What’s the next thing?

January 26, 2015

I’m going to admit something and this is so close to my heart that it scares me to talk about it. To anyone, let alone to thousands of people. But, you all need to know what’s going on, so here I go.

I’ve been frozen in place. Just in-the-reeds, no-idea-which-way-to-go stuck for more than a year now. Longer if I’m being honest.

I want to grow the Penelope site. I know, to the marrow of my bones, that there’s a huge tribe here and that there is a way to serve that tribe’s needs, and build a community that empowers this specific type of woman. And I want to do that, more than I’ve ever wanted anything else professionally.

Trust Your Gut via The Fresh Exchange

And yet, I’ve been stuck. How to make that happen? I mean, I have a big job running an entire company. I have 4 children, including a preschooler. I have a house to run and meals to cook and tidying to do. For heaven’s sake, the tidying!

I knew I couldn’t jump ship and leave my company. I love my staff and what we do way too much. And, my family needs me to make a good living. The option of leaving was just off the table.

And I knew I couldn’t make Penelope into all it could be unless I could somehow get it into my every day workflow. There just weren’t enough hours in the day for both.

So, you see? Stuck.

But the time and the work wasn’t really the issue. That was just the story I was telling myself.  It was the fear. That big, hairy, black thing sitting in the very middle of the neat, tidy room of my mind. That fear, every single time I’d come up with a plan for growing Penelope would ask me, simply, quietly,

But what if it doesn’t work?
What if you build it and they don’t come?
What if they don’t like you?
What if all the success you’ve had in your career so far is just a series of lucky breaks and has nothing to do with your abilities?
What if you fail?

Oh, man. I could hear him so clearly, even when he whispered. How did he do that?

And my reaction to his words was to say that I couldn’t see the plan clearly for Penelope because I was too busy. There was too much going on. I couldn’t do it all.

Liar. I could do this. I was just afraid to do it.

If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try. Seth Godin via Mashable

So I finally started asking myself what my real dream was for Penelope. If I was willing to step around that horrible furry fear in the middle of the room, what was my dream?

And I saw it clearly: it would be a brand-new, much fuller, much broader version of the Penelope site. I want it to be the hub for your inherent Penelope-ness. Not a blog, but a full-fledged content site with a shop with curated and branded products and resources and, and, and… So much more.

Take the Challenge via The Fresh Exchange

And it wouldn’t just be me writing and creating it. It would be MY TEAM creating it. Because every person on my staff is the most Penelope person I’ve ever met. And they are passionate about the Penelope concept and brand and community. That was the key to me. Bringing them in on it. Because I already know that, with them, I can do anything. So, when I mentioned maybe, possibly folding Penelope in with Here Comes The Guide (our existing business) they delighted me with their huge, resounding, group “yes”. It was a moment that gave me chills.

We're Better Together

With my team behind me, I was able to start really talking about my dream for Penelope. About what was making me stuck and what I was afraid of and what I knew I wanted the next version of the site to be.

Apparently, my fears weren’t invalid, they just were irrelevant. Sure, we could fail. Sure, products might not sell or traffic could suck. We could try things and have them fall down, hard, hugely and publicly.

But who the hell cares? We’ll all still be ok. I know for sure we’ll have learned something. And maybe that something helps us to the next iteration or another venture entirely. But I also know for sure that if we don’t try, I’ll regret it for the rest of my life.

Just do the next right thing via Momastery

So I kept talking, voicing aloud my fears about the best and worst case scenarios, making progress, then taking a step or two back into the stuck-ness.

And my friend and colleague said “Meredith, stop trying to foresee the WORST thing or the WHOLE thing and just tell me, what is the NEXT thing? Just the one next thing we need to do. Then we’ll do that. And then the next and the next. We’ll get where we need to go.”

So that’s it. We’re doing the next thing right now. Lots of next things. You won’t be surprised to find we’re compiling big, long, juicy lists of “next things”.

It’s gonna take a while and the road will not be straight, but we’ll get there and I hope so very much you’ll be there when we do.

6 nicely neat comments

We all have those projects that are not of the highest priority but that still need to get done. We know we should do them, but they are not so urgent that we have to.

So, day after day, they fall to the bottom of our To Do List, and their unfinished-ness weighs on us. It’s like Chinese Water Torture. Drip, drip, drip until you can’t stand the thought of that project anymore.


Enter the 7-Minute Strategy: put that item on your To Do list as the first item of the day and and ONLY give it 7 MINUTES. Period.

Try that for a week.

You will either:

a) begin to make progress and start to feel better or,
b) get so into it after 7 minutes that you decide give it more time, maybe even finish the damn thing.

Either way, you’ll thank me.

Think your Chinese Water Torture project is too big for 7-minutes to be effective? Nope. Just break that huge project into several smaller chunks. Then work on one chunk at a time. Nibble at it until you eat the whole block of cheese like the persistent little mouse that you are.

Staying consistent is the key. Here are some tools you might use to keep you honest:

Put it as the first item on your To Do List and agree you won’t move to anything else before you do your 7 minutes.
Set an alarm or use an app that hassles you until you get it done every day.
Ask someone (preferably your most ball-busting friend or colleague) to hold you accountable to making small, incremental progress on your project.

Here’s how I handle mine. I’ve added pink circles to point out where this task falls on my daily To Do List:

Some ideas for projects that work really well with this strategy, but really, except for maybe childbirth, the possibilities are endless:

  • scrapbooking
  • blog post writing
  • spreadsheet entries
  • paperwork filing
  • cleaning the garage (just break that huge project up into chunks. One chunk might be the tool area. Just spend 7 minutes on one tiny section of the tool area. Thin that out for 7 minutes, brush your hands off and be done. Tomorrow, move onto another tiny section of the tool area.)
  • pantry reorganization (one shelf at a time, or a tiny section of a shelf)
  • tax preparation
  • thank you note writing

You get the drift. This is easy. We can do this.

8 nicely neat comments

Let’s start the week with some little nuggets o’ goodness, shall we? Here’s what I’m finding particularly useful/interesting/fun this week.
Slate’s Working podcast

It feels like podcasts have hit their stride, doesn’t it? I certainly loved Serial and devoured it like a big piece of chocolate cake. Can’t wait for Season 2. While I do wait, though, I’m listening to Slate’s “Working” podcast. I’m utterly fascinated by how people do their jobs and I love listening to their details while I drive. This podcast covers all manner of vocations, from a school principal to a pastor to a perfumer. Riveting stuff, people.

Slate's Working Podcast
The Artful Parent
I adore (adore!!!) the Artful Parent blog about how to bring creativity to your family’s daily life. Not being super creative myself, I need ideas for art projects and other ways to allow my 3-year-old son to be messy and creative. Along the way, I’ve found my own inner artist, too. Definitely worth checking out. Her book is a gem, too. I use it weekly.
The Artful Parent
Winter People by Jennifer McMahon
Speaking of books, this one scared the bejeesus out of me, in the best way possible. It’s part ghost story, part historical novel, part modern day thriller. And all page-turner. Sheesh. I read it in just 4 days.
The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon
Piling eggs on avocado for breakfast
Since I started eating “on plan” breakfast is a must. My latest first meal obsession? This. If you like savory breakfasts and can do eggs and avocados, then you must try this. The key to this breakfast is to hardboil the eggs in advance, otherwise, it’d take too long. This recipe is from Bob Harper’s book, which is a lifesaver if you’re looking to eat clean, but need some new meals because you’re bored as hell with salmon on greens.
Bob Harper's eggs and avocado on toast

Get Running app
This app kicks my ass 5 days a week. The woman has a British accent that belies how hard she’ll make you work. As much as she annoys me, she’s turned me into a runner.

Get Running app

6 nicely neat comments

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