brandi_catsmain
Apr21

Capturing A Moment

December was a difficult month for me: I moved to a city where I didn’t know anyone, in hopes it would be a better fit for me; my then-boyfriend and I broke up; and my cat Marty had emergency surgery when it became clear there was a growth in his stomach, causing him a lot of pain. It was this last piece of news that hit me the hardest — I was just really learning how to love this cat, adopted from a shelter by an ex-boyfriend, then stolen by me when it was clear he wasn’t being treated well. At the beginning he had been stand-offish and always pretty independent. But he had changed in the months before the surgery. I had changed too.

The surgery went well, but the prognosis wasn’t good. The vet gave him a month.

It’s been four.

I know I don’t have forever, but I do have this time.

And I wanted it captured, with me in it. I’ve typically been the one snapping photos, but really wanted some of me with my cats. My friend Carrie came by and took a few photos for me.

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There are days that harder and days that are great. I don’t always know which it will be. My work sometimes falls a bit behind, because I need to be present more with my cats than with emails or my blog. But I am where I need to be, and that matters most to me — and to them, I suspect.

Essentialism
Apr14

Becoming an Essentialist

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown stood on my nightstand for weeks. It was a nightly reminder of how I have been wanting to shift things in my life.

It all comes down to this: “If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.”

Our lives are filled with such informational clutter. Physical clutter too. We collect news articles on Flipboard, old pairs of jeans that we swear we’ll fit into again someday, email subscriptions (because we needed that free offer and never thought to unsubscribe even though we don’t even read those emails) — the list goes on.

Somewhere in the process of accumulating (and wanting to feel like we’re keeping up), our freedom and our clarity are lost. Not permanently so, but we forget them in the piles in our heads and in our homes.

Essentialism provided a series of perfect notes reminding me that an extra hour of sleep mean more productivity, not less; that if it isn’t a clear yes, it’s a clear no; and that with limits and boundaries we become limitless.

As much as we’ve been heard that ‘less is more’, the concept takes time to integrate. This book does a brilliant job of helping with those illustrations, and at the end, I was sold on being an essentialist in everything I do.

For me, the biggest struggle is the art of the graceful no — or how to say yes to the things that really matter. It’s not that I forget what really matters, only that I love helping people so much in my business, I sometimes fail to see the trade-off — what free time I might be losing by taking on another project. My new mantra? “Let me check my calendar and get back to you.” Those extra moments of reflection are key for creating space.

Obviously, there’s so much more I could talk about and dive into here, I’ll let you find the gems that suit you perfectly. I guarantee, by the end, you’ll be transforming into an Essentialist too.

On Amazon: Essentialism

novicetoexpert
Apr09

From Novice to Expert

Last week, I received an email from Patrick (okay, I’ve totally changed his name, just to protect his privacy), who saw my job posting online. Rather than applying for the job, Patrick asked me about how to go from novice to expert — without a degree. He had noticed that I was self-taught and wanted to do the same.

Patrick explained that he’s moving to Virginia with his wife who was offered a great position. He’s spent the past few years working as a Project Manager for a company that handles some website work. With his upcoming movie, he decided that he wants to jump into the world of working online, and asked me how he could go from complete novice to a solopreneur developer.

My first question was “Why do you want to?” I could have laid out a clear path for him, but I believe the worst thing we can do is choose a job because it’s convenient. Frankly, if coding makes you giddy, if you love solving puzzles and organizing involved mathematical problems, you might make a great developer. But just because you want to work from home in this digital age does not mean you should be a website developer, nor is it the only path open to you.

We live in this awesome world where we can create positions that have never existed before, some of which can be done remotely. I love that.

My background prepared me for development work: I have a bachelors in Physics and a minor in Mathematics (which was only a few classes short of a major). My first coding course was at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. But more importantly, I’m killer at organization and a natural puzzle solver. Coding is a zone of excellence for me because my real Genius Zones make it possible.

That’s what I asked Patrick — what were his Genius Zones? I suggested he look at those and his past experience, then consider what position he could create for himself that he would love. That’s what he should be an expert at, because he’s been on that path all along.

There are days I feel like I’m only really beginning to understand my Genius Zones and where they’re taking me, and I’m okay with that. I like the adventure. And I really love helping other people on their paths too.

What we can create ourselves, what we can create together is incredible.

Old Mailboxes
Apr07

You’ve Got…Hate Mail?

My first piece of hate mail arrived last week. And boy, was it fiery.

Here’s how it began: On Monday night, I posted the job description I had created for a developer on Stack Overflow. Business has been booming lately, and if I want to help more people, I need someone to help me with website development. I wrote up what I was looking for and a little bit about myself and my business. Résumés started to come in.

But in the middle of all the cool cover letters and crazy qualified applicants was a message from one developer who clearly hated me. He doesn’t know me at all, but that didn’t stop him from writing a really angry email to me. I won’t repeat anything he said, but I will tell you the gist of it was this: if you don’t have a degree in the field, you’re a fraud.

Now, while this may not be true of some fields (like medical professions, for instance), we live in an age where experience creates experts. In living through something, in experimenting daily, in immersing yourself in a field, you can gain a significant amount of knowledge and know-how that can be shared with the world. Am I the best developer in the world? No. I’m not the most knowledgeable either. But I do know much more than my clients, and I know how to create websites for them that are intuitive and easy for them to use, because I was once where they are.

The hate mail upset me for a moment. How could anyone be so cruel to another person? I found myself going to that place and nearly agreeing with him when I remembered: his reaction says everything about him and nothing about me. Thank you, Second Agreement! (If you haven’t read The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, do. The Second Agreement is “Don’t take anything personally” and trust me, it’s a game changer. It pulled me right out the downward spiral the email brought on.)

I can’t speculate what his story is, but with that much negativity, I’ve no doubt it’s been filled with hardship. And so rather than cuss him out or get angry (or even worse, respond), I sent him loving energy and forgave him for his hurtful words.

I choose to live from a place a love, from a place of service to others and holding them to their highest selves. In my business. In my life.

So maybe hate mail means I’ve finally arrived, but more than anything, it’s shown me how far I’ve come. My past self would have wallowed for days in that negativity. My present self can see the situation for what it is.

(Consequently, I totally got some love mail the same day too, from a developer who wrote: “I commend you for having a great perspective on web development and coding in general. I know a lot of developers that would be much happier with that outlook.” Love.)

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