Archive for the ‘Design Business’ Category

Defining Resolutions for 2016

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Starting a new year is so exciting for me! It makes me feel like I did growing up when starting a new year of school – with that anticipation of the fun to come, new friends, and new adventures but most importantly a chance to set new goals and have a clean calendar and a clean slate. I love to sit down around this time of year with a brand new journal, a fabulous pen, and a great cup of coffee to start my list of goals and resolutions for the coming year.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that I believe in the transformative power of resolutions, and the importance of starting your year with a vision, a plan, and a clear intention. When I sit down to begin my goal- and resolution-setting, I always remind myself of the relationship between resolutions and goals. For the most part, this is pretty obvious, but here is a clarification, just in case:

  • A goal is an endpoint you desire. This makes me think about the other common use for “goal,” and that’s in sports: it’s a score, a target, something strived-for and earned. When you set a goal, you are choosing the destination of a journey (or at least one major progress point along the way).
  • A resolution is an intention that you set for your life; an invitation to the kind of energy and actions you want to manifest. You are resolving to do something (or NOT do something), either with the intention of creating a new habit forever or in order to jumpstart a big change. And many times our resolutions allow us to achieve our goals. To push our journey metaphor a little bit further, if a goal is a destination, then a resolution is a choice you make about what you want the trip to be like, how you want to live the journey you’re creating.


If you want goals and resolutions for your life to really stick and to begin to transform your life, you can’t allow your critical or negative self-talk to drown out your hopes and dreams for your life. My best advice is to give yourself the gift of not judging any of your instincts and feelings as you sit down to write your own list for the year. And let go of that inner mean girl as you move through the year and work toward your goals. These should be intentions for you and you alone – and not a reason to beat yourself up.

Also, you should never make goals and resolutions that you believe would please someone else but that you don’t really want at your core. Trust you gut. You know what goals are authentic to you and which ones you are writing down because your mom or your spouse or your children think you should.  What good is setting goals others want for you going to do? NONE. So don’t give-in to the temptation to try to set the “right” intentions; these are YOURS, and feeling passionate about your goals is all you need to make them the right ones for you. Your goals will not be graded except by you. You will be the one holding yourself accountable to yourself. So let go of the A+ student inside who wants to earn praise from others and lean into to what you really want in your innermost self.

If you work or own your own business, be sure to set both business goals and personal goals. I truly believe that only by being your very best self will you achieve your ultimate potential and reach your true joy! And when you set those goals to help you be your best, each and every one of them needs to have a step-by-step plan. Later this week, I’m going to tell you what my year in review looks like (a peek back at all I accomplished and enjoyed this year), and there is no way I could have achieved any of the goals I set without a plan in place for each one of them.


For each goal and resolution, I define a series of steps, with deadlines and dates attached! If I get to one of the dates and haven’t quite gotten where I need to be with my goal – but I’ve made some progress – I don’t beat myself up. I just tweak that deadline a bit and keep plugging away at each of the steps. Any action is always better than no action and some things just take longer than we think they will. But moving towards our goals each day is the most important part.

I have done a ton of reading and studying in 2015 as I do each year. And I have learned some exciting tips and thoughts on goal setting. In fact, this year I have a couple of all new approaches to help me stay on track with my goal setting and also to help with the setbacks that we all face. I will be bringing you those new ideas in just a few days to help you have success with your goals in 2016, so be sure and check back with me in the coming days to learn these exciting new tips. But for now, start thinking about your goals and intentions for 2016 while you are relaxing and enjoying the last few days of the year. I find my best ideas and most authentic wants and goals come when I am relaxing and not forcing anything.  So no pressure yet. Just dream about what 2016 will be.

If you already know your goals and resolutions for 2016, hooray! Put a few in the comments section below so we can all cheer you on! It’s always easier to achieve a goal or resolution when you put it out to the universe, right? I’ll see you back here with more goals and resolution ideas soon!







Giving vs. Getting – and a Gift from Me!

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We’re right in the middle of the “Season of Giving”, so today I wanted to talk about giving vs. getting in the world of business. In the big scary (and difficult) Business Landscape out there, it can sometimes (or often) feel like everyone is taking from us in some way–taking our ideas, taking our clients and for sure taking our energy. Often we get discouraged and we start believing that there is not enough business to go around for all of us. So we react in fear. We hold everything close to us and we are afraid to give anything away, whether that’s advice, ideas, strategies, or even actual gifts.

But as one of my favorite mentors Wayne Dyer always said, we have to change our thoughts to change our life. I think that means that we need to beat back those beliefs about scarcity and lack in our businesses (and in our lives for that matter). We need to shift our mindset to one of abundance – that there is enough out there for all of us. We need to reject the fear that can creep in of  “not enough” and really trust that where we are today is exactly where we’re supposed to be. We have to believe that we can all succeed.


Once you make this shift, you will begin to see how giving – and I mean giving without any expectation of a return – can really turn your business around. The bonus is that giving can make you happier in the process! Yes, I’m talking about giving in your business life. And there are several ways in which what you give can come back to you in ways you never imagined. But again, I want you to go into this idea of giving without expectation. Did you hear that? NO EXPECTATION. Nada. None. Zero.

So how would it work? Well let’s say you want to reach out to a new potential partner or collaborator. Maybe it’s a retailer or a contractor who has a client list that’s similar to your target client. First remember that whenever you reach out to a new potential partner, always ask yourself what you can do for them instead of the other way around. You don’t want to be that person who shows up with her hand out – be sure you are pitching to potential partners all the ways that YOU can benefit THEM as much as how they can help you. And you have to be ok if in the immediate, there is no benefit to you other than just feeling good for helping that other business owner. The goal is for this to be a win for them for sure and a win-win for you both in the long run.


Now think about this idea: Put together some gorgeous gift boxes for potential clients and partners. Ask to meet them for lunch (individually of course)- just lunch – and do not pitch them anything. But give them the box of fantastic goodies like cookies, wine, travel mugs, a candle–really fabulous stuff, not things they will just throw away once lunch is over. Tell them you hope they enjoy it and then spend the rest of the lunch just getting to know each other and being interested in their business! The items inside the gift box should include your branding in some way, and perhaps even a printed book of your portfolio if you are a designer or a creative and you have beautiful images of your work. Trust me, they will love it and they’ll think of you as they use the items inside over the coming weeks and months.

You may give away 10 of these and only have 1 person call you back and that call back may take weeks or even months to come in, but isn’t that a great percentage for your marketing money if you get one key client for your grass-roots approach to giving and relationship building? Plus in the process, you’ve had a blast giving great gifts and meeting new people or getting to know acquaintances better. Over time, these relationships will become a major source of referrals and goodwill for you. I’ve had this pay off for me in BIG ways, and it’s one of my favorite things to do.  But it only works if you are sincerely interested in building real friendships with these collaborators.

Other than gifting to partners and potential clients, I also love to call my favorite magazine or newspaper editors to see what they are looking to feature in upcoming issues and when I don’t have projects that fit their current issues and topics, I LOVE to pitch them other designers that may not be on their radar or a designer who I know has a project that would be a perfect fit. It really lifts us all up and it lifts our industry as a whole if we all succeed, right? So helping out our industry is a win-win too!

Giving has become a way of life for me. In general, I like to give gifts throughout the year to people that I think are amazing and are doing good work  just because. It’s become a part of my regular business practice and just like any practice whether its a sport, or yoga or meditation, Practice makes perfect! Really, this idea of giving is at the very core of my business. That’s even the reason I write this blog – to share my passion for design and business every single day.

So think about how abundant life is and how much we can help others through our giving! And on the note of giving, I have a BIG surprise for all of you designers (or if you want to become one) reading this. That’s right, if you enter your name and info in the navy blue box to the right of this blog post which will sign you up for my mailing list AND if you follow me on Instagram, then you will be entered to win a free semester of Tobi U! It’s a $1299 value and it will be yours completely free so you can start transforming your design business in 2016.

So sign up for my list and follow me on Instagram and you may just be the lucky winner! And stay tuned around the first of the year when we announce the winner.

Good luck and I wish all of you a lovely and wonderful holiday season! And don’t forget, it really is better to give than to receive.









Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

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This quote by Franklin Roosevelt is SO true, and something that I think about a lot. I recently had a consulting client tell me that she felt like such a failure because so many other designers had clients and were hugely successful with their businesses and she felt like they were in a totally different league. It was really paralyzing her from taking action towards her goals.  But when I asked her how exactly she knew that the other designers had so many clients and were “hugely successful,” she pointed to their social media and the posts that she was seeing there.

I have heard from so many designers who think they are a failure, and that everyone else out there is doing fantastically. They are comparing themselves to the perception of fame and fortune, but what is the reality? The reality is that everyone suffers failure in their businesses. Everyone. And the economy has impacted every designer out there, from the top of the heap on down. And so, what you perceive to be a “huge success” could be just a designer trying to drum up more business for themselves.

Too often we are comparing ourselves with others, particularly those that from the outside look like they are rich, famous, in-demand, and busy. And I hope for all of our sakes, they are! But in reality they are likely facing the same business problems we are – maybe even on a grander scale and with more “zeros” behind the numbers.


In some ways social media has made all of this worse. Those fabulous posts from exotic trips on Instagram, the tweets about having lunch with a celebrity in our industry, and the Facebook posts about how amazing someone is – those can mislead us into thinking it’s all better for other people than it is for each one of us. I just want you to remember that you NEVER know what’s going on behind the curtain, and that’s why it’s so dangerous for us to compare ourselves to others and to use that as a yardstick for our own success.

I’ve told you my history with failure and the stumbling blocks I’ve hit in my own business. Without those challenges, I honestly would not be where I am today. I had to fall down and learn how to pick myself back up. And I still face issues every single day – that’s the price of being a business owner.

But one thing that I do – or I should say that I DON’T do – is that I never compare myself and my business to someone else’s. I’ve seen too many designers who have fabulous public personas, but are really and truly struggling behind the scenes. On the flip side, there are plenty of others out there who are quietly making a LOT of money while keeping out of the social media and publicity fray.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love social media. It has been largely responsible for helping me to build my brand and my business nationally and internationally. I love being inspired by others inside and outside of the design industry who are doing remarkable work and building very successful businesses. Seeing others success can often make me dig deeper to see what next steps are right for me. But it is honestly a waste of time to watch what other people are doing if you are going to let it unravel your plans and goals and if it is going to cause self-doubt and frustration to seep in. Social media never gives you the whole picture of what’s really going on behind the scenes. And comparing to this “version” of our industry for many people can wreck havoc on their business and personal success.


The other grass often looks greener from the side you’re standing on – but that doesn’t mean that what’s going on over on the other side of the fence is better or worse. It’s just different.

We can all have successes, we can all have great clients, and there’s room for all of us out there. But only if we are true to what our own individual business needs, if we work in our own personal “sweet spot” and only if we keep our eyes on our own prize – whatever that may be. Comparing yourself or your business to other people will only distract you from that.

So be careful looking around to see who you think is gaining or losing ground – just keep climbing for yourself. That’s what really matters.









Don’t Take It Personally

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There are so many business books that really speak to me and help me guide my company and career, but a few books that have made a huge impact on me are not what you would think of as a typical business book. One of them is The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz. In this tiny book, Ruiz says that we can find personal freedom by agreeing to live by four principles. They are:

  1. Be impeccable with your word.
  2. Don’t take anything personally.
  3. Don’t make assumptions.
  4. Always do your best.

Personal Freedom….now that’s one of my major goals! And I’m sure you can see how these four agreements apply to the business world, too. All of these agreements are hard to stick to, but the second agreement is the one that I think most people really struggle with. Whether it comes from a place of ego or a place of insecurity, so often we take things far too personally in our interactions with each other.


I see this happen a lot on social media. Someone will become offended by a Facebook post or a tweet, absolutely sure that it was aimed specifically at them, when often it was coincidence. Our egos get in the way, convinced that everything in the world really does revolve around us. And I hate to break it to us, but it doesn’t.

If you think about it, getting offended is a very self-centered response that doesn’t take other people’s perspectives into account. And studies prove that we’re often completely wrong in our assumptions of what other people are thinking or feeling about us. A University of Chicago study showed that when we try to predict what someone is thinking about us at any given moment, we’re only right 10% of the time.

Not only is taking things too personally bad for your day-t0-day happiness, it can also give you poor judgment in your business and can create conflict with people that you need to work well with. It can make you very ineffective as a leader and a partner, and most importantly, it makes you unhappy!

So how can you avoid taking things too personally? In an email or a spoken comment, don’t fire back immediately if you think you’re being insulted or slighted. Stop and think first. Take a breath and ask yourself if you could have misinterpreted what was said – it may not be what you thought.


And always try to think of the other person’s perspective. Each of us is caught up in our own lives, issues and concerns, and something we say can be a sign that we’re stressed or angry, and has nothing to do with the person we just unintentionally insulted.

If you find that someone truly is insulting you or doesn’t like you – so what? How does that really impact you and your business? One of my very favorite sayings is “What people think of you is none of your business!” And I even wrote one of my most popular blog posts on this very topic two years ago. You can check it out here!

So it’s true. Not everyone will like you in life and that’s ok. They don’t have to. Dwelling on the haters leaves you less time to concentrate on the people who care about you, and the business that you love. It can keep you from reaching your potential and living your dreams. And it’s not worth it. So as Taylor Swift says, “Shake it off!”

Do you take things too personally? Are you letting what people think of you keep you from reaching your dreams? Let me know in the comments section below, and tell me how you handle it or what you’re going to change to help you “shake it off.” I look forward to hearing from you!








An Attitude of Gratitude

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Now that the holiday season is about to hit full swing, chances are that you will soon be giving and receiving and thanking up a storm! It can be inspirational, and it can be overwhelming. But when I think about gratitude in the context of my business and my life, I remind myself that it should be the keystone both.

Some people think of gratitude as a burden. Imagine a 12-year-old sitting down to write a stack of thank-you notes after his birthday, and you’ll get the picture. But I prefer to think of it not as a burden but as a blessing. Or more specifically, I really think of it is as a practice. Gratitude is a way of seeing the world.

And gratitude is so much more than a thank you note or sending flowers. Don’t get me wrong, those things are wonderful and it does feel so good to send gestures like these. In fact, giving gifts for a good reason or no reason at all is one of my favorite things to do. But gratitude is a feeling first; and how you express it comes second. Feeling gratitude on a daily basis completely changes how you see the world. It keeps you from becoming offended so easily. It helps you give people the benefit of the doubt. It makes you not take yourself or others so seriously. Gratitude is really like a miracle drug. It greatly impacts your outlook on life.


Now this all sounds great, right? But the hard part is the consistency or what I call “practicing” gratitude. Yes, it requires practice to maintain a spirit of gratitude in the midst of a demanding schedule, in the face of unexpected challenges. But if you are willing to make your gratitude practice a priority, it will definitely support you and guide you through all your life’s moments of both joy and sorrow.

Some suggestions from my own experiences that help keep me centered in a place of gratitude include:

  • Living in the present moment. This means no dwelling in the past or missing out on today for “one day” thinking about the future! One day is TODAY, tomorrow isn’t guaranteed!
  • Counting my many blessings on a daily basis. For me that’s through keeping a daily gratitude journal and numbering them sequentially through the year. By this time of year, I am into the thousands of things I am grateful for this year. And it makes an impression on your when you write the #1199 reason you are grateful this year. It proves to you daily that you truly are blessed. Trust me, you’ll love this approach.
  • Turning obstacles and challenges around and seeing them as opportunities for growth. I have made this an art, but it took years to get there. I now have very short “Pity Parties” if I have one at all, and I am able to shake things off quickly and look for the silver lining. This is a habit that ensures I am happy 99% of the time.

When you begin these or other gratitude practices, the power of gratitude will move beyond your personal life and will seep into your work life. You’ll quickly see how transformational it can be for your business. And, there is a key link that I want you to see between gratitude and abundance. When you are able to recognize that you live in a world of abundance, that there is enough for everyone, then you are feeling gratitude.


How many times a day do you say to yourself or someone else, “We/I don’t have enough ________!” Fill in that blank with time, money, information, or things. If you start to notice and acknowledge how much time you spend focused on what you don’t have, you’ll probably be surprised. Developing a strong sense of gratitude counterbalances those scarcity beliefs and keeps you on-course to your goals for an abundant life. It helps you believe there is enough time, money and everything else to go around, and it gives you confidence to go after the life you have imagined!

So now that you feel gratitude bubbling up inside of you and you are ready to express it, go for it! It is a gift that you share with the world. But it is an even greater gift to yourself. How are you showing or telling your family, clients, employees, friends, craftspeople, vendors, EVERYONE that you are grateful? Now might be a perfect moment for a self-assessment. Are you expressing gratitude in ways large and small? If so, how? Let me know in the comments section below!

Thank you for being here with me – for reading my blog and for commenting! I appreciate each and every one of you!

In gratitude,