Category: From the CEO

A Word on Doin’ Too Damn Much!
Nobody tells you this when you’re scaling, but a word of warning, it sucks. There are some awesome things about needing to grow; more money, great clients, etc. But the energetic and material mathematics works in such a way where if one thing changes, there’s a domino effect and everything has to change at least a little. And that includes you.
For two months after making the decision to scale our operations, I didn’t just want to change a few things about myself or my routine, I was going to do ALL the things. I vowed to become a different kind of machine. Maximize time with my team, minimize distractions, close more sales, meditate, do Hot Yoga everyday, Kale smoothies, less meat. It was ridiculous.
Not long after that, I found myself fevering on the couch, burnt out, unmotivated and not understanding how I was slipping into a depression when I’d gotten everything I worked so hard for. But the minor depression, much like colds, flus, general fatigue, was a sign of overwhelm. My body was simply forcing me to rest. I was over-correcting.
Once I was able to rest, I saw things more clearly. I understood that there was actually nothing wrong with me. That I didn’t need to become someone else to run a company I was already building. In fact, making all those changes would likely make me miss opportunities I was already aligned for. So, I settled down, got back to being me and aside from everyday problem-solving, I’ve been blissfully at peace.
Know that the House always wins. You can’t beat Universal Law. Every hour you cheat yourself out of sleep or self-reflection; every lie or de-motivating message you tell yourself is a negative withdrawal on your energy and life will find a way to get it back.   So, if you’re finding yourself overwhelmed, fatigued, sick, unmotivated or depressed, survey your landscape. Toss the toxic messaging, the arbitrary goals, and the burdensome people. Spend some time setting things right with yourself. You’ll find you have more energy to focus on the things you really want to accomplish.
The Law of Attraction is an Algorithm

When the Law of Attraction first came on the scene, it was crazy talk. Now, it’s an algorithm.

I tend to check Instagram about once a day. I don’t have the Facebook App and I don’t get notifications on Linkedin’s news feed. We live in an “if you like that, then you’ll love this” kind of world. And the more you click, the more you surround yourself with what you ask for, good or bad.

If you find yourself aggravated with dating, then posting memes about how terrible men or women are will not help your cause. If you feel the world is out to get you, local news will do you no favors. If you find yourself broke, then articles about how the job market is bad only serve to make you feel better about the decisions that are causing you to stay broke.

The interwebs, much like Universal law, do not discriminate. The more you pay attention to what you do or don’t want, the more of it you will get. We create the world we live in. You are the master curator. Choose wisely.

You are not special
The most liberating moment I’ve had in the last couple of years has been a deep realization that I’m not special. Now, I’ve never striven to be. And my parents were particularly good at driving that point home that we children were not special. But this recent requirement to be seen and heard to make a living will have you believe that everyone’s looking at you.  But they’re not.  Really.
There’s likely nothing in your genetics that makes you more than human. So, in a world of billions of people, not many of them are paying attention to you. The ones who are, are doing so because they love you or they like you or what you produce brings some value to their lives. Even the ones who watch just to be critical of you, find some value in being your critic, which includes them in that first baker’s dozen of people.
Maybe your recent accomplishments make it to their news feed. Maybe they don’t. Maybe they see that picture of you with your hot girlfriend or boyfriend eating that amazing dinner. Or maybe they don’t. Maybe they see all of it and they ‘like’ it because hitting the button is just a modern-day reflex. But likely, the majority of the people you know are so engrossed in their everyday fight, your successes and failures don’t even cross their minds.
Right now, Elon Musk is working on colonizing Mars and building the Hyperloop at the same damn time and I’d be willing to bet you the kid down the street doesn’t even know his name. I’d further be willing to bet that same kid knows a bunch of names that mean a whole lot to him that you’ve never heard of before.  Even further, I’d bet that neither one of you can name his missteps, his mistakes or even a fairly representative list of his accomplishments.
Outside your social sphere, the 7.442 billion people on the planet have no idea you even exist. So, if they don’t know what you’re doing, will you still do the thing you do?  If the answer is yes, keep going. If the answer is no,  stop doing it immediately. Otherwise, go for it. Live it up. There’s no reason to be indecisive or embarrassed. As long as you’re not harming anyone else, just do the thing you want to do. Put in the work and go. Who’s going to stop you?
People Live Here
I remember once my mother fussing about the house in anticipation of company arriving. Family actually. Dusting high and low, mopping the floor, unwittingly making a striking cocktail of mustard gas, all in the name of clean. In the name of perfection.
My father, in a moment of sanity hollered back at her from a distant room. “You know dear, this is not the cover of a magazine. People do live here. And the people who are coming know that people live here.”
I am passing this word to you.
Your life is not an Instagram post
You don’t have to pretend you are not alive, that you are not be-ing.
You will leave for work from a dirty house.
You will go months or years without exercising to birth your dream.
You will go months or years without exercising even if you’re not birthing a dream.
You will miss the mark on major projects and events. You will forget to return emails and messages.
You will embarrass yourself, make promises you are not able to keep.
There will be flat tires and computer viruses, spilt coffee on foreign business executives.
People will think you are stupid, lazy, or inept. They will tell you so.
You will sabotage good relationships, betray yourself and sell out on your values so you can eat the next day.
There will be days, months, even years of darkness, confusion, mind-boggling and soul-crushing depression.
But, there will be plenty of good times, good moments, blissfully peaceful moments
If you’re still enough, you can feel the bliss even when things are bad.
Because those moments are not some post. They don’t last.
Forgive yourself for all of it. It’s okay to go on being. Someone is living here.
Hustle Harder…No.
As someone who is completely done with the recovery time after quarterly burnouts and spirals if despair, I’m through with the Great American Hustle experiment. Seeing this stupid shit plastered on memes and shiny glass windows of co-working spaces, had me working in the exact opposite direction of my greatest strengths. I would venture to bet that a good number of you are doing the same.
Hustle Harder will have you believing that if you work enough hours, all your wildest dreams are garaunteed to come true. But that’s not panning out for most the people on this planet. Were stressed. Fat from overeating all the junk that makes us feel better when were stressed. Overworked. Undersexed and depressed.
We’re all so worried about leveling up, we’re not even dating properly anymore and it’s getting out of hand. The hustle mentality is propaganda that gets us to produce more than what we’re getting.
Physical exertion and brute force is not gettting us nearly as far now as it got our parents and not even close to what it got our grandparents.
That’s not the space and time we’re living in. It’s why you come home exhausted after you’ve been sitting on your ass all day. You’ve spent the whole day fighting battles in the ether. Playing mind games over email. Reading between the lines over calls. Inferring and assuming things. Promoting your work through pixels on a screen. Telepathic, digital mind games.The only way any of us even know what happened with the day is digital record. If something happens to those digital records, one could question whether you did anything with your time at all. It’s all just … Energy.
If we want to get anywhere we’ll have to learn how to manage our energy. Learn how to manage our thoughts, imagination, efforts, and desires. Entrepreneurship is the practice of self discipline. Self Discipline is now the management of your time and energy.
Remove as much resistance in your day to day as possible. Unfriend/follow idiots and sad people. That momentum is too strong and it will suck you in. Or block out times you can’t access your social apps. Cut your commute. Say no to projects that don’t excite you. Don’t tell lies. You’ll have to manage them and the other party will know anyway. Chart your progress by tasks or projects completed, not by hours spent. Sleep when you’re tired. Put off projects that aren’t going anywhere.
I’m not saying that we should all just get lazy and not work at all. What I am saying  is, harder is not the way. Work excited. Work focused. Cut the rest. It’s not helping.
The Wise Man Built His House Upon a Rock
I don’t invest a lot of my time in political drama. Watching the news, no matter who’s in office makes me a little queasy. And social media feeds are awash with content from questionable sources. That being said, it’s obvious, even to me, that things are changing at an incredible pace. Not only is there breaking news from Congress everyday, but rapid change is happening on the ground too. Many of the long standing organizations and leaders that I’ve grown to know here in Chicago are disappearing by the minute. New power-structures are being formed. Elders are retiring or passing on, many of them without successors to carry on their life’s work. The good news is, there are plenty of new and exciting leaders emerging as well.
That being said, our worlds are changing so fast, there’s no use predicting what will happen. So the only thing left to do is diligently prepare for the best and…less than the best.

Build your infrastructure. Immediately after the election we mashed the gas on building up our foundational structures. It was all about the back office stuff that got the white glove treatment. Accounting, cyber security, payroll, contracts and processes. This is the annoying little stuff that doesn’t have a major affect on your service or product but needs to be fixed. This is about finally taking time to put all your passwords in one secure place so that you can stop guessing them every time you log in. It’s the phone extension you haven’t changed in your email signature. The sticky door in the hallway. Spend time cleaning up little things that slow productivity and communication between members of your staff and clients/customers.

Plan for Major Developments. Do all the members of your staff currently have the skills to handle a project that’s a little above their current job description? If your star player leaves the company, can the rest of your team up to handle their workload? Are they confident enough in themselves to make tough decisions based on your company values? Look across the organization and check on your weakest links. What can you do to support employee growth and immediately begin making good on those promises. Now is also a perfect time for actively pursuing certifications such as MBE/WBE Status, Project Management certifications, etc. Any shortcomings that will keep you or has kept you from getting a grant or a contract in the past is a candidate for activation.

Re-evaluate your eco-system. Are you spending too much time with people who are not adding real support or value? Perhaps there are people you’ve been meaning to reconnect with but haven’t had the time? Now’s the time to tighten those connections. Ask yourself, if shit hits the fan, how can I help this person? How can they help me? Who are the tremendously valuable people my network that are being overlooked? Carve out some time to break out the old Rolodex and re-connect with people that you, 1. actually like (<- Important!) and 2. can build a mutally beneficial relationship with.

Our success as leaders in this country will depend largely on our ability to recognize that we’re all shipmates on the same boat. I’m calling for a compassionate ban on whining and complaining and excuses. As individuals, we have to become the leaders we’ve been asking for so that we can be stronger teammates. This next era will not only test us individually. It will also test our collective integrity, strength, and agility.
Mondays are Magical Too

Mondays are magical. At least they can be, they’re supposed to be. If your Monday isn’t Magical you’ve gone wrong somewhere. Perhaps you spent the whole weekend worrying or working or preparing for today. So, now you’ve just got today. And today, the whole world, being just as anxious as you are, is coming at you like with speed and indifference. Text messages, emails, notifications dinging and pinging all over the place. It’s all just a mad dash to nowhere.

And you can make it stop.

Make the world move at your pace. You are worthy as it is. You don’t have to work yourself into a frenzy. Monday shouldn’t mean anything. It doesn’t really. The whole thing, starting work or having to work on a Monday, is completely made up. There is still living to be done on a Monday. The world we live in is a fantastically magical place to be.

Drink your coffee a little slower. Really taste the flavors. Is that a hint of cherry in your Ethiopia roast? Turn on your favorite music. Look up, look around and notice how tiny you are in relation to the horizon. Smile and Breathe Slow down to speed up. Open your mind to new possibilities. Sight and sound and taste and smell and touch and…. feels. Ah, the feels. Know that you own your now and you are an incredible human being on a fantastic journey. You are a freakin’ genius and you live in a world that is positively pure imagination.

What are you trying to become?

About two or three weeks ago, a friend of mine shared a post from a lightworker that highlighted what he said would be a tumultuous Sagittarius season.

I scanned the article, ultimately rebuking it as just another horoscope. Fast forward a few days later and chaos ensued. Lost debit cards, bounced checks, broken dishes. All experiences I looked at as part of life, but the undercurrent was just so energetically full of frustration. I felt like physically, I couldn’t force myself to sit down and focus on my work. I would sit down at my computer to hash out a project. Hours later, I would look up and nothing would be accomplished. I felt like I was running underwater in a time warp and I was angry.
beckwithJust now, I stumbled upon a to-do list I’d made a couple weeks ago. My main goal? Self-care and planning for next year. Two things that I’d been resisting the last weeks because I thought “getting shit done” was more important. This whole time I’d been working against my own goals.
Meanwhile, I’m listening to Micheal Beckwith’s Questions to Ask the Universe. He touched on a question that made me realize that I had, in fact, been given what I asked for: What must I become?
In order for me to be the teacher and the business leader that I want to become, nearly every way I’ve been conducting my life needs to fall away so that I can create a new order myself and the business. To create that new order, I need time for self-care and planning. This whole time I’ve been trying to do, and it’s not the time to do. It’s time to prepare.
In the last few hours, I’ve stopped the busy-ness and surrendered to where my heart was leading.  I stopped trying to force things to go the way that I want them to, and magic has been happening the last few hours. My thoughts are free-flowing and I’m writing more than I’ve written all year. I’m creating and drawing connections to solve problems I’ve been racking my brain about for months.
What are you resisting in order to accomplish what you think you want to accomplish? What is life trying to tell you?
“What is trying to emerge in my life?”
“Behind every problem is a question trying to ask itself.
Behind every question is an answer trying to be revealed.
Behind every answer is an action trying to take place.
And behind every action is a way of life trying to be born.”
If you’re experiencing a severe sense of frustration in your life. Stop and ask yourself these questions:
“What gift am I to give to the world?”
“What is trying to emerge in my life?”
“What is my next step?”
And by doing so, we begin to nurture our ability to truly listen to what the Universe is trying to “birth” through you.
Hello, World!

ava-st-claire-designer-moonroseagency-comI’ve been on the longest journey to find my voice. Growing up in my household, fighting a sibling, lying and tattling were cardinal sins. Vanity did not fall far behind. Further, upon breaking from my private school education and entering the public school system in the late 90’s, I learned that getting your face cut by a group of angry girls was a reality. It was best then to keep a low profile.

In a day and age when face time is currency and confidence is confused with competence, keeping a low profile isn’t necessarily the best way to handle life. Meanwhile, society has created its own thought police that will not hesitate cut your face, digitally. One wrong word, one misstep could result in a digital execution that could cost you your career. So I decided, like many others to play it safe and remain an obscurity behind my company’s brand. I thought that if I continued to work hard, I would find the kind of success I was looking to achieve.

My hypothesis was wrong. Instead, my inability to speak up for myself has caused grave misunderstandings, assumptions, and all manner of political games at my to ensue in front of the curtain because I insisted on staying behind it.

And yet…

Many, many wonderful things have happened. I have been re-acquainted with my soul. I know who I am and what I am. For so long, I held onto the dream of labeling myself a great designer. I panicked when design was commodified three or four years ago. I was afraid for a little while that everybody seemed to be selling graphic design. I realized I’m much more than that. I understand now that I’m also a builder, a teacher, an advisor. Design is just the language I use to help people find their way back to who they really are. That’s why I’m here. That’s what I came to do. I’m in love with my mission and I can’t wait to share it with you.