Are You Being Too Hard On Yourself When Setting Goals?

Last year, around this time, I took the time to set some intentions for myself. Everything from ending work daily by 6pm (no more day bleeds into night) to taking time off to have a few adventures.

I listed my intentions on one sheet of paper, entitled ‘My 2017 Vision’ and put it up on my office wall. One of them was to do more collaborating in service of Build Yourself.

I am an extrovert, I get my energy from others, from riffing off of them and being inspired by them. But for a long time, initiating collaborations was something I just never got around to.

The funny thing is, I teach collaboration. My signature talk that I give to companies and industry groups, called the Wingwoman Effect, is all about how working with others–pushing them forward–actually can push you forward, if you’re strategic about it.

I wasn’t following my own advice.

But in early 2017 I set some new intentions. I didn’t have a clear sense of how I would do it, but I knew I wanted to build Build Yourself into something more powerful, and I wanted to do it through collaborations that brought me joy.

For Build Yourself, this meant I began to invite guest speakers into my Accelerator courses. This means that I get to co-create new content and new networks among the women I teach with. I also ran my first ‘recommendation circle‘ bringing women together to make helpful introductions to serve Build Yourself–a concept I teach in The Wingwoman Effect but hadn’t used formally myself. I also decided to organize a group of changemakers to attend an industry conference together, the PolicyLink Equity Summit, this spring. In the next few months we’ll be learning together about how we can use our creative skills to be greater forces of equity, and we’ll be networking and getting to know one another.

Truth is, after I pasted that 2017 vision on my wall, I soon stopped seeing it–that’s what happens when you see things everyday, but it didn’t matter. I have accomplished (or made significant progress towards) every single one of those intentions I wrote for myself.

Forming them and putting them out there in the world in some little way changed me.

I was more primed to take (or make) opportunities when I saw them in front of me.

We beat ourselves up over not sticking to goals we set, we fear that we’ll fail, and yes, my programs have all kinds of accountability mechanisms built in to keep the women I work with on track. But sometimes I think we’re overthinking it.

In a busy world, intention is a precious resource.

And we don’t always need as much time as we think to change our own lives.

What is one intention you have for yourself in 2018? Comment below and let me know.


Two Surprisingly Powerful Questions to Ask Yourself When Setting Goals

As you read this, it’s likely I’m holed up in Brooklyn, reflecting on my last year and setting some goals for the next one. It’s that time of the year when we think about what we want out of the next year and we make plans for how to get it.

But we’ve all been in that place where we either don’t know where to start on setting goals, or we set goals that we may not be able to actually achieve. I’ve been giving trainings all month on creative goal setting and I feel even more convinced than I did a few weeks ago that creatives need an approach to setting goals that play to our strengths (dreaming up what’s possible) and adjust for our weaknesses (overcomplicating things!)

But speaking of overcomplicating things, let’s keep it simple.

Here are two of the most powerful questions that I’ve discovered to ask yourself when setting goals:

How can I supersize my goal?

Sheryl Sandberg in her book Lean In talks about how women think less is possible for them than there really is—we can develop what she calls a ‘leadership ambition gap.’ Tara Mohr, author of the book Playing Big talks about it as playing bigger.

So ask yourself, how can you make your goal twice as big? How can you dream bigger? How can you ask for more?

I recently heard from a woman who took my class a few years ago and got a big salary boost as a result. In her recent performance review, she didn’t feel a need to ask for a promotion or raise, but she decided to ask for something—and asked for an extra week of vacation….and got it! Now I love my job, but I’m a little jealous of the fantastic vacation schedule she’ll have next year.

Supersizing your goal for you might mean:

  • Putting a dream client on your 2018 prospective clients list
  • Asking an artist you love to collaborate with you on a project
  • Committing to spending every Friday on personal development and working on new ideas

How can I work smarter not harder?

One of the reasons resolutions fail is that we add, add, add to our plates, without thinking about what we’ll have to subtract in order to free up the time and energy to take on these new commitments. Breanne Dyck, a coach I follow suggests that we should think about how to get double the benefit for half the work.

Women can sometimes fall into taking on way more than we need to, and overcomplicating things for ourselves because we fall into people pleasing, and don’t realize that we can advocate for the resources we want and need.

So ask yourself, once I’ve set this ambitious goal, how can I work less hard for it? How can I offload one of the things that would need to happen to someone else, how can I get help? How can I tap into resources that are already there?

Working smarter not harder on your goal might mean:

  • Asking for a few hours of a junior staff person to go with your promotion to running projects
  • Asking your partner to take on a household task that you’ve been doing for years
  • Asking your industry group to promote your services as a thank you for organizing their spring soiree

I wish you a wonderful 2018 ahead—I hope it brings you more than you thought was even possible for yourself—with more calm, ease and joy in the process.

And I’m inviting you to invite me into your process.

What are your goals for 2018? Hit reply and let me know.

And Happy New Year—



Think Adventure & Career Growth Are Mutually Exclusive? Then, Meet Kerry

Ever feel like adventure and career growth are mutually exclusive? That you can play or you can get serious and work?

Kerry DrakeToday I want to share with you Kerry Drake, a former student of mine’s story. Kerry set off for a big adventure not long after taking my workshop, and what Kerry found was that this big, bold move was not just a side road on her career path, but a big career-boosting move. Kerry’s story illustrates that career growth is not just about the next predictable rung on the ladder, it can be creative, tailored to what you love and bold.


Where were you when you took the workshop?
About two years ago, when I took the workshop, I identified a list of 16 goals and dreams that I would like to achieve if I wasn’t afraid. Everyone has fears related to their careers: concerns about making mistakes, worrying about finding the right path, sacrificing personal health or family time, trying to balance work and life, and so on. .. but putting that list on paper helped me deal with them head on. My list included career goal and personal goals, such as negotiating my salary, working for an NGO, making use of Spanish, and purchasing a house.

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Set Yourself Up for Success with Double Vision

I’ve been teaching women how to set ambitious and creative goals. On my latest webinar, I talked about my own story of doing too many things (which included a freelance design company, a research collaborative, a startup, an empowerment bootcamp for women, a speaker series-a pop-up dinner club…. Oh yeah and I was teaching myself hand lettering at the time.)


In truth, it was really exhausting.

I was working all the time, but I never seemed to be moving forward. I felt like I was constantly spiraling.

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What if You Could Have More of What You Wanted?

“Sometimes I think I just want to quit my job and become a potter.”

I hear women’s inner dialogues about the tradeoffs they face all the time.

And one of the things I’ve learned from hearing these inner negotiations, these wrestles with reality, is just how often women force themselves into false choices.

We tell ourselves things like we can be good moms or have powerful careers—but I’ve seen women who decided that they would have both, find their own way to do it, even if it meant pushing against their workplace, finding a better workplace, or inventing their own.

It’s not a black-or-white opting in or opting out—it’s opting in on the terms you want—or at least the best you can get.

Which is usually more than you think if you’re willing to try.

These kind of black-and-white, this-or-that narratives are rampant in the thinking of women who do more than one thing creatively, especially when it comes to success, recognition, money and stability.

I need to stop playing and get serious about my career.

People like me, people who are creative, don’t make money.

I either choose creativity or stability.

And the problem with that kind of thinking—that opt-in or opt-out mentality for people with lots creative passions, is that we don’t ask ourselves how we can have more of all the things we want. We just accept that we can have either or.

We accept these limiting narratives about success and then opt-in or opt-out, choosing a pre-scripted path in which we give up the things that make us feel safe, or the things that make us feel like we’re growing. And then we load shame and blame on top of that—

I’m not disciplined enough to have focus.

I’ve sold out.

I’ll never be successful.

It makes us want to escape. It makes us want to lose ourselves in a fantasy-life, and Instagram-perfect picture that represents for us all the things we want, that we either left behind on the road, or feel like we’ll never access.

What if you didn’t have to choose? What if you could have more of what you wanted instead of giving up before you try?

What if you didn’t have to figure it out alone? What if you could learn from other women’s pathways?

What if you could stop that endless cycle of mind-chatter and feel good about what you’re doing in your career and with your interests and passions? What if you felt at peace, and energized?

Let me be frank—a successful multipassionate life doesn’t mean you don’t have to choose—it means you choose intelligently, strategically, what’s right for you.

This week I’ll be opening my next Accelerator program Double Vision which helps women with multiple passions set goals that respect their creativity—and help them achieve more success and peace of mind. I’ll be hosting a webinar on Ambitious Creative Goal Setting just in time for the holiday season when you’ll want to be reflecting on what you want out of next year. Join me on Wednesday, December 13th at 1pm EST.

What To Say When You Do When You Do More than One Thing

I saw it the moment she changed her mind.

I was sitting across from a potential client I was pursuing for my design consultancy, and I saw the moment I changed in her eyes—and I got refiled from an equity-focused design consultant to a womens’ empowerment coach.

In that moment, I wished I could just rewind the tape and never get on that conversational fork in the road that lead me to describe the other hat I wear—the one you all know me best for—teaching career advancement programs for ambitious creative women.

But it was so hard not to! My brain naturally wanted to go down that road—I think about women’s career advancement all the time, and absolutely believe it’s connected to designing more equitable places!

But when all is said and done, in that moment, a new contact—one who represented a big client and a potential big contract down the road—saw me differently, and I became someone who could help her think about how to advance her career, rather than a potential hire for their next big project.

We like things that fit in boxes. We like to know where to ‘file people.’ And we only have so much mental space allocated for people who aren’t, you know, us…… So when it’s hard to slap a twitter-length explanation of who someone is and what they do on them, we struggle to know what to do with them.

And there’s a cost to this. Because when we don’t have that ‘shorthand,’ we don’t think of them when opportunities come along that might fit them—when we launch that new project with room for their skills, or need a speaker for the event, or a person to lead the division.

Now this can be a big issue if you wear more than one hat. Because not only is it hard for someone to “file you away as a filmmaker/engineer/circus acrobat, but it’s also hard to sometimes know which hat you should wear in any given situation. And it’s tiring. Sometimes it feels like you have to move from one context to another, again and again.

I don’t think I’ll ever wear just one hat. Even if I were to run just one business, I can’t imagine a world in which I’m not painting, learning ceramics or taking an improv class in my free time. But after that client meeting went off the tracks, I decided I needed to be more intentional about my overlap and my approach. Here are the rules of thumb I developed.

1. Define what you’re looking for with each hat you wear. It’s hard to advocate for yourself if you don’t know what you want. Come up with one or two things you want most in each area—to be in a solo or group show for your painting? To be known for your expertise in a certain area in order to line up a promotion? Introductions to potential writing collaborators?

2. Decide which hat to wear with people beforehand. Before you meet a potential connection, or go to a networking event, decide which hat will be your primary hat for the day. Don’t overthink this. What do you think this person or group can help you with most? Resist the urge to feel like people need to ‘get’ the whole you. You are the whole you.

3. Always keep your other hats subservient to your ‘main dish’ at the time. If any the ‘hats’ you’re not currently wearing come up in conversation, make a game time decision—is this contact or context a better fit to get you closer to your goals for another hat? If so, switch. If not, make the other hat look like a subservient point to your main hat. “My improvisational dance? It’s useful to my writing practice, because it helps me write more convincing scenes from physical and spatial perspectives.” Or something you do on the side. “When I have a little time on the weekends, I love to forage for wild herbs.”

A multipassionate once told me that being one of those people who do only one thing “would be like cutting off an arm.” This isn’t that.

This is recognizing that you are multifaceted—and just like a jewel in a ring—only a few of those facets face us at any given time.

This is about you being intentional about what that facet is going to be, so that you can be present in any given social situation, without that distracting ‘who am I?’ mind chatter, and so you can set yourself up for the opportunities you want.

If you’d only just pick one thing…

In my mid-twenties, I got a ‘360 degree review’—that’s when you’re reviewed by the people all around you–who work above you, on your level, and below you.

At the end of this process, I got a fancy report with survey data from all those people and it was chock full of reflections and feedback–some of the nicest, most heartening feedback I’d gotten in my career. Yet it had one line I couldn’t forget.

“I think her potential is almost unlimited but she will have to focus her efforts. She may have to reign in her wide-ranging intellectual curiosity and set specific goals for the near future.”

From that day, my creativity, my passion, my multiple interests—which had seemed like assets, started to seem like something that was wrong with me, something that would keep me from success.

While all other nice things in that report faded from my memory, that one voice became the voice that repeated in my head, over and over telling me I’d never be successful if I did’t settle down.

And I’m willing to bet I’m not the only person who hears that voice in my head.

We get messages that having lots of interests is good for us when we’re kids, but something we should have grown past as adults. If we want to make it to the top, if we want to be successful, we have to stop following those distracting wandering interests and discipline ourselves. We hear it from parents, from partners, from bosses—and from the general culture we’re swimming in that says specialize, specialize. It becomes that voice in our heads, judging all that we do.

And it becomes one of our central narratives that permeates the way we think about our potential for success and failure.

We never know what to say at cocktail parties (of course,) and deep down inside, we really worry that our inability to narrow down has much higher costs than a little bit of rambling over drinks. We think:

“I need to specialize, or I’ll never get a good role on a big, important project.”

“If I don’t have one thing, clients will never know what to hire me for.”

“Don’t you need ‘a thing’ people associate you with to get recognized?”

Turns out, it’s not that we just have to finally settle down.

Tactics for strategic focus do matter, but the problem is that our inner narrative—that story that something is wrong with who we are, or that career success is just not for people like us, blinds us and harms our potential.

Strategic focus does matter, but it’s not the same thing as just settling down. And when we chose to ‘just settle down’ we oftentimes sign ourselves up for pathways that feel boring, and often don’t even lead to success—because we’re not engaged enough to hustle, because we’ve left a core part of ourselves behind.

Does this resonate with you? What’s your narrative? What’s the voice in your head saying?


A Sneak Peek Behind the Scenes of Build Yourself

Today I wanted to give you little sneak peek of what I’m working on behind the scenes.

I designed my Build Yourself website years ago–when the workshop was just a six-week training program that I ran in Boston twice a year. We now offer more than one training–Build Yourself Live Online, the Build Yourself Accelerator, my 5 day audio course Defeat Self Doubt–not to mention corporate workshops and speaking. I knew it was time for a redesign and rebrand–to make it easier for people to access my programs, and to reflect the new identify of Build Yourself.

I designed the first website, and I’ve designed websites and brands before, for my consultancy clients, so I thought I’d just redesign my own website. And I was excited–it seemed like a great opportunity to reflect on what Build Yourself was, and where it’s going.

But Build Yourself is my baby. And I was too close. I spent months working at the redesign unsuccesfully. It felt I couldn’t quite capture the new look and feel and potential I could see just beyond the horizon. I was hitting a wall.

Now, I teach women to work smarter not harder–and I teach them to get out of their own heads when they’re stuck. In my recent Build Yourself Accelerator program on building your profile and visibility, women split up into pairs, interviewed each other and then wrote each others’ bios…. Sometimes it’s easier to see your strengths and what the through-line is, when you’re not you.

But it took a while to realize that I was working harder not smarter.

Once I did (with a little help from my friends… more specifically with my business wingwoman) I got smart and hired a designer to help me. I handed over my design files and she came back to me with something much more beautiful, simple, cheerful and positive than I ever could have imagined. And bonus…? I got to support another woman in business. #oldgirlsnetwork.

Here’s a few sneak peaks of the website. It will be cleaner and simpler to navigate, and I’ll have more opportunities to show off the amazing women that I work with in my programs, and their breakthroughs.

Behind the scenes I’m also working on the upcoming Build Yourself Accelerator program, that will start just after the new year. It’s called Double Vision. It’s for people who do more than one thing creatively— we’ll teach you how to do more than one thing, while still moving forward in your career. I just landed a guest speaker that I am so so (so!) excited about. You’ll be hearing more from me in the coming weeks on the program, but if you are a creative with many passions, and you worry having more than one passion may be holding you back, I want to hear from you. Click here to let me know.

Women Don’t Pitch… and How To

I recently invited Jennifer Reut, an editor at Landscape Architecture Magazine to my women’s career growth Accelerator to talk about women and pitching.


Jennifer told me, months ago,  that women just don’t proactively reach out to her as much as men do…. this is part of the reason that women and their work don’t get the natural profile-building boost that helps build men’s careers.


From the minute they get out of school, from the minute they’re retired, male practitioners contact us. All the time…. ‘I’m doing this, I’m doing that. I’m working on this. I have this cool studio I’m running. We’re going to Bangladesh. We’re made this parking lot.’


There isn’t that kind of barrier, like maybe my project isn’t interesting enough, or maybe what I’m doing isn’t  important, or maybe I need to wait until it’s done….. They are right there.”


In this conversation, I talk with Jennifer about how you can start pitching and making relationships with press, how to make a successful pitch (without overthinking it,) and visibility-building tips for women in creative fields. She even shares a tip on profile building for shy people.



Jennifer and her team will be hosting drop-in sessions at the upcoming national conference of the Association of Landscape Architects. Calling all women.


Go visit her. RSVP. Stop by. Say hi.

Is Your Analysis Paralysis Holding You Back? Growth Hack #3

I’m writing this week about some of the ways I see women get lost in the crowd and slow down their career growth.

How many times have you seen a woman raise her hand timidly in a meeting… and then make a suggestion in that baby girl voice.. trailing off at the end into a question?

When that happens, here’s what we hear:

“What if we [this is a good time to zone out because this is just a filler comment] maybe, you know, changed our marketing focus [this must a bad idea because she doesn’t even believe it] from Live Journal to Facebook?” [hmmm…. Would it look bad it I took another cookie?]

Leaders make choices. They take positions.

Sometimes they’re wrong and sometimes they’re right.

But they’re willing to take a stand instead of dithering.

Do you dither? Do you hesitate to speak up? Do you have a hard time making decisions? That might be why you’re getting lost in the crowd.

I’m a reformed wishy washy decision maker….. Yes, of the paper-plastic variety. I can see all the possibilities—which is sometimes a great skill for a creative….but that knowledge used to make me get overwhelmed and frozen. Unable to choose. A

I was so, so afraid of getting it wrong.

But I unlearned that habit because I knew it was holding me back. And it not only supersized my career growth, it made my life better as well.


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