This past year, we experienced how fragile the world is, how vulnerable our governments are, how tightly we hold to our individual freedoms, and how much our communities can come together for good. We witnessed strength and weakness living side-by-side and found small heroes living in the folds of our communities.
It can feel pointless to set intentions for the year ahead, seeing how quickly things shifted for us. I remember being in the middle of my trip in Nicaragua trying to gauge the seriousness of the pandemic and wondering how to move forward. There were moments of grief and disappointment as plans changed, relationships fell apart, and life looked a bit scarier.
But as I read back over my post from last year, the part that stood out to me most was how foundational my lessons from the previous year were in preparing me for this one – more than any goal I could have set.
This was the year I had planned to travel more than I ever had in my life. It was a year I wanted to focus on my editorial calendar and business community, and I had grand plans to accomplish all of these things.
But in a similar fashion to last year’s review, I’m going to go through each intention and what I actually learned – because the insights have been much more powerful than the end result.
I found my natural writing voice.
If you’ve been around here the past few years, you know that maintaining a weekly editorial calendar has previously been a struggle. I always thought it was a result of over-booking clients and not properly prioritizing my own content creation. That may have been part of it, but I think more importantly I didn’t have a strong enough reason to write.
I want to write helpful articles in a new way that feels more engaging, but I wasn’t quite sure what that was.
What is that reason behind the reason I design?
I design for people who see potential in the world, who notice a need and raise their hand to solve it. Inspired by the hard work and determination of small business owners, a very American Midwestern discipline, I found myself getting emotional listening to news podcasts and reading magazine articles about people who absolutely refused to give up.
These are the stories I want to tell. You’ll see more about how I plan to do that in my intentions below 🙂
What lights you up and naturally flows into your conversations, especially with people in your life who are outside your industry and business community? Is there anything you could talk about for hours?
Building community is an intentional choice.
Last year, I had just joined a co-working space and a digital mastermind that was going to start online, but include meetups in Mexico, New York, and California. I had every intention of investing in my online network, and no clue that things were about to stand in the way of that.
Who joins a co-working space before a health pandemic?
I started the year abroad in Nicaragua (more on that in a minute) but when I came back home to Montana, everyone was in lockdown.
I hadn’t seen a single friend from home since December, and I was anxious to see them and get back to the “normal” world.
As the snow melted and summer approached, I was on a walk with one of my friends and I mentioned just how hard it was for me to not be in community, it felt like a physical blow. I said that the first thing I wanted to do when this was over was have a weekly dinner gathering of my best friends and not take a single moment for granted.
We didn’t wait that long to start.
Soon, we’d developed a friend pod of 8 people to share an outdoor meal every Thursday night. I thought it would last a week or two until we each got too “busy”, but when September rolled around we were still going strong. While we took a break during the colder months as the virus spread and we couldn’t be outside, it was the most magical experience I’ve had here in Montana and one I’m eager to do again.
What did this teach me about business?
If you want community and can’t find it – create it. I didn’t end up resonating with my mastermind community as much as I thought I would and the co-working space stopped being a thing, but I plan to be as intentional with my business network as I am with my personal circle. You can’t buy into a group of friends and reap the benefits of true relationship. It’s an ongoing commitment to showing up, truly caring about each others’ lives, and prioritizing those interactions above your own personal schedule.
Without looking for a coach, mastermind, or program to solve your need for community, write down what community actually looks like to you. What kind of people would be present, what would you each bring to the table, and how often would you “gather?” Then, reach out on your own to build it.
The year of (not) traveling.
My biggest intention for 2020 was to travel – which clearly didn’t happen. I got one epic trip in before lockdown began, but it wasn’t enough to feel like I fully met that need.
I am so glad it happened that way. The boredom meant I dove back into hobbies that had been dormant – painting, reading magazines, cooking great meals. I focused on my health and let my physical activities take me to epic places. I have so many memories and incredible moments that happened right in my backyard.
I sat on a mountain cliff and watched the sun set in the most spectacular display of rainbow colors imaginable. Drinking a cup of coffee while floating down the river, I experienced sleeping in the back of my car and waking up to a view of the Teton mountain range, which is hard not to love. In fact, instead of spending the money to travel to all of those exotic locations, I bought the car that would allow me to feel comfortable exploring my own part of the world.
I tried mountain biking, pack rafting, cross-country skiing, and car camping. I spent more time learning how to fly fish and trail run, finding out that we get epic lavender sunrises in Livingston by the river if you can get out of the house by 7. Finally, I learned the names of the mountain ranges that surround my home.
As I go into a new year with a few travel plans, I want to take this comfort with adventure, curiosity about the natural world, and feeling of self-sufficiency along with me.
If there’s something that you want to do but the reality is you have to wait, what supporting skills can you cultivate to make that dream an even better experience in the future?
One thing I have learned is that the changing of the annual calendar doesn’t mean anything other than a number unless you put in the work to make it different. The systemic problems of 2020 didn’t disappear at midnight, and I didn’t suddenly find myself with a perfectly organized plan for the days ahead by the time I woke up the next morning.
Knowing that intentions take daily practice, here is where I plan to focus my energy this year.
Leaning into the stories
Based on my realization that I want to write about real stories of small business and more tangible experiences, I have major plans for our editorial direction this year.
There is a big 3-month road trip on the books for this spring to pursue an idea that came about from this realization that I won’t reveal just yet, but am excited to share with you along the way.
I’ve partnered with another Enneagram enthusiast to revive Enneagram for Entrepreneurs, because I see how impactful that storytelling outlet is for understanding ourselves and each other.
I want to explore the idea of guest posting here on the blog, creating repeat columns of topics of ongoing interest, and treating it less like a weekly blog and more like a digital magazine for you to enjoy. If you’re a reader of this blog, I’d love to hear what you want to see more of in the comments below!
Creating digital products to support online entrepreneurs at every level
I realize that the branding process is expensive. Most of our clients have a few years of business revenue under their belts or some significant savings for starting their venture before working with us. While I know that the cost is necessary given the extent of our projects and how much time our team puts into them, I also know it’s not attainable for every single business we want to help.
This insight came to me as I talked with friends this fall who were starting pretty cool side hustles when other work became scarce. While many of them would normally have budgets to invest in a business idea, you don’t necessarily want to part with those precious funds when you’re starting out of a need to create income unexpectedly.
So, this year we will be launching digital product collections that are the perfect solution for businesses just getting started. We’re in the middle of the first collection now, and I’m excited to share what we’ve come up with – it’s been a dream of mine to have products that compliment our custom services so that we get the experience of working with and helping a larger group of entrepreneurs.
Simplify and scale
This year, I’ve really polished and elevated our branding services, added to our contractor list, and refined our systems to support our branding clients.
As our services iron out, we are adding digital products and focusing again on mentor sessions. While our products are a new outlet, everything else is getting richer instead of larger. Having 4 studio income streams is allowing me to focus on scaling those areas by making them better instead of dividing my efforts into so many other pursuits.
This year I’m going to have to learn how to be a better leader to my team, a good steward of our budget, and a responsible decision maker. 2020 made me realize just how quickly things can fall apart, and I want to create more buffer and value behind-the-scenes so that I can take on those unexpected moments with grace.
What’s on your list of experiences and dreams for 2021?
Helpful Resources for Setting Intentions
In planning for anything new to start, especially a new year, there are a few resources that can help you map out the next 12 months:
Starting a Studio Guidebook
Our free digital guide to starting a creative studio will help you determine the next steps for getting your digital business off the ground. It’s full of tips and insights I’ve picked up along the way, and things I wish I had done differently.
Brand Scratch Pad
Five years ago, I created a workbook to help me realign with my brand messaging and plan for a new year. This workbook has evolved and grown every year, but still remains one of the best resources in my business for focusing and taking strategic action.
I’d love to hear some of your own intentions and exciting plans for the new year and decade in the comments below!