adventure, beauty, design, determination

Beautiful: What Are You Planting in the Garden of Your Life?

From Pinterest
From Pinterest

Today we’re back to the regularly scheduled programming of inspiring posts that I hope help you go after everything you want in life.

We are down in the depths of winter. It’s cold, the daylight is limited, and we’re all hunkered down inside praying for Spring. Some of us (like yours truly) even have our eyes toward the summer. I think of Spring and Summer as a time of blossoming and then of harvesting. But if we don’t plant seeds now, there will be nothing for us to enjoy when the warm weather rolls around.

Now, during these cold and dark days, is the very best time to plant the seeds that you wish to grow. What dreams do you want to take root? What relationships do you want to build? How do you want your life to unfold? It doesn’t happen magically. A realized dream will not fall out of the sky and into your lap. It happens through hard work and dedication.

You can only reap what you sow. Gather up your seeds, head out there into the cold, and start planting. When those flowering dreams start reaching up toward the sun for all the world to see, you’ll be glad you took this time to bring them to life.

adventure, career, choices, creativity, job, work

Beautiful: Consider Taking a Crappy Job

2b22a1692e52c0522ffd195cd829ba27“What???” you might be saying to yourself. “Christa, the self-appointed evangelist for only doing work you love, is suggesting I take a crappy job?” Yes, yes I am. Under 3 big, fat conditions. It must be: 1.) temporary, 2.) lead to something you love, and 3.) possible to keep your dignity. Let me give you an example.

When I first moved to New York in 1998, I took an incredibly crappy job to follow my dream to work on Broadway shows. (This is more years ago than I really care to admit but since this story benefits you, I’m going to let that slide.) I sat on the floor of a very cramped theatre office opening mail, speaking to screaming customers, getting coffee, and doing just about any horrible job they needed done for $10 / hour.

Taking that crappy job was the best career decision I ever made because it got me inside a theatre which is exactly where I wanted to be. My boss was so appreciative of my work that I was promoted two and a half months later (on my birthday) to a slightly less crappy job managing a box office. In my new role, customers still screamed at me and I got a new boss who was completely awful (which was really unfortunate since I loved my first boss at that theatre), but now I was making $15 / hour and managed a team.

I spent 9 months “in the box” as I affectionately referred to my time there, and on my lunch break one day I ran into a college acquaintance totally by chance who put me on the trail of a job that let me go out on my first theatre tour. On tour, customers still screamed at me and I had a second really awful boss, but now I was making A LOT more money, traveling the country, and running a whole company.

Life was good, until it wasn’t, and then I quit, moved to Florida, and 6 months later got a great job with a great boss and lots of responsibility. There I learned how to be a fundraiser. Unfortunately, it only paid $13 / hour. I took it any way. That was the second best decision I ever made in my career.

My theatre career was a series of trade-offs. I worked my way from job to job gaining experience, making money, then making less money, and then taking my career in an entirely different direction. When I look back, I took those crappy jobs for all the right reasons. They were all temporary (which to be honest is true for every job eventually), they all led me to do things I love to do (working in a theatre, raising money for causes I care about, and managing a team), and I always kept my dignity. Even when customers were screaming at me, I was empowered to help them. Even when my few bad bosses were doing things like throwing staplers around the office and cursing out everyone who came near them, I learned how to stand my ground, stick up for people I cared about, and be confident in the face of great difficulty.

Most of all, those crappy jobs showed me the power of determination and the strength of my own abilities to make a rough situation much better. My presence in those jobs mattered, to the mission of the organizations and to the people around me. And that was a wonderful, beautiful thing. It still is. I’m incredibly proud of the work I did as a theatre manager and to this day I will tell anyone who will listen that it was the very best business training I’ve ever had. It taught me to take calculated risks and go after my dreams.

Your crappy job may do the same for you. If it does, I think it’s worthy of consideration. Sometimes, the very best opportunities aren’t the ones that are shiny and bright but the ones that require our efforts to make them shine.

books, children, education, job, science, technology

Beautiful: 2 Books from No Starch Press that Make Coding Fun for Kids (and Adults Too!)

STEM learning. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. It’s one of the hottest topics in education today and for good reason. “According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be 1.2 million job openings for computer science graduates by 2018, but current U.S. graduation rates will provide qualified workers for only one-third of those positions,” says Edie Fraser of the Huffington Post. No Starch Press is doing its part to turn that trend around with the release of 2 new books aimed at teaching kids to code.

Python for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Programming (Ages 10+) and Super Scratch Programming Adventure! (Ages 8+) are kid-friendly, carefully crafted, and eminently entertaining. They take the complex art and science of coding and turn its mastery into a game. These books break down coding into bite-sized, step-by-step lessons in a language that is easily understood by those who are not familiar with coding.

Known for its ease of use for beginning coders, Python is a powerful programming language. It’s remarkably easy to read and write when compared to other programming languages. It is free to install on all basic operating systems. Python for Kids will help your little one builds graphics and games, giving them the satisfaction of seeing their work come to life.

Scratch is a programming language created by MIT Media Lab to build video games. It is also free to install on all basic operating systems. Each chapter of Super Scratch Programming Adevnture! helps kids to design and build increasingly complex video games while teaching them the basic principles of coding.

Best of all, these books are not only valuable for kids, but also for adults who are interested in learning how to code. In my own pursuit to understand programming on a deeper level, I have started to work through them myself. Whether you just want to know a little bit more about coding or have an interest in developing a deep knowledge in the subject, these books are the perfect place to begin your journey into the wide and wonderful world of code.

Increasingly, writing code is becoming a necessary job skill and we would all do well to at least deepen our appreciation of what it takes to build the websites and applications that we access on a daily basis. Who knows? Learning to code may just make you the most valuable person around the office or it may prompt you to take your career in a completely new direction. One thing’s for sure – coders are in high demand and will only become more so as our appetite for ever-more sophisticated tech products and services continues to grow. You might as well join them and these books give you the perfect jumping off point to get yourself in the game.

career, determination, entrepreneurship, work

Beautiful: Entrepreneurs Work Like Ducks

Work like a duck
Work like a duck

Do you know how a duck moves forward? It may look like it’s just gliding along the water effortlessly and peacefully. If you were to look under water, you’d find that a duck is paddling is furiously to get ahead. In this way, entrepreneurs are no different from ducks.

Forget overnight success
I talk to a lot of people who are just starting out. They’re all looking for their big breakout moment, their game-changing innovation. Many of them want success yesterday and they get frustrated when they’re latest greatest product or service is not an overnight sensation. We have become a nation obsessed with insta-everything. All of the successful people I know worked very hard for a long time to get where they are. Their success required hard work, determination, and unrelenting passion for the work, not prestige.

How to make the leap
Taking my leap into a freelance life took a lot of careful, deliberate planning. I put myself through school twice while living on very little money. I took lots of jobs that were difficult and didn’t pay well because they were phenomenal learning opportunities. I took jobs that I hated, working for people who were grossly incompetent and flat-out mean, because I needed the cash. I did a lot of work for free because I believed in its value for the world. I read incessantly, network constantly, pitch myself every single day, and help other people take their leaps because I believe in their potential and because I know that a rising tide lifts all boats. I take lots of risks, and many of them do not carry tangible rewards but they’ve all been valuable experiences.

We all need to get a little lucky
And even with all that work, I still needed luck on my side to get to a point where I cover all my expenses on my freelance work and am now poised to begin to save again, too. I still needed a few lovely angels who came in the form of bosses, mentors, friends, teachers, and even some complete strangers. I’m always prepared to be lucky, and every once in a great while that preparation pays off.

Everyone has ideas. Everyone is creative. Everyone wants to evolve and grow and blossom into the very best people they can be. My advice? Be a duck. Keep a calm and centered exterior. Trust that if you are willing to pedal madly that progress will indeed be made.

choices, decision-making, success

Beautiful: Creating Life Goals? Make Sweatpants Sexy and Other Possibilities.

486951778429362564_rBsUPZ0j_bAmen! And why shouldn’t this be the way that life unfolds?

Here’s my proposal: break out those yoga pants and wear them out to dinner because they ARE sexy, vow to make Mondays fun because every day is a gift, eat junk food and exercise in equal amounts, cut the drama, be clear about what you want, and stay in touch with people who matter.

Sounds like a recipe for a good life, right? Go live it!


Beautiful: Jennifer Lopez Can’t Give Up on Love; You Shouldn’t Either

To-those-who-have-given-up-on-love-I-say-trust-life-a-little-bit.Maya-Angelou-quoteYesterday I watched an interview with Jennifer Lopez done by Gayle King. Gayle asked Jennifer how she stays so optimistic about love. Jennifer responded that she just can’t imagine giving up on love. She loves love and believes in its power to heal.

Love in New York is a tough game. It’s hard to find and even harder to keep. It also doesn’t help that this whole city is one big incurable romantic. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m with Jenny from the Block – I also love love and believe so much in its goodness.

Even though I haven’t yet found my guy, I know he’s out there. It’s just taking us a while to find another. But he’ll keep looking and I’ll keep looking and eventually we’ll find ourselves looking at each other. My only job is to not give up, to trust that it always works out exactly as it should.

cooking, creativity, food, weather

Beautiful: When I Need to Think, I Go to the Kitchen

French onion soup - one of my favorite comfort foods!
French onion soup – one of my favorite comfort foods!

“On days when warmth is the most important need of the human heart, the kitchen is the place you can find it.” ~ E.B. White

Cold enough for ya? In New York City, we are braving some serious cold and wind. It’s that biting kind of cold where you’re quite sure that if you smile too wide, your face will crack. I’ve found myself eying my new Ninja crock pot and cracking open my cookbooks to create a shopping list of ingredients to create warm, comforting meals.

This weekend, I have brunch plans on Saturday and Sunday and otherwise will be inside working away. I find that I do my best work when I nourish my mind and body with nutritious, delicious food. Additionally, I also love that cooking helps me to quiet my mind and reduce stress. When I hit a road block in my writing, I back away from my desk and head for my stove where I’m sure to get my creative juices flowing again (cooking pun intended!)

Like a good story, a good meal is cobbled together by the hands, inspired by the spirit, and nurtured with love from the heart. This weekend may you find refuge in the kitchen despite the frightful weather outside.

California, writing

Beautiful: New York – California House Swap This Summer

This view would be just fine.
This view would be just fine.

I have always thought that if my family got off the boat and kept going west that I would have never left the state of California. I’ve almost moved there 3 times and this summer I’d like to give life on the left coast a try by doing a house swap. Location independence is one of the great benefits of a freelance life and I want to take full advantage of it. A beach, the ocean air, salt water, and plenty of sun will be good for my soul and a couple of writing projects I’d like to finish.

Know a Californian who might want a cute apartment in New York City for the summer? Send ’em my way!

freedom, work

Beautiful: Freelancers Trade Days Off for Freedom

Now this is an office!
Now this is an office!

A day off. I remember those. A real day off. No thinking about my work. No emailing about my work. No time spent jotting down the work to-do that just popped into my head that I must take care of as soon as I get back to my computer. Every day for 7 months I’ve done something related to work.

This weekend my friend, Tom, and I talked about this reality of the freelance life. He is a freelancer also (9 years and counting!) and though he certainly takes downtime, he spends almost every day doing something that’s related to his work. I thought I was the only crazy who did this. Tom assured me that this is often a fact of life for freelancers. It comes with the territory.

You might think that sounds awful, but it’s not. Both Tom and I agreed that we’d rather have the flexibility in our schedule and physical location that freelancing allows in exchange for days off.

Loving the work I do also helps. Most of the time the work doesn’t even feel like work. I never groan when I have to wake up in the morning, no matter how early it is. I don’t have a daily grind. I don’t have work stress that spills over into any other area of my life. For the first time in my life, I feel like my future is entirely up to me and that sense of empowerment is priceless.

It’s no coincidence that the word “freelancer” contains the word “free”. There is no better feeling.

choices, decision-making

Beautiful: How to Make a Big Decision

117586240240353310_hEhlWzB8_bHave a big decision to make and unsure which way to go? If you run the decision round and round in your mind, chances are you will talk yourself into and out of every choice. There’s a better way.

Make a choice. Commit to it and walk around living your life having made that decision. How does it feel? Does the choice change your outlook on life for the better? Does it make you cringe? Do you feel lighter or heavy with regret?

The mind can play tricks on us. We are very good at convincing ourselves of something. It plays the game of coulda, woulda, shoulda like a champ.

The body never lies. We can feel, physically feel, if a decision is right or wrong. We know it – in the pit of our stomachs and at the center of our hearts. But to tap into that knowledge, we need to give a choice a fair shot. We actually need to make the choice and sit with that decision.

Sometimes, all we need is a few hours. Other times, we need a few days. Give yourself the time you need to try it on for size. Be open to the body’s wisdom and be prepared to follow its advice. It will never steer you wrong but you must give it time to work its magic.