Crazy Ride

Man, what a crazy ride it has been!


This journey has taught me a thing or two. Or… three… okay, a bunch more. When I started this blog, I’d been thinking seriously about launching a nonprofit. If you look back through the pages, you’ll see some very detailed information on what that was going to look like. And, I’m glad I wrote it all out. It helped me get to where I am today.

So, where am I now?

Through my own experience with analysis paralysis, ups and downs through an 18 month unemployment stint, countless classes/workshops/seminars, asking questions and setting up informational interviews, visioning exercises and plugging in to various activities… I learned that the vision I had to start this nonprofit did not fit me. I still believed in the vision whole heartedly, but realized that some key aspects of what I wanted to create for the organization… didn’t fit me personally.

It’s difficult to go back to the drawing board when you thought you knew what you wanted to do. Fortunately I was able to take the four main focuses for the nonprofit (crisis management, job training, life skills, and sustainable living) and spin them into a social entrepreneurial endeavor that does fit me.

That is important in the end, you want something that fits you. That makes you excited and ready to tackle the day!

I wanted to be able to take the vision I’d come up with for the nonprofit and still do something with it… but what? It seemed like it was on the tip of my tongue… or just out of reach for a long time. I felt like I was almost where I needed to be… but, I just couldn’t put my finger on how it would work out.

My room-mate and I talked for months about the possibilities of what could be done. I am very thankful to have had her as a sounding board. Someone with an open mind and servant’s heart for the community. After being unemployed for so long, we saw a vast array of issues people needed help with – and, we weren’t seeing a lot of answers. She had been laid off around the same time I had — around January of 2009.

I found my focus shifting from wanting to serve a broader people group to wanting to serve the unemployed, the destitute hit by this economy – from no fault of their own. Not people who were manipulating the unemployment system. But, people who were striving to find work, who needed unemployment benefits to survive… to live on. Highly intelligent, capable, hard working people who were not able to find jobs. I found myself wanting to shift the four main areas: crisis management, job training, life skills, and sustainable living to help in this demographic of people.

After all… who best to help… than someone who has lived through it and understands the issues.

I have seen the pot holes and pitfalls that are involved… more than that, I have experienced them. Obstacles your not sure how you can get around… your car breaks down, your insurance runs out, the cell phone bill is more expensive than you can afford, you wonder where you can find affordable food to feed your family, your living situation changes and you have to find something else fast… and your savings account starts to dwindle until you have very little left.

I’ve also learned how to reframe my realities to see opportunities where other’s might see failure or impossibilities. I know how thrive through very difficult circumstances… grow from adversity… and I can help other people to do the same.

Then it hit me… an AHA moment.

I can coach people one-on-one. I can teach people how to implement customized action plans. I can help navigate people through the crazy unemployment system, teach how to take stock of current situations, show people how to find low cost healthy food, alternative transportation, develop job strategies, cut expenses, stay healthy/sain and social. I can help people identify obstacles and determine their worst case scenarios. I can show people where opportunities are to thrive.

Unfortunately there is a lot of missing information, lots of questions… not very many answers. I don’t understand why that is. My goal is to change that. I see a need to fill a gap and connect people to experts who can answer their questions from financial, real estate, bankruptcy, mortgage… social services, health care, counseling, and career coaching.

There are many many downsides to unemployment. Unfortunately, there are so many upside down perspectives on what the population of the unemployed look like. They are lazy… that people who have been unemployed for more than six months are riding the system. More than twelve months… what about more than eighteen months? I beg to differ. That’s not the reality I’ve seen.

I am launching a crisis management coaching practice that teaches people to survive and THRIVE through an unemployment crisis.

Stay tuned to learn more.

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Mind Mapping

By this time, you’ve got some useful tools that are hopefully nudging you forward out of your analysis paralysis. We’re not done! Get your webshooters ready as we jump to building #4 — Mind Mapping.

useful tool to see workable solutions to your vision

We’re still in the visioning part of the process. This is more than an exercise, it is a useful tool. It especially helps if you are a visual learner. This is something that I learned to do in college during my Interior Design degree. (Although, I don’t remember calling it mind mapping.) In creating a concept and being able to move into the planning phase — you have to take into consideration many factors. It helps to be able to “get them out of your head”… and onto paper or use software designed for this specific purpose. By actively identifying the factors and seeing them, you can move forward in your planning process. You can use this tool from everything to moving past anxieties (see below) to changing careers.

A mind map diagram helps you find a way to make your ideas, concepts, realities, whatever it is you need to map out… tangible so that you can understand it. It helps you clear out the cobwebs. You are creating a flow chart… this type of diagraming exercise helps you see areas of your vision that work — what works together. And, also helps define what does not work.

Need an example? The diagram above is an example of a mind map. It is a representation of my evolving vision. I’m not done with it yet… it’s still a work in progress. The more that I work at it, the closer I can get to reaching a tangible end product. To see it in more detail, click on the photograph and it will automatically generate a larger photo.

Creating a mind map of my vision has helped on multiple levels. For example, one area of frustration for me, I have found that sometimes I lack the ability to convey a large idea into something people can understand. And, that become a sticking point for me. Mind mapping has offered me a way to break down ideas into smaller… more digestable pieces.

Don’t feel as though you have to show off to the world the maps you create. This is about your moving forward and sometimes that is a personal step for your eyes only.

So, how do you get started?

  • paper & pen
  • dry erase board/pen
  • computer

The easiest way is with a good old fashioned pen and pad of paper. It will involve lots of scribbling and scratching out. You may find the activity of physically scratching out information cathartic and satisfying. If you can do it on a large dry erase board… all the better. Then, as you evolve in whatever it is that you are working out… your dry erase board will represent the evolution process. You’ll be able to physically see the changes happen. Which is very rewarding!!

If the computer is your cup of tea, I have stumbled upon a great website called Bubbl. Check it out. It allows you to import/export images, collaborate with colleagues, and share your creations. All the diagrams in today’s post were created using Bubbl.

Mind Mapping: Anxieties

Let’s say you’ve got a lot of anxieties going on while you are looking for work. That makes sense… and it’s easy to understand. We’ve all got them. First, create a “bubble” on your page or dry erase board (you’ll want to put it in the center) and label it “anxieties”. Next, draw a line to another bubble… this represents an anxiety you have. You can color code them if you would like. Continue doing this in a circular pattern. (See diagram below.) Draw lines to individual bubbles for any anxieties that you have. It can be whatever… write ALL of them down. Get them out of your head! For me, anxieties range from paying bills to wanting to learn new information that fills in the “unknowns” for my vision. Your mind map will most likely take the shape of a bulls-eye. See my diagram below. This is a great exercise to have a visual of all the worries that plague us. It’s great when we can find solutions to them and then physically scratch them off our map.

useful in determining and finding solutions for anxieties

Mind Mapping: Career Paths

Another mind mapping diagram example (similar in shape) could be if you are trying to narrow down what career you want to focus on. What direction do you want to go in… you may be having trouble narrowing down your options… there are lots of ideas and interests swirling around in your mind. Similar to the last exercise, draw a bubble in the center of your page/board and label it “career paths”. Now, draw a line to an individual bubble and write down a job/career path you have wanted to do. Continue to do this… draw bubbles for any/all jobs you have ever wanted to do and have done in your life. You may want a big sheet of paper for this! Go back as far as childhood.

These are just a few examples of how you can use this tool. You may find there are other areas you are stuck in that you need to “pull apart”. Get creative and start scribbling. Trust me… it will make a difference.

You never know what you’ll uncover… or how your ideas will change. This is a wonderful tool in helping you move forward!

Getting Un-Stuck

So, my balcony is organized and ready for guests, my living room is re-arranged, and the closets are… some-what cleaned. And… I’ve been chomping at the bit to get back to blogging again.

I would’ve started this post with pulling apart the next insight… communication. But, that seems to be where the bridge washed away. So, instead of going there right now, we’re going to go around it… and come back to it later. It’s an awfully important insight and topic to cover. But, since that’s where the bridge is missing… I’d rather jump into pulling apart what the resource center looks like… (I think it’s time).

So… let’s get to it!

Hitting The Wall

2677951937_86a6596446So, have you ever hit a wall? You are in the middle of a big project and… bam! There is this big, brick, sturdy, what seems to be unmovable wall. Where did it come from? And, why is it there? Or… maybe it feels like the bridge to your next thought has washed away somewhere.

Well, that’s where I am right now. As I’ve been blogging away happily, brick_wallI’ve been able to clear the cobwebs out of my brain. The vision is becoming more and more defined, which feels awesome. Lots of good momentum and progress. Then… about two weeks ago, I hit a wall.

So what happened?

Well, behind the scenes of the blog, I’ve been taking classes from “grant writing” to “the roles of collaborators”… and what seems like everything in between. I’ve been identifying organizations to volunteer with… networking… asking lots of questions. I’m working on “de-bugging” the vision, I’ve got a research project that will determine if Austin is a location that works, I’ve been pulling apart who the target psychographic is, and at some point… I’ll tackle my business plan. And… in the process, I’ve gotten over-loaded with information.

Information over-load. Not a bad thing. It’s a reality of research.

How do you deal with it? What if you want to start doing something? You’ve been researching for a while… and you’d rather being doing something about it. Have you ever felt that way? I’m right there… right now. One of the things I have learned is that I’ve got to give myself some balance in order to move forward. If I feel like I can’t DO something more hands-on with where I am, then I can do something in other areas of my life.

What does that look like?

Well, for me, it means shifting gears and taking a week just for me and for catching up in the apartment. What happened laundry1-main_Fullto the floor… where did all these crumbs come from? And, why isn’t the vacuum working? Hmmm… looks like I’ve got some work to do around the house. You should see my laundry pile! Yikes. And… oh my, I just looked at the kitty litter box.

One of the things, I’ve learned is that it helps me to switch gears and do something such as home projects or finding things to take to Goodwill, so I can feel as though I’ve accomplished something. It also lets my brain focus on something else, so I don’t feel as though I’m hitting my head needlessly against that brick wall. They may seem like small projects, but they have a finish line to them. It really helps to take the time to decompress and focus on the “life stuff”. Then I’m ready to tackle the vision with new energy… and new ideas. So, for the next week, if you need me… I’ll be cleaning out the closets.

Have patience with me… I will be back to blogging soon.

Initial insights, more in depth… asking for help, what holds us back?

Continuing on. Today let’s look at why it’s so hard to ask for help.

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If you fall down, pull up your boot straps. Get back in the saddle and go again!

Ah… that creates a challenge. Do you see the challenge? We are proud people. Asking for help not so easy.

“that’s an obstacle unto itself. Some of us are better at it than others. Asking for help isn’t easy. If we want to ask for help, does that mean we’re weak?”

No, definitely not. We are not weak if we ask for help. Though some will say or think that we are. I think it’s just the opposite… we are stronger if we ask for help. Because we are including people. On multiple levels…

But, still there are people who will say and go to the grave believing it’s a sign of weakness to ask for help. Why is there such a bad connotation to it? (More on this later… we’ll revisit again.)

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I can do it myself! I've got it all under control. I have no idea where to go.

What is it about asking for help that is so bad? Is it bad to say… I can’t do it all on my own? I can’t juggle everything myself. Isn’t it realistic to be able to say… I can’t do everything myself?

And.. yet.

Think back to your own situations. What keeps you from asking for help?

What would be some other things that would keep other people from asking for help?

Stubbornness. Pride. Independence. Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of being judged. Fear… in general. Self doubt. Stepping out of our comfort zones. Burdening others with our problems. Emotional baggage… hopelessness. Feeling helpless. Not knowing where to turn… and, not knowing what’s available. Thinking we don’t need any help… and, thinking we have to do it all on our own.

Or… maybe it’s our physical situation. Maybe we’ve not had a model of what it looked like to ask for help. Maybe we’re following in our past generation’s footsteps.

Intial insights, more in depth… looking for answers, needing tangible tools.

Let’s look at how these insights play a part in the bigger picture. The more we understand the better we can be at coming up with good solutions that “break through” as opposed to just offering band-aids.

“People don’t know where to look to find the answers they need… and many times don’t know who to talk to. We, as people, need tangible tools to be proactive… to make healthy and responsible decisions…”

This can go for any struggle we have… health, housing, food, relationships, job, family issues, addictions, etc.

image4963930xSay you’ve lost a job. Where do you turn? What do you do? How long has it been since you’ve done the job search process? Do you locate the newest newspaper and consult the local help wanted section? Is your resume in order? Do you have a resume? Do you know how to write a resume? Do you even know what you want to do? Are you in survival mode?

I could go on with these questions… there are a slew to ask. Many of you may know that now-a-days looking for a job is so much more than looking inUnemployed Worker the help wanted section, searching Craigslist, or scouting the neighborhood for signs in the windows. It’s about “creating your brand”. What do you have to offer… what are you bringing to the table… what is your expertise? How do you present yourself in person, on paper, on the internet, through business cards/stationary? Touch, smell, sight, and sound.

Let me ask you this… how would you know that you needed to create a “brand” – the brand known as you, if you were never introduced to the concept? Where would you go to hear about it… where would you be introduced to such a concept? It’s becoming more main stream… but, I didn’t hear about it until I started actively participating in a job networking group. I wouldn’t have known. Sure, the networking group was readily available… but, if someone doesn’t know it exists, how would they know that’s where they’ll learn this?

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Let’s also take into consideration people who may be starting from scratch. There are many people trying to figure out how to summarize their entire work history on a couple pieces of paper. Who may not know the language to use, what’s most important to include, they may not have much to include or it’s all over the place – what do you do with that?unemployment_250x251

There are people who may have never used the internet (or may not have access to a computer). If they have access, they may not be equipped on how to use it for locating a job, and certainly may not have any inclination of what Linked In is.

What about the people who need just to have a job, and have taken any job to survive to put food on the table and clothes on their backs. Or, the people that don’t have a work history, what do they do?

Initial Insights

This last week, I’ve been working on pulling together my initial insights and questions for the resource center… what I was thinking and observing in the beginning, that got the ball rolling in my brain. These are some of the initial insights that have fueled my desire in creating this vision.

Jumping in…

which-direction-featuredIt had occurred to me a number of years ago, as I had gone through some personal adversity, that people don’t automatically “know” all the answers (or even just some of the answers)… or what in the world the next steps are to take. I certainly didn’t know the answers. People don’t know where to look to find the answers they need… and many times don’t know who to talk to. We, as people, need tangible tools to be proactive… to make healthy and responsible decisions. But, we need a little hands-on help in getting there… we also need a little connection with people who want to be on board to help us.

It also occurred to me that we are people who are taught to be strong individuals. To do it on our own. When we fall… we need to pull up our boot-staps and go again. But, how do you go again (or go the first time) if you don’t know what you’re doing?

helpThen there’s asking for help… that’s an obstacle unto itself. Some of us are better at it than others. Asking for help isn’t easy. If we want to ask for help, does that mean we’re weak? Where does this notion come from?

We struggle.

We are a people who struggle… to communicate our needs to each other. More than that, we just struggle to communicate in general to each other. Our culture does not teach from an early age clear, honest, real communication and connection. We don’t learn how… or we don’t understand the full concept of really listening to each other, asking questions, having dialogue with someone, and what it looks like to connect. Because maybe, our parents/families didn’t know how to provide or model that (for whatever reason). Instead, all too often, we learn how to hide and put on our facades, we put guards up, and talk at or over each other.

So, we put expectations on each other… people must prove themselves to us. We put our boundaries up, we put people in boxes, we place judgment… and, we don’t trust.

We’re pretty jaded.

So, how do we break through this?

We interrupt this regularly scheduled broadcast… with the following announcement.

So… I went to a small business adviser yesterday. And, got some good information and advice. Let me just say that if you have an idea of starting your own business venture, check out: SBDC (Small Business Development Center) at Texas State. Their services are free and can help with everything from starting a sm. business, legal, resources, payroll, setting up HR… you name it, they’ve got it. They are funded by the state and do not advertise, except for word of mouth. Definitely a worthwhile resource!! (Part one… of announcement.)

compass_pocketI wanted to go & get a good sense of what I need to do in order to get this vision up and running. I’ve started feeling as if I’m going in circles without any direction. I’ve gotten a lot done… but, felt like I needed some expert guidance. Specifically with the coffee house. Since that would be a business bringing in a profit. How does that partner with a non-profit and how do you start it? Or… is it fully a non-profit?

What do I need to know?

We used white boards… it was wonderful! Great for the visual or kinesthetic learner/processor. That’s me!

The adviser (Ron Hash), helped me sort out how the process of building a business went together… what my next steps are, what I need to think about, what I need to take into consideration. He broke it down into baby steps (although, the steps are not easy). Also, how to tie in this blog as part of it.

There was also talk about how what I’m trying to accomplish may not be a non-profit after all, but more along the lines of social entrepreneurship. What does that mean?

By his definition…I am creating a sustainable business model that is designed for the betterment of the community. That’s kinda big… that would send me in a completely different direction as to how I was planning to set this up. Something to think about. I’ll have to take some time… and process through that.  (Part two… of announcement.)

My next step is writing a solid, clearly defined business plan. A road map. (Not for the purpose of asking for money, but business-plan1for the purpose of being clearly defined.) I’ve got four drafts already. And, am now moving on to number five. I want to hear your feedback.  Since I am making the necessary steps to make this a reality, it is important to me to hear your feedback. And, not just on the business plan, but with the vision as well. Thanks to those of you who have already been leaving feedback. Most appreciated.  (Part three… of announcement.)

Before I show off a gleaming new business plan, lets finish the vision first. Next post… building community through art and how that plays a role in the coffee house.

Introduction: Where this crazy idea came from!

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Idea!!

So, I think roughly five (maybe six) years ago an idea landed in my lap. Literally! It was a Sunday morning and I was getting ready to attend the 11:00 AM service for church… and I was actually going to be on time! Everything sort of fell into place in my brain. I would start a coffee house /community resource center. I knew who to contact, how it’d work, what I’d do, the location, the interior, the services, I even had a name for it… it was all there. (Then I moved to Austin. And, I feel like I’m starting all over again. But, the vision is still there and still strong.)

I’d been recently (5-6 years ago) sifting through what my strengths, weaknesses, gifts, and abilities were (more on these later). Wondering how to stay away from corporate America. I knew that that didn’t fit me. I wanted to build something that was not the norm… and something that helped people, while having a passion for

what I was doing – using my gifts and abilities. But, not start something just to start it. It needed to have a purpose more than just to fill a profession (ie: be a construction contractor). I’d tossed around ideas such as… to start a women’s or woman owned contracting/remodeling company… partner with the local counseling center… create some deconstruction therapy programs for those dealing with anxiety/depression. (That didn’t completely fit what I was looking for. But, it was along the right track.)

Values

Values

I wanted to do something unique that would break down socio-economic borders, build community, connection, serve people as individuals, solve community problems… creatively, build cooperation and partnering (among organizations, businesses, city officials, and the people in the city). I wanted to nudge people to step out of their comfort zones (opening/introducing new perspectives, giving them an opportunity to serve – in hopes that they would desire to be salt and light to those they came in contact with), and I wanted to mentor/teach people how to live successful lives (more on this later). But, not in a monetary sense.

Those were my values then… and those are still my values now.

Revealing Community — Gaps and Insights

Jumping right in… gaps.

So, my gaps… wow, heavily gaping in the area of health.

I think I am going to focus my insights solely in this one area. I didn’t have to do much drawing to see how visually barren my illustration was in the quadrant of “health” which could be a sub-title under the quadrant of “self”.

What I’ve learned is, I don’t feel as though I can openly discuss my health woes with many people. Maybe it has to do with the desire to keep private things… private. I’m fairly outgoing and I love people. But, I like to keep my private affairs… just that, private. After all who really wants to know about what kind of pain I’m having? (This is what I tell myself.) I don’t want to burden friends or have people feel sorry for me or worse… have my concerns be excused. I want to be able to express my concerns and anxieties…. and be validated.

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What I’ve learned through the years is that I have to speak up to let people in, be heard, validated, and to find a solution to take place. Not so easy for the tight lipped. As it seems, my gaps in the “health” realm cover everyone from very personal contacts (I do have a couple close connections I can call on)… to physicians. More in the realm of health care providers. What makes it worse for me, I don’t like feeling that I have to rely on a random doctor I’ve seen only once… for a referral to go to one that I’ve never met. Which sometimes keeps me from actively seeking any out.

So OK, you can see some holes.

Going back to… speaking up and letting people in. This is key. I could ask my local friends (give them a little information about what’s concerning me) for health care providers they trust. And, then I’m benefiting three fold, I’ve let people in, built some community, and hopefully received a good contact for the future. Win…win… win.

More insights…

A question was asked at group on Monday… “how do you feel as you see your personal network unfold visually? How does it feel inside your body right now… knowing you can ask these people for help?” Most people responded with: “relief, I feel good knowing I don’t have to do it myself, cooperative, empowered, can learn a new perspective”… all very good.

My response was… I feel connected, secure, supported, capable, warm & fuzzy… like there is a solution somewhere. And, then I started feeling in my body… uncertainty and vulnerable.  Uncertain to how my network would respond to my needs.superchick_megaphone_logo_hi

So… then I have to tell myself again… open your mouth & let people in… speak up “Garner Girl”! I can’t assume what people’s reactions are going to be.  I can’t build true authentic community if I am not first transparent myself. It hurts me the most, if I isolate myself. I lose out, am disconnected… and no one really knows what’s going on. Relationships aren’t built. No solution can be acheived that way. So, what I’ve learned… grin… grit your teeth if you have to… let people in… and ask for help. It’s a good thing.