Business Advice You Probably Shouldn’t Take

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image credit: nicoletaionescu

 

UPDATE: Since I first posted this, I did decide to merge my business blog with my personal blog. Since I consider the business of uncomfortable emotions part of my business, it made sense.

When I first started a personal blog back in 2008, I was nervous about putting my most private thoughts and feelings out there on the internet for anyone to read. However, I quickly discovered that, guess what? NO ONE READ MY BLOG. I was equal parts dismayed and relieved.

Years and several blog iterations later, I was waiting on the corner for my kids to get out of school when another mom I barely knew said, “I read your blog. It was really great.” I froze. This random woman now knew some really personal things about me, and I felt VERY uncomfortable.

Since that day, I’ve made peace with putting my life out there. My goal was to acknowledge the emotional struggles we all have — the ones we sweep under the rug so we can pretend everything’s hunky dory — and help people feel relief in the knowledge they’re not alone. Now, when people tell me they read my personal blog, Riding the Wave, and tell me it struck a chord in them, I’m pleased.

But how does THAT blog mesh with this business-related one? Both are under my name; I even have them linked together. Anyone I do business with can click on over there and peer into the chaotic chasm of my brain. “Uncomfortable” doesn’t do it justice.

I could discontinue my personal blog or write it under a pseudonym. I could at the very least un-link it from this one or quit splashing it all over social media. But in the name of authenticity, I just can’t do it, even if it’s a terrible business decision. Sure, there’s a place for business and a place for emotional messiness; that’s why I have two different blogs. But the emotional messiness is real, and I’m not going to force it to live in the closet. It’s exhausting trying to keep it in there; the closet’s just not big enough.

You don’t have to empty the contents of your brain onto the page the way I do in my personal blog, but maybe you can let your guard down concerning work a little. And maybe we can all strive to make it feel safer to do that than it does now — not make it the death of your respectability. We can be good at our jobs, we can be focused, efficient hard workers, AND we can have some mess in the background that roams around the house instead of keeping to the unseen storage spaces. It’s not weakness; it’s normal.

What’s Cryotherapy & Why Do I Like It?

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The cryosauna

When I discovered Champion Cryotherapy in the Trails at 620, I was curious. I knew cryotherapy had something to do with extreme cold, but I live in Central Texas precisely to avoid such arctic blasts. Why would I want to try it? Because I am both pathologically skeptical and open-minded; I couldn’t resist the intrigue, and I’m always up for new ways to feel better.

When I walked in for my appointment, I was greeted by owner Todd Pendleton. Todd has a friendly and genuine demeanor. He and his office staff make you feel welcome in that casual, Hill Country way — like you’re old friends already. They know you have no idea what cryotherapy is, and they’re happy to let you in on the details.

Whole-body cryotherapy is a research-proven cold therapy that activates the body’s natural pain and inflammation fighters. While chilling in a cold-air sauna for three minutes, the body’s restorative processes are activated to provide…

  • relief from pain and inflammation, 
  • accelerated muscle recovery, 
  • boosted energy levels, 
  • increased metabolic rate,
  • enhanced complexion.

Todd led me into the cryotherapy room. In privacy, I disrobed and donned Champion Cryotherapy’s toasty warm socks, boots and gloves. I looked down at myself: underwear, boots and gloves — not a look I usually sport, but comfy nonetheless.

I stepped into the cryosauna, which Todd had adjusted for my height so my head would stick out the top. Then, he cranked the temperature down to negative 185 degrees and began talking, prompting me to turn every so often. What does that level of cold feel like in little else but a birthday suit? Surprisingly, not bad since it’s devoid of moisture.

While I literally chilled, Todd explained what was happening to my body. The low temperature was prompting it to protect my vital organs. Blood left my extremities and cycled through my heart, becoming re-oxygenated. That blood would return to my extremities refreshed when I warmed up. He continued speaking for the duration, as much to distract me from the cold as to provide education.

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NormaTec compression massage

Feeling invigorated after the intense cold, it was then time to experience NormaTec compression massage. After re-dressing, I reclined in a comfortable chair as Todd helped me put on thigh-high boots made of durable black cloth. He hooked them up to a machine, and the chambers within the boots began filling with air. They periodically inflated and deflated, moving from my feet up my legs. It was like a massage. The lighting was low, and I was offered a cup of water or tea — instant relaxation. The NormaTec system was developed to speed muscle recovery and mobilize fluid, which is why it can also help with varicose veins.

20 minutes later, my time was up. I was sad to take the boots off, but my legs felt good. When I got home, I noticed when I bent to touch my toes, my hamstrings were relaxed — not tight like they normally are. I also noted my fingers were no longer swollen and I could get my rings off (which I haven’t been able to do in a while.)

I’d chatted with another client, Michael, while I was there. He reported sleeping better after his previous session — the biggest benefit, as far as he was concerned. After two nights of sleep, post “squeeze and freeze” (which is what they call the cryotherapy/NormaTec combo session) I agree; I fell asleep faster than normal and didn’t wake up as often.

Most notable to me, however is this: days after my treatment, I still feel unusually upbeat — centered, focused, productive, emotionally satisfied. I live with PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder), and one of the key symptoms is cyclical depression. Cryotherapy has been shown to produce endorphins (feel-good hormones) as well as reduce cortisol, the stress hormone. 

Cryotherapy is excellent for muscle recovery, but you don’t have to be an athlete or injured to enjoy it; it had the feel of a short but highly effective spa treatment. For me, it was better (and faster) than a massage. And with the positive effect it had on my mood and ability to focus in the days following, well, that seals it. I’m a fan.

Champion Cryotherapy is located in the Trails at 620 Shopping Center Wilson Parke Rd., right next to ARC. For more information, visit ChampionCryotherapy.net.

Building Your Business…or Not

I originally posted this on my personal site, but it’s actually more of a business post on gaining a little perspective. This is not about working harder, but taking a step back.

IMG_2515When my children were babies and toddlers, people would often tell me, “Cherish these years. They go by too fast.” But, there were many times when I thought they couldn’t go by fast enough. From the day they were each born, I loved my kids unconditionally and with an intensity that overwhelmed me, as if my heart would explode with the hugeness of that love. But, I also struggled.

Not getting enough sleep was hard. Failing at breast feeding was devastating. Not having time to myself and being constantly “on” for my children, the first of whom never did nap regularly, was something I wrestled with constantly. I was, at times, bored with staring at an infant who’d yet to even make eye contact with me, bored with playing  trains for the eleventh hour, bored and defeated by the unimaginable loads of laundry small children produce. Ironically, in addition to needing more alone time, I also craved adult company, as evidenced by my constant chattering at Jason when he got home from work.

There were good times, though. There was the time I watched Jack run and laugh carefree through the wildflowers in the park and wished he’d stay that uninhibited forever. There was the first time he planted a big, wet, sloppy kiss on my cheek. There was toddler Gage, dressed in only a diaper, dancing to techno music in his bouncy way and the thrill of watching each of them take their first, unassisted steps. I’m smiling now, with the memory of these milestone events, but I am relieved children don’t stay toddlers forever.

Now Jack is nine and Gage is six. Time has started to speed up, as they both spend a good portion of their days away at school and then, afterwards, often at their friends’ houses. I promised myself when they were young, I would not tell people with babies to cherish the moment; enough people tell them that. My message to them is this: it is hard when they are little, but it gets easier.

As my kids have gotten more self-sufficient, and it’s no longer necessary for me to follow them around, making sure they don’t maim themselves on sharp corners or walk into traffic, it’s been easier to lose myself in my writing. They go off and play, and I have the time and energy to plot advances for my freelance business. This is good for me, but I have to be mindful not to swing too far the other way – get so caught up in work that I miss the kids’ ever-dwindling childhood. Jack only has two years left before we hit the dreaded middle school years, and I want to invest my time and energy into fostering a close relationship with both of them, so they’ll come to me when they need help. This is why, despite my overachieving, perfectionist brain, I have decided to be okay with taking freelance work as it comes, and not intentionally growing the business like I could. There will be time to grow business later, but I don’t get a second chance at being present for my kids in their formative years. If I got hit by a bus tomorrow, would I regret not building a business? Maybe a little, but knowing the tradeoff was being there for Jack and Gage, my first, foremost and most important responsibility, I have no doubts my priorities are in the right place. And that makes every decision, business or otherwise, so much simpler.

Two Tools For Your Small Business: Simplicity and Intuition

I don’t normally make New Year’s resolutions, but this year, I made an exception. My personal goals for the year are to to focus on simplicity and listening to my intuition. This works in business life as well, and it’s not a huge leap to see how.

Simplicity

There are millions of tools available to help grow, maintain and organize your small business – CRMs, finance software, newsletter programs…It’s a long list. How do you know what will truly help you?  While there are a variety of useful tools out there, some will actually make your life harder and cost you money, because they are designed to be much more complex than what a sole proprietor needs. Simplification: does this app, feature, program, gizmo make your business life easier or harder?  Does it save time, or does it waste it? My father and I owned a consulting business for a number of years, and I was often dragging him, kicking and screaming towards new technology, but I learned something from working with him. Sometimes, the latest and greatest is not what you need; sometimes simpler is better. This is why I track my business expenses on an Excel spreadsheet instead of with QuickBooks (or whatever the kids are using these days.)

Intuition

Do you ever get a sense about a particular project – a bad feeling? Oftentimes, we ignore those feelings and jump in anyway, because we are programmed to ignore what we can’t immediately explain. Sometimes, when your gut feeling tells you not to accept that client or that you don’t have the bandwidth for a new project, you need to listen. One of the beauties of working for yourself is you can choose what and whom you work with. Exercise that right and try to get past your people-pleasing tendencies. Don’t be a “yes” person; if a client asks you to do something that’s outside of your expertise – something that deviates from the intent of your business – don’t do it simply as an effort not to disappoint them. People you want to work with will respect you for setting clear boundaries. And, you can develop a referral list. A lot of people ask me about social media marketing. I am a content writer, but I know a good social media consultant, and I refer people to her. That way, everyone wins. I don’t have to post to Facebook for people, my friend gets business, my clients gets what they need, and it comes back to me in the form of referrals she sends me for people who need content.IMG_7279

Simplicity and Intuition – they are two aspects of life that are hard to find under all of the information, advice and products we are exposed to, but if you trust your intuition and search out the simplest answers to your problems, business or otherwise, everything is a lot less daunting.

Farm to Girl

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earth-friendly packaging

All-Natural. How many times do you read that on a package? Does it even have meaning anymore? Farm to Girl’s skin care products are natural, but it was the Women Helping Women on their labels that got my attention. Farm to Girl’s creams are actually what I’m looking for in a natural product; their ingredients come from small farms run by women who use traditional processes without harsh chemicals. The fact that Farm to Girl is a local Austin business is a bonus.

In a world where much has gotten irritatingly complicated, where I can’t pronounce the ingredients on the back of my “all natural” cleanser from the grocery store, Farm to Girl keeps it refreshingly simple with a handful of recognizable ingredients in each product. They even extend “simple and natural” to packaging; my order arrived in an eco-friendly box, with newspaper for padding. And the products’ jars allow me to use all of the creams, unlike some pumps or sprays. I was surprised at how small the containers were (one ounce) but as sparingly as I used them, they’ll last a while.

Okay, admirable backstory and simple ingredients and packaging aside, does it work? I tried three products, and here is what I found:

Organic Raw Coconut Lip Balm ($3.95)

It doesn’t get much simpler than this. Two ingredients: coconut oil and beeswax. It has a light, pleasant coconut scent and the creamy moisture felt great going onto my dry lips. On the downside, it didn’t stay put as long as I would have liked, and I had to reapply often; a little more beeswax in the formula might remedy this. Also, the small container can be hard to open.

Namibian Miracle Face & Skin Repair ($17.95)

This cream has a slight, pleasantly nutty scent. It’s not as thick as most face creams, but it goes on easily and feels light and refreshing. I followed Farm to Girl’s advice and kept it in the fridge, which thickened it up a bit. It is non-greasy but moisturizing. I like this as an all-purpose day cream, applied in the morning.

Fountain of Youth Face Cream ($17.95)

This one is the polar opposite of the Namibian Miracle as far as texture; it is thick, rich and creamy. I found that emulsifying it between my fingers before applying worked wonderfully. It has a subtle coconut scent, and is heavier than the Namibian Miracle but still not greasy – just very moisturizing. I like it as a night cream.

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Farm to Girl

Overall, I was pleased with my experience. Farm to Girl’s products, at affordable prices, work as well as or better than expensive creams I’ve ordered in the past. After several weeks of using the Namibian Miracle and Fountain of Youth creams, my skin’s moisture is more even, and I have noticeably fewer breakouts. When you throw in the fact that Farm to Girl is local, helping women in other countries and uses simple, healthy ingredients, it’s a no-brainer for me. I’m a fan.