gradient_bar

Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone in Life and Design

life is amplified at the end of your comfort zone

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch

Lately, this quote has been the theme to my life. In both personal and professional ways, stepping outside of my comfort zone has drastically changed my outlook on life as well as the impact I’m able to make with my business. And I’m confident it can for you, too. Here are my stories:

On a stage in front of more than 300 women…

Is not where I’d ever thought I’d be if you asked me even a few months ago. Let’s rewind: a few weeks ago, I was flying out on a Sunday to attend a business mastermind retreat with my mentor, Christine Kane. Just two days before I was scheduled to leave, I was contacted to see if I’d be interested in introducing Christine for the opening segment of the retreat, all about packages. The “rules”: use 5-6 minutes, speak from your heart, and introduce Christine.

I didn’t hesitate. I said yes. I was incredibly honored to be asked.

With very little time to process, I went about my day, prepared to leave, and flew out on Sunday. On Monday morning, I took the stage with a few bullet-pointed notecards. But it only took a few seconds to realize I wasn’t going to lay an eye on them. I let go. I saw the women in that audience, knew my story of overcoming obstacles and building packages for Harris Studios could help them, and I told my story.

Could I tell you what I said on that stage today? Hardly. But it resonated. Because I stepped outside of my comfort zone, embraced my originality, and owned my voice.

‘Captaining’ a guide boat in the Adirondacks

Realizing the power of breaking down that barrier lit a fire inside of me, one that extended beyond my business and into my personal life. While many step outside of their comfort zone to find excitement, there’s also sanctity in stepping outside to find solitude. For me, that happened in one of my favorite places in this world: Brantingham Lake in the Adirondacks. And it happened in the form of a vintage Adirondack guide boat.

I was browsing Facebook one day when I saw the boat for sale. I took a chance and made an offer. It was a big decision. But it was easy. Within days, I was rowing a historic guide boat — my boat. I’m rowing backwards in my wicker seat, knowing I can stop and float at anytime while I write, paint, or read. I slow down. And in that way — alone in the middle of a lake, not on stage in front of 300 people — I find and own my voice.

How your work can be inspired by stepping outside your comfort zone

The true beauty in stepping outside of your comfort zone is this: when you let go of doubts, ignore judgments, and open your mind, you become your most authentic self.

Doing this for your business means connecting on a deeper level with the audience you’re most qualified to serve: those who share your beliefs, feel resolve in your message, and can benefit from what you have to offer.

Ordinary doesn’t sell anymore. Safe isn’t compelling. It’s only by putting yourself and your business out there in a genuine way, whether it’s through speaking in front of an audience, sharing your vulnerabilities on Instagram, or trying something new with your services, that you can realize your full potential.

Your work will be better for it. You’ll connect with the audience you’re seeking in a more authentic way. And, best of all, you’ll discover opportunities you didn’t previously think were in the realm of possibility.

And when this extends into your personal life? This means deeper relationships; more self-confidence, and a happier life.

Light your own fire

Let go of pretenses. Ignore self-doubt. Step outside of what would normally be expected of you (expectations set by both others and yourself). Then, and only then, can you realize the potential of who you are and what you have to offer.

It took stepping outside my comfort zone to prove to myself that I have a voice. A powerful voice. I can heal. I can help. I can share. And through that, I can become a stronger business woman. I can become a stronger mentor. I can become a stronger friend.

Try something new. Explore uniqueness. Use your voice to express who you are and where you’re going.

I have one edit to this popular quote: Life is amplified at the end of your comfort zone. I had — and have — a wonderful life within my comfort zone. But it’s only when I step outside that I see the potential for what it can be; what I can do. It’s amplified all that I have, and all that I hope to be.

What’s one thing you can do today to step outside your comfort zone? How will that impact your brand, and your voice?

Travel Inspiration for the Creative Entrepreneur: Asheville, North Carolina

Love Asheville, NC

Every destination has a story. Exploring new places, discovering their stories, and bringing the inspiration back to breathe new life into my design and painting is key to my work — especially so I can help other destinations uncover their brand. Welcome to Travel Inspiration!

In this Travel Inspiration edition, I explore Asheville, North Carolina. I had the privilege of heading south to Asheville in March for a business retreat with Christine Kane.

There’s no other way to say it: from the time you grab a taxi driven by an aspiring poet to the musicians serenading walkers on the street, the authentic spirit and artistic essence of Asheville is simply palpable. With the addition of the Blue Ridge Mountains setting a beautiful backdrop, Asheville has easily become one of my favorite places to visit as a graphic designer and painter.

What’s more: Asheville has owned its inspiring culture through its bold but warm brand and the experiences to be had there.

Experiences + brands that impress

In a place surrounded by so much beauty and truly fantastic people, it’s tough not to find inspiration at every turn. Here are four experiences — and brands — that truly left a mark on me:

Asheville’s Salt Cave

After two days of adrenaline-rushing, mind-racing, idea-flowing business coaching, my body and mind were craving a place of relaxation.

My fellow retreat attendee recommended the Asheville Salt Caves. For her, just one hour in the cave felt like four days of vacation at the ocean. For me, my short time spent there allowed me a relaxing experience and renewal in a deep meditative state. If there’s anything I’ve learned as a solo business owner, it’s that full-immersion work on your business is critical to moving forward, but self-care through release and renewal are just as important. It’s all about balance.

The Salt Cave experience has stuck with me even as we conquer the lion that spring came in as in the Finger Lakes. The people behind the Salt Cave know its benefits — the environment’s healing, restorative properties — and have communicated that through its whole brand, from design to packaging and through its services.

Herbiary

An herbal apothecary and natural remedy store (doesn’t that just sound amazing?), Herbiary simply does it right. Owned by a strong and powerful friend, Maia Toll, the store carries hundreds of medicinal herbs, essential oils, teas, tinctures, flower essences, and body care products.

Maia is honest and transparent when it comes to her practice. She doesn’t claim to have all the answers — but she is dedicated to learning and sharing as much as possible. Her humility and passion shine through her brand loud and clear, from her website to the packages she offers.

In case you’re wondering, I left with an essential oil called “Mental Clarity.” I keep it by my computer to turn to on days when I simply need a burst of energy.

The Black Bird restaurant

Art and music are unmistakably a huge part of Asheville culture, but its food deserves the same pedestal. Just one of the many memorable restaurants we ate at was The Black Bird.

The menu focuses on local: seasonal bests from local farmers and fresh catches from the coasts of the Carolinas. But not only was the food amazing, the ambiance — the environment created — was truly inspiring. Particularly notable for me was the wall sculpture of blackbirds soaring. Extending your brand to your interior design as a brick-and-mortar place of business is a dimension and opportunity not to be forgotten. It truly brings the experience full circle.

French Broad Chocolates

Guilty: I cannot go to Asheville without stopping at French Broad Chocolates. (Let’s just say chocolate is essential to release, renewal, and mental clarity, as well!)

You’ll notice something quick about French Broad Chocolates: there’s always a line out the door for its hot chocolate, cakes, brownies, and chocolate boxes to go. That’s for a good reason. Not only does the shop do chocolate and baking right, but it creates a true experience around its brand with its chocolate “lounge” and “bean-to-bar” factory. Its story emanates through the ambiance, packaging, and service.

Let travel inspire you

A destination encompasses so much. Its brand is determined by its people, its natural environment, its created experiences, and so much more. Every place has a story. Asheville owns its story as a place for creatives looking for inspiration, restoration, and a nurturing culture. For me, the inspiration found in Asheville will fuel my creativity as long as I can recall the memories made.

Where have you been lately that’s inspired you, in life or business? Share with me below!

Next up in Travel Inspiration: I’m headed to Santa Monica, California! It’s been nearly a year since my last trip to Santa Monica, but the inspiration has remained. I look forward to it being renewed, and sharing that story with you.

Solo Business Camaraderie: Upleveling With Others

Uplevel With Others

Being an entrepreneur running a solo business is an amazing feeling. Knowing you can build a business, consistently delight clients, and provide for your family really makes you appreciate your everyday work. I am forever grateful that I branched out on my own to start Harris Studios over 15 years ago.

That being said, sometimes the going gets tough — and you crave the camaraderie of coworkers or the accountability and mentorship of a coach as you grow in your business. For me, that point came two years ago, when I made a decision that would completely change the path of my business.

Joining a mastermind

Flashback to 2013. I’d been in business for over a decade, but was considering a major move: from rented office space to my home office. With this move came the need for more business structure, accountability and strategy.

At just the right moment, I revisited Christine Kane’s blog, a blog I had been reading for years after being drawn to her authenticity and mission: “a mentor to people who are changing the world.”

Color me inspired. I ended up taking two of her online classes, then committed to her Gold Mastermind program. That was two years ago.

Business growth that connects me to my purpose

In the time since I joined the mastermind, a lot has changed here at Harris Studios.

– I’ve moved to my home office (one of my best decisions yet!).

– I gained clarity on my goals for upleveling my graphic design business.

– I redesigned my website and restructured my design packages.

– I made room for travel and painting — two of my greatest passions.

All of this has led to me landing more of my ideal clients — a game changer when you’re running your own business. By clarifying my purpose — helping businesses uplevel their brands so they can better serve the world — and intertwining that with my passions — nature, travel, and art — I’ve positioned myself to only work on things that truly light me up.

I couldn’t have done all of this without taking the leap to surround myself with others. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to celebrate this fact while on a Gold Mastermind retreat in Asheville in March.

Surrounding yourself with those you can learn from

When I joined the Gold Mastermind, I gained even more than a solid business path and ideal client base. I have also been fortunate to become part of an inspiring group of heart-centered women from all over the world, striving to make their full potential a reality in their business. These women know that the best way to live is to build a business around doing what you love and serving others in the best way you know possible.

To be surrounded by people who understand your core and your purpose is an exceptional feeling — especially as an entrepreneur. Here are just a few of the ladies who serve as constant inspiration for me:

Kim Bushmore-Maki is the president and founder of Shakti in the Mountains — a community center for women offering classes, therapy, and retreats. I admire her depth, inner strength and courage. I know that Kim is just getting started in changing the world and I am so excited to see her continue to grow, and to grow alongside her.

Jen Rinehart Blumenthal provides spiritual tools + intuitive guidance for women. She’s currently helping me explore some super cool, deeper sides of myself: my intuition, chakras, and a deeper understanding of the metaphysical.

Michelle Knox is a fellow graphic designer and visual brand stylist at Lone Red Design. She and I are moving forward in a similar fashion with our businesses and she serves as such an inspiration to me. She’s got a big heart (and gives big hugs)! I love seeing her creativity just flow.

When you open yourself up to growth and surround yourself with the right people, the transformation you see in yourself can be absolutely amazing. Surrounding myself with these women has not only amplified my business beyond what I could have imagined, but it has deeply inspired me in my everyday life, as well.

Who serves as inspiration in your life? How can you surround yourself with support that helps you + your business grow?

Designing an Environment for Creativity: A Behind-the-Scenes Tour of My Studio

Home Studio Tour

“One of the greatest necessities… is to discover creative solitude.” – Carl Sandburg

When it comes to creativity, or really anything productive, environment is everything. The sounds, smells, and space you surround yourself with are incredibly important to fostering the mindset needed to accomplish.

As a business owner, I’ve also found that the environment you create is a direct reflection of your brand.

That’s why, when I moved from an external design studio to one within my own home, I took special care to make it exactly what I needed to reflect Harris Studios and to perform at my best.

Today, I’d like to take you on a tour of what that looks like:

2015_03_12 Tour 01

1. A clean, tidy desk

I work on design projects for a variety of clients, meaning I need space both mentally and physically to dream up different concepts and visions for each project. My desk serves as the place where the design happens, and keeping my desk clean save a few necessary, deliberate items – my Wacom tablet, fresh fruit, and beautiful flowers – gives me that space. If creativity thrived on clutter, life might be easier — but then, it wouldn’t be as fun, right?

2. Ambiance

2015_03_12 Tour 02

I am so incredibly fortunate to work out of my 1800’s post and beam-style home, where accents like this fireplace adorn several rooms. There’s nothing like the crackle of a wood fire during the cold winter months, or the sound of the breeze coming through the front door during the warm summer. Setting the tone in the room is so important to my mood, and being comfortable allows me to create freely. My office mascot, Banks — also my walking buddy — is a frequent visitor, and enjoys the ambiance, as well.

3. Space for what you love

2015_03_12 Tour 03

All work and no play makes for a tough day. For me, painting is my passion. It fuels my inner artist and largely influences my design work. That’s why it was absolutely imperative that I create a space for painting within my home office. For you, this space may look like a reading nook; a set of workout equipment; a ping-pong table. Making space for what you love will inspire your work in ways you can’t even imagine — I promise you that.

4. The little details

I firmly believe in making your space your own, as you can tell. This goes down even to the small details. Whether you’re in a tiny office cubicle or sprawled out on a spacious deck overlooking the ocean, it’s the little details — the photos you hang up, the quotes you write down, the special tokens that remind you of places and people you choose to display — that make the space yours. For me, I also include many fun art supplies, books, and interesting pieces I have picked up on my journey that may serve as inspiration or subject matter at some point. They remind me that an integration of creativity, focus, work and play are imperative to a successful business and balanced life.

2015_03_12 Tour 04

“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.” – Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Just as Virginia Woolf believed all women should have a room of one’s own to create and succeed, I truly believe that each and every entrepreneur and individual should put careful thought into designing the space they occupy to make it a place that fosters creativity, inspiration, and comfort.

Our best work comes when we’re in a space that allows for it. What does that space look like for you?