Conflict Resolution: Resolving Issues By Listening & Asking Questions

Conflict Resolution: Resolving Issues By Listening & Asking Questions

As a part of my Organizational Leadership graduate program, one of the things we learned about was conflict resolution.  It sounds daunting, doesn’t it?  It’s actually quite simple, though.  Simply put, conflict resolution is a method — an art, really! — of finding a suitable solution for two or more parties when there’s a disagreement.  Conflict resolution happens everywhere.  It could be in your family, at work, or between friends.

As a leader and business owner, you must be able to resolve conflict, or at least be unafraid of trying to.  In conflict, there are usually three different outcomes assuming there are only two parties.  Win-win, win-lose, or lose-lose.  Either both parties arrive at an acceptable solution, one party wins and the other loses, or both parties are too stubborn to come to an agreement and everyone loses.

One thing that has stuck out in my mind as we talked about conflict resolution was a video that we watched that perfectly illustrated these outcomes.  It’s called the Orange Quarrel, and it goes like this.


The Orange Quarrel

Two people are arguing over the last orange.  One person says they need it because they’re hungry; the other states they need it because they’re baking a cake and the orange is a required ingredient.  They eventually decide to split the orange in half so that there’s not a win-lose situation.  Both seem to be satisfied with this solution, but realize shortly thereafter that they’d been too stubborn to realize that although they both wanted the orange, there was a more suitable solution.  The person making the cake only needed the peel.  The person that was hungry only wanted the flesh to eat.  Now, the hungry person had only half an orange to eat, and the baker had only half of an orange peel.  Neither thought to ask what the other planned to do because they were too concerned with getting what they wanted.


Why Should I Care?

Conflict happens, every single day.  It happens in your family, it happens at work between employees or employees and their boss, and it happens between customers and workers.  As a business owner, you have a choice.  You can face conflict and learn best practices to resolve it and compromise, or you can ignore it.  Ignoring it generally makes the conflict worse.  Why?  Because the conflict itself doesn’t get resolved.  You, as the business owner, are looked to as a leader.  If you aren’t engaging your employees or clients when conflict arises, how do you think it’s perceived?

Probably as if you don’t care, right?  Think about it, and put yourself in your employees’ shoes.  If you had an issue and took it to your boss to resolve, and they did nothing but brush it aside because conflict is scary, how would you feel?

Ask Questions

Facing conflict and making an attempt to solve it, whether you’re an impartial third party or if you’re involved in the conflict, is as simple as starting to ask questions.  It’s important to pull yourself away from the he said-she said that so often occurs in the face of conflict.  Ask the hard questions about why, and ultimately what the preferred outcome is.  You should also ask, if the *other* person were to have their needs met, what would the effect be?  Often, when a person realizes what exactly is being asked for, and how it may or may not affect them, the conflict diffuses quickly.  Sometimes, the people in conflict with each other realize that they can both have what they want because the requests don’t have an effect on one another.



Asking questions won’t get you too far if you don’t actually listen to what is being said.  Listening requires you to address the individuals involved, it requires you to ask follow-up questions and acknowledge responses without becoming defensive and argumentative.  Want to get to the root of the problem?  Listen actively.  Do not interrupt, use eye contact, proper body language, and as you’re asking additional questions or commenting on something, restate what the person has told you.


So what?

Conflict is uncomfortable.  Let’s get that out of the way.  Not every conflict is going to be solved by simply asking questions & listening.  There is no magic solution to conflict, though asking questions and listening will go a long way toward solving issues.  If there was a magic solution, I probably wouldn’t let you in on a bit of what I learned during graduate school!  Asking questions and listening are the two top things that you could do in order to move toward a solution.

The third?  Be objective.  If you are the mediator in a conflict, objectivity is important.  Make the responsible decision to bring in someone that can be objective, if you find that you’re unable.  If you are in the midst of the conflict, objectivity may be a long shot, but consider the other person/group that is involved, too.  A bit of compassion, even for your opposer, can go a long way just as much as asking questions and listening does.

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How to Make Website & Design Magic Happen

Hello, my dear readers!!  Shout out to the designers checking out my blog, too!  I have a post that might help you — all of you — that are working on making this business thing happen with a brand and a website.  I wanted to provide you a few bits of information that you’ll find helpful.  Read it, and take note!  And designers, feel free to share this with your clients!  This post is about how to make website & design magic happen.

Are you ready?  Settled in?  GREAT!

So, let me tell you a little secret…

It’s really not magic.

There, I said it!  It’s not magic.  It’s a lot of hard work.  Branding & websites involve a lot of collaborative hard work.


Getting away from “You’re the expert!”

Did you notice I said collaborative up there in bold?  There’s a huge misconception that hiring a designer to handle your brand and/or website means that everything is going to be taken care of immediately. I frequently run into people that assume that because they’ve paid for a branding package or a website that their job is now done, and it’s on the designer to provide everything else.  There’s an assumption that we’ll make magic happen, and for lack of a better phrase, crap out something terrific. (Real talk.  Just saying.)

Unfortunately, my friends, that’s not how a good brand or website is going to come about.  If you’re going to use the expert line with us, let’s just turn it back on you.  We’re the experts on putting together appealing, great looking brands and websites; you’re the expert on your business that we’re branding.  That means, you’ll know your target audience, what will appeal to them, and what copy you’ll want to be on your website, what ideas you have for your logo and overall brand, and so on.

There are some companies that do everything for you.  Let’s get that out of the way.  The potential issue (which isn’t necessarily true in every case) is that you’ll wind up missing a huge part of your brand because of that — your brand’s personality.  Your brand isn’t *only* a logo, remember?  It consists of a color story, pattern or texture, other branded materials, and yes…even a personality!  It’s how you handle your communications, it’s how you interact with your clients, and how you tailor experiences.  If you give all of that up to someone else, your brand and your business is going to lack passionate, authentic ownership.  There will be disconnect.


We get it.  It’s frustrating.

We deal with a lot of the same struggles in our own businesses.  How do we word things?  What will we offer?  It’s not cake for us, either.  I do think that the advantage that we have, though, is that we understand that a good business takes time to develop.  We don’t have to like waiting or taking our time, but we know it’ll be worth it in the end.  That’s why we don’t rush branding orders for an additional fee, nor do we rush our website design.

We’ve had some instances at ALP where we’ve gone back and forth with clients over providing additional information — amplifying information — for logo and brand design to the point that they complain that doing the work is cumbersome.  We’ve even had an instance of a client refusing to provide website content, despite the fact that the changes they requested relied solely on the content they needed to provide.  Responses have been wishy-washy, or even downright nasty, with the added claim that we weren’t doing what they thought we were supposed to do.  Never mind that our product and service information detailed clearly what we did and did not do.  That’s frustrating for us, as much as it is for you, too.  I don’t want to make the process more complicated or frustrating, trust me!


So what?

You’re probably sitting there right now thinking, ok, so she’s saying that the brand process isn’t magic and that it’s frustrating sometimes…so what?  This is the part where I tell you how you can make it easier for yourself.  Yes, we are the experts, which is why you hired us, but you’re also the experts for your own business.  I want to collaborate.  That’s how some of the best things ever happened.  Collaboration.  I LOVE when someone comes to me and says, “I have this idea, but no clue how to execute!” and proceeds to dump details and imagery on me.  I have the tools and knowledge to make something super badass, but in order to do that, we have to work together.

Cooperate, collaborate, teamwork!

That’s what this is about, and how we put forth our best work and the brands that people absolutely fall head over heels in love with.

Making this happen, and making it easier for yourself is actually quite easy.  I simply want you to provide as much information as possible, and really take the time to consider the impact of your answers.  If I have questions, taking the time to answer them thoroughly will have the most positive result.  Rushing an answer, or just ignoring a question, probably won’t get you the result you’re looking for.



Designers, are you still with me?  Are you having these troubles?  The single greatest thing that has helped me is a questionnaire.  My questionnaire constantly receives revisions and fine-tuning based on the types of answers I’m receiving, so that I can hone it for my future clients.  My questionnaire for logo design has been 2o pages, and it’s been 3 pages.  I’m totally convinced that each designer will need a different questionnaire.  I’ve adjusted mine so frequently because my process is always being fine-tuned to better serve my clients and ensure that I’m providing the best possible service and finalized product.  I would suggest using a questionnaire if you don’t have one in place yet.

Use the questionnaire to figure out what your clients struggle with the most, and tailor it to that.  For example, at the outset, I used a very open-ended questionnaire that allowed my clients to detail, at length, what they wanted in a logo.  I thought it wouldn’t limit them or box them in by giving them the freedom to detail what they wanted.  It resulted in a lot of frustration and back & forth.  Why?  Because I’d immersed myself in my craft, and forgot that my clients don’t use the same lingo.  They also don’t consider specific aspects of the logo unless it’s pointed out to them, like color.  Now, I use a questionnaire that asks very specific questions about layout, color, font, and so on.

Additionally, you might want to consider chatting with your client about how to help you with feedback.  Feedback seems to be a difficult thing to tackle for many clients.  Feel free to point them to this blog post, about giving better feedback.  You can also make your own notes from this in order to form your own method of explaining what you need to fine-tune a logo!


Tie it all together

The long & short of it is that you, as a client, need to help make that magic happen.  It’s a bit more than waving a magic wand to get a cool brand, and we certainly don’t have *all* of the answers!  Thinking that a financial transaction is all it takes is a big mistake and places unrealistic expectations on the designer, AND the process.  As a designer, it’s my job to lead you down that magical path.  That’s why we have questionnaires, and why we ask so many questions.  Your answers help to illuminate that sparkly, magical path to a badass brand.  The creative process for branding — since it is quite personal (every business venture is) and really important — definitely requires a lot of teamwork.

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Brand Brag: Abra Said

I “met” Abra while I was in Florida, celebrating Christmas & New Years with my family.  Abra is a life coach, and exudes positive vibes & optimism.  Seriously, getting her e-mails was fun for me because I knew they’d be upbeat.  Abra’s brand was a lot of fun to work on — sort of one of those “dream” brands for me because she wasn’t afraid of color, a little glitz, and she just let me take the wheel and design something that would work for her!


Tell us a bit about how you got started with your business / blog / venture that we branded.

I have always loved a celebration of any kind! When I lost my mom, I found it really therapeutic to dive into making the most of any moment with friends and family and lots of champagne. My call to be a life coach came years ago, but the reminder that we cannot take life or time for granted definitely pushed me to take the leap.


What products or services do you offer?

I will offer life coaching, event planning services as well as some fun products that will help you make the most of any occasion or help to send a little love & celebration from far away!


What’s the best advice you have for someone that is interested in doing something similar to you?

Just do it! Don’t wait for the “right” moment or until you have everything perfect. Just say yes and the rest will absolutely fall into place!Abra Said Brandboard


Tell our readers a bit about the branding process!

Working with Beck was honestly such an amazing experience. I am someone with a lot of big ideas & my brain is always running a mile a minute. She was able to capture what I really had in mind and was incredibly kind and patient with me. I had the freedom to say what I loved and what I did not like as much. The questionnaires were super user friendly and really helped to even sort out my own thoughts on what I wanted to create. I know this brand is going to take my business to the next level, because if nothing else, it gives me something that I want to show off and tell people about. I am the type of person who wears my heart on my sleeve & the brand Beck helped me create, let’s people know what I’m about immediately!


What does the future hold for you?

I have no idea what the future holds but I know whatever it is, it will be full of love and fun and hopefully lots of reasons to celebrate!


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So, You Want to Blog? Part 4: A Second Plan

Now that you’ve got your idea for a badass blog, a plan for your ideas to be put into action, and a badass brand + website, you’re ready to launch, right?


You need a second plan!  This plan is about execution, and making your blog into a real life thing!

Since you’ve started gathering up ideas and putting together a plan, now would be an excellent time to actually start *writing* posts for your blog.  With the exception of a lifestyle or journal type blog that you might update with your daily life, writing and planning your posts is the way to go.  Why?  It ensures that you always have content scheduled.  If you have it on your schedule, you’re more likely to complete it.

There are a few things that you need to consider and make a decision about for your blog.


Post Frequency

You should decide how often you’re going to post, and stick with it.  Ideally, a post every single day would be fantastic, but it’s more than likely not feasible if you’re like me — I have a business to run, logos to design, and a family that I like to spend time with.  I’ve decided that I’ll be posting to my blog 1-2 times a week.  Occasionally, there might be a little more, but at a minimum, I need to post 1-2 times a week.  This is something that I can juggle and put into my schedule.

After doing a bit of reading and figuring out what would work for me, I decided that I needed to have three months of posts and/or ideas in my queue, ready to go.  This frees up the potential stress of wondering what to post and when to post it.  It also means that I have time to put together solid thoughts, not something that is rushed or less than stellar.


Post Type – Relevancy

If you’re planning on blogging about multiple topics like I am, you should consider the type of post you’re publishing, in addition to the schedule.  Because my blog is business and design-based, I know I should be posting legitimate content at least once in my 1-2 times a week for posting.  By legitimate content, I mean relevant content.  It wouldn’t make sense for the bulk of my posting to be about recipes I love.  If that’s the bulk of what I was posting, I should probably consider being a food blogger, not a businessmom blogger!


Sharing Plan of Attack

How do you plan to share your posts with the rest of the world?  Do you have social media accounts tied to your blog?  Are you considering sharing your posts on all of these?  How often?  Is your sharing plan of attack something you can keep up with?

I plan to share on a few platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.  I’m currently using CoSchedule to help with scheduling my social media posts and my blog posts.  A busy gal like me needs a helping hand!  There are a lot of services out there that may work for exactly what you need.  Similarly, you can always do it the “old fashioned” way — hop on social media and post when you’re ready to post!  I’m about five months in to my CoSchedule subscription, and I have to tell you — it’s pretty amazing.  I’ll be reviewing CoSchedule on my blog soon if you want a full rundown on what it’s been like.  If you’re pretty sure (like I was) that CoSchedule is the thing for you, you’re welcome to use my referral link here — get your CoSchedule now!


Now, Wait…

Ok, maybe “wait” isn’t exactly what you should do — keep at it, blogger!  Don’t be discouraged that the masses aren’t flocking to your blog, sharing posts, and making you the next hot thing.  As with many things, it takes time.  Keep writing diligently, stay active on social media, and start thinking about what’s next for you.  I’ll be with you every step of the way.  Stay tuned for the next So, You Want to Blog? post, and I’ll fill you in on what I did after I established a second plan.

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Spring Break + New Additions

Happy Tuesday, y’all!  We’ve returned from our spring break vacation & we have a few new additions to tell you about!

First, we want to thank you for your patience as we enjoyed some much needed family time!  We had a blast in Myrtle Beach — see?!

We rented a little cottage about a block from the beach.  Our days were spent relaxing, walking the beach, and watching the kids play in the waves.  We also got a little mini golf in, and frequented a little grocery/gift shop that the kids loved, called Boulineau’s.

Just like any other business owner, it’s often hard to get away from work, and it wasn’t really any different for us.  We’re making some amazing changes at ALP and vacation was what we needed to solidify some of those decisions!  We’re excited to announce that our gal, Lily, will be taking a more proactive role in custom orders.  She’s movin’ on up, and we’re so jazzed about it.  That means Barb is now our premade queen!

All of this shifting around is for a fabulous reason, too — I’ve been spending a little time diving into something that I’ve always wanted to do…  Font design!  While we were on vacation, I pushed out two new fonts — Spring Market, and Rose Bud.  These fonts are also available on Etsy, and on my Creative Market shop.  I’m pretty dang thrilled with the warm reception for these two!  I’ve got additional fonts in the works, including some cursive options!

Make sure you keep an eye out, whether it’s our website, Etsy, or Creative Market!

And finally, we’re in the process of adding about 40 new premades to our website!  You can find them on Etsy already, so feel free to drop by and check them out!


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How I Got Here – It’s a LONG, but Fun, Journey!

Grab a cold one, or a glass of wine, y’all.  I’m about to get nostalgic and recount how I got here – it’s a long, but fun, journey!

Did y’all know I’m totally self-taught?

That’s right. With the exception of my first Photoshop experience when I was in high school, I taught myself everything I know about design, branding, and such.  My education — multiple degrees — have absolutely ZERO to do with making a logo.

I have an associate’s degree from the community college back home, Brevard Community College.  I think they changed their name to something East Coast, but I might be wrong. My bachelor’s degree is in Middle Eastern Studies. My master’s degree is in Organizational Leadership. When I was in the Air Force, I went to language school for a year. I became proficient in Farsi, and worked with the language for a few years after that. I’m also a few courses away from completing a Psychology graduate degree — I’m not sure if I ever will, because practicum sounds super scary. Not a lick of graphic design in there…

I learned everything I know because I experimented, read, watched videos, and Googled the heck out of stuff. Having a background in photography meant that it was a fairly easy transition into graphic design, and admittedly, I’m still far more comfy in Photoshop than Illustrator. I found that it was easy to teach myself new tricks and learn about new processes… and once I began working with small businesses and individuals looking into bettering themselves, I found that my diverse educational & professional backgrounds were handy.

Prior to joining the Air Force, I had a time and a half figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. I spent so much of my childhood dreaming of becoming a meteorologist. Not the weather girl on television, but a meteorologist that works at NOAA, someone that tracked hurricanes, chased storms, and lived this crazy amazing experience.  (In my head, it would have been a crazy amazing experience.) I spent my first year in college at Florida Institute of Technology, and…well, instantly, I hated it. Seriously. I had no idea what I was in for when I declared meteorology as my major. All of this science and math crap, what the heck was this? I mean, couldn’t you just teach me to read the computer models?

I realized that it was a huge mistake and that I didn’t want to go through with this major in the first semester of school, and then addressed those concerns with my parents at the beginning of the second semester.  One day, I addressed those concerns by coming home and stating that I was enlisting.  Seriously.  I’d already made up my mind that I was enlisting in the Air Force. I had no idea what I wanted to do because my world was basically turned upside down when I realized I was hating what I wanted to be when I “grew up.” When I told my parents about my decision, my mom’s only question was, “What branch?” When I confirmed Air Force, she seemed to breath a sigh of relief. Though I know they had concerns like any parent would, they fully supported my decision.

My recruiters were the best.  I don’t think there are many people that will say that, since most people feel like the recruiters promise them the heavens & the earth if they just sign up. My recruiters seemed a bit taken aback when I walked in, asked to be recruited, and told them I would sign up only if I could be promised that I would be a linguist. I’d done some research and this was the only thing that appealed to me. Spanish was easy for me to learn, French equally as easy, so I figured…why not, right? I think they chuckled and told me I needed to take a preliminary ASVAB — sort of a pre-test, if you will — to see if I would be qualified for for this job category.  According to my recruiters, not only did I qualify — I blew it out of the water.

They set me up with some additional MEPS testing, and the rest is history. My only “requirement” was that I not ship until the summer of 2004. I was able to sign up for the delayed enlistment program because I transferred to the local community college and was in school for my second year of college. My little brother was scheduled to graduate high school in 2004, and it was important for me to stay and see him graduate. It all worked out fabulously for me, and my recruiters were nothing but honest about stuff. (If you’re out there, guys, then-TSgts Mike Linnane & Manny Ojeda, thank you for being straight shooters.)

That decision to enlist is what set me on the path I’m on today.  That decision, and all of the following decisions and experiences, have given me a really unique point of view and invaluable skills.

The Air Force

how i got here - air forceAw!  Look at me!  It’s so nostalgic seeing a picture like this.  This picture was taken by my parents, still in basic training at Lackland Air Force Base.  Seeing my parents was the first time I saw anyone, other than my flight-mates and all of the other trainees.  As a somewhat unrelated side note, I’m still in touch with 20-ish of the gals I went through basic training with in 2004.  Isn’t that insane?  Six and a half weeks of training, a friendship to last a lifetime.

My time in the Air Force means that I’ve had an amazing opportunity to be around people from all over the United States & other countries. I was never stationed on an Air Force base, but rather an Army post. I worked in a joint environment — civilians, contractors, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and my fellow Airmen.  It was definitely a unique environment to work in. Also, I learned about flexibility, working with so many different types of people from all over, and how we all have the same end goal but totally different methods to get there. Prior to joining, I learned about facing adversity & sticking to your guns if you want something. When I joined the military, there were some people that I knew that told me straight up that they did not support a woman joining the military.

Language School

My time in language school exposed me to different cultures, and also taught me that stereotyping and assumptions can cause you to miss out on some amazing experiences. I enlisted a mere 2 years after September 11, when so many people made incorrect assumptions about Islam and people that were different than themselves. Not only did I learn Farsi and meet some amazing expats, but I got to experience so many other languages and cultures simply by being on a post where other languages & cultures were being taught, having roommates that were learning other languages, and so on.

The best roomie I had was a Hebrew linguist.  As many linguists can attest to, the first thing we learn in a language other than our assigned language is how to curse.  I can still say, “What time is it, bitch, please?” in Hebrew because my roomie Leslie taught me.  Leslie is a prime example of how quickly a friendship can be formed in certain circumstances, and never seems to go away.  Leslie and I haven’t been in each other’s physical presence since 2005, at Goodfellow Air Force Base, but we maintain contact through social media.  Over ten years since I’ve seen this girl, and we can recall specific memories we shared.  I’m so thankful for relationships like this.  We’ve both got families of our own now, we’re on opposite ends of the country, and still — we’re forever connected.

Back to what I was saying.  Some of the best educational experiences I had weren’t even related to formal schooling.  They were cultural experiences, or related to forming bonds with people that are absolutely nothing like you.  There is absolutely no substitute for real world experiences when it comes to learning about people and different walks of life, and this is the part of my education that I value the most.  I’m not knockin’ the people that have degrees in the field they work in. Not at all! In fact, I think it’s an amazing thing and I see so much value in it. Clearly, I do, otherwise I wouldn’t have racked up the degrees like I have.  BUT…there’s something to be said for a motivated, driven person that teaches themselves something that they’re curious, or experiences something different firsthand!  Real world experiences with people from different walks of life are invaluable.

Once language school was over, and the additional training requirements were complete, I wound up at my first (and only) permanent duty station — an Air Force gal on an Army post.  Fort Gordon, Georgia.  It was a cool experience, but then again, I had no “real” Air Force experience to compare it to — from the time I enlisted until the time I separated, the only Air Force bases I was ever on were for Basic Training, and for crypto training. Once settled in to my job, I started using tuition assistance to complete my bachelor’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies.

I had a plan, y’all. I was going to separate from the Air Force after six years, I would have my bachelor’s degree by then in a field relevant to where I wanted to work, and I would just be a contractor or civilian until retirement. It was a solid plan, and it worked!! …Up until I decided it wasn’t working for me anymore. [sad trombone] I received my degree in Middle Eastern Studies, which ultimately secured me a badass job as a contractor. I was still receiving my Air Force paycheck on terminal leave while working as a contractor. Those few months of drawing double paychecks were really nice.  But, it wasn’t where I should be.

Contracting + Photography

I worked as a contractor for a little while, and began dabbling in my photography business on the side.

I don’t have a lot to say about being a contractor, but not because it wasn’t a good experience.  It was merely a transition from wearing BDUs one day, to cute civilian clothing the next.  While I loved not having to think about an outfit as a military member, I enjoyed being a “person” again.  The contracting company I worked for was all around amazing.  Our boss/company owner made himself accessible to us, which was unheard of for other companies.  I’m Facebook friends with my former boss, as well as a few others that worked at the company headquarters.  One lovely gal, Lori, and I shared breakfast one morning at an Augusta favorite, Ruth’s.  Such a great memory, and I’m jealous that she still travels and has Ruth’s without me!

how i got here, photographer self portraitAs I mentioned, I began dabbling in photography as a side thing while I was contracting.  See that pic over there?  I spent a good few years like that, behind the camera.  It became a bit more serious than a hobby on the weekends or a mom with a camera.  I realized eventually that the creative field was where I wanted and needed to be. It’s a bit ironic, because as my mom can attest, I was quite black & white as a kid.  I wasn’t the “out there” creative, and she often wonders where all of this design stuff even came from!  Long story short, I quit my contracting job in pursuit of my own photography company. Business was great for a while back east. Then I picked up and moved to California, and into a saturated market. People didn’t want to book me for free, let alone for payment.

I tried to make it work.  I tried everything, and it was so frustrating.  Every day, I would wake up, work on my website, look for opportunities, sign up for local information, send e-mails seeking out opportunities.  I joined up with some non-profits to donate sessions in hopes that connections would lead to referrals, and I even began advertising on a well-known wedding resource website (a huge disappointment).  This was my first massive failure, and it took me a long time to accept that it was failing.

My efforts were basically all for nothing, or so I thought.  I helped Jeff with his landscaping company and pushed a mower once in a while.  On some days, I’d ride around for a few hours and look for new opportunities and properties to pick up.  On most days, though, I still clung to this hope that I’d be able to make this photography thing work.  I eventually busied myself with learning more about other aspects of photography, finding myself inching closer to the design world.

Photoshop Actions

Photoshop actions was my next venture.  I did actions, overlays, textures, you name it.  Though this business didn’t do fabulously, I saw a bit more action (ahaha, see what I did there?) than I did with the photography world.  I think that this was because I could sell to anyone that was in the market for it, not just someone in my local area.  I think this business was instrumental in allowing me to open my eyes to other possibilities.

The efforts I thought were all for nothing wound up teaching me a lot about what *not* to do.  Those experiences taught me how to better operate a business.  There were days where I was desperate for some interest or interaction, or some way to make a few bucks. I wanted to help out with finances which were already fairly questionable following a cross-country move with legitimately no plan or job secured.  Some call it stupid and irresponsible, others call it adventurous.  Say what you will, I wouldn’t change a thing about the decisions we made.


It took me a long time to realize that I learned something from these business failures. I was so embarrassed by them that I couldn’t look at it objectively.  Admittedly, it’s still a bit painful to think about, and I’m not sure why.  This was my first experience with a failure of that magnitude, and it was difficult to accept.  It wasn’t as if I were a kid that did a poor job on a test.  I had a BUSINESS, and a FAMILY that I was taking care of — I didn’t let myself down, I let my entire family down.  That’s what it felt like, at least.

It took me a while to accept that I could give advice about business on, because I thought the failures would negate or invalidate advice and suggestions.  Logically, it’s quite the opposite.  I have the ability to redirect or identify traps.  I know what it’s like to see a business nose-dive and crash miserably despite putting all of your efforts.  There are a ton of business gurus out there that have ALL of the answers because they’ve succeeded, but I think I have one-up on them.  I’ve failed, too, and I know how to pick myself up and be a badass with my next venture.

Eventually, the Photoshop action biz stopped.  I was sinking a lot of time into something that didn’t seem to be going anywhere.  We didn’t have the capital to begin advertising and reaching more people. As a result, we couldn’t spend money to feed the business.  I had to give up on that one, too.  Honestly, I felt my passion for it starting to slide.

I also felt like I was in a very poisonous industry, too.  The photography industry is one of the most high school-like atmospheres ever.  There’s so much name-calling and finger-pointing, so much stolen work, and so many people accusing each other of doing whatever.  The groups I’d joined for camaraderie were full of internet drama, and it was toxic.  About the point that I decided I was pulling the plug on the actions, another action/photographer’s tools company was dealing with accusations of stealing another’s work or not being up front about stuff…  I’m not even sure what the *real* story was with it, but it solidified my decision to stay away from the “community” groups.


I started freelancing by writing articles and doing research, landing a few small jobs that didn’t pay superbly.  All the while, I was going to school full-time and having to devote a fair amount of time to my studies.  The majority of the 36 months STRAIGHT I stayed in school in California, I was in graduate level courses.  (For those wondering, I used the Post 9-11 GI Bill; in order to receive full benefits, you must be enrolled full time ALL the time.)  They were demanding, but not unreasonable, though they took a lot of my time.  As the photography and actions failed, I began thinking about what I could do to help financially, while still working from home.  My course load, coupled with ensuring that my schedule was open for the kids, meant that anywhere I worked outside of the home would undoubtedly have to be part time work. I didn’t know of any part time gigs other than the food industry that would allow me to define my hours, which would differ each day.

It eventually got to the point that these ideas simply didn’t pan out, and I started looking for a “real” job that was in the intel field, where I formerly worked.  My clearance had expired, so no one even bothered to respond.  I’d come to accept that trying to find a coffee shop or restaurant to work at would be the best option to earn a little money.  While looking for opportunities, I had this brilliant idea that I could still do design work on the side.  I’d started dabbling in wedding invitations and found that I enjoyed the process.  I was applying for jobs in vain, so it couldn’t hurt to make a few wedding invitation samples and list ’em on Etsy.

Autumn Lane Paperie was born, at that point.  This explains a great deal about the name, with “paperie” in it.  It did start out in paper products + paper design, but it didn’t stay that way.  In fact, it didn’t stay that way for long at all.  I jumped into the logo design not too long after I’d had a few wedding-related orders, simply to see what would happen.  My friend Ruthie would be my first logo order from back in the day.  It was a little slow getting going — so much that Jeff told me that I should just give it up, but I felt like I still had fight left in me and I swore I’d make something work.  This was a conversation I don’t remember having.  He remembers it clearly, telling me I needed to give it up.  Me, in typical feisty Irish gal form, argued with him and told him I’d simply make it happen.  I was legitimately days away from clicking send on my Starbucks application, but something kept me from doing it.

Ultimately, quitting my contracting job and jumping into the self-employed arena taught me a lot of valuable things.  I went from stable, predictable income to something that was unpredictable. It was often very precarious for us, with a family to support.  I learned from the failures, realizing the mistakes I’d made along the way.  For a lot of businesses and/or industries, there really needs to be a demand and something that sets you apart.  Your business must fill a need, and you have to set yourself up in such a way that you have an edge on your competition.

That edge is what will attract the people you want to work with, or make you different.  There are a lot of successful photographers in my area, but I had no reputation and barely knew anyone.  To the masses, I was just another one to add to the mix, and someone else always edged me out.  There are plenty of people that make tools for photographers around the world. There are any number of reasons why they do better than I did.  I also learned a lot about myself, about drive, passion, and motivation, but it didn’t make people buy from me.  Somehow, I arrived at the perfect combination.  Since this blog is largely based on authenticity, I’ll be honest and say that I’m still not sure what the perfect combo was.  I don’t know why it suddenly took off, other than the fact that I worked by butt off to make it happen and to ensure that my clients felt that I really cared…because I really do.

Schooling Experiences

I mentioned before that my bachelor’s degree is in Middle Eastern Studies.  Given that I already had proficiency in a Middle Eastern language, it seemed like the most logical choice.  That, and I wanted to work in the Intel field at the time.  The Air Force paid for this degree; I used tuition assistance.  Amazing!!  Service members don’t use this enough.  Take note of this, and look into it, if you’re active military.  The courses I took were pretty cool, but were really based on the past — Middle Eastern literature classics, and general knowledge, rather than the current state.  Either way, I knew that this degree would give me a leg up on my fellow former-military job seekers in the same field. Most of my counterparts were not working toward a degree while working.  In fact, most of my counterparts didn’t know tuition assistance even existed.  They were banking on the GI Bill once they separated.

This degree, though, even if it wasn’t based on current events was hugely informative and useful for someone wanting information different than what is given on your local news.  It broadened my view of the world. It has also given me a lot of information related to cultures other than my own.  I think that this is very valuable as a business owner, period.  You’ll do business with a ton of people, especially if you’re a business that can sell and provide services internationally.

My degree was awarded in 2009.  While I was in school, I had a toddler, and I was also a single mom following my divorce.  Let me say this.  In general, my past, private life is generally kept as much.  My bio daughter has a phenomenal father and a terrific family that she sees on the regular, and as far as blended or plentiful families go, she’s so very lucky.  She has so many people that love and adore her, and I count myself among the most fortunate that she has such an amazeballs life with so many people that care for her.  I only make mention of the fact that I had a very young child, working full time, and being single because there are so many other gals out there like me.  It is 100% possible, y’all.  It is possible to do it, without your work life, personal life, or studies suffering.  It’s doable, and I know, because I DID THAT SHIT.  In fact, I owned it.  I graduated with honors, received awards from my job, AND my kid’s turned out freaking fantastic if I do say so myself!

Grad School – ???

When I picked up with school again once I got to California, I started on a Marriage & Family Therapy graduate degree.  Psychology was always interesting to me.  As my classes progressed, I got closer and closer to the practicum part. That’s the part where we’d actually be doing stuff in action and taking on internships and such.  While doing mock-sessions in class, I struggled.  I knew what to say, but once I was in front of the rest of the class, I struggled.  I began to realize that I was more than likely not cut out for doing this stuff for real.  My own anxiety would be the reason why I left the MFT program.  Ironic, right?

I had a lot of time left on my GI Bill that I wanted to ensure I was using to its fullest.  While I waited for acceptance into another graduate program, I decided that it would be reasonable to work on a second undergrad degree in Social Science.  I’ve met the requirements for obtaining the degree, but haven’t actually applied for it.  I really enjoyed these courses, too.  It sort of seemed like a more broad view of how and why people do what they do, a lot of it had business-related undertones, and a lot of it had to do with psychology.  These courses were pretty dang cool, and I carry a lot of those learning experiences with me today.  The psychological aspect and social aspect of brand perception are hugely important.  The concepts I learned about, I can take those and apply them to brand development.

The Organizational Leadership program was the next, and currently last, part of my education.  (Let’s face it, I’m a serial student.  I’m positive I’ll go back to school for more; I just don’t know what yet!)  This graduate program was amazing.  At the time, some of the stuff was a little bland, but as I get deeper and deeper into what I do right now, it’s applicable across the board.  There were a few courses that I took in which we addressed the business side of leadership which really resonated with me.  We talked about companies that had been successful from a leadership perspective and how that bleeds over into overall success, what being a leader in a business means, and so on.

As Autumn Lane has grown, it has become more than a company that makes pretty premade logos.  It’s more than a graphic design package.  Though these are things that Autumn Lane does, our higher end packages offer A LOT more than a good-lookin’ logo.  We offer research & analysis on topics that can make or break a business, and ultimately, how to maximize your chances for success based on solid principles & concepts.  Not only is it design, but there’s a fair amount of implementation and sound reasoning behind it.  Design principles can be used to form a solid brand identity concept.  When you pair that solidly designed concept with information, concepts, and principles rooted in leadership, social science, and psychology, it becomes something more.


Image credit:

That brings me to … now.  Yes, now.  The last 10ish years haven’t been easy as pie, but they sure have been an experience.  Also, it makes me feel old to realize that it’s been over 10 years since I started this crazy-weird journey into adulthood and finding my path.

It’s still a bit painful on some days to think about the failures that ultimately led me here, but realizing that I’ve come up with a combination that works for me and my family has been such an accomplishment.  Autumn Lane is still a quite young company, but our numbers are quite staggering when compared with what folks would consider the norm.  I started Autumn Lane as a means of helping my family pay the bills, but it has become our sole means of providing for our family.  It did so within six months of its start, when Jeff quit his job to work with me as a web designer.  Now, we’re two strong as the CEO and VP (whaaaat?!) since incorporating, and we have our eldest, Lily, working for us.  Lily’s not alone, though.  Her uncle Ben also does work for us when the need arises, and Jeff’s mom Barbara handles all SEO and content authoring for our clients.

To say that it’s been a journey is a total understatement.  I’ve trudged through enough crap and have experienced enough indecision and bad decisions to last a lifetime.  I’ve never felt as though I belonged in a “job” as much as I do right now.  I’m living the the dream, with flexibility, and my family.  What more could a girl ask for?





















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Brand Brag: Jessica Rene Photography

Meet Jessica, from Jessica Rene Photography!  She’s located in Lewisville, TX…and she was an absolute joy to work with!

Here she is with her family:

Tell us a bit about how you got started with your business / blog / venture that we branded.

Back in 2012 my husband bought my first DSLR camera. I was sooo excited! He knew I wanted to become a photographer for a while, but I never ventured out and purchase a DSLR camera because they were a bit pricy and what if I failed?!? That gift was everything to me. He believed in my before I even believed in myself. We had just had a little boy and knew I wanted to capture his every moment…so I begin to practice with him. He became my muse. When I felt comfortable enough shooting in manual I offered 10 free family sessions. And it took off from there. I love what I do and believe that these memories we preserve through film will be such a gift to us once the years have flown by and all we’re left with are those precious memories of that specific season of our lives.


What products or services do you offer?

I specialize in Family Lifestyle photography . I want to capture the essence of a family. Although I do feel there is a place for those perfectly posed “let’s all look at the camera” and smile portraits, I want to capture all the in-between moments. The way a child curls their finger in their mothers hair, the way a child’s hand lays ever so softly on their parents shoulders when they are being held by their parents. That sweet nose crinkle of a child when they are laughing so hard as their parents play with them….all those moments that can easily forgotten if not frozen in time. I don’t want to create perfect portraits to hang on my clients walls, but rather create a collection of photographs that tells their story in the season they’re in. A collection of photographs that have them remembering what motherhood was like. What parenthood was like in that very moment. And how perfect is is in all it’s chaos.


What’s the best advice you have for someone that is interested in doing something similar to you?

Find what you love and purse it with everything you have! Don’t be afraid to fail. Where there is failure, there is also victory. You will get discouraged and feel like you are not growing or not where you want to be, but don’t compare your begging with someones else’s middle. Start off slow. Learn the ins and our of your camera. Learn how to shoot in Manuel and learn to get you images properly exposed in camera instead of trying to get them properly exposed in photoshop. Practice, practice, practice. And n.e.v.e.r. stop learning.

Jessica Rene Brandboard

Tell our readers a bit about the branding process!

I can’t say enough great thinks about Autumn Lane Paperie! Beck made this entire process so enjoyable!! I’m the type of person that second guesses myself A.L.L the time and have to talk things through. She was patient with me and was able to help me figure out exactly what I wanted. I never had a logo before, so this a first for me. I went into this process a bit nervous, because I’m a bit of a hot mess and change my mind a lot, but Beck walked along side me throughout this process and helped my narrow down what I liked and what I didn’t like. I knew I wanted something sweet and simple. Not too over the top, and something that was feminine. And she totally delivered! Having a logo will help me brand my business and make it more cohesive-if that makes sense. I’m so excited to order business cards and implement my logo onto my new website. I seriously can’t thank her enough!!

What does the future hold for you?

I’m excited to be shooting again! I took almost a year and half off for maternity leave. I had a high risk pregnancy so I put off photography to take care of my baby….but he is now 9 months and as healthy as can be!! I kinda feel like I”m starting fresh…from the ground up. But I’m so excited to be shooting again!! I can’t wait to capture new families and couples !


Near Lewisville, TX?  Contact Jessica!

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Why I Don’t Leave Negative Feedback

The business world thrives on feedback.  Let’s go ahead and acknowledge that, ok?  For certain things that we’re unsure about, we automatically seek out feedback.  Feedback could be in the form of touching base with someone you know personally.  More often than not, though, the feedback you seek is web-based and in the form of a review.  Consumers read reviews in order to make sure money will be well spent.  Another reason might be to ensure credibility or ability.

I don’t leave negative feedback, though.

Let me make sure that my statement is clear.  I choose not to leave negative feedback.  I’m not saying any given person shouldn’t leave truthful feedback.  I simply choose to handle any of my grievances in another manner.  Why, though?



As a business owner, I choose not to leave negative feedback because I believe I set an example.  This reason is 100% selfish.  It’s because I’m protective of what I’ve created.  My face is all over Autumn Lane Paperie’s website, and I have branded myself with my own name for this blog.  My business, and my blog, were started as a means of helping people and I’m doing so (hopefully) by putting myself out there, along with my personal experiences.  All of my social accounts are accessible and easy to find.  Googling my name yields my business website, my images, and those social accounts.  I have a lot invested in this business and this blog, and I am not willing to put my own reputation at stake to leave reactionary negative feedback.  That feedback could be perceived in any number of ways, and my professionalism could be at stake.  Consider this before you blast someone over an experience you didn’t care for.



As a business owner, I choose not to leave negative feedback if I don’t have a good experience with someone.  Business owners have a lot on their plate, and just like any other human being, sometimes, we have bad days.  It doesn’t excuse poor behavior or less than stellar experiences, but at the core, the person who may have been snippy with you could have had a really bad day.  You don’t know what’s going on under the surface.  I choose not to leave negative feedback, because I like to give the benefit of the doubt, first.  If the dispute is something minor, I don’t believe it offers anything positive to provide negative feedback.  Not only does it put you in a crummy frame of mind, but you’re probably wrecking someone else’s day, too.  I don’t feel like it makes my bad experience better by ruining anyone else’s day.  That’s why I choose to handle this privately, or at least out of the eye of the public.


I’m not always right.

As a business owner and human that makes mistakes, I choose not to leave negative feedback because I could be the one in the wrong.  I’m the first to admit that I have a stubborn streak a mile wide, so for me to admit that I might not be right is a pretty big deal in this house!  Hear me out, though, joking aside.  Each business, no matter how big or small, has different policies.  It’s on each of us to understand the policies ahead of decision-making.  It’s also our responsibility to click the policies link if, prior to your purchase, there’s a note that says you automatically agree to the policies by submitting your order.

My bad experience could be because I didn’t do my homework.  It’s happened before.  It’s hard to justify negative feedback if the problem is with the policy you already agreed to.  Why would I leave poor feedback because I either violated policy, or didn’t read the policy?  I believe that this is a problem that is growing larger every single day, and it has everything to do with entitlement and the attitude of “the customer is always right.”  This mentality is what leads to a sense of entitlement, and leads to the abuse of individuals and small businesses, their time, efforts, and creations.  I refuse to contribute anything but positivity to that.


What’s the solution then?

At the end of the day, only you can decide whether or not you’re going to leave truthful, objective feedback about an experience or product.  That goes for negative, or positive.  If that experience or product didn’t meet your expectations, you obviously have the right to state as much publicly.  However, any number of factors come into play when it’s dealing with business.  If I don’t have a stellar experience, I try to handle my grievances as professionally as possible and always out of public view.  I also do so without making assumptions that I’m correct or always right.  That’s not always the easy road to take, especially if you feel that you got taken for a ride.

That brings me to my next point.  Sometimes, negative feedback makes you a part of the problem.  Do your homework to make an educated decision before you spend money.  Ask questions ahead of time, and if policies aren’t immediately available, request them.  This minimizes the chance that you will find yourself surprised by any fine print that could lead to misunderstandings about a process or item you’re ordering.


What’s your decision?

Negativity often breeds negativity.  It’s up to you to decide if you want to be a part of that, or not.  As a business owner, though, I choose not to be a part of it.  Look for other options available if you need to, such as contacting the seller, submitting a contact form, or revisiting policies to ensure you didn’t miss something.  When you buy from a small business, you’re supporting the business, a family, and someone’s hopes & dreams.

Consider that the people behind the business may be just like you, and treat them how you’d like to be treated.  That’s not to suggest that you do nothing about your poor experience. Rather, handle it the way you hope it would be if the shoe were on the other foot.


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Brand Brag: Kerry Horrocks Photography

Y’all have to check out Kerry Horrocks Photography!  She’s a natural light photographer in Northern Utah, and her work is beautiful!!  Let’s just say, Kerry submitted a bunch of images for me to choose from for featuring on this post…and I couldn’t choose!  So, a slideshow was the only feasible solution to such a fab problem to have!  We had the pleasure of working with Kerry for her brand.


Tell us a bit about how you got started with your business / blog / venture that we branded.

Photography was a happy accident, honestly. My first decent camera was a gift from my husband – mainly for wildlife and family events. I had a dear friend take an hour one day to show me shutter speed, aperture,ISO – just the basics & I was hooked. In the beginning, I almost just gave up. It is a very competitive industry and when you really start to study and delve into the science – pretty daunting. But my need to be better and be “good” was stronger than the fear of failing. I practiced and studied & thousands of hours later ( 5 years to be exact) I feel like I am reaching and accomplishing some of my goals. I love photography because there isn’t a plateau – you grow and stretch your creativity with every shoot. I love meeting people and sharing their stories. I am still discovering “me” – my style – and I know I will get out of this passion, what I invest into it.



What products or services do you offer?

I am a natural light photographer. My studio is my community. I offer senior – portrait & family sessions. Your session is an hour long, and once finished, it is loaded in your own personal session album where you are directly involved with the choosing of your purchased images. I make sure to involve you from start to finish in order to make sure your final images, when showcased, reflect you, your life style and personality.



What’s the best advice you have for someone that is interested in doing something similar to you?

To anyone who thinks this is for them – be prepared. Find a mentor and if you can afford it – some classes. This is a huge financial investment – a fantastic one – but smart decisions will only help you succeed. Throw yourself in and don’t be afraid of failing – it’s just a step in the right direction of growing and being better. I spent hours and hours scouring the web and looking at other photographer’s work and styles – and hours practicing. As I have grown in skill – I upgraded equipment. I don’t think anyone should invest thousands before they learn the basics. You need to be able to handle all walks of life and personalities – I can promise you there will be challenges. Learn to communicate clearly and concisely, it will protect you and your clients. Immerse yourself in forums and blogs with those who have established themselves in the industry – so many of the sensational ones share advice and wisdom in order to pay it forward. They are invaluable resources! Remember: The most destructive thing you can ever do is believe someone else’s opinion of you!



Tell our readers a bit about the branding process!

I have a fellow photog who had worked with Autumn Lane and I loved her final product so much I knew this was the company for me. I waited until I knew the time was right for me to put my name and reputation out there – and sent that email!! It’s a fantastic value for the investment. I was pretty naive and made sure Beck knew that from the beginning. She took me step by step, with the main logo to sub logos and so on. Every proof that was sent was reviewed by me for a few days in order to make sure I wasn’t making rash decisions. I even sent the proofs to friends and family to see what their first impressions were – they know me, my personality and my work ethics. I found the choosing and narrowing down process was tough only because Beck is such a great listener that she really honed in on what I was saying and envisioning. It made for so many fantastic choices that it was hard to choose a favorite. I utilize social media – we all do, right? I immediately took time to showcase my new brand and I have receive so many compliments and inquiries. I feel it gave me a more professional look in the social media field and has allowed for an identity to be established. It is also is helping potential clients sense my style and personality with just a simple glance. As a beginner, you don’t want to look as insecure and unpolished as you feel. This experience has magnified my self esteem and moral so much!! I love the final product and the new me!!!



What does the future hold for you?

What does the future hold? Gosh – I don’t know!! But I can’t wait to see! I’ll find a mentor for studio work – I’ll start getting my feet wet in the wedding industry – and my first goal is to really infiltrate the local high school’s senior session business. I am so so grateful for the personal growth photography has blessed me with! I can’t wait to be better than I was in 2016. “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
― Winston S. Churchill



Contact Kerry:

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Three Ways to Find Success in Your Business

Oh hey! Did you think this was going to be a quick and easy instructional to magically make your business successful? Sorry — running your own business is seriously tough stuff, and there’s no secret formula to make it work. I’m not talking about raking in the benjamins here — I’m talking personal success.

Think about it. Every person has a different way that they would define success. For Jim Bob over there, success is making a ton of money and never having to worry about finances. For Jilly Sue, it means that she finished school and has a steady job with which she can make ends meet. Amy Lou’s idea of success means that she accomplished the task she set out to do on any given day. See? Success is different for each person.


Define Your Success.

In order to say you’re successful, you first need to set your own definition of success. There is no single path to success. Is your success related to financial gain? Making a sale? Earning referrals? Satisfied customers? Completing a task, finishing an order? A combination of everything? WRITE IT DOWN. Actually, don’t just write it down. Make it visible to you, somewhere, so that you see it every day. Remind yourself of it.


Set Your Goal.

Defining your success is cool and all, but how are you going to make it happen? Without a plan and a tangible goal, your idea of success is just that…an idea. Make it a reality. Come up with a realistic goal that you can meet in a realistic period of time. Have an order to finish in a week? Make that your goal, and get to work. Need to rack up some positive feedback? Set your goal for five positive feedbacks, and start reaching out to your clients, asking them to leave a review.



Yes, celebrate! Have a cold beer, a glass of wine, pat yourself on the back, or call your mom and tell her about your small victory. Whatever it is you choose to do, take a moment and congratulate yourself. Each small goal you set and accomplish is one step closer to your overall success.

When you’re done doing your celebratory dance, start over. Take a look at where your accomplishment leaves you, set a new goal, and keep congratulating yourself on each accomplishment you can check off.


What if I don’t….

I hear you over, there — what if I don’t reach my goal? Set a new one.

But evaluate, first.

What kept you from reaching your goal? Was it too lofty? Not enough time? Someone else didn’t follow through? Were you lazy?

Asking yourself tough questions will help you come up with a solution or a new approach. Your course of action won’t work every single time, and you should expect bumps in the road.  It’s better to be safe than sorry, I always say. Back-up plans are amazing, but so are creative, spur-of-the-moment plans that arise because you’re in a bind. If you have to take a breather and re-evaluate success and your goals, do it. Continuing to push forward after a failure without adjusting your trajectory or considering the reasons for the hiccup will only serve to add to your frustration.

Above all, keep your head up. Involve others in your goal-digging — a cheering section never hurt anyone! Invite others to share in your successes and goal-meeting.


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