What is in Your Way? The Less Obvious Distractions

Road_Closed_Laura_LeavellDistractions are more than that phone call from a salesperson or the latest YouTube video.  Distractions can be those everyday tasks you feel you must do but that don’t get you to where you want to be.  While it may be obvious that playing a game on your phone is a distraction, it’s less obvious that your weekly routine may be what’s preventing you from having what you want.

For instance, let’s say you want to leave your full-time job but you don’t know what’s next.  Many of my clients have come to me for that exact reason – they want to not only figure out but also move toward (and then enjoy) the next chapter of their careers.  Or maybe it’s that you want to finish your book or start your own business.

In the case of wanting to leaving your full-time job and not knowing what is next, the distractions may simply be many of the actions you’re automatically taking. Is working overtime valuable to you or is it a deterrent?  Is happy hour with your colleagues an obligation or a distraction?  Is sleeping in on Saturday important enough that it trumps making time for what’s next?  Is refusing to delegate responsibilities at work helping you?

Take a close look at how you’ve been doing things and the (good and bad) habits you’ve created.  What is serving your desire for what’s next?  And what needs to be altered so that you have the time and energy to go after what you truly want?

Cutting out some activities and habits may be easy; others will require focus on your compelling reason to make the change.  Often the seemingly difficult choices fall into the areas of social, philanthropic and health.  It can be hard to tell your family you’re busy on Saturday afternoon because you set aside that block of time to research career opportunities.  It may be challenging to spend your lunch break working toward your goals with your career coach rather than catching up with your coworkers.  It may feel like a big sacrifice to cut back on the hours you volunteer and/or your time at the gym in order to prepare job applications.

It comes down to what’s most important to you – what do you value the most – and taking action to prioritize it.

Try this experiment:

1)    Take inventory of your last two weeks.

2)    Assess what is necessary and what may be negotiable in your schedule.

3)    Change only one aspect this next week to create a pocket of time and energy for which you can use to go after what you want.

Why Are Freelance Advertising Creatives Failing?

Why aren't freelance advertising creatives making the money their talent deserves? (photo credit: efffective.com)

Why aren’t freelance advertising creatives making the money their talent deserves? (photo credit: efffective.com)

Freelance advertising creatives – art directors, copywriters and graphic designers – have great potential but often fall short in creating and maintaining a successful advertising freelance business.  Getting enough clients to sustain a full-time, lucrative business is the main challenge.  CLIENTS = MONEY  Freelance creatives aren’t landing clients so they aren’t making money (or enough money to continue freelancing and maintain their lifestyle).

Why is that?  Why are many talented advertising creatives unable to make money as freelancers?

Because of their brains.  Some of the best creatives are much more creative-minded than business-minded, much more right-brained than left-brained.*


Because they don’t connect one on one.  While advertising art directors, copywriters and graphic designers have perfected the art of  connecting with the masses through, let’s say, a print ad, they aren’t experienced in generating client leads person by person.


Because they go straight for the jugular…I mean…sale.  It’s a rookie mistake to pitch your services to a potential client before understanding if the individual and/or business is even interested and if so, what their true needs are.  Imagine pitching a serious brochure when a business wants a funny microsite.  Now imagine overwhelming an individual with talk of social media, web banners and mobile apps when they haven’t the slightest idea of what they want their logo to look like.  Freelancers must understand a potential client’s needs and then communicate how as an advertising creative professional they can meet those needs.


Because they offer everything upfront.  Many creatives can do it all; they can create fully integrated campaigns and they can art direct and write.  Even if they can do everything, there are certain things they do better and enjoy doing more.  The freelancers that are having a harder time making money, are the ones who are offering everything upfront and not specializing.  Whether it’s designing packaging or writing radio scripts, freelancers who market themselves as an expert in an area are sought out by clients who need their expertise.  Once a freelancer is hired for what they’re known for, they can offer the client everything else.  For instance, a designer who is hired because of their specialty with packaging can also recommend he or she designs the business cards, brochures, print ads, landing pages, etc., in the same look and feel.


Because they don’t target their ideal clients.  Ideal clients are the individuals or businesses that the freelancer is genuinely interested in and THAT HAVE THE MONEY TO PAY the freelancer.  As an advertising creative career coach, I primarily coach and consult senior- to executive-level creatives.  While I have a soft spot for helping students and juniors (and I do as much as possible), younger creatives aren’t my target audience. As a business owner, I must market to those who can afford the services I provide.  And currently, more than half of my clients freelance or own their own businesses, which I work with them to grow.

OR many talented advertising creatives are unable to make money as freelancers…

Because they don’t follow up.  Freelance creatives aren’t politely persistent – calling, e-mailing, stopping by in person, etc. – until they get a yes or a no.

As a freelancer, which of these is holding you back?  Post it in the comments below.

The good news is that while inherent creativity can’t be learned, business and sales skills can be learned.  Freelance creatives can succeed if they invest more of themselves in learning that left-brain, business side.


(*Side note: I am almost equally right-brained and left-brained. My creative side is a notch above my business side. Both sides came in handy when I was managing the creative department at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, and now both benefit my clients as I coach and consult them to get unstuck, reach their goals and finally feel satisfied.)

Urgent Motivation – How Bad Do You Want To Be Successful?

How bad do you want to be successful?

Whether it’s a 6- or 7-figure money amount or that Creative Director title or another level of success, how bad do you want it?  Just as we all define success differently, we all have different motivators and varying levels of motivation.

Let’s talk about that motivation.

In the current 4-minute Spartan Race promotional video, Rap Preacher Eric Thomas reveals what may be a modern day fable with one of the strongest examples of what urgent motivation is.

(The Spartan Race is an Obstacle Racing Challenge that originated in 431B.C.  The Spartan Race website shows races in 2013 scheduled in America, Canada and Great Britain.)

Imagine if your motivation was as imperative as getting enough oxygen.  What if your drive to achieve success was as powerful as your desperation to get air during an asthma attack?

“When you want to succeed as much as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful.”

In the video, Thomas continues, “You don’t care about no basketball game.  You don’t care about what’s on TV.  You don’t care about nobody calling you.  You don’t care about a party.  The only thing you care about when you’re trying to breathe is to get some fresh air.  That’s it.  And when you get to the point where all you want to do is be successful as bad as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful.”

Now, take out the parts about breathing from that quote.  The last line becomes, “And when you get to the point where all you want to do is be successful, then you’ll be successful.”

So, what are you willing to give up?

  • Money?
  • Time?
  • Your Comfort Zone?
  • Limitations you’re putting on yourself?
  • Being Shy?
  • Your Pride?
  • Sleep?
  • Happy Hour?
  • Video Games?
  • Facebook?
  • Softball League?
  • Getting the newest iPad?
  • Shopping?
  • Certain People?

What are you willing and ready to give up in order to own your success?

Did you notice some of the people in the race video were missing arms and legs?  They gave up the limitations either they put on themselves or others tried to contain them with.  How bad must they have wanted the success of crossing that finish line?

When you get to the point where all you want to do is be successful, then you’ll be successful.


In the comments, share what you know you need to give up in order to reach your next level of success.  I’ll start. 

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It’s All In How You Look At It

Past group coaching client, Ian, describing one of his commissioned paintings.

A Client’s Presentation

This last weekend I drove up to wine country to support one of my past group coaching clients, Ian, a professional illustrator.  Ian was speaking on “The Power of Story in Art.”

As he spoke on symbolism, perspective and sharing a story through art, he showed examples from Leonardo da Vinci, Norman Rockwell, Ernest Hemingway (yes, the writer) as well as examples of his own personal pieces.  The audience enjoyed his presentation so much they asked for an encore.  Ian was flexible and able to pull together a second presentation in a matter of minutes.

It’s an incredible feeling to watch a client succeed.  To soar.


Reflecting on Ian’s presentation (the prepared one), I can close my eyes and see the lines he drew on a da Vinci painting to explain perspective.  The perspective draws viewers in and directs their focus.

Let’s take that thought – that perspective directs focus – and apply it to our own lives.

Work Feedback

I am an advocate of the 360-degree employee review.  As an advertising creative, your growth may depend on what not only your Creative Directors think of your work but also how the Account Directors like working with you, how receptive you are to the Planners’ recommendations, how much other creatives like partnering up with you, whether or not clients like you and so on.  Without the different perspectives, you don’t know where to improve, where to focus.

Life Feedback

Outside of work, others’ perspectives can help you see blind spots too.  How does your family perceive you?  What do your friends think are your strengths?  What is your reputation in the community?  What do others constantly wish you would do but you are clueless about?

Why not ask?

Ask your network – your brother, best friend, neighbor, the waitor you see weekly, your kids’ babysitter – what they think about you.

    • What are your best skills?
    • What are your talents?
    • How would they describe your personality?
    • What do they admire about you?
    • How would they like to see you change and grow?
    • What do they think you would really love to try doing?
    • What would they like to say to you but haven’t before?

You can come up with scales for different qualities that are important to you.

For instance, on a scale from 1 to 10 how ______ are you?  Where the blank can be filled with:

    •  Confident
    • Patient
    • Open
    • Fair
    • Accepting
    • Creative
    • Fun
    • Loving
    • Thoughtful
    • Giving
    • Dedicated

But can you really ask for perspective?

Yes.  But asking people you know to tell you how they view you can seem scary.  So the question becomes: Which is stronger – your desire to grow and be better OR your fear?  You can always ask via e-mail or ask them to submit their thoughts in a sealed envelope to a third party (e.g., your significant other, a friend, your mailbox, your doorstep).

People who are willing to give you honest feedback, will; those who aren’t, won’t.  There’s no harm in asking.  And you’ll never know unless you ask.

Imagine if you found out something that could save you time, energy, money, etc.  Maybe your friends would rather connect over Skype than at fancy dinners.  Maybe you find out that your nephew really wants to spend one afternoon a month with you.  Maybe it’s revealed that the many hours you work are causing your relationships to suffer.  Maybe whatever you’re doing isn’t working and you don’t even know it.  Maybe whatever you’re doing is working but you’re too close to it to see the effects.

Maybe this exercise is exactly what you need to create a more satisfying life.

Use perspective to guide your focus.


Creative Deadlines – Jack White Uses Them

The Music

It was mid-March 2011 and Austin, Texas, was already sticky hot.  My then boyfriend (now husband) and I travelled from San Diego to enjoy the music of South by Southwest.  Many of my advertising creative friends attended the interactive week of SXSW and left merely hours before we arrived.

I wasn’t there for advertising though; I was there to get lost in the music.

SXSW attracts musicians from all over the world.  Every stage, every parking lot, every possible space becomes a venue.  (I first listened to one of my favorite bands Onward, Soldiers in the parking lot of an ice cream shop.)  The talent is unbelievable.  The creativity astounding.

Surprise shows pop up at a moment’s notice.  Jack White of The White Stripes performed an acoustic set during one of these moments.  With no possible way of knowing about his improv performance other than being in the right place at the right time, we weren’t – we missed it.

Jack White uses Creative Deadlines

Much like creating this surprise show, Jack White creates his own deadlines to enhance his creativity.  He uses tension to fuel his creativity.

During the filming of the documentary “Under Great White Northern Lights,” Jack White said, “Book only four or five days in the studio and force yourself to record an album in that time.  Deadlines and things make you creative.”

Advertising is a deadline-driven industry.  I’m sure you don’t need more deadlines there.  Notice though, when deadlines and schedules are set, you get things done.  How can you take that into your personal life?  How can you use that model to reach your goals outside of work?

How to Schedule to Reach Your Goals

One success strategy that helps my clients and me personally is to designate blocks of time to work toward a specific goal. Those blocks of time serve as deadlines which force your creativity to come out to play.  Maybe that’s four or five days every month.  Maybe that’s 15 minutes every weekday morning.  Maybe it’s 90 minutes every Wednesday.

Whatever you decide, put that time on your calendar and treat it like the very important meeting that it is.  That block of time – or “meeting” if you will – will get you closer to what you really want.

If you block out that time from say 7p.m. to 8:30p.m. for the next four Wednesdays, and you find yourself this Wednesday at 6:48p.m. waiting for the clock to change to 7p.m., just start.  Write down what time you started and go for the 90 minutes you committed to.  You know how good it feels to get something done early.

Your success will come from putting the blocks of time on your schedule, protecting those times and moving into action during those times.  If Jack White can set aside a block of time to record an album and make it happen, then you can set aside blocks of time for your goals too.

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Invest in Yourself

“School is never out for the pros.”

This last weekend I was at a conference south of LA.  This weekend it was in the low 80’s with an ideal slight breeze.  The conference was minutes away from Huntington Beach; I could have happily lounged the day away on the sand, hypnotized by the lull of the waves.  Instead, I was in a grand ballroom of an upscale hotel sitting in smack dab in the middle of 250+ people.

It was a training conference with my sales mentor Eric Lofholm, his mentor Dr. Donald Moine (who I’m pictured with above during the conference), and Eric’s coach, Jay Abraham.  You may not recognize these names but in the areas of sales and marketing for small businesses and even some Fortune 500 companies, these men are the millionaire (and multi-millionaire) examples of how to be an industry leader through serving others.

Results from my Sales Certification

The weekend conference was a self-imposed deadline to wrap up my certification requirements (including a written and verbal exam) as one of Eric Lofholm’s Proteges.  Since late November I’ve soaked up the materials on a weekly basis.  The last five weeks I studied on a much deeper level and before my test date arrived, I noticed a change with my one-on-one coaching clients.

Not only was I implementing the “Sales = Service” in my own business model, but also I was starting to teach my clients with advertising freelance businesses sales systems.  I was coaching and consulting on a level I hadn’t before and my clients reaped outstanding results.

Then on the Monday before the conference, I passed the final requirements – both the written and verbal exams – to earn my certification.  The feeling of accomplishment for earning the certification pales in comparison to the joy I get when my clients share their sales victories because of what I’m now able to confidently teach them.

You invest in you.  I’ll invest in me.  Then, we’ll invest in each other.

At the conference, one multi-millionaire stated “School is never out for the pros.”  It was Dr. Donald Moine, and he was right.

While I encourage others to invest in themselves, it’s equally as important that I invest in myself in order to continually give my clients and those around me more value.  As Ben Franklin put it, “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”

What are you doing this summer to invest in yourself?  Maybe it’s a class, maybe it’s reading a book filled with business concepts, maybe it’s jumping on one of the free teleseminars I’m offering this summer (wink. wink.  You can request all the information about my teleseminars for advertising creatives here.)

The Challenge

I challenge you to add one thing to your summer schedule that’s sole purpose is education.

Share the one thing you will do this summer to invest in your own education.  You can leave a comment here; I’ll start. 

2 Ways To Face Your Fear


It immobilizes us.

It keeps us up at night.

And it can do more than keep us alive.

(For the sake of conversation, let’s divert our attention from fears that coincide with our survival instincts.  Let’s talk about being afraid of things that won’t kill us.)

5 Of The Top 10 Fears Boil Down To 1 Fear

Fear of Public Speaking

Fear of Intimacy

Fear of Failure

Fear of Rejection

Fear of Commitment/Making the Wrong Choice

What do these fears have in common? Five of the Top 10 Fears revolve around the Fear of Fitting In.

Fear Of Fitting In

Wait, but we’re creative, isn’t that how the majority of our lives have been?  People called us those, “Creative Weirdos,” or “Awkward Artist Types.”  And look where it got us – into an industry that awards us based on how creative or radical or weird our ideas are!

As advertising creatives we’ve found the place where we can fit in and we embrace not being the status quo.  And yet, how are you doing with the fears of public speaking, intimacy, failure, rejection and commitment?  Are you letting the Fear of Fitting In hold you back in any of those areas?

2 Ways To Face Your Fear

As in the post “When ‘Just Do It’ Doesn’t Work,” it’s important to acknowledge what is in your way, understand it and have compassion for it.  It’s OK to feel afraid; everyone does at times.  Understanding your fear may entail understanding what your fear is truly protecting you from.  With that, you have two options in facing your fear – using it as fuel or weakening it.

1. Use Fear As Your Fuel

Advertising creatives are competitive.  Why not use your competitive nature and compete against your fear?  Go head to head with the fear that’s holding you back.

Which will win – your creativity or your fear?

Which will persevere – your desire to be happy or your fear of what that may take?  

What if you could channel that anxious energy into overcoming what you’re afraid of?  Use your fear as your fuel.  How empowering would that be?  Afterward, you’d feel on top of the world!  You were the one who gave that killer presentation.  You were the one who pitched the best idea to your ECD.  You were the one who took the leap of faith and committed to that new job.

2. Weaken Your Fear

If going head to head with your fear isn’t your style or if the fear is too strong, then concentrate on reducing it.  Again, understand where the fear is coming from and acknowledge that it’s most likely trying to protect you.

My clients have gotten the best results by weakening their fears in the following 5 ways:

  1. Thinking of a time when they faced another fear and pulling from that experience (For example, how you embraced your creativity and found an industry that expects it.)
  2. Planning and preparing how to handle the fear – including different options
  3. Looking to role models who have battled their own fears and won
  4. Focusing on the motivation for overcoming the fear and the benefits that come with the victory
  5. Reprogramming their thoughts about the fear by creating positive intentions

According to an article in Psychology Today by Karl Albrecht, Ph.D., “Fear, like all other emotions, is basically information.  It offers us knowledge and understanding – if we choose to accept it – of our psychobiological status.”  Albrecht goes on to write “And the more clearly and calmly we can articulate the origins of the fear, the less our fears frighten us and control us.”

Fear Is An Opportunity

Fear holds us back.  Fear keeps us in the tiny box where we are, where we don’t realize we’re suffocating.

Being afraid of something signals an opportunity for personal development.  When you push outside of your comfort zone – especially to the point of feeling fear – that’s when the most growth happens.  You can break out of the box.

Life After Fear

Imagine what your life would be like once you conquer your fear.  Really.  Take a moment and imagine.  How would your life be different?  What could you accomplish?  Who would you become?  Would you be more satisfied?  Would you be happier?

I challenge you to either use your fear as fuel or to weaken your fear to the point where you can have that life after fear.  You can have all that you’ve imagined.

Share one fear that is holding you back (one that doesn’t challenge your mortality).  There’s no judgment here.  I’ll start in the comments section.  Share one fear and whether you are going to use it as fuel or weaken it.

Ask For What You Want

Time and time again I’ve heard clients, colleagues, friends and even strangers wish for the most achievable of things.

“I wish I had more money.”

“If only I had a steady stream of income from my freelance business…”

“I wish I had an extra week vacation.”

“Working this much would be tolerable if I sat near a window.”

“I don’t know what to do next because I don’t know where that company is in the hiring process.”

“I wish I knew how So-and-So did it, because then I could be successful like that.”

“I wish I knew what So-and-So had to get that promotion over me.”

“Why hasn’t that person given me what he or she should know I really want?”

Can you relate to any of these?  What do you wish for?

How can you get what you want?

As creatives we often think so far outside the box that we forget the box itself.  What if it doesn’t take the next big idea or an elaborate plan, sweat and hard work to get what you want?  What if all you need to do is ask?  Ask for what you want.

If you want more money, ask for it.  Ask your boss for a bonus or a raise.  Ask your freelance clients for more money, more projects and more referrals.

Ask to sit by the window all day or even part of the day.

Call the company you applied to two weeks ago and ask where they are in the hiring process.  Then ask that company for any next steps you can take.

Ask So-and-So what they did to get where they are.  Ask your boss what So-and-So had to get promoted over you and what you can do to be the promoted person next time.

And please ask – that person that hasn’t given you what he or she should know you want – for what you want!

What if others should know what you want?

Many times other people simply don’t know what we want, what we’re wishing for, what will make us happy.  To put it bluntly – they are too busy wishing for themselves and doing everything else that they have going on in their lives to stop and consider what you may be wishing for.  Or, worse yet, they may assume you are wishing for the same thing that they want.

For instance, I’ve seen it happen all-too-often, advertising creatives reach a certain point in their career where they don’t care as much about the money as they do their vacation time.  Yet, employee review after employee review they end up unsatisfied because more money was thrown at them instead of that time off that they so desperately desire.  And why?  Because they haven’t made it clear to the decision-makers that they value vacation time the most.  They don’t get what they want because they never asked for it.

What happens when you ask for what you want?

When working with my clients one-on-one, we create a clear plan on how to best ask for what they want so not only do they have the confidence to ask but also 9 times out of 10 they get what they want.  (There are best practices when asking and things you can do to improve your odds of getting what you want.)

Can you guess what the #1 response is when my clients ask for something from someone?  What do you think that someone says?

“Oh, you could have had that sooner if you’d only asked.”

Imagine you had what you are wishing for.   Now, go ask for it.

If you’d like to share, please post a comment.  






When “Just Do It” Doesn’t Work

That big project is weighing heavy on your shoulders. That little task is nagging at the back of your mind.

“I’ve just got to make myself do it,” you tell yourself.

Days later, weeks later, a lifetime later, you continue to tell yourself, “Just do it,” and it remains undone.

The majority of experience proves that people can’t push through obstacles, blocks, limitations, fears and beliefs with willpower alone. 

Maybe you have before or maybe you’ve seen someone else accomplish something against all odds based on what you assume is their desire alone; those are the exceptions to the rule.  If you have pushed through an obstacle before to achieve what you truly wanted, have you been able to consistently do this throughout your life?  It’s hard especially when you find yourself trying to recreate how you mustered up the extraordinary willpower before.

One way to overcome obstacles, blocks, limitations, fears and beliefs is to first acknowledge that “just do it” isn’t cutting it.  Acknowledge there is something in your way and choose to understand it at a deeper level.  Dr. Donald Moine, author and financial advisor, teaches, “Recognition is 80% of the solution.”

Why can’t you “just do it” and be done with it?  Because:

  1. An experience has taught you a behavior or habit.
  2. You’re using an issue as a protective mechanism.
  3. The issue has a payoff or benefit that you value.

When “just do it” doesn’t work, acknowledge what is in your way, understand it and have compassion for it.  Mastering this process may create a breakthrough for you, take that weight off your shoulders, and silence that nagging in your mind.

Speak Your Mind and Comment

Share the one thing that you’ve been telling yourself to “just do” in the comments (by clicking here). Is it starting your novel, finishing that painting, reading that book, visiting a family member, organizing your office, scheduling your vacation, sending your portfolio to your dream company, revamping your resume, requesting that favor, recording that song you wrote, asking for that raise…?  I’ll start with the first comment. 

Group Coaching

This year’s ACT & YOU SHALL ACHIEVE Group Coaching Call Series has reached its half-way point and is steadily crescendoing. The members’ goals range from those involving art to real estate, time management to finances. It’s incredible to work with a diverse group of people – from the west coast to the east coast – and to facilitate them helping themselves and helping each other achieve their goals. There’s a certain synergy when a group like this one comes together, and it’s wonderful. Whether it’s career coaching or life coaching, planning or prioritizing, acknowledgement or tough love that they need during our group coaching calls, I’m with them every step of the way.