Maintaining a Healthy Brain While Working Online

I’ve recently had the pleasure of chatting with the media-proclaimed “Poker Barbie” Lacey Jones about playing poker on and offline and actually making a living doing it. It seems rather strange to me to rely on a chance game to supply your income but I suppose many people feel the same about freelance design work and professional blogging (sometimes you have tons of jobs and advertising opportunities, sometimes just a few) and so, having had several friends that seem to successfully live this way, I had to learn more about how they are able to make the most of the unconventional (Miseducated) lifestyle and career they chose.

One topic we kept coming back to in our discussion is how to stay healthy while spending the majority of our time sitting down doing mostly brain work and very little body work. In being a blogger and artist I can definitely relate to my body getting the short end of the deal and began to realize that our work actually holds many more similarities than I had previously thought.

So what exactly is needed to run both a healthy brain and a healthy body while sitting for long periods of time? I thought you’d never ask! Let’s take a look at some brain foods, unhealthy foods and health tips used by professional poker players around the globe and use this information to our own benefit whether we be playing poker for money or blogging for fun.

“Add these ‘superfoods’ to your daily diet, and you will increase your odds of maintaining a healthy brain for the rest of your life.” ~ WebMD

Brain Foods

Blueberries
Wild Salmon
Nuts and Seeds
Avacados
Whole Grains
Beans
Pomegranates
Tea
Dark Chocolate // Cacao

“Whether you play live or online, poker guarantees one thing; you spend plenty of time sitting in a chair. In order to be profitable in the long run it’s crucial to revitalize the body and mind with exercise and healthy food.” ~ 9 Essential Health Tips for the Online Poker Grinder

Health Tips

Ergonomic and Comfortable Chair – Make sure your chair is supportive to your back, your monitor is at a comfortable height and your wrists are relaxed.
Take Breaks – Take 2-5 minute breaks every 30-60 minutes to maintain high brain performance and productivity and don’t forget to take a 30 minute lunch in the middle of your work day.
Rest Your Eyes – Remember to look away from the monitor throughout your workday and focus on something farther away for a short time.
Use Routine Exercises and Good Posture – Don’t simply melt into your chair and write away, be sure to keep moving throughout your work day even in the smallest of ways. Roll and stretch your wrists, contract and hold your abdominal and gluteus muscles, exercise your calves by pushing up onto the balls of your feet. Utilize a routine which allows you to be habitual in your seated exercise regimen.

“By reducing or eliminating the foods that should be avoided you will optimize your brain power today and reduce your risk of developing brain related diseases in the future.” ~ LIVESTRONG

Foods to Avoid

Processed Carbohydrates
Trans Fat and Fried Foods
Meat
Fatty Dairy
Sugary Sweets

Get Organized and More Productive with Apps

So I’ve recently become even more addicted to my iPhone (if that’s even physically possible) and it’s array of apps that just happen to make my life so much easier and more organized! Which is just what this article is going to focus on, getting organized and raising your productivity by using the little gadget that most of us love so much. So so much. I know you’ve been wanting me to publish this one for awhile because of the many times you ask me how I appear to stay on task in the midst of chaos and since I gave you my daily staples for happiness I figured next up should be my staples for productivity and organization. Together we’re going to excel in 2013 like never before! Do you feel me?

Some of the most important applications I need to include in my work days (and weekends as well) are simple and easily locatable in the App Store BUT being an Apple fan I’m going to assume that you, much like myself, prefer the finer things in life. The well designed, well written and most useful of the group no matter the cost. So my basic must haves for any day are: brain wave hacks or meditation music, a journal or scrapbook, a gratitude journal, a mood journal, a calendar, a task list, a notebook, a sketchbook, a daily schedule planner and obviously a camera which comes standard in all iPhones. Enjoy my list of top dogs I’ve carefully selected after using many other sub-par creations.

Audio: BrainHack 2.0 and Spotify
Audio and music are probably not important to everyone but they are must-haves for me. Whether I’m stressed and need to calm myself or get inspired a bit with a brainhack or if I just need some relaxing tunes to meditate to audio is a staple to my every day. Plus if you’re all about increasing productivity even in down time you can learn some new things as you commute by subscribing to some awesome Podcasts and radio programs.

A Journal: Evernote and Evernote Food
Everyone needs their go-to journal that’s easily accessible anytime they need to write what they’re feeling or any number of other things. The good thing about Evernote, the journal application I prefer, is that you can access, create and edit all of your notes on your computer, your iPad, your iPhone and even your Kindle or other android device. Evernote has also created a few other useful apps such as Evernote Food that is useful for organizing recipes, favorite dishes and restaurants you enjoy most and we all know how important food is to productivity and to having an enjoyable day! With Evernote, which happens to also be very clean and nice to look at, you can create as many notebooks as you like, attach photos, visually format your notes and attach locations as well. It’s very simple to use and you’ll only continue to think of new ways to use it. I adore it.

Gratitude Journal: Gratitude Journal by Happy Tapper
Very important to those of us who want to become happier and more aware of the good things we have in our life. In practicing gratitude daily you learn to be more thankful for the gifts you have been given and to overlook the problems you may be going through. With this app you also get a daily inspiring quote, you can rate your days, format your entries and attach a picture. This was one of my first favorite apps and I’ve been enjoying it for a long time!

Mood Journal: iMoodJournal
I originally decided to find a mood journal when my boyfriend asked if I had one. We figured, as any therapist will tell you, by recording your moods you’ll become more aware of bad mood triggers and will be able to track how your moods change throughout the day, week, month and year. This app allows you to rate your day, add as many notes and tags as you like and to attach a picture of your face. It even inspires me cheer up when I’m down and look through my positive mood days and photos of what a happy me looks like.

Calendar
I think it’s best to use Apple’s own calendar for this app as it is also the calendar that is on Apple computers. Plus many apps you’ll download for productivity will be designed to sync with your Calendar for optimal organization.

Notebook: Notes
I also use the default notebook for quick notes as it syncs with my computer and is an official Apple product.

Task List: Any.DO
I decided to look for a more friendly task list manager after I only continued to add tasks to the default Apple task list app, Reminders, and felt very overwhelmed that the tasks were not really organized in any way at a glance which was very overwhelming to me. I often have many tasks per day that I need to do and I really enjoy getting to cross them out on Any.Do which has predictive task writing and can target friends online or by phone per task as well as share tasks with another. It has tons of simple yet useful functions that make it my favorite list manager.

Sketchbook: Skitch
Every artist and designer needs a sketchbook on hand just in case words wont do it and you need a quick visual. Since I got tired of carrying around my lot of tiny notebooks and sketchbooks and even my purse most days I decided to add Evernote’s sketchbook to my list of go-to applications. Very useful for annotating photographs and graphics as well when you’re working on the go!

Daily Schedule Planner: Daily Routine
I most recently found this application and I am already in love. It’s beautiful, extensive and although it’s been said (look at the reviews) to be too tough to figure out I prefer it over every other planner. The visuals, features and options it has top all other daily schedule planners and when you spend a few minutes to figure out how to arrange your daily schedules you’ll love it. It can remind you of each new scheduled event during the day and can set the same schedule for every work day and a separate for weekdays or absolutely any other way you can imagine. Try it! It’s worth the cost.

Fun
I’m often asked what my favorite apps are just for entertainment. A few fun apps I enjoy using when taking a break or the work day is over are usually horoscope and spirituality apps, design apps, social media apps and more. I’ll add another article with my favorite apps for the beginning of 2013 soon! Our past app list is probably a bit outdated so keep your eyes peeled for a new one coming soon!

Phone Cases
Looking for a new, cute and productive phone case to go with your new array of amazing applications? We have them coming to our store very soon so stay tuned. Our custom cases have gotten so much praise that we’re in the midst of developing some really special ones for you. Stay tuned!

What helps you stay organized and more productive on and off work days?

Everything is Changing

I’ve been working like crazy lately and unable to respond to many of your messages but I am getting them and I will catch up eventually. Everything’s changing from winter to spring now and it’s caused quite an overload of work. I understand wanting to start anew and get new collections out, whew so much to do and so little time to blog!

Speaking of collections I’m collaborating with one of my dearest friends, Chelsea of Paper*Cakes on a new project that will be out soon~

I miss the days when I could sit and produce several visual blog posts in no time. I feel like all of that drive has to be focused on Colette and work right now and I just cannot find that same inspiration for blogging. That explains all the rambling diary posts.

Did I tell you my schedule totally changed? We all have to get up before dawn now due to my husbands new job. I’m still trying to get motivated in the early morning but so far I’ve just been sketching, working and chugging lots of tea and vanilla coffee. I’ll get the hang of this!

Miseducated is also going through some changes.. I’ve been reorganizing and there’s much more to go so stay tuned.

Finding Energy in the Dead of Winter

Wanwan loves her satin pillow~

Why is it so tough? Why do I feel the need to gulp down glass after glass of coffee all day and night long just to stay awake? Is it me? My medication? The season? The amount of close family and friends experiencing the same this time of the year leads me to believe it’s not just me. Everyone feels exhausted.

One way to instantly feel better is to do something. Anything. It will improve your mood and might just inspire you to continue or to try something else. This is one I hear again and again and it’s almost the hardest one to do… just get up and make myself work? When I feel like sleeping? When I feel like pulling the blinds and hiding in bed all day? Yes, even today.

A great way to naturally produce energy is by exercising. No matter how strange this sounds, exercise actually does give you more energy and produces endorphins. I feel like I preach this to myself all day.. exercise and eat well! I’m pretty bad at going for the sweets and caffeine without hesitation. This is why I feel so great one second and like absolute shit the next. These cause you to crash and then it’s even harder to stay awake and energized.

My heart sweets for you~

Take a nap. I know it sounds silly. Even a 30 minute power nap. Tell yourself you’re really exhausted now but when you wake up at (set your alarm now) __:__ you’ll be ready to work on whatever task you’d like to complete.

Don’t make your tasks sound large, break them down. Instead of ‘clean up kitchen’ how about ‘wash dishes’ and later ‘sweep kitchen floor’ and finally ‘clean counters’ ? It makes it a lot easier to get things done when you make them sound manageable. At your MOST LIFELESS you’ll still feel like you can accomplish wiping the counters.

Take in the small things. Light a candle and relax while you breathe the warmly scented aroma it creates. (try mint or eucalyptus scents for energy!) Slowly enjoy and experience a cold, refreshing iced drink. Put an energizing scented lotion on and take in the whole experience as you smooth it into your hands and smell the fresh mint.

One of my absolute favorite ways to find energy is to drink coffee and tea. However be careful because as I said before, caffeine causes a later crash. Have a cup of Earl Grey when you feel like going to bed. Enjoy the tea as you drink it and take in the aroma. You should feel more energized after you’ve had your tea. I know everyone knows this but I feel like we often forget or don’t take time to experience an afternoon tea.

Do you have some more ways to stay energized in the dead winter that don’t involve cold showers? 😉

Stay Gold Forever: Lessons in Business and the State of Being

gold

When I was about fifteen, my father had this great idea that would turn me into the business prodigy that he had so desperately wanted me to be: To start a record label. I was very involved in music, and he had figured that it would have been perfect. I spent months reading business books and books specifically about one starting a record label, only to quit the project and head into an entirely new direction (one of the best descisions I have ever made in my entire life) months later.
Nonetheless, here are some things that I had learned whilst trying to get this independent music empire up and running, and I believe sincerely that these lessons can be applied to life in general and have a positive effect.

That’s My Story, and I’m Sticking To It

When I tell people how something happened (ex. How did you and your boyfriend meet? Is an easy example) , I want to feel good about it. I don’t want to have to feel like I have to paint a different picture to get the approval of who I’m telling, there shouldn’t be a detail to hide. You have to live a story that you’ll be proud to tell in the future.

Don’t Lose Yourself

It’s human nature. When you factor things down to their purest form, the only thing you really have, to hold on to forever and no one can ever take it, is what you think about yourself. Who you know yourself to be. And you must maintain your sense of yourself at all costs. Because your self-image is always going to be what you base your descisions off of, and if you compromise that, you’ve lost.

At the end of the day, don’t only ask:
How much money did I make?
How much work did I get done?
but also ask yourself:
What did I get out of it?
because in everything you do, there’s an image of yourself and the feeling associated with what you’re trying to achieve.

Avoid the Trap

Define who you know yourself to be.
Define who it is that you would like to be.
And define what it is you wish to be known for.

Those three things are your own personal rules of thumb. And it’s rather difficult, but beneficial, not to contradict them.

I do sincerely feel that by applying these little bits of knowledge to your life, you’ll come to a full understanding of why you want to do what you want to do, and therefore take a huge step forward on your everlasting journey to self discovery.

Don’t Be Controlled: Things You Should Do

Speaking as one of the very last people in the world that one should expect to be able to control, I’ve battled my fair share of attempts. I’ve been asked to be silent, to restrict my speech, to limit my work. My work knows no limits. What keeps me going is the aesthetic obsession I have with art and design, the need to create the world around myself and around you. The world is your canvas, express yourself vividly.

As you see this is not a ‘Design Your Life‘ article — this is a ‘Visual Splendor‘ article and with good reason. I’m being silly and contradictory and I think you should absolutely do all the things listed below daily. Please feel free to make suggestions of MUST-DOs that you enjoy daily and also suggestions of new objects I might place in my mouth for nonsensical artistic amusement. Remember, this is Miseducated and sometimes being nonsensical purely for your own endeavors is many times necessary and often unexplainable.

eat cake
EAT CAKE. Necklace by stoopidgerl

in my mouth: pink pill
TAKE YOUR VITAMINS.

in my mouth: perfume
SMELL DELICIOUS.

10 Ways to Brighten Your Days

It’s easy for us to feel down with the daily grind of life. Especially if you’re working a full time job or constantly busy with school. It’s important to keep individuality in your life, regardless of your hectic schedule. It brightens up your world and makes you feel a little cheerier. So, what should you do?

clips

Update your wardrobe, and don’t be afraid of color. Sometimes when I peer into the depths of my closet all I see is black, gray, and more black. Color is your friend, even if you’ve got the professional hat on. Don’t be afraid to buy something that catches your eye. If you’ve got a uniform to wear, put on some bright nail polish or find some lovely under things.

Change your hairstyle. Cut? Color? Go for it. Hair grows out so don’t be afraid to do what you want with it. One of the best confidence builders you can get is a great hair day.

Are you a hard working student? Get yourself some adorable school supplies. Check out Kawaii Gifts!

Keep a little journal with you to write down all the positive things that happen in your life. You can keep another one to vent too, but keep it separate. This one’s all about the positive. You can even write yourself little love notes to read on a rainy day.

Make like a Japanese school girl and give your cell phone a makeover. Check out Strapya World.

Start working some leg wear into your attire. Take a peek at Sock Dreams.

Find a pen pal. Send each other letters and cute little things in the mail. Instant day brightener.

Plan out your meals a little better. Working hard, being starving when it’s time for lunch, resorting to some greasy fast fast food & then feeling awful about it is an ultimate mood killer. Don’t skip breakfast either! Maybe it’s time to get into the art of bento boxes.

Clean out your life! Get rid of everything you don’t need. Donate! Your first assignment: clean out your wardrobe. Get rid of everything you don’t wear. This makes room for all your colorful updates.

Stop focusing so much on “practical” and “sensible” 24/7 and start caring more about what makes you happy. Don’t let things stand in the way of your joy! Happiness is the secret to life, after all.

Using Personality in Your Blog

“No one can ever duplicate your personality, the way you do business and your attitude towards other people.” – Problogger

cold as ice

Having been recently approached by well-known companies about Miseducated, I began wondering, “should I begin to write more seriously?” I’d always used my artist blog to write professional articles about Indianapolis.. and Miseducated was always used as my true self — how I act with my close friends. I often make up words and expressions all the while using slang, jargon and nonsense. My articles here are all that stands of my ‘blogging life’ anymore, but I wonder, should I tone down my character a bit?

Then I decided that’s what Miseducated is, being true to your self. Experiencing your life to the fullest.

I could always write less personally, but if I did that then I’d have changed everything I enjoy about what I do. I have written many serious pieces in the past both for education and personal purposes, they sit for months unnoticed in a folder marked ‘work’ and rarely see light. (I insisted as an undergrad that I could not write yet my professors adored everything I churned out.) I get bored easily and I must be doing what fuels my creativity. Thoughts onto paper. Sometimes unorganized thoughts onto paper but nevertheless, honesty and personality.

Go ahead and start a blog for hobby or sheer entertainment, see where it goes. In this amazing world wide web we all have the opportunity to publish our thoughts and work, if you catch the eye of others it can be endlessly shared and enjoyed around the world.

Get a move on

Working Girls by Gala Darling
7 Reasons Why Personal Blogs Rock at Problogger
Adding a Personal Touch to Your Blog at Problogger

Design Your Own Career: Part Two

Part Two: The Essential Elements of Entrepreneurialism

“He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.” – Nietzsche

Hopefully, from our work together on the previous post you’ll have some idea of the unique career you want to build. Now is the time to look at what is required from you to achieve this, and how you can acquire, cultivate and harvest these traits to your best advantage. Even if you haven’t 100% pinned down your ideal career, working on this in the mean time will only serve to enhance your prospects.

That ladder again…

Designing your own career is not a clear-cut thing, so it does not merely entail clear-cut procedures to attain it, like achieving basic qualifications, writing an average CV or applying for an advertised position. Your own career requires more; it requires passion; it requires initiative and brazen ambition; it requires jumping on all opportunities, and manufacturing the opportunities if they don’t exist; it has to justify itself by the very splendor that the ‘work’ brings you, before you even begin to contemplate the money you could make.

That said, you shouldn’t lose sight of the practical measures in the design of your own career if you want to make a practical living from it. As I previously highlighted: whether we opt for the conventional or creative career, we are still on a ladder. The only difference is who chooses the steps.

You need to conjure your own steps, and then take them with dedication.

I strongly advise writing down your prospective steps if you’re serious about success. Designing your own career isn’t easy, in fact it requires far, far more work than any other option, but you must love this work, or at least love the thought of where it will take you enough to bury yourself in even its most mundane elements with reckless abandon.

I can’t stress enough how strongly you have to want to design your own career if it is ever going to happen, it has to burst out of you like bubbles from a shaken can – if it seems too much like hard work now, know that it’ll get harder before it gets any easier. I don’t say this to put you off, not at all; I’m here to encourage you! I simply want to portray the seriousness of what you’re embarking upon, this is a huge part of your life, so do it right.

But back to those steps…

Here’s a guideline:

Where you are now. Education and ambition, laying foundations by getting qualified and testing the water. A time for work-experience, seeking a mentor etc.
Establish a product. A book, a collection of paintings or photography, a brand, a form of design, a celebrity self, a voice, a viewpoint etc.
Refine, improve, and update product.
Sell product. Look at ways to sell more product/ market product. Create a website, go on tour, create flyers, get a stand at an event etc.
Refine, improve, and update product.
Expand on product; bring in outside help. Create more products/more angles to your one main product.
Let others sell product for you, whether commercial or not. Affiliate programs, Amazon, local stores or galleries.
Refine, improve, and update product.
Take product elsewhere, into new markets, perhaps re-branding it.
Ultimate goal. (Mansion? Fame? Florida retirement?)

You are always selling a product in any career, whether that product is yourself, your art, a service – you have something to offer, and you receive recompense in return. This is your product, but call it whatever you like: your offering, your merchandise, your ideas.

Don’t feel like you have to stick closely to the above guidelines, your own career is your own, after all, and the steps will be uniquely yours. Just make them clear, measurable, and place them somewhere you’ll look at often and repeatedly.

The top three traits to entrepreneurialism and designing you own career.

There is no magic formula that mixes to make you an instant entrepreneur. You should know already if you have a passion strong enough to carry you along your own unique career path, and that is the only real starting point. However, here are three factors I consider the most important in any aspiring artistic tycoon.

Be inspired because…

“If you have to support yourself, you had bloody well better find some way that is going to be interesting.” – Katherine Hepburn

You have to find a medium of work that has you jumping out of bed at 5am because you can’t wait to get started (okay, maybe 8am…); one that has projects ticking over in your mind all day and that you can viably dedicate hours upon hours of your time to, for what is often little or no pay to begin with.

Be sure to protect and nurture this inspiration, not take it for granted; take yourself on a cultural outing once in a while, make time for watching interesting movies, read books, and carry a notebook to catch your best brainwaves like butterflies in a jar. Think of your source of inspiration as a well that needs to be replenished often.

Be Fearless because…

“You’ve got to jump off cliffs, all the time, and build your wings on the way down.” – Ray Bradbury

You must be genuinely prepared for hard work and possible failures in the quest for your own career; but know that failing is never truly failing if we can take a lesson from it. Take chances, even if you don’t fully know what the outcome will be, even if you are only 60% prepared. Jump in at the deep end and you’ll probably find you can float, if not swim laps!

Be a risk-taker and an authenticist (new favorite made-up word meaning someone who is true to themselves.) If an opportunity scares you, it’s probably the exact one you should take. Dream big dreams and get a successful mindset because, if you act like a success, you will eventually realize success.

Be a Leader because…

“If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” – Michael Evans

Have a message you want to spread and a clear goal in mind at all times, or else you’re liable to stray from it. Not that this goal should be unbending, but you need to at least be aware if it does morph into something else. Prepare an elevator pitch (aptly named to be short enough to say on an average elevator ride i.e. one to three minutes) if the ideal time to sell your product should arise unexpectedly; keep all your dealings consistent with this pitch.

Form your tribe.

Common Problems with the Creative Career

The above is all well and good, but we have to prepare ourselves for the bumps and knocks of entrepreneurialism too. Like in any conventional career, you will encounter blocks on the creative path. Often, though, these blocks will be internal issues, not external ones – making them simultaneously easier (you’re the only issue to get over, no middle man or external barrier) to be got over, and more difficult (changing yourself is notoriously tricky when you are the only person there to answer to; requires immense will.)

Again, this isn’t with an aim to put you off, but to arm you with a mindset to defeat them, and to help you understand why you’ll need to get good at the positive traits I’ve already mentioned.

Time-management

The bad news is that this is something you’ll have to get good at. The good news is that the way you do this is totally up to you. When it’s your own work, deadlines will often be wishy-washy or even non-existent, but what if you’re just not that organized generally? You need to construct a system for how you deal with your time, whether that’s ‘every night from 6-8’ or ‘I feel so inspired, I’m just going to spend all day on my art, even if I do nothing for the rest of the week’.

You must get to know your productive self and how that self thrives: first thing in the morning, last thing at night, on the weekend, at the library, with a laptop in Starbucks etc. You need to write down a system that works for you, even if you avoid anything too specific. For more on time-management, read my article on How to Avoid Procrastination.

Lack of Opportunities

On the last first part of this series I received this from a reader: “…what stands in my way are the meagre opportunities and the lack of support from family and friends who do not believe in setting up a creative career, and hence won’t help in finances and the like.” My words on finances will come later in the series, but opportunities and support are essential factors to be overcome in all creative endeavors.

Believe me, opportunities are out there. Seek and you will find. If opportunities don’t seem to exist, you must take action to create them. Dedicate a day to trawling the internet with keyword Google searches and save your findings in a ‘Favorites’ folder. There are people out there, just like you, succeeding in what you want to do; link up with them, get work experience with them, interview them for a blog, find out how they got where they are and mimic it.

Find courses you can take in or around your subject, as this is often the best way to meet real, working professionals in the business. Meet other creative people in your community; even if their skills differ from yours, you can work together. For example, a web designer could assist a photographer to build a website, and the photographer could return the favor with help on promotional pictures.

Lack of Support

Going it alone career-wise is very often championed by the introvert. Why? Because it can be a lonely business; it requires someone who is happy to depend on themselves and spend a great deal of time working over their own thoughts and ideas. I’ve been lucky, I feel I can achieve great things because of the support network I have, but I know this isn’t always the case. Financial support can be sourced elsewhere (more information on this to come later) but emotional support of friends and family is truly priceless – and without it you can feel a bit lost.

Join a community, whether locally or online, no matter your niche, one will exist somewhere. If it doesn’t – set one up, even if it’s only a Facebook group. This kind of support won’t act as a replacement for that of close personal relationships, but it can surely help, and who knows what will come of the links you will forge.

Depending on your situation, if you believe in yourself enough and start to see small successes, your family and friends will come around. You have to look for the positive, create the positive, and you will find that you will attract positivity.

Dealing with People

Despite what I’ve said on the subject of support, an independent career will never be 100% you and you alone. Whether you’re collaborating, targeting a certain market, networking – whatever – you need to know about people, even if that’s a very small niche of people. It’s in your interest to learn how to interact, impress, excite and enlighten your public – as much for their benefit as your own. Establish yourself as a go-to person in your business, and your success will only grow.

Consider this your initiation into the world of your dream career! Next up will be Part Three: Love & Learning in Equal Measure where I’ll consider questions of gratitude and education, before we move on to the essential question of cold hard cash in Part Four: Making Your Passion Pay.

Design Your Own Career: Part One

Part One: What’s Your Calling?

“The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.” – George Bernard Shaw

Convention, we nearly all assign ourselves to it on some level or another; whether it’s three square meals a day, two point four children or a standard curriculum education. However, there comes a point in the life of your average creative when they realize convention just won’t cut it for them any longer, most powerfully when it comes to their careers.

Sometimes, even though it would be easier for an individual to ignore their talent, their desires, their dreams, and opt for habitual obedience and a fixed wage, they just can’t quite swallow the dry pill that is the conventional career. Is this you? Then this series is here to help.

Whether you’ve got no idea where to start, or you’re a seasoned freelancer looking to get back to basics, ‘How to Design Your Own Career’ will take you from the very basics of figuring out just what it is you should be doing, the traits you’ll need to be successful in that career, getting qualified and making it pay. From artists to jewelery designers, writers to life coaches and more – it’s in your hands to create a self-sufficient, fulfilling and profitable career. So, how about it?

What should you be doing?

“Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it.” – Buddha

You may know that a conventional career isn’t for you, what you may not know is which creative path you’d like to take. Deciding early on is desirable, as the more work you can put in now, the sooner you’ll get there. For sure success, you’ll also want to stoke a very organic, fiery desire within yourself, aimed at a certain path.

However, the creative mind is oftentimes a confused one – there’s just too much going on in there! For that reason, it may take a little self-research to conclude just what it is that you want to make your living doing.

If you’re stuck, try this exercise:

1. Find yourself a private space where you can sit comfortably, equipped with a notepad, pen, warm drink and perhaps some motivating music playing quietly. Gather five to ten items that interest, excite or inspire you. For example: a great book you’ve read (fiction or non-fiction) a magazine clipping, a beautiful image or photograph, a piece of jewellery or clothing, a CD or DVD etc. Try to vary the items as much as possible (although this isn’t essential) and spread them out in front of you.

2. Study the items and try to note down answers to the following questions:

  • What unifies them?
  • Imagine they were the belongings of a fictional character (i.e. not yourself) what would that character be like? Could you aspire to be more like this character? What career would fulfil this character?
  • With each item individually, try to create another item from it. For example, a Jazz CD could relate to a Jazz club (real or imagined) and you can picture how the Jazz club would be decorated, perhaps with a mural or mix of antique furniture.
  • Of all the items, real and imagined, which feels most exciting or ‘hottest’ to you?

3. Leave your notes for a day or so, and then return to them in the same setting. Brainstorm careers around the ideas you generated, even if they don’t exist, even if they’re silly, even if you don’t believe for one minute that you could make a living out of them.

4. Further questions you might like to ask yourself and brainstorm from are: what do you most often think about? (Food, fashion, a certain sport etc.) What do you most often read about? (What kind of article would you stop to read in a magazine, or what book would you pick up in a library?) What is currently on your mind? (When you’ll get a chance to watch that new movie, or your next holiday etc.) Again, what feels ‘hottest’?

5. Once you have certain topics in mind that inspire you, think about how you could make a career from them. What are the different ways people have done this? Who are they? How did they do it? How could you do it differently?

What you should know is that any career, any career you can think of, is made up of a series of ‘steps’. This, low and behold, is why it is called ‘the career ladder’! All you need to do is determine what these steps are, from your current position, and start taking them.

If your creative career doesn’t exist – create it! Thanks to the internet, the world of work is changing. The middle man’s days are numbered and we are freer than ever when it comes to how we can generate income. Online business is lucrative for the individual, and can be forged from an almost innumerable amount of hobbies, skills and interests.

Many people think they need a ‘big break’, or lots of money to begin with, and this can be the case, but don’t you think that even if you just reach, say, step seven, you’re far more likely to be noticed for your hypothetical ‘big break’ than if you lounge around at step zero? Precisely.

The truth is, the career of the creative is often made up like a tapestry, weaving together several income streams, some more attractive than others. Many people take the option of what we’ll call ‘half creative’ living, where they work a part-time or even full time job, and pursue a creative career alongside it. If followed with enough ambition, this option can often lead to ‘fully creative’ living.

Only you can know which choice is right for you but, if you’re really serious about designing your own career, you need to dedicate as much time as possible and, if not, have a strict regime of how you’ll use the time that you can dedicate. We’ll look more at time-keeping, and other positive traits you’ll need to develop for successfully creating your own career, in the next part of the series.