My personality throughout my existences (and a new guide to business financing!)

A ritual often performed at the Auckland Buddhist Centre includes the following lines:

My personality throughout my existences…
I give up without regard to myself
For the benefit of all beings.

I’ve been thinking about my various existences because the company I work for just published a really useful resource, A guide to financing your business.

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The content is top notch, it’s beautifully laid out and illustrated, the writing is clear, the whole thing flows well, and it’s easy to navigate. While it doesn’t really take a stand on the ethics or of any of the options and I’d have loved to see some case studies, it’s far more complete than I was expecting, and I’m really impressed!

And I had absolutely nothing to do with its creation, which feels incredibly strange. I was legitimately obsessed with this topic — my expertise in that rapidly-evolving field paid my bills, I got a massive grant to write a book about it — for more than a decade. I can’t pinpoint exactly when that particular obsession ended, but it’s been a HUGE relief to let go of the need to stay on top of the latest crowdfunding legislation or alternative lending innovations or who’s launching what new community investing fund… thankfully, we’ve got people like Jenny Kassan and Amy Cortese all over those 🙂

This shift in my attention makes me think of all the different identities I’ve embraced and then drifted away from over the years: Continue reading “My personality throughout my existences (and a new guide to business financing!)”

When the medium limits the message

Here are three offerings that really drove home the whole “the medium is the message” message for me this week. I’ll share more of my own thoughts in separate posts; here, I’ll let the artists speak for themselves.

One: Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette [this is just the trailer, you can read more of my thoughts on it here]:

Two: This video essay from Lindsay Ellis [more of my thoughts on this video here]:

…and Three: something my friend Ethan wrote in the description of the Kickstarter campaign for his latest art book, The Evening Pink. [Please give him your support! And I’ve written up more thoughts about slow, thoughtful engagement, etc, here:

I am concerned about the distribution and reach of independent cultural production in 2018. The last time I pre-ordered an edition, in 2012, the cultural landscape was quite different. We used blogs! Artists are now producing more content for less pay, on channels that ask for shorter encounters with artworks. This is discouraging when you make books, and want to facilitate a slow, thoughtful engagement.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1383040354/the-evening-pink-pre-order-the-first-edition

 

What’s your crystal shop? A lesson from The Alchemist

The Alchemist.jpgTonight I’m thinking about the crystal shop in Paolo Coelho’s book The Alchemist. It’s been over twenty years since I read the copy I “borrowed” from my cousin Matthew (!!!) so I’m a bit fuzzy on the details, but here’s what I remember: the protagonist is on his journey (the Hero’s Journey, the monomyth), and at some point he ends up asking a crystal merchant for a job.

It turns out he’s pretty good at selling crystals. Not only that, but he ends up coming up with all sorts of excellent business ideas, and things are going great.

…except that our hero didn’t set out from home to do a great job selling crystals. If anything, hanging out with the crystal merchant has made him a bit complacent, and the reader wonders if he’s completely lost sight of his goal.

At one point the protagonist is trying to figure out why his boss, who keeps talking about his big dream of going to Mecca, isn’t doing anything that would help him actually get there:

“Well, why don’t you go to Mecca now?” asked the boy. “Because it’s the thought of Mecca that keeps me alive. That’s what helps me face these days that are all the same, these mute crystals on the shelves, and lunch and dinner at that same horrible café. I’m afraid that if my dream is realized, I’ll have no reason to go on living.”

Of course you want to just shake the guy: “What are you waiting for?! You’re not getting any younger, Mecca isn’t going to come to you!”

But you can’t very well judge, because you know that you’ve been in that exact place yourself.  Continue reading “What’s your crystal shop? A lesson from The Alchemist”

Your Money Or Your Life: one of the most influential books of my life

vicki
Of course this woman is one of my role models (Source: yourmoneyoryourlife.com)

I finally had a chance to read the new edition of Your Money Or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence, a book that had a huge influence on me when I first discovered it back in the late ’90s.

With this book, co-author (and now friend!) Vicki Robin sparked the FIRE, or  “Financial Independence, Retire Early” movement… though few people were aware of this until relatively recently. She is a huge inspiration to me, and I definitely aim to be like her when I grow up!

The new edition includes a wider range of examples from Millennial types, and the chapter on investing is FAR better aligned to today’s investing climate.

YMOYLIntrigued? Vicki has generously shared a VERY detailed summary on the fancy new YMOYL website, but I still suggest you buy the book, and spend some time with it!

In addition to calculating how much money we’ve earned over our entire lives, and what we have to show for it (aka our net worth; this is Step 1), we’re instructed to calculate our real hourly wage, a function of our life energy, and track every cent that comes into our goes out of our lives (Step 2). And we get into the habit of tallying up our spending by categories that are relevant to our lives, and we regularly convert those monthly spending totals into hours of life energy (Step 3).

But my favorite step by far is Step 4: Three Questions That Will Transform Your Life: Continue reading “Your Money Or Your Life: one of the most influential books of my life”

How to evaluate a fundraising opportunity

A friend of mine in North Carolina is working on what sounds like a really awesome climate change video, and he recently asked me for fundraising advice. Here are the key points of the conversation, which I hope will benefit other people who know they’ll need money in order to launch an ambitious creative project.

“I’m starting to look around for capital,” he wrote to me, “namely philanthropists who won’t expect anything back. Any ideas about who might want to invest? I’m also thinking of going to SoCap in San Francisco, in October. Is that worthwhile?”

(SoCap is a big impact investing conference in San Francisco, and I’ll get into that in more detail in a minute.)

I love this stage of a project, when anything is possible! And of course it can be daunting, especially with something like a film that requires so much money to get off the ground. My friend is super smart to be thinking about fundraising early on in the process, and this is true of most projects: fundraising takes a LOT longer than you think it will, so if you know your’e going to need money at some point, start putting your fundraising plan together sooner rather than later!

The first thing that caused me a bit of alarm about his email was that he was using the terms “philanthropy” and “investing” interchangeably. Continue reading “How to evaluate a fundraising opportunity”

Digital Desk + Analog Desk + Day Bed = My Ideal Creating Space

My new workspace arrangement has completely transformed my room from a place I rarely used to a place I can’t wait to come home to / spend all evening / all day getting creative / hanging out in.

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Ever since Scott helped me set it up, I’ve had these words from a Jean LeLoup song stuck in my head:

Mon lit est un navire
Un atelier où je vais pour l’éternité

…which roughly translates to, “my bed is a ship / a studio where I’m going for eternity.”

I had been doing a project that required more space than my little desk could accommodate, and had brought a whole pile of books / post-it notes / big sheets of paper / pens / my computer out to the dining room table. Several days later, it was really bugging me to have all that clutter in our living space, but I still wanted everything to be accessible… so I decided to move my big table from the garage and into my room.

After trying out several configurations of furniture, Scott suggested I leave BOTH desks in there, move my wine-box bookshelves (which hold all my writing and painting tools in addition to books) next to the main desk, and move the bed under the windows. And there’s still tons of room for yoga in between.

Having two desks means that I can now implement an idea Austin Kleon suggests in his book Steal Like An Artist: keep separate digital and analog desks. Continue reading “Digital Desk + Analog Desk + Day Bed = My Ideal Creating Space”

My favorite mindfulness app is Pocket (or: how to stay focused AND always have excellent reading material on your person)

Insight Timer is my first recommendation when people ask me about meditation or mindfulness apps, but it’s not actually the one I use most frequently. When it comes to actively strengthening the muscles of focus and attention, Pocket — yes, the app that lets you save articles and videos from the web to check out later — is my favorite.

Pocket App

What is mindfulness? Valerie (Vimalasara) Mason-John writes:

Mindfulness is becoming aware of the distractions in our daily lives, in our minds and hearts.

When we become aware of our distractions we are empowered to make a choice. We can either indulge in our distractions or come back to the task that we were initially focused on.

Developing mindfulness in our daily lives allows us to function at our full potential.

Meditation is the most widely-recognized tool for cultivating mindfulness. I’ve been meditating more-and-less regularly since 2009, and this practice has definitely helped me become more aware of my well-worn thought patterns, knee-jerk reactions, and compulsive behaviors… ever-so-gradually opening up more choice in terms of how I respond to the the things that life brings my way.

Surprisingly, using the Pocket app has also significantly deepened my awareness of the things that distract me, and given me a greater ability to focus… and not only while I’m browsing the internet.

I realize this sounds absurd, so before I continue, consider the following scenarios: Continue reading “My favorite mindfulness app is Pocket (or: how to stay focused AND always have excellent reading material on your person)”

Dean Fidelman finally getting the kind of attention he deserves (and not only for StoneNudes)

I met photographer Dean Fidelman while living in Yosemite National Park in 1999, and for years I invested everything I had—physically, energetically, spiritually, and financially—into his StoneNudes project. This attempt to build a something that would financially support a complete immersion into art, nature, community collaboration, social activism, and a life well-lived sparked a sense of purpose I’ve been both refining and expanding ever since. Though I ultimately chose to distance myself from the always-fraught business side of StoneNudes, Dean and I have remained very close friends and artistic collaborators.

Climbing podcast Enormocast recently published not one but two entire episodes’ worth of an interview with Dean (here’s Part 1 and here’s Part 2), and they’re fantastic. As someone who came of age listening to climbers’ yarns around Yosemite campfires, and who regularly groans at the media’s lazy sensationalization of Dean’s work, I have to say that it is a rare treat to hear the man himself explain, at length and very eloquently, why he does the work he does.

All other accounts leave out what I believe are the most important elements of his story: his deep appreciation for his mentors, his community (including those who have left us), the places that inspire his work, his commitment to giving back, and the reality of what it’s like to walk in his shoes… the mismatched shoes of our deceased friend Sean, as the case happens be.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/deanfidelman/stone-nudes-2019-20th-anniversary-calendar-final-e

This year marks the 20th and final edition of the StoneNudes Calendar, and I’m thrilled that Dean’s Kickstarter campaign is doing so well! Continue reading “Dean Fidelman finally getting the kind of attention he deserves (and not only for StoneNudes)”

When should you hire an accountant?

When I was running my publishing company, I used my (sadly, rather inept) accountant exactly five times: once to set me up on my accounting software — a disaster through-and-through — and once a year for the four years to do our taxes.

If I had known then what I know now (businesses that use accountants regularly grow their profits 23% faster!), I would have made an effort to find an accountant that was a much better fit, and I would have consulted them far more frequently.

Here’s a video I made recently for Xero that goes over the critical times when it’s a good idea to hire an accountant.