t focusing on it. This felt devastating.
Going with the flow had led me to say “yes” to everything except my own interests and needs. A few months ago, I decided to focus all of my energy on changing this. I began refining the foundation of who I am and what I bring into the world.
If you’re in a transition, ready for change, or just want to tap into your highest creative potential, here’s the process that brought me to feeling like the very best version of myself:
1. Evaluate priorities.
One evening, I made myself a cup of herbal tea, put away my computer, and pulled out my moleskine. I asked myself three very important questions:
1) What is most important to you?
2) What makes you happy?
3) What would you do for free?
My immediate visceral responses were writing, helping others make positive personal changes, and inspiring people to do the things that inspire them. Aha! This is what I was meant to be working on.
What’s most important to you? What makes you happy? What would you do for free?
2. Let go of the things that don’t serve you.
Our best self feels energized, alive, and like contribution and progress are being made. With this in mind, I took a close look at my life and all of the things that I was doing. For each activity, I asked myself, does X… energize me? Help me move my priorities forward? Provide opportunities for learning and growth? Play a positive role in my life?
These questions shed light on what I needed to change. I ended side projects that weren’t aligned with my purpose, left New York, cut out alcohol, and let go of acquaintances who sucked my energy.
I moved to Boulder, drank more water and herbal tea, started working with a personal trainer, and surrounded myself with a tight-knit group of people who challenge me, share values, and make me feel like the best me.
What (or who) is no longer serving you? How can you let go?
3. Commit to three priorities.
Jim Colins says that if you have more than three priorities than you don’t have any at all. Taking his advice, I picked three areas of focus: 1) Hey Amber Rae (writing), 2) Passion Experiment (helping people make positive personal changes), 3) revolution.is (stories that inspire meaningful action).
The thought of working on only these things deeply excited me. That’s when I knew I was on the right path.
What are your three priorities?
4. Create a schedule structure that works best for you.
Inspired by Paul Graham’s “Makers schedule,” I structured my life so that I could be as creative and productive as possible. Being creative is about giving my brain the space to make more connections. When I have appointments all day, I lose that space.
I use Tuesday and Thursday for clients and appointments. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are “Amber Days.” This means zero appointments and my entire day is open for what I want to work on and do.
How can you restucture your schedule to give you space for creation? What isn’t working about your current schedule? How can you create blocks of time to make it work for you?
5. Plan for inspiration.
Based on my priorities and promises, every Sunday, I map out a week that gets me excited. I feel the most inspired when I do good work, am active, and include play. That’s why I created a work / fit / play framework.
Here’s how it works:
> Work. I have no more than 3 priorities each day. I map the priorities based on T/Th for clients and M/W/F for Amber.
> Fit. I make sure to do some form of exercise every day (and working with a trainer has totally changed my life). This gives me a surge of energy each day and helps my brain make creative connections.
> Play. Every day, I make time for play. (The play calendar wasn’t complete when I took this picture.) Play typically involves spending time with someone I care about and doing something creative or new. (For example, on Monday, I painted and cooked with a friend.) I also work in weekly “heartstorming” play dates with friends who make my heart and brain feel on fire.
> Schedule spontaneity. I love adventure, randomness, and the unknown. That’s why I leave Saturday open to whatever comes my way. It definitely keeps things interesting.
All in all, if you want to do work that matters, if you want to prioritize your purpose and continually build momentum toward it, you’ll need to plan your life accordingly. Life doesn’t happen to us. Life works with us when we learn how to work it.
xoxo Amber Rae
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p.p.s - if you implement any of the above and it works for you, please tell me your story! I’d love to hear about your positive changes. They’ll make my day.