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How getting fired ‘n rejected can be rainbows ‘n unicorns

October 1, 2012

Proof you can have a successful business with a sucky logo (or two or five)

On this eighth anniversary of the birth of Mac ‘n Cheese Productions, I would like to give you a gift and thank:

1) My ex-boss who fired me in 2004

Didn’t know what I wanted to do, just knew I didn’t want “boss” to be in my vocabulary any more.  Sat down on my couch and made this list of things I wished I could get paid to do no matter how ridiculous they sounded.  Fast forward to 2012: every bullet point on that list is somehow incorporated into what I do for a living.  And I pinch myself daily that my “job” is to meet, connect, and support amazing people from all walks of life.  Even got a random guy in my kitchen turned best friend turned Fiancé out of self-employment.

2) My gut

Which told me to ignore the “experts” and just Nike the bejeezus out of life —

  • Instead of spending time making a business plan, I decided to make a business
  • Instead of waiting to launch until I had a good website or logo (I’m still waiting on both), I announced Mac ‘n Cheese Productions to the world and said I’d figure stuff out as things came up
  • Instead of spending money I didn’t have on top-of-the-line equipment, business cards, and other “must-haves,” I bought the cheapest good-quality video camera I could find on a Best Buy payment plan that accrued no interest if paid off within a year, bartered my time and network for a copy of the $1000 editing software Final Cut Pro, and got free business cards via Vistaprint that left much to be desired design-wise but did what they were supposed to do which was tell clients how to reach me
  • Instead of creating a strategic plan and reflecting on where I wanted to be in five years, I focused on where I wanted to be that day and perhaps the next day, living in and for the now
  • Instead of continuing down the safe-path of doing what had been my financial bread ‘n butter (video production and teaching), because I had lost passion for both and found passion elsewhere (infecting others with the Life of Yes! disease), I took the scary leap of leaving consistent, guaranteed money for “who the hell knows how I’m going to pay rent next month, but who the hell cares cause I’m having so much fun and feeling like I’m doing good” money
  • Instead of bemoaning my dislike of the traditional ways of finding people to date, people to friend, and people to client, e.g. bars, classes that end when the class ends, and networking events, I created alternatives which became business ventures because as it turns out, others were dissatisfied too and willing to pay for value-packed solutions
  • Instead of bemoaning the lack of summer-camp’esque options for adults, where we unearthed our creativity, discovered ourselves, and forged deep relationships with people we had just met, an environment I missed greatly from my days at Boston College, I rented a bunch of cabins in Michigan and a fifteen-passenger van, and crossed my fingers that people would sign up for my Life of Yes! Retreat (they did)
  • Instead of letting fear and doubts paralyze me when I read the bios of the other speakers at CUSP 2012 (a conference on the Design of Everything) – inventor of the touch screen, author of three books, gold-medalist, child prodigy, Oxford and Harvard, testified before Congress – I chose to act confident and embrace the opportunity.  Resulted in a note from one of the conference’s curators, Without a doubt… your talk was my (and many others) most memorable and favorite. Priceless!, and tweets like —

  • Instead of getting the wind taken out of my sails when I got rejection notices from Excelerate, Impact Engine, the Unreasonable Institute, TEDTalks, IDEO, and a bazillion other things that I’ve applied for, when fellowship and grant RFPs made me feel like I’m not providing an impactful service because I’m not ending world-hunger or putting shoes on South American children, when traditional angel investors/VCs/businessmen in fancy suits made me feel small, stupid, and like I don’t belong at the adults table, I realized I don’t want to try to fit in someone else’s box, that my box is AWESOME and that “businessmen” could use a bowl of Mac ‘n Cheese

3) You

I wouldn’t have lasted four months, let alone eight years, without your incredible support.  Thank you for allowing me to continue to travel the self-employment path when my unemployment benefits ran out, when I kinda had no idea what I was doing (that feeling seems to never quite go away), when people were telling me I had to do it one way but that way didn’t sit well with me.

You coffee’d with me.  You attended my events.  You offered your services and skills.  You sent encouraging emails.  You referred me.

You made the ridiculous possible.

I haven’t spent a dime on marketing/advertising.  You share Mac ‘n Cheese with your friend who just went through a nasty breakup and needs some goodness in her life, you share Mac ‘n Cheese with your nephew who just moved to Chicago and wants to meet others, you share Mac ‘n Cheese with your blog readers who are the type who want to Nike the bejeezus out of life.  Your word of mouthy-ness is a gift I can’t even begin to attach a value to.  Priceless.

You send me the most heartwarming thank-you notes with sentiments like “Fear Experiment was the most transformative experience of my life” and “The world is a better place because you’re in it,” when in fact it’s you being a gift to life by being open and vulnerable and supportive, often times with complete strangers.

As a small token of thanks, I wish I could give you a $100 bill and a carrot-cake cupcake.  Or a can of Daisy Cutter if that’s more your thing.  But I don’t have that cash and the logistics of mailing you a pastry/pint of beer aren’t favorable.  What I do have is a large network which for some reason listens to my referrals and suggestions, and answers my calls for help.

So I’d like to offer you a shout-out.  An event you want to promote, a job opening, a job wanted, a service you provide, a car for sale, a charity you want others to know about, a call for a keyboardist to join your band, a book of yours you want people to buy…. whatever you want to share with the Mac ‘n Cheese network, I would love to share for you!

How to Redeem Your Shout-Out

  • Via the Mac n’ Cheese website, send me a blurb (a few sentences) for my newsletter and a tweet (140 characters or less)
  • Make sure to include links and/or contact info so people can find out more details/get in touch

And Bonus, Pass It On!

NextDoor Chicago has initiated an awesome Do Good movement, where they do good for someone, in hopes that that someone will do good for someone, and the Pay It Forward model will ensue.  If you redeem a Mac ‘n Cheese shout-out, consider joining the movement and

  • Buy your receptionist/boss/coworker a latte
  • Offer to wash the dishes for a week for your roommate
  • Give flowers to the postal worker behind the counter
  • Let someone who looks like they’re in a hurry go in front of you in the Jewel checkout line
  • ?????

Then share your Do Good on the NextDoor Facebook page and/or via Twitter using #NDdoGood @nextdoorchicago.  And here in the comments section!

Here’s a Do Good from Fear Experiment participant Sara Collins, in thanks for getting pizza and a journal from NextDoor when she started her Fear Experiment journey:  “While getting my car serviced today a man who was applying for a job there asked for my help filling out his application, since he had recently hurt his arm. I sat with him filling out some 10 pages of the application, spelling out his references’ names letter by letter…”

Deep deep thanks to ex-boss, gut, and you!!  You make me happy.

Why UPS Would Deliver a Drawing of Yourself to Your Door

July 18, 2012

**If you have your images turned off or are reading this in an RSS feed, you may want to head to the actual blog to see  the pretty images**

UPDATE: I’ve gotten tons of inquiries about where the caricature of us below was made.  Here you go!

While our ridiculous wedding wish has yet to find a Fairy Godmother, we a) are sans-stress, as neither Fiancé nor I feel the need to have to get married by a certain date so are plugging along with an optimistic, things have a way of working out attitude, and b) have been so surprised and incredibly humbled by the “I don’t have a mansion but I’d like to offer you ______” goodness from friends and strangers.  Truly truly heartwarming.

Sample of Goodness Others have Offered

  • Update – bride and groom teeth whitening
  • Update – wedding photography
  • Engagement photos photo session
  • Custom-made beer labels for wedding favors
  • Curate and host a fundraiser with proceeds going to the wedding fund
  • Custom-made wedding invitations
  • Downtown venue for a shower, bachelorette/engagement party, any smaller-type wedding affair

It’s also been heartwarming to see the reactions from people, like these from strangers who saw a Facebook post of a friend –

“I read this and love them even though I’ve never met them! I hope they get it!”

“(NAME), I don’t suppose you still maintain any ties to some really open-minded North Shore folks who think these people sound as fantastic as I think they sound, do you?”

And then this arrived in the mail, from a college friend of mine –

We couldn’t stop laughing and loving.

This whole uniting with your best friend thing is pretty nice.  Even if we end up getting hitched in our living room or the Trader Joe’s parking lot (I do love Trader Joe’s), the amount of goodness that’s already been showered upon us is enough to make the simple act of putting our wish out in the ether completely worth it.

Thanks Nice People.

Our Ridiculous Wedding Wish. Please share.

July 5, 2012

*If you’re viewing this in a reader/have your images turned off, you might want to head to the original post to see the pretty pictures*

If you’ve spent any time with me, you’ve probably heard me say, “No matter how ridiculous it sounds, just put it in the universe.  You never know.”  That’s how I’ve lived my life for the past eight-ish years, starting with me sitting on my couch after being let go from my last 9 to 5 and making a list of things I wished I could get paid to do [playing board games on my couch with strangers, what?! Resulted in a job that’s not a job and is the best thing that ever happened to me].  And continuing with Housing Criteria [resulted in a converted toy-factory loft], Boyfriend Criteria [resulted in a best-friend turned Fiance and a custom-made cologne], putting on my website that I’m a speaker not because I am but because that lifestyle of traveling to talk about what you love sounds amazing [resulted in two days later getting my first speaking gig in front of 300 at the Museum of Contemporary Art] …

More often than not, not only do things work out, they exceed expectations.  Here’s to hoping that can happen again.  Because Friends, we need us a miracle.

Engagement party invitation created by the sweetest, most creative person in the world (who is also an amazing real estate agent!)

I am recently engaged.  It’s the traditional tale –

And thus the wedding planning begins and where putting ridiculousness out in the universe comes in.

Our wish – to find a privately-owned gorgeous North Shore North Shore or Chicago house for a low-key backyard wedding 

The Sticking Points 

a) we don’t know any owners of gorgeous North Shore [Evanston to Lake Forest]/Chicago houses,

b) we’re paying for the wedding ourselves and don’t have a lot of disposable income, don’t want to incur any debt, and don’t want to/can’t spend ANYWHERE near the average cost ($27000 nationally!  $53000 Chicagoly!)

Ridiculousness We’re Putting Out in the Universe – an angel to say, “Sure!  I’ll let strangers use my house for their wedding!  For free, for a barter, for a low low price!”

What We Can Offer 

  • Chicago Bike ‘n Beer Tour: visit breweries, take a class on home-brewing, sample beers unavailable commercially 
  • Workplace Improv: Pete comes to your company and uses improv as a tool for professional development, team building, ideation and problem solving, improving client relations…
  • Event in the City: whether it be a night of comedy or inspirational speakers, a hands-on cooking experience or an underground supper club, Saya curates an event for you and your friends in a converted toy-factory loft
  • Inpsirational Speaking: Saya comes to your group to talk about how you can live your passions and live a Life of Yes!
  • Retreat: Saya curates an opportunity for rejuvenation, escape, learning, connections-making, and inspiration
  • Opportunity for you to speak at Potluck!, Ignite, or any other Mac ‘n Cheese/TeamPete offerings
  • Marketing: use of our expansive networks to promo your business/your cause/your ______ via e-newsletters, social media, and blogs
  • Money-ish
  • What else?!?  Let’s brainstorm!

Wedding Wishes* [*beggars can’t be choosers; we’re very flexible and open to creative suggestions] 

  • Date: ideal timeframe Spring 2013 to Fall 2013 (ideal month September 2013)
  • Number of guests: 120-180
  • Backyard to hold late-afternoon into evening ceremony and reception
  • Access to kitchen and bathrooms

Getting to Know Saya & Pete

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  • Pete
    • 33 years old
    • Director of Financial Aid at University of Chicago’s Business School and Founder of TeamPete
    • From Monroe, Louisiana, where his parents still live
    • Undergrad: Vanderbilt; Grad: University of Illinois
    • Has one brother, a professor of African-American history in Georgia
    • Passions: improv, biking, tech tools that increase efficiency, craft beer, college football, hugs, and chubby animals
    • Accolades of which he’s most proud – Read the Most Books Award, 2nd grade, Jack Hayes Elementary and Takes Care of His/Her Horse the Best Award at Horsey Day Camp
    • Proof you can trust this guy: LinkedIn, TeamPete testimonials
  • Saya

So there you have it.  Ridiculousness.  If you’re an angel, please get in touch!  If you’re friends of an angel, please share!  If you have any DIY/budget tips or resources, we’d love to hear them in the comment section.

If this doesn’t work out, we’ll go to Plan B or Plan C, without tears or curses, reminding ourselves that it’s not about the day, but about being with your best friend for the rest of your life, regardless of venue, shrimp cocktails, and empire-waists.  But thought we’d try.

Thought he was going to pass gas; instead, he proposed

June 1, 2012

*If you’re reading this in a reader/have your images turned off, you might want to head to the original post to see the pretty pictures*

It shouldn’t surprise me how many folk have been asking for “The details!”  I immensely enjoy how you met, the first time she said “I love you,” how he proposed-esque stories.  And so it seems many others also find pleasure in hearing those awwwww moments.  And so to placate the billions, er twenty-three, here is how Boyfriend recently morphed into Fiance.  If you’d like to read our journey from when we met to when he moved in, relationship backstory here.

Leading Up to the Engagement

Back in December, after an unusual and unsettling stressful period when I was a finger-click away from hightailing it to random Costa Rica, then-Boyfriend and I looked at the upcoming busy months and planned a We know we’ll need this! getaway.

Why we decided on Asheville, North Carolina

  • Neither of us had been before
  • Everyone who had been shared nothing but glowing reports
  • Promise of warmth after a Chicago winter
  • Mix of stuff we like: urban activities like shopping and yummy restaurants, nature activities like hiking and biking, craft beer, yoga, quaint neighborhoods, easy to get to and to navigate, old friends [girl I used to work with] and new friends [we’d heard that it was a very friendly, liberal, welcoming, creative community]

And so on December 28th, we booked.

January through April toppled over with goodness.  But as can happen when there’s an abundance of something, even if it’s positive as it was for us, tiredness, frustration, not enough hours in the day, and getting caught up in the nitty-gritty at times clouding the big picture, can wear you down.

Fear Experiment began, with thirty-eight strangers challenging themselves to do something they admittedly weren’t great at (in this case, dance or improv), by themselves (no security blanket of signing up with your bestie), and rehearsing for three months in preparation for showcasing their skills at the famous Park West [where the likes of Adele, Tom Petty, and Ricky Gervais perform] in front of 750.  For me, this meant the onslaught of spreadsheets, nagging – RSVP!  Fill in your tshirt size!  Update your contact info! – answering lots and lots of questions, and making sure ticket sales happened so that renting a “This is a bit out of my league, perhaps we should have the show at the YMCA” venue wouldn’t be my professional demise.  For him, this meant teaching improv four hours a week to a wide-range of skill-levels, who were not only learning something new but learning each other at the same time [plus he continued to teach the improv group from last year’s Fear Experiment for another three hours of improv a week].

 

Via my Mac ‘n Cheese Productions, I continued to teach digital media in under-served communities, dialing it down a bit this year by only being in three schools instead of the six, nine, ten of years past, grow CRAVE an organization the supports female entrepreneurs [including hiring two interns and hosting and moderating a talk for fifty the week of our trip], and shoot and edit video for clients.

      

Via his TeamPete, he continued Bike ‘n Beer Tours, Workplace Improv, and Improv Workshops for Non-Improvisers.  He continued his 9 to 5’ness as UIC’s medical school Director of Financial Aid.

     

We continued smooshing Mac ‘n Cheese with TeamPete, collaborating on Minglers, Potluck! (A Smorgasbord of Ideas), speaking engagements

Fear Experiment the Show arrived on April 28th, along with his parents from Louisiana.

[Note to self: don’t host guests, especially Boyfriend’s family, the same weekend you’re coordinating a show that encompasses thirty-eight adults, nine students, and an audience of seven hundred and fifty.  Dealing with last-minute Staples-runs, folks not following instructions, and ticket requests does not make for a good host.]

[Note to self x2: don’t start a new job four days before a show that has you leading eighteen nervous nellies and MC’ing the evening in front of seven hundred and fifty.  Boyfriend started a position as U of C’s business school Director of Financial Aid on April 24th, which also happened to be Dress Rehearsal day, requiring him to be at new job 8AM-5pm, and then at the Park West 6pm-10pm.]

The weekend after the show, two friends from college came in from Boston, which was all sorts of lovely, but prohibited catching up on any of the backlog of work that had amassed over the previous weeks, leaving me with twinges of “I shouldn’t be having fun, I should be at my computer.”

All that said, Fear Experiment and the BC Eagle mini-reunion were fantastic-ness on so many levels, and I loved them both!  And then it was off to Asheville for eight full days!  Sooooo needed.  Hello email vacation-response, voicemail vacation-greeting, and an almost-complete removal of spreadsheets from my life [curating a Mingler, a Potluck!, and a fundraiser all within five days after our return made it impossible for a complete removal].  Boyfriend and I met at O’Hare, jumped on one of those tiny planes, and in two hours, were in the South.

The Engagement 

We rented a cream of the crop* car!  I didn’t realize this but oh how I missed automatic transmission and new car cleanliness.  And oh how I now yearn for a sunroof, a beep-beep door-opener [as opposed to the ol’ key in lock concoction], a USB port, separate driver and passenger temperature controls, and fancy buttons that do what, I have no clue, but that make you feel luxurious and rich.

[*Note to self x3: you fell illogically in love with a Ford Focus.  Imagine if it was a BMW.  Can’t. Even. Fathom.]

We found awesome lodging for $32 a night!  We enjoy staying in homes over hotels, but homes where you have privacy and aren’t sharing the bathroom with other guests or being trapped into afternoon tea with the owners like can happen at bed ‘n breakfasts.  Enter Airbnb.com, a community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world.  Wonderful experience, from start to finish.

         

We ate and drank deliciousness!

   

   

We were surrounded by beauty!

      

We got engaged!

It rained for six of the eight days [you know you’re in a good state of mind and with good folk when crappy weather elicits a simple “Ehh” and you revise plans and move on].  On the first day that it looked like it wouldn’t rain [it did, around 5pm, for about thirty minutes; we were indulging at Hershey’s Ice Cream, on a covered outdoor bench, and thus didn’t care], we ventured to Chimney Rock State Park, a forty-five minute drive outside of Asheville.

A random May Wednesday, the Park had some visitors — enough for pleasantry smiles, listening to accents, and Hey, want me to take that photo so you don’t have to do the awkward backwards hold the camera yourself offers along the trails — but not so many that you cursed all things tourist.  80ish degrees.  Sunny.  Hiking of varying levels of difficulty.  We did some easy trails and enjoyed the surroundings.  We did some hard trails and second-guessed our decisions.  Our last trail of the day was Hickory Nut Falls.

After months of being busy, stressed and neglecting myself physically, I was twenty-ish pounds heavier than I wanted to be [and I think he felt similarly about himself].  After five days of deep Vacation-I could care less mode, my hair was pulled-back and frizzy, my eyebrows unruly, my legs stubbly, my overall appearance a hot-mess.  After a morning of stairs, steep rocks, uneven paths, and lizards, we were in athletic-garb and perspiring profusely.  The perfect scenario to propose.

Because if you tell someone when she’s fat, sweaty, hairy, and probably smelly that you want to be with her for the rest of your life, that means more to her than any bouquet of roses, five-star restaurant, or ring ever could.

We neared the end of the Hickory Nut Falls trail, rewarded with a gorgeous waterfall.  I said something about taking a photo.  Mr. I Usually Never Care About Photos said, “Why don’t we go up there?”, pointing to a small fenced-in overlook a bit above where we were standing.  I shrugged and said ok.

With the long-lost sun finally radiating down, the calming sound of rippling water, and a breathtaking view of North Carolina from elevation 2450, Boyfriend and I rested our forearms on the wooden banister and silently enjoyed.  Then he began looking around, the kind of looking around you do when you’re about to participate in something you don’t want others to know about.  Oh great, I thought.  He’s about to fart.

He did a few more checks over his shoulder.  Over my shoulder.

“I like taking trips with you.  Will you take more trips with me?”  He  smiled his goofy, beautiful smile and pulled out a ring.

I leaned way back, as if the ring was kryptonite and I Superman, unable to say anything, smiling my own goofy smile, my eyes filling but not spilling.  I don’t remember if I said yes.

I remember –

  • him holding the ring and me recoiling for what seemed forever
  • me taking the shiny-ness and putting it on my hand, then in my head cursing “Oh shit, he was supposed to do that…”
  • a hug and more goofy smiles
  • Hey, can you take this photo so we don’t have to do the awkward backwards hold the camera ourselves inquiry to a couple who had climbed up with us

  • joking photos with our Smart Water bottle, chuckling at how great it’d be if they sponsored our self-financed/we have very little money/this may be a potluck/bring your own chair wedding
  • walking back down the trail, holding hands, him squeezing, me fiddling
  • chattering about when he bought the ring [a few months earlier], when he decided to propose [he put the ring in his pocket that morning and told himself if the moment is right…], when we wanted to have the wedding [sometime Spring to Fall 2013]…
  • me in a this is surreal, I didn’t think I could be happier than I was on the walk out here but so am! daze

   

  • joking, but a little less joking, photos with our Eagle Creek bag and REI bag, chuckling (kinda seriously) how great it’d be if they sponsored our self-financed/we have very little money/this may be a potluck/bring your own chair wedding
  • lunch at an outdoor cafe, with a menu that offered up Jesus-quotes and a Chicken & Chicken Combo
  • wandering along a river path and through cute small-town stores filled with tshirts, birdhouses, beads, and fudge
  • the girl at Hershey’s Ice Cream giving me two cheeries on my sundae
  • it starting to rain yet again but us not caring because we were eating ice cream, on a covered outdoor bench, in beautiful North Carolina, where we had just gotten engaged


How a smart dead man makes me vow to get smarter

May 2, 2012

This post is a part of a collaborative project for the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, called happybirthdayshakespeare.com, where bloggers worldwide wish the Bard a Happy Birthday! and reflect on his impact on their lives.  @ShakespeareBT // #happybirthdayshakespeare

Last year, I penned a post, How Shakespeare Made Me Feel Thin, about the time in elementary school when I was a lead role in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and its illogical, perhaps sad, long-lasting impact on me.

This year, with a mushy-brain leftover from curating Saturday’s Fear Experiment [750 people watching non-dancers dance and non-improvisers improv] and a weekend hosting Boyfriend’s parents, I found myself at a loss for a way to celebrate Sir William save for a Big Willie Fist-Pump.  I also found myself woefully unable to conjure up facts about the man past surface, every eight-year old knows this trivia –

  • Writer.
  • Englishman.
  • Bald yet with long hair.
  • The Globe Theater.
  • Stratford-Upon-Avon birthplace.
  • Sonnets.
  • Star-crossed lovers.
  • To be or not to be.
  • Poison.

Other than that amateur-drivel, Shakespeare is like NAFTA, annuities, blanching, and the Louisiana Purchase.  I don’t really know what you’re talking about, let alone have anything to contribute, and should know more.  Thus when trying to think of a way to celebrate Romeo & Juliet’s creator, I had a How am I a thirty-three year old Boston College English/Sociology BA celebrating eight years of successful self-employment yet don’t have any prolific Shakespearean-knowledge moment.  The kind of horrifying moment when you realize you can list Macie, Amber, Caitlyn, and Farrah as the original cast of Teen Mom but can only muster a fake-genuine nod of concern (or is it excitement?) when someone brings up Myanmar.

That got me thinking — what would I really want to know about William Shakespeare?  What would remain in my brain, ready to be recalled at a stuffy gathering with sparkling water and mini-quiches to dazzle Mr. Potential Investor or Mrs. Potential Client?

Shakespearean Tidbits I’d Like to Know –

  • What were Shakespeare’s pet peeves?
  • What was his favorite meal?
  • If he rode a bike, would it be an upright cruiser, a mountain bike, or a speed racer?
  • Whom would he invite to an intimate dinner party?
  • What dating services would he use?  Is he more a Match.com, speed-dating, or get set-up kind of guy?
  • What would be in his RSS feed?
  • Who would be on his Pandora station?
  • Would he too be diagnosed as ADD or needing to maintain a gluten-free diet?
  • Would he find Twitter suffocating or liberating?  Whom would he follow?
  • Mac or PC?  Cubs or Sox?  Creamy or chunky?  Taboo or Apples to Apples?

Because I would hate for you to read a post on a literary-genius without learning anything of substance, here are some facts for you to share at your next mini-quiche outing –

  • Shakespeare’s dad was a glove-maker
  • Shakespeare had three children, two of whom were twins.  One of the twins died of unknown causes at age 11.
  • He married an older-woman, at age 18 (she was 26, and three months pregnant).  His wife’s name is the same as a modern-day actress.  No, not Whoopi Goldberg.  Anne Hathaway.
  • He invented over 1700 new words and phrases in his lifetime, such as cold-blooded and skim milk

How lack of furniture and mp3s can enhance your life

March 29, 2012

Passing trays of unknown items – Saya thought forceps, Allie thought eyeglasses – back and forth at Fear Experiment

When I first heard about The Minimalists (Ryan and Joshua), I was intrigued as they focus on how we can add value to our lives via relatively simple ways, one of my passions.  They  choose to add value to their lives by getting rid of TVs and paring down iTunes libraries; I choose to add value to my life, in the spirit of being challenged and scared, by doing an improv scene in a gynecologist’s office, in front of 700 people, when the audience suggestion was in fact “optometrist” and Nervous Saya misheard said suggestion.  But regardless of how we exist fully, the overarching theme of living an enriched life is the same for both.  So I dug a little further to learn more about Ryan and Joshua.

I stumbled upon their post Quitting Your Job is Easy.  As someone who has drunk the entrepreneurial kool-aid and can’t imagine ever ever ever going back to 9 to 5, I began clicking link after link of theirs.  I was hooked.

Next logistical step?  Interview Ryan and Joshua of course!  Check out their story and mantra below, and see if/how what they say can relate to your life.  Would love to hear steps you’re taking to add value to your life, big or small — they’re all moving forward, and that’s what counts! 

*****************************

Give me the skinny on you guys. Where you’re from, where you live, where you went to school, your age, any data points that’ll make you more of a person and less random internet guy.

Answer: We’re both 30 years old. I was born in Knoxville, TN but have spent most of my life in the Cincinnati and Dayton regions of Ohio most of my life. Joshua has been in Ohio his whole life. We both graduated from Lebanon City Schools which is a small town smack dab in the middle of Cincinnati and Dayton. Joshua and I both reside in Dayton, OH. He lives in the city and I live in a suburb of Dayton.

What is “minimalism”?

Answer: Here’s my minimal answer: Minimalism means living with less. What I mean by that is minimalism is living in a more intentional way, avoiding the clutter of life so you can focus on the important things in life.

What brought you to minimalism?

Answer: This is a very long story, but I will try and sum it up in a few sentences. Joshua and I both reached a point in our life where we started wanted more than a fancy paycheck. We realized the old cliche of “money doesn’t bring you happiness” is true. We weren’t happy with ourselves even though we had everything society told us would make us happy. Once we realized this, we were unsure of what the important things in our lives were. Then we found minimalism. We saw it as a tool to use to help us prioritize our lives.

Any surprises along the way?

Answer: The biggest surprise was the amount of difficulty it was changing our routine from having to wake up and go to our corporate jobs to waking up and being our own bosses. It took us longer than we had originally anticipated to get comfortable with our new way of life that didn’t include any particular routine.

Why should I strive live a minimalist lifestyle?

Answer: When people ask me this questions I like to preface it with saying that minimalism is not necessarily for everyone. You can throw out all of your possessions and still lead a very miserable life. Minimalism is a tool that can help people focus on what is important. Its too often in our busy lives we let the important things (i.e., health, relationships, etc.) slip and loose focus. Minimalism can help you gain focus back in your life where you need it most. Plus it helps you to be way more appreciative of the things you do have.

You mention you “were fortunate to establish an audience of more than 100,000 monthly readers in less than a year.” Why do you think your words resonated with so many?

Answer: I think we were successful in obtaining a large audience in such a short amount of time because of our authenticity, our writings where we’ve never published anything we wouldn’t want to read ourselves, but the most important thing we did was add value to peoples lives. Ultimately we knew that if we didn’t add value to peoples lives we wouldn’t have gotten anywhere.

I’m already pretty darn happy in life and don’t feel like I need a change.  What can I get out of minimalism?

Answer: I think minimalism can only increase the happiness in one’s life. This doesn’t mean you can’t be happy with applying minimalistic principles in your life, but it does mean that applying these principles in your life can help you have even a deeper appreciation for the things you have.

What’s a typical day for you?

Answer: This is a question we get asked all of the time and we don’t have one specific answer. We wake up and take care of what we need to each day regardless if that means doing website stuff, responding to readers questions, running errands etc. We have no specific routine.

What’s been the hardest thing to give up?

Answer: For me it was T.V. I had no idea how much I relied on it for an escape until I went without it. For Joshua it was his identity associated with the big corporate title. Getting rid of it was difficult for him because we live in a world where people continuously ask you “what do you do?” Based upon the answer you give them they will generally make predetermined judgements, especially when the answer includes words like “director” and “senior manager.”

What was the best financial decision you made?

Answer: Getting rid of as many loan payments as possible. I sold my new car for a used one and rented out my condo (only because I wasn’t able to sell it).

How do you make money now?

Answer: We published three books last year, we do speaking events, and we also get donations here and there. We don’t make nearly the amount of money we used to with our corporate jobs, but the cool thing about being a minimalist is having fewer bills.

You’re partners with your best friend.  Pros/cons to a) having a partner and b) having your best friend as a partner.

Answer: Crazy thing is we don’t have any issues working with each other. There are only pros. Joshua’s a little OCD, I’m a little ADD, we balance each other out well. We pick up the slack for each other. I wouldn’t be able to do this with anyone else. Joshua is the best guy I know, and our friendship over the last 20 years has grown into a family relationship where we feel more like brothers. We work great together. I’m not sure either of us would be able to handle criticism (helpful of course) as well from anyone else. Keeps us honest and helps keep our content meaningful

Do you have romantic partners?  If so, are they minimalists too?  How does being a minimalist affect your love lives?

Answers: Yes. I met my girlfriend of three years before I dived into minimalism and there was a growing period for us. We’re still growing together, and I didn’t give her the ultimatum of choosing minimalism or else. Joshua has no comment (he’s way more reserved than I am).

If you’re single and someone reading this blog wants to get in touch for the purpose of wining and dining you, what sayest thou?

Answer: Taken, sorry.

“Can’t Live Without” Resources —

Answer: Food, hygiene products, roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, internet connection, electric, and coffee.

What’s next for you?

Answer: Currently Joshua is getting ready to teach a writing class and I’m working on a book club type program designed to help improve ones happiness and help people live a more meaningful life.

Many folk in the Mac ‘n Cheese network are considering going out on their own, which can be a very scary thought/action.  What advice do you have for them?

Answer: Have a Plan. Don’t just quit your job and start blogging. That’s silly. Recognize there is going to be a transition period and its going to be uncomfortable as hell, but that means your doing the right thing. Also make sure to set yourself with the right expectations. Not every blogger becomes millionaire.

Mac ‘n Cheesers are always looking for new ways to challenge themselves and to make new connections.  Suggestions for how to meet people (professionally, socially, romantically) that are perhaps a bit off the beaten-path (not online dating, not traditional networking events, etc.)?

Answer: Twitter. Seriously. Another place is local coffee shops.

Any parting words to share?

Answer: Keep it simple, don’t live outside your means, and be true to yourself no matter what.

$2500 in cash for your fear!

February 17, 2012

What people who are taking risks look like

Who likes cash?  $2500 sound good?

Combine that question with these questions about the past year —

Did you experiment? Take risks? Did you highlight a failure from your past that’s helping shape the future? Share a big idea that will inspire others to dream big? Were you… Fearless?

…and if you answered yes, and you’re a non-profit, you need to enter this contest!

The Case Foundation, via the DoGooder Awards, shines a spotlight on all the innovative ways that nonprofits use video.  The contest is about moving the field of nonprofit video forward and encouraging cause-video creators to try new approaches that make their work different.

You know I love trying new things.  You know I love taking risks.  You know I love helping others try new things and take risks.  So much so, I curate a program called Fear Experiment.

And wow, look at that, kismet — Fear Experiment tickets just went on sale!  Don’t miss this opportunity to see the magic that happens when people push themselves and embrace the quote “If you are not willing to look stupid, nothing great is ever going to happen to you.”  (I wish I could attribute that nugget to Aristotle or Maya Angelou but the wisdom is from the TV show House.)

Regardless, it’s gold and spot-on.

So, enter the DoGooder contest (hurry, 2/29 deadline!), come see non-dancers and non-improvisers perform in front of 750 at the Park West on 4/28/12, and do something a little scary today yourself!  Even if it’s just ordering whole instead of skim in your cinnamon dolce latte this morning.  Who knows?  The guy behind you might be so attracted to a girl who doesn’t count calories, he’ll ask you out on the spot, you’ll get married, and you’ll have fearless babies together.

If that in fact happens, PLEASE report back.

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