The fabric that holds us together

A machine at Kenneth Mackenzie on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland, depicting part of the process used to turn the wool fibers into fabric that will last a lifetime

A machine at Kenneth Mackenzie on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland, depicting part of the process used to turn the wool fibers into fabric that will last a lifetime

Over the weekend I had dinner with a friend who works in agriculture. She mentioned how important she felt it is that work places exist like farming where people with different political views come together and work with each other. They may disagree on different issues, but they still work together and get to know each other as people, form relationships, come to depend on each other and know each other’s families. I was thinking about this with the apparel work. Apparel, like farming is another opportunity to bring people together across the political spectrum and create work and prosperity regardless of points of disagreement across various political issues.

When I reflect on so many problems we face: the inability to come together on climate solutions, polarization around how to make the economy work for more people, blaming each other–red people, blue people, immigrants–for our problems, or the increasing prevalence of psychological problems like depression and anxiety, I come to a common source: Disconnection. Disconnection from ourselves, from each other, from our communities, from our environment. Disconnection from the connection we all share. And I thought about this with regards to the economy. How many of us get to connect with people with very different views from our own through our work, through what we buy, through the services we use?

When most everything we buy is made in China, or other far off countries, that means two things: 1) We don’t have the opportunity to connect with the producer of the things we are consuming which used to be made in the U.S.  2) The absence of that work producing U.S. made things means that all those connections that would be made across the political spectrum through that work no longer exist.  If very little U.S. manufacturing remains, that means that the opportunity for say a New York designer to work with a Tennessee shirt maker are few and far between.

At what cost? Well I believe that these days we only imagine who we are as a people. We read about how we are voting here and there, what that extreme group is doing. The real human beings we share this country with fall away. They become reduced by voting districts and poll numbers and stereotyped images. And we become more disconnected.

And so I was reflecting on calls to boycott the Alabama economy in the face of the Governor’s signing into law a complete abortion ban. In Alabama, there happens to be an apparel company called Alabama Chanin. They provide high quality jobs in a community that needs them and create beautiful clothing for women. Alabama Chanin is one of a small fraction of apparel companies who make clothing for women and produce it in the U.S. What’s more, Natalie Chanin has inspired countless designers and apparel entrepreneurs (myself included) by bravely building this work in Florence, Alabama, in a community that needed jobs, when the rest of the industry was saying that U.S. production of apparel was no longer financially viable.

Check out a short video here on Alabama Chanin

And yet I say all this knowing that boycotts are often effective. But I wonder if hitting people that have already been knocked down by the economy to make a political point is the answer? Is taking aim at the businesses who provide the few quality job opportunities available the way to come together and make progress as a country? We are after all a democracy. We need most people to come together to make progress.

I believe the answer lies in reconnecting with each other. Again and again. Every chance that we can get. We can weigh the choices we make by asking ourselves: Will the action I take here drive more of a wedge between us or will it bring us together? We must urgently come together.

Part of what I want to do is to reconnect people in different parts of the country and reconnect the urban women to their rural sisters. I want to dismantle the imaginary people we share our country with and expose the real humans that go to work each day, love their children, and do their best with the lives they’ve been given.

Please help me rebuild connection again and again. This can be as small is choosing to sit with someone who is alone and as big as working on a dream that brings people together. I believe that if we make the choice each day to turn our back on the things that divide us and move towards the things that connect us to each other we will one day find ourselves sharing more love, joy, fulfillment, community, and harmony with each other and the beautiful Earth we share together.

On community, leadership and opportunity

Noah Eisenkraft, not pictured here, donated his negotiations expertise to teach us this vital skill at NC State's Advancing Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) event

Noah Eisenkraft, not pictured here, donated his negotiations expertise to teach us this vital skill at NC State's Advancing Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) event

Last week I was recovering from a long shift at my restaurant job in a post-nap daze when I saw an email from the job creating venture capital trust that I submitted an executive summary to a few weeks ago with a proposal for a made to measure women’s sewing workshop for the apparel line. The woman I was in touch with had reviewed my proposal and was requesting that I come present it to her team. My response was a mixture of intense excitement, fear at what it means for this work to be progressing this way and overwhelm at the task before me.

With further clarification, I came to learn that they wanted me to put together a 1 hour presentation on exactly what the plan was to build the women’s made to measure workshop for the apparel line, how much it would cost and what that money would do.

When I came down from a state of freak-out, I noted two big shifts that I want to share here. One is that, while I certainly still had a bit of imposter syndrome anxiety wondering how in the heck I could possibly know what I was doing, I quickly remembered that I don’t need to have all the answers on my own. I have often reflected on how much as a culture we attribute successful endeavors to one individual–the iconic leader: Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs.

It is no wonder that when we are taking the lead to put something together that we get confused and think that we alone are responsible for having all the answers. After all we don’t say that Apple was so successful because of the great community of team members who build it with Steve Jobs at the lead. No, we just talk about the leaders. Journalists love to write about them, and the leaders love to take all the credit.

Or we can shift to something more real: great things are built by lots of people with a few people driving the charge. As I sat thinking through all the things I need to learn between now and mid-June, I was so grateful to think about all the awesome people I have in my community to help substantiate and clarify all the pieces of the made to measure sewing workshop puzzle.

And all the sudden this presentation is so much less daunting. I will be presenting on behalf of a lot of different experts, who’s insights I’ve pulled together, along with my own, to form a vision. It is not personal. It is not about me. It is about the work and what is possible with it. Looking at it from all angles and defining a path that will make it successful from the standpoint of profitability, what it provides customers, what kind of jobs we can create, and how we can promote a more sustainable relationship between fashion and the environment.   

And it is just another draft, which brings me to the second shift. No longer do I see the success of this work as wrapped up in any one opportunity. I used to. Before the Kickstarter, before the iFundWomen campaign and all the accelerator and grant proposals I would think: “This is it! This is the opportunity that I’ve been waiting for.” I would spend 150% of my energy (note the deficit) on each opportunity with the idea that if I just gave it everything I had, it would work out and that would be what I needed to be successful. Turns out, this is a bad idea for lots of reasons. Depleting yourself, putting yourself and your business at financial risk, setting yourself up for big disappointment. After all, there is no way for you to know which opportunity will be the right one. (No regrets pursuing these opportunities, but it was time for an attitude change.)

So a shift is necessary. This job creating venture capital group may be a good fit or it may not. But the energy I put into answering more of the logistical and financial questions between now and then will be invaluable for any other opportunity to materialize this work. Maybe you have already learned this, but if not: it is hugely liberating to stop believing that your success/happiness/creative expression/livelihood etc. is tied to any one thing working out. I am speaking here for the professional, but this applies to the personal realm as well.

At the end of the day, what do these two shifts accomplish? They lessen the pressure and stress around this work, which kills creativity and drains needless energy, vital energy that could be used to make the most of opportunities before us. I am calling balderdash on the idea that we have to make our lives into pressure cookers to create worthy enterprises. What we need right now is creativity around how to create a new generation of businesses that are more environmentally and socially responsible and stress is a creativity killer. 

We can ease off the pressure by remembering that when we lead entrepreneurial endeavors we are not struggling alone, solely responsible for the success and failure of our work, and no one business accelerator application, or grant application, or venture capital presentation is the gatekeeper of our success. Plant the seeds, make the most of each opportunity and keep moving. Honor your community and remember that you are the dance, not the dancer.

Go, fight, win.

Reid

The wheel of thought

Photo by  Carissa Rogers  on  Unsplash

Photo by Carissa Rogers on Unsplash

Last week I began Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth to better learn how to work on being present with my life. I have written about mindfulness and entrepreneurship in the Weekly Letter (here and here) before and yet it is so dang hard to remain present.

Why is mindfulness particularly important for entrepreneurs? Because starting a business is scary and risky and can cause us to continuously worry about a whole host of concerns: Will my business succeed? Will it support me? How about other employees? What if it doesn’t work? Is this idea crazy? And your body can’t distinguish between the stress from these thoughts versus the stress of being pursued by a dangerous predator or running out of food. So if you are an entrepreneur and you are not mindful, the stress can burn you out.

And yet I have found much of the advice on how to be mindful woefully inadequate. Come back to your breath, come back to your body. When the torrent of thoughts is running, this is like using stick to dam up a river.

Last week, with Tolle’s help, I decided to renew my commitment to noticing my ego (the endless chatter of my thinking brain) and work with it throughout the day. (He argues that this is the most important thing we can do for ourselves and the planet.)

On Sunday I learned something that I would like to share with you in case you are working on this mindfulness business as well. For those of us who succumb to worry, Sunday is a particularly tough day. It should be a day off for most of us, though we start to think about the coming week, worry about it and get into crazy doer mode: grocery shopping, chores, errands, you name it. So I made a commitment Sunday morning to not spend the day thinking about what needed to be done that day or the next week. I did my usual Sunday yoga and came home. When I got home, the thoughts were starting up: what time am I going to go to the grocery store, am I going to wash the floor today?

And then I stopped and saw the thoughts. I pictured the thoughts on a wheel. The more thoughts I have, the faster the wheel goes, the harder it is to slow down. But if I can catch the wheel when only a few thoughts are starting up, I can much more easily slow it down, come back to my feet on the floor, my breath, where I am.

For this reason, starting your day with a mind calming activity like yoga or meditation is super important to start your day from presence. Then you can use the wheel analogy it if is helpful to catch your thinking before it turns into a gnarl of thoughts that holds your work and your life hostage.

When you become lost in your thoughts, and the wheel gets going too fast, that is the time where there is little more important than a 15 minute meditation, going for a run or some other activity that gets you out of your head. That voice that says to you that you don’t have time – play back the tedious hours spent when you are not present and what your work and life quality looks like. I am finding these days that it is never worth it to waste time like this.

Now go out there, be present, and transform your little corner of the world.

Go, fight, win

People sew beautiful garments

Photo by  Volha Flaxeco  on  Unsplash

Photo by Volha Flaxeco on Unsplash

As I was working on V2 of the business plan last week, it became apparent that one of the big arguments I make for investing in higher end sewing in the U.S. is that this work will not be replaced by robots in our lifetime. I had confirmed this with a number of experts I have consulted with over the years including Manufacturing Solutions Center and the Center for Applied Research and Technology, Inc., yet, like a good student, I felt the need to track down documented evidence for my business plan.

So I took my search for evidence online. Rather than find resources that had articulated what I had learned in the field, I came across article after article, extolling the elimination of humans from the sewing equation. Here are a few examples:

In a Fast Company article on Sewbo, a sewing robot start-up, Atnyel Guedja–a purchasing manager at a global apparel manufacturer, Delta Galil Industries– comments on the work:

“Guedj admits that a technological advancement such as Sewbo “is very exciting” and a step in the right direction. At a certain point, he admits, the hunt for cheaper and cheaper labor must come to an end. Technology is the only way out. “[Automation] is the only way forward, and maybe the only way for the industry to save itself from itself,” he says.”
 
Or this quote from a Textile World article on automation in the sewing industry from the CEO of Software Automation Inc. CEO, K.P. Reddy:
 
“With time-to-market, customization, and cost being the primary drivers in sewn goods production — especially in relation to apparel — it is only a matter of time before low-cost, technologically advanced robots replace traditional seamstresses around the world.” 
 
Not only did these articles not jive with what I had been learning, but the tone was that the elimination of jobs was as joyful as it is inevitable. It left no room for another possibility. Robots will replace humans for sewing. That is something to be celebrated, now lets start planning for it.

So someone like me comes along with an idea. I think, perhaps the higher end sewing is safe. My partner is really into high-end, hand made knives and he confirms that the best quality is still done by human hands, not by machines. As I begin testing and talk with many different experts about manufacturing and sewing, they confirm that the high-end sewing is not going anywhere. But if you were to stay at the surface of the conversations taking place in the news media you would think that doubling down on sewing expertise in America is like trying to train people to build a boom box with a tape player.

In my most fatigued moments I questioned what I had learned: Am I crazy? Is this really worth investing in only to see a machine do it better, faster and cheaper?  Will other people be willing to invest in something made by a human? Will I find support for this work?

When I dug out of the doubt, I got angry. I am tired of letting the people who want to eliminate jobs with robots dominate the conversation around what the future holds for us, what is worth investing in now. I am not against technology. Indeed, for my made to measure endeavor I see technology as a tool to eliminate waste and create a much more valuable, better fitting garment for women that is more accessible than previously possible. In other words, technology allows us to do more with our gifts and be less wasteful. It is an extremely useful tool. But I think we need to take a serious look at our values around human work and the quality of what is created when people transform things.

I have learned enough over the years to know that what I read in these articles was very likely wrong. Human hands are going to make magic with beautiful garments well after I’m gone. Yet the narrative that dominates the news media about the inevitability of automating sewing jobs entirely is going to make getting support for this work more challenging. The only way to combat the nonsense that says training sewers in the U.S. is not worthwhile is by demonstrating that they are wrong. Going out there and doing something different.

I am cheering you on as you go out there and do something different. If something you read doesn’t sound right, no matter how many times it echoes around the chambers of the Internet, dig deeper. Talk to people who have real experience doing the work. Come at it from all angles. There is a future for us where technology supports people to create revolutionary approaches to sustainability, to create beauty and innovation.  But it is going to take sustained effort to challenge the assumption that technology will make us obsolete so that it does not become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Go, fight, win.

Uncertainty & the business plan

Photo by  Rosie Fraser  on  Unsplash

The first test of our made to measure womenswear production concept, that finished up last fall, was as enlightening as it was brutalizing (read a synapsis here). I had planned to pause with the endless push to make the business piece of the made to measure dream happen. I immersed myself in the task of learning to sew, understanding alterations, and bringing my designs to life with my own two hands. I figured I would take a hiatus from the big thinking business push for a while and just focus on the small stitches, the way different fabric drapes, how reducing the width of the pant leg here affects the garment. I would come back to the rest later.
 
But no sooner was I comfortable easing along this path, getting cozy with the small details of sewing, did I get a note in my inbox replying to a message I had sent 6 months before, from a woman who lives and breaths the work of helping job-creating businesses get off the ground. And her note led to a visit to West Virginia to meet with people who were creating green, creative, forward-thinking jobs in rural places. Which led to more conversations. One with a job-creating venture capital firm.
 
And then two different groups asked for the plan. How do I plan to build this made to measure womenswear sewing house for the line? Thus I was yanked out of the comfort of confining this work to my small efforts to learn a new zipper type, and into the space of the big picture. I learned every lesson from the made to measure iFundWomen testing about what didn’t work and now I was being asked to put to paper what I proposed would work.
 
As I sat down to write the particulars of the executive summary, the old familiar fear came up: How in the heck do you write a plan for something that hasn’t been done before? How do you plan in the midst of such uncertainty?
 
I want to talk about this from the perspective of a perfectionisty woman, who was trained to always have the answers, to always get those answers right and was rewarded for it. Getting it wrong on the other hand, brought your whole sense of worth into question. She is a good student. She is a bad student. She is a smart team member. She is not prepared.
 
And now we stand in a new place where the planet and humanity demands new ways of doing things. The planet and her people need major change to survive and thrive with the gifts we’ve been given. This situation has us wading out into a space where we have to propose things that might not work. We have to cobble together what we know to plan for a new reality. And so I stand with lots of other entrepreneurs and change pioneers, straddling the old ways of needing to have all the answers and get it right while being pushed to make my best effort to propose a plan, knowing that it will change. It is just a draft. (Perhaps this is true of everything in life.)
 
I was extremely thankful when I realized that I had a lot more expertise to draw from than earlier on in this work. I picked up the phone and called a woman who had a made to measure menswear line and worked in larger scale manufacturing. Then I called another woman who is an expert pattern-maker and had a small but innovative made to measure womenswear business. When it feels like progress is achingly slow, it is those moments when you realize how many gifts have come into your life that make you feel so grateful for the months that proceeded it.
 
Nonetheless, in the moments when fear highjacks my hands, I remind myself of the CEOs of Uber and Lyft, Dara Khosrowshahi and Logan Green, working day by day to build their companies, no where near profitable, because they have convinced people that they are the future. There is part of me that thinks: They must know something that we don’t. They must somehow have some magic power to make foolproof plans out of uncertainty, to spend major coin on driverless cars. But we got to bust this thinking where we see it. What they are doing is taking steps, spending money, building their companies in spite of the uncertainty. They make a draft and get some stuff wrong, and other things right, and then make another one. They know the future will be different than the present and they are planning for it with real numbers and cars and people (or robots). They make sure that they build in systems that will help them learn so that they can check their answers and make new educated guesses for the future.
 
There are a tiny number of women that stand next to these CEOs. Part of the equation to bring the world back into balance includes increasing the number of women who stand shoulder to shoulder with these men. One of the things that will help us accomplish this is casting off our old, outdated ideas of only speaking up when we are 100% certain we have the right answer. When you are building your dream, today, tomorrow or next year, check your need to have all the answers or to imagine that they were known by those who have built the world you see today.

A moment to digest the Durham Gas Explosion

Photo by Courtney N. Danser

Photo by Courtney N. Danser

Wednesday morning I was working at my house when I heard what I thought was something crashing into the side of the basement. We came to learn that a building had exploded from a gas leak in downtown Durham, 2.5 miles away. Life as usual and then death. The community of Durham felt it flicker, the fragility of life. The break in our morning work regimes throughout the community with the reminder that our days are precious. They are not guaranteed and the line between life and death is a thin one indeed.

In those moments we think about our loved ones, we try to connect with friends to see how they are doing, we share a moment with a friend in art class when we realize that we sit next to each other with our fear, our feeling of being on edge, our fascination and fear of death. An explosion happens fast, out of nowhere and thus seems to be the hand of death reaching into our humdrum lives and removing people.

In the case of the Durham gas explosion, the owner of the coffee shop died. Fifteen more people were seriously injured. Firefighters and emergency responders put their lives and wellbeing at risk to do a job at the line of life and death to protect community members. We felt the shock waves of the accident and were united in fear, in sorrow, in the gentleness and tenderness when you become aware of how precious life is. 

I for one, forget about the line between life and death and become very comfortable living out my days as if there were many more of them. Quite honestly, I take it for granted that I have tomorrow, the next day, the next week and the next month. At 10 am on any given day many of us have dived into work while we see the work day extending in front of us. We are diligently working through todo lists, responding to emails, pushing work towards the send button. And so a blast stops us in our tracks. It wakes us up. It reminds us that our time is not endless.

For me it sounded a reminder of a lesson I learned more than a decade ago in the Peace Corps, but seem to forget again and again. In the small, West African country of Togo where I was based as a Peace Corps volunteer, I was in what could have been a fatal accident. On the freeway, in a dilapidated Toyota passenger van, accompanied by strangers. Front tire blew and the car rolled and lay blocking both direction of the road. I was in the front middle seat with no seat belt available to me. And somehow I crawled out the front windshield while the car was on its side. And miraculously I was fine. Rattled but fine. A passenger broke their arm, but otherwise we were OK.

And it occurred to me then that there are lots of good ways to die. That we remain alive is purposeful. There is an intention behind it. Because when the Spirit world wants us back, it will come get us.

So when we have moments of waking up and realizing that our being here is intentional, not an accident, what do we do with that knowledge? Well for one thing, if we truly hold onto this and feel the truth in it, we can realize that we don’t need to be afraid of death. We don’t have control over it, and it will come for us when it is good and ready. If we don’t need to fear death and our existence is purposeful, then we can freely honor what time has given us. With can live out our precious moments of life and create something beautiful with them.

When you are caught in moments of fear, of uncertainty, and doubting your worth, of feeling lost on your path this week, come back to the certainty of your existence, right now, of the importance of it, of the power in it. That you are here right now is intentional. Can you stay with it? What is possible in the moments that you hold onto that reality? From our small pockets of creativity, or struggle, of beauty and sorrow we can hold onto that thought together and see how it impacts our world around us.   

Go fight win.
 
Love,
 
Reid

On courage

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Courage has been on my mind. What pushes us to do something courageous? What impact does it have on our life when we are able to act courageously, or not?
Is there something you want so badly that you can feel it in every fiber of your body, but you can’t have it unless you are courageous in a way that you’ve never been before?

As you may have seen on Instagram, I have been working on short video blogs and am in the process of trying out something new with them. This work makes me very excited but also scares the heck out of me. And one thing is particularly scary: the work will only be successful if I bring a lot of courage to it. Yes, there have been plenty of things that I do that require courage: start a business and begin writing these Weekly Letters. But for some reason, this is something different.

Video requires us to face our fears about who we are and what we have to share, head on. We have to look straight at ourselves (on video!) and learn to answer the question: what special value do I bring to the world?

I opened my agenda this morning and found this quote for the week by Anais Nin: “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”

There are so many powerful things we can do with our lives, but they are also often the things that make us afraid. Those powerful things, like using video to help people think differently about the way they buy things, or whatever avenue that lights you up and terrifies you, have the power to open up our lives. They give us the power to use this one precious life we have to plant some giant trees.

Yet this can feel like A LOT of pressure. My fears followed me through the weekend, knowing that come Monday morning I would once again square off with courage, which would look me straight in the eye and ask “do you have what it takes?” The word “courage” caused me great anxiety because it inevitably pointed to this question. My fear wanted to scream “What if I’m not good enough to have my dream?!?!”

And then today I came out of the storm a bit. I realized that the answer to this question is: of course I am. I am, you are, we are good enough. Courage, when it comes to pursuing your dreams is NOT a matter of bringing something more or better, or different to the matter at hand than who you are and the gift you bring to the world.  

But those gifts are only truly accessible when you cast off the blanket of doubt, of unworthiness, of fear of being great or being bad or somewhere in between. In other words, reaching our, grabbing your courage and running toward the goal is not a matter of being something better.  It is a matter of shedding that blanket of self-doubt that held you back from being who you are.

Feedback on your dance

Photo by  Hudson Hintze  on  Unsplash

Photo by Hudson Hintze on Unsplash

How do you feel about getting feedback on your work? As I write this question, I get a sick feeling in my stomach. That’s how I feel about it. I suppose that’s because I have a special blend of being extremely sensitive, tending towards perfectionism, and feeling that my work is my purpose for this lifetime. And yet feedback is vital for progress with my work.

This week I was introduced to an idea from Eckhart Tolle: “Life is the dancer and we are the dance.” You may want to pause here and ponder this one, because I was so dumfounded when I read this that I felt like I was just tossed around on an upside down ride. What the F!?! I am the dance?!?! When I finally calmed down and digested it properly, I realized that my problem with feedback and other blocks I have with work have to do with confusion in thinking that I am the dancer. Sewing progress insanely slow. Conclusion: I am a bad sewer. I am not good enough. Wrote a crappy first draft. I am a bad writer, etc., etc.

Nope. Turns out, I am the dance. Ok got it. It should only take me about a decade to integrate that new piece of information.

To return to the topic of feedback, I have been letting my imagination wander with the thought of how different my work would be if I were taught that I am not my work, but a vehicle for it, however imperfect. As such, we would get feedback regularly in school for the purpose of improving the work that comes through us, not to make US more perfect or faster or more efficient or more accurate. I.e. we learned to separate our ego from what we produce.

So imagine with me for a moment, that I write something that is unfocused and hard for the reader to understand. A friend gives me this feedback. Though I am getting better (mostly from dating someone that gives feedback openly and often), I am going to share a typical response here:

When we begin the conversation I have a knot in the center of my stomach before she can even get the words out.  My fear creates such a ruckus that I can’t clearly take in the particulars of what she says, but I’m sure it is mostly about me sucking as a writer. She says a bunch of things, I take some notes, I miss some stuff as my mind wonders to the doomsday scenario of being a failed, unemployed kooky old writer lady.

Now imagine that I see myself as the dance not the dancer. The work comes through me, not from me. It is ALWAYS a work in progress. And the people around me are there to offer help to make the work even better than it would be in isolation. Their feedback is a gift to make my dance that much more beautiful.

This time the advice reaches me in a calm state. I listen carefully so I don’t miss anything. I feel gratitude for how valuable it is that she is taking the time to help me make my dance more beautiful and to provide a fresh perspective on it. I digest it fully. I ask follow-up questions. I take a moment to consider which pieces of advice work from my viewpoint as a steward of this work. I figure out what changes I would like to make. And I make them. I have learned some good stuff here, which will make each next bit of work that much better since I am working from an increasingly vast arsenal of knowledge.

How do we get to this second reality?  I am experimenting with meditating on the thought of being the dance, not the dancer, during my creative time. Perhaps if I do this enough I can change my orientation to the work and reverse the decades of confusion caused by thinking that it was mine.

Go, fight, win.

Reid

Lessons from Nature

Photo by Photo by  Wolfgang Hasselmann  on  Unsplash

Photo by Photo by Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash

To be a millennial in 2019 is to be seeped in the affirmation: “Stop at nothing in pursuit of your dreams.” Then the styled Instagram card ends there–maybe throw in a #pursueyourdreams–and we are left lost in life’s wilderness, gripping our dream without a path to get there.  I’m sure I don’t need to convince you that I am someone who believes in pursuing dreams, yet this affirmation divorced from practical advice can wreak a lot of havoc in your life. We need to back this statement up with a whole lot more information and assistance so we equip each other with the know-how to make this very risky, very important venture happen.

Yet I am certain that the modern business tools, spreadsheets, growth charts, marketing data will only go so far to help us create a different sort of business. One that believes in an abundant world, the creative power of people, paying them fairly, investing in communities and living in harmony with nature. If those tools were sufficient we would not be living in a world of serious environmental degradation and major inequities between the people who have more money than they can spend versus those who are feeling extreme scarcity and lack of opportunity.

In the past few weeks, with the start of spring, I have been thinking about the things that nature can teach me about the path to building my dream. Nature is very real, and very productive. Nature is very patient and very diligent. Nature is endlessly creative. An indefatigable problem-solver. Resilient.

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I took a bit of inspiration last week from the concept of planting many seeds and seeing which ones comes up. A single dandelion plant can produce more than 2,000 seeds. With this sort of creative work, the odds are against any single opportunity, so your best bet is to plant a lot of seeds and let the strong ones take hold. And then sit back and marvel at what you have created with nature as the beautiful flowers unfold.

So when you get stuck today, tomorrow or the next day. Look out your window. Heck, live a little! GO OUTSIDE. And be inspired by nature.

Go, fight, win my friends.

Reid

Creative buds and Spring Equinox

Photo by Zoltan Tasi on  Unsplash

Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash

Tomorrow is the Spring Equinox, the official start of the season where the sun draws out the flowers, plants, and buds after a period of darkness. It is also the milestone I set out for tackling my sewing resistance monster so I thought I would touch base on my progress using the techniques I laid out in my blog post here.

In case you did not see it and have no idea what I’m talking about with this resistance business, resistance is the energy that drains the momentum out of our movement towards becoming the best version of ourselves. It is the energetic drag that holds us back from doing all the little and big things that move us towards our unique version of a richer and more joyful life.
 
Five weeks ago I made a pledge to sew for 30 or more minutes, 4 days a week. And I stuck to it. The first week was tough, with the little doubtful thoughts slithering in here and there. But after that I got into a rhythm and now the resistance is almost gone. I can dive in and sew without any effort. And that was the point. It is not to say that the resistance is gone from my life – it just moves right on to the next thing like a star guiding me towards my next set of mountains to climb. Up next: learning to sketch drapery (my stomach does the resistance revealing back flip at the thought of this).
 
But before I head for the next resistance battlefield, let’s focus for a moment on what we win when we tackle it. In the 5 weeks that I pledged to sew 4 days a week, I have begun to experience a whole new world of joy. The circle of inspiration that surrounds me expands each week, turning my little creative flame into a bonfire. Madeleine Vionnet and the invention of bias cut designs, the practical American design pioneer, Claire McCardell’s revolutionary womenswear, Reiki, the energy of the body, and how we dress, web-based pattern adaptation, and a growing tribe of quirky sewing and textile enthusiasts. It is as if, after battling the resistance, the vortex that envelops my creative fire somehow sucks these things towards me, faster and richer than before resistance stood between me and the work.

Compare this with six weeks ago: I would battle through tons of negative thoughts and feelings to achieve 2 or so nights of sewing a week. I went 2 months where I did no sewing. Sunday afternoons I would feel a huge pressure to “make up for lost time”, aiming to sew for 4 hours in addition to all my chores, grocery shopping etc. Overall this felt like trying to swim up a river that has me exhausted and going in the wrong direction. Nope. I’m here to tell you that it is worth it. You can’t know what gifts you will claim on the other side of your resistance but it will certainly be well worth it.
 
And once you’ve faced your resistance down on one creative project you can use this new weapon of knowledge against any of them. So what lies behind the resistance monsters for the drapery drawing practice, or expanding my video work? Who knows? But I’m going to be tackling them and sharing here what I find out. Please let me know how your own battles are going. I am awe-struck by the power of this work. Imagine the possibilities!
 
I’m rooting for you, creative warrior. Go get em!
 
Reid