I was talking to a friend the other day, about a class we’re both taking on creative business. There are SO many “experts” and so many classes on small business available online. And we, we are Brave Explorers, traveling in uncharted waters. Being an entrepreneur is scary and it feels like such a relief when we realize that someone has a map. That someone has been there, done it, and all we have to do is grab on to that lifeline.
In the last two years, I’ve worked with several graphic designers and coaches, taken classes in running a jewelry business, classes in running a creative business in general, classes in jewelry making techniques, photography, photo editing and oh so many classes in so many other things. I’ve gone this way and that way, spent this money and that money, tried this and that, all in the name of succeeding. I’ve spent thousands of dollars and listened to a LOT of people telling me that $their way$ is the right way. I’ve gotten a lot of great information out of it and some not so great information. I have spent my dollars wisely and sometimes not so wisely. I have faithfully followed their advice, when it felt right and when it felt wrong. I did that because I’d paid for it and they were an expert and so it must be true, right? But here’s where I went wrong. I wasn’t listening to the expert on my business, no, I was listening to some other expert on some other business. And I forgot that.
The point is this. You are the expert on your business.
I had a really disappointing experience in a class recently. Stuck and needing to find my way through the work, I asked for guidance on a particular point and it was not forthcoming. My feelings were so hurt! Was help getting unstuck so much to ask? Had I not paid for this guidance? I was putting so much time and heart into the course-work, didn’t the instructor care? Well… sure. She’s put together something fantastic to help people succeed. Obviously there is care! But on the level where I wanted someone to take a personal interest in me and in the problem I was having? I’m not sure it was fair to expect it of her. She’s an artist and a creative entrepreneur, just like me. This class? It’s part of her business, just one iron in the fire, among many. I think, to quote Scotty (my favorite Starfleet Chief Engineer), she’d given it all she had to give. I’m still working through my feelings about it but the core of my upset was that I’d handed over my authority to someone who declined the invitation. She wasn’t taking responsibility for whether or not I got it and getting it was gonna be up to me.
I’m glad it happened. I’m GLAD she declined the invitation. The whole process has triggered a lot of thoughts about letting “experts” and “craft-lebrities” tell us what we should be doing. It meant I got a good smack in the head about personal responsibility. No matter how nice that lifeline looks? It’s still on me.
My thought is this. Yes, take all the helpful classes you need. It can be really fun and it builds your creative community like nothing else. It’s a great way to make new friends and learn new things. Glean all the wisdom you can, learn all the skills and put all the tools in your tool box. I advocate classes and coaches and all of that. Good stuff! But remember that the good people who are running these classes are still just like you. Creative entrepreneurs. They are your peers and I think keeping that in mind can help shift how we approach what they have to teach us. I think keeping that in mind can actually help us get more out of the learning process.
It is entirely up to you to see how it all fits in your world, or if it fits at all. It truly is on you to get it and what that looks like is different for each one of us. It isn’t someone else’s fault if you don’t get it. Let it go and move on or keep trying till you break through, but don’t put it on the “expert” and get frustrated if something isn’t fitting just right. Blame just bogs you down. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, as they say. Take what works and discard what doesn’t.
You get to make adjustments.
YOU know your business better than anyone in the world.
You’ve got to keep paddling your own boat through your own uncharted waters. It is up to you to chart them. And you know what? You can totally do that. Use the classes and the coaches to help you do it, but don’t drop your paddle and expect someone to tow you out because it isn’t going to happen.
You are the boss of you. Isn’t that why you are outside the box, running a creative business in the first place?
On that note? I will be heading up to Craftcation in Ventura, this coming weekend. Four days of classes and workshops, led by folks in various creative fields, all about how to make our creative businesses thrive. This year, unlike last year, I’m feeling pretty confident of fitting in, of being able to hold my own. I’m running a successful creative biz, on my own terms. It will be a lot easier to walk into those conference rooms, this year. I’m looking forward to spending 4 days with my peers, to finding the things that fit and saying no thanks to the rest. Also? I don’t plan to hide in my room the whole time. I have an actual roommate. I know people who are going. I even think I’ll make it to the 8o’s party…
See you in Ventura!