Thinking & Operating in 'the Gap'

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I’ve always disliked short work weeks. We’re all trying to cram the same amount of work from a five-day work week into four. This week is no different - lots of deadlines, projects to get done and last minute demands that are making me wish tomorrow wasn’t Friday.

I know, I said it (and I love my Friday’s!).

I AM working on some fun branding projects though this week, as well as content strategy and content creation for clients that I’m excited for. So there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel.

The one thing I did for myself this week was get the chance to sit down with someone from a leading tech organization in Canada’s ‘silicon valley of the north‘ aka. Kitchener. I’ve always loved the Tannery area of KW, in Guelph’s backyard. There is something about knowing the ideas that are being cooked up behind the walls of the buildings in the area that gets me excited when visiting.

The one thing the meeting made me realize, besides how fortunate I am to meet the people I am in my journey, is how not having the answer to all the ‘big ideas’ or ‘big questions’ I have is also part of this journey of this little thing called life. Right now I’m feeling so incredibly blessed to be surrounded by people from different backgrounds, experiences and who think differently, who are all excited to tackle big world problems and come up with solutions. Especially when many of these people seem to have one thing in common that we want to find solutions for: food/agriculture. One of my true passions.

It reminded me of this recent newsletter I read (thank you for the continued amazing content, Sarah!) and this idea of the gap:

“I call the space between having a question and knowing the answer, the gap. The gap is the unknown, the fear of making a change in your life when you don’t know what the outcome will be. Humans are really bad at the gap, we are terrible at operating in spaces where there is an unknown.”

I feel like I’ve been operating in the ‘gap’ for a few years now. Having ideas and not knowing exactly how to get to the answer.. but enjoying the process or journey to get there aka. the gap.

Its how I felt last summer when I was between my political job and starting my own business - again, the gap. I continue to operate in the gap even now that my own business is almost a year old.. the questions I have: what to do next, where to take things, should I scale, how do I scale. I’m operating in the gap.

Not to get too philosophical here for a Thursday but isn’t that really what life is all about anyways? Trying to think and operate ‘in the gap’ between the two things we know for sure are to happen to us, birth and death?

Sorry to go all deep on this rainy Thursday, it just felt necessary to share :)

What’s the other thing I learned in that meeting this week (among so many other awesome things)? That Jeff Bezos of Amazon writes a press release for every idea he has, as a way to work backwards from the idea to know how to make the idea a reality. How cool is that?!

Knowing What We Need to Do

Nita Lake Lodge BC

Long weekend, you’re finally here. I can’t wait to take you in, from the comfort of the cottage and the farm. I’ve been away from country air for over a month now, my soul needs to return STAT :P

Most days I love this hustle I’ve created.

But after experiencing BC and the outdoors as much as Andrew and I did and the conversations we had around what all this ‘hustle’ is for, since returning from our trip, I’ve been looking at ‘hustle’ differently. I’m trying to learn to set healthier boundaries for myself so the hustle doesn’t own me.

Is the hustle really as appealing as we all think it is?

It was this video that I actually watched while on holidays that really opened my eyes to what we think all this hustle is for.. and what it really can do to us if we don’t decide ourselves, how busy we want to be.

When I had time outdoors in BC and no emails or tweets to worry about, it was refreshing to let my brain wander. Something it doesn’t really get to do often anymore with how busy my business is. Everything is so scheduled now, down to the hour - back to back client meetings, client work, emails, social media, ideas brewing, projects, etc, etc, etc….

There is always something to do.

But that’s the point.

There will always be something to do, a conversation to be had, people waiting - business and life will always be there for us to ‘do.’

But I’m reminding myself now, that I only have a small role to play in the grand scheme of things. I alone will not change the world- who would have thought?! I know right!

Its only now that I’m realizing I’ve let my big hairy audacious goals, dreams, visions and ideas get the best of me sometimes in an unhealthy way, so I’m trying to scale things back and do what I can in a more realistic way.

I can only do my part.

I can only help with what I’m good at.

And I can only do even my ‘small part’ if I’m healthy enough to do it.

Its not my role to fix the world and all its problem… even though I SO want to for Blake’s future and all the other children out there. That’s just the ‘protagonist’ type of personality I am. I wear the weight of the world on my shoulders. But I can’t wear this responsibility in the way I have forever.

All I can do is my part to help make change.

Learning (and adjusting to this) has been empowering for me the last few weeks.

Our time away from Blake while on our 2+ week trip also reminded me how much I actually do thrive on routine and schedule as much as my two year old son probably does. I’ve been so happy to be home again, getting caught up on life and all things client work (but in a healthier way of course!) Some of my clients, we’re already preparing our Christmas social strategies, which blows my mind, considering summer just started, but that is the way the marketing world works. And life works. Another season is already upon us before we want it to be.

What have I done to set healthier boundaries for myself and my business?

  • organized my calendar to put more ‘white space’ in but also have set more ‘regularly scheduled events’ in my calendar so I’m doing the same tasks at the same time each week for better consistency and meeting planning purposes.

  • organizing my internal business infrastructure to be more user friendly now that the business is growing more than I could have ever dreamed of. What worked last September when I started my business isn’t quite working the same way now. I’ve outgrown this infrastructure already, the growth in my business is an exciting challenge I’ll need to address and something I am SO grateful for.

  • I’m starting to say no to projects if I don’t have the time or capacity to do them, especially this fall while we start a house reno. This has been a tough one for me but something I’ve had to learn. I don’t want my quality work to slip because I take on too much. Sacrificing opportunity as a self-employed business owner is a tough pill to swallow but recognizing what you can (and shouldn’t!) do is so so important.

  • I’m getting frustrated with always being behind my laptop with way too much screen time. I’ve started an ‘idea black book’ as a way to organize all my thoughts, ideas or tips from books and articles I read while I step away from my computer. It feels good to have that type of order to my thoughts after I’ve tried SO many different ways to keep all things organized. I just can’t get into organizing my ideas with my laptop through yet another program or app. This has also helped me start sketching out a system to capture content creation for myself and my business. Content creation for my own business is a priority I’m making this fall. Here I’m preaching ‘consistency is king’ with my clients (maybe even more so than content!) and yet, I don’t do this myself for my own business.

The last month with travel, work and life has made me realize that if we can’t find time to make our meals, eat supper with our kids or let our brains relax when we’re supposed to be ‘turned off’ enjoying time with family and friends, then is what we’ve created really as appealing as we originally thought or had intended? Or what the hustle life told us it would be? Is that the point where you realize the hustle is owning you not the other way around?

I totally understand what hard work and hustle is all for… that is the dairy farmer’s daughter in me.

But learning to work ‘smarter not harder’ is where I’m trying to go with my business and life in general.

Do you know what you need to do?

Happy long weekend, friends! ENJOY the well deserved rest. I’m going to be outdoors in the water or with my cows allll weekend long.

Living in a Calculated World

Stories From a Country Girl

Its hard to believe it was 10+ years ago I first entered the world of blogging.

I look back on those days fondly.

{Now I know how most seniors feel when they talk the good ol’ days.. you know, those days before smartphones, technology and all this craziness}

But in all seriousness, even 10 years ago, the digital sphere was a different time.

(OK, now I definitely sound like a senior).  This may be the first blog post that ‘dates me’ as a human. Sigh.

Yes, it’s been that long since my ‘Stories From a Country Girl’ days for those blog readers who have so loyally followed me here all the way from then, to my Passionate Voice blog and now to my new home. Thank you to those readers for your continual support and readership throughout all these years 🙏 Even if there are only 6 of you 😉

I’ve been doing a ton of listening, conversing and reflecting throughout the month of January for work. It has me thinking of how we’re living in such different times than even a short 10 years ago from so many standpoints – in life, in work, with social media, technology, consumer behavior, disruption, the list goes on.

I’ve been thinking long and hard lately about the role of social media and the impact it has on our lives and our mental health. Its something that bombards us and inundates us both personally and professionally every day. We’ve never been properly trained in it and the research isn’t quite there yet to show the long-term lasting effects, yet we continue to use it at such rapid rates. I see firsthand and realize its benefits but I also see the cautions we need to talk about more, to engage productively and healthily with our social media feeds.

And this comes from someone who does social media for a living!

Even blogging 10 years ago was a completely different landscape. It wasn’t so ‘calculated’ as the entire world now is with blogging and social media. When we were blogging back in ‘those days’, we didn’t have to have well-curated graphics that had consistent branding with the ‘right’ fonts. We didn’t care about likes/followers, we just blogged about what we thought about and cared for and if the likes followed, then great but that wasn’t the end goal. We didn’t care about promoting our messages beyond our followers, trying to make our content ‘salesy’ for people to eat up and then buy from us. Hell, we didn’t even give the proper credit for graphics/photos when we searched on Google and used them for our blog posts.

Side note: If you previously read my SFACG blog when I first started, yes, the image above is my old header and no, I didn’t end up purchasing the image for $20 but I am at least giving image credit below 😉

I sometimes wish we had that type of freedom again.

To read blogs written in the ‘old school way’ of blogging. Or think in that easygoing way #FreeThinking. Or blog in the carefree way, whenever we wanted too, without the branding, the content calendar and the perfectly placed hashtags. Blogging in a world where we didn’t have to worry that if you said something that not everyone agreed with, you didn’t have to face the social media wrath you probably would today. I wish we all had that freedom to only care about ourselves and what we thought. And not in a selfish, narcissistic way, but a way that was healthy for us. A time where if you had something to say and wanted to passionately say it, you just said it (HECK YES!)

I really do wish some days we were living in a less calculated world. I miss those days of off-the-cuff randomness. Whose with me?

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The Sunday 7

  1. If only it was March right now and this beautiful sunny, Sunday was an indication that Spring was here. Unfortunately, looks like we may have to brace ourselves for some more winter weather (I mean, it is January still). In the meantime, I am enjoying as much time outdoors as possible and snapped this photo above on the city limits of Guelph overlooking the countryside #MyFavouriteViews #RemindsMeOfTheFarm
  2. I  can't wait to try out this Mexican restaurant in Waterloo that I read about in Toque magazine, a free amazingly-designed magazine I found (for free!) in my local Balzacs in Guelph.
  3. I purchased this refreshing face mist from The Body Shop over the holidays and I'm loving it! Its the perfect mid-day pick up.
  4. I also recently bought these beauties (thanks to Winners!) and can’t wait to get to wear these.. in bare feet, with warm, sunny weather.. sometime soon hopefully #dreaming
  5. This place in Prince Edward County for a creative genius retreat looks ah-mazing! Who wants to hit the road and go with me for a weekend of brainstorming, writing and no cellphones (only for photos of course!)
  6. How is it February in 4 days?! We have lots of exciting plans in store for the next month. To keep me organized (and happy every time I open up my laptop), I found this cute February desktop wallpaper.
  7. Bell Let's Talk Day is coming up this week on Wednesday, January 31st! Be sure to participate on social media if you can or at least watch some of the awesome shows that will be airing featuring real-life people talking #MentalHealth#EndtheStigma

Nothing Creates Spark Like Face-to-Face

I’ve recently been reminded, after a busy few weeks of meetings, just how powerful face-to-face meetings really are. The energy that exudes from people is infectious. Extremely engaging conversations around a table have motivated me to want to leave and do big things (all the meetings have been positive of course!).

Nothing, even social media and the most slickest of technology platforms, will replace the spark that is created in face-to-face meetings.

Full stop.

[Or.. it could also just be because this new mama loves getting out of the house to be around a table of adults sans baby, to discuss big ideas.... it gets me all energized and amped-up!]

One of the things I love best about being in meetings is when you’re in a room with not necessarily like-minded people, but people who are similarly as passionate as you are about a topic. Hearing their different opinions and how they formulate their thought process is so valuable. Watching and listening to them express themselves has provided a whole other perspective to learn how to see the other side of an issue. I think this is a skill that is becoming obsolete in today's society, don't you think? #Empathy #Understanding

What is the quote? "The path to gaining respect is paved with knowledge and empathy."

[Tweet ""The path to gaining respect is paved with knowledge and empathy." - Evan Brown"]

I also love how people around the table act as catalysts of inspiration for others. Hearing others share their ideas so passionately both through their words, their body language and their voice in person gets at me in a different way then watching people over a device for a meeting.

You can see it in people's aggressive head nods or that glimmer in their eye when you're discussing a topic, idea or issue that has really moved the table. The meetings I've been at recently, we've been able to productivity talk through issues, come up with solutions and brainstorm new ideas. These are things that are hard to do online when you're on a Skype call or teleconference line, where you feel isolated.

As an example, at a recent meeting, an older gentleman shared his progressive, forward thinking ideas when he, so deeply and eloquently, imparted a line that stood out to me:

“Experience doesn’t make you look forward, it always makes you look back.”

It was one of those 'ah-ha' moments.

I was reminded in the moment that you don’t have to be a millennial to think young (yes, there are baby boomers out there who are forward thinking and young at heart, millennials!). Social media couldn’t have provided that type of moment for me to learn and understand from someone like this. It was a brilliant thought from someone who clearly had years of experience and wisdom.

I realize technology allows for more convenience, especially from the comfort of your own home or office desk, but the next time you have the option, seriously consider bringing your team in or suggesting face-to-face.

Yes, meetings be long, feel daunting (while your emails pile up!) and something we all sometimes dread, especially if the moderator or Chair doesn't run an effective meeting by staying on time and on task with agenda items #petpeeve, but I guarantee, almost every time afterwards, you’ll feel good about the shared energy that came from a positive and productive face-to-face meeting.

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