Sunday, December 30, 2007

Are Your New Year's Resolutions Really Right For You?

The New Year is almost upon us and I keep thinking one of us might write an article about New Year's resolutions to put in the next email newsletter our clients receive. But nothing is coming to me. And in fact, the resolutions we both have in terms of our practice and our lives in general are kind of hard to specify.

Oh, there are a few... building on what we've already achieved, feeling more connected to a community, getting to see our friends and family more, continued health and prosperity, improved bottom line, ability to travel (without needing to do it all the time)... but in our hearts these seem more like ideas of what we'd like to see manifest in the coming year than resolutions. Resolutions being those goals you intend to make yourself do rather than receive.

Except for personal resolutions to eat more vegetables and spend less on eating out, to clean up the mess I make (I always have that one), and the various little things I always seem to settle on, resolutions this year seem few and far between.

Perhaps that's because some significant resolutions we've had in the past haven't worked out. While things we didn't think we wanted and didn't do anything to achieve came to us anyway and worked out far better than we expected.

Resolutions always revolve around how we're going to achieve the results we want, what we think we must browbeat ourselves into doing to get there. Manifestation is about asking for what you want and allowing. Often that means we do something—get a job, exercise more, plan dinners with more vegetables in them in advance, get the grocery shopping and advance prep done before you forget, and set a timer to actually make dinner happen before it's 8 o'clock, you're hungry and you remember that some cheap fast food treat is right around the corner. That's the resolutions part.

Or so we think. Sometimes what we think we ought to do isn't really right for us. And something we never expected leads to a better outcome. For example, in our practice we always assumed that we needed to meet with clients in person and build our client base locally. How else were we going to get the repeat business and referrals we think we need? We've worked on that over and over all year. Meanwhile, more than half the hits to our website come from people outside Santa Cruz from all over the world. Finally, we gave in to that emotionally -- what would happen if we did allow some of our work to come from out of town? And we found out.

Without changing a thing we started to get referrals and client calls from out of town. We started to do more phone sessions and they were fun, they were effective, and people have come again. Hmm. I, for one, never expected it.

Which leads me to the point of the article. It's one thing to make a wish (more sessions, for example) but to stick too tightly to how that should come about isn't necessarily good for anyone concerned. When we stuck to our old game plan we put a lot of effort into making things happen and tended to feel really bad when things didn't go the way we planned. I tend to feel bad about myself or about us-- why didn't we do xyz?, what could we do better next time? what did we do wrong? I haven't tended to think (in advance or after the fact) is this plan of action really right for us at the present time? Maybe that's what's been "wrong" all along.

I recently said "no" to a plan I had been thinking I would do for several months now in regards to Mama Love Perfume. Why? Well, I didn't know why at first but my first clue was that I just couldn't make myself do it. I was feeling awful about that (the first pitfall of inappropriate resolution-making) and finally asked Paul for help. He put his psychic cap on and said "if you go ahead with it, it could put you out of business!" Whoa! I didn't expect to hear that! Why?

"Well" he continued. "If you only do what you say you want to achieve are you going to be happy?" [I was planning to spend $1000 and loads of effort to get ready for a trade show in order to get a bunch of new stores -- my goal was to at least break even on show costs in order to have an "easier" time getting future and repeat sales.] My first thought was yes, I would be happy to break even, but then I stopped to do the math. No! I'd be devastated—that would be 5 stores or less. I could do that without spending money on a trade show. I added 5 stores last year without spending any money at all.

"What if the opposite happened?" he said. "What if you were inundated with more orders than you can imagine? Are you ready to deal with the consequences of that?" I wish I could have said yes. But unless I had enough money in hand to pay to have my perfumes custom formulated and have the orders filled for me, the answer is that I really don't know... I definitely couldn't do it right now, I couldn't do it by myself, and unless I guessed really well I don't know if I have enough profit built into my current pricing structure to pay for the help I'd need and pay myself as well. If I was very far off I'd be out of business immediately.

I see. The resolution I had been working with was inappropriate for me. At least right now. I still have more preliminary work to do before I can even consider the possibility. I changed my mind, decided to spend part of the money I had put aside on things that will help our businesses grow in the most healthy ways possible, and celebrated. Wahoo! I don't have to feel bad about not succeeding at brow beating myself into doing all the work that would have needed to be done for that anymore. Whew.

Is there a resolution you've been unsuccessful in making yourself do? Maybe there's another way to have what you need. Maybe you have it already if you only knew.

Friday, December 28, 2007

True Prosperity

Paul's mom inadvertently gave us a special gift this Christmas. It started with a gift card to a store that no longer exists in our area. Couldn't have foreseen that—if she had asked us we would have said, sure, there's a J.C. Penny at the mall. But there wasn't so we made a special trip about 40 minutes away to Salinas.

Then things got interesting. We never shop at a mall. We almost never go shopping at all. I usually think it's because we have no money for that but the reality is something else altogether.

As we started to turn into the mall parking lot we almost got hit by a woman in a large SUV. The look on her face was something to behold—she looked bored! Blasé. Blank. We honked, she stopped inches away from Paul's door, and even when we gestured and yelled in her direction her expression didn't change! Paul was shaken and I had violent thoughts about what I would have done if she had hurt Paul and still looked the same way but we got over it and continued on our way. Into the gargantua mall (if you listen to KPIG radio you'll recognize the joke) and absolute overwhelm. Stuff! The place was stuffed to the gills with stuff, so much stuff that in retrospect it was hard to tell that the Christmas shopping season was almost over.

Paul did a funny impression of us at the mall when we got home. Two overwhelmed little mice with big eyes kind of shrinking into ourselves as we wandered around in a kind of lost sort of way. We took a tour of the store to get the lay of the land and then beat a retreat to the food court to think things over.

What did we want? What did we need?

The answer? Nothing. Especially in light of the near miss at the entrance, it was really clear. As long as we were healthy and had each other we had everything we wanted already. All our needs have been met and our biggest desires have nothing to do with what a gift card of any sort could bring.

We returned home with new boots for Paul and underwear and socks for me (including silly ones with penguins on the sides). But the "gift" wasn't in our shopping bags. It was in knowing that our wealth isn't in the things we can buy or money in the bank. It's in the love we share and time we have together.

Here's a short video that expresses stuff we do care about—the importance of tuning in to what matters every day and using it to transform your world.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

I live in a place where roses bloom alongside the Christmas ornaments. I took this picture a few doors down from my house this week in Santa Cruz. White roses, it turns out, are symbolic of the purity of true love, spirituality and reverence. They are also an emblem of the Virgin Mary. And they bloom (here at least) at Christmas. How cool is that?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Oops, Here I Go Again

It's a Libra thing—say one thing and then say the opposite.

So AS SOON as I posted my last blog about buying handmade I thought, no, no, no, what about Cafepress? Paul and I literally spend hours uploading photos and artwork we've created to a website that makes printed on demand products for us to sell. It's not mass-produced but it's not exactly handmade either.

So what do I think about that? Am I contradicting myself by promoting both "Buy Handmade" and Cafepress here?

Nah. Cafepress is just a print shop. I don't handwrite and draw the packaging for the perfumes I make each and every time -- I use a print shop because I couldn't possibly keep up with it! So is the product completely handmade? Is anything?

Well, yes. I knew someone who made handmade knit shawls. She spun the wool and hand dyed the yarn herself and raised the Angora rabbits from whom the "wool" was plucked. That was a start to finish handmade operation and her products sold for far less than the value of the time and energy that went into it.

Luckily, she didn't have to pay her rent that way.

Most artists in the modern world do some kind of hybrid thing. We buy materials (such as wool) from people who can do animal husbandry on a wide enough scale to leverage the costs enough to make a good living. It could be a family farm but unless you live in the country it rarely is. Then we use the mass-produced or small-scale produced materials to handmake the products we design. Personally, I'd rather have the feeling of community and community nurturing that comes from buying materials from local family farms the way people often do in Vermont but that's not available for the things I do where I live.

Even items made by hand involve a give and take interaction with mass marketed manufactured means of production, good or bad, for better or worse. Oh, you could try to completely handmake an item made exclusively from materials you grew yourself, organically, using nothing but handmade tools forged in a blacksmith shop from metal mined and smelted locally or made from trees you cut down and shaped yourself, while dressed entirely in clothing made from the hemp plants growing in your backyard... but I don't think the average person has enough time in their day to work out all the ins and outs of that.

Nor should they have to.

Balance is the key here. I DO prefer handmade over mass-produced. I love buying things that someone put their heart into and I love knowing that what I buy directly benefits the people who created it. And I like being able to enlist the services of a printshop on the internet to get our artwork in a wide variety of forms out to people like you.

We get a kick out of the fact that Paul's adorable picture of a juvenile Snowy Owl is being enjoyed on coffee mugs and tee-shirts by individuals in 6 different states so far but we like even better that because our items are never printed until someone wants one, we don't wind up making anything that sits on a shelf and doesn't sell. Believe me, I've done that and it's no fun at all.

We've been thinking a lot about marketing things on the internet versus sticking close to home and finding our way that way. We'd like to be nurturing community face-to-face, hug to hug, and it feels REALLY good when we do. But more than half our spiritual counseling and healing clients lately came to us via the internet and live far away. Almost all of our artwork is purchased by people who have never met us (except for Paul's mom who is our biggest fan). And half my Mama Love perfume is sold outside of the town where we live. Like it or not our community is global now and I imagine it always will be.

I have a lot more to say about that -- our adventures on the internet have been quite an education -- but I also think figuring out how to feel connected to people you can actually feel and see is an even more important thing to do. Buying from people you know and care about goes along way with that. But it's a "both and" rather than an "either or" kind of thing. Nurturing connections at home AND across the globe. Choosing handmade AND forming connections internally with the unknown workers, designers, entrepreneurs and, yes, even some of the Big Business people who help you have all the products and services you depend on to make your day go right. Remembering that we are all connected even if we can't see or talk to one another (or don't choose to).

More on this to come, I'm sure.

Buying HandMade

Click this image and you'll get to a unique website that's all about encouraging people to buy things this holiday (and as often as possible throughout the year) from people they know and people they don't know yet who make wonderful things by hand. Mama Love perfume is a such a business. All my perfumes are handmade by me and the artwork and design of the packaging is done by me as well. I have a sense of pride in that (although I have to admit to someday wanting to be able to hire an assistant) because here is yet another thing I can point to and say "I did that."

I guess I'm like a construction worker in that respect. I'm sure there's a great deal of pride that comes from pointing to a house or a highway you just made and thinking you had a hand in it. Having a physically tangible result from the work that you do that can be shared with others can be quite a kick.

But it doesn't just have to be a product. I remember feeling the same way when I walked down the street that fabulous New Year's Eve in Santa Cruz with thousands of happy smiling people at the city's very first First Night celebration which I helped create. I was so giddy--I helped throw a party and look how many people came!

Paul and I get that same thrill when we help a client and know we did a kick-ass job. But, for some reason, it's even better when we get an email of thanks or a testimonial because then we can look at those notes later when the thrill has worn off and remember. Tangible effects from what we offer the world....I think there's nothing we'd rather do.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Trying to Go with the Flow In a Mars Retrograde

Go with the flow! What does that mean in the Mars retrograde period we're in right now? Well, I'm no astrologer but if your life is anything like mine it feels like it's hard to get much progress flowing at all. Mars is the planet of action and when it's in retrograde it feels like we can't go forward. Our plans break down, our technology might do the same, and it feels like we're held back in all kinds of ways.

The good part of a Mars retrograde, from what I understand, is it forces us to look at what we've been trying to do and re-evaluate. What's gone well in the past year? What could go better? If there's anything wrong with the track we've been creating, it will become clear now (if it hasn't already in recent weeks). This is the time to work on long-range plans, consolidate plans for the future, make incremental change, work out the kinks in plans we've already made.

The flow we're in isn't quite an eddy. We're not going in circles. It's more like a minor logjam. Held back, gathering resource, building strength, perhaps finding another way than the one we expected at this place and time. That's hard if you thought you were going the best way possible. But it isn't hard if you're willing to let your guidance and inner knowing show you the way from now on.

The river doesn't know its destination. We know water tends to follow the least obstructed route towards the ocean but it can wind up in any sufficient sized contained area— a lake or a dam more often than not. It doesn't matter to the river where it flows. But when it comes to the course of our own lives it feels like it matters a lot.

We think we know what's best for us. It isn't always that way. We sometimes want something that can't be done in the way we want it. That's important. And sometimes what we need isn't something we are able to imagine at all.

Monday, December 10, 2007

We Got Elfed

Some people think we're pretty elfish already but we decided to take it to the max. Click here:

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Love Potions, Anyone?

I wish someone would give me one right now. Did you know that if you use the term "love potion" in connection with perfume that there's a crazy #@%$^& (my opinion) online who will threaten to sue you?

Apparently, somebody gave the owner of a perfume company in Southern California the idea that marketing a perfume called "Love Potion #9" by getting that name and the term "love potion" trademarked was a great thing to do. Then, since no one in their right mind would ever expect that a phrase that has been in public usage for thousands of years could even be trademarked, she spends her time googling the words "love potion" and harassing people who use it in connection to perfume by threatening to take legal action.

"Google," by the way, I'm sure must be a registered trademark but I think they'd be pleased as punch that I'm using the term "googling" in the above paragraph so I'm not worrying about that.

Still, I understand that someone who misuses the legal system (in my opinion) to trademark a phrase people use a lot as a name for a product is required by law to "assiduously protect" that trademark or lose it. So that is what this perfume company has tried to do.

I don't have a perfume named "love potion" or "Love Potion #9" on my list. I do, however, have a love potion perfume (yes, I'm going to call it that-- the term "love potion" in this instance is considered an adjective) that I once named "Heart-Centered Sexuality" and is now called "Opening the Heart." The name of my perfume company is Mama Love. In the ad copy for this perfume I describe it as Mama Love's very own "Love Potion #9". Notice the quotation marks. I don't use them because I knew about the trademark. I use them because I once made my living partially as an editor and it is a grammatical convention to put the names of popular songs in quotes.

However, the average person might overlook that and certainly wouldn't expect it to be a requirement. So, it turns out that one of my favorite and most long-standing customers decided to feature my perfume on their website and left the quotation marks out. Bam! They get sent an email threatening to take legal action if they don't take my product off their site (or rename it) within 7 days. Now, of course this is a mistake as my product is not named "Love Potion #9" or anything like it. Apparently, the person writing this email used a search program and sent their threatening email without just cause.

And that makes me think I could take legal action against them for interfering with my business. But how does someone without the resources of a Jessica Simpson (the most famous person this #@$%^ in my opinion went after) handle such a thing? Should I register a complaint with the state district attorney? What do you think?