NOTE: This piece I originally sent to my Create & Captivate Inner Pack. They receive behind-the-scenes glimpses into “the business” of Tracking Wonder and into my personal forays during my six-month Deep Create Zone. So many of them sent me such good vibes about the piece I thought you’d find it valuable, too.
It’s time I told you my story as a creative entrepreneur and an entrepreneur-creative. You’ll “get” what I’ve been up to for the past six months, and you’ll understand why I am even more of a raving fan of what we call Smooth Running Packs – something that can help you organize other people so you can go deep and create.
The story is in part about how I’ve reclaimed my creative life so the entrepreneur serves the creative and not just the other way around.
You can skip the story and scroll down for tips on developing your own Smooth Running Pack. Then let me know your own victories and challenges in being sure your Inner Entrepreneur and Creative keep an optimal relationship.
For six months, I’ve had one uber-goal: Simplify my mind’s focus so I can create more of the work that matters and that captivates and serves my fan packs – readers, customers, clients, retreatants. Deeper & more articles & videos, poetry, my book manuscript, and events material (I have five doozy events coming up in December, January, and March – yippee!).
That’s what the art and science of captivating creativity is all about – captivating your own mind and time so your meaningful work can captivate the hearts and minds of the people you serve, delight, provoke. In short, your customers and fans.
But to simplify my mind’s focus meant I needed to take care of business matters on the outside and on the inside.
Falling into business & 3 brands
Let me recount a brief story I’ve never detailed in public. (Was that a squirm? I squirm when I write about myself at length.)
In 1999, things changed.
33 and discontent with an interim dean and with my life, I left full-time teaching and full-time working for anyone but my best self. Two months newly married and not just a whole lot in the bank, I leapt.
After four months of travel & exploration, I started two complementary brands:
what would become Yoga As Muse (a series of signature methods, programs, & trainings that integrate yoga’s practices & philosophies with creative process & creative living) and what became Center To Page, LLC (a coaching & consulting business for writers & authors).
Yoga had so indelibly and beautifully screwed up my comfortably, intellectually numb life that I went to India to study with my teacher Sri TKV Desikachar, became a short-term resident at the rigorous Zen Mountain Monastery, and taught yoga in Woodstock, New York.
In 2002, I sold the break-through book The Journey from the Center to the Page: Yoga Philosophies & Practices as Muse for Authentic Writing to Penguin-Putnam – later revised & updated in a far more elegant 2008 Monkfish edition. The workshops & coaching business boomed – and features and mentions in the likes of Yoga Journal, Poets & Writers, and NYT science editor William Broad’s The Science of Yoga continue to happen as the work has tapped into a yoking of yoga and creativity that others were feeling and continue to yearn to explore.
But admittedly I was not completely aware business-wise of what was happening. My business background? Grad school studies of poetics, translation studies, and philosophical hermeneutics (what?). I had spent most of my twenties writing poetry, essays, and fiction – and teaching creative writing and literature courses. Get the picture?
By 2005, I also had subtle inklings to follow wonder in my life and consequently in my writing. I tested out ideas and even devoted a year of workshops around wonder.
My father-in-law said, “So, what are you doing?”
“Tracking wonder,” I said.
He resisted shaking his head and then smiled. “Only you could make a living doing that,” he said with genuine respect.
And then falling in love with it all
Then, I confessed. I started taking the business end of things more seriously and admitted to myself that I was a business owner and entrepreneur (I could no longer hide behind the knight-for-hire “freelancer” tag).
I boned up on business, studied other models, worked with two business coaches, and paid attention to what I was doing and how to do it better. I mis-hired a handful of assistants to help me take the businesses to the next level of efficiency and financial solvency.
The assistants didn’t pan out, and a couple of years later a lightning-striking house fire put us out of house for 15 months during which time I contracted Lyme Disease twice and had a baby, too. Sort of threw me a little off-track of business & writing goals while I went into Emergency Momentum mode.
With renovated farmhouse and re-designed studio & conference room, I committed more to Tracking Wonder – as a way of life, a business venture, a focus for my writing & research & events.
My commitment homed in on helping creatives and teams stoke their creative momentum on projects that matter. I helped people write their books, craft their brands, and advance their enterprises by in part applying principles of positive psychology and mindfulness. With a commitment to both the art and the science of creativity, my clientele expanded.
I hired my exceptional designer Monica Gurevich of Brooklyn to head up the website that would become trackingwonder.com and would mesh three complementary brands – Yoga As Muse, Center To Page, and Tracking Wonder. I hired Michelle Mangen as a virtual assistant to help me navigate – and ultimately fall in love with – the social media world.
But the brand transition around Tracking Wonder along with the other two brands got messy, for me and for people who’ve followed what I do. And in trying to juggle and build three brands I became taxed and over-worked in my over-serving ways.
Another confession: Now, I do actually love business development and creative enterprising (never would’ve said that in grad school). Business development can be approached as an incredibly gratifying and creative endeavor itself.
However, if not managed well, the Entrepreneur can encroach upon the Poet, the Storyteller, the Author. My mind kept thinking more about metrics of the social media kind than of the poetic feet kind. Time to revamp!
Cleaning house with a smooth running pack
I decided that in 2012 and 2013, I would travel less to teach and speak and “hunker down,” simplify, and create. So, six months ago, I decided to clean house. Namely, clean my brand and clean my mind and clean my time with the intention of having a clean house by October.
I interviewed 5 top-tier business consultants to see who could guide me through achieving 10 goals over 6 months. One guy tried every high-gun marketing ploy on me to make me believe he was important and that I’d better hire him before all the spots filled up. Uh, no thanks. 3 others were really good, knowledgeable, intelligent people and coaches.
But I chose Charlie Gilkey. Charlie is probably at least ten or fifteen years younger but many moons wiser than many older people I know when it comes to business development. Plus, as he often says, “We share a lot of mental bandwidth.” That means we think every day about productivity, business, and creativity. And I knew he could keep up with me.
The uber-goal: Simplify my mind so I could have more time & space to create deep.
Among the strategic goals:
1) Consolidate my three brands into one.
2) Develop a more specific and compelling tagline.
3) Revamp trackingwonder.com to reflect the tighter focus.
4) Expand Tracking Wonder’s offerings so more & more people can “get the wonder” in a greater variety of ways than primarily through live events.
I help creative enterprisers of all stripes do this very thing, but it was a relief to put myself in someone else’s hands. Plus, as I had hoped, Charlie had a grip on a whole host of issues that I had not considered and, honestly, don’t want to spend my days thinking about but was happy to listen and apply. I was happy to be the humble student.
The brand: Tracking Wonder is now the umbrella brand. Yoga As Muse programs & trainings exist within Tracking Wonder. Center To Page – although still the name of our LLC – has disappeared in name although the focus on author consulting is prominent as part of what we do at Tracking Wonder.
The tagline: We changed it from the looser “Changing the Way Creativity Happens” to “the art & science of captivating creativity.” This is our reason for being at Tracking Wonder. We unfold the art & science of captivating creativity so people like you can create work that matters. We don’t shy away from science as nemesis to art & creativity. Within that framework is an emphasis on creative mindfulness, creative productivity, optimal motivation, wonder & positive psychology, and a whole lot more that makes up the Tracking Wonder Code.
The website: Since my designer-programmer team was out of commission for family reasons, I hired Charlie’s Productive Flourishing team of Lisa Woods and Dusti Arab. Within six weeks, we made radical non-cosmetic changes to the website. Streamlined navigation and update systems. Added several new pages under About to help people orient to the site. Added the Outpost Shoppe (yippee!). How did we do that in six weeks? I’m a project manager, and Lisa is a stalwart website developer. We both know how to get things done – and have fun.
Expansion: We’ve opened the Outpost Shoppe so people can equip their best creative selves without attending live events (although nothing compares to them!).
And since mid-August, the business has been getting even more organized at a foundational level. At Charlie’s casual suggestion, I sought, interviewed, and hired an OBM (Online Business Manager) for a three-month project.
Kim Beckers has laid out the company’s foundational systems (everything from client relationships to finances) not only in a digital operations manual but also via Central Desktop so all team members can communicate and be held accountable to their respective tasks. I had been well-versed in the E-myth mindset and suggestions and had started developing the business systems and manuals – but nowhere with the efficiency and depth that Kim has managed. Thanks to this work, as of this week, Vivi Gonzalez can slide in seamlessly as Tracking Wonder’s new Operations Chief.
I am more relaxed & focused, more productive, and more dreamy in a good way than in a long, long pre-business time.
I can focus even more on the “big” stuff of creating and of working with my clients while I apply my Mind Rooms Method and other means for a fluent weekly work flow.
My clients are getting their needs met even more because Kim is available for them for logistics while I focus on their big projects.
My smooth running pack
In case you’re curious, here’s what the Tracking Wonder Smooth Running Pack looks like in sum:
Business adviser, Charlie Gilkey – available periodically for business questions, queries, and strategies (Charlie now offers Six-Month Business Momentum Intensives. Highly recommended.)
Operations Chief, Vivi Gonzalez – In three months, Kim Beckers has headed up all systems & handled several administrative tasks to keep daily operations running smoothly so Vivi Gonzalez can take over.
Communications Wiz, Michelle Mangen – originally guided our social media presence and strategy now being taken over by Vivi
Associate Consultant, Tanya Robie – works with selected author clients; assists with some clients’ projects per the clients’ request; fulfills some clients’ emergency copyediting requests
Designer/Graphic Artist, Monica Gurevich – designed the original website, designs products, keeps the company’s aesthetics enchanting & consistent with our vision*
Bookkeeper, Michelle Mangen – handles our books remotely from Florida and gives monthly reports
*We also have Chloe Annetts now designing for us.
And I am thrilled to report that every member of the pack is stellar.
Your smooth running pack
A smooth running pack is a group of people, not necessarily a team, who contributes behind-the-scenes to you being able to create and to your business being able to serve your patch of the planet. Here are 4 things you can do to get running:
1. Take Stock
* Take stock of the helpers: who keep you organized, who perform tasks for you that you’d rather not do, who cook for you or make coffee for you (peeps at your favorite cafe?).
* Take stock of the advisors: who give you tips & perspective (your favorite bloggers or writers?), who guide you on a path of mastering new skills & who help you see the big picture (consultants, coaches, teachers).
* Take stock of the confidantes: who hold space for you when you need to fall apart without going to pieces (coaches, teachers, therapists, true friends).
2. Express Gratitude
* Send them a note. Call them. Acknowledge them in your meditation or prayers.
3. Get Them Running
- Share your core values and driving ideal. A pack means you run together. A Smooth Running Pack shares core values and beliefs that drive the business or project. Share those values with your pack and convey what ideal drives you as a creative or enterpriser.
- Keep running with those values and ideal. If something’s not going right or if you have a team decision to make, check in with the project or business values and driving ideal.
4. Take Stock Again
- What 1-3 things could you organize to alleviate your mind of clutter and accompanying anxiety?
- If you learned how to do 1-3 things that would help you create more deeply and regularly, what would they be?
- Who could be a helper with the above?
- Who could be an advisor?
- Who could be a confidante?
I hope this more personal glimpse into the business of Tracking Wonder is valuable.
How do you successfully manage and form dynamic teams? What’s been one of your greatest challenges in both being a productive creative and having a business – or in “cobbling” a freelancer’s life together?
See you in the woods,