If you are not your own boss…

Then you should be!

Just kidding.

My question is this: if you are not your own boss, meaning you are working for somebody else,

Why do you work?

What is the reason(s) for you to keep working for this employer?

For the money? Sure. But, is money the only factor here?

I’ve seen people who work for a company because it’s good money. Easy money, really.

Easy but sufficient money. They don’t care about the job itself. They don’t have to put themselves on the hook.

It’s ok. They are not required to put in emotional labor.

But if you are somebody who cannot stop caring what you do, you are in trouble.

You will suffer, as long as you are on the wrong job.

Under the wrong boss.

In the wrong team.

Facing the wrong clients.

In the wrong department/company.

So, why do you work? Why are you still where you are? Where do you want to go?

What do you want to feel when you do what you “have to do” — your work?

I can’t stop caring. That’s my curse and my blessing.

A boss has to show me that she’s worth my work and my caring. Because I carry emotional labor at whatever I do.

I’m not just working for the money. Money is a must for me, like it is for 99% of the people in the job market.

But I work because I want to know that my work means something to some people.

I work because I can help, I can provide, I can serve.

Don’t say “you are such a millennial”. Because this world is already sliding into the hands of the millennials.

Meaning has already become a must. It’s not unnecessary, pretentious or hypercritical.

Searching for meaning shows someone does care.

And for an employer, someone who do the work while caring is the most valuable.

Whatever you are doing, don’t stop caring.

Don’t give up your “why”.

Get your creativity a friend

An interesting friend.

You know how we all need interesting friend who can inspire us, instead of dragging us down?

“You can do it! You are doing it and you are improving. I’m proud of you!”

“You know this is what I do. This might be interesting to you.”

“Let’s talk about this concept that you are working on. I have a different approach…”

You want people who say this in your life.

What if I tell you that you need to give your creativity also a friend? A companion.

A companion that inspires your work.

Albert Einstein plays the piano and violin. He likes to sail, too.

Silvia Plath keeps bees.

Emily Dickinson likes to bake.

The companions they found for their own creativities relax them, diverse their attention when stress accumulates in their “serious work”, and inspire their creativities from another realm of consciousness and reality (because how mindful they have to be when they create. So are you.)

Find your creativity its own companion.

What you enjoy but in another field.

What gives you sparks of inspiration, pleasure, and relaxation or stimulation.

Your creativity will benefit from it. So will you.

What makes you tick?

As a creative and marketer, it’s our second nature to ask what makes other people tick. But to develop our own creativity to the next level, or simply to unstuck ourselves, the question we should ask from time to time is “what makes me tick?”

What are my buttons?

What inspires me and what makes me want to say something?

What relaxes me and what makes me want to escape the scene?

What excites me and what makes me want to turn to the next page and not stop reading?

What makes my heart pound and what makes my eyes watery?

Because being creative means not only to explore the market, the world and humanity; it also means to explore ourselves, who we are and what we are able to become, and more importantly, why and how.

Back to simplicity

What to do when you feel stuck and overwhelmed?

Pick up a pen and a paper. They always do the trick for me.

Think about this: feeling stuck and overwhelmed is mostly resulted from overload. It can be information overload, emotion overload, choices overload, etc.

Life is complex. You don’t need me to tell you that.

Let’s face it, even when you feel like you don’t have anything for that blank page, the truth is that you have too much to say to pick anything to say.

So the trick here is simple (pun) — keep it simple.

Go back to the basics.

The most basic form, the most basic exercise, the most basic system.

Go back to the math, the simple dance steps, moves, music notes, concepts and ideas.

Go back to using nothing but a yoga matte, to drawing with one pencil, and one colour.

Go back to practicing the Hanon Exercises.

Go back to writing in pen and paper.

Go back to everything’s original point, point zero.

To where everything began. So that the fog can be dispersed, and eventually disappear.

Inspired by the simplicity, the core structure, the most basic of the basics. That’s what we can do when we cannot move forward.

Breaking creative blocks

First, we need to define “creative block” here, so to make sure that we are talking about the same thing.

A creative block is the feeling you have in your gut when facing a blank page.

A creative block is the chaos in your head when you can’t move forward with your project and you are not sure why.

A creative block the tiredness you experience at any point of your work, because it’s just too taking too long, carrying too much, resonating too little.

A creative block is where you are ready to give up, because it’s too hard, too draining, too expensive, and too lonely.

There are several things I do when I hit a creative block.

  1. Spending quality time with my peers. One or two people I trust who are good listeners and good conversing partners. Talk. About anything. Then add my work process. Talk. Let the real problem and the things I really want to talk about emerge by itself.
  2. Spending time with myself, doing things I want to do. Things that either relax me or stimulate me. Like watercoloring or learning Spanish. Give your ideas time. If you are searching for it too desperately, it’s not gonna come to you by itself.
  3. Free writing. From my experience, you don’t have to do it with paper and pen. Typing works too. Just write. Just type. Ramble. Say anything that comes to mind. If anything interesting comes out, mark it. And keep writing or typing. At one point my brain will turn to saying “ok now I’m really excited about the points that came up just now. So let me go and work on them. Will come back for more free style writing! Thank you and bye!”
  4. Doing the things I instantly want to say “no” to. I know myself well enough now, that I know I should do something when I don’t want to do it. I get alerted whenever I want to say “no” to things. And that excites me. So I will have to do it. Such an activity will unblock my creative process. It always has.

So which one would you like to try the next time when you encounter a creative block? And what do you do when you feel stuck in your creative process?

Go for imperfection

There’s no better way to get better at something than going for imperfection. And there’s no worse thing than going after perfection.

When you do some work, better do it every day, you can look at it and say, “It’s ready to go, because it’s imperfect.”

Only when you doing something every day, and when not doing it becomes the exception, can you call yourself a professional.

That’s why the trick here is this: if you want to get better at something to become a pro at it, you goal can be simply “doing imperfect work every single day”.

And keep that streak. And let “no-work-done day” be an extremely rare exception.

You know you can’t stop now

You know you can’t stop now.

You’ve made it this far.

Starting was difficult. But you’ve done it. And now here you are.

You know you can’t stop now.

You’ve given up many times. You’ve given yourself enough chances to start over.

You know even if you don’t make it to the end this time, you can still start over.

But truly, you are tired of “starting again”.

You are tired of being stuck at the starting point, and never finishing it.

You are tired of being a “beginner”.

You know you can’t stop now, no matter how frustrating it is.

“A good start is half-way to success”. Now you know think it might be a lie.

The excitement wears off. Motivation becomes only words on a poster. Adrenaline decreases to a healthy level. That’s how everything goes.

But when it gets less exciting, you get bored; when you are bored, it’s difficult to move forward.

“Where do new ideas come from?” “I don’t see any progress.” “I feel drained.” “I’m not sure if I can go on.”

The first 100 days is hard. The next 100 days might still be.

The beginner’s level is fun. But you have not yet started if you didn’t get passed the first hard phase.

If anything is “half-way to success”, “pulling through the first hard phase, until you do your practice and ship your work every day with ease” is it.

You know you can’t stop now.

“At the critical moment, holding on and not giving up, so that desperation can become hope.”

“How do you know when you are standing at the critical moment?”

“Every time you want to give up is a critical moment.”

Now it is one. You ARE hanging on the edge of giving up. You are at a critical moment.

Now you can’t give up.

You know you can’t stop now.

You’ve made this far.

A happy leader

Giving makes you happier than gaining and taking from others. That’s probably why becoming the parents who take care of their children makes themselves happier people.

To create is to lead. It’s to start something new, go down a new path for the first time, where nobody else has set foot on. (The Practice, Seth Godin)

That’s a scenario where being a leader doesn’t require having followers.

Therefore, creating something that’s your own and sharing what you made to the world will make you a fulfilled, and happy person who leads her own life.

Can you think of what you want to do exactly to achieve this? Something worth thinking about.

But be mindful: there’s only “want to”, no “ought to”.

How to save the life of a marketer

Save the life of a marketer? From what?

There’s only one thing that’s very dangerous for any marketer — a bad product.

In recent years, with the rising of social media marketing and viral marketing, brands start to create “persona” to attract customers. Paid ads, loud and aggressive marketing interrupt everyone’s feed. It doesn’t matter what you are reading or watching. The “personas” are dry and fake; the ads invades people’s private sphere — their phone or laptop screens.

The customer as “fish in the sea” — bad product was built from the wrong basis. Even if the best marketing was used for such product, it’s going to be not only a waste of resources, but it’s also morally questionable for marketers to persuade people to pay for such a product — a product the marketers themselves don’t have faith in.

If we are ought to change the marketing, we need to save talented marketers from bad products that don’t serve anyone, that don’t solve any problem.

If you are a marketer but you are working on a bad product’s campaign, don’t despair. Listen to your customers and understand what they really need. If you can, help with the design of this product to make it better.

Or quit and find a better product to market for.

These are the two ways to save your life.

The secret to surviving the new market place that you might have overlooked

“The customer is always right.” Well, that time has passed.

What was true before as the golden role of customer service now seems to be over simplified and one-dimensional.

Today’s relationship between a product/service provider and the customer has changed very much from a few years ago.

The product and service itself is still important. Yet there are something else rises up to the center of the customer’s attention — customer experience.

The multi-dimensional experience.

From the moment of encounter to getting-to-know phase, from buying process to user experience and customer support, the complete experience of a customer decides whether the product and service is successful or not.

We’ve entered a new era of B2C business. Anyone who ignore the customer experience will be eliminated from the transforming market place.

Remember, the complete experience matters equally.